Jane’s story in the Lives Explored video project focuses on her transition from acting to ministry. But as part of her full interview with Diane Millis for the Collegeville Institute Seminars, Jane described a powerful story about her experience of caregiving for her father-in-law. In this final article in the Bearings Online series on caregiving, Jane shares perspectives on her conversion to an unexpected calling.
When you are in your calling, it doesn’t always feel good. Many people talk about calling as being in your element and doing things that you are wired to do. But I had a difficult stretch where I was very confused about my calling. As I was trying to do more retreats and market my new ministry, my father-in law (Papa) was getting sicker and sicker. As it turned out, I was the family member who had the most time and space to help him.
It was very practical at first. Since no other family member had the bandwidth to help him, I said I would do it. But as time went on, I began to see the nuances of what that need and care would take from me. I noticed I had a lot of confusion. I felt like Papa was taking me away from my calling, from what I should be doing. I was mad. I didn’t really want this job. Somebody else should be doing it, not me. But I also knew that when something has really triggered me, I needed help to drill down into that issue, at what was behind my frustration.
So I called upon friends. I talked to my husband. I talked with my spiritual director about this, over a long period of time. A women’s group that I meet with followed me on this journey. It was a drawn out process that slowly revealed itself. Good guidance and wise people helped me to understand, “Jane this is your calling. Let go of what you thought your calling was. Wake up to the immediate. This is it!” It was a very Jesus-like message: “Wake up to what is right there, and do the task. Trust me.” And that’s what I did, thanks to the wise people I surrounded myself with.
What I came to understand is that Papa was not taking me from my ministry. Papa was my ministry. I was called to be there, to let go of what I thought I should be doing, and just tend to him. When I made that adjustment in myself, my care for him changed. I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere else. I was supposed to be there, not on the phone, marketing the company I was building. That could wait, or that could never materialize. What I needed to do was spend time with Papa before he died.
I believe God was in that. I can tell by the fruits that came out of that choice. They were ugly at first. There was anger, there was resistance, there was jealousy when I saw others as having the freedom to do what they wanted, while I was stuck doing this. But I pushed through that. When I finally got to a place of acceptance of my calling, there were beautiful moments between Papa and myself. I had lost my own father when I was very young; I didn’t have a dad as an adult. So what a blessing to be able to walk with my father-in law and to say, “I didn’t have this chance with my own dad. This is my chance.” I got another chance to walk with a father figure. It was a blessing, and I wouldn’t have changed it.