Creating Margin … Part 1

We are thankful that one of our great friends, Kerri Weems, is going to share a two part series on something ALL of us in ministry or leadership … time and balance. If you missed Kerri’s talk about time and balance at our JustONE Online Conference last fall, you can click here to watch the whole session or skip ahead to catch Kerri’s talk. You can see all of the JustONE sessions here or click on the Media tab above.

She opens her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her filled hands to the needy [whether in body, mind, or spirit].  Proverbs 31:20 (AMP)

As pastor’s wives we can tend to feel guilty about having any time for ourselves that is unproductive and not focused on people. After all, it’s for people that we are called to ministry. Yet many times, it’s the very people we are called to love that take the most out of us. As a natural part of ministry, we live in response mode much of the time. We need to (and rightfully should) respond to the needs that arise in people’s lives: marriage crises, illness, deaths, babies, weddings, job loss, accidents, job promotions…the list goes on and on. (Wow, just typing that list made me emotionally drained. I think I need a nap.) If we are not careful, we can get stuck in response mode and lose our grip on living with intentionality and purpose. That’s why we have to guard the margin in our lives and in our schedules. We need to do this, not out of selfishness, but because we are committed to finishing our race well. One big way we can navigate this aspect of ministry is to create a little margin, or extra space in every area of our lives.

Take, for instance, creating margin in our schedules. On our daily planners margin can look like empty space. We live in a culture that is so busy that an empty block of time on our weekly schedule can almost make us feel guilty. At least that was my mindset. I used to make it my goal to fill up every blank space on my calendar. I was at every class party, every birthday party, every work meeting – even when my presence wasn’t necessary. If the space was open on my calendar, I dutifully penciled in the next appointment. Open space is there to be filled, right? Not really. Those blank spaces represent margin in our lives. They represent space to think, to plan, to breathe – and it’s important.

I love how Proverbs 31:20 in the Amplified version (above) puts it. “She reaches out her filled hands to the needy…”  How silly would it be to go on an outreach to feed the poor, but only hand them empty bowls? Yet when we spend ourselves to the point of exhaustion and take no time to refill, this is exactly how we are trying to do ministry. We will be terribly ineffective, and in the end, resentful. Margin in our lives represents the space to refill.

Truth be told, there are many, many, days where I don’t have any margin at all. I am up at the crack of dawn and work until sundown. I love the feeling of working hard and getting the job done. But I’m smart enough now to realize that I can’t sustain that pace. I can’t build friendships at that pace. I can’t be spiritually, emotionally and mentally healthy at that pace. My kids can’t remember what I look like at that pace. Now I have learned to look at empty spaces on my calendar as margin in my life. I build margin into every week, and I guard it faithfully. If need be, it provides space for the unexpected. And if the unexpected doesn’t happen, well then, I’ve just got margin.

How do you build margin into your schedule and life? How do see the lack of margin affecting your ministry and life?

10 thoughts on “Creating Margin … Part 1

  1. Elise Finger

    I truly appreciate this post. I constantly go through seasons where I do better at saying “no” to things and not letting my schedule be overly full, but at other times, I begin to lose control over small pieces of time in my schedule. Eventually, there is no longer any margin. This ministry has been so beneficial to me over the past year. It is a subtle reminder that I cannot do everything, and helps me gain perspective from other women in the ministry.

    I love leading and loving it, and as I implement these things in my life I am learning to lead and love it… How amazing is that?

  2. Grace

    When my son started Kindergarten last year and since I only work mornings, I finally got to see some margin that was just for me! What a happy place to be.

    But I slowly filled the margin. Volunteering at a pregnancy center. And in my son’s class. And for my husband doing errands and phone calls he didn’t have time to do. Not bad things– just time consuming things.

    So this year I am committing to keeping at least one afternoon a week that is just for me. No grocery visits. No volunteering. No babysitting friends kids. Just time for me to have time for me.

  3. Michelle Meeks

    Kerri, thank you so much! This is a great post. We are currently in our margin and of course the unexpected has been happening. I am so grateful that we don’t have our regular duties on top of all this unexpected stuff.
    I’m about to have another baby and I plan on hiring a babysitter to come atleast a few hours a week while the big kids are in school…we’ll see how I do. Thanks for the reminder that this is a necessity.
    much love, mm

  4. Marisa

    Thank you SO much for this post, Kerri. Our lives are insane and I needed the reminder that it is important to fight for the margin. Here’s to empty space! 🙂

  5. Becky

    Amen. When I worked as a FT missionary, I didn’t know what margin was until I got burnt out, resentful, and didn’t answer my phone out of spite. (Take that!) It’s taken time, healing, and the help of others to realize it was my own lack of creating margin and boundaries in my life (and heart and head) that contributed to my own burn out.

    Now I guard our family schedule perhaps a bit to jealously, but still, I need the reminder to create margin for myself, not as a wife/mother/etc. but for SELF. I’m committed to seeing that through for the rest of my hopefully healthy paced, margin-spotted life. Thanks for the encouragement!

  6. Becky

    And I just realized, one thing I loved so much about living in Colorado (not there anymore) was the purposeful planning of OPEN SPACES. Whether a park, grassy area, garden, hill, etc. A great reminder to create open spaces in my life and that of my family that will beautify things and give us breathing room.

  7. brandiandboys

    kerri… always love your wisdom on managing life. you’re such a great example for so many of us about maintaining a balanced life as we serve.

  8. Kerri

    Thanks everybody for your comments. I am thankful I learned this early on in ministry before burn out and resentment set in. Came dangerously close at times!

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