Skip to main content

do you have margins?

I heard this concept once at a conference several years ago and it continues to stick with me. Do we have margins in our lives?

See this notebook page that's full of writing? The author has used up just about every available space on the page. Yes they are probably great thoughts and worth her time. But she's completely filled the page.

Our lives are like a piece of notebook paper. When we fill them up to the brim, there's no margin left. No time to slow down, relax, enjoy life.

People ask me how life is in Alaska now that we've been here for six months. Want to know the main difference?

I have margins. 

For the last three years I served as an intern at a large church while being a full-time seminary student. I loved those three years for the most part. But life was very full.

Yes, I serve two churches now. But I've been able to arrange my schedule and life in a way that the margins are clear. I can breathe. I also know I want to be in ministry for the next 40 years, so I can allow myself to slow down. Every single idea doesn't have to be acted on right now.

The margins have allowed me to spend more time with my husband and family. To be available for conversations in person and online because I'm not always rushing ahead to the next thing. I'm more grounded and centered than I've ever been in my life. It is difficult to keep the margins clear because the hurry-up-American-work-harder drive is built into me. But I'm becoming more aware of the times where I should kick into overdrive and the moments the space is much more important.

The margins are beautiful. God meets us there. Especially during Advent.

Do you have margins?

If so, how have you guarded those as sacred? If not, what's one change you can make now so that you have more breathing room?


Lisa said…
Great thoughts! I love reading your blog and think it must be exciting (though possibly much slower) to serve a church in Alaska!!
jenny said…
It is exciting!! I love the space, freedom and time to build great relationships. Still time to move quickly when needed and appropriate.
Andrew Conard said…
Jenny - Thanks for the post. I particularly appreciate the picture as it helps illustrate your point. I have room to grow in this area.

Most Read

Why Some Experienced Clergy (and Lay People) Have a Hard Time When Younger Clergy Take Renewal Leave

This is a guest post from my very own dad! He's a United Methodist pastor serving in Bend, Oregon. I enjoy chatting church leadership with my dad and it's fascinating to see how our generational differences bring different perspectives to our calling as pastor. We need each generation to walk with each other as we figure it out in this new world. We've been reflecting lately as I finished up a renewal leave and he prepares to retire this June. 
By David Beckett
I fall into the category of experienced clergy which is a polite way of saying I am old. I’ve been pastoring for nearly 40 years. When I was a young pastor my role models were mostly white males who presented an image of success that equated with dedication, overwork, and sacrifice. My first senior pastor talked about the 20 hr/wk he invested in sermon preparation. And he expected his staff to work beyond their stated hours. During those three years of full time seminary and a large youth group I put in up to 80 hr/…

Why pastors need collaboration, not competition

There's competition in every industry. Some get promoted over others. Some work incredibly hard but their gifts go unnoticed. Others do good work and people assume they're fine but underneath, they feel like they could never be honest about how hard life is in this season. People spend more energy figuring out how they measure up in a work culture instead of doing the actual work.

Competition itself implies there are two sides.

I remember field days at my elementary school in Alaska. The half-frozen spring ground was covered with clumps of dirty gray snow. Jackets were thrown on the ground as the fourth graders tried to beat the fifth graders at tug of war. Rope burns were shrugged off as sweat dripped down our young faces. We were determined to beat those fifth graders. Our pride was on the line.

Whether you're a fourth grader or an ad manager at a fancy marketing agency or a senator trying out for attorney general, competition runs deep in our DNA.

We want to be the bes…

99 sheep

Reading Matthew 18:10-14 on this cloudy Anchorage summer morning. Parable of the Lost Sheep. A guy owns 100 sheep. They belong to him. These sheep are loyal and depend on their owner for everything. But then one wanders away. I wonder if this sheep wandered on purpose or accident?

The guy leaves the 99 sheep grazing on the hillside to look for the sheep who got lost. One word in verse 13 jumped out to me. "Andifhe finds [the sheep]...he is happier about that one sheep than about the 99 that did no wander off." IF he finds it. This guy who owns the sheep probably knows the hillside very well and knows his sheep's behavioral patterns. But he may not find this lost sheep. 

When someone wanders off, it's up to them if they want to get found. 

When it comes to our connection to God, some of us may wander on accident. Or on purpose. 

We wait for someone to rescue us. Bring us back. Make it okay. But we have to turn towards the one rescuing us. God will leave the other 99 sheep…