This month we are reading a book called Margin written by a Christian physician. When I heard the title I didn't grasp right off what the topic was. To me margin meant "sidelines" and truly revealing where my personal struggles lie, I thought it might be about feeling "off page" and insignificant. It's not about that.
Rather it's about leaving "margin" or a buffer zone in your life in every area, your time, your relationships, your health, finances, etc. The underlying concept seems to be (I'm on chapter 4 mind you) that most people live to the edge of their capacity in these areas and leave little room for "margin." Hence the name of the book.
Along with our reading this month, we have a few different homework assignments, a couple about goal setting personally and as a couple with my hubby, but the 3rd assignment is a 24/7 time journal - and can I just say? Wow!
For one full week we have to keep track of how we spend our time. Now, I want to say that Saturday afternoon BEFORE I went to my ladies' group and BEFORE I knew anything about the assignment I was spending time with the Lord and committing to spend more time with him. It's been an ongoing conversation He and I have had over the last few weeks, but Saturday my daughter and her little friends did some damage to my kitchen table. My flesh really wanted to be ticked, but my spirit knew for the sake of a budding healthy friendship for me daughter, I really needed to let it go. And let's just be real, that wasn't something that was going to grow out of my own personality. So in a purposeful quiet time that afternoon, I let God convince me it wasn't worth sweating the small stuff.
And because I actually felt my frustration subside "in His presence," I knew I needed to spend more time there - because the reality is being the mom of 3 creates a lot of life's little frustrations, and my natural personality isn't wired for calm or passive. But it's nice to feel victorious when spending time with Jesus brings out the best, or better in oneself.
So fast forward to this assignment which I began Monday morning of logging the details of my days for an entire week. I started right away so in case I dropped the ball I would have ample opportunity to get on track and get it done before we meet again late next month.
Can I just tell you? When you actually log out the ticks off your clock, you suddenly feel a great responsibility about how you're spending them. Or at least I do. I think the accountability of knowing that someone else might take the time to sit and look at the odds and ends of how I am spending my days.
It occurs to me, why don't I always feel that burden of responsibility? Isn't the very Creator of Heaven and Earth watching from above? I don't mean in a frustrated, shaking His finger sort of sense, but I can't help but wonder if He doesn't think, "Gee I wish she's stop watching that third episode of the Law and Order SVU Marathon and come and spend a little time with Me."
I find myself keeping detailed side notes about things like what I'm eating, and how much time I am spending one on one with each of my kids. Monday as we all sat down to dinner together and my son was sitting practically backwards in his chair to watch TV while we did it - I was suddenly more aware of the value of the time we had together. I was grateful that my heart thought suddenly came out of my husband when he turned off the TV and we had 20 minutes of conversation over dinner. My son did NOT self-destruct by the way.
One of the things the book has showed me is that in a LOT of ways, we have done a decent job of keeping margin in our lives. I felt guilty earlier this spring when my son didn't make the soccer team. I felt bad because I was never willing to sign him up for the teams that had practices 4 or 5 nights a week. But as I'm reading the book I am reminded the reason why I didn't - family comes first. We do a decent job of leaving certain priorities in order. I heard my son once explain it to my daughter when she wanted to miss church for a school event.
"That's not how it works in our family," he told her. "It goes first family, then church, then school (work) and then all the other stuff." He's right. Now mind you "church" doesn't equal God. God is without question the center of all those other things, but how often does all of that prioritizing pan out in the details of my days.
That's what I am getting a glimpse into as I am having to be diligent to account for the seconds and minutes off of my clock. I know it is making me want to make different choices, like stopping to pray and journal to God in the middle parts of my day just to connect with him. Or in deciding to let things slide a little when Jake didn't get everything I wanted done in a day, and instead of lecturing him for 15 minutes after he gets home from work, instead visiting and listening about his day.
Suddenly I feel the privilege and burden of being the steward of this priceless resource called time. The truth is, not one of us knows how much of it we have. We never know which tick off the clock will be our last, or the last of someone we love. So this homework is making me realize I want to better take care of each moment I've been given as it comes.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.