“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 now almost nine year-old son, almost seven year-old daughter, along with their six year-old cousin had made of her consulting firm’s global headquarters.  Her almost four year-old son and his three year-old cousin apparently had other interests.

The older ones were sprawled on the floor, one by one taking their turn trying to perfect their golf swing, pounding their grandfather’s golf impact bag with his vintage Ping Eye2 seven iron.

She gently swirled a glass of her favorite Russian River Valley pinot noir, conceding the hopelessness of maintaining proper corporate décor this time of the year.  Gazing around her happy place – the home office she had remodeled and refurnished two years earlier – she reflected on the past year.

COVID-19 was still an annoyance, but nothing compared with the past 20 months.  She wasn’t quite to the point of lamenting business travel in the manner she started to during the pre-2020 years, but unless she was on the road, and except for Zoom meetings, she was almost always able to work in whatever she worked-out in.

There was still the ever-present, never-ending need to separate her personal life from her work life.

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

“Let me guess.  You are still at work?”, he asked.

“Yes . . . technically.  But, I am home.”

Home.

She had finished the on-site portions of her engagements for the year;  travel was over.  She would have preferred that it was the end of meaningful work for the year altogether, which it clearly wasn’t.  Still, she was looking forward to the travel break.

“How are you doing?”, he asked.  “What are you doing?”

“I am good.  Everyone is good”, she said.  “No changes, for a change.  Everyone still puts up with me.

“I have completed the rehab from the back surgery last year, and the COVID;  the recovery from the surgery was a lot longer and harder than I expected.  Ugh, just thinking about it, it’s still hard to believe I even needed it.  I am back to playing golf, but I have had to rebuild my swing.  I am back to my workout routines.”

“Sounds boring.  Anything new and exciting?”, he asked.

“The biggest news has been my decision, made earlier this year, to sell the practice, sometime in the next two to five years.  So – I have put the goal out there, and we will see what happens.”

“That’s new, and big, and exciting”, he said.  “What lead to that decision?”

“Almost four years ago”, she answered.  “I was leading an all-day class for the members of a Builder 20 Club, teaching the production principles we use in our Pipeline Workshops™.  It’s one of the ways SAI gives back, doing work pro-bono for the B-20 program whenever NAHB asks.

“Afterwards, that evening at dinner, I sat next to the then-President of that B-20 Club.  At some point, he turned and asked me what my legacy was going to be.

“He went on to clarify his question:  ‘What I mean is this:  SAI Consulting is basically you.  No matter how long you work, you can’t practice forever.  How do you plan for the principles and disciplines that you teach to continue beyond you?  How are you going to pass what you do on to someone else?’

“I thought for a moment, and replied, ‘I don’t know.’  It was the best response I could offer to a question I had never considered.  In truth, I had never considered how – or why – I should stop doing the work I love doing.  But, his question did make me think about how long I wanted to manage a consulting practice.  I have concluded that I want to start the process of finding someone else to assume SAI’s role in the industry.

“I want to turn my attention to other interests.”

“Let me guess what those other interests are”, he said.  “But, first let me ask, how was 2021?”

“I’m sure you have guessed what my other interests are”, she replied.  “But, to answer your question, business-wise and revenue-wise, we have stabilized from the initial shock of COVID-19, not quite back to pre-pandemic levels.  It is still a set-back from most of the years of the recovery following the End of the Age of Homebuilder Entitlement®.  But, 2021 was another profitable year for SAI.

“There has been a bit less travel, which makes my personal life a bit less challenging.  Delta and Avis still love me, and that’s what matters.”

“I remember you joking with me, over a decade ago”, her business friend said, “that the then-most-recent yearly six-figure decline from personal peak consulting income had been almost as much fun as the previous year had been.  Those circumstances seem like a long time ago now.

“What about the book?”, he asked.

“The second edition has been in publication for five years now”, she said.  “The Pipeline© continues to sell, continues to drive attendance to Pipeline workshops™.  I am still working on the sequel, what I want to title Horizontal©, about workflow and business process improvement;  same characters, same mythical homebuilding company.

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

“It is amazing how much of this material you developed from scratch”, he said.  “And what about the infill residential development piece you have been telling me about ad infinitum, the one you have been looking to develop and build-out as an authentic mid-19th century Florida settlement?”

“I am still looking, and I will continue to look”, she answered.  “I am still looking for the right opportunity to create elegance and allusion – homes that are simple, refined, fit for purpose, true to the vernacular architecture of that period.  Early-on, the numbers didn’t work, now the land is so much harder to come-by.  But, I’m not giving up.”

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.  Again, we do the workshops in a five-star oceanfront resort five miles from my house;  the other work requires travel, but I get to do a good portion of my work here, where I get to enjoy this awesome crew.

“As I have said, I don’t have all the answers.  Finding joy daily in all of this continues to be a struggle.  Right now, under these circumstances, things could be better, and they will be better.”

“I’m sure they will”, her business friend said.  “For now, it was good catching up with you.  I hope you have a Merry Christmas.”

“Thanks.  As always, 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 you’ve been gone!  The kiddos are all yours.”

As she walked towards the back door, she gestured for her younger sister to join her.

They walked outside, joined by her sister’s golden retriever, and reclined into two of the Adirondacks around the firepit.  They talked about new things, shared other things, well-beyond the content of their wine glasses.

“I think I’ll go check on the prospects for dinner”, her sister said.  “Can I bring you another glass?”

“No, thanks.”

In the newly-gained solitude, 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 young 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 on 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 would be just another child, born in an insignificant city, in a world ruled under the unflinching authority of the Roman Empire.

She thought about the character and the attributes of the Creator of the universe, the Author of all that is good, the true Lover of her soul, 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 grace she now pondered.

She considered what the cost-benefit ratio on that investment might have been, whose investment it was, and whence that investment had come.  Momentarily amused, she thought about perhaps adding that exercise to the RB Builders: Lessons from the Pipeline© business case for the next Pipeline workshop™.

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

“Father, I give it all to You, every bit of it, every care and concern, my schedule, my homelife, every trouble and burden, every question for which I do not have an answer.  Please restore my heart and give me unconquerable hope, give me lasting joy.

“Thanks 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.  And, 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 that You have given to me, a Love that uses Faith and Hope to sustain me, to motivate me, to give me purpose, perspective and resolve – attributes 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.”