Making Margin for What Matters Most | July 15th, 2019
If you are anything like me, you have probably spent hours of your life decluttering your space going through cabinets, closets, and drawers to keep the constant accumulation of stuff you own to a minimum. Having uncluttered space helps me considerably to be able to think and breathe more easily as I can imagine it does for you as well. But have you ever thought about decluttering your schedule?
When someone asks how you are doing, what is your usual answer? When I have asked this question, I often hear people respond with, “Sooo busy!”
If you always seem to feel rushed to get to wherever you are going, usually running late, and feeling breathless as you reach your destination, perhaps you do not have enough margin in your life.
What exactly is margin? The MacMillan Dictionary defines it this way: An additional amount of time, space, money, etc. that you include in order to be sure that you will be safe or successful.
Margin is the necessary, unscheduled time that allows you to refresh, reflect on life, get back on track, or simply have a little breathing room. It’s those extra few moments in the morning to enjoy sipping your coffee on the porch while listening to the birds sing. It’s a little extra cushion between activities scheduled on the calendar so you don’t feel rushed, struggling to catch
As an author, I have learned about the importance of margin. The graphic artist who helped me design my book, Beauty in a Life Repurposed, informed me that she could not begin the layout of the pages until she knew how wide I wanted my margins to be. Without any margins at all, the words would be crowded together, making it difficult to read. The amount of blank space on a page filled with words makes such a huge difference to the reader.
Creating margin in your life gives you the necessary space needed to stay focused, maintain balance, and have room to breathe. I like to compare margin to vacation. The more I have, the more relaxed I am. I personally like to take beach vacations so I can bask in the sun. It feels so therapeutic to me. There is nothing like soaking up the sun’s healing warmth.
The sun has several health benefits, too. It is known as the “happiness hormone” as it boosts mood and decreases depression. It also improves sleep by producing more melatonin and promotes bone growth by activating Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin).
Emma, my sweet Pomeranian, also knows how glorious it feels to be in the sun a little each day…
When we allow for more margin, we have the time to “bask” – to bathe in its warmth and goodness – in three important areas of life that often get the least amount of attention from us when we are “sooo busy.” They include self-care, our friendships, and the study of God’s Word.
Bask in Self-Care
Self-care is any activity you intentionally do to take care of your mental, emotional, or physical health. When you practice self-care, you are recognizing when you are doing more than you can handle and slow down. You are careful not to overbook yourself and can say “no” to things that are unnecessary to add to your schedule.
When you don’t take any time for yourself, you lose your effectiveness, energy, and motivation to accomplish what God has purposed for you to do to bring Him glory. So know that you are not being selfish. It is important to God that you take care of yourself!
Self-care means you are getting enough sleep to rest your body and mind. If you need a nap, you take one. My brain shuts off when I have had enough and I know if I lie down for just 20 minutes, I am refreshed for the rest of the day.
Self-care means finding ways to slow down and decompress when you need it. Take a break and sit outside in the fresh air. Stretch your body from head to toe. Get a foot massage for your tired, achy feet or enjoy a relaxing facial, basking in the goodness of those sweet treats!
Unplug from your computer and phone. Spend some time petting your cat or dog. The brain needs pauses like these to be rejuvenated.
Self-care means you are taking time to plan meals and give your body wholesome, clean foods so you can have the energy to function. The body does not work well for very long on processed or fast-food.
Lately, I have been practicing self-care by buying nutritious, brain-healthy foods to add to my diet which include walnuts, avocados, wild-caught salmon, coconut oil, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, and my favorite…dark chocolate. As I’ve gotten older, I have noticed my mind is not as sharp all day long or I may struggle a bit with my memory. I’ve actually found myself walking into a room to get something, completely forgetting what it was I was going to get! You may be able to relate.
Researchers have found that cognitive changes may begin in the 30s and become more evident after age 50. The good news is if you give your brain what it requires, the greater chance you have for a healthy and alert brain all the way into old age!
Self-care means taking time for yourself to stay physically fit. Take a brisk walk every day. Walking has incredible benefits. It helps lower your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure by strengthening your heart, boosting metabolism, aiding with digestion after a meal, releasing stress and tension, increasing endorphins to put you in a better mood, and assisting with maintaining a healthy weight.
Declutter your schedule to make time for necessary self-care. God wants you to be rested and rush-free each day so you can bring glory to Him with energy and vitality, radiating His light in all you do. When you take breaks from the hustle and bustle, you can experience His goodness, hear His restorative voice in the stillness, and stay on His perfect path that will refresh your soul.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:2-3
Bask in Friendships
If you haven’t spent much time with friends lately, perhaps it’s because life has become too hectic and busy for you. Making margin for time with friends is one of the best reasons for you to declutter your schedule.
Friendships add a certain sweetness to life that you cannot get from other things no matter how amazing they seem. Getting a new car, a great job promotion, or taking a fabulous trip to the Caribbean are all wonderful blessings, but nothing like the experience of sharing life with friends.
Good friends are treasures that are not always easy to find. They show us how to forgive, make conversation, be ourselves, laugh, share our hearts, our failures, and our successes. They ease feelings of loneliness and help us calm down when we are stressed out by putting things in perspective. They listen, support, and encourage us. Good friends are vital to our well-being!
I try to plan my calendar to fit in a coffee, lunch, or dinner with a friend at least once a week. Having face-to-face time strengthens my friendships as it allows us to keep up with all that is going on in our lives, have deep and meaningful conversation, enjoy laughing together, and encourage each another in our faith. It refreshes my soul!
If you don’t plan to spend any time with friends, you can end up neglecting them for too long and may even lose them over time. They are one of your most precious, priceless gifts from God. Bask in the blessing of your friendships and make sure you do all you can to make them a priority in your life.
Sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence. Proverbs 27:9
Bask in God’s Word
When life gets too busy, reading God’s Word is usually not very high on the list of priorities for most people. But it should be! The Bible is essential for knowing who God is, having a personal relationship with Him, and learning how we are to live as followers of Christ. It is His instruction book written to us for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training so we may be equipped with everything we need for the variety of assignments He gives us to serve and love others.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
It is important to spend daily, quality time diligently studying God’s Word so you can gain understanding and wisdom to live a godly life. By studying, I mean really taking time to comprehend what you are reading and allowing it to deeply penetrate your heart and mind.
One of the greatest gifts you receive when you ask Jesus to be Lord of your life is that you are given the Holy Spirit who provides you with enlightenment and illumination of the truth. He gives you the mind of Christ so that when you open God’s Word, He opens your eyes, bringing to light all the treasures of what you are reading. It is impossible to do this without Him!
I enjoy reading commentary from a variety of Christian theologians for a greater understanding of particular passages. They offer background information, an explanation, and an interpretation of the Biblical text. But I keep in mind that no amount of human knowledge can ever replace the Holy Spirit’s teaching and insight.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:12-13
Deep study of God’s Word takes time. If you really want to learn what God desires to teach you, it is important to declutter your schedule enough to be able to set aside quality time for Him.
One of the benefits of studying His Word is being able to have discernment in the midst of living in a culture that continues to get further away from God and His values. I like how pastor and author John MacArthur explains it:
“In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.”
If you are a follower of Christ, it is your responsibility to be discerning in every area of your life. It is not optional! The more you submerge yourself in the Scriptures, the more discernment you have for living a life pleasing to God with His values and morals. As I read and underlined in my morning devotions recently, His way is perfect and His Word is flawless!
“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” 2 Samuel 22:31
It’s easy to compromise when we are bombarded daily with the views of the world around us, telling us we need to be accepting of everything, even if it blatantly goes against God’s righteous values in His Word. If you are not studying the Bible, you may not even know how His values differ from those of the world! How can you truly follow Him if you haven’t taken the time to learn His teachings?
Without the truth and knowledge that comes from His Word, the sword of the Spirit, you are unarmed to take a stand and can end up engaging in unbiblical decisions and behavior which are not characteristic of a true follower of Christ.
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
How wonderful to know that God’s Word provides us with everything we need to be able to discern right from wrong and truth from error. The more we get to know Him by reading the Bible, the more we grow in knowledge and discernment to live a godly life.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
I recently found a beautiful vintage turquoise and sterling treasure…a sun clip earring which I repurposed into a ring:
When I tried it on, I thought about the great reminder it serves for me to declutter my schedule, allowing enough margin so I can take time to bask in the warmth and goodness of self-care, friendships, and the study of God’s Word. And, of course, lots of sunshine.
Sparkler #1: Prayer
If you struggle with making margin in your life, ask God to help you have
Sparkler #2: Action
Take some time to declutter your schedule this month. Then, see where you can add in relaxing self-care, time with good friends, and deep study into God’s Word so you can refresh your soul.
Sparkler #3: Challenge
Grow in spiritual maturity by increasing your knowledge and discernment of the truth found by regularly reading God’s Word.
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