We didn’t expect to spend Thanksgiving in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, but there my husband and I were, trekking down the long white hallway carrying store-bought pumpkin bars for the nurses. Our little five-pound girl curled up in the plastic incubator was covered in tiny pads and wires that were connected to the looming status monitor.  As the screen flashed shifting numbers, we silently begged it not to alarm. Heart, please beat steady. Breathe, come on girl, you can do this. Every alarmless span offered a glimmer that maybe she could come home soon.

She had come five weeks early, but many months before her arrival we knew what her name would be.  Like many parents in their anticipation for a new little one, we scrolled through options, scoured lists, and exchanged possibilities.  We had to find the perfect fit. Finally, it jumped off the page, and in our joy and excitement we chose her name. Now hanging on her incubated tube was a pink card, and scripted neatly was that name, the name we had given her, the name that would be hers forever.  Day after day the little card hung there. In the chaos of shifting status reports, sporadic alarms, and wakeful nights, it was one thing that did not change. It was almost as if it was there to remind me amidst it all that she was still, indeed, ours.

Parents have the distinct privilege of naming their child.  A name is chosen most often before a child is even born. It is given before a parent knows how a child will act, what they will do, or who they will become.  There is no accomplishment or behavior that has earned the name given. It is simply chosen out of the heart and love of a parent. And it is the name a child will have forever.

It was only five days after that Thanksgiving that we got to wheel our little bundle back through the long white hallway.  While packing to leave, I tucked the little namecard among the extra formula, caretaking instructions, and tiny clothes. Our girl was finally coming home.

Though I love my daughter more than I ever dreamed possible, I am reminded that as her earthly parent, my love and ability to shape her life is finite compared to that of our own Heavenly Father.  Out of his love he wove together our identity the day we were created in our mother’s womb. Psalms 139:14 reveals that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Verse 17 says that his thoughts towards us are precious, and vast is the sum of them.  He declared his love for us before we took our first breath. In Jeremiah 29:11 he also tells us he knows the plans he has for us, and these plans will give us hope and a future. Though his infinite love and ability can carry out his perfect plan for us, sometimes the chaotic situations, disappointments, and even personal shame can seem to threaten who we are and even more so whose we are.  We may feel far from the name he spoke over us in the beginning. But we are not defined by our circumstances or by the things we have done. We are defined by his love and what he has done.  This love left Heaven to conquer sin and bring us back to himself. He calls us Beloved. Chosen. Redeemed. Forgiven. Righteous. Most importantly, he calls us His. And just like that little name card that hung in the chaos never changed, the name our Heavenly Father has given to us will never change.

Keri Herzog desires to see women come to better know who they are in Christ. Previously she worked as the Assistant Dean of Women at Christ for the Nations Institute and has also worked as the Assistant Dean for Leadership and Experiential Learning at North Central University. Currently she enjoys being a stay-at-home mom for her daughter Everly. She lives with her husband, daughter, and their two German Shepherds in Oakdale, Minnesota.