At the beginning of each month, I post ideas for meaningful gifts to help us share joy and encouragement with other people. Guess what.
This month, the gift idea is for
Please nestle into a comfy chair and accept this package, beautifully wrapped and bearing a tag with your name on it. Take a deep breath first and lay aside your to-do list for a few minutes. Yes, this present is for you. Ready?
Now pull off the ribbon. Lift the lid and move the tissue paper aside. Is that not the most beautiful gift you’ve seen in ages? What? You don’t see it? The box looks empty?
That’s the beauty of it, my friend. The box is empty by design. When I explain, you’ll love your one-size-fits-all, yet personally-designed, very-much-needed present.
It’s the gift of margins! Yes, margins. My introduction to the word came from my first-grade teacher who taught me to leave nice clean margins on my paper. They create a neat appearance and make the writing more attractive and easier to read. What about margins in our daily calendars?
Margins are bits of unfilled time—with nothing scheduled—for resting, creating, or otherwise enjoying the day. Lately, I’ve read several books, articles, and blog posts about this topic. Maybe the idea of intentionally setting margins is popular because of the fast-paced lives we tend to lead.
It’s tempting to fill the days with countless chores and opportunities and then become frustrated when tasks are left undone or when there’s no time for relaxation.
I’ll confess. I’m a calendar crammer. Even when weeks are full, I slip extra events and chores into tiny pockets of time erroneously thinking I’ll get to all of it. That practice creates stress and frustration I don’t need.
Here’s a better way.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
–Colossians 3:15 ESV
As followers of Christ, our lives should be overflowing with peace and gratitude, but it’s difficult to appropriate the peace of Jesus when we’re in a frenzy from a jam-packed agenda. In addition to prayer and Bible study, we need times of rest and relaxation.
Two recent conversations led me to rethink the way I plan my time and reminded me of the need for margins as a busy time of year approaches.
My dear friend shared her holiday plan with me. “I’m going to make and freeze a pound cake ahead of time, bake fruitcake cookies, and make nut cookies before family arrives. That’s all I’m going to bake this year. Then, I’ll buy some chocolate goodies and cheese straws. I want to enjoy calm, joyful time with my family instead of being exhausted when they get here. I’m thinking ahead about when to decorate, where everyone will sleep, and which meals I can prepare and freeze the week before.” Wise lady.
Another friend confessed, “I’m dreading the holidays already! Everyone comes to my house and it’s just so much work. I want my family to come, and I’m happy to prepare for them, but I end up exhausted and grouchy.”
Sound familiar? It’s a blessing to serve our family and friends, but it’s also hard work. Thanksgiving opens the door to the Christmas season and the rush is on before we know it. Food, gifts, programs, cards, dinners, company…and the beat goes on.
What can we do to prepare for a joyous, peaceful holiday season? Look into your box again. Pull out those margins and put them into your calendar. It’s refreshing to have time to take a walk, to doodle or thumb through a magazine, to listen to music, to sketch a picture, to read. We need margins in our days, especially prior to the holiday rush. Take one more deep breath. (Surely, we have time for at least two a day, right?)
Like the margins on my first-grade papers, unscheduled time makes our lives neater and more appealing as the joy and peace of Christ fill our hearts and overflow to others. Time with Him is paramount, but adding some margins will help us smile more.