making room for margin

“You must create more margin so you have room for what’s important, not merely urgent.” -Michael Hayatt

Its 4:33PM and we are driving home from the Lost Colony National Park. I’m slowly digesting the reality that once again my high school history education was grossly lacking. The US had English settlers before Jamestown? And they disappeared? Mind. Blown.

Rerouting plans

We’ve been gone for several hours and are just minutes away from our RV home. Trent looks to his left and spots a crowd of people gathered on top of a sand dune. Absentmindedly he says, “Look at all the people, I wonder what is going on over there?”

“Let’s go see,” I reply, testing his both his curiosity and the boundaries of our spontaneity. He raises his eyebrows and responds by tapping the blinker. Within moments our van is pointed in a new direction.

We pull into the parking lot of Jockey’s Ridge State Park and discover that we have serendipitously sequestered ourselves at the base of the tallest natural occurring sand dune on the east coast.

“What is this place?” “Look at the hang glider over there!” “Can we take our shoes off?” The questions start tumbling out of the four little mouths that we brought with us. Taking our cue from the mounds of abandoned footwear, we remove our socks and shoes tentatively leaving them near the base of a sign post.

By now the sun is low on the horizon and the sand is cool to the touch. We begin our ascent, unsure what we will find at the top.

making room for margin

The unexpected awaits

We summit the dune and take in the vast expanse surrounding us. The amount of rolling sand apart from an ocean feels almost other-worldly.

making room for margin

The surprise and delight in our children manifests itself in the form of uncontrolled laughter and various versions of rolling, sliding, leaping and wrestling. Occasionally, they pause their play long enough to shout out, “Thank you so much for brining us here, I’m having a blast!”

making room for margin

Margin allows for memories

While the kids do their very best to ensure that sand will later be found in every nook and cranny of their being, Trent and I sit at the top of the ridge and watch the dipping sun reflect off of the nearby waters of Roanoke Sound.

making room for margin

It is here that I take in the gravity of the moment, the realization that this memory was made because we had margin. Our schedule had not been maximized to it’s fullest capacity. We had left wiggle room around the edges of our day that allowed for spontaneity.

Making room for margin

While it may not seem realistic to have margin in every day, I believe it is a goal worth striving toward. Margin makes room for relationships to deepen. It lowers stress. It creates an environment that opens up possibilities.  Memories have room to move in when margin is present.

Here’s the rub: we can’t say ‘yes’ to margin without simultaneously saying ‘no’ to other things. These other things may be appealing but they can’t do what margin can. Also, it’s good to note that margin doesn’t always transform itself into blog-post-worthy moments, that’s okay. Over time, margin can transform us. We can become more aware of the people, opportunities and experiences around us. We can be more willing to respond to needs or simply recharge ourselves from the day.

Ironically, I wonder if it might also be possible to have too much margin? If we fail to set plans or goals before us, sitting too comfortably in our margin could create a paralyzing effect.

I wonder if some of us tend more toward one end of the spectrum (not having enough margin) or the other (having too much)? Regardless, I would guess that we all struggle with maintaining a healthy amount of margin. Let’s struggle together toward a place where we have time for what is truly important, and not merely urgent.

making room for margin

How about you dear reader? Can you think of a time that having margin in your day allowed for the unexpected? Do you struggle to have enough margin or do you possibly have too much? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

11 thoughts on “making room for margin”

  1. Love it! Thanks for another great and thought-provoking post. I have never heard the term “margin” used in that way before, but I totally get it! It is something I’ve been pondering and feeling so grateful for lately, that our lifestyle is slow enough to take advantage of “margins” throughout the day. A few days ago I took the kids into town to do some shopping, and since we had done everything we needed to at home, I took them to the library (that wonderful Kooskia library!) unplanned and just let them look at books and color for as long as they wanted to. It only happened because of the work and school we had accomplished already, leaving us happy time to relax and enjoy ourselves. We keep on striving to find the perfect balance, but like you, I feel like I’m “getting” it and know what to look for. I wouldn’t trade those afternoon “in the tent” book readings, long walks to the mailbox, board games, or an unexpected powwow in the kitchen stirring up cookie dough for anything! Great pics, by the way. 🙂

    1. Hi Anna! Fun to hear from you and to get a sampling of what your ‘margin’ looks like lately. I love your library example (what a wonderful way to spend extra time)! Did I maybe see some of your kids in a recent FB homeschool photo making yarn bowls? That looked like a very fun project and one I am tucking away for a future day that has extra margin in it :).

  2. Your post correlates so much to this past weekend. We went on a ski vacation to Schweitzer, Saturday morning through Tuesday evening. On Sunday, we watched a two hour documentary on the lost Roanoke Colony and the mysterious stones they found from the Dart Daughter.

    Anyway, as far as leaving margin…I’m much more spontaneous than my husband, but he can still surprise me :). When driving back from Schweitzer to our chalet, he just kept going to the top and we found the super cool castle up there. The kids were in hog heaven.

    I loved this post and the quote along with it. Thanks, Heather ❤

    1. Hi Jamie! I saw your Schweitzer photos on IG and loved seeing how much fun you all were having. That is really funny that you recently were learning about the Lost Roanoke Colony as well! I love seeing the adventures your family takes on, I can see that you are not the type to sit still as life passes you by! Thanks for taking the time to say hi!

  3. Hey Heather & Trent – what a great post! Loved the pictures, and couldn’t agree more about the significance of margin. For those of us still working toward FI, it’s great to remember that margin grows with time and good decisions – you can always enhance margin along the way. Keep the great stories coming! ~Matt

    1. Hi Matt! Yes I believe you are right that margin can grow with time and good decisions and that it can be enhanced along the way. Keep up the good work encouraging others through your good examples!

  4. Great post Heather. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they are a great reminder about what is truly important. I watched a seminar by Andy Stanley on “Building Great Teams”. He made a similar point saying – “When I don’t have enough margin in my life I get stingy with my time with God”. I’ve found that to be true. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this post. Be blessed.

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