Category Archives: Margin

Crazy Busy or Crazy Grateful? (With help from Kevin DeYoung) Part 2 of 2

Friends!  Last week we discussed our need for pushing pause and how to do just that, thanks to an excellent book by Shauna Niequist (Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living).

This week, I have more good news for you!  Thanks to a lovely God-incident, I came across a skinny little book (only 118 pages long) by Kevin DeYoung.  The book?  Crazy Busy—A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.


The author, Kevin DeYoung, is the Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan.  Kevin’s married to Trish and they are blessed with, get this:  seven children.  That is one full quiver, God bless ‘em!

You can go online to Kevin’s church’s website, and check out his sermons.  I was blessed to hear Kevin speak at a Together for the Gospel Conference ( ) here in Louisville a couple of years ago. (You can also go to that website and watch any of the talks from the conference.  Amazing speakers, Kevin included.)

As funny and brutally honest as Kevin is, he’s equally passionate about believing in, abiding in, and trusting in our Sovereign Lord.  For which we can thank him, because his book we’re about to talk about will steer you away from chasing unnecessary wild rabbits.

From the first word of the first chapter, Kevin pulls us readers in.  Let me show you:  Chapter One’s title: “Hello, My Name is Busy.”

Kevin begins, “I am the worst possible person to write this book. And maybe the best. My life is crazy busy. I don’t say that as a boast or a brag…How did I get this way?  How did you get this way?…There’s a pervasive sense of being unrelentingly filled up and stressed out.”

Here’s where I picture Shauna’s red wagon we talked about last week brimming over with her lugging it with great difficulty behind her.  Kevin’s been doing likewise.


In fact, when Kevin’s friends asked him about his next book project, upon hearing his answer about a book on busyness, they were stunned.  They reminded him his schedule was a mess and busyness was one of his biggest problems. Precisely why he took the project on.

This is the same scenario years ago for me when I began to study the meaning of margin.  (And the lack thereof, in my own calendar.)  I confessed to many of you, had my Mother been living then, she’d have howled out loud and said, “Oh, this  should be good!”

Kevin tells us upfront the layout of the book: “My outline is as simple as three numbers:  3, 7, and 1:  Three dangers to avoid (chapter 2), Seven diagnoses to consider (chapters 3-9), and One thing you must do (chapter 10).  Excellent  and succinct.  Choose your chapters per your interest. You don’t have to read them in order.

My favorites of the seven diagnoses, while all good, are “Diagnosis # 4:  You Need to Stop Freaking Out About Your Kids”, “Diagnosis #5:  You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul”,  and “Diagnosis #6:  You’d Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself.” To which I reply, “Thank you, but really: Ouch, ouch, and ouch.”

Wow. Close Up Portrait Young Woman Beautiful Girl Looking Excite

While Crazy Busy is crazy full with helpful tips, I’d like to share a couple of quotes to get your laughter endorphins cookin’.  I firmly believe, especially when we’re stressed out (a/k/a crazy busy), laughter is the best medicine.

Straight from Scripture:  Proverbs 17:22 reminds us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Cheerful hearts come from laughter, but crushed spirits come from being crazy busy.


Kevin quotes Tim Chester from his book, The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness where he offers “twelve diagnostic questions to determine how ill we’ve become with ‘hurry sickness’.”  They’re all worth exploring, and I’ll tease you with just two of them:

Tim:  #6. “Do you often feel tired during the day or do you find your neck and shoulders aching?”

Kevin: “Mountain Dew, ibuprofen, not a problem.”

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 26th Oct 2016, Mountain Dew is a carbona

Tim:  #12. “Do you eat together as a family or household at least once a day?”

Kevin:  “More or less. When one person is eating, someone else is usually in the house at the same time.”

In the chapter on not freaking out about your kids, Kevin says, “Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be.  It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives.”

Babies Playing With Toys

“Now, our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night.  They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.”

Hysterical and comforting… Oh my.

Kevin doesn’t promise immediate change or transformation, or a money-back guarantee (!!!) for us readers, but he does say,

“I hope you’ll find a few ways to tackle your schedule,
several suggestions for reclaiming your sanity, and
a lot of encouragement to remember your soul.”

Friends, those are some kind of powerful verbs:  tackle, reclaim, remember.

For those of us trying to do everything for everybody, this book will help us literally put those worries to bed and sleep better.  No foolin’…

Sleeping Dreaming Woman

Finally, Kevin saves the best for last in “The One Thing You Must Do.”  No spoiler alert, just a phrase or two to leave you with:

We have to believe that the most significant opportunity before us every day is the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus.”

Kevin quotes another one of my favorite authors, Paul Tripp.  Paul gifts us with a quote not just for people in pastoral ministry, but for all of us in our ministries, whether with our family, friends, small groups, the grocery store, Home Depot, wherever:

I am more and more convinced that what gives a ministry its motivations, perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion and grace is the devotional life of the one doing ministry

When I daily admit how needy I am,
Daily mediate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and
Daily feed on the restorative wisdom of His Word,
I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receiving at the hands of my Savior.”

Dear friends, let’s all be more intentional about these next few weeks, to not be so crazy busy, to enjoy and savor moments with family and friends as Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches.

Thank you, Kevin, for a wonderful, helpful, and blissfully short book!

‘Til next time!




Filed under Book Reviews, Margin

When You Need to Push Pause…(With help from Shauna Niequist) Part 1 of 2

Friends! What do you do when you hear Christmas music playing in Walgreen’s while you’re buying Halloween candy?  Would you happily hum along, or become more than irked?

I’m not tellin’ what my reaction was.  You can take a wild guess.

I battle daily with “the glass is half empty” vs. “half full” outlook in addition to a crammed calendar.  Sigh…

My friend Lisa gifted me with a timely book recently over lunch.  She’d been so moved by it, she figured I could use a dose of it as well.

If you’re in the midst of barely coming up for air, juggling a full calendar, feeling like you’re about to implode, this book is for you.  (Never mind Christmas is right around the corner! I know…)

The book?  Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.


Shauna confesses her life was like she “was pulling a little red wagon, and as I pulled it along, I filled it so full that I could hardly keep pulling.  That red wagon was my life, and the weight of pulling it was destroying me.”

Three pug chihuahua mix - chug- puppies in a red wagon toned

(Now I know Shauna’s talking about things and too many activities, not a load of puppies, but I couldn’t resist this picture. However, three puppies at once could be stressful!)

Shauna tells us, “This book is an account of my winding, messy journey from…

Exhaustion to peace,

From isolation to connection,

From hustling and multitasking to sacred presence.”

She invites us, the reader, to join her from a bird’s-eye view.

She is, “Calling you to leave behind the heavy weight of
Competition, and
Exhaustion, and to
Re-craft a life marked by
Connection, and
Unconditional love.”

Sign me up!  The book is a collection of stories, divided into six parts.  Because she’s been on this journey to get off the “drug of efficiency”, she speaks with authority, sharing what she’s learned, encouraging us to take her challenge of being present over being perfect.

I wish I’d learned these lessons while raising our boys!  Gracious!  Shauna is very convincing, tho’, and I’m a big believer in “it’s never too late.”

Listen to this:  “If you believe people can’t change, I’m here to tell you we can. If you think you could never turn down the volume or lay down your armor or climb into the silence, I’m here to tell you that if I can, you can. If I can, anyone can.”

“I’m a hardened case, a tough nut to crack, a lifelong connoisseur of noise and motion and excessiveness of any kind.  If I can climb into silence and simplicity, anyone on earth can join me there, I promise.”

See how persuasive she is?  Don’t you want to climb into silence and simplicity? She really draws the reader in.  It’s like sitting down in a café having a cup of coffee with her.  A real-live therapy session.

Shauna’s honesty is refreshing and many times, comical.  Just as one story is funny, the next one brings tears.  Many tugged at my heart, being a mother of boys like her.  I’d love to give her a huge hug and say, “Shauna, dear girl, you’re doing the best job and I’m so very proud of you for taking this wake up call and encouraging us to do the same.”

She shares words she’s choosing to focus on during this new season:

grace, and

She reminds us we cannot hear from God when we’re on the hamster wheel.  We must slow down and be still, quiet, non-moving.

She says, “Let silence be your anchor, your sacred space, your dwelling place.”


Shauna blasts the word “perfect”, while embracing and giving examples of how to be “present”.  She’s blessed by friends who literally come alongside of her and rescue her.

One “aha!” moment happened in their home one night when they had a Jesuit priest over along with some friends. They were studying the story of Peter walking on water (See Matthew 14:22-33.).

Shauna said they saw for the first time that Jesus rescued Peter first before ever saying a word.  She suggests we remember and recognize Jesus is for us, all about us, and nothing surprises Him, or rattles Him.  He’s on our side and will do everything in His power to rescue us every time.

My friend Liz frequently reminds me of this same scenario.  It’s as if God says, “It’s okay.  I’ve got this.”

Finally, let’s close with a couple of eye-opening questions that will help us all push pause before filling something else in on our calendars….

Busy Day Overworked Schedule.

Shauna asks,

1 – “What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self that God created?”

2 – “What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for His purposes?”

Blank Desk Calendar With Pink Carnation Flower

This reminds me of what I heard John Piper say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Before the holiday season hits, grab Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living to read slowly.  You’ll save your soul a lot of unnecessary strife and stress if you do.

Choose to be present over being perfect.

Purposefully push pause to do so.

Take a deep breath and smile.

‘Til next time!

P.S.  You can learn more about Shauna via her website: She’s married to Aaron and they’re blessed with two boys, Henry and Mac.  She’s written a number of books, two of which are my favorites:

One is Savor – Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are (Great devotional.  I’ve given it to all our daughters-in-love.) I   blogged about it last year: “Every. Single. Day


The other one is Bread and Wine – A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes.


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Filed under Book Reviews, Margin

Surviving the Season of Christmas: Part 2 of 4 When You Get Trapped in a Dress…(Overextended…and Loving Most of It! The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs by Lisa Harper)

Any claustrophobes out there? I succumb to claustrophobia almost every time I step into an elevator. The one at my in-laws’ condo’ in Naples was slower-than-a-snail, without air conditioning. Certain we’d perish while suffocating, I bravely learned to take the stairs.

The year our family stopped to see Ruby Falls (Please tell me, how many times can you see that billboard and not GO SEE Ruby Falls???), I had no idea what I was getting myself into…

Ruby Falls

(Notice we are all five smiling…this was before the interminable elevator ride…)

The boys thought it was the coolest thing ever, but… as we progressed our way into the deep, dark abyss toward the Falls, I was more than ready to make a fast exit.

The elevators also have chains rather than doors, so you can “see” the depth of rock you’re descending down, down, down into….

Oh yeah, I was the first of our family of five to return to the fresh air up top. Yes, Ruby Falls, one thousand, two hundred and twenty feet under the top of Lookout Mountain, was a sight to behold. Let’s just say I’ve beheld it and will cling to that sweet memory F-O-R-E-V-E-R…


Fast forward several years and you’ll find us forty-eight hours prior to our middle son’s wedding. This afternoon was D-Day to ensure my dresses fit okay, accessories in place, etc. as we’d be packing up soon for Lexington, Kentucky, where Lauren and Gordy’s wedding was to be held.

I slipped into my Rehearsal Dinner dress. Zipper was super slow. I wound up getting it probably 9/10 of the way up when it held firmly at a stand still. Uh-oh. At each attempt, “Zippie” wasn’t budging.

Red zipper isolated on white

Hating to, but doing so anyway, I hollered at Hubster John who was working out in the yard, “Honey? Could you please come in here for a minute?”

“Right now?” in his I’m-in-the-middle-of-a-project voice.

“Yes, it’s sort of an emergency….”

I could feel the lining of the dress beginning to stick to me…Weather was warm and claustrophobia was quickly closing in

“Zippie” wouldn’t behave for John either. He suggested, “Just pull it over your head.” No way.

Next idea, “Just pull it down to the floor.” Not a chance.

About ready to cut it off…I fetched the scissors. More-patient-than-anyone-needs-to-be-John was mercifully able to cut the lining out of the zipper and somehow get it undone.

Even more amazing, he was able to get me in and out of it successfully for the Rehearsal Dinner. (I’ve since had a new zipper put in. Life is good.)


Author and speaker Lisa Harper has written a must-read for your sanity and survival:

Overextended and Loving Most of It: The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs.

Given my “gift” of overextending myself, particularly at the last minute, (lest you forget the above dress snafu), I snatched this book right off the shelves.


I’ve been blessed to hear Lisa speak several times. Her gift of teaching the Bible is amazing. (For notes on her talk in Houston at Women of Faith’s Unwrap the Bible, please click here.)

This book will help us better survive the Christmas season, or any busy season you may be blessed to be in.

Here are a few of the great questions Lisa answers in the book:

“When is it worth being stretched beyond my comfort zone?

When is it worth ‘overspending’ myself for the sake of the Gospel?

If I erased all the commitments on my calendar this month, would anybody besides my dentist or the pest control guy really care?”

Lisa confesses, “My calendar is so often double-booked that I have alerts for my alerts. ..All too often I live like I believe busyness is a spiritual fruit.”   Hellooooooo…Anybody relating???

Multi-Tasking Concept

One of my favorite chapters is: “Blasting Through Burnout”.  It teaches us an acrostic for “BLAST”.  (I’d go so far as to say read this chapter first–Everything else then falls into place.)

Before we ever get into the chapter, don’t miss the quote Lisa offers from Tim Hansel:

“Quiet minds,

which are established in stillness,

refuse to be perplexed or intimidated.”

Here’s where we must stop and camp on Psalm 46:10a which tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.”

The CEV says, “Our God says, ‘Calm down, and learn that I am God!’”

TLB says, “Stand silent!…”

The NASB says, “Cease striving!…

Let these Scriptural reminders establish us in stillness…

Here’s Lisa’ acrostic for BLAST:

B – “Breathe – Inhale God’s peace and exhale anxiety.

L – Listen – And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

A – Ask God for clarity

S – Smile

T – Take the next step…”

Lisa adds, “When life is tough or taxing, it doesn’t mean we should try to bust thru’ it like a linebacker trying to flatten a three-hundred-pound defensive tackle.

Football Tackle 1

Nor does it mean we can bury our head under the covers and the hard or hectic parts will disappear.

Funny Young Woman Lying In Bed Under Blanket

Instead, we have to put our hand into the outstretched, nail-scarred palm of our Redeemer and allow Him to lead us. Simply by doing the next right thing.”

Helping hand - hiker woman getting help on hike smiling happy ov

Purposefully make time to savor this book this season!

Your survival skills will improve leading you into a much calmer Christmas and a much-improved 2015!

‘Til next time…


Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Holidays, Life Lessons, Margin

When You Hear a Dolphin Take a Breath…(Managing Your Margin: Part 4 of 4)

Parked poolside, in Naples, Florida, in January, John and I were some-kind-of-happy. We’d just received reports of snow at home and here we were in bathing suits! Armed with sunscreen, sunglasses and books, we plunked down for a moment of margin before lunch.

Since we were early, not too many people were by the pool yet. Palm trees waving overhead, I thought to myself, “It just doesn’t get much better than this.”

palm trees

We dove into our books and all was well….Pretty quickly I heard a very strange sound. Akin to an ultrasound swoosh (Which one would not normally encounter outside…), I thought, “What in the world is that?”

I listened intently again as the noise repeated itself. Looking over to John and across the pool, nothing seemed amiss. Looking over my other shoulder, out toward the bay, I spotted them. Two dolphins, playfully swimming, were a stone’s throw from our chairs!

The swooshing sound was the two of them taking a breath here and there out of their blowholes. Amazing. How did we hear them? Watch this: we were very still, all ears, and could’ve heard a pin drop.

Jumping Dolphins.

Two weeks ago we discussed at length Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (See: A Croissant A Day…) We discussed WHY we need to be still, to cease striving in order to manage our margin and the Sabbath.

This week we’ll address listening…because we must be still in order to listen. Mark Buchanan’s book we’ve been highlighting, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, opens our eyes to elements of listening.

The Rest of God

Mark poses this step-on-your-toes question: “If people stop to listen to you, fill-your-name-in-the-blank, to whom are YOU stopping to listen?” Oh dear…

He adds, “Our speaking comes out of our listening. What we say comes out of what we hear. We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God.”

Author Wendell Berry (from our own state of Kentucky!) says in his poem A Purification,

I confess my sins…

That I have not been happy enough,

Considering my good luck;

Have listened to too much noise;

Have been inattentive to wonders”; (for more on wonders, please see Wander in the Wonder…)


John and I happened upon this leaf, heart-shaped no less, along a walk over the weekend. I brought it home to show you this wonder from our wandering…

And the last sentence of Wendell Berry’s poem further confesses, “Have lusted after praise.”

Mark says after the poem, “I confess my sins; I have done these things also.” To which I add, “Yessirree, me too…again and again and again.”

While we’re basking in confession (!), let’s look at another helpful Scripture: Ephesians 4:29 says we should “not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”


One more amazing verse is James 1:19 which tell us to be “slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to become angry.” Bet you’ve heard the saying that it’s no coincidence God gave us two ears and one mouth.

I am so busted on the topic of listening. Inevitably, the wheels in my brain are turning while someone is talking, telling me something, while I’m already formulating my response. Truth is, I’m only half-listening. Anyone else do this???

Businessman Multitasking

Mark Buchanan diagnoses this as a control issue. (This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it??!!!) He claims he meddles in too many things. (One-two punch!)

He says, “Part of Jesus’ regimen for me…is holding my tongue.  So I hold my tongue and realize how the world hums right along without my commentary on it.”

Mark adds, “There is a deeper lesson here. God is teaching me quietness of heart…

Plate, Fork, Knife And Red Heart

Quietness allows room for God to speak or to be silent.

Both are gifts.

Cropped view image of a woman holding three colourful Christmas

Quietness stops crowding the Holy Spirit, elbowing aside God’s gentle presence.

The end of striving makes room for dwelling.”

Proverbs 1:5a adds a benefit to listening: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning.”

As we wrap up our time on margin and The Sabbath, let’s look at the Ten Commandments. They are found in Exodus Chapter 20. The fourth commandment, all about Sabbath, begins with a frequently used word in the Bible: Remember…

Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in yourtowns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

It’s my prayer we may all be more conscience of managing our margin which will hopefully translate into observing the Sabbath. Remember we talked about how margin helps your health and well-being? (See Come With Me to France…Part 1 of 4)

I pray we may remember to:

Be still,


Wander with wonder …

as God so desires for us.


One last shot of a picture of margin…the beach! This was taken in Fort Lauderdale, FL this past March. Enjoy…

I’ve only shared a handful of a multitude of helpful thoughts by Mark Buchanan in his beautiful book, The Rest of God. I recommend you perhaps have some moments of margin reading a chapter here and there in his book. You will be blessed!

If you’d like more information on margin, I wrote another series about beating busyness, which dealt a great deal about margin last year. Here are the links:

Get Over the Guilt: Grab a Nap!

Help! My Calendar’s Controlling Me!

But, I Don’t Have time to Pray!

But I Don’t Have Time for a Bible Study!

Remember, all this is a process, not a quick fix.

Do not be discouraged.

Please be enthused to challenge yourself to find the time to manage your margin.

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Reviews, Margin, Travel

Wander with Wonder…(Managing your Margin: Part 3 of 4)

Close your eyes….

Now open them.

Wide Eye See anything different?

“Are you crazy?” you may be asking…Please hang with me for a minute…

This week we’ll focus on another element of margin:

The spiritual discipline of simply opening your eyes afresh, looking for a miracle or blessing, every day. Dr. Matthew Sleeth says, “I can tell you from experience that if you don’t look, you will not find them. And if you don’t jot them down, you will forget them.”

In Blessed Earth’s most recent newsletter ( ), Matthew discusses Spring’s arrival, bringing with it “dogwoods singing out with their living Celtic crosses, all served up on a plate of viridian green. It’s easy to spot miracles when the entire hemisphere comes to life—but really they are everywhere, and all the time.”

gardens at Chateau Kierwan

This beautiful “window” into a garden was a surprise find to us one night at Chateau Kierwan, near Pauillac, France where we had dinner. Magnificent discovery!

Matthew recommends an experiment to try for just one month: “Every day take note of (or a photo of) just one miracle. On Sunday, spend a little time reviewing the list. Then thank God…We do not need more wonders—just a greater sense of wonderment.” Wander with Wonder.

Matthew is an expert on Sabbath keeping, learning about it the hard way just as Mark Buchanan did. His book, 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life is a must-read. (I wrote about it last year: Get Over the Guilt and Grab a Nap—Beating Busyness: Part 4 of 4)

24-6 Sleeth

Ann Voskamp is another advocate of looking for blessings and writing them down. Her book is also a must-read: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. She maintains writing down your blessings, small or large, creates contentment many times we’d otherwise forget.

One Thousand Gifts

Gratitude, giving thanks, along with a vocabulary “full of grace” fulfills our soul and multiplies joy. John Piper offers, “There are eyes in pencils and in pens.” Friends, let’s open our eyes! Wander with wonder!

My favorite quote from Ann addresses “the cure against thanklessness’s bite: The remedy is in the retina. How we behold determines if we hold joy. Behold glory and be held by God.”

William Shakespeare said, “Thou art alive still—While thy booke doth live and we have wits to read and praise to give.”

Quote and pic of Shakespear

Walking across a bridge over the Seine River in Paris, near the magnificent Notre Dame, John and I happily landed in front of Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. Now that would go down in one’s gratitude journal if one were a book lover like yours truly! Books are in every nook and cranny in this charming bookstore. Wander with wonder.

umbrella in front of shakespear

Note the brand-new umbrella adorned with Eiffel Towers (Can you say, “tourist”???) we snagged for a mere seven Euros. Ah, but it kept us dry and better able to keep our eyes ready for more wonderment.

Let’s return to Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Mark touches on our subject of wandering with wonder when he says, “I don’t want to just carry on. I want to learn more and more to practice, here, now, always, the quality of awareness that I knew…I want to learn to pass through a day without passing it by.”

The Rest of God

Mark says, “The essence of Sabbath is paying attention. It is being fully present, wholly awake, in each moment. “

You won’t believe this from Chapter 3: “Louis Aggasiz, Harvard’s renowned biologist, returned one September to his classroom and announced to his students that he had spent the summer traveling. He had managed, he said, to get halfway across his backyard. To those with eyes to see, that’s enough. Everywhere we turn, wonders never cease.” Wander with wonder.

field of rapeseed

Aboard the fast TGV enroute to Paris from Bordeaux, John and I saw field, after field, after field of rapeseed. While this was a cloudy day and we took this picture thru’ the window of the train, you can get an idea of the brilliant yellow hues that stood out like sunshine in the countryside.

Mark gives an analogy, that, while laugh-out-loud funny, slightly stings: “One day is as good as another for practicing this kind of attentiveness. We all know people so self-absorbed and obtuse that they would miss the apocalypse if it happened in their living rooms.” Been there. Sigh…

And, here are just a few of Mark’s killer questions I promised you last week:

“Does the path I’m walking lead to a place I want to go?

If I keep heading this way, will I like where I arrive?

How much do I care about the things I care about?

And how have I grown content…?”

May we do as 2 Corinthians 10:5 which says, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Watching for miracles, blessings, and wandering with wonder is the best way to do that.

Mark recommends, “Consider your ways. That’s a wise Sabbath Liturgy. And let me make it more specific: consider your thoughts and attitudes.” 

Mark shares a wonderful scene from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,  part of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. “The children Peter, Edmond, Susan and Lucy all find themselves in Narnia after a long absence from Aslan, the great king and lion.” Lucy is who finds him first with great emotion and relief:


Aslan says, “Welcome, child.”

“Aslan,” says Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Mark says, “That’s a perfect description of those who train themselves in God’s goodness and sovereignty: Every year you grow, you find him bigger. The best way I know to embody this Godward orientation is thankfulness.”

Saint Sulpice Church Service

After visiting the Luxembourg Gardens, John and I  happened upon St. Sulpice Church. They were in the middle of a church service. The hush over the crowd in the candlelit cavernous altar was awe-inspiring.

Attendees didn’t just genuflect, they fully, deliberately knelt prior to finding a spot on a pew which made our visit amazingly worshipful. Prayers, songs and a message in French was beyond beautiful. This was one of many gifts we found along our walk that day.

In Front of Saint Sulplice

Here’s the outside of the church. It’s modeled after St. Paul’s in London…Wonder-filled architectural details.

May we all wander in the wonder.

‘Til next time!



Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Margin, Travel

A Croissant a Day…(Managing your Margin: Part 2 of 4)

Could it be possible for Satan to masquerade as a young, handsome maitre d’ on board our ship in France? And could he possibly sachet thru’ the dining room, every single morning, with a tremendous tray, tongs in hand, serving fresh, melt-in-your-mouth-nearly-foot-long croissants to each and every passenger because none of us could say, “no”?????

Actually, my stealth-like-resister-of-temptation-husband was able to turn this guy down. Yours truly? Not a chance.

Breakfast with croissants and coffee

Fresh butter and cheese and an assortment of lovely preserves enhanced the croissant. Slice of Heaven… All of this was a mere preamble to the breakfast we were about to order. So to answer my earlier question about the possibility of Satan masquerading as our maitre d’, oh, yes, I’m sure of it.

I could go further out on a limb and claim the croissant brought me margin (!!!), but that’d be a bit of a stretch. As in needing to wear stretch pants after a week of a croissant a day. And look at what was waiting for us in our workout room once we got to Paris:

apple a day

Alrighty then…

Last week we began by defining what margin is (Purposefully keeping space between your load and your limit. For more descriptions and suggestions, click on Part 1 of 2…)

This week we’ll discuss one of many concepts of margin. It comes from a well-known Scripture, Psalm 46:10a which says, “Be still, and know that I’m God…”

The NASB says, “Cease striving…”

The NLV says, “Be quiet.”

The VOICE says, “Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God.

Author Rob Morgan, in his book The Lord Is My Shepherd: Resting in the Peace and Power of Psalm 23 points out that finding time to study and savor Scripture is “a challenge in an age of noise, earbuds, radios, iPods, television, and loudspeakers. But all my electronics (including my mobile phone) HAVE AN ‘OFF’ BUTTON.” Hello???


Rob says, “We’ve got to steal away for stillness.” He recommends we “carve out a little zone of quiet each day for devotion and meditation.” Think about how you can do this today.

Ruth Bell Graham said, “The definition of traveling light may vary from one individual to another. But most of us need to trim off some excess weight.” (She’s not talking about excess weight on our bodies—as in pounds, plural, from consuming a croissant a day…She’s talking about in our calendars.)

She continues, “We have too many social involvements, an overabundance of good but unnecessary meetings…Remember this: ‘Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.’”

protection against stress

Let’s return to Mark Buchanan’s book, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Mark admits his number one regret is being in a hurry. Anyone besides me relate to this???

He says, “I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry…Thru’ all that haste, I thought I was making up time. Turns out I was throwing it away.”

The Rest of God

Now get a load of this: “The Chinese join two characters to form a single pictograph for busyness: heart and killing. That is stunningly incisive. The heart is the place the busy life exacts its steepest toll.” To further convince us of this, Mark adds, “This is true literally, physically, and cardiologically.”

Doctor Holding A Red Heart

He said his own father died of heart failure as did his father’s brother.  They literally worked themselves to death. Completely consumed and obsessed, they raced to a dreadful finish line. Scary.

Equally eye-opening is the Swahili word for “white man”–mazungu. It means “one who spins around”, as in spinning out of control. Mark says, “We’re flurries of going nowhere.” Ouch. “It’s Sabbath time,” Mark adds, “which invites us to stop turning around and around.”

The busy life is the antithesis to how God wants us to live. Ann Voskamp said, “Hurry always empties a soul.” Thus if we’re empty, we are rendered unable to glorify God. The light of Christ within us quickly becomes snuffed out. Scarier.

How then, must we live

To be still?

To manage our margin?

To restore our souls so that we restore the Sabbath?

This week, I pray you’ll consider ways to manage your margin every day. As I said last week, managing our margin translates into a huge benefit for our health and well-being.

I’ll leave you with a couple moments of margin while in France. Why don’t you leave a comment with some of your own ideas of favorite margin moments? We could all use some help!

John taking a moment of margin
This would be John’s idea of margin: relaxing on the balcony of our ship, taking in the beautiful scenery. (Yes, I did micro-manage just a tad and suggest he be careful to not kick his shoes off in the river!!! Fairly sure that little remark blew a moment or two of his margin…)

front of chocolate store
One of my ideas of margin occurred while drooling over some chocolate in a chocolate store.

moment of margin in cafe for coffee
This selfie (!!!) was taken one morning after a walking tour in Paris. It was a bit chilly and we wanted a hot cup of coffee. Café Americain, bien sur. Just what the doctor ordered for a moment of margin.

keep calm take a bible
Couldn’t resist this sign. Good advice….(And for you Frenchies, take the advice about your dog.)

Let’s return once more to Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.” May we find moments of margin to be still and not hurry thru’ what life we have left on this earth.

Next week we’ll look at some thought-provoking questions from Mark’s book. Heads’ up: they have the potential to stop you in your tracks…but for good reason. We’ll also have more moments of margin from France.

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Margin, Travel

Come with Me to France…(Managing Your Margin: Part 1 of 4)

Ahhh, a big bonjour to you, dear friends! John and I are just back from a wonderful trip to France. We were blessed to celebrate his 55th birthday and our soon-to-be-30th anniversary on a river cruise on the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.

I’ll be sharing highlights from our trip with you as we spend the month of May managing our margins (oh yes, I’ll explain), which translates into a huge benefit for our health and well-being.

The below photo was taken on a night-time walking tour in Bordeaux…

john and eliz in Bordeaux

It occurred to me, while on vacation, where one would certainly hope to have mega-margin, we still may not have any due to our over-worked and frazzled brains. Our world tends to encourage us to never shut down.

I love the Speed Bump comic where the Mom comes in and proclaims to her daughter, “There aren’t many nice days left—why don’t you go outside and text?” Sad, but true…..

Social media icons on smartphone

Unbelievably, while en France, I did manage to shut my cell phone down for eleven days! (Granted John’s phone stayed on, so we could call home, and I could get emails on my iPad, so don’t be too impressed, but you get the idea…)

My new favorite awe-inspiring, life-giving book is by Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. (It came highly recommended.) We will learn ways to enhance not only our Sabbath, but our margin as well.

The Rest of God

I confess I’m obsessed with margin, and securing more of it. This should come highly amusing to those of you who know me. I’d say you had no idea of my obsession as I’m sorely lacking in managing my margin. Daily.

After soaking in some of Mark Buchanan’s much-needed points on Sabbath, my “aha” moment hit. We can do this together, friends!!! Mark says, “I believe the Spirit has brought us into each other’s company for just such a time as this, that together we might discover Jesus in the midst of our busyness.”

Well, what is margin? Margin is the space between our load and our limits.


Andy Stanley, in his Bible study Take It to the Limit Study Guide: How to Get the Most Out of Life (North Point Resources) says it best: “All good things happen within margin…such as your relationships with others and God. Because we are human, we all have limits on our time, our energy, and our money. So, if we push our limits, spreading ourselves too thin, we push out God. Therefore, deleting any margin we may have had.” (DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!!)

take it to the limit

Anybody good at spreading themselves too thin? ‘Tis one of my terrible “talents”…as my crammed calendar can testify. Sigh…

On our trip to France, however, we had no agenda. We simply did most of what Viking offered, which were wonderfully educational and enlightening experiences, beautiful scenery, and meeting fun people from all over the world.

Our ship’s Chef delighted us foodies with homemade soups, sauces, fresh seafood, steaks, lamb, bread, a boatload of butter (pun intended), a wide variety of cheeses, and desserts-to-die-for. Think of these meals for lunch and dinner, not to mention melt-in-your-mouth-clog-your-arteries Eggs Benedict for breakfast!!!

chocolate mousse and coffee

This was a favorite dessert served after lunch one day at Chateau Siaurac: chocolate mousse, a petite cookie and hot coffee. What a presentation!

While we did stroll thru’ the towns of Bordeaux, Paulliac, Blaye, Bourg, Libourne, St. Emilion and Arcachon, strolling is the operative word. Boat Blobs would be the end result.

We had glorious days to soak in the French culture, walking the cobblestone streets while viewing twelfth and thirteenth century churches. (Next week, we’ll also talk about the breath-taking countryside.)

Tower in St Emilion

This is the bell tower in St. Emilion

Back to the book, Mark lays out the importance of Sabbath, the gift of Sabbath and the challenge of Sabbath. Choosing to experience the Sabbath equals managing your margin.

For all you cat and dog lovers out there, Mark reminisces from his childhood days when his parents had multitudes of cats. He said they all would find warm, sunny spots in their home to curl up for a long winter’s nap. Our dog, Gracie, is also quite adept at this:


kitty on roof

This little cat (if you can spot her!) chose to sun herself on a roof in Blaye, France…

Visually and poetically gifted as a writer, Mark offers this image after the cat nap story: “I think of Sabbath as a patch of sunlight falling thru’ a window on a winter’s day…In it, you can lie down and rest. From it, you can rise up and go—stronger, lighter, ready to work again with vigor and a clear mind.”

Mark confesses he was purpose-driven to a fault. He said he once went  forty days straight without taking a day off. (Never mind he’s a pastor!) He was squandering time. Bitter, impatient, easily irritable, and worse character traits suddenly crept into his soul causing all of his relationships to suffer. He realized, “I learned to keep Sabbath in the crucible of breaking it.” 

Running Out Of Time

Mark gives us several ways to understand Sabbath: “Sabbath imparts the rest of God: practical, physical, mental and spiritual rest…but also the rest of God: the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.” His goal for us readers is: ”to awaken in yourself wonder and expectancy, that Sabbath in the long-run is as essential to your well-being as food and water.”

We must look at Sabbath in two ways, also a key to managing your margin:

–         Set apart portions of a day, working up to an entire day: Realize it’s a gift from God, not something to feel guilty about. If an entire day is too extreme for you, start out slowly. (*See end of post for ideas.)

–         Sabbath is also an attitude: A Sabbath heart “is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God.” And don’t miss this warning: “You will never enter the Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart.”

Lovely little girl playing with red heart shaped balloon

One Scripture I’m always drawn to is Jesus’ invitation to us all: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

The Life Application Bible says, “The rest that Jesus promises is love, healing, and peace with God, not the end of all labor. A relationship with God changes meaningless, wearisome toil into spiritual productivity and purpose.” 

The ESV Study Bible says, “Come to me is an invitation to trust Jesus personally, not merely to believe historical facts about him. ..The wider application is that Jesus provides ‘rest for our souls’(v. 29)—that is eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works.” 

Enjoy these pictures of doors from all over France.  When thinking of an invitation, especially at Jesus’ prompting,  how lovely to enter via a beautiful door…

cool door in st emilion

black iron door w topiaries

picturesque door in Blaye

fancy wooden door in paris

teal and brass ornate door

Wooden Door w brass knobs and lion heads

maison du commander door


So, for any of us who are tired and worn out, this is not God-intended. What can we do this week to manage our margin? (*No need to stress over jumping in to a full day, start out slowly…)

Take a walk

Take a nap

Sip and savor a cup of coffee or tea


Meditate on God’s Word

Go for a bike ride

Listen to music



Call a friend for no reason

Write a hand-written letter


Luxembourg Gardens

On one of our days walking thru’ Paris, (we had three nights there after the river cruise) John and I happened upon the Luxembourg Gardens. While it rained off and on that day, we were blessed to have clear skies and sit and rest and enjoy the beauty of the gardens, children playing with boats, people having a picnic, etc. Pure margin!

We’ve just barely touched the tip of the Sabbath/Margin iceberg. More to follow this month when  I’ll take you to more picturesque scenes from France.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with our last day’s adventure to the resort town of Arcachon. Oyster fishermen were plentiful and John and I tasted our very first raw oyster!

Forever fearful of these marvelous molluscs, I emphatically stated, “Well, we certainly can’t come all the way to this seaside town in France and hurt the feelings of this brave oyster fisherman, now then, can we???”

oyster farmer explains to our guide

Without further ado, our group very bravely sucked-n-swallowed the salty, slimy things, fully doused with lemon juice, followed by a large slice of bread and salty butter. No problem… (Note John is quite triumphant while I opened my mouth as wide as possible in hopes I wouldn’t taste it so much….Crazy tourists….)

John Swallows an oyster

Eliz eating oyster

Our moments of margin that day were on the boat ride across the beautiful bay. Our French-speaking captain showed us the oyster beds and the remarkable high, high sand dunes near the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. This was truly a lovely, soul-replenishing day.


Sand Dunes and oysters

(These sand dunes are the largest in Europe. They are so tall, there are stairs you can climb to the top which is about 360 feet. It’s about 9 football fields wide and 1.86 miles long and get this: it moves about 16 feet a year! Incroyable!!!)

I pray our journey thru’ Mark Buchanan’s book will bless you and afford you a little more time to rest, savor the Sabbath, and manage your margin.

‘Til next time!

This week’s post is dedicated to all you Moms. Grandmothers, and Great Grandmothers out there with Mother’s Day fast approaching. May you find some moments of margin and savor the Sabbath. Happy Mother’s Day!



Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Margin, Travel, Uncategorized