Holiday Prep: Take a Break First!

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.

PLEASE leave a comment to help all of us.

Share the way you create margins on your schedule or how you keep Thanksgiving and Christmas full of joy and peace.

19 thoughts on “Holiday Prep: Take a Break First!

  1. I have found less is more but that is hard to do when you want to do it all.

  2. Thank you, Jeannie, for my gift! I plan to use it!!

  3. Thank you, Jeannie. I had already begun to focus on ” being still” and listening to what God has to say to me. I do not want to be too busy to hear Him. Your gift just confirmed the need to do that.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Linda, I’m so glad the post confirmed your thoughts. You’re right! We need times of stillness to hear His guidance which we desperately need. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  4. Thank you for the gift of margins! I had planned to attend a conference tomorrow, but last night I marked it off my calendar. And by doing so, saved $50! Most importantly I chose to spend my day tomorrow enjoying just being home and relaxing with my cats. Yes, I definitely am a crazy cat lady!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Evelyn, thank you for giving us a great example of carving out those margins of time. You received the double benefits of time and money. Enjoy the day with your fur babies.

  5. Thank you so much for reminding me of this! I went to a store today and they were having a Christmas Open House. I could already feel myself starting to make lists! But at the top of the list needs to be my special quiet time for prayer and worship.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Jan, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I start mentally creating those lists, too. Thank you for reminding us that time with the Lord should be on the top of our lists. His peace then guides our other steps.

  6. This is a hard one for me, too, Jeannie. But it’s a wonderful gift for sure! Interestingly, God’s going to throw a margin in my calendar when it’s least expected, because of our sweet, first grand’s arrival, sometime around December 13! Because you can be that wherever I am with holiday plans, they’ll all be dropped when we get that ‘phone call’!!!!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Julie, what a precious “margin” time that will be! I rejoice with you about this much-anticipated blessing from God. You are right that when life events like this delight us, the to-do list really doesn’t matter as much. Blessings to you and your family!

  7. Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of margins. It is definitely something I struggle with because I want to feel productive. I have to realize that God created rest by design, and if I am not taking care of myself by running myself into the ground, I can’t honor God. I will keep fighting for margin!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Joanna,
      I like the way you said, “God created rest by design.” That’s a good reminder for me because like you, I struggle with stopping to rest. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  8. A Word to the Wise in today’s blog. Im not the only one who tries to enjoy the holidays without the craze. Thanks!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Paula,
      I find myself simplifying a bit each year. The meaning of Christmas can get lost in the hustle-bustle unless we intentionally slow down to focus on what is important.I’m still learning about this!

  9. Oh my goodness–I am the queen of scheduling five events in one day. If it’s physically possible time-wise, I say yes. I love it, but it’s been hard to get my work done this way! I have friends who say no to things when they have only one other thing going that day–I don’t understand that at all! I really do need to make room and not schedule so much, though. Thanks for this reminder!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Heather, I’m wired the same way, but I’m slowly learning the importance of allowing margins. I have a friend who often says, “That would be too much.” I’ve often been puzzled by her reply, but then I plan too much. Although we are individuals, at least we’re learning to listen to God and plan accordingly. Thank you so much for your comment.

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