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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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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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The Plague of Oversharing

As a blogger, I’m aware that sometimes people tend to overshare on social media. What constitute oversharing can vary depending upon who’s talking. There are some things people may think of as oversharing that the poster is posting in an attempt to help someone else who might be going through the same trials in their lives. So where do we draw the line, and how do we stop damaging relationships and reputations with our post/publish/tweet/send buttons?

This issue has come to my attention again in a couple different ways, one in my own life and one in the life of a friend on a social media site. This friend decided to post about a situation between her and her husband that was going on at the time. My first thought upon reading the back and forth was, “No! Why are you posting this?” The situation did seem to require that she reach out to someone for help and not just go to a corner and pray about it, but I didn’t think social media was the place to reach those people. Now you have people who aren’t close to you or your relationship now knowing the intimate details of it. I am praying for her and the situation, but I also feel like I should know NOTHING about the situation. I’m not close enough to physically be there and help, nor do I have any knowledge of their relationship or marriage that would qualify me to do anything but pray about it, yet here I am knowing about it. I feel uncomfortable knowing about it, too.

Mr. Perfect and I had a discussion about blogging recently where he asked me about another blogger that I follow. This particular blogger lives in our area, and he was saying how this person knows nothing about him, but he knows (through me) their name, their children’s names, their occupations, and some of what goes on in their marriages. How does this person’s spouse feel about this? I happen to know that this person has their spouse read everything they post before they post it and gives them veto power, but how many people are posting things that involve more than themselves and not consulting the other person? I know I’ve been guilty of airing frustrations or relaying conversations without asking permission to do so from the other party involved.

I once had to take down a post that people took the wrong way. I was in my last year of college, at a new school in a new state. I wasn’t on campus for long before I realized that the transition wasn’t going to go as smoothly as I thought. I was involved with a group back at my original college and was having problems getting paperwork sent to me from them. I wasn’t really able to connect with the group at my new school, either. So, as I usually did at that time, I wrote a post about how I felt a little caught in the middle. The group at my new school was livid! They felt that they had been portrayed unfairly (a friend at the time told me that it didn’t read that way to her, and she understood exactly what I was saying, but that’s beside the point) and wanted me to take it down, so I did. But the damage was already done. I never did join the local chapter of the group, I never did make connections with the group here, and in the end, it didn’t matter at all. I graduated and moved on in a few months.

There are often things that happen that I would love to rant about or share on social media, but that’s what prayer and a paper journal are for. Everyone can’t handle knowing everything about you; they just can’t. Everyone can’t give you good advice or offer support. Some people are gleefully awaiting an opportunity to read some unflattering things about you, to see that there’s trouble in your relationships or on your job. It’s becoming increasingly important to teach young people how to make decisions on what’s appropriate to share and with whom it’s appropriate to share it. Discretion and privacy management are going by the wayside.

This was not the post I intended to write when I sat down. I was intending to update you on all of the things that have been going on in my life since August, but I got sidetracked by a social media post that blindsided me. I’ll be back to tell you all about my adventures in writing, work, life and so on…

XOXO

Erica

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Alex Cross: My Hero

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Cover via Amazon

Last night, one of my favorite movies came on TV: Kiss the Girls. Based on one of James Patterson‘s popular Alex Cross books, the movie stars Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. I was so excited to see it on TV, especially since my DVD is at my mother’s house in Michigan.

Remember when Ashley Judd was everywhere? What happened to her? I miss the plucky characters she used to play– strong, flawed women. Don’t even get me started on Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood!

But this post is about my hero, Alex Cross. He had the exact job that I wanted as a little girl. He was a forensic psychologist who wrote books. He was able to get inside the mind of a serial killer or rapist and come out alive. I don’t know how he never seems to see the killer coming in the movies, though. I haven’t read any of the books, although I do have Mary Mary in my possession now, but I wonder if that’s a recurring theme in the books. He didn’t know in Along Came a Spider, either…also one of my favorite movies.

I have a long list of books and movies I want to read/see once I am all moved in. One of those combos is Eat Pray Love. I may add some Alex Cross books as well, even though I’ve seen the two movies. Judging from past book/movie combos (The Devil Wears Prada, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, A Time to Kill…), I will probably like the books better, but movies have a special magic all their own. But this is for another post…

What Morgan Freeman brings to Alex Cross is a pervasive wisdom, a world weary knowledge. He doesn’t relish being right. In fact, he seems like he’s more disappointed that he always is. Morgan Freeman excels at this sort of character. He played the same type of man in Seven, opposite Brad Pitt. What makes Alex Cross different is that he has no intention of stopping. He loves what he does; he knows the difference he’s making. He’s not jaded; he gets disappointed, but he hasn’t been broken.

What I love about Dr. Cross is that he still manages to be “human” (caring, compassionate, and gentle) even after seeing the worst of humanity in all of its depravity.

If you don’t know Alex like I do, rent Kiss the Girls or Along Came a Spider, or read one of the books by James Patterson (all of the books have a part of a nursery rhyme in the title, if I’m not mistaken); he’s a great character to have in your corner, in either media form.

P.S. They are replacing Morgan Freeman with Idris Elba as Alex Cross in future movies? What the what?!

***Correction: They replaced Morgan Freeman with Tyler Perry and I almost swallowed my life. Why?!?!

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How are You Doing? (A Mother’s Love)

Mother's loveMy Random Thought of the Day (RTD): Does anyone ever really want to know how you’re doing? I’m talking a real in-depth answer. Most people are already going by as they ask. There’s a woman I know, Gaylin. Gaylin, to my recollection, rarely asks how you are doing standing up, and even if she does, you feel if you go on forever, she’ll still be listening. Her eyes are focused on you, her hands are still, she’s leaned towards you to catch every word. If she doesn’t have time to listen right then, she’ll make lunch plans with you. Gaylin takes “How are you doing?” out of the realm of conventional greeting and polite conversation and places it back into useful conversation. It means something coming from Gaylin.

I must confess, most of the time I am too occupied with worries of my own to really care how others are. It’s one of my shortcomings. I get so full of me, I neglect other people and their lives. It’s hard to have a spirit of hope, love, and compassion when you only superficially acknowledge other people exist. I’m better than I used to be, though. I need more Gaylins around to inspire me.

I spoke to my mother on the phone this morning (8/12/09) and was struck by how lucky I am to have her for a mother. I hear so many people complain about how bad their mother is, how they can’t talk to her about anything and whatnot, but my mother and I are the best of friends. I was telling my mother about how my aunt wanted me to go to Michigan to take her grandson back on the 22nd. My mother is going to be at a family reunion in Arkansas (yes, we are hicks, lol) and so is most of the family, so there wouldn’t really be a reason for me to go. However, my mother offered to rent me a car. “Why?” I ask. “You won’t even be in town.” “I love you that much.” Simple answer; complicated feeling. I have no idea what it’s like to be a mother, especially to someone like me. I am at times uber emotional and at other times a-emotional. I sometimes have to fake feelings so people don’t think I am a freak for not having any in certain situations. But my mother loves me anyway. She’s the one who took out an education loan after I lost my scholarship and had no money for my sophomore year. I didn’t deserve that, but she did it anyway, is still paying on that loan. She helped me get all the things I needed for my first apartment. She is the one who never gives up and leaves me to do whatever I need to do because she’s tired of me not taking her advice.

I sometimes wonder if I will be a good mother at all. Does that devotion, that love and “sticktoitiveness” come out with the water? The baby? The afterbirth? How do you know what to say and do? How do you teach someone to live independent of you? How come some people get it in one and other people have kids on therapists’ couches right now blaming drugs, nymphomania, and all manner of sins on them?

This is dedicated to two special women: My mommy and Gaylin from church. You both inspire me to be a better person. If I am a horrible person in the end, it is neither of your faults; the flaw is in my own attitude.

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