Jane set her coffee down on the table and then sat down, folding her hands in front of her. Her usual, warm smile found its place on her face and her welcoming spirit instantly filled the space as she began to share that she became a Christian as a little girl. She shares more about her background before sharing that she married Jay 33 years ago and they had three beautiful children while Jane taught elementary school.
After her children grew up, and after Jane retired from teaching, she entered into one of the most transformative seasons of her life. After her retirement, a trusted friend and pastor warned her that she would go through a feeling of uncomfortableness and that it would be ok to live in that feeling. He then encouraged her to read the book, “The Gift of Being Yourself”.
At the time, Jane felt like she wouldn’t need this book. She was excitedly looking forward to the freedom that would come from retirement.
“I taught for 30 years – right out of college. I taught third, fourth, and fifth grade the whole time, and I loved it. I loved my career. But I knew when my 30 years was done, I wanted to be done. As a teacher, you always miss out on your own children’s moments. You see a lot of other kids’ moments, but you miss out on your own kids’. God showed me right away that I could be home when Clayton would come by or Mikayla would call any time from college. Prior to that, I was available from 10:00 – 10:30 every day but Wednesday, and that’s the only time they could call me. I missed a lot, it felt like. I was done missing moments. You still get a lot of grown-up children moments that I’m glad I have.”
However, after what felt like a typical summer break, school headed back into session and Jane found herself home…and some uncomfortable feelings began to creep in.
“In a backwards complimentary way people would tell me I was too young to stop working, what are you going to do with yourself? Even though I know they meant that in a good way, it felt really yucky.”
She began to question her identity, her purpose, and even her value.
“I thought, ‘Where is my self worth? I’m not a teacher. I’m not a mom,’ even though I was a mom just not needed in that capacity. ‘I’m not a grandma. So, what am I?’”
The words of her friend and the wisdom he had imparted on her kept echoing in her head: “It is ok to be uncomfortable.”
“We don’t want to sit and wrestle ever, well at least I don’t. But, it was like he gave me permission to sit and wrestle. I had time to figure it out.”
After several months of sifting through the uncomfortable feelings and awkward questions about what she would do with her time, Jane picked up “The Gift of Being Yourself” and slowly began to read.
“I just really wanted to hear from God. I sensed that He was saying, ‘Just read and just be quiet and I will take care of you.’ Really it was through reading, trusting, and praying that God began to speak. I prayed ‘I know You have a plan for me and it’s a good one and it’s for Your Kingdom. I’ve done school, now how can You use me even deeper?’”
Jane’s voice became earnest and thick as she remembered the time she heard so deeply and intimately from God through the little book her friend had given her to read.
“I remember reading, ‘You’re a child of God and that’s all you need to be,’ and that just struck me. That’s exactly right. Then I just dwelled on that for a long time. Even though you know the truth and you know the truth…”
Jane gestured to her head and her heart as she spoke…
“You have to decide, ‘Do I believe the truth? Is that enough?’ Even though I’m not a teacher anymore or a mom with other responsibilities is it ok to just be this?”
Unshed tears gleamed in Jane’s eyes as she reached for a tissue and smiled…
Jane continued to share the revelation of truth she experienced reading this book.
“I had to wrestle a little with that. It was through the book I was able to grasp that ultimately, I’m a child of God and that’s my identity. Period. I don’t have to be anyone else. I’m God’s child and He’ll use me however He chooses. When I read that, it was so freeing. I’m good with that. That’s all I have to be. I don’t have to make an excuse or come up with a justification of why I do this or that. That’s who I am. And if I’m living how God wants me to live and doing what He wants me to do, there’s my identity. He showed me so clearly that’s all I need to be. All of us feel like we need to be so many other things and forget the most important thing.”
New opportunities began to present themselves to Jane, as she carefully chose what she would do to fill her time and what areas she could best be used in. One of the first things she did upon retirement was sign up to be a mentor mom for Pleasant Valley’s “Moments” group. A gaggle of young mamas gather together monthly to eat, celebrate new births, and be encouraged in their walk with the Lord. Jane wanted to be a part of that. She knew that she’d be sharing a devotional with these women and began praying about what she was supposed to share.
“My devotion came to me in a dream. I dreamed about all of the different hats that we wear as moms and as women. We get bogged down with all the things we do. We think that that’s who we are, when ultimately, people’s identities are stripped away, forced away, taken away, sometimes we just lose identities as we go through circles of life. But ultimately underneath all of that is who we are – a child of God. I woke up realizing that there it is. That’s what I needed to tell these women.”
It was in that dream and shortly after that Jane felt the constant and promising whisper of the Lord saying, “You have a purpose beyond teaching.”
Jane and Jay began serving with PV’s Twentysomethings ministry and have been two of the key leaders in getting the ministry off the ground. Jane has taken time to meet with some of the group members as they’ve obtained a degree in education and prepared for their first year of teaching. She’s shared some of the wisdom she gained from 30 plus years of teaching and prays for them and their students specifically. She also began serving on the Staff Care Team at PV and has looked for other ways to serve. Her aim is to keep serving and keep her heart and hands open.
Jane’s soft eyes sparkle with excitement, and peace radiates from within her when asked how this season was the most transformative.
“It is freeing to me. Don’t you see people in life where their whole identity is their job or being a mom? Those are super important and I wouldn’t have changed those for anything. But, when all those go away, who are you still? When we learn that, it makes us a better Christ follower. You’re God’s child and He’s going to use you how He wants to. I’ve learned that I don’t need all of the hats of identity I’ve worn over the years. Jesus is enough.”