Happy Holi-DAZE! Wait! Isn’t it supposed to be Happy Holidays?
Yes, that’s what it’s supposed to be but as we’re going to read, it’s often more like the Holi-DAZE that my guest author Pam Farrel is going to share with us. I’m so excited to feature my dear friend and incredibly prolific author and speaker Pam Farrel and her co-authors/creators Jean E. Jones and illustrator Karla Dornacher.
Drum Roll …
You can win a copy of their book Discovering Hope in the Psalms. Isn’t that what we need even at the holidays? Hope? Yes, and Pam is the premier hope-giver. But you may be surprised to read her guest post to find out it wasn’t always like that. So be encouraged by Pam’s sharing and then make a comment on my blog to be entered into the drawing to win her book.
Discovering Hope in the Psalms is a creative Bible study experience unique book incorporating compelling teachings, motivating devotions, and beautiful artwork–some of which you create! And you can win it or order it at:
Hope for the Holi-daze
by Pam Farrel
Ever feel like Christmas is broken? IMPERFECT?
Ever feel hopeless during the holidays? We could creatively call this malady, “Holi-daze”, that stunned, helpless, hopeless, melancholy that often hits us because that time period between Thanksgiving and the New Year feels very imperfect due to challenging circumstances, or because we can’t seem to rally to step up to meet life’s difficulties, demands and dilemmas. At times, even when the world is awash with Christmas carols, tinsel and twinkling lights, we . .. lose . . . hope . . .
But God can rebuild HOPE!
Let me share a snapshot of the past three Christmases, then give you a backstage pass to my heart, so you can see how God rebuilt a scaffolding of hope in my life.
My blog entry for Friday, December 18th, 2015, reveals my hopelessness:
Usually my Christmas speaking engagement wraps up around my mid- December wedding anniversary and I quickly shift into a whirlwind of decorating, carol singing, an upbeat social schedule, and fun family outings. However, this year things are spirally 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 the only Christmas decor I had up, my collectible nativity, was accidentally bumped resulting into a broken Mary and a headless wise man. The shelf falling to the ground could be seen as an “accident”, however, God sent it “on purpose”, to remind me of the glory and gain of imperfection.
This imperfect Christmas was caused by the revelation that the commuting back and forth across Los Angeles, through grid-lock traffic, nearly every week for the 24 months prior, that my 50-something husband was doing to care for his elderly parents was putting my husband’s health at risk. One day, I said to him, “Caring for your parents is killing you.” And he agreed that something had to change. And that something was we had to sell our home, close our ministry office in San Diego where we had lived for almost 30 years, and move to be nearer Bill’s folks, who were their own challenge as one was frail of mind, and the other frail of body.
God made it very clear to me in a quiet time one December morning, “Pam, you can have your house, or you can have your husband, but right now, you can’t have both. Choose.” Of course, I chose my good, godly husband (because in spite of everything, I did remember I wanted to actually KEEP my marriage vows—and my husband!) But emotionally, it felt like God was asking me to be homeless!
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.
Tweet that! 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.
I believe it is one of Satan’s meanest tricks to attempt to steal our joy by distorting the true meaning of Christmas. 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!
Everyone in the Christmas story was displaced (ahem, homeless!)
- Mary was on a donkey, lead my her espoused, Joseph, heading out to their hometown, Bethlehem, for a census.
- The shepherds were dispatched to go see the coming newborn Savior of the World.
- The angels left heaven to share the good news.
- The three Wiseman, on camels instead of enjoying their luxury dwellings.
- Even the Christ child left the perfection of heaven to come be born in a stable— wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed into a very imperfect bassinet—a feeding trough!
As God replayed the realities of the first Christmas, my inconveniences paled in comparison. The seeds of hope were planted by gazing on the true gift of Christmas—love sent heaven down to earth so one day I could go to heaven! Hope’s seed is in our secured salvation.
God watered the seeds of hope that January when Jean E Jones, a friend, and skilled Bible teacher, contacted me and asked me to edit her Bible study on the Psalms. As I dug into the Bible study, I was reminded how many of the Psalms speak into our humanity, into our struggles, trials, tribulations, challenges and obstacles. God shows up to give hope and help in the wreck of life! Soon after, Harvest House Publishers asked if I would co-author the Psalm study, and we also added in my friend, the very talented Karla Dornacher, as the artist. So not only was I studying the Palms, I began drawing them!
During this time, Bill and I were in the middle of remodeling our home to get it on the market. But the pressures of the past few years had depleted our energies, our vision, and our bank account. I was on the verge of despair but protected from the plunge over the precipice by the hope God’s Word was pouring into my daily life. Each Monday, we have a Marriage Meeting where we pray and plan. We always select a section of scripture to hang our hearts on to hold on to hope, so because I was already studying the Psalms, together we planted ourselves in the Psalms. Verse by verse, God revived our hope. Like a budding plant, thirsty for water to grow, we soaked in truths from Discovering Hope in the Psalms like:
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73: 23-26)
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. (Psalm 71:3-5)
What we thought would take a few months to sell our home—took a year! We downsized, selling—or rather—giving 90% of our belongings away (mostly to needy or struggling ministry families). So not only did I feel God was taking our home, He was taking my things too! As item after item left my possession, and all I had left was life’s necessities, Bill and God, a funny thing happened. I felt lighter, freer, and yes, even happier! It wasn’t a pie in the sky, rose-colored glasses happy because our circumstances were very difficult, rather it was an abiding deep joy as I gained a clearer view of what really matters in life: relationships, especially my relationship with God. It took all year to sell our home but in the end, it was a God-story of the Holy One helping the church planter who bought our home!
So as Christmas rolled around in 2016, the day I was to do my last speaking engagement, (ironically on Christmas Joy), we loaded up our last few belongings and drove to a hotel. The day I had so dreaded had come, I actually was homeless—but I was truly happy—and hopeful for what God had in store for our future. Hope’s watering is in the Word.
This bring us up to date to THIS Christmas. Over the past year, God moved us onto a family vineyard where I enjoyed writing Discovering Hope in the Psalms as I worked the land. And because I was on a vineyard, we took it as a sure sign we were to plant ourselves in John 15, As we served in the role of caretakers of the vineyard, we gained a richer appreciation of God as the Vinedresser, Christ –the vine and we, the branches. As the sun warms the vines and helps them grow, the warmth of this oasis refueled us and rekindled that sense of expectant hope.
You may still be wondering “What is the reason you downsized so dramatically?” God gave us the adventurous dream of living on a boat, then through a series of miracles, he made that dream come true. (We are now moored in a marina near Bill’s folks). Each evening we are on the water, I do a Facebook Live, #sunsetpsalm reading as I aim the camera at the beauty that surrounds us. I am also working on my Hope for the Holi-daze 12 days of Christmas memes I will share on our Bill and Pam Farrel page to encourage others who might need their hope watered and warmed by the Word.
And as I write this, we have a cheerful, almost giddy, hope as we ponder joining the annual Christmas boat parade. Right now, I have carols playing, and I am singing along, as I sketch out our sparkling light display—echoing the feelings of hope and happiness nurtured by God.
Hope blossoms in a sea of miracles only God can do. TWEET THAT!!
Pam, thank you so very much for sharing with us! You have encouraged us to see that we can go from Christmas Dreary to Christmas Clearly to Christmas Cheery.
Pam Farrel is one of the authors of Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience (Harvest House). She is also an international speaker, and has written 45 books (many co-authored with her husband, Bill) and together they direct Love-Wise Ministry. When they are not helping or teaching others, or enjoying their kids and grandkids, you will find them kayaking to get their mail, or paddle boarding to breakfast near their live aboard boat in the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. Need hope too? Join Pam, Jean and Karla in the Discovering Hope in the Psalms Facebook community