Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category

Imperfect Christmas

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Ever feel like Christmas is broken? IMPERFECT?

Me too.

Like this year. Usually my Christmas speaking engagement wraps up around my mid- December wedding anniversary and I quicklypam speak christmas ncc 2015 shift into a whirlwind of decorating, carol singing, an upbeat social schedule, and fun family outings. However, more often than not, things spiral into imperfection.

Imperfect people.  Imperfect attitudes.  Imperfect challenges to our “perfect plan.”

This year the contrast between the planned perfection and the imperfect was sent in the form of a “crash”, “bang” and “boom”  as they only Christmas decor I had up, my collectible nativity, was accidently bumped resulting into a broken Mary and a headless wise man. The shelf falling to the ground could be seen as an “accident”, God sent it “on purpose”, to remind me of the glory and gain of imperfection.

willowcreek nativity  It is so easy to fall into the “Life must feel perfect” at Christmas syndrome.  And if things don’t feel perfect, or if relationships are not working perfectly, or if circumstances refuse to fall into our perfectly planned expectations—then we can topple into the crevasse of depression. Statistically, those in the people helping professions report a significant rise in depression and suicidal behaviors during the holidays. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season .

. The Devil would want us to get all caught up in the lights, tinsel, costly gifts, fancy clothes, and elaborate parties. In reality, the first Christmas was FAR from perfect!

Pregnant Mary had to ride MILES on the back of a donkey. She was likely uncomfortable and apprehensive. This young woman (a teen, really) was carrying the Christ-child amidst the rollercoaster of emotions of an Angel appearing to her sharing the news that God, the Creator of her and all things, was going to overshadow her with the power of the Holy Spirit and she would conceive miraculously then deliver the Savior of the World. In human terms, there had to be some raised eyebrows and behind the back whispers going on. And the whole donkey ride trip was all because some leader wanted an accurate count of the population. It was politics, the ego of the governmental leaders, inconveniencing the everyday lives of those they were put in place to care for. With everyone on the road for the census, lodging was in very short supply creating the “no room in the inn” problem.

nativity Accompanying Mary was her betrothed husband to be, Joseph, who should have been home enjoying the praise and accolades of a community leader. However, he was more likely feeling his own fears, anxieties and questions. An angel had also appeared to him, but the angel did not appear to his entire community at his point so  there was likely a  shadow of social scorning based upon the humanly incomprehensible miracle of a virgin birth.  To Joseph’s credit, he took the brave, high road and protected the life of the young woman he loved and cared for her when others might have called for her death. In addition, he took on the responsibility of traveling with her, and overseeing her care, and the care of a child that was not really “his”.

The shepherds were in a cold field, alone, with sheep. They might have been bored . . . lonely . . . isolated– until they were christmas great joy vscompletely overwhelmed, overjoyed, over stimulated by the amazing light show and music heaven created! God addressed their primary emotion: FEAR:   “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

The Inn keeper was excited over the increased income stream—but if he had half a heart, he was also concerned about a very pregnant young woman sleeping in a stable full of animals in the cool night air. An imperfect setting.

The wisemen were not at home in their opulent “castle”. No, they traveled long and far across a vast desert on the back of camels following a star—hoping to prove their trip was not in vain.  And they sacrificed financially bringing with them gifts of gold , frankincense and myrrh for a child they knew very little about, but longed greatly to find.

Even Jesus could have complained.

 But think of his office grand demotion! He went from the glory of heaven to the grossness of a barn— surrounded by a bunch of smelly animals. Have you ever spent the night in a barn? I grew up on a sheep farm, and our lambing shed might be the closest experience any human might echo the surroundings of the Christ-child. It is a mix of cold night air, steamy, sweaty, smelly lanolin filled wool, mixed with smells of excrement, afterbirth, hay and animal feed.

I have had many an “imperfect” Christmas. As a child, the joy of a morning full of unwrapping gifts under the tree would quickly escalate into a family fleeing to the corners to escape the wrath of an unhappy, depressed and drunk dad. Today they call what I experienced “domestic violence”. But Jesus was with me. Immanuel. An Eternal Father.

As a young mom, with very little money, I was working hard one Christmas to hold back melancholy tears and fears. I prayed, “God we have no money for gifts for the kids and extended family!” God whispered toangel ornament my heart, “Don’t focus on what you DON”T have, focus on what you DO have. You have ME. What is there, in you, the woman I created you to be that you can offer to me? I can work with anything you offer up. “I have a little writing skill.” So God gave me a children’s story, I wrote it on paper angels, and God gave a creative way to give personalized blessings from the entire family  to each child, recorded on those angels—and on their hearts. The lasting impact has been POWERFUL.   Because Jesus was there-  Immanuel. Mighty God.

Then a few years later, I was in turmoil because I knew God was asking me to extend that blessing to Simple Skills GODS LOVE PLUS YOUR DECISIONSmy very volatile, imperfect, unpredictable, alcoholic dad. In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman, I share how God knew for me to live free, for my family to live free, I had to free my dad from his shame,  guilt, and mountain of regret. If he was ever to gain a shot at experiencing God’s love, God was asking me to first model that love. God gave each word of the blessing I wrote. My dad wept tears of hope as I read it to him that Christmas day. Christ was there! Immanuel. Wonderful Counselor.

And in 10 Secrets of Living Smart, Savvy and Strong, I open up about the  mid-life Christmas eve, a decade ago, when bad news from a doctor rocked our world and pushed over the first of many difficult dominos of crisis and change I held tight to my Immanuel, my Prince of Peace—and peace came—not because circumstances changed but the God of change came into those circumstances!

And THIS Christmas, it feels as imperfect as any in my history.  This year, as others buy goods and gifts, I am packing away, sorting away, giving away, and throwing away material goods and gain. It is a season of downsizinchristmas pam bill moveg. My mind and heart are a rollercoaster of emotions of angst and apprehension mixed with adventure and excitement.

The year ahead appears to be a blanket of untouched, untrampled, and unplowed snow.  Our life feels like the “white out” blizzards of my youth. Those storms felt confusing because everything is white: the sky, the snow, your attire — so it is easy to feel lost and become lost on the icy tundra. And when you do finally get brave enough to take a step, into the snow, you must step carefully so as to not set off a life-quenching avalanche.  However, in any ice storm, blizzard, or flurry, all you need is one solid marker: a fence to follow, a sound to move toward, a light to progress nearer to then you can begin to make progress toward safewhite out blizzardty, toward home, toward hope. In our snow-blind of change, Christ is that light, that life-line, that song of hope:

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. ( John 1:4)
He is our light… one step at a time . . .like a candle shinning in the darkness, my Lord is leading. So I am leaning, as I always have, as I always will, on my Immanuel. My Prince of Peace.

~christmas deb ak light xmasLife is imperfect! It is VERY imperfect EVERY DAY including Christmas day.   And that is EXACTLY why the gift God sent – Jesus—a saving Messiah–is the PERFECT gift:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11)

            He is Lord, the SINLESS one. The ONLY PERFECT one who could heal our brokenness by growing up to extend His arms of love laying them down on the cross—for your imperfects and mine.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12)baby jesus

            He is Lord, a PERFECT Creator God, who is  not  afraid of our messiness because he has the creativity and power to recreate, renew, redeem, revive and rejuvenate anything, anyone, anytime we turn to Him.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.“
Matt 1:23

He is Lord,  GOD WITH US! A God, who as my 11 year old son once described as,:

This God, this Christ of Christmas, is PERFECTLY ABLE to be with us, moment by moment each day, every day—and on Christmas Day.

nativity scarred but strongerAnd that perfect God, he can do what I saw that  “superglue” do to fix my nativity figurines. The place of brokenness when glues was applied was scarred — but stronger. The imperfection is visible enough to make one ask about “the story of brokenness” and “healed” so it can carry its role beautifully reflecting the power of the healing agent.  

I am imperfect, my Christmas is imperfect, the circumstances of the birth of the Christ child—imperfect too—and God planned in the imperfect–  so we could recognize and reach out to the PERFECT ONE, wrapped in the manger, now wrapped in our hearts, and who now wraps us up in His PERFECT LOVE.     

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Our Love Story: Anniversary Ever After

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

 

In celebration of our 36th wedding anniversary, here is a creative attempt at telling our love story using our book titles:pam bill dating bc

Once upon a time there were two kids that wondered, “What are THE BEST DECISIONS A MAN CAN MAKE and THE BEST DECISIONS A WOMAN CAN MAKE?”  Pam, a little girl from a chaotic home, knew she didn’t want to marry an alcoholic like her dad, and she knew that only Jesus could heal her heart and life, so at age eight, she made the BEST DECISION and asked Jesus to come into her life. Meanwhile, Bill, a few years later, as a high school QB who thought he was fearless went to see the a horror movie and was filled with fear! He read 1 John 4: 4”Greater is He who is in me than he (Satan) who is in the world.” So Bill made the BEST DECISION and asked Christ into his life.  These great choices made Pam and Bill CELEBRATE! Because they made a great decision to follow Jesus and God laid a strong foundation to their lives!

pam bill engagement moroAs college students, on two different campuses, they each made the BEST DECISION to go to a leadership conference at Campus Crusade Headquarters in Arrowhead springs. Pam wanted to become A WOMAN GOD CAN USE. Bill wanted to study to become a pastor.  There, after using one of the 30 WAYS TO WAKE UP A QUIET TIME,  Bill and Pam each made the BEST DECISION to give God their future and each decided to go into full time Christian work. Each entered the lobby from  a different door and sat on sofas that faced the other. Bill made the BEST DECISION to introduce himself to Pam and ask her, “What did God teach you today?”

That day God connected their hearts.

They wanted to date in a God-honoring way, so Bill had a spiral notebook that had some BEFORE YOU MARRY BOOKOF QUESTIONS in it.

The Farrels believe and base their love and life on the verse:

This helped them begin A COUPLE’S JOURNEY WITH GOD so they decided not to kiss until they were engaged and after dating for 9 months, they took a summer off: no writing or talking for 8 weeks—just praying to see if they were God’s will for each other. They needed to learn the 10 BEST DECISIONS A SINGLE CAN MAKE. Bill worked hard all summer cleaning pools and saved for a ring, because he wanted to LET HER KNOW HE LOVED HER! Pam studied hard all summer at Institute for Biblical Studies. One a quiet night in August, they met up and they knew God had called them to begin a life serving Jesus together. Pam and Bill also knew they would LOVE TO LOVE EACH OTHER!   Shortly after, near the beach they had often dated on, Bill knelt on one knee and sang a song he had written for Pam and then asked, “God has brought us together. Will you marry me? Will you kiss me for the first time?” and Pam joyfully, excitedly, enthusiastically said, “YES!” pam bill wedding 2 view frame prov 14 22 verse

That day God connected their futures.

 

On December 14, 1979 they married in Bakersfield, Ca. They had a heart’s desire to live out the BEST DECISIONS A COUPLE CAN MAKE.

That day God connected their spirits—and their bodies!

Those FIRST FIVE YEARS were a rollercoaster of emotions: The challenge completing their college with  little money, but joy too as they saw God do miracles! (One big one was, seeing their youth group pray God would provide transportation– after riding bikes for a year everywhere God gave them a used car!) The Farrels loved youth ministry, and during those years,  Bill finished Talbot seminary, while Pam attended bill carrying pam 1BIOLA. As they studied, God gave them a heart for helping people with relationships. They often wondered, “WHY DO MEN AND WOMEN ACT THE WAY THEY DO?” It was a MARRIAGE IN THE WHIRLWIND  of responsibility so they were having many DEVOTIONS FOR MEN ON THE GO  and DEVOTIONS FOR WOMEN ON THE GO. After much hard work, Bill graduated first (BA, then MDIV) , then Pam (BA).

Those days God connected their ministries.  

Soon kids came along, and they wanted Brock, Zach and Caleb to reach their God given potential so they prayed, “God, what are THE 10 BEST DECISIONS A PARENT CAN MAKE. We want to help find THE TREASURE INSIDE OUR CHILD(ren) so they can learn that GUYS ARE LIKE WAFFLES AND GIRLS ARE LIKE SPAGHETTI (and SINGLE MEN ARE LIKE WAFFLES, SINGLE WOMEN ARE LIKE SPAGHETTI) . Lord, help our sons step into their calling and try to  follow THE 10 BEST DECISIONS A GRAD CAN MAKE.  And, God, here’s a tough one–How can we can answer those QUESTIONS KIDS ASK family sons smallABOUT SEX?”  To get answers they dug deeper into God’s Word. Their kids made good choices so life and their marriage seemed a PURE PLEASURE.

Those days God connected their hopes and dreams.

Bill and Pam answered God’s call to San Diego where Bill at the young age of 28 became a Lead Pastor. Right away, the Farrels began to help people with their relationships. They wanted people to be “LOVE-WISE.”  They knew MEN WERE LIKE WAFFLES, WOMEN WERE LIKE SPAGHETTI  and if couples could just put God in the middle of their love, they too could have RED HOT MONOGAMY.  Pam desired to Farrel_366be a WOMAN OF INFLUENCE so she began to share God’s views on life and love.  She also taught on RED HOT ROMANCE TIPS FOR WOMEN and 52 WAYS TO WOW YOUR HUSBAND to help other marriages gain strength too!

Meanwhile, Bill equipped men to be their wife’s BEST FRIEND.  They knew they had to keep growing so they could keep ministering in the local church as well as in their travels for speaking and writing so they asked God to help them learn 10 SECRETS FOR LIVING SMART, SAVVY AND STRONG so they could have a FANTASTIC AFTER 40 life. They were STEPPING OUT ON THE PATHWAY TO THEIR DREAMS. Pam was trying to BECOME A BRAVE NEW WOMAN, a WOMAN OF CONFIDENCE,  who steps into God’s adventure and Bill was her courageous Superman living out THE 10 BEST DECISIONSfamily dogpile A LEADER CAN MAKE. This was vital because eventually they GOT TEENS and they needed all the wisdom of God!!  

 All those sons married beautiful, godly women and finally some girls began to enter the Farrel family—and after a few years, grandchildren arrived!  Nana and Papa want their granddaughters to become  MODERN DAY PRINCESSES, and their grandson to walk out THE 10 BEST DECISIONS A MAN CAN MAKE like his daddy and granddaddy.  Together they have cultivated the ability to LOL WITH GOD, even when times are tough.

complete Farrel family jessica caleb wedding use as christmas card 2015These days God is connecting their legacies.

Yes, just as for most everyone, life has not always been  easy, because in all honesty, EVERY MARRIAGE IS A FIXER UPPER,  but Pam and Bill have held on to God and each other “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.”  Together they gathered 7 SIMPLE SKILLS that God layered into their heart. Those SIMPLE SKILLS  have helped them succeed at life and love, write 44 books, which have been translated into 15+ languages, and now they travel about 240 days a year sharing God’s good news to help others become LOVE-WISE too. Bill and Pam are committed to making their marriage—and others– work “til death do us part.”

Bill and Pam know they could not have made it to this, their 36th wedding anniversary, without thepam bill kiss at ocean rebecca love of family, friends and the wisdom of God, so they want to take their HATS OFF in thanks to all those who have poured wisdom and love into their lives so they could gain THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF SUCCESSFUL COUPLES and unlock THE MARRIAGE CODE. Deep down, Pam and Bill know that the verse they claimed on their wedding day, “We love because, He (God) first loved us” (1 John 4:19) is the only reason they can live happily ever after.  

pam and bill fine art DONE cropped smaller rebecca love made in heaven no framePS: Change is coming right around the corner for Pam and Bill, please join them on Thursday evening Dec 17 at 7 pm (Pacific Time; 8 MT; 9 CT; 10 ET)  on PERISCOPE as they share LIVE ONLINE “The Next Chapter”  God has for their lives and for LOVE- WISE ministry. (To join the Farrels for their important announcement, download Periscope, then login. You will be able to send comments and questions. It is also our hope  (if technology co-operates) to record the session which we will post on our website and this blog in near future)  

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