People & Places

So grateful for you this Christmas…

So grateful for you this Christmas…

Christmas package photo by shimelle (flickr creative commons) It's Christmas.

We gather around our trees to exchange brightly wrapped packages and laughter, to make memories that will last for years.

I imagine pulling back the tape, lifting the paper, raising the lid, and here's the gift I see…

YOUR NAME.

You leaving comments that encourage my heart.

You reading silently.

You sharing the happy, the hard.

When I think of all God has given me this year–my heart overflows when I think of you. Thank you for being here.

I have a gift I'll keep giving you too–words, written in love, sent to your heart, surrounded by prayers. And next time I see you, I'll throw in a hug too.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.

The LORD bless you
   and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
   and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
   and give you peace.
Number 6:24-26

 

written with love for you by holley

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Live well, love well…

Live well, love well…

Grandpa Hollie He's at the kitchen table, head bowed, Bible open.

"Poppi," I say, "Look up and smile."

He does and I snap this picture. I've got a hundred others just like it in the scrapbook of my mind.

As long as I can remember, my Grandpa has read his Bible each day. He's also active in the Gideons, a greeter at church, president of his neighborhood association and goes to visit juvenile delinquents in jail.

Oh, did I mention he's 90?

It's his birthday today.

Last Saturday our family gathered in his home along with fifty of his friends to celebrate and bless this man who has touched all of our lives.

My Grandpa Hollie has given me a legacy of faith, my name, laughter, and the firm belief that a piece of pie a day helps you live a long and healthy existence. Life has had its share of hard times for him but he's made it through with a smile.

His favorite advice? Get at least three hugs a day, think positive, and "put your worries on the back burner of your mind then turn the heat off."

Thank you, Poppi, for everything.

And thank you, God, for Poppi.

 

Ever Grateful Pitcher by DaySpring

 

Will you help me celebrate my Grandpa's birthday today? Leave a comment by midnight tonight (12/15) wishing him a happy birthday and you'll be entered to win this Ever Grateful pitcher by DaySpring! Subscribers, click here.

 

Her Children Arise and Call Her Blessed bracelet by DaySpring Today is my Mom's birthday too! I'm writing about her, as well as sharing some encouragement for all of you who are mamas, on 5 Minutes for Faith.  If you leave a comment on that post too you'll be entered to win this Her Children Arise and Call Her Blessed bracelet by DaySpring. To get to the post on 5 Minutes for Faith, just click here.

 

Thanks for celebrating with me today! I wish all of you could have come to Poppi's party. How about for his 100th? 

 

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You’re one of my favorite reasons to be thankful…

You’re one of my favorite reasons to be thankful…

Thanksgiving photo by CarbonNYC (flickr creative commons) We drive three hours south on a twisty road through hills letting go of the last autumn leaves. The sky stretches out like a blanket of blue and the first bit of cold snaps its fingers at us.

We walk into a house of warmth—kitchen crowded with my husband’s family (now mine too), table covered with food. We say thanks to God for goodness we don’t deserve.

I think of you as we pass bowls of creamy potatoes, golden corn, carved turkey then pieces of pie before we lean back in our chairs to linger over conversation.

And I thank God for you.

Because having you here on these pages, reading these words, is one of His beautiful gifts to me.

You know that, don’t you?

I think of you often, pray for you, listen to what you share in the comments.

I hope we get to have coffee one day soon.

Until then, I’ll keep sending words in my place.

And you?

You just keep doing what you’re doing,

being who you are,

changing the world in your own wonderful way…

making more reasons for all of us

(especially me)

to be grateful again next year

(especially for you).

 

How did you celebrate Thanksgiving? If you’re not in America, what do you and your family do to celebrate when you’re together for holidays?

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written with love for you by holley 

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Why you just can’t take me anywhere…

Why you just can’t take me anywhere…

Hearts and Stars photo by D Sharon Pruitt (flickr creative commons) I walked into the men's room.

I broke conference property.

And they still invited me back.

If that's not proof that the Indianapolis Christian Writers conference is a place of grace, then I don't know what is. The mishaps above happened two years ago (you can read about them in this post).

So as I packed my bags last weekend I determined in my heart that I would be on my very best behavior this time around.

I should have known better.

I'm proud to say I did steer clear of the men's room and the only property I damaged was my own.

At the airport, I let go of my suitcase handle for a bit and it slid all the way down the escalator. In slow motion. With people watching.

Bump.

Bump.

Bump.

Every time I'd try to go get it, it would slide down a few more steps and I would go up a few more feet. Sigh. A sweet girl finally had mercy (after she stopped laughing hysterically, I'm sure) and brought my bag to me.

Friday evening I headed back to the hotel after teaching a workshop. I walked up to the desk and after looking at me for a moment, the girl said, "You're all checked in–here's your key." I hadn't even said my name.

I joked to a friend that I must be so famous that I didn't need identification now. Hahaha. Hilarious. When I got to my room, I took off my coat and realized I was still wearing my name tag. Yes, ma'am. That's how it works: if you wear a name tag in public then people know who you are without you telling them. Amazing.

And, finally, Becky (hello, dear Becky!) who is a Heart-to-Heart reader introduced herself to me at the conference. She even gave me a present–a fabulous candle that looks like a piece of candy. Y'all when she gave it to me I was tired and hungry. I was about to unwrap that thing and eat it right there when Becky kindly said, "Um, it's a candle." Bless you, sweet Becky!

At the end of one of my workshops I said…

There is a message inside you that only you can share.

We don't get a second chance at it.

There is no back-up plan in God's agenda.

You're the world's one shot at what God has placed within you.

I'm saying the same to all of you. You may not share it through words as a writer but you're called to share it in some way.

And the really good news?

It's about the message and not the messenger. And I continue to produce proof that if God can use me then He can most certainly use you.

Yes, amen, and pass the chocolate candle.

 

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written with love for you by holley

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10 years ago today we said “I do”…

10 years ago today we said “I do”…

Mark and Holley Gerth Wedding

…And I do still!

Mark and Holley on Old Main Steps

True confession: During the actual wedding ceremony I said "Oh, yeah!" instead of "I do." It caught the preacher quite by surprise. 🙂

p.s. If you missed the free God-sized Dreams webinar I did as part of the Bridgelite Transition Series then you can listen to it by clicking here! And you can still sign up for part two with Mary DeMuth and part three with Lauraine Snelling!

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The grace race (and some encouragement for you)

The grace race (and some encouragement for you)

Holley Swimming The alarm sounded at 4:15am (did I mention I'm not a morning person?).

It was race day.

In a moment of what now seemed like insanity, I agreed to do the swimming portion of a triathlon relay.

500 meters (20 laps)

I swam on a team when I was younger. But I'd only been a few times in the last decade.

(Confession: Just about as terrifying as the race was appearing in a swimsuit in public. The only advantage I could think of was that my neon white legs might temporarily blind the other swimmers.)

We pulled into the race area. Then my husband sauntered over to the registration desk and let them know our team had arrived.

"The three stooges are here!" he cheerfully announced.

I stepped to the edge of the lake and peered into the dark waters. I imagined all sorts of creatures nibbling on my toes. Perhaps the leg-whiteness would ward them off as well.

I paced. I used the porta-potty (eww!) about fourteen times. I thought I might faint, throw-up, and/or die.

And then it was time.

I stepped into the water with knees knocking, pink goggles, and a white swim cap. I felt more like an albino rabbit than an athlete.

The trumpet sounded (seriously) and we were off.

And then something miraculous happened.

I swam.

Then I swam some more.

I passed the first marker.

I passed some other swimmers.

And then I was done.

All that drama and nothing happened. Nothing nibbled on my toes. I didn't have to be carried back to shore by a rescue boat. My time was smack in the middle of the men and women.

And the Three Stooges won third place.

When they called our team's name, I could hardly make it to the stage because I was laughing so hard.

Grace.

It felt like grace.

I was reminded again that most of the time the most important part is just showing up. And doing whatever it is despite our fears. Even when we feel insecure. Or unqualified.

I'm going to train for another race.

And This time I'm going into the water with a bright white smile that matches those legs.

Yes, ma'am.

Have you ever been afraid to do something and decided to do it anyway? What helped you push through your fear?

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_______________________________________________________________________________________

Got a dream? Or facing a change?

Then I'd love to have you join me for a free live webcast about God-sized Dreams on August 31st at 11am CST! It's part of the Bridgelite Transition Series by Denise Martin. Best-selling authors Mary DeMuth and Lauraine Snelling will be part of the series in the coming weeks too! 

Click here to reserve your spot!

______________________________________________________________________________________

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A little tour of Alaska…and some big ol’ thoughts

A little tour of Alaska…and some big ol’ thoughts

I need your help. That crazy hood covered my ears. What was this fish saying?

Fish Lips

I hear you, girl. You just go right ahead and keep on giggling! There's more to come–silly and serious. Because you know even on vacation my life is one mishap and/or spiritual analogy after another!

Here are a few favorite thoughts and photos from the trip…

Family Flyout

Alaska Flyout & Fishing Trip

Left to right: My Dad-in-law Terry, Dad – Don, Hubby – Mark, Brother – Stephen, Mom-in-law Marsha, me, Mom – Lyn, Sis-in-law Amber.

We went on a flyout trip over a beautiful stretch of wildnerness and a gorgeous glacier. When we landed, we set out in little boats and caught these silver salmon! Who knew I was such an outdoorsy girl? Not me!

On the flight, I thought about how we don't have to reach the tops of our mountains (dreams) on our own. Thankfully for us, God says, "Get on board, girl, and I'll make you soar!" Our job is faithfulness…He'll do the flying!

 

Barrier Islands

 

Barrier Island

On another day, we took a short cruise out of Seward. The guide pointed out these barrier islands and said their purpose is to keep the port from experiencing the full force of the storm.

I thought of the storm in my life the last few years and how God has provided barrier islands for my heart too–people, moments of joy, just the right moment. Yes, storms blow in but we don't get the full impact. Thank you, God.  

Big Ol' Mountains

Alaska Mountain

We saw so many huge mountains in Alaska. They're breathtaking. I found myself praying, "Lord, if you ever want to do something big through me then make it that kind of BIG. The kind that makes people say, 'Wow, God had to be the one who did that!' " 

Fish-Catching Chicks!

Amber and I with Salmon

No spiritual analogy here–just my sis-in-law looking adorable as always and me looking completely goofy like much of the time! And a whole bunch of fish. Woo-hoo! Go, girls! 

(Okay, maybe a little analogy–I did think about how we each were supposed to "catch our limit" and how that applies to all of us in our everyday lives because we all have limits. See? I can't turn it off! And actually, I'm glad.)

Thanks for joining me on this little tour! I wish I could have taken all of you with me! We would have caught fish, drank way too much coffee, laughed a lot, and stared at some of those big ol' mountains together.

Next time?

 

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When you’re looking for peace

When you’re looking for peace

Alaskan Fireweed Hey you, in the middle of the busy, in search of quiet, looking for peace.

You don't have to go anywhere to find it. It's here, right here.

It has a name and a heart that beats with love for you.

"Come to Me," He says, "I'll lift that burden, carry that load, settle your soul."

He knows how to calm storms, quiet hearts, bring peace to our lives.

That place your heart long to go, away from it all?

It's not as far as you think.

It's anywhere He is.

And here's the best part of all…He's always with you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. John 14:27

 

* This photo is of Fireweed in Alaska. It's said that when the flower blooms all the way to the top then winter begins. Locals also use the flower to make honey!

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When your soul needs rest

When your soul needs rest

I get on a plane.

Fly to Alaska.

I joke on the drive to where we're staying about how I'm a "city girl." 

RW Fishing Camp

And then, in that wide open beauty, surrounded by my family, I fall in love with quiet all over again.

It's odd how we don't know how starved our souls are until someone offers us a good meal. I'm back home now, full and satisfied.

And asking myself, "How can I live that way here?"

We can't always go to quiet.

But we can be intentional about allowing it to come into our lives.

And, even more importantly, asking God to bring it to our hearts.

Then we can have calm anywhere, even in the middle of chaos.

Alaska let me see on the outside what I long for on the inside.

Lord,

In the middle of our busy world, our hectic lives, we all need more quiet–more space of the soul, more room for joy.

So we ask you to bring that to us.

Help us to slow down, take deep breaths, enjoy what you've given us.

You are our calm, our peace, our refuge.

Thank you for being the place our hearts can go when we need rest.

Amen.

I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother. Ps 131:2

 

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God-sized dreams…hardly ever go the way we plan

God-sized dreams…hardly ever go the way we plan

Volkswagon photo by AmySelleck I'm in Colorado Springs to meet with Waterbrooka publisher I adore. And all of you know what kind of craziness happens when I'm allowed to go out in public.

My trip did start uneventfully. I made it to the plane on time, didn't lose my bags, and even got my rental car.

I pulled onto the freeway feeling quite sure of myself…and that's where the fun began. You see, I'm quite directionally challenged so I brought my trusty GPS thinking I couldn't possibly get lost. 

I imagined myself zipping quite happily into town, visiting a few of my favorite spots (we used to live here), and arriving without incident at the hotel.

However, along the way I may or may not have

driven the wrong way down a one-way street (just a few feet).

missed several crucial turns because I was making up blog posts in my head.

accidentally gone 75 in a 50 just because everyone else was.

Ahem.

The GPS usually has two favorite phrases for me and today was no exception:

"Make a u-turn if possible."

"Recalculating…"

Yes, ma'am. That's how I roll.

(For some reason my husband set the GPS on the British version so I also felt like I was getting reprimanded by Mary Poppins the whole time–quite upsetting.)

Because my life is one endless spiritual analogy, it occurred to me that the road to many of my God-sized dreams has been much like my journey today.

Usually, when I get off course I have this sinking feeling that dream is d-o-n-e. After all, I've goofed it up big time. And a perfect God with a perfect will can't handle that, right?

Wrongo.

He knows we're human. And if He were in charge of the GPS instead of Mary Poppins it would sound more like…

"You can make a u-turn. It's always possible."

Yep, there will be detours to our dreams. Some of them will even be our fault.

But no matter how far I got my car off course today, the little end-flag on my GPS stayed in the same spot. And no matter how far we get off course, the deepest purposes of our lives stay the same in God's eyes.

We think there is one way to our God-sized dreams. It turns out there are a thousand. He can recalculate, reroute, and redirect until we get there.

So if you've been feeling discouraged, get back on the road again. And if you see someone going the wrong way down a one-way as you do, please sweetly wave hello…it's probably me.

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