Updated: Jun 26
I never would have called myself a Craftsman back then. I'd just become comfortable calling myself a carpenter, even though by then I'd done more as a carpenter than most carpenters ever would in a lifetime.
I didn't know who I was back then or what I would become. Had no idea of my potential or what would come out of this little flyer.
I left carpentry in the 90s to pursue a life in the ministry. Perhaps it was the doubt in my calling that kept me from selling my tools when I went away to school. Perhaps it was divine intervention that kept me from selling my tools when I stepped into the pulpit. Either way, the tools were never for sale.
Going into the ministry was probably most traumatic period of my life to date. Everyday was a battle for my soul. There was no way to know I joined the wrong group of people. I did not believe anything they believed. I walked my own path and hid it from everybody. None of my sermons said what I really thought. If anyone knew what I really believed, if the leadership found me out, they'd would throw me out. Finally, when I managed the nerve to speak my actual mind, the leadership threw me out.
The vision I'd seen for my life was all of a sudden no vision at all. I was thrust into a land of nowhere. The vision into which I'd poured my heart, my soul, my all, turned out to be a farce. A deep betrayal. A gross error. A dark cloud brooded overhead. I was shattered, and totally lost.
Ironically going into the ministry turned out to be the root of my life's greatest blessing and the anchor of my stability - I met my wife there.
She's been my beloved partner through both the worst and best of times. Thrown out of the ministry, my wife took a job as an elementary school teacher in Tampa and supported me as I picked up my tools to go door to door looking for work. We got a small apartment and I rented a little storage unit for my tools.
I knew knocking doors was the answer. Surely somebody would give me a chance. I landed a little job and then another and another. Then I met a guy named Ray who sold doors at West Tampa Door. I did him a favor once and he gave me a lead on some doors to install, then another lead and another, until all I did was hang doors in Tampa. He gave me so much work that we were able to move out of our tiny apartment and storage unit into a bungalow we bought in Seminole Heights - a historic neighborhood with old houses. Hence the flyer.
Across the street was another bungalow, run down and in need of help - an old man named Roy lived there and I got to know him a little bit. When he died, I bought his house.
Up to this point, nobody had seen what I could really do. Nobody knew I'd done all the woodwork George Straight's San Antonio mansion from the ground up. Nobody knew I could frame an entire house, remodel a bathroom, put up crown moulding or do cosmetic repair, but I'd show them on Roy's old house.
I hired a local architect named Alan Dobbs to design a master bedroom extension and bathroom addition. It had to be period correct and look like it was always there. He nailed it.
I rebuilt the entire house, including the original windows. In the addition, I made new windows to match the old. I built custom arched braces to support the eaves, hand made a custom kitchen, stripped and refinished all the interior doors. I found an antique prairie style nine lite front door at Habit for Humanity, refinished it and sourced an antique mortise style entry lock. I installed new 3/4" oak flooring throughout, laid all the tile and even built a custom period fence with custom gates. New electricity, new plumbing, the works. I left nothing to chance. In the end, the house sold for more per square foot than any house in the history of that neighborhood. And out of that house, Wood Window Makeover emerged.
I'd forgotten the flyer I passed around in that era until today when Alan Dobbs found it and shared it on my Facebook page. When I saw it, my entire life life history flashed through my mind, and with the flash, the meaning of it all.
There was a bigger mission all along that I knew nothing about, that I was training for unwittingly all along. Through the ministry and what I learned along the way, I would slowly emerge as a leader in an emerging industry called Window Craft.
To this day I struggle with the mission laid before me. Perhaps part impostor syndrome, part post traumatic stress disorder. I simultaneously don't see myself as a leader and am cursed with the knowledge that everything could disappear or change in an instant. It happened before. It could happen again.
Now, as the General of the Artisan Army and a leader in the Artisan Way, I'm learning to accept my role and take responsibility for it.
This flyer was a reminder of how progress isn't overnight and can be utterly brutal. It is one uncertain step in the dark after another uncertain step in the dark, feeling for a light, a handle, a clue, for something true to anchor to. You find something that's true and hold on. Find another thing that's true and hold on to that. Rely on and capitalize on that truth. What's truth? That it's better to do your best for people than do your worst. Treat with honor, the person who gives you the chance to prove yourself, who gives you a job. Somehow it just works out better. There's one for you. Hang on to that.
Here's another one - whatever finds its way into your hands to do, do it to the best of your ability, and from the heart, as though money is not involved. Give that person what the he or she needs, even if the agreement would let you off the hook. And hang on. The best is yet to come.