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Broken Gifts, Mind Shifts, and a Heart Lift

abstract 2018 text effect in broken styleSometimes breaks in life are unexpected. You think you’re about to receive something good, only to find it’s been broken, either by accident, rough handling, or malicious intent. Whether you’re the one who broke the thing or the one whose gift arrives in pieces, it can hurt your heart to see the damage done to something that could have been a treasure.

I helped my aunt put on a party for all the November to January birthdays yesterday. The event was a great success–everyone wore 70s themed outfits and afros, danced to groovy music, and laughed the night away. But the night wasn’t without its mishaps.

One of those mishaps involved our “Super Freaky, Groovy Gift Raffle”. Throughout the night, we raffled off a series of mystery gifts. I would read a clue, the mystery gift would be held for all to see, people would put their tickets in and we’d pull out a winner.  This worked well until I read this clue:

Pull me out when you receive a gift that will give your heart a lift.

As soon as I said “lift,” the package leaped from the holder’s hands. It danced off her fingertips to the tile floor. Everyone gasped (my gasp amplified by the microphone I held) and froze in place.

We proceeding with the raffle, but inside I was freaking out. You see, I knew that what was inside that sturdy box was fragile and breakable. I prayed the tissue paper padding had cushioned it, but in my heart, I knew it was broken.

When the winner lifted the lid, the wrapped bundle still lay in the center of the box. It appeared whole. But as soon as she started unwrapping it, I heard the pieces clinking against each other. It was broken.

We gave the winner another gift in exchange for the broken one, but it hurt to throw the broken one away. “It sure was pretty,” my uncle said as he put the pieces in the trash. I wished I knew how to fix it. It was only two pieces. It wasn’t shattered. Surely it could be put back together? I lifted out a piece. It felt light as breath in my hands. The overhead light caught the gold sparkle and winked off the surface. It had been a beautiful creation.

For many, 2017 felt like that broken vase. When a new year dawns, you have no idea what it holds. The way the new year was handed over to you may have made you think there’s no way this year isn’t broken. Though it may have looked like it had survived the worst, when you unwrapped it, your beautiful gift was in pieces.

2017 might have seemed broken before you received it. You, like many others I see, may be beyond ready for a new year to begin. You are expectant. You long for and look for the gift of a new year and the promise of a blank page. But I have to ask, what did you do with the broken pieces of 2017?

A gift isn’t a given. There’s no guarantee you will get one, or that it will be something you want. You can stamp FRAGILE: HANDLE WITH CARE all over it, and it may still arrive in pieces. Yes, a new year may be a new page or even a new chapter, but what happened on the previous pages impacts the rest of the story. So I have to ask, again, what did you do with the broken pieces of 2017?

I heard about a Japanese art that’s an encouraging alternative to trashing those pieces.

Kintsukuroi (金繕い, きんつくろい, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique.

The first image I saw was of a blue bowl with bright gold seams. Instead of putting the pieces back together in a way that seeks to conceal where breaks have happened, this technique highlights them. What was an ordinary bowl became a work of art. Talk about a picture of making everything beautiful in its time!

To me, kintsukuroi is a beautiful illustration of how God can take a sinner broken by sin and put him back together again. Through faith in, and obedience to, Jesus Christ, we can be healed and made whole. Instead of seams of gold, our broken pieces can be bonded together with a red thread throughout–the blood of Jesus!

At the end of 2016, my story received some rough handling. I knew 2017 was going to have its share of brokenness. But when choosing my word for 2017, I landed on “share.” I think, in part, God wanted me to share for a specific reason:

Instead of hiding the sites of my brokenness from the world and seeking to maintain the illusion that I’ve never been broken, I needed to show how God uniquely put the pieces of me back together as only He could. My brokenness is clearly visible, but God made that broken beautiful in His time. He made art out of my careless handling of my life.

Give God your broken pieces; He will make a masterpiece of them.

XOXO,

Erica

P.S. Want to know more about how God made a masterpiece with my broken pieces? Stay tuned for more details about my newest book, Break Right, which will (prayerfully) be released February 13, 2018!

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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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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,

785

Erica

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Getting Serious About Publishing a Book: Title Reveal

Exchanging of the rings. My good friend and her husband. Photo by me.
Exchanging of the rings. My good friend and her husband. Photo by me.

I’ve kept all of the details of this book tight to my chest, an odd thing for me. I usually tell the world everything, but I wanted to make sure that the things I chose were the things God wanted associated with the book. I wanted to have enough space to hear from Him on the topics I covered and not cloud my mind with too many other opinions. I wanted to make sure the ideas were fully developed before they were out in the world. Lastly, I didn’t want to make the book my blog in published form but something that was new and useful to my audience (of two or three).

Now that the title is definite, the content is (mostly) written, and I am inching towards a release date, I am ready to reveal my title.

For the longest time, the book that I’m writing was known as the Marriage Kit book. When I started writing it, it was a series of interviews I conducted (think “What’s in your wallet?” for marriage). I began scribbling down some of my own observations and things that I studied about marriage and related topics. At some point, the present book began to take shape: a book on marriage preparation geared to single Christian women. But what to call it?

An early contender was It Takes One to Know One. I developed a whole marketing scheme in my head that suited this concept, including tote bags, journals, key rings, and compact mirrors emblazoned with my logo. It was going to be legen– wait for it–dary. Until I realized that the domain name was taken, the logo was silly, and I didn’t want to use an ambiguous phrase that I would have to explain all the time. It didn’t let the reader know what this book was about or if it was something they should read. When I asked Mr. Perfect about it, he was similarly unenthusiastic.

So how did I come up with the final title for this book? I thought and prayed about it for days, running options through my head. I searched Google and Amazon for each title I came up with to see how many items were returned. I didn’t want this book to get lost in a sea of similar titles. Nothing seemed to be unique enough to stand out and clearly convey the concept of the book at the same time.

As I walked to the bathroom on autopilot one morning, turning phrases around in my head, I thought about the recent shift in direction the book had taken. It was still for Christian women who desired to be married, but the focus was more on the woman herself than marriage. It wasn’t about getting married so much as allowing God to mature and develop you for the next step in your life. It’s like God is… and whoop, there it is! Right as I sat down on the toilet, the title popped into my head. 

I rolled it around in my head. Was it clear? Yes. Was it catchy? I think so. Did it pertain to the content of the book? Definitely. Could I see it on the cover of a book with interesting images? Yep. If I were walking through a bookstore, would that title make me pick up the book and turn it around? Absolutely. The only thing left was to check Amazon and Google to see if that title was also the title of a thousand other books. Lo and behold, it wasn’t! There was one blog site that had one entry from years ago, a TV show from a while back that wasn’t a similar in scope, and no books with that title on Amazon.

I told Mr. Perfect about my new title idea and he liked it. Then I told my dad, who’s also a writer, and he liked it. Over the past year and a half since I named my book, I’ve only shared it with my critique buddies, cover designer, cover model, minister, and Mom. Until now.

Ready?

Are you sure?

Okay, here it goes:

The title of my debut book is…*drum roll*

Altered before the Altar: Allowing God to Make you “Meet” to be Met. *fireworks* *confetti*

(Now don’t whip up a book and steal this great title, you hear?)

God willing, Altered will be the first book in a series developed for young women on various topics. Once I get the legal side of things attended to, I will make sure to release further details on the series. What I will divulge now is that I already have plans for the next book. It is much more personal and on a subject I’m just as passionate about as marriage preparation. But that’s off in the future. 😉

I’m sure you’re interested in the cover now, right? Stay tuned next Friday for a cover reveal!

 

 

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Getting Serious About: Publishing a Book

DSCF0270When I was in the fifth grade we had to write an essay about what we wanted to be when we grew up. One of my best friends at the time, Tiffani, and I decided that we wanted to be therapists. But I also wanted to write. I ended up writing in that essay that I wanted to be a relationship therapist and write books about relationships. Not long after sixth grade started, I moved away and didn’t reconnect with Tiffani again until we found one another through Facebook somehow nearly two decades later. Now Tiffani is a nurse and I work as an administrative assistant in the legal department of a company. Yet the desire to talk about relationships, the desire to write, has never gone away.

Many of you know all about how I started doing interviews with married couples and posting them on my blog. You may also know that I spoke to the single women at my church during the Marriage and Family workshop about dating and purity. You may even know that I decided to write a book and have been working on it off and on for about four years. What you may not know is that the book I dabbled in for so long now has a title, a cover, beta readers, and a tentative release date.

One of the main reasons I started The Season for Getting Serious was so that I could encourage other women to get serious about their walk with the Lord. I’ve had a couple opportunities to do “Getting Serious” talks to help do just that. I’ve hosted college prep workshops, spoke at an empowerment workshop and an authentic self workshop, and taught ladies’ bible classes about topics that very much relate to helping women get serious about who they are in Christ and what He has called them to do. Yet I hadn’t stepped up and done the one thing I knew that God had called me, Erica D. Hearns, to do: write.

Oh, I wrote blogs, but no books had been written by my hand. I was dissatisfied with the books I read geared toward single women and began writing what I felt God wanted me to say to them in drips and drabs, but I wasn’t really committed to publishing it.  I wasn’t sure it was God that was leading me to want to publish a book. Maybe it was my own selfish desire.

In 2012, the guest speaker at the ladies day, Sister Felicia Carruthers, did an activity where she had us think back to when we were kids and the things we liked to do. Somewhere in the things we always did as a kid we might find our purpose. That was a simple exercise for me. I’d always written. I’d written Spiritual Adventure articles for the local congregation when I was in college. I wrote a poem for a coffee shop the Christian Student Center hosted. I didn’t minister to people by singing or going to medical school to save lives; I used my writing to promote the things of God. That ladies’ day was the day that I realized I needed to get serious about seeking publication.

Through many false starts, distractions, frustrations and tests, I kept limping forward. I gave my book to a couple of beta readers about two weeks ago. I commissioned a cover and received the finalized version yesterday. I’m amazed at how God has brought me to this point, just a couple steps away from publishing my first book. Somewhere along the way, I started to take this journey seriously. I wrote the difficult passages. I’ve put myself out there for feedback. I was able to critique my cover and propose the changes I wanted without compromising what I wanted or insulting the designer (I hope). I am making sure that my genuine concern and compassion are evident to the reader as much as the urgency and call to obedience and repentance. I’ve committed myself to publishing the book that God gave me to publish.

Sometimes, in the “busyness” of everyday life, the still quiet voice that nudges us towards doing what God would have us to do is drowned out. The godly goals and desires we have can get washed away in a sea of stress and worry. But what I try to remind myself is that someone is looking for the thing that I am procrastinating about doing. Someone needs to read this book. Someone needs to read the next one.  As Mordecai tells Esther, if I don’t do it, God will raise up someone else to do it; but what if I was placed here and given this talent for such a time as this?

So, anyway. I have a book coming out soon. I’ll release the title, cover, and so forth as the release date approaches. I’m still working out some of the kinks and getting things in order. But it’s more real than ever now.

XOXO,

Erica

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Morning Routines for Dummies

I have an issue with creating a morning routine that meets all of the criteria I have for starting the day off right; there are too many things to do and too little time. Given my particular leanings, morning is the best time for me to accomplish several tasks, most of which are too time consuming to do all of them in the morning. This doesn’t even take into account a morning hygiene routine, which we’ll come back to later. These are the things I would like to do in the morning:

  • Bible study/prayer/worship
  • write
  • edits/revisions
  • critique chapters for my critique partners
  • finish reading books to review
  • write reviews
  • Wrangle with writing synopses and query letters.
  • CLEAN
  • do laundry
  • exercise
  • use my crockpot to start dinner.
  • shower, brush my teeth, wash my face, fix my hair
  • fix or go get breakfast.
  • catch up on social media.
  • post to social media.
  • write blog posts.
  • work on improvements to my websites.
  • Look for cool things to bring to my blogs and sites.
  • Try to figure out how the heck to build my brand.
  • catch up on Netflix
  • light scented candle, put on classical music, and just exist for a few minutes
  • specialty beauty things–eyebrows, home mani/pedis, shaving my legs, facial masks, washing drying and styling my hair, any beauty treatment that is less frequent than daily.
  • Wake up my brain with word scramble.

I have two hours in the morning to get everything done except getting showered and dressed, which I leave about half an hour to forty-five minutes for (I’m not a fussy girl, apparently). I’m sure you can imagine how getting into any of the above tasks can bleed over into my getting dressed time, especially if I’m in a groove. There’s just not enough morning in my days.

I know you’re probably thinking I could shove some of these things into the evening, and I always have plans to accomplish so much when I get home. But when I get home, I am exhausted both from the early start and the hard day at work. Depending on the time of the month, I am drowning in invoices and reports. The last thing I want to do is come home and take laundry to the laundry center (it might be different if there was a washer and dryer in the apartment) or wash a sink full of dishes. I have much more energy in the morning.

So how does one solve this dilemma? If I could spend a few days just cleaning everything in sight and catching up on all of the things I need to do, I could do one or two things each morning going forward. At the moment, however, there’s just an overwhelming amount of things to do. I tried doing one cleaning thing, one writing thing, and bible study each day, but the area would be during again before I had another area finished, and the critiques would be due and it’d be time to swap more chapters, so I had to drop everything and do that, then I needed to… I can’t seem to get any traction.

The short version of this post: I am incapable of doing all the things I am better at tackling in the morning in the two and a half hours I have before work and I need suggestions on how to start making inroads into it. Seriously. I really want to get serious about this morning routine, but right now I am all over the place. Help!!

XOXO,

Erica

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Cheat Sheets

Good News!

I have finally realized a mini-goal of mine: I now write reviews for Harlequin romance novels via the website Harlequin Junkie (I will be creating a tab for you to see where else I am writing around the web soon!) I have completed my first two reviews and have been given EIGHT NEW BOOKS to review, not to mention the ones I have to finish up for Net Galley. In consequence, reading and reviewing have taken over my calendar…my still non-existent calendar that is supposed to track everything I have to do. Anyway…

I’ve developed a cute little cheat sheet to help me get my reviews done quickly and easily. My cheat Sheet has the book title, author, main characters, supporting characters, important physical details, first impressions, what’s keeping them apart, how they finally come together, and etc. so that I don’t have to try and find the basic information in the Kindle copy. I have found this invaluable in my reviewing. I’m thinking it might be even more valuable in my life.

Passing Tests with Cheat Sheets

In the story of my life, there are going to be obstacles in the way when I am trying to achieve goals or just be happy. I have seen most of them before, or at least know they are there. I know what things I will have to overcome for me and my ultimate dream to “be together.” I think that most people don’t write things like this down because they don’t want to be negative or visualize negative things, but I think that if I write down what needs to be overcome, it will get me thinking about a plan of attack, a way to get past those obstacles. In other words, I need a game plan.

In school, I had quite a few classes where we were allowed to make cheat sheets. A cheat sheet allowed you to compile the most important information in a condensed format so that you might be able to pass the test. A cheat sheet was easier than trying to search entire chapters for an answer to a specific question. The best thing about a cheat sheet was that you got to decide what went on it. You could put more information on it to help you out in the areas in which you were weaker.

Are You Sensing a Theme Here?

No matter which cheat sheet we are referring to, they both serve the same purpose: to quickly assess the information needed to answer the questions at hand.  As I looked at my cheat sheets for my reviews, I realized that I can anticipate what obstacles in my life will need to be overcome just as well as I could those of the characters in the books I read. If I can identify the things I need to overcome, I can also begin developing a cheat sheet with information on how to overcome that specific obstacle. So it’s time to start working on my first cheat sheet for life.

TO BE CONTINUED…

In Other News…

I’ve noticed a lot of things have been affecting those close to me. I’m seeing a lot of hurting in those around me. I haven’t been reaching out as much to people because I’ve been wrapped on in my own things, but I HAVE to make time to get back to that. There have been a few major trends going around in my circles lately: death, illness, financial hardships, divorce/marital issues, and unemployment. In an effort to be more mindful of this, I am going to pray a prayer at least once a day for other people, and I would love it if you joined me. I will be keeping my eyes open each day and look for those in my circle who need prayer so that I can pray for them specifically. If you want to join me, try and find at least five people to pray for and get to know specifics about what they need. Maybe what they need is something you can provide to them physically or emotionally, but even if it isn’t, offer up prayer for them.

Be blessed,

Erica

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Confessions of a Pantser

My desk calendar for this month. Notice anything strange??
My desk calendar for this month. Notice anything strange??

This week, I’ve made great strides in getting things done with the book, as I shared in my last entry. Through the development of my routine the last few days, I’ve noticed something that I’d forgotten about myself: I thrive on routine, To-Do lists, and deadlines. I am NOT a born procrastinator.

For the past few years, I’ve attempted to be someone who just goes with the flow, someone who  is flexible and deals well with change, when in reality, I’m so far from that! I’ve been floundering living without a real schedule. My apartment has gotten out of hand, my bill paying system is no longer effective, the way I approach my daily schedule is haphazard, and I’m starting to become one of those late people that annoy me so much. The worse thing is that everything has built up to the point that all of my manic “just get in there and get something done” machinations don’t seem to make a dent in the things I need to do.

Looking at the desk calendar pictured above, you may notice that nothing is written in after yesterday’s date when this picture was taken. That’s because I don’t update it until I get to work the next morning. This is not an accurate account of what I have to do, but what I have done, mainly for my Monthly Wrap Up posts.  I have several ideas for this site written down on post it notes and index cards floating around in my all purpose Zeta bag. I have outlines for different parts of the book stashed in different notebooks and folders. My life is a disorganized mess right now, and every positive change I try to make seems to get derailed by my lack of organization. So I’ve decided to take back my time and sanity by organizing my face in.

INEBIGTDIA

Anyone who is familiar with any of my sites knows what INEBIGTDIA means. For those of you who are new to my world, INEBIGTDIA stands for “I’m not excited, but I’m going to do it anyway.” Some things just have to be done to preserve sanity, get things accomplished, or improve your life. Since I have an official deadline for the book, I need a plan to finish it. Since I’m tired of living like a pig, running late, and being stressed out from the time I open my eyes until I go to sleep, I need to bring some order to my life.

He's got a lot on his mind.
He’s got a lot on his mind.

The fact that it’s so daunting only underlines the necessity of getting started now. The only issue is figuring out how to get started. INEBIGTDIA tasks have to be started immediately or I know I won’t get to it. So what could I do immediately to bring some order to my life? Well, it’s not just what I can start doing, but also what I can stop doing.

STOP: Ignoring My Calendar(s)

I have several calendars and calendar apps that I could be utilizing to keep me on schedule and up to date on what I’m supposed to be doing. At work, I have an outlook calendar that could send me reminders to do things. I actually do have a few reminders set up for my payday and a few of my bills, but not much else. I have the desk calendar that I only update after the fact. I have a calendar app and a reminder app on my cell phone. I have to do lists that go on my refrigerator. All of these tools at my disposal, yet none of them being utilized to get myself organized and on task. It’s time for me to begin to implement a more structured schedule until some things become habit.

Some of the things that I will need to put on the calendar will seem silly or old-lady-who-forgets-things-ish, but this isn’t for anyone else to see. It may seem silly to schedule shower time at night or have an alarm tell me to go to sleep, but if in the end it leads to clearer skin, healthier digestive system, a cleaner house and less late fees, I am all end. Besides, I’ve been silly and uncomfortable for free; at least this will have benefits.

START: Making My Lists and Checking Them Twice

There’s something very freeing about writing a to do list and checking items off of said list. It triggers my brain to release those “I’ve accomplished something” feel good chemicals that make hard work worth it. It also means I don’t have a list of “I Meant To-Dos” a mile long for this site, Net Galley reviews, writing projects, and menial tasks like grocery shopping and getting gas that come back to bite you in the butt when you keep putting them off.

So how do I start to get things done? I am starting by making some lists, setting some alerts, and getting to work. I have started an editorial calendar for this site and will be filling in post topics, recurring features, and other sparkly things. I am writing down my internal to do lists, keeping a separate folder for each major project. To keep everything straight, I am adding it to my iPhone’s calendar feature and setting up reminders. I will post my daily to do list to the refrigerator for personal things and on my desk the night before for work related tasks. I will keep a list of when things like eggs, milk, bread, and my Brita filter expire. I will create a list of planned meals so that I can grocery shop accordingly. I am going to slowly but surely organize my life.

I know that a few to do lists and calendar alerts aren’t going to help if I don’t actually do the activities written therein. I am going to bask in this first step towards creating my best life.

Progress

I have been drinking more water all month, thanks to the Brita filter and my CK jug. I have written on a regular schedule as well. I have written two potentially life-changing emails, started researching a major project to pitch to some potential collaborators, and spent more regular time doing morning devotions. I have come up with my outline, table of contents and title for my book, and I have options for cover designers. I have an accountability partner for getting healthy and another for getting the book published. Last but not least, I finally watched and sent back my Netflix and received some new ones to watch while editing and writing today.

It’s Your Turn

  • What are you working on getting serious about?
  • What concrete steps are you taking towards accomplishing your goal right now?
  • Tell us your progress so we can cheer with you!

XOXO,

DSCF1643

Erica

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Accountability

If I’m going to keep up with some of the changes I plan to make, I’m going to need someone to spur me to good works. That’s the one component that has been missing with all of my attempts to change these areas of my life. I prayed that I would find an accountability partner, then I put the worry about it aside. I have been choosing water over soda and controlling my hunger throughout the day, but I haven’t gotten moving yet or changed my diet much. Thank God for basically handing me an accountability partner yesterday.

I went out to lunch and shopping yesterday with a good friend from church. It’s been hard to catch up with each other as she’s recently married and has been in and out of town the last few months with obligations. She also recently bought a house and is trying to find her style and decorate it. Add in working, and it’s easy to see she has a lot on her plate. Even so, she is always willing to make time to come and see me. She came about two weeks before her wedding to spend the day with me after my car accident. She’s just a good friend, and really strong in her faith.

After church, she and I went to lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, breaking both of our recent goals to eat better (p.s. it was my choice, lol). As we began talking about our lives and our goals, it was easy to see that we were trying to accomplish a lot of the same health and fitness goals. By her getting water with her meal, it further convicted me to do the same. Instead of getting two loaves of the multi-grain bread as I usually do, we just share the one and didn’t eat the sourdough bread. These two little things saved me a ton of calories. We both also got the lunch portions of our meals and set aside some of the food to take home. It’s probably one of the smarter lunch meals I’ve had recently.

Throughout the afternoon, we shared so many tips and tricks with one another, so much wisdom. I don’t know about her, but I got very excited about my new goals instead of seeing them as punishment or torture. When she brought up being each other’s accountability partners in our wellness goals, it was a light bulb moment. This was more than just a cleansing conversation with a girlfriend; it was an answer to my prayer.

Sometimes when God answers my prayers, I’m not entirely sure if it’s the answer, or even what exactly the answer is, so I’m thankful that this one was so clear. God knew I needed encouragement, and a real no-brainer of an answer. Some of the things that she said really challenged me and pushed me, but I needed to hear them. It’s not that other people haven’t said the same or similar things, but I was in a place to hear them, and she was the person to say them. I don’t want to hear Mr. P. advising me on clothes or dieting. It’s something about hearing it from a sister, who doesn’t get any benefit from you taking the advice, and who isn’t saying it to be mean or who doesn’t have a relationship with you in which they know how to approach you about it.

Of course, there are many things that we shared with each other that aren’t for public consumption, but the main thing I wanted to share is the need to cultivate friendships and to have a friend that you can go to for support, that you can talk through things with without reservation. Cultivate friendships that support you, spur you on to good works, and encourage you in the Lord. There’s nothing like feeling alone to cause you to give up. Seek out those godly connections in your life. Don’t go it alone. This is what fellowship was made for, why the Bible tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. With so many in this world against us and God, we need to be able to receive encouragement from each other.

XOXO

Erica