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A Hard Word for a Soft Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My word for 2017 is: SHARE.

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

:  to grant or give a share in

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your word of the year?

XOXO,

Erica

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Lifestyle Changes

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Before I went to my high school reunion, I made a decision not to try and shed a bunch of weight or drastically change myself in the short amount of time between registering and going to the reunion. I read on some wedding articles and blogs once that you shouldn’t make drastic changes too close to your wedding day, like chopping your hair off or getting a chemical peel or facial for the first time, because something could go wrong. At certain times, it’s just better to stick with a routine. I felt like going to my reunion, I wanted to go as I was: I didn’t want to pretend that my job was more exciting than it was or that I looked better than I did; I wanted to be my normal, bubbly self.

But I haven’t been satisfied with some things in my life and I wanted to change them. I waited until after the reunion to begin to look into making some of these changes, but some seeds were sown at the reunion. One in particular was from a conversation with my friend John.

John and I at the reunion
John and I at the reunion

I hadn’t seen John since graduation, but I knew what he’d been doing from Facebook. I knew he had just completed the Insanity workout program. When we saw each other and hugged it out, I had to take a step back to take in how much fitter and happy he looked. This wasn’t the John from high school! Even as I felt my best looking days might be behind me, his were right now. I had to ask him about doing Insanity and recent lifestyle changes. “Starting out, I thought I was going to throw up and I did horribly,” he told me, rolling his eyes. “But you just have to keep doing it. It gets better; you just have to stick with it.”

I haven’t stuck with much of anything for long enough to see results, health-wise. As I’ve read over entries in the making of this site and for other projects, I have noticed how often I’ve started going to the gym only to fall off. I see where I picked up running a few times and fell off. Registering for a 5K didn’t keep me from falling out of the habit of going running. I remember seeing my co-workers face as she completed the 10K less than ten minutes after I completed the 5K, and seeing how proud she was of her accomplishment. I tried to remember the last time I felt that in regards to my life, especially in the area of heath/beauty/fitness, and I couldn’t come up with anything, not one thing that I’d finished and basked in the results.

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

Throughout the beginning of this year, I focused on going after a few dreams I’ve had for years. One of those dreams was to have a self-hosted site where I could place most, if not all, of my blogs. I buckled down on getting this accomplished. I put a lot more effort into finishing my book, focusing on just one project. I accepted a speaking engagement to promote the site.  I started to feel a bit accomplished, even though I wasn’t posting as regularly as I would like. But I knew the rest of my life wasn’t going as well. I needed to bring a bit of balance to my life.

Mr. Perfect (aka MensHealth aka Tech Support) has been trying to get me to take my health and fitness more seriously for years, but I couldn’t do it for him. Honestly, ever since college, I couldn’t do it for God, either. In college, I would tell myself my body was a temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell in, and I needed to make sure it was a fit temple. Somewhere along the way, “my body is a temple” began to mean that I wasn’t to have sex before marriage or drink or smoke, but eating poorly and not exercising were perfectly fine, as well as not doing my hair or keeping my skin looking nice. I didn’t have any accountability in this area at all. I would get offended when people would tell me I had put on so much weight or ask me if I was pregnant. I wasn’t happy with how I looked, but I wasn’t ready to address it.

Then the mild health issues came up. I started to have a need for tums. I had such heartburn and gas in my stomach. My stomach was irritable. I was feeling so tired all the time, but not able to sleep well. My ankle, IT band, and hip hurt frequently. My apartment started to get messier and messier. I was just trying to get through the day. I am way too young for these types of aches and pains and health problems. So I began to get back into the Word and read blogs and books where people address appearance in a godly way.

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David, Steve, and I at the reunion.

I am slowly making changes, using the philosophy of just one thing at a time. It’s like juggling; you start out with a few, then add a ball. Then you get into a rhythm and make sure you can keep things going before you add another. I have started out with a couple of balls: drink more water, cook more at home, and do something physical every day. I order some vitamins off of Amazon after a little investigating that I hope will provide me with some nutrients that I don’t get enough of in my diet. I’m still researching different things I may want to incorporate, but this is a good start. As far as beauty is concerned, I am writing down a schedule for doing my hair and I hope to stick to it. Since I do it myself at present, including protein treatments and deep conditioning, I need to know when I did what so I don’t end up damaging it. I have a lot of hair and it gets overwhelming to keep it done, but I just have to get used to it. I bought some Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV), which has a million uses, and plan to experiment with it in a few different areas.

I’m slowly starting to realize that my health and fitness is just as important in my walk with God as my willingness to serve. I can’t serve if my body isn’t working properly. I will make an effort to update on these goals often for accountability. I am still looking for an accountability partner in this area of my life, and let’s hope I find one quickly.

Just one thing at a time,

Erica

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Of Birthdays & Blessings

Today is my birthday. I’m one of those people who makes a big deal out of birthdays, who counts down to their birthday and tries to plan things to do on said birthday. I love to celebrate other people’s birthdays as well. I just have a heart for celebration, and I don’t think I ever celebrate myself on any other day like I do my birthday.

My birthday is a time of introspection for me, a time when I evaluate my life and decide on what I want to accomplish going forward. It’s a time when I see what has gone pear shaped or crooked and try to develop a plan for fixing it. This, of course, can make my impending birthday a pensive, disillusioning, and vaguely frustrating time as well as a celebratory one.

I see no reason to separate the two. This is the balance of my life, after all. This is my new year, when within the span of twenty four hours I will eat too much and wake up determined never to eat that again; when I will throw all cares to the wind, then wake to carefully gather them up again and try and put a careful plan for life together. I like that dichotomy; it speaks to me.

This year leading up to my birthday has been a bit rough. I had the car accident in January a little over a week into the new year. That whole decision 2012 didn’t turn out as definitively as I planned. I realized I wouldn’t have the extra money I thought paying off my car would get me. I couldn’t get off this schedule at work, and I stalled a little bit on the book. I can say that 2013 wasn’t shaping up to be a good year.

But I made a promise to myself to commit to doing some things differently. I am not sharing what the first thing was, but let’s just say it is a spiritual thing that requires a physical effort. I signed up for a 5K and started doing couch to 5K. I have started back up on the book. I got a new (to me) car. I bought this domain. In spite of the earlier setbacks of the year, I’m moving forward.

The things that I considered setbacks in January, I am already beginning to see their utility and God’s wisdom in His timing and what He has allowed to happen. After my accident, I got to see such an outpouring of love from both my natural and church family. Mr. Perfect (the boyfriend) has been such a support to me during this time; I have truly seen things I asked God to show me about him in the past several weeks. Even though I couldn’t walk out with the car I initially wanted a last weekend, I was able to look around and find the perfect vehichle at an even better rate (an interest rate of almost half the other one) that I was able to drive off with on Friday, just in time for my birthday. God knows what He is doing.

What I usually like to do on my birthday is to make my goals going forward. I use the time before my birthday to evaluate where I am and where I want to be, then move forward with seriously pursuing goals after my birthday. The goals that I have for this year are simple:

  • keep doing that spiritual thing I’ve committed to doing.
  • buy web-hosting and set up my completely bought and paid for website.
  • finish, query, and publish my first book.
  • continue to improve my credit. Pay everything on time and start a savings.
  • become more serious about my faith. I want to have a more regular prayer and Bible study life.
  • take better care of the things God has already blessed me with–health, job, car, my body, my hair.
  • Run a 5K. I want to run the entire time.
  • Convert people to Christ.
  • Encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Cherish and talk to my family members more. If the past few years of sickness in the family has taught me, time with them is precious.
  • Develop a regular posting schedule.
  • Trademark and copyright what I need to.
  • Learn patience. There are some things I am having to wait for, but I haven’t always been waiting with grace.
  • Recognize answers to prayers, even when they aren’t 50 ft. neon sign type of answers.
  • Become a wife. As a member of the church, I am a bride of Christ. I having been using this time to develop the attributes of a wife to Him. I’ve been planning the wedding but not the ultimate marriage to Him. (A post to come on this soon). I heard someone say recently that the Bible says when a man finds a wife, not a woman, as in she already has the attributes of a wife. It was one of those moments when you hear something you’ve heard forever, yet it strikes you as if you are hearing it with full comprehension for the first time. I would like to develop into a wife and be found. This one is a two-fold goal.
  • Lose some weight. I’m not putting a number out there.
  • Buy a scale. 🙁
  • Add more recipes to my repetoire.
  • Grow.

Do you make a big deal out of your birthday? How do you view your birthday? What are your goals for this year of your life?

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The Buried Life, Examined

I don’t know if it’s because of the introspection that turning a year older always induces in me, or because the ideas I’m working on for my memoir are causing my brain to divulge all of its secret treasures, but the past couple of weeks have been full of memories coming up that have me going “I completely forgot about that!”

I recently recalled my experiences with Tai Chi, a slight memory of golden apples on a ceiling that spawned a creative non-fiction piece “Creative Visualization.” Just today, I was twice reminded of other memories: one directly related to my memoir, and one of a grade school trip to the state capital. I’ve never had a problem remembering things, and I don’t know why it surprises me that the memories are still in there, somewhere, waiting to be knocked loose by an image or a thought so they can float to the surface. It’s just amazing how the cosmic shifts inside of me caused by my birthday have opened me up to such mundane memories. It’s equally amazing that these memories, upon reexamination, are so rich in meaning and appropriate for the projects I’m working on.

I’ve been sort of dreading this birthday more than most. I will be past the prime publication age I held so dear. I’ll never appear on a Top 40 aged 25 and under list of up and coming literary voices. The year that I was twenty-five will be recorded as one where there weren’t many triumphs. I don’t feel any closer to the goals I’ve had for myself or the things I’d always imagined I’d have by the time I’m 25-26: house, husband, heirs…, yet:

  • I’m writing at a higher level than before.
  • My blog(s) are developing a good following and inspiring discussion.
  • I’ve erased some of the old habits and debts that have kept me back.
  • I’m finally ready to seek publication again.
  • My writing voice is more fully developed than it was last year.

Since I’ve stop pushing back memories of my life, stopped thinking my life is uninteresting and uninspiring, I’ve come to see so many jewels of wisdom and insight. I’ve realized I have something to say, not just as a fiction writer, but as a non-fiction writer. I’m realizing I’ve accomplished a lot, much more than I give myself credit for, and I still have a lot of life left (hopefully) to accomplish over and exceeding everything I’ve ever imagined. I’ll get there in my own time, when the time is right. I just have to trust that I’m going to get there, and keep walking.

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The Gift of Confidence

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...
One of these days, I'll at least have a writing desk like this! Image via Wikipedia

I again sat and read the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel (which is in need of a better working title) this past week. I was expecting to be bombarded with mistakes and plot holes, to be blindsided by changes in tense, and to find that the way I manipulated time in the story was confusing instead of opening up the possibilities of what could be done with the story. I wasn’t expecting to find much useable material.

As I sat on my floor (still need that writing desk/computer desk), editing my work in the reading mode of Microsoft Word, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were many strong points in the story. Even though I’d felt I had a good story as NaNoWriMo was underway, I expected to feel differently about the writing once the rush was over. I didn’t have an excessive amount of filler words that were written just to meet the requirements (which is probably part of the reason I fell short). It gave me a boost of confidence in my writing to see how well it’s held up to proofreading.

Even though I’d promised myself not to proofread until I actually finished a first draft, I’m glad I broke my promise. I know now that there’s a reason to continue. I didn’t do any extensive editing, just fixed a few typos and let the material stand as; I suppose this was an effort to compromise with myself over editing.

On a sad note, one of the pages of the handwritten draft is missing. It’s a page I hadn’t transcribed yet. Hopefully a good organizing of paperwork will yield the missing page. I hate when I misplace pages and have to recreate things. Either I don’t remember what is missing or I can’t recapture the magic of the moment. It’s much easier to get the jist of a thing down and craft it out of this rough material than it is to start from scratch with only a general idea of what the jist might have been.

It’s going to be easier for me to go forward with my writing goals in this new year because I’ve restored a bit of my confidence in my writing. I’ll share my writing goals with you as it gets closer to the New Year. I hope everyone finds the courage and the confidence from somewhere to continue to persevere in their writing.

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All Things Become New

Aim High Statue from my high school alma mater

I haven’t felt motivated to write a Monday Meditation/Motivation in a while, but as I was sitting at work, I just had this on my mind. It’s nothing uber philosophical and profound, but hopefully it motivates you a little bit. 

Today is the first day back to school for Orange County schools as well as the university. I remember my last first day of school. I had spent over a year preparing for that moment. After working constantly for over a year, clawing my way back from the brink–of giving up, of saying forget it & never finishing, of having to check “Some College”  on every application for the rest of my days–I was calm, prepared. I felt myself moving in a weird binary–I was in new-familiar.

I have been pursuing newfamiliar for a while now, as well as the genuinely new, positive, and forward moving. But mostly I’ve fallen back, been drug back–and now I feel driven to the brink again. I’ve been pushed back by fear and perceived lack–money, motivation, abilitiy, worthiness. I get so mired in worry, I don’t even keep up with the things I should be able to keep up with. I’ve splintered instead of keeping a singular focus.

But today is a day that’s a fresh start. People all over the city are starting a new year right now, meeting new people, being given new material to learn, a new plan of action. For some this is the beginning of the end of a phase of their lives. Ther’s enthusiasm & rededication in the air.

As the new year came in, I had a myriad list of things to accomplish before 2011. Over the past several months, I’ve had many setbacks, but I’ve also had many successes. Just because I’m not where I planned to be by now doesn’t mean I can have an emotional tantrum & knock down all the progress I’ve made or rip up this chapter in my life; what I can do is build on my successes, start a new chapter.

David says in Psalms 27 “one thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek after…” (Psalms 27:4). The thing he asked God for was also what he was actively pursuing. I for one am guilty of asking God for things and…waiting. It’s time to seek after, to make preparation and steps towards what I want.

While I sat in my apartment before that last first day, I remembered coming back to Flroida. I hadn’t withdrawn properly from the university I attended in Michigan, nor had I applied to any schools here. I had no idea how to establish residency. I was too weary to tell people I knew what I was doing and I didn’t want their opinions. I didn’t have much heart or fight left, but the little I did have wanted that degree, and it didn’t matter where it was, I would get it.   I prayed–a LOT. But I also researched schools, found out residency requirements and fulfilled them, and positioned myself to be able to sit on a bed in Orland Florida for my last first day of undergrad.

If your life hasn’t lived up to what you had in mind, let today be your first day of going in the reigh direction, as it is for me. and so many others. Pray without ceasing, but also ceaselessly  seek after what you are asking God for. Don’t be afraid to step out on a limb and reach for the fruit. If you managed to get that far, there’s no use not to cross the finish line. Let’s all stay encouraged and uplifted–and in active pursuit of our dreams!

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Wrapping Up 2009 or the Re-Gifting of ’09

I don’t have time to write this entry right now, but I was so tired when I got home it wouldn’t have made any sense to try and write then. So let this entry serve as a precursor to the next one or two, or however many it takes to wrap up a year that I want to re-gift to someone else.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the concept of regifting: someone gives you something you don’t want or need, and you put it away, to give to someone else who probably doesn’t want or need it. Some people have whole re-gifting closets. Emily Post and the etiquette people debated whether or not re-gifting was appropriate. It was a really big deal. Now we don’t really care. It’s that way with a lot of things.

I would love to regift this year, but I wouldn’t have put this year on anyone. And there’s so little of it left, at this point. The return for a refund period has expired and I have lost the receipt. The only thing left to do is to wrap it up and throw it to the back of the closet. And tell you what I want in the upcoming year so I can get it this time.

More later…

2blu2btru

Oh, and I don’t write New Year’s Resolutions, per se, so don’t expect those. You’ll see what I do. Just note, I broke traditions and wrote NYR this past year, and you’ll see how bad that turned out.

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A Look At the Old Me

“So now my journey begins anew. It’s not going to be an easy one, I’m sure of that. I have decided on how to go about this Great Awakening and transformation…”

What the heck was I thinking when I wrote that two short years ago? I “decided” how I was going to learn how to be me? I was going to “transform” myself? I can’t believe I was that naïve, and, I’ve been assured, I am still not in the know about much of anything; I’ve only hit the tip of the wisdom iceberg.

I guess, in defense of my two years younger self, that it was a step in the right direction to at least be open to the fact that I was going to change, to embrace it, actually, and begin to prepare myself for that inevitability. I’ll say one thing for her, when she was tired of being unhappy about something she did something about it in her own little way.

I am really happy that I got to know her, have grown, since I was her, to love her and her idiosyncrasies. I am thankful for the window into her soul I have through those journal entries. I guess that’s the real reason why I still keep a diary. My initial reason was to document everything that Jonis ever said to me or did to me, or any other boy for that matter. Even though it started out a little less than correctly, I got around to talking about me and my feelings aside from boys eventually (although I still mention them from time to time).

Okay so on to my writing, I’d love to fix this, but here’s the original for a comparison to later versions:

Bag Lady

I’ve never found my nickel bag to be a heavy weight,

Always thought that it was to be my fate.

I just put it in my Sunday purse and started on my way,

Not knowing all the bags that I would collect that day.

I met a guy and made an expedient exchange,

My heart for his suitcase was the deal soon arranged.

I went along my merry way to church, but stopped to take a look

And ended up trading my beauty for a bag of books.

If I can’t be beautiful I’ll dress ready for sex

Wear an out that speaks for my mouth, beckoning “Who’s next?”

Never realizing that to be sexy, you need not to dress hoochie,

I traded my common sense for a bag made by Gucci.

But I couldn’t afford Gucci, my nickel bag low on cash,

So I traded in my Gucci for a bag of trash.

The bags began to weigh me down,

my strength began to wane I

tried to handle them all by myself,

but they caused me pain.

I finally, finally came to the House of God,

Went timidly inside, afraid of his chastening rod.

But a tender voice said “Now that you’ve finally come back,

Leave your bags with me and leave her intact.

So I dropped my bags there, except my Sunday purse,

And although it held a lot of things, the bags I’d had were worse.

Erica Denise Hearns

*

Today was the kind of day that occurs in the middle of the summer to let you know that the sun’s warm rays won’t favor you forever. The clouds blocked any influence the sun might have had on the temperature, and the wind cried shrilly through the trees as if searching for a lost child. The oppressive atmosphere put me in a rather depressed mood. But then I came across a card from my old Self-Portrait teacher, and another from Amy telling me not to waste my talent, to keep writing, and here I am.

Stay tuned for another misadventure of this almost grown woman…until the next time, keep it true, no matter how many feelings truth hurts!