It’s that time of year again…time to get a nice, new, shiny, empty calendar…and overfill it.
Are you sure that is the best plan for your family (and you) for 2013?
Many, many people (mostly Americans I think) spend January making plans. Whether you want to call them resolutions, goals, or family focus, can I ask one question of you first?
How was 2012?
Were you stressed out, run down, cranky? Did debt pile up, dirty laundry run over, were your kids involved in ‘everything,’ or ‘nothing’ because they were always sick. Did you develop a heart attitude of “serve me” instead of “serve them?”
If 2012 didn’t turn out the way you anticipated, perhaps it is because you are lacking margin. I’ll give you a brief introduction to what margin is below. If you find yourself wanting to know more, I highly recommend “The Overload Syndrome” by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. published in 1998 by NavPress. www.NavPress.com (all of the following “quotes” are from the book.)
“Margin is the space that once existed between our load and our limits. Margin is the space between vitality and exhaustion. Margin is the opposite of overload, and therefore the antidote for that vexatious condition.” (from pg 15)
Why are we so overloaded? Why do we willingly say “yes” to so many things we should say “no” to? I admit I do not know all the answers, but I think one of the reasons might be pride. Yes, pride. The ugly thing rears its head and then we start to think about keeping up with the world, instead of keeping our focus on God and our families.
In his book, Dr Swenson writes “We can learn a lesson from Jesus—it’s OK to have limits…At any given moment, the most important thing in life is the person standing in front of us.”
Have you thought about Jesus’ life lately? How is yours the same? How is it different?
I will be the first to admit that I too often give up my margin for things that won’t matter in light of eternity.
“Being marginless means that we are expended, depleted, and exhausted with no oasis in sight. Having margin, however, means that when we are drained, we have someplace to go for our healing.”
I have been working for about 4 months on finding more margin in my own life. I’m not where I want to be yet, or where God wants me to be, but I’m getting closer! This past summer I found myself stretched thin, worn out, worn down. It was way past time for a change.
Now, I know, not everything that happens in our lives is of our own choosing. (I’ve read the book of Job a couple of times!) As Christians, we are involved in a Spiritual battle as well a a physical life. As one of my Christian mentors often said “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy!”
Please don’t beat yourself up because of what has happened in the past, that is not what this post is about. Simply choose more wisely for your future. Find grace, and peace, and margin.
I have often been put off by books with titles in the vein of ‘200 ways to simplify.’ If you’re already overloaded, how are you supposed to find time to read the book, much less make a plan to follow???
In his book, Dr. Swenson gives prescriptions at the end of each chapter. These are ideas to choose from to help you fight back against overload and recover some margin for yourself. Instead of trying to copy his lists, I though I’d include a few of the things that help us here in our family. Maybe you would like to try one or two of them for your family in 2013.
Say “NO” to good things, so you can say “YES” to great things. Choose carefully the activities your family is involved in. When you do say “yes,” make sure at least most of the activities are ones the whole family can enjoy together, like camping, volunteering, or spending the day with another family.
Cook simply. There will be times when it is appropriate for sauce and dessert-laden meals, but not everyday. When you cook simply, there is less temptation to go to a drive thru because you know you can make something quickly at home. I am no superstar cook…but I am the queen of tasty, nutritious, filling meals on a shoestring budget!
When everyone has a moderate amount of clothes, there is less chance of dirty laundry piling up and taking over. If you’re got too much to fit in your closet— give it away! If it’s been in the dirty laundry for 2 weeks— give it away (after you wash it)— you obviously can get along without it!
—an aside to this one is buying multiple pairs of the same sock— it makes finding a match in the clean laundry SO much easier!
If you’re done with it — give it away! Whether it is a basket of picture books, a bag of too-small clothes, a bike your child has outgrown, or kitchen gadgets you don’t use anymore… if you can’t see your family using the items in the next year — give them away — bless another person or family! In the meantime you’ll find a less-cluttered house and garage, and hopefully more free time.
Most importantly? Ask God! Remember those verses in Matthew chapter 7 about ‘ask, seek, and knock?’ When you ask God for guidance, and earnestly seek HIS answers (not just the ones you want to hear,) He will open the correct doors for your life and shut the ones that need shutting.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from “The Overload Syndrome.”
“Chronic overloading is not a spiritual prerequisite for authentic Christianity. Quite the contrary, overloading is often what we do when we forget who God is.”
Don’t forget who God is!
So go ahead, enjoy your nice, new, almost empty calendar… just don’t be in too big of a hurry to fill it up!
Blessings to you and your family as you find YOUR margin for 2013!