I’m an advertising gal by trade. Fifteen years scrutinizing, economizing, analyzing words…what can be said in the smallest space with the greatest impact? The copywriters and I would spend hours – saying it this way, saying it that way, stacking the words vertically, aligning left, aligning right… and when it was right, you knew it.

In advertising, “white space” is the portion of the page, or ad, left blank. Empty. The space left over when the rest of the message has been placed.

It’s a necessary component of any ad. If there’s not enough white space, the person reading tends to skip over the page entirely and all of the message is lost. The ad is not read, the message is not conveyed, and all that time and effort, wasted.

The more white space on a page, the more likely what IS there will be read, and the more impactful the message. Human nature. It’s just how we’re wired.

The same goes for the white space in our lives. Without a little white space, all the rest of the “stuff” becomes pointless, unseen.

The margin between duty and crazy. The smidgen of empty on a full calendar.

White space requires we say “No.” With white space, there is guilt. “No” to things that are worthwhile and important. “No” to birthday parties, baby showers, or important causes. “No” to helping. “No” to leading. “No” to serving.

But, Jesus never said we had to do it all.

Martha, Martha…it might as well be my middle name. Martha, Martha…get it through your head!

Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.

Luke 10:41-42 MSG

Fussing. Getting worked up over the WRONG thing. Only one thing is essential.

So often I find that my margins align with my need for approval. The more I do, the more I will be liked (or so I naively presume).

Cutting back requires risk. White space requires I let people down. Someone will always be disappointed in me. White space means I say no to glorious opportunities, fun parties, play dates, experiences and assignments.

But there are a few people, three to be exact, that will never suffer from a little white space in my life. My three boys, one big, two small. They live in my white space, in the margins of my life. The time I have left over when the other commitments are met.

Maybe, really, what we think of as white space isn’t margin at all. Maybe white space is what is leftover when the REAL needs are met – when my children have had enough of me, when my husband has had my full attention. When God has heard my voice, and His words have been heard by my soul – when all that is done, then whatever we do next…that’s the margin, the white space.

Working the priority instead of the urgency, I must flip my focus from outside to inside, to what my boys need of me first, and what I do for others, second.

Guilt-free, I must say “no” to others so I can say ”yes” to my highest priorities. At times, my self-worth is directly related to the amount of dirty laundry in front of the washing machine. If I have led a “productive” day, I consider it a good day. I am always doing, doing, doing. I’m not very good at being. Being present. Being in the moment.

Yesterday, my husband took the boys with him to run an errand in the late afternoon and I had 45 whole minutes of daylight all to myself. So, while there were still weeds to be pulled and plants to put in the ground, I set my iTunes to the Gypsy Kings, poured myself a glass of sangria, and just…sat there.

I sat there in my yard, and listened. Looked. I soaked it in. The blue sky. The roses. The plants that are clamoring for life in this warm, early summer.

This yard. A place we’ve spent more time in than our home. We remodeled the yard before we ever touched the house. Thousands of hours of labor, pruning, pulling, weeding, planting. Dreaming of it when there was nothing but cracked dirt and knee-high weeds. Sweating in the heat, enduring the thorns and the bee-stings until we fashioned for ourselves a little paradise behind the house. Every square foot we’ve had worked, toiled, and labored and it is finally, finally, done.

I sat there, in the shade of orange trees and roses, and listened to the fountain. I simply sat there. And then I started to be there, and in being there, I started to feel, and the numbness that comes from doing, doing, doing, going, doing, started to wear off and I cried. I cried with gratitude that such a place was ours. I cried for my mom, because she would have loved it, too. I cried about the parties that are yet to be celebrated, birthdays, graduations, maybe even someday…weddings?

I gave myself permission to just be in that moment, all by myself, for no other reason than it was there. It was not a productive use of my time, but it was a worthy one.

And funny, the rest of the day felt the same. Worthy. Enough.

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Adelle Gabrielson

Author at Redbud Writers Guild
A former marketing executive turned boy-mom, Adelle now spends her days on staff at her church and her evenings trying to keep the peace (and the house from burning down). After the early death of her mother, Adelle spent years feeling discontented — years struggling with worry, fear, doubt and a daily sense of failure. Through a journey of personal discovery, loss, grief and God’s gentle guidance, Adelle has come to find freedom in her flaws. “If I can help just one more person find that same sense of personal peace and contentment, then the journey has been worthwhile.”Adelle speaks regularly about living an authentic, fearless life and blogs at http://www.AdelleGabrielson.com. Her writing can also be found in publications from LifeWay, DaySpring, and Focus on the Family. A graduate of Pepperdine University, Adelle lives in Northern California with her husband, Gabe, their two sons, an ornery, half-feral cat, and the best dog-of-uncertain-heritage ever, Rufus.
Adelle Gabrielson
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