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Let go of overload

Margin is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations.

Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

If you feel super-stressed or always out of time, carve out a few hours to read Margin.

It won’t work miracles (I still don’t think I have enough time), but it will help.

Margin-Richard-SwensonAuthor Richard Swenson has lived this, scaling back his own career as a physician to build more margin into his life.

The Problem: Pain
Swenson begins with our pain. He makes a compelling case that even progress (the great promised liberator!) has stolen our margin instead of adding to it.

We must now deal with more “things per person” than at any other time in history.

Yet one can comfortably handle only so many details in his or her life.

As humans, we have limits—physical, mental, emotional, financial. And left unguarded, we leave our linear limits for exponentially sloped lives, to our own demise.

It is God the Creator who made limits, and it is the same God who placed them within us for our protection. We exceed them at our peril.

When we live on overload, much suffers, including our relationships: with self, others, and God.

For each person suffering from a mental or emotional disorder, the lives of at least three other persons are significantly affected.

The Prescription: Margin
Unlike overload, margin doesn’t just happen. We have to intentionally build it into as many areas of our lives as we can: emotionally, physically, with time, with finances, etc.

The poor envy the rich, while the rich envy the richer.

We have to understand that “fallow times are just as important as productive times.” We have to make conscious, daily choices that honor God in our bodies, our activities, our money, our relationships.

If we [are able to say no], not out of self-serving laziness but  for God-honoring balance and health, then this level of control will not only protect our emotional margin but will actually increase it.

The Prognosis: Health

I am not aware of a single person who takes seriously these words of Paul at their deepest level: “If we have food  and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Swenson gives specific advice to regain health through “counter-habits” of contentment and simplicity and balance and rest.

  • Instead of getting, try giving.
  • Instead of replacing, try preserving. 
  • Instead of feeling covetous, try feeling grateful.
  • Instead of feeling inferior before men, try feeling accepted before God.
  • Instead of being ruled by feelings, try enjoying the freedom of contentment.

But still. It’s difficult.

I’ve lived an overloaded summer—with good things—but with very little margin. And now I hope to put on the brakes a little.

We do not love God, then spouse, then children, then self, then church.

We love God, spouse, children, self, and church all at the same time.

Similarly, we do not love God 100 percent, spouse 95 percent, children 90 percent, church 80 percent.

God's standard requires that we love all of them all of the time.

In the end, I know it comes down to faith:
How much do I trust God with allocating the resources he’s given me?

Am I ready to trust him with a hefty serving of margin?

Can I let go of overload?

* * *

Do you build margin into your days?



Renee said...

What an interesting book! So much truth in it thats for sure. Even when I am housebound it seems I am overloading myself...with TV, with internet, with busy thoughts, house activities, etc. So necessary to have what I call porch time!
I can comment again on blogs. I have been reading but unable to comment on a few. Yahoo!!

Stephani Cochran said...

Thanks for this Lisa! I think I need to get this book. I've been feeling selfish lately because I feel so overwhelmed. It appears to others I am handling everything in stride so they seem to keep asking for more. I address the needs of others all day at my job, and when I get home, and when I help those outside my home. I feel guilty because giving is running me ragged. I enjoy it, but I'm exhausted. I feel like screaming, "who's giving to me?!" Very selfish I know, and God reminds me in these time that he is my sustenance. Thanks again!

Monica said...

This is exactly where God has me and what He is teaching me. So I take what I have read as confirmation of the lesson's God has been teaching me on the importance of Being instead of Doing all the time:)
As Women's Ministry Director at our church, I have a burden for women and the heavy loads they carry.....that steal life from these women and their families. We have to learn to draw the line guarding our lives and our families. Thanks Lisa....I so enjoy your blog. You have become an online mentor to me.

Craig said...

this is so good Lisa – I heart how you write about a book – and you show the worth of a book – and yet for a person like me who doesn't have the time to do what I do – and sleep as little as I do – to fit in anything more than following my dream - I don't even have enough time to read all the blogs I heart!! And yet I'm thinking that if you don't create the "margins" sometimes I they get created for you – and it's probably best to have them created by your own choosing. I get it. And I'm really glad I got to read this – I always walk away better for having read you. God bless and keep you Lisa – and God bless and keep each and every one of yours this day.

Katie said...

I have been learning about Margin in another book lately: Good and Beautiful Community. It is hard.

Lisa notes... said...

I know what you mean about even being in the house, we can overload. All I need is a laptop and I could stay “busy” forever. Sigh. It’s hard to find balance, regardless of whether we work outside the home or not, have children or not, on and on.

My neighbor and I always talk about needing some “porch time” together, especially since she just became an empty nester this week. But we rarely do get together, even as close as we live. The pace of life grabs us and runs.

Glad you’re able to comment again. It’s always nice to be able to interact and not just read.

Lisa notes... said...

I kept hearing about this book and thinking “I need to read that!”, then finally saw it free on the Kindle few months ago and grabbed it. I’m really glad I did.

But the hard work is still ahead which is for me to pare back some things, AND to work on my contentment levels, understanding that God is indeed enough and that he will always give me enough time to do what HE wants me to do.

I imagine you are very much overwhelmed with all the balls you are juggling both professionally and in your family life. I do pray that you are able to find balance in letting God nurture YOU too. You have a lot on your shoulders and you need to stay strong and healthy for months ahead, as well as for now.

Take care and may God continue to bless you with everything you need!

Lisa notes... said...

I love how the Lord is so patient and persistent to send us the same message from multiple places when he has a lesson to teach us.

“Being instead of Doing”—that is a lesson that we all need to be reminded of over and over. It sounds as if the Lord has you placed in a position where you can be such a helpful influence in passing along that message.

I am blessed that you read my blog. I love how we can all learn from each other and be encouraged to follow the Lord in our own little corners of the world (or state, as our case may be!).

Saleslady371 said...

I like the counter-habits! Very interesting read.

Barbara H. said...

I love that last segment, that we love God and the people He has placed in our lives 100% all at the same time. That's a little daunting except for grace.

The older I get, the more I find I need to make time for margins.

Janet said...

This is the kind of book review I love -- informative about the book, but also about its impact on you personally. Sounds like a winner. Thanks for this!

Susannah said...

Now this looks like an excellent book, Lisa. And how appropriate for a medical doctor to write it! (I hope he's promoting his concept amongst his colleagues.)

Adding Margins to my wishlist!

"Godliness with contentment is great gain."

Bobbi said...

I am I carefully build in some margin...that the Christians around me (on the whole) aren't very understanding of the concept of margin building. Instead, I receive buckets of if to say..."you wanted margin in your golly we'll give it to you."

bekahcubed said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. I love your closing comments "How much do I trust God with allocating the resources he’s given me?" Because really that's what it's about, isn't it?

Do I trust God to take care of my job when I have to leave work unfinished when I leave for the night? Do I trust God to provide for my needs when I need to take a day off, unpaid? Do I trust God to provide for all those needs I see even if I am not the one meeting those needs?

Do I trust God enough to allow a margin?

Charlotte said...

Interesting post. Interesting book. I've noticed when I get mentally overloaded, I kind of freeze up kind of like a computer.
Thank you for sharing.


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