Are You Feeling Invisible?

Do you ever feel like giving up? Like what you do doesn't matter to anyone, so why should you keep at it?

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Maybe you have a job where you can't seem to get ahead, because nobody seems to notice, much less appreciate, your hard work.

Maybe you're the mother of small children, with days full of diapers and sticky fingers and mountains of laundry. And it seems like everybody else is out there having adventures and doing important things, while you spend your time on the mundane and trivial, and nobody sees. Nobody cares.

Maybe you're a writer, opening yet another rejection letter, wondering if anybody's ever going to want to read these words that you've labored over for hours, months, years.

Life can be hard on those who dream, who try.

Sometimes it seems like nobody sees, nobody cares, and it would be easy to just give up, quit, and go watch TV.

I've certainly been there.

Whether it's writing my novel or writing this blog, I struggle from time to time with the feeling that I'm wasting my time–nobody sees, nobody cares but me, so why should I keep at it? There are easier ways to spend my time!

The past few days, I keep thinking about Hagar–the slave woman in the middle of the Bible story of Abraham and Sarah. Do you know that story? God had spoken to Abraham and promised him that he'd be the father of nations, but his wife Sarah was barren, and they both were old. In her desperation for a child, Sarah gave her slave woman, Hagar, to Abraham to bear a child for her. Hagar gave birth to Abraham's son, but then God performed a miracle and 90-plus-year-old Sarah also conceived. Sarah then became jealous of Hagar and her child, and sent them out into the desert to die.

Sitting there alone in the desert, Hagar knew that she and her child were rejected and abandoned, without friends and without hope. But God saved her and gave her a promise of her own. And she named him El Roi–the God who sees.

The God who sees.

I am clinging to this concept these days. Turning it over and over in my mind. The omnipotent God who created the universe is the God who sees me.

He sees you, too.

I've noticed that each time I reach the point where I feel invisible and unimportant, like what I'm doing is a waste of time and I should just quit, someone will cross my path with a word of encouragement that gives me the energy to keep at it just a little bit longer. I am so grateful for those people.

And I want to be that person for you. I want you to know that what you do matters. Believe that. You bring something unique and important to every task you undertake: you bring yourself, and that matters.

It matters to the God who sees you.

And for that reason, it matters to me, too.

Do you feel discouraged? Does your dream feel far away, or does your daily effort feel wasted and unappreciated? I'd like to hear about it. Maybe we can encourage each other.

Please leave a comment below, or if you'd rather not talk about it publicly, email me. I promise I'll respond.
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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Do You Have a Comfort Zone? Guest Post (& Giveaway!) by Sharon Srock

I'm pleased to welcome author Sharon Srock to I Was Just Thinking . . . . Sharon's here to share a reminder of the faithfulness of the God who sees us. Be sure to check at the end of the post to find out how to get a chance for a free copy of Sharon's latest novel.


Do you have a comfort zone? You know, that place you live where…you might not have everything you want…you might not have everything you feel like God promised you…but it’s a “good enough” place to wait, while you wait.

Jacob had a place like that. God had promised the land to Abraham and his family. As the promised moved down the line, Jacob found himself comfortable in the house of his Uncle/father-in-law.

Joseph had a place like that. God gave him dreams as a youth, but I wonder, as time wore on and life seemed to move in a drastically different direction, if he thought he’d misunderstood. I’ll bet life was pretty good being second in charge of Egypt during those seven years of plenty.

Esther had it easy in the palace in the days before Haman’s plot. Mary was a “good Jewish girl” engaged to a “good Jewish guy”… Then, something happened to each of them that changed the course of their lives.

Throughout the waiting, throughout the time of comfort, and the upheavals that came later, God’s plan for these individuals never changed. Our lives are like the seasons on a calendar. Times of rest (winter), times for stretching the parameters (spring), times of growth (summer) and times of bleakness (fall). Each of those seasons is a challenge to thrive and be what God called us to be. Sometimes the path God puts us on may not seem like the path to our destiny. I’m sure Jacob had questions while he worked fourteen years for his wives. Joseph must have wondered about his dreams while he spent years in an Egyptian prison. But God knew. God always knows.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 11:29 (KJV)

I love the last six words of that verse: expected, planned, promised. My life is not a fluke. I am not a mistake. Every step of my childhood has been planned by the Father.

Where are you in this season of your life? Where do you want to be? What are you doing to get there?



Thank you to Sharon for bringing this encouraging message to I Was Just Thinking . . . 

Sharon and her publisher have offered a free introduction to her Women of Valley View series. Just click on the title to download it for yourself. You can buy your own e-book copy of Sharon's newest release, The Women of Valley View: Terri, at any of the following retailers:

Barnes and Noble:  http://tinyurl.com/cud7xb6
Pelican book group:  http://tinyurl.com/cd5zqar

NOTE: I'm excited to offer a free copy of The Women of Valley View: Terri to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment below with your answer to one of Sharon's questions, and be sure to include your email address in your comment. I'll announce the winner during the first week of May!

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Sharon Srock lives with her husband, Larry, and two dogs in rural Oklahoma. She is a mother, grandmother, and Sunday School teacher. Sharon has one and three-quarters jobs and writes in her spare time. Her favorite hobby is traveling with her grandchildren. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and currently serves as treasurer for her local chapter. Sharon’s debut novel, The Women of Valley View: Callie, released in October 2012. The second in the series, The Women of Valley View: Terri, releases in April 2013.

Connect with Sharon at her blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, or on Goodreads.

 

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

5 Benefits of Attending a Writing Conference

Writing conferences can be expensive, in terms of both time and money. There's the registration fee, the travel and lodging expenses, the cost of business cards and maybe a new outfit or two–it can all add up pretty quickly. For pre-published writers, especially those who have yet to earn a single dime from writing, it might seem an unreasonable expense.

But . . .

Recently I was privileged to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, six days at a gloriously refreshing mountain retreat center with around 300 other writers. Costly? Yes (**but see note below).

Worth it? Absolutely.

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I've been thinking about it ever since I left the conference, and thought I'd share with you some of the benefits I received.

  1. Excellent teaching and generous mentoring by world class writers.  The Mount Hermon conference Mount Hermon conference, like most conferences of this type, offered a veritable banquet of indepth morning sessions (you picked a track and attended those sessions with the same teacher each morning) and afternoon workshops covering every possible aspect of writing. For the morning sessions I elected to participate in the fiction mentoring track, which meant I spent 2-4 hours each morning in a small group (see photo below) led by Robin Jones Gunn. We critiqued and discussed each others' work, with each of us getting incredibly valuable input from Robin and the others on our respective projects. Irreplaceable.
  2. Time away from the demands of my day-to-day life. Most of us pre-published writers have to fit writing into the margins of our daily life, whether we have an outside career or are stay-at-home parents. A conference–especially a multi-day one away from our home town–gives us the chance to really devote mostly uninterrupted time to our writing. The Mount Hermon conference ran from Friday morning to Tuesday noon. I also signed up for their “early bird” Head Start program (more about that in a moment), which started on Wednesday afternoon, so I had six days away from home and day job to focus on writing. I came away with a new vision for both my current project and the possibilities of future writing.
  3. Inspiration, ideas, and renewed motivation. Before I left for Mount Hermon, I had been stuck for a couple of months on some unfinished scenes in my novel. I knew what I needed to accomplish in those missing scenes, but didn't know how to do it. Fortunately, I had signed up for the Head Start mentoring program. That meant that during the first day and a half, I was privileged to spend several hours in a very small group–just me and two other writers–mentored by Susan Meissner. As part of that program, each of us got a thirty-minute one-on-one session with Susan, to talk about whatever we chose. My one-on-one turned into a brainstorming session, in which Susan tossed out an idea that flipped a switch in my brain and led to a solution to the block that had prevented me from finishing.
  4. Refreshment and encouragement. The Mount Hermon setting is spectacularly beautiful and refreshingly peaceful. Unfortunately, during my everyday life I seldom take the time to sit on a bench outside and soak in the sunshine and fresh air. At the conference, I did. It made a world of difference in my outlook on life and writing and a lot of other things. Even better, conferences like this create an environment that fosters spontaneous conversations with other writers (in addition to fun discussions in the various workshops). Around the table during meals, outside during breaks, it's easy (even for an introvert like me) to enter into conversations with people I don't know, because you can always start with, “So what do you write?” Some of these spontaneous (God-arranged?) meetings left me encouraged in a way I deeply needed at this point in my writing journey.
  5. New friends. I've listed this last, but it's by no means the least of the benefits and blessings I came home with. I can't described the impact any better than agent Karen Ball did in her post-Mount Hermon blog post on community. Writing is a solitary, and often lonely, enterprise. Maybe the best thing that happened to me at this conference was connecting with some amazing people with whom I hope to remain in contact. We've already continued our communication via Facebook and email, so the encouragement and–dare I say?–friendship that began in California continues now that we've all gone home.
The "Smoking Gunns" at MH, courtesy Ashley Mays

The “Smoking Gunns” at MH, courtesy Ashley Mays

Sure, there was networking and there were opportunities to pitch my story to editors and agents. And maybe another time I will do that. But that wasn't my objective this time (although I did get an invitation to send a proposal to an editor I visited with at lunch one day!). For now, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience all this (and more) at the conference, and look forward to attending one or two conferences a year in the future.

**Like many other similar conferences, Mount Hermon offers the opportunity to apply for scholarships to attend. If you're interested in attending next year's conference but finances are tight, be sure to check out their website for information about the scholarship opportunities.

Your turn: Have you attended writers' conferences in the past? If so, what are the top one or two benefits you received?

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Giving Thanks & Starting Over

It's hard to believe that the first quarter of 2013 has passed already. Why is it that the older I get, the faster time seems to fly by?

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Have you accomplished what you hoped in the first three months of this year? I haven't, although I did get some things done for which I'm grateful. I had hoped that Do No Harm would be finished by now. And that I would be back on track in my regular workout schedule.

But here's the thing: hoping won't get goals accomplished. Only doing will make that happen.

And here's another thing (a really great thing): every day is a chance to start again.

God's mercies are new every morning (thank God for that!)

And every morning the world starts over.

My tendency is to focus on the things I haven't done, the things that haven't gone the way I'd hoped. But I am trying to learn to focus on the positive. And honestly, the last couple of weeks I've been consumed with the many things I have to be grateful for. Such as:

  • the fact that God's mercies are new every morning (!!)
  • a husband who loves me and supports me in the crazy things I think up (like . . . this whole writing thing, and moving to New York a few years ago with our five young kids so I could go to law school, and . . .)
  • my kids are healthy and happy
  • I have a great job that challenges my mind every day
  • I've been given opportunities to grow and learn as a writer–and make some amazing new friends–by attending the My Book Therapy Deep Thinkers retreat and, most recently, the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference
  • affirmation of my writing by judges in the fiction contests I've entered this year
  • a major breakthrough in a complicated, contentious matter I've been working on for three years (for a client of my law practice)
  • did I mention those new mercies every morning?

Today is the first day of the second quarter of 2013. I spent some time last night thinking about my goals for this quarter, and writing them down. Some of them are very private, but I thought I'd share some with you:

  1. Finish Do No Harm and send it to the agent who, at Mount Hermon, reaffirmed her request to see it when it's finished.
  2. Get back on track with regular workouts and healthy eating. (For those of you who are time management geeks like me: yes, the actual goal as I wrote it down is more specific and measurable than that!)
  3. Give thanks daily for the many blessings in my life.

Your turn: What are you thankful for today? What is one thing you plan to accomplish in the next three months?
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Laura
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

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Ready to Make a Mistake?


English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

―Albert Einstein

I don't like making mistakes. I spent a good chunk of my life not trying new things out of a fear of looking dumb in front of other people. But the year I turned 50, I realized that I likely have more years behind me than I have ahead, so I'm sort of running out of time to do the things I've always dreamed of.

That forced me to to make a choice:

  1. Give up those dreams OR
  2. Learn to be okay with making mistakes in front of other people.

I'm too young to give up on the dreams, so I'm working hard to allow myself to jump in and try things I don't know how to do. It's not about waiting until you're not scared; it's about being scared and doing it anyway.

What are you afraid to try? What would help you get past that fear just enough to go for it?

Laura
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me