I had worked hard on the writing piece for the conference writing contest. I had written, edited and re-written it. I sent it off via email and received notice that it had been received and that it met the contest criteria. It wasn't the winning that I was most interested in, but the mentoring and feedback promised for my submission. Those of us who didn't win were instructed to pick up our writing pieces and feedback at a table in the lobby. Mine wasn't on the table and when the young lady working at the table looked for my name on the list of contest entries, my name wasn't there. Somewhere along the way, my submission had been lost. I'm fifty six years old, but I wanted to cry like I was ten.
Later that afternoon, I had a private mentoring session scheduled. I was looking forward to asking questions about blogging, writing, platforms and publishing. I checked in five minutes before my fifteen minute session was to begin and was sent to a room where I stood in the open doorway, in sight of the mentor, to wait my turn. The mentor I was scheduled to meet with was still talking with the person ahead of me. When my fifteen minutes dwindled down to five and the mentor was still talking to the person ahead of me, I gave up and walked away.
Those experiences hung with me for weeks. I'm normally pretty secure in who I am, but being treated like I was invisible, that my work had no value, shook me up. As those involved in these situations were two or three decades younger than me, my mind jumped to the conclusion that I was a victim of ageism. If I was, I think it may have been my first experience of feeling its sting.
Recently, we had a birthday dinner at our house. The two oldest grandkids were going to spend the night with us following dinner. I was watching them the following day of their spring break while their mama worked. When our five year old granddaughter caught wind of our plans with her cousins she cornered me in the kitchen. She whispered to me, "Nana, will you please invite me to have a sleepover, too? Mama said I couldn't stay because I wasn't invited." My heart dropped into my shoes at those words as she looked at me with her blue eyes. Immediately I reassured her, "you're always invited at Papa and Nana's house." Now, is it as easy to have a five year old overnight as it is a nine and ten year old? Perhaps not. But no grandchild of mine is ever going to feel overlooked and left out if I can help it. Yet, will I always be able to prevent it? Probably not.
The feeling of not being included, not being valued, can hurt us whether we're five or fifty five. It can strike us when we see on Facebook that a group of friends had a get together without us. It can strike us when there's a conference or retreat that everyone's going to except us. It can strike us when our gender, or our skin color, or our age is used as an excuse to exclude us or make us feel devalued. Yet, let's be honest here, I know I've at one time or other, however unintentionally, left someone out. I'm sure I've overlooked someone or not valued them or their gifts and talents properly. We human beings fail. We flub up. We hurt each other.
Yes, these hurtful things like this can cause us to lose our bearings. They can knock the wind out of our sails. That's when we have to have our identity and our worth firmly rooted in something and someone that is unshakeable and unchangeable. I know that I am adopted permanently into God's family. I know that God valued me enough to sacrifice His Son in order to make that adoption possible. I know that He had a plan and purpose uniquely designed for me before I was even conceived. I know that as long as I have breath, I have purpose. My experiences at that conference did indeed shake me up, but did they knock me off the Solid Rock? No, they didn't. My life and whatever gifts and talents I may have are in good hands, God's hands, and nothing and no one can change that.
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