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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Calendar (2)


Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 1

More and more, people are talking about “margin.” Dawn Wilson tackles this topic in a Self-Care UPGRADE in a two-part post to encourage those who find themselves stressed and over-committed, exhausted and near burnout.

Marginless living is the story of millions of Americans today. That’s part of my story too. I desperately needed more margin.

In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (NavPress, 2014), Richard A. Swenson, a medical doctor, points out the lack of margin in American society in spite of all the “progress” we have made.

“The disease of marginless living is insidious, widespread and virulent,” Dr. Swenson said. “We live with unprecedented wealth and all it brings. We have leisure, entertainment, convenience and comfort…. Yet stress, frustration and oftentimes even despair unexpectedly accompany our unrivaled prosperity.”

His book is an excellent study of the reasons for marginless living, and he offers wisdom for every area of life. (I recommend it to stretch your thinking.)

But even before I read his book, I was thinking about the reasons for my own stress. Here’s what I discovered.

When some people think about margin, they envision the word “boundaries”—the need to not let others overrun the priorities in their lives.

I totally understand that. It’s important to have biblical priorities and values for our lives and families. We have to learn to say no to others’ expectations when they don’t understand, or when they either intentionally or unintentionally try to push past our boundaries.

But I think that’s only one side of margin.

My version of margin includes freedom. It focuses on space and freed-up time.

I like to describe margin as “spacious opportunities.”

In other words, yes, we need to establish firm boundaries so people will not take advantage of our kindness and desire to serve. That’s a necessary part of healthy relationships.

We want to live in a sacrificial way, but the Lord still may direct us to say “no” to some intrusive or unnecessary things so we can say “yes” to other things that fit our calling and biblical priorities (Colossians 4:1-2).

But we have to be sure we’re creating space for those “yeses.”

If we don’t, we’ll simply be piling good things onto other good things and causing over-commitment and stress.

We all need positive space to think, create, and breathe. But our lives are so busy, we won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

There are some things we can’t (and shouldn’t change)—the priority of a relationship with God and the priority of our key relationships (Matthew 6:33; Mark 12:30-31).

But beyond that, we need to see and embrace opportunities for margin throughout our lives. It’s a wonderfully positive approach.

There are at least SEVEN WAYS to create more opportunities for margin—for what really matters.

1. Create more empty space in your HOME. We don’t have to stuff every closet and fill every shelf. It’s OK to leave some empty space. Even healthy and freeing.

Part of the Titus 2:4-5 mandate for women, even those who have careers, is to work at home—to manage the home well. It doesn’t have to be a duty or drudgery. Make it fun. Create a freeing space to minister to people in your family and neighborhood.

Join me in creating that freedom! Evaluate your “stuff.” Go through one room per week with a big box or bag. What can you find to give away? Ask yourself:

  • How many of these do I have?” (Why do you need 12 pair of scissors—and they aren’t even crafting scissors? Learn to practice contentment: Hebrews 13:5a)
  • Why am I keeping this?” (An out-of-date college textbook. A 10-year-old jar of face cream, probably rancid.)
  • “Do I really need to have this object to keep a memory alive?” (A photo might suffice.)
  • “Is this a legacy item—and does my family want it?” (And usually, our millennial kids don’t.)
  • “Do I really need this?” or “Might someone else need this more than me? (Consider a homeless person, a struggling single mom, a low-paid teacher, etc.)

I have often used some of the home and office organizing techniques I've learned from "Organizing Pro" Marcia Ramsland in her book Simplify Your Life.

2. Create more space in your CALENDAR. Just as our homes can be cluttered with stuff we don’t need, sometimes our lives are cluttered with activity and our schedules need some paring down.

We need to plan “down time” as carefully—and with as much joyful anticipation and dedication—as work, event and activity times. Part of making “the best use of your time” (Ephesians 5:15-17) is understanding the Lord wants us to know when to stop working, to stop pushing… to just stop!

Plan breaks and times of refreshing on a regular basis: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. God wants His loved ones to get “proper rest” (Psalm 127:2).

Again, Marcia Ramsland can help with her book, Simplify Your Time.

3. Create more space in your BUDGET. Rather than thinking, “How much do I have left to spend?” think, “How much can I save?” or “How much can I invest?” Thinking we have money to indulge our every whim is seldom wise.

Rather than letting covetousness rule, give money its proper place and think in terms of faithful and wise stewardship.

When we plan wisely, we will feel more secure (Ecclesiastes 7:12); but remember the true Source of your security. Even so, it’s still smart to create sufficient financial margin—sometimes called a “cushion of funds”—to carry you over in times of stress or crisis. Financial experts may not agree on the exact amount, but they all agree on the necessity!

For financial wisdom beyond the scriptures, I seek out people like "America's Family Financial Expert," Ellie Kay and The 60-Minute Money Workout. I also learned so much from Ron Blue and Jeremy White's Faith-based Family Finances, Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover and Randy Alcorn's Managing God's Money.

How can you create more spacious opportunities in these three areas: Home, Calendar and Budget?

Part 2 of this post will appear on January 31st,  with four more areas needing margin.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.


The Nightmare of Lost Agendas

Cynthia Ruchti's prose is heart-healing, filled with hope. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she encourages us to place our hope in God in one of the most practical areas of our lives—our schedules.

"I glared at my computer screen as if it had betrayed me," Cynthia said. "My calendar—ergo, my life—was gone!"

I (Dawn) shudder to think what that might feel like. I live by the calendar! Thankfully, there's some good advice here for people like me. And you?

Cynthia continues . . .

The calendar template showed when I clicked on the icon that nightmarish day. But all the spaces were blank.

I had no record of upcoming doctor and dentist appointments, no notations to remind me to send in a blog post before its due date, no scheduled radio interviews or contact information, no schedule of speaking events two years into the future, no record of events from the past, and NO HOPE of retrieving the information.

I checked the iPhone version and the iPad version, grasping at electronic straws.


Panic remained off-stage for a while. There’s always a way to retrieve lost information, isn’t there? I’d invested in a hefty backup system.

Looked there.


I contacted the company that sponsors the calendar.

     “Can’t help you, ma’am.”

I searched my files and piles of paper, thinking I might have printed off the next three months’ worth of calendar pages, at least.


That task—printing off the calendars—was on the To-do list on the now blank calendar.

All my agendas, lost. All opportunities, gone.

With a distressing number of phone calls and apologies to doctors’ offices and event planners, I could piece together bits of the missing information. But I couldn’t retrieve what I couldn’t remember was gone. It was on the calendar so I didn’t have to trust my brain and its sketchy recall abilities.

Days passed with no solution. I had no idea what I might have missed during those disturbingly empty days.

But I began to see what I could gain—a new perspective.

1. “My times are in His Hands” (Psalm 31:15 NIV).

They’re not the indentured servants of an online calendar.

 2. “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21 NLT).

I’d planned and planned and planned, wedging responsibilities between other responsibilities when I saw the slimmest opening. In a moment, my carefully constructed plans were gone. But God’s plans for me hadn’t and wouldn’t change.

3. “People plan their path, but the LORD secures their steps” (Proverbs 16:9 CEB).

I’d considered my calendar written in indelible ink. Instead, it was disappearing ink.

The only plans worthy of permanent ink status are God’s instructions to love, give, serve, and live according to His Spirit.

By a miracle of grace that I still can’t explain, the calendar notations reappeared days later. But not until I’d caught the significance of what it meant to lose my agendas in favor of the ones that mattered most. His.

The lesson was driven deeper when editing a book I’d written about a woman whose plans were upended by job loss and her voice silenced—blanked—by a collection of traumas. She was forced to face many of the same issues I stared at during the nightmare of my lost agendas.

That book—Song of Silence—just released.  

God misses no details.

Take a look at your calendar. Color-coded? Crammed with activity and responsibility?

  • What if all you’ve included were erased and all that remained were God’s directions for your days?
  • What would it look like then?
  • And what can you do to intentionally erase a few unnecessaries before He has to hit DELETE?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope, drawing from more than three decades writing and producing a 15-minute daily radio broadcast. She’s the award-winning author of 18 books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. To purchase Cynthia's newest book, Song of Silence, visit here, or to read about it: here. Check out Cynthia's website for information about her speaking ministry.

Graphic: "Computer Monitor," image courtesy of Teerapun at