Kristen Clark & Bethany Beal: Not Part of the Plan
About the Guest
When life’s detours are not part of the plan, how do you deal? On FamilyLife Today, Dave & Ann Wilson host Authors Kristen Clark & Bethany Beal, who get disappointment and longing—and the search for hope.
Kristen Clark & Bethany Beal: Not Part of the Plan
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Kristen: I think sometimes, as women and as Christians, we don't even realize how tightly we're holding onto a dream, a longing, a desire; and we may even think we're surrendered. We may think we're holding it with an open hand, saying, “God, I trust You. Whatever Your plan is, I will walk that path.” But when tragedy strikes, or God takes something away or doesn't give us something, then suddenly, our eyes are open; and we realize: “Wow! I was holding onto this so tightly that now I feel like a part of me has been ripped away.”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
We’ve had some hardship since the start of COVID, like a lot—
Dave: I thought you were going to say “…our whole life,” because we’ve had hardship. [Laughter]
Ann: Everybody has probably; but since COVID happened, I think, like a lot of people, we've gone through some really rough spots.
Dave: Yes; you want me to list them, or are you going to list them?
Ann: No; you want me to list them? I was thinking I lost my mom at the beginning of it. Then I lost my dad. Every person in our family has had COVID; and thankfully, our immediate family has been okay. We've had grandbabies hospitalized. We've had a lot of things happen that were unexpected, and they were really difficult.
[Emotion in voice] We want to talk today about: “How do we live a joyful life when hardship hits us and our expected dreams crash?”
Dave: I'm looking at you; you're almost ready to cry.
Ann: I know! I just was like, “Oh, no wonder; it's been a hard year.” [Laughter]
Dave: I mean, it's been less than a month that your dad passed.
Dave: I mean, he was 92; but still—
Ann: It’s still really hard.
Dave: —you have no parents alive anymore.
Ann: Yes; you just don't plan for the things that'll be really hard, because you have dreams of what life will be like. And then, when it doesn't go that way, how do we keep that joy?
Dave: Yes, when it's like our plan doesn't match His plan. You know, somebody should write a book called Not Part of the Plan [Laughter]. Doesn’t that sound like a good book title?
Ann: That would be a great title.
Dave: Yes; well, we've got two women in the studio that actually wrote this book, Not Part of the Plan. You guys are sisters. Kristen and Bethany, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Bethany: Thank you so much.
Bethany: I mean, you have us in tears, right from the beginning; right? [Laughter] Like there is hope/there’s hope at the end of this.
Ann: And you’re like: “We have hope. We can help you.”
Kristen: Yes, about life.
Bethany: Yes; it's hard. I'm so glad we're talking about this because I know there are a lot of people who can relate to what you just said, Ann, and some of the trials and struggles we've been through.
But I know for sure—and you guys, too/every single one of us—we've gone through hard times and “How do we find hope—
Bethany: —“in the midst of it?”
Dave: Yes. And it's interesting, as I went online to research you two—wow! Girl Defined—I'm, you know, not following Girl Defined everyday;—
Bethany: Oh, come on. [Laughter]
Dave: —because I'm not a woman—and I'm like starting to watch your videos. I'm like, “You are everywhere.” Tell us a little bit about Girl Defined—how it started—and you’re sisters.
Bethany: Kristen and I/we’re only a year and a half apart. And you know, we both had a passion for ministry, growing up. It really was through this experience—it was kind of like we both came to, I guess, this turning point—where we had to decide: “Okay; are we really going to follow Jesus, or are we going to kind of just follow our own desires?” Both of us actually went through this process of trying out the modeling world, which was very interesting, and crazy, and scarring, and all sorts of stuff all at the same time.
Kristen: For me, it was really a journey of just asking the question and looking for answers for my identity; “What makes me valuable?” “What is true beauty?” “What does it mean to be a woman?” “Where do I find my worth/my purpose?” [I] grew up in a Christian home, heard all the biblical things, have wonderful parents, but was really wrestling with that question. I remember thinking, “Wow, if I have the title of a model/like I am literally a model, then surely I won't have any more insecurities about my looks/my beauty. I'll be the most confident woman out there”; right?
I just remember that, through that journey—after one year, looking back on that year of being a model—I felt more insecure, more self-focused, more critical of myself, more focused on myself than I ever had been before. It was because physical beauty/outward appearance—chasing after my identity in all of the wrong places—it was idolatry, and it wasn't satisfying.
Through that, I realized, “Wow, if becoming a model isn't enough to satisfy, what is?” That's when I really took a deep dive for myself into God's Word to discover really: “What is God’s design for my life as a woman?” And through that—through my journey, Bethany’s journey/us going on that journey to discover how to find God's identity for us—that's really where the passion for Girl Defined came about; because we saw younger women walking through the exact same struggles. We’re like: “Guys/girls, God has such a great design for us. Come along;—
Kristen: —“let's discover it together.”
Bethany: And it's been so amazing; because I think that, in our generation, social media wasn't really a thing. It was you could get mentored by people in person, but that kind of online mentorship/it wasn't as available.
Now, you know, the world we live in today—it's incredible—through books, through social media, through just YouTube, and all of that, we get to be like big sisters to a lot of these young women—or just sisters in Christ—and link arms and say, “Hey, we know it's hard. We know, when you are in your own city, kind of by yourself, you feel like: ‘I'm the only one that's trying to follow God/trying to trust God,’—but then you get to hear a show like this, with you [Dave and Ann], or you follow our page, Girl Defined—and you realize: ‘Wow! I'm not the only one,’ and ‘There are people fighting for this. There are people who want to live out God's design, who want to trust Him, who want to be’—for us—‘a woman of God’; and that's so encouraging.”
So that's just/you know, as long as God will use us, we're here together, like: “Okay, if something happens to me, you carry on,” [Laughter] “If something happens, you carry on.” [Laughter] But so far, we're both here together.
Ann: Were you surprised at the following that you gathered? There are a lot of young women following you.
Bethany: Yes, I think so—like surprised and then not surprised—because we felt that yearning—
Ann: So you saw the need.
Bethany: —for sisterhood.
Bethany: We longed for sisterhood as well. As we kind of stepped out there, and just became really raw and honest about our struggles as Christian women—and said, “Hey, yes; we're still struggling/we're still on this journey. Let's dive in together,”—it was like, the same thing that we were longing for, they were longing for. We just kind of latched onto each other, and more and more sisters from around the world latched on, and we kind of became this community.
It was just so sweet to see the way that God grew it from the ground up—like starting with nothing and then growing it—into a full-blown ministry, and YouTube channel, and podcast, and books, and conferences. And we're just like, “Okay, Lord.” We just take it one year at a time, and say, “God, what do You have for us this year?” I'm sure you guys are the same way, like, “God, we're ready; but what do You have?”
Ann: And this is your fifth book.
Bethany: Yes; they snuck an extra one in this past summer, a devotional. Technically, it's like our fourth book—an extra devotional—so five books. [Laughter]
But I will say, when we started Girl Defined, there was something that was not part of the plan that happened that we just were not prepared for. [Laughter] Kristen—you know, she shared the really sweet part of it—but I think the part that surprised us is being public about our beliefs in God and our stance on just biblical womanhood. We had no idea just how people—who don't believe in God or who don't like what we were sharing—how aggressive, I guess, the online world can be to come after you.
I think that's the part that we've really had to wrestle, and just think and pray, and get counsel; because it's hard to share, you know, truths about God. A lot of the people in the world don't like that. We've had to say: “Do we really trust that this is what God has for us?” “Do we really believe His Word is true?” “Do we really believe that He designed men and women to be equally valuable, but purposely different?” “Do we really believe this stuff?” Because, if we do, we're going to have to get out there and share this. And, you know, if there are difficult—
Bethany: Yes—difficult opposition that comes our way, we just have to trust God with it.
That's been a huge area of trust for us—and just having to know, “Okay; if we get shut down because we get reported a billion times, that's okay,”—like God/He chooses to use us, but He doesn't need us. And so, we can be grateful for any time that He allows us to have a platform.
That has been, I would say, definitely a lot of sleepless nights and seeking a lot of counsel—just struggling with that—you know?
Ann: Yes, that's hard. And that's where the identity piece comes in of knowing who you are, or what God has called you to do; but that's not easy.
Dave: As I listen to your story, and even read Not Part of the Plan, that trusting-God piece is a theme. I'm hearing it now in your own lives; but definitely, a theme in the book. When—I mean, your subtitle is perfect—it’s: Trusting God with the Twists and Turns of Your Story.
Let's get into that a little bit; because you know, here I am, a dude, reading your book. You start with this incredible wedding-dress story.
Kristen and Bethany: Oooohhh! [Laughter]
Ann: Please take us back to this.
Bethany: Let’s go.
Ann: I am like in it, like, “I need to hear the end of this.”
Bethany: Yes. [Laughter] Well, this isn't my brightest shining moment in life. [Laughter] Kristen/so Kristen and I are really close in age. She got married ten years ago. When she was getting to know Zach and, you know, they got engaged, she did the whole wedding dress shopping scene.
Of course, you know, we have many sisters in our family—there are eight kids, five of us girls—her mom, the mother-in-law, the sister, all that. We're wedding-dress shopping. I am completely single at this point, but I am a very hopeful person. I had high hopes that my man was out there, and on the rise, and ready to come, and you know, marry me! I just didn't know where he was!
Ann: You’re probably thinking, “And this will just be like a year or two away.”
Bethany: Yes; I mean, Kristen and I are only a year and a half apart; you know?
Kristen: Growing up, we did everything together.
Bethany: Absolutely. We go to this one particular shop; and she comes out in what I thought was like the perfect: “It was it.” I'm like practically in tears with how beautiful this dress was. [Laughter] She's like, “Eh, I mean, it's good; but not really me.” I'm like, “Are you kidding?!”—like—“This is…”
Dave: You’re like, “Say ‘Yes!’ to the dress!”
Bethany: Yes! “Come on; this is your moment.” And she's like, “Aw.” Out of nowhere, Kristen actually suggested that I go and try this Cinderella-perfect dress on. I literally go in the dressing room, and put this dress on. I walk out, and it is my moment. [Laughter]
Ann: Okay, yes; tell me what you felt: you tried it on; you’re like—
Bethany: Oh, yes; they're just as crazy as me—my family, you know?—so they're cheering me on; and they're like: “You have to get it!” “You have to get it!” I'm completely—
Ann: And you’re not engaged, or even dating someone, at that time.
Bethany: No; literally, single.
Kristen: She loved it so much. We're all looking at this, like, “Okay; if you love that dress so much—and you/you're probably going to get married soon—you better snatch it because, when/if you do get married soon, it's probably not going to be here.”
Ann: Exactly; the price will be higher.
Kristen: Yes; “Just grab it while you can.” [Laughter]
Bethany: That was ten years ago. I will say, you know/I mean, I was like, “I'm going to do it.” I just pulled out my debit card and paid $1,000 for this dress. [Laughter] I came home: I was so excited, but also so embarrassed at the same time. [Laughter] And I remember, anyone who wasn't at the shop, I literally did not tell—like none of my friends—no one knew that I had bought this wedding dress. I stuffed it in the back of my closet. I just remember thinking, like, “Well, my day is going to come soon; so this probably won't sit here for that long.”
It's just crazy—because Kristen ended up finding her dream wedding dress/ends up getting married—and I'm still, you know, very like 21 or 22 at this point.
Ann: That's what we were saying at the beginning: “We have these plans and expectations that: ‘This is what my life is going to look like…This is what you're going to do; right God?” And then, it doesn't happen according to our timing or what we had hoped for.
Dave: So how long did that dress sit in the closet?
Shelby: You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal on FamilyLife Today. We'll hear Bethany's response in just a minute; but first, I wanted to let you know about a special group of friends who help make conversations like today’s possible. They're called Family Life Partners. Partners are a generous community of people, who believe in our mission and give financially every month.
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Dave: So how long did that dress sit in the closet?
Bethany: I got it when I was 21/22. I am 33 now, and I've been married for 3 years; so it sat in the back of my closet for almost a decade.
Ann: So the question is—I mean, I'm reading the book—like: “Did she wear it?” “Did she wear it?” “Did she wear it?”—and? [Laughter]
Dave: Oh, you mean, for the wedding. I thought you meant like, every year, pull it out and walk around the house. [Laughter]
Kristen: —on her birthday.
Ann: No; did she wear it for her wedding?
Bethany: I will say it haunted me for many years.
When I met my husband Dave—you know, all these years later, we got into a relationship—I was like: “I got this dress like eight years ago, and I cannot imagine walking down the aisle to my fiancé in this dress. This is so not us; this is so not him. This is just/I can't imagine it!”
I felt all this guilt though, like, “But I bought this dress, and I should wear it.” I was like, “Okay, I was a really stupid, naive 21-year-old,”—like—“Okay, I just have to be like: ‘I lost the money’”; so I did. I will say I tried to sell it; that didn't work.
I ended up getting another dress—just paid for it—you know, didn't just/didn't worry about it. [I] bought another dress; walked down the aisle in that dress. The sad part is that I was never able to sell it. And I haven't been able to find anyone to give it to, so it's actually still hanging in the back of my closet to this day. So I have two wedding dresses.
Ann: This is what we do as women. So often, we have our dreams; and it's a tangible dress. And it looks—all of us have a dress; it may not be a dress—but all of us have something—
Dave: —a dream.
Ann: —that we hold onto, that we think, “When that happens, I will have made it.”
I don't think you should sell it. [Laughter] You should use that, because we all relate to it; so I thought that was a great way to start.
Dave: So often, I'm—again, I'm the only guy in the studio today—so I have this male perspective, where I'm looking at three women, and I'm thinking: “A lot of times, a woman's dream is that: it's a guy; it's a relationship; it's a marriage; it's kids.” So when that doesn't happen, walk us through what that felt like.
I know, Kristen, you're married; and yours was—
Ann: Well, yes; I think we need to share Kristen’s story.
Dave: We all have dreams. I don't have a dress—but I have that visual in my head—I have something that I wished/I wanted; didn't happen—and I blamed God.
Kristen: Yes, exactly.
Dave: Walk us through what that felt like for both of you.
Ann: Well, let's hear Kristen’s story; because you had dreams unfulfilled as well.
Kristen: Right; so I got the dream of getting married—right?—thinking “Oh, I'm getting married young.” I remember thinking, on my wedding day—got married at 24, which to me, at the time, felt old—but I remember so many people questioning, like, “Are you sure? You're so young.” I was like, “I’m not that young.” I was pretty young; but my husband was even younger, 23; so 23/24, get married.
I remember thinking, going down the aisle, “Life is perfect. I am marrying this godly man. We live in the same city as our family. We love our family. We're surrounded by this incredible Christian community. We’re healthy.” I just remember thinking, “Wow, God, I am so blessed,”—like—“Thank You for this amazing life.”
Little did I know that the next decade would be filled with so much heartache on the front of wanting to start a family/have kids and not be able to and, then, experience multiple miscarriages/multiple losses. That first miscarriage was such an eye-opening loss for me, because I think, sometimes as women and as Christians, we don't even realize how tightly we're holding onto a dream, a longing, a desire; and we may even think we're surrendered. We may think we're holding it with an open hand, saying, “God, I trust You. Whatever Your plan is, I will walk that path.”
But when tragedy strikes, or God takes something away or doesn't give us something, then suddenly, our eyes are open; and we realize: “Wow! I was holding onto this so tightly that now I feel like a part of me has been ripped away.” Six months later, the same thing happened again. And so now, I find myself back in that same place of going, “God, twice, back to back; how could You let this happen?”
Ann: And now, did fear start settling in?
Kristen: Oh, yes; and now, I'm scared to get pregnant.
Kristen: Now, the very thing that I longed for so much, I'm terrified of. But at the same time, longing for it just as much. That, for me, was such a journey of God comforting me through the loss, but also in a gracious way, of challenging my heart of: “Where is my hope? Is my hope in getting the dream life that I've always imagined/that I assumed would become easily mine?” or “Is my hope ultimately in God?”
And then, long story short—shared the whole story in Not Part of the Plan—but I experienced a third pregnancy, and that one ended in miscarriage later on; so it was almost out of the first trimester. I just remember feeling, again, almost: “God, how could You let this happen?” And that, for me, was the lowest point I would say in my life and spiritually.
Then the hard—but beautiful part; it was like this dichotomy—she [Bethany] ended up getting pregnant a few weeks after my miscarriage. Here we are—as sisters, always so close—we're running this ministry. I am walking through the hardest time in my entire life as she is walking through one of the most joyous times in her life.
Anyone listening knows what it's like to long for something, or to experience a loss, and at the very same time, someone that you love/someone that you're close to is getting the very blessing that you desire. As Christians: “How do we walk that faithfully?” And that's one of the hugest journeys that God took each of us on, as sisters/as Christians: “How do we celebrate the joys of others while we grieve the losses in our own lives?”
Dave: How did that go? I mean, that second when you heard the news, what did that feel like for both of you?
Bethany: I think that it's really hard. [Emotion in voice and tears] I haven’t shared this publicly, but I've been through two miscarriages now too. And so, thinking back to that moment is even harder, because I can understand the pain, now, of what that is like and just wanting that so much.
I was so excited for Kristen, and I would have done anything. I remember praying, like: “God, why can't You give her this healthy pregnancy? Why can't You give her this baby? We haven't even been married for a year. I'm super happy for her to have this.”
So to know that she had just lost this baby—and that this is something they've been praying for; they've been married for ten years—and then, within two weeks of that time frame, for me to have to tell her. [Emotion in voice] I remember, truthfully, on the other side, I was dreading it: I didn't want to tell her, and I didn't know how.
I just remember when she asked me; and I burst into tears, because it's that hard thing. I love her so much; she loves me so much—I know she was going to be so happy for me and she was going to rejoice with me, just like I rejoiced in her marriage all those years when I had didn't have my man—we're super close like that. But it’s hard/so hard, and we had no idea what the future held. We had no idea; I had no idea for sure if my pregnancy would go on to be healthy and all of that.
Ann: I mean, the pain—that you have walked through—so many have felt that. One of our sons, his wife had three miscarriages, and right in a row. It just/it's that: “Oh, I'm hopeful,” and then your dreams and your hopes crash.
I'm thinking of our listeners that have struggled with this; it's heart wrenching. Even as you said, Kristen—even like your thoughts of God—like, “Why? I don't understand.”
So I'm wondering, as we close, Kristen, could you pray? I'm just thinking about the moms that maybe have lost babies; but also, even the moms’ daughters, who are struggling with infertility right now. Would you just pray?
Dave: And I'd just say the husbands of those women are often forgotten, but they're hurting as well.
Kristen: Let me pray.
Oh, God, we come before You now, so grateful that You are not a distant God, far away from our suffering. God, You are a near God, a Father who sent Your only Son to come to this earth, to live as a human, to die a cruel death for the people that You love, God. That is the kind of God that You are. We praise You that You are a God, who draws near to us in our brokenness/in our suffering, that You are the One who can truly comfort us.
I want to lift up, right now, every woman who has ever walked through infertility/miscarriage—for every mom, who's listening, who suffered that—or has a daughter who has, or a sister, or a friend. We all know someone who's been touched by this. God, I just pray for each of those hurting hearts, even memories that may be stored up right now, from something that happened a long time ago.
God, I pray that, as You promise to be near to the brokenhearted in the Psalms, that You would draw near—and that we would not push You away/that we would not get angry at You, God—but recognize that there is only hope when we run to You, when we look to You, when we draw near to You as You draw near to us—that that is when we find hope; that is when we find peace in the midst of the storm.
I pray for every woman grieving right now in the midst of that loss. God, would You comfort her heart as only You can, Lord?—and help her to know that there is hope on the other side, God, because our greatest need isn't to get what we want, but to get more of You in our life. You are our true hope.
And I've seen that in my own life, as You have pulled me out of the pit/as You have pulled me out of my despair and my grief, and set my feet on solid ground. God, we ask that You would do that for every woman and man listening, as couples walk through the struggle together, Lord. Draw near to us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Shelby: That's Dave and Ann Wilson with Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal on FamilyLife Today. Let me remind you that you can get their book, Not Part of the Plan: Trusting God with the Twists and Turns of Your Story, when you become a monthly Partner at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-358-6329; that's 1-800-“F,” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, TODAY.
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