“And then I need to add margins to my life,” my friend matter-of-factly said as she explained to me her process in planning the next few months of her life. For her, margins are a given. She wouldn’t consider overfilling her days or weeks. But most of us consider overfilled days as the norm.
So what is margin in our lives? Margin is just that—unfilled, but guarded space around the “text” of our lives. Everyone’s margin will look different but we all need it. When Gene was a superintendent on a construction site part of his margin was to arrive at the job one and a half hours early. Yes, one and a half hours! In this margin he read the paper, drank his coffee, and mused over his day (for the umpteenth time). The drive home—usually thirty minutes or more—was also part of his margin. Now people consider their drive time work time and margin time is erased.
My margins are my time in the morning with the Lord and definitely down time in the evening. I also like wiggle room during the day. This doesn’t mean they always happen the same time every day. But if I go a couple of crazy days without them I start to feel it and my family feels it. Margin in my life helps me stay in tune with God.
Jesus had margin in His life. The Gospels record many times when Jesus pulled away from the crowds or hung out with friends. Margins give us time to refresh and reflect. Remember the glial cells I talked about a few months ago? Those are the cells that clean and organize the brain and leave us feeling refreshed. They only work when we are not thinking about anything or sleeping and our sleeping hours are not enough time for them to complete their work. We need to give ourselves time to not think about anything. Margin.
You must guard your margins. Believe me the temptation will be to fill this time or to let others fill it. If you planned a Monday morning at home to refresh after the previously busy work week and crazy weekend, don’t bring work home. If you planned to stay in your jammies all day and hang out with your two-year old, don’t tell a friend you’ll watch her child. You need this margin.
Decide: What time of the day/week do you need margin to feel refreshed and organized? When will be your protected time with God? When will you give yourself a chunk of time (say 3-4 hours) to do whatever or nothing? I think Sunday afternoon is perfect, but unfortunately many churches have loaded up Sundays so they are no longer a day of rest.
Do: Open your calendar. I trust it is looking leaner and meaner since January 1. Mark in your margins—maybe even with red pen so it will remind you of notebook paper margins.
Believe me, once you start living in your margins you will never go without them again. Fun and important things happen in the margin.
~A whisper from God that you so needed.
~Time to really listen to your child.
~Your mind creatively solves a problem without you even trying.
~Really anything creative has a chance to happen.
I’d love to hear about your margin experiences.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.