Kristen Clark & Bethany Beal: When Life Throws Curveballs
About the Guest
When life throws curveballs, thriving can feel unreachable. Authors Kristen Clark & Bethany Beal relate pain and hope of life outside the one they dreamed.
Kristen Clark & Bethany Beal: When Life Throws Curveballs
Kristen: This is for any of us: “If God never gives you blank”—fill in the blank—“could you still be happy?” “If God never gives you children, could you still be happy?” “If God never gives me this very real desire of my heart, could I still find joy and purpose and fulfillment in Christ alone? Is God enough?”
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.
Have you had very many nights, where you just can’t sleep because you’re worrying or you’re anxious about something?
Dave: Oh, my goodness.
Ann: Wait! What?!
Dave: What do you mean? You’re laying, right there, beside me. [Laughter]
Ann: You hardly ever worry. [Laughter] I feel like you’re always [snoring sound]. That’s totally/your sleeping all the time!
Dave: Typically, I sleep pretty good. But you know, I’ve told you, when the boys were little, how many nights—
Ann: What? Wait! What?!
Dave: Come on; you know this.
Ann: I knew you were worrying later.
Dave: When I say this, you’re going to go, “Oh, yes; you’ve told me this.”
Dave: How many nights did I lay in bed, worrying about college tuition?—
Ann: Oh, yes; that’s true.
Dave: —I mean, carrying that.
Ann: I worry about relationships, and you worry about money. [Laughter] That’s true.
Dave: I mean, when they were five years old and then six, like, “How are going to pay even the mortgage?” Then starting a church, that we didn’t know if anybody would show up—fear/anxiety. I’d love to sit here and say, “I’m such a man of God; I never worry”; but I—
Ann: I wish we would have talked about that more then.
Dave: We did.
Ann: Did we?!
Dave: But I was really good with my fear and anxiety; I just kept it to myself. [Laughter]
Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?—that does wonders for you.
Ann: I’m just sharing online; I didn’t know it was reciprocal. [Laughter]
Bethany: You’re like, “I thought I was the only one with a problem.” Come on!
Ann: Exactly; I would have wanted to know that! That would have made us closer.
Dave: I don’t know what just happened. [Laughter]
We’ve got two sisters in the studio with us. Kristen and Bethany are back on FamilyLife Today for another program. Welcome back!
Bethany: Thank you so much.
Dave: What just did happen there? [Laughter] I know we’re going to talk about your book, Not Part of the Plan,and how our plan doesn’t often match up with God. But something erupted there when we talked about why we don’t share our anxiety with others. Have you been there? I mean, women share everything; right?
Bethany: Yes, I feel like there are so many things where: one, you might feel like, “I shouldn’t be worrying about this; I shouldn’t be fearful about this,” so you just feel, “I’ll just keep it to myself.” Or it’s hard to be vulnerable/it’s hard to be open and say, “Honestly, this is a struggle for me/this is a problem for me.”
I know, in the very first conversation we had here, I was sharing about that wedding dress and how it hung in the back of my closet. I will tell you that—
Dave: By the way, if you missed that one, you’ve got to go back—
Ann: —or the second one; go back.
Dave: —and hear this story. It’s pretty epic.
Bethany: But that dress started to haunt me. [Laughter] I started to have a lot of worry and fear. I remember—
Ann: —and shame, I’m guessing.
Bethany: Oh, yes; shame—and just feeling like—I remember there was a particular Valentine’s Day, where I was sitting on my bed, with my knees pulled up to my chest. Everyone had their fun, and their man, and their roses, and their chocolate bear. I was just sitting there, with this dress with dust on it, like, “Look at you!” [Laughter]
Dave: It’s like staring at you from the closet.
Bethany: —a scary movie; yes, staring at me from the closet.
I can’t tell you how much fear over the future/how much worry I had. I remember sitting on my bed, and God was so faithful to bring back a verse that had been a big encouragement to me in my past. It’s Proverbs 3:5-6; and it says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
For me, a huge source of my worry over what was happening in my life and fear of the future—so much fear over what was going to happen again—I realized, for me, it was stemming from a lack of trust in God. I realized: “I just need to trust Him for today. Do I really believe that He is directing my paths? Do I really believe that He wants what is best for me more than I want what is best for me? Do I really believe that I can serve Him and live for Him, fully, as a single just as much as I could as a married? Circumstances would be different, but do I really believe that?”
Proverbs 3:5-6, really in that moment/that Valentine’s Day moment, I remember this so clearly, with the tears streaming down my face, saying, “God, I am so fearful; but I know that I trust You. I trust that You hold the future/that You care about my future and how I can serve You more than I do—I can wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. God, I trust You; direct my steps; help me to serve You today”; then do the same thing the next day. I didn’t have to have all the trust for the next 80 years. All I needed was for God to help me and give me strength to trust Him for that day.
Ann: I’m thinking about all the incredible people that have gone through really painful divorces, and that was never their plan.
Ann: But the worry, like: “How am I going to take care of the kids?” and “What does my future look like?”
Dave: —or the loss of a child.
Dave: That anxiety’s real/that worry’s real. Kristen, you talked about three miscarriages. I’m guessing the fear and worry about: “Will I ever…What’s the future look like?” gripped you.
Kristen: Oh, every day, having to turn to God over and over again—and through the journey of a decade of the diagnosis of unexplained infertility—and then, to be able to get pregnant; but then, every time, to only miscarry; and now have this diagnosis of recurrent miscarriage. I’m still on the journey/still have not been able to conceive and bear a child—and still trusting God for that/holding that with open hands, still hopeful/still praying for that.
Ann: Did you lay in bed, though, worrying?
Kristen: Oh, yes; worrying about—“What if I do get pregnant again?”—terrified of a loss; or “What if I never do?”
I have a sister, who’s very close to me, who I’m looking at right now. [Laughter] She asked me a question, forever ago—we write about this in our book, Not Part of the Plan—but this was way before you had your miscarriages. In your singleness, she said, “If God never gives you children, could you still be happy?” This is for any of us: “If God never gives you blank”—fill in the blank—“could you still be happy?” What she was asking was: “If God never gives me this very real desire of my heart, could I still find joy, and purpose, and fulfillment in Christ alone? Is God enough?”
I wanted to quickly say, “Of course, God’s enough; He’s everything!” I think, as Christians, that’s our quick answer; right? But really, when we have to dig down to it: “Is God truly enough?” I remember this journey of wrestling with this fear and this anxiety and “Is God enough? Is He really enough? I want this so bad; but God, You say You’re enough.”
God showing me, through the pain, that peace isn’t the absence of pain; but it’s turning to God in the midst of our pain. Every single one of us has a story of pain, whether something we’ve gone through, we’re going through, or we’re going to walk through. We can find peace in the midst of it as we turn to God.
We see that in Isaiah 26:3, which became an anchor for me over these past few years as God redirected my story—a twist and turn that was not a part of my plan, which is directing my husband and I to international adoption; something we never saw coming—but it’s Isaiah 26:3, which says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” I memorized that verse. I would say it every single day as my heart was prone—right?—the song—we are prone to worry, prone to anxiety, prone to fear.
I would remind myself. I would just say that to myself and say, “God, help me to trust You. Because, as I keep my mind on You/as I trust You, that’s where peace comes from. Whether my circumstances ever change or not—whether I can ever have children/whether I go through more miscarriages—I don’t know. But I know You are going to give me grace for today; and as I set my hope on You, You will give me peace.” I’ve seen God do that.
Ann: Kristen, were there days that you’re like, “I don’t even want to go there.”
Kristen: Yes; for sure!
Ann: “I don’t want to read; I don’t want to think about it. I just want to be in the dump”; you know? [Laughter]
Ann: “I just want…”—because I’ve been there, like, “I’m tired,” “I’m tired,” “I’m tired, Lord.” I bet you’ve prayed that prayer.
Dave: “Just give me another brownie.” [Laughter]
Kristen: Oh, trust me. We have this hiding in the back of our closet, with our bowl of ice cream and our Cheetos®, just trying to drown out our sorrows. I’ve been there, like, “Pass the Cheetos, honey. Just open the door and chuck them at me.” [Laughter]
Ann: But then you’ve tasted God’s goodness when you’ve gone to Him, I’m guessing.
Kristen: Yes, which is a deeper well than any bag of Cheetos could ever provide. I’ve turned to those quick fixes more times than I can count. God has been so patient and gracious, drawing me back to Him, saying, “Perfect peace comes to you as you come to Me. That’s where you find it. It is found in your relationship with Me.”
Because at the end of the day, we were created to be most satisfied in God. Our greatest purpose isn’t to get the life we always wanted, but to glorify God and build His kingdom the way He sees fit for us; right?
- We want to build: “Yes, I’m a Christian; I want to build Your kingdom according to my plans.”
- God’s saying, “No, no, no; you are a vessel for the works I set before you and you’ll build My kingdom the way I am calling you to build it.”
It’s really that humble surrender of saying, like Mary, “Okay, Lord; let it be done to me according to Your will. Your will be done; not mine.”
Dave: Yes, I’ve found this on your Girl Defined Instagram®.
Kristen and Bethany: Well, look at you scrolling there. [Laughter]
Dave: I’m almost embarrassed to say—I just went to Girl Defined—it sounds funny for a guy. [Laughter] Here’s the paragraph—I don’t know which one of you wrote this—but it says: “The last decade has taught me that joy doesn’t come from getting the life I always imagined, but from trusting God with the life He has for me, and believing that His plans truly are better; because they are.”
Ann: I was going to read that exact quote; we are so one right now.
Dave: We are one; aren’t we?
Bethany: You are made for each other.
Ann: Look at us. [Laughter]
Dave: I mean, obviously, we heard your story; so it isn’t an empty truth.
Dave: Somebody that’s had a life, [who] didn’t really struggle, you’re like, “Yes, whatever, dude; you don’t know.” But you know; you’ve gone through it—and even still. Let me ask you this: “When you look at your boys now, [who] you have adopted, what do you think about God’s plan?”
Kristen: Wow; I think, “God, You knew this all along; but I had no idea this was coming.” A visual that always comes to mind for me is this idea, as humans, it’s like we’re looking at our life story through a tiny straw. Imagine if you hold up a straw, and you look through it; you can’t see much. You look around the room; you can only see a tiny little bit. But God sees our story from the beginning to the end; He sees everything.
When He says in His Word, “Trust Me,” we’re not trusting a God, who’s also looking through a straw; we’re trusting a God who sees everything. He has a good plan for us that may include suffering/that may include trials for the purpose of building endurance, drawing us closer to Him, allowing our stories to be a place of hope that other Christians can come, and even unbelievers, and say, “Wow, look at the hope you have in the midst of that. Tell me more about that.” We’re trusting a God, who is sovereign, who holds all things together in His hand.
I had no idea that God had these two precious boys—they’re 11 and 7—brothers from Ukraine. Through my sister marrying a missionary in Ukraine, and moving there, we got connected with the country of Ukraine. There was a lot of fear though in my heart—talk about fear, and anxiety, and worry—I was terrified of adoption. I had all the biblical answers for why it was good and godly and Christians should do it. But for me, I just thought, “I’ve been through so many miscarriages. I’ve built up my hope only to have it come crashing down. I don’t want to go through that again on the adoption path.”
It took God really digging into my heart—and exposing the fear and the anxiety about adoption—Him exposing that and helping me to see that I was just covered in fear; I was not trusting God; I was not open-handed at all. And then walking a journey of surrender, and really going to God’s Word, and saying, “God, what is Your heart for adoption? What do You say about this?” And then seeing the parallels with the gospel and our adoption as God’s children and just the beauty of that.
God doing a 180 in my heart/a 180 in my husband’s heart, and then giving us a desire for adoption that we had never had before—a genuine desire and longing—and then walking down that path. God really helped me to see that. His plan for bringing together families can look so many different ways, and He did answer my prayer for motherhood. Now, it is one of the biggest blessings of my life.
Ann: Let me ask the two of you—and Kristen, you can start—“Who would you be now, had you not gone through infertility and your three miscarriages? What are the things that you’ve gained as a result of the suffering that you’ve walked through?”
Shelby: You are listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear Kristen’s answer in just a minute; but first, we hear from you regularly about how important it is for us to have these kinds of conversations to help all of us to think wisely, biblically and compassionately about subjects like this. As you can imagine, we’ve had to make some tough choices, again, this year. We’re hoping that, through the generosity of people just like you, we can continue to reach your home and really homes everywhere.
This is an especially unique and critical time of year to donate; because we’ve had some friends of the ministry come alongside us and offer to double your monthly gifts for 12 months, up to $300,000 when you become a monthly Partner right now. What does that mean? It means, if you give $25 a month, the impact is actually $50 a month. On top of that, when you do give this month, as our thanks to you, we’ll send you a bundle of resources, including two books: one, Not Part of the Plan by Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal, who you’re hearing from today; and two, A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas.
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Alright; now, back to what Kristen and Bethany have gained as a result of the suffering they’ve walked through. Here’s Kristen.
Kristen: I would say I’ve gained spiritual endurance. I have gained a deeper relationship with the Lord, as a result, because I have walked the valleys of questioning His character—and “God, are You really good?” and “What are you doing?”—and not necessarily getting answers, but deepening my faith and trust, anchoring my hope in God and who He says He is, and believing that from a gut level—not just a theological knowledge of my head—but that transforming my heart. Now, I know there is no true hope outside of the Lord. I don’t think I would have that deep relationship with God, had I not walked through these valleys.
Ann: What about you, Bethany? How are you different?
Bethany: I remember a moment, where I came face to face, with a lot of my idolatry of what I thought I needed in order to be happy. I know, if I had done things my way, I definitely wouldn’t be sitting here; I would be married to someone else. I don’t know what my life would look like, because I was in a very unhealthy—I would say very toxic relationship—during this period of desperation/wanting to get married, because I had made such an idol out of my dreams and my way.
It took a lot of work from God to help me see what an idol my desires had become. I’m so grateful that God didn’t give up on me. He wasn’t like: “Bethany’s a lost cause. Out with her. She can marry that guy,”—whatever. [Laughter]
I see: “Wow! God did have a good plan for me.” Over the last, really, ten years—for me it was ten years of singleness—ten years of trying to figure out: what in the world, my life was going to look like. I think that really, one: learning to trust God in such a deep way has helped me to see my plans aren’t always going to look like His plans.
The man that I did end up marrying—ten years ago, if you would have told me: “You’re going to end up with this guy,”—I would have been like, “Psh, yes; right.”
- For one, he’s shorter than me. [Laughter] I am 6’ 1”; “I need a man that is like, at least, a few inches taller than me.” I would have completely, on that fact alone, would have looked over him—[Laughter]—literally, that was not; I did not mean that—[Laughter]—[He] and I are very open about our height difference.
- And he’s younger than me; and so I know I wouldn’t be married to him, because I had my own/my life was going a certain way.
So just seeing now: “Wow! God had someone for me so specific, and He is the most incredible man.” Now we both get to serve God together; and we have our sweet son, Davey, Jr. I wouldn’t have been doing Girl Defined, because I would have demanded things go my way; I would have demanded that I would have been married to someone else.
Ann: You would have decided to find your own life.
Bethany: Exactly; so it’s crazy, because this isn’t the life, ultimately, that I always dreamed of and I wanted. But I look back, and I’m like, “This is better than anything I could have wanted.” Even if life never changes, even if I only have my one little Davey, Jr., and I never have a healthy pregnancy again, for me—whatever it is—I know that God is trustworthy. I’ve seen it for myself; I’ve seen Him be faithful.
Genuinely/truthfully I have so much gratitude and joy in my heart, because of the trials. I think it’s so important, through the hardship—as difficult as both, Ann, you and Kristen described—“Take that one step: cry out to God/ask Him”; because one day, if you do that, you’ll look back and say, “God, I thank You for taking me through that—as terrible, and awful/as difficult as that was—I’m actually grateful; because it drew me closer to You, and my life it so much richer and deeper.”
The Bible says that, at God’s hand, there are pleasures forevermore [Psalm 16:11]. It’s not the earthly pleasures; it’s that deep satisfaction of knowing Him and knowing, one day, we’re going to spend forever with Him. It’s just a taste of that, sometimes, when we go through those hardships. For me, I’m actually very grateful for what God has brought me through; and grateful for my husband, even one or two inches shorter and all. [Laughter] I’m sorry, husband, if you’re listening. [Laughter]
Dave: David, if you’re listening, I’m shorter, too; a lot of us are.
You know, one of the things that inspires me, listening to you two, is I think one of the things that anxiety, and especially fear, can do in a person’s life is it paralyses us. We’re afraid to risk: because we’ve risked, and it didn’t work; or we’ve had hopes, and then it got dashed—as you’ve just said—you sort of get safe.
Ann: You guard your heart.
Dave: You just, “I’m not going to take a risk.” Even adopting, that’s a risk; that’s like: “God, I’m going to step out again; and I’m scared.” Way to go!
I’m just thinking of a listener, who’s living this safe, protected life, which I get it/I understand. God wants you to risk/He wants you to say, “Trust Me.” You know what? It may not go the way you even want.
I’m sitting here, thinking, “You two are remarkable women.” What did your parents do?
What would you say to—there’s so many parents listening—it’s like: “Man, I hope my son/my daughter is walking with Jesus one day.” We wrote a parenting book about that hope. I don’t know your parents; I’ve never met them. I’m thinking they must have done something pretty incredible.
Ann: Name two things that you think: “I’m really glad they did this…”
Bethany: I’m sure they wanted to give up over the years. Kristen and I weren’t always—we have a long way to go—but we were not the best.
Kristen: We started out by sneaking out in the middle of the night and eating all of the ice cream in the freezer, and then lying about it the next morning; we did that for many months when we were kids. [Laughter]
But I will say—
Dave: Now, that’s not too big of a sin. I’m thinking there’s other kids, snuck out, and did worse things.
Kristen: That’s true.
Dave: That would be me.
Ann: But they were little.
Dave: It was worse than ice cream; but anyway—
Kristen: We were five/six, seven.
But watching our parents faithfulness, as imperfect as they would say it was. There are eight of us kids, and there was a ninth. He only lived for eight hours; it was full term. We didn’t find out until/my parents didn’t find out until he was about to be born that there were life-altering circumstances, and he wasn’t going to make it.
That was a really defining moment for me, of watching my parents go through, literally, holding their baby/having to bury him. It was such a horrible experience, but they didn’t get bitter at God. They literally, with all of us kids—we were younger at that time—they literally were the ones who were telling us: “God is still good; He is still faithful. We don’t understand why He gave us this last baby”—that was the last one—“and took him home to be with Jesus. But we know that He’s good and He has a bigger purpose.”
Then through their own suffering, not pulling apart, but ultimately pulling us all together, was such a defining moment. I don’t think they realized how much of an impact they made—just their faithfulness—not something specific that they said; but them just striving to see God’s goodness, and to point us to Him through their grief, made a massive impact on me. That’s been really defining for me.
Ann: They let you guys see it.
Kristen: Oh, yes.
Ann: They didn’t hide it.
Ann: It’s amazing, because it’s really kind of what your book’s about.
Bethany: Our parents also really emphasized our relationship over rules. I know, now, being a parent myself, I find myself “Okay,”—I’m the black-and-white lady—like: “Alright, kids, here’s the boundaries, and the rules; and we’re going to do this, this, and this”; and focus on behavior; right?
They had their rules and boundaries, of course; but they were very focused on the relationship. They would allow us to ask questions: “Okay; why?”—especially when we hit the teenaged years—“But Dad! Why?” And they would explain, like: “Honey, here’s why we think this is best…” “Here’s why we are doing this: Because we love you. You don’t like it; but here’s why we think this is the better path for you and why we’re putting up these boundaries and these guardrails…”
I just remember, as I grew into adulthood, always feeling like I could go to my parents and talk to them about anything; because I knew the relationship was more important to them than just us following the rules/just doing the right thing.
I think, for any parent listening, that’s a huge thing—is to continue to invest in that relationship; get to know your child; get to know their heart—because in the long run, I know for me, that really has continued into my adulthood to keep me connected to my parents; because I feel like, “Wow, I have a genuine relationship with them.”
Dave: I would just, as I listened to you, I think, “Okay, it’s Girl Defined; but your motto is boy defined, as well.” It’s all of us defined by: “Our Designer defines us”; way to go. I’m thinking of the men listening/ women listening:
- “If we live that out”—and you say, many times, in your book, Not Part of the Plan, that you got to know the heart of the Creator to be able to trust Him—it’s like: “Get to know the Designer, Jesus; that’s His name. When you know His name, and know His heart, you can trust Him.”
Kristen: The more you know Him, the more you know yourself, truly; because you become defined by who He says you are. You can only learn that by getting to know Him.
Dave: Exactly; there you go. I tried to say it—and there it was—can’t say it better than that. [Laughter]
Ann: That’s good; Thanks!
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal on FamilyLife Today. I want to remind you that you can get their book, which is called Not Part of the Plan: Trusting God with the Twists and Turns of Your Story. You can get that 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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Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking with John and Korey Cooper from the band, Skillet. John and Korey raised their kids on the road, alongside some of the most famous heavy metal bands in the world, and found that, even in the times of fear, wondering about how their kids would turn out, steering them towards Jesus was the best priority as a parent. That’s tomorrow. We hope you can join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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