Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

This is a major announcement for our family

Disclaimer: This is a relatively long post. And it’s not unlike a winding stream with other tributaries adding to it. But I feel like it’s important to give you the backstory to this announcement. If you can’t stand it and really just want to see what the major announcement is, just skip down to the “tl;dr” statement at the bottom.

Man Praying in Church
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A career shift?

I was in high school. We were wrapping up our home Bible study with some prayer requests. A good friend of mine shared with our group that his dad had just lost his job. They were concerned. We all were.

I don’t know his whole work history, but I do remember that he’d taken on a few different careers during his life. He had training as an engineer and had graduated from one of the top engineering schools in the country. He’d had some jobs in that field. But I also remember that he ran a print shop at one point in his life.

Not long after my friend shared this important prayer concern, his dad was hired by our church. He had already been handling many of the organization’s administrative duties on a volunteer basis. Why not go ahead and start paying him? Made perfect sense.

He served on the church staff for more than twenty years. And now he’s enjoying his retirement.

I don’t know if he felt a wandering in his soul. I never asked him. Maybe I should. But I do know that my friend’s dad eventually found the perfect “fit” for himself. And it seems like all of his previous professional and volunteer experiences prepared him for his administrative role with my home church.

It started this past January. I started to get the sense that I was on the brink of a major career change. Maybe my career was about to make a major shift, not unlike my friend’s dad. I told my brother as much while we were driving home from Mr. Gerhart’s funeral. I could tell that things were about to change. And maybe I’d find that perfect fit that aligns my skills, experiences, education, and passion into one dream job.

That was just the beginning of this journey.

So, what makes me tick?

I’ve come to realize that I am not happy unless I’m working to serve other people. It’s my passion. My heartbeat. It’s what makes me tick. When I worked at Slingshot SEO/digitalrelevance, I was drawn to the nonprofit clients who were spending a considerable amount of energy and effort to help others. As I continued down that digital marketing road, I began to dream: “What if I could take these skills that I’ve honed and the knowledge that I’ve gained and used it to help smaller organizations who are helping other people?”

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It was a wonderful idea. But it wasn’t one I could execute anytime soon. I needed something to pay the bills. So I cobbled together a couple of jobs. You might remember that I thought it was a little too…cliché…and predictable. Even after leaving the school to stay home with my son, I still wound up finding myself back in another Special Needs classroom less than a year later.

After looking back at my work history over the past decade or so, it’s become pretty clear that helping people and serving others. It was also clear that I wasn’t going to be able to retire at either the Christian retail store* or as an Instructional Assistant at a school. So I started looking for positions that would give me the opportunity to help people.

I had  a few interviews. Several, in fact. There was a local organization who brought me in for two separate interviews last Summer. I never heard from them again, even though they promised to keep me updated. I had another promising interview not too long after that. It went well. I thought it. Never heard from them again.

A brief aside:  How hard is it to send a simple rejection email after you’ve met with a candidate? If you can’t be courteous enough to let me know that you chose the other person, perhaps I don’t want to work for you. Or partner with you. Or support you. If you can’t handle the little things like a simple rejection email, what does that say about how you handle the big things?

But I digress…

It was just a dream

A few months, a friend of mine told me about a position with a local organization that I might be interested in. She sent me the job description. At first glance, I didn’t think I was the kind of person they were looking for. But I believed this was the type of job I was looking for. And it really didn’t hurt anything to send them my resume. So I shot them an email. I didn’t really have my hopes up. I’d gotten my hopes up for other positions that I thought were a “perfect fit.” So I just went about my business, just doing what I do.

They called me in for an interview. Things went really well. Then they asked me back for another interview with the whole team. Things went really well. And in the midst of discussions with this organization, we moved out of one house and into another. And we were gearing up for the final push towards the end of the school year at my school.

Transitions!

Transitions everywhere!

Then, these dreams started popping up…

It has happened at least three times during the past two months. And each dream has pretty much followed the same storyline. For some reason, I’m back at the church where I preached for several years. Things are arranged differently. And a lot of people have passed away. You know how dreams go: It feels different. It feels the same. I know exactly where I am and I have no idea where I am, all at the same time.

All of a sudden, I’m expected to preach. I’m woefully unprepared as I try to piece something together last-minute. As I step on stage to deliver a cobbled together sermon, I wake up.

I think I know why I keep having this dream

It’s because of the transitions. When things get unsettled, I wind up having dreams that are similar to this. The dream keeps happening at this small church because of the interviews I’ve had recently. During my conversations with potential employers, I’ve discussed my experience in this small country church – both positive and negative.

Believe me, I’m long past having any hard feelings about what transpired. God made sure of that when He kicked me in the teeth a few years back. But I’m convinced that all of the discussions about my preaching experience, coupled with all of the life transitions that are going on, I kind of had to emotionally and mentally work through the direction my life is taking. And that has happened through this dream.

I believe I’m ready to announce the new direction for our family. No, we’re not adopting again. No, I’m not returning to the pulpit. And we’re certainly not moving again anytime soon. I have accepted a position with a local organization. I will be serving as an Employment Advisor, helping adults with Special Needs find jobs and thrive at their jobs. That’s right. I’m going to be a job coach.

And get this: I’ll also be taking over their digital promotions. So I’ll be overhauling their website and coordinating their social media efforts. How cool is that? I get to help people and take what I’ve learned about digital marketing to help a small, local nonprofit improve their digital footprint!

The streams, they have converged.

Of course, this isn’t anywhere close to anything that was on my radar six months ago. There’s a lot I need to learn. I realize that. That’s probably why I kept showing up unprepared in my dreams. But I know that whatever I don’t know, I’ll be able to learn. I’ll be part of a great team and I’m sure they’ll help me as I try to help them. Am I a little nervous? Sure. But I’m also excited beyond words.

Will I retire with this organization? I don’t know. I certainly hope so. There’s definitely opportunity for professional growth. And a few of my teammates have been with the organization for several years. There’s some staying power here.

tl;dr – I’ve accepted a position as an Employment Coach, helping people find and thrive in their jobs.

While I’m sad to leave my teammates and students in our Essential Skills classroom, I know they are going to have an amazing year next school year.  I’m very excited to kick off this next chapter in my life. And I’m looking forward to what will unfold over the next few years.

 

* Family Christian Stores recently ended its 85 year run and closed all 240 stores. Even if I’d stayed with them, it’s a sure bet I would not have retired as an FCS team member.

 

J is for “Just Pizza”

A to Z Challenge letter J

Ten years ago, I was a Shift Leader at a local pizza franchise. There were times when it was an especially stressful job. There’s nothing like having an unexpected rush of delivery orders on a Friday or Saturday night after you’ve already sent the majority of your cooks and drivers home. When tensions would be high and people were at each other’s throats, the store manager, Chad, would look at us and say, “You guys! It’s just pizza!”  It wasn’t rocket science. And in spite of what some people might have tried to make us think, it wasn’t the end of the world if things didn’t go well one night. Just keep your head up and get the job done. It’s just pizza, after all. This wasn’t an excuse to do things poorly. It wasn’t an excuse to slack off. We still needed to work hard and do our best. But in the end, it was just pizza that we were producing. He did a pretty good job of helping all of us keep things in perspective.

“It’s just pizza!”

I’ve found myself using this phrase a lot over the years. It’s helped me remember what’s important in life. It’s helped me keep things in perspective.

It’s also helped me learn that I am not defined by what my job is. When I was working in the pizza industry, I learned very quickly that pizza, although fabulously tasty, is not my passion. While I worked with pizza, I wasn’t a pizza guy. I was me.

I think I forgot about this when I started serving as a pastor in rural Indiana. All of a sudden, I was The Preacher. I had allowed that to define me more than allowing my God-given personality to define my me-ness. Much like Brandon, I even allowed my position as a professional Christian to define my faith for me. I get the impression that I haven’t been alone in this misidentification of  self. Instead of finding my identity in Christ, I had allowed my church profession to define who I saw myself as. And those are two completely different things.

It’s hard pretending to be someone you aren’t. It’s hard trying to live up to others’ expectations because they have this preconceived notion of what a person should act like, look like, like-like, and probably even smell like. And it’s even harder when that spills over into what your family is “supposed” to be like.

So when I remind myself that it’s just pizza, I am reminding myself that I refuse to be defined by the work I do. I refuse to major in the minors and worry about things that really aren’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. I refuse to lose focus on what’s important.

I refuse.

After all, it’s just pizza.