Truth in Love: Poem to 11/10/16 Erica

Note: After I posted yesterday, I felt like there was some stuff I left out, intentionally. If I were really writing to myself a year ago, there were some things I don’t think it would have been helpful for me to know. But it would be helpful for readers to know, and maybe 2016 Erica deserved to hear it, too. When I started getting my thoughts out, to my surprise they formed this spoken word poem type of thing. This is the finished (edited and such) product. Stay tuned for more info on the book release at the end!
I didn’t lie to you.
I just didn’t tell you everything.
I didn’t want to tell you that like so many
Broken bones and promises,
It’s going to hurt
When you look at it.
When you realize what’s happened.
I didn’t want to tell you how an old post on Facebook’s On This Day
Will steal your breath away.
Sorrow will slide between your ribs
Sharp and lethal.
Every breath you take that day will be
Excruciating.
I didn’t want you to know the more you dig
For gold beneath the old standbys of
“All things work together!” and
“Count it all joy!”
Boy do you notice how much
You’re bleeding.
This is a complex break; it’s not clean.
You have to get in there and repair.
Somebody has to set in order.
I didn’t tell you sometimes the cast keeping everything in line
Comes with a pain of its own.
You won’t be able to move as freely as you used to.
You won’t maneuver through the world with the same grace
You like to display.
And that’s OK.

There’s so much I didn’t say yesterday
Simply because I couldn’t collect all the words.
I didn’t want pain to get in the way.
I didn’t want fear to get in your ear
And whisper “You can’t do this.”
I didn’t want to pull back the curtain and let you see
How rough this road was going to be
Before you take the first step.
I couldn’t put a stumbling block among the rocks
And roots to trip you up.
I wanted to tell you enough
To help you sleep well last night.
Enough so you welcome dawn’s early light
With enough bubblegum pop to prop you up throughout the day.

The peace God gave you doesn’t have legs to walk about;
You have to carry it with you.
I didn’t want you to think it would be too much to hold.
This peace is so light it’s almost air.
Don’t neglect something so great
Because it has such little weight.
You’ll need it in the middle of the day, like a phone charger
When you’re battery’s low and you have no way to plug in to power.
You try to conserve life but it keeps getting lower
Like you left an app running in the background.
Everything doesn’t have to be so heavy.
It doesn’t have to press down hard to matter.
Sometimes my thoughts get scattered when I try to put all that
In less than a thousand words.
But I hope you heard what did get said.
You are strong and kind and loved.
The things you’re learning again
Will be like old familiar friends
You don’t know why you stopped talking to.
But there’s more work to be done,
And I didn’t want to be the one
To have to tell you the battle isn’t won just because
Your heart isn’t broken.

So now that you’ve awoken to the fact
There’s more on your to do list
I want to leave you with this.
You are more strong and kind than you ever had in mind to be.
This isn’t going to be easy
Perhaps one day it will be.
This blood you shed is the transfusion
This generation of mass confusion needs.
You have to step out.
I didn’t want the level of difficulty to keep you from stepping.
I know now it won’t.
I know you’re going to do what you get to do.
You’re not going to quit,
And you’re not going to turn back.
That’s my hang up.
I didn’t trust you to show up and be
Exactly what I needed you to be.
But I trust you now.
So I’m saying it now.
In case you missed it along the way to what happened yesterday:
You’ve got this.

About the book: The book, tentatively titled Break Right, will be released Tuesday, February 13, 2018! Break Right will be available for pre-order beginning Friday, December 29th, 2017. Pre-orders placed by 11:59PM (EST) on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 will be shipped for delivery by release day. Those who pre-order will receive a few pre-order goodies: free ebooks, bookmarks, prints, and more to be detailed soon. 

Bible study Ladies and the Logos will be released Monday, January 15, 2018. Pre-orders will begin Friday, December 15, 2017. All orders placed before Monday, January 1, 2018 will be shipped for delivery by release day. Pre-order goodies include bookmarks, prints, study guides, and more to be detailed soon. 

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Dear 11/9/16 Erica…and an Announcement!

Dear Miss E,

Whenever people say “A year from now, your whole life can be different,” you always think of the possibilities and positives. Some might call it optimistic or Pollyanna, but you know it’s faith and hope. So, I’m not surprised that you view tonight not as a rejection or an ending, but as an invitation. That’s just who you are and what you do, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that than I am looking back on the season you are about to enter.

You are so much more than you realize right now. There are things you can’t see because you’re too close to them. You only see dimly through a foggy mirror right now, but oh dear heart, it would amaze you to know what God is going to reveal in you. You know God made you intelligent, hopeful and loving but He made you so much more that you get to discover. You’re experiencing it even now with your heart hurting.

God made you strong and kind, not in a moment, but in your marrow. Life has knocked you down time after time for four months straight, and yet you get up gracefully. Tonight, you had the strength to set down and walk away from your version of forever after, and you did it with kindness. You were kind to yourself and someone you thought would always be a part of your story. You were kind to the relationship you had and who you had been to one another. You were kind to the people you would be in the future. It took such strength and kindness to pull the plug and let this relationship slip away peacefully. You think you were weak because you had to ask God to give you the strength to do what you know you needed to do, but that’s what makes you so strong. This strength and kindness aren’t momentary aberrations but are inherited traits in your spiritual DNA. God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness has never been more real to you than it was tonight, and it will never be a scripture you say without intimate knowledge of its truth. God is going to keep showing up strong and kind in your life, and He’s going to keep showing you how to be those things, too.

Right now, you’re wondering if you’re going to shrink back into your shell or harden you heart against love. I can tell you the opposite is true. As you begin to fill your free time serving others, the dams are going to burst and you are going to find your capacity to give and receive love is so much greater than you ever imagined. You’ll find the more you pour out, the more you have to give. In this moment it feels like your heart is a drain and love is rushing out of you like a river, but trust me, it gets better. God has surrounded you with so much love. I know you feel like this happened at the worst possible time and place, but God saw fit to let you walk away from this painful letting go straight into a Wednesday night service where you sang about who He is and what He does. You sat and read Isaiah’s prophecies of the coming Messiah, of restoration and a reason to hope. You were embraced and told you were being prayed for by people who don’t even know what just happened. Sister Calloway hugged you close and rocked you like a baby and whispered she loved you like she always does, but you held her a little tighter and you let those words burrow in a little deeper. God showed you right then that you needed people in the season you were entering, and I thank Him that you had the strength to start showing up more just to sit with people.

As you drive home tonight, you’re wondering about this peace you have. You think maybe it’s numbness, that things haven’t sunk in yet. You feel pain, but it can’t compare to the peace, and that scares you a little bit. That, dear heart, is the peace of God you feel. Tonight was hard and it hurt, but it was right and you know it. This peace isn’t going to go away in the cold light of day. It will stay with you. Lean into it. Trust in it. Thank God for it.

This feels like failure, but you have to know this is success. You said when a decision was made, you would be able to breathe again. You felt like you had been holding your breath. You said after a decision was made “why do I still feel like I can’t breathe?” But sit in your skin now and note how your lungs are filling as you breathe deep and let out those huge sighs. This is breathing, friend. This is the breathe of life you’ve been longing for. Breathe it in. Because the next twists and turns are going to take your breath away in the best possible ways…

XOXO

Erica

The above is a love letter to myself for ending a relationship and starting the process of moving on. In the moment, it can be hard to accept that there’s a purpose to the pain, and that you’ll somehow be better for breaking up. In the year since this night, I’ve learned this is not only possible, but it was purposed for me. Earlier this year, I reached out to some single Christians about a project I felt the Lord placed on my heart: a book about breakups that gives biblically based tools to navigate the unique challenges of breaking up with someone as a Christian. The response was unanimous: it was needed.

I’m excited to announce that this project will be released in a few months! This is so much more than a book. Other products for purchase and pre-order information will be forthcoming as we creep closer to release day. I can’t wait to share what God shared with me in this season!

That’s not all! I am also excited to announce my first bible study, Ladies and the Logos, will be releasing in January! This bible study is for any Christian woman who wants to examine how an encounter with Christ changes everything. We’ll deep dive into each story, highlighting the characteristics of Christ revealed in the encounter and receiving practical tips on how to exhibit those characteristics in our everyday lives. More details on this launch will also be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

Don’t miss any information on my upcoming releases. Sign up for my newsletter.

XOXO,

Erica

Love Where You Live: Clogged

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Water running down the drain, deep sinkhole

Around the time Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, there was a massive AC leak in my apartment. I didn’t notice it at first. I was sheltering at my aunt’s house when I wasn’t working 12 hour shifts. When I visited my apartment after the storm had passed, the power was out. I saw some water on the floor.I thought this was due to the power outage. I cleaned up the water, threw out the contents of my refrigerator, and went back to work.

I didn’t return to my apartment to stay until a week after the storm when power was restored. I was up early cleaning my apartment when my bare toes landed in something wet. The water I thought I’d cleaned up was back. I called the maintenance over to figure out what was happening. He said he bet he knew what it was because it had happened in another unit before.

“Yeah, it’s just what I thought. Your AC line is clogged. Water isn’t going out of the unit like it’s supposed to, and it’s leaking into your carpet here.”

He brought in a shop vac and began working. What he discovered was the water damage was much more extensive than he originally thought. There was damage to the carpet, padding, subfloor, wall, baseboards, and doorframe. Items in my apartment were lost to water and/or mold damage.

I discovered something (other than mold) through this experience.

I had mad a dangerous assumption about my AC unit. Since the AC was doing what it was “supposed” to do, I paid no attention to how it was performing. I treated the issue without addressing the source.

This happens frequently in my life. If I’m doing what I’m “supposed” to do, I don’t always notice when something’s amiss internally. It escapes my attention that I’m not releasing things appropriately. I’m crossing items off my to do list and moving forward on goals, but my emotional backup is saturating  everything around me. Waste water is leaking into my environment and creating the perfect space for some really nasty things to grow. This dysfunction and the resulting mess affects my life and the lives of everyone around me, just like my AC unit damaged everything close to it.

This may seem like a stretch, but stay with me. I’ve been focused on loving where I live lately. If I’m going to love where I live, I need to do more than function. I need to live in a way that isn’t negatively impacting those around me. I can’t cause catastrophe in the lives of others because I’m malfunctioning and expect a pass because I’m still doing the bare minimum of what I’m supposed to do.

Have you experienced this? Maybe you were served by someone who did their job but lacked customer service. Perhaps you or someone you love makes meals AND messes they expect someone else to clean because they cooked. Or perhaps you’ve been impacted by a parent who thinks as long as they send a court mandated amount of money at the required frequency they’ve done their job. Over and over again, we’ve come into contact with the walking wounded who aren’t aware or don’t care that they’re dripping all over everything. They keep moving ahead without taking the time to look down and see that something is wrong with them.

Whatever is in us comes out. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” One version of this verse says “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” If we are clogged emotionally and/or spiritually, those emotions will still spill out. Improperly released emotions can cause far reaching and extensive damage in our lives and the lives of those closest to us.

Inattention will cost us. This life is about more than doing what we’re supposed to do. In fact, it’s at the times we’re doing what we’re supposed to do when we are most susceptible to doing the things we shouldn’t. It’s when we’re doing well on a diet that we reward ourselves with a cheat day that becomes a cheat life. It’s when we finally feel content single that we meet a person who isn’t for anything but our ego. It’s when we’ve paid our bills that we decide to spend money we don’t have to treat ourselves, continuing the debt cycle.

Do you see the dysfunction inherent in these things? The problem is we think we are doing well so we reward ourselves with things that are detrimental to succeeding at what we say we want to do. My exhortation to you today if you, too, want to love where you are in life, is to stop measuring your success by if you did the thing you were supposed to do and to start looking at the bigger picture of how you function in and influence your environment. Are you emotionally clogged? Dealing with the affects of someone you love whose emotions are being improperly released?

My thoughts have thoughts on this, and I could say a million other things here, but for today, it’s enough to dial back in, to pay attention. It’s time to stop ignoring the check engine light because your car starts up and gets you where you need to go.

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

Is This True, Though??

As you may or may not know, I’m deep in the throes of writing non-fiction book three, and it is beating the brakes off of me, thank you for asking. There is no fast way to finish this book. Part memoir, part get your crap together, girl guide for the good girl Christian who made a few bad choices, I indulged my self-absorption to the full recording myself talk through what I wanted to write. I slogged through transcribing those recordings and adding helpful side notes. Then I printed out what I had (spoiler alert: a hot mess) and went to the library to start editing and cobbling things together.

What did I find as I combed through my work? A ton of summarizing without pertinent details, flanked by helpful notes reminding me to add in said details. I found snarky notes bemoaning the state of my draft (#IylanaFixMySentences being a favorite). Uncovering the gems has been hard this go around.

But the sentence I chose to title this post has been, by far, the stickiest of the sticking place in this manuscript thus far. Sentences like this challenge me, force me to be more real than I want to be. They are what Well Watered Women Co. founder Gretchen Saffles would call soul-scrubbing. Hovering above a confident line of text, those words hit me now harder than when I wrote them in blue ink with my new favorite editing pen: Is this true, though?? If it were a definitive statement I would be able to be defensive about it. If I’d called myself a liar, I could beat the thought six ways to Sunday. But it’s a question. A question for clarity’s sake. Questions like these are invitations to take another look and be honest about what you see. If you see the statement is true, fine. Leave it in and move on. But you better be sure it’s the truth.

Truth be told, I argued with myself about writing this book from its inception. I don’t want to be known as the ________ girl anymore than I wanted to be known as the single Christian girl when I wrote Altered before the Altar. But this is worse. It’s more personal. I’m talking about my real life in an effort to help others. The least I can be is honest about what I’ve been through and how I handled it. When I shared my idea in a group I’m in on Facebook, more than one woman said she wished she had this book at a certain time in her life. Many who responded were struggling with it right then. It’s a book that’s needed, and I have the dubious honor of writing it.

If I’m going to write it, though, I have to wrestle with questions like “Is this true, though?” every time I pick up my pen or fire up my laptop. I have to constantly question my motives for including this and excluding that. Am I telling this story to make me look good or to make someone look bad? What information or lessons learned are to be shared with the reader and which were just for me?

There are lines I find myself longing to share on social media, not only because they are beautiful, but because they are true. I fought long and hard to get them on the page. Most are written in blue ink above crossed out lines of my second or third attempts to put words to feelings without names. They are gentle reminders, encouragements to dig deeper, and slaps to the back of the head followed by admonitions to pay attention. I don’t want to share them because they make me sound smart but because I know that following where they lead and wrestling with what you find in that dark basement of your heart is the only way to beat what goes bump in the night.

As I usually do, I waited until me and my title were practically married before I did an Amazon search to see what popped up. My brilliant title has been used several times for books on the same subject as mine. After going back to the drawing board, I think I have a better title. I’m going to sit with it for a while before I commit to it this time.

In the grand scheme of things, the title being taken is the least of my worries. Their are real people with real feelings behind my words. I want my words to reach real people with real feelings and to help them heal.

Some might be mad at me for what I have to say: about them, me or the subject in general. I’m sure someone will say I had no right to write what I’m writing. Someone will downplay it, saying it’s not that deep or people have dealt with worse and didn’t feel the need to write a book about it. I’m mentally preparing myself to be one-upped on tragic circumstances and be stoned with “at least” stories. I’m preparing for the critics who will say my writing is garbage, my other books were better, or no one cares about this subject.

But the small chorus of “me too” and “I wish I had something like this when I was going through that season” let me know there are some people who need what I’m writing. They need it, but only if it’s true.

The line below this question may not measure up to the truth, but this book will.

In case you’re wondering, I took the line out and put the truth in its place. Editor Erica is Writer Erica’s worst critic, but she’s also her best friend. She’s the friend who calls her friends out on their crap, then picks up a shovel and works alongside them. May every writer have a friend who can speak the truth in love and cheer them on when they do the hard thing.

XOXO,

Erica

Love Where You Live

Friends!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I left you all on a cliffhanger about where I going to go and what I was going to do with all the change happening in my life. The last month and a half has been crazy busy and brutal, but refining in ways I never imagined.

First let’s talk about the obvious things. After a last minute flurry of job opportunities through the agency I was working with, I ended up working for my aunt again. This job is two hours away from Orlando, which meant I was moving closer to the business.

Closer, but not with my aunt again (because what 30-something wants to live with their family? Not this one. I love them, but no thank you). I found and rented a one bedroom apartment in a decent area where I can continue my morning walks and am close to EVERYTHING in town.

The move was not without its complications. I ended up working through the week and going back to Orlando to pack and bring things down on the weekends. My body was tired and my emotions were all over the place. I was not happy to be leaving Orlando and the life I had created there, even if things weren’t going the way I wanted them to go. This single girl wasn’t anxious to move to a small city with few dating prospects, other job opportunities, and places to go on her days off. But this is what I had to do, so I may as well do it right.

I could tell you about the night I literally drove through a ton of crap on the road–as in manure. When I got to my destination, manure coated my tires, wheel wells and chassis. Strong smelling manure. When I drove past where it happened the next day? There was none on the road. That was a little present just for me.

I could tell you about two trips with two vehicles to move my things out with my family. The communication struggles were mad real.

Or picking up a few things from my ex’s place and having his new girlfriend helping us move things because my family had car trouble. Those were fun times.

Or how my new place wasn’t ready by the first so I had to wait an additional three days before I could move my stuff into the place (yay for moving twice in one week!). They thought they might be able to finish early, but the tenants (who promised they would be out early) didn’t leave until the last day of the month and left a huge mess. So I was pretty  much homeless for three days (which I spent in the lap of luxury at my aunt’s, for those prone to be horrified).

But I’d rather tell you about the better parts of the story. When I was packing, I found a printable from Lara Casey’s website where I’d written down some life goals. Some I had achieved (write a book! publish a book!), but most I hadn’t yet. One stuck out to me: I wanted to make my living space into a home.

Most of the places I’ve lived have just been places to stay. I haven’t had artwork on the walls and pictures on the end table. There isn’t a real design to the set up. Nothing about it feels like me. It’s like I took dorm life wherever I went, like I wasn’t allowed to change anything.

Looking at that item on my list, I felt conviction. This was my opportunity to make a HOME. Even if it is in an apartment. Even if it’s not with a husband right now. I don’t have to wait to make my living space cozy and warm and a place I love coming back to or welcoming others into. I can do that right now.

I went out and bought rugs. And piece of art for the bedroom wall. I found a doormat that reads “Love where you live.” I bought a new bed frame–headboard, foot board, and side rails–and a cube organizer to match (which I use as a TV stand and shelving unit). I bought new bedding and created a color scheme for the bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen.

I’m still not all the way unpacked, and moving in hasn’t been without its problems. I’ve been working on editing two books for a client, working a job, and putting together a home. It isn’t easy. But I’m starting to like this little apartment. A lot.

There’s so much more to tell. I am going to a conference this week (!!!) and have new products to launch. I can tell you about my two editing projects thus far and officially launching my editing and publishing services. I can tell you about the projects I’m currently working on. But in this entry, I wanted to sit with this idea of making my living space a home and not a place I sleep and shower.

Even though this season has been hard, it’s been refining. I’m working on life goals here! I’m stretching myself to pursue the things I love in a place I never would have chosen, physically or emotionally. But I’ve discovered something I already knew: God is here, too. He didn’t wave farewell to me as I drove down from Orlando; He welcomed me with open arms here. It’s like the song we sing in church–anywhere is home if Christ my Lord is there.

Learning to Love Where I Live,

Erica

 

BYOV!

I’m not a Valentine’s Day hater. I take seriously any reason to celebrate myself or anyone else. I love birthdays and holidays. I enjoy seeing people spread love any day of the year.

Does it bother me that candy companies (or greeting card companies or diamond dealers) more than likely manufactured this holiday to drum up business for themselves? Nope. Personally, I think that’s good business. Ingenious marketing. Go you, whoever you are. You came up with a whole holiday AND made major coins. Greeting card companies, candy manufacturers, florists, and diamond dealers across the world thank you. Women who FINALLY get shown love in their actual love language thank you. Your country thanks you.

Seriously, though, I love this season. I thought I would really hate it this year, though. I mean, I’m Single Selena this year. “I Could Fall in Love”; I could be “Dreaming of You” tonight, if there was a You. I thought I’d get in my car, drive off somewhere to lick a wound or two. Pretend this day totally wasn’t happening. I planned all these things to take my mind of it and then…nothing. I’m just as excited about today as I was last year (I didn’t get a gift then, either). I’m just as excite as I was that time I spent Valentine’s Day at a ladies day in Georgia, or the time I bought myself a Little Caesar’s pizza, a teddy bear and a blank cassette tape to make a valentine’s day mix tape (yes, tape, not CD). Or that time I had ten “dates.” It doesn’t matter to me whether I’m with the one I love or not, or if I even have a romantic love interest. I always manage to enjoy the day.

This year, I’m not getting in my car and going somewhere where Valentine’s Day doesn’t exist. I’m not hiding under the covers with Hagen Daas and heartbreak (but Hagen Daas in bed sounds great any day. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care). This year, I am BYOV–bringing my own valentine. I am tending to my loves today. I’m reading God’s word, writing my own words, watching rom coms, eating a favorite meal, and working on book club stuff. I’m praying for all my people and loving on family near and far.

I’m bringing the love with me everywhere I go today. I’m sending it out. I can’t keep it to myself. I can’t give it to just one person. I’m sharing it with everyone. I don’t want to be my own Valentine; that’s BORING. And trite. And downright sad. But I might buy mysel a teddy bear that’s bigger than I am, ’cause I want one.

What are your Valentine’s Day plans? Do they involve real pants or a fancy dress? How are you going to live and love today? Leave your two cents below.

XOXO

Erica

Single Awareness Day 2017 & Other Non-Sequiturs

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Sad Panda is sad.

It’s that time of the year where proposal season has its last big hurrah before it moves over and wedding season begins, friends. Anyone who knows me knows I love LOVE, and this year, despite my own epic fail in love, is absolutely no different. If you’ve read my book Altered before the Altar: Allowing God to Make You “Meet” to be Met, you know my motto is “Throw Rice, Not Shade.” I have no issues being happy for your engagements, weddings, new babies, or Valentine’s Day mush fest posts. What can I say? I’m a giver.

Speaking of giving, there’s something super awesome I want to give all my fellow singles in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. I’m a celebrator at heart, and being single has NEVER stopped me from participating (seriously, I’ve given myself the best gifts for Valentine’s Day a girl could ask for–candy, flowers, mixtapes, teddy bears, dinner and a movie, you name it). So I’ve decided to spread a little love in the lead up to the day many singles dread by sharing some love themed tales, interviews and op-eds filled with tips, tricks, and torpedoes for your day of love arsenal.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you already know I have some interesting tales for V-Day, like the time I went out on Valentine’s Day with 10 guys, my career as Cyrano de Bergerac,  or the time a guy told me he loved me and I said “what?” But you don’t know about the time my friend dated a guy with the nickname Chester the Molester (actually, I have two friends who dated two different guys with this unfortunate moniker), the first time I was serenaded by a guy, or what buses, bandannas, and Hershey’s Cookie and Cream bars have to do with my love life. I’ll bring on friends to share their funniest escapades, count down our all time favorite romantic comedies and love songs, even host a singles’ dinner and a movie mixer.

If all that doesn’t get you excited about the month of love, maybe this will: I’m running a special in my shop on Altered before the Altar and the study guide. Enter promo code LOVE at checkout, and get $5.00 off plus some fun free gifts with purchase until Friday, February 17. I’m also going to do a couple giveaways for a chance to chase your blues away with fun prizes. There may even be a free sneak peek into my next romance related release for those who participate.

Here’s to a whole month of love and happiness for all of us, friends!

XOXO,

Erica

Behind the Scenes

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Little known fact about me: I love documentaries and “docu-series” about concerts. There’s something about seeing what goes on behind the scenes of performances which gives me a greater appreciation for the show an artist puts on. Seeing performers battle through all the glitches and personal issues to deliver a stellar performance adds a little something special to the pot for me. And I’m nosy. I want to know all the things that go into making the spectacle possible.

I’ve been watching Mariah’s World on E! When I heard about this show, I knew Mariah’s engagement was called off, but I didn’t know anything about the tour or what the show’s spin/angle would be. I wasn’t sure if they would address her broken engagement. I was in it for the behind the scenes peak into what makes a large production run. And to see if she hit her notes. Let’s be real. A couple of her live performances lately haven’t been up to par. Like I said, I’m nosy.

If you’re looking for a point to all of this, here it is: even in concert documentaries, everything you see is carefully curated. We rarely see the real, raw, behind the scenes action. Producers piece together story lines from the raw material. When someone you follow on Instagram posts a hi res photo of their kid having a meltdown or their face sans makeup with a thoughtful caption reminding you not to compare your life to their highlight reel, they aren’t showing you the worst moment of their day. No one stops in the middle of the truly messy moment to whip out their camera or phone and take a picture. They’re too busy trying to deal.

Indeed, we all live our lives this way to varying degrees. Despite our best efforts, all we can process is a carefully curated version of events in our lives. It’s easy to see things from our perspective and believe we are looking at the full picture. It’s easy to miss the nuances, the messages, the moments in which we messed up.  It’s difficult to be real, even with ourselves.

I have this radical goal. My word for 2017 is “share,” and I want to share with you. I want to be honest. But I realize the futility of trying to share everything. Once I start thinking about how to share information, it’s already being curated, placed into a more logical order. I’m drawing conclusions and putting more emphasis on the parts which support my conclusions. I’m thinking of ways to explain away the things which don’t fit.

This is a truth wrestling with since I read this line in The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois during D.E.A.R. in the eighth grade:

M]emory fails especially in small details, so that it becomes finally but a theory of my life, with much forgotten and misconceived, with valuable testimony but often less than absolutely true despite my best intention

If I’m really going to do this sharing thing, here, on other blogs, or in memoir form, the best I can give you is theory, a true account of my life from my perspective and what I can glean of others’. I’m going to have misconceptions about things that happen. I’m going to forget things. I’m going to gloss over things which may seem vitally important in later years. But I’m going to share, not only my life, struggles, and triumphs, but my God. I’ll share the people who are most important to me, the things I feel are imperative to say, and small things I believe will be important to remember later. Like…

I’m leading a book club. A  younger sister at church asked me to, and I said yes. We have our first meeting Saturday to discuss Make It Happen by Lara Casey.

I have a radio interview next month to talk about my books with my sister in Christ and her listening audience. More details to come.

I started C25K today, and it SUCKED. I got a cramp in my calf and my hip. I paused the program a few times. The 30 minute program took me 45 minutes, an average of two minutes slower per mile than I walk. But I finished.

This is my version of what happens when I stop being polite and start getting real (word to the reality TV show Real World).

XOXO,

Erica

Breaking Up is Good for Your Skin

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Listen, Linda, listen. Things have been changing in my life faster than I can keep up.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know one of my favorite quotes by Zora Neale Hurston is “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Well, 2016 was a year where questions were answered, and 2017 is shaping up to be more of the same.

I am not working for the company I had worked for since November 2008. After nearly eight years, I was canned. Yep. Don’t get me wrong; I was ready to go and was looking into other opportunities, but they were quicker on the draw than I was. I saw the writing on the wall, though. When they called me to the office, I didn’t have to do the walk of shame where they escort you to your desk while you pack your things up and then walk you from the building; I had already taken my personal effects home and took my purse to the meeting.

I’m not going to bash the company. At some points I loved working there. They gave me a lot of opportunities, paid me a fair wage and provided me with great benefits. But in the end, while it was a “good” job, they position I landed in wasn’t right for me. My only regret is I didn’t get to leave of my own accord, not because I wanted to show out when I quit, but because it makes finding a new position a lot harder when you have to check the box that you’ve been fired from a position.

Out with the old and in with the new, right? Except there is no new yet. I’ve had ample time to work on new books and products for Serious Season Press, but I haven’t found a full time job yet. Luckily I had some money I could use in the interim, but the interim needs to end soon. I’ve had the opportunity to do things I never thought I would be able to do with my extra time, and I’ve committed to making the most of it.

Another major life change is I’m single. After nearly nine years, Mr. Perfect and I have broken up. I can imagine your shock, but it’s been coming for a while. It’s been over two months ago now, and I’m doing fine. I’m getting back the bits of myself I lost in my relationship.

People have noticed some changes in me. “You just look so happy.” “Your skin is looking really good!” “You look like you are losing weight.” “You’re glowing.” “You seem more like yourself.” I’ve made a lot of positive changes which have resulted  in many of these good developments people are noticing aside from breaking up, but the break up was…freeing. I don’t have the pressure of when are we going to move forward or why aren’t we moving forward hanging over my head. I don’t have to police being me to suit someone or consider someone. I haven’t been single since I was 22/23, and I’m definitely not that girl-woman anymore.

Another major life change (I know, you’re like really Erica? We can’t stand any more) is I’m moving–again. Somewhere. As yet to be determined. But in the new few months. You see, my roommate is getting married in April (congrats Tasha!) and doesn’t want my team Super Single self underfoot when her boothang moves in (I totally made that up. I knew I’d be moving long before I was Super Single, but it might be true now). So I have to move.

It’s going to be super weird to be single, at a new job, in a new place. Weird but exciting.

There have been some positive changes, too. My relationship with God has grown so much in the past year or so. I have been praying more (using my Serious Prayer Journal which I’ve redesigned), using a quiet time journal (this awesome Give Me Jesus Journal from Life Lived Beautifully), and listening to Christian podcasts, music, and sermons. It may sound weird, but my own book, The Season for Getting Serious, has been a big help to me in this season, especially the chapter on grief, “Bitter, Broken, but Blessed” and the chapter “On the Run”. I’m pumped to dive back in to Altered before the Altar with a fresh perspective, and I’m working on the follow up, which is going to be refining in a way you may not expect!

I’ve gotten more writing and business planning done. I have a mission statement for Serious Season Press. I created a few prints which have been really popular. I have some exciting releases lined up for this year. I’ve been able to focus on what’s next with my writing in a new way. I have an accountability partner I trade writing with again. My pen has been moving swiftly.

I’ve traveled on my own. I have gotten in my car, thrown on a playlist or podcast, and covered hundreds of miles to share my work with other women who want a deeper relationship with Christ. I’ve heard some inspiring, convicting messages and connected with some women who are just as on fire for what God is doing in their lives. I’ve wanted to travel more for a long time, and it’s happening.

Maybe I’m just weird, but this has been a great season to me. Not for nothing. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone and I would rather have not gone through ALL THE THINGS, much less at the same time. But for a long time, I’ve seen what many call failure as opportunity. I now have the opportunity to find a career instead of a job, a man who is just as exciting about marrying me and building with me as I am about it, and a place I can make into my home. I have the opportunity to discover who Erica Denise, 32 (in a month and ten days!), Christian, single, no kids, is. I have a feeling this is going to be a wild ride, and I’ve never shied away from that.

Hands Up (lap bar down,

Erica

I Don’t Know How to Tell You This…

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I’m the type of person you can tell anything. If you tell me your business, it doesn’t end up “in the street.”  You can tell me things you think I should know without “clap back.” But sometimes people still struggle with whether or not to tell me something, or if they decide to tell me, they struggle with how to say it. This is especially true in the area of relationships.

The counterpart to “no snitching” is “if you see something, say something.” Law enforcement has struggled to get it to catch on. It’s even harder to get people to do when it comes to someone’s relationship. Some people will speak up, but they do so in ways that put the other person off, or they do it so often they become the friend who cried “break up with him/her.” Others “what if” themselves out of saying anything: What if I’m wrong? What if the person already knows? What if the person blames me for telling them instead of the person they are in a relationship with? What if that’s just how they roll? I’m closer to the other person in the relationship, so should I say anything? I don’t know them well enough to say anything to them. The list goes on and on like Erykah Badu’s debut single.

I’ve had instances where someone I wouldn’t call a friend had to approach me with some sensitive relationship information. It’s not a situation I’d ever want to be in, but through the experience, I have first hand proof it can be done. My boss at the time saw something she felt she had to bring to my attention. We were NOT friends and she didn’t know much about me outside of work, but she decided to speak up anyway. She prefaced the discussion by saying she didn’t know my relationship or if I already knew about what she was sharing, but if it was her, she would want someone to let her know. She handled the situation delicately, and I was grateful for how she handled it.

Unlike reality TV style drama, when someone comes to you expressing real concerns and misgivings, it can be a life saver. It can save you time, energy, money, heartbreak, heartache, and sanity. It can keep you from making bitter #wastehistime2017 memes or letting your inner Petty Boop out in other ways all over social media.

As someone who has had to be the friend who spoke up as well as the recipient of the relationship penalty flag, I’ve noticed these things work best when sharing sensitive info about someone’s “boo”:

  1. Consider how you would like someone to share this information with you, especially if you don’t know them well. Also, consider the person in question. What sort of approach would they appreciate?
  2. Do it privately. Don’t put anyone’s business out on front street. You’re being “messy” and trying to embarrass them when you do it in public. No one wants to hear anything from Petty Patti.
  3. State the facts, not your opinion. If you stick to what you actually witnessed or experienced, and not your feelings or thoughts on it, you give the person the chance to think it through and draw their own conclusions. You also lessen the chance they will go on the offensive and spend more time defending their partner than hearing what you’re saying.
  4. Encourage the person to discuss things with their partner. They need to handle the issue in-house. Don’t turn it into a bashing session. Redirect them to the person they are in a relationship with to clarify things. Perhaps they don’t have the same understanding of their relationship status as their partner. Either way, they need to talk it out.
  5. Avoid telling  people what they need to do. More often than not, this just pushes the person into defense mode. Asking questions and offering support is a much more effective tactic.
  6. What they do with the information is their business. If they decide to stay in the relationship or end it, it’s their decision. If they regret it later or express the sentiment they should have listened to you, don’t beat them up about it.

Telling people after the relationship has broken up is rarely helpful. Most people do this because they wanted to spare the person’s feelings or didn’t know how to tell the person, but as with discipline, when you spare the information, you spoil the child. Who knows how much heartache and wasted time could have been avoided if you spoke up? No one. But there’s a whole lot of petty gossipping and bashing that can be avoided when you don’t start saying what you should have said when it happened.

It’s not always easy to decide when to speak up and when to keep something to yourself, especially about someone’s relationship, but hopefully the things I listed will give you something to think about and help you decide when to be someone’s wise counsel or listening ear.