"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Monday, February 1, 2010

Margin Obviously Needed

Advice is often so easy to give and yet, so hard to take!

Anyone who knows me, knows that one major piece of counsel, or advice, I often give is suggesting "rest". I believe so strongly that we need to take Sabbath seriously. I believe that we need to live our lives in such a way that we have healthy margin. By "margin" I mean the needed "white space" around our word-filled, crowded, busy lives. White space or margin can look different for each person, of course, but for all it means rest (physical and spiritual) and space (emotional, physical and relational) in our lives. (I love this term, "margin", and learned it while attending a fabulous course called SYIS).

I still believe this strongly... and yet, I have had a difficult time instituting it these last few months. This rest-advice is easy to give and harder to take. In the past 10 years, I have learned enough about myself to know Stephanie-signs of approaching burn-out, or in other words... the effects of lack-of-margin in my life. One clear sign is the outrageous feeling I have when I hear the simple word "Mommy" from my sweet children's mouths. When my margin is lacking and I have not had enough rest or space, I hear this word (my name!) and I feel like I want to scream! They say my name and I internally wince in pain!

Obviously, when I begin to feel this way, my need for rest is clear and apparent. Of course, the goal is to never get to this stage. I believe we can. I believe it is possible to live at a healthy pace and to incorporate margin in such a way that burn-out is a distant memory, rather than an approaching reality. I believe that God has instituted weekly Sabbath, feasts, and festivals for this very reason. (He calls for a year of Jubilee, for goodness sakes!) He knows us so well... He knows we need to rest. He calls us to rest in Him. Real rest... soul, mind, and body rest.

Of course, when I get to feeling this way... overwhelmed, harried, and depressed, I hear my own words echoing in my brain. You need rest! How will you rest... physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally? Make a plan. I hear my own advice. Simultaneously, I hear all the reasons why I simply can't... why it won't work. Rest really doesn't fit. I have the excuses, too! And, then I hear my echoing advice-giving voice once again: You must make it happen. Just schedule it!

So, we did just that... my husband and I sat down and scheduled all sorts of things. We moved and stretched our calendars. We made room for time away, spiritual retreats, date nights and "margin" (yep, the very word written right across certain days on my calendar). We have a "house rule" that the date, or the margin, can be moved... but never cancelled. If you move it, you must find another spot to put it--- and relatively near by! So, I guess we have scheduled, flexible margin that has to find a home on the same calendar page! (A while back we began this calendar-planning-way in an attempt to be intentional about rest and our relationship with God and each other.) This has worked well in the past... So, I am hopeful looking ahead.

This past weekend my husband and I got away. We scheduled it! As it approached, there were 101 reasons why it wasn't convenient or why it should have been cancelled. But, it was on the calender (and it didn't "move" well, or easily) and so we did it. And, It was exactly what I needed. We slept, we ate, we watched movies, slept, spent time with Jesus, went for a long walk, read and slept more.

Today my children are saying my name and I am not wincing even a little! ...a very good thing (smile).

We all need rest. We all need margin. I don't want to only give the good advice... I want to (read *must*) live it.
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