Layela Laker Lauren

I’ve just returned back from a lovely trip up North. My heart is full after conversations in broken Acholi, successful negotiations and work meetings, and time spent in a place I called home for such an important and meaningful time in my life. Many of my friends there say “welcome home” when I return. I’ve been ruminating over the feelings and meanings of friendship, family, relationships, camaraderie, and “home” as I continue to grow and love in a country that specializes in hospitality, warmth, and friendliness.

What’s in a name?

Many Ugandans have difficulty with my name, and the most common (mostly correct) pronunciation is “Lor-EN,” with massive emphasis on that EN sound.

Today I explained the meaning of the phrase “pet name” to a friend. I love when you get nicknamed by someone or start having inside jokes — it’s that internal warm fuzzy of knowing you’re getting close to a new friend.

In the US we don’t typically name our children for symbolism or meaning’s sake — sometimes, but often just because it was a family name. My first name was chosen by my parents because they liked the sound of it and loved Lauren Bacall.

Nominative determinism is a concept coined originally by Carl Jung, but I recently read about it in Adam Alter’s Drunk Tank Pink. It basically means that names — the meaning, pronunciation, alphabetical order, etc — can determine outcomes in our lives and “destinies.” Even if we’re not fully aware of it happening.

It’s an interesting thought to apply to not only my given name but also names I’ve carried or been penned with throughout my life. You don’t create your own nicknames, do you? They’re an organic occurrence over time and experiences that “just happens.”

While living in Gulu, I was dubbed “Laker” (pronounced Luh-kay) in Acholi, which means princess or royalty. Another favorite is “Layela,” (Ly-el-uh) an adjective meaning stubborn. The Ugandan definition and application of the word stubborn is strong, independent, determined, strong-willed. “Stubborn ladies” is often heard in reference to Ugandan women who hold their own.

Lauren is of Latin origin (perhaps influencing my interest in Latin language and Roman history?), with some Irish roots as well. It means “crowned with Laurel leaves.” Laurel leaves symbolized victory and wisdom in ancient times. Lauren is thought to be the English version of the Irish “Lorcan.” Lorcan means “fierce.”

Stubborn, victorious, fierce, wise princess. Seems to be pretty fitting… I’m sure if you know me, you can attest to the “stubborn princess” bit.

There are many more monikers I could recount, but these tickle my fancy for alliteration, so I’ll stop here.

Sending my love from rainy Jinja,



2 thoughts on “Layela Laker Lauren

  1. Ahhh Sweet Lauren Bailee! LOVE LOVE this post!! Makes my heart smile as I reflect back on your most special birth, life and journey.These words do describe your God given qualities and characteristics so well… princess, royalty, strong willed, victorious, fierce and wise.. all part of your DNA of how you are fearfully and wonderfully made from the very beginning. Praising Him TODAY for creating YOU to be so uniquely crafted for His purposes.

    Another word / meaning comes to mind – the name the Zambians gave you during your time spent at Camp Life while working alongside the aids orphans for 2 summers. The word: “MAPALO” which means “blessing” in Zambia. I would have to also agree with this word for your life as well – you are a BLESSING in many ways to many people!

    If I may, let me offer a bit of history and context since you were just a few days old :):) when most of these discussions were taking place around both your names “Lauren” and “Bailee”. Bailee was chosen first after your grandpa Joe. A man dedicated to adding value to people and loving them as Christ loved us. He was a man after God’s own heart, admired and loved by many because He understood he was created to make a difference in the world using his gifts, character qualities and talents as a leader and influencer of the gospel to expand the Kingdom through his great love of people and Jesus – just like you are doing now. He made many trips to Africa and other parts of the world often sharing this type of love and message, in fact grandpa Joe loved his time in Africa so much he also called Africa his 2nd home:) We had hoped and prayed this mantle of blessing and rich family legacy would pass onto you in some way. Grandpa Joe went to heaven in Feb before you were born in July. We had planned to call you by your 2nd name all along – just like the tradition from the Baldwin side of the family – Jack Payte, Charles Brent, Michael Scott – all 3 boys going by their 2nd names.

    The last day in the hospital before we took you home, I was holding you and looking into your sweet eyes, loving on you and admiring all of your absolutely perfect features (as new moms tend to think), an interesting thing happened in my spirit – heard a small whisper that you were to go by your 1st name “Lauren”. Absolutely LOVE the name to this day. 24 years ago we chose Lauren for a couple of reasons, (1) because it went so well with Bailee (2) loved the “sound” because it seems to be laced with sweetness and strength and (3) Lauren Becall’s screen presence /what she was known for (in one of our fav movies at the time) would be much of what was described earlier: a sense of a special inborn quality, inner strength, could hold her own, victorious in her thinking, comfortable in her own skin, wise, set apart demeanor, courageous, loved deeply, graceful and beautiful. Not knowing the full scope of the meaning of the name “Lauren” at that time, we very much knew the character qualities we admired along with an identity established in Christ we wanted for our children.

    Looking back it appears we were thoughtfully guided in choosing BOTH names. WOW what a vision for a life FULL of meaning and significance LAUREN BAILEE. God knew then and He still knows now. The best part and huge blessing – your story continues to be written as you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering you on! My heart is full. I am grateful. I am thankful. I am blessed. Always by you. Keep seeking His Name above all names. xo, mom


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