I think it was around third grade- that I learned that paper had margins and that margins should be “neat and clean.” In related news: That’s also about the same time I stopped enjoying coloring and drawing. Mostly, it’s because I couldn’t stay in the lines or make my lines look like they “should.” I struggled to keep those margins neat and clean.. It took years of dogged practice- but eventually I got it. (We won’t discuss my penmanship- that has not improved- I’m lucky if it’s near the lines let alone between them.)

Anyway- maybe I got it a little too well. I started applying the “clean margin” rule to my life.

If it didn’t fit neatly within the margins- it was erased. Cleared. Eliminated.

  • Activities that stretched into and muddled my schedule’s margins? Ended.
  • Ideas that didn’t fit onto my nice clean pages of my personal perspective? Eradicated.
  • People who were too messy and complicated to maintain my life’s clean margins with? Mostly, avoided.

Looking back- I see that some of the changes were good. Some were necessary. Some were just convenient. And some… were wrong.

One day, I noticed that the pages of my life were looking a little… ummm “clean.”  Things were predictable and fit well within the margins. My schedule fit. My hobbies fit. My kids and family (for the most part) fit. My bible study time fit. Even my skinny jeans fit. So did my friends. We had a lot in common- and agreed on (most) of the major issues- to be honest- there wasn’t much going on in the margins or in my life.

It wasn’t bad.. it was just.. kind of blank.

The margins were nice and clean. Just like I’d learned to keep them.

Then, I had an unexpected (and much celebrated) pregnancy. Then I had some pretty major changes- that changed my daily life and schedule. Then we faced some changes that moved us into an additional circle of friends. Suddenly- the margins of my life were full of Crayola scribbles and baby food dribbles. I out grew my skinny jeans. I  found myself surrounded by “new people,” in addition to my “old”  people. Some of these were people who disagreed with me on big issues. People who were different. It was messy.

None of it fit very well within my nice clean margins.

The thing is-over time- I started to like it.

I found beauty in those messy margins. I discovered art there. The art of compassion, new perspectives, flexibility and grace.

The relationships are complicated, and loud and messy. And wonderful. The margins of my life didn’t become ruined or tainted as I’d feared….and had worked so hard to try to avoid.  Instead, they stretched. They grew. They became more beautiful than I could imagine.

My life is no longer blank. It is full. Full of people and love and arguing and trying and scribbling and erasing…and art.

Just the way it should be.

Third grade is over. (Thank you, God. I may have spent third grade very near the teacher (who wasn’t too fond of me) and his desk. This was most likely due to my umm verbal proclivity, my general creativity (in avoiding work) and quite possibly- my: ADHD)

What do your margins look like?

Are they a little too neat and tidy? Is your life feeling a little blank?  Maybe it’s time for a little doodling. A little saying yes to what you would have rejected in order to keep those margins spotless. Maybe that messy person is just the one to bring some color into your life…. or maybe some grace.

Go ahead- this year- loosen up your margins a little. Invite someone new (and maybe different?) into your life. Say “yes” to something that stretches you. Embrace the change that comes.

Find the art in the margins….

look for it in those who are marginalized…..I have to think that’s what Jesus would do…. maybe it’s what he did… Matthew 9

Matthew 9: 9-13  “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Dear Lord- let this be a year of pages of lives abundant with the art of your love, your compassion and your grace.  Help me to open up the margins of my life and allow others in… help all of us to do the same, and in s doing to find more of you.. I love you Lord- amen