Letter from Logan: Margin



I heard a sermon several years ago that was one of those that really stuck with me.  Maybe it’s that I feel it often pushed into my mind since I need to remember it.  Maybe, it was just one of those sticky sort of thoughts that resonated and keeps circling back around.  Perhaps I see a need for the word that was shared around me…perhaps I need to practice it more myself.

It was about margin.

Margin…that space between feeling like there is plenty of room to move around and being crammed against a wall.  The edge or border. It’s what keeps a book from feeling stressful when we read…the space between the end of one thought and the end of a page.  Imagine reading where words ran to the very side and into the very center binding.  It feels suffocating to imagine literature laid out in such disarray….no room to think, to ponder, or to breathe between paragraphs even.

Funny how people talk about margin of error too…that tiny space between doing something right and messing it up completely.  The amount by which a thing is won, or falls short.

And life without margin, well that seems absolutely suffocating.

But the truth is that most of us don’t leave enough of it.  Most of us run activities up to bedtime and then even from a propped pillow and outstretched legs, the work goes on.  We facebook or write blog posts or books or work on family budgets.

Our allotment of margin seems to be about as generous as our attitudes while waiting a blessed 10 full minutes in the line of a restaurant touting itself as “fast food.”

I’ve been running the past 2 weeks without margin.  And I kid you not, it feels like the breath has been kicked out of my lungs.

Now I’m not saying that I regret any of the things I’ve done.  Sarah Mae and I attended the Mom’s Night Out premiere in LA, I attended the funeral of Pure Charity’s founder Josh Copher, attended a K3 fieldtrip with one son, and threw my older son’s very first sleepover birthday party.  Individually, none of those things were impossible to do.  Even together would have made for a super full week…words run right up close to the binding of the book of my life.  But when my son came home from school a week ago with head lice, I thought I was going to blow my lid.

“I DO NOT HAVE MARGIN FOR THIS!!!” I yelled on the phone through tears to my husband.

And I didn’t.

So I panicked and stressed and missed out on things I’d tried to make time to do and couldn’t.  And then I felt like a failure.  I missed my son’s actual birthday, I missed a weekend of time with my family, my parents, and my sister’s family from NY.  Everything I did, needed to be done, but the balls I was trying to juggle in the air came crashing down and cracked open on the floor like eggs…fragile, messy, and broken.

Because I didn’t make space for the unexpected.  I didn’t preserve margin for life unplanned.

And so… busy moms and women out there reading this, let me put out this challenge to us as a community to make room for unexpected living.  Make room for afternoons of popsicles with our kids on the porch.  Make room to write the blog post that was due by midnight last night (ahem…yes, I’m nearly 24 hours late on this), make room for unexpected drop ins from friends, or the craft project that feeds your soul.  Make room for cooking a good dinner, and actually sitting down to enjoy it.

We can’t be a people of invitational living, if we operate beyond the margins and thereby force ourselves into rigid and stressful function.

Lets live full… to take in the content we’re living, because we leave enough room to savor it.

**If you’re great at this, please share a few tips that you employ to create margin in your life.  If you’re not, share below a couple of things that you can put into practice right now to help put more margin back into your living.

  • http://www.marybonner.net/ Mary Bonner

    I learned years ago, when Amy died, that saying no (politely, of course!) is important for making room in my life for margin. Yet, I still find myself overwhelmed at times. Before saying yes, I carefully weigh the cost to me, to my family, to my health…it doesn’t always work, but when I prayerfully work at this, I am usually successful.

  • Ashley Baisley

    Read Kevin DeYoung’s book, CrazyBusy and make sure your hubby reads it too. What helps me the most with margin is to remember that I am a homemaker, it’s my profession, so I take it seriously. My Momma always said you can’t plan quality time because something always interferes. You have to leave enough quantity of time in your schedule, in your life, so that the quality time just happens naturally and isn’t forced. If you only leave yourself an hour, you can pretty much guarantee something will interfere (like head lice!) It helps tremendously of course that the husband and I are both people who love lots of unplanned time and we’re on the same page.

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Great advice!

  • http://www.thelittlestway.com/ Jenny

    Thank you for this beautiful post. I’ve realized lately I don’t sit with my children during breakfast or lunch…not enough margin. So one of my goals for May is to sit down at the table with them for meals instead of doing something else.

  • http://www.happygostuckey.com/ Cynthia Stuckey

    Oh, this is a struggle for me. I’ve always lived my days with no space at all. Scheduling too much in too little time thinking, I can “handle” all this. Last year, I heard Chrystal Evans Hurst speak on the topic and it really changed my view of over-scheduling so that I realized that for me it is a sin of pride. She explained the “margin” in a literal illustration of a page of notebook paper– stating that if we don’t “skip lines,” there is very little room for God to insert the things into our days that HE wants there, whether it’s time to just sit in the stillness or time to speak a kind word to a neighbor. This changed my view of saying yes to too many things and not just the things that I knew God was inserting into my life. Such a struggle, still though!! Thank you for the challenge. And I’m so sorry about the lice. Such a low blow when you’re already spent!

  • Katie

    This is a fantastic post, Logan! I’m re-reading Richard Swenson’s book, A Minute of Margin, right now. A friend told me about it a couple of years ago, and the wise tidbits ring more true every time I read it. It’s divided into daily readings, so I read one alongside my devotions. Only through reading about this very real problem have I realized that many of the “emergencies” that occur in my life are of my own making…

  • Elisa Pulliam

    I know what you are saying in theory. I know how to teach it as a life coach. And I know how to do it in seasons with so much clarity. But.

    But right now, I’ve been living without margin for two months. I can see the spaces for margin built into my weekly routine, but I’ve yet to figure out how to get it into the bigger picture — like when I made the decision to only speak no more than once a month, but didn’t look on the calendar to see how the events I said yes to were too close together.

    I had time to prepare — but only if every one and every thing else went according to plan. And nothing ever goes according to plan. We need to leave margin room for those divine interruptions and unforeseeable times of trials, so that condemnation and guilt won’t chase us down each day over the things left undone and put off.

    Thanks for the confession, Logan, and the poignant reminder, too.

  • http://thelocalgoodness.com/ Jessica

    This was a great post Logan and nice to know that I am not the only one struggling with this! A friend told me years ago that for everything you say no to, you say yes to something else. So by saying no, I say yes to sanity, yes to free time with my kids, yes to quiet Bible study time. I’ve also realized that if I start having anxiety when I think about saying yes to something then I really need to take a step back, pray for guidance, and more than likely I probably need to just say no.
    And I’ve also come to find that if I continually fill my emotional reservoir through prayer & scripture then I have an overflow to pull me through those weeks when everything seems to happen at once.

    Thanks again for sharing.