For many who enter the retirement season, questions for what to do with their time and how to continue serving or volunteering with purpose arise. After you worked in your place of service for years then passed the torch on to others, how will you spend your time? Who will you invest in? Your retirement may be exactly what you thought it would be, or it may bring with it an unexpected season of continued and intentional work and ministry. We interviewed Ruby Fulbright, former Executive Director/Treasurer of WMU North Carolina and the 2019 Dellanna West O’Brien Leadership Award winner, and asked her to share a few of her retirement experiences and how she continues to invest well during this season of life.
WMU Foundation: What is one thing that surprised you most about retirement?
Ruby: I think I expected more down time, more rest, maybe even a chance to be a little bored. I didn’t expect retirement would be all rest and moving at a slow pace. I didn’t want that. But, almost immediately, I was busy, busy, busy.
WMU Foundation: Are there any books, websites, or other resources you would suggest for retirees or those planning to retire?
Ruby: Calvin Partain’s book, More Than Money, is an excellent resource (and you can find free monthly bible studies and leader guides on the WMU Foundation website to go along with this book). I learned a great deal from the WMU Foundation through resources they sent out and through learning experiences while I served on the Board of Directors. I also have some very good friends who retired before me, and they seemed to have done it right, so I spent time talking with them. Asking those we respect and who have experienced retirement can be very helpful.
WMU Foundation: Tell us the most fun thing you’ve done since retiring.
Ruby: When our three children left the nest, they flew far away, and, not until I retired in 2012 have we lived close to them or to grandchildren. Currently, we live close to two of our grandchildren in North Carolina, two others are in Alabama, and two are in Texas. Retirement meant I could travel to Alabama and Texas and spend extended time with the grandchildren. It is a blessing to me as a grandmother to have been at the birth of all six of my grandchildren.
WMU Foundation: How many years did you spend in your career, and what did you do?
Ruby: I married while my husband, Ellis, and I were still working on our educations. Immediately after my husband graduated from seminary, we went to Zambia, Africa, to serve with the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) as career missionaries. We served there twelve years.
Because of some health issues, we returned to the States and I worked alongside my husband in associational missions work and on a church staff. Very quickly I became involved with WMU in my church, my association, and on the state level. While serving as WMU North Carolina State President from 1999-2002, I was asked to consider taking a ‘paying job’ and was elected as Executive Director/Treasurer of WMU North Carolina. I served in this position for ten years.
WMU Foundation: Now that you are retired, how do you spend your time?
Ruby: Grandchildren, NABWU (now Baptist Women of North America), young women (Uptick), WMU North Carolina Executive Board, CWJC Executive Board, WMU Foundation Board, church Women on Mission, Sunday school teacher, mission trips.
WMU Foundation: How do you invest in others in your retirement?
Ruby: I retired in June 2012, and, in October of 2012, I became Vice President of Leadership Development, Networking, and Mentoring for North American Baptist Women’s Union (now Baptist Women of North America). This was a 5-year commitment, and one of my greatest joys was learning from, teaching, mentoring, and encouraging young women through that organization and currently through the Uptick experience of the Spence Network. I guess I’d have to say that besides ‘building into’ my grandchildren, continuing to work with young women in leadership and ministry is where I spend most of my time.
WMU Foundation: What advice would you give other retirees about using their time wisely?
Ruby: Take time in the beginning of your retirement to rest and discern God’s leadership before jumping right into busyness. Other people will have a gazillion suggestions/opportunities (all good things) for you to do or invest in, but first reflect on those things you wanted to do and couldn’t when you were working. Give yourself time to do some of those things that fill your heart and your soul as well as your calendar.
WMU Foundation: How are you connected to the WMU Foundation?
Ruby: As Executive Director/Treasurer of WMU North Carolina, I came to appreciate who the WMU Foundation was, what she stood for, and how helpful David George, in particular, was to us as a state organization. During some rocky times for WMU North Carolina, the WMU Foundation offered advice, suggestions, and encouragement related to our finances and investments.
I served on the Board of the WMU Foundation from 2013-2018, and, for three of those years, I was Chair of the Awards and Nominations Committee. This committee, in my opinion, is the best committee of all. There definitely is work to do and there are difficult decisions to make, but this committee helps determine scholarships and grants, which ensure the missions and ministries of WMU and Baptists around the world continue.
WMU Foundation: What has been the most meaningful part of retirement so far?
Ruby: Seeing someone I’ve invested in go into their own ministry and calling. Being told ‘thank you’ when I didn’t even know I did anything out of the ordinary. Having some time to journal and write and giving advice because ‘I’ve been there and done that.’ Knowing that a big part of my calling at this stage in life is to share what I’ve experienced, the ups and the downs, the good days and the bad, and being able to offer assurance that God is always near to comfort, hold, encourage, pick you up when you fall, and help remind you that “for such a time as this” I have been called.