I recently left my paid work and find myself unemployed for the first time in more than a decade. It’s strange when people ask me what I’ve been up to, and my answer is, “Napping.” And instantly, if they’re older than 4 years old, they’re jealous. I can tell they value napping too, but sadly, they don’t get paid for it (or shouldn’t, unless they’re sleeping on the job). Napping isn’t really a “side hustle.”
Though I am well aware I need a job to pay the bills, I am also aware that there are passions and ways God has wired me that don’t fit into one paid position. But the demands of full-time, paid work can sometimes be so high, they ask for my mind, body and soul, leaving little to no room for anything else. And as a wife and a mother, it’s hard for me to justify spending valuable time and energy on something that doesn’t immediately and tangibly benefit my family or myself.
As I seek discernment and wisdom from friends on what to do next, some of the surprising themes I’ve heard include writing and speaking on the intersection of faith, work, and justice. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can produce a book overnight. I still need a paying job. And yet, what if this is what God wants me to do, not just for my own self-expression or fulfillment but as part of his kingdom work through me?
What if I need to take this work – right now unpaid – more seriously?
My sister-in-law, Bree Hsieh, works for Servant Partners, a Christian organization that lives and serves among the world’s urban poor. She has lived for more than 15 years in the city of Pomona, a low-income suburb of Los Angeles. Bree works part-time as a publisher for Servant Partner Press; she is also a poet and an artist.
One of the ways Bree shares her passions with the people in her community is through art. Last summer, she opened up an Artist Studio, a wonderful place for people in the community, young and old, artistically-inclined or not, to come and create art. Bree spends hours in the studio for she, like her organization, believes beauty and creativity are signs of transformation – signs of God at work amongst the marginalized.
“A city is a large thing to change, as is an educational system, a political system, an economic system. And art, beauty, even creative thinking, are not the answer for everything broken. But by investing in these gifts and those called to steward them, we gain new roadmaps within ourselves. We carve out more thinking room, a clean imaginative place, more deeply reflective spaces, and an emotional drawing board, if not a blueprint, for how we all might all imagine possibilities: new systems, new places, ways to fill in our hearts’ cracked roads, and more helpful ways to pave clear paths through this lovely and rutted out world.”
Bree’s hope for the city is expressed through this simple studio. She inspires me to consider, what if, like art for her, writing might be something God has given me to steward.
Institutional racism is a large thing to change. We are still in the beginning, infantile stages. My writing is not the answer for everything broken. But I do increasingly see it as a gift God wants me to steward. By God’s grace, I can also see the possibilities amid all my doubts and fears.
I have a few pieces, but I don’t know all the next steps. I don’t know how to design a life that will accommodate paid and unpaid work. But where the Lord leads, I will follow.