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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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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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Healthy Heart Race 5K

Leaving the finish line in my dust
Leaving the finish line in my dust

This Sunday, I participated in my first 5K with some coworkers. It was the first baby step in what promises to be a long journey towards taking better care of my body…a really long journey. Although some things didn’t go as planned and it wasn’t the race I would have hoped for, all things considered, I’m glad to have this tiny accomplishment under my belt.

The race day and the course were really good ones for a first race. The weather on Sunday morning wasn’t too warm (to begin with, by the end it was pretty warm) and it was slightly overcast. I didn’t eat anything before the race (probably a bad idea, but I didn’t wake up early enough to eat a little before hand). I also forgot my headphones (again, just like my last “training run.” The only two times I’ve run without music). The course itself was an out and back course run mostly on paved trail (the rest was a small piece of road and some sidewalk). I wish the trail were a little wider to accommodate so many people, but other than that, it was a good course.

I started in the wrong “wave.” I was towards the front with my coworkers. Some of them were walkers and some of them were runners. I guessed that since it was a mixed race (1 mile, 5k, and 10k) that we were going to be more or less grouped by which race we were doing; this was not the case. Everyone started together at the same time. So I ended up starting too fast and almost being trampled after the first few turns.

I had a bit of cramping, but it didn’t last very long. My hip pain did not go away, however. I tweaked it a couple of days before the race and it just never felt right. My hips have always been tight, but I haven’t had a hip pain like this since college (a long, odd story I forgot about until just now involving a co-rec yoga class). I had to run, walk and hobble a bit for the out part of the course.

Shortly after the turn around (and almost falling throwing away a cup–which further tweaked the SAME hip), I was ready to run again, but Mr. Perfect was not. He was getting out a toothache/trip to the dentist, and running caused it to hurt worse. He encouraged me to run on without him to try and make my time (which I knew was probably a by gone dream already). I did run walk intervals for the rest of the rest and felt really proud of the pushing through in the second half. I had a good conversation with God as I listened to my footfalls and breathing. I finished strong. I was happy with the effort.

I didn’t get a great time, and I was way past my goal time, but there were some good milestones. I didn’t make 15 minute miles, but I was considerably under 17 minute miles. I was the last one to finish in my age group by a lot, but I hadn’t really trained seriously for it. It wouldn’t be fair for me to beat people who had trained for this. My breathing was not a problem at any point during this race, and my ankles were problem free. The other runners were very encouraging to each other and  giving each other a heads up on what was coming.

According to one of my runner friends, my race photo (taken by my coworker’s fiancé) was taken at a great angle and looked better than most race pictures. There were, of course, some fail pictures (such as the one of me sucking a donut hole off a toothpick  while double fisting water  and Gatorade post race–classy!).

I can’t say that I love running (even though my race tee and medal both say (I Heart Running), but I did enjoy the experience. The race atmosphere was really celebratory and fun. I think I will keep running as a part of my “Getting Serious About Fitness” routine. As for a 5k, I can say I’ve been there, done that, and have the T-shirt to prove it (and the medal).

What did you do this weekend?

Erica

P.S. I have the new banner in for the site! I am trying to wait for this whole domain transfer, etc. to happen, but I may put it up today, just to see how it looks (even though it will look completely different on the revamped site). I am looking through all of the different file types sent to find the best one. I will have a post up soon on my awesome graphic designer. I have been holding off on posts to finish getting some things done on the site, but since it is taking forever, I will stop depriving you. 😀

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Getting Serious About Who You Are in Christ

 

The one thing that I don’t like about a speaking engagement as part of a program is that it’s so limiting. Since , it’s not my program, I can’t get up there and spend hours moderating this conversation with women that I see going on in my head. It’s like that song Madonna did; I feel like I only have four minutes to save the world (which would be a pretty good running song now that I think about it). With the time restriction, I find myself having a lot of topics getting placed on the cutting room floor, and I want to make sure that I get to the most important things without going over time. It’s a balancing act I’m not used to.

 

The main things I want to cover can be broken down into categories by aspects of who we are in Christ as women, nouns that describe the women we should be. I have chosen to focus on the following nouns: scholar, athlete, soldier, student, teacher, customer service representative, CEO, big sister/little sister, and friend. Within these areas, I will be discussing communication, wisdom, Bible study, quarter life and midlife crises, the woman in the middle, social media, friendship, self-esteem, and what it ultimately means to be a Christian woman. I have a few short activities for the ladies to do and some discussion questions so I’m not just talking at them for an hour. I’m hoping it all goes well.

 

I am really sad I won’t get to talk much about the area that I’ve been studying and writing about the most, which is the area of relationships. I won’t get to talk about any of the mate selection tips or things that I’ve studied that God says about relationships, which is disappointing because I think so many women would benefit from hearing it. But this is more important. Maybe I’m just trying to retreat back into what I’m comfortable with because this is new territory for me.

 

I’m really thankful for the opportunities to share this lesson (twice!). I’m hoping the website header will be in place and everything will be transferred to the new host before the seminar. I also want to have the book available and business cards to promote the site available. I want women to be able to sign into the site and start interacting with the material as soon as they hear about it. With God’s help, I think I can do it by May 18th…but only with God’s help. This year is moving swiftly.

What have you been working on lately?

XOXO

Erica

 

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Getting Serious About: Your Response to Criticism

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard something of the furor around the new Beyoncé single that hit the internet. I usually don’t bother to address things in pop culture, but I felt like this was a “teachable moment.” (BTW: I hate that term. What doesn’t constitute a teachable moment?) How do we respond to criticism?

The Beyoncé song is supposed to be a response to all of her “haters,” but Beyoncé manages to offend some people who don’t fall into this category. Even people who sympathize with all of the criticism that she has received over the years were a bit shocked at this late and seemingly unprovoked shot at everyone who ever thought they were on Bey’s level. The worst part of this is that anyone who has anything bad to say about her response is almost immediately attacked by Beyoncé’s “stans,” an overzealous group of fans who pledge undying devotion to the star. It’s like her position is unimpeachable. All of us just need to “bow down,” as the song says. Well, like Daniel in Babylon, this blogger isn’t going to do it. But the point of this discussion is not to talk about the idolatry of pop star fans, but to examine our responses to criticism.

If you insist on being a part of the human race, at some point in time you will be criticized for something. We can be criticized for our religious convictions, choices in clothing, choices in mates, political affiliations, what we choose to eat or what we don’t eat, how we wear our hair, and etc. ad nauseum. Someone always have something to  say about who and what we are. We will never be able to change that. All that we can control is how we respond to criticism.

There are two kinds of criticism: constructive criticism and destructive criticism (well, if you’re a writer, there is also deconstructive criticism, but I digress). Constructive criticism is supposed to be helpful. It builds upon the foundation you’ve laid. It makes you better if you can embrace it. Destructive criticism is meant to hurt, to tear down. Most of us have experienced both kinds of criticism. Even though hearing any criticism is hard, it’s important to be able to distinguish between constructive and destructive criticisms to have the appropriate response in any situation.

I try not to respond to constructive criticism right away. I choose to let the insights marinate for a bit. I let the person know I’ll take their criticisms into consideration, and I’ll ask questions for clarification, but I don’t respond to the content of what they said because I know my immediate response to criticism of any kind is rejection. My “old man mentality” likes to think that I have this life thing figured out and I don’t need anyone telling me what to do, while my “new man mentality” acknowledges that this person could have a point. When I know someone is speaking the truth in love, I take what they said to heart and really examine myself and their suggestions. Once I have consulted God’s word for what he has to say on the matter and I see it lines up with what they have said, I pray to God about that aspect of myself that needs changing. I meditate on His word regarding that area. I accept it.

I don’t respond to most destructive criticism, either. I evaluate what the person has to say, and if it doesn’t line up with God’s word, I discard it. There have been times when I’ve had to cut people out of my life because of their penchant for criticism. There are ways to insulate yourself against destructive criticism. You may have to unfriend, unfollow, delete phone numbers, change your  phone number, or change where you go to avoid destructive criticizers. Just this morning, I had to delete a Facebook friend because the radical ideals she pushed don’t line up with the life I’m called to live. I have to know what God says about who I am to be and what I am to do, and I have to let that be the final word.

I almost typed “negative criticism” in the section above a couple times. It’s so easy for us to believe that negative criticism is destructive, when the two are not interchangeable. There are some criticisms that are negative that are valid and constructive. We may not like the way the messenger delivers the message, but if the message is correct, we still have to obey it. This one took me a long time to figure out and agree with. We miss the message because of the messenger sometimes, and what’s ultimately important gets lost.

What do I think of Beyoncé’s response to criticism? I have heard her address rumors and gossip before in her music, and I have thought that she did so in a classier way than most. Sublimation, or putting that energy to use in a positive way, is a good thing. Writing in a journal, praying about it, exercising, singing, cooking, or whatever you can do that is positive to release those feelings is a good thing. However, I think she missed the mark. Although the song is supposed to address a specific group of people, her lyrics call out anyone who grew up listening to her and wanting to be like her. Her lyrical rage is vented on anyone listening. She calls women derogatory names and yells at them to “bow down” as if she’s god and we need to pay homage to her.  Having a healthy self-esteem and thick skin is necessary in a critical world, but arrogance and pride comes before a fall. By not utilizing the proper outlets to vent her frustration, she looks like a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde caricature, singing about female empowerment and sisterhood one day and singing about how she should be elevated above everyone else and paid homage to the next.

The Bible says that a double minded man is unstable in all of his ways. Consistency and conviction are in anything we do. I can’t be one way here and another offline. Neither can I respond in a loving, godly manner to the good things in life, and “lose my religion” when bad things come my way. In a nutshell, respond to criticism  in the same way you respond to favor: thank God for the wonderful things He has done, for strength to get through the difficulties of life, and keep pushing forward, working out your soul’s salvation with fear and trembling. That’s my two cents, anyway.

XOXO

Erica

P.S. I am going to put up a glossary of blog terms for you guys eventually. I am sure someone is reading these posts going “wha??”

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Getting Serious About: Managing Your Time

If you’re a single woman like me, you may experience people disregarding the importance of your time and your ability to decide what you should do with your time. For example, I am volunteered for things all the time. When I have to decline or say I don’t have time to do whatever I’ve been signed up for, I am told things like “it’s not like you have a husband or family; you have plenty of time to [blah blah blah].” When I ask others to help me with whatever project I’ve been saddled with, spouses, children, chores, and jobs are the main reasons they can’t help. Never mind I have chores and a job as well. Anyway.

Whoever you are, your time is probably at a premium. There are so many balls to keep in the air for all of us, as well as time sucking activities we engage in to “unwind.” I find that there isn’t enough time in the day to do it all, and I’m sure you do, too. But one thing I’ve realized in life is that we make time to do those things we REALLY want/have to do, even if it means getting up earlier or staying up later.

Of course, everyone else knows exactly how you can better utilize your time. It’s like finances; everyone knows just where you can cut something out to better use your resources. If you just forgo eating out of going to the movies, you can find the money to pay your bills, etc. But when it comes down to it, they aren’t going to have to live your life and make those sacrifices to see those results. This is why you need to know what’s important to you and figure out what you can cut out to better utilize your time.

I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday about Christianity and scripture. She was talking about how people have different interpretations of the same passage of scripture and use different passages to argue for opposing points. She said she reads both passages and prays for the best. I shared with her my methodology for studying scriptures: read the scripture in context to figure out what it is actually addressing, cross reference for consistency, read it in different translations, go to the Hebrew/Greek Lexicon and/or concordance to see the meaning of the original words, etc. She said this takes a lot of time…more than the average person would ever do. I said “with my soul in the balance, I take only God’s word for it. Some things are worth the effort. I’m not picking lotto numbers.” This conversation bothered me. It made me wonder what people are doing that’s so important that they don’t have time to get God’s commands right.

I won’t tell you to skip your daily exercise or quit your job to free up more time. I won’t tell you to skip vegging out in front of the TV or going on vacations to free up more time. But it is past time to get serious about how we spend our time. We need to make sure we are doing what’s important with our time. Time is our most precious commodity. We don’t know when we’ll be out of it, so we have to spend it wisely.

What I can tell you is that time spent with God, trying to get your life right, is never wasted. If time were money, you would see a double return on your investment of spending time with God. Spending time in prayer, meditating on scripture, and worshipping God gives you the skillset to tackle every other thing you have to do. It makes you less anxious and agitated. It only makes things better.

There are always a few things that I want to do that I never seem to get around to doing. One of them is taking a bath. I find I never have time to just sit in the tub reading a book and listening to music. But I yearn for it. Yesterday, after finishing a little Power Fusion (which I also never have time for, by the way), I sat down to watch “Say Yes to the Dress.” Then I thought to myself, no; I’m not going to watch this. I don’t need to watch a bunch of women trying on dresses right now. It’s not adding anything to my life but a sense of discontentment that I’m not picking out a wedding dress. Why don’t I use this two hour block of time where nothing is on TV and I have nothing to do to take that bath I’ve been wanting to make time for? So I did.

How can you get serious about your time? Here are a few simple things to implement:

  • Put the most important things on the schedule first. Time with God is a must. Going to work is a must. Assembling with other believers is a must. Taking care of your body with food, sleep, and exercise is a must. Etc.
  • Ask yourself what an activity is adding to your life. Is it bringing you closer to your goals? Is it bringing you in closer relationship with God? Is it preserving your sanity? Or is it just a waste of time?
  • Evaluate how you have spent your time at regular intervals to spot inefficiencies. Perhaps each week or each month, you can look back and see if you spent enough time on the important things and where you can stand to cut some time wasting activities.
  • Prepare things ahead of time to use your time more effectively. Learn the route to take to a destination so you don’t waste time getting lost. Make sure you have tickets so you don’t waste time going back for them. Put your keys in a consistent place so you don’t waste time looking for them.
  • Allow yourself to freely enjoy some moments without rushing to the next. When I call my mom, aunt or best friend, I know to take a seat and get comfortable. Most times, we don’t talk about anything much, but I need that time to connect with them. Maybe for you it’s a favorite show or meeting a friend for lunch. Whatever it is that you don’t have to do but you want to do because it enriches you, make a little time for it. Not everything we do has to be calibrated for efficiency.

How are you getting serious about your time?

XOXO

Erica

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Getting Serious About: Social Media

I said in a previous post that people we friend on Facebook, follow on twitter, or follow their blogs are in a unique position to influence us. It used to be that we were only influenced by our friends, but in the digital age, we can have “friends” across the globe. We can follow celebrities and see for ourselves exactly how they are feeling and what they are doing. With the diluge of information we are exposed to, it is easier to believe that individual things we read or follow are inconsequential, but this is not the case.

The main thing that brought this issue to the forefront for me was the announcement of Janet Jackson’s wedding this week. In this world of the overshare, Janet Jackson has always managed to keep her private life private. Janet Jackson could be 11 kinds of crazy, be into all sorts of weird things, and we would never know it. I don’t know if she practices any religion or any other personal details that haven’t been carefully run by a publicist before sharing. I may not agree with some of the things I do know about her lifestyle, but it would be hard to accuse her of being too forthcoming.

Between what we allow ourselves to be exposed to and influenced by in social media, and what we put on social media to be scrutinized by others, I see many pitfalls and opportunities to be pulled off track if one is trying to get serious about their lives. Associations are king in our society. The saying has been for years “it’s not what you know but who you know.” If you want to get serious about your life, whether career-wise, relationship-wise, in your Christian walk, or otherwise, you will need to get a hold on your social media associations.

We all know that employers check facebook, LinkedIn, and other accounts to evaluate candidates. Most people have taken off incriminating pictures or set their profiles to private to combat this. We are aware that many relationships have been negatively impacted by Facebook statuses, a relationship status on Facebook, a tweet or Instagram pictures, whether they be friendships or romantic relationships. We can see the influences, but yet, so many of us can’t seem to grasp the delicate balance between being open and telling things that should be kept private, between sowing seeds in our conscience through social media associations and our feelings or actions. So how do you balance interacting with friends through social media and putting your best digital foot forward?

I have three friends who have recently gotten married. They run the range from putting every detail of their lives on Facebook to only updating occasionally. One went from in a relationship to changing her profile picture to one of her walking down the aisle on her father’s arm. One sent out a facebook message as I sat waiting for her to walk down the aisle. One only posted when she got engaged, a week before, and the day of the wedding. Neither of this is inherently wrong. Where we draw the line depends on what we hope to accomplish.

The first thing to note is that anything we put out for public consumption is subject to be scrutinized and judged. Whether you ask for it or not, you are subject to outside input on anything that you share. Furthermore, it’s hard for love not to keep a record of wrongs if you have documented those wrongs on Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else. It is the social media age’s equivalent of telling your friends all about your relationship; they will still be mad when the two of you have smoothed it over. Don’t say you don’t want people in your relationship if you are volunteering information about it for people to judge. Find someone you can trust, and who may be able to help, and talk to them about it, not the world.

The second thing is to make sure whatever you post or share is in line with your beliefs and the life you want to live for Christ. We are to avoid the appearance of evil; it shouldn’t even look like it might be sinful. I shouldn’t be holding bottles of alcohol, wearing revealing clothes, smoking, or “dropping it low” in pictures on any profile I maintain. I shouldn’t have derogatory language all over said profile, either. I shouldn’t reserve all my sanctity and holiness for Sunday when the whole week could use some.

When we are deciding who to follow or befriend, it is important for us to see the influence they can have on our lives. Am I following them because they say mean things about other people that I find funny? Am I following them to be envious and/or judgmental about what’s going on in their lives? Is this association helping or hindering me in pursuing the life I want to live?

I’m not saying that you can’t follow anyone who you find funny or interesting. I’m not saying you can only follow people who say “praise Jesus” at the end of everything. I’m saying that evil communications (or associations) still corrupt good morals. The universal laws that God put in place have not changed. We can’t say we aren’t being influenced by pop culture or media if all we do is consume hours of negative and sinful images and messages and don’t consume any of God’s word. I’m all for enjoying your life and having fun, but choose your associations wisely.

Are there any associations you need to let go of or cultivate? How has social media influenced your attitude and actions?

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Often Imitated…

As we take this journey together towards getting serious, there are a few things I want to touch on in order to help you decide if you want to walk with me. As is often quoted, “how can two walk together unless they agree?” (Amos 3:3–we’ll return to this) We give people whose blogs, twitter accounts, facebook pages, and emails we follow a unique opportunity to influence us. This can be good or bad depending on not only the content of their messages, but also where these messages come from.

I want to start out by saying not all “Christians” are created equal, nor are all “relationship coaches,” “life bloggers,” “writers,” or opinionated readers. Just because they say they are promoting the gospel of Christ, are trying to help people have better lives or relationships, or have wrote a book about A,B, and C doesn’t mean that what they are pushing is something you need to buy.

I have a sister in Christ who is so eager for the Word and for a connection with other young people in Christ that I am worried about. I recognize her enthusiasm, her emotionalism, her need to have these Christian friendships for accountability. I also recognize that some of the things that she gets involved with on her quest to fulfill a need to find other people as passionate for Christ as she is aren’t necessarily in line with what she has professed to believe. On the surface, they seem very similar, but they are not compatible.

If we are going to get serious about our lives, one of the first areas we need to bring into submission would be our associations. I often see new things that are supposed to be Christian popping up all over the net. I get excited when I read about people advocating that people marry, that we live as Christians every day of the week, that our lives be centered on Christ and His will, etc. When I dig deeper, however, I realize that not all the things they promote are in line with what I believe. I realize that their ministries, while outwardly similar to ministries that do line up with my beliefs, ultimately are not ministries that I feel are pleasing to God. Then there are those that I know from the outset are not in line with what I believe and which I think are wrong. I see people retweeting their sentiments, which clearly aren’t in line with the Bible or the God they say they are serving, and I feel so heartbroken that people are not taking their lives and their eternal souls more seriously.

We cannot afford to let people who aren’t going in the same direction as we are striving to go influence us to turn and follow them back into sin. Even a broken clock is right twice a day–just because you think their intentions are good or you agree with some of the things they say sometimes doesn’t mean they are going in the right direction. The devil has ministers who can appear righteous. (2 Cor. 11:3, 13-15). Even some who are in the church will lead others astry (Acts 20:29-30). We have to be careful when we let others influence us to do things that these things are in line with Christ. Many are lead astray by people putting out restrictions and rules God never gave (I Tim. 4:1-3) or not teaching the perfect word of God. Many of my friends are not rebuked when they are wrong by the people they have placed their faith in, who are supposed to be leading them to Heaven. Instead, they are taught what they want to hear of God and not confronted with what they don’t want to live up to, what God still requires of them if they are to be saved.

I think, therefore, it’s important to establish what I believe, even if it never comes up again (but it will; trust me). So, here are the highlights of what I believe:

  1. I believe that water baptism is for the remission (forgiveness) of sins (Acts 2:38). I don’t believe it’s an outward sin of inward grace, a confirmation of salvation, etc. It’s necessary for salvation.
  2. I believe that women should not be preachers, teachers, elders, or deacons (I Tim. 2:11-14). I don’t believe that this is something that was only meant for that time period, because Paul explains his reasoning for this going back to the order of creation, which has not changed and will not change. It is consistent with other teachings on women and wives in the New Testament.
  3. I believe there is one church (Eph. 4:4-6) established by Christ (Matt 16:18) that bears His name (Rom. 16:16).

Having stated those things which I think are the most important to make clear, I invite you to follow or not according to knowledge. I’m someone who would like to be counted among those who “searching and examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11).” I am not trying to teach men or establish my own church or ministry. I’m inviting other Christian women to exhort and edify each other, to encourage one another as we stive to perfect ourselves…and to have fun living for Christ.

XOXO,

Erica

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Hurry Up & Slow Down!

In a Rush......
"In a Rush......" Appropriate Title, Non? Image by law_keven via Flickr

One reason I don’t advocate trying to save the year is because it causes us to rush even more than the holiday hustle & bustle on top of everyday life. I can’t speak for everyone, but the first thing I do when I find myself hopelessly off track is panic. My mind starts racing and it’s nearly impossible to stop it. One thought keeps rushing around my head: What to do? What to do?

Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who goes through the wrringer every now and then. I get knocked down (but I get up again, you’re never ever going to keep me down…ahem, sorry, back to the lecture at hand :D) or run into unexpected detours and roadblocks. Some of them you just don’t see coming, even if you should have. I had gotten caught up with my bills at the end of 2009 and intened to start my 401(k), an emergency fund, and pay down student loan debt in 2010. What ended up happening is that I had an overdraft crisis–enough to take over half of my biweekly paycheck in fees to fix. I was playing catch up again. Add to taht a rent check debacle (or two, as it turned out), my car insurance doubling, and various other slights and all those goals went for a ride in the handbasket, if you know what I mean.

My immediate reaction was to try to replace that money IMMEDIATELY. I have to get back even and ahead–NOW! Hurry up and think of something, stupid! Enter vicious cycle of cash advances as overdraft protection and spending money for food and soap. Enter paying “a little something” on bills. Enter not getting anywhere.

Once I slowed my mind down through a mixture of prayer, scripture, yoga (hard to thinks about anything but breathing and not losing your balance :D), and faith, I began to seek the blessings (I still have a job, I can consult on the side) and make a plan of  action.

The first thing one has to do is slow down. Change happens over time. It takes time to develop new habits. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that jazz. But it’s easier said than done for some people when things are still falling down around them (me, I’m an old hand at slowing down & regaining perspective; my life has fallen down too many times not to know the drill).

So how do you slow down? I’ll give you a few tips in the next post. Until then, tell me how you stop panicking and start tackling the challenges in your life.