What are you waiting for?

Waiting. I’ve yet to meet anyone who loves it…or doesn’t have to do it. We fuss about it and, yet, can’t actually live without it. Outside of Genesis and the garden of Eden, life just doesn’t happen without some waiting, and even there, God still took His time. We don’t like it, but waiting might actually be one of God’s most under-rated gifts to us. In any case, He makes us wait on a regular basis and as one of my favorite quotes reminds me, “God never plows unless He purposes a crop.” While we are often frustrated with the painful plowing, we are probably least fond of the waiting on the crop to arrive. (That’s not just me, right?)

God seems to be trying to teach me something about waiting as I search for more margin in my life because the subject keeps coming back up in my Bible study homework, in conversation with friends, and, today, in a book of essays about doing life well and, because of all of this focus on waiting, even in the movie we chose to watch tonight.

I’m pretty sure that we’ve all made some variation of the following statement: “If I can just get/do/accomplish _____, then I’ll be/feel _____.” All of our fill-in-the-blanks are different, of course, but the sentiment is still the same. We all believe that there’s more to be done before we can fully enjoy the now.

We’re wrong about that.

“NOW” is what we’re actually here for. NOW is when we can love on people, help make a difference, or just relax and enjoy the moment and have a chat with the Almighty. Since we can’t go back and do the past over and we have no guarantee of the future, NOW is what we have to work with. Naturally, there’s a significant link between NOW and Margin.

What I do NOW matters and affects whether or not I’ll actually have Margin later. Take today for instance. It was a pajama day for me. Maybe you call them something else at your house, but the whole point was to relax and just stay in the house. I try to have one on a pretty regular basis. We read, cleaned, straightened, organized, made good food, caught up on a couple of TV shows we like, updated our budget, watched a movie, and took a nap. It was a VERY good day and, once it started to wind down, we talked about our mutual sense of accomplishment in just taking it easy as we worked our way through all of these tasks that, in and of themselves aren’t very important, but whose collective whole have a tendency to make our lives just “better” when we do them.

We also talked about how much better we feel when we take care of ourselves in these simple ways. They make us more relaxed and put us in better positions to take on the bigger things we’ll face in the days ahead. They give us space to enjoy the moments NOW, energy to face the moments to come, and the comfort of knowing we’re better prepared for whatever else those moments bring.

As I’ve been typing here, I’ve also had an old song running through my brain,

“Be strong in the Lord” by Linda Lee Johnson.

1 Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty Defender is always the same.
Mount up with wings, as the eagle ascending;
Vict’ry is sure when you call on His name.

Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And rejoice for the vict’ry is yours.

2 So put on the armor the Lord has provided,
And place your defense in his unfailing care.
Trust Him for He will be with you in battle,
Lighting your path to avoid every snare. [Refrain]

3 Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty Commander will vanquish the foe.
Fear not the battle for the vict’ry is always His;
He will protect you wherever you go. [Refrain]

I think there’s a definite link between having the courage to choose living in the NOW, Margin, and waiting on God to show us the next thing He’s got in mind for us. Some of us might have missed that as we’ve rushed or worried our way through our NOWs in our haste to avoid the wait God has installed to teach us lessons that might actually make us more prepared for what He has waiting when we get there. Let’s not do that anymore, ok?

Find your margin in the NOW and let God lead you toward confidently trusting Him more today. Take courage, be strong in the Lord…and make a point of doing what you can to enjoy whatever wait God has you in right now. He already knows the plan, so it stands to reason, He knows why the wait is right for us, as well.

What are YOU waiting for?! (grin) Look for ways to add margin while you wait!

Wait for and confidently expect the LordBe strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.”  Psalm 27:14 (AMP) 

Grace and Peace!


Timely reminders

I woke up Saturday morning and groaned. That knotted muscle that I thought was finally eased had tightened up again overnight. Neither knotted muscles nor groaning is my normal thing. (Thank you, God!) In fact, I usually wake up and talk to God first thing, but with our travels and getting back into the swing of routine at home, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t started up that way for several days, so after I stopped the groaning, I apologized to God and hobbled for the heating pad. I had a two hour meeting at the church later in the morning to help us share Jesus with others, tax prep paperwork all over the dining room table with a looming appointment, more upcoming travel, and I still needed to work on my Bible study before I could lead on Tuesday. I was WAY behind with more stuff headed my way, and I have to say this: I was not in the mood to share ANYthing with ANYone right then, much less Jesus. Oh, how I wish I could say I was more spiritual than that, but I just flat-out told God all of that as I asked Him to PLEASE change my attitude before that meeting.

As I reached for the bag with my study materials, I tugged on the handles (trapped under a heavy bowl without my knowledge) and out spilled fruit and snacks…all over the floor. Oranges rolled in every direction. This would require bending and that would be painful.

I just cried.

I  was hurting. I was mad.  I was behind and totally unspiritual. It was all my fault…and margin was nowhere to be found.

Thankfully, my husband was nearby and came to my rescue. He picked up all the oranges, got me settled on the heating pad, brought me juice, offered breakfast, and then left me to recover.

As I settled into his big chair, I had to start somewhere, so I prayed again. This time for a friend who was leading a women’s ministry retreat at her church using the same study our ladies had just finished: BREATHE, by Priscilla Shirer. As I texted my friend, I prayed for ALL of us to breathe God in so deeply that we have no choice but to breathe Him back out to those around us. I knew for certain that I needed that for myself!

I physically concentrated on breathing in and breathing out as I prayed. And then…the margin came…mainly because God showed up in the middle of my mess and my messy prayers and began again the work of peace for my soul.

I opened my study materials and the first thing I was asked to do was read Psalm 107 out loud. I turned to it and read.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.”  Psalm 107:1-2 

More margin. More peace. More reminders about the goodness of my God and how he has redeemed me.

That word “redeemed” is something special. It means “bought back; recovered with a price.” We had studied it in depth last year and the lessons learned then flooded over me again.

My God loves me! He loves you! He loves us so much that He chose to pay the highest price so that we could all spend eternity with Him! The joy of that made everything else unimportant right then. I had to share it or explode…so I wrote this blog post to share it with You! (Because no one else was there at the time and I was sticking with that hot pad!) I knew this wouldn’t be published for a day or so and that you might not get to it for a bit, but I am still confident that the timing will be right when you finally read it. Maybe it will come when you’re in the middle of a meeting or a muddle. Perhaps it will come in on a day when all is going well, but you’ll still need to be reminded or know someone who needs to be reminded: God is good. He loves us–right in the middle of whatever we’re dealing with! He is with us. If we breathe Him in and breathe Him out, the margins begin to suddenly get larger automatically because He can’t be constrained by our circumstances.

God sent my reminder on time. I’m counting on Him to do the same for you.

Grace and peace!


Make a good day!

Earlier today I chose brightly colored vegetables to the tune of “Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll.” Bible study was over for the day and I had been privileged to spend some time afterward in a discussion about theology, doctrine, and obedience. I was ready to get home and fix a sandwich for lunch.

As I unloaded my items onto the moving conveyor belt, my checkout lady commented on my necklace. I told her I had made it and she and another checker who was acting as a bagger began asking questions about how I did it.

As she handed me my receipt, my cheerful checker said, “Make a nice day!” We all chuckled as she laughingly stammered out her explanation that she was still thinking about me making jewelry out of broken china while still trying to wish me a nice day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our verbal blunders still held such profound truth?

Make a nice day. Yes, we can choose to do just that. I pondered it again as I drove home and waited for the men who were cleaning up the debris from a recent power company cleanup to allow me into my driveway. I set about putting up my groceries and making my peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Home at last. Simple goodness. On to the next thing.

Minutes ago I headed out to check the mail and view the freshly cleaned area…and actually teared up a bit to see only a small twisted stump where a favorite young tree once stood. It had survived a transplanting from MS in 2014, multiple hot summer suns, several winter storms, and the whirring blade of two previous cleanups only to fall pray to an apparently overzealous cleanup crew.

IMG_20180206_173549941I wrestled the remaining portion from the ground and carried it behind the house where I re-potted it in a large vacant planter. I went inside to do some research and, based on what I found, I am hopeful for an eventual recovery. It will take time to replace the nearly 4′ of growth, but maybe, with care, it can be done.

I could choose to be angry and call to make a fuss. Who knows? They might even try to do something about it, but I’ve decided to apply some margin for others here, as well. Although I’m definitely annoyed, I’m working hard to apply the truth that I can MAKE a good day even when frustrated by what feels like a thoughtless and unnecessary act. Better yet, I’m bolstered by the hope that I can live up to the name given to this particular type of tree, a smoke tree called, believe it or not…”Grace”…because I’m also called to live up to what Jesus did for me a long, long time ago…on a tree.

(Insert very wry grin here.)

God surely does use the strangest things to teach us, doesn’t He? ( FYI: I may still need another Grace-tree…just saying…I’m officially on the lookout…)

 “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 (NIV)

GRACE and Peace, every one! Grace and Peace!


Changing lists

When I decided that “margin” would be my word for the year, I was all about building some room in my schedule to add some actual life to my living. That sounds a bit strange–and maybe a bit overdramatic (grin)–but there it is. My goal was to make time to add in some of those things many of us THINK about doing, but so often put off because we’re too busy…or too tired from all of our too busy. My list add-ins are probably different from yours, of course, but you know what I mean. (By the way, what IS on your list? You’ve got one, too, right?)

I’m a long-term list-maker and I used to think that simply putting an item on the list would be enough to make it happen. After all, I also have that check-it-off syndrome that often accompanies chronic list-making.

My problem came when my to-do lists started getting longer than the time allotted to accomplish them. My husband has seen my impossibly long lists and he has laughed and teased me about it for years…and now…I’ve realized that I should have been listening instead of laughing.

Maybe it’s a sign of getting older, although I’d rather call it a sign of maturity (because, well, you know…Illusions!), but realizing God was talking to ME in John 10:10 (AMPC), was a big wake-up call.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).

I want that enjoyable life, in abundance, to the full, till it overflows thing.

I’ve always wanted that–who wouldn’t?! I just lost sight of how to get it for awhile. Somewhere in the midst of all my lists, I forgot to add: “enjoy life to the fullest, till it overflows.”

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from doing lots and lots of good things, from accomplishing everything on an extensive list (even your own!), and for being recognized or celebrated for doing it. It’s nice to be valued and applauded, but we don’t need to forget that our true value comes from the God Who created us and not what we’ve managed to get done in any given time period.

Eternal God’s applause might not be audible, but I’d argue that you can still hear it in your heart. I think that’s one of the reasons Psalm 46:10 tells us,

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Typically, our lists are about us. They often include good things and even God-things, but most of the applause things are in there for us and not Him. Most of all, our lists are RARELY about being still and getting to know God better. That’s an important distinction. God has been clear that we’re to make time to be still and know that HE is God. If we’re always on the move, could it be because we’re more interested in exalting US and proving OUR worth instead of acknowledging HIS?

What if we became known more for knowing God than “doing” God? What if our mission became acknowledging Him instead of fighting to be acknowledged? What if we actually had time to share Him with others around us because we had some built-in on-purpose stillness in our lives instead of the endless rounds of activity that so many of us have perpetuated for years?

Think about it. Do you need a change?

I do. So… I’ve started a new list.

My new list is one I’m using to jot down the deliberately chosen God-moments of my life and the times when I choose to acknowledge Him as the source of all my blessings. Maybe one day I’ll share some of the items on it, but for now, I’m just enjoying the new list…

…and I’m enjoying God more, as well.

Grace and peace!


What does “margin” look like?

Last evening I received a sweet email from my friend, the amazing Althea. She’s an encourager of the first order and her simple message said, “See you in the morning. Sleep good tonight in the margin.” Isn’t she precious?! I do love a friend who tries to help you achieve your goals! I quickly responded, however, that I’d be surprised if I slept much at all since Bama was playing for the national championship and I intended to see the entire game. (RTR! Y’all HAD to know that was coming, but I won’t belabor the point right now! I’ll just leave a lot of new tags on this post…grin)

As I thought about her comment a little bit later, I did a mental checklist on all the reasons it made sense to follow her suggestion and get some sleep: early morning on Tuesday, the start of another semester of Bible study, I was scheduled to teach, first days are always a little squirrely so you need to be ready and able to be flexible, and…I really wanted to see that game, so…I stayed up REALLY late and got up REALLY early…and survived just fine, thank you very much!

I made the decision to make “margin” look like what works best for me based on whatever I’m facing at any given moment. Sounds simple doesn’t it? For someone who thrives on her OCD planning skills, it was downright revolutionary. (grin)


As we began our study this morning–on the practice of Sabbath in our lives, no less! (Don’t tell me God isn’t on the ball, since both the study and the timing were decided last summer!!)–I reminded the gathered women that we’re not allowed to just hear God’s truth and move on without becoming responsible for it. Decisions will be made one way or the other about what we do with that truth, but the responsibility for follow-through remains intact and squarely on our shoulders!

Since, as a teacher/leader, I’m required to be especially responsible for the way I handle God’s truth, I decided to put a little Sabbath rest and margin into my afternoon. My practice of it may not look anything like yours–and that’s ok! God made us different on purpose! The main thing is that we make the effort so we’re rested and ready for the next assignments God chooses to hand us.


In an effort to clarify how my practice of adding a little Sabbath rest to my life got implemented today, “margin” currently sounds a lot like Earl Scruggs and Vince Gill making a little bluegrass heaven along with the hum of the washing machine for some added rhythm. It smells like a crock-pot full of hot vegetable-beef soup to go with the leftover cornbread. It was seeking out a birthday card for someone I love, paying bills with a smile on my face for God’s provision, having a snack lunch and then roaming in the woods for awhile since the temperature was finally up in the 40s today. (Major praise!!) It included lots of little stray pines being pulled up from where I don’t want those eventually-towering giants to be, picking up fallen limbs from the last storm, and seeking out some wild grapevine treasure from the woods for a more beautiful “later” and being in curled up and blogging in comfortable pajamas even before I eat supper.

In short, it was a pretty great day, so thanks, Althea, for reminding me to rest in the margin! It didn’t look like a full night’s sleep last night, but I had a ball!

Grace and Peace!

And the word for the year is…

A couple of weeks before Christmas I woke up knowing that several of my larger obligations for 2017 were ended or coming to a close. The resulting relief was palpable, and yet…I was just so very, very tired. It had nothing to do with getting a good night’s rest. My tiredness was at soul level. Sitting in my chair with my head in my hands, I was weary even before I began the day…and I wanted to scream at the frustration of it all.


I wanted to, but I didn’t. I didn’t have the energy for that…and yet, I was supposed to go and worship within the next short while. How was that even possible?

I grabbed a pen and a piece of yellow sticky note paper and wrote, “I am tired of ‘just getting through…’ things! I’m ready to enjoy them.” Then I began to do the only thing that WAS possible. I began to talk to God about stuff He already knew. Some of it, I already knew, too…

As I began to pray about all the frustration behind that sentiment, God–because He LOVES to communicate with us once we’re really ready to listen!!–began to bring to memory a long stream of events over the past several years. There were people and places and tasks that I signed myself up for knowing they would please others even when I knew they would drain me–and without knowing what God was about to assign me. I began to wonder whose shoes I had filled unnecessarily and what blessing I had denied them. God also gently reminded me of the irony of this since I have “preached” this message to friends and family for the longest time. He brought to mind all of the books I own–and read!!–on this topic, of verses along this theme, and of the people who have been trying diligently to support me in my tasks despite very full plates of their own.

In the course of all this reminding, He also brought me a word to go along with my recurring theme of “Wherever you are, be all there.”

He brought me the word “Margin.”

Margins are those areas of blank space around an art piece that focus our attention on the actual art in front of us.

Margins are what keep our words from running off the page and jumbling together so that they can become readable and make sense.

In business, margins are the difference between what is spent to produce an item and the amount for which it can then be valued to the next one who will use or purchase it.

Margin is specifically defined by the online Oxford English Dictionary here, if you’re interested: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/margin

My favorite part of this definition is the part of the second one, which says this:

An amount by which a thing is won or falls short.

  1. 2.1 An amount of something included so as to be sure of success or safety.
  2. 2.2 The lower limit of possibility, success, etc.

Did you see that? Without margin, we fall short and reduce our possibilities of winning, of being successful…and of being safe. Surely God Himself must have written this definition for me on that day. I had fallen short and had stretched myself and my schedule so thin that I no longer felt safe.

Margin may not sound glamorous, but it is critical to success, and isn’t that what we all want? A successful life. There are probably as many definitions for THAT as there are people on the planet. As for me, I take my definition for it from Scripture. These verses are, in fact, what made me start this blog all the way back in August of 2012…

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” I Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV)

Because this word “Margin” is my word for the year, I’ll be writing about it as we go about living 2018 together. My ears are attuned to it now and I’m beginning to see it pop up in the most unlikely places. It is now ever before me as I wake and set about ordering the tasks and the days for this year. I don’t think this word is just for me, however.

I think some of you need it, too.

Will you join me in seeking to implement the margins God would have us set so that we may focus on HIM and the art of the life He has set before us.

Grace and Peace…and Margin.


As an audiologist, I often had to speak with patients about the difference in being “hard of hearing” and being “hard of listening.” Many of us don’t know the difference, but they are not the same thing.

Being “hard of hearing” means that there is a defect in the mechanical system of the body. Being “hard of listening” means there is a defect in the attention span. It is possible to be afflicted with both maladies. Neither issue is always easy to remedy and there are many who aren’t that interested in doing so, regardless of which affliction they possess…because it requires change.

Change often scares people–even the ones who claim to love it.

I’ve noticed that loving the one who speaks often makes a difference in the amount of attention we pay to them. I’ve also noticed that you can love the one who’s speaking…and still be preoccupied with other things to the point that we have difficulty processing anything outside our own whirling minds. I am the poster child for that second thing. It’s one of the many reasons that I’m glad God is patient.

As we approach a new year, many people make resolutions about things they want to do differently in the coming days. I can’t remember the last time I made a list of resolutions, but I do like to pick a theme. This year, for the third year running, my theme will be missionary-martyr Jim Elliot’s quote, “Wherever you are, be all there.” 

It’s the third year in a row because…I’m still not always good at doing it…

…and I want to be.

I’m choosing to work on this theme again because God in His infinite patience has been teaching me something through my efforts and in spite of them. He’s teaching me about settling my mind enough to be in the place where my feet are so that I can hear Him better.

As I thought about getting this down in writing, the following verses came to mind:

“Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:8b-10 (NIV)

Several things spring to mind as I read these words:

  • Sometimes we can HEAR God calling and not be sure to whom that voice belongs–even when we’re already serving Him and His people. (This is a call to know Him better.)
  • Sometimes we will need guidance to help us identify the important things in life. (This is a call to surround ourselves with those mentors who know God’s voice even though they–and WE!–will often be far from perfect in serving Him well.)
  • Sometimes it’s important to lie down and be still in order to hear from God. (This is a call to build in some space for rest.)
  • As important as it is to lie down and be still, one more element is still required: you need to know where your place is. (This is a call to focus on doing what God has called YOU to do and a reminder that you can’t do it all. Hint: That’s why God made more than one person.)
  • God WILL come calling. He always does and He never quits after just one attempt. (This is a reminder that He is patient and insistent, but never rude. His calling is a privilege, not a dictator’s mandate.)
  • We have to CHOOSE to listen.

There’s more; SO much more, but I’m closing for today. I have a full day of being where I am and it’s time to get focused on that. I hope you’ll have a wonderful day and that you’ll join me in exploring what God has for each of us in 2018. As for me…

“Speak, Lord, I’m listening.”

Grace and Peace!