Choosing to Be Soft Does Not Make You Weak

Tough times are going to come but your reaction can determine whether you bend or break. Choosing to stay soft does not make you weak. http://holleygerth.com/choosing-soft/

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The wind blows cold against my back as I walk along the streets in the quiet suburb where I live. I think of other Christmas seasons when I’ve walked this same path with much on my mind. Losses. Hurt. Dreams laid down. 

And I think of loved ones who have felt the chilly breath of trouble on their hopes too. Mamas who have buried babies. Teens who have survived abuse. Folks who have battled cancer. It’s a cold world sometimes. Some of those folks have come out of those times with greater strength, tenderness and resilience. Others have become bitter and hard. I quietly ask myself, “What makes the difference?”

As I ponder that question, I think back to one particularly painful season in my life. It seemed sorrow, frustration and disappointment threatened to overtake me. I wanted to shut down my heart, lock the door of my life and let bitterness move in as my only companion. And God seemed to keep whispering, “Yield, yield, yield.” 

I grew up in a place where hurricanes were frequent and I learned this: the trees that survive are the ones that bend. 

Tough times do one of two things: they reshape us or they break us. And the choice of which is up to us.

If we stiffen our souls and harden our hearts, then the wind blows against us until we break to our core. But if we can bend–keep trusting, hoping, loving–then we are transformed in ways beyond our understanding.

Oh, we will have days when we experience deep grief and anger. That’s okay…it’s actually part of yielding. We let ourselves feel our emotions and we wave them wildly for a bit like branches. It’s when we stop feeling that we should begin to worry. When we fake it. Or when we insist on having our own way. When we stop believing God is good because He did not give us what we wanted.

I’ve talked with thousands of women about unspeakable tragedies. Losses of loved ones. Abuse so horrific most of us can’t even imagine it. Betrayal that shreds decades of marriage like it’s the thinnest of paper. And I have found this: It is not the circumstances or even the depth of the hurt that determines who heals. It’s the response. 

Those that somehow thrive never lose their softness. You can see it in their eyes. You can hear it in their voices. You can tell it by the way they are still kind to others. Oh, they are fierce, these women. Tenderness and tenacity are sisters. But they are not hard inside.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matt. 7:24-25

Yes, here’s the secret we can cling to when the wind comes: Life is hard but we do not have to be…because of Jesus.

When He is our security we do not have to protect ourselves by stiffening our souls. We don’t have to make ourselves “unbreakable” because we are so afraid. We don’t have to shut out anything that seems it might make us weak–like love, hope or kindness.

There’s another part of the parable too. And it’s that the structure on the foundation must not be completely unyielding. My husband worked as an architect for many years and when we go to cities he always points to the very top of solid, sturdy sky scrapers and says, “Look for the little bit of movement up there. The ability to yield makes them able to withstand the wind. Every architect knows that has to be part of the design. Without it, they would fall.”

As I reach my house again the wind has stilled to almost a whisper. The trees are at peace again. They stretch their branches high toward the last of the sun’s rays. It looks like an act of hope. Or perhaps of praise. 

 

XOXO

Holley Gerth

 

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Why You Don’t Have to Be on the “Nice” List this Christmas

Life is not about perfection - it's about growth! #CoffeeForYourHeart via HolleyGerth.com http://holleygerth.com/free-words/

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It’s the time of year when we talk about being on the “naughty” or “nice” list. For most of us, Nice = Perfect. And we don’t just pursue it at Christmas, we try to get it all right all year. That’s exhausting. Not to mention impossible. And God has a better way for us to live.

I’ve learned this the hard way because I know Perfectionism well. Let’s call her “Ms. P” for short.

She showed up in my life somewhere in the middle of elementary school and decided to stick around. Do you know her too?

Oh, on the outside she’s prim and proper. But beneath all that she’s a bossy, inconsiderate, joy-stealing, lie-telling, impossible-to-please taskmaster who’s never satisfied. She doesn’t play well with others. I don’t know why I kept her around for so long. I tried to get her to leave a few times, but she always came back — until I found some truth that finally sent her packing.

You see, Ms. P liked to quote a verse to me (no surprise there — the devil did it when he tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness). Her favorite Scripture was, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5: 48). Every time I heard those words, I thought about how I was falling short and must try harder.

But I finally decided to look a little closer at what that verse might really mean. I looked for other verses that used the word perfect. Lo and behold, look what was hiding in Hebrews: “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (10: 14).

What? I’ve already been made perfect? I thought at first my Bible might have a typo. But it turns out it’s true. I’ve already been made perfect. And so have you.

Here’s how it works: There’s only One who is perfect. To be perfect, I’d have to be Him. But wait —“ I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2: 20). When I gave my life to Jesus, He gave His to me too. In God’s eyes, I’m as perfect as Christ. All that sin? It’s settled once and for all. Whew. Jesus shows Ms. P to the door and says, “I’ll take it from here.”

Also, the Hebrew word for “perfect” is different than our typical Western definition. It actually speaks more to the concept of being “complete” and how we are all we need to be in Christ.

Does that mean we’re off the hook and can do whatever we want? Nope, that’s where the second part of the verse from Hebrews comes in. We’ve been made perfect — check — but we’re still in the process of being made holy.

God’s goal in our lives is growth.

So what’s the difference between growth and “perfection”?

Perfectionism is all or nothing.

Growth is little by little.

Perfectionism is all about the goal.

Growth is more about the journey.

Perfectionism is about outward appearances.

Growth is about what happens on the inside.

Perfectionism is about what we do.

Growth is about who we’re becoming.

Take a deep breath and know that you don’t have to be perfect, friend. You have a Savior who loves you–and over a lifetime He will help you grow to become more like Him.

It’s time to shred the nice list.

 

XOXO

Holley Gerth

 

 

More encouragement like this: You’re Already Amazing

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Do You Really Believe You’re Worth Loving?

I tap my pen impatiently on the corner of a college classroom desk and glance at the darkening sky outside the window. I’m hoping my professor will wrap up the lecture before the clouds split wide open. But by the time I grab my backpack and head out the door I can already hear raindrops like tiny bombs exploding on the ceiling.

As I step into the hall I see my boyfriend {now my husband} waiting for me. And he’s holding an umbrella. Someone has come for me…

Someone put my needs before their comfort.

Someone loved me enough to make the effort.

Someone believed I was worth the risk and rain.

And this, friend, is the hope Christmas offers us.

I don’t know what your life has held. I don’t know who has walked into or out of the door of your heart. I don’t know if you’ve had lots of umbrellas or have shivered in the damp for far too long. I don’t know what you were told about your worth or your beauty or your place in this world.

But I know this: you are a woman worth pursuing.

Do not let anyone in your life ever make you feel as if you are not worth the effort of loving. Promise me you will not believe that lie. Because if God himself has said it is so then no human can trump that truth. He has declared you are valuable, cherished and nothing can keep him from you…

I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord! {Rom. 8:37-39}

Love came for Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Love came to a manger the first Christmas.

And one day when we least expect it, the clouds will split and Love will come for us again.

XOXO

Holley Gerth

More encouragement like this: God’s Heart for You
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