Paul & Bethany's Story: An Unexpected Journey, Part 1

{Part 1 of 3}

We were gathered around a picnic table on a Sunday afternoon after worship. The bright sun warmed us as we ate lunch. The couple that sat across from me began to tell their story. They were young, hardly out of college, and somewhere in the conversation, I realized they were something very special, indeed. 

To be honest, it wasn't anything they said that Sunday afternoon eight years ago that made me think the way I did, but rather I sensed an underlying current of strength, stability, and faith within them. They would be world changers, for sure.  

Since then, their life has been shaped by unforeseen twists and turns, but throughout I see them both committed to family, friends, faith, and their community.

In this 3-part series, I will introduce you to Bethany (part 1) and Paul (Part 2) individually and then bring them together for a final interview (part 3). There's is a story of faith, so we will speak from that perspective. God's presence is evident in their lives.

Oh, and Paul, Bethany and I also share an admiration of Star Trek: The Next Generation. 

[S]: Bethany, you are a PK (Pastor's Kid). For many, that title can bring with it many challenges. For you, what has been the best thing about being a PK?

[B]: I feel like I got a really good background in the Bible and in faith. I went to school for Biblical and Theological Studies and now I'm leading cNEXTions (Middle School discipleship formation) at our church. When the kids ask me questions about the Bible, I think most of my answers come from being raised in the family I was raised in; not necessarily from my major. There's obviously some real valuable stuff there, too, but I think I grew up knowing a lot about the Bible. I also really enjoyed my dad as a preacher. I always love listening to his sermons and after moving on I've realized what a good speaker he really is. He's probably my favorite. He's my dad, he's one of my heroes. 

[If you'd like to hear Bethany's dad, Ivan, speak click here]

[S]: What was the hardest thing about being a PK?

[B]: I know a lot of PKs feel pressure to be perfect. Personally, I didn't feel that way partly because the congregations we grew up in was very forgiving and accepting. They realized we were just people even though there were unspoken expectations.

[S]: What advice would you give other PKs?

[B]: Ooooo...It's important for them to explore their faith on their own so that they aren't doing what they're doing just to appear the way others want them to appear. 

[S]: What would have been helpful for someone to tell you when you were a kid?

[B]: I think I felt pressured to reach out to people who didn't fit in and I resented that a little bit. But, I learned a lot through that and it stretched me towards becoming a better person. At the time, something like, "What you're doing is making an eternal difference and that you're becoming a better person because of this," would have been encouraging.

[S]: I think we could speak that to one another now.

[B]: Yeah. For sure.

[S]: Why did you choose to pursue a Biblical and Theological Studies degree?

[B]: At the time I was interested in going into some sort of ministry though I didn't know what that would look like. Ministry was familiar. At the end of college, I started going the youth ministry route and did an internship as a director of youth ministry at City Church in Minneapolis. That was probably one of the best jobs I've ever had. I absolutely loved it. Then, we moved down to Rochester and everything changed though not necessarily by choice. I'm still in ministry, but it's not my career. 

[S]: Why did things change when you moved to Rochester?

[B]: Well, Paul and I graduated at a really tough time. It was right when the recession hit (housing bubble) and so ministry positions were pretty hard to come by especially if you didn't know anyone. I applied for several jobs, but as a woman, too, I think people didn't (or don't) picture women as youth ministers. That made it just a little bit harder. I never even got an interview for anything. It was right around when you would hear there would be 500 applicants for one job. So, I couldn't find anything.

[S]: How did that affect you?

[B]: For a while, I was really disappointed with God. Here I was, this optimistic college graduate and God had these big plans for me and then when it didn't work out I felt like he had failed me. So, I started looking for other ways I could use my passion for working with teenagers and worked in a high school for a while as a paraprofessional. It got to the point, though, where we just needed to pay the bills, so I went back to Caribou as a barista which is what I had done in high school. I worked my way up and became a manager. Then, I decided I needed more work/life balance and went to work at Mayo Clinic. Ultimately, my path took a different direction than I ever thought it would.

[S]: About a year ago, you transitioned to staying home full-time to raise your two young daughters.  One of the things I hear from stay-at-home moms is that their need for validation goes unmet; especially when to the rest of the world it seems like stay at home moms don't really do anything. Of course, we know that stay at home moms do EVERYTHING. 

[B]: For a while, it was enough just to have Paul say, "Thank you for this or that. That was an amazing meal," or "Thank you so much for staying home with the girls and still loving to play with them in the evening." In my first year, though, I isolated myself a little too much. I realized I needed more than that so I've started getting out during the day and being around other moms.

Now, I find affirmation in that I'm not the only one going through this; that the struggles and the discouragements that I have to deal with are very real and other people are dealing with them at the same time. Sometimes, I'm embarrassed at how frustrated I can get when my kids skip a nap and I don't get any time to myself.  That makes me feel like a terrible mom and I shouldn't be that frustrated about it, so it's reassuring to talk to other moms and hear that it's frustrating for them, too. 

[S]: Think of Christmas when you were a kid, what was your most memorable gift? 

B: Well, I'd have to say my American Girl Doll. My parents gave me that. Well, actually, I saved up my allowance for more than a year and my parents paid for the rest. We didn't have a lot of money growing up and so that was a really big deal. I was probably six or seven.

[S]: Star Trek: The Next Generation...what's the first character that popped into your head?

[B]: Picard. By far the best character in my mind. 

[S]: Why Picard?

[B]: He's so wise. I think he makes the show. I don't think it would have been popular without him. 

[S]: What's your favorite episode?

[B]: I'm so embarrassed that I know favorite was the one where a probe flashes Captain Picard and then he lives a full life on this planet that actually ceased to exist a long time before. During that flash of time, he had a wife and grandchildren...I like that one. I like the ones with a little bit more character development. 

[S]: If you could ask God one question what would it be?

[B]: I don't know if I'm gonna be able to answer that simply because I'm afraid to do so. I don't want to appear judgmental or offend anyone, but I have a hard time understanding God's relative silence about homosexuality, or his silence about how we understand homosexuality. I have a lot of compassion for the LGBT community and feel as if they are marginalized in our faith because of their sexual orientation. Why didn't God make his will more clear in this area? To demand that gay people remain celibate means they will live alone and there's a part of me that feels happy when they are able to find someone who can be a companion. It's hard for me to understand and I have a lot of questions about this. 

[S]: What is the best thing about staying at home with your girls?

[B]: So, it's nice not having to get everyone ready in the morning and off to daycare. The mornings are a lot more relaxed, but I guess the best thing is probably just knowing that I can raise my girls the way I want to raise them. I think it's a huge blessing to be here to see all those milestones. 

Bethany with her daughters.

Bethany with her daughters.

[S]: How does Paul show you support as you've transitioned to staying at home?

[B]: I love feeling respected by Paul, so when he expresses confidence in my ability to run the home it means a lot to me. When he brags about my cooking or makes comments like, "I love knowing that you're home with the girls because I know you've got everything under control." Those are the things that mean a lot to me. 

[S]: What did you like about Paul when you first met him?

[B]: I thought he was cute the first time I saw him, but he is a tough one to understand when you first meet him. He gives off the impression that he's a serious type of person when you first meet and I kind of enjoyed finding out who he actually was. I found out he has this really dry sense of humor and that he's actually a really deep thinker. You just have to wait and find that out about him. So, he was kind of mysterious. 

[S]: What do you perceive as your greatest struggle in marriage?

[B]: I think we have a pretty easy marriage in a lot of ways. I'm very thankful that I can say that. Our struggles are really just silly little things. However, I love to travel and Paul hates to travel, so we get along really well until we get to an airport. Our biggest battles are in travel which we do quite a bit at this point in our life. We're on a lot of airplanes. 

[S]: Well, I think that's a wrap for today. I'm excited to talk with Paul and ask him some of these same questions. 

[B]: Yeah, me, too. It'll be interesting to see how he responds.

As I reflect on my conversation with Bethany, I am reminded of the joys brought about through the simple things of life - love, friendship, and fellowship - even through times of difficulty. Often times, we think the greatest impact is made by the largest wave, but it's the small, steady, rhythmic wave that shapes the shoreline. Well, unless it's a tsunami, but that comes in part 3 of this series. 

In part 2, you'll hear from Paul as he talks about marriage, work, family, and, of course, Star Trek.