While some avoid the risk of hurt and pain, award-winning writer, Holley Gerth, chooses to climb higher in the walk of faith.
Have you ever wondered how some people seem to exude life and joy, even when life’s trials are raining down on them?
I’m talking about those rare moments you hear a story that all at once softens your heart and strengthens it at the same time. Few writers have this special gift, and Holley Gerth does so courageously. She opens up the hard places, yet leaves readers hope for new beginnings.
Holley is an award-winning writer who delivered a personal and inspiring devotional in her newly published book, Rain On Me: Devotions of Hope and Encouragement.
As senior editorial director for Dayspring, Holley launched (In)Courage, “a new home for the hearts of women.”
Today, I invite you to take a peek into the woman behind the words.
It turns out they are one and the same.
Join in this Special Blend Interview with Holley Gerth and you’ll see what I mean!
Thanks for making space in your packed schedule for our 1-1 interview. You’ve been generous with your time, so I’m going to dive right in!
I first started reading your blog, Heart To Heart, beginning with The Joy Challenge. One of my favorite quotes is from your post, Fear of Heights:
“Joy is not a tightrope—it’s a walk of faith…
I’m scared of heights…emotionally.” ~ Holley
1. How is God challenging you to climb higher?
I have a sweet Daddy who says, “Be careful” at the end of every phone call. Even if I’m just cleaning the kitchen!
I tend to think that God, as our Heavenly Father, is much the same way.
But the last few years I’ve realized that sometimes God does ask us to climb higher—to take risks and get out of our comfort zones for Him.
I see that repeated over and over in the Bible with characters like Moses and Esther.
For me, that has happened through a variety of different circumstances like our journey of infertility, getting a masters degree in counseling, publishing my first book, and launching (In)Courage.
Your view of God as Father has apparently made a difference!
When I read your post on Confessions, you touched on a burn-out. By admitting to it, you’re telling us, “It’s okay to be not okay” — one of your favorite sayings.
2. Why do you think Christians are so hesitant to not be okay, when we are all the same?
I think there’s this fairy tale out there that says being a Christian means always being happy…so if you’re not always happy, who will look at your life and want to be a Christian?
So we hide our hurts. That’s some crazy logic. (:
If we buy into that way of thinking, then it causes a lot of confusion about what God expects of us.
We start thinking we have to be okay all that time because that’s what He wants. But that just doesn’t line up biblically. Even Jesus was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
“When I see someone who is genuinely hurting and sharing their pain yet still seeking God in the middle of it, that’s what gets my attention.” ~ Holley
God accepts us and can use our hurts. I think we need to receive that grace ourselves and then pass it on to each other.
Now, that’s something you don’t hear that every day. How much more at peace we’d be, living this way.
Some of my most painful experiences in Christian fellowship were caused by critical people. They didn’t understand that faith involves brokenness.
3. How do you get over that fear and continue to connect?
That’s a tough question.
I think that fear comes from the same place any other fear does. Of course, we want to avoid getting hurt. But at some point I realized, “Loneliness is MORE painful than the risk of being wounded in relationships.”
This C.S. Lewis quote (one of my favorites) really says it better than I ever could…
“To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal… Avoid all entanglements… But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
~ C.S. Lewis, in The Four Loves
We all have to choose—the pain of love or the pain of being alone.
I think God calls us to choose love, and He knows better than anyone what that choice can cost. That’s why He can heal those hurts when they happen.
Even Jesus Himself took a risk to love us. I hadn’t considered that.
4. What has influenced you to be so transparent when one of your struggles is with insecurity itself?
Ha! Sometimes I feel like I just can’t help myself.
I post something and I think, “What in the world is the matter with me?” I really live from the heart and it sounds odd but that’s where I’m most comfortable.
I’m terrible at small talk. I feel like I’ll pass out half the time when I’m speaking with someone new. BUT if it’s on a heart level, it’s easy and comfortable.
I think that’s a big reason why I decided to become a counselor. It definitely shows in my writing too.
“I like to say we’re all like plants and we’ve got to find the right soil to grow in… the heart-stuff is that soil for me.” ~ Holley
Great analogy. No wonder I’ve found myself cozy, plopped here alongside you. LOL.
5. Tell me — in this list of Things That Make Holley Laugh — what is the first thing that pops into your mind?
Ray Stevens (old school! And they called him the streak…boogety-boogety!)
Fave Foods –
Chocolate (90% cocoa), anything SPICY, sushi (I don’t think my taste buds work well!)
Holley Kicking Back –
Saturday morning breakfast dates with my hubby, the best time of the week.
Last time you laughed –
At lunch with Stephanie Bryant (co-founder of (In)Courage) today. We laugh A LOT.
Girl, you love sushi? You’d love California. I’m taking you out for sushi next time you’re out here!
6. Knocking out a master’s degree in counseling, launching (In)Courage, serving at church, and encouraging your girlfriends — How do you unwind?
Good grief, girl. You are calling me out on this one. I’m terrible at relaxing. I remember as a child riding around the block 100 times just because I said I would!
God has been working on me a lot about learning the difference between being led and being driven! The book Ordering Your Private World by Gordon McDonald really helped me.
I think we’ve all got an optimum speed for life and mine seems to be “fast.” I’m in a slower season now and I’m actually struggling with it more than when I was really busy!
It makes me think of when I’m riding my bike with my husband. I know when I hit the speed where everything just FLOWS.
That being said, when I do manage to relax I love to read. Lately, I’ve been doing so more on blogs than in books!
I also really like being with friends. Give me an hour with a girlfriend and a cup of coffee then all is right with the world again. I adore naps. And anything with my husband, Mark, is good for me because he is very laidback and helps me chill out a bit!
Sunday afternoons somehow spell n-a-p-s. The simple things make life alright. So underrated.
One of the things I love about your writing is that it shows a heart in 3D – the bright, the gray and God in both. God isn’t just with us in 2D, mainly happy with us in the good. You hit a home run on this in your book, Rain On Me.
7. What’s one of your favorite chapters?
I love chapter three, “Where’s God When It Rains?”.
One day during class a huge storm blew in and I dreaded the walk home. I exited the classroom and saw my boyfriend (now my hubby) standing there with a smile on his face and an umbrella in his hands.
“Several years later, God brought that day to mind again and used it to show me that’s what He wants to do with us—give us His umbrella and walk through the rain with us.” ~ Holley
That was a real turning point for me in my journey.
One of my favorite is The Last Tear. You remind us it takes awhile before we write “The End” to our grief.
8. Was there an experience that shaped your deeper faith view of grief?
Yes, as part of my counseling internship I worked with several grief support groups.
Through that process, I realized we spend a lot of energy trying to avoid grief and it doesn’t do much good. Those who could truly grieve, and let God and others come alongside them in that process, found healing in a much deeper way.
A lot of people try to cut off negative emotions. What they don’t realize is by doing so, you also cut off the positive emotions too. You can’t choose to experience positive emotions and not negative ones. If you limit your emotions, you do so in both directions.
One of my brilliant professors in grad school, Dr. Ryan Rana, shared that with us and I always remembered it. I intentionally try to keep that range open and that means letting ourselves experience grief when it comes.
I’ll freely admit that’s still tough for me sometimes!
We are living half our lives when we edit out the harder parts.
In the chapter I Second That Loss, you quote Norman Wright. His book, Tomorrow Can Be Different took my life in a new direction.
9. What book helped you turn a corner in your grief?
I think being in grad school during this journey was really helpful because I had to read a lot of great books!
One called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas really helped. He talks about how we all connect with God differently and then takes you through a process to find out how you do.
For example, if you connect with God while you’re outdoors then you’re a “naturalist.” I’m an “intellectual” which means I feel closest to God when I’m learning about Him.
Writing is very much a learning process for me because I never know what will come out until I’m actually doing it! That book just gave me a big ah-ha that helped me pursue healing in ways that really fit who I am and my relationship with God.
Those ah-ha moments are liberating. Thanks for the pointer to Sacred Pathways.
10. You refer to God as your Abba in your writing. How did you first come to faith and how has childhood shaped your relationship with God?
I was raised in a Christian home with a loving family. My grandparents owned a Christian bookstore and my other Grandmother was an English teacher so I grew up around words!
That’s how I first connected with God. I actually asked Jesus to be my Savior in the back bedroom of my grandparents’ house. It was just me and a Gideon Bible!
I was only seven but I clearly remember a change happening inside of me. I told my parents and got baptized the next Sunday. I’ve had some ups and downs—I rebelled my first year of college—but I’m glad God and my family have never given up on me!
11. Finally, what are your God-sized dreams for this year?
I’m better at giving God my hands than heart so I’d love to just grow in my relationship with Him.
I’d also love to have another book published, officially get my counseling license (almost there!) so I can start a private practice seeing a few clients a week, and get more involved in our community. And, of course, I want to see my blog and (In)Courage grow because I love connecting with readers!
Oh, and learn to relax. That would be good. (:
Speaking of readers, thanks so much to all of you who are here!
And thank you, Bonnie, for this opportunity! You are one of my very favorite God-gifts from the past year. I’m so grateful for you, sweet girl, and I love the way He uses your words to touch lives—like mine!
Thank you, Holley! You have been an extra special blessing for me as well, as we write alongside one another at (In)Courage. May God continue to bless this amazingly transparent community, to refresh more hearts in the coming year!
How did you like today’s interview with Holley Gerth?
If you’re looking for hope and encouragement, jump right in and get yourself some Holley!
Here’s what to do:
1. Order Holley’s book now — Rain On Me: Devotions of Hope and Encouragement, and get a downpour of inspiration.
2. Head on over to Holley’s blog, Heart to Heart, and catch some words of faith.
3. Find a home for your heart over at (In)Courage, and be refreshed by real stories of transparency and journey.
If you enjoyed today’s Special Blend Interview, you may also enjoy others: Special Blend Interview: Billy Coffey's Faith Walk Behind The Cowboy Hat Special Blend Interview: Jonathan Acuff Takes Stuff Christians Like To Print Special Blend Interview: David Sanford Weaves a Mosaic With The Bible SUBSCRIBE NOW to get updates from FaithBarista delivered directly in your mailbox via email (click here) or RSS (click here) news reader.
Awesome interview, Bonnie! Nice to meet you, Holley.
Holley, you and I have a lot in common. My entire theme this year is to take more risks and to step out in faith. If we don’t make ourselves uncomfortable in life, we tend not to rely more on God, and instead rely on ourselves. Where’s the fun in that? I’m definitely for relying more on God, because I know he had my best interests at heart. I make too many mistakes.
What an amazing interview! Two things stood to me:
First when Holly said,“God accepts us and can use our hurts. I think we need to receive that grace ourselves and then pass it on to each other.”; Like Heather, my goal this year is to be stronger, a lil bit more confident and less hiding under the bed, lol, and a lil more fearless and really look at my fears and try to take control.
If I trust God is in control, then I can’t take the driver’s wheel from Him at the same time and try to drive it too…I’ve gotta just give it to Him.
This is something that has to be shared-there are others who we need and should share what our Father has done for and through and in us and not share just the good parts, but show how as broken sinners that we all are, there is hope and love and redemption for everyone.
As my pastor said,”God LOVES the broken and uses the broken”.
Jesus didn’t walk and dine with the best of the best, but rather the worse of the worse because He knew it was through them His ministry would reach the farthest.
Second, when Holly said,“Some of my most painful experiences in Christian fellowship were caused by critical people. They didn’t understand that faith involves brokenness.,
I nearly fell off my seat.
It feels like the “nobody knows but me” feeling that “I’m the only one whose felt like that” and I have to say, that I’m thankful for Holly for her honesty and upfrontness.
This is something that I think as believers we forget that there are many out there who don’t have the perfect past, or the perfect friends and who are not as strong as the other and are in strong need of fellowship and friendship the most.
This is such a great reminder of Luke 5:30-32, (New King James Version)
30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
I’ve had it happen to myself where there were those who were so critical of me were fellow believers and it did hurt and it does even when I go to our Father and say, “Lord, I forgive them as I ask to be forgiven of my trespasses, but Father, I’m human-It still hurts, help me see above this, it’s not about me or for me, but to give to You, that’s what counts the most not others (ref. Galatians 1:10), and makes one feel like..wow, because I :1) didn’t say the right things, 2) wear the right things, 3) had the right friends, or what they wanted,or *Continue to fit in the blank the hurts and the feelings that harsh criticism can bring up* because they don’t know me as well as they think except for snapshots of what I did share and it leaves the new or growing believer the feeling, if they are going to treat me like this now, why try to open to them any more or try.
It defeats not only what our Father wants and bears sometimes bad testimony for our own walk, but for those who know the word, we forget that sometimes our ministry isn’t abroad or in public, but sometimes, our greatest work for our Father is in the personal relationships that we build too.
No matter what, it’s in and through our Father to reach out to those who are growing, who needs the fellowship and encouragement more and not a clique that only a few could join or only those who we like or make US feel special.
For the new believer and growing, it makes them afraid to share their testimony for fear of rejection and criticism and as fellow believers, we are all in the same body of Christ and should support not discourage or hurt. God may have a bigger plan for someone else and not us and wants to use us for Him, not the other way around and what we say and do to just our inner circle is just important as what we say or do in our outer circles.
An amazing interview and prayers I will be able to get a copy of Holly’s devotional! Looks wonderful and who knows, maybe our Father will use me one day for someone else and the book looks like a blessing for anyone’s life to let them know how much our Father loves them no matter what their testimony is, what they are doing right now, or who they think they are or aren’t, He loves them as He loves us and we should strive to love each other-unconditionally so the Holy Spirit can do the work that needs to be done, not us. Our job is to be His servant.
Love Holley, LOVE her book! So glad you interviewed her, Bonnie.
One more thing, she also likes cheese.
Loved this interview and getting to know Holley a little better! She is such an encouragement.
I’m off to buy her book recommendations right now. I’ve heard of them and am so happy to have her personal recommendation! They sound perfect for what I need to hear.
Sounds like a tremendous woman. We need more transparency so that others can fully come in. It’s great that there are men and women leading the way.
Great interview, Bonnie- thanks!
Your interviews are always enlightening, Bonnie. I like here how you’ve provided call-outs to augment responses. I especially like that last question about “God-sized dreams”. Indeed.
Hope you’ll stop by my blog today if you get a chance. I’m in the Blog Carnival and running a concurrent challenge to benefit the Vassar Haiti Project. Thanks.
I love, love, love that Holley! She encourages us to wipe off our plastic smiles and live our messy but meaningful lives authentically, and she teaches this better than anyone else. She is the keepin’-it-real girl!
What a fabulous interview, Bonnie! Thank you for doing this!
Oh, and, you both are welcome to my tiki hut in Hawaii for sushi anytime! 🙂
Thanks for all the kind words, you are making me BLUSH! And thank you again, beautiful Bonnie, for the honor of this interview. I appreciate you!
Oh, and Nester has an excellent point. I do love the cheese. Yes, ma’am.
Really appreciate you transparent sisters who love God, people, and words. 🙂
With much respect and love!
I loved this interview, Bonnie. You and Holley are two of my favorite spiritual writers! I’m so glad I started blogging…just so I could “meet” you two!
It was an awesome interview with an amazing gal. Thank you so very much. I’m not going to write any more right now. I want to go back and read it again. 🙂
Loved this, Bonnie!
Holley, it was so nice to learn more about you. Your honesty and vulnerability are inspiring!
Loved this interview, as an (in)courage fan I love being able to get to know Holley more!
P.S. Excited to go off and get her book, much needed right now. xoxo
[…] A hat tip goes to my friend, Holley Gerth of Heart to Heart, who shared some fave books in What If Your History Hurts? […]
I received a beautiful Christmas greeting card (yes, in May) with your prose on the front of it. I am really enjoying this card, and guess what? My maiden name is Holley. So I am wondering, from the spelling of your name, are we related somehow? Is Holley one of your family names? Just wondering! Christine