Posted on

2016 in Review

 

fullsizerender

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.

fullsizerender-1
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.
    img_1078
    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.

img_1081

 

 

  • 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. 😉
img_1108
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,

806

Erica Denise Hearns

Posted on

Passing on Your Passion

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Image via Wikipedia

When I was back in Michigan last week, one thing I wanted to accomplish was sorting through all of my books. I have a ton of books. Every birthday, holiday, or scholastic achievement was celebrated with new books for me, not to mention all of the books I bought from every book fair, book sale, and Friends of the Library store I could find. As reading has always been one of the loves of my life, I have books for every age of reader from beginner Little Golden books to The Babysitter’s Club to Disconstructionist Literary Theory. Needless to say, it was a lot to sort through (and I have a hard time letting go of a good book!).

It didn’t take me long to determine I would never reread The thin Disney’s the Little Mermaid I had stuffed in a box in the closet, nor would I be reading many of the other titles again. Those phases of life, for me, were passed. I don’t have any pigtail-laden little girls to read them to, either. But some of those books were just to good to be stored in a bin, never to be read again. I remembered the joy I had reading them, the worlds they opened me up to. Some things are just too good to keep to yourself.

My cousin has an almost six year old daughter (which is WAY older than five, you understand), Jemilia, who likes to read. She’s read every book that she has. My hometown no longer has a library (which, when I discovered this, made me feel like I’d lost a close friend), so her only source of books is her family and the school (which, of course, is about to close for the summer). Keeping this in mind, I combed my collection for books that were appropriate for a smart almost six year old.

The first book that went into this pile was My Body is Private. That’s very important reading for a little girl nowadays. Then came the disney books and  one about a tiny elephant eating from a jar of peanut butter. I noticed some were missing. Where on earth was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?

Of course, there were some I just couldn’t part with. My huge hardcover collectable Disney books based on the movies, for one. My grandmother gave me those. Also, the treasury of Hans Christian Anderson fairytales she’d also given me. I intend for my child/ren to have them one day. But the rest went on the pile, no matter how much it hurt to see these old friends go.

Jemilia and her grandmother stopped by as I was going through old notebooks upstairs. I sent the pile of books down with my brother, pausing to look out the window. She reached for the pile, which was almost as big as she was, but her grandmother took it for her. She tugged on her grandmother’s shirt until she bent down, then took The Little Mermaid off the top. As they started walking back home, she already had the book open and was reading, not watching where she was going, and not caring much where she ended up. I smiled. “That was my favorite one, too!” I thought, then turned back to my notebooks.

Isn’t the best look in the world the look we get when we fall into a book, no matter what age we are? The hunger, the wonder, the pure joy that comes over our face is almost unmatched. We all look like rapt children when in those moments, open and hopeful and imaginative. This is what makes me upset when people say they don’t like reading, or hate English, the thought that I’ll never surprise that look of wonder on their face. With everything else that happens in this life, I think everyone should feel the joy of reading.

So I used precious cargo room in my car to bring back books I have no intention of ever reading again. Among them are well loved copies of The Babysitter’s Club, The Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley High, and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books. As the school year has ended, a sister at church wants to continue the tutoring outreach to include a reading and math help summer program. These books could be the start of a lending library for summer reading. 

There’s nothing I love more than sharing my love of reading with others, especially those who just haven’t discovered the book that unlocks that love in them. I believe we all have it within us (I should really be an English teacher, shouldn’t I? LOL). I want to cultivate a love of reading in some, and nurture it in others. I want to have pass on my passion. I’m glad I’ve found a way to do it…and declutter my home!

How are you passing on your passion?