Tag Archives: quiet

Margins

the bookAre you a bookworm like me?  Our family is full of avid readers and books populate every region of our house. Books have even inspired some Halloween costumes. We devour books of every flavor and struggle to put them down for mealtimes or to turn out the lights at night. When we settle into the couch together with our favorite books, we focus on the words. We dive into plot lines, soaking up the 12-point font as quickly as we can.

What if we paid attention to the margins as much as the parade of words lining themselves into sentences and adorning themselves with perky punctuation? What if we tuned into the space surrounding those sentences that are building themselves into paragraph blocks?

Our eyes fly from the bottom of one page over the valley of the spine and onto the top of the following page without a second glance. We turn page after page to catch the next stream of letters without appreciation for the blank space that provides a landing spot for our greedy fingers.

Yet…what if that margin was not there? Letters would fuse into unintelligible gobbledygook. We wouldn’t know where one word stops and another launches. Clever ideas and witty phrases would merge into an alphabet hodgepodge, lost in a sea of black type. That overlooked w h i t e s p a c e provides a backdrop for those colorful characters that tell our beloved stories. Without margins and whitespace, it’s just a blur of ink on some crisp paper bound together and tucked into a colorful jacket.

Children's books

Margin is important. We need it to make sense of our stories… to give us a border between things.



Margin is

the whitespace that frames

the text of our lives.



Without margin we would merge into each other and all over the place. Margin helps provide boundaries in the messiness of life. Margin gives us a defined perimeter — a pause before we turn toward our next activity. We often don’t stop to consider how much —or how little— margin we actually have. Our borders get blurry sometimes.

Margin is the “amount by which a thing is won or falls short” or the “amount of something included so as to be sure of success or safety.” It’s a cushion to lean into. How often do we hurtle from one thing to another with little margin for error? Margin can make the difference between success or failure. It can tip the balance toward a more favorable outcome.

Margin matters. 

Our personal margin varies throughout different phases of our lives. In some busy seasons, our lives might feel like a well-worn novel full of adventure and action. The pace is fast and furious. We’re caught up in drama and focused on the end result. Our margins feel cramped and narrow.

Fox in Socks

During slower seasons or treasured vacation getaways, we may have more “picture book” moments. We have time to enjoy the artistic balance between witty rhymes and colorful illustrations in our stories. In  the lull of leisure, our margin expands and the beat of our storyline becomes more vibrant.

Later in  life, we may develop a large-print perspective:  we discover more space around  words and appreciate the friendliness of a wider margin that gives us more time to reflect on our story…or to listen more closely to someone else’s.

reflection

Whatever our season, can we pause to embrace margin — to acknowledge its protective features?

Margin provides us with a soft buffer against the significant events and plot twists of life. It gives us some recovery time to process our stories.

boy reading on bench

 

Every little bookworm could benefit from that, don’t you think?

 

 

a handful

Mom, you’re talking too fast. You’re moving like you’re in a hurry.”

Guilty as charged.

I was in my son’s bedroom, navigating through piles of balled-up socks, damp clothes and boy gadgets he had dumped onto his floor after a scout campout. I knew that we had limited time before we would be leaving for a youth group activity. My mind was a whirlwind of details in order to have him “ready” for his first full school week. My goal was for my new sixth grader to come home from youth group and transition smoothly into his bedtime “routine” (not that we’re back to that yet, but I’m hopeful). An inner voice from past experience prodded me to push him through all this prep work, knowing that he would be exhausted and we would both be cranky if we faced all of this in the bedtime prelude.

growing boyI was acutely aware of the various tasks my son needed to accomplish in the time available. I was also keenly attuned to his need for a chunk of downtime. I had even asked him what his preference would be: rest before or after the tasks at hand? He said after. We both heard it. We moved forward with this “plan.” I followed his little body as he dragged himself lethargically up the stairs. Quietly I reminded myself to only give him one-step directions. We crossed the threshold of his room and targeted the campfire-smoked clothes pile first.

Within minutes I could tell that his sleep-deprived, camped-out body disagreed with his verbal agreement to this plan. His sluggish synapses had apparently voted “no,” too. Staying on task was not happening. Patience was squirmy to hold onto for both of us.boy in afghan

That would have been a REALLY good moment to recognize the realities at hand and revert to the “take a break first” option. I didn’t. I pressed on, trying to engage him in chatting about his first float trip — a flimsy attempt to boost the we’re-in-this-together morale. It’s possible that I quickened my pace and was doing more for him that he would typically do for himself. Our momentum ground to a halt when I heard,

Mom, you’re talking too fast! You’re moving like you’re in a hurry.”

 

Yep. I was. I looked down at my hands heaped high with boy stuff and glanced over at his slumped posture. Busted. I dropped the pile on his bed and we talked it through. We reconnected and evened out our pace. He did get a recharge break and had a delightful time later that evening, exuding energy and laughter.

boy swinging

This brief interaction was a poignant reminder of how easily we impact our children in those hurried moments of life. I’m grateful my son  was able to speak up and that I was finally able to hear him. I’m thankful for God’s grace which allows us to keep practicing at this parenting stuff.

My devotional the very next morning reinforced this lesson:


“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

handful of quietBoy, did that hit home! I’ll be pondering this one a while. Quieting our multi-tasking momma brains is so hard and our busy hands tend to come with the territory of motherhood, right?

May each of us discover a little quietness in ourselves so we can reflect a bit more calmness to those around us. Amen?

A Place to Dream

old playset

 

As I looked at a tired part of a swing set at a friend’s house that had been relegated to the back corner of the yard, a moment of inspiration hit me… Their daughter, who is in middle school, walked with me, and I heard the combination of grown-up banter mingled with sweet innocence of youth still on the outskirts of our conversation. Every age should have a place to dream their dreams; and at every age that place looks different. She no longer went out to swing from monkey bars anymore, but that set was not quite finished; repurposing is always fun!  We began to devise a plan and take this summertime to dream.

pails and twine   pinwheels  pails

 

She listed her favorite things: colors, twinkle lights, soft spots to linger, seashells, bunting, art supplies…

( the list itself was fun to dream!)

We kept the budget friendly, and made several things, which was more fun then buying them anyway!!

Let me show you what we created with a bit of dreams:

 

place to dream

oh so fun!

ribbon bunting

We made ribbon bunting with scrap pieces she had collected.                                                                             By tying them to some twine it made a whimsical addition to                                                                           string across the front entry.  

 

umbrella

She had a faded umbrella that was headed to the trash, but we saved it and placed it inside for a dreamy ceiling.

 

We suspended one piece of art in a window opening with twine to create an outdoor room.  enjoy moments

 

The time we spent putting this together was sweet in itself, but the opportunities for quiet moments, chats with her mom, a special place as friendships unite… such a treasure. A place to dream comes in every shape and size; the imagination is limitless! Take time this summer to set up a dream spot for a child, a loved one and absolutely for yourself! (Its more fun and less expensive than all those stress relievers out there.)

 

rainbow

Nooks and Nests

Think back to when you were a kid and when you felt the most safe and secure…what images come to mind? Were you with a particular person…or in a certain place?

Chances are that you were tucked into a small space with someone you loved. What sensations does this memory evoke?

The world is a big place with a lot of things coming at us all the time. Sometimes we just need to close it down a little bit — like clicking the minimize button on the computer to narrow things down to a smaller focus.

high-top game tableOccasionally these recharges happen naturally, but otherwise we have to be a little intentional to have some prompts in our environments to slow down. As moms we can provide some nooks around the house to encourage our kiddos to find a place to recharge…

boy doing homework at shared family room desk

-a game table for an impromptu game or puzzle

-a seat tucked into a corner with a cozy blanket and soft pillows; some low-key reading materials

-a bedroom fort, making the most of those bunkbeds

-a desk in a corner of the family room so your child can share your space while you’re making dinner

-a pile of beanbag chairs for kids to plop into while reading or gaming

Every one of us craves a nook that is “just ours,” where we can get lost in a good book or daydream and plan. This space is not just for children. My husband’s nook is usually a favored chair in the living room where a nap can ensue as the lullaby of sports plays him to dreamland. As a mom who is always searching for a moment to be creative, I find myself “nesting” throughout our home. I leave lots of “twigs and fluff” in each room so that wherever the children are, I can settle in as well and be near. I group reading material in baskets, and I have small containers holding current projects that I can pick up at a moment’s notice. My nests are for the most part side-by-side with my kids’ nooks. However, once the day has been put to rest, and I can really call my time my own, there are nooks that ground me and restore any fraying from the day…

I have a battery-powered candle that is on a timer so that when I finally make it to my bedroom at night, I walk into the glow of this candle. It makes me smile each night when I snuggle into bed with a good book.

As you think about the personalities of your family, nooks and nests will begin to emerge on their own:

-a reading nook

-a Lego nook

-an electronic plug-in nook for all iPads, etc

I love my coffee nook with a devo for the start of my day.

I laugh as I walk by a nook I set up for my boys: an oversized chair, a small table and low lit lamp with comic books… 3 boys are surrounding this nook they were drawn to, but none of them are in the chair! Each boy is laying on the floor or under the chair...unconventional nook building.record wallWhen I think of a nook, I think of it in layers…indirect lighting, a soft place to snuggle in, sounds in the background…white noise of a home that reflects each individual settling into their spaces after being out in the world.teen boy nest

Sometimes a cozy space is outside. When we moved, one of the first things we did in the yard was hang our hammock. It became a magnet for boys seeking a daydreamy spot to gaze at clouds or squirrels chasing each other overhead. From the house often the only thing visible is the top of a head, knobby knees, or a pair of dirty feet.dreamimg

Remembering my mother’s nature nook: on warm summer nights after dinner, she would slip away to her garden patch in the backyard by herself. She would garden through dusk and come in with the fireflies for bed. It was good mental relaxation.   climatis in the backyard

As a preteen, I would sneak away barefoot to the swing outside and sway back and forth under the stars. I felt secure looking past the windows and seeing my parents unwinding with the news or a book inside our home. I liked testing the distance with a safety net still in place during those formative years of adolescence. I would dream and grow in that swaying nook.

Enjoy your nooks and nests in life. Share them with loved ones, and keep a few sacred for your heart only. Rejuvenation and Dreams come forth from such places.

 



“The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are His everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

…”for You alone, o Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 4:8



Goodness

Goodness plate

Sometimes we just have to keep it simple. We have to whittle out all the excess to get to a nugget of truth and hold it in our grubby hands.

As I pondered this week’s Fruit of the Spirit “goodness,” I waited for an inspirational story or illustration to plop into my head.

(nothing)

I sat with my laptop, fingers poised to type some witty examples of Goodness.

(nothing)

Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t force this topic?

Where to begin?

good morning

“In the beginning…” God created it ALL. From nothing He created ALL kinds of things, then stepped back to view his work each day and declared “it was good.”

Then that special day came when he created man and woman, blessing them and giving them all that He had created.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

That’s it in a nutsell: we don’t need to be perfect. We just need to be Good as God intended. Out of all that He made, we are the part of His creation he determined was very good. We need to give ourselves the grace to dwell in that, to rest in it and not stress ourselves out.

Somehow we’ve over-inflated our expectations and expect “the best” performance of ourselves each and every day, then face disappointment and shame when we feel we don’t “measure up.” We tend to respond to a genuine compliment with a dismissive “well, I guess it was good enough.”

Good IS enough.

In each moment, each day…if our focus is to align with God’s purpose for our lives, then that is Good. And it is satisfyingly enough. Isn’t that refreshing to take the pressure off a bit?

Take a moment to celebrate your Goodness today.
breathe

A Quiet Life

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life.”  I Thessalonians 4:11

This verse got me the other day. My first reaction was “that sounds lovely…sign me up!” Reality closed in shortly thereafter with a text message chiming and a kid calling “hey mom…. “

So, what does living a “quiet life” even mean for us today?” Is it to be content in your day-to-day life? To engage calmly with those around you? To live simply?

In our modern day western culture, we live with a lot of clutter: media, clothes, household items, toys, gadgets, sports equipment, dawn-to-dusk activities, etc. Each item or activity may have started with a pure motive – a kitchen gadget to make cooking more efficient, a garden tool to complete a yard project, a new golf club to improve our swing, each child choosing a sport or instrument to play.backpacks Taken individually, these separate choices seem simple and uncomplicated. Added up together over time, however, all of these “simple” choices lead to excess in our houses, garages, and yards. The electrical devices originally intended to make things more accessible and portable become ever-present and we feel tied down to them, trained to respond immediately. Our minds are perpetually racing to manage all the stimuli and sensory inputs bombarding us. Each family member’s single activity has a cumulative impact on the family schedule. We spend so much time scheduling our family calendars that this becomes its own activity. I love my big white board to keep it all straight, but it in itself is a reflection of the Busy in our lives. large calendar board

How do we turn down the volume “to live a quiet life?” Many books, blogs and ads direct us to streamline and declutter. We have garage sales, participate in donation drives, recycle, pass along, and repurpose yet Stuff creeps back in with a vengeance. We are bombarded by social media, news, and music constantly. The Noise is everywhere we go. What do we have to release to edge a little closer to the Quiet Life?

I’m wondering if it’s possible to make a purposeful return to the Basics. That sounds a little retro,  a bit old-fashioned…maybe even naive.  How do we even determine this “Basics” level for our families? I’ve often reframed conversations with my children regarding their spoken wants vs. needs. Standing together in the toy aisle may involve a discussion such as “you want that cool Lego set, you don’t need it.” Yet my Target run for groceries almost always yields something from the household section or those tempting colorful container aisles. And it’s so easy to rationalize those little exfull carttras in seasonal clearance. As I near the checkout stand, though, I do a little rethinking as I’m reviewing my full cart…who put ALL this stuff in here anyway? ? Sometimes I’m able to remove a few items with a quick sweep; sometimes not.

What if we had a daily goal of “one less?” Maybe “one less” item in the grocery cart or “one less” book at the bookstore? It could be “one less” visit to a favorite coffee shop or “one less” just-let-me-run-in-here-for-a-minute stop. “One less” show on TV or Netflix? “One less” hour of device usage each evening? Limiting activities at the beginning of the school year — a goal of  “one less” for each child? We noticed a vast difference just by dropping one music lesson per week.

Reality check: We knew we’d grown accustomed to an over-scheduled life when we reclaimed a couple weeknights as Family Nights and it felt “weird” to have a choice of what to do in thOutdoor gamese evening rather than running to the next activity on the agenda. It’s a “good weird,” though. I’m embracing it as one way to subdue the hectic pace. On occasion I even take a risk and turn off the radio in the car, allowing the silence to invite conversation back in. That sure gets a response from my teen passengers, but they’re gradually getting used to it…and I get a little bolder each time.

If “one less” feels punitive or too hard to maintain as a discipline, how about “one more” of those interactions we value? We could offer “one more” round of cards, “one more” story at bedtime, “one more” walk around the block…Perhaps we’ve stumbled upon the foundation of living a Quiet Life after all: “Less IS more.”