linkups · Margin Mom · summer

When Overwhelmed, Just Jump in the Lake {My Search for Margin: Part 6}

It was just for a few hours, but it felt like more.  The water was cold, but the day was hot and the sun was glorious.  Waves rocked that old dock and the best way to the water will always be a flying leap.  
We loaded down that speed boat with children and lifejackets and squeals of summer.  Always, on the water, wind and sun in my face and white churned waves underfoot, can I find my space.
Now I just have to keep that feeling of lightness tucked away for those margin-less days when all I want to do is jump in the lake.
For all my other posts in this possibly never-ending series on how I’m aiming for more white space and less smudges in my life, click here.
I love what Kayse says about how she feels less overwhelmed when she’s said yes to the many things God’s called her to, rather than yes to the many things she thinks she’s supposed to do.  I’m mulling over that idea for fall when I have so many tasks on my plate that, truly, have all come to me at this time for this purpose.
Linking up with these lovely ladies…
GraceLaced Mondays
linkups · Margin Mom · motherhood

On Being Intentional {My Search for Margin: Part 5}

For all my other posts in this possibly never-ending series on how I’m aiming for more white space and less smudges in my life, click here.

I have the best intentions.  I really do.  I love a list.  A plan.  A box that can be neatly checked off or better yet a strong black line through a finished task.

It’s just that I’m really so very bad at finishing.

I’m great at starting.  Enthusiasm, energy, get ‘er done and all that.  It’s why the start of a new school year was always my favorite time to be a teacher.  It’s new, exciting, so many possibilities.

Kind of like my head full of blog and novel and ebook ideas that aren’t going anywhere because I can get started, but I can’t seem to get finished.

I like to blame all this on lack of time.  Except I know incredibly successful bloggers and writers who also work full-time jobs or have more kids than I.

So then I like to blame my unfinished tasks on principles.  As in, I’m investing in my kids right now so I don’t really have time to invest in anything else.  

Yeah, that would work if I believed it.  Truth is, I am investing in my kids and in being there and available to them.  But I also quit a job that gave us another income and health insurance so that I could pursue the hearts of my children and the heart of my scariest God-sized dreams.

So, I’ve begun making one small change to how I approach my issue with time since that’s my go-to excuse.

It’s not about how much time I have; it’s about how I choose to spend it.

Time’s a currency.  I can choose to spend it wisely on something that will set me up and get me ahead and make me feel that I have accomplished more in my day than just sweeping the floor ten times before dinner. Or I can choose to spend it on something that will give me a few fleeting moments of pleasure but leave me frustrated and guilty in the end.

So for the past couple of weeks, when I sit down to write, I have begun treating it like work.  I make a list of what I need to accomplish and I finish it.  Or I at least try really hard and make myself be intentional about trying to finish.

A couple Saturdays ago, Joshua stayed home and supervised room cleaning and I went to the library and worked intently for two solid hours.  I actually set the alarm on my phone and allotted myself a set amount of time to finish my different tasks from compiling the posts I want to turn into an ebook on Embracing Motherhood to breaking down the play I’m directing this Christmas by scenes and characters.  I felt so much better when I left simply because I had paid attention and been intentional about using my time wisely.  I had finished what I had started.

So that’s my (not so) new revelation: to be conscious of the time I have available and to be intentional about what I want to use it for.

After all, nap time can be about more than folding another load of laundry.

Linking up with these lovely ladies.  Check it out.

GraceLaced Mondays
Margin Mom · marriage

Taking Time To Be: My Search for Margin {Part 4}

For all my earlier reflections on finding margin, go here.

This past weekend marked eleven years of marriage for my recovering husband and I.  Last year for our tenth, we had a new baby and an overnight at a fancy (and local) bed&breakfast.  I spent a week reflecting on how quickly ten years had passed and how different real marriage is from the expectations we have that day at the alter.

This year, so far, there’s been nothing.  No sweet post from me.  No big surprise gift from him.  In fact, we’ve barely had a moment alone to reflect on the past eleven years.  What we’ve had instead was a day of gardening and preserving, a recurring bout of the stomach bug, and too much busyness for one summer.

Which is why, even though our motivation for our upcoming getaway was to celebrate our anniversary, at this moment, my only motivation is just to have some time away.

Away from the laundry room that smells like wet beach towels and old sunscreen.

Away from the dishes that are crusty with ketchup and sticky with Lucky Charms.

Away from the sagging couch with its nail polish stains and flattened cushions.

Away from the bedroom with its piles of to-do and boxes of old we can’t let go of.

Away from the bathroom that needs a new shower curtain and a better system for hair ties.

Away from the never-ending list of responsibilities and the constant connection to everyone.

Away from the four most precious gifts so we can remember that loving each other first helps us love them best later.

This week we’re getting some white space in our marriage.  A few simple days alone.

I only hope the house doesn’t cave in from all I will probably leave undone in the interest of getting my priorities in order.

But marriage trumps laundry.  Every time.

How’s the margin in your marriage?  Are you like me and could desperately use some time to reconnect?

Linking up with these lovely ladies.  Check it out.

GraceLaced Mondays
faith · Margin Mom · motherhood

When the Signs are Telling You to Slow Down: My Search for Margin {Part 3}

The attempts to slow me down were all around Saturday.  It was a busy day, certainly not a day into which any sort of margin had been built, and I was half-crazed trying to get everything done and everyone where they were supposed to be.

We did three birthday parties on Saturday.  Three birthday parties AND a family dinner at my grandparents’ home 45 minutes away.  It wasn’t chaotic, but it was busy.  So, so busy and I had so many errands and felt all day that I was racing the clock.  
And those signs to slow down just kept coming.
I had the two big girls in the van headed to the next county over for party #1.  Had to stop along the way for gifts and pry them away from Dollar Tree distractions.  We live in the country, folks.  Which means, at any time you are in a hurry, there will be a driver in front of you just cruising and enjoying the scenery.  
They don’t get too many looks at cows and chicken houses in other places, I reckon.
Got to the party.  Late.  Oh, well.  Good times, saw some old friends, kids on the waterslide in cloudy 70 degree weather, even though it’s July.  Loaded both of them and an extra up early to make it to party #2. Slow, slow, and slower trolled along in front and I tried to reign in the frustration.  Got back home, dropped one off there because the best thing I did all day was enlist the reinforcement of another mom to pick Annabelle up for party #3.  Hugged my baby.  Admired the work my husband was doing sanding our “new” kitchen table.  Secretly cursed myself for offering to be chauffeur today while he was home alone with napping baby.
Drove all the way back across the county (opposite direction from party #1) to deliver kids to party #2.  Stopped along the way to pick up an item I had bought off the local classifieds for Gus’s Christmas (look at me, planning ahead).  Madelynne was very excited to be in on the secret, but not so excited that we were half an hour late to the swim party.  Did I mention the gas light had been on since party #1 and while I don’t mind to push it to the limit, I was a little worried that today might have been too far.
Delivered her and friend to party, got gas, ran an errand, price matched groceries at Walmart, which didn’t have half of what I needed, got held up at the register with an unscannable coupon, finally made it back to pick her and friend up from party only 15 minutes late.  
Breathed deep.  Almost there.  Just had to drop off Madelynne’s friend, get home, reload, and we’d made dinner almost on time.  
Finally, there were no scenic cruisers impeding my drive and I was able to just get to my destination.  A little too quickly….because there was a cruiser of another kind waiting on the roadside when I cut over from the four lane to head back to town.  
I knew the moment I passed him and even though I hit the brakes to slow down, I watched him pull out behind me. Never in my life have I felt I deserved a ticket more.  I was speeding, and furthermore, I’d ignored every sign I’d been given all day that I needed to slow down.  
He was nice, and I guess I was too.  I admitted my guilt and when he asked if there was some emergency I was trying to get to, I just laughed and admitted to the emergency of motherhood: I had a to-do list and I was ready to be done.
He checked my license and registration, and then, praise Jesus for grace and mercy and understanding when it’s not deserved in the face of obvious guilt, he let me off with a verbal warning
You better believe I slowed down after that.  And you better believe that it is lesson I need to learn over and over again.  
The run-around may get you from place to place, but the slow down?  It gets you there with an idea of what you’ve seen along the way.
And by the way, Madelynne’s friend I had in the car?  Her mom forgave me too.  How’s your search for margin?  Any signs you need to slow down?

Linking up with these lovely ladies.  Check it out.

GraceLaced Mondays
Margin Mom · motherhood

Why I’m Giving Up Something I Enjoy {the Search for Margin: Part 2}

The other day I gave my girls a simple task.  We piled all their stuffed animals and dolls and pillows, that take up more space on their beds than they do, onto the floor and I had them choose the five things they loved the most.  Then we remade their beds with what was left.

Everything else went into a big bag with the promise that I wouldn’t sell or donate it without letting them know, but with the caution that I believed once they had spent some time in a less cluttered space, they weren’t going to want those items back.

I know I could have made up Madelynne’s bed for this photo, but I’m keeping it real here.  

Last week, her bedspread could hardly be seen beneath the pile of extra fleecy blankets (despite the fact that it’s summer), countless loved animals, and one very large purple hippo.  Now she’s down to a couple of bears, that owl, and her treasured blue pillow and bunny (who must be hiding).  And you know what she said?  Wow, Mommy, look at how clean my room is now!

How clean(ish) indeed.  Amazing what losing just a few things, even if they are things we love, will do for our space.

So I took a cue from the lesson I was trying to teach my daughters and I turned in my notice to drop an activity that’s been part of my life for five years.  I need more space in my everyday, and sometimes that means letting go of things that are good so there can be room for something better.

I’m dropping Jazzercise.  And I’m sad because I love the workout and the friends and the time that’s for me. But I can no longer commit to the time required for my childcare exchange (I work an hour each week in exchange for free classes), and I am finding that what is supposed to be only an hour workout can sometimes take up my whole morning by the time I travel, workout, socialize, run an errand or two, and then get back home.

But like that bag full of stuffed animals, I’m treating this as a temporary loss.  I imagine that after Christmas, when I’ve made it through two conferences, starting MOPS back up, and directing for the community theater, I might be ready to add this back.  Or not.

Either way, I’m giving myself the chance to see if I like my life with a little less commitment, so I can learn to be intentional about what stays and what goes.

What about you?  Have you given up anything lately so you can have more space?  For the first part of my series, click here.  For the post that made me consider really finding more space, click here

Linking up with:

GraceLaced Mondays
Margin Mom · motherhood · reflections

The Search for Margin: Part One

You know that thing where you say you’re going to do something and you’re all geared up to try, and then life happens?  Yeah, I’m there.

I wanted to post yesterday and start a conversation about how we can find more margin during these not so footloose and fancy free summer days.  I even had a great encouraging post to link you to, and funny stories to share about our weekend.

So…..that didn’t happen.

What happened instead was that I got up early to write and finished my monthly column for the paper.  Then Monday started and it was a classic bookend for two weeks of busyness and a non-stop weekend.  In other words, it was awful.  There was a lot of yelling and a lot of crying (actually I started that on Sunday) and a lot of anger and frustration.  There was a lot of fighting and whining and irritation.  There were still a lot of errands and commitments and chores.

There was not a lot of grace because I was just too overwhelmed to give it.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, ESV)

Maybe yesterday my roots were dry.  But maybe not.  Maybe instead I’ve been like my poor yellowing tomato plants in our backyard garden and there’s just simply been too. much. rain. So much in fact that I haven’t been able to pause and soak in what I really need.

Is it really possible to have too much good?  It seems so for the plants; too much rain is as detrimental to their growth as too little.  So, perhaps, this seems so for me as well.

I need a period after the good to pause and rest and drink it up.  To let what was thirsty in me become saturated, so I am ready to start again.  But lately, we’ve been so full of one good thing to the next with no pauses in between that there’s been no time for that soaking in to occur.

And the result wasn’t pretty.

Today I invite you to pause with me.  To clear some activity, no matter how good, off your schedule so you can rest and soak in His grace.

Because only then can you pour it back on those who need it most.

I’d love to hear from you about how you find more white space in your daily routines this summer.  Leave a comment or link me back to your site.  It encourages me so to know I’m not alone.  I’ll be posting about this topic every Monday (or Tuesday) for the remainder of the summer.  Subscribe by email so you don’t miss it!

Margin Mom · motherhood

The Margin Mom {how I’m reclaiming summer’s white space}

Just before school got out, I had Madelynne make a list of adventures we could have this summer.  We have no family vacation plans, and I was already tired of hearing about So-and-So.

 Does your family have So-and-So?  In my house, this person has unlimited amounts of cash to be spent on everything from the water park to the beach to lunch out everyday.  I don’t know about you, but I just can’t keep up with So-and-So.

So instead I’ve tried to keep up with the Fun Mom.  Fun Mom always swims with her kids, lets them eat ice cream and pizza for breakfast, and tries to cram her summer full of educationally and spiritually stimulating activities so that no one is ever bored. {maybe I should write a post on how boredom is necessary to stimulating imagination in children?}

Yeah, I’m failing as Fun Mom.

On that list we have so far crossed off three items.  But I’ve managed to jam our days and weeks so full I can’t figure out when we’ll have time to cross off the rest.  We’re doing all good things.  Camp Strong Rock and Vacation Bible School and Camp Pinnacle.  MOSAIC Art Camp and Missions Day Camp and Music Camp.  Library visits that have Fun with Legos and the ever popular Ms. Sheila’s Snake Show.  I’m even squeezing in the occasional jazzercise class and read aloud at night.  And did I mention that for three out of their six camps, I’m on staff?  That means summer for Gus and Amelia consists of a constant shuffle between nursery and babysitters.

But I don’t really want to be Fun Mom anymore.  I’ve decided it’s a lot of work scheduling every minute of their day.

Instead, starting today, I’m going to be Margin Mom.  Margin Mom accepts that somedays have busier schedules than others.  Margin Mom is going to resist the urge to squeeze in one more fun activity on the only day we have off from all our previously arranged activities.  Margin Mom is going to encourage backyard water fights and sleeping late and Lucky Charms for lunch.

 Margin Mom is going to allow the white space left on that summer bucket list to be white space because sometimes that’s the place real summer memories happen.

Come back on Monday and I’ll launch a Margin Mom linky party.  Let’s celebrate and encourage the empty spaces in our lives that only need be filled with ordinary moments.  How do you create margin during busy summer days?

On a side note, Amelia is obsessed with this Clemson Tigers cheerleader costume.  She wears it everywhere.  If  you want a good laugh, just follow me @lindsbrac on Instagram.