Every morning this week, after tucking the big kids safely into school, I've turned the minivan into the rising sun and driven straight home. I bundle the littles, still wearing their footsies, out of the warmth of the car into the warmth of the house. We eat steel-cut oatmeal topped with brown sugar and dried cranberries and chopped pecans and flaxseed. (And maybe a few mini chocolate chips, for good measure.) Then we clean up the kitchen and I load the dishwasher and the sunlight fills the house with glory and I practically purr with contentment.

I do believe I've found my margin.

It's a funny thing; lasting change is so subtle. You never really notice it until you stop and look around.

A few years ago, I ran breathless. Part of me loves living on adrenaline and part of me was hooked on the productivity of busy.

But in my soul, where it counts, all that rushing was making me miss my life. I was so focused on the To Do List and the Next Thing that I missed the Right Now.

When my heart started to whisper that it wanted something more - a slowing, a stillness, a Sabbath - I didn't know where to start. It seemed so overwhelming, after a lifetime of preoccupation. How do I stop? How do I find some time to just be?

It started, as all change starts, with one step.

I decided to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life. That meant I had to cut a lot of things out of my schedule. So I did. Together, Corey and I decided to enroll the big kids in just one extracurricular event per year, instead of one per season. We decided to pull out of AWANA and other midweek church programming, because the hours were too hard on the little kids. I decided against a weekly Bible study for me, preferring instead the easier schedule of my twice-monthly moms group. I even made the somewhat draconian decision to say no to all evening events for the time being, because it's just not worth the fall-out of not being here at bedtime. (I hate putting four kids to bed by myself when Corey travels. So I can't justify making him do it because I want a night out with the girls.) (And here I should note: This is MY decision, not one I made lightly, and I am not asking you to do it. But this works, right now, for our family.)

All of this means I have exactly two mornings a month when I am committed to something. Every other morning, every other day, is at my disposal.

Which means I can do nothing if I chose. I can color all morning and do puzzles at lunch and then fold some laundry while Kieran naps and Teyla watches Team Umizoomi. I can bake cinnamon bread and whole wheat muffins and stir up big pots of chili and pork apricot stew. I can sit and cuddle my last baby when he falls asleep in my arms. I put off going to the grocery store unless absolutely necessary, and I don't run to Target just to get out of the house. I'm just fine here, thank you, sitting by the fire with my people and playing Candyland.

Wide margins. Oh how I've changed.

Suddenly, I understand why my graphic artists friends are such fans of white space. Without it, you don't really focus on what's important.


  1. Space in the margins is one of my MUST HAVEs in life. I am totally with you.

  2. Such wisdom here, Kelly. I stayed much-too-busy when my girls were little, but somewhere along the way I realized that I really LIKED being home with them. When I slowed down, I found I was much happier as their mom. Good for you for finding the balance that works.

  3. I really love this and am totally on the same page as you! :)

  4. I'm a fan of the white space. When I was a younger mom, when my older kids were just getting started in preschool, then elementary school, I felt like we needed to join everything, volunteer for everything, and book ourselves silly.

    Slowly, I backed off and away from needing to fill our days. Really, life is stressful enough without piling it on...and for what? If the end goal is having Godly, content, bright, happy kids, what better way to work toward that then being more fully engaged in the smaller moments. Not saying you can't do that racing around, but it's far more pleasant when you have steel cut oats (YUM) to dot with toppings and not Quaker instant.

  5. Good stuff, Kelly, as always...your closing reminds me that my former graphic designer/co-worker always referred to the white areas as "resting space". Enjoy yours!

  6. its good to have so muchspace....I need some extra me time right now but normally your type ofday is quite similar to mine :)

  7. You are my role model. Seriously, this is awesome.

  8. I try ts hard to explain it to people. How much happier they will be. How much more peaceful their home will be.
    It is hardest to convince the extroverts and the GO GO GOers. They don't understand that even if they don't need it, their kids probably do.

    I believe in saying no as much as possible. Then you know the things you say yes too are really important.

  9. Amen, sister! It took kid #3 for me to truly embrace this concept. Now I love our quiet days cooking, reading, playing, building, etc. We quit Awana too for the same reason :). Everytime I read your blog I found myself saying yes! Yes! Yes! You get it too! :). Love it.

  10. So refreshing to hear amid the many voices telling me all that they're busy doing, doing, doing. I would love to listen to some of my real-life friends talk about the things they've not-done or un-done. And not for me, but for them, because I think they would find so much happiness and peace in the white space, as you have.

    It's funny, when Al and I started dating, he was a back-to-back commitment kind of person. I introduced him to the concept of margin, and he up and became addicted to it. Now we are working to ratchet things up a bit to meet my fairly low needs for interaction with the outside world. ;) Balance is a tricky little bugger!

  11. I love this post. As a mom of grown-ups and looking back at motherhood, I totally agree with your viewpoint and stand up and applaud you! You'll have soooo many years to be involved in whatever you want and not have to think about dragging sleepy kids all over the place. I watched a young mom I knew quit her job to "stay home with the kids" only to fill her time up with lots of other activities. The peace never came to her home. Made me sad to see. From now on, as an older woman, encourage young moms to embrace this.