By Trista VanBerkum
It started as the dream of one woman, Stephy Nobles-Beans. But like her infectious laugh, Nobles-Beans' dream of helping women whose hardships matched her own has proven contagious.
This dream is her Fields of Diamonds House of Blessings, a Christian transitional home for battered women and children. Fields of Diamonds teaches women self-sufficiency and essential life skills often lost in the desperation of survival. It is a home to empower women to transition, or "to go out" and live well, as she puts it.
The dreamer, Nobles-Beans, '02, is the home's founder and executive director, and is known affectionately as Mama Beans. She sits comfortably on the couch as if she were created for this position.
Recalling the realization of this dream, Mama Beans leans forward and says, "My dreams are my diamonds, these women are my diamonds."
The year 2010 began with two women and five children filling the rooms of her two-story home, each with a unique story and plans for the future.
Stephanie Tullos, 39, was on the verge of homelessness when she entered the home. She is a mother of three: Simone, 18, a student at the Art Institute of Seattle; Alex, 14, an athlete at Ferris High School; and Keoni, 6, a first-grader. Tullos dreams of owning her own hair salon and is currently training to be a licensed cosmetologist. Mama Beans bends her head and proudly shows off Tullos' work.
Sarah Regnier, 27, is a day-care provider and owns her own cleaning business, "Holy Hands Cleaning." With two bags to her name and previously living in a hotel, she entered the home two years ago with her sons, Ethan, 5, and Thomas Jr., 2. Their family found a home at Fields of Diamonds and have been in the process of spiritual, physical and mental growth ever since.
"Jesus and this house changed my life," Regnier testifies. "Before we came here, we lived a life of chaos. I met Jesus and through Him met myself."
These women have lived lives of hardship, enduring everything from trauma to abuse and neglect, but they will be the first graduates from Fields of Diamonds House of Blessings. They leave with plans for their future and valuable life skills needed to accomplish them.
Mama Beans is no stranger to heartache: she was brutally assaulted at the age of 13, married and divorced young, and a single mother. But her honest eyes, big voice and inviting smile belie the pain she has experienced in her 55 years.
Through the process of her healing, Mama Beans developed a passion for women and children who are hurting. She dreamed of a safe place full of love and prayer with women and children laughing around the kitchen table.
She had a dream of a home. But no house to hold it.
After 10 years of dreaming, an anonymous donor offered to buy her a house. After a careful search for the perfect home, Mama Beans found a four-bedroom brick house in east Spokane with a large kitchen, white fence and swinging gate. The quarter million-dollar home overlooks a wide backyard and, in the evening, distant city lights reflect in the large windows.
Finally, on Oct.1, 2007, the door of Fields of Diamonds House of Blessings opened.
Now, donated furniture fills the rooms; numerous pictures of loved ones from the mixed household hang on the wall and laughter finds its place at the long dining room table.
The name, Fields of Diamonds House of Blessings was selected from Matthew 13: 44-45: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."
The realization of a dream does not always result in happily-ever-after bliss, and Fields of Diamonds has not been without its pain.
Mama Beans says, "Dreams are an up-and-down business that require a faith in God."
In the first two years five women who couldn't cope with the structure of the house left without completing the program. Recalling these experiences, Mama Beans says, "My heart sometimes gets indignant and angry and I ask God, 'did I make a mistake?'" She adds, "But lessons were taught through the brokenness."
After the women left, the "broken" pieces of the dream taught Mama Beans how to develop the house into something stronger and healthier. Rules were adopted regarding gossip about the other women in the house, responsibility of mothers to discipline their children, and a required personal faith in Jesus Christ. Additionally, she worked on developing personal boundaries and looking for women who are wounded but who wanted to be healed.
"Life happens. Then ask, 'now what?'" Mama Beans challenges. "Keep on dreaming. Imagine how sad it would be if you just had one dream." She believes that dreams, like diamonds, are to be treasured but must be given the freedom to change and sparkle in a different way.
Expected to graduate next month, Regnier says, "Before I came here, I didn't know what to dream. When you are brought up in world where you want to please everyone but yourself...you don't know how to dream."
Now that she has learned to dream, Regnier says, she wants to see her cleaning business grow nationwide.
"Merry Maids did it," she says confidently, speaking of the national chain she seeks to emulate.
Her hope is contagious and she is not the only one with big aspirations.
"My 5-year-old is a praying man," Regnier shares with a grin, referring to Ethan. "He informed me he was going to be a doctor one day and he was going to buy me a doctor house and a doctor car."
At Fields of Diamonds House of Blessings Mama Beans emphasizes they do not believe in wishes. "We believe in blessings. It is through these that our dreams are truly realistic possibilities." She should know.