“God With Us.”

(an updated version of this post appears on Escape from Averageness® every year, at Christmas)

The intrepid, results-based consultant reclined in her chair, put her feet on the desk, and observed the shambles that her almost eight year-old son, now almost six year-old daughter, along with their five year- old cousin had made of her consulting firm’s global headquarters.  Her almost three year-old son and his two year-old cousin apparently had other interests.

The older ones were sprawled on the floor trying to torment their grandfather, as he carefully went through his orientation on the workings of a Marlin Model 1895 .45-70 Government and a Ping Eye2 seven iron.

She swirled a glass of her favorite Russian River Valley pinot noir, conceding the hopelessness of maintaining proper corporate décor this time of the year.  Looking around her finally-furnished home office that she had remodeled a year earlier, she reflected on the year now almost past.

COVID-19.  Forget the business travel she so frequently lamented in previous years.  Except for Zoom meetings, she was almost always able to work in whatever she worked-out in.  There was still the ever-present need to separate her personal life and her work life.

Her reflections were interrupted by a call from an old business friend.

“So – you’re home”, he said.

“Yes . . . I am home.”

Home.

She had finished the on-site portions of her engagements for the year;  there would be no more travel this year.  She would have preferred that it was the end of meaningful work for the year, as well, but it certainly wasn’t.  Still, she was looking forward to the travel break.

“How was 2020?”, he asked.  “And, how are you?”

“Besides me, everyone is good”, she said.  “No changes.  They all still put up with me.

“I guess the biggest issue for me this year has been health.  I underwent major back surgery mid-year, and, then, returning from one of my consulting engagements just before Thanksgiving, I tested positive for COVID-19.  It has been a lot to handle.”

“Ahh, yes, COVID-19”, he noted.  “How was that?”

“Overall, my symptoms were mild, and non-respiratory”, the intrepid, results-based consultant explained.  “However, I had no endurance, no energy, no desire.  I completely lost my appetite.  It was not any fun.  I quarantined;  I have tested negative now.”

“Exciting enough.  Anything else?”, he asked.

“We finally finished the remodel of the five-year old house I told you about last year, if that makes any sense”, she said.  “We love the neighborhood.  It is a really good TND, and we like the elevations.  The floorplan is smaller than anything we have owned since our first house, and, if we had been building the house, as we almost always do, we would have never built this floorplan.

“We couldn’t change everything we wanted, but we like every change we made.  It took us over a year.

“Business-wise, we suffered along with everyone else over the effects of COVID-19.  Revenue-wise, it was a set-back from most of the years of the recovery following the End of the Age of Homebuilder Entitlement®.  But, 2020 was still a profitable year for SAI.

“There has been less travel, which makes my personal life less challenging.  Delta and Avis still love me – I think.

“I remember joking with you, a decade ago, that the then-most-recent yearly six-figure decline from personal peak consulting income was almost as much fun as the previous two years had been.  That seems like a long time ago.”

“What about the book?”, he asked.

The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production, Second Edition© continues to sell, continues to drive attendance at Pipeline workshops™.  Still working on the sequel.  It will be titled Horizontal©, and it will be about workflow and business process improvement;  same characters, same homebuilding company.

“You know, thinking about it now, the concept of the production workshops dates back almost fifteen years.  It is hard to believe, but the public, sponsored workshops are now in their eighth year.  We still conduct both the two-day Pipeline workshops™ and the one-day Pipeline seminars™ in the other channels.”

“What about that infill residential development piece you told me about, the one you were looking to develop and build-out as an authentic mid-19th century Florida settlement?”

“Didn’t happen”, she answered.  “Still looking for an opportunity to create elegance and allusion – homes that are simple, refined, fit for purpose, true to the vernacular architecture of the period.  We have looked at several possibilities, but they just haven’t worked.  I am not giving up, but there have clearly been distractions this year.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant thought for a moment.

“The decision I made early-on, to work where I live, instead of live where I work, continues to pay dividends, and makes even more sense, when you look at other states.  I do the workshops in a five-star oceanfront resort five miles from our house;  the speaking and consulting engagements require travel, but I get to do a good portion of my work here, where I get to enjoy this awesome crew.

“A couple of years ago, a client asked me about my ‘succession plan’, about how I intended to preserve the legacy of my consulting practice;  at the time, I told him I had absolutely no idea.  Now, I have a five-year plan.  It may still involve turning work over to partners and colleagues, but, increasingly, I see it as the transfer of all SAI intellectual property to an acquirer and retiring from this practice.

“I don’t have all the answers.  As always, finding joy daily in all of this can be a struggle.  Right now, under these circumstances, I don’t think I am doing as well as I could, but I will do better.”

“I am sure you will”, her business friend said.  “I hope you have a Merry Christmas.”

“Thanks.  The same to you.”

As the intrepid, results-based consultant ended her call, the front door opened, and her husband and brother-in-law walked in, back from who-knows-where.

“Aww!  We’ve missed you guys!  All four and a half hours!  The kiddos are all yours.”

Nodding towards the back door, she suggested to her younger sister that she join her.

They walked outside, joined by her sister’s golden retriever, and reclined into two of the chairs around the firepit.  They talked, about shared things, well-beyond the content of their wine glasses.  “I’ll go check on the prospects for dinner”, her sister said.

“Can I bring you another glass?”

“No, thanks.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant looked into the northeast Florida sky on a clear, moonless, star-filled night, turned her mind away from work, and toward family.  She thought about the birth of her three children, recalling the hope and apprehension, the joy and inevitable challenges, the ever-growing changes to their lives, the newness each birth had brought.

Her thoughts turned to Christmas, the one almost here and each one previous.

And, she thought about the first Christmas.

She wondered what the tiny town of Bethlehem must have been like that long-ago night.  She thought about another young mother and father, who had made their trip with few resources, facing an uncertain future.  And, she thought about their soon-to-be-born son;  to everyone else, save a few curious shepherds and a cohort of stargazers from distant eastern places, he was just another child, born in an insignificant city, in a world ruled under the unflinching authority of the Roman Empire.

She considered the character and attributes of the Creator of the universe, the true Lover of her soul, the God who had pursued her heart relentlessly through all space and time.  She thought about grace and mercy.  She thought about the words of the apostle Paul, buried deep in his first letter to the small group of believers in Corinth, describing Faith, Hope, and Love, the principles of the grace she now pondered.

She leaned further back into her chair and closed her eyes.

“Father, I give it all to You, every care and concern, my schedule, every trouble and burden, every question for which I do not have an answer.  I ask that You restore my heart and give me joy.

“Thank you for giving me a Faith that somehow endures, a Faith that looks back and trusts that the claims this child – your Son – would one day make about Himself are true, and that each and every moment of time, each and every event of history, either points towards, or proceeds from, that Truth.

“Not just a Faith in evidence past, but one that also believes in your triune willingness and ability to manage this world and my part in it.

“Thanks, also, for giving me Hope, an enduring Hope that understands eternity means never-ending, not just somewhere-down-the-road;  thanks for giving me a Hope that looks forward from the perspective of the eternal life I have right now, but also understands that, one day, our lives in this world – with its joy and pain, and only partial fulfillment – will end, and that I will live in your presence – constantly, eternally, restored, with all things made new.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant thought about a final point of gratitude, mindful of all the distractions to purposeful living that daily life presents.

“Finally, thanks for the Love given to me, a Love that that uses Faith and Hope to sustain me, to motivate me, to give me purpose, perspective and resolve – that I could never have on my own – until Your Son’s return, or until You call me Home.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant thought about the significance of the full-circle of events that began on that long-ago night.  There was a birth;  there would be a death, a resurrection, an ascension;  between birth and death, there would be an earthly life.

“We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this:  the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-Same Word Who made it in the beginning.”  (On the Incarnation, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 350 AD).

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  (John 1:4)

“And you shall call His name Immanuel.”  (Is. 7:14)

“God With Us.”