Learning from Failure

failure |ˈfālyər|
noun

lack of success

• an unsuccessful person, enterprise, or thing.

the omission of expected or required action.

• a lack or deficiency of a desirable quality.

the action or state of not functioning.

• a sudden cessation of power.
• the collapse of a business.

Nobody sets out to fail. We all want to succeed, to accomplish the things we set out to do, to be the kind of person we want to be. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, we just can’t quite achieve what we aim for.

  • A student who fails a class, despite hours of studying.
  • The athlete who fails to make the team.
  • The actress who doesn’t get the part.
  • The entrepreneur who’s forced to close his business’s doors.
  • The writer whose manuscript is rejected.

Failure is hard to take, no matter what the context might be. But it happens to each of us from time to time. The question we each have to face each time we fail is what will we do with that failure? Will we let it stop us, or will we learn from it and keep going?

dreamstime_m_11203674One of the most profound lessons I’ve ever learned was born out of one of my greatest failures–a moral failure that happened over 20 years ago. My bad choices hurt people I care about, something I had truly believed I would never do. I was badly shaken by the realization that I was capable of behavior I would never have believed possible. Everything I though I knew about myself was shattered. I saw my failure as absolute and irredeemable, and believed that because of it, I had forfeited my right to pursue my dreams of ministry or anything else. I resigned myself to life on the sidelines. The people I'd hurt forgave me, but I couldn't forgive myself.

Thankfully, I was not left to wallow indefinitely in the shame of my failure. In a quiet moment, God brought to life in me the powerful words of Philippians 3:13: “Forgetting what lies behind, I press on . . .

Each time we fail, we have to choose how to respond. We can give up, sit down, and refuse to try again. Or we can learn the lessons that failure can teach and move forward with a little more insight, a little more knowledge, a little more understanding. Our past failures don't have to define us or even limit our future. We can choose to learn the lessons our failures can teach us and . . . press on.

The lessons I learned from my own moral failure? There were two. The first is to never say never. I used to live in certainty that there were certain things I would never do. What I learned is that you never know what you’re capable of doing until you’re actually faced with the choice. And anyone is capable of doing almost anything (good or bad) under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Learning this lesson taught me to watch myself carefully.

Even more important, though, my failure taught me to extend grace toward others who have failed. Don't judge too harshly. You don't know what has gone on behind the scenes.

Are you facing a failure, professionally or personally? Does it sometimes seem like success is out of reach, and that you should just give up? (I know the feeling. I've been there–frequently. I'd like to encourage you if I can. Please feel free to email me if I can help in some way.)

Each time we fail, we're faced with a choice: Will I let my failure define me, or will I learn its lessons and press on? The choice is never easy, is it?

What lessons have you learned from failure? How has a past failure made you a stronger, better person?

2013-04-20 signature blank background copy.png
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

There Are No Words

I had a post topic in mind for today, but everything I have to say seems so trivial in light of the devastation and suffering dominating the news just now. The only words I have are these:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Ps 46:1)

2013-05-20T231657Z_611838026_TM4E95K1G8Y01_RTRMADP_3_USA-TORNADOES

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Ps 147:3)

2013-05-20T233741Z_1923425913_GM1E95L0L3301_RTRMADP_3_USA-TORNADOES

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Ps 23)

2013-05-20T083432Z_1518267828_GM1E95K19MR01_RTRMADP_3_USA-OKLAHOMA-TORNADO

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. (Ps 61:1-3)

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Oklahoma and west Texas who are suffering, grieving, and afraid.

2013-04-20 signature blank background copy.png
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

Six Steps for Overcoming Discouragement

Everybody feels down sometimes. Life doesn't go the way we'd hoped, our goals seem unreachable, and discouragement sets in. Life seems barren and hopeless.

IMG_0508

But one of the great things about becoming . . . (ahem) “a woman of a certain age” is the ability to remember that even the worst situations don't last forever, and that how I feel right now isn't necessarily my permanent truth. Feelings change. Even more important, we can change our feelings.

Here (in no particular order) are some steps I try to take when I'm feeling down and discouraged.

  1. Acknowledge the feelings. It's not about pretending you don't feel what you feel. It's not even about telling yourself to “knock it off” or “get over it.” Feelings are what they are, and mental health experts generally agree that it's pretty unhealthy to try to ignore or hide your feelings. So go ahead and feel them. But you don't necessarily want to dump them on the people in your life. One really helpful exercise is to journal about them. Get a pretty notebook (that nobody else will ever see!) or open up a Word file and write for ten or thirty or sixty minutes, dumping your thoughts and feelings onto the page. Be blunt and honest. Nobody ever has to see it, but sometimes just putting your feelings into words helps you get a handle on them. My favorite place to express my feelings privately is a free journaling website called Penzu. It's private and secure (they use military-grade encryption to protect your online journal) and it has free apps for your mobile devices, too, so you can journal anywhere using your iPhone or iPad or other mobile device.
  2. Get some sleep. Maybe it's just me, but discouragement often gets the better of me when I'm tired. It's amazing what a good night's sleep–or a nap–can do for your perspective. IMG_0521
  3. Get outside and go for a walk. Research has shown that exercise can lift your mood. When I'm feeling discouraged, my inclination is to sit like a lump and feel sorry for myself, but if I can get my shoes on and get outside in the fresh air–especially if there are trees and sunshine and birds singing–well, that can change everything.
  4. Talk to a friend. Sometimes all we need is a sympathetic friend who'll hear our pain and then encourage us.
  5. Find someone you can help. Maybe it seems simplistic, but for me, the quickest way to drag myself out of the dumps is to get my focus off myself and turn my attention to someone else's needs. It's pretty likely that someone else around you is discouraged too. Offer her a word of support and encouragement. Hearing yourself say those encouraging words will lift your own spirit.
  6. Give thanks. This is the big challenge I've set for myself this year: look for something to be thankful for in every situation, no matter how crummy. For me, this probably is the single most important key to my mood, and the one I have the most control over. We can't always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we look at them. So in every situation, ask yourself this important question: What can I be thankful about in this? Go back to that journal and make a list of everything you can think of to be thankful for. If you're a person of faith, pray–out loud so your ears can hear what your mouth is saying–and verbalize your gratitude, even if it's just for the fact that you don't have to go through this lousy thing alone.

Are these steps cure-alls? Will they change your circumstances? Nope. But they can change the way you see your circumstances. And honestly, that change in perception can change everything.

What about you? Do any of these things help you when you're discouraged? Do you have other suggestions for improving your outlook? Please share them in the comments.
2013-04-20 signature blank background copy.png
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

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?

dreamstime_m_13056107

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.
2013-04-20 signature blank background copy.png
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

Enhanced by Zemanta

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!

DSC_0020

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.

 

2013-04-20 signature blank background

 

 


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