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 ) 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.

We watched her line the nest with bits and pieces of comfort she found in our little piece of the world.  We watched her tend they beautiful blue eggs, carefully turning and always warming.

We watched, as the eggs hatched.

We mourned the two that didn’t.

We looked at the tiny raw looking birds and wondered if they would survive.

We watched as she spent her days, finding and bringing food to her fast growing babies.

We watched them peek their heads from the nest and reach up to grab the treats she brought.

We watched as their tiny pink bodies became feathered and strong.

We watched as they flexed newly feathered wings and teetered on the edge of the nest.

I held my breath and watched as they took flight.  I feared the worst, and hoped for the best.

I shouldn’t have worried, they were born to fly.

It was beautiful. I watched as he flew to the neighbor’s roof and chirped in victory.

Tears filled my eyes.

I am a mother.  I’ve watched my children change and grow. I’ve watched them flex their newly feathered wings of self determination and hop to the edge of our nest.  I’ve watched them hop and fall, I’ve watched them take test flights.

Soon, (way too soon, actually) they will, one after another,  leave our nest. I used to fear that day.  I watched with worry: “Will they be ready? Are their wings strong enough? What if they fall?  Is it a safe place to fly?”

But not today.  Today, I know they were made to fly.

Dear Lord- I can see my boys standing on the edge of our nest. Flexing and flapping and preparing to fly. Give them courage to jump lord…  give lift to their wings. When I worry, I pray you’ll remind me they were born to fly.  amen.

“Come on mom, were going to take off my training wheels!” Noah exclaimed, peeking out from under his flame covered- Bakugan bike helmet.

“You mean, now?” I asked. Secretly hoping I’d have time for a tranquilizer, or maybe a few deep breaths before facing yet another inevitable” letting go” moment and milestone of childhood.

“NOW!” He shouted.

“Let me get the video camera” I stalled.

“It figures.” I said, picking up the camera from right where it belonged. (That, never happens.)  Reluctantly, I went outside.

When I saw his Bakugon topped grin, I let go of my insecurity.  “He’s ready.” I said to myself. I could see it in his determined eyes. I made eye contact with my husband.  I didn’t say a word.. but “You better be able to keep up with him.” Was none the less, clearly communicated.

He did.

Like all kids learning to ride, Noah wobbled. He teetered.  He pedaled like mad.

My heart swelled.  HE DID IT! (and he was ok! Whew.)

As Noah made another pass along the sidewalk, my college son came driving up with lunch.

The reality hit me. If I blink, the one driving up with lunch, will be Noah.

Today, I’m working to savor the time I have with my boys.

Today, it’s training wheels.. tomorrow?  Drivers Ed.

I’m an egg-squasher. From “way back”.

It started in my Grandpa’s “Secret Garden”….

Grandpa’s yard was incredible. There were raspberries growing in a huge prickly sweet- hedge and a tremendous garden plot full of yummies.

When I spent the night there- my grandpa and I would get up early, go outside and “work in the yard.” (Well.. Grandpa worked, I picked flowers,  ate raspberries and ran from bubble bees!)

One morning- Grandpa called me over to the mulberrry tree in the back corner of the yard.  He stood tall, in the sun, with his hand stretched out to me… holding something tiny and blue….

It was a beautiful, perfect, tiny, blue robin’s egg. I gasped as he  handed it to me. Grandpa said: “Be careful— go and show Grandma!” I was amazed and afraid. It was beautiful and delicate. “Should I be trusted with it?” I wondered. (I was – possibly a little less than gracious.)

I determined I would  be trust worthy with this treasure.

I closed my hand  around the egg to protect it. “I won’t drop it Grandpa, I won’t!” I said over my shoulder.

I it tightly as I ran.  All the way across the yard to the door-wall.

“I made it! I didn’t drop it!” I said to myself, jubilant.   But, something didn’t quite feel right. I peeked into my hand.

Tears filled my eyes at the sight of my treasure.  I hadn’t dropped it. That was true- it was  even worse: I’d squashed it.

I felt like a murderer. I cried. My Grandpa told me- the egg had already met its’ demise before I had ever seen it.   It didn’t matter what he said, I was the one with the broken shell and goo in my hand.

I had loved it – to death.

I wish I could say learned to have a gentle grip that day.  I wish I learned to hold things without squashing them.  I didn’t. (more…)

peeking “Help me Mommmmmy!  I’m twapped!”

I heard the little panicked cry from the living- room.   To be entirely honest- I didn’t exactly run from the bathroom to his rescue.

Like the little boy who cried wolf, we’ve been here before- not all Noah crisis’ are real.  Most are imagined.  (Like standing in the pantry screaming to be rescued when all he has to do is push the door open.)  I learned a long time ago not to freak.

 I finished my lip-liner and gloss before I went on my rescue mission.

 OOPS.  This time it was true.  I found him lying in front of the armoire that holds the TV in the livingroom.  His left arm -up to just above the elbow- was mostly out of view.   It was pinned under the armoire.  

The armoire is a pretty typical 7  feet tall and thousand pounds of oak, particle board and media equipment with flashing clocks.   If you toss in an additional 10 pounds of accumulated dust – (somebody really SHOULD clean that) you’ve got the picture.  

I tried to pull it out. No go.  He screamed. 

I tried the “wiggle method.”  Nada.

I thought about butter- then, thought about the beige carpet.  “Not that desperate, yet.” I thought.

I pulled again- He screamed. Again.  Louder.

“Stop screaming- I can’t think” I yelled. (volume helps? right? ) I was starting to freak- just a little. 

I thought about all those news stories I’ve heard- about parents suddenly being able to lift cars off of their pinned children.  I tried to move the armoire.  Nothing. (it was worth a shot.)   Incredible Hulk Mom- I am not.

The thought of having to call the fire department to free my child from the monster armoire was not appealing.  I looked at my watch- (the flashing clocks are useless) I wondered if I could keep him busy playing one handed gameboy until my teenagers came.  They are pretty strong- I was convinced the three of us could lift it.

 “What were you doing?” I asked him.  More to kill time, than to get an answer.   “I had to get my TOY!”  My mind instantly went to all the stories about monkeys with their hands in coconuts  “Are you still HOLDING it?”  I asked. 

“I have to get it” He said.  Sheesh.  A classic. I live in a monkey house. No doubt about it.

It took some convincing- and the locating of an implement to prove that I would fish the toy out as soon as his ARM and BODY were out of the way.

He finally relaxed his grip- we bent his elbow and he was free.  Just a few red marks  and that faded pretty quick.  No permanent damage or butter messes.  What a relief.

“I love you mommy, thanks for rescuing me” He said. 

I had to laugh.  I didn’t exactly “rescue” him….. he just let go of the toy.  

Funny- I’m pretty sure that from God’s perspective I’ve had my arm stuck for a while- too.  Holding onto something, refusing to let it go and but not able to hold on and make it work.  

 I wonder what would happen if I just let it go?  Would he be able to rescue the thing I love?  Would He fish it out and hand it to me?

 It just might be worth a try.

Matthew 16:24-25
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

“Dear Jesus- help me not be stubborn- trying to rescue myself or hold onto and grab for things on my own that you want to freely give me- I love you Lord- please help me to stop bein a Monkey mom- amen. Oh- and thnx for helping me figure out how to free the boy….the butter would have been a bad idea.”