Keep Hoping and Dreaming, Friend

Keep hoping. Keep dreaming.  You are not done yet. And neither is the God who wildly loves you and will see you through to the end.

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Hey, You…

The one who’s had a hard week. Who might be wondering if it’s even worth it to hope or dream anymore. The one who has to swat discouragement away like a pesky fly. I know those feelings, too. Can I lean in and gently whisper this hard truth to both of us?

The riskiest thing is not to hope or dream.

The only way to avoid making mistakes is to not do anything. And that’s the biggest mistake of all.

The only way to avoid being hurt is to never love. And being alone in that way is the deepest wound a heart can have.

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

The things that help us feel safe are the same things that can put us at greatest risk.

You are braver, stronger, more capable than you know.

And the God you serve is bigger than you’ve yet experienced.

Keep hoping. Keep dreaming.

You are not done yet.

And neither is the God who wildly loves you and will see you through to the end.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” {Php. 1:6}

XOXO

Holley Gerth

p.s. If you’d like more encouragement for your dreams, you can find it in my latest post on the God-sized Dreams site.

P.P.S. Looking for Graduation Gifts? You’re Already Amazing, You’re Made for a God-sized Dream and Opening the Door to Your God-sized Dreams will encourage the graduates in your life!

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Find What Fills Your Heart

Find what fills you up deep inside and do that every day of your life. At: http://holleygerth.com/heart-hungry/ ‎

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I walk through the door bone weary, head throbbing, searching for the nearest flat surface so I can sink into silence. I feel depleted, drained, tired in a way that makes my heart echo with emptiness.

Another day I walk through the door worn out but not worn down, ready for a nap but also ready to get up and go for it again, smiling even through the physical fatigue that tugs at every part of my body. My energy tank is empty but my heart is full.

One task depleted me–like a sugar crash after too much junk food.

The other filled me up–like a satisfying meal that makes you lean back in your chair and sigh with new strength.

Here’s the catch: both looked like great opportunities on the outside.

But one was not for me.

And the next time it came around, I turned down another helping. That’s hard for us as women {at least it is for me}. Saying “no” to what looks enticing and sweet even though we know it will ultimately not nourish us can be difficult to do. And yet discovering what truly feeds our hearts is essential.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish His work” {John 4:34}.

What God truly has for us to do on this earth will fill us up deep inside. Oh, yes, we will get tired sometimes along the way. We will have struggles and face obstacles. But what He has for us is not meant to leave us continually empty.

Be careful if you’re working hard “for God” and your heart feels hungry all the time.

Stop and ask Him, “Is this really, truly what You have for me? Have I taken in or taken on something You never intended?”

How do we even know what God’s will is?

Part of the process is that we are to “test and approve it” {Romans 12:2}. You might even say “taste and approve it” because just like your body knows what is good, your heart does too. But that only comes through experience.

So don’t be afraid to try what’s in front of you. Have a bite. Then see what happens.

Is it nourishing?

Soul filling?

Life giving?

Then have some more, my friend. But if it’s not, it’s okay to push the plate away or pass it on to someone else {because what feeds each of us is different}. You’ll know when you’ve found what you need. You’ll “taste and see that the Lord is good” {Psalm 34:8}.

And what He gives is good for you.

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live” {Isaiah 55:2-3}.

God offers something better than a busy, full life.

He offers life to the full.

XOXO

Holley Gerth

* this post was also featured on (in)courage *

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How to Cure Your Fear of the Future

How do we live without fear of the future? We can be confident in our future as we take the next step of obedience. Via http://holleygerth.com

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She is clothed with strength and dignity;

    she can laugh at the days to come.

Proverbs 31:25

I catch a few moments of a news program featuring guests who are talking about the future. One predicts financial doom. Another shares a new medical condition that’s sure to wreak havoc on lives. The next encourages viewers to stockpile because you never know when the next natural disaster may strike. By the time the show is done, I’m ready to hide in my closet and never come out.

Yes, I believe in being wise about the future as well as what’s happening in our world. But there is a difference between wisdom and fear. That’s especially important to note as a new year has just begun.

So how do we live without fear of the future?

The ultimate God-sized dreams girl shows us how in the well-known Proverbs 31 chapter.

Here are a few of the God-sized dreams she pursued . . .

Being a wife of noble character

Real estate investing

Running a vineyard

Making a difference in the lives of the poor

Having a family who’s respected in the community

Living a beautiful life

Building a profitable business

Gaining wisdom

Scripture tells us, “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks” (Prov. 31:17). This woman has a life full of verbs. She brings, selects, works, gets up, provides, considers, plants, sees, holds, grasps, extends, makes, sells, supplies, speaks, watches, and fears the Lord. While her virtues are often praised, it’s clear that all of them are more than simply beliefs. She’s a woman of action. Even in the small things, she’s always taking the next step.

When you are always taking the next step of obedience, fear of the future diminishes.

The only way to cure fear of the future is to be faithful with what’s been entrusted to you today—and to actually do it. Most of our fears are based on fantasy, “What if I release this book and no one wants it?” “What if I go to that get together to build relationships and no one wants to talk to me?” “What if I take this next step and it doesn’t work out the way I want?” As long as we stay in that stage, fear can reign because there’s no reality to conflict with our perception of what will happen.

Faith trumps fear not by simply wishing it away but by action. Many times when God says to His people, “Do not fear,” it is followed by some kind of specific instruction. He’s reassuring them and then showing them what they will need to do to replace that fear with faith.

In the life of the Proverbs 31 woman, we see this in two specific ways: strength and dignity. She is “clothed with strength and dignity”; therefore, she can laugh at the days to come.

Strength conveys that she’s willing to do whatever it takes to see God’s purposes for her life fulfilled. She doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk.

Dignity describes her character—how she conducts herself as she takes action.

Doing what you need to do right now and becoming who God wants you to be a little more each day are two of the best ways to face the future without fear.

I imagine the future trying to taunt the Proverbs 31 woman by telling her that she doesn’t have what it takes, that God’s plans for her will never unfold, that she is getting older by the minute. Her response? Laughter. “You silly future,” she might say, “I’m too busy to worry about you. I’m living what God has for me today—and I will do the same tomorrow too.”

We can join her as women who are confident our future is in God’s hands. And that means we can focus on what He has for our hands to do right here and now.

XOXO

Holley Gerth

 

Enjoy more encouragement like this: You’re Made for a God-sized Dream

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How Do You Know if a Desire or Dream is Really from God?

How do you know if a desire or dream is really from God? These 10 questions will help when making a decision! Read more at http://holleygerth.com/

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Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. {Romans 12:2 NIV}

It’s the time of year for dreaming and deciding. 

An idea comes to mind. A longing appears in your heart. A hope finds its way into your conversations. How do you really know if it’s from God?

First of all, that’s a beautiful question to ask. Most people move ahead in their lives without pausing to ask what God wants. And here you are desiring to know—truly know—if this is what He has for you before you take another step. That alone is pleasing to Him.

And I don’t believe He wants to keep us guessing. But He also doesn’t usually tell us outright what we are to do. After all, His highest goal for our journey with Him is an intimate relationship, and ordering us around would make us more like robots than His beloved people. Usually, we discover what He wants us to do as we go.

In Romans 12:2 above, Paul tells us we are to “test and approve” God’s will. In other words, we’ve gotta try stuff. We don’t usually like that approach. It’s scary. We might mess up. We could get it wrong. And yet that is the only way for us to really know God’s will—by experiencing it.

The precursor to that process is to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” {Rom. 12:2}. In other words, to be committed to seeing our lives from God’s perspective. We do that first by being in His Word on a regular basis. Even if it doesn’t have specific instructions for our situations, God can use His Spirit to illuminate what we need to see. The Bible is not a static text but rather is “alive and active” so God can use it to show us what we need for our daily lives.

We can also ask ourselves a series of questions that help us determine whether or not this dream or opportunity is likely to be from God. These are ten questions I’ve found to be helpful when evaluating a decision or dream:

10 Questions to Ask Before Making a Decision

  1. Does this opportunity fit with my strengths?
  2. Does this fit with my skills?
  3. Have my life experiences prepared me for it?
  4. What do the people I trust most say about it?
  5. Do I feel an inner tug or “leading” from God to do it?
  6. Does the opportunity line up with Scripture and what I understand to be God’s purpose for me?
  7. Are there any possible “phantom reasons” that could be tempting me to say yes when God wants me to say no (ex: fear, guilt, a desire to please people)?
  8. If I say yes, what will it mean saying no to?
  9. If I say no, what will it mean saying yes to?
  10. When I look back in ten years, will this be a story I want to share?

This list isn’t complete, of course. But hopefully it provides a starting point for you.

(Side note: one thing that’s not on this list is, “Do I feel scared silly about doing it?” What God asks us to do often does lead to fear in the beginning. When He says “do not fear” in Scripture, it’s most often to someone who is already afraid. If we’re walking the path God has for us, then it seems fear is more often confirmation to continue than a reason to turn back.)

After evaluating and praying, it’s time to “test and approve.” In other words, you move forward with what God has asked you to do to the best of your knowledge. You stay closely connected to Him in the process and as you go, you adjust. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you clearly see His hand in something, you do more of it.

God’s will isn’t something we will see in one single moment. It’s more often something we discover along the way. And in doing so, we find more of what our hearts really need—the God who wants to share every bit of the journey with us.

XOXO

Holley Gerth

p.s. If you need more encouragement and practical tools for a dream or decision, You’re Made for a God-sized Dream and Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream can help.

 

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What to Do When Someone Barks at You

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My husband, beagle-basset {aka “bagel”} Katie and I stroll along a neighbor street as autumn leaves turn colors and occasionally toss themselves toward us like confetti.

We round a corner and a trio of dogs sound the alarm. Two small. One large. They each offer their version of a bark–a deep, gruff warning; a high-pitched yap; and a trying-to-be-intimidating whine.

I’m startled for a moment and stop in my tracks while my dog keeps moving right along, tail wagging happily. I look in the direction of all the noise and realize why: those three dogs are firmly behind a fence.

Katie {affectionally nicknamed “the beast”} is wiser than me in this way. She pays no attention whatsoever to anything that can’t actually hurt her. Not a single “woof!” in response. Not a missed step. Not a concerned look.

She doesn’t engage in unnecessary vocal back-and-forths. She doesn’t run over to the fence just to show her strength and protect her image. She doesn’t wag her tail to convince them to change their minds and like her. She just carries on.

I, on the other hand, pay a disproportionate amount of attention to barking–even when the source has no real power over me. The enemy of my soul growls a discouraging lie and I consider giving up on my dream. A criticism comes in from the far corners of the internet and I think about throwing my computer out the window. An offhand remark from an acquaintance hits a tender spot and I bristle.

I’m in a season of reevaluating where and how I spent my energy and emotion. I find myself often asking this simple, hard question about each choice I make: Is this really worth it? And when it comes to responding to the barking that comes from behind fences the answer is clearly this: Nope, it’s not.

If you hear barking ask yourself this:

Can this actually hurt me or is this simply triggering my fear?

What will it cost me to engage in this?

What do I risk missing out on if I get sidetracked by this right now?

I keep going back to the same passage in Hebrews 12 a lot lately:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I always thought of those in the “great cloud of witnesses” as cheering us on. And, mostly, I hope they are. But I think the real point is this: there will be all kinds of spectators in the race of your life and your job is to simply persevere and keep moving forward with your eyes fixed on Jesus. No matter what anyone else says or does.

In other words, pay no attention to that barking from behind the fence.

It’s not worth it. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

You have places to go. You have dreams to pursue. You have a purpose to fulfill.

Your Master is beside you. And in the end, nothing else really matters.

Carry on, wise and brave friend…

XOXO

Holley Gerth

{enjoy more encouragement like this in You’re Made for a God-sized Dream and Opening the Door to Your God-sized Dreams}

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