Holley Gerth is a bestselling writer, certified life coach, and speaker. She loves connecting with the hearts of women through her blog and books like You're Already Amazing, You're Made for a God-Sized Dream, and Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream. She's also cofounder of (in)courage and a partner with DaySpring Cards. Holley lives with her husband, Mark, in the South.
I sat down with Holley to talk about how she began her career in the card industry and how that lead to encouraging so many people around the world.
What I found is a lady who is more interested in having a cup of coffee with her followers than anything else. Holley is a passionate woman who is on a mission to point others to Christ.
John: Let's just talk a little bit about Holly and where you’ve come from. You're from Arkansas, right? Have you always been a Southern girl? What kind of inspired you to start writing?
Holly: Okay. I'm originally from Texas, which is like a whole different country, really.
John: It is.
Holly: My grandparents had a Christian bookstore when I was growing up in South Texas. I was the little kid with a big stack of books in the back room. I always dreamed about being a writer when I grew up. That's how I got started and began loving words.
John: Were there particular authors that you were kind of drawn towards when you were working at the store?
Holly: I was too young to work. I was in elementary school. I remember even in fourth grade, I had Kevin Leman's Birth Order Book. I was analyzing all my little friends on the playground. I would just go straight to the adult Christian living section and pull out whatever I could find and just read and read and read.
John: That's pretty funny. Does Kevin know or that he inspired you?
Holly: I don't think so.
John: No? Have you ever met Dr. Leman?
Holly: No. I haven't.
John: I think he's published by the same company that publishes you, isn't he?
Holly: There you go.
John: Maybe someday... That's pretty cool. How did you come to know the Lord?
Holly: I was raised in a Christian family with, the grandparents having a Christian bookstore. I grew up learning about faith and Jesus. I remember just one time being in, it was actually in my grandparents' house, and they have a little Gideon Bible, my grandpa is really active in the Gideon's. I remember just kind of flipping through it. For whatever reason, that was the moment for me. I was about seven, I remember praying and just saying, "Okay Jesus, you know, I'm yours." I got baptized the next Sunday and have had ups and downs in my faith, especially when I went off to college. I had a little rebellious streak for a while. I was fortunate to have a family that was always a part of it.
John: After this and being influenced by Dr. Leman and others, is this when you gave writing a shot?
Holly: Yes. Where I really got my start writing was at DaySpring Cards, a subsidiary of Hallmark. When I went off to college, just before Christmas break my freshman year, the DaySpring sales rep went to call on my grandma at their store and she said, "I have this granddaughter who wants to be a writer." You know nanas are irresistible, so the DaySpring sales rep, "She can send some things to us." I did that, clueless at 19 years old and all. But they actually did accept my writing samples and I connected with their editorial team and freelanced when I was in college and interned. Then I spent about nine years there as an editorial director.
John: That's pretty wild to think about the fact that your cards or what you have written have inspired and encourage probably thousands of people all over the world. That's pretty spectacular. From DaySpring then you kind of transitioned to taking a stab at writing?
Holly: Yes, I started a blog around 2008 when all of that was ramping up, and I loved being able to engage with readers in that way. Then a coworker of mine, Stephanie Bryant, and I co-founded the website (in)courage, with an “I” instead of an “E”. We're at DaySpring and DaySpring was like, "I don't know what you crazy girls are doing, but go for it." We were thankful for that, that they let us go ahead and do that as part of our jobs. That took off in ways that we never expected, it was a God thing.
I always wanted to write books, but it felt like God was saying it's time to take that step at that point. I always thought I'd be at DaySpring and just felt called to transition into something new. My last day at DaySpring was on a Friday and Revell offered me a three-book contract on the following Monday, that I didn't even know was coming. That was a pretty good confirmation.
John: That sounds like a God thing. That's pretty awesome. Your first title ... I don't remember the title of your first book.
Holly: You're Already Amazing.
John: How did it feel transitioning from one avenue to another?
Holly: I had also written two smaller devotionals and published those. It was fun to actually do the kind of books that I read growing up, the longer chapter books. I love the team at Revell. Jennifer Lee, my editor, was awesome. There were a lot of times I was scared in the first go around, and she would say, "It's going to be all right Holly, just keep writing." I loved that.
By that time, I had also got licensed as a counselor, and certified as a life coach. My life was just full of all these different voices of women, whether it was online through my blog, or face-to-face in a counseling office, or in a lot of other ways. I felt like the conversation was already going and so having a book come out of that just kind of felt like the next natural step. It's really just about what all women struggle with and how God's truth sets us free. It was really fun to take all of that and put it into a book.
John: When you write a book, do you think about writing for your audience, or do you feel like you're writing because this is what God has told you to write about?
Holly: I would say both. I always say I feel like the first reader of whatever I write, because I feel like that's how God speaks to my heart. My job is first to listen and then just listen to my audience also. I always say on my blog that I'd love to have coffee with all my readers. That's what I think of when I'm writing. It's just what would I want to say if this reader was right across from me and being able to listen to what she is saying is really helpful. I feel like my books really are, in a lot of ways, a conversation between my readers and I.
John: Do any of your readers try to take you up on that?
Holly: Yes. (laughs)
John: Have you?
Holly: Yes. Last night we did an event at a store. I got to have coffee with a lot of my readers and it was so much fun. Yeah, if I Facebook, "I'm going to be in ____" like we were in Southern California last week and readers were like, "I live there, let's have coffee." Whenever I can, I do because that's what I love the most, just hearing the hearts of women and being able to be a part of their lives in that way.
John: That's great.
Holly: Yeah. The coffee helps, too.
John: Coffee helps too, nothing wrong with that. I think it's very biblical. (Smiles) Your new book is entitled You're Made for a God-Sized Dream. Want to talk a little bit about that? What's behind that?
Holly. Yeah. I felt like I got to go on a God-sized dream journey in the whole transition through launching (in)courage and my work at DaySpring, and then getting to write books. I wanted to come alongside other women, who maybe knew what they were called to do, but were just feeling a little scared to step out, and really equip them to make that transition into their dreams. That's what that book is about. A God-Sized Dream isn't really about size at all; it's about what perfectly fits your heart because God created it for you.
I love saying to women, "You know what, you can be a dreamer wherever you are. If you're called to stay home and raise your kids, awesome. That's a God-sized dream. If you're supposed to move to Africa and do a non-profit, awesome. That's a God-sized dream, too." Just saying, whatever it is that God's asking you to do, go ahead and say yes. I know it's going to be scary and hard, but it's also going to be amazing and full of joy and it's going to change the world. That's just what that book is, coming alongside those women who are just stepping into that dream that God has for them.
John: What do you say with you being a licensed counselor, how do you respond to a lady who comes up to you and says, "I feel like God has a dream for me 'here,' but yet I'm stuck 'here.'" What would you say to that person in attempting to fulfill something that they feel that they've been called to, but feel there are barriers there?
Holly: They're in a different season. I would say to start with whatever you can do today. Even last night, I talked to the ladies and I said, "You know what? A dream can happen in 15 minutes a day. So, if you're chasing toddlers and you have 15 minutes to sit down and write one page, that's enough." Dreams are always about a process. It's not about the finish line. It's about the journey along the way.
Really the best part of a God-sized dream is just going on that adventure with Him. You don't have to wait for that. He's always willing to meet you, every single day, wherever you are. You can get up every day and say, "God, I'm going to pursue this dream. Whatever that looks like today, whether it's five minutes or I get to do it full time, because what I really want out of that dream is more of you." I tell them, "You don't have to ever delay. It's not probably going to be everything you'd like to be doing or that you might be doing one day, but there's something that you can do today." It's really just about living fully engaged and awake.
John: What is God teaching you right now, Holly?
Holly: God is teaching me that He's never going to stop asking me to get outside of my comfort zone.
John: What does that look like?
Holly: I think just ...
John: Can you share?
Holly: Yeah. I'm an introvert.
John: I can't tell (jokingly).
Holly: On like the Meyers/Briggs, I'm like 90% introvert. I love being with people, but it's outside of my comfort zone a lot of the time. I feel like this journey is just very much about dependence on Jesus. I say the Help me, Jesus” prayer a lot. "Help me Jesus. Help me Jesus." Every day, I just pray that He would give me words that are perfect for His daughters. "Give us this day, our daily bread," and "He's the Word," and "He's the Bread of life." I just have to continually go back and say, "I got nothing, but I have you and that's enough."
He continues to expand, books do well and things, and new opportunities arise. I tell women, "The fear never goes away." That's just part of it. That's what keeps us leaning in and saying, "Okay, I can do this with you Jesus, but I could never do it on my own." I think that's a lesson I just keep continuing to learn.
John: Do you ever have a down day?
John: HA! It doesn't sound like you do.
Holly: (laughing) Yes. I absolutely have down days, right? Mark as my witness (Her husband Mark is sitting, nodding his head in agreement). Yes. I get overwhelmed. I get scared. I struggle with depression and anxiety. Every once in a while, I just get up and I think, "Oh, I don't want to do this anymore," or I'm having a really bad day and my life's a mess and I don't know what I'm doing and these people on my blogs seem to think I have it together in some way, and I don't. I try to tell them that, again. I think that's part of it. We all have down days. None of us are perfect. We all have struggles and we're not home yet. That's not going to go away until we're in heaven. I think it's knowing that we can be used by God even in those times when we feel inadequate or we're really depressed or something hard is happening in our lives. That's really comforting to me that He can use us in spite of us. That's a really reassuring thing to know.
John: I'm always amazed on how liberal God's grace is towards His children knowing how much He knows about us. Even when we feel that life is going great, He still sees all the crud in our life. He still says, "Yes, you are the one that I have chosen to be my child, my bride." Pretty spectacular. Do you have a favorite Bible passage that you continually go to?
Holly: I tend to have one that I focus on for each book. With this book, it's Matthew 19:26, "All things are possible with God." I love that because "with God" means it's a partnership with Him. That verse doesn't mean I can do whatever I want and God will make it happen. It means that if we partner with Him, and we're seeking His purposes for our lives then nothing is impossible for us. That's really reassuring to me that I can just show up and say. "Okay, I'm willing to be used and God will work out the rest and make His purposes happen.
John: What are your big goals for the rest of this year?
Holly: The rest of this year? I have another book coming out in September, a devotional companion to this book.
John: Is that finished yet?
Holly: It's Opening The Door to your God-sized Dream, it goes along with the most recent book that's coming out.
John: That's great. That's awesome, Holly. I appreciate you coming in here, bringing me coffee and taking the time to chat with us today. I'm excited to see what God has in store for you.
Holly: Thank you. I appreciate that.