Monday, June 3

Building margin

"To find joy in this day, you must live within its boundaries. I knew what I was doing when I divided time into twenty-four-hour segments. I understand human frailty, and I know you can bear the weight of only one day at a time. Do not worry about tomorrow or get stuck in the past. There is abundant Life in My Presence today." - Sarah Young, "Jesus Calling"

Why-oh-why do I attempt to exceed the boundaries of a full 24 hours - either with worry or with an insane number of tasks?

On my worst days, when 24 hours flies by like 5, I will actually physically run from one activity to the next ... and not for exercise. It's embarrassing, but it happens because I wedged one too many stops in and every second counts. Some days I get so wrapped up in my to-do list that I forget to brush my teeth. Seriously - ugh.

At our house, we go months without buying salt for the water softener. I can't handle store returns; they will sit in my car for weeks and weeks before I actually make it to the store.

I've run out of gas on the road twice in the past year. Too busy or too distracted to stop.

I've noticed with scary clarity that I can't even stay at an hour-long soccer practice because I have to fill those minutes with a run, or an errand, or some other crazy task that couldn't get done elsewhere.

So I've decided to do at home what I've been doing well at work for a couple of years: Build margin.

morning coffee outside. making margin.

I never did like my over-promise/under-deliver tendency at work in my earlier years. Not that being ambitious is a bad thing, but I couldn't get the equation right. Over time, I started delivering projects later than promised. I was also overworked on the home front and knew I needed to change, so I dropped my hours at work and became much more real about what I could handle on the job.

Sadly, this didn't transfer to my home life. Not a surprise, really. Did you know that as kids grow older they also grow busier? I didn't really understand that until it was too late.

Did you also know that once you get on a hamster wheel it is difficult to get off? I recently learned I have to be honest with myself about what I can handle.

Like ...

I don't need to say yes to everything.
It's true what they say about volunteering - that 90% of the work falls to 10% of the people, or something like that. I have friends who are amazing volunteers, and who I respect for their efforts. But for me, it's not good to throw my hat in the ring for every opportunity. I do best with short-term projects because I have a short-term attention span. That also frees me to be available when I am needed most. Which is why I love doing the Spirit of Giving program at Christmas and only committing to certain school events and taking mission trips.

I have to do what I was made to do.
My mama skills aren't the same as another mama's skills. The more I compare myself to another parent, the worst I am going to be at the job I was given to do. Does that make sense? I am not good at this one yet. But I am getting there. Listen, I am not the "lay-down-with-me mama." I can do that for about 2 minutes before I need to move again. But I am the "do-mama." Want to play ball? I am in. Plant some flowers? Let's go. I take absurd adventures, even if it means spending a couple of hours geocaching when the kids are all like, "why?! what are we doing?" or finding a festival to attend or going strawberry-picking or taking tired kids to the Farmer's Market or leaving them altogether for some much-needed friend time. I do. And even if it doesn't always make sense, it makes me a happier parent. I know being a "doer" seems to contradict the whole "build margin" thing, but this point is more about doing what comes naturally to you and not stressing over the things that don't.

I can redirect when I am off the right path.
I bought a family devotional book awhile ago that is still sitting on my shelf, the spine waiting to be cracked open for the first time. I do this a lot - good intentions that go nowhere. It's that whole hamster wheel thing again. It's hard to jump off because you know it's going to hurt. Something is going to fall through the cracks if you don't stay in motion. But you can't discover anything new unless you leap. If I do what I have always done, I will get the same results. Sometimes my priorities need to be re-ordered. Sometimes "no thanks" is the right answer to give, even if you are missing out.

Maybe the hardest lesson for me is the knowledge that there's no margin without sacrifice. But I believe sacrifice usually means you give up something small for something huge.

Like maybe getting your 24 hours back.

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