About the Author

Emily P. Freeman is a writer who creates space for souls to breathe. She is the author of four books, including her most recent release, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their twin daughters and twinless son.

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  1. So good, Emily! We’ve entered a new season with our girls in public school, and our little guy about to enter special ed preschool. At the same time we’ve just joined a church (we moved here in February) and the temptation for me is to jump into ALL the things that our church offers, our community offers, and the needs of my neighbors, etc. But I know what happens in the end when I say yes to too many things, even good things. I remember what Jesus told Martha, “One thing is necessary.” And, if I keep that in mind, somehow setting those margins, even when I want to make them smaller, keeps my soul in check to be able to know Christ more and truly receive the rest that He talks about. And then from that place, I’m able to enter into the ways that He wants to use me in ministry, relationships, etc. Thank you for the reminder!

  2. As always, perfect timing. Haven’t been to (in)courage in months and here you are! I sent my kids out the door in a Monday Morning Manic and it was ugly and unsettling. There are always circumstances aren’t there and I’m finding that each life stage brings the need for more creativity in how I approach soul-rest. Right now, my challenges seem outside the realm of rest but I’m certain It’s to be found. Thanks for the encouragement!!!

  3. Emily-thank you for being brave and sharing your beautiful message. Your words do speak to my soul. They help me feel a relaxed love that I desperately want to be from my approving Father. Bless you and your family.

  4. Ah yes… So good, Emily.

    A couple years ago, I had become enslaved to all of my yeses. I knew it for sure, when my first words every morning were no longer, “Good morning, Lord,” but “Oh crap, how am I going to get everything done today?”

    I ended up quitting my job as an adjunct journalism prof at a small Christian college here. A friend innocently asked me, “What are you going to do with the extra time?” For about ten seconds, I hemmed and hawed and tried to justify my decision and tell her what I was going to add into my schedule.

    And then I said to myself, “Well, duh, Jennifer. You’re not going to add anything to it! That’s why you’re quitting!”

    Our culture places such a high value on busy, busy. I fall for it so often, and it makes me certifiably insane. Thanks for the dose of reality here. xo

    • Jennifer, I agree. Margin is counter-cultural. And I so identify with the insane…busyness makes me insane too! I had a wise person once tell me that nature abhors a vacuum, so that our responsibilities WILL expand to fill “free time” if we let them. It’s a daily battle to not fill in blank moments with more. 🙂

  5. This seems to be a struggle so many are fighting these days. It’s so important to remember we are in charge of our margin and that if we don’t guard it, it slips away from us. Peace is so worth protecting!

  6. I hope you are smiling more and laughing harder, thanks for sharing these beautiful thoughts for the hurried hearts that need permission to breathe slow for a while.

  7. Such truth, Emily! The lists of what might happen? Those are real, but worth the effort. I believe it. And when I have that moment to take a deep breath and drink in a wonderful fall morning like this very morning? Then I know I’m right where I need to be.

  8. I love this so much. I agree that margin is much harder to maintain than I had thought, back when I started to add it in. Thank you for the ways you lead so genuinely in this area…and thank you for this encouragement on the WHY behind margin. We so need this skill as life continues to push in on us. Hurry can rob us of so much!

  9. Having read Simply Tuesday, I love hearing how this is playing out for you, especially your honesty about insecurity of missing out. Oh fb and instagram, you mock! As a now widowed single mom, I am trying to be okay with what I can handle now. It’s different than before. Thanks for reminding me it’s hard work to make margin!

  10. I read this as I’m reading The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. We are in a busy season where we have so many opportunities to get involved in school and in church, all good things. I have purposely backed out of a lot of obligations in the past 6 months to “be still” and I am feeling so much better, but what I’m finding is the balance and being ok with saying no when we aren’t busy! I find I’m excited to get involved but afraid also, of the soul drain, again. This is no accident that this was in my inbox today:-)

  11. “This takes courage and movement.” ~ Doesn’t it, though? I’m in the midst of praying for wisdom (and, well, now that you mention it…courage) to–move–away from the good things that need to take a backseat again. Thanks for the reminder that the end result is worth the steps it takes to get there. <3

  12. Oh how I needed this today. I have overbooked myself from now through the holidays, with three very large events scheduled for this week alone. I am kicking myself for not delegating well and not taking the big picture into account while planning. Thanks for reminding me that (A) I am not alone in this behavior and (B) things can change. It is just going to take some work on my part to protect my margins. I really do need WIDE ones.

  13. thanks for this. I too have been learning about protecting the margins although I hadn’t quite seen that that was what it was. It’s hard to say no when it’s not because you’re swamped, but because you quite like unhurried time. I feel encouraged by your words to keep choosing well and living deeply.

  14. This post hits me square between the eyes. Creating margin is my mantra for the Fall of 2015, and you hit the nail on the head with respect to how I feel about it. This:

    “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.”

    And this:

    “You will uncover a fear of missing out like you haven’t felt since middle school.”

    It’s like you’ve been in my head! Because I’ve been in a season of no margin for a while now. It happened slowly, subtly over time, and before I knew it, there was nothing left for my heart’s greatest passions. I felt over tired, over busy, and underwhelmed. In breaking out of that cycle the last two months, my biggest fear has been missing out on something extraordinary. But I’m saying no to things I would never have dreamed of before. And I’m finding that the extraordinary exists in the margins.

    Thank you for these words of encouragement! I needed to hear them today!

  15. This year I am saying no…and it is helping- no more 4 day-a-week-tae kwan do for the boy who didn’t miss it….much less driving… so I loving giving myself some grace!

  16. A hurried soul is precisely the reason I had an emotional breakdown last year. Stress is dangerous to our well being on so many levels: physical, spiritual, and emotional. Emily – Thank you for reminding us that it’s ok to care for our souls in a world that too often tells us the opposite.

  17. This is amazingly timely! Living with invisible chronic diseases, friends and family believe I am the multi tasking, all knowing, all doing wizard of my past. And worse than that-I keep trying to be that person too! The result is ugly. I look unreliable. I promise far more than I deliver. I feel defeated, stupid, ashamed. All this on top of being terribly sick. I am grateful beyond measure for you Emily and can’t wait to watch your videos and dig deeper.

  18. Why is it when I say no I feel SO GUILTY and often find myself thinking about it for days on end. I don’t like that and its not that I say YES a lot, because I find I do pick and choose already, but I feel others don’t understand that I need more “down time”, “family time”, “ME time” to be ready for “OTHERS time”.

    I hope the guilt will go away some day. 😉

  19. These are very wise words. You are right in that finding time to not be busy is an intentional practice, not passive. As a people pleaser, I’m learning that and it is not always easy. I just finished reading your latest book and I literally had many moments where I would take a deep breath and exhale deeply. It was like therapy reading your book! Seriously. Thank you for your words of encouragement and wisdom!

  20. This is lovely, Emily. So, so true. Yes’s are easy. It’s the no’s that require intentionality. Well said. Thank you. 🙂

  21. This was so encouraging to me and just what I needed to hear today. Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  22. As usual, your words bless me. This weekend I said “yes” to something out of self-imposed obligation because I wasn’t “busy” during that time. It was a good thing, with good friends, however it squeezed the margin out of our day and led to a stressful beginning of the week. I’m learning ever-so-slowly that it is OK to say ‘no’ to good things to keep other good things (and my sanity!) in tact for our family.

  23. I agree in principal – in an ideal world for sure.

    But for many of us, margin is hard to come by because we don’t have much choice. When the kids are at school and the house is quiet, I have to be at the office. After school and work are done, there is homework, driving to lessons, dinner, laundry etc. Work isn’t particularly “life giving” except in the way it gives salary and health insurance. I can’t say no to that. So sometimes I squeeze in a yoga class or a small group or volunteering. If I don’t do that, I am lonely. So I can be busy and tired with people, or stay home for margin and be lonely. I am right between introvert and extrovert – I need both people and quiet. There is very little space for both with a job and family.

    Balance has been elusive. And choices are slim.

  24. I have slowed down and enjoy saying Yes to only the important things. But what happens if we all slow down–who does all the volunteer work–seems like there isn’t enough volunteers as it is. Or do we make work and is God just shaking his head since He will look after it?

  25. I need this, just at the right time. Just starting service in His ministry two years ago, as the demand of the ministry starting to grow, I finds myself couldn’t organise as I use to be. Not only in terms of balancing family and office life, the most is spending the quite time to listen what God wants to speak and spend time with me….

  26. I love this so much, and I ache for more margin. Right now it feels like I’m grasping for more margin, and it is consistently out of reach. I’m fighting for it, fighting hard, and it feels like daily. I’m so exhausted from fighting. So many of the circumstances I’m pushing against are these walls of stone, that are not within my power to say “no” to, like my son’s health issues, my husband’s job, the daily needs of my children. We live in such a remote location that there just isn’t much help available. Though I completely and enthusiastically agree that we have to say “no” more often, and fight for that margin, I have also learned that margin sometimes has to be a soul status. I think of Saaed, a prisoner in Iran, who is living out is faith in a jail cell, being beaten often. Where is the margin for him? We can’t always pick a life with margin. Sometimes circumstances are beyond our control. But God’s peace is not circumstance dependent. I’m so very thankful for that.