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Entries in Margin (4)

Wednesday
Jan312018

Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 2

In Part 1 of the Self-Care UPGRADE, “Create More Opportunities for Margin,” Dawn Wilson, explained the importance of creating more “spacious opportunities” in our lives to counter the busyness and mindlessness that can lead to stress, over-commitment and exhaustion.

To repeat from Part 1: We won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

“Margin,” said Richard Swenson, M.D., “is the space between our load and our limits.” We want to intentionally fill that space wisely, even if it means “not filling” by allowing more space to grow.

In Part 1, we considered the need for more margin in our home, calendars and budgets. In Part 2, let's tackle four more areas: Health, People, Mind and God.

4. Create more space in regard to your HEALTH. For the Christian, this is important not only for ourselves, but as a testimony to others of the power of God working in our habits (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

How do we create margin for better health?

  • Leave more time at nightfall for quality sleep. Work toward a healthy nightly rhythm that leads to better and deeper rest.
  • Think: healthy eating! Stop stuffing your body with multiple snacks and processed foods. Give your stomach “room” to function efficiently. Intermittent fasting can be beneficial. So is mindful planning for a weekly caloric budget and sticking to it.
  • Carve out time to move your body with whatever exercise you find most enjoyable. Think in terms of freedom of movement and building core strength.
  • Practice deep breathing! Breathe in through your nose, hold that breath, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.

One of the strongest voices helping me create nutritional margin is Lysa TerKeurst in Made to Crave, especially her devotional based on the book. Also, Lean Body, Fat Wallet is a double-whammy for health and finances, writen by Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre. Danna is one of the founders of Ageless Woman Living.

5. Create more space for PEOPLE, especially for family and friends. Our office files can’t hug us, and the television won’t give us love. Creating margin for relationships is even far more than social media, although that can play a small part.

Time is limited, so aim for true connection. Quantity time AND quality time.

Shut things off and turn up the volume on face-to-face connections. These times together will feed our need for emotional growth, and they will help us understand how we can “spur on” family and friends “toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

We need one-on-one time to practice the "one anothers" of scripture.

Our busy lives leave us less than satisfied. God’s Word and people, it is said, are the only two things that last from earth into eternity; and that should give us a sense of what is truly important.

There are so many good books available on this topic. Just be sure their relationship counsel lines up with scripture truth. I learned a lot from Mary Kassian's Conversation Peace; Shaunti Feldhahn's book, The Kindness Challenge; and Gene Getz' book, Building Up One Another. And "Relationship specialists" Bill and Pam Farrel at Love-wise offer many, MANY books on building relationshps.

6. Create space for your MIND … time to think, ponder and meditate.

If we don’t want our brains to become mush, we need to feed them with truth and wisdom (James 1:5; Psalm 90:12). We need to renew our mind so we can know and do the will of God (Romans 12:2).

Spend time with a good book. The Bible, of course, will train our minds (2 Timothy 3:16); but biblically-based books or books of wise principles that do not contradict scriptural truth will also challenge us to think better. Or planning a social-mental “spacious opportunity” in a Bible or book study with a group of friends (Proverbs 13:20)

Think Biblically! (edited by John MacArthur) helped me think with a Christian worldview; and Lies Women Believe (updated/expanded edition) by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth helped me zero in on some foolish, unbiblical thinking. (Note: Lies Men Believe, written by Nancy's husband Robert, will come out in August 2018.)

7. And this is most important: create a greater margin of time for God.

  • We need space to pray and worship without distractions.
  • We need time for the Lord every day (Psalm 55:16-17) to feed our spirit, train our responses and calm our hearts.
  • We need to “Be still” and listen—to get to know our Father’s heart so we’ll know how to make wise choices (Psalm 46:10; Proverbs 2:6).
  • We need to live with eternity in mind, walk by faith, and aim to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:6-10).

A life filled to the brim with a crowded or misguided schedule will never allow time for the Lord to fill us to overflowing with Himself.

By far, the book that helped me understand the need to create a daily time with the Lord was Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Wolgemuth) and Tim Grissom; but Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby also built that relationship.

Notice the word “create” in each of my seven points about margin.

Be creative. Be intentional.

How can you create more spacious opportunities? Ask the Lord what would be best eliminated or pared down in your life so you will have more room to breathe and grow.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe

Tuesday
Jan302018

Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 1

More and more, people are talking about “margin.” Dawn Wilson tackles this topic in a Self-Care UPGRADE in a two-part post to encourage those who find themselves stressed and over-committed, exhausted and near burnout.

Marginless living is the story of millions of Americans today. That’s part of my story too. I desperately needed more margin.

In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (NavPress, 2014), Richard A. Swenson, a medical doctor, points out the lack of margin in American society in spite of all the “progress” we have made.

“The disease of marginless living is insidious, widespread and virulent,” Dr. Swenson said. “We live with unprecedented wealth and all it brings. We have leisure, entertainment, convenience and comfort…. Yet stress, frustration and oftentimes even despair unexpectedly accompany our unrivaled prosperity.”

His book is an excellent study of the reasons for marginless living, and he offers wisdom for every area of life. (I recommend it to stretch your thinking.)

But even before I read his book, I was thinking about the reasons for my own stress. Here’s what I discovered.

When some people think about margin, they envision the word “boundaries”—the need to not let others overrun the priorities in their lives.

I totally understand that. It’s important to have biblical priorities and values for our lives and families. We have to learn to say no to others’ expectations when they don’t understand, or when they either intentionally or unintentionally try to push past our boundaries.

But I think that’s only one side of margin.

My version of margin includes freedom. It focuses on space and freed-up time.

I like to describe margin as “spacious opportunities.”

In other words, yes, we need to establish firm boundaries so people will not take advantage of our kindness and desire to serve. That’s a necessary part of healthy relationships.

We want to live in a sacrificial way, but the Lord still may direct us to say “no” to some intrusive or unnecessary things so we can say “yes” to other things that fit our calling and biblical priorities (Colossians 4:1-2).

But we have to be sure we’re creating space for those “yeses.”

If we don’t, we’ll simply be piling good things onto other good things and causing over-commitment and stress.

We all need positive space to think, create, and breathe. But our lives are so busy, we won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

There are some things we can’t (and shouldn’t change)—the priority of a relationship with God and the priority of our key relationships (Matthew 6:33; Mark 12:30-31).

But beyond that, we need to see and embrace opportunities for margin throughout our lives. It’s a wonderfully positive approach.

There are at least SEVEN WAYS to create more opportunities for margin—for what really matters.

1. Create more empty space in your HOME. We don’t have to stuff every closet and fill every shelf. It’s OK to leave some empty space. Even healthy and freeing.

Part of the Titus 2:4-5 mandate for women, even those who have careers, is to work at home—to manage the home well. It doesn’t have to be a duty or drudgery. Make it fun. Create a freeing space to minister to people in your family and neighborhood.

Join me in creating that freedom! Evaluate your “stuff.” Go through one room per week with a big box or bag. What can you find to give away? Ask yourself:

  • How many of these do I have?” (Why do you need 12 pair of scissors—and they aren’t even crafting scissors? Learn to practice contentment: Hebrews 13:5a)
  • Why am I keeping this?” (An out-of-date college textbook. A 10-year-old jar of face cream, probably rancid.)
  • “Do I really need to have this object to keep a memory alive?” (A photo might suffice.)
  • “Is this a legacy item—and does my family want it?” (And usually, our millennial kids don’t.)
  • “Do I really need this?” or “Might someone else need this more than me? (Consider a homeless person, a struggling single mom, a low-paid teacher, etc.)

I have often used some of the home and office organizing techniques I've learned from "Organizing Pro" Marcia Ramsland in her book Simplify Your Life.

2. Create more space in your CALENDAR. Just as our homes can be cluttered with stuff we don’t need, sometimes our lives are cluttered with activity and our schedules need some paring down.

We need to plan “down time” as carefully—and with as much joyful anticipation and dedication—as work, event and activity times. Part of making “the best use of your time” (Ephesians 5:15-17) is understanding the Lord wants us to know when to stop working, to stop pushing… to just stop!

Plan breaks and times of refreshing on a regular basis: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. God wants His loved ones to get “proper rest” (Psalm 127:2).

Again, Marcia Ramsland can help with her book, Simplify Your Time.

3. Create more space in your BUDGET. Rather than thinking, “How much do I have left to spend?” think, “How much can I save?” or “How much can I invest?” Thinking we have money to indulge our every whim is seldom wise.

Rather than letting covetousness rule, give money its proper place and think in terms of faithful and wise stewardship.

When we plan wisely, we will feel more secure (Ecclesiastes 7:12); but remember the true Source of your security. Even so, it’s still smart to create sufficient financial margin—sometimes called a “cushion of funds”—to carry you over in times of stress or crisis. Financial experts may not agree on the exact amount, but they all agree on the necessity!

For financial wisdom beyond the scriptures, I seek out people like "America's Family Financial Expert," Ellie Kay and The 60-Minute Money Workout. I also learned so much from Ron Blue and Jeremy White's Faith-based Family Finances, Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover and Randy Alcorn's Managing God's Money.

How can you create more spacious opportunities in these three areas: Home, Calendar and Budget?

Part 2 of this post will appear on January 31st,  with four more areas needing margin.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Tuesday
Jul252017

Organize Your Life - Part 1

Kathy Carlton Willis would love to see women escape the chaos of their lives. In this Organization UPGRADE, she explains how we can have less stress in our homes and our hearts as we get organized.

"Lately, a phrase has been stuck like a song in my head—'Don’t put it down, put it up!'" Kathy says.

"Every time I think about putting something in the wrong place, that advice nags me and I'm reminded it doesn’t take any longer to put something in its designated spot."

I (Dawn) am a firm believer in "a place for everything and everything in its place," but Kathy takes this one step further and I agree: Conquering the chaos in our lives begins with a more ordered perspective and a change of heart.

Kathy continues . . .  

Realizing this simple organizational tip might be a good reminder to others as well, I started collecting other helpful tips to share. Each one ended up also triggering a spiritual reminder to me.

Isn’t it interesting that the same things that help us get our acts together help us get our lives straightened out?

Let’s look at some.

1. File It, Don’t Pile It!

I admit it. I’m a piler. It’s a good thing Russ and I are minimalists because it minimizes the number of piles I can create!

But every so often I get into a sorting mood and I force myself to either file it away, scan it in, or pitch it.

Spiritual Life: What do I allow to pile up before I deal with it? Hurt feelings? Disappointment? Anger? Sadness? Time won’t shoo away what I’ve stockpiled. It’s time to address the mess going on in my life.

“But be sure that everything is done properly and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40 NLT).

2. Clutter Clatters.

I’m a messy cook. I tend to dirty every dish I own. And then I’m too exhausted to clean up.

But it doesn’t take long before I’m back in the kitchen washing, organizing, putting everything away. Why? Because the clutter is so noisy, it clatters. Such a distraction!

When everything is straightened up I sense a quietness—peace.

Spiritual Life: Is my day cluttered with so much busyness that I have neglected my quiet time with God? Does the clutter clatter so loudly I can’t hear God’s still small voice? It’s time to roll up my sleeves, put away the clutter and let the cleared space make room for God’s peace.

3. Less is Best.

I used to own a 4,000-square-foot fixer-upper and set out to fill it with stuff. Then a life reversal forced us to have a living estate sale before moving into an 800-square-foot rent house.

I learned to hold on to my stuff with a loose grip.

Now I love a more minimalistic approach to my belongings.

When I don’t pack my space full, I have enough white space to give my chaos a break. Peace.

Spiritual Life: I need as much white space as my house. When I cram every hour with to-do lists, obligations, chores, and busyness, there’s no margin for relaxation. By allowing space in my day for contemplation and meditation, I can handle the rest of the day with more resolve and clarity.

4. Don’t Give in to the Pig Pen.

It’s tempting once things are a mess, to not even try. Why bother? Why put this away when it won’t make the rest of the mess look any better?

It’s a downward spiral toward the pig pen.

Spiritual Life: It was in the pig pen, where the prodigal son realized the enormity of his messed-up life and desired to go back to the father, thinking even his father’s servants were treated better than what his life had become.

In the middle of my mess, when it’s tempting to keep making poor choices because I’m already stained with sin, the Father wants me to leave the mess and come to Him for rest. He will repair the damage and make all things new.

What needs sorted out in your house and in your heart?

(PART TWO of “Organize Your Life." is published here.)

Kathy Carlton Willis—God's Grin Gal—shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
May012014

Mom, Don't Forget to Take Care of You!

Melissa Mashburn, a busy pastor's wife, knows the importance of caring for herself so she can be strong to care for others. She shares this Upgrade for moms (with solid truth for all women).

As moms," Melissa says, "we wear many hats, we are a referee, a tutor, a police officer, a maid, a chef, a boo-boo kisser, a nighttime cuddler and also a taxi."

Oh how well I [Dawn] remember those busy days of motherhood. I gave and gave and gave, and it wasn't long before I felt depleted. I needed to step off the motherhood treadmill sometimes!

Melissa continues ...

Yes, we are always on the go and usually with our kids in tow. We manage our households with great care and grace, but when was the last time you actually did anything for yourself ... or better yet, by yourself.

Did you just shake your head and giggle a little? I think you did.

I know you might be thinking, “How on earth can I stop and do something just for for me? Don’t you know how many things there are to do right now?”

Listen mom, I know you’ve been running around getting a ton of things done for everyone else in your family, but do me a favor and don’t forget to take care of you too. The Psalmist said God cares for us:

Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall (Psalm 55:22 NLT).

But it's good for us to cooperate and take care of ourselves too!

You know when you are on a plane getting ready for take off and the flight attendant does the safety instructions? They always say, "In case there is a change in cabin pressure the masks will drop down. You need to place your mask on first before helping children or anyone else."

As a mom, that used to really bother me. But then I realized that if you don't, then you won't be able to help anyone else in an emergency. The same holds true in your everyday, ordinary life.

Taking care of you doesn’t mean you neglect all those other things, it simply means doing things a little differently so that you can enjoy the peace and perspective that comes when you do something just for you.

My kids aren’t little any longer. I learned along the way that I could be a better mom to them by taking care of myself a little in the process. It will take some planning and coordination on your part, but when you do take time for yourelf, you will actually be giving yourself the margin you need when life gets stressful and hectic.

Here’s a few ways you can take care of you:

1. Don’t forget your quiet time - Start your day in prayer, even if it means getting up earlier than you normally do. 

2. Make time for your marriage - Once a month, schedule a "date day" with your husband. Go ahead and hire the babysitter, and block the date on the calendar.

3. Call upon your girlfriends - Schedule some time for you to go get some coffee, lunch, a manicure, or something you can do and enjoy, either alone or with friends.

Get creative on how to make that happen:  babysitting swap with a friend, or even share a babysitter between the two families.

4. Get involved at your church, preferably in a Bible study or a community group. Get connected with other women and/or couples.

Here’s a tip though ... go into it with open hands. Life can get complicated, and even the best laid plans don’t always come together the way we would like them to.

By having your hands open, you release all the stress and pressure to make things “perfect” and allow room for life to happen even in the middle of the change. Rest in God's loving care: You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love. My life was preserved by your care (Job 10:12, NLT).

Making it a priority to take care of you isn’t a selfish thing, it’s not even something that “other moms” get to do. It’s a chance to stop and count your blessings in the midst of being a busy mom.

Go ahead, try it today.

What about you? What’s one way you can take care of you this week?

Melissa Mashburn passionately pursues God daily, taking her ordinary life and placing it as her offering to Him. She is a writer, speaker, mom, pastor’s wife, and trained communicator through CLASSeminars, with extensive background in Women’s and Kid’s Ministry, and her passion is helping women “keep it real” in their lives and ministries. Melissa is married to her best friend, Matt (20 years), and they have two teenage boys. She loves to relax with a great book and giant cup of coffee. You can find her at Mel’s World with Melissa Mashburn.