Oh, the imagination of a two-year-old mind! One minute my granddaughter is announcing with great exuberance, “I am a knight.”
The next minute there is a change with the declaration, “I am a farmer.” At times, she will go to a third identity as she proclaims, “I am a soldier.” Once in awhile in between the changed identities, she will declare, “There is a change.”
As my granddaughter learns who she is, she changes directions often and without hesitation. Early in the day, the knight may be wearing her helmet, ready to fight a dragon. Later in the morning, the farmer dons her floppy hat and takes care of the farm animals. In the spur of a moment, the soldier may appear who gets ready to charge. For me, it is sometimes hard to remember exactly who she is at any given moment, but for her, change in identity seems to be quite normal as she tries to figure out who she is in this stage of her young life.
Oh, the woes of an identity crisis! Finding one’s identity in the world takes hard work, particularly when young, and we all traipse through the maze of uncertainty from time to time through adulthood. With pride, I still declare, “I am a wife and a mother.” With accomplishment in my voice, I could say for the greater portion of my life, “I am a teacher” or “I am a librarian.” With elation, I now possess a new title, “I am a Gramma.” These identities all felt or feel comfortable to me, but then there was a change. I retired after 40 years in education. I now can proclaim with gratitude, “I am retired.” However, my chief educational identity is no longer with me; it is history. Although retirement is not a finality by any means, I have discovered over the last four years that there is somewhat of a loss of identity in the state of being retired. I looked forward to new adventures, but for me I like to have a plan of action so I can transition at my own pace in my own way. Because so much changed so fast that first summer, I walked into this new season without set plans unaware of the major shift in gears ahead of me.
Oh, finding the courage to face the dragon! Retiring from a career and not having to work was a big change in daily structure and in priorities. Nevertheless, it became somewhat like changing jobs, looking for a new “position” or purpose that fit my skills and experience. Nevertheless, this new season seemed to be frame worked in the unknown — a fearful place for me that needed to be conquered much like fighting a big scary dragon that does not exist, except in my mind. With caution, because that is who I am with unknowns, I balked at finding volunteer opportunities or reaching out into the education field. At first, I had no connections or relationships that might help me ease into an opportunity where I might find meaning. I soon realized there were unforeseen transitions in figuring out this new “position.” For me, I did not have a set guideline or a teacher’s meeting beforehand that gave me all the nuts and bolts of what lay ahead. There were no given expectations from administrators in charge that I had to make sure and follow in order to do my job correctly. I learned the agenda was mine to set, so the adjustment process was determined by my desires and expectations along with determination and perseverance to keep pursuing in order to find new purpose.
Oh, the adventures of retirement–that I did not see coming! Realize that during these past four years, my husband and I traveled to the South from Chicago with all our stuff in tow, finally deciding to relocate in South Carolina; after a year, we put all our belongings in two storage sheds and lived in Nicaragua for nearly a year. Upon returning to the states for a visit, we greeted our first grandchild, and our daughter asked me to watch her baby (and now two grandbabies) when she went back to work. Actually, I am grateful to my husband and daughter for helping me get involved with two great adventures I would never have planned out for myself, but I would not give anything for either. I now realize that these opportunities were also God’s plans for me and have given me help in refocusing on the fact that my true identity is in knowing Christ, serving Him, and accepting more of the GRACE He has so freely given me. This identity is the only genuine one, but the one I find so easy to lose sight of when I have a multitude of daily responsibilities that demand my undivided attention.
Oh, the peace in knowing my true identity! So during this retirement phase, even with family responsibilities and church activities, I am discovering options for my journey forward. I am strengthening my only true, non-changing identity. One of my favorite verses is this one: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 “I am a Child of God,” and He has plans for me even in “retirement.” I may not have had set plans for what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, which actually turned out to be a good thing, but the fact is so obvious that you and I have God’s guidelines and expectations to follow in every season of our lives. They come from the Bible–truths that are much more important than the ones I became so familiar with in education or the ones you must adhere to daily. A daily job can be necessary and also a great opportunity to grow and serve, but I have found not having a job that vies for my attention has given me time to develop a new perspective on life. I desire to be vibrant and live with purpose as long as I can, but I am free to search new avenues of interest. I am also learning to let go of the hustle and bustle that for too long ruled my existence. Eliminating hurry allows me to find more rationale in life, my dragon is conquered as meaning transpires, and with more understanding, the fear dissipates.
Oh, the GRACE that comes in change if we are willing to go through the process! How is it with you and change? Are there dragons that get in your way and block your pathway? Or does change come easily by just saying the words, “There is a change?” We all go through change differently–maybe you’re not at the retirement stage yet, but you are facing decisions that will cause a major shift in what has been the norm. Sometimes, I wish I could face “change” as effortlessly as my granddaughter, but she does have her moments of crisis! All too soon someday, she will have her real dragons to face. Her moments are a good reminder that I need to give myself GRACE, and I hope that she will learn that as well.
Change continues for all of us…my story is not complete, your story is not complete, the journey continues. There are plans beyond our wildest imaginations…may God’s GRACE be there to guide you along the way.