Two years ago, my September through December schedule was so packed that I wondered if it was actually beginning to change my personality.
While I was fulfilling my obligations and meeting deadlines in my work, I was experiencing a lack of energy to meet new people and felt less inclined to move toward longtime friends.
In short, I was exhausted.
John and I walked into that busy season with our eyes wide open. We knew we were intentionally saying yes to more things than usual, but we thought perhaps we could handle it.
That was in the middle of John’s year off, after he quit his job at the church and before we knew what was next. He was home full-time, and I had a lot going on with my own work, so we figured, “Okay, let’s try this!”
What happened during that busy season was I started to wilt on the inside. I’m not sure how else to explain it, but the constant deadlines and productivity combined with my travel schedule left me feeling empty and rushed.
As it turns out, my soul isn’t made for hurry.
I grieved slow weekends and normal working hours. I grieved margin and time to stare out windows. I grieved making dinners and walks in my neighborhood.
But I thought maybe this was the way it had to be in order to do what I felt called to do and be who I felt called to be.
I knew soul space and meaningful work could co-exist. I just hadn’t quite figured out what that balance looked like in my actual life.
Since then, I’ve been on an intentional journey to discover what it looks like to create space for my soul to breathe even in the midst of a busy life.
I’m finding it takes a lot more effort to maintain margins than it does to fill them up.
We are all made differently in the image of God, so I never want to imply that margin for one is equal to margin for another. We have to consider our season of life and our personality, as well as the needs and personalities of those in our family. We have to consider our goals, vision, and the resources we need to reach them.
It’s true that we all define margin differently depending on many variables. But here is one thing that it is true for all of us: We all need to define our own margins. If we don’t, they will be defined for us in the form of no margins at all.
Recently someone emailed and asked if I could come and visit their small group in a town thirty minutes away. They were reading my new book, Simply Tuesday, and would love to hang out with me and chat about it.
“We know you’re really busy,” she wrote, “but we just wanted to give it a shot.”
I love that they are reading my book.
I love their enthusiasm to talk about it.
I know if I went to hang out and talk about my book with kind, interesting women, I would have a good time and leave encouraged. What a gift!
But the thing about that request and many others like it is this: There is an assumption that the reason I would say no to that request is because I’m so busy.
In the past, that would be true.
But now, the reason I said no to that request was because I’m not busy. And I have to fight to keep it that way.
For the sake of my family, I have to fight for margin.
For the sake of my work, I have to fight for margin.
For the sake of my soul and my life with God, I have to fight for margin.
My soul isn’t made for hurry and neither is yours. We have to choose the margins in our own life and then fight to keep them in place.
This is not an easy practice. If you take this seriously, here is what might happen.
You will uncover a fear of missing out like you haven’t felt since middle school.
You will second guess your no and worry over your yes.
You will suddenly notice All The Important Things your friends and co-workers are accomplishing, planning, enjoying, and launching.
But here’s something else that might happen if you keep at it.
Your yes will become more clear.
Your no will come more easily.
You might smile more, laugh harder, and even be able to be more spontaneous with friends and family.
This isn’t a passive exercise. This takes courage and movement. Jesus invites all the weary and heavy-laden souls to come to Him. It’s a real invitation, one that promises rest as the result. But first, you have to come. And to come to Him in this moment means turning from the thing you’re holding on to instead.
Fear pushes us around. Love leads gently on.
Want some practical help to create space for your soul to breathe even in the midst of a fast-moving world? Emily has created a series of free videos to help you do just that. Watch the first video here.