A year ago a woman named Beckie invited herself to my home for coffee. We’d met about 15 months prior when I spoke at her church’s women’s retreat. She led the women’s ministry then, and I felt an instant connection with her as we visited.
Beckie told me her very painful story that weekend. Her husband had left her to enter the gay lifestyle a couple years prior. There she was—a single mom trying to keep her life together and provide for her family.
Sitting in my living room more than a year later, Beckie said she’d just lost her job as women’s ministry director. She felt heartbroken, but at the same time, she sensed God was leading her into a new season. And indeed—she was right.
I met with Beckie as her writing coach a couple of times per month for the past year, and I watched her journey unfold. It embodies Isaiah 61:3—“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”
Like Beckie, countless others face devastating detours in their lives. Divorce, cancer, job loss, financial ruin, natural disasters and so on change everything. We’re left hanging by our fingernails and begging God for mercy. And He answers. He takes our pain and our mess and, wasting nothing, sculpts them into a work of art that exceeds our imaginations.
I stand back and look at God’s fingerprints on Beckie’s life, and I’m left in awe. Read her story today, and find hope for your own situation. Be encouraged, my friend—God promises beauty for ashes.
And now, for Beckie’s story:
I write this as a note to self: pain has a perfect plan.
Five years ago I felt compelled to take a one-day workshop at Trinity Western University. The subject? Attachment theory and adopted children. I felt this a bit odd considering I’d not yet welcomed a child into my family other than those to whom I’d given birth. I think I took it because I wanted to be more like my super-awesome friend Rebecca who is an attachment theory therapist.
The workshop was great—I learned a ton.
While at TWU, I saw a poster for the school’s Gender Institute. I immediately knew I should focus on this topic during my upcoming sabbatical. I was going through a divorce—my former husband had come out of the closet. Gender identity had quickly become what I was all about.
I emailed the Gender Institute and inquired about their upcoming classes. One thing led to another—I had lunch with a lovely professor named Dr. Robynne Healey and soon found myself enrolled in ACTS Seminary’s Masters of Divinity program. Gender studies would be my major. No one had ever done an M. Div. with a gender studies major at ACTS before. I was a pioneer.
A year or so after I began my studies, Dr. Healey phoned me. “Would you be interested in taking a course on the history of gender?” she said. “It won’t be offered for another year and a half, and you’ll need special permission to take it because it’s a university course and you’re in seminary. But it’s worth pursuing.”
I received the necessary academic clearance and continued working on my other courses.
Four months before the course started I lost the job I loved at the church I loved—and my life fell apart again. My friend Anna-Marie told me that in ONE YEAR I would know without a shadow of a doubt why I’d lost my job at New Life. I smiled and nodded because I love her, but I didn’t think there was much to her statement. Still, I hung onto it.
As I listened to what God was saying to me, it seemed he was telling me to work on my writing. I had blogged for a few months and received rave reviews. I’d also met local author Grace Fox and felt drawn to ask her if she could help me. I invited myself over to her house for coffee and told her my story. I felt so silly asking her to help me with my writing, but my soul told me that’s what I needed to do. Lo and behold, she was starting a class for writers within days and would I like to join? YES. YES. YES.
Taking this course has proved to be among the richest and most life-giving activities I’ve done purely for myself for a long time.
Meanwhile, I pulled myself together enough to take my History of Gender course. It soon became a weekly highlight. Dr. Healey was amazing. She was a kindred spirit, I could just tell. I loved our discussions and the topics we raised.
During the last class of the semester, Dr. Healey told us that a trans couple would be coming to visit us. I knew that class would be powerful. We learned that Tori was born a man in a conservative Christian home, married a woman, had two sons, divorced, married another woman who was bisexual, transitioned to living as a woman, and remained married to Elaine (his second wife). They’ve been together nearly 30 years. They call themselves “heterosexual lesbians.” Crazy, right? Elaine says it works because she’s bi.
When Tori and Elaine arrived I couldn’t tell which one was trans. In fact, I guessed wrong. Their story intrigued me. Tori and I chatted afterwards and became Facebook friends. We touched base regularly after we initially met.
During that time I’d been looking for job openings in the church—any church would do. I had several interviews over the year. Twice I was offered positions and then “unoffered” them. This devastated me and I swore to myself I would not look for any more positions in the local church. If they wanted me, they would need to approach me themselves.
I became much more focused on intentionally writing for the church. Specifically, I began writing for those who had close relationships change due to gender issues. I asked my super-awesome friend Rebecca if she would write a book with me, and she was all in. Hallelujah!
Three months after my class finished, Dr. Healey messaged me and asked if I would be interested in co-facilitating a group called “Generous Space” for the LGBQT+ community in the Fraser Valley.
Of course I would. Not even a doubt in my mind. THIS is what I was to do in the next season of my life—and write, of course.
It’s gender. It’s groups. And it’s controversial. All things I love.
“Generous Space” (GS) groups are communities of diverse people who meet every other week for conversation, friendship and prayer, with a particular focus on including LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) Christians and their friends and family.
The crazy thing is, “Generous Space” is being offered through the Christian Reformed Church, the same denomination for which I worked the last eight years. The denomination I loved. The denomination that’s paying for a large chunk of my M. Div. (that is another story for later.) And once I told my denominational contact what I was writing, she quickly let me know it was a resource that could be used in the CRC throughout all of North America. Wow.
Pain’s perfect plan. I absolutely know why God removed me from New Life, and what I’m supposed to do next. I am focused. I am called. I even feel like I could go back to New Life for church sometimes.
Thank You, Jesus.
Read more about Beckie’s journey on her blog: www.IDidLearnSomething.blogspot.ca