Never Too Late For Love
What does it look like when God compels a couple to adopt a twenty-year-old? When the possibility of a biological child was gone, God opened the eyes of bestselling author and counselor, Holley Gerth, and her husband, Mark, to the world of someone, who needed their love, as much as they longed to give it.
About the Guest
- Lovelle Gerth-Myers website. https://lovellegerthmyers.com/
- Confessions of an Adoptive Parent. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/confessions-of-an-adoptive-parent/
- A Mother of Thousands. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/a-mother-of-thousands/
- Walking Through Infertility. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/walking-through-infertility/
- Longing for Motherhood. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/longing-for-motherhood/
- Find resources from this podcast at https://shop.familylife.com/Products.aspx?categoryid=130.
- Download FamilyLife's new app! https://www.familylife.com/app/
- Check out all that's available on the FamilyLife Podcast Network. https://www.familylife.com/familylife-podcast-network/
- Have the FamilyLife Today® podcast and resources helped you? Consider becoming a Legacy Partner, a monthly supporter of FamilyLife. https://www.familylife.com/legacy
When the possibility of a biological child was gone, God opened the eyes of Holley Gerth, and her husband, Mark, to the world of someone, who needed their love, as much as they longed to give it.
Never Too Late For Love
Bob: After being married for five years, Mark and Holley Gerth decided to start a family, except they soon realized it wasn’t going to happen the way they thought it would. They dealt with infertility for years.
Holley: Early on, a lot of times, it was like, “Where are You?” I’m like, “Why are You answering other people’s prayers and not mine?” or “Am I wrong? Am I asking for something that’s, actually, I’m not supposed to be asking for?” I think a lot of it was just confusion; but I also/I wasn’t afraid to tell God, like: “Today, I’m mad,” “Today, I’m sad,” “Today, I’m completely confused; because I just found out another person, who doesn’t even want to have a baby, is having a baby.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 4th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Mark and Holley Gerths’ story of infertility is a story with a surprising twist at the end. We’ll hear that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I’ve got to tell you guys—I am really interested in hearing the story we’re about to hear today. We sat down [at another location]—we’re talking to our guests/our new friends, Mark and Holley Gerth—and they started telling us this story. We said—
Dave: —“We’ve got to do this.”
Bob: That’s right; “We’ve got to get you on the radio and have you tell your story.” We don’t know the details any more than our listeners do.
Ann: I know; I’m excited too!
Bob: And before we introduce these friends to our listeners, we need to pause here and just remind FamilyLife Today listeners: “We’ve got, now, less than four weeks to go before the end of the year.”
Bob: This is a significant season for us at FamilyLife®. We want to remind you of our financial needs, headed into yearend, and ask you to be a part of helping meet our need and making a donation at FamilyLife Today.
Dave: I’ll tell you what—Ann and I were speaking a couple years ago at the Weekend to Remember® in Hershey, Pennsylvania. [Sniffing] It smelled like chocolate all weekend.
Ann: It did; it was wonderful.
Dave: I’ll never forget a guy running up to me right before the last session; I hadn’t met him all weekend. Long story short, he runs up to me—I’m on the stage, getting ready to speak—and he says, “Hey, you need to jump off that stage right now and rip up my divorce papers.”
The story is a long one, but I’ll just say this—I did jump off the stage, and I heard his story. It was basically: “We’re at the end. We came to this just to check a box. Somebody paid our way; I thought this was a waste of time. God showed up; He saved our marriage. Tomorrow, we’re supposed to get divorced; but today, we’re going to go home, and we’re going to make this thing work.” I just thought, “What a story!”
Ann: Well, I get chills just remembering that; because it was this great couple. They were so excited because they had never heard biblical truths about marriage. They started putting it into action even that day.
I, too—I have had people come/women come up to me, rip up papers right in front of me—these divorce papers. I’m telling you—this makes a difference in marriages. It’s made a difference in our marriage, and we want to keep giving these timeless truths to families.
Dave: Here is what I don’t think you, the listener, understands—and this guy [whose marriage was saved] doesn’t know this—that moment doesn’t happen in his marriage without partners, who financially support FamilyLife. He has no idea that we can’t even do conferences like that; we can’t do FamilyLife Today radio like we’re doing right now.
Ann: Some of you saved their marriage—
Bob: That’s right.
Ann: —because you’re givers.
Dave: Yes; he has no idea.
Here we are, at yearend; and you’re doing the same thing I’m doing; you’re thinking: “Okay; am I going to give?” and “Where am I going to give?” I want to say, “We need you. We really, really need you.” It’s been, as we all know—what a year! It’s a moment for you to say, “Okay; God, I want to give. I want to give generously, and I want to give to a ministry that makes a difference.” There are thousands of stories like the one I just told you. Again, they don’t happen without you; so I’m inviting you: “Join us; make a difference. Give generously at yearend and watch what God does.”
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Dave: By the way, that’s a great Christmas gift.
Ann: It is.
Dave: It really is.
Dave: It really is.
Ann: And you’re going to get one of the best marriage books out this year—[Laughter]
Dave: —Bob Lepine’s—
Ann: —Love Like You Mean It.
Bob: We’ll send you my book and the flash dive as a thank-you gift when you donate today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then word, “TODAY,” and donate over the phone. Thank you, in advance, for whatever you are able to do; and on behalf of people, who are going to rip their divorce papers this coming year, thank you for the investment in their legacy. We appreciate that.
Okay; let me introduce our friends, Mark and Holley Gerth. Mark and Holley, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Holley: Thank you.
Mark: Thank you.
Dave: We’ve heard this is Mark’s first-ever interview—
Mark: Yes, it is.
Dave: —in all of life. Are you really excited?
Mark: Nervous. [Laughter]
Bob: It’s just a conversation.
You guys were sharing with us, as we were getting to know them—by the way, they live in Northwest Arkansas—Holley is a Wall Street Journal best-selling author; she’s written a brand-new book that we’re going to talk about sometime later on FamilyLife Today called The Powerful Purpose of Introverts. Mark is involved in real estate. They are the parents of a 27-year-old daughter, who—and here is the punch line, right at the beginning—who you adopted when she was 20.
Okay; so let’s go all the way back. Holley, at what point in your marriage did you start to go, “I don’t know that this is working the way it’s supposed to work”?
Holley: Well, we were about five years in; and we thought, “Okay; time to start a family.” Month after month, just nothing happened. Then, about a year-and-a-half in, I got pregnant; and we lost the baby at six weeks. Then we just couldn’t get pregnant again. That went on for about a decade.
That was not the story that we would have written; it was hard and painful. I did a lot of ugly crying in bathrooms and asking God, “What in the world was going on?” It was a hard journey.
Bob: You went to doctors, I’m sure, and said, “What’s wrong?” Did they have an answer for you?
Holley: Eventually, they said, “Probably PCOS,” which is pretty common, which meant that I likely didn’t ovulate—which, obviously, I did once; because I got pregnant—but that was the best they could figure out. There wasn’t anything really conclusive; we just knew there wasn’t a baby coming.
Bob: Was that hard to embrace and say, “This is/this is my life”?
Holley: Yes, absolutely; I mean, looking back, it’s easy to talk about it because, now, it’s been a long time since I was in that place; but in the moment, it was heartbreaking and difficult. It was hard because all of my friends were getting pregnant, and I felt left behind. You don’t think about all the different dimensions that it impacts, from your friendships to what you dream about for your future.
Ann: How did you get your mind and heart around that? Did you come to a point, where you thought, “Okay; this is just our story”?
Holley: Yes; I remember after we had our miscarriage, we went to our small group. I thought, “I’m not going to tell them. I’m just going to act like everything is fine. We’re just going to get through this.” It came to prayer request time, and I couldn’t hold it together. I had sort of grown up, thinking I just had to be fine to make God look good; it wasn’t okay to not be okay.
That night, when I said, “I’m not okay/we’re not okay; this is what is going on…” I sort of waited for the rebukes—and “You just need to have more faith,”—or whatever was coming. Instead, they just wrapped their arms around us and said, “We love you, and we’ll walk through this with you.”
Over time, in a way I still fully can’t explain, I felt like God started to heal my heart. In particular, one day, I felt like He took me to the third chapter of Genesis, where Eve is called the mother of all living. I felt like He said, “Holley, every woman is a mother; because every woman brings life into the world in some way.” I was doing that by birthing books. Even my first big book that came out, my small group had a book shower for me because they said, “You haven’t gotten to have a baby shower. This book is your baby—
Ann: That is so sweet.
Holley: —“and we’re going to have a shower.”
I sort of thought, “Well, maybe, that’s the ending of our story—is that I’m going to birth books”; but I just had this peace. People would say, “How are you doing?” I would say, “I have a peace about it.” They’d look at me, like, “Yes; Sunday school answer—get out your flannel board” [Laughter]; but I was like/then I would say, “No; it’s a kind of peace that comes after war. I have fought through this thing; I have these scars to prove it—it is that kind of peace—but God has done something that I could never do on my own.”
Ann: What did your conversations sound like with God in those days?
Holley: It depended on the day.
Holley: I mean, early on, a lot of times, it was like, “What in the world are You thinking? Where are You?” I’m like, “Why are You answering other people’s prayers and not mine?”—I was confused about that—or “Am I wrong? Am I asking for something that, actually, I’m not supposed to be asking for?” I think a lot of it was just confusion, and I think there was a trust underneath. I also/I wasn’t afraid to tell God, like: “Today, I’m mad,” “Today, I’m sad,” “Today, I’m completely confused; because I just found out that another person, who doesn’t even want to have a baby, is having a baby.” I just sort of processed all of those emotions within, and that was a gift.
Bob: So tell us how you met the young woman who is, today, your daughter.
Holley: Yes; so one evening I watched a 20/20 special about foster kids, who age out of the system. I just thought, “That is not okay! What do you mean they turn 18, and they kick you out?!—and they say, ‘Have a nice life.’ Who is going to walk these people down the aisle? Who is going to rock their babies? Who is going to help them figure out their careers?”—because, really, we have parents longer as adults, most of the time, than we do even as kids. It just was one of those things I could not stop thinking about.
People would ask us, “Have you thought about adoption?” Eventually, I said, “Yes; but if we adopt, we are adopting a 20-year-old.” [Laughter] That would make people look at us like we were crazy; but eventually, one of my friends said, “Well, do you know about Saving Grace?” It turned out that there was a transitional living home for foster girls—who age out of the system or would otherwise be homeless—being built in our town.
I emailed the founder, out of the blue, and said, “I have this crazy dream of adopting a 20-year-old.” She’s like, “I have this crazy dream of building this transitional home”; but it was several more years. Then Becky, the founder, invited us to a banquet celebrating the accomplishments of some of the girls.
We went, and Lovelle, who is now our daughter, was there. We met her that night. It wasn’t any big deal; it wasn’t like the heavens parted and we knew right away. All the girls actually got one of my books, which I realized the other day, the title of the book she got was called Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream.
Holley: Lovelle started reading my book, and loved it, and texted me. I said, “Can we have lunch sometime?” She was like, “Okay.” I went over there and had lunch with her. I remember, at the end, she said, “Do you have kids?” I give her this short version. She said, “Well, you can just be my mom.” That was kind of the start of it. Then she met Mark. Over the next few months, it just became clear that she was our daughter; she was supposed to be part of our family.
Bob: Tell us her story.
Holley: The short version is she was in and out of foster care. She was homeless before she went to Saving Grace, and she just did not have parents in any kind of real sense. She, like us, had kind of been like, “Okay; this is my story. I’m going to figure out how to make peace with it.” She was really just in survival mode when we met her; but she always still, like we did, had that longing inside that: “Maybe, this isn’t the end of my story. Maybe, God is going to do something else.”
She’s a remarkable young woman—resilient and brave, has a huge heart, which you would think, after all she had been through, she would be in total lockdown—but it just became clear to all of us that we were supposed to be a family.
Dave: What was that like bringing her? I mean, Mark, were you like in on this from the very beginning when—
Bob: —when Holley—
Dave: —Holley comes home?
Bob: —says, “I think I’ve found our daughter”? [Laughter]
Mark: You know, it was kind of like, “Okay; let’s see where this goes.”
Ann: So you were game?
Mark: I mean, I was open to it—
Mark: —but I was like, “Okay, this is a huge change for us,” because we were comfortable where we were at—
Mark: —you know? I mean, comfort—you don’t always want to be comfortable.
Bob: But I can think, as a husband, there’d be part of me, going, “I kind of like just having us and not having somebody else to have to—
Dave: —“share it with”; yes.
Mark: Yes! That crossed my mind [Laughter]; it’s like, “Hey, it’s just us two. We can go and do. We’ve been blessed, and we can share what we have with other people.”
Lovelle just happened to come along, and she just happened to be one of those people.
Ann: Did you guys have conversations, like, “This could be difficult or messy”?
Holley: Well, we knew it was going to be difficult and messy because, when we first met Lovelle, she was like a brick wall when it came to letting people in. She had really hardened herself in a way she needed to in order to survive. It wasn’t just that we met, and she instantly let us in.
It took a long time for her to believe that we were actually wanting to be in her life. When she ran a half-marathon, not long after we met her; and we went, and we waited for her at the finish line. We cheered her on, and she finished. She was like, “Why are you all here?” We were like, “To cheer for you.” She’s like, “Why? But why?” We were like, “Because we want to support you.” “But why?” She couldn’t wrap her mind around—
Dave: She never had that.
Holley: She had never had that. She had never had someone cheering her on in life. I mean, she had/she’ll talk about teachers and different people God strategically placed in her life—so I wouldn’t say, “not at all”—but not people, who had said, “We are here in this parental kind of capacity, potentially.” It took a while for her to let us in, and that was challenging.
Bob: At what point, did the two of you decide: “We need to do more than just cheer her on. We need to give her our name and make her part of our family”?
Holley: Yes; it’s so strange, because it wasn’t like a one-time thing. You know, you think it’s a black-and-white “Yes,” or “No”; “We’re in or out.” We just kept spending time together, and it just felt like it happened really naturally.
Then we decided, because she was about to get married, and there were some other complications; we decided changing her name was going to be the next step. We went to the courthouse and had her last name changed to ours. We call that Gerth-day; it’s August 28. We celebrate it every year like a birthday. Our granddaughter was born on Gerth-day.
Ann: Oh! That’s so cool.
Holley: That was like God saying, “You thought My timing was off; but the whole time, I had it down to the exact day.”
Bob: I’m thinking Gerth-day is 8-28, and Romans 8:28—
Ann: Ooh, that’s good!
Holley: I hadn’t thought of that.
Bob: —says, “All things work together for good—
Bob: —“for those who love God who are called according to His purpose.” There’s that to add into that Gerth-day miracle when she became a Gerth.
When you went to her and said, “We want to adopt you,” what did she say?
Holley: Well, she kind of said it to us, too; you know? It felt very like two-sided; you know?—that we decided together: “We are going to be a family.” I love that—that it was so/it felt mutual the whole time.
I think that’s different when you have a little kiddo; they don’t have the capacity as much to engage; but when you’ve got a, by now, 21-year-old, she’s like, “I want to do this! Let’s do this!”
Ann: She’s choosing you as well.
Holley: Yes; so that was really beautiful too. It didn’t feel like we were rescuing her. If that was the case, she was rescuing us at the same time.
Bob: What do you mean?
Holley: Well, I think that we never saw her as someone like who needed us; I knew she would be alright. She is incredibly resilient; she would have found a way forward. We would have been alright, but it felt like we chose each other—that we chose being a family.
Ann: How was your life different with her being in your family?
Mark: It’s definitely more active; [Laughter] it’s encouraging—you know, enjoy spending time seeing the grandkids.
Bob: You know, I want to be a little careful here; because any time we’ve talked about adoption on FamilyLife Today, there can be this romantic/heroic: “You do this, and everybody is happy; and they all cheer, and they all live happily ever after.” It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, you don’t know what is behind the curtain when you make this choice. It’s a painful choice for a lot of parents to make; but when you make this choice, you are saying: “For better or worse,” “For richer or poorer,”—it’s almost like a marriage vow. You went in with your eyes open to the fact that there might be some hard moments on the other side of this journey.
Holley: Yes, yes; it’s interesting that you say “marriage vow”; because we actually finalized the adoption—like the new birth certificate part—this year. We got assigned a random court date; it was our 20th wedding anniversary. I was like, “God, You did it again! That’s the day both of my people became legally mine forever”; you know?
Bob: So your daughter was how old on your 20th wedding anniversary?
Bob: Okay; I’m just trying to make sure everybody has the chronology here. [Laughter]
Holley: Yes; so it was; it was. We had a hard year last year; it felt like we kind of did her teenage year. Last May—not this May but the one before—we had a knock-down-drag-out fight. I mean, we just did interviews about how I’m an introvert; and I yelled and pounded the table and said words that I don’t always say. We finished; I was like, “I have wrecked this. I have completely wrecked this.” She looked at me, and she was like, “I feel so loved.” I was like, “What in the world?!” [Laughter]
But it was like she needed to know I was that engaged that/like I could be so mad at her and still love her at the same time, because I don’t think she’d ever experienced that.
Dave: She had never really had that.
Holley: She had experienced us choosing not to be angry and loving her; but she had not experienced, “Mom, who never gets mad at anything, is furious at me and pounding the table; and she still loves me.”
Ann: She felt like a true daughter.
Holley: She was like, “Y’all are all in.” I/that was a turning point for us, and that was seven years in almost. It hasn’t all been challenging; but yes, of course. If Lovelle were sitting here, she would tell you things that we’ve done that have made her crazy; you know?—because you get these people in your life when you are already grown up, and you’ve got your own way of doing things and thinking about things.
She’s an extreme extrovert; we’re both introverts. I mean, you can’t bring a bunch of people together and just expect it to all—it’s like a crock pot; it takes some time. You’ve got to just give it time. [Laughter]
Ann: And it is like a marriage too.
Dave: It would be easier, I think, to walk away.
Holley: The whole year, I would pray about it; and I would picture this tether ball set in my childhood backyard. You have—there is the pole, and there’s the ball—I felt like God said, “Just be the pole; be the pole. Sometimes, she’s going to be wrapped so tightly around you; you’re going to feel like you cannot breathe. Sometimes, she’s going to be so far out; you’re not going to know where she is or what she is doing. Just be the pole.” That’s what I did
I told her that; she knows that now, on the other side of it. I said, “I was supposed to be your pole, so that’s what we did!”
Bob: Here are the four words that are echoing in my head from the end of Romans, Chapter 12: “Overcome evil with good.”
Bob: That is what you guys have done; you stepped in with good in the midst of evil circumstances that Lovelle had lived with all her life. You overcame the evil in her life with the good that you brought. Bless you guys. Thanks for sharing your story.
Holley: Thanks for letting us.
Mark: Thank you.
Bob: I want to make sure our listeners know—on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com—we have resources available to help you. If you’re struggling with infertility, there are resources to help you through that. If you are thinking about adoption, there are resources available for that as well. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, a quick reminder—we mentioned this earlier today—but we’re hoping to hear from many of our FamilyLife Today listeners during the month of December. This is a critical month for ministries like ours, and we’re hoping to take full advantage of a matching gift that’s been made available—a $2 million matching-gift fund. Every time you make a donation, here in the month of December, whatever donation you make, will be matched, dollar for dollar, until we get to that $2 million fund.
These funds are what will determine what FamilyLife is able to do in the year ahead. If you’re a regular FamilyLife Today listener, and you can make a yearend contribution—maybe, you can do a little extra this year since there are some who can’t do anything—think about that, if you would. When you make a donation, in addition to your donation being matched, we have a couple of thank-you gifts we want to send you. My book, Love Like You Mean It, is one of those gifts and a flash drive that has more than 100 of the best FamilyLife Today radio programs of all time. We’ll send those out to you, upon request, when you make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We look forward to hearing from you.
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. I hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to talk to our friend, Nancy Guthrie, about how God does some of His best work in us and through us when we are completely empty/we’ve got nothing left. I think a lot of us are feeling that way this year, especially. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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