How to Make Margin in Difficult Times
May 16, 2021

Lisa was my “tribe mom”; a term of endearment for a mom who shared my life, in good times and bad. She stood beside me, day after day, enduring the struggles and chaos of a Special Forces military life. Both of our husbands were serving in the Special Operations community. The nature of their vocations could not provide predictable schedules. We understood that and because of it, we lived in a constate state of change.   As friends, we shared may things. Carpools, crisis, coffee talks and everything in between. She had a key to my house and agreed to be my Power of Attorney in case anything happened to me.  

During an evening chat, I asked for her advice.  “How do you do it? How do you manage the constant change?” I could not juggle the no-notice deployments with school activities, work, ministry, and self-care. I needed to find balance without losing my sanity.  She explained how she had learned to “spin the plates” when duty called. She would reduce demands on her schedule and commitments to create margin. She had learned over the years to give herself grace and to be realistic in what she could endure.  Through her advice, I learned how to thrive, not just survive, “The Circus.”  

When the phone range, we sprang into action. Husbands grabbed bags, sometimes while we were in the midst of eating dinner.  My husband would toss everything to me, quite literally, and run out the door. In those moments, my tribe mom was my saving grace. I only had to say a few simple words and she understood completely. “The circus started” a text message would read. And we both knew what that meant; not only for our friend whose husband had left, but also for our friendship. When she sent the late night or early morning text message, I knew that I needed to give her grace. I knew that my already full hands might need to grab one or two of her life balls. I might drive an extra day of carpool. She might need a few extra moments to move back into position to carry the weight of her family on her shoulders.  I relied on her for several years. She was my anchor on very stormy days.  

Finding margin is not easy. Carrying the weight of life, children, jobs, ministry and aging parents is hard. In seasons of stress, it’s much more important to identify the need for balance.  We are not called to create a “Pinterest-worthy” life. That’s not balance, that’s fraud. In a society that calls us to “do more with less”, I counter that argument with “do a few things well.” Find a few things that you can focus on and do them well. 

Here is a list of my top 5 things when I’m trying to make margin in my life: 

  1. Pray daily – Do it in the car, the shower or in bed before you get up. Take a few moments, breathe deep and say “Thank you for today.” Gratitude does wonders for your soul. 
  2. Love you family well. “Well” will look different in each season. What’s best for your family will not be the same as your neighbor, your parents or your coworkers. Do what’s best for you. 
  3. Love yourself with relentless grace. Be present. Acknowledge your feelings – even if they scare you. 
  4. Show up everyday! You don’t have to be the best – just keep showing up. 
  5. Strive to be your “best self” – no matter what that looks like. 

Remember, seasons change. Be brave enough to stop and step outside of yourself and ask “What do you want me to carry today, Lord? What is my purpose in this season?”

If you are honest with yourself, and with God, the answer will come. It won’t be a billboard on the side of the highway or in a burning bush. But it will be a quiet whisper in your spirit. You will feel a gentle sense of urgency or frustration about a specific thing. You’ll feel a tension, so to speak, for the thing that you shouldn’t be carrying in this season.  This prompting is that small, quite nudge that says “maybe this is something that I need to lay down.” That’s how God moves in my life, at least. 

Life is heavy. It brings seasons of famine and seasons of plenty. As Christians, we are called to be the best version of ourselves. We have a responsibility to work hard, but we do that within the space and grace that God provides to each of us.  Paul writes “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all of the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12:9 NLT) 

May the power of Christ rest upon you as you navigate this season of change. 

All my love,