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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.

The Season for Getting Serious Front Cover

  • 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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It’s My Birthday!

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This is so pretty! Image via Wikipedia

I’m going to break with the theme of the month–love, romantic relationships, dating, marriage–and talk about something completely different: it’s my birthday! This is not one of those milestone birthdays (I’m 26), but I thought it was noteworthy enough to break into regularly scheduled programming.

Before I wax philosophical about the passage of time, please note that I have filled in all the posts I missed last week (I still have a few to do for this week). Please look over those and comment! Comment everywhere; it’s my birhtday, after all 😉 OK, on to waxing.

I, like many other people in my generation, am suffering from a Quarter Life Crisis (yes, it exists. I didn’t believe it existed, either, until I saw support groups and a wikipedia entry on it. There’s a book and everything). I feel behind in every aspect of my life–where I want to be in my career (not a full-time writer, or at least well paid to do something else I equally enjoy, no book published), financially (hello, student loans!), romantically/personal life (no rings, no husband, no kids), or spiritually (of course, if I were where I wanted to be spiritually, I’d just move that goal post out again, wouldn’t I?). There are times when I look over my life and all I see, in bright, 20 stories high neon letters, are the words EPIC FAIL. It’s easy to get maudlin thinking of all the things you could have, should have, or would have done had you had the 20/20 vision hindsight provides way back when.

But what I also realize is that I’m not dead yet. My life doesn’t end here. There’s still so much more of the story left. I can still accomplish the things I want to accomplish. I hold myself to a very high standard and impose impossible deadlines on life events as if I really have the final word on what happens. Even I can’t predict changes in the publishing market or the economy. I can’t make people accept my book/short stories. There are some things that are just outside of my control. As long as I am progressing, I am not failing.

Besides, there were some wonderful things back there in my past. I graduated college. I got a job. I moved out on my own. I was published. I wrote great things. I overcame obstacles and circumstances that could–no, have–crushed weaker people. There’s nothing wrong with where I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay here. Moreover, if I hadn’t went through all of those obstacles, challenges, and setbacks, I wouldn’t be the person I am, or have the memoir in me that I have to write.

There are so many things I can choose to focus on. Today, I’m choosing to focus on the victories, big and small: a three year relationship, a good job with great benefits, my own place to call home, the wonderful gift/ability of writing, mental health, loving friends and family, and a new opportunity to do and be more than I was before. Also, the fact that no calories I consume today count (;-)), I have the day off tomorrow, there’s good music on my iPod (even if there ISN’T on the radio), and I have several more male guest posts (that they are going to get to me soon, yes?). The marriage kits will be up (I’ve been writing introductions and transcribing audio and handwritten notes!). 

I’m thankful for steady (and growing!) blog followings, twitter followers, facebook fans, and supporters who keep asking me when my book(s)/writings are going to come out. I’m working on it! 😀

So, in short, I’m fantastic, you’re all fantastic, and happy birthday to me!

The year that I’m 26 is going to be my best yet!

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Seeking Out the Blessing

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If only all of us could recover from our low points as they do in romance novels! But why is this called Alimony? Anyone? Image by Stewf via Flickr

Note: I’m so excited about being Freshly Pressed I can hardly stand it! I’m still answering all your comments, but keep them coming! Feel free to laize around here and explore.

Let’s say you’ve taken stock of your year and all you can come up with is failure. Sure, you’ve done one or two things right, but somehow, the specter of the things you did wrong (or didn’t do at all) casts a hug shadow over them. You can’t stop yourself from trying to “save the year,” to cram some positive returns into a year of losing ground. Yet the calendar keeps changing and where you are stays the same.

I’ve been there. One of my lowest points was sittingon a green plastic bench in the kitchen of my aunt’s business where I was working for the summer, wondering how I would continue college without the scholarships and loans I’d had the year before. Even lower was  the point in November when I wasn’t in school, still didn’t have a job, and led a life of Harlequin romance novels and insomnia. We won’t even talk about the week I got fired and my apartment complex was sold and my lease terminated, or freezing nights with no heat or hot water that didn’t come from my stove.

But no matter how hard situations get, we have to seek out the blessings in life. People get tired of telling themselves, “I am still alive and I still have my health and strength” when they are cold or hungry or worried about where the next mortgage payment will come from. People don’t think the positives outweight the negatives when they’re brokenhearted. So how do you find the “real” blessings? You have to look at yourself honestly.

While I was frantically looking for a job and an apartment in Oct/Nov of 2008 (deep in the recession), I realized something: I’m qualified to be in this position. I had a degree (just barely–Aug. 08), I had the tenacity to persevere and not give up until I found a job, and I had a faith in God that had grew to levels it even startled me. Here I was jobless and nearly homeless, and I was at peace because I knew it would all work out in my favor. But, what if someone else, someone who wasn’t as strong, was in that position? What if someone else who couldn’t take a year off and work all the hours God sends to get back in school had lost their scholarship?

A phrase I like to say to myself is “I’m uniquely qualified to conquer my trials.” Look what I can take! Look how well I chose the people around me who are still helping and supporting me! See how I inspire others when I tell them I’ve been there and they can battle through. See how sympathetic and empathetic, how tender all this has made me to other people’s situations.

My encouragement to you, in this little series on how to really “save the year,” is to seek the blessings where they may be found. Where is your hard work finally bearing fruit? What did you finally do that you’ve been trying to accomplish forever? What still gives you a reason to smile?

Maybe you don’t know how to start changing the things you want to change, or accomplishing the goals you set forth. I propose that you start by seeing what wonderful things you already have, and telling yourself “I’m uniquely qualified to conquer my trials.”

That’s my two cents. Leave yours.  

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NaNoWriMo Postmortem

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Image via Wikipedia

I wonder if failing is like lying. Can you fail by omission? Does it matter if you’re closer to success than failure? What constitutes failure? Is it up for debate?

NaNoWriMo ended yesterday. All of us participants are now wearily coming out of the basement to access the damage this tornado has wrought in our lives. Perhaps yours didn’t end up too bad; you got a good first draft of a novel and kept your sanity. If you made it to 50,000 words, according to NaNoWriMo, you succeeded. I know a few of you who discovered your novels weren’t done at 50,000 words, so maybe you view it a little differently.

I didn’t make it to 50,000 words. I wasn’t even close. So, in that sense, I failed. I knew, in the back of my mind, that with all of the things I had pressed into last month that I would fail. So the goal for me was to learn and let the experience teach me about myself as a writer.

Here’s what I learned:

  • There’s no such thing as a “dead story” when the idea and characters work. I thought because I hadn’t been able to write on a story in a while, or hit a wall that it meant the story wouldn’t work or I wasn’t a good enough writer to write the story. But using an old idea and characters for NaNoWriMo taught me that sometimes I just need to let a story simmer until the ideas are fully cooked.
  • There’s no such thing as a “writing mood.” I don’t have to be in the mood to write. I don’t need a writing desk and the perfect lighting. I can write anywhere at any time. Even when I feel like I have nothing to say, if I sit down and read where I left off, I can usually fall write back into the story. I have no excuse not to write now.
  • I can’t let my deadlines choke me. I’d always heard that if you aren’t published by the time you’re 25, you haven’t got it. I don’t know why I believed that. So many people in literary history have proven that wrong. But, I was so obsessed with getting published this year, while I’m still 25, that I was choking my creativity. I didn’t want to write down anything I couldn’t publish immediately. NaNoWriMo forced me to write everything. Even if I wasn’t sure or didn’t think it worked. Even though I didn’t make the deadline, I am OK with that. I wrote some great things; I wrote some silly things. I didn’t let the deadline bother me. I can still finish my NaNoWriMo story. I will still finish it. In my own time.

How was your NaNoWriMo experience this year? Were you successful? What did you learn about yourself as a writer? What will you do with your novel now?