About five years ago, “busy” had become my habit. With five children, overscheduled, overwhelmed, and no margin carved into daily life, busy became my fallback and my downfall. I said yes when I should have said no. When no one stepped up, I was your go-to girl. Busy became a badge of honor laced with bondage, one that certainly didn’t garner praise from those who matter most. While my priorities were all “good” things, they were out of line, and my choices affected everyone around me.
Some of you understand. You’re overwhelmed, tightly wound, tears stay close to the surface, and the do-good, try-hard, dizzy busy life you’ve created steals your joy, winds you up, and spits you out until you’ve spun out of control.
What I needed, and what you likely need, is grace. Grace for this one moment to settle your soul. Grace for yourself and your soon-to-be noes—because you realize something has got to change, right?
God is providing us a humble, grace-filled, and powerful way to redeem our time—margin. It’s the antidote to our overwhelmed souls. It’s that space that exists between our normal load and our outer limits. Margin is our breathing room. It’s the place where our souls camp between the weary and worn out, where we rest and connect with our Creator. We spend time with Him, so He can pour into us, and only then can we pour out.
Maybe you’re overwhelmed and barely keeping your head above water, or perhaps you’ve got huge chunks of your calendar open every day but you aren’t spending that time serving others or showing hospitality. No matter what season you’re in, Scripture will help you examine your next steps. Proverbs 14:8 says, ”The sensible person’s wisdom is to consider his way, but the stupidity of fools deceives them.”
A person’s true identity is forged in the inconveniences of every day. To love God is to love His will. That’s how a wise woman builds a beautiful home.
Often God asks us to interrupt our best-laid plans so that His will can be manifested, and we’ll give an account for our seemingly small choices (Rom. 14:12). I knew that I’d reached a boiling point when those simple inconveniences seemed insurmountable. I stepped back and examined my priorities in how they aligned to God’s Word.
I began by creating room to breathe again. Practically, I looked at my calendar and began to assess my activities. I asked myself what constituted as life-giving and included an opportunity to point others to Him and which choices stole our family’s joy, energy, and quality time. If prior obligations couldn’t be canceled, I looked to turn them into opportunities for meaningful encounters and focused on being faithful with the small things I’d been given to do. I learned to ask myself, How is this benefiting my family? If it’s not, then I put it on the short list. I fought for margin and then guarded that extra space like it was my job.
When I evaluate where to account for my time, I ask myself, Does this align with my purpose as a Christ follower? Is my decision laced with any people-pleasing tendencies? How does it impact my relationship with the Lord, my husband, and my family? If those questions are answered, then I can begin reaching out to my surrounding spheres of influence and add additional responsibilities. I want no regrets.
Without margin, we aren’t available. It’s in the margin that God sweeps in and does His most powerful work. Hospitality lives in the margin, in the unexpected moments when we release our own agenda to the One who’s greater. It’s in that margin we find inexhaustible grace for this exhausted and overachieving world.
Practically, I began to intentionally offer my time back to Him. In our family, we slashed the overabundance of kids’ activities to have more focused family time. We switched sports obligations to keep the Sabbath holy. I evaluated work and ministry opportunities through a new lens.
More importantly, I intentionally included margin into my schedule so I could be more missional about opening our door. The Lord began shifting my mind-set from one of irritated interruptions to that of initiating invitation. Generosity of my time began to look a whole lot more like Jesus, and I realized once again that slowing down and creating true space for others means more than opening our homes. It starts with opening our hearts, which pours into an open calendar, which in turn makes room for our neighbors. Again, we come full circle to His Greatest Commandment: loving Him and loving others (Matt. 22:36-40). He’s the best designer for a beautiful homelife. Being a doer alongside Him is the only way to get it done.
This was an excerpt from Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt.