I remember my first introduction to Jane Austen. It was 1996. I was 21, and studying abroad in Derbyshire. The guy I was dating took me to see Emma. The Gweneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam version, obviously. Jeremy Northam’s Mr. Knightly. Sigh. I loved him instantly. He was my favorite Austen man until I encountered Rupert Penry-Jones’s Captain Wentworth. But I digress….
That same semester my friends and I went to see Pride and Prejudice (in a play form). Who is this Jane Austen? I must check her out.
I remember hearing about Jane Austen’s life for the first time. Realizing she died young. No spouse. No kids. I thought to myself, how sad. This amazing woman left behind no descendants to carry on her legacy. To someone who is passionate about family tree research I was devastated on her behalf.
And honestly she lived the fate I feared.
I wanted to be an Austen heroine…like Anne Eliot who lands her soul mate Captain Wentworth. All the Austen heroines win the man of their particular dreams. The one that uniquely fits them.
With that perspective, I could never understand why Jane chose to be a spinster. To devote herself to writing and to being Cassandra’s (her sister) companion after her fiancée dies. She could have been married and still been a writer.
What I didn’t understand was that, she couldn’t have been the writer she became, had she chosen to keep her engagement. Not in the 1700’s.
When I read her books and watched the movies, I saw all the heroines finding the dream man, so they could get married and have children. How sad that she didn’t get that happily ever after she gave to her heroines. I know I’m repeating myself here, but I was really upset about it.
Growing up, all the women who influenced my life had between 2 and 12 children. My mom. My grandmothers. My aunts. Great aunts. Great Grandmothers. They were mothers first. Everything else in their lives came 2nd and beyond. So my dream as far back as I can remember was to be a wife & mother. I went to college planning on that life. I graduated from college planning that life. I waited for that life. For that dream to come true.
What I realized is that I wasn’t really upset about Jane’s life, she made her choices. What I was really afraid of was not having kids myself.
I turned 28. 32. 37. Then 42. At 42, the rubber hit the road, and I began to grieve. I began to grieve the death of the dream of having children. I grieved it like it truly died. I ugly cried. For months. I never told anyone or talked about it. But I felt it, I assure you. I battled the depression that accompanied this grief for months and months.
At this same time, God asked a friend of mine to pray for me. After a while, God invited her to approach me about it. She asked me how I was doing with the no kids thing. I sobbed again. She continued to pray. I am so grateful for my friends who cover me in prayer, they are gifts.
A few weeks before I turned 43, I had a stunning revelation…I never got what I didn’t want.
The truth is that I wanted children because I was raised in an environment where kids are loved and valued. So I love and value the kids in my life. You only have to know me about 15 minutes before you start hearing about my favorite people in the world, my nieces, nephews, and lil cousins. They are my people.
But I never actually wanted to have kids. I was stunned. I just grieved a dream to the point of depression…for a dream that wasn’t even my own? Really?
How does that happen? How do we acquire dreams that are actually someone else’s? Or someone else’s dream for us?
It happens with kids and sports or ivy league schools, parents living vicariously through their kids. Thinking they’re giving their kids what they never had, but maybe not asking if this is what the kid wants.
No one pushed this dream on me. My mom’s always believed I could be or do anything I wanted. She’s never put her will on me. Not ever.
This was on me.
I didn’t want to ask myself what I really wanted, because I was afraid. Afraid to know what the answer was…afraid to fail, afraid to succeed…because people would expect things of me. Afraid of leading, because what if no one followed.
So in truth, my not being married young, or having kiddos, was the protection of God. Because He knows me. Because He designed me.
“Lord, you know everything there is to know about me. You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind. You are so intimately aware of me, Lord. You read my heart like an open book and you know all the words I’m about to speak before I even start a sentence! You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me. This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible! Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.” Psalm 139:1-6 TPT
God knows me better than I know me. Never have I ever been so grateful for ths fact.
I am designed for partnership with Jesus. I am designed for a partnership with a spouse. I am not designed to be a mother in the traditional sense.
My jaw dropped at this revelation. I processed this revelation for weeks and weeks. How is it possible that I don’t want kids?
Who doesn’t want kids? Isn’t that selfish? Abnormal?
How does a person leave a legacy without having kids?
Who will remember me when I’m gone if my family tree ends with me?
Then God showed me something that left me speechless for quite some time…You’re not designed to be an Austen heroine, you’re designed to be a Jane Austen.
No, I’m not declaring myself to be the new Jane Austen. I’m Jill not Jane.
But God used her life to show me there’s more than one way to have an impact on generations.
Jane was a brilliant author. She wrote stories that are still impacting generations. Maybe it was intentional on her part or maybe it is just how things worked out, but she stands forever as an example that being a wife and a mother is not the only way a woman can have purpose. In her time a woman had two options, marriage or poverty accompanied by shame. Women deserve the right to choose God’s best for them. She used her God given intelligence, wit, and humor to craft incredible stories. That was Jane’s purpose. It wasn’t motherhood.
Then it clicked! I finally got it.
A legacy of words…
That is my actual dream.
That is my actual heart.
That is the legacy I want!
I want to craft stories that people still want to read or watch in 200 years. I want to leave words that inspire. Words that give hope and encourage. Words that reveal the love of the Father, and the greatness of Jesus. Words that remind people that being human is the best there is in all of creation. We were created in God’s image! Nothing else in all of creation was given that honor. I could go on here, but that is not the point of today’s post.
The point is that like Jane, I am a story teller. I can’t help it. It is who I am. I am a scribe. A writer. A lover of words. My purpose is to create stories. I’m still trying to process all of this because I still am stunned by this revelation.
Stunned. But free. For the first time, really free.
I’m not quite sure what to do with all this as I’m still processing…but be assured that writing is my priority. My goal is to write something every day. Blog. Short story. Work on a chapter of one of my longer stories. Send encouraging texts.
We were all created with eternity in mind, and we all have a purpose. One isn’t better or worse. One isn’t greater or lesser. All the body of Christ is important and absolutely necessary. Embrace who God made you to be, and how you are wired. The world needs you to be your authentic self, not a copy of someone else.
“I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling —that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, his holy ones! – Ephesians 1:18 TPT
Point to ponder while you wander…
“Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.” Ephesians 3:20 TPT
P.S. To all the parents out there…You have a tough job and I commend you for your consistency. I respect you for loving, disciplining, and raising those little humans day in and day out. It’s not easy. But they are worth it. You are a hero. Hang in there!!