Today was supposed to be a productive day. I planned to drag my flabby butt to the gym, go to Target, obsessively plan a minute-by-minute itinerary for our upcoming Disney World vacation, write, finish laundry, fold laundry, pack…
Instead, I waited for The Texture Guy to come and reapply the hand-trowel texture in a couple of messy/thin/didja-really-think-that-looked-good kind of spots. We’ve lived in The House for six months, so it’s time for a punch list. It took us six months to notice these walls needed some touch-up – which is precisely the point of a six month punch list.
Anyway. The Texture Guy was late. An hour and a half late. And he took much, much, MUCH longer than I anticipated. Like three hours longer. So while I did complete the laundry and my OCD itinerary, my butt is still flabby and Target was spared my sweaty, stinky presence.
(Because YES I have been known to go straight to the store in my workout clothes, sans shower. There are more days than I care to admit when I work out in the morning and do not shower until 10 p.m. It happens. I’m starting a club because I know I’m not the only one. We’ll have tshirts and a secret handshake. You know you want to join.)
While this time at home was unexpected, it was not necessarily unwelcome.
Actually, that’s a total lie. It drove me crazy. I have things to do! I have places to go! I have flab to tone! I don’t have time to slow down and wait!
As if I had a choice. But it’s good. Slowing down is good. Quiet is good. Margin is good.
Remember back in the dark ages when you were in school taking notes? We didn’t have laptops or smart phones. We had notebook paper. If you were really cool, you had a Trapper Keeper with a rainbow and unicorn. If, like me, you tried to be cool but never quite got there, you had a big binder with loose leaf filler paper.
And if, like me, you were slightly ADD (though undiagnosed) and had trouble paying attention to boring subjects like algebra or British literature or Business Applications, you filled the class time by pretending to listen while you doodled in the margin of your notebook paper. I’d write my name in dot letters, bubble letters, cheerleader letters. (Cheerleaders had their own boxy patented font that they used for all the “spirit signs.” I tried desperately to imitate it.) I’d draw flowers and smiley faces and hearts. I’d write notes to my friend sitting next to me. (“This class is SOOOO lame! Gag me with a spoon!”) I filled my margins with flourish.
While I was able to fake my way through literature (good writing can do that), my algebra grades suffered. I wrote an entire song in the margins of my College Latin notes and earned a big fat D for my efforts. (D as in DEAD, USELESS LANGUAGE.)
Bad things happen when you fill your margins.
Our weekly family calendar is out of control. I color-coded each kid’s activities on my iCal, and I open the page to a veritable kaleidoscope. Every weekday afternoon, every weekend is a rainbow of dance classes, Cub Scout meetings, soccer practices, dance performances, piano classes, church, school musical rehearsal, and gymnastics. I’m not sure how this happened. We told our kids they could each do ONE thing. Then they snuck in a few extra things. Multiply a few activities per kid times three kids, and you get a worn-out mama and an astronomical gas bill.
More than that, you get tired kids, a disconnected family, stressed-out parents. Our lives are bleeding into the margins.
I heard Priscilla Shirer talk about this topic at a conference last weekend. She gave a great illustration of a fire pit (which I TOTALLY want to get before the weather turns cool, which in Texas should happen sometime around New Year’s). Contained within this beautiful, scrolled cast iron fire pit sitting on my back porch, fire provides warmth and beauty and toasted marshmallows. Outside of the parameters of the pit, the fire consumes and destroys all it surrounds.
God gives us good things. Food is good. Shoes are good. Vera Bradley handbags are very, very good. Soccer, dance, piano, Cub Scouts – all good things. He allows us to enjoy good things. But outside of reasonable limits, these good things will consume and destroy us.
Manna was good. God provided food for the wandering Israelites every day for forty years. But the Israelites had spent the past 400 years in treacherous slavery, where they couldn’t trust their masters to give them what they needed – so they hoarded every spare scrap of food they could find, stuffed it in their pockets, and saved it for when food was scarce. God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt; now He needed to get Egypt out of the Israelites. He needed to free them from their slave mentality. Consequently, when they didn’t trust their Master and hoarded the manna, they ended up with stinky, rotting food.
Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.
Soon after, He gave them the principle of Sabbath rest. Stop working. Breathe. Reflect. Worship.
I need Sabbath.
So Michael and I are revisiting the family calendar. We’re searching for margin. We’re trying to figure out how, as a family, we can rest. We simply can’t keep going at this pace without somebody getting burned, without the fire consuming and destroying us. We’ll have some difficult choices to make. We’ll have to sacrifice some things. We won’t give up everything, but we will find a balance. We will find margin.
Nice, empty, clean white margin. Margin where we can enjoy time of quiet, time of togetherness, time of rest.
Without the flowers and cheerleader font.