Restorying the Past with Jenni Lillie
She and I flew to the small coastal town in the evening. My anxiety grew as we descended into the airport. I hadn’t been back in 12 years. The city was full of loaded memories for me. I knew she needed to see where she was born and hear the story of our brief time there that included her first year of life. I was ready to face the city with all of the underlying weirdness from the dark memories of that season.
She had seen the photos from her birth and the day she was born. She had never questioned why her dad wasn’t in any of them. I hadn’t told her the full story yet.
The first full day was a surprise of her learning where she came from and full of stories. Our first destination was a retired battleship that you can tour and walk through. We ventured into the guts, galleys, and various decks ultimately ending up on the very front of the ship. As soon as I saw the enormous anchor, I knew it was where I would tell her the hard stuff of her beginnings with our little family. I looked around and it appeared to be just us on this huge ship. My heart started racing and I knew it was time.
We sat down on the anchor and I pulled out a photo album from when I was pregnant, the day she was born, and her first few months of life. We flipped through the pages and I walked through the beauty and joy of finding out she was a girl and how excited we were. I paused, took a deep breath, and shared about life being a battlefield with hard things and no matter what happens in her life God is and will always be her anchor. He is good and loves us so much.
I held on to her when I told her that her dad and I were separated while I was pregnant and he wasn’t there when she was born. She was shocked. Her dad had written a note for me to give her when the time was right. She read it and we cried. She asked me a lot of questions, we talked, and for several minutes we sat quietly on the giant anchor in the silence and stillness of the sunshine. We stopped in the gift shop on our way out and she picked out a necklace with an anchor to remember.
I took her to the beach where I would go with her as a baby and we had a picnic lunch in the afternoon. She ran, played, and splashed in the waves. The ocean is her happy place.
Later that evening, we went for a drive before dinner to visit the hospital where she was born. It was dark outside like when I had arrived there 12 years before to deliver her, but it was different too. The main building where she was born was there, but there were new buildings surrounding it. We walked inside and made our way down the hall towards the gift shop. A surprise gift was planning to be there - her dad. She ran to him when he walked in and jumped into his arms. It was beautiful to watch. This time it wouldn’t be just the two of us leaving the hospital together. The three of us were leaving the hospital with a new set of memories as a family. God makes all things new.
The anchor has become my daughter’s symbol of her journey into womanhood this year and part of the foundation of her becoming year. My prayer is she will put her hope in God all of her days and He will be her anchor in all of her joys and sorrows of life.
Jenni has lived in France, auditioned for The Amazing Race, and started a photography business. These days she is growing two kids with her husband in Colorado and leading an outreach into strip clubs. She can be found on Instagram @jennilillie or Facebook @jenniowenslillie.
Read more about Jenni in A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living.