I was standing around with some other moms at my kids’ school one day this week when one mom asked the group, “Are you all ready for Christmas?” To which the other moms replied that they had so much to do still and only two weeks left! We all felt pretty much the same way. Too much to do and not enough time to do it. There was the shopping, the baking, the wrapping, and, of course, the kids’ Christmas concerts to attend. It’s a busy time of year and we all know it.
Especially for people like me.
The thing is, I have a bad habit of taking on too much. With all three of my kids in school I tend to load up my plate thinking, ‘I’ll have plenty of time for that.’ But then time goes by and I begin to panic as I start to realize there’s no possible way I can handle everything I’ve committed to.
Did I mention I’m not so great at that elusive thing called “balance?” My guess would be that many people struggle with this too, even if those moms at school aren’t admitting it. Most of us like to appear as if we have it all together. More than once I’ve asked someone, “How do you do it all?” But I would wager that often the real answer is “I don’t!”
But the problem with allowing this frantic type of busyness to creep up on me, aside from causing extra stress, is that I end up missing something essential in my life.
In Leviticus 23:22 God instructs the Israelites on the harvest, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.” The Israelites were told not to use up every square inch of their food but to leave margins on the edges of the fields so that the poor could eat, too (we know that Ruth benefited from this law later in the Old Testament).
And it strikes me that in my determination to over-commit and get it all done, I am not leaving any margin in my life. I am ploughing every single minute of every day and leaving no space for God to use me in a way that I hadn’t already planned.
This lack of margin occurs often in financial matters, as well. If we are stretched to the max, every penny budgeted and debt up to our eyeballs, then we have no margin with which God can use us to bless others.
I am the first to admit that I don’t like the unknown. I want to know where I’m going, what I’m doing, and how much it will cost. Don’t call me last minute because even if I have no plans I will not change what I’m doing (or not doing).
But somewhere in the midst of all the planning and the busyness of this Christmas season I need to carve out some margins. I need to make space to be available for God to use me. Leaving open time in my schedule and then showing up wherever I might be needed. This doesn’t mean that I let others take advantage of me, as in ‘She’s not doing anything, anyway. She can babysit.’ Instead, what it means is that I am shifting my focus to be more aware of the opportunities for God to work in my life that I may have overlooked when I focused only on my to-do list.
It’s essential to note that margins don’t just happen by accident. They are also not the scraps left over after we’ve had our fill. They are the who, what, when, why, and how that we answer with, “I don’t know, yet, I’m waiting to see where God wants me.” They are the spaces we intentionally leave open, the doors we don’t close, the possibilities we don’t remove. Like the unharvested portion of the crops, the margins are spaces in our lives that God has plans for.
The Isrealites were not to plough the fields and make their own decisions about who to bless with their excess. They were told to just leave it. And in Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 24 the command to leave margins includes any grain that has been dropped in the process of harvesting. The Isrealites were to leave the stuff that had fallen to the ground so that the poor could glean that, too.
Just leave it. And if, in your effort to carry it all, you end up accidentally dropping some, you can leave that, too. You might feel like you’ve messed up but now you can know that God has something else in your life He can work with.
And suddenly, there’s a purpose and a meaning in those things that we thought were empty spaces. It might not be what we intended or planned, but it’s a way that we can allow God to bless others through us.
So the next time someone asks how prepared I am, I can answer that I might not yet have all of the things on my list done. But yes, I am ready for Christmas.