Wednesday: Having Margin in Your Life

This Morning's Worship Song.


A Time to Clean: Day 8

For years I tried to do it all. I had my schedule planned out in 15 minute increments. I was homeschooling five kids. I'm a pastor's wife and I was determined to be the best pastor's wife ever. And I wanted to please. I really wanted to please everyone.

As time went on, my stress levels began to increase as I felt rushed every single day to get everything done. Not only was I very active at church, I managed to run VBS, teach and plan children's ministry programs, decorate the church, and show up for every evangelistic series or revival meeting - for all three of our churches. I planned all of the church camp outs. I picked up the community kids for programs. I took community kids to weekend retreats. I cleaned the church. I made 2 -3 dishes for potluck every week. I did door to door work and bake sales. I had company every week. I cooked three hot meals a day. I rarely said no when anyone asked me to do something.

On top of all of that we had 4 elderly family members that my husband and I were primarily responsible for - medication, transportation, and more. Plus, I often had to babysit my grandkids and help my grown step-kids when they needed it. Not to mention the fact that I was running A Virtuous Woman and writing several books during these years.

Add on top of that all of my household chores... sometimes I look back on those days and wonder how in the world I managed to do it all. I used to show up for church and my heart would be pounding so hard I thought I'd have a heart attack from the stress of trying to get all five kids ready and out the door plus perform all of the "duties" that had been assigned to me.

It's hard to describe the reality here without sounding like a martyr or a whiner.

The point is, I was over-committed and stressed to the max. As time went on I became more and more frustrated with how my life was going. I was exhausted all. of. the. time.

I've talked about my burn-out before so it won't come as surprise to a lot of you. But, I had classic symptoms of real psychological burn-out. By the time I realized something had to change I had reached the stage 4 level of burnout.

  1. Physical, Mental, and Emotional Exhaustion
  2. Shame and Doubt
  3. Cynicism and Callousness
  4. Failure, Helplessness, and Crisis

It was pretty bad. I began this year with a deep desire to heal my deep exhaustion. I was overwhelmed. I cried a lot. I felt helpless to change things. There were times I wondered why God had forsaken me because life seemed so hard.

Setting Boundaries

People took advantage of my kindness - and my inability to say no. Other people's expectations of me - because they were used to me doing things for them - were overwhelming. I had to learn to graciously say no.

I had to learn that healthy relationships - whether it be marriage, parents, kids, church members, friends, co-workers - need boundaries. Otherwise, it's very easy for the nice Christian woman to get taken advantage of over and over again.

It's so hard to say no - especially when we feel like "nice" people say yes. Or when we want people to like us. Or when we just really love helping other people.

I love serving. My whole life is wrapped around ministry. I love cooking for my family. I love showing people I love them through service.

I've learned that saying no doesn't mean I'm not a nice person or a good Christian. I actually wrote down my boundaries last summer. A big long list of boundaries for every area of my life. Some of the categories were:

  • my home
  • my marriage
  • my family
  • my time

I decided what my first priorities were - my family and my home. Now, everything else is based on how it will affect those two things. That doesn't mean I never go out of my way to help someone or that I always so no to everything. But I'm no longer allowing outside activities and obligations to come before my time spent with my family or what I need to do at home. I tell the truth in love - if something is really not a good time for me {i.e keeping someone's dog for the week} I let the person know.

Having Margin in Your Life

It's so important to leave room in your life, in your home, and in your schedule. You need room to breathe, to think, to rest, to play, and to just be. If every area of your life is so cluttered with stuff that you can't find time to enjoy life... you have too much stuff. I used to have too much stuff cluttering my schedule which probably contributed in a big way to all of the stuff cluttering my home.

Real change began for me when I learned to view life differently. I decided to embrace every moment and enjoy each day with a spirit of joy. I accepted the things I could not change {something that was very difficult for me to do} and changed the things I knew were within my power to change {myself}.

It's so easy to fill our days with too many activities and our homes with too many things. It's so easy to think that happiness is found outside of home and that things will make us happier. But the truth is, we need to carefully choose how we spend our time. We need to carefully weigh each decision before making a purchase. And ask ourselves, will this {activity, thing} really make me/ my family happier?

And as wives and mothers - we make so many decisions for our families every day that can impact them for years to come.

It really is okay to have NOTHING to do.

Imagine laying in a hammock in your backyard, riding a bike, or enjoying the sunshine in the quiet of autumn. Or imagine just curling up with a blanket and a good book all afternoon.

Or... what is your idea of the ultimate peaceful afternoon? What if you did that every week... or once a day? Would the world stop spinning?

In fact, you might just find room to breathe and think and laugh. You might find joy.

Having margin in your life also means leaving room in your home - empty space. Just because you have ten closets doesn't mean they all need to be filled to the brim with stuff. It's okay to have room to move things around.

Having margin in your life means leaving enough time at the end of the day to get adequate sleep. Quality sleep is vital to your health and well being. In fact, fatigue can cause you to feel grumpy during the day - which could in turn cause you to be short with your husband and kids. Coffee is not an adequate or helpful solution to your tiredness problem!

Having margin in your life also means not always being rushed. I know it's hard when your a mom! But I've found that I routinely under estimate how long it takes me and the kids to get ready to go somewhere. So, in the end we're usually rushing! Wouldn't it be nice to arrive somewhere on time without feeling like you have to rush?

Creating margin in your life might also mean not spending so much time connected with social media and spending more time connecting with your family. I had to learn to shut things off and get down on the floor with my kids on a regular basis. I never regret taking the afternoon off to go on a hike, play a game, or take a walk. It's always a blessing.

Creating margin in your life basically means not filling up every available time slot, closet, or space in your life and leaving room to move, breathe, and be free.

Today's Goal

  • Is your life filled up to overflowing? Is it time to cut back on outside activities and live a simpler life? Do you need to create margin in your time, family, and home?
  • Ask God to show you what you need to cut out so that you have room to grow and breathe.
  • Write down your thoughts in your A Time to Clean Journal about what He has shown you.
  • This week we're working in our Kitchens. Do as much as you can to fill a bag with clutter and clean your kitchen from top to bottom.
  • This week we will also begin the routine of going to bed with a clean kitchen, sparkling sink, and clear counters if you aren't in this habit already.
  • Fill at least one bag or box full of stuff to give away.
  • Take a picture of your bag. Share it in our Facebook group and Instagram if you life - use hashtag #atimetoclean
  • Do your best to wake up early tomorrow, read tomorrow's lesson and spend time in prayer.

Do you need to create margin in your life? What things do you to do make sure you have margin in your life?