Of all the places I’ve been, England is by far my favorite. Everything is so simple across the pond. Even their street signs are simply stated. One of my favorites, spotted as we pulled out of the airport parking lot, read: Give Way.
It’s their non-fancy, obvious way of saying: Yield.
Make room. . .allow for. . .create space.
Lately, as I consider the new year and what I truly need to make it good and peace-filled yet productive, I keep coming back to one word: Margin.
Space. . .allowance. . .room to breathe.
And then I think about that simple sign spotted all over London and as we traveled to the English country (talk about room to breathe) and I feel my heart being pulled toward this idea of space.
In all my study of the word yield, my favorite definitions are these:
- to give forth by natural process, especially by cultivation.
- to furnish as return for effort. . .be productive of.
- to give over possession of. . .as in surrender.
There’s an odd tension buried within this combination of productivity and surrender. But I suppose every good story comes complete with a problem and its character’s pursuit of a solution.
As a writer who often pictures a blank page, I understand the idea of margin. . .those empty columns on the outsides of the lines. To some they seem pointless. But truly they add something so valuable, so necessary for the words to be read and absorbed.
Without space in our lives we cannot absorb and enjoy our story. It all runs together like a book whose words hang off the page with no room for meaning and significance. Life becomes overwhelming, confusing and lacking the space we need to breathe it in.
There’s a story left to be written outside the lines.
There’s a story left to be written outside the lines.
When my son was still in preschool, I found myself at different times with space in my schedule. With minimal deadlines and many days home with just my 3 year old, our schedule was open. Often, we planned to stay home and work on laundry, writing and preschool game-playing. On a few occasions, a friend or church member reached out to me in the midst of deep need. It thrilled my heart to be able to drop everything (all those super important things we had to do in our pajamas that day) and serve my loved ones when they needed it most. This hasn’t been my reality very often but after experiencing the joy of being available I’m compelled to create the margin that would allow for these timely connections.
When our lives are chock full of programmed, planned and scheduled activity – no matter how good each commitment may seem – we miss out on the spontaneous, divine appointments waiting for us outside the lines. When we busy ourselves with all that we think to be so important in making a difference or working towards our success, we risk missing out on the real opportunity to do the work of Christ as it presents itself to us.
Taking a meal to a sick church member.
Bringing a coffee to an overwhelmed friend.
Calling someone just to let them know you are thinking about them.
Helping a neighbor who’s in a bind by watching their child last minute.
This is real, daily, life-changing work and with the right space in our schedule and perspective in our heart, it can be more rewarding than any other accomplishment.
What if we learned to leave space to be able to respond to the needs of others? What if we learned to leave room to notice?
Jesus didn’t spend his resources creating a process or program to help meet other people’s needs. Jesus simply walked and noticed and responded. There is nothing wrong with creating or being a part of a more formal work (and actually this is necessary on many levels) but we must also leave room for connection that takes place outside the lines.
Without margin, we don’t have time to notice. . .Notice the needs of others and those buried deep within ourselves. Because this margin. . .this space. . .it isn’t only so we’ll be available to others. Margin is also for our own pleasure.
What if we learned to give way to our own need for space? What if we learned to leave room to breathe?
But we’re afraid of blank space. The idea of an empty life leaves us full of fear.
I’ve been asking myself why we are so afraid of margin? The answer may be this simple:
because we think margin = idleness.
I’ve noticed when I’m super busy, I’m infused with energy and direction that keeps me producing. When I have margin or downtime, I often don’t know what to do with myself. Without the pressure of productivity, the lure of my next deadline or the guidance of a long to-do list, I feel lost.
Yielding to our need for space does not make us unproductive or wasteful. Creating margin in our lives will actually do the opposite if we let it. We have to train ourselves how to handle space in our lives.
Knowing who we are and what makes us come alive will help us to know how to create and use our space. Knowing who we want to be connected with and what we want to be about will guide us in what what to do with our margin. This guiding process of becoming more self-aware might be the best practice we participate in this new year.
I’ve made a list in my head and heart of friends I will always try to run to when they need me. Those that when I hear in their voice that they need me but they are afraid or too proud to ask. . .I will do what I can to drop everything and show up. Even beyond this list of loved ones, there will be others in my sphere that have needs I can serve. Someone else may need my space this year. I want to be ready to act when I notice their need.
I keep a list of ministries that I will always say yes to. . .those I connect with on a heart and mission level. If they ask me to be a part of something, I will likely say yes. Keeping margin in my life allows me the chance to jump on board when they reach out. If my schedule won’t allow it, I might miss out on an opportunity to serve ministries I love.
I have stacks of books to read and half-written posts to write when my margin time allows. Keeping these precious things at the ready allows me to fill my space with important life-giving activity when given the chance.
Some days margin is just that. . .space. Room to breathe. . .to dream. . .to catch up on a project or pursuit. And some days it’s time available to serve someone in need. Either way, it’s time well spent.
Our margin will look as differently to others as the rest of our lives. Stay at home moms, working moms, homeschooling moms. . .our lives are all extremely unique. Your space will come at different times and in different ways. You may have more or less room than I do in your schedule from season to season. It’s not about creating an equal opportunity border around our lives.
We must wisely create the space we need given our unique circumstances and then bravely protect it.
As I peer into this new year with hopes to make it my best year ever, I’m starting in the margin. I’m drawing a line around what I know to be my important life work and I’m leaving room for the unexpected. I’m determined to yield to the unknown, the possibilities. . .for myself and for those I may be blessed to serve this year.
Do you need margin this year? What are some ways you are drawing a line around your typical life’s responsibilities?