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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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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.

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  • 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.

 

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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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#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. 

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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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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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No Trees, No Presents, Just Presence

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year because everyone is recognizing/observing things and doing things I try to observe and do all year long. People are celebrating Jesus’ birth today like I celebrate His birth, life, death, and resurrection all year. People are going out of their way to show mercy and grace, to be kind, to be patient, to bless the people in their lives materially, spiritually, emotionally. Some are pledging lifelong commitments to their significant others or traveling to spend precious time with family. Christmas is the time of year when everyone recognizes God’s best gifts to us: His precious son and His unfailing love for us. I’m all about the celebration!

This year has been light on presents for me. What it has been heavy on is reading God’s word. I’d fallen off track, pursuing goals that I had for the year, and wasn’t making the time to read in the word as I used to. This week, though, I’ve made it a point to rededicate myself to study. I’ve been studying recognition the last few days, and the messages have stuck with me. I feel I could write an awesome Ladies’ Day lesson on Leah, Jacob, and Rachel. I have studied what Christ has to say about it in the New Testament as well. In the spirit of recognition, I’d like to acknowledge Mr. Perfect’s role in my intense study.

I was going to glance right over the principle of recognition in my book because I wanted to get it out before the holidays. I had the money in hand to get a cover ready, and a portion of the book was given to someone to review. I was all set to go, but I wasn’t feeling sure about it. I asked Mr. Perfect what he thought I should do with my extra money. He told me to hold off on the book cover and take care of other things first.

“But I won’t have enough extra money to do the cover again until March!” “March is only a few months away,” he answered. Mr. Perfect and I aren’t married, and I am under no obligation to listen to or implement the things he said. But I felt a lot more peace about his suggestion than I did with going forward.

I was going over the notes for the next section to be reviewed when I saw I didn’t have much for the last few principles I needed to highlight in the chapter: presentation, recognition, and knowing (in the biblical sense). Looking to fill in the gaps there has led me to this eye opening study that is still yielding fruit. Thank God for Mr. Perfect’s counsel in that moment! 

Every day I study it, I am amazed at just how perfect and relevant the story of Adam and Eve is to relationships today, both with God and with a spouse. When I first thought of using Adam and Eve to branch off into each topic of the book, it just seemed like a clever device to organize the book, but now I’m seeing the divine providence and guidance in that choice. The story of their creation and the establishment of the marriage institution is the seminal text about relationships. I’m learning so much about relationships and myself through writing this book, and growing so much. I can only hope it’s half as powerful to anyone who will get to read it.

I don’t have a tree or presents to give out this year, but God has gifted me with a purpose and a renewed desire to achieve that purpose. More importantly, though, God has renewed my desire just to sit in His presence, to take His yoke upon myself and learn of Him. Before the demands of the day, as sweet as they may be, pull me away to attend to family, I just wanted to say how thankful I am to God for the gift of his Son, today and every day of my life. As the song says, life is worth the living just because He lives.

Be blessed,

Erica

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God’s Will

My great aunt recently passed. This person has been close to me my entire life. She is one of those people who kept me from a whoopin’, gave me extra tight hugs, and indulged my amateur interview skills more times than I can count. She taught me how to make tea cakes. She straightened my hair in her kitchen. I walked with her when her doctor told her she needed to exercise. I massaged her shoulder when it grew stiff. Whenever I came back from out of town, I went to her house immediately after going to my house. This isn’t just another family member or peripheral person in my life; this is one of the pillars of my life.

It seems the past few years have been especially rough for me in this regard. I’ve lost many people who have supported me at pivotal moments in my life, who form the bridge that I crossed into this portion of my life. From my beloved stepdad, who raised me as if I was his own; to my kind hearted aunt who literally chased down opportunities for me; to my uncle who ferried me back and forth from Cranbrook to home so that I could see my family and go to church each week; to this present loss. It’s been a rough for years. Four years and four pillars gone. All gone at a relatively young age and mostly very suddenly.

As I got down on my knees last week to pray for my great aunt, there was a slight moment of trepidation, of not knowing what to say. That’s not exactly true. I knew what to say but I didn’t want to say it. You see, as a Christian, a big part of prayer is submission to God’s will. We can come boldly before God in prayer and ask for whatever we want, but we are only promised that those requests which are according to His will are going to be granted.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything According to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

In the Garden of Gethsemane, ask Christ prayed to God, we are given an example of a submissive prayer. Nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done. He was able to tell God what He wanted, but accepting of whatever God’s will was for Him. It’s a beautiful example to quote and study, but a hard example to follow.

In case your wondering, I didn’t pray for my great aunt to get well. It wasn’t that I was convinced that she couldn’t by what the doctor’s were saying. I wanted to let God know that I recognized His will was going to be done. I prayed for all of the people involved who will go as far as they can go with her, whether she were to be healed or whether she had to leave us and journey into eternity on her own. The doctors and the nurses caring for her; the children, grand children, and great grandchild she supported and took care of in various ways; all of the family members who depended on her when knocked off their feet by the trials of this life; all of those who would feel guilty over all the things they left unsaid or undone should she not pull through; I prayed for those people. I prayed for those of us who sat at her feet and learned so much about being women and taking care of a household, and those she couldn’t seem to get through to before. I prayed that no matter the outcome, God would be with us and we could recognize that His will has been done.

None of that means I didn’t hope that she would recover, nor that I didn’t think that my prayers in that regard would have mattered. Reading online about the nature of her illness, I learned what a long and slow process recovery would be for someone of her age with her other health issues. Hearing about the damage that was already done to her system…there are some times when recovery doesn’t look like the best alternative, even if our hearts jealously long to keep someone with us.

When I was told my great aunt had passed, I had a David moment. David had been fasting and praying for his son to get well, even though God had pronounced that the child would die. His aides were fearful of what he would do when they told him his son was dead. David got up, washed himself, worshipped God, and ate. His servants were confused by his actions. Here is what David told them:

22 And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?

23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

When I say I had a David moment, I mean I felt…if not relieved, at peace. There was no more need to be in anguish about whether or not she would make it through another day fighting for her life. There was no more need to fear what could happen next. God is still to be praised and worshipped. Now is the time to draw closer to Him.

It is so hard to see so many pillars falling away in my life, so many people I can’t call to celebrate our victories and encourage one another in our defeats. What’s even more amazing to me is that despite their loss, the structure is still standing. We are still standing and continuing on. God be thanked that they were there when I needed them to hold me up. I have every confidence God will continue to place people around me who can do that. Most importantly, throughout the years, I’ve learned to rely on Him more and more to do that.

I’m asking that you all keep my family in prayer at this time.

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Slow Down

After I was in the car accident (the current dividing line of my life, pre- and post-accident), while I was waiting to be seen at the hospital, Mr. Perfect said something profound to me: “Maybe you got into this accident because you are trying to do too much and you need to slow down.” If you had asked me, I was just getting started. I had been in the same stupid place for so long, and I was just moving forward in life. When you are just getting started, you’re supposed to be getting up to speed, not slowing down, right?

I was FINALLY moving from that slightly discontented space in my life where I’d felt stagnated for a long time. Instead of just saying I wanted to go back to school, I was going. Instead of just talking about writing a book, I was earnestly writing. Instead of saying “when I pay off my car,” I had paid off my car. I was going to open up a new bank account to start saving for some upcoming things I really wanted to do. I was going to get a laptop and start work on a self-hosted site to host all of my blogs, sign up for paypal or something similar to sell my book(s), and begin submitting things for publication. I’d made plans I haven’t even bothered to tell you all about yet (but when they are officially in motion, I promise I will).

However, one illegal turn, and my whole life plan is in ruins (well, not really, but let me be dramatic for a moment, ok?). I’m going to have to get another car. I don’t have a ride to school, so I had to withdraw after one class. There’s no longer going to be extra money for the laptop or the site, nor will I be able to fund another account with what used to be my car payments. All of that was lost in the squealing of tires and crunching of metal. One step forward, two steps back.

What’s funny to me is that my word for the year is “savor” in a year when I was putting my foot down on the gas and speeding through milestones. I wasn’t really taking in everything the way I wanted to. I would note things I wanted to write about that were savory moments, things I didn’t want to forget, but I wouldn’t get to it because I was so BUSY. How am I supposed to savor when I don’t have time to sit over anything?

Because of the accident and not having my car, I ended up having a lot of time to do the one thing that was completely unaffected by the accident: write. I walked over to the grocery store on my lunch break one day and bought a small notebook so I could stop writing scriptures and ideas on all my sticky notes. At this point, it has an outline of most of the areas of the book I am working on. I’ve been bringing my lunch to work, and since I am not driving to get food, I have more time to study scriptures, reread interviews, and write or revise on my lunch break. I found a piece of the book on my computer I didn’t remember I’d started, putting me a bit further along in one area than I realized.

I have gone to my complex’s gym a couple times since the accident and had a few savory moments there as well. When I go to the the gym, I listen to at least one podcast from the Church of Christ in Falls Church, Virgina. I usually listen to one in the series of “The Greatest Stories Ever Told,” by Mike Tune. Those twenty to thirty minute sermons convict me and encourage me so much! They are so practical and remind me of some of my favorite Bible stories. Even before this recent routine, the series caused me to take another look at the story of Achan, which I will cover in my book. The sermon on the Tower of Babel yielded a quote that fit in so perfectly with what I wanted to say in a specific area I can only conclude it was God’s will for me to hear it at just that time.

So even though the accident temporarily took away some of my “joy-joy” feelings and optimistic disposition, like a shaken bottle of water, I have settled down again to a calm surface…let’s just hope I don’t get shaken again for a little while. Although I still don’t know what the ultimate outcome of all of this will be, I am grateful that I had the chance to slow down a bit.

Perhaps school would have been too big a distraction right now. Perhaps my focus needed to be a little more…streamlined. Perhaps my imaginary shopping sprees got more focus than other more important things. Perhaps I was going about things all wrong and it was time to clear the board. Whatever the reason, God knows best. I submit to His will.

I’m also looking for my check from the at faul driver’s insurance company. o_O

Savoring the moment,

2blu2btru