What I’ve Been Doing with My Time

If you found us through this recent BBC story, thanks for joining! It’s wonderful to have you. I’m definitely on the journey of simplicity and frugality alongside you. I’ve learned a lot in the past few years, but I’m still learning all the time. I welcome any tips you might have to bring to the table.

Whenever there’s a discussion about financial independence, financial flexibility, or early retirement of any kind, someone usually dismisses the idea quickly: “But I love working! I’m not nearly old enough to retire. What on earth am I supposed to do with my time?”

I was once that person.

I loved the teamwork, productivity, and socialization of my job. I stayed for many years, viewing it as a unique opportunity to interact with people on a daily basis. It was more than just a paycheck…but the paycheck was nice too!

I quit back in June 2016. It was time to take the plunge into the unknown and see what staying home with my boys would look like.

I was sad and excited.

I was hoping there would be no regrets.

I was sentimental – and I still am – about the fact that I grew up there, getting hired at age 20.

I was nervous about being lonely.

But I knew that opportunities were out there – things I couldn’t do until I took the leap of faith and opened up my schedule to spontaneity.

Fast forward to now.

It hasn’t been that long…or maybe it has.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve adjusted to this new routine.

It feels *almost* normal not to have a paid job.

And as I suspected, there have been numerous opportunities to do things with my “spare” time.

Here’s a little update.

Family time, of course.

I’ve been enjoying my boys a lot lately. It’s cliche, but they really do grow up fast. I especially love seeing them interact with one another throughout the day. Malachi will say something to Shiloh like “Come on, buddy. You can’t do that or you’ll get hurt” and it just melts my heart. He is such a good big brother.

It’s been helpful for me to set limits on checking my phone so that I’m able to be more present and in the moment while spending time with them. It can be hard to focus in because we spend so much more time together than we used to. How quickly I can take them for granted! But I’m repeatedly reminded that this is why I’m here. It’s not about checking my phone. It’s not about accomplishing my to-do list. It’s about these guys.

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Playing around with video.

I’ve been volunteering once a week as part of a brand new media team at the non-profit Restore St. Louis. They have a Workday program that meets once a month in the city to pull weeds in community gardens, pick up trash, pray with prostitutes and drug dealers, install wheelchair ramps, and visit with widows. It’s an amazing program that connects people who might not otherwise meet. What I do as part of the media team is help tell these stories.

We tell stories of people from the county and people from the city meeting one another in a common place and making an impact. It’s a beautiful thing. We don’t make it happen, but we’re there with a camera to help tell the stories that unfold.

It has definitely been helpful, as a filmmaker who took an approximately 3 year hiatus, to reacquaint myself with the equipment and industry standards. (For instance, everything is HD now.) I’ve watched tutorials, played around with gear, and am catching up with all the changes that happened with technology while I was having babies and working my day job.

To say it’s been rewarding is a drastic understatement.

Here’s a little peek of what we’ve been working on:

Workday Freedom & Mobility Program (Wheelchair Lifts): Charles Cooper from Workday STL on Vimeo.

Barb N’ Parry from Workday STL on Vimeo.

Mrs. Bernice & Kristen from Workday STL on Vimeo.

Haiti is happening.

My biggest dream as a filmmaker is to travel the world documenting stories that are important. I want to do videos free of charge for non-profit ministries who are helping people all over the world. A few years back, I had the opportunity to do it in Guatemala. Ever since Guatemala, I’ve wanted to go to Haiti with my friend Gloria, founder of Haitians Helping Haitians. The timing was just never right. Until now.

I’ve booked a flight to Haiti in January to document the “bootcamp” offered by Haitians Helping Haitians. (The flight was completely paid for with credit card rewards points, and this isn’t a sponsored post…we just love our rewards points. I write a bit more about that here.) I’m excited to help spread awareness for this amazing program. I’m sure I’ll have more stories to tell soon, so stay tuned!

My dream isn’t to make money on my films. Honestly, it stresses me out to charge people for my work. My dream is to simply break even so I can continue to work free of charge. How exciting is it that this dream is already happening?

Hosting more bands and students.

In addition to the new opportunities, our family has been able to continue some of the things we were already doing. We had a student from Azerbaijan living with us since the start of summer. He just moved out, to return to his home country. We now have a new student from China spending his holiday break with us. (This is the organization we host students through.)

We’ve had numerous touring bands stay for a night or two here and there. Of course hosting doesn’t have to be limited just to bands, but they do spend more time on the road than the average person, so that’s where most of our requests are from.

Hosting really isn’t that stressful for me. In fact, I find it gives me energy and makes me feel more alive than when I don’t get to do it. It’s encouraging for me to feed them and hear their stories from the road. It’s unclear who is blessing who sometimes.

Isn’t it amazing how God works?

Blessings following the obedience.

Blessings in spite of my desire to stay in one place a little longer.

Things I might not have been able to say yes to before.

Quitting your job isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to everything. That’s definitely not the point.

The point is that sometimes we are asked to take leaps of faith that we aren’t comfortable with at the time.

I want to encourage you that it’s okay to say yes, even if you don’t have it all planned out.

I didn’t think I’d do this until I was older.

I didn’t see my current self staying home and only volunteering.

But now I do. It’s my daily reality. I’m not nearly as mature and as perfect as I thought I’d have to be to take this step.

That’s what grace is. God uses us even when we don’t feel “ready” or “good enough.”

Honestly, I don’t think any of us would do anything if we allowed ourselves to wait around until we felt ready.

I’ll never “arrive,” and that’s okay.

It’s by grace that I do anything.

It’s by grace that God is able to use me in my current state, in spite of my shortcomings and my sin and my selfishness…the list goes on and on.

So here’s to new opportunities.

Here’s to feeling unqualified but doing it anyway.

Here’s to listening, obeying, and asking questions later.

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