Promise of Spring

Today is the first official day of Spring and the temperature where I live in Georgia was already up to 70 degrees by the time I left Bible Study. The forsythia, Japanese magnolia, and daffodils have already bloomed and gone, and the “Great Yellow Death” (aka “pollen invasion”) seems to have arrived in full force. (My big red truck has a decidedly orange cast as the colors meld across the expanse of the hood.)

Last night, the sky was filled with God’s own version of fireworks complete with thundering booms and, afterward,  torrential rain and a little hail–and, thankfully, no tornadoes near us. Today, we woke to slushy ground and mildly cleaner surfaces marred only by mini-rivers of the pollen where the rivulets of water had already retreated. All of this occurred in preparation for what we are told will be temperatures near freezing later tonight. In fact, a friend in Tennessee just texted the following:  “Spitting snow here. Not kidding.” We’re in the same planting zone.

Welcome to Spring in the South!


I tried to let my cat out to enjoy the screened-in porch out back earlier today, but he took one whiff of the pollen and decided that was plenty for him. (LOL) It feels a little like a world gone mad, and yet on the walk out to the truck this morning, I stopped to check out the roses (yes! I already have rose buds on both of the new roses!), tried to decide about when and where to plant some new veggies, and noticed a few other things, as well. From the tightly closed roses, peony, and clematis buds to the

IMG_20180320_084312698first few sprays of dogwood and Spanish lavender blooms just in time to celebrate Easter, I was reminded of a promise God gave us way back at the very beginning:

IMG_20180320_084255910_HDRIMG_20180320_084540709“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Genesis 8:22 (ESV)

God is still faithfully keeping His promises. Who are we to complain if all of them seem to come true at once? (grin)

Have a marvelous Spring! God never does anything halfway. It’s going to be amazing!

Grace and Peace!




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!



I’ve heard it said that people only put their best lives out on social media. While there may be some truth to that, I’d prefer to think that most of us are just celebrating the good parts. What many people forget, however, is that we need to celebrate the ordinary parts, as well. My husband and I recognize a lot of those, so I guess that makes us “extra” ordinary. I’ve always loved seeing those two words next to each other because they remind me that when we choose to celebrate our all of our extra ordinaries, we realize that our lives have actually become extraordinary.

IMG_20180219_120533263A few of days ago, we packed up the big red truck and drove off the mountain on our way home. We took the scenic route: farm land, forests, majestic views, patches of daffodils at places we imagined long-ago homesteads, cows, and towns small enough to pass through in under a minute. No interstates crowded with commuter or big box stores and restaurant chains for most of the way.

Like our getaway, the trip home was a reflection of who we are:  generally peaceful, decidedly ordinary…and plenty ok with it. We’ve been celebrating 25 years of marriage this week. Actually, we’ve been celebrating all along the way for the whole 25 years. We learned to do that early on in this thing when with just a few months before our 5th anniversary, we heard the dreaded word, cancer. Since then, we’ve heard other dreaded words like infertility, job loss, heart failure, death of loved ones, and so much more. That doesn’t make us that different from you, does it? It makes us ordinary or maybe, even extra ordinary/extraordinary…just like you. We decided long ago to take each day as it comes, so our lives have been a reflection of just what Scripture tells us in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” 

We’ve also learned a little about the flip side of that verse from Matthew 6:34 (ESV) which says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

img_20180219_120424062.jpgWe’re a lot better about not worrying than we used to be. We’ve seen God show up and show out for us so many times that even those dreaded words don’t seem to feel as dreadful as they used to. We’ve learned the joy of being together and knowing that we both belong to God. Whatever else happens, we’ve decided that those things are our non-negotiables. We’ve gotten stubborn about them and that’s ok, too. It’s good to get stubborn about the things that are most important to you. By the way, being stubborn about knowing you’re completely loved and accepted by an all-powerful and all-knowing God has led to some pretty stubborn faith, as well, and that stubborn faith has stood us in pretty good stead.

IMG_20180219_121246248_HDRSome of what was important to us at the beginning has changed over the past 25 years. We’re more apt to focus on people rather than things now. We’re still learning to be good stewards of our resources and we’re choosing to focus on more of the little ordinaries and celebrate them rather than waiting for the big extraordinaries to come our way. Those are still happening, by the way, we’ve just learned that an impromptu date in the middle of the week with friends, an unplanned side trip, daffodils blooming in February, or taking the time to just sit and look at the mountains from a peaceful place in the woods might ought to be counted as one of them.

Other things are still the same…or at least so slightly changed that they appear that way. We still crack each other up, finish each other’s movie references, and love getting off the beaten path and “eating local” when we’re out on the road. We’re aware that showing love is even more important than just saying it…and that still saying it, is critical. We still have times when we agree to disagree and when that happens, we both walk away KNOWING we’re the one who has it right and being ok with being married to the one who got it wrong. (grin) Home is still our favorite place to be…and home is generally wherever the other one is. We still value the family and friendships God has blessed us with and we’re still newlywed enough to hold hands most of the places we go together.

In short, we’ve been blessed with a most ordinary life filled with the most extraordinary gifts from an even more extraordinary God. May we all be so blessed. Here’s to the next 25!

Grace and Peace!




My big red truck was parked at the end of my driveway again this afternoon. It’s an odd place to park and one of my sweet neighbors had already called to check on me to make sure I was ok and remind me that they were available if I needed help. Don’t you just love great neighbors?! I am surrounded by them. What a blessing!

They make life lighter.

I’m finally home from Bible study and, although I am in need of some solitude (an introvert’s retreat) I am also exhilarated by the gift of the Word and the gift of these amazing women in their search for the deeper things of God. They are constantly uplifting and encouraging to me.

They make life lighter.

I spent about an hour yesterday talking on the phone with one of my dearest prayer partners. God has allowed us not to simply remain friends, but to actually GROW our  friendship even though we’ve only seen each other in person about 3-4 times in the last 20 years or so. She’s someone I can go to for prayer on any subject. She won’t always automatically “take my side,” but I know she’ll always have my back. Her counsel is always Biblical and straight to the point. There’s little we hold back from one another after all this time. She pushes me to be better tomorrow than I am today. I need that.

Knowing I can count on her (and others) makes life lighter.

Last week, a cousin and I were messaging back and forth as we caught up on family details and celebrated the blessing of being raised in our particular extended family. We’ve never known what it’s like to be unloved. We’ve always had people who encouraged us and insisted that we were more than capable of whatever stood in front of us. We spoke of how we wished that same blessing for others that we know.

Family like that makes life lighter.

IMG_20180210_172302534Sometimes we let things weigh us down. It can be people, memories, emotions, or “stuff”…like all of the pounds and pounds of paperwork in boxes that filled the back of my truck just a few minutes ago. Over the past several weeks, my husband and I have sifted and sorted through all kinds of “life detritus” that has accumulated and followed us over our past 25+ years together. Some of it we brought to the marriage and more than a little has been added since. In our search for peace and margin, we’re making room for more joy…even if joy simply comes in the form of empty closet floors or extra room in a filing drawer or two.

About an hour ago, I got a phone call from the shredding company to say they’d roll up in with their big mobile shredder and slowly, but surely, my truck would be emptied. They will decimate and remove all of this extra “stuff” we’ve been holding on to for so long. We won’t miss any of it. To be honest, there are some boxes that only received a cursory glance-through before they were added to the pile. We haven’t needed the contents in over 25 years, so we’re pretty confident we’ll manage through the next 25 without them.

We’re tired of paying for real estate that we can’t use or access due to the things we’ve held on to simply because we didn’t make time to clear them out. That stops this year. We’re making room for more creativity in our lives…and in our shop, and in our closets, and more rest in our minds, as well. There’s a significant value to knowing these things no longer need to be done. Completion of a task is its own gift.

Our margins are increasing–in a lot of areas, not just this one. I’ve been surprised at how excited I’ve been about getting this all sorted and scheduled, and now, finally…shredded. More exciting than a few extra square feet of space is the feeling of freedom that getting rid of this excess “bounty” of uselessness gives us. I think we’ll actually breathe better just knowing it’s done. It would be easy to say, “If only we had done this sooner…” but we’re not holding on to any regrets around here, either. They’ll weigh you down faster than anything!

We’re celebrating the feeling of being lighter over here today and “that’s a good thing.” I’m sure Martha would agree! (grin) Wouldn’t it be great if every area of our lives could be cleaned up and cleared out so easily? While it takes time to sort through paper boxes and file cabinets, closets, and attics, you can take a big step forward toward creating spiritual margin without ever leaving your present position. Just ask God to help you with that right where you are. He’s ready and willing to hear from you at any time and the changes He can make in your life are both instantaneous and eternal.

What kinds of “stuff” (emotions, regrets, or physical items all count!) do you need to clear out and release in order to increase YOUR margins? Make or schedule some time to do that today!

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

Grace and Peace! (and lots and lots of margin)

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:

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.