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I’m Not Lost Just Because You Can’t Find Me: Meditations on Single Life (#Shareworthy ’17)

I was in my sermon notes notebook looking for what a minister said about Psalms 23 for my upcoming book (!!) when I came across the above phrase written on a page. It was a note to myself, to remind myself of something that popped into my mind during a sermon:

I’m not lost just because you can’t find me.

The sermon, and the thought, will turn a year old less than a week after my new book is set to be released (and let’s pray HARD I make that deadline!).I was in the midst of a season of unwelcome change when my minister preached “Our Joy Button is Prayer.” He taught about joy and worry being diametrically opposed, and how joy was contingent upon our relationship with God. “The one consistent element of my life is what God is doing,” he said. And in the midst of this convicting and refining sermon, I wrote this sentence.

Who was speaking? Was it me? If so, who was I talking to? Was it God? Who wasn’t lost and who was unable to find someone they were looking for?

There are other notes to myself that define what I was thinking. I’m choosing not to share them, but I am sharing what it all means to me now as a “happily single” woman.

This can’t be God. The bible says if you look for God you will find him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jer. 29:13

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matt. 7:7

If I were looking for God, I would find Him. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. I was in relationship with God and seeking him like I hadn’t before at the time, so that wasn’t it.

It was me. Below is a continuation of the thought, where I thought I meant to go.

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I’m not lost just because you can’t find me. I was lost, for a while, but now I’m not. I don’t know who you are or your motive for looking at this point in your life, but I know how you might feel. Maybe you’ve even thought you found me but all you found was you were mistaken. It’s like you saw a glimpse of her and thought she was me, but when you tapped her on the shoulder and she turned around, a stranger’s face stared blankly up at you, her brow furrowed in inquiry.

Maybe you’ve looked everywhere I could logically be–conferences, seminars, fellowships, crusades. Perhaps you peeked into the ladies’ day at your church or volunteered to scoop potatoes onto Styrofoam plates hoping to find me among the masses in coral, yellow or chartreuse. Maybe you made the trek down memory lane thinking maybe you missed me hanging in the friend zone sipping sugary punch, watching the fellowship around me and searching for a seat.

I must admit I “hung out”, hung in, and held on to the bitter end hoping you would see me. I thought I saw you a time or two. I chased that poor man for miles before I realized he wasn’t you. Wasn’t that a silly thing to do? I know how this works: you find me. I don’t find you.

I can confess I have stood around waving my arms, begging to be found, to no avail. You’ll get here when you get here. I’ll be here when you get here, if I don’t lose my grip on patience.

I promise I’m not lost just because you can’t find me. Maybe I’m so well hidden you haven’t found me yet. You keep staring in my vicinity because you know something’s there, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Or maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. You see, for maybe the first time ever, I’m where God put me. I’m balanced precariously, trying hard not to fall off the shelf until you find me. I’m not running after someone who looks like they could be you from behind. I’m not fighting for a spot in the window display so you can see me from the street. I’m not hiding my light under a bushel so it doesn’t overwhelm you. I’m not watching the clock waiting for your knock on the door. I’m doing what God asked me to do.

I want to be surprised to see you. When Jesus says “have you met him?” I want to shake my head, dazed my Father managed to amaze me again, like when he put death under my brother’s feet and put victory perpetually on repeat. I want to shake your hand and smile at you and for you to sigh because you recognize my smile too. I almost can’t wait to see how well you relate to the feeling you were never going to find me.

I’m not lost just because you can’t find me. I’m not stealing time with someone else’s Adam or hiding from the hottest part of the flame. I’m with the one who loved me and called me by name. I’m gleaning in a field where I might find favor. I’m drawing water where I might draw the eye of your Father’s servant sent to find me.

I promise you I’m not lost just because you can’t find me. For once, I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

It’s rough, unpolished and unfinished, but so am I. I felt it was a thought I should share in case some other woman thought she was lost because no man has found her yet. Maybe you’re not lost. You can still be a wife, a good thing, while you’re hidden, sis. You still have worth and value. Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you’re doing this life thing wrong. It may mean you’re doing it exactly right.

XOXO,

Erica

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Share-worthy ’17: Planting My Feet in Purpose

IT ALL STARTED WITH AN INSTAGRAM POST.

When I was fired from my job at a homeowners insurance company, one of the ladies in HR said to me I would be free to become a famous author. I didn’t know about that, but I did know I was being handed an invitation to think critically about employment. I didn’t choose to be in insurance; it just so happened they hired me and I was good at the admin work they gave me. It paid the bills. Now I could spend so time figuring out what I wanted to do.

I take that statement back. I didn’t need to figure out what I wanted to do. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a small child. On one occasion when someone asked what my dream job was and I said writing, they said “OK, besides writing, what is your dream job?” I drew a blank. At that point, I hadn’t published a book of my own. I knew I liked editing, proofreading, and reviewing books, but I had no idea how to break into the publishing industry, as a writer or a behind the scenes worker.

After a few published books of my own, I discovered a talent and a passion for helping other writers get their books out into the world. In fact, four days before losing my job, I spoke at my church’s ladies day about writing and publishing. During the months between jobs, I decided to launch my own company providing publishing services. This would utilize my skillset and put much needed money in my pocket.

After months with no clients, save my dad and the college he was co-founding, I was about to let part of my dream die. Then I saw a call for contractors on Instagram. A publishing company was looking to contract out editing, formatting, and graphic design services to keep up with demand for their independent publishing services. The post said anyone who was interested should send an email to the company. The same day, Lara Casey announced a sale on Power Sheets, an intentional goal setting planner to help you reach your goals. Normally, I would have scrolled past both of these posts and waited too late to respond, but this time, I did the thing. You know, the hard thing. I bought the power sheets. I sent the email. I put my foot on the path and hoped it would lead to something good. And it did.

After submitting my resume, rate sheet and references, I had a phone conversation with some consultants of the company. I was more than confident in my editing skills, but I also indicated that I could format and design interiors as well. “Oh, wonderful! We really need a formatter. We’ll definitely be able to send you formatting work.”

They said the one thing I was least looking forward to them saying. Not because I didn’t want to do the work, but because I didn’t have the same confidence in my ability to format as I did in my ability to edit I’ve been editing my whole life, but I didn’t feel as qualified to charge someone for my formatting services.

I didn’t let my lack of confidence show on the call, though. I finished the call and opened my computer to find more information on formatting well. I bugged the authors in a Christian indie authors group I’m in, hopping in with questions that must have had them rolling their eyes at me. I practiced. Then I started getting work. All my hard work to sharpen my skills was put to the text…and I crashed and burned.

Well, not exactly. I formatted the books, but each book would need a little something else and was sent back to be tweaked. I got discouraged. God, I’m no good at this. Everything I do is flawed. I should give them their money back, tell them I can’t do it. I had my running shoes on and was ready to run again. Instead of taking off this time, I did something radical; I tried again. I asked more questions. I slowed down to write out what I needed to know from the client to format the book and create a checklist for myself. I refined my process. I kept taking the leaps, saying “yes,” and working as unto the Lord.

In only a month and change, I’ve worked on seven print books and six ebooks for both Kindle and iBooks. All formatting projects. I’m honing my formatting skills, getting them on par with my editing skills. Most importantly, I’m getting to be a part of the process of others realizing their dreams and doing what they feel called to do. I’ve worked on a few projects by popular authors, and it’s fun to think something I worked on is in thousands of hands. Responding to a post on Instagram breathed new life into my dream of publishing world domination. It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like in this season if I hadn’t took the leap, sent the email, said yes, asked the questions, etc.

If you see an opportunity, be quick about it. Pounce on it. Don’t let it get away without at least trying.

All of this work I’ve been getting formatting books and my new responsibilities as a group home manager haven’t overridden or overshadowed my own writing projects. I am working on a super secret project I hope to release later this year. More details on that to come. Today, I just wanted to encourage whoever needs the encouragement. Write the book. Start the business. Grab the opportunity when you see it.

Do the thing. You know what thing I’m talking about. And yes, I’m talking to you. Do the thing. The hard thing. Say the hard thing. March right on into the thick of it and don’t stop until you’ve come out the other side. Whatever it takes, get it done.

…She says as much to herself as to anyone else…

Your Cheerleader,

Erica

 

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When Everyone is Doing What God Told You to Do

What do you do when everyone seems to be doing what God told you to do?

I’ve experienced this feeling several times in my creative life. Right now, I’m working on a study of women in the bible. I’ve spent months planning the content and the design. I’ve researched and outlined. I started the first draft and love it.

But a couple days ago, a woman I follow online released her new study of women in the bible. This study looks like a women’s magazine. It features breathtaking photography and feminine typography. The moment I saw it, it discouraged me.

Then I did an Amazon search to see if any other books had a similar title to mine. To my horror, a very popular Christian writer has a book with an almost identical title and uses many of the same women’s stories as I am using.

Fear settled in my spirit. What if people think I copied what they’ve done when my study releases? What if we focused on the same women and made the same points? My study isn’t going to be as beautiful as hers, nor as theological and hermeneutics heavy as the popular writer’s book. I don’t have as big a following as they do. Who’s going to buy my study? I should scrap it and do something different, something unique.

No one wants to be seen as a copycat or bandwagon rider. Besides, if someone else is reaching hundreds of thousands of people, why should I add my voice to the mix? It’s not as if I have anything new to say.

A bit of resentment mixed in with the fear. I mean, God called me to write books for Him. I’ve worked hard on writing and publishing my books. I have to work hard to get eyes on my work, and even then the eyes are few and far between.

Many women all over the world are stepping back from doing what God is calling them to do because they think someone else is already doing it, and better. Someone else has more followers or gets more likes. Someone else gets more business or gets asked to speak more often. There’s already an app, organization, blog, or book for that. These women think to themselves “I don’t need to add my voice or opinion to the conversation. I can recommend what’s already out there instead of adding a drop of water to an ocean of material on this. God doesn’t need me to say or do this; others have got it.”

But the thing is, if God is leading you to do something, no matter how insignificant, futile, or foolish it makes you feel, then you should do it. You have no idea what God is going to accomplish through you when you take a step in faith.

The first time I spoke to someone I didn’t know about Jesus was in the bathroom of a movie theater. I could have ignored the girl at the sink next to me. I could have washed my hands and left. But God led me to say something. That little step led to a pivotal moment I never saw coming.

It’s like this with anything we do at God’s request. Many women have told me they needed to read my book when they read it. They tell me it changed their perception of relationships and has enhanced their walk with the Lord. Imagine if I assumed another Christian writer would reach them and didn’t publish my book. I may not reach as many women as someone else, but I might reach the one woman they can’t.

It can be hard to continue on when it seems everyone is already doing what you feel God wants you to do, but you must persevere, Sister. We have to know God made us a specific way to carry out a specific purpose, to address a specific need in the body of Christ. It can be more specific than we think. God knows what part of the vineyard He wants me to reap in. Or maybe like Ruth, I’m to go behind the reapers and glean what they’ve missed: the girl who isn’t a Christian but comes to a ladies day and is intrigued by my message, or the woman who thinks my blogs are funny and wants to read more of my work.

I don’t have the answers to all the questions that arise when trying to navigate callings, ministries, businesses, and books, but I do know the root of most of our concern is fear: fear of inadequacy, fear of being thought to be a copycat or fraud, and fear of failure. But God has not given us a spirit of fear. God is love and we know perfect love casts out fear. If God is telling you to do something, you do it.

There is nothing new under the sun. If you are writing, painting or creating anything based on the Word of God, I can guarantee you someone has already done it and someone else will do it after you. Someone is probably doing it better with more resources and a greater reach. Do it anyway. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ll keep writing books and blogs, keep speaking, keep helping other women tell their stories. I’m going to complete the mission God sent me on. I hope you decide to do the same.

XOXO,

Erica D. Hearns

 

 

 

 

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Share the Love

Last month a young lady from church approached me about starting a book club. The purpose was to get together with other young women from church to read something spiritual, to fellowship, and to learn more about what God wants for our lives. I have been interested in staring a book club for a long time, so I agreed to be a part of it. Then she said, I feel like you should be the one to lead it. Umm…

The more I learn about God and His word, the more I like to be behind the scenes. I’ll write the books and studies, but the desire to share with people face to face has faded over the years.Some of my goals with my word of the year points toward discipleship and mentorship–sharing the word of God with other women, teaching them to be students and devoted followers of Jesus. Leading this book club would be a great way to start doing this.

After a great first meeting, the ladies and I all went to the Christian bookstore nearby to browse for bibles and books we could read this year. They expressed a desire to dig into the word, to better understand it. From that point on, I’ve been thinking of ways to help them do that.

I had a conversation last night with the young lady who asked me to help her start the book club. We talked about the changes we want to make now that we’ve had a couple meetings, and we were able to formulate a plan to meld reading books with studying the word, fellowship, encouraging one another and pushing one another to be better.

I love studying the word of God. I’m sure a big part of the reason I love it is because I love studying words period. But a bigger part of it is the fact these are the words of life. The bible is the manual I use to live this life and be in expectation for the life to come. I enjoy digging deep and finding out who God is and what He requires of me. But some don’t share my enthusiasm.

Even though literacy rates are good in America, biblical literacy is on a decline. Many people don’t share my love of reading the word for themselves. Many books and resources geared toward women are more focused on “women’s issues” than on helping women understand the full counsel of the word of God. But even more pressing is the fact most PEOPLE aren’t invested in biblical literacy. Some people who go to church every Sunday don’t know how to study the bible, keep a verse in context, find out the original words used and what the real meaning of the passage is, or otherwise feed themselves the word of God.

I see resources becoming available to women to encourage them to really dig in to the word, but many have disordered eating around the word of God. They stuff themselves with the word and vomit it out, never digesting the nutrients therein, or they starve themselves, only eating the word on Sundays. They are on liquid diets, refusing the meat of the word. This hearts my heart. I want to see women full on the word, building up spiritual muscles and nourishing their spirit man.

What am I going to do about this? I’m going to share the word with the women who meet with me each week. I’m going to teach them how to eat the word. Each week, we will have one hour focused solely on scripture. I will teach them new study techniques and we will study passages of scripture related to our book. I’m going to share with them how I became a student of the word of God and show them it’s not impossible for them to know what preachers and Sunday school teachers know. I’m going to share with them ways in which they can guard themselves against falling prey to false teachers and how to tell when a verse is being used out of context to make a point the verse wasn’t written to make.

I feel the weight of this on me and to tell you the truth, I’m scared of it. I don’t want to teach them wrong or lead them astray. But it’s my responsibility as a disciple of Christ to go and teach. When those who are taught are baptized, the scriptures call us to continue teaching them. There is an expectation that people move from the milk of the word to meat. None of this is to be taken lightly, but we have to obey the Lord’s express command in this area.

I’m asking my fellow Christians to pray with me and for me as I attempt to lead other young ladies in how to study the word of God and apply it to their lives in a meaningful way. I pray this group is formed and knit together exactly how God planned it and no scheme of the devil is allowed in to divide it. I pray these women are brought closer to God and each other through sharing openly and honestly in this forum, studying together and praying for each other. Since every bit of this is the will of God according to His word, I know it will be done if we are faithful to it. I pray we can all die to self and get self out of the way so Jesus can be seen and shared.

XOXO,

Erica

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A Hard Word for a Soft Year

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Part of my process to uncover my goals comes from this amazing book.

For the last 13 or 14 years, I’ve come up with a word of the year. I can go back over eight years in my blogs and many more in my paper journals. But in the past four or five years, the choosing of the word and living in it has truly changed my life. It’s like God gives me chances to live in the light of the word when everything around me is saying I should be  walking like one walks in the dark: anxious, fast, clutching my purse. Life circumstances wants me to do the opposite of what I’ve decided to do. It’s up to me to decide if I will stay committed to my word and His word or if I will let the trials and tribulations of life choke the plant of the word God is trying to grow in me in that particular season.

When I chose the word savor for 2013 and decided to chronicle savory moments in my life, I had no idea my car would be totaled on January 9th when a drunk driver ran a red light. When I chose submit in 2014, I had no idea all of my writing submissions would be rejected or my will would fight so hard against submitting to God. In 2015, I had many literal and figurative moments where I needed to practice the principle behind the word attendance. When I decided 2016 was the year to seek God in a more focused and personal way, I didn’t know I would lose things I thought were big parts of my identity in pursuit of His. I’ve come to realize more fully than ever before the power of words, and how hard the devil and this world will fight your attempts to grow.

I took my time coming up with a word of the year this time around. I realized whatever I chose, my resolve to stick with it was going to get tested. The fact I’m only now writing this post is proof I’ve felt the pressure of this word on me. But enough build up. Let’s get to it.

I had a myriad of choices for word of the year. I settled on one and had a whole blog post (that I’ll share at some point) dedicated to my word ready to go way back in December. But it didn’t feel like it fit perfectly. It was like when you can get a dress on and zipped up, but you feel stuffed in it, like all your “rolls” are on display like a well lit bakery display.

My original word was participate. I said the word participate way too many times during writing workshops this year to ignore it. I didn’t like this word. I tried to use another word, but participate stuck. Stuck but didn’t fit. Then in the synonyms section of the definition, I found this:

(my word) usually implies that one as the original holder grants to another the partial use, enjoyment, or possession of a thing.

That’s what my original word was lacking. When we participate, we take part in something. We help create it. We are part owner in the effort. We worked for it. We played our part. Good for us. But I see myself more like this–like a recipient. God grants me the partial use, enjoyment and possession of things. I am not the owner. I don’t work for it. And this year, I wanted to remind myself of this, and help others learn this truth and others connected to this word. The rightness of it sank into my soul. The best part? Like three of the last four life changing words of the year, it begins with an “s.”

My word for 2017 is: SHARE.

:  to partake of, use, experience, occupy, or enjoy with others

:  to grant or give a share in

:  to tell (as thoughts, feelings, or experiences) to others

One thing I recorded in my thoughts about participate stuck out to me: in 2016, I sought God, and like the scriptures promise, I found Him. I learned more about His nature and His ways. I learned to trust in and depend on Him. But now that I’ve found Him, what am I going to do with Him, with this knowledge of Him? I want to revel in this revelation. God shared it with me. Also? I want to share it with someone else.

That’s all my writing is. I’m not coming up with life changing lesson or inventing anything new. I’m sharing the truths God revealed to me.

In studying the word this past year, I saw how important confession/testimony was in the lives of the people of God. It stood out to me the most with the woman with the issue of blood. She shared what Christ did for her with the multitude.

This year, I want to focus on sharing more of what God is doing in my life, to share Him more with a sick and dying world that needs the healing He has in His hands. I want to share what has worked for me and what has worked me, all to His glory. I want to confess, to tell my story. I want to point everyone to the Owner of this marvelous thing I’ve been given to enjoy so they can get their share. I want you to share with me. I want to see God at work in your life, to celebrate and contemplate and commiserate with you as you have been and will be with me.

I have some fun goals attached to this word. I can’t wait to share them with all of you. Sharing isn’t easy for me. It’s downright difficult. But I’m not going to be difficult in response to it. I’m going to be soft, pliable, yielding to all God wants me to share and all He will share with me.

What’s your word of the year?

XOXO,

Erica

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When Goals Get Good: 2016 in Review Part Quatre

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The 200+ stairs I walked up (and down) at the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

My goals for 2016 were outrageous. I wanted to do some huge things this year. You would think with the challenges of the second part of this year I would have failed miserably at achieving anything. However, because God knows best, some of my greatest fails opened the doors to make the achievement of many of these goals possible and probable. I didn’t achieve them all, but I knew I wouldn’t going into it. They were BIG goals. But what I was able to achieve? Amazing!

So, what did I say I was going to do this year? How did I do?

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  1. Seek God. The overall goal this year is to seek God with my whole heart. The ways in which I plan to do this are to study the bible more, pray more, and integrate other spiritual disciplines into my life. To this end, I will study the bible each day, pray each day, and meditate each day. I want to attend Sunday school and bible study each week and fast at least once this year. Performance: Modest. I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped to, but I did study the bible, pray and meditate on the word more this year than in times past. I made it to Sunday school more consistently, but *late boots* and still not as often as I should have. I made most bible studies, even going to other congregations when out and about. I did not fast intentionally this year (although I did go whole days where I forgot to eat. I know, that doesn’t count. Sigh).
  2. Seek to make God known. The goal of the books that I write and things that I sell is to promote the cause of Christ. It’s hard for me to market or get my work in front of other women, but I want to reach more women and get them excited about being serious about God in whatever season they are in. I will speak at least three (3) times in 2016. I will sell 500 copies of my new book, The Season for Getting Serious. I will sell another 100 copies of Altered before the Altar. Performance: I did FAR better than I ever would have thought on this goal. I did speak three times: I spoke on Single, Spiritual and Satisfied and on Writing a Book at our ladies day in July and I spoke on Writing & Publishing at a workshop day as part of my dad’s conference in October. I got VERY close to selling another 100 copies of Altered before the Altar. Ladies are still buying this book over two years after publishing it! I still get Facebook posts, comments, and messages as well as emails and people stopping me at different events telling me how Altered before the Altar has changed their perspective and improved their relationship with God. To God be the glory! I absolutely haven’t sold 500 copies of Season. I didn’t publish it until month 7 of this year. In five months, I’ve sold close to sixty copies, and momentum is gaining. I’m expecting this number to grow as more women read and recommend this one.
  3. Seek to Serve Others. I want to get back into serving others well.  I will: participate in the benevolence Ministry at least three (3) times this year, go door knocking at least once (1x) this year, and complete at least two (2) Passion Projects. Performance: Listen. When I looked at this, I got sad because I didn’t think I’d done any of this. But then I remembered: I did go door knocking–I went to spread the word about our gospel meeting. I did complete two passion projects–I helped plan this year’s ladies day, and I hosted a young adult fellowship at my house. I did not go out with the benevolence ministry this year, though. Something to work on next year, Lord willing.
  4. Seek to Soar. I will get a publishing contract for my inspirational fiction. I will get a contract for my third Christian Living/Non-fiction book. I will turn The Season for Getting Serious into a site that encourages women to get serious about pursuing a Christ centered life no matter what season of life they are in. Performance: FAIL. Epic fail. All around, knock down drag out fail. I didn’t submit any fiction this year. None. I didn’t write a book proposal. I neglected this blog SO HARD. But did I fail in my goal to seek to soar? No way! I traveled on my own. I wrote amazing journals. I attended amazing events. I showcased talents other than writing. I’ve worked on three projects which will change lives (hopefully in 2017 and beyond). I soared, y’all. Not in the way I thought I would, but I did it. I soared.

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Want to know something truly amazing? The unintentional goals I met this year. I wrote a list in 2015 based off an exercise in Lara Casey’s Make It Happen of things I was afraid of and why I was afraid of them. I said I was afraid of teaching, writing another book, making a decision about my relationship, moving, pursuing my passion full-time, and speaking for various reasons. This year, I taught, wrote another book, made a decision about my relationship, pursued my passion full-time, and spoke! The very things I was afraid to do, God allowed me to do them, and do them well. I love God’s timing. I love how He works to rid me of a spirit of fear. Some of my fears were for nothing and things turned out way better than I expected; other times, the thing I was afraid would happen happened. Either way, I’m still here and all the better for it. God is good all the time, y’all. Goals get good when God gets glory.

Did you achieve your goals in 2016? Why or Why not? How will the outcome of your 2016 goals affect your goal setting process for 2017?

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How Do You Measure A Year? In Books, Of Course!

It’s been a full year for me in books…just not the books I planned on reading. It was more about the books I wrote, the books I sorta read, and the books that came out of nowhere. I at least started about half the books on my list. The others…not so much.

I keep saying I finished one book this year, when actually I realized one book and two journals. I published my Serious Prayer Journal in early February. It was a 21 day prayer journal based off the Lord’s prayer to help women build the habit of prayer in their lives. I’ve since began revising it to add more days, more information on prayer, and other enhancements to make it a better tool. I also published Jump Start the Journey: Pen to Paper, a Christian Non-Fiction Writer’s Journal designed to take the writer from idea to organized outline and first draft. Jump Start the Journey will be a three journal series about penning, publishing and promoting a Christian non-fiction work. The second journal will be out sometime next year.

Now let’s move on to the books I read from my list:

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: I liked this book. I think Liz does a great job of helping to inspire writers not to treat their writing like their baby or expect it to support you. I like some of the stories she shares and advice she gives. But I didn’t love the book. The talk of the universe and some of the personification of creativity just doesn’t mesh with my beliefs as a Christian or a writer. I LOVE the podcast series she does where she helps creatives get unstuck and pursue their creative passions, Magic Lessons. I wanted this book to be the podcast in book form, but it wasn’t.

A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer: I was excited to read this book after I heard Brian Grazer on Entertainment Weekly’s radio show talking about his curiosity conversations with famous people and how he feels it has helped him get to where he is in life. While I enjoyed reading about him getting all of these interviews and what he learned from them, some of the exposition on curiosity was a little dense and dull. I like to be curious more than I like to read about it. I was expecting this book to be more memoir than exploration of curiosity itself. A good read, but not at all what I expected and wanted.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman: I really wanted to like this book. Everyone was talking about it and gushing over it, and I wanted to be in the cool Christian girls club, too. I scooped up the ebook for a great price and was excited to dive in…and I belly flopped. There were parts of this book that were really beautiful and took root in me, and then there were parts I couldn’t really get into. As much as I love listening to Emily on the Hope Writer’s podcast, I couldn’t find my rhythm with this book and ultimately didn’t finish it. I may try again at some point, but it wasn’t for me in this season.

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver: So what happened with this was…First of all, I have started this book no less than three or four times, and I kid you not, I always get super busy every time I try to read it. It’s ironic, really. When I finally had time to read it, I was deep in my bible study, which includes Mary and Martha’s stories. I didn’t want to borrow from Ms. Weaver, so I decided to hold off on reading it. The parts I have read are wonderful. Maybe next year.

Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo: I just couldn’t get into this book. I read a chapter or two and put it down. I’ll probably never learn to talk like TED speakers now. *Shrugs Shoulders*

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro: I am in the middle of this one. I am reading it slowly, a section at a time, savoring it. It’s a really great book for a writer to read, a good balance of advice and memoir. I’ll finish it, just slower than expected.

I didn’t crack open On Writing, Celebration of Discipline, Rising Strong or The Art of Fiction. I didn’t even buy Not a Fan, Muscle and a Shovel, The Best Yes or Women in the Word. It was a rough year. What can I say?

I went off script and exchanged one Lysa TerKeurst book for another. I went to the store for The Best Yes and walked out with Uninvited. I was a part of the Loop Group promoting the book and got to read the beginning of it before it came out. I found myself nodding along. Uninvited spoke louder to me in this season, so I grabbed it. I’m still reading it, but so far, so so good.

Also off script, I read Chip and Joanna Gaines’ new book, The Magnolia Story. I loved it! I loved reading about how they got where they were and the lessons they learned along the way. I’m a lot like Joanna in my personality and thinking, so I got a lot out of her aha moments. It was a super quick read for me and worth the time.

I finished reading Make It Happen except for the guide to making it happen. Yes, I stopped short of doing the exercises to uncover how to make it happen. I know! But that’s OK, because I’m going through that section now. I completed the first step yesterday and boy was it a big one! Looking forward to finishing it for real before January 1.

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Blessed Beyond Belief: 2016 in Review Part Deux

Yesterday’s post was hard to write, y’all. It’s difficult to explain to how you are at peace and even find good in such bad circumstances. This isn’t my first rodeo; I’ve been through a very similar season before, so I know to look for what God is doing in the midst of seeming chaos. It’s still no fun, though.

I’m excited to talk about the great things I experienced this year, the things which worked. I’ve had the chance to do some cool things this year. At least, I think they’re pretty cool. 😉

Picture Me

I’ve had a fondness for taking pictures for a long time. Ever since I got my Fuji in 2012, I’ve low key thought I was a professional photographer. I’ve photographed a few events at church and the like, but this year, I got to take my hobby to a completely different level. It all started with a couple from Jersey who wanted to get married at my church. My minister asked if anyone knew of a photographer they could get to do a wedding Saturday (this was Wednesday, by the way). Then he personally came and asked me to prepare a quote to give them to take pictures and record the ceremony. The next thing you know, I shot a wedding!

It wasn’t the last time my camera and I had a professional gig this year. To date, I photographed a maternity session, a house listing, another wedding, and a little girl’s spa day at church. I still wouldn’t call myself a professional photographer. I have a lot to learn. But I loved capturing memories and making money doing something that fills me up.

Traveling Shoes

This year I was even more of a road warrior than last year. When I tell you I took my books to the people, I mean it, honey! This year I went to Brunswick, GA, Birmingham, AL, Cocoa Beach, FL,  McKenzie, TN, Hallandale Beach, FL and a couple fancy hotels here in Orlando to sell my books and prints. I met many wonderful women along the way. I made fast friends with groups of women at ladies’ conferences, workshops, singles seminars, and even the Christian A Capella Music Awards. I was able to spend time with my day and speak about writing a book in a workshop session in Tennessee.

By far, though, one of my favorite traveling memories this year has to be going to Mobile, AL with the ladies from Concord St. Church of Christ for their retreat. I needed this retreat, y’all! I enjoyed playing Taboo in the hotel lobby (and being shushed on every turn), the funniest team building exercises I’ve ever been a part of, the BEST seafood laden buffet, and getting to soak in wisdom from the speakers. Also, the lady at the nail salon in the plaza next to our hotel slayed my eyebrows for all they were worth, and I appreciate her. 🙂

I’ve already paid to go to Georgia again in February and the National Ladies Lectureship held here in April. I’m looking to travel even more in 2017!

Talk to Me

My brother in Christ and I kept missing one another to do an interview on his radio show about my books, but we finally managed to make it happen, and I’m so happy we did! The interview went well, his listeners liked it, and I’ve been invited back to talk about my next release once it’s available. I had never been on the radio before (I was almost on Cocktails with Patrick and Wake Up with Taylor back in the day (2009-ish). It was a fun experience and I can’t wait to do it again!

Learning from the Best

One of my goals for a while has been to create a book women could use in their personal bible study time or ladies classes. Studying the bible is one of the things I’m most passionate about. We have to search the scriptures and test what people tell us against the Word. For real. Women ask me if I have a book for a ladies class all the time. Altered before the Altar is seen as a single sisters book, and while The Season for Getting Serious is full of material I think would be perfect for study and discussion in a ladies class, it isn’t structured as a study.

I wrote a piece for The Season for Getting Serious about the  woman at the well and decided not to use it in the book. There was a line in the piece that invited me to really sit down in the truth of it: an encounter with Christ changes everything. From the time I finished The Season for Getting Serious, I began studying to write my first bible study. The studies I’ve done for this project have been phenomenal in my personal bible study. I’ve found some deep truths in these stories, and I’m excited to see what God will do with it when the study comes out next year. But even if the study never came out, I’ve learned so much and gained so much wisdom and assurance from it myself that every moment spent reading, researching and meditating on this material was so worth it.

My Girl Friends, There Through Thick and Thin

 I’ve visited with my girlfriends so much this year, and it has been wonderful! I caught up with a high school friend, Alex, earlier this year. I love getting to see her and talk to her about where we are in life right now. We’re both different than where we were, but we still get along as well as we did back when we were in school. I’ve been to prayer breakfasts and teas, gone on emergency shopping trips, had holiday dinners, thrown parties, hosted movie nights and fellowships, and gone bowling with a plethora of lady friends this year. I dragged  encouraged Andreana to meet me at events, Jenny to help me pick out interview clothes, and tagged along while my roommate finished Christmas shopping, all accompanied by laughter, good times, and random breakthroughs. I love the women I get to live life with.

Building a Bridge and Getting Over It

My dad and I haven’t always been close. In the past eight to ten years, we’ve made more of an effort to learn about each other and find common ground. This year, my dad and I have spent more time talking and working together than we ever have in my memory. Whether it was helping him with his workshop, him reading chapters of Season before its release, or editing course material for the bible college he is co-founding, we’ve been in constant communication. He’s been a sounding board for my writing ideas (he also steals my writing muse ;-)). Building up this relationship has been an answer to a long awaited prayer as well, and definitely a desired result. As dad says, greater is coming for us in 2017.

What went right for you in 2016?

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2016 in Review

 

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Historically, I’ve seen things not working as failure and counted it as a loss.  But sometimes what I would count as failure contains something even better than what I set out to find. A successful outcome isn’t always the desired outcome. I’ve seen this at work in my life this year.

I had an epiphany: many things I saw as major failures or disappointments were actually invitations and opportunities to stop and reflect, to take stock of where I was and where I wanted to go. In a season of tremendous growth, I looked for opportunities to deepen relationships and realize a truer sense of self hidden in the dirt of what the world classifies as failure. Once I understood the true meaning of success, major fails became major opportunities

This isn’t a post of major fails, but huge opportunities and invitations. Let’s get into it.

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Me before a job interview!
  • I lost my job.  A job I found when I was unemployed for a month became a career. I never planned to be in the claims department, or insurance, for the rest of my life. It just sort of happened that nearly eight years later, I was still there. I thought about leaving. I prayed. I joined LinkedIn. I wanted a change. I got one. It wasn’t the desired outcome. I didn’t get to slap a two week’s notice on my boss’s desk. I wasn’t “prepared” to leave. But that’s the beauty of God’s timing–I had to trust Him with the next steps because I couldn’t see them. I was invited to trust God to provide. I was also given the opportunity to examine what I really want to do with my professional life. For the first time in eight years, I get to decide what I want to do. How do I want to spend my days? What fires me up? Where can I serve people well? It’s still an ongoing journey, but honestly? Something which should have shaken me to my core…gave me peace. I didn’t have to stay where I was, doing what I was doing. I took a hard look at myself and what I could have done better while employed at the company. I accepted my fault as well as the blessing of losing one job. Being “let go” frees my hands to grab something better suited to me.
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    One of my “photo shoots” Loved taking this amazing pictures of this sweet mama to be! 

    Since I’ve been unemployed, I have honed my photography hobby into a paying side hustle, sold books at conferences, edited books, and worked temp jobs. I’ve done things I loved to do and made money from them. God is good.

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  • I broke up with my boyfriend. I received the long awaited answer to a long and painful prayer, a la Sarah Mclachlan. Apparently eight was the magic number for endings in 2016. After almost nine years (!!!) of dating, my relationship ended with an awkward conversation in the church parking lot the day after the Presidential election. An end of an era. A historically poignant moment to hang a memory on like a winter coat wet with snow dripping in a mud room. It’s so poetic, my poet’s heart just eats it up. I prayed for this! Again, this wasn’t the desired result, but God answered a prayer I’ve prayed for years this year. As painful as the answer may be, it wasn’t a sucker punch in a parking lot, but gentle nudges and a calm voice saying “it’s time.” God has been incredibly gentle with my heart during this time. What once would have started an epic search to figure out what was wrong with me…gave me peace. It also gave me an invitation. My soul asked me on a date. Who is Erica, 31, single, Christian, no kids? What parts of myself have been pushed down, lost, or ignored in the last nearly nine years? It’s been fun rediscovering who I am, spending more time with myself, my family, my friends, and my God. I’ve said yes to things I wouldn’t have before, and no to things I wouldn’t have before. It hasn’t all been roses. One doesn’t spend so many years getting to know someone, investing in a shared future, and end it with no hurts or regrets. One doesn’t sit with oneself and examine one’s heart this closely without seeing some ugly things embedded there. When two great catches don’t catch each other, it’s bewildering and sad. As the girl who wrote Altered before the Altar, I’ll continue to get asked “the question” everywhere I go with my book. Ironically, I have a sequel to Altered before the Altar in the works now. And it’s for couples. And no, I’m not waiting until I’m courting write it. 😉
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For those who asked, “Ask and it shall be given you.” Matt. 7:7. I carry this on my key chain
  • I have to move four months earlier than I expected. My roommate is getting married in April (!!!), which means my lease is ending in March instead of July. With no job, relationship or lease commitments to figure into plans, I can consider roles I never would have considered before in places I wouldn’t have gone.

The Season for Getting Serious Front Cover

  • The Season for Getting Season was published six months late.   The Season for Getting Serious was supposed to be published in January of this year, but came out right on time in July. Four days after I sold my first copies of Season at a ladies day, I was fired. Season is a book about growth in your relationship with God through hard times. I didn’t publish in January because I still had some areas to dig deep into. Some of the chapters I struggled to get right are words I’ve read over and over again in the season of life I’m in now. God gave me the game plan for this season right before I entered it! How amazing is it to see the preparation He put me through to be able to walk this season out in front of so many to His glory!

This year wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it wasn’t all stress and struggle, either. The above opportunities have all come in the last half of the year. There a many more desired outcomes and “wins” to catalog, a year in books to review, a goals update to share, a word of the year to reveal, goals to lay at the feet of Jesus, and new books to read and write.

What opportunities did you find in the rubble this year?

Reveling in Opportunity,

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Erica Denise Hearns

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Holy Day or Holiday?: Getting Serious about the Season

This is Santa Believes by Susan Comish. This post doesn’t seek to explain, exhort or condemn the artist’s work.

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I was out Christmas shopping with my roommate when I came across this picture of Santa Claus holding a snow globe with a nativity scene inside it.

A big Santa holding a small nativity scene in a bubble is a powerful statement to me.

The push pull of the holiday season, the competing celebrations of Santa Claus versus the birth of Christ have left many confused. I see friends struggling with the decision of whether or not to teach their kids about Santa. I see them buy all the advent products and try to squeeze the story of Jesus’ birth into their holiday routines. I see people who argue Jesus wasn’t born in December, and Christmas is based on a pagan holiday. It’s hard to miss how many people walk in the tension between Christmas as a holiday and Christmas as a holy day.

A holiday is a day of celebration. It’s a day free from work. It’s a day to spend time doing things we love with people we love. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A holy day is a day in which we do what the Lord has prescribed for us to do in observance of that day. It’s about remembrance, observation, and thankfulness. It is focused on the only one who is holy–that is, the Lord. So is Christmas a day of fun enjoyment with friends and family, to observe the traditions we’ve established with the people we want to observe them with, or is it a time God has set aside for us to remember a certain event and to carry out specific actions the Lord has called us to on this day?

Whether it’s a debate over Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, red cups at Starbucks, or whether to go to church Sunday morning or stay home to open presents, the holiday season full of pointless debates for the Christian to get into. But are we missing God in our debates?

Have we commodified Christ? Have we reduced His birth to a set of rituals to perform in the midst of a season that celebrates ideals He abhors?

Does it really matter if our Starbucks cups are red and baristas say “Merry Christmas” if we go into debt buying gifts we lie and tell our kids are from a magical man in a red suit? If we sprinkle daily advent reading into the mix of covetousness, short tempers, and selfishness, have we met our Christian quota for the season? As the picture I saw suggested, have we made Santa bigger than the birth of Jesus?

Why are people so quick to go to war over keeping Christ in Christmas when many of them set this same Christ aside unless it’s a “Jesus Holiday”? Why won’t they act as if He’s important and belief in Him is worthy of defense at any other time?

I hear you, fellow Christian woman. I see you drowning in advent calendars and devotions, with your nativity scene beside your Christmas tree full of presents, trying to figure out the logistics of sharing this special time with friends and family. The birth of Christ is important. If He didn’t come, He couldn’t die. His birth is remarkable. But are you making it a footnote to your festive season?

Listen, I’m not a Scrooge or a Grinch. There’s nothing wrong with observing the birth of Christ, giving gifts, or taking time to let people know you love and care about them. What’s awful is letting the world tell us when to read about Jesus’ birth and meditate on it. It’s deplorable when it goes from a life to lead to a ritual to complete in December.  It’s unconscionable when reading about Jesus’ birth during advent season is just another thing to check off our good Christian list, or “Instagram for Christ.” It’s a case of drawing near with lips instead of hearts and doing things to be seen of men instead of from a true reverence for God.

Ask yourself: Am I truly worshipping Jesus and thanking God for Him in this season, or am I making an obligatory trip to ooh and ahh over a new baby? Do I send cards and gifts proclaiming Jesus is the reason for the season, even as I forget Him in the hustle and bustle? Do I forget about Christ until His birthday rolls around again?

Let’s be serious. After the birth of Christ, we don’t see Christ as an infant anymore in scripture. We see Him again at twelve, then thirty. The weight, the awe, the importance, isn’t in the baby, but in the man Jesus–His teaching, living, dying and resurrecting for our salvation.

We observe Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection every day. This is what makes up the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Every time we take communion, we show  (announce) the Lord’s death until He comes (I Cor. 11:26). There are many scriptures pertaining to observing and announcing the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. This part of the story is what makes it possible for us to have salvation: the shedding of His blood; His victory over death; His ascension to the right hand of God. Christians should live in light of this sacrifice every day, even the day the world lumps His birth in with other holidays.