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Joy comes in the Mourning

For many, 2016 has been a ridiculously rough year. There have been many shocking celebrity deaths, a divisive and controversial presidential election, several incidences of police brutality, an uptick in hate crimes and a general loss of morale by many. Many who started this year hopeful find themselves limping to the finish line. Their eyes are already on next year or four years from now. This year is a wash. The years of the Trump presidency are a wash. All we can do now is look forward to a new year.

2016 has been a year of breaking as much for me as it has been for many of you. I’ve lost family, job, relationships, security, benefits–you name it (Is that Shirley Caesar clip stuck in your head now, too? Sorry). If I’m not careful, I can miss all the good of this year focusing on the bad. And that would be a shame, because there has been so much good in the midst of the mourning:

  • I had two speaking engagements where I was able to encourage women to get serious about God and pursue their dreams.
  • My relationship with my dad has grown tremendously.
  • God allowed me to use a hobby to help others and earn income while unemployed.
  • God gave me clarity and began moving in areas I’ve prayed about for a long time.
  • I’ve taken big leaps of faith this year.

In the valley, sometimes we don’t see how much progress we’ve made and ground we’ve gained. We are so busy fighting the enemy in front of us, we don’t acknowledge or celebrate the victory we have over the last enemy we fought. We can’t see how close we are to coming out of the storm, to being made to lie down in green pastures, to the restoring of our souls. We aren’t always exchanging our burdens for the rest Christ offers.

But the great thing about God is we don’t have to see. We can walk by faith. We don’t have to get to the mountaintop before we can see how the whole thing is going to play out; God has told us the end in His word. Christ invites us to rest in Him. He gives out rest like Oprah gives out cars–everyone in the audience of Christ gets rest!

The bible says that for the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross. He pushed through because He knew joy was on the other side of His suffering. It wasn’t a hope; it was a certainty. It’s not a hope for us, either. Joy is a certainty. We are to rejoice always. We rejoice when we suffer because we know what’s coming on the other side! We rejoice in good times because we know where we have come from, and we thank God for His grace toward us.

It’s hard to thank God when something you’ve handled so carefully and protected so fiercely is broken beyond repair. But when I remember what was on the other side of similar losses, I can rejoice in the knowledge God has something even better to give me.

In the midst of the hardship and brokenness of this season, I’ve learned to ask myself three questions: 1) Am I bare in this area or am I barren? 2) How can I glorify God in this season? 3)Where is the growth in this season?

If you can’t find anything to rejoice about in your life right now, I submit to you the thought you aren’t looking hard enough. If you see no growth in your life, you are no longer connected to the True Vine, Jesus Christ. Repent and be restored before it’s too late. Rejoice in the areas where you are bare or barren. God is about to do something wonderful in those areas. He’s about to show up as God. Go through  it for the joy set before you, sweet sister.

I won’t wait for the mourning to be over to rejoice. I won’t wait until I see things getting better to believe God is working in the midst to bring about God for me because I love Him and am called according to His purpose. I will remember the joy set before me and endure my present circumstances with joy. I won’t look to this world or anyone or anything for joy; the world doesn’t have any to give. I won’t let anything that can’t give me joy take my joy. I will expect joy. I know joy will come. It’s a certainty and not a hope. Joy has already RSVP’d with pleasure. Joy will show up at the right place and the right time. I’m committed to meeting Joy there. I will endure. I will overcome. I will be fixed, forgiven and fortified. In Jesus name.

XOXO,

53C

Erica D. Hearns

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Walking the Talk

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It’s been a little over two months since I released The Season for Getting Serious. These two months have been two of the hardest months I’ve had in a long while. I should have expected them to be, since The Season for Getting Serious is all about growing in Christ through changing seasons. I said the same situations the devil will use to destroy you, God wants to use to grow you and bring you closer to Him. I said it’s up to us to choose whose plan we will follow and who will win in these situations. I went through every challenging part of the Christian journey I could in the span of 225 pages and gave encouragement and scripture to cling to in the hopes women wouldn’t wait for a better time to grow, but would grow right where they find themselves. I’ve signed every copy of this book with the tagline “May God grow you right where you are” with a big smiley face. Yet still I never imagined I would have to cling to these words so tightly myself, and so soon after sharing them with the world.

Less than a week after I sold my first copies of The Season for Getting Serious, I was fired from my job. I’d worked at the company for eight years, nearly the entire time since I graduated from college. I’d worked my way up from a temp scanning documents 40 hours a week to the assistant to the Vice President of the Claims/Legal department. I learned to do a lot of things I never thought I would do. Several people sowed into me in both a professional sense and a personal one. One of the first people to buy Altered before the Altar was my boss, and half our department came to my book launch party. The first fiction story I finished was because a coworker read every word I wrote each morning as my accountability partner. I bugged other coworkers for information about babies while I participated in the Blurb to Book competition, where I was eventually given my first revision letter. Several coworkers kept up with what I was writing and asked how things were going. Then after a few major shifts in my alignment, and that environment was gone.

In the last two months, I’ve had to make some big decisions and roll with major changes. It’s been a difficult task to find a new normal. I am trying to use this time to focus on what God is doing and follow His lead. My goal for the year has been to seek God, but I found myself doing it more than ever these last couple months. I’ve also found myself pushing this pursuit aside more than ever the past few months. I’ve found the limits of my own drive and motivation, and I’ve found the place where surrender happens. I’m bruised and broken but my life has been spared.

God has been an awesome provider for me during this time. Many people didn’t know I was out of work. I’ve been more successful selling my books than I have ever been before. I sold out of books for the first time ever.  I’ve had a lot of interest in my book coaching and publishing services and some inquiries for speaking engagements. I had the opportunity to do something I never thought I’d do, shoot a wedding. I got my online shop of the ground. I have been able to make great headway on my next book, and I have a few other project ideas waiting in the wings. I’m seeking and pursuing a position I want to take on instead of something I have to accept because I have bills to pay for maybe the first time ever. It’s a whole new world for me.

It’s been hard, but so good at the same time. For any woman struggling with finding the good in her season, I know how you feel. But God is faithful, sister.He never leaves us or forsakes us. Not only is He faithful, He is just. He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we will confess them. He makes all things new. Jesus came to set the captive free and proclaim freedom. We don’t have to be stuck in anything or ruled by any situation. Chin up, buttercup. The Lord is with you.

If you are in need of some encouragement with the tough stuff, may I humbly suggest The Season for Getting Serious? This little book is packed with some big truths about who God is and what He wants for us. God has a goal for you to grow through the tough stuff in your life, and you owe it to yourself to reach the goal, sister. I believe The Season for Getting Serious can shed a little light on your path. It has on mine.

XOXO,

53C

 

 

Erica

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#SeasonSerious2016: Sophomore Hi-jinx

Since I didn’t do all the milestone posts as things were happening–book title reveal, book cover reveal, etc.–I thought it would be fun to do a series of blog posts on special topics relating to The Season for Getting Serious release to help readers get acquainted with it. 

The Season for Getting Serious Front Cover

Do you ever find yourself getting so far ahead of the process in your mind you begin to resent the process?

Everyone has heard of the sophomore jinx. If your first book or album is successful, the pressure to release something even better can cause sophomore jitters, which inevitably become sophomore slumps. The second project fails to live up to the high bar set by the first. Whether nerves, going in a new creative direction, the genre fading in popularity, or the fact you aren’t the new kid on the block anymore, sometimes second efforts tank.

Some artists are disappointed with their second efforts because they know better. When I released Altered before the Altar, I didn’t have any expectations. I wasn’t expecting people to buy it or love it. But they did.

I was told topping Altered would be difficult because it was so good. People had expectations of my work now. I had to deliver.

The weight of these expectations made me jump ahead of the process. This did nothing but slow me down. I was so concerned about the perception of my second book, it crippled me. I knew if I ever wanted to write, let alone publish, a second book, I had to do something different.

What did I do to get over the jitters and write my second book?

  • I interviewed people.  Talking with people about the book’s topics helped me organize my thoughts, see the topic from another’s perspective, and gave me gems of wisdom to sprinkle throughout my work.
  • I used my digital recorder. I wanted to keep the conversational tone of my first book. Instead of building the tone in later, I started with it by recording myself talking through each chapter. I got the tone I wanted and the passion and urgency of the message came through. I used the recorder while on my commute to and from work and was able to use time I usually “lost” each day.
  • I had a focus question. I shared my focus question in yesterday’s post. The focus of The Season for Getting Serious was built around my answer to this question. Having a focus brought everything together. I cut anything which didn’t serve this purpose.
  • I kept a cutting room floor document. Knowing my beautiful prose could be retrieved if I changed my mind helped me cut unnecessary passages.
  • I approached the book like a student first.  I studied each topic as if it were new to me. I used different methods and reread the material  until I saw things I never saw before. I developed a deeper understanding of each subject. I had to change huge chunks of my first draft, but it made the book stronger.
  • I lost it–literally. Confession time: I lost my book while writing it. Twice. This taught me to back up everything in triplicate. More importantly, it taught me the true value of what I was writing and where it came from. I could recreate much of what I’d written, but the passages I love the most were in the moment revelations and nudges from the Holy Spirit. I felt like the Spirit spoke through me and to me in those moments. I trusted God would give me the words he wanted me to say if I had to rewrite it, but I was so appreciative when I found it. I know these are the words God wanted women to hear.
  • I wrote the book I needed to read. I didn’t listen to those clamoring for a follow up to Altered. I ignored my own desire to write a book that could be used in ladies’ classes, book clubs, and life groups. I studied the topics God pressed on my heart to help me in my walk with Him. By seeking Him first, I wrote a book the woman who came away from Altered wanting a deeper relationship with Christ could dive into. I wrote a book that can be used for individual or group study by women at all different stages of life. I need  every word of this book, and I know other women do, too.

It’s too soon to say if I beat the sophomore jinx, but I surpassed all my expectations for my sophomore release. I took my writing to the next level with this book. I have the confidence in the abilities God gave me to do it again. I feel like I’ve finally fully embraced my calling as a writer and speaker, and I can’t wait to see how God uses my gifts for His glory in this new season.

XOXO,

Erica

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It’s Time to Get Serious!

The Season for Getting Serious Front Cover
My New Book is Here!!!

Have you ever had a season stretch you for all you were worth and hold you so close to the fire you felt singed? Have you ever had a season you thought would never be over? Has a season of life driven you to your knees like never before? That’s what 2016 has been for me.

I was “trying” to release my second book for most of this year. It was supposed to be released by New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, my birthday (February 24), and the National Ladies Lectureship (mid-April) at various points in the year. But each time the new self-imposed deadline came around, the book wasn’t ready. There was always something more to be done.

Some might say it was nerves keeping me from releasing this book. Indeed, there were a lot of nerves involved. I knew it would be hard to follow up Altered before the Altar. Everyone wanted a follow up to Altered, but I was working on something completely different. But I was willing to trust God. I got a little ahead of Him in my eagerness to get the book out, but ultimately God knit this work together and it was released right on time.

The Season for Getting Serious is finally here!! All the late nights, early mornings, and earnest prayers were so worth it. I can’t tell you how often I prayed over every word of this book and for every woman who would read it. I am overwhelmed by how well it all came together, and I can’t wait to hear how it is transforming Christian women’s relationships with the Lord.

In an interview for online magazine The Christian Girl, I was asked the question “If you had the entirety of Christian women in front of you, what would you say to them?” Sisters, this book is it. It’s my heart for us as women of God on paper. The Season for Getting Serious is for all Christian women: single, married, new convert, mature Christian, young, old, strong, or prodigal. Any woman who wants to grow a more intimate, personal relationship with Christ should get their hands on this book. I feel this book until is exactly what God wanted me to share with His daughters to encourage them to grow right where they are.

A word of caution: if you aren’t ready to be honest about where you are and where you want to go, you might have problems getting through this book. To be honest, I felt dragged by much of what’s in these pages. I felt exposed by it. I don’t sugarcoat  anything. They aren’t any cute sayings or affirmations in here–just the promises of God to His daughters. I’m not speaking to you from the mountain; I’m right here in the valley with you reminding you of God’s faithfulness.

The follow is the best description of The Season for Getting Serious:

 

“You were running well; who hindered you?”

Many Christian women want a deeper relationship with God, but they can’t seem to grow intimacy with Him. They start out with intention, but they are distracted and knocked off course by their life’s circumstances and responsibilities.

The Season for Getting Serious: Growing Intimacy with Christ in any Season, encourages and equips the woman of God to grow closer to Christ in whatever season she finds herself in. This is not another checklist or New Year’s resolution; it’s a clarion call to the woman of God to stop waiting for a new year, better circumstances, or less distractions and start growing in this season of their lives–right now.

The Season for Getting Serious speaks to the woman in the middle, on the run, grieving, or suffering from spiritual disease. It speaks to the woman wrestling with doubt, success, or burying the old man. This book whispers to the heart of every woman seeking Christ in the middle of the muck and mess of life and calls her out of the darkness into His marvelous light.

 

Ladies, you want to read this one. You’ll want to share it with every woman you know. You’ll going want your ladies bible classes and book clubs to read it so you can talk to someone about what you read. Most importantly, I pray you’ll want to live it.

What are the book’s vital statistics?

The Season for Getting Serious is 227 pages of encouragement from the word of God to Christian women at all stages of life. It’s portable size makes it easy to slip into your purse, tote or backpack to read on the go. The cost is $20 per copy with discounts available on bulk purchases of three or more.

How can you get your copy?

  • Get your copy or copies of The Season for Getting Serious from my online store here. Purchasing through my online store allows you to get signed copies and a gift with purchase. I also offer bulk discounts. If you would like to take advantage of bulk discounts, please email me at inquiries[at]aseriousseason.com.
  • You can also order copies from Amazon CreateSpace, Barnes and Noble and Books a Million. Please note, these copies are unsigned and I cannot offer bulk discounts through any of these sites.
  • Pick up signed copies at events where I’m vending. This Saturday, August 20, 2016, I will be vending at the WINGS (Women in God’s Service) ladies day, A Wise Woman Builds, in Cocoa, FL. I will also be vending at the National Singles Seminar here in Orlando, FL on Labor Day weekend, September 1-5, 2016.

For my new on upcoming events, subscribe to my newsletter.  

Are you excited about The Season for Getting Serious? What do you need to get serious about? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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A Big Scary Thing

I know I owe you a post detailing how I did on my January goals, my February goals, and the ladies’ day in Brunswick, GA, but today I wanted to write about some big scary things that I’ve been thinking about. The first scary thing I did was go to a printer and get copies of A Serious Prayer Journal printed. If you saw me in Brunswick, you’ve seen this beauty, a 21 day prayer journal to help women make prayer a daily habit. The journal opens with a page entitled A Big, Bold Prayer. It’s supposed to be something you want to ask God for that scares you a little.

I wanted to start the prayer journal for myself, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on for the next 21 days. There are a bunch of topics I could focus in on, so many things I need to get done. But I kept coming back to one thing in particular: my next book, The Season for Getting Serious. I felt a nudge to put off rushing it for the ladies’ day in Brunswick and to give it the time it needed, and now I see better why I was given that nudge. This book is needs more organization, more research, and definitely more prayer to get it to where it needs to be. I have most of the pieces, but they aren’t completely formed. I think my goal to sell 500 copies was causing me to rush its release. I wanted to have as much time as possible to reach this seemingly impossible number. I hadn’t given the goal over to the Lord.

If I’ve learned anything from reading the Bible, it’s that a little is a lot. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain; a little leaven can leaven the whole lump. Christ fed thousands with a few fish and loaves of bread. I can bring a small amount of time to sell to Christ and He can make that sufficient to do more than I could ask or think if I’m abiding in Him and doing His will. The urge to hurry up is in my flesh, but the call to be still and learn of Him is coming from my spirit.

So I’m going to do a big scary thing this week. I am wiping the slate of this book clean. I’m going to look over all of the notes and scriptures I have and listen to the recordings I’ve made. I’m going to pray about what God really wants to say to the hearts of women who want to live for Him but who are struggling to make that commitment. And I’m going to work on something else in the meantime. I’m not going to watch the clock; I’m going to watch the Lord.

What would your big, bold prayer be for the next three weeks? Leave a comment below for a chance to win A Serious Prayer Journal. I can’t wait to see what God has placed on your hearts.

XOXO,

Erica

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Starting Out the Way I Plan to Go…

A quick post today. I’m sharing my January goals. These aren’t deep or meaningful. The point is to get started. I’m diving into the muck and the mess and getting started. So here are my life goals for this month:

  • Change my clothes when I come home from work each evening. It’s a mental thing that helps me switch gears.
  • Cook more at home. It will save money, it’s healthier, and cooking is stress relief and a chance to decompress from my day.
  • Exercise 2x a week. This has been a major fail this week, but I’m hoping to get better.
  • Set a bedtime. I always wake up at the same time, but I don’t have a regular bedtime. I want to change this for a more consistent sleep pattern and hopefully more energy throughout the day.
  • Pay all bills on time this month. No more late fees!
  • Start keeping a journal again.

More entrepreneurial goals:

  • Set up Square site to sell books.
  • Email three people about speaking
  • Email three people about sponsorship/advertising
  • Buy Adobe
  • Create book cover/marketing materials
  • Pay for 1 vendor opportunity
  • Finish The Season for Getting Serious? More on this question mark in a future post.

Personal spiritual goals:

  • Encourage friend who is struggling spiritually. (I have a specific person in mind)
  • Spend time talking to two older members of my congregation.
  • Read bible daily.
  • Pray daily.
  • Study and pray about seeking.

This seems like a lot, and a lot of these things are to occur daily, but I think this is a list that will help me jump start a year in which I grow closer to Christ and look more like Him.

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Wind Up Wednesday: Bringing Books Back

Note: I missed yesterday. It was my intention to have a post every day this week, at least, to kick start my blogging. Let’s all just move on to a fun post, shall we?

As an avid reader and writer, I always have a ton of books I want to read. My TBR pile is ridiculous. I love reading all the books my writer friends are putting out into the world (I’m reading one, Interrupted Lullaby by Dana R. Lynn, one of my critique buddies!) that I can’t put down (though I’ve read it at different stages two or three times). I’m so proud of all my romance, women’s fiction, inspirational fiction and self-help writing friends. But this year I want to dive deep into some books that focus more on developing myself as a Christian and a writer. I know I’ll get to all the fiction my friends put out, but I want to make sure I read at least 12 books that I hope will revolutionize or completely change an area of my life.

Here’s what’s on my list to read so far, in no particular order:

  1. Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman. Simply TuesdayI’ve heard wonderful things about this book, and have heard a couple interviews with Emily P. Freeman that have piqued my interest. I caught this book on sale yesterday and move it from books I want to buy to bought. Yay!
  2. A Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. Celebration of DisciplieI’ve read this book and loved it, but it’s been years (other than a few peeks back in for my submission goal in 2013 and that palms up/ palms down meditation from Monday’s post). Not only do I want to read it again, I want to give a copy to a friend and read it with her to encourage her in the Lord. It’s be our Girl Talk thing. So excited for this!
  3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Big MagicI bought a copy as soon as it came out. I was a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s style in Eat Pray Love, but the podcast for Big Magic, Magic Lessons, sold me on this book. It’s a book about tapping into your creativity and how we are all creators. Can’t wait to let my imagination out.
  4. On Writing by Stephen King. On WritingI bought this book last year after checking it out of the library and not having time to finish it. I’ve heard many wonderful things about this book, and really enjoyed the parts I’ve read. Time to focus and read this start to finish.
  5. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. Having a Mary HeartThis one has sat on my shelf for years. Is it ironic to say I don’t have time to read a book about making time? I’ve started it and nodded along with the opening points. This is another I need to buckle down and get read.
  6. The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. The best yesConfession Time: I’ve never read a Lysa Terkeurst book. I’ve had friends who’ve raved about Made to Crave and Unglued, but I haven’t gotten around to reading one of her books. I knew I had to read her work when I watched her at the creative summit The Influence Network put on.
  7. Rising Strong by Brene Brown. Rising StrongConfession Time #2: I’ve never read a Rene Brown book. But I did hear her speak on Magic Lessons, and the moment I did, I had to have this book. This is a book about how to rebound from failure. This is something I struggle with. I hate failing. I can’t tell you how many things I didn’t do because I was afraid to fail. So I’m hoping this one has some insights I can use to conquer that fear a little more.
  8. A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer. A Curious MindI heard Brian Glazer on the radio talking about his curiosity talks and was fascinated. As someone who loves to  interview people, I’m interested in reading about how he made the most of opportunities to talk to some of the worlds most fascinating people, and how I can use a few tips to make my interviewing better.
  9. Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. Not a FanThe back cover copy sold me on this book. I’d heard all the hype about it and largely ignored it. But going through the Religion aisle at the bookstore studying covers, I picked this up and read the back and instantly knew I needed to add this one to the list.
  10. Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank. Muscle and a ShovelSo many of my friends have told me how this book completely changed their views on God and Christianity that I’ve just got to read it. It’s a true story about a newlywed couple who befriend a man that challenges their religious views. It’s supposed to be a challenging read that incites some strong feelings. I’m not one to shy away from things that may challenge my views, so I’m eager to see how this strengthens my faith and causes me to dig deeper into what I believe. We are to be prepared to give an answer for the faith that is in us, so it will be interesting to see the interaction between my faith and this book. I would love to get a small group together to read this one with me.
  11. Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo. Talk Like TedI REALLY want to be a better speaker. I know that I have messages to deliver to women. But I can’t expect people to want to hear me speak if I’m not going to put in the effort to be the best speaker I can be. I’ve long admired TED talks and find them to be wonderful. I really want to see a Christian version of this speaking series come to be. I’m anticipating learning a lot about speaking that will help me improve my presentation reading this one.
  12. Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. Still writingI checked this out of the library with On Writing and didn’t get a chance to finish it, though I loved Dani Shapiro’s writing. I bought it last year when I bought On Writing. I’ve gotten almost to Middles and I love it. I can’t wait to see how Dani relates more of the writing process.
  13. Bonus Book #1: Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. Women of the WordI heard Jen Wilkin on a podcast and was really intrigued by this book. Since then I’ve seen many women talking about this book online, how it changed the way they study the Bible. I love anything that gets women reading the Word for themselves, or anyone else for that matter. I’m always looking for ways to improve my Bible study time. This should be a good book for that.
  14. Bonus Book #2: The Art of Fiction by John Gardner.  The Art of FictionI read this book some time ago and loved it. The exercises led to some great writing for me. I can’t wait to dive into it as a more mature writer.

I have a ton of fiction that I plan to read as well. I write more about fiction and my writing process on my writing blog, Copywrite1985.com.

What are you reading? I’m always looking for book suggestions, so feel free to leave your favorite reads or what you’re looking forward to in the comments section.

XOXO,

Erica

Join me tomorrow for my 10 January goals!

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Monday Motivation: Praying Hands

What do you do with your hands when you pray?

Do place your palms together in front of your chest? Raise them? Place them palm side down on the ground as you bend low to the ground? Do you hold hands with others?

I’m a clasp-er. I interlace my fingers tightly. When I clasp my hands, it triggers for me the image of being a little child going to their father. But I also carry worry and anxiety with me into my day. I don’t feel as if I’ve fully left it there. It’s as if my clasped hands are holding on to my worries instead of placing them at the feet of Jesus. 

I’m not sure how much of a conscious decision your prayer posture was before it became a habit. Perhaps, like me, you’ve tried many different ones. In this season of my life, I want to embrace a different prayer posture.

In A Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes about a simple meditation. You start with your palms down, cupping your hands a little as if pouring water out of a cup. We pour out to God. We are either letting specific things go or meditating on a surrendered will. You empty yourself of all worry, fear, and concern. Now,  sit with your palms cupped upwards. This is where you ask the Lord to fill you. You can ask for a different attitude toward a situation/issue or meditate on God filling you with His grace, will, or peace.

When I remembered this palm down/palm up method, it stirred my heart for prayer again. It gives me an opportunity to do more than make requests.

In many different areas of life, I’ve been meditating on the scripture where  an unclean spirit is driven out of a man. The spirit wanders around looking for a place to go. Finding no place, he returns to the man and finds the place clean and empty. Not only does he return, but with seven other spirits worse than him, so that the end of the man is worse than the beginning. When I pray and give everything to God, walking away empty, there are a million worries waiting to fill my empty cup. I find that if I don’t fill myself with God’s word, will and way, the cares of this world are waiting to fill in any space they can.

Instead of me dumping everything at the feet of Jesus and collecting more junk the minute I leave that prayerful place, I want pray to be an exchange. I am giving Him my worries and fears, but I’m also giving Him my day, my focus, my attention, and my abilities. In exchange, He’s giving me more of His nature, revealing more of His will for my life, and filling me with purpose. Instead of leaving empty and wrung out, I leave my prayer time feeling filled.

My question to you, then, is what are you doing with your hands and heart when you pray? Are you only letting go without allowing God to pour in? Are you holding on too tightly to the things you want God to do or the things you have that you don’t want Him to take away? Are we giving God our hearts along with our cares?

Prayer posture may seem like a little thing, but for me, it speaks to mindset and intention. I encourage you to look at your prayer life–when you prayer, how you pray, how you feel after you pray, and how your day goes in light of your prayer time. Do you feel as if your prayer life is an exchange or a baggage/garbage dump you only visit to disgorge the smelly, broken things in your heart and life?

In 2016, I want to have the unclean spirits driven out, yes, but I want to put a new tenant in my house: the Holy Spirit. I want that unclean spirit and all his little friends to find the door of my heart secured against them, and the Holy Spirit in residence. I want him to have to go elsewhere. I am tired of getting up from my knees wrung out and exhausted instead of refreshed. I’m going to stop dumping and asking without allowing God to fill me with His grace and perfect peace.

I hope you’ll join me.

XOXO,

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Erica

Join me tomorrow as I share my January goals!

 

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GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAALS!!!

Every time I have to sit down and contemplate my goals, I start to sweat. I feel so much pressure to make SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Goals too dependent on numbers are thought to encourage comparison, competition, or feelings of inadequacy. The trend in Christian women’s goals now is to simplify, focus on family, go smaller. It’s not on trend to have big, scary goals anymore. Not in Christianity.

I don’t believe that goals need to be SMART. I believe dreaming big allows God to be bigger than our dreams. I want my goals to be reaches, big leaps of faith that require God to catch me and carry me to the finish line. I don’t put easily achieved goals on my yearly goals list.  I don’t make goals if they don’t make me a little anxious and encourage me to depend even more on Christ. I like goals that show my belief in God’s ability to meet me where I am and take me further than I ever imagined.

I dream big and make goals people think are crazy. I’m also reticent to share my goals because there is a good chance what happens may be different than I imagine. I don’t want to fail so spectacularly in front of everyone. But if I don’t give God room to work, how can I bring glory to Him?

All of that to say, some of my goals have scary numbers and metrics. Some of them are huge (to me). I can say with confidence I may fall flat on my face on them if they aren’t in God’s will. But I felt led to take a big leap this year. So without further adieu, here are my yearlong goals for 2016!

Aim High
Aim High
  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. I’ve never completed a fast from food for any period of time, so this is one thing I am excited and nervous about.
  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. To challenge myself to reach more women, I’m giving this area number goals. 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. Writing these goals makes me queasy.
  3. Seek to Serve Others. I want to get back into serving others well. I think that the point of Christianity is to be united with God and others in the body of Christ as one. I’ve created goals here that will help me love on others this year. 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. A Passion Project is something that can enrich my local congregation that I see. I don’t want to say what they are. The point is not for people to know that I’ve done them, but to do something that helps spread the gospel or encourages other Christians right where I am. These goals make me want to hide in my room and read or stay behind my computer, but I know it’s important to serve right where I am. In person. Gulp!
  4. Seek to Soar. These are the personal goals I want to pursue. 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. This goal makes me the most insecure. Rejection is a real probability for every one of these goals. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

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What are your goals for 2016?

XOXO,

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Erica

Join me tomorrow for my first Monday Motivation of 2016: Praying Hands!

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Word of the Year 2016

I’ve chosen a word for the year for at least six years documented (nearly 13 based on my diaries!). Each year I choose a word that will guide my spiritual, professional, and personal goals and dreams. It can be difficult to set an intention for an entire year full of unexpected twists and surprises, both good and bad. The Lord has given me great words that were exactly what I needed in each season of my life and this year’s word is no exception. I believe it will help me to lean into, press into, and abide in Christ like never before in the upcoming year.

The words I have chosen in the past are:

2010–accountability

2011–balance

2012–focus (which I obviously didn’t accomplish if the linked post is any indication!

2013–savor

2014–submit/submission

2015-attendance

The word I’ve chosen for 2016 is: SEEK. 

What are you seeking?

alice_in_wonderland01

Why did I choose seek? Up until I began this post, I was thinking of using other words, but the Holy Spirit placed this word very strongly on my heart. Thinking about everything I wanted to do this year–publish another book, speak, serve, be more disciplined, ask for the things I want, and really dig in and make some big changes–I knew that overall I wanted to glorify God. I wanted to want what He wanted for my life.

I was struggling with what word would best convey that when I remembered David saying that the one thing he desired was the thing he would seek after:

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4

If we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first, everything else will be added to us. God calls His people to seek His face. We seek Him for safety, freedom from worry, for our everyday needs, and for our lives.

In the last sermon of 2015, Brother Drummer preached a sermon on Phil 3:12-14 that really struck me. In these verses, Paul talks about trying to grab hold of the reason for which Christ grabbed hold of Him. Why did God choose me? In verse 10 we learn that Paul seeks to know Christ. An apostle with intimate knowledge of Christ is writing that he seeks to know Christ. A man who knows he has been called to preach the gospel to the Gentiles is still pressing to learn why Christ saved him. Because there’s more to know and more to why we are called.

Christ is everything. I love the promises of God through faith in Christ, but sometimes I don’t love the process by which I obtain those things. Sometimes I go about gaining the wrong way. I covet things God never meant for me to have. I don’t bring glory to Him in what I do sometimes because He didn’t tell me to do it in the first place.

That is a hard, hard truth to acknowledge. You have no idea how much I want to backspace over that sentence. So I’m going to write it again:

Sometimes I don’t bring glory to God in what I do because He didn’t tell me to do it in the first place.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m getting tired of running hard in the wrong direction and getting turned back; of worrying about myself and not being able to rest in all the promises we like to “speak over ourselves” or “speak into existence”; of claiming the promises without keeping the conditions and ending up disappointed. I’m just plain tired of wanting things God doesn’t want for me and being heartbroken about things that were never in the plan for my life. 

So I’ve decided this year will be the year I seek God. For real. I will seek His will for my life, His kingdom, His righteous, and His forgiveness of sin. I will seek His face. I will live in His presence. I will live in the truth that if I seek, I will find. I will pursue with purpose and passion one thing: a closer relationship with Christ in which I know Him as He knows me. 

I know I won’t get there this year. I won’t fully get there until I’m in Heaven. But this is the guiding framework for how I want to be in my life.

There have been quite a few wonderful posts and periscopes on people’s word of the year. Here are some of my favorites:

Courtney Kirkland chose SURRENDER (this was a contender for me, too): Instagram

Katie Brown chose SERVE (another contender of mine!): Instagram

Val Woerner of Val Marie Paper wrote about her word of the year, Small, and her goals for 2016 on her blog.

Lara Casey is doing her annual goal setting series on her blog. You can read the first post here. She revealed her word of the year, ASK (again, one of my contenders), on Periscope yesterday. You can view it via Katch here (and it won’t disappear in 24 hours like on Periscope!).

What is your word for 2016? How did you choose it?

Join me tomorrow to see my year long goals and my goals for January!

XOXO,

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Erica