Nearly three years ago, when we’d been on the waitlist for about five months to adopt for the second time—this time specifically a girl—Mike and I went on a study tour to Israel with a group from our church, led by the Center for Holy Land Studies. (If you have the slightest interest in visiting the Holy Lands, look them up this organization; it’s phenomenal.) We had an incredible time, and gained so much insight about stories from the Bible we’d grown up hearing. Somehow, standing on the turf where it all went down makes it come alive. Even when all that’s left is dirt and wildflowers.
But we came away from that trip with more than just a journal full of notes from all the lectures/sermons; we also went home knowing what we’d name our daughter.
Throughout the trip, we heard about a Miss Lydia, who had founded a school for the blind in Jerusalem. We wouldn’t meet her until we reached the city at the end of our week, but her name came up frequently because several on our trip knew what amazing work she was doing and were excited to hear her share about it.
Our trip began in Beershiva, where we learned about God calling Abraham out of Ur. Those first couple days, we spent meandering the ruins of Old Testament stories. Then we hit New Testament sites like Caesarea and Capernaum and heard first about Jesus’ ministry and then about Paul, including how he traveled to Europe, preaching, and how a Gentile woman named Lydia was his first European convert.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Later in the New Testament, Paul mentions Lydia again, lauding her for her hospitality.
Then, mid-way through the week, we stopped at the church of the annunciation, where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she was going to have a baby. Our guide pointed to all the pictures of the Holy Family painted in the arcade enclosing the church, noting that each was gifted from a different country, and in each, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus looked like the citizens of the donor country. He continued with a lecture about the first Christmas morning (and how many of the details I learned as a child from flannel graph boards in Sunday school are a result of bad translations :/), and then freed us to visit the shrine to the annunciation inside the church at our leisure. As we were milling around the courtyard, Mike said casually, “Have you given any thought to what we’d name our daughter?”
I hadn’t, really, but since he asked, and with my mind primed thinking about Miss Lydia and Lydia the first European convert, I realized I quite liked that name. “What do you think of the name Lydia?” I asked. Mike’s jaw dropped and he gasped, “You’re kidding me.”
Two nights prior, we’d stayed at a kibbutz on Lake Galilee. We’d been given free time to spend reading the Bible and praying, and Mike had made himself comfortable in a hammock on the beach. While reading, he’d sensed the Lord telling him that our daughter would be named Lydia. He’d written it down in his journal, but hadn’t told me about it right away.
Standing in the courtyard of the church, we both got chills. We wouldn’t meet our daughter for another year, but from that moment, her name was never in question.
Also, our Lydia looks fabulous in purple.