How to Build a Stronger Life This past Mother’s Day, I spoke in church on…
[tweetthis]Sometimes it is not about you, it is about the character God wants to build in you so He can tell His story through you. – Pam and Bill Farrel[/tweetthis]
This past year has been the most intense, faith s.t.r.e.t.c.h.i.n.g., exhausting year of our lives—so far. About a year ago, in Oct of 2015, God created a set of circumstances to convince us that none of our grown kids would be moving back to California with their families, and with our travel schedule keeping us on the road 200-250 days a year, we realized we just didn’t need our 3,000 square foot home with office combo anymore. As empty-nesters, it was time for a downsize. During this same season, Bill’s aging parents need to have a caregiver nearer them escalated week by week. His parents are now 87, both were (are) experiencing declining health issues and Bill is daily on the phone, and weekly drives back and forth across southern California (a 10 hour round trip with traffic, and usually a two- three day investment several times a month, and often weekly.) Caregiving to his parents was putting a consistent stress on Bill’s ministry schedule, and we knew if we didn’t make a location change, it also could impact Bill’s own health too.
We offered to move his folks in with us (as we had plenty of room) but some unchangeable and immovable factors on his parent’s side of the equation made that option an impossibility, so clearly, the next best option was to sell our home and downsize significantly to free ourselves to live nearer his parents. We also felt God’s clear call to simplify to become more free to travel and speak as “marriage missionaries.” At this same time, God called me (Pam) to set a phone alarm to ring each day at 3:20 so I could pray Eph 3:20 over our life, our family and all those in our Love-wise ministry sphere:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us
One day, near Thanksgiving 2015, Bill approached me with an idea, “I know this next season of caring for my parents will have some consistent challenges, and I know you love the ocean, so what if we lived on a boat, in a nice marina? It could be for a little while, or longer, depending on how we like living on the sea. But it would add some hope and light to this more demanding transition. I think the kids and grandkids would love vacations on the boat. You could kayak, paddleboard, walk the beach every day if you wanted. It could be our happy spot in the water in the middle of a sea of responsibility.”
My response was positive—instantly! And we began to call our dream our #crazygoodmidlifeadventure. I selected “adventure” as my Word of the Year in January, while Bill opted for “Intrepid” (meaning “fearless, adventurous, bold, heroic”) And my verse for the year was 1 Cor 2:9, “…“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— “
Excited for this new adventure, we skyped our “far-flung family”, spread across the USA, all in on a conference call. They were unanimously on board for this unique new plan. To confirm, God had each son call, independent of the others, and offer to come help us prep our home to put on the market. This translated to our boys and their godly wives giving up a relaxing Christmas vacation in trade for a whole lot of hard work! (This was one of the sweetest weeks in the entire year—to see our kids and our wonderful daughters in laws sacrifice to bless us.)
We put the home on the market at the end of January 2016, and within a few days, we got a great offer, for near our asking price. We did a happy dance in the airport Admirals Club where we signed papers for the sale between flights enroute to a speaking engagement. The potential buyers were a military family, and they also owned a business which needed the large storage building on our property. We were thrilled to think we might bless a military family with the home God had given us to steward. However, as the escrow papers were being drawn up, they crunched numbers of what could happen with the birth of their coming baby, and they decided to pull out. Our dancing turned to determined prayer.
Bill’s folks still needed us to move, and now we had to trust God for new buyers. Many potential buyers came through on numerous open houses and so many appointments we have lost track of the number! Months went by without a solid offer. We evaluated and elected to pull our home off the market to upgrade. Bill scraped off popcorn ceilings and laid a beautiful new wood floor throughout. We put the house back on the market and an agent who had been watching our home brought his friends buy—and they LOVED our home and they gave a great offer. Our agent, Mike Wilmers, went the distance in creating a workable win-win agreement and into escrow we went, with the contingency of their home selling. But it did NOT SELL. These buyers decided to stay in their home so we couldn’t even offer to wait for them to sell so our home dropped out of escrow. This time the prayers and encouragement of dear friends buoyed us up. We never lost faith that God COULD sell our home, but we did wonder why he WASN’T selling our home. As one might think, we did plenty of soul searching. We called prayer vigils, anointed our doorposts with oil, and daily prayed scripture over our life, our ministry and our home. We came to the conclusion that God would send the “right” buyer—one more like us: a family who would appreciate the long, steep driveway that ensures a beautiful view and plenty of privacy; A buyer who needed the 900 square feet of office space and the almost 1000 square foot storage building. It would not be an ordinary family, but an extraordinary family with a business or ministry that needed every square inch of our mountain that would be interested in our property. Along with asking God to send a good family that would bless our neighborhood, we began to pray that God would send buyers who had courage, bravery, and a boldness of spirit.
During these now 9 months of waiting, God had arranged for me to be writing “Hope Alive” sidebars for a book I was a co-author for, “Discovering Hope in the Psalms: Creative Biblical Expressions”. We were submerged in these Psalms — and believe me, we needed those verses of HOPE, like:
“O God, from my youth you have taught me and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O god do not forsake me… You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths you will bring me up again.” (Ps 71:17,18, & 20)
[tweetthis]“… God is the strength (solid stone mountain) of my life…” (Psalms 73:26)[/tweetthis]
“By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, at night his song is with me… Why are you downcast O my soul; and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God: for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalms 42:11)
“Send out your light ands truth; let them lead me…then I will go to the alter of God, to God my exceeding joy…” (Psalms 43:3)
As the long, hot summer turned into fall, we were reminded again that spending so much time upgrading our home, and then caring for his folks with all those trips back and forth for months …and months… and months… Bill’s work schedule was definitely impeded, so economically the pressure was on as well. During all this time, God was faithful to always allow us to travel for every speaking commitment and fully engage with our audiences—and we welcomed the normalcy of doing what we love: speaking to build and bless marriages and families. As we rolled up to the one year mark of when God had called us to this transition, the reality of the timeline to sell our home before November (and all the holidays) placed yet another burden on us—to emotionally survive, we kept rolling the pressure to sell back on God’s shoulders to carry.
One weekend in September, we got a glimmer of hope as we had 10 couples all interested, and it looked as if one couple, (ministry friends of ours from 20 years ago) might make an offer, …but then in the end, none of those interested could seem to make the pieces come together to make an offer. We were steady in our faith, but emotionally e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d.
Bill was teaching on Nehemiah, and our small group Bible study of best friends, prayed with us Neh. 2:18:
“I told them how the gracious hand of God had been on me”
We were asking God to show off His hand of goodness to the world. One of my prayer partners, prayed God would dynamite open an answer : “Build up! Build up! Prepare the Road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” (Is. 57:14)
On October 1st, I got a facebook private message from Bria, a MOPS mom I had befriended when I spoke in Menifee a several years ago. Seems she had a dear friend, Staci, who was married to a successful church planter, Eric, and they had 4 sons, living in San Diego. They were in need of a home to rent. That same day, their Murrieta home happened to go on the market, they received 3 offers, and opened escrow 2 days later. Apparently, Bria had sent our MLS link to Staci, 2 months prior, asking if she was aware of anyone in the San Diego area shopping for a house. Staci agreed to keep her eyes and ears open. Well, when they were suddenly in need of a home, Staci reached out to Bria to follow up on our listing, to confirm if it was still on the market!
That same week, I spoke for Moms in Prayer, (which is a great place to be when you need some miracle prayers to come through!) The theme verse for the Unshaken conference was Psalms 16:8, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
As I was packing that week, I came across greeting cards I got from Christian nuns in Germany, more than 10 years ago, when we were in our last very D.I.F.F.I.C.U.L.T. season of Bill resigning his Sr Pastorate to stabilize his own health issues. I had not seen these cards of encouragement for more than a decade, but God wanted me to see the message of one in particular on THAT day:
[tweetthis]“The greater God’s promises for our lives, the longer it will take for them to be fulfilled.” [/tweetthis]
So we were looking with great anticipation for the fulfillment of our year-long prayer request:
Then things really got interesting!
I got another Facebook message from a friend in ministry, who also had a ministry couple who had come to our open house and loved our home. They made an offer.
Then a scientist who had looked at our home six months earlier, returned home from overseas and saw our home was back on the market. He made an offer.
And then a multifamily group, swooped in on their last day of vacation from the East Coast—and they made an offer.
And we met with Staci and Eric, and their family and were very impressed by the deep faithfulness and commitment Eric and Staci—and their entire extended family. Rarely in today’s world of people seeking comfort and ease do you meet an entire family tree full of people sacrificing and pulling in the same direction for a great spiritual goal—like planting a church. After viewing the property, they made an offer!
From famine to feast! Four parties had given offers! All were great people with good offers that all landed on the same weekend! So we prayed and answered each back. And we w.a.i.t.e.d. Day after day stretched into a week, waiting for the replies to our counter, waiting on paperwork, waiting on answers and waiting on details, . . . and waiting to see who God would select as the buyer for our home.
The waiting at this point was one consistent plea to God, “P…L…E…A…S…E… sell our home to one of these qualified, gracious, and good families. “ A friend, Lisa, who is a talented Bible artist, (I have her art in my #CreativeBiblicalexpressions Facebook group), posted a drawing with this verse:
“You have stayed on this mountain long enough” Deut 1:6
We felt like God was saying deliverance, the sale of our home, which is located on a granite mountain, was at hand.
We asked God to make it very obvious to us who should get our home. In the end, through a series of circumstances that only God knew and would control, the Beemans’, the church planters, offer rose to the top. All the obstacles, all the challenges, all the months of waiting were because GOD HELD OUR HOME FOR HIS GLORY- FOR HIS WORK- FOR THE PASTOR who was planting a NEW CHURCH in East county.
When we look at how far back God laid the stones in place for the transfer of ownership many of His previous works of preparation were revealed. For example:
- 22 years ago, Eric’s parents moved onto a sailboat in San Diego. (Yes! We were amazed to meet a couple who were living the life God was calling us to—living on a boat! )
- Eric had successful experiences planting churches in the Murrieta area, where his family became great friends with Bria, the MOPS mom who introduced me and our home to Staci.
- Eric and Staci heard the call to plant a new church in San Diego 3 years ago. They immediately leased their home in Murrieta to a caregiving ministry, uprooted their family of 6 and moved in with Staci’s parents in San Diego to begin focusing on a new work.
- During a three year time frame, Eric began working for a mega church in East County, focused on re-acclimating himself to the San Diego area and began praying about where God would like to begin a new work. The lead pastor (about the time we placed our home on the market last winter) blessed Eric and his family in this bold step of faith and sent them out to start a new church. Then friends and family rallied around Eric and Staci and plans went into action to launch a church, which would become known as Convergence Community Church.
- Then, most recently, Eric and Staci learned her mom got an early diagnosis of cancer and would require treatment, and the Beeman’s wanted to give a quiet place to mom to recover, so moving their four sons into their own home became a pressing priority to them, and an answer to prayer for us as it would release us sooner to move to care for Bill’s folks.
And in the middle of this faith-filled pressure cooker on all sides, theirs and ours, God crossed our paths.
Everything the Beeman’s need in a home base for success in this season of church planting is answered in our house.
Everything we need to be freed to care for Bill’s folks and to travel and speak to build marriages and families to live LOVE-WISE is answered in the Beemans’ offer.
To all of us, the body of Christ, and our own families play a large role in helping work out all the myriad of details involved. The hearts of a few key people, and their “in step with God’s Spirit” obedience and actions have made this plan of God a tangible reality. We are very grateful to the love and support of family on both sides of this home sale: My mom, and Bill’s parents as well as both Eric’s and Staci’s parents who have all loved and supported in a way that so reflects the love of God to a world that is looking for what love and family should look like. Then our agent, Mike Wilmers, and his team who have prayed with us and for us and never gave up on us or our home. Their many dedicated hours are truly a precious gift. And financial expert Jeff Merritt, whose heart for God’s leaders helped create a path for one pastor to sell a home to another pastor. And of course, Bria, who obeyed that whisper of God, and kept telling Staci about her friend, Pam, who had a home for sale that seemed it might be a great fit for Staci and her family—we are forever grateful for her quick action when the Holy Spirit prompted her to connect us all up.
God is the Master chessman, and He moves the people and pieces of life around for our greatest good and His greatest glory.
“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalms 73:28)