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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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Now Entering Phase One…

First of all, the happiest of birthdays to the most awesome mom ever. Happy birthday, mommy!

Now back to the lecture at hand…

I am now entering phase one of all of the things I can’t tell you about. However, I can tell you a few things I’ve accomplished. The first thing I’ve accomplished is finally getting a laptop to aid in to publishing and blogging domination. Yes, for the past four years of blogging, I’ve been writing from a desktop, tied down to one location. Now I am able to sit cross-legged on my futon watching The Mentalist Season 1 on DVD while updating the blog or working on the book. Yay for a new laptop!

I have also opened up an account of Net Galley and am going to be reviewing new and advance copies of books going forward. I can’t tell you how excited this makes me. I hope to launch a book club in the future, so having the chance to see what books are coming out and know what books may suit my book club will be a great addition to my blogging. Besides, we all know how much I love to give my opinion.

The biggest thing that I can share is that I have booked my first speaking engagement that is in line with my website/book. I will be speaking to a small group of women at a seminar called Authentic Self on May 18th on the topic “Getting Serious About Who You Are in Christ: Go Godly Early.” I am supposed to speak for an hour to an hour and a half. I have been kicking around some ideas to address areas that Christian women in their 20s and 30s struggle with in their walk with Christ. If anyone has any ideas of areas I should address, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

There are a couple of other things in process that I can’t talk about yet, but they are really close to completion. I’m working really hard on the website and book to bring you all a more dynamic, community oriented experience. I’m trying to come up with things for the site that I thinks readers will appreciate, and I would love your feedback on what you would like to see as a reader of one of my blogs.

I’m feeling a little sick and very tired today, so I’m doing the meds and bed thing (one time for being able to type this in bed!). If anyone wants to come take care of me, I am accepting applications.

XOXO

Erica

 

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Found an Editor; Now to Write a Book…

I can’t believe I did it again! Someone I follow on twitter recently released a book, and it is selling like ice water in Hell (or like I imagine ice water would sell in Hell if there were ice water and people could buy it). This woman wrote the book in about three months (how, I have no idea) an then had it edited. Since she wrote a Christian non-fiction book, as I am striving to write, I wanted to know who she got to edit her book. Once she gave me a name, I reached out to this editor. I wasn’t expecting a fast response, but I received one in a day or two. The editor wants to see three pages of my work and get the page count to determine price. She will start editing for 2013 on the 22nd. So by my boyfriend’s birthday, I need to have this book finished. That’s 19 days from today.

I always do better with deadlines, so this is good, right? Except I’m not done writing. Or revising. I think that I can be done by the 22nd. I already know what I want to say, for the most part. The most arduous things will be picking the quotes from interviews and revising the manuscript once I have it all written down. I’ve never worked with an editor, so it should be interesting. I know everyone needs an editor, but my arrogance is cropping up again in this area. I feel like she won’t have a lot to do and I will be paying her for nothing. Ha! As many errors as I find in pieces I am “done” with, I should know to be humble and check everything again once I think it’s perfect. I don’t know if this is the right editor for me, but I am excited to get started on the next phase, to delve into what happens after the writing and revising. I am excited for someone else to evaluate my work, even if only clinically and not for enjoyment. The next step will be beta readers, someone to write a forward, and that most dreaded aspect of writing, building a writer platform/getting published.

Does anyone have any tips for working with an editor or any stories on working with one? I’d love to hear from someone who has been there and done that.

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INEBIGTDIA: Starting the Month Off On Faith

Some things have really been lining up for me in the last few weeks. I had been dabbling in working on my book off and on as I’ve been feeling the return of my zealousness for my Christian walk, but a few weekends ago,  I really broke through. I sat and began to write on an idea I had at work, and the writing just flowed.

A couple months ago, I asked my minister for some help on the book, and he gave me the number of another minister who wrote for a Christian publication and who may have some tips for me and help me get published. I hadn’t called him, but I finally began to think about calling since I had taken up really writing on the project again. It turns out, he is leading our revival at church this week, so I had the opportunity to meet him in person and ask him about it.

It should have made me very excited to be able to meet him face to face and take the beginning steps on the road to publication. This seemed to be confirmation that I was on the right track with the timing of everything, but I am hopelessly shy and I hate introducing myself. I’m not a good networker at all. It’s my least crafted skill. I’m almost never excited to introduce myself to new people or speak in front of them, and during the course of the past week, I’ve had to do both, again.

Yesterday was the first of August and the second to last day that this person would be in town, so I knew it was time to act. I was thinking about how the beginning of the month was a great time to start working towards something, a great time to do something different. If I am ever to get published, I will have to do a lot of pitching and networking both before publication and after. I need to sharpen those skills. Even if this opportunity didn’t work out, at some point I was going to have to get out there and get used to talking about it.

So, yesterday I had another INEBIGTDIA* moment. I went to shake the minister’s hand and told him that I was told he would be a good person to help me move towards publication with my book. That was easy enough. Then he asked me what my book was about. Uhhhh….

You all know I know what it’s about. I have written on it a lot in my blogs, but standing there in front of someone trying to explain it for the first time was more difficult than I thought. After a deep breath, I managed to get our the general gist of the book–who it was for and what it was about–in an inelegant fashion. He said it was a good topic and he looked forward to hearing from me and working with me on it. Yes!

There are so many opportunities that we pass by each day because we’re too hindered by our own fear or perception of how we will be received when we try to take advantage of that opportunity. If God has placed something in your heart to do, all things will work together for that to happen. Even if this person was too busy or wasn’t interested in my idea, at least I would have had practice in sharing it with someone else and be more prepared when the next opportunity arose. I’m making this month one in which I more fully embrace INEBIGTDIA. I hope you will, too. It’s a rewarding and forward progressing step on the way to major growth and opportunity.

XOXO

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*INEBIGTDIA- I’m not excited, but I’m going to do it anyway.

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Performance Anxiety

I thought the post before this one was already published two weeks ago. If this post makes no sense because of the high I was on two seconds ago, that is why.

Let me just say that it’s amazing how God causes things to fall in line. He moves fast. I was just saying a couple weeks ago how I had a breakthrough with the marriage kit book (which isn’t much about the marriage aspect at all anymore–hint!), when something very interesting happened.

A couple months ago, I told my minister that I needed help with my book. I needed someone to read what I had so far and to help me develop a book proposal. Instead of helping me himself, he gave me the number of a minister out of North Carolina who wrote for a Christian publication, Bro. Jefferson R. Curuthers, Jr. I was hestitant to call someone I didn’t know and who didn’t know me, someone I’d never heard of before, so I kept putting it off. But I kept writing.

It turns out that Bro. Curuthers is the speaker at our revival all this week. His wife spoke at our ladies’ day on Saturday, and as I sat there, it dawned on me her husband was the guy. Since I had just had my break through with major writing a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like a nod from God to go ahead.

The thing is, now that I have him here, I can’t seem to bring up the idea of my book and pitch it to him. I mean, the guy is here to preach the Word, not read my WIP. I don’t want  the opportunity to pass me by, but I’m having a hard time being “aggressive” with pitching my work. I have always had this problem and I know it will be in the future if/when I get published.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can use this networking opportunity? Have you ever pitched a book face to face?

An excerpt of what I’ve been working on will be coming soon! Stay tuned!

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Motivation Monday: In the Meantime…

This weekend, I felt like it was finally time to put some action to my future plans. I am going to integrate my blogs into my own self-hosted site. I wanted to get a logo designed, find a host site, come up with a concept and name that integrates all my blogs, select a domain name that suites the aforementioned, find a camera, create an about me and about the site page, etc. I also wanted to begin work on a book proposal for a memoir that I’ve been working on, Some College. I had big plans, and a little extra money.

Even though I did submit my ideas to a graphic designer, crystallized a concept that I think encompasses most of my blogging, found out that the proposed domain name was not registered, chose a hosting site, and shopped for cameras, even though I did some research for my book proposal, I still felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything, since I wasn’t able to buy the domain, the web hosting, and the camera. After all, what had I really done but dream?

My little brother wanted me to call him last night. When I called, he wanted to talk about how he was so frustrated with the way things were going; he didn’t know if he was going to school for the right thing anything. He had got accepted into an art school, and the money from financial aid didn’t come through in time, so he ended up having to start a semester late at a different college. After this deferment, he wasn’t sure if he had the same passion for it.

Sometimes we can all be hard on ourselves. After we have actively taken positive steps towards accomplishing a goal or a dream, it can seem as if we still haven’t given enough. When our dream gets deferred, we think it’s just not meant to be, that maybe we should just quit trying. We are so close to a major breakthrough, a defining moment, and we just don’t realize it.

While I did research for Some College, I realized something. I have had this idea for this memoir since I realized I would have to take a year off of school in the fall of 2006, but I’ve recently began writing extensively on it. When I decided to do a book proposal and looked for things to support it, I found a newly completed study commissioned by Bill and Melinda Gates on this very subject, as well as an American Radioworks special. President Obama is swinging his focus to education and jobs in this campaign year. The things that I am can write about from first hand experience are finally getting some national thought and attention. This is a perfect time to get this book done and out into the world.

Sometimes, that’s our problem. It’s just not the right time. Some things are just deferred. We decide what happens to a dream deferred. We decide if we keep writing, keep painting, keep composing, keep singing, keep working on our business plan. We decide if we keep filing for grants. We decide if we keep praying. When we have a dream we believe in and we believe would benefit the world, it’s up to us to wrestle all night and not let go until we are blessed, just as Jacob did.

In the meantime, before your “big break,” before your moment, before your time–this is when you put in all of the preparation that allows you to take advantage of the moment. This is when you put in all the blood sweat and tears that you will allude to when you it finally pays off. This is where you work out all of the impurities and make your work of the highest possible quality. Don’t undervalue “in the meantime.” Take advantage of every opportunity you have; even it you can’t get as far as you’d like to get, you’ll be farther than you were before.

That’s my two cents, anyway. Leave yours in the comment section.