Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! What better way to usher in summer than to chat with an author who lives on a boat! My fellow Californian Pam Farrel has written forty-eight books and is a sought-after speaker, often writing and speaking with her husband, Bill. Welcome Pam as she speaks to us from her heart.
Pam, please tell us about your book.
Part of the Discovering the Bible Series, Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience is an interactive 11-week journey to joy through:
- Daily Lessons for each chapter to help you dive deeper into the heart of Scripture and incorporate joy builder activities
- Choosing Joy Devotions and inspirational quotes.
- Creative Connections including bookmarks and coloring pages and exploring faith through artistic expression.
What inspired you to write this book?
The Discovering the Bible series began when my co-author, Jean E. Jones, contacted me and asked me to edit Discovering Hope in the Psalms. I thought the best way to edit a Bible study was to actually DO IT in my own quiet times. Jean has solid, deep, rich Bible teaching, with nuggets of unique Bible facts as sidebars, and some creative ideas to help the reader apply God’s Word. I recommended two vital edits: 1) Add more creative interactive activities throughout the study, and 2) Add an artist to do Scripture coloring pages and share how to do Bible art.
Harvest House came back with “This is a great and unique Bible study!” Then they asked if Jean would be open to co-author with me because she was a first-time author and after writing/co-writing 48 books, I had the platform needed to introduce this kind of new Bible study to the market. Because Jean is all about helping people study the Bible, she gave an enthusiastic “Yes!” I recommended Karla Dornacher to be the artist, and I wrote the devotional applications for each chapter.
After Discovering Hope in the Psalms was such a success, Harvest House decided to create a series of these creative bible studies. Jean had taught on Philippians, I am known for speaking on “Choosing Joy,” Karla’s art is whimsical and joy-filled, and this world NEEDS joy, so this was the next obvious choice.
What a fun idea! How has God used the message of your book in your own life?
We are in a very strenuous and difficult season of my life. I was the initial editor and wrote Discovering Hope in the Psalms over the three-year uphill journey of caring for aging parents, commuting, running our Love-Wise ministry, all the while remodeling our home, downsizing about 90% of our possessions, and getting our house on the market to sell. The sale of our home was a roller coaster of emotions as our home was in and out of escrow taking over a year to sell! I NEEDED every one of those Psalms of hope to survive! A favorite is still Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Strength here is a picture of God being a sure stone mountain of refuge we can run to! And portion is our full inheritance and allotment from God. That is a powerful promise to a woman needing hope!
Then Discovering Joy in Philippians came along during the time we were “homeless,” living in the country home on a vineyard of one of our siblings—again, all the while commuting to care for Bill’s almost 90-year-old parents: one frail of mind, the other frail of body. We were in the process of buying a live-aboard boat to dock near Bill’s parents and the search took 6 months. One of the things we had prayed is that when we found “our right boat” that something would make us smile or would bring us joy when we were aboard. We had heard that “widow’s boats” were often the best deal because the widow typically wants the boat sold quickly because it was more her husband’s than her interest.
I was speaking on Ruth and Naomi (a widow) from my book Becoming a Brave New Woman (Harvest House) and Bill called with the news that he had just visited a “widow’s boat” that met every vital item on our checklist. He added, “And I think God is answering our prayer about this boat bringing us joy—the name of the boat is Charlie!” Charlie was the nickname my alcoholic father called me from age 18 months. One of the healthy things my dad had done was buy me a Charlie Brown doll that I loved, and he would take me on a scooter ride daily and that filled me with glee and delight—so the name Charlie stuck. I felt my heavenly Father was extending love and guidance to me by having the best boat for us named Charlie!
Oh my! I love that! What surprised you the most while writing your book?
Most people see the book of Philippians as one that carries the message of overwhelming joy. But the first chapter is primarily about relationships. Because our ministry is Love-Wise, we like to say we park ourselves on the corner of God’s love and God’s wisdom, and it seems the book of Philippians also helps people live Love-Wise.
A favorite verse that carries this message is: “So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:9-11).
When did you first recognize God call to be a writer?
The dysfunctional home I grew up in was filled with my alcoholic dad’s anger, rage, and abuse. When you come from a home filled with confusion and chaos, as a child you look for a place of safety and refuge. For me that place of shelter was our little town’s public library. I would go and lay on my tummy and read for hours in the stacks. Soon I began writing, and by age eight I had written a book (I think it was called The Adventures of Princess Pam). And that same year, my mother’s best friend invited us to church, and there I met the God of Love, the King of Kings, and I began a relationship with the God who had created me and given me this love for writing.
What a wonderful testimony. What is one thing about writing that you wish non-writers knew?
Writing is GRUELING! You weigh out each word, phrase, and pray for the reader with each stroke of the keyboard. For me, there is an extra measure of a miracle needed as I am ADD/ADHD so the fact I have SAT STILL to write 48 books is a sure sign there is a miracle-working God!
This is one reason it suits me well to be a writer AND speaker!
What would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?
Heaven to me would be a library that opens to a swimming pool, a lake, or the ocean. Right now, I do live in a marina on the Pacific Ocean on a live-aboard boat—so this should be my ideal location to pump out best-sellers. The only problem now is that because we have near perfect weather, most days I want to be out ON or IN the water! I have changed my daily writing schedule since moving to the boat. I have an early-morning “walk the dock” prayer walk, breakfast, then a few hours of writing. Then I push pause and kayak over to get my mail, go for a swim or boat ride during the picture-perfect afternoons, record my Facebook Live “sunset Psalms,” then hop back on to write all evening and later into the night when the sun is down.
And in all actuality, readers might be surprised how much of any book is written on airplanes. Flying is SO BORING and SO UNCOMFORTABLE that I find I love to lose myself in writing while up in the clouds!
Do you have an unfulfilled dream?
Yes! I began writing by taking classes in children’s literature. I fell in love with books through picture books. My first award was for a short story I wrote for Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. I have a deep yearning to write the next epic lapbook that would make preschoolers feel loved, valuable, close to God and to those that adore them. I have a few in the works, so I am praying just the right publisher might be looking for a Christmas book, a book for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy together or a unique good-night story book!
What ministries are you involved with?
My husband, Bill, and I have been happily married for 40 years. We BOTH come from very dysfunctional homes of origin. Often after hearing our testimonies, the audience members will say things like, “It is a miracle you two stayed married and are even functioning hearing the homes you came from!” It is true! We are a living, breathing, walking miracle of love! That is why we have committed ourselves to help others live “Love-Wise,” and we offer relationship coaching, education, enrichment, and encouragement for all vital relationships: dating, premarital, marriage, parenting, men, women, teens, children, grandparents—everyone! In today’s society with so many fractured relationships, we all need a little help and hope. Bill and I pray we are life-givers for marriages and families worldwide. One of our joys is that our books have been translated into more than 15 languages and we have had the joyous opportunity to travel to many of those nations to teach and preach as well.
What a great ministry! Please tell us about your next project.
My next project is 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make, co-authored with single mom (and CAN member!) PeggySue Wells, coming from Baker Books.
Sounds great! Thank you for sharing with us, Pam!
Writing for Him,