Born in Lancashire, England, and now living in Yorkshire, Gill Bentham went into nursing directly out of high school. She loved the whole idea of being involved with people, especially one-on-one.
Gill’s parents supported her career decision, although her art teacher was extremely unhappy when she chose that path rather than following her dream of becoming an artist.
As her career progressed, Gill focused on palliative care in a hospice environment. She became a lecturer teaching medical professionals about end-of-life issues and how they can better control a patient’s pain by manage symptoms.
“It was beautiful because I could talk to an elderly lady standing at death’s door the night before and be in the classroom the next morning helping students understand how powerful it can be to spend time with someone who really needs a bit of human attention,” Gill explained. “At the height of my career, I felt that’s what I was called to do.”
As a Christian, Gill also had a strong desire to help people learn, grow and flourish in their faith. She started teaching kindergarten at church when she was a teenager and grew to the point of leading Bible studies and developing discipleship materials for adults.
Eventually, Gill became a part-time pastor, which she turned into a full-time effort after walking away from nursing. However, as a mother of two married to someone she described as a real narcissist, it was a constant challenge for her to make things work.
“It felt as though everything I tried to do was more or less sabotaged and undermined,” she explained. “Despite my best intentions, pastoring never came to fruition. Still, I had real passion for helping people be fulfilled by understanding what made them tick and how they could overcome their weaknesses to fully utilize what they were gifted at doing.
“When we lend our strength to someone else in an area where they are weak, it helps both people to grow, learn and make sense of their mistakes,” she added. “It gives them a second chance.”
Falling into a trap
While in her 30s, Gill fell into a trap that is common among people that age.
“I wasn’t doing much to sustain my own personal growth to the point I felt nourished and refreshed,” she explained. “Art did that for me. Reading, writing and, especially, journaling has been the No. 1 thing that served me well consistently since I was a young girl.
“However, when I was younger, I became obsessed with the need to journal every single thing I did during the day. It came to a point where I felt God asking me if I was prepared to stop journaling and trust him with my memories,” she added. “God’s perspective of your life is far more important than what you think about your life.”
Gill was 18 when she abandoned journaling entirely. Going forward, she maintained lists and notes about things she had prayed about as well as prayers God had answered. Yet, there wasn’t a lot of depth to what she was writing. A few years later, God gave Gill a chance to resurrect her journaling, but with a completely different slant that focused on spiritual formation.
“My journaling became more about processing and reflecting on things that happened in order to make sense of my life, people I encountered and things I experienced,” she explained. “My earlier journaling efforts were focused on more routine things, like activities I had done, foods I ate and people I had been with that day.”
After setting that diary-type journaling aside as a teenager, when Gill picked it up again, she started to benefit from years of analysis and reflection. Her writing became more perceptive and future-oriented. She could critique themes and trends taking place in the world.
When COVID basically locked down the world, Gill found herself in her element. As an introvert, she was content to sit at home reading, writing and working. But, others were not as fortunate. Without those same tools at their disposal, many people were unable to manage the isolation in a good way.
Untangling her experiences
Before turning 50, Gill had a goal to write her first book, which she did six months before her milestone birthday. It required four months of her time to complete, but she thought the manuscript was too convoluted to be released to the public. It would require lots of refining to become a helpful tool for people to use.
“The story was about frustration, which was a theme that ran through my life. As I was coming to terms with frustration, I realized I was embracing that attitude as a friend,” she explained. “My frustration stemmed from having suppressed my creative flow and agreeing with others that I needed to pursue nursing rather than become an artist.”
Gill modified her manuscript by describing people she admired who had broken the mold and created something for the sake of creating, or simply because they were good at what they did. As a result, her early manuscript morphed into an interesting story.
“I used a metaphor of a tangled ball of wool that became knotted and matted to the point it no longer represented the beauty of its potential,” said Gill. “I wanted to speak to people who didn’t necessarily have any biblical knowledge or even an understanding of God and why he created them. But, through the lens of understanding their life experiences, they could realize they had a destiny and a purpose to fulfill.”
Gill wanted people to come to that conclusion without having to accept an overtly Christian stance.
“The whole point of untangling the knots in their lives was to help people rediscover a childhood passion or vision for something they lost along the way,” she explained. “I wanted people to see their unique genius.”
She edited the story into a fun, quirky book describing fictional conversations with historical figures, like Florence Nightingale, and imagined what it would have been like to walk alongside them and experience life through their eyes. Gill titled the book “Disentangling Genius: Unravel the Seven Knots of Frustration so you can Align Desire with Creative Expression.”
After turning 43, Gill’s life took an unexpected turn. She went through a messy divorce and lost her ministry after a flood ruined her church.
“That was the last straw in a long chain of challenges,” she explained. “I had been fighting to keep everything I felt really mattered to my life. When I realized my life wasn’t working and I was able to lay it all down, that’s when things started to improve.”
The situation also put Gill in position to receive a major revelation, especially about how marriage is supposed to work.
“I felt God telling me, ‘You are more precious than the institution of marriage,’” she explained. “People who have not been in a position of fear or walking on eggshells around their spouse may not understand that. However, people who have experienced that or are currently living that way need to understand the basic truth of how precious they are to God.
“It gave me permission to tell myself and my children that this was a very poor example of a marriage,” she added. “Doing that gave us a second chance to do things well.”
For too long, Gill had worked hard to maintain a low-profile career just to ensure her children always had someone available to them. Although it didn’t end well for her, Gill’s sacrifice did help her children.
“I had some very lofty goals in early adulthood. I gave them all up and settled for ordinary things just to give my kids an opportunity to grow into well-adjusted adults who had a chance to love God,” she explained.
It took Gill almost eight years to recover from the pain of all that happened before she could embrace life again.
“I told God “Now that I’m in my early 50s, if there is an opportunity for me to enjoy a happy marriage and demonstrate what a real marriage looks like, I’d appreciate a second chance,” she confessed. “I realized I had a responsibility to welcome change and put certain things in place to create more opportunities than I could by simply sticking my head in the sand.”
Second chance at love
After making a commitment to try dating again, Gill knew in her heart that she would never meet anyone outside her immediate circle unless she tried something radical, like online dating.
“I said, ‘Lord, I’ll put out a very honest summary of who I am and what I think I’m looking for in a partner and why,” Gill explained. “That way, we’ll both be clear from Day One about what’s expected and what’s not acceptable.”
It soon became very apparent that by having expressed herself in that way, 99% of her options simply vanished. She would not have to follow a bunch of rabbit trails to see where they would lead.
“I had some amazing conversations with guys who I would never have dated, but they wanted to know more about my faith and why I insisted it would be the cornerstone of a future relationship,” said Gill. “It was so liberating!”
She discovered people are far more receptive to talking about faith today than they were when she was younger. Even so, many people are worried about political correctness or offending others that they don’t even want to bring up the subject.
“I would encourage anyone who knows strongly who they are and what they stand for to not be shy about using modern dating methods as long as they ensure their personal safety,” she explained.
Gill had a number of dates and one relationship lasted nearly four months. They become very good friends, but it was not an option for a long-term, romantic relationship. Then she made an amazing connection that can only be described as a divine intervention.
“I saw a profile and remember thinking I had seen this person before,” Gill explained. “All his life, Phil had lived in the same community I was in. Although he was a few years older than me, we had missed meeting each other numerous times during our 20s.
“We had been to the same children’s parks, attended the same Christian meetings and knew the same people who frequented a local Christian bookshop,” she added. “We remembered the same campaigns and visiting speakers, and even worked in the same hospital where I was a nurse and he sterilized supplies.
“We’re both hoping that someday God shows us how many times our paths crossed and when we may have spoken to one another,” said Gill. “I actually lived across from his sister when I was a young woman, and Phil and I literally lived across from the same park, but never knew each other.”
They shared common memories about the same events and people, but from different perspectives. Gill remembers going to what had been Phil’s grandmother’s house for dinner one night, but only after she had died and new people moved in.
“There are so many strange incidents that I don’t understand why we never met. That will be a big question for God,” she said.
Combining two dreams
Gill wrote another book, which is a metaphor about a lifelong canal journey. It’s similar to a 21st century “Pilgrims Progress,” but set on a waterway. It describes a journey from one end of life to the other.
“It’s written from my perspective as if I was 89 years old and talking to my great granddaughter to help her learn the important lessons of life,” she explained. “We are sailing on a narrowboat going through different locks and learning to trust the flow, gradient and mechanism of the locks. It’s all a metaphor for God’s provision.”
After writing “As If: Steering Your Life Without Strife, Navigating from Fantasy to Faith and Rising from Delusion into Destiny,” Gill and Phil celebrated with a special vacation.
Phil had been saving for a narrowboat cruise of his dreams, but he didn’t have anyone to go with him. So, they tied his dream holiday with her book launch, filmed the 100-mile canal journey and shared their experiences on social media. Gill even celebrated the live launch of her book from one of the canal boats.
“It was just incredible. I could never have afforded to do something like that on my own, and Phil never would have gone on that trip without meeting me,” she explained. “I just marvel about what God does when you actually open yourself up to the possibilities he has in store for your life.
“For the past three years, I have been married to a man who cherishes me. Now that I have a tiny bit more financial freedom, I am able to spend it on my creative pursuits,” said Gill.
As a gift, Phil built what she describes as a “war room” for prayer, Bible study and creativity.
“It’s a shed in the garden, but everything in it inspires me to pursue the creative flow I wrote about in ‘Disentangling Genius,’” she added.
“You don’t have to be narrow-minded about what the second half of your life looks like,” she added. “I still have issues and struggles that come when we get to this age. But, I have joy and optimism on the horizon instead of just looking backward with regret.”
Today, even Gill’s children can see changes to her demeanor and outlook. In fact, they’ll admit their mom is rather interesting and even kind of cool.
Converging two lives
Gill plans to continue writing and journaling as long as she can because she still has a lot to say. In fact, she sees a theme emerging regarding the convergence of things she experienced and how it helped lifelong desires came to fruition.
“As a nurse, I wasn’t in my ideal career. I felt like a square peg in a round hole,” Gill explained. “However, being a nurse and an empathetic person taught me a lot about love. I am able to love people and I have a reason to do so.
“Life for me is not about a selfish pursuit of self-actualization. It’s about being able to make people stop in their tracks, be honest with themselves, and stimulate them to dig out dreams and visions which have become dry and rusty,” she added.
“Before I turned 50, I lived for my destiny. I was obsessed with not missing the mark or the reason for being here at this time,” said Gill. “After turning 50 and experiencing brokenness as well as failure – and being ostracized and scandalized – that’s when God went to work justifying me by changing the perspective of my purpose.”
“Life became more about my legacy rather than my destiny,” said Gill.
Leaving a legacy required her to merge both halves of her life – before and after 50 – to become her best for God.
“Once I lost everything and was forced to surrender, I came back in his strength by using God’s power, not my own,” she explained. “From that point on, my life became more focused on what I can give and leave for others and what difference can I make in their lives.”
Moving forward from 50
Today, Gill is working on a new goal. She is developing a team of investors and a network of people to collaborate on creating a video game to help young people access Biblical truth so they can pass it on to their own children.
“We are not a culture of readers any more. Young people don’t read the Bible because there is a lack of them on shelves, in libraries or online,” Gill explained. “We have to make learning about the Bible palatable to the next generation so they can experience biblical principles, its teaching and lessons needed to form their character.”
Gill envisions creating an exciting, immersive and interactive video game for young people who may not have a clue about the Word of God and his love for them. Yet, she wants children and teens to grow into the image of Christ by enduring challenges and setbacks and still recovering from them.
“People who play the game will develop their character by getting feedback which rewards qualities like humility and generosity rather than sabotage and violence toward others,” she explained. “I’m a big believer in second-hand life lessons because learning the hard way from your own experience is often too painful and debilitating.
“I plan to call the game ‘Iteration” because it will be based on the cyclical flow of God’s grace, kindness and his continual process of working to reinvent us year in and year out,” she added.
Gill encourages people over 50 to return to things they left behind earlier in their lives, especially things they wish they had pursued instead of the life they chose.
“What’s stopping you from going back and pursuing it now?” she asked. “Make plans to make it possible. Don’t discount anything, even if it’s something physically difficult for you to do now that you’re older. I assure you, there is a version of your earlier dream that you can still pursue and it will be very rewarding.”
To connect with Gill, visit www.gillbentham.com.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.