Between Christmas and New Years it's been a quiet week. Almost too quiet.

Or, to put it another way, I noticed that I'm not very good at taking time off. When I'm doing nothing in particular around the house I have a constant restless feeling that I should be doing something else. Even though there is nothing at the moment that needs to be done. I have constant thoughts of "I should be getting a jump on things that will be coming up in the new year" running through my head. And, while there may be a few things I could "get a jump on", they're trivial.

That's left me with lots of time to ruminate on what's ahead in the new year. There are a couple things:

Starting January and running through May, I'll be doing some pastoral work at the Norwood United Methodist and Congregational churches. I'm not even sure what to call that. I'll be preaching on Sundays and on call for pastoral emergencies during the week. But I'm not really the Pastor. The two churches involved have an odd arrangement of remaining two distinct churches, complete with their own buildings and their own boards, committees and all the rest of the organizational stuff. But they worship together, alternating which building they worship in from one month to the next, and they do a few community outreach things together.

Last year, I filled in on Sundays while the previous person doing this was on vacation in Mexico. Some Sundays I got two checks each Sunday, one from each church's treasurer for half the amount. Another Sunday I got a check from one treasurer for 4 weeks that I would be in their church building, while the other treasure continued to pay out 1/2 the honorarium a week at a time. Neither of them seemed to have any idea what the other was doing. There were a couple Sundays I didn't get paid at all, each treasurer having assumed that the other was taking care of it. (They did make it all come out in the end, eventually. I think.)

So I'm not going to be the Pastor, or even the Interim Pastor of either church. The closest way I can think to describe it is that I'll be a Pastoral Free Agent for a couple churches for 5 months. As unorthodox as the arrangement is, I'm looking at it as a way to test the waters about how re-entry into some kind of real pastoral work might be like.

That's one thing for the new year.

The second thing is my ongoing website business. The past couple years have been transitional years in several respects. In 2016, I put most of my own business on hold to go to work for Awesome Motive, a company that sells several popular WordPress plugins. In the spring of 2017 I left Awesome Motive to return to freelance client website work. Freelancing hasn't really worked out, mostly because I'm not very good at marketing and sales.

Also, over the course of late 2017, the direction of WordPress, the website platform I do most of my work with, has taken a turn toward becoming more of a "page builder" than a content management system in the new year. Without going into the details: that's great for do-it-yourselfers who want a website, but it's pretty much tanked my enthusiasm for working with it as a serious solution for anything other than basic websites. Up until last fall, I still held out hope that it was going to be alright, and I still have one last project that I'm building using WordPress that will get wrapped up in the 1st quarter of 2018.

Other than for basic sites, I can't say that I recommend it or have enough confidence in it to start any new projects with WordPress. At the moment, however, I don't have any catch-all solution to take it's place, and that makes selling new projects even harder. Or, to put it another way, it means I need to do a lot more legwork to determine which platform to build any given project on, and that eats into all kinds of other time and cost factors.

In a nutshell, as much as I love to play with code, freelancing code is probably not my best long-term option. Between the dabbling with pastoral work and working through the direction of my business, 2018 looks like it will be a pivotal year.

On the plus side, Physical Therapy has proven to be far more effective than I had expected for the chronic lower back pain I've had for the past 2 years. For the past week and a half, nearly every day has been pain free, or close to it. That's no small thing. After 2 years, I'd almost forgotten what life without back pain was like. So, as much as I hate the gym -- and I do -- I've been going every day. Because I've discovered I hate back pain more than I hate the gym. And I've found that if I plug in a podcast at the gym, it helps the time go by more easily. My brain stays engaged with something rather than stewing itself in boredom the whole I'm while watching the clock tick down.

Also, during this week of doing nothing in particular, I've been able to do some more reading. I came across the Farnham Street blog sometime in the last couple months, run by Shane Parrish. It's the blog I wish my blog was. There's a lot of really good stuff on the blog with links to even more really good stuff. So I've been reading thinks that I've found there, as well as a few other things that have been on my list for a while.

Finally, we continue to watch the Amaryllis unfold. Here are a few more pictures. Happy New Year!

Amaryllis, Day 8

Amaryllis, Day 9

Amaryllis, Day 10

Amaryllis, Day 11

Amaryllis, Day 12