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Last Sunday I shared with our church my family’s guiding values. You can find them in the message notes here, along with a downloadable template to help guide you through the process of clarifying your own family values. Keeping these values as a priority can be very difficult in our chaotic culture and I often get asked how I/we as a family balance all the responsibilities that come with leading a fast growing church, parenting and homeschooling two boys, having date nights together, training and coaching other leaders and church planters, and most importantly, focusing on my walk with Jesus Christ. The answer is quite simple: it’s called “margin.” In school, margin was that extra white space on the page where you weren’t supposed to write. Although you cannot create more time than you already have—we all have 24 hours in each day—margin in life is that extra time that you must reserve for what’s most important. Here are a few thoughts that may help you create margin in life:

  1. Your time is limited, so know your limits. We all have limits, but identifying them takes an honest self-assessment that most people are not willing to take. I know my personal limits, primarily through past experiences. There have been times when I have come to the end of a day or week only to realize that I am unapproachable due to my stress level and lack of balance. However, through honest and open conversations with those closest to me, I have learned to pinpoint areas of weakness that push me past my limits.
  2. Understand that “priority” determines “capacity.” When I go to pack the car for vacation, I want it packed my way—the right way! (If you’re a man, you understand.) I get perturbed when someone puts the smaller bags in before the larger bags, because it won’t be long until we run out of space and the big bags simply will not fit. In life I have had to determine what bags are the biggest and most important. For me they are: God, Julie, children, church, work, friends, and then hobbies—in that order. If I get these things out of order, or even get confused about which category something falls into, it destroys all the margin in my life. For example, my eight year-old’s baseball is not in the children category, rather it is in the hobby category. This is vital to understanding margin and maintaining priority. When I get the priorities right, I get more accomplished and my family is healthy.
  3. Life happens in the margin. This fact alone is what keeps me focused. I have learned that if I know my limits and keep my priorities in order, I will build margin into my life. Through experience, I have learned that when I build that margin, life happens. I can enjoy a date with Julie free of cell phone distractions. I can play in the evenings with my boys without the worry of responding to urgent emails. I can enjoy authentic relationships with others because of the quality time that we are able to share. I can give generously of my time and resources to help my church and those in need. I can go on vacation and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of life. Those are the things that matter to me and that’s why margin is so important.

In what areas of your life do you need more margin? What things do you do that help you create balance? I’d love to hear from you…

Carl Nichols

A native of south Atlanta, Carl has a passion for God, Julie, and sports. He and Julie have two sons, Jase and Trey. They have a heart to see people understand how crazy God is about them! Carl is the Lead Pastor at Relevant.

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