No margin for error.

I talked in a recent article about margin. As a book publisher we think about margin whenever we publish a new product. Margin is the white space that surrounds each printed page. It’s largely margin that makes a page readable. A page that utilizes every square inch of paper to contain printed text is very cost-effective. Paper costs money. Why not use every last square millimeter of paper to help carry the printed words? Because a page with no margin gives the eye no room to “breathe” as you look at the page. It’s too busy. It makes you anxious. It appears overwhelming. It often means you don’t even attempt to read the page because it just looks like “too much” before you even begin.

Perhaps you’ve seen some of Timothy Botts’ work. Botts has a series of books of scripture in various calligraphy-type designs. Each page is a a Bible verse with mostly white paper and a few, carefully chosen words in beautiful type. The page is restful in the truest sense of the word. Your eyes gently float across the words of Scripture, pausing to drink in the meaning with no urgency to rush on to the next sentence in order to “get finished.”

Our homes need margin. We need room to breathe. A room packed to the ceiling with belongings and treasures may be efficient use of square footage, but if there are only narrow paths to walk through the mountains of possessions there is absolutely no place to rest or relax. The room makes us anxious.

Our finances need margin. A monthly budget that accounts for every single penny we expect to earn with an offsetting expense gives us no room to breathe financially. Instead we are paralyzed with fear each day, waiting anxiously for the inevitable “unexpected expense” to arise which we know will upset our financial  apple cart and leave us scrambling at month’s end to find the extra money.

Our schedule needs margin. An activity packed day with every minute accounted for, every calendar block filled in leaves us cranky and frustrated. Unexpected interruptions inevitably occur which leave us “behind” our own self-inflicted schedule with no time to relax or recuperate.

And our homeschool needs margin. We need unscheduled time in our teaching day for unplanned “bunny trails” that are often the very best part of the teaching day. We need time to pause and ask the Lord what HE wants to do with the next 20 minutes of our day- which are often the most important part of our children’s education.

Margin is essential in every area of our life. Talk with your children about new ways to plan margin into your daily schedule, your monthly calendar and your home’s space. Children need space in their room to spread out on the floor and play with toys, read a book or just sprawl out and daydream.

Talk with your husband about ways to add margin to your financial budget to account for unexpected but inevitable expenses. Talk with him about ways to add margin to the family calendar so that every night isn’t already committed to some “good” activity that robs your life of margin.

Talk with the Lord about His ideas for adding margin to your lives. Now listen carefully and hear what He has to say.


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Love, love, love this blog. I never heard about margin until a few years ago, but
    think of it now and then when deciding what extras I and my children will be involved in…

    The older I get, the more margin I desire.

  2. 2

    Krista Meyer said,

    I’ve been reading the book Not So Fast recently, and it gives some very practical advice about building margin into every area of family life. I also got a lot out of the books Margin and the Overload Syndrome when I read those a few years ago.

    Timothy Botts’ work has been greatly inspirational to me. Several years ago, I was able to spend the day at Wheaton College, in the Billy Graham Museum. There, they had a whole room devoted to Botts’ work – huge originals of some of his most beautiful scripture verses. I spent hours in that room, drinking in the Word as only Botts could present it. I’ve never felt so connected with God’s words than I did that day.

    For too many years I made myself and my kids miserable trying to live up to some standard of busy-ness that was set by some “they” out there. As I’ve gotten comfortable in my own skin – and that of our particular family – I’m finding freedom and more joy than ever, and our whole family is blooming!

    I’m thankful for what I’ve learned in this area, and just as thankful that I’ll never run out of lessons to learn about building margin. I’m excited to see what God teaches me in the years to come!

  3. 3

    cyndiinokc said,

    GREAT article, Steve!! Such a timely message for me!

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