Our side hustle game is strong. By “strong” I mean “slightly out of control”.
Sean’s first side hustle developed over a decade ago. It’s a non-profit called Big Oak. Big Oak partners with local churches. It has involved putting on camps for teens, concerts/worship nights, resources for pastors and youth pastors, trainings, and a large truck called The Stagecoach (which was literally a truck with a stage built on the back end).
The next side adventure was Beat Farm, Sean’s d.j. business. He has used it to d.j. and emcee countless events. Occasionally, there’s fun crossover when doing sound and music for Big Oak events. Our side hustles occasionally converge…Sean thinks it's magic and I'm sure it's crazy.
The latest business is The Tin Can Cigar Co., which may be the most unconventional thus far. Sean gutted and renovated an air stream trailer, turning it into the most unique (and mobile) cigar lounge that ever was.
I used to think we get swept up in these random, strange ventures that are somewhat unrelated. Now I realize these all carry a thread of who Sean is. Sean is an extroverted entrepreneur. He loves creating and he loves partnering with one thousand people to do it. His vision is big and he is brave to do things other people would be afraid to fail at. The side hustles have a theme of partnering with people and giving people a space to be together. This is one way Sean reflects who God is. God loves creating and partnering with people to get the job done. His vision is big. He creates us to be in community.
My side hustles are less intentional. I stumble into them more than I intentionally build them. Take for example, the time my sister and I jokingly dressed up as Elsa and Anna and were promptly hired by the NWWA Fair as entertainment.
Or when my kids’ principal called and asked if I’d like to blow the dust off of my elementary ed degree and substitute teach occasionally.
Writing a book is ultimately an intentional endeavor, but it started by noticing a simple need. I wanted my small group to have a devotional to walk them through the basics of faith and since I couldn’t find one I loved...I wrote one. It didn't feel like a big deal until more and more people started using it and then Lexham Press Publishing picked it up and said, "Can we also do a mentor's guide to accompany it?" It started with a small vision and grew into a big one.
Sean and I both talk a lot. Occasionally, people pay us to talk. Retreats and conference speaking isn’t something that we sought out, but we’ve landed in it.
Last year at this time I was asking the question, “Should I increase teaching/writing/speaking or should I trade some of my time for another type of work?” As I was deliberating, I was asked if I would like to interview for a strange position as host of a mansion. Sean and I always say, “It’s worth a conversation” to weird opportunities (hmmm…this may be part of our problem). Figuring it would at least make a good story, I went to the interview.
By the end of my interview I was excited but also mystified at the turn of events. This job had nothing to do with teaching, writing, or speaking. It was a job of service and hospitality. The owners of this four story mansion on 30 acres planned to host groups and needed someone local to help pull the pieces together. I would work with cleaners, caterers, the company mainly using the house, a facilities team, and guests to make corporate retreats happen. The job didn’t exist yet and the house was in remodel mode at the time.
I called my cousin after the interview and said, “I’m not sure it really fits with things I’m good at or where I’ve been headed with my life…but it is pretty cool.”
She smiled. We were on the phone and I couldn’t see the smile, but I know exactly the smile she gave me. “Shilo, that’s not really true. I don't think it's random. Part of God that you reflect is that He is a refuge. You’re a refuge. It sounds to me like this job is exactly that–pulling pieces together to create a refuge for people.”
For once, I didn’t have much to say.
For a minute, at least. Then I realized the things I do–from writing, to teaching, to parenting, to having people over, even to being a Disney princess, and now hosting a mansion, is done to make people feel safe, loved, and put them in a place to hear God’s voice.
At one point last summer I was standing in the kitchen of the mansion chopping vegetables for omelettes, visiting with a roomful of worship leaders from all over the country. The one thing they all have in common is successful You Tube channels. I listened to them encourage each other, build relationships, share their ideas although most of them had never met. I never saw that coming.
I’m used to being the one in the front of the classroom, or leading projects and people. It’s a gift that God unexpectedly provided this job where I get to take a backseat, facilitate the big things without being in the middle of the big thing, and learn. I have opportunity to create a space for refreshment and creativity, then sneak out the back door while things happen.
What felt random has been a sweet time of God showing me new things about who He is. I see how He cares about the details; how He celebrates the type of relationships being built. I see how He speaks when people slow down and come for rest. I see how He meets needs in unexpected ways.
Cleaning an occasional bathroom, planning meals, and operating bowling alleys is sacred business, people. The first month of my job as I was driving out to the Manor, I was praying for the guests who would be arriving that day. I had never met them, but I prayed specific things for them. At the end of their stay, they mentioned to me prayers God had answered while they were there…and they lined up with the things I had prayed that first day driving out there. It wasn't coincidental. Watching God answer prayers for strangers compelled me to make it part of my routine to pray for guests as I grocery shop for them and prepare their rooms.
Sean and I have spent time as “professional Christians”, doing full time ministry. Full time ministry is not the only sacred work. Sacred work is everywhere. I watched Sean use his time restoring an air stream trailer for prayer, relationship with each of the three hundred people who helped him, and listening to podcasts to grow his faith. Last month I prepped the Manor and then quietly stepped away while a houseful of foster moms had a powerful time of renewal and training. Big things happened while I was messing with the hot tub temperature and praying.
Whether I’m looking through the long eyelashes of Princess Anna to tell a little girl she is precious and valuable, writing a book, or driving my teenagers to yet another sports practice, I stand witness to God’s work. In His kind grace, He allows me to take part in some crazy ideas–sometimes on stage and sometimes in a quiet corner– while His work unfolds in front of my eyes.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...