I realize it’s been a while (almost a month) since my last post. I’m not ignoring you. I’ve just had a lot going on in my life.
I’ve officially been in my new job for one month as the Branch Solutions Operations Manager. Have you ever tried to drink water from a fire hose? Me neither. But I get the impression that it’s like being in a new job like this. Every day is non-stop. By Thursday, I’m exhausted. And by Friday, I’m definitely ready for the weekend. Despite these feelings of exhaustion, I am loving what I get to do on a daily basis. My department finished June with a record month. I’m so thankful for my team!
A couple of weekends ago, Leanne and I attended facilitator training for Dynamic Marriage. We will be facilitating our first class in the fall at Christ’s Church of the Valley. The weekend did so much to reaffirm our marriage and to confirm our calling to help other couples strengthen their marriages. The 9-week class we will be leading is based on Willard Harley’s book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. If you have a great marriage, a good marriage, or a just okay marriage, this class is for you!
I’ve been diligently working on my next book, Rooftop Reflections: Missional Thoughts of an Ordinary Guy in an Extraordinary Place. I finished the manuscript last week, and I’m working to finalize the cover with a graphic designer. I hope to release the book this summer. The book has already received several glowing endorsements. Here is one of them:
“Jon’s stories from Guatemala will inspire, move, and motivate you to consider how you can expand your horizons and serve others more deeply. I loved this heartfelt book and know you’ll love it as well. If you’re not careful, it just might change your life!”
Kent Sanders, writer, musician, creative coach, and professor. Author of The Artist’s Suitcase (kentsanders.net)
Finally, my blog, Jon Stolpe Stretched, celebrated a significant milestone this week. 10 years ago this week, the blog started. The blog experience has STRETCHED me in more ways than I can imagine. I’ve learned a lot of incredible things through my blog, and I’ve met some unbelievable people. 10 years is a start. I look forward to the years ahead as I continue to share life’s STRETCH marks and as I hopefully STRETCH you. Thanks for joining me on this journey.
2016 is nearly over. At this time of the year, I like to look back on the past, plan for the future, and enjoy the present. Here’s a look back at the top posts on Jon Stolpe Stretched in 2016:
When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, they marked the occasion by setting up twelve stones as a reminder of the journey they had endured and as a reminder of their heritage.
Today, I write this post as a way of setting up a pile of stones to remind me of my journey and to mark a significant milestone on this journey.
I’m a numbers guy. I count things and people and other crazy things all the time. I even count blog posts.
When I started blogging over nine years ago, I didn’t have plans or of intentions of reaching this target. I simply planned to write one day at a time, and this remains my plan.
And yet, I think it’s important to stop to celebrate, reflect, and recognize this milestone in my own writing “career.”
When I graduated from high school, I specifically pursued a career in engineering to get me away from writing. I did okay in high school English class, but it was a lot of work. Math and science always came easier for me. When I arrived at Grove City College, I soon learned that my high school English was necessary and important to help me survive and thrive in the collegiate environment.
When I graduated from college and pursued an engineering job, I figured my writing was finally behind me. I was wrong. I used my writing skills on a daily basis to write letters, memos, and emails to customers, clients, and coworkers. I wrote technical documents on a regular basis to describe my engineering documents.
I couldn’t get away from writing.
And then, my friend introduced me to the blogging world. And something changed.
I developed a new-found love for writing. I enjoy the discipline of writing on a regular basis. I appreciate the effort required to articulate the “stretchy” thoughts running around in my head. And I like the process of putting something together for others to read.
Writing has provided an amazing opportunity for me to tap into the creative side of my brain. And it has pushed me to new heights and helped to forge new friendships.
2,000 blog posts is a milestone, but it’s just a start.
I have more to say. I have more to write.
Here’s to the next 2,000 blog posts.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting. And thanks for being part of the Stretched Community.
9 years ago yesterday, I published the very first post on my blog. In a couple of weeks, I will be pressing ‘Publish’ on my 2,000th blog post.
It all started when my friend, Frank, encouraged me and challenged me to start a blog.
When I started, I’m quite sure I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
Blogging has been an incredible discipline in my life. I’ve explored many areas of my thoughts on the “pages” of my blog. I’ve stretched out loud, and I’ve challenged others to stretch on a variety of topics including: marriage, family, parenting, faith, leadership, and missions.
Blogging has also been the springboard for my connection with people from around the world. I’ve connected with people in Australia, Germany, England, and Canada (and many other countries). I’ve connected with people in California, Texas, Georgia, Washington, and Hawaii. I’ve even met people around my own community as a result of my blog.
Blogging has forced me to learn about SEO, affiliate marketing, guest posting, self-publishing, and list building. And it’s made me realize how little I really know.
In many respects, I feel like I’m just getting started. I have more ideas to share. I have more stretching to do. And I have more to learn.
What will the next 9 years bring? I sometimes wonder. I’m hoping to write and publish more books. I’m hoping to find a way to couple my love for writing and stretching others to support my love for building houses in Guatemala for widows. I’m hoping to start a mastermind group for dads and husbands as a result of my blog. I’m hoping to build a legacy for my family, my friends, and my followers. And I’m hoping to keep stretching.
How does somebody blog for 9 years? I sometimes get this question. It starts with one idea – one blog post – at a time. It starts with a willingness to be transparent and vulnerable and an understanding that everyone won’t like what you have to say. It starts with an acceptance of imperfection. And it starts with a decision to repeat it all again the next day or the next post.
I’m so glad I started down this journey 9 years ago, and I can’t wait to post again tomorrow!
When you’re in the day-to-day grind, it just seems like it’s another step along the way. But I find joy in the actual process, the journey, the work. It’s not the end. It’s not the end event.
Cal Ripken, Jr.
I’m not ignoring you. I promise.
I’ve just been doing my best to pay attention to my wife this week. We were in Vermont for the past week celebrating our 20th Anniversary (a few weeks early).
I’ll have some new posts this week.
Hope you are doing well!
Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies. The concept of journeying through the space-time continuum to another time and another space is mind-bending to say the least. And today, I am actually already at tomorrow. Let me explain. My friend, Ralph Mayhew, lives in Australia. He is a leadership blogger, and he is hosting one of my guest articles. The post went live at 5AM Thursday Australia time. But it’s 2PM Wednesday here in my hometown. It boggles my mind. Today, I officially went back to the future.
Here are the top posts from last month:
Before we close the doors on 2015 and move onto 2016, let’s take a few minutes to look at the top posts from 2015 at Jon Stolpe Stretched:
When I was a child, I watched cartoons. One of my favorite cartoons was Super Friends. I liked watching the superheroes from the Hall of Justice work together with their different superpowers to fight evil. My favorite character was Superman. He was the leader of the Justice League, and his supernatural powers were pretty cool to a young kid.
Of all Superman’s superpowers, I always wanted to fly. I can remember running down the hallway of my parents house from my bedroom into the living room. Several feet from the couch, I would leap into the air towards the couch. While I’m sure this wasn’t the greatest things for the springs on the couch, it was a fantastic experience for me. For a very brief second, it felt like I was flying.
Today, the television and movie screens are filled with stories of the supernatural. People are attracted to the supernatural. They find ways to experience the supernatural through these movies and television shows.
What if I told you there was another way to experience the supernatural? (Click here to read the rest.)
What I mean, this post is all about how to respond when our words or actions are stupid.
We all do stupid things.
We do things we regret – things we’d like to take back.
We have all said something dumb. Once we say it, we want to catch our words and stuff them back into our mouths.
We’ve even done something really ugly. We’d like to go back in time and delete a scene from our life reel. But it’s not that easy. (Click here to read the rest.)
I told Leanne on Friday night that I might be done with Facebook for a while.
After Friday’s Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage, Facebook blew up. I have friends and family on both sides of the issue. Some of the comments and headlines I read were well thought out and constructive, but generally speaking the tone seemed disrespectful and hopeless. The name calling nearly put me over the edge. In one of the comment threads someone referred to someone as a “F@#$ing Idiot.”
Many comments were made by people who would call themselves Christians. This is what pains me. (Click here to read the rest.)
Matt Ham is on a quest to redefine rich. He writes about it on his blog. He talks about it on his podcast. And he’s getting ready to release a book designed to help you think differently about what it means to be rich.
I’m excited to share some special news from Matt Ham’s world. He recently released a podcast interview with me.
I’m so thankful for the opportunity to speak with Matt. I think our conversation will challenge listeners. And I think you’ll like it. (Click here to read the rest.)
A mission mindset cannot be fully realized without our initial conviction and action toward reconciliation.
Our service for God and for others is misaligned if we have unresolved conviction in our path.
Before stepping into the mission field, we must look inside ourselves. We must have a desire for a clean heart. (Click here to read the rest.)
Our office received a phone call yesterday from an upset woman. She was calling to complain about the behavior of one of our employees who was driving one of our company vans. She wrote down the phone number and van number, and she called in to voice her complaint.
When I received the news, I naturally called my employee to get his side of the story. After listening to his story, I spoke with him about the importance of representing our company well. After all, he was driving around in a mobile billboard – a van with our company’s logo plastered in huge letters across the side of his van.
We all are representing something or someone. (Click here to read the rest.)
We make up so many excuses. “I have this activity planned.” “I can’t miss this or that.” The reality is this: our priorities are out of whack! (Yes, “out of whack” is a theological term.)
Having a mission mindset requires us to respond to the urgency of God’s call. We must learn to deal with our perceived “inconvenience.” And we must understand that following through with a mission mindset requires sacrifice. (Click here to read the rest.)
When was the last time you celebrated a homecoming? (Click here to read the rest.)
Sunday morning, we received the unexpected news that one of Leanne’s good high school friends had passed away following her battle with breast cancer. Tuesday afternoon, we drove to Latrobe, PA for the viewing, and we drove home Wednesday afternoon after the funeral service and some time with friends.
Leanne’s friend was only 41 years old, and she left behind her husband and three elementary aged children.
It seems like such a young ago to die.
As we were leaving the viewing on Tuesday evening, we ran into some old friends. As we stood outside the funeral home catching up, someone asked “If you were her husband, how would you explain this death to your kids?” (Click here to read the rest.)
Here are the top posts from last month:
Over the past few months, I have standardized on the tools and general layout for the images that go with each of my posts. An image can make the difference in whether a potential reader stays around to read your post or leaves to find something more interesting elsewhere.
Today, I share with you my method for making FREE, eye-catching images that will keep your readers around a little longer. If you have a blog without images or with out of date images, you can use these steps to add flare to your blog. To demonstrate, I will be updating the image for one of the more popular posts on my blog from three years ago – How To Respond To The Election Results.
My original post had a simple American flag at the top of the screen. There was nothing to indicate the title of the post or other details that would cause image viewers to head back to my site.
Here are the steps I took to create a new image for this blog post:
STEP 1: Go to pixabay.com. Pixabay.com is a great site for finding FREE images you can use for your blog.
STEP 2: Type in a key word that goes with your blog post title. For example, I searched for images based on the search word: election.
STEP 3: Select an image to go with your post. (When I look for an image, I look for an image with room for a title and other text. I also look for an image that best represents the content of my post.)
STEP 4: Once you’ve selected your image, click on the desired size (I almost always select the small size). Then press “Free Download” to save the image in your download folder.
STEP 5: Go to picmonkey.com. Picmonkey.com is a FREE photo editing tool.
STEP 6: Select you photo to edit from you download folder. (Once you have the photo open, check out all the great ways you can edit the folder by utilizing the editor options on the left side of the screen.)
STEP 7: Select the text editor option by pressing the icon “Tt”.
STEP 8: Select your desired font. (I consistently use Tahoma for my images. I would encourage you to be consistent in selecting your font type as it helps bring consistency to your blog brand identity.)
STEP 9: Enter your text in the text box. (Note: I typically type the blog post title along with a tag line (Jon Stolpe Stretched jonstolpe.com) to help image viewers back to my site.)
STEP 10: Edit the text for size, color, and orientation in the text editor box which will pop up on your screen when you are editing text.
STEP 11: Once you are satisfied with your image, select the “Save” button at the top center of your screen.
STEP 12: Create a file name for your image which you can type in the left “File name” box.
STEP 13: Press “Save to my computer” in the lower left corner to save the image to your computer.
STEP 14: Open your post editor to the desired post.
STEP 15: Move your cursor to the desired image location. (In my case, I clicked on the old image.)
STEP 16: Select “Add Media” right below the title (and above the post).
STEP 17: Select “Upload Files.”
STEP 18: Click on “Select Files.”
STEP 19: Find your saved image, and select the image by double clicking on the image file name or image thumbnail.
STEP 20: Click “Insert into post” once you have selected the file and added any desired information on the right side of the screen. (I usually center my image and make the image approximately 600 pixels wide.)
STEP 21: Your new image will appear in the post editor. Click “Update” on the right screen when you are satisfied with your changes.
That’s it! Just in case, I check out my post by selecting “View Post” to make sure everything looks good.
I know I listed a lot of steps, but I wanted to make sure I detailed everything I do to create images for my blog posts. I hope these steps will help you to brighten up your blog posts.