The Last of the Firsts

Today marks the one year anniversary of my position being eliminated from Thomas Nelson, and the end of an almost sever year run with a great company. After I was let go, I almost immediately began marking time in milestones – the first sales conference I missed, the first time I didn’t go to this type of meeting, etc. I would actually call my old number to see if it was still active, and mourned the day it came back as “invalid”.

I guess this was one of the ways I coped with the shock and the disruption to my routine. I would go to Christian bookstores and look at the product I helped place on the shelves. I followed ministries closely to see the custom product I had created for them. I would keep in touch with as many people as I could. It was my way of validating myself during a very trying time.

A lot of this was thrown back at me as I went to my first NRB last week since not being at Nelson. Seeing former co-workers and clients in my new role was awkward and difficult, but I was proud to represent my new employer well. I even got a compliment on that from my former boss at Nelson (the one that let me go). That felt good.

So, today puts the proverbial nail in the coffin. It’s the last of the firsts. Maybe now I can truly move on, as I no longer have milestones to measure. I guess we’ll see.

Is there anything you’ve been hanging on to for a little too long?

Blogging Makes Me Feel Like Charlie Brown

I mostly keep this blog for me. It’s a way for me to put down some of the random things bouncing around in my head.

That being said, it’s nice to know that someone actually looks at my blog. Maybe even a few someones.

Remember how Charlie Brown keeps looking for Valentine cards that never show up? That’s what looking at my blog stats feels like. I keep hoping that there are more hits, but they never show up. Like Charlie Brown, soon I get a complex.

My busiest day on record for my new blog (and the one on which I have been more consistent in posting) was 23 views. Big whoop. I’ve had even less (WAY less) interaction. I’ve started to question the material. I’ve started to question how many people even read what I post on Twitter (most of my referrals come from Facebook). All in all, it’s a very demoralizing experience.

I have to keep reminding myself – this is for me, this is for me. But it would be nice to know that more than 3 or 4 people care, and if they even like what, or how, I write. I’ve even had people comment about my blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, but not on the blog.

I know I sound all whiny, but don’t we all want/need to feel validated? It reminds me of this post, from a man who has no need to whine about his blog traffic.

So what can you do to help me? First and foremost, comment on my posts! Tell me you love it or hate it. Tell me you agree or disagree. I promise I won’t be offended if you don’t like it or don’t agree with me.

Second, if you do like what I write, tell others about it! Let them know to check it out.

Third, subscribe. You can enter an email address (on the right side) and get a notification when I post. That way you don’t have to remember to come back and check to see if I put up anything new.

Finally, validate someone else. We all need it.

One last thought – why have my last two posts used cartoon characters to draw analogies?!

I’m sure there is a blog post about that in there somewhere… ūüôā

Maybe What Christianity Needs is a Grinch

You remember the story of the Grinch. Yes, the one that stole Christmas. I was thinking about the Mean One and one of the reasons why he hated the Who’s so much. It was the noise, noise, NOISE!

As you recall, the Grinch then proceeds to remove all of the objects of irritation to him from the houses of the Who’s. After he has stripped them of everything, he expects a wail of dismay to erupt from the town of Whoville. What he gets instead is a united chorus of celebration. Something so unexpected it swells his heart and causes him to turn from his old ways.

As I reflected on this, I thought of Christianity and how our rights are being stripped away by the world (the Grinch) simply because we are an irritant to them. But as I thought a little more, I wondered if maybe they are right? Maybe we are a source of irritation to them simply because of the fact all Christianity appears to be is cacophonous noise. We don’t agree on anything, we are constantly bickering over little matters, constantly forcing our rules on them. When you look at it that way, I can understand a little of their meanness toward us.

So what will it take for us to be unified as believers? Will it actually come down to the “Grinch” stripping everything away from us before we realize that what binds us is more important than what divides us?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating we water down the message of the Gospel. Quite the opposite. I’m saying that the Gospel is what, together, we need to sing at the tops of our lungs from the center of our towns, like the Who’s did on that Christmas morning. THAT is what brings us together – not petty arguments over music, clothes, food, etc.

Jesus said it best when he was asked what the first and greatest commandment was. Jesus could have answered anything. He could have pulled from any of the many Old Testament laws (He wasn’t limited to just 10). Instead He chose to answer this way in Mark 12:29-31 – 1) There is only one God, 2) You should love this God with all your soul, mind, and strength, and 3) You should love your neighbor as yourself. Wow.

I think we, as Christians (no matter your other “label”), all better start showing some unified love. Otherwise, the Grinch will come and steal everything, forcing us into it. I would rather choose it. What about you?

How are you loving the one and only God today, and, in turn, showing that love to your neighbor?

Don’t Do Your Best, Do What It Takes

This is the stuff they make movies out of! I’m talking about the amazing run the Tennessee Titans are having right now. Here’s the breakdown:

Last year the Titans had the best record in the NFL. There were high expectations this year that fizzled quickly as they started 0-6. The decision came down to start the relative rookie over the veteran that had played in a Super Bowl before. When they won their first game, everyone assumed it was a fluke. Then they won again. And again. And again! Last week they faced a pretty good Arizona Cardinals team, who had themselves won three in a row. At this point no NFL team had ever won five straight games after starting a season 0-6. Three huge mistakes by the Titans put them in a situation where the only way they could win was to get a touchdown – a field goal wouldn’t cut it. They got their last possession, with just a few minutes left in the game, but the ball was on their 1 yard line. The relative rookie rallied his team and took them down the field, converting several 4th downs along the way. Finally, with just seconds left, it was 4th and goal. The Titans HAD to score or their winning streak was over. Sure enough, a pass into the end zone as time ran out was caught for the game-winning touchdown. The Titans had made history.

But, amazingly, the story isn’t even finished yet. At 5-6, the Titans are only two games away from having a winning season. But first, they have to get through the tough, undefeated, Indianapolis Colts. This will be a huge game. Again, Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this better!

Have you ever faced loss after loss? Sometimes all the platitudes and trite sayings in every leadership book you have ever read won’t do any good. As author Andy Andrews recently said, “It is not always enough to do our best… Sometimes, we have to dig in and do ‘what it takes'”!

Are things down right now? What excuses are you hiding behind? The economy? The sales team? The manufacturing team? The creative team? At the end of the day, only you can change your destiny. That’s not to say others won’t throw obstacles in your way, but what responsibility are you taking? Are you working longer, harder, better, and faster, or are you allowing the losses to pile up and have given up the season simply because no one has ever come back from that kind of a bad start?

I don’t know how the Titans season will end up. Yes, the opposition is tough, but by “digging in” and “doing what it takes”, they have a good chance at coming from a huge deficit, and pull out a winning season. That means you can do it too.

Are you doing your best, or doing what it takes?

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I always hear about how we gloss over Thanksgiving, but I think it’s getting worse. Thanksgiving is no longer thanks-giving day, it’s a day of rest before the big shopping race. I heard a commercial on the radio today announcing a certain store will be open ON Thanksgiving day to accommodate shoppers a little earlier. Now, the actual day is no longer sacred.

I honestly don’t remember in years past Halloween AND Christmas decorations being out at the same time, but this year I saw it in several places. Commercialization at it’s finest.

I think the reason we are diluting Thanksgiving as a legitimate holiday is because we aren’t GETTING something. For Halloween (which, according to some, is now the second most celebrated holiday of the year) we get candy. For Christmas, of course, it’s all about the gifts. Even Easter has become a time of “getting” (new clothes, presents in your baskets, etc.). But Thanksgiving has always been about taking time to pause and consider. Well, we can’t have that, now can we? So what do we do? Center the day around sales, and shopping, and GETTING.

Here’s a suggestion – instead of being just “thankful” tomorrow, try being grateful. What do I mean by that? Being thankful, to me, is synonymous to manners. “Thank you for holding the door open for me”. Gratitude implies indebtedness – “There is NO way I could have done this without you”.

So, using my definitions, how would that change how you look at tomorrow, and the rest of this weekend? Does it change your perceptions of the people you are thankful for? Does it change your attitude towards God? What have these people done for you that you couldn’t do for yourself?

You see, if you want to make Thanksgiving about getting, make it about what you have already been given. Show gratitude towards your wife who, for most households, keeps it together like you never could alone. Be grateful for the friends that love you unconditionally all year long. And, of course, be grateful for what God has done for you. And, by the way, He would have done it just for you. He did it for everyone, but He would have done it JUST for you. Ponder that…

Tomorrow, and this weekend, I choose gratitude. I have been given much already. Much of what I have been given, I could never have done for myself. I will choose to stop, rest, and ponder all of it.

What about you?

When Will You Stop Denying Who You Really Are?

I’m an introvert. Or am I?

I have always gravitated to positions that put me in front of people. I have found, over the years, that I love it. Which is TOTALLY contrary to who I feel I am. If given a choice I would rather stay at home and, with the exception of family, be by myself. I don’t like parties. I don’t like social events.

And I hate confrontation. I will go out of my way to avoid it. My number two strength on StrengthsFinder is Restorative. I seek harmony, and seek to establish harmony. When you are in the relationship business, conflict is a natural progression of almost any relationship.

I’m also painfully shy. I hate meeting people for the first time. My natural tendency is to become friends by osmosis – hoping that close proximity alone will draw us together, not the act of meeting and talking.

What’s even more interesting is that I love being around people. But if I’m at a party, I would rather be the wallflower – observing, not interacting. I love watching people at the airport or mall. Just not talking to them.

The reality, though, is that my life has played out very differently. I have had jobs in retail, customer service, and sales – all jobs that put me in direct contact with people. And I’ve had success in these jobs. And not just success –¬† at the risk of being arrogant, I am good at building relationships! What?! How can an introvert be good at building relationships? And on top of that, enjoy building relationships?

If I had to define my dream job, it would be a job where I could speak in front of people, then leave. One way communication. It’s one of the reasons why I loved being on the radio. Unfortunately, I don’t have a message. That’s kind of a problem. So, I’ve worked in positions where I get to communicate, but I’m also forced to relate.

So, all that being said, I guess my real question is have I learned to become interactive because I’ve had to for jobs, or have I really been an extrovert all these years and just didn’t know it? I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that here I am again in a position where the whole job is building relationships. And you know what? I love it. I love getting on the phone and chatting with new people and finding out their story. I love that I can serve them and make some new friends along the way. I love finding out their needs and meeting them. Would I rather be by myself? Sure. Am I energized by my daily interactions. You bet!

So, I press on – living with this juxtaposition in my life and, hopefully, finding success in something I fear.

Is there anything about yourself you’ve been denying? What fear is holding you back from working in your sweet spot?

On Being Unemployed

I play the scene over and over in my head. It’s the one in the movie “The Incredibles”, where Mr. Incredible (now reduced to¬†being¬†“just” Robert Parr) comes home frustrated with how his life has turned out and the neighbor kid is sitting in his driveway. Mr. Incredible, very irritated, says to the kid, “Well, what are you waiting for?!”, to which the kid¬†responds, “I don’t know. Something amazing, I guess…”

That’s how being unemployed feels like to me. I’m frustrated with my life. I know I can be something big. I know I have a lot to offer any company. But I feel like I’ve been reduced to being “just” Scott. Like I’m not useful anymore. Like I’m waiting¬†for¬†something amazing. I guess.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNX3rRH5ZPM]

Today is the seven month “anniversary” of my position being eliminated from a job I loved. I must admit, this has been the most¬†emasculating¬†experience I have ever been through. Doubt, fear, feelings of failure and inadequacy are constant companions. But, at the same time, there have been some good things. Here is a partial list of what I have learned over the last few months:

  • When in shape, the body of Christ is amazing. I have chronicled on this blog a little about our church search, but we landed at a church earlier this year. It is so obvious that God led us to this church, and this small group, to help us through this period. There was a time when those around us would have wondered what sin in our lives had caused all this to happen. Not these people. They have been gracious, loving, accepting, and giving – everything we are called to be as Christians. Lest you think all of this has diluted the spiritual side, think again. They have been our constant¬†encouragers, making sure we are in the Word and in prayer. If you need a church home in Franklin, ask me about it.
  • I have been blessed with time. From house projects, to a summer (and now a fall break) with my wife and kids, I have had time that I would not have had if I was working. I have even had the opportunity to teach the aforementioned small group, something I love to do. While I am surprised by how fast this time is going, and I’m sure I will wish I had done more, I am so thankful for the time to focus on other things.
  • I have re-established,¬†strengthened, or made new relationships. ¬†They say 70% of people find jobs through networking. I have been doing a lot of that, and it’s been great. Many of these people are very well-connected and influential people in the publishing industry and, no matter what happens in the future, I will be able to count them as personal contacts.
  • My faith is so much stronger. I have no idea what the future holds. At times it scares me (especially¬†as it gets¬†harder¬†and harder to pay bills). But this I do know, now more than ever, God will never leave me nor forsake me. We watched the movie “The Hiding Place” recently, and Betsie Ten Boom said it best, “There is no pit so deep, that God is not deeper still.”

There are more lessons, and more to come I’m sure. I’m ready and open to learn them. While I have these dark feelings, they are also accompanied by an undercurrent of anticipation. I know something amazing is going to happen. I don’t know when, or how, but I KNOW it. I don’t have to guess. All I have to do is wait. And sometimes that is the hardest thing to do.

Finally, I must give credit where credit is due. I have had this blog post in my head for some time, but haven’t taken the time to write it out. Lindsey Nobles (a former Nelson co-worker) had the courage to write¬†this post on¬†her blog that inspired me to finally get my post out of my head. Thanks, Lindsey.

A Brand New Day

This is a carry-over from http://alwayswintertime.blogspot.com. This was a “family” blog that we used to keep family up to date with what was going on with us. Occasionally, I would use it to rant. Since most of our family is on Facebook, and we keep up that way, we haven’t touched the blog in over a year. I always felt guilty about using the family blog to write my personal stuff, so I started this one just for me.

Always Wintertime

I have kept some of my previous posts, and I’m working to clean up the family updates. Otherwise, this is just a landing pad for me to purge the things running around in my head. It isn’t supposed to be profound. It will never win any awards. It’s really more for me, but you are welcome to peek in and see what’s going on.

Enjoy!