Mandy Farmer and I met on Twitter through a hashtag: #Fibromyalgia. How about that? Not only do we share the difficulties fibromyalgia presents, but we also share the rewards and struggles of pastoral ministry through serving as pastors’ wives. She is a bright light on social media as she strives to minister to those who suffer with chronic pain and those who may feel alone in battle fatigued through pastoral ministry. I know you will enjoy learning her faith journey as she shares how she clings to the hand of God through it all.
Welcome to Faith Notes Mandy!
Describe a time when you felt abandoned by God or very disappointed in Him, thinking He had failed you.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt abandoned by God, but certainly, I have wondered what in the world He was doing! Thankfully, God has given me the gift of faith and that has brought me through some mighty rough times.
The roughest of these would be a stream of events beginning in 2011 when I began my journey with chronic pain. My husband and I had been in pastoral ministry together for 21 years. It was wonderful! I was working with children and was a busy homeschool advocate leading a support group I founded several years earlier.
But God began to take all that away, piece by piece.
Everything I loved and enjoyed doing had to be given up because I was flat on my back with wrenching pain whenever I moved the slightest bit. Even after medication, I still had pain and fatigue in varying degrees.
This caused a lot of stress and responsibility to fall on my husband. Over time, he began to feel the added stress as well, and it affected our ministry — we had to back off from doing so much as a pastor and wife. To care for me more easily, he moved his office from the church to the house.
After four years of juggling pastoral responsibilities with doctors’ appointments and Mayo Clinic visits, the church became disenchanted with our ministry. They missed the younger more energetic pastor they hired thirteen years earlier. A few became quite disgruntled with us.
Rather than talking with Michael (my husband) about their issues, a letter was sent to other board members about how the pastor wasn’t doing his job. The board called an emergency meeting with our District Superintendent. In this meeting, they listed over a dozen things they were unhappy about. Some of these things were very hurtful and several were not true in any sense of the word.
They were insistent on removing my husband immediately from the pulpit.
We were asked to write a letter of resignation that would be read to the congregation, rather than permitting us to resign in person. They allowed us only to return to the church to retrieve our personal items. Partial severance pay was given and we were allowed to live in the parsonage for up to 6 months, although we left after 3 months.
These were people we considered our close friends. This betrayal of friends was most difficult to bear.
During the months that we remained in the same town, living in the church parsonage, we were basically ignored.
Only one or two members came by to see how we were doing. And when we were in town, people would see us and walk the other way. It was another local church that helped us with our needs, encouraged us in prayer, and helped us pack and load our things onto the moving van.
My husband was 63 at the time. This came to pose a problem because churches today are not interested in hiring pastors over 50 years old. Even though he had 40 years of pastoral experience and we had two young adult children who were deeply involved in ministry with us, we were unable to contract with another church. We pursued many church positions, but did not get a chance to interview with a church board.
Finally, we decided to take an early retirement, though we were not prepared financially to do so. We cashed in my husband’s annuity to pay for the next year’s rent and moved away, closer to our family. After about a year, our savings was drained and we were no longer able to pay our debts, let alone pay all our regular monthly bills.
This meant bankruptcy, but even with that, we still struggle to make ends meet. BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL! He provides our every need.
During this time, how was your faith-walk impacted? Were you angry? Fearful? Numb? Doubtful?
When you are betrayed by your friends, there is a numbness that cannot be explained.
We went through all those emotions. It’s really much like the grieving process. You go through the anger, the numbness, the disbelief, the crying out to God “Why?”
When I was on my back, there was no place to look but up. I spent hours of my day drawing close to God, reading the scriptures and praying. I was so thankful that I had this “drawing close” time. It kept me stable when we lost our job and place we called home. I continued my habit of staying in the Word and clinging to His presence.
What happened to resolve your faith crisis? How did God reveal Himself to you during this time?
Because of that gift of faith mentioned earlier, I had a peace that passes all understanding. I held to the promise that God is the God That Sees Us and He is working all things for our good. He continues to provide our every need.
After our dismissal from the church, I picked up Anne Graham Lotz’ book, Wounded By God’s People. Learning about the trials of Hagar taught me that God sees where I am and He is working for my good. Ann taught me to look upward and inward instead of outward and downward. She reminded me that the sins of others are between God and them. And that I must forgive and look at where I may have made mistakes that need correcting or even forgiveness.
During the worst of my illness, I had the opportunity to reflect on my own life. Was I really depending fully on God in the past or was I depending on my own abilities, my own bank account?
This trial has made me see that we really don’t know anything about trusting God until He is the only thing left to trust.
What scripture became a sure place for you?
I love to read the Psalms. I try to read two or three every day. Psalm 23 has been a staple in my life. Since I memorized this Psalm as a child, it comes easily to mind as I shift my mind from my pain to His Word. When having procedures, such as injections in my neck or knees, I am quietly quoting Psalm 23 in my mind. God keeps me at rest and the pain becomes minimal.
A scripture from the Psalms that I have posted on my bathroom mirror is Psalm 73:26, “My health may fail and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my life; He is mine forever!”
Also, about the time we moved away, God gave me a beautiful scripture of encouragement from Habakkuk 1:5, “Look around. Look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it!”
Did praise play a part of your faith restoration? What about thankfulness? Is praise a big part of your faith-walk now?
Early on in this trial, my sister sent me a Joy Box which introduced me to Ann Voskamp, who has had her own deep struggles in life. I picked up her book, One Thousand Gifts, which is about the trials in her life and how she came to start counting her blessings.
Ann challenges us to keep a praise journal and write down three simple blessings from God each day until you reach 1,000. Some days, this is pretty hard to do, but Ann encourages the reader to write down things that are hard to be thankful for.
The amazing thing is when you start looking at the blessings, the bad stuff fades into the background. It’s still there, but when you are focused on God you aren’t paying much attention to the pain.
This was early in my illness. So I began counting my blessings and was so excited about the difference it made that I challenged the families at church to do the same. It was a true blessing to several of us. I also began at that time to teach Bible studies in my home.
How do you find God’s peace when you are troubled?
Again, reading the scriptures is where I find that peace that passes all understanding.
Staying in the Word. Reading it. Meditating on it. Journaling.
Not long after our dismissal, I saw a challenge to blog for 31 days in October. I decided that I would write about my struggles and how God was helping me through them. It has been the greatest therapy for me. And God has inspired me time and again while I write. I have continued to blog regularly and to speak at Ladies’ Day Events about facing adversity. I love to encourage others that even though God may seem silent, He is there working and carrying us through the trials.
You can read my 31-day Writing Challenge at 31 Days of Waiting and Trusting http://www.thefarmersplace.com/p/31-days-of-waiting-and-trust-god.html
What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of the Lord and why?
I have always thought of God as that loving Father that I could go to for anything. I guess this comes from being blessed with a wonderful, loving earthly father. As a child, I would crawl up on his lap whenever I was feeling blue. And now that I am several states away from my father, I can still crawl up on my heavenly Father’s lap and tell Him my troubles. It is so comforting to feel his loving arms around me when I am troubled.
As a child (and even now) my favorite hymn was Such Love:
That God should love a sinner such as I
Should yearn to change my sorrow into bliss
Nor rest till He had planned to bring me nigh
How wonderful is love like this?
Could you offer some encouraging words for those who may be seeking the Lord, those wanting to draw closer to Him and trust Him more, especially during a painful season?
I would first say, if you aren’t being challenged by trials at the moment, this is your time to get ready. We must practice putting on the armor of God and spending time in His presence while you have the time and energy to do it. If we don’t do this before the trial, we will likely fail in the trial. When the trials are coming fast and furious, there may not be time or maybe not even a desire for deep studies and long prayer times. That’s why we must be studied up and prayed up BEFORE the trial. Then when the trials come, and they will, all those prayers are built up for you and all those scriptures will come pouring back on you to encourage you.
If you are going through a trial today, know that God is there in the silence, in the dark. He loves you and cares for you. A few steps to take as you walk through this valley.
- Read 1-3 Psalms daily.
- Read about other people in the Bible that went through trials. (Joseph, Hannah, David, Job, Jesus, to name a few)
- Find a trusted devotional. One that will challenge your heart and has passed the test of time, like Day by Day with Billy Graham or Streams in the Desert by Charles Cowman
- Journal your thoughts, prayers, readings. You never know you might have a book or at a talk in you.
- Finally, don’t give up the fight! Galatians 6:9 says “… At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
More About Mandy:
GGMandy is a writer/blogger/speaker encouraging women to not give up on the fight. She wants to come alongside you “to strengthen you, help you, and uphold you.” Though she struggles with chronic pain, she wants you to know that God will see you through. Mandy lives in Savannah, GA with her retired pastor husband. They are currently planning a spring wedding for their daughter. They also have 3 adult sons who are serving the Lord in different capacities.
My website “Leaving a Legacy” is at www.ggmandy.com
I have two facebook pages
Leaving a Legacy (encouragement) https://www.facebook.com/GGMandyLegacy/
Fibromyalgia – Is It For Real? https://www.facebook.com/GGMandy2
You can also find GGMandy on Twitter and Instagram
I have recently been commissioned to write devotionals for my denomination on emotional trauma. These were released in August 2017 and are available online at the denomination women’s ministry site. www.nazwomen.org
I also have written a series of devotions on perseverance called O Lord, How Long? I have hopes to turn these into a devotional book. However, at present, they are available by e-mail one a week. Subscribe at http://www.ggmandy.com