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.

Photo1Maybe, it’s because I love writing. Maybe, it’s just because I’m weird. But, I think margins are a beautiful thing.

Margins are the matte for word art. Margins are the space that makes words legible. (Along with those magical spaces between words that I’ve never quite gotten the hang of. I can still hear Mrs. Keith: “Leave a pinky space between your words, Tracey…..” ) Margins are the place where doodles become ideas, and ideas-become art.

Lately, I’ve noticed a lack of margins….. not on my pages (I have auto-formatting for that. And Pinky spaces are pretty inconvenient when writing on a laptop..trust me- I’ve tried.) My pages are fine margin wise… my life? Not so much.

My life is crammed:

Speaking engagements, parenting, marriage, volunteer work, healing, my netflix cue, doctors appointments, travel, laundry, cooking, bible studies, baby showers…. I should probably schedule toilet cleaning just to make sure it gets done. There isn’t much margin on my calendar. It makes me: cranky, stressed and controlled by a to-do list. When a friend needs or wants to talk- I feel like I need a 2 week lead-time and a calendar invite.

I’m not the only one. My friends are busy too. My family is busy. My neighbors are busy. (Or dead. I rarely see them….I’m going with busy though…sounds better.)

We’re ALL BUSY.

Too busy, if you ask me.

So I’ve been doing an experiment in margins. I’ve been leaving some on my calendar. (FYI: saying “No,” won’t make you popular.  But, it WILL give you the time to spend with the people who are most important to you and to them.)

It’s given me some wiggle room. If something comes up… I can be flexible. If my kid or spouse needs (or wants) to talk… I can be there.

If I meet someone at Target who needs a little encouragement… I can take time to give it. Without missing the carpool. (well, Except for that one time…..)

Margins. I’m starting to enjoy having margins in my life.

I hope you’ll give it a try.

It’s okay to say “NO.” To good things. So you have time for the best. It’s Okay to say “No” to things… just because you COULD do it doesn’t mean you SHOULD….

Children don’t need to be in so many activities that they forget they are in a family. They will still be able to go to college if they aren’t in AP art in Preschool.

They can: take turns with activities. (One night a week is about all I can handle…you don’t have to have each kid in an activity at the same time….)

Having margins means you have time to eat together. Talk together. Be together.

Calendar margins are the empty time where relationships can doodle, without plan or focus…and the doodle time sparks love- the art of life.

 

Ephesians 5:15-17

New International Version (NIV)

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

 

Lord- help me to keep margins in my day…. help me to focus on the moments you bring me into- and make the most of every opportunity… I love you lord- amen.

Tomorrow?

We’ll talk about the Marginal…….the things that need to stay out of the center of the pages of our lives…. the things to say “No” to… and the things to let go of….

 

 

“That can’t be right.” I said to the calendar, mocking me from it’s place of honor on the fridge.

I double checked.

It was. *Sigh.* I’m not sure how I managed to do it.  I’m leaning towards blaming Apple for a syncing problem, how’s that?  I have one appointment on the house calendar and one in my iPhone- for the same day.

I am double booked for next Friday.  Speaking (On Loving Your Strong Willed Child ) and Second Grad Math Mom, in my youngest son’s class.

When I really looked at the appointments, (Skimming can cause undue panic- will I ever learn, that?) I discovered they don’t overlap.  This time. It hasn’t always ended so well.

As a Work From Home Mom, I am on the short list for the school to call.  I get calls to help with parties, to purchase and organize crafts and snacks and yes, to help with math explorations. I don’t just get the calls, I’m expected to do it. Don’t get me wrong,I want to be involved.  I also have other commitments. Like speaking,  meeting deadlines and writing. I can’t do it all. Sometimes I have to say “No.”

Saying “No.” in itself,  is hard.  People make it even harder. I hear things like: “Oh- I thought you were at home?” Or “But, you’re home during the day, right?” Sometimes it’s just a look. A look that communicates the same thing or worse.

I  thought that being a Work From Home mom- would be the perfect answer for mothering. I’d always be there for my kids and always be able to do my job.  It’s not. Sometimes, I have to leave a sick kid with his older brother, because I’m the scheduled speaker.

Sometimes, I can’t have three 7 year olds running through the house- even if it is midwinter break.  I have a book proposal to complete.  (Second graders playing hide and seek, while I write  are a challenge even for this Multi-Tasking-ADD Queen.)  I can’t do it all.

I can do what needs to be done.  I am.

Work From Home Moms-

  • Do you sometimes feel guilt tripped because you can’t do it all?
  • Do others always respect your schedule?
  • Have you ever found yourself double booked?  What did you do?
  • What kinds of things do you have to say “No” to?