“Your Dad’s name for you is Fer? Yeah, that’s got to be the lie!”
We were playing Three Truths and A Lie, the get-to-know-you group game where every person share four short and unlikely “facts” about themselves. Each member of group then makes their best guess to pick out the one fictional story in the mix.
They unanimously picked the first fact I shared, to label as mythical.
“Nope. Mom calls me Jenni, and Dad calls me Fer. That’s been 100% true of their in-private nicknames for me, for as long as I can remember!”
I love my Daddy. I love that I’ve had a special nickname from him.
Given those two choices, however, I ever-so-thankful that it was Mom‘s name that stuck with the rest of the world! For decades, I’ve gone by the name “Jenni” to all who have known me in person, even online, if you’ve known me well at all.
“Jennifer” was reserved for business ventures. It was a quick give-away when I answered the phone to a “Jennifer” request, that I would be talking to a stranger, likely a medically-related call. I occasionally got “Jennifer” letters too, often about my book, but from my first reply as “Jenni,” the formality I equated as comparable to “Mrs. Saake” was quickly dropped.
This all changed in January of this year.
After a lifetime of loss, I found myself again. Rather, God found me and put me back together again.
I realized, through counseling, that most of my worst memories were as unseen as my Dad’s name was unheard. These were my realities alone, and even though the evidence was there, even those who knew me best, had little idea of these unseen and unheard parts of my everyday life.
So, in a grace-drenched decision, I announced that God had been gracious (meaning of the name “Jenni” when I dug back far enough) to carry me through these decades of brokenness, and I am now closing that chapter of pain. God has restored my full identity, and in celebration of this fact, I’m slowly asking friends to honor this renewal by transitioning to my full name, “Jennifer” (meaning, among other things, blessed).
When I say this is a grace-soaked transition, I mean no one is to get tense, hyper, nor upset over slipping into old habits. Friends call me “Jenni, I mean Jennifer. Sorry!” often when I wouldn’t have even caught the problem myself. My ears are used to “Jenni,” so at times “Jennifer” sounds (or reads, in type) foreign still to me.
I am re-learning how to introduce myself. It’s socially acceptable to say. “Hi. I’m Jennifer. You may call me Jenni.” “Hi. I’m Jenni. Please call me Jennifer,” is a little awkward! My tongue doesn’t always catch the transition of my heart and mind in time. I really stumbled over my first few self-introductions in January and February!
Now, I try my best and when I forget, no big deal.
If I remember, I smile because I remembered. If I forget, I smile because hearing my “mistake” simply reminds me of the specific reason that I want to do it differently, and that I will probably get that chance the next three times I meet this person and apologize with my typical, “I’m sorry I’m so bad at names. I’m Jennifer. Could you please remind me of your name AGAIN?”
Old habits die hard, but in no way cancel my reality! What God has renewed is not broken by a childhood nickname. This “name change,” is simply my declaration of what God has restored. In this I greatly rejoice.