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A Hard Word for a Soft Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My word for 2017 is: SHARE.

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

:  to grant or give a share in

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your word of the year?

XOXO,

Erica

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A Serious Year: 2015 in Review

I’ve been largely absent from the world of social media for most of 2015. 2015 was a challenging year for me. It was the first full year that Altered before the Altar was on the market. I’m excited about the way God has used it to change the hearts and minds of single women and turn them back to Him. I’m hopeful that God will continue to use it.

My word of the year was attendance.

In short, it’s time for me to show up in my own life and participate in that instead of being an audience member in everyone else’s life.

So how did I do with my word of the year? How did I do on my goals? What worked and what didn’t this year? Let’s get into it, shall we?

Perfect Attendance?

How well did I show up in my own life this year? That’s a huge question that took a long time for me to unpack. I moved from my home of four years to a new place in March, then moved again July 31st. At work, my desk has been moved three times in the past year. My boss, department, duties, coworkers, and department structure have all changed. For a slow changer like, this year full of personal and professional changes threw me for a loop.

It was an uncomfortable way to conduct a year for me. I was tempted to call in sick to life this year. A few times I did. I struggled in it mostly because I struggled with it.

When I told God that my word of the year was going to be attendance, it was because I was supposed to be going places that I wouldn’t want to miss being. I was expecting to do some hard things. I expected to be uncomfortable selling Altered before the Altar and speaking at conferences. I was prepared to sit with God’s word and to be called into deeper relationship with Him through it. I was even prepared for moments of doubt and uncertainty. I wasn’t prepared to be tossed about so hard by life in ways I couldn’t control. And because I wasn’t expecting it, the winds of change nearly blew my house down.

Guys, this year was hard. Beyond hard. 

But this year was also amazing and so much more than amazing. 

It’s both because I did show up in my life. I stayed in those hard places. Sometimes I sat in the corner with my arms crossed, pouting and complaining, but I stayed there. Most importantly, I cried out to God in those places. I read His word in those places. I made a big step forward in not complaining so much about everything that felt wrong in my life. For full disclosure, I tanked at not complaining in the little things that happened, particularly at work, but for the most part, I went to the Lord.

I didn’t always do this because I wanted to. This year I really felt the Lord calling me to shut up. I was largely silent on social media, especially the last half of the year. I kept a lot of things between me and God. And without so many people and their opinions muddying the waters, I was able to see very clearly how God moved in situations. I got to trust Him and look to Him for things I’ve run to people for in the past. That was life-changing.

GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

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A fraction of the 500+ women I had to stand before and explain the heart behind Altered before the Altar to…gulp!

I didn’t choose my goals until my birthday, so I still have nearly two months to make them happen. The ones that I’ve already accomplished are: speaking at a conference; shooting at least one YouTube video (I’m counting a Periscope I did for this), and; creating a professional vendor table set up for events. The goals in process are: writing and publishing another book, opening an online shop, learning to create book covers, and; improving my business cards. I’m not sure if I can achieve the rest in two months, but with God all things are possible.

That’s Not Really Working for me…

What worked and what didn’t? It felt like a lot more didn’t work this year than did, but that’s a perception thing. Even though it felt like very little worked, what did work worked  in a major way and was SUPER significant. In order to leave on a positive note, I’ll reflect first on what didn’t work.

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So what didn’t work? Fighting change, only being present, complaining, fleeing situations I didn’t want to be in, being angry and upset, working from a place of competition, trying to be perfect, comparing myself and my efforts to others, and trying to replicate what other people were doing didn’t work for me. Neither did jealously, envy, self-pity, or striving. I didn’t expect this list to be so philosophical or difficult, but there you go.

I Worked It!

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What did work for me? Shutting up, accepting change, bringing my best to life’s worst, pressing in to God, speaking up, recording myself in the car, following inspirational people online, pulling back from social media, speaking in front of women I don’t know, and being courageous in getting Altered before the Altar out to more women worked. I am so humbled by the feedback that Altered before the Altar changed hearts and lives and led many women back to their first love. I loved getting to meet new sisters in Christ.

Another thing that worked was participating in Blurb to Book. I entered a contest with a 100 word blurb and the first page of an inspirational romance and made it all the way to submitting a full manuscript! I was sent a revision letter and have another opportunity get a contract for a fiction book. I would say trying worked for me this year. Trying and failing and being willing to try again.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out what my word for 2016 is,why I chose it, how it informs my goals, and my goals. 

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Me and my cousin Deloris. Prettiest picture of 2015!
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I’m going to do it.

I’ve thought about doing this for a few years now, but everytime I mean to do it, I forget, or give up. Not this time. I have every intention of sticking to it and doing it this time. I know that it will result in a lot of crappy first draft materials, but I’ve resigned myself to remember what Anne Lamott said about crappy first drafts and to write it anyway.

I have no idea what I’m going to write about yet, even though I’ve been looking high and low for inspiration. I want to start with a completely fresh story. I’m not sure what makes me think, with how busy this time in my life promises to be, that I will be able to achieve this, or get much farther than I did the last time that I tried it. I guess the difference is maturity, of being poised and positioned for something to happen.

What on earth am I talking about? I’ll tell you tomorrow. Promise.

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I have been wondering for a while if I should keep a writing blog, and continue to share my writing journey in one specific place. Lord knows I haven’t written here in a while, haven’t actively cultivated any great following, etc. But I still write, and I still strive to perfect that writing and document my journey to being a published author. I am still making strivings in my writing, and this is still the best place to share those. So I’m rededicated myself to sharing my writing journey here. After I read over my previous posts and make some adjustments and assessments, the journey begins again.

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So here’s what has been going on in the months and months since I’ve written. I actually finished two stories, the vandalism piece and the art piece. I decided to name the vandalism piece “the American Gift,” and the art piece “Or every man be Blind.” I’ve since rethought both titles, and some of the finer points of the stories. However, before I did this, I sent both pieces in to different contests. I didn’t win either, but I was proud of myself for going for it and trying.

Since then, I barely have enough time to sleep, let alone write much. I’ve come back to writing with a lot of material though. In the meantime I was a substitute teacher, I work at a department store, I work as an independent consultant typing business policies and procedures, and I still work in a group home. So there’s a lot to write about when time is there to write.

I did start some new pieces and began making revisions to the two pieces I submitted and a couple others. I started a piece I’ll call the religious story, about a woman who does something religious without being sincere and experiences supernatural consequences. That’s the most I can say at the moment, and I know it’s vague, but hey. I also started writing more extensively about a character in the piece I submitted to the literary awards competition last January. The character’s name is Beulah. I think the piece on her is really good. Other than that, it’s mostly been random scribblings, me jotting down things I want to remember to write about.

I think that I’m going to rename this diary and start fresh under the title “FutureBestseller Reloaded.” Even though I am not a fan of any Matrix movie, “Reloaded” is a good word, makes me think of guns.

Well that’s it for now. More later. But not way later like this one was.