When Ben and I went on our second date we discovered that we both had the same first and middle name picked out for a potential daughter. Ironically we both chose the same name for the same exact obscure reason.
Great second date small talk, right?
We’ve never shy-ed away from talking about kids or thinking through baby names and it certainly only amplified once we were married. As we got closer and closer to starting a family, we settled on both a girl’s and boy’s name very quickly.
The funny thing is that the name we had both fallen in love with in our youth was not the name we chose for our now daughter. We still love the name but we fell in love with the name Olivia for a completely different reason.
So how did Olivia get her name? Well the choice of Olivia came nearly a year before we started trying. Originally I wanted the name Olive and Olive came from our trip to Israel.
6 months into marriage we were given the incredible opportunity to fly across the world and travel through the Holy Land together. It was by far one of the most incredible things we’ve ever done and perhaps will ever do. While we were there I took a close-up photo of an olive tree and may or may not have taken a piece of an olive branch home with me. I had never seen and olive tree before in my life and I was amazed to see just how abundant they are in Jordan and Israel. The Garden of Gethsemane is literally a garden of olive trees, some of them that may have even dated back to when Jesus Himself prayed in the garden before His crucifixion.
So I tucked my little souvenir DEEP in my suitcase (so it wouldn’t be sniffed out by the dogs at customs) and went on my merry way.
Shortly after we returned home, I discovered that my younger brother had fallen into another bout of major depression while we were gone and had tried to commit suicide again (his second attempt). It drove me into a really dark season – one of the only seasons that has truly brought me literally down on my knees in prayer to God. In that season, I found myself sitting on the couch and weeping while looking at the olive branch I had kept from Israel. In that moment I was drawn to the story of Noah and the ark. I remember reading about God bringing down so much rain that it literally flooded all of the earth and living thing of it. The symbol that life had continued was a single olive leaf that a dove had brought back to the ark. An olive branch (typically a symbol of peace) to me, in that moment, signified life. Life after death. Life in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Life.
“At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.”Genesis 8:6-12 ESV
I had the photo of the olive tree I had captured printed onto a canvas and hung in our home.
From that experience I fell in love with the name Olive. Ben, on the other hand, wasn’t as keen on the name. We compromised on Olivia (since some of our friends already had an Oliver). When we got pregnant, we anxiously waited to find out if we were having a son or daughter. Then we miscarried and never got the chance to know. So we held onto the name and, somehow through that dark dark season of grief, the name Olivia became an even deeper symbol of life for me. Life after death. Life, once again, in the midst of chaos. God’s grace in-spite of the sin of this world.
We got pregnant again, as you may well know by this point, and the moment we found out we were having a daughter, Ben leaned into me and whispered the name Olivia with excitement in his voice.
What’s even more fitting is that, after the great flood, God made a covenant with Noah. He repeated the same commands He first gave to mankind (be fruitful and multiply) along with a few other things and then God promised to never again flood the whole earth and destroy all life by way of water. As a sign of His covenant, He gave us the rainbow so that we would be reminded of this covenant every time it rains and the waters stop. Traditionally, when someone miscarries or has a loss during pregnancy, we call the next baby born to that mama (who lives this side of Heaven), the rainbow baby.
Olivia was our rainbow baby. Our symbol of life. Our gift after loss.
We never once thought twice about her name and it’s 100% fitting for her. Olivia Grace was meant to be Olivia Grace and she is my daily reminder that God is in control. He’s full of Grace and the author of all Life. I will never look at an olive tree in the same way again and it will forever be a reminder of the gift of life.