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Who We Decide We Are Steers Our Lives

I didn’t like my name. School teachers and classmates misspelled and mispronounced it. Others expected me to be a boy, to be Tony. Not Toni. But I’ve long since gotten over that, and even love my name now. I’ve never met nor discovered through Google another Toni Lepeska. It’s unique.

Maybe you’ve struggled with your name. Maybe it means you’ve struggled with your identity. If so, I’m right with you.NameBlog3

Every first full week in March is Celebrate Your Name Week. It offers us an opportunity to reflect on who gave us our names and on the joy with which we entered the world. Maybe we can recapture that joy. Maybe we can celebrate ourselves in the way we were celebrated at birth.

I’ve always known I was named for my two grandmothers. My mother’s mother was Ellen. My father’s mother was Antoinette, but she was known as Toni. My parents elected to call me Toni. And thus, I became Toni Lepeska, though it’s not the name on my birth certificate.

Years before my father died, I announced that I would forever write under that name, even after I someday married. I did not expect this reaction. Tears pooled in his eyes.

Years later, on the ninth anniversary of his death, I was going through my parents’ belongings and found a letter our aunt wrote. Aunt Ella was Antoinette’s, or Toni’s, sister.


My grandmother, the 1st Toni Lepeska

“Needless to say that I am thrilled with your choice of her name,” my Aunt Ella wrote, “and I am sure she will love to be called Toni Lepeska as she grows up. It sounds good – it makes me think that she’ll be a girl bubbling with happiness and joy.”

She also wrote, “God bless you for it.”

My aunt adored Toni, probably more so because she lost her too early in life. Toni was only 42 when she died, and my father was just a boy. No wonder Aunt Ella liked the name choice. It was a way for her sister to live on. To live on in me.

Finding my aunt’s letter, I was transported to a moment of joy and love. I had been at the center of something special and meaningful. I was part of a family, a heritage. I never knew my grandparents. My own parents were dead and so was my aunt. However, I felt like an important part of a whole, though I had been adopted into the Lepeska family, not born.


The cover of the birth announcement my parents mailed to relatives and friends.

I do not know if I had another name at birth that my “natural” mother called me, however, I like the one I got a few months later.

I was a teenager when I learned Toni means “priceless one.” I needed to know I was valued. I latched onto the label like a life preserver. It seemed to fit the message I got when I looked into the night sky and into the glory of God. I didn’t feel small. I felt like a valued part of an ancient story, and yet I was not lost in the bigness of it all. The Creator knew me, and my tiny contribution mattered. How fortunate was I!

We all are priceless. No matter what our names are, whether we share it with one relative or a hundred other people, we are each one of a kind.

Who our parents tell us we are sticks with us, and who we decide we are steers our lives. But, my friend, the greatest impact is in remembering there’s a God who values your contribution – and who knows your name.

What does your name mean to you? Has its value to you evolved over time?  


Copyright © 2017 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sheryl M. Baker #

    Thanks for sharing Toni. There was a time when I didn’t like my name either. My name Sheryl is spelled with an S and not C like most Sheryl’s. I’m not even sure why my parents decided to use that name. My mom wanted my middle name to be Ann after her, but my dad wanted Marie, and so it was Marie. I struggled with identity early on and swore that I was adopted because at one point my mom couldn’t find my birth certificate. But like you, over the years, I have grown into my name and love who I have become. A big part of that was discovering God’s love for me. He created me to be who I am. I am His. No one else is like me. Great article. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 9, 2017
    • My dear Sheryl, I’m so glad you too discovered your value and your name’s value. I’d never thought of it being spelled different, I only knew I liked the person who used it. Your last point makes a huge difference in a life, as you have experienced. I still struggled even when I knew God loves me, and occasionally do, but he is a refuge I can return to with that issue and be bolstered by. Thanks, Sheryl!

      Liked by 1 person

      March 9, 2017
  2. Jackie Lee Sanderlin McMullin #

    I loved this. Although the story of my name does not have the beautiful account attached to it as yours, my name does have a meaning that connects to both of my parents. My name “Jackie” is from my dad “Jack.” No, it is not the shortened version of Jacqueline. It’s Jackie. My middle name “Lee” is from my mother’s name “Rosalie.” So, there you have it. Jackie Lee….the name I was called by my parents when they were in their “firm” parenting role. When I was corrected or “gotten on to” it was “Jackie Lee!” When all was well and I was in my behaving mode, it was simply “Jackie.”

    Liked by 1 person

    March 9, 2017
    • Now I’ll know what to call you if we ever get in a fuss. (smile). What a great way to create a new name and honor loved ones. I think it is a great story, and that you are named for your dad in a feminine way is creative and cool. Thanks for sharing, Jackie!


      March 9, 2017

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