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When Goals Get Good: 2016 in Review Part Quatre

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The 200+ stairs I walked up (and down) at the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

My goals for 2016 were outrageous. I wanted to do some huge things this year. You would think with the challenges of the second part of this year I would have failed miserably at achieving anything. However, because God knows best, some of my greatest fails opened the doors to make the achievement of many of these goals possible and probable. I didn’t achieve them all, but I knew I wouldn’t going into it. They were BIG goals. But what I was able to achieve? Amazing!

So, what did I say I was going to do this year? How did I do?

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  1. Seek God. The overall goal this year is to seek God with my whole heart. The ways in which I plan to do this are to study the bible more, pray more, and integrate other spiritual disciplines into my life. To this end, I will study the bible each day, pray each day, and meditate each day. I want to attend Sunday school and bible study each week and fast at least once this year. Performance: Modest. I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped to, but I did study the bible, pray and meditate on the word more this year than in times past. I made it to Sunday school more consistently, but *late boots* and still not as often as I should have. I made most bible studies, even going to other congregations when out and about. I did not fast intentionally this year (although I did go whole days where I forgot to eat. I know, that doesn’t count. Sigh).
  2. Seek to make God known. The goal of the books that I write and things that I sell is to promote the cause of Christ. It’s hard for me to market or get my work in front of other women, but I want to reach more women and get them excited about being serious about God in whatever season they are in. I will speak at least three (3) times in 2016. I will sell 500 copies of my new book, The Season for Getting Serious. I will sell another 100 copies of Altered before the Altar. Performance: I did FAR better than I ever would have thought on this goal. I did speak three times: I spoke on Single, Spiritual and Satisfied and on Writing a Book at our ladies day in July and I spoke on Writing & Publishing at a workshop day as part of my dad’s conference in October. I got VERY close to selling another 100 copies of Altered before the Altar. Ladies are still buying this book over two years after publishing it! I still get Facebook posts, comments, and messages as well as emails and people stopping me at different events telling me how Altered before the Altar has changed their perspective and improved their relationship with God. To God be the glory! I absolutely haven’t sold 500 copies of Season. I didn’t publish it until month 7 of this year. In five months, I’ve sold close to sixty copies, and momentum is gaining. I’m expecting this number to grow as more women read and recommend this one.
  3. Seek to Serve Others. I want to get back into serving others well.  I will: participate in the benevolence Ministry at least three (3) times this year, go door knocking at least once (1x) this year, and complete at least two (2) Passion Projects. Performance: Listen. When I looked at this, I got sad because I didn’t think I’d done any of this. But then I remembered: I did go door knocking–I went to spread the word about our gospel meeting. I did complete two passion projects–I helped plan this year’s ladies day, and I hosted a young adult fellowship at my house. I did not go out with the benevolence ministry this year, though. Something to work on next year, Lord willing.
  4. Seek to Soar. I will get a publishing contract for my inspirational fiction. I will get a contract for my third Christian Living/Non-fiction book. I will turn The Season for Getting Serious into a site that encourages women to get serious about pursuing a Christ centered life no matter what season of life they are in. Performance: FAIL. Epic fail. All around, knock down drag out fail. I didn’t submit any fiction this year. None. I didn’t write a book proposal. I neglected this blog SO HARD. But did I fail in my goal to seek to soar? No way! I traveled on my own. I wrote amazing journals. I attended amazing events. I showcased talents other than writing. I’ve worked on three projects which will change lives (hopefully in 2017 and beyond). I soared, y’all. Not in the way I thought I would, but I did it. I soared.

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Want to know something truly amazing? The unintentional goals I met this year. I wrote a list in 2015 based off an exercise in Lara Casey’s Make It Happen of things I was afraid of and why I was afraid of them. I said I was afraid of teaching, writing another book, making a decision about my relationship, moving, pursuing my passion full-time, and speaking for various reasons. This year, I taught, wrote another book, made a decision about my relationship, pursued my passion full-time, and spoke! The very things I was afraid to do, God allowed me to do them, and do them well. I love God’s timing. I love how He works to rid me of a spirit of fear. Some of my fears were for nothing and things turned out way better than I expected; other times, the thing I was afraid would happen happened. Either way, I’m still here and all the better for it. God is good all the time, y’all. Goals get good when God gets glory.

Did you achieve your goals in 2016? Why or Why not? How will the outcome of your 2016 goals affect your goal setting process for 2017?

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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.

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  • 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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Question & Answer Periods

Zora Neale Hurston was a prominent literary fi...
An Underrated Author, Zora Neale Hurston. Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite quotes from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is this:

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

In the past few years, I’ve discovered the veracity of this quote. Mostly the questions and answers lately have run like Gatorade & Nike commercials. One year asks, “Is it in you?” and the next answers “Just Do It.” Some years are harder than others to classify by either a question or an answer; it seems that the has answered old questions and posed others. But, after careful inspection, I find that for me this is not the case, that I’m just misinterpreting an answer as a question, or thinking a question is really an answer.

When I sat down to think about this year, whether this was a year that asked a question or provided an answer, my thoughts immediately turned to the beginning of the year. 2010 started off with financial crises. As the year meandered on, there was death, car troubles, housing troubles, job burnout, and several falterings of faith and will. This year seemed to be asking “How much more can you take until you break?” Maybe it was asking “How are you going to get yourself out of this one?” But the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I’ve realized this year hasn’t been asking me anything.

I’ll give you years that asked questions: 2007 & 2008. Those years asked “How bad do you want it?” I imagine Pennywise the Clown (played magnificently by Tim Curry) growling at me “Don’t cha want it? Don’t cha want it?” Out of school, starting over in Florida, trying to make all the money I could to go back to school, feeling hopeless. How bad did I want my degree? I answered “very badly” with every hour I worked, every application I filled out, every time I went to the English Department Advisor, the liberal arts advisors, and the transfer student offices to get my credits properly transferred and get into the classes I needed.

But that was only the beginning. I graduated, then lost a job, lost an apartment, and had a decision to make between staying and finding a job and crawling back to my family begging for the job I hadn’t taken. My independence, following my own dream/vision for my life: How badly did I want it? I stayed and found a new job and new apartment.

2009 & 2010 were different animals altogether. While they seemed the same (the housing/financial issues, the uncertainty, second guessing decisions), they were answering a question (or questions) I had been ignoring in the back of my mind since well before any great hardships befell me: Can I do it? Can I succeed? Will I be able to support myself and make decisions for myself? Will I be able to trust myself to make hard decisions for myself? Can I live up to the expectations placed upon me?

I thought these past four years have been asking me how badly I wanted certain things, but really two of those years were asking me how badly I wanted to know how strong of a person I was, what I could handle, whether or not I was ready to be a woman. The other two years were confirmation and reaffirmation. These were things I’d seen before, but I just hadn’t understood what they really were there to teach me. I’d failed the course and had to take it again.

So what was the answer? The answer was:  

You can do it if you want to do it. Please refer to previous years. Do you want it? You can find a job and keep it, or you can get a job and get fired. You can chose the place that’s right for you, or you can be forcibly ejected from the wrong place. You can spend another two years battling to get on schedule and break even financially, or you can reimplement the tools you used to get you on track and ahead before. You can’t stand in mediocrity and grab greatness; you can’t stand anywhere and grab greatness. You have to chase greatness, trap it, then take care of it like any other pet. It will require work, discipline, and innovation, but you have those things. You cannot be satisfied with not being where you’re supposed to be, and now you know you can get to where you want to be.

Now that I know what I’m able to do with God and the skills He gave me, 2011 is wide open for me to move into and begin implementing the things I’ve learned.  But first, I need to wrap up the year, evaluate my progress on accountability (the word of 2010), and set forward my 2011 goals.

Was this a year that asked you questions or gave you answers? What were the questions/answers? What was your progress this year? What are your 2011 goals? 

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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…

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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.