How to Build a Stronger Life This past Mother’s Day, I spoke in church on…
This week is my birthday, and I am officially older, and have lived longer than my father did. For many, as the “foreboding birthday” nears, of when a parent or grandparent passed away, a person can battle fear, as if waiting for the Grim Reaper to come knocking at the front door of his or her life. Life can feel a bit like a ticking time bomb, and as you pass the threshold of that significant marker, you exhale a big sigh of relief.
While my father had his imperfections and shortfalls, I still miss him, and so wished he had made better choices in the way he lived out his life so I could have had more years of relationship and perhaps seen more of the healing and restoration that God would have given after he FINALLY surrendered his heart of life to Christ
What will YOU choose?
In 7 Simple Skills Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together , I share the quote,
“We make our choices and our choices make us.”
Yes, in many ways, our decisions define our destinies and destinations.
So, what did I do differently than my Papa that has produced a lifegiving future and hope? As I reflected on this significant birthday, I jotted some notes on 14 choices I made that were different than my dad’s that God has used to extend my life. While I know God numbers our days, I also know that He gives us free will to walk in obedience to live our life more the way the Creator designed it. With each choice, I have a quick Question to Ponder, to help you access your own wellness journey.
Psalm 27:13: I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Fourteen Life-Giving Choices
Leave Addictions: I often comment that “Beer is the sap that runs through my family tree.” In addition to drinking, my dad and many of his siblings were addicted to nicotine (cigarettes, chew, etc.). And I have walked out the “Just say “No!” to Drugs” and “One Way to Play: Clean and Sober” messaging that was drilled into my heart through my school sports coaches as well as the youth groups and churches I attended. This one decision alone likely added decades to my life!
Are you addicted to ANYTHING that has negative consequences of any kind?
Lay Down Anger and Resentment: It is a heavy burden to carry around a backpack of bitterness. My friend, Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Step Mom, describes the need to release our pains like this: “If we hold on to all the hurt and pain, it is like carrying around a dead corpse…” Forgiveness can free us to move forward into the heathier future that God has prepared for us. In 7 Simple Skills Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together, I share my faith journey including the Six Steps of Forgiveness that God layered into our lives and ministry that has helped set us, our family, and thousands in our audiences free to live out a life of victory and fulfillment. Chaos and confusion can be kicked to the curb and obstacles are overcome when you lay all your pain, hurts and offenses at the foot of the cross.
Col 3:13 “Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Have your forgiven everyone everything that God has brought to your mind to forgive?
Let God in to Heal Your Heart: Bill and I were once asked to speak on relationships in a high security prison, and I wondered if the prisoners would relate to my testimony. As I began sharing about coming from a home with a father who was controlled by alcohol and bouts of explosive anger that created a home filled with domestic violence, I saw nodding heads and tears running down the checks of those incarcerated in our audience. That turmoil and trauma was familiar territory. And as I continued sharing my faith journey, I recognized that I was really only three decisions away from being on the other side of the razor wire: (1) I received Christ and began a personal relationship with my Creator at the young age of eight (2) I forgave all those who had hurt me, including my earthly father, and (3) I gained the strength to say “No!” to drugs, drinking and dysfunctional relationship patterns.
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
Have you invited God, and godly counselors into the hurting places and sought healing?
Linger in the Word and Worship: God promises to inhabit the praises of his people, and that His truth would be a light to my path. God uses his written Word, the Bible, to transform us, renew our mind and set us free from the chains that bind us as we are released to choose more wisely. By keeping my gaze on the goodness of God, and worshipping a Savior who rescues, redeems, renews, and restores, I maintain a heavenly viewpoint on life here on earth and the one to come. It is easier to make smart choices today when you keep the eternal glory rewarded to the faithful in eyesight.
Psalm 16:11: You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Do you have a daily habit of worship and time in the Word?
Leap to Obey God. I soon experienced that my life always got better, stronger, and healthier when I said, “Yes!” to Jesus. That does not mean life was easy, but I saw the sweet fruit of a surrendered to Christ life of integrity. A verse we taught our sons was “No good thing does God withhold to those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11 )
Do you have a “Yes, Lord” automatic response?
Link with a Successnet of Life-Givers: In the Bible, we read a story of a paralyzed man who had friends who cut a hole in the roof to lower him to Jesus to be healed. Jesus said, “Seeing their faith” (the faith of the friends) the man was made well. (Mark 2:4-5) In college, I began the healthy habit of cultivating friends and mentors who could speak life-giving Truth and their wealth of experience into my life. Today, I still seek to surround myself with those who help me become a better version of myself. A key decision I made about 20 years ago was to join First Place 4 Health as a member, attend a yearly wellness week, then begin to lead a virtual small group and coach others. This formed an accountability circle around my life ensuring I ate healthier (more veggies, fruits, lean protein less fast food and less sugar), exercised regularly, tracked food daily and created a large group of peers who regularly speak life, health, and sound wisdom into my heart. Thru the new healthy lifestyle, I have lost 70 pounds and have kept it off more than a decade. (I recommend the First Place 4 Health Virtual Summer Wellness Summit July 2021) George Eliot says, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another”
Can you name 4-8 dear friends who help you become a better you?
Laugh Often: Both science and scripture contend that “a cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22 ) The past few years I have been a part of the writing team for Discovering Joy in Philippians, and I have taught both live and virtually those happy, hope-giving principles over and again. My mantra of “Choose Joy” is a tagline I have become known for. And I have seen Neh 8:10 ring true, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” In addition, Phil 4:4 reminds us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always…” Joy is a verb, so it is a choice to rejoice! (Here is a link to 4 Ways to Choose Joy). Bill and I take a nightly sunset prayer walk, we will often tell jokes, or listen to a clean comedian for a few minutes on our way out, then pray for one another on our way home. (I love a PrayerWalk because you get closer to God, closer to your walking buddy, and thinner all in the same 20 minutes! Check out the new PrayerWalk audiobook)
Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Are you praying and asking the Spirit to fill you with HIS joy?
Look for Healthy Activities to Help Stay Active: Happy endorphins release, and better physical health is cultivated when you exercise regularly. I was a dancer, gymnast, cheerleader, and competitive springboard diver while growing up. For decades now, I have a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. I have also continued to weave fun physical activity into my life with biking, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, and dancing with my husband, as well as a host of other stretching and strength-building endeavors. In Red Hot Romance for Women, I share a list of physical activities that can keep you feeling young as a couple too. Take a peek at three ways to strengthen your life.
Acts 17:28 For in him we live and move and have our being…
Are you getting a balance of exercise: aerobic, stretch, strength, core?
Loop in Gratitude: Being grateful, thankful, and appreciating all the many blessings God sends to a life will help you live longer as well. Optimistic, and happy people elevate their health with their positive attitude. Conversely, grumpy, and combative people can be their own worst enemy. I know flashing sirens went off in my mind when I read that your chances of having a heart attack skyrocket in the thirty minutes after an angry outburst. Right now, we are living in an RV on site caregiving Bill’s 92-year-old parents. A few ways I maintain a “Happy Camper” attitude is to count my blessings daily by thanking God for what I do have instead of complaining about what I don’t have. I also keep a “Radiant Joy” collection of praises and answered prayer on a sunburst printable I keep in my bullet journal organizer. (Download Infectious Joy e-book with the 30 verses of joy, the Joy Blossom and Radiant Joy worksheets for you) Here is a list of 15 things to do instead of complaining.
Col 3:15: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Do you have a method for collecting and cultivating thanks, praise, and gratitude?
Lock in Healthy Life Rhythms: My friend, Dr Catherine Hart Weber shares ample information to help a person thrive in her book, Flourish. I already had some healthy patterns in my life that were absent from my Daddy’s: Waking up and saying to myself, “This is the day the Lord, has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”, a morning and evening PrayerWalk , enjoying a quiet morning devotional time with Jesus through Bible study, journaling and I have added Bible art (inspired by my co-author Karla Dornacher). These habits as well as giving the command, “Alexia, play Christian music” all help me kick off my day in a positive way. At the end of the day, I use my Get It Done, Girl: Maximize Your Moments Action Planner to help me debrief from my To Do list and move responsibilities on to the next day’s list and commit them to God’s care so I can sleep. To help with the need for those 7 – 8 hours of deep sleep, I often fall asleep to scripture or praise music which helps me wake up more positive and courageous the next day. (10 Ways to Wake Up with More Joy)
they will stay fresh and green…”
Do you have a morning and evening routine that brings personal peace and strength?
Learn from Mentors: I always seek out those who are further ahead on the road of life. I would rather learn from their experience rather than the School of Hard Knocks. In life’s second half, you might need mentors for finances, relating to prodigals, grown adult children, or grandkids, or your own mate. You will also likely need advice in dealing with your own par3nts or in-laws. When I read that those who are caregivers die significantly earlier than their peers, I flew to Texas a few days prior to a retreat I was speaking for in order to seek the advice of two of my mentors who had been long term caregivers of loved ones, and I interviewed them so I could work smarter rather than harder. In addition, I picked up several books on the topic by some of my caregiving friends: As My Parents Age by Cynthia Ruchti and 30 Days of Hope while Caring for Aging Parents by Kathy Howard. We hope to be mentors to others in a wide variety of ways through our Living Love-Wise Community (Options to join)
Proverbs 1:5: A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel
Do you have mentors in life’s vital areas: work, ministry, personal and spiritual life?
Liberate Hope: After writing Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience, my working definition of hope is: “Waiting expectantly for God to show up and show off for your good and His glory.” Our hope is only as good as who or what we are hoping in, so I have spent a lifetime growing a more accurate view of God. In Becoming a Brave New Woman, I say, “Show me the size of your God, I will show you the size of your courage: BIG GOD, BIG BRAVERY! Show me the size of your God, and I will show you the size of your adventure: BIG GOD, BIG ADVENTURE.” And as I have dwelt, more recently, in the fields of hope, I have seen hope blossom as I cultivate a bigger, better, bolder view of God.
Psalm 71:5 and 14: For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. 6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. … As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
What trait or name of God can you hang your heart on in the next month to gain more hope?
Live Out Your Passionate Calling: In a recent blog post on Finding Home, I share an excerpt from my ECPA Finalist for Bible Study of the Year, Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament: A Creative Bible Study Experience,. In the piece, I frame a word picture to help us discover our calling: “Home, once we connect with God, is where we discover who we are and why we are here.” When you look back on your own life, you will see spiritual markers to your “home”:
- Unique training that God can use for His purposes.
- Unique pain that God can turn into a platform for ministry.
- Unique gifting, talents, and skills that God can use to further His mission.
- Unique experiences God builds on to prepare you to walk through the open doors He creates.
When we live out our God-given calling, we are happier, more fulfilled and we daily see the life-giving fruit of transformed lives. (More on discovering your calling in 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make and Woman of Influence)
Eph 2:10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Have you discovered and are you living out your unique calling?
Love Lavishly: One of the foundational truths of our ministry, Love-Wise is life is all about relationships. John 13:35 reminds, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman, I suggest:
Give your time FIRST to those who will cry at your funeral.
Some people have earned more right to my time: My husband, Bill, who I have adored and been madly in love with for nearly 42 years, our three sons, their wives, and children because they are my living legacy of love, and my mother, because she has been and still is my greatest cheerleader in life and ministry. We are a far -flung family, so Bill and I look for ways to gather our tribe in settings that will bless and refresh them as well as give opportunities for relationship building.
Even during Covid quarantine, I planned a monthly zoom gathering with fun themes like sending BBQ gift card and then having a son lead us in a line dance, Sundae Sunday with ice cream gift cards or sending paint sets and having the grands paint rocks with encouragement, share them on zoom, then take a walk and plant the encouragement along a walking path in their communities.
We offer hundreds of fun, free and fantastic date ideas through our Love-Wise ministry. However, I looked for “do-able dates” in the California ongoing lockdown. We still hop into my husband’s restored convertible and take a picnic to the beach, or just stop on a wide spot on a back country road. These are instant vacations and rejuvenate my servant- hearted, good son, who has sacrificed so much to care for his parents.
1 Peter 1:22: Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
Are you proactively looking for ways to enrich your personal relationships each week?
Pam Farrel is the author of over 50 books, and is happily married to Bill, and they are the parents of 3 sons, enjoy time with them and their 3 daughter in laws, and 5 grandchildren. Together they co-direct Love-Wise, and in their free time, they enjoy water sports from their live-aboard boat docked in Southern California.