The start of a new year always prompts me to reflect. I find myself tracing the blessings of the past year and looking hopefully to the coming year. Perhaps one of the most powerful lessons I learned in 2013 (and keep relearning) is the importance of margin.
We have been a part of a life group, including 5 families (and a whole gaggle of kids), for several years. This year one member recommended a book by Dr. Richard Swenson called Margin. The premise of the book is to help restore emotional, physical, financial and time reserves to our overloaded lives.
“Margin grants freedom and permits rest,” writes Dr. Richard Swenson. “Margin is the space between our load and our limits.” As a busy, working mama of three girls I knew my load was heavy and my limits were few. My husband and I started making a list of the commitments and activities that took most of our time. In examining myself, I realized I would intentionally try to fill up the little squares on the calendar. I would write to-do lists just so I could cross things off and feel useful, but that wasn’t what I really needed. I needed rest. I needed margin. “Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating,” writes Swenson.
In 2013, I learned to say no to a lot of things. I said no to sports and music lessons for my kids in the fall. I said no to meetings and more committees. I said no to 100% homemade meals. I said no to conferences I was invited to attend. I even said no to some things I really love doing like bringing meals to new mamas, birthday parties, holiday traditions. I said yes to more margin.
My encouragement to you is not to make more resolutions and heap more pressure on yourself. I urge you to say “no” more, to wrap yourself in grace. Protect your family time. Resist Facebook or Pinterest or Downton Abbey or Candy Crush or whatever else might suck your time instead of restoring margin. (Read no judgment here. You need to decide what restorative rest looks like for you.)
Find more ways to help your family connect, to make your marriage sizzle, to rejuvenate your mama soul. Carve out time with your Maker. Rest. I give you permission.