It's good to take a deep breath every once in a while

If you ask me where the greatest place on earth is, I won't hesitate to tell you that it's found on the beach with the surf dancing around my chair as my kids play in the water and sand nearby. Nothing calms my soul or brings clarity out of confusion for me like a day at the beach.

Many people have told me how lucky I am for living on the coast, and I don't disagree. But when they say things like, "You get to go to the beach whenever you want!" I have to chime in with a little perspective. True, if I was a character in a Nicholas Sparks book then the beach would be my backyard and work would be optional. Yet life isn't like that for me or many people that I know.

If you were to tell me that you are immune to stress, that the craziness of life never really gets to you, then the first thing I would do is check your pulse! Regardless of whether you are a student, parent, professional, or seasoned citizen, life is often crazy and unpredictable.

Recently, my wife and I have started watching old episodes of The Waltons on TV and have found ourselves daydreaming about living in simpler times. Now I know that the show is fictional, filmed in California and not a rural Virginia setting, and I'm sure that farm life in the 1930's was no walk in the park. But shows like this express what so many of us long for: peace, relief from daily stress, and the satisfaction of relationships. This "safe zone" that we seek - that we all need - is called margin.

Margin occurs when we recognize that we can't do it all and thus we don't even pretend that we can. It involves controlling your schedule before it controls you. Family dinners, intentional play time with the kids, quiet solitude on the porch watching the sun rise or set, or even a mid-afternoon workout are all ways to get away and regain a foothold in the busy schedule of life.

Jesus understood margin and sought it out in His own life. Mark 1:35, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there." Imagine having a schedule like Jesus - sermons to preach, people to heal, a kingdom to build. And you think your life is hectic! Yet in spite of all that was on His plate, Jesus took time to retreat from the chaos to be alone and to enjoy the fellowship if good friends.

Somewhere in the pages of the book of our lives entitled Insanity, we must learn where to insert the margins before the words run off the page and effectively run us dry. Don't apologize for pulling back and making time for family, friends, and yourself. Learn to say "No!" and be okay with it. Remember, if you don't learn how to manage your schedule, your schedule will be more than happy to manage you.

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