The Idea: A New Name


“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet …”
~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Jan_Sars2Last week, in front of a smiling judge, with my right hand raised, I legally changed my last name to Joslyn. (And no, I did not secretly get married … * yet *)

I want to recount my reasons for changing my name, but I’m not sure my written words are going to fill the story with life the way I feel it woven into my bones. But *deep breath* here I go anyhow.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when The Idea to change my name first turned on like the light-bulb-of-genius in old comic strips. I knew I wanted a name that fit—one that I could put on like a familiar sweater.

The Idea might have first nipped at my heals when I was 14 and learned that the Salish Native Americans would give their children a name at birth, but a new name would be given by the tribe leaders at adolescence—one that reflected who they had become. Oh identity, how you have alluded me.

Or maybe it stretched through my thoughts over time, like how The Idea clamored into my consciousness when I would read about the first Sarah, how God spoke to Abram about his wife Sarai. That God changed their names and then miraculously added laughter to their old age. Laughter, cheer. (Guess what? Joslyn means happy or cheerful.)

But I think The Idea really stirred in me when I was 20. I had just completed a very emotional missions training program and my heart was raw and open. My sister-in-law told me how her father would send his kids out the door with a, “Now, remember you’re a Miller.” Kate understood her father’s meaning—as she and her siblings moved in the world, they were to do so honorably, rightly, justly. They were to live like Millers, and that meant their choices mattered.

That story has always sat with me, because for as far back as I can remember, my mission has been to walk in the world so differently than how I grew up.

You see, Richardson is a legacy name—given hundreds upon hundreds of years ago to the son of Richard.

But I have been careful to live my life much differently than what I’ve known of the Richardsons. My familial connection has been to the matriarchs of the family. My Gramma Doris—whose maiden name is Joslyn—is the relative who remembers. My strange, adventurous world always mattered to her and she made it a point to tell me how proud she was of me, how impressed with my willingness to serve and travel. When I spent a year as a missionary and relief worker in New Orleans, Gramma collected every single email I sent home and printed them out for me to read again later. She did the same thing when I spent two months volunteering in India.

The woman who raised my grandma was not her biological parent, but you’d never know it when you saw them together. Great Grandma J was a firecracker—a whole box of firecrackers, I suspect. My sister Joanna often spoke of taking Joslyn in honor of these matriarchs and replacing a married name she was no longer married to. The Idea nodded approvingly.

So you see, The Idea has been brewing for a while, like the sauerkraut jars atop the fridge and the kombucha in the pantry. It has been fermenting until the time was ready.

Then one day, walking along the beach with my sister Adina, our hearts exposed and our tears falling intermittently, The Idea burst forth.

I mused, “I wonder if Joanna would mind if we both changed our last name to Joslyn too?”

The words tumbled from my lips, down to my bare toes, and scattered along the Pacific coast. And as they tumbled they became more than The Idea—they became TRUTH.

These moments are sacred—when I speak and the words ring so true that I can feel it deep in my soul.

And so it was.

There is a world out there to be tasted and adventures to be had and I am on a mission to make up for all the fear I felt as a child. I let myself wonder what the heck people are going to think of the girl who willingly travels alone, remains single, speaks up for feminism and, heaven forbid, changed her last name. Then I told fear to leave me alone—because my new name means HAPPY.


My name is Sarah Elizabeth Joslyn, it’s nice to meet you.

Sarah Joslyn
I’m more likely to answer to Sars than Sarah. That’s because years ago my brothers started calling me Sars and, as the name implies, it was infectious. I’m a self-proclaimed writer-photographer-Jesuslover-painter-adventurer-foodie. I have a near obsession with ending injustice and I’m a sucker for a good cause. I blog about life and building a tiny house at
Sarah Joslyn
Sarah Joslyn

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  1. Great post – I went through my own renaming journey from Sarah Elizabeth Caplin to Beth Stoneburner, much for the same biblical reasons:

  2. You are truly amazing! Its no wonder why you are so loved by so many people! I am so proud of you and your ability to act on what is best for you. Your story has definitely inspired me to always be there for my grandkids. I love you honey!

  3. It is a stunner of a name.

  4. Megan Gahan says:

    This post reminds me why I love you so darn much. As soon as I saw your new name, I thought it sounded sooo right-like it had always been a part of you. And, from what I’ve read, it sounds like it has. So proud of you for boldly stepping into more of who you are and who you are meant to be. It’s a beautiful thing. As are you.

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      I love that you think it sounds so RIGHT. I’m still getting used to saying it and signing it. But, girl, do I love it. And I love making a tangible change in my walk to being really truly whole. It just seemed right.

  5. Congratulations Princess Cheerful!

  6. Cheers to you!

  7. pastordt says:

    What an amazing and beautiful story, Sarah. So glad you shared it here. And for me, at least – being without sisters, except here and a few other places in life – this story is all the richer because you did it with your sisters AND you chose a family name, from the part of your family that nourished you. Well done.

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      Thank you Diana! It’s really amazing that I could do this with two of my sisters. They’re the best.

  8. I’m just so glad your Grandma’s maiden name is so amazing. It fits you well. And it’s lovely. You inspire my dear. xoxo

  9. Sarah… yeah!!! In Burundi you name a child once you discern their name – who they will become or who they are in essence. It took Claude nearly 18months to name our babies, and some Burundians take even longer. But the name carries gravity once given in such a thoughtful way. Emma’s Kirundi name means give, the kind that continues to be replenished and so continually given out. When I recently asked her a generic question : what name have you been called and why (meant to be about name-calling at school, by peers), she responded with utter confidence and immediacy: GIFT! My papa named me Gift because he knows me best! My heart swelled with pride and melted all at once… the power of a well-chosen name.

    So… Congrats on a well-chosen name. May it make you swell with confidence and hit you with a pinch of Happy every time you say it or sign it!

  10. Meagan Ruff says:

    My very favorite part… “And no, I did not secretly get married . . . *yet*.” I’m positive you already know, but I love love love this!

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      Meg, you are a saint for helping me work out those last bits yesterday.

      I totally knew that would be your favorite part. I love that you keep trying to set me up with all your husband’s friends. It always makes our coffee dates so interesting. xoxo

  11. The name is even more perfect now that I know the story! Love it. And love the way you write my dear!

  12. Claire De Boer cjdeboer says:

    Hi Sarah Joslyn! Yes it fits you like an old sweater. So blessed to know you lovely lady. xo

  13. Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

    LOVE this, and you. So proud of you for your bravery in changing your name (enbracing a new identity and new word and a new story) and for writing this out. It’s beautiful, and who you are is beautiful.

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      Thank you for being my first reader. I so needed your feedback when I was writing this. Oh how I love you, Bethany.

  14. Anne-Marie says:

    Welcome Sarah Joslyn! So pleased to meet you! 🙂 It seems the name is just the last visible sign of a long work you’ve been forging w God. Seems like a celebration is in order. So glad!

  15. Amy Hunt says:

    Be you. Choose to step away from fear. That’s worship.

  16. Saskia Wishart says:

    Dear lovely Sarah Joslyn! The name fits and is beautiful! You are a cheerful AND quirky and single and fabulous AND rocking a new name. I am sure the world has no idea what to do with you, but that is part of the fun. I was excited to read this – and you didn’t disappoint.

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      Ha ha. “I am sure the world has no idea what to do with you, but that is part of the fun.” This needs to be my mantra. I love you, Sas. xoxo

  17. Nicole A. Joshua says:

    I believe in the power of a name. Years ago, I learned that my name means “the people’s victory” or “the victorious people”. It is a name that I lived by, and when say my name, it felt like they were speaking the meaning over my life. Like Fiona, I very intrigued by your name change, and I love how you have recounted your journey to this moment of change. May your new name manifest in your life every day, in every situation and experience.

  18. Stephanie says:

    what a beautiful name, sars! loved reading the story behind it & I love how adventurous you are.

  19. Bev Murrill says:

    Sars, you are A.Mazing! Always fresh, always bold, always determined to do whatever it takes. I do love that about you, and I know that your freedom is being lived out day by day. One of these days you’re just gonna wake up and realise … it’s done!

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      I’m working toward that freedom day for sure, Bev. I am so grateful for this community that lets me be weird about what I need to do to be free. xoxo

  20. fiona lynne says:

    I’ve been intrigued to read this story since you told us you were changing your name and it didn’t disappoint! What a beautiful act of empowerment and hope. As I read this I am so sure that you will look back on this moment as a watershed in some way.

    I love the idea what a name can call us into what we are meant to be – like your SIL’s dad would tell her. It reminds me of how God first called Gideon “mighty warrior” when he was hiding in the wine press! Names can be prophetic and I’m praying that will be your experience over the coming months and years x

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      “As I read this I am so sure that you will look back on this moment as a watershed in some way.” I have no doubt. It’s strange how much weight has already lifted off me. I’m pretty excited for what’s ahead. I’m learning that sometimes I need an ACTION to really believe in the changes God is doing in me. Deep breath, here I am.

  21. I love ALL of this, but especially this: “So you see, The Idea has been brewing for a while, like the sauerkraut jars atop the fridge and the kombucha in the pantry. It has been fermenting until the time was ready.”

    When I look at that picture of you with your sisters, and when I read more and more of your story, I can’t help but think, You speak Hope. Your very life speaks Hope.

    Thank you for sharing this part of your adventure.

    • Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

      *wordpress deleted my wonderfully quirky reply, I shall try again*

      Fearless Leader, you should know that The Idea would still be brewing yet if it was not for YOU and SheLoves. Not that my name change is directly linked to SheLoves, but that it is directly linked to FREEDOM. And this place, right here, is where I find so much FREEDOM and VOICE. I love you all for loving all my weird.

      You know, Dorothy was right, there really is no place like home. Thank you for making a HOME for me. I could not love you more right now.



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