Getting Serious

Just a note, this post is a duplicate from my new blog at Websterville.net. I won’t double post often, but since it’s my first one over there, I figured I could hype it a little extra.

So, here it is, the all new Websterville.net! I’ve been working non-stop to get this site up and running, and I’m very happy with the way it has turned out. I’d love to get feedback on the new look, so feel free to leave a comment.

If you’ve been following my page from the beginning, you know that this site is not the same site that was on Websterville.net a week ago. The look is different, the focus is different, and even the hosting and framework for the page are different. I really liked my last page and the company that I worked with to put it together was great. You can make some really great sites with them, especially if you’re building a site for a church. It was a really difficult decision to leave that site and make this one. I may have even hurt some feelings in the process. So why did I make the change?

It all came down to one question: Do I want to do graphic design/website building as a side business or is it is going to be my real job?

When I built my first site, I knew I wanted to do graphic design, but I didn’t have any real focus. The site was scattered, with links to 100 different project types and the general message seemed to be, “I’m desperate. Please hire me.” Even though I can still work on all types of projects, if I wanted to be serious about graphic design, I had to find my focus.

Since launching Websterville.net, I have been blessed with a pretty steady stream of work and a majority of it has come from small business owners wanting me to build them a website. After investigating my options for site building and trying a lot of possibilities, I’ve fallen in love with building sites using WordPress and the Headway Theme. (See why here.) After working on six or seven sites this way and getting completely sold on the idea, I realized that if I was serious about selling this to clients, I had to get on board myself.

If graphic design was just going to be my hobby or side business, I could keep my old site. If I was serious about making sites for living, I had to make some hard decisions and build a new site.

I chose to start getting serious.

I am now a full time freelance graphic designer making websites mainly for small businesses. I love my new WordPress site and the control I have over every element. I love working with clients and delivering websites and graphics that make them happy and help their businesses. I love learning new ways to customize the sites I build with CSS and HTML. I love the freedom that freelancing offers. I’m serious about graphic design now and I’m seriously happy about it.

Random Thoughts on Calling

Well, today was my first official weekday at home since I submitted my resignation as youth minister a few weeks ago. Being asked to resign shook me up pretty bad, and since that time, I’ve done a lot of thinking about calling. I’m not sure yet exactly what to think about it all right now but, here are some of the random thoughts I’ve been having. Feel free to add your thoughts to the mix.

When God calls you to something, does he necessarily call you forever? I feel very strongly that I was called to youth ministry almost a decade ago and I always assumed that was a lifelong call. However, I also feel like I was called to both of my last churches and those calls were only for a certain period of time. Could my call to youth ministry also be for a particular period of time after which I will be called to do something else?

Sometimes calling feels like a cage. Sometimes when somebody reminds me that I’ve been called to youth ministry, I hear, “You are stuck doing youth ministry until you drop over dead, whether you like it or not.”

There are times when I know that I was made to do what I’ve been doing. Yesterday night, my last youth service at FBC, was a really tense, emotional time for me until I stepped up on the stage to speak. When I preach, I’m in my zone. The tension vanished and I preached. I love preaching.

It’s easy to look at your future options when you feel like God is saying, “Do this.” It’s much more complicated when he says, “Look at the gifts and talents I gave you. Listen to the desires I placed within you. Now, what do you want to do with these things?” I’m not sure which method he uses more often. I definitely feel like I’ve had those “do this” moments, but I’m not sure that’s the way it always works.

I do believe that God has a plan for each of us, I’m just not as sure that he always lets us in on it. If God gives a direct “go” or “stop”, you should definitely listen, but I think sometimes, he’s a lot more subtle, drawing on your own talents and desires to show you his will.

Am I done with youth ministry? Probably not. I still feel called to reach out to young people, but I’m not sure exactly how that’s going to look.

Anybody Want to Buy My House?

For my friends who don’t go to First Baptist Lebanon and for those of you who missed the service tonight, I want to let you know that at the end of this evening’s service, I resigned from my position as Youth and Children’s Minister. I did so after talking with the pastor and the personnel team who felt that those ministries needed a fresh start. Despite the fact that I was not expecting this decision, I have no hard feelings towards anyone involved. They are simply doing what they think is best for the church and, in the end, I believe that this could be best for me and my family as well.

I’ve enjoyed my time on staff at FBC and the friendships I’ve made there, but if you’ve been reading my blog lately you know that I am not your typical youth pastor and ultimately we simply had too many differences in ministry philosophy and style. Like I said, and it’s worth saying again (in bold font), I am not upset with anyone at the church nor do I have any hard feelings towards any of the church leadership. They are all great men and it has been a privilege to work with them. Resigning this evening was hard and I’m sorry for the people who were shocked or hurt by my announcement, but I do feel that it was the right thing to do.

So what’s next for me? Honestly, I have no idea.

I do know that despite not having a job, I do have some pretty great things going for me right now. I’ve got the God who will never leave me or forsake me. I’ve got my amazing wife who has been right by my side through this whole thing. (Read all her blogs from the week leading up to this announcement here, here, here, and here… she’s awesome!) I’ve got three smiling happy kids who help me keep my perspective. I asked Ben the other day if he wanted to go live in a brand new house and said, “Yeah!” jumping up and down and laughing the whole time. For him, change, even big change, is just the start of a new adventure.

Alanna and I are looking at the possibility moving back to my hometown of Sparta. Houses cost a lot less there and we have lots of friends and family nearby to help us get going. Since graduation I have lived wherever my career has taken me, but I would like to put down some roots now, choosing where to live first and then seeing what jobs are available in the area. Thanks to a particularly crappy job market at the moment, I can’t afford to be picky with where I find my paycheck though. For now, I’m open to anything. So (again in bold font)…

If you live in or around Sparta (or anywhere else in Middle Tennessee) and you know of any available jobs, please let me know immediately.

Seriously, I am open to any and all suggestions. As far as credentials go, I’ve got a B.A. in History and English and seven years experience working with teenagers in ministry. I am skilled in digital desktop publishing and graphic design (but no coding yet). Also, I can make some pretty awesome coffee drinks that end in “cino.” For now though, I just need to find a job, so I don’t have to work in those fields if that’s not where the jobs are.

Also, another big deal coming up in the near future will be selling our current house. It’s a great little house but it’s more than we will be able to afford soon, so we really need a buyer soon. Next Saturday (March 20), we’re going to have a painting party to bring back the beige that seems to be all the rage with house hunters. If you’re in the area, we’d love to have your help. Just bring a roller and a paint tray and we will find you a wall. I’ll be cooking up a couple of awesome homemade pizzas as payment for your hard work so come out and help us get this place in shape.

It’s pretty weird to be floating freely like we are right now, not knowing where we’re going or what we’re going to do when we get there. I’ve gone through plenty of other major life transitions in the past, but in those cases we were always transitioning from one place/position/paycheck to another one that was already waiting. Now, I just have to trust that God is going to provide for our needs.

And I do trust Him. Most of the time. As the great Rich Mullins said, “Surrender don’t come natural to me.” Man, I struggle with this one sometimes, even though I know God has never let me down in the past. Sometimes I trust people too easily (like the guy who managed to get $80 out of me for his “broken car”) but I struggle to trust the one who always keeps His promises. If He cares about feeding sparrows and clothing lilies, I know He’ll take care of me.

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

The Great Adventure?

“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.” – Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

Saddle up your horses!

Life can surprise you sometimes. You can look at those surprises as nasty dark things designed to destroy you or you can look ahead and embrace the adventure that awaits. A brand new adventure coming soon…

Random Update

Originally posted on my long dead Xanga page.

Gee golly, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. (That’s what all the cool kids are saying these days – gee golly… when you’re a youth minister it’s easy to stay hip.) So much has happened that I’ve had very little time to document it because I’ve been too busy living it. To save time and clear out all the cobwebs, I’ll just give it to you in brief factiods before I start my major rambling.

1) I’ve officially graduated! I got my diploma in the mail a few weeks ago and now it hanging up in my office at church. Speaking of my office…

2) My officially title at church is now Youth and Children’s Ministry Coordinator. That means that I am working more at church and having to spend less time in another job. It also means I get to play a lot of silly games with small children. Finally, I’m working with people I can relate to! As far as who I’m working with…

3) LifeWay no longer has its shackles on me! To quote Mary Mary, “Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance!” And I literally did dance around the room when I found out this job was going to work out at church because I knew it meant I could give my two weeks notice. (I was at home at the time… I actually was so involved that I ran right into the door frame of the computer room. It’s hard to stop me when I’m gettin’ my groove on.) Don’t let The Man bring you down! But with every good thing there must come complications, such as…

4) My pastor resigned the day I was announced as Children’s Dude. (That’s how I see myself.) No, I didn’t run him off. ( I don’t think… then again, one week before I put in my notice, my manager at LifeWay resigned too… hmmm…) He’s going to a church in Dickson. I think that all the difficulties at my church – lack of commitment, laziness, inconsistancy, etc. – just got to be too much. That makes me the senior staff member now. Oy vey! (That’s what all the hip Orthodox Jews are saying these days – oy vey.) Actually I think it’s going to be for the best. We’ll just go from scratch with a fresh start. Additionally…

5) I am now a substitute teacher for the Knox and Anderson County school systems. I gots to pay the bill somehow, so I figured at least this way I’m still playing with kids most of the time… or hiding from them under the desk. Anything else? How could I forget…

6) Right now, my current obsession is Mel Gibson’s new movie The Passion of the Christ. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about the release of a movie as I am about this one. It opens in just a little over a week on Ash Wednesday, February 25. If it wasn’t for the fact that I have to teach the youth on Wednesdays, I’d be at the theatre that night. The movie’s getting great reviews from advance audiences (at least the Christian ones) and stirring up controversy everywhere else. Be sure and check out the website (www.thepassionofthechrist.com) if you want to find out more. I just can’t wait to see what kind of impact this movie is going to make. I’ll be sure and post after I see it too.

Anyway, I guess we’re all up to date now in the world of Jody. I really need to work on making my site less ugly now that I’m not using the free Xanga premium. Right now though, I have a very sleep pug in my lap that I need to put to bed.

Change on the Horizon?

Originally published on my long dead Xanga page.

(I intended to make this post last night, seeing as I wrote it yesterday, but sometimes you just don’t get the kind of copy and paste time that you need. C’est la vie.)

I’m back in the employee break room for another bowl of Bi-Lo chunky soup eaten out of a fine china bowl. Doesn’t that sound like the beginning of some very sad novel? It’s the type of story beginning that involves a very depressed man beaten down by society doing… something. No one ever said I had the thing written. I just like the line.

Actually today is not one that would fit into that particular novel, unless it was to add some kind of cruel irony to the story. It looks like freedom from LifeWay may be closer than I had originally hoped. (Today I was told that I needed to be careful because the khaki pants I wore yesterday weren’t khaki enough. Those dark pants won’t cut it at LifeWay.) The children’s minister at my church just resigned. I know that normally doesn’t sound like good news, but when you’re the underpaid youth minister; it has a glimmer of hope to it. You see, once I heard that the position was open, I spoke to the pastor about the idea of combining that position with my current one, making me the youth and children’s minister. He spoke to the personnel team and apparently some kind of meeting has been held to discuss this possibility. Last night at church I was asked how the meeting went so someone could see if I was “it” yet. I didn’t even know there was a meeting. Another person asked if I was leading the Wednesday night children’s program now. On top of this hearsay, the personnel director asked for an updated resume. Sounds promising to me. Hopefully, last night was the herald of some new chapter in a much less ironic story than the soup-and-china one.

Our new little puppy has been providing Alanna and me endless entertainment. He’s tiny enough to fit in one hand, and he loves to bite and gnaw on anything you put in front of him. I was awakened this morning by the little guy chewing on the hair on the back of my head. Just gentle little tugs; he’s not big enough to do any real damage. Brownie, our other dog, thinks he’s a new chew toy that just happens to be made out of flesh instead of cotton. She bats him around and attempts to fit his entire head into her mouth. He responds by trying to nurse on her – I don’t think I’ve ever seen her jump so high. Oh, and he squeaks. Too small to have a real bark of any kind, he just squeaks. Eventually we’ll be able to get some sleep around the house again. 🙂

After work I plan to stop by Blockbuster on the way home to rent a Looney Tunes 2-DVD set. Maybe I won’t be sleeping tonight after all.