Photo1I never got in trouble for what I doodled in the margins…. it was always what I scrawled in the middle of the page that caused the problem. No, I wasn’t writing scathing book reports or running an underground newspaper in elementary school. I didn’t blow the cover off the faux meat lunch room cover-up or create a tabloid laden with pre-pubescent gossip….

I was boring. (Still am.) I just plain had illegible handwriting. (Still do.) No matter how hard I tried- it always looked like I’d doodled my homework. Let’s just say- I loved Scan-tron tests…. I could almost always fill in the little ovals in a way that could be read by the machine…. almost.

Yesterday, we talked about the art that can happen when we allow some doodle time in the pages of our lives. Today,we’re talking about the marginal. What happens when the margins take over the page.

My primary life goals are to- 1) love and honor God and 2) love others.

The truth is- my calendar and to-do lists rarely reflect this.

Here’s a sample:

6:30- wake up

6:31- do what all women who’ve had 3 children and the bladder to show for it- do.

6:33- glare at the coffee pot while contemplating mainlining coffee grounds just. this. once.

7:00- start the wake up process of a child who hates mornings.

7:10- begin making the threats that will eventually force him to both get up and get dressed. (Threats may or may not include and are not limited to: Nude school attendance, starvation, ice water dumpage, video game grounding.. you get the idea..)

7:15- discuss the physics of soggy cereal being a natural cause and effect of dawdling. I.E. your own fault.

7:25- nag about homework placement. (“Is it IN the folder, or shoved into the backpack? Is it complete? Don’t forget to turn it in…”)

7:30- explain that shoes are: WHERE THEY ALWAYS ARE. and yes- socks are part of the dress code. I SAID So.

7:32- begin the carpool countdown.

7:39- push- shove and generally throw the child out the door toward the SUV of the  neighbor/angel who drives him to school each day….

Kind of hard to find the whole… “Love God- and others” priority there.

I suppose you COULD make a case for the whispered prayers of “God, please help me not kill this kid.” being an honest connection with God. You could also say that getting a child launched out the door- clothed, fed, prepared and threatened into his day is a form of loving care….. maybe.

If my day became less hectic and more focused- you could even chalk that first 69 minutes up to- just being a mom….

The truth is- it rarely does.

There is always “stuff” to do. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, preparing, shopping, errands, appointments, carpool….

Chances are- if I’m not actively doing something- I’m guiltily thinking about the things I should be doing….(Like all that stuff I “Pinned” on Pinterest..)

At the end of my day- I find myself wondering if I really accomplished anything that matters.

Of course- the “stuff” of mothering matters. Naked children at school would be bad. (less laundry- but bad.) Feral children are generally frowned upon in even the most un-polite society.

But still. I wonder- is all this STUFF necessary?

I’ll be honest- I know it isn’t.

(well- clothes, food- safely maintained surroundings…. are… ) But- does EVERYTHING really have to be done PERFECTLY? Does EVERYTHING have to be Pinterest or photo shoot ready?

I’ve decided- it doesn’t.

If I spend less time on the “stuff” of mothering (and living)  I can do more of the HEART of what I want to invest my life in….. loving God and others.

The only way for there to be a margin of time  in my life is to stop scribbling all over the page of my days with never ending to do lists written in a striving for perfection.

I have to leran to let the marginally important become marginal in my life.

New rules:

1) Clean enough- is clean enough.

2) Good enough is good enough.

3) Start with the most important then add the lesser.

4) Do less- focus more.

5) Say “No.” Not “I can’t.”

Why? because:

1) Clean enough IS clean enough.  I refuse to spend my life cleaning. God has a bigger plan for all of us than that. (if you struggle with that- I encourage you to check out http://www.flylady.net ) A free way to find that balance of home maintenance and spending all your time cleaning….

2) Everything doesn’t have to be home made or perfect. Sometimes it’s okay to-buy the cupcakes for the class. Sign up to bring pop instead of a dish to pass. (Gatherings are about people- not a Food Network challenge…) Save that hour to pray. Read. Make a phone call. Meet a friend. Soak yourself in something encouraging you can pour into others…Don’t use it to clean the windows.

3) No really. I mean it. I need to force myself to start with connecting with God and people FIRST. Work can always be done later. Homework can wait until we’ve had a chance to talk- have a snack- be together. Time with God can begin before the coffee is finished…..I can get up a few minutes early to make it possible to have caffeinated devotional time. I can make the phone call early in the day before it becomes too crowded to really connect.

4) Somethings just don’t have to be done. I don’t have to sign up for every volunteer position. I don’t have to always cook a 3 course meal. Confession: I have lived at this house for 12 years. The windows have never actually been “washed.” We can still see out of them. (I do however constantly clean finger and nose prints off of them….- otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see out. Which could be a form of insulation- I suppose- but I’m not willing to try it. I have standards.)

5) When I say “No.” I’m afraid people will think I’m mean. (They may.) However- when I say: “I can’t” because- it feels like a lie. I mean…If I really tried… I usually COULD. (I can change schedule conflicts, I can rearrange my life- I can live with or treat the pain caused by….)  ( I have serious neck issues- I’m currently in a neck brace until at least June…certain things cause me physical pain- I can say NO- and not suffer it- or say yes… and hurt myself. It’s a choice I have to make.) Saying “No.” Isn’t mean. It simply doesn’t leave room for people to try and problem solve how you “can” instead of how you “can’t”.

Sidenote: when asking someone to do something- I think it’s better to ask if they will- vs. whether they can….. we need to allow each other to say “no” too. 

It’s time to get some margin into our lives.

It’s time to let the marginal take it’s rightful place….. to focus on the most important- and get that done, first.

Dear Lord- I confess- I often scribble all over my days. My to do list looks like one of my elementary homework assignments. If I try to read it- the point is lost. Illegible. I completely forget about margin because I’m so busy filing the entire page with the less important. Help me to be wise- to honor and love you and others first- help me to let the marginally important take it’s rightful place…. and help me to focus on the most important. Loving you- and loving others. Amen

How about you? Do you focus on the marginally important? How do you make time for margin in your life? What have you let go of? How do you save time?

Tomorrow we’ll complete the series- “Margins- Marginal and the Marginalized”….by talking about the Marginalized……..making room in our lives for those we are tempted to keep at arm’s length.

I leaned back against the door, hoping it would help block out the sound of the semi-truck, as it rumbled down the dirt road just beyond my front yard.

“Whaaaaaah!” My babies cry told me it hadn’t worked. I lifted him from the crib, praying he’d go back to sleep. I hushed and bounced him, as I made my way to the rocker/ recliner at the back of the house. “It’s quieter here.” I thought. Still hopeful that naptime wasn’t over.

The muscles in my legs strained to lift the footrest without making a sound. Just as his eyes started to close and I felt myself relax, the “thump, thump, bwah-thump” of the neighbors TV bass through the wall, made him pop his eyes open and signaled the official end of naptime. I wanted to scream. I wanted to pound on the wall and tell them to “TURN IT DOWN.” But it was 1:00 PM, and my TV was almost as loud as theirs… it wasn’t the neighbors, it was the duplex’s construction that was the problem.

“I hate living here.” (more…)

I closed the car door with a “bang”.  I started up the walk.  I was tired, and my bags were heavy.  My head throbbed from information overload, but I knew I only had to make it a few more steps.  I was finally:  Home.  Standing on the red Ikea welcome mat- I didn’t bother to wipe my feet. I just wanted to go IN.  I started to dig for my keys.  I heard shuffling and barking on the other side of the door.  Before I could unlock it,  it burst open. 

“MOMMY! You’re home, I missed you!”  I was met with kisses- both doggy and boy-type.  I took a deep breath.  I smelled teenager tennis shoes, ( the boy-pourri always near my front door)  left over macaroni and cheese left out on the stove top, recently wet dog  and undertones of lavander and vanilla.  The smell of my home.  Messy- stinky-real and beloved.

I dropped my bags and hugged all who greeted me.   I ignored the mess on the counter (ok, I mostly ignored it, with a side order of being irritated by it.)  and  I went upstairs to strip off all the confining “professional” (I use the word loosely) clothes.  I stepped into my stretched-beyond-their-elastic’s-lifespan- ( and perfectly comfy) grey velour sweats and a tank top that doubles as chest-container.  No need to care about appearance here— I was HOME. My family has seen the good the bad and the ugly- tonight was about the ugly.  They could handle it.

I went downstairs and plopped my tired self  into the corner of the couch that has been mine for as long as I can remember.  It was an automatic relaxation response, my body melted into the comfort of home.

Home. It’s an amazing place. 

Home isn’t about a building.  It’s not about a place.  It’s a feeling.  A place to belong.  A place to BE.   A place where the outside accoutrements can be stripped away.  Home is a place to be welcomed,  regardless of your appearance- or it’s own.  Home is a place where the door is flung open before you can even find your keys at the bottom of your purse.

Home may be messy, it may be boy-pourri scented, but it calls to me.  Does it call to you? Honestly- I wsh I never had to leave.. I wish I could take it with me everywhere.

Thinking back to that tired night.. I wonder what would happen if we DID take it everywhere.  What if we each became places of home for others- where ever we find ourselves.

What if we BECAME homes with mats of welcome instead of mats for people to clean off their feet before entering?    What if we welcomed others into our hearts and lives and loved them as our own?  What if we allowed them to strip off their own “professional” clothes get comfortable? 

Sure- things may get messy and smelly- because homes always do.. but you know– being able to share the gift of home, and take it with us where-ever we go?  It just might be worth it.

Maybe that’s what practicing hospitality means— what do you think?  I’d love to hear…

Roman’s 12:9-16

 9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.