Author Interview with Pam Farrel, coauthor of Discovering Hope in the Psalms

Where do we find hope? Where do we even look for hope when our hearts are heavy? Pam Farrel, who with her husband Bill, coauthored the extremely popular and best-selling book, Men Are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti, has a message of hope in her new book Discovering Hope in the Psalms co-authored with Jean E Jones and artist, Karla Dornacher. Today she’s sharing with us the true story behind her participation in writing this book. Pam found—as many of us do—that it’s in some of the messiest times of our lives that we find God’s most beautiful provisions of hope.

Hope for the Heavy Heart

Linda: Pam, my tagline for this blog is “finding hope in unexpected places”. You recently released Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience. Tell us how hope unexpectedly arrived in your inbox.

Pam: God knows what we need and when we need it. We (my husband, Bill and I) were in a challenging season of life. The two years prior to Christmas 2015, Bill’s aging parents needed more and more help and care. At the time, they were both 85—one frail of mind, the other frail of body. Bill and I, or more often Bill alone, was driving back and forth each week from San Diego to Ventura County, through gridlocked Los Angeles traffic. The trip without traffic is 5 hours each way, but often it would take 7 or 8 hours each direction. Consequently, going up to help his parents was usually a two to three day-a-week responsibility.

In addition, Bill would field phones calls from his folks daily or multiple times a day, to try to give more help long distance. One day, as I saw the weariness in Bill’s eyes and his tired body dragging in from yet one more late-night drive. I said, “Honey. keeping your parents alive is killing you!”

And Bill replied, “Yep. I can’t keep going this way.”

Due to many factors on his parents’ side of the equation, bringing them to live with us (we had plenty of room) or even moving them nearer us was NOT an option his folks would entertain. So, we began the process of preparing for a move to be near them.

Linda: That’s a hard one. How did you feel about this big life change?

Pam: I was not a happy camper. In fact, I was angry and depressed. I was not angry so much because of the move to help them, but rather I was angry because there is great dysfunction, chaos and unresolved issues on the part of Bill’s folks. And because they have never been willing to grow, forgive, and allow God to enter and heal their hearts, they can be very hard to deal with. Simply put, sin always leaves a wake. Sin requires a payment to be made. The hope in the Christmas and Easter story is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. But we only truly experience the fullness of the gift of that blessing when we surrender our hearts and lives over to Christ for healing. When a toxic person stubbornly refuses to let God heal his/her soul and heart wounds, then the people around the broken, exasperating  person pay the penalty with drama and trauma caused by the crazy, chaotic and caustic choices they make.

It was in the middle of this muddled mess that hope landed on my door step in the form of a phone call from a friend, Jean E Jones. She is a brilliant and talented writer and Bible teacher who had written a study on Hope in the Psalms  and wondered if I might be willing to edit, then recommend it to publishers. I said a quick and enthusiastic ‘YES!” because I believed in her, but I also KNEW I NEEDED HOPE from God’s Word desperately!

Linda: How did God deliver hope into this tough time?

Pam: I decided the best way to edit the Discovering Hope in the Psalms Study   was to DO IT as if I were simply one of the participants in the future small group women’s Bible study. One particular week, as I tackled a set of often hard to understand Psalms (42 and 43) I heard the familiar heart cry that echoed my own:

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5)

Downcast means discouraged, despondent, depressed (Have you ever felt so sad and so blue that you just don’t want to get out of bed, or do anything?)

Disturbed means a disquieted murmur that grows, causing internal uproar. (Have you ever had so many negative thoughts running through your mind and you just can’t seem to shut them off?)

So just HOW are we to gain HOPE then? God is so kind—the solution to life when your feelings are trapped in these desperate straits is also revealed in this same verse!

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Hope is to wait EXPECTANTLY for God to show up and show off in your life—for your GOOD and GOD’ S GLORY.

The word HOPE also encapsulates a waiting that may be a lengthy amount of time, but while we are waiting, we place the full weight of our trust in God. We TRUST while we TARRY.

Linda: But HOW do we trust? How do we wait expectantly? That is the question many people struggle with.

Pam: That is the best part, God makes it simple and clear how we can DISCOVER then HANG ON TO HOPE: “for I will yet PRAISE HIM, my Savior and my God”

Praise is the kindling that stokes the fires of hope!

Linda: I love that! Tell me, how did God help you hang on to hope?

Pam: When I read this scripture, I was looking for a lifeline in the sea of despair. My anxious prayers were an S.O.S signal that I was caught in a storm and I needed rescue from above! So just as the Coast Guard will drop down a rescuer and a rescue basket to pluck a victim out of a torrential tempest, God sent his Word, the Psalms, to rescue me.

While Bill and I prepared for our eventual move, and as I prayed, God clearly said, “Pam, you can have your husband, or you can have your house—but you can’t have both right now. Choose.”  By faith, and being true to my vows and the legacy of love I wanted to give to my family; in faithfulness to our Lord, and to Bill—I chose my husband!

Instead of an “arms folded, pouting-lip, stoic coldness” type choosing of Bill, I asked God to warm my heart to Bill, the move, our new call and even the downsizing of 95 % of our belongings!

Grab the Life Line!  

And God used 3 simple choices to weave hope into my heart, help into the situation, and deeper love into our marriage:

Heart to Heart: I asked my husband that since I was being helped so much by the Psalms, could we choose one Psalm a week to park in, to dig into and learn more about, to pray up together daily and to meditate and memorize through the week.  Many weeks, we were so moved by the help and hope the Psalms were giving us that we both were weeping and on our faces, worshipping a God whose Word is so personal and fitting to each person’s challenges and obstacles.

Face to Face: Bill and I also have a weekly Marriage Meeting to pray and plan. We wove the things we were learning in the Psalms into these weekly meetings, and we opened each meeting with a verse from one of the Psalms I was writing about.

Hand in Hand: Bill and I walked through this season of unbelievably long work days and very short nights of sleep by emailing Psalms to each other; sharing Psalms as we ate meals together; as we traveled in the car and as we sorted, packed and then moved boxes.  We looked for Psalms to sing praises and we listened to Psalms as musical choruses or being read aloud as we drifted to sleep. The Psalms calmed our hearts, renewed our spirits, and revived our HOPE despite the difficult circumstances

Psalm 43:3-4 gave comfort one day in the middle of the mess of life. Our home wasn’t sold (yet still needed to be kept picture perfect for showings), our parents still needed care, our commute was still long, our ministry needed an infusion of energy and finances that we lacked, and nothing on the horizon in our circumstances was indicating anything would be changing any time soon. We needed to have a verse to hang our hearts on to move forward emotionally in this very long wait. So, we prayed Psalm 43:3-4:

Send out Your light and Your truth. Let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your Holy hill and to Your dwelling. Then I will go to the alter of God, to my God my exceeding joy.  …”

Instead of looking at our current difficult circumstances, we looked at the end game. God would bring us to a place where we saw the exceeding joy only God could give. And He promised to dispatch His light (the kind of light that pierces the darkness like dawn) and His truth (some translations say, “faithful care” or the trustworthy truth that is backed by God’s caring character of action) And we were most encouraged that the kind of “leading” that the Psalmist is describing is a fluid one that moves forward and back to create the best opportunity!

We hung our hearts on verses like these. for a long five-year journey, but in the end, God brought a church planter to buy our home at a price that was a win-win for all; God moved us on to our family’s vineyard as an oasis of recovery, then provided the perfect live-aboard boat, at a miracle price where now I daily read a #sunsetpsalm from the bow of our vessel moored in a sunny southern California marina.  . .  and yes, there is exceeding joy on our tiny home on the water!

Linda: Thanks so much, Pam, for sharing your inspiring story. Where can people find out more about your books and your ministry?

Pam: At people can find out more about our books and our ministry to help people with their most vital relationships.


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