Writing/Publishing

The Biggest Small We Can Be

The Biggest Small We Can Be

Redwoods by moregenlandfahrer (flickr) I go to a place where trees reach for the sky and writers do too.

We arrive carrying words in our minds, dreams in our hearts, hopes we've whispered silently to the ceiling in the night.

It doesn't matter that I'm on faculty, or have a book published, or anything else.

Here I am a child again asking the playground questions, "Does anyone want me? Do I fit in?"

I look at the trees again and I wonder, "How did they get so tall?"

And I realize…

Not by striving but by being.

Not in a day but through years of growth so small it can't be seen.

We sometimes talk of platforms in this world–building them, being on them, maintaining them. What if we (especially me) were more like the trees?

And the most powerful tree of all formed a cross so that…

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. John 12:32

No platforms. Only crosses.

It's an entirely different sort of dreaming.

Another type of trust.

Not of becoming more but less so that we can make much of the One we love.

So here in this place where trees try to reach the sky and writers do too…I choose instead to bow, to kneel at the foot of the cross. To worship rather than work, serve rather then strive.

It's a choice I'll have to make again. Every day. Because my heart is prone to wander, my self-sufficiency quick to grow. But this is the only way.

Not trying to touch the sky but insisting on touching His heart.

I shift my gaze from the trees and look at the path before me.

And I breathe deeply of grace…clear as the mountain air.

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My DaySpring Story: Part 5

My DaySpring Story: Part 5

(To start from Part One click here. And if you can't see the images click here.) 

____________________________________________________________________________________

Snowflake Set by DaySpring

Congratulations to Dawn for winning the Christmas set giveaway! If you still want the set or anything else I've talked about in this series you can find it on DaySpring.com and get 20% off with my friends and family code. (holley20)_____________________________________________________________________

 

And now for the rest of the story…

For several years I spent most of my time at DaySpring on cards and gift items.

Blessings Unlimited I also got to be editorial director for Blessings Unlimited, a direct-to-consumer division of DaySpring (think Pampered Chef or Mary Kay).

We'd meet as a team to brainstorm, pray, and ask God for new creative ideas. He always answered and this beautiful catalog is an example.

I love working with Blessings Unlimited!

Then a year or so ago God began nudging my heart in new directions. At first I didn't know what it meant. I just had a vague sense that I wanted to be closer to something, someone. And then one day I realized it was YOU.

As I explored the social media world more, a dream began forming in my heart for a community of women online that was about every part of usspiritual, emotional, social, and even practical! I began talking about this possibility with other women and found they shared this dream too. In particular, my coworkers Stephanie and Lainie also felt a passion for a new way to build a relationship with you.

Over the next year we spent hours talking about what this meant, praying about what God had in store, and moving in that direction without even knowing where we were going exactly.

All of that eventually became a new site called (in)courage. I hope you'll take a moment to read the whole story here.

Incourage-button

(in)courage was never a corporate initiative. It was a calling.

And it has become an amazing God-sized adventure that has knocked my socks off.

(in)courage has convinced me that God can and does do the impossible.

Come closer, and I'll whisper to you why that's true. In less than three months, we've had well over 100,000 unique visitors to the site from almost 170 countries. Our page views are on track to hit half a million this week.

And, y'all, I just don't think that happens without Jesus.

We have a team of almost thirty amazing women who write and create products for the site. They are the heart of what we do and I'm honored to know and work with each of them. You can get to know them here.

That's the latest chapter in my God-story with DaySpring. I'm so thankful that you let me share all of it with you. If you take anything away from it I pray it's this…

If God can use me then He can (and does) use you. And there is nothing that can get in the way of His plans. It doesn't matter what anyone saysnot a publisher, not people, not the pulpitGod is the author of your story and He gets to write the ending. Period. There is no mistake too great, no weakness too big for Him to overcome, no obstacle too complicated for Him to get around.

Find out what He created you to do and then do it. You + God are unstoppable.

I wrote this piece for Blessings Unlimited and I'd like to close this series with it because it expresses my heart for you…

You are a woman of strength—
more than a conqueror,
able to do all things,
a warrior and princess
in the Kingdom of God.
You are called to fight,
to minister, to pray,
to change the world.
The Lord has given you
all you need
and made you
all you need to be
for victory. 
So go forth, strong sister,
With a smile on your face,
a heart full of hope,
and a determination
to never stop until
you receive every
blessing God has for you.

I can do everything through Him
who gives me strength.
PHILIPPIANS 4:13 NIV

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My DaySpring Story: Part 4

My DaySpring Story: Part 4

(To start from Part One click here. And if you can't see the images click here.) 

First of all, thank you for letting me share my story! I've never done so before and it's been fun, humbling, and a little bit scary. I'm amazed that you're not only reading but leaving kind comments too! I'd hug you all if you were here.

Explaining everything I worked on at DaySpring during the first few years is a bit like trying to describe a kaleidoscope so I'd love to just share a few of my favorite projects with you…

Big Yellow Umbrella card by Holley Gerth for DaySpring

 

 

I wish I had a big yellow umbrella
that would keep away all the rain
in your life. I would hold it over your head, and the drops would splash, splash, and you would never even feel it. But I don’t have a big yellow umbrella – so I’ll walk through the rain with you.

The card above began as an e-mail to my friend Heather on a tough day. She was a designer at DaySpring and it became the starting point for a summer line called Heather and Holley in stores several years ago.

Then this new version of it came in 2008 and won Card of the Year at the Louie Awards (the greeting card equivalent of the Oscars) in New York City!

I love that card because while most of my cards start with an assignment, it simply came from the heart in a moment of need for a friend.

I've helped create card lines for stores like LifeWayFamily Christian, Hallmark, Wal-mart, and a variety of other places. Altogether I've written about 2000 cards!

Comfort and Encouragement booklet by Holley Gerth for DaySpring

I've also worked on other paper items like journals, calendars, and this Comfort and Encouragement booklet. It's a ministry guide for anyone who wants to help others through losses.

I wrote it during my counseling degree when I assisted with a grief support group. The name of each person in the group and the loved one they lost are in the front of the book. Sorrow is sacred ground and I'll always be grateful for those who let me walk and learn with them.

The Greatest Shepherd of All by Holley Gerth 
  
I even got to write three children's books with Thomas Nelson through a partnership! I love knowing that even if I don't have kids of my own yet, I can be part of building a heritage of faith in other families.

DaySpring also does gift items so some of my projects are things like ornaments, mugs, and home decor. Here's a little Christmas message that I wrote for card that became the inspiration for a gift line

Meaning of the Snowflake Mug - Holley Gerth for DaySpring The Meaning of the Snowflake
Every new snowflake comes to the earth
as a picture of our Saviour’s birth,
because they are sent from up above
and remind us of God’s care and love.
Each one is so intricate and small
because Christ sees the details of us all,
and just as two are never the same
the Lord knows and calls us each by name.
Snowflakes gently cover the world in white
and hide what’s unlovely from our sight,
showing us how He covers our sin
and gives us His grace when we come to Him.
So may every snowflake bring Christ to mind
and in every bit of white may you find a
reason to celebrate anew and a reminder
of His love for you.

I love being a small part of connecting women with God and each other.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Snowflake Set by DaySpring

Without you, none of the words I write would matter. 

I truly appreciate you so I'm having a giveaway of this Christmas set as a little thank you!

It's from the gift line I mentioned above and it comes with two mugs as well as a carafe that's perfect for serving cozy cups of tea or cocoa.

Just leave a comment before midnight on Saturday to enter!_________________________________________________________________________________

A couple of years ago, God began stirring something new in my heart and that has turned out to be an amazing adventure I never expected. To be continued…

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My DaySpring Story: Part 3

My DaySpring Story: Part 3

(To start from Part One click here. And if you can't see the images click here.) 

I continued freelancing for DaySpring and eventually they asked if I'd like to be an intern. Of course I said "yes!" and started coming to the office one day a week during the school year and full-time during summers.

My duties consisted of glamorous tasks like entering ancient cards typed on 3×5 notecards into an even more ancient computer.

But I didn't care because occasionally I got to write.

He Came to a Throne card by Holley Gerth for DaySpring

JESUS
He came not to a throne,
but to a manger.
He lived not as a king,
but as a servant.
He chose not a kingdom,
but a cross.
He gave not just a little,
but everything.
–Holley Gerth

  
  
In those days, our schedules were a lot slower and I'd often carry my card assignments out to a picnic table under an oak tree outside. I usually took a stack of books with me too. For example, if I had a Sympathy card to write I'd read about grief and what comforted people most.

Sometimes our whole department would go to a nearby Bed & Breakfast for the day. We'd pray, sift through stacks of magazines until an idea hit us, or even watch a movie to get inspiration.

Hold out Hope card by Holley Gerth for DaySpring

Inside…

Hope is more than just a word—
it’s a state of being.
It’s a firm belief that
even if you don’t know how,
even if you don’t know when,
God will come through
and better days are ahead.
Life sends rain…
Hope dances in the puddles
until the sun comes out again.
—Holley Gerth

When I look back on those times, I'm thankful God eased me into the publishing world by gaving me a time of rest and growth.

I graduated, married, and moved to Colorado Springs where I worked at a travel magazine and then a software company writing manuals (torture!).

After almost a year it seemed God was calling us back to home and DaySpring. When I returned, I found a place far different than my internship. Our quaint little company had been bought by Hallmark and had more opportunities than we'd ever dreamed.

Even though many things have changed, I've kept many of the lessons I learned during my internship with me as a writer…

1) Creativity is inherently relational. As a writer, the best place to start isn't our own mind–it's God's heart and then the heart of someone else. We create with God for someone else.

2) Creativity has to be cultivated. Its seeds are sown through time, inspiration, new experiences, relationships. We reap creativity when we've done the hard work of planting and tending it.

3) Creativity and life are intimately linked. If we're not living fully or well, we won't create fully or well either. Taking care of ourselves is not selfish. It's an investment in the vessel God uses to create. We're his pens, canvases, paintbrushes.

4) Creativity is never complete. Because it's linked to life, we are always growing, learning, expanding in our creativity. We can always get better.

What have you discovered about creativity? I'd love to learn from you.

 

God did keep giving me opportunities to grow at DaySpring. I was no longer an intern but a writer and editorial director with the privilege of working on best-selling card lines, collaborating with talented teams, winning awards for our work, and being surprised by God in other ways I couldn't have imagined. To be continued…

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My DaySpring Story: Part 2

My DaySpring Story: Part 2

(To read Part One click here. And if you can't see the images click here.) 

I slipped my card ideas into an envelope and sent them off with hope and a prayer.

Have you ever sent a dream, a piece of your heart, out into the world?

Then you know how my heart was pounding all the way to the mailbox. And at nineteen years old, I had no clue about all the proper things you're supposed to do to get published.

The Big C Card by Holley Gerth from DaySpring 

CHRIST

He is with you and many prayers are for you as you fight this battle.

You answer me and encourage me by giving me the strength I need. Psalm 138:3

When the phone rang a few weeks later a sweet woman named Ann (who is still my coworker) told me yes, DaySpring did want some of my ideas. I didn't know then that their freelance acceptance rate was about one percent.

Ann asked if I'd like to send more ideas or drop them off personally and meet the staff. It turned out DaySpring was only about thirty minutes from where I attended college. I told her I'd love to stop by.

 Hope is a Seed by Holley Gerth for DaySpring 

DaySpring started out small. They relocated from California in the early 1970s and the building where I first worked was a renovated duplex that was expanded bit by bit to hold over a hundred employees (of the almost 500 who worked there then). It overflowed with life and creativity.

So for more reasons than one, when I walked through the door that first day it felt like my heart came home.

Roy Lessin, one of the founders, took me to the product room where row after row of cards was displayed, much like my grandparents' store. He told me to look around while I waited to meet with Linn (who is still my boss now!).

As I quietly read through cards, Roy slipped up behind me again. He tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a journal. On the cover a blond-haired, brown-eyed little girl smiled in a photograph. She looked a lot like me.

I thanked Roy for the kind gift. After he walked away, I flipped through the blank pages of the journal. I couldn't help thinking of another journal–one that had a thousand pages. I'd just finished it and so many of the events recorded there during my season of rebellion filled me with regret.

I felt the Lord whispering, "Start over…and don't write anything on these new pages you wouldn't want me to read."

By the time Linn came to get me, I realized a new chapter in my life was beginning. Dancing in Puddles Card by Holley Gerth for DaySpring

I'm glad God called me to DaySpring then–not when I was the "Christian good girl," not when I felt like I deserved it, not even when I knew anything about publishing.

I'm here not because of what I've done or know but because of Who chose me for reasons beyond my understanding.

If you have a God-dream in your heart you may be thinking, "But I need to be more _________. Or I need to know__________. Or if I could just ____________. " I hope my story encourages you that God is bigger than all of those blanks.

As Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in a man's heart but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails."

Yes, we are to be proactive partners in the process who pursue excellence. But God is the one who makes it happen. Nothing is impossible for Him…and for us because we are His.

And in my adventure with DaySpring He was just getting started–to be continued.

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My DaySpring Story

My DaySpring Story

When I had writer's block recently, I asked what you'd like to see as a post. Several of you mentioned DaySpring so I thought I'd start there…

Hard Times DaySpring Card 
(Cover of an award-winning card I wrote, inspired by my personal struggle.)

My grandparents had a Christian bookstore when I was growing up. I spent many hours curled up on an old chair in back of the store reading the stacks of books I'd gathered from the shelves.

I wrote my first book at age five. It was not published but proudly tucked away by its number one fan–my Mom.

I never really considered another career besides writing.

My grandma on my Dad's side was an English teacher. So it seemed words flowed through my veins and heart from the moment I came into the world.

In school I wrote poetry during science class and carried around enourmous notebooks.

I graduated and enrolled as an English major.

All through high school I'd been the "good Christian girl." And frankly, the pedestal was getting old. That first semester I rebelled.

I came home for Christmas broken and desperately missing God. During that time my sweet Grandma (the one with the bookstore) mentioned to her DaySpring sales representative that she had a granddaughter who wanted to be a writer. The representative told her I could send some ideas.

So she passed that little bit of good news along and I decided to try a few greeting cards. It became a turning point in my faith too.

And I know now that what happened next is nothing short of a miracle…to be continued.

What do you want to be when you grow up? (None of us really are grown up yet…right?)


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Barnes & Noble Book Signing

Barnes & Noble Book Signing

Update: Here are a few fun pics from the book signing! Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by!

DSCN1836 

I got to do the book signing with my fabulous friend and talented writer Gwen Ford Faulkenberry. She was signing her devotional A Beautiful Life and her Christian romance novel Love Finds You in Romeo, Colorado.

DSCN1835 

These are a few of my wonderful girlfriends–Andrea, Tena, and Kathleen.

DSCN1838 

And one of my favorite families, our dear friends Heather and Tony with little ones Micah and Lily.

I wish I had gotten a picture of everyone. When I'm nervous I tend to forget important things like how to spell my name (story below) and that there is a camera sitting right in front of me! I really appreciate all of you who were there and those of you who were thinking of me even if you couldn't make it!

I'm getting ready for a Rain on Me book signing at our local Barnes & Noble tonight. It's a bit of a "pinch me" moment. (Hopefully I won't blow that this time by walking into the men's bathroom and/or spelling my own name wrong.) I keep thinking about how God has brought me through the desert and into this place where I'm finally seeing blessings flow out of my pain. This devotional from Rain on Me describes my heart on that subject so I wanted to share it with you today…

Rain on Me Umbrella The “Yes” You Never Expected

He stilled the storm to a whisper;

the waves of the sea were hushed.

                                         Psalm 107:29

A few years ago, a coworker came rushing up to my desk with good news to share. She exclaimed, “A greeting card you wrote has been nominated for an award!” I asked her what kind of card it was, and she replied, “Baby congratulations.”

After she walked away from my desk, I sat in stunned silence for a few moments as I considered the irony. An infertile woman might receive an award for a baby congratulations card!

As I looked back over the last few years, several other similar instances came to mind. I unexpectedly got to help develop a line of baby gifts. I published three books for children.

Slowly the Lord began to reveal something to my heart. I sensed Him softly whispering, I’ve said yes to every prayer that has been prayed for new life to come through you. It has just been in a different way than you expected. As I absorbed those words, tears came to my eyes. I knew it was true.

I also knew that I had believed a lie. That lie went something like, “You did something wrong, and so God is saying no to your prayers.” I thought if I could just be better, then somehow I could earn what I wanted.

Now, though, I suddenly realized God had been saying yes all along. In that moment God “stilled the storm to a whisper” in my life. Before then all I could hear was the rain pounding against my heart, and the steady beat sounded like no, no, no, no.

You’ve heard that sound, haven’t you? Late at night, when all is quiet. In the middle of the day, when you’re caught off guard by a painful longing or unwelcome memory. In the morning, when you wake up to another day where things are not as they should be.

Yet if we listen closer, there is another sound. It’s the heartbeat of our Heavenly Father. And it’s always yes, yes, yes, yes. Even when we don’t understand, yes. Even when it’s different than what we expected, yes. Even when it seems as if nothing good is happening at all, yes.

Over the next few months, five people told me on separate occasions that they felt God was going to bring new life through my words. I hadn’t told any of them what God had revealed to my heart, and it was further confirmation of what I’d sensed to be true. Not having a child still hurt, but I also found renewed peace in knowing that God was at work.

Perhaps it’s time for you to ask your Heavenly Father to “still the storm to a whisper” in your life and help you hear His voice in a new way. You just may discover a no in your life is actually a yes you never expected.

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Loving the Giver More than the Gift

Here in this place redwoods grow taller than skyscrapers. Here in this place words swirl around us like the wind. Here in this place I remember why I am a writer.

I think back to a time before I knew about contracts, sales figures, and publishing deals. I picture a little girl learning her letters as if unlocking a key to the universe. I recall a young woman staring out at the ocean, notebook in hand, listening not to the waves but to the whisper of God within her.

For me, the phrase “becoming a writer” has always sounded a bit odd. There was never a moment when I made a decision. It was more like a spark within me that has slowly and steadily grown into a flame. To say “I became a writer” is like saying “I became a woman.” 

But it has become more complicated through the years. There are times when I stare at the face of the publishing world and wonder if it will swallow me whole. Will I lose my innocence? Will I forget my mission? Will I remember Who brought me here? 

I ask myself questions like this as I stare up at the ceiling in the night. It’s hard to describe how this gift, this amazing gift, also feels like a tremendous responsibility. It’s as if the king has asked me to guard a bit of his gold. While I’m honored, I also worry it will be lost, stolen, or taken away.

Most of all, I worry that one day I will want it for myself. I fear forgetting that the words entrusted to me are not mine—they are on loan only long enough for me to get them on a page so they can fulfill God's purposes.

It is like that with all we truly treasure, isn’t it? Children, spouses, dreams, homes—in the end they all belong to God. Yet we are capable of clinging to them, even worshiping them.

I remember going to summer camp in sixth grade. It felt much like this—trees, water, and enough silence to hear God speak. He had recently given me a blessing (I don’t even recall what it was now). I stared up at the sky and I sensed Him gently whispering, “Remember to love the Giver more than the gift.”

I hear those words again now.

Yes, in this moment, I know once more I’m still His little girl—the one who writes for love. I release what has never belonged to me. I open my hands, open my heart.  

May it be so with all we hold tightly, Lord.   

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Where’s God When It Rains?

Where’s God When It Rains?

Rain on Me Umbrella

From Rain on Me: Devotions of Hope and Encouragement for Difficult Times

A few years ago, I read the book Captivating by Stasi Eldridge. In one part she challenges women to ask God how He’s showing them His love.

I was at the beginning of my storm during that time but still far enough into it to feel a bit abandoned. So I initially balked at the question.

Finally, with a sigh, I silently asked, “Lord, how in the world are You showing me You love me right now?”

In an instant the answer came. I gently sensed God say to my heart, “I’m walking through the rain with you and I’m giving you my umbrella.”

My mind flashed back to a day in college when an unexpected storm swept in while I was in class. I dreaded the long trek home. As I exited my classroom, I couldn’t believe what I saw. My boyfriend Mark (who is now my husband) stood waiting for me with a smile on his face and an umbrella in his hand. He had come to walk me through the rain. It’s still one of the sweetest and most loving things anyone has ever done for me.

Of course, the best part of the walk home that day was staying right beside Mark. Umbrellas aren’t very big and the closer you get, the drier you stay. It’s the same way with God.

I know what’s it’s like to want to run away into the rain as fast as you can. I’ve done exactly that many times. But the sweetest moments in my journey have come when I’ve chosen to stay under God’s umbrella and let Him wrap His loving arms around me. 

Being under God’s umbrella still isn’t like a walk in the park on a sunny day. But there’s an intimacy to it that we may look back on with longing one day. We’ve all heard people say, “I’m glad that time in my life is over…but I sometimes miss how close I felt to God.”

God is waiting outside the door of your heart to walk you through the rain. This may not be what you would have chosen but it will be a journey you’ll always remember.

Read

After a time of great difficulty, God tells His chosen people that He will bless them with His presence and, “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” ISAIAH 4:6 NIV

Reflect

How is God showing you his love right now?

What do you think God is saying to your heart today?

Are you choosing to stay under God’s umbrella or running into the storm? Why?

 

Respond

Lord, thank You for Your love. Sometimes it’s hard to see in the midst of all this rain. I pray You will show me how You’re taking care of me today. I especially need You to___________________. Amen.

 

You can use my friends and family discount code, RAINON20, for an additional 20% off the book and everything else you order from DaySpring.com by April 1.

 

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