12 Things I Want to Do with the Time That is Given Me

Every year I write a contemplative “birthday post” with either some personal reflections, or some fun points of interest for my readers to get to know me better. What follows is this year’s offering–some deep thoughts for the decade (or so) ahead.

Ah, birthdays. How nice to have them every year!

I’ve never understood why adults grown and grimace and try to hide their age or the fact that it’s their birthday. Why wouldn’t you want people to make a fuss over you on your birthday? Why wouldn’t you want to celebrate another year of life?

Last week I turned 32.

It’s not a milestone year or anything, but I did spend some time reflecting and resolving, and it was time well spent. This year I really had the strong sense that I’m in Phase III of my life. Phase I being childhood, and Phase II young adulthood (college through the first parenting years). For me, Phase III is just plain adulthood and the “throes” of parenting, and I except it to be extremely difficult, possibly the most difficult phase.

Phase IV will be when my kids are teenagers and young adults. From what I gather from seasoned parents, if you lay a good foundation in Phase III, you will reap rewards in the next stage. I suppose that’s how every phase follows the earlier one though, right?

My days are filling up so quickly, and in the blur of everyday life I want to make sure I’m spending my time well. Completing daily tasks like cooking meals and dressing children is time well spent, but what should I do with the spaces between those daily essentials? What long-lasting goals should I pursue alongside the dailies? What should I do with precious leisure time?

As I journey into this next life stage, I’ve come up with the following list of things I’m giving my time to. These things aren’t check-it-off-once resolutions, but ongoing things to work at and grow towards.

Here’s my list, and I hope you’ll consider making one of your own! It’s a worthwhile exercise.

12 [Good] Ways to Spend My Time

1. Read, read, and read like crazy

There are so many books I want to read, on every topic under the sun…fiction, nonfiction, every period of time, every corner of the globe. I can’t get enough of books. I want to read for the sake of Tea and Ink Society, but even if I didn’t have a book blog I would read like the Dickens.

2. Write down my memoirs in story form

I feel called to tell my family’s story of when we were growing up, not because I ever want it to be published, but as a gift to my family and future generations that come from us. It motivates me when I see how much my family enjoys reminiscing together and how my own boy’s eyes light up when I tell him these stories. I wish I could better remember the tales of the older generation of my grandparents and great aunts and uncles; I write so that the still-fresh stories of my childhood won’t be forgotten.

3. Cultivate Greenleaf House

That’s our house’s name, and I’ll write more about that at a later date. We have a vision for this home we’ve found ourselves in. There’s much work to be done to make it beautiful inside and out, but we accept the challenge.

4. Plan for the future

I’m not talking about retirement, although that’s a smart thing to do. But I want to plan for my family’s near future. What kind of adventures do I want to have with the most important people in my life? Where should we go together, and what should we see? How can we enjoy the world with each other?

Valley with a dirt road through it and hills in the distance

We’re dreaming up tent-camping road trips and summers abroad, excursions far away and very close to home. I need to make a binder or digital file for all our ideas…if you’ve come up with a way to sort and save your adventures, will you let me know?

5. Fill our house with music

I want to become proficient at piano again, not because I fancy myself “good” at it, but because I always took pleasure in playing. I want our children to enjoy listening to and making music of all sorts, and I want us to be a family who sings.

We are trying to incorporate more singing into our family’s liturgies–at mealtimes or during school or for evening prayer. And do you know how precious it is to hear your children sing? Or how adorable it is when your two-year-old wants you to sing “Jesus Loves You” to his stuffed deer? Side note, but it is.

6. Retrace my steps to places I’ve lived

I want to take my husband and kids to the places that mean so much to me. My heart has a geography, and it looks like snowy Andes mountains and steam-filled Costa Rican rain forests, shell-mounded beaches in Florida, and the dreaming spires of Oxford. I want my family to know these places too, and for us to make our own new memories in them.

7. Learn in order to teach

As my oldest son has grown, I’ve seen how organically learning can happen for him. Although we are just barely beginning official “school,” he has already gained so much knowledge of the world just through daily conversation that springs from things we observe in nature or in the books we read aloud. It’s our Charlotte Mason approach in action.

But there are still far too many times when I answer his questions with “I’m not exactly sure…” I want to study (or re-study) every corner of continents and birds and space and the human body and every other subject so I can talk about it with my kids when it comes up, or point things out to them. I have so much work to do to teach myself! (These feeds back into #1!)

8. Spend more time in personal devotions

So much of what I do every day is done with or for other people. I think it’s natural as a mom to try to take care of your obligations to others before you “do your own thing.” (I for one find personal time more relaxing when it comes in that order.) But I want to make time for personal devotions at the start of the day, so I can center myself before plunging in to Daily Life. This fall, I’m hoping to go through Heavenly-Minded Mom again during devotions.

9. Write novels

Perhaps I have a long way to go before I achieve this, but I’ve always wanted to be a novelist and I intend to try.

10. Strengthen relationships with friends and family

As my responsibilities grow at home, I’ve increasingly found that I need to be intentional about nurturing outside relationships, or they will stall. I’m blessed with a number of siblings, siblings by marriage, nephews, and nieces, not to mention a large extended family. Plus wonderful friends from college or after. I want to preserve these relationships, even if it’s most often in small ways–phone calls or tea time or play dates or Christmas letters.

11. Train my body physically to do new, harder things

Just as I want to learn new things to broaden my knowledge, I want to explore what I can do physically, too. Perhaps reflecting on my child-birthing experiences has prompted this. Our bodies can do amazing things, and I don’t feel like I need to become more decrepit as I age. I feel stronger now than I did before I had those babies (more tired, too, but that’s just wrapped up in this stage, right?!)

Boy running through a field

12. Cherish my children

In the midst of the tiring day-to-day, I just want to remember the simple truth that these are my children, and I get to cherish them. It’s my privilege to get to know them, watch them, play with them, enjoy living with them at every stage they go through.

As J.R. R. Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

How will you spend your time?

Past “birthday posts” from the archives

25 Things About Me

26 Things I Need to Nail Down Before I Get Any Older

My 27 Favourite Heroes, Heroines, and Villains from Classic Literature

I’m Not Jo March (and Other Shocking Things I Learned Before My 28th Birthday)

29 Habits, Recipes, and Things That Simplify My Life

My 15 Go-To Skincare and Makeup Products

My 31 Favourite Movies


  1. Well said, Elsie! You have listed out the things that were my top priority when I was your age. There was a time when I neglected my mental and physical health until I received warning alarms from both. I had completely forgotten my friends, and I had this sudden pang to put things back on track. It looks like you’ve had a similar thought process at 32!.

    1. Yes, we can’t just assume we’ll fix it all (health, relationships, etc.) at some vague “later.” Our lives are happening now, and we need to live to the hilt now.

  2. Great thoughts! I feel like I need to take a personal planning session myself to prioritize. (I’m 32, too, by the way!) Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thank you! Giving ourselves that space to reflect and plan is a gift to anyone we share a home with, too. By the way, your site is lovely!

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