Faithful and True – Beverley’s Story
I was born in Adelaide in 1938 and, by the time I was a toddler, the shadow of Australia’s involvement in World War II hung over everyday life. I recall dark blinds drawn at night, search lights in the sky and air raid shelters being installed in people’s back gardens. When I was five, my mother became pregnant with her second child. I still remember the day that she went into labour and my last words to her, as she left for the hospital, ‘Mummy, the Germans won’t get you, will they’? Tragically, for a different reason, my fear of losing her was realised.
My father came to my kindergarten class early to collect me. I was so excited to see him. What I didn’t realise, however, was that my mother and the baby had both died due to complications in the delivery. I was six years old and, for the first time in my life, I felt the ache and emptiness of deep grief. I tried to cry, knowing that people expected me to but I couldn’t. I pushed the grief and the sadness deep down inside and tried not to think about it. I was not taken to the funeral, so I never really had a chance to say goodbye to my mother. To this day I still don’t know whether I had a sister or brother.
The death of my mother impacted me deeply. The safety and security of my life had been shattered. Externally, I was a happy, smiley little girl; on the inside, I was heartbroken.
Two years later, my father remarried. My relationship with my stepmother was a complicated one. I was told that my former life and mummy were gone and I must now forget all that. As an intuitive and sensitive child, I recognized early in this new chapter that it was unwise and unwelcome to make reference to my passed mother and was discouraged to have much, if any, contact with her family. Consequently, my links with that family were lost to me. I must now accept a new mother who, even though she tried, had great difficulty in adjusting to her new life, which involved somebody else’s child. This only added to my grief.
She and my father went on to have two children, with whom I have always had a close and loving relationship. Despite the tumultuous environment, I eventually came to realise that my stepmother loved and cared for me in her own way and was an excellent grandmother to my own children. As the years went on and I grew in the Lord, our relationship was healed and, for that, I am so grateful.
Church attendance and Sunday school had always been a feature of our family life but I never knew Jesus in a personal way until, at the age of 11, I truly accepted Him as Lord. As a lonely child, I still recall the revelation of Jesus becoming my friend and, as the years progressed, I became a passionate and devoted follower of God, not only relationally but also with a deep love of His Word.
At 17, I was encouraged to leave school and trained to do secretarial work. At the age of 19, I was transferred to a secretarial position in Canberra, working in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It was here that I met my husband Peter, who was also working for the same government department. For our first date, Peter took me to Parliament House to listen to a parliamentary debate! Not particularly romantic but I was smitten regardless. From the first time I met him, he made me feel safe and protected. He was a gifted, qualified musician, a committed Christian and the most gentle and loving man I have ever known.
After a two-year courtship, we were married. The following year, we were proud parents of our first child, a daughter named Elizabeth. Shortly after Elizabeth was born, Peter’s job with the Department of Foreign Affairs progressed, taking us to Manila, Philippines. Being a wife in the Consular Corp was challenging but never boring! It took me some time to adjust to the demands and expectations of my role in embassy life but, over time, I grew to love the opportunity to experience different cultures and meet people from all over the world. Our second child, Andrew, was born in the Philippines but, while pregnant, I had contracted amoebic dysentery with liver complications. Andrew was born strong and healthy but, unfortunately, my body never recovered from the ravages of this disease. What I didn’t know then, was that this would be the beginning of a lifetime battle with illness and chronic pain.
I adored being a wife and mother. Over the course of the next ten years, our family continued to expand. After a four year posting to Cape Town, South Africa, which included the birth of our second son, Mark, we settled back into life in Canberra, where another two sons, Jeremy & Nicholas, were born. By 1972, we had five children, four boys and a girl. I was determined that my children would not know the loneliness that I had experienced in my own childhood, so I devoted myself to creating a loving, happy and secure home environment. Peter also changed his role within the Department of Foreign Affairs, so that our family could remain in Australia.
We were actively involved in the life of our local church and the new house church movement in Canberra. Despite the challenges of my continuing ill health, I increasingly became involved in ministering to women through teaching and counselling, which included my role as President of Women’s Aglow in Canberra. It was an environment I thrived in, serving the Lord and others, seeing them come to fullness and freedom in their relationship with God. I felt humbled to be used by the Lord.
It was in the late 70’s, however, that a series of unexpected circumstances changed our lives forever. Through poor investment advice, we were left facing a heartbreaking challenge.
Our family of seven became homeless.
Peter was still working but, due to its suddenness, our family was without a house or the means to purchase one. The whole situation was surreal. We tried desperately to find a rental property, without success. At literally the eleventh hour, our friends at the Canberra ‘Youth With A Mission’ (YWAM) base offered us temporary accommodation. For the next three months, our family of seven started a new life, in a seemingly new world, living in two caravans at the back of the accommodation block at the base. Despite our best efforts, we were still unable to secure a rental property and, eventually, moved from the caravans to the now empty and unheated dormitory-style accommodation block. We lived there for another three years.
Those years were incredibly humbling, particularly for Peter. This was not the life that he desired to give to his family and a far cry from our early years in the diplomatic service. But God never wastes anything. In the midst of this challenging experience, our hearts became even hungrier for Him and His purposes. As our family navigated the uncertainty of that season, my confidence in God grew deeper and stronger. When disappointment came, I reminded myself of God’s goodness and kindness. It was not always easy but even through financial hardship and my ongoing battle with pain and sickness, I trusted in God and the knowledge of who He truly is. He is a good God.
The Lord was teaching me the truth of that lesson, regardless of any situation in life. I choose to look through the filter of who God says He is, as in one of my favourite scriptures – Exodus 34:6
‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth & faithfulness.’
God’s Word had always brought me great joy but now it was my anchor and hope. Given the circumstances we were in, it couldn’t have been more relevant.
As our worldly possessions became leaner and fewer, I had a greater revelation of the eternal treasures of God that were being established in our family.
After much prayer, we responded to a very clear call of God to go into missions. In 1981, we joined YWAM in Kona, Hawaii, where we began a two-year period of intense discipleship training and mission work. We returned to Australia with an even deeper confidence in God and a Kingdom world vision that’s changed the course of our family forever.
Our financial circumstances were still uncertain and housing remained tenuous but, although we have not yet seen the longed-for promise of owning our own home, God’s provision was, and is always, perfectly timed. By the time Peter had officially retired, we were enjoying the richness of a wonderful circle of friends, diverse ministry opportunities and the joy of watching our children and grandchildren flourish in life. God’s blessing and faithfulness to our family overwhelmed us.
Throughout these years, illness was, sadly, a common baseline to my life. It continued to challenge me, however, through it all, Peter was my rock, strong in health, as in faith. He was devoted to me and I to him. So, in 2008 we were shocked to discover that he was diagnosed with Prostate cancer but were relieved when the doctors were convinced that a series of radiation therapy sessions had been sufficient. Nothing prepared us for what followed.
We received news that rocked us to the very core, a second cancer diagnosis. Peter had an aggressive, stage 4 brain tumour. It was almost too much to take and, in only 11 months’ time, the Lord took him home.
I was shattered. My world. My rock. My strong emotional stabiliser, my darling husband, greatly loved father and grandfather of 12 grandchildren had suddenly gone. I felt paralysed by an insurmountable weight of grief. In the months that followed, I, who loved to pray and talk with the Lord, could only pray the Lord’s Prayer and call out to Him to rescue me.
One morning a few weeks after Peter died, a friend called and shared a word that the Lord had spoken to her, ‘Tell Beverley that Peter is alive and happy. She is so deep in grief, that she cannot hear me’.
The words that comforted me the most were, ‘Tell Beverley’. The Lord understood. It was that personal touch… ‘Tell Beverley’, because I just couldn’t hear or receive His words of comfort. It’s often at this time, in all the stages of grief, that we can seem to shut down but in His great kindness, He kept ministering His love and presence in myriad ways. He began to show me, ‘He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ and He was always with me in the grief, even though I didn’t feel anything. I was not alone. He hadn’t forsaken me. He understood.
That was seven years ago. While the Lord continues to restore, I’ve learned that healing takes time and is an on-going process. I’ve also learned that we need to be kind to ourselves in grief and let the grieving process take its time to heal. I will continue to love and miss my Peter but I have learned, in a much deeper way, that Jesus is waiting for us to lean on Him and that He is in the ‘now’ moments of our lives.
My response to grief as a child was to run and hide but Jesus wants to walk through it with us and, when He does, He brings His amazing grace, comfort and healing.
Since Peter’s death, I have continued to have health problems, including many surgeries but also times when Jesus has intervened and miraculously saved my life. Through my life’s journey, God’s kindness to me has been overwhelming. ‘He came to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free’ and He continues to do that for me.
Another scripture, which has almost become a ‘motto’ to me is, ‘Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’. Philippians. 3:13-14.
The challenge many face today is to ‘press on’, because we live in a world of instant gratification and entitlement. And it’s easy to adopt this philosophy into our Christian walk.
We often expect God to deliver us immediately from our pain. He often does but I have come to learn that there can be a long stretch between a trauma and our deliverance from it.
I recognised that victory isn’t only when the issue is resolved. Instead, it’s often in the riches of the process where, during it all, the Lord leans in and reveals yet another facet of who He is.
Regardless of what has occurred in my life, whether it’s been the grief of a dysfunctional childhood, the loss of our home, the continuing battle with ill health or the loss of my Peter, I’ve proven the Lord to be true. I have learned of His great love, His closeness and His character. I can now say that His joy is, indeed, the strength of my life and I want to continue to share this with as many as possible. Regardless of circumstances, GOD IS A GOOD GOD and He can be trusted.