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…
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…..
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.
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!!!)
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!!!
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.)
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:
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.”
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.”
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…
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
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???”
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….)
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.
(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!