We rented a truck last week to haul a few things, and of course, the boys wanted to drive it to school! They smiled, climbed in and began trying so hard to open the small window in the back of the cab. I immediately had a flashback of when I was a child. Dad drove a small, burgundy Datsun truck. (Datsun was Nissan before it was Nissan.) On the weekends, my brother and I would ride in the truck bed, feel the wind on our faces, and just savor the ride. During the week, mom worked early mornings, so dad got us ready for school. We would pile in that tiny piece of burgundy metal with half combed hair and breakfast still on our faces. Sometimes we brushed our teeth. We scooted in close (because there was no cab) and opened that back window, enjoying the breeze on our necks. We were lucky kids.
When I think about my childhood, I don’t remember worrying a lot. There wasn’t too much stress, except for when I tried to plan my jr. prom all by myself. Mom came in and rescued me and suggested I utilize a prom committee. (That was a good thing.) But overall, my childhood was manageable and care-free. I was pretty lucky.
There was lots of margin and extra room in our schedule: Lots of afternoons for brownies at grandmas and secretly watching soap operas on her couch. Dad always took a nap on Sundays and I curled up with him. We ate as a family together most nights. My brother and I played sports, but I just don’t remember feeling too busy or overwhelmed. I did my homework and we went to Wednesday night church. I am sure my parents felt stress, but there was always room for what was important. I remember mom’s Bible study friends at the house and sitting with dad in the garage on many Saturdays. We usually ate lunch with family after Sunday church. Mom and dad both worked and sometimes dinner was a bucket of KFC and biscuits. There were less distractions then, less money coming in, which meant less paid entertainment, which meant more family time and creativity. My family was not perfect but it grounded me and brought security.
I couldn’t appreciate the margin then or the family time my parents ensured we had. But I sure do now. As my boys looked out that cab window, I just smiled. I longed for dad and the jelly toast we ate every morning over the heat vent. I missed the music he played on his stereo in the hot garage. I remembered the little table in our kitchen where mom sat out the Valentine’s goodies. I missed her taking me school shopping and buying blue Lisa Frank notebook paper. I felt the humor of the dreaded Easter picture which meant panty hose and a night sleeping in pink sponge rollers. I thought of Poppy’s homemade lemonade and watching TBS and the Braves after school. I remembered all the things that planted something in me, all the things that took root deep inside: Sleepovers with my grandmother and thoughts of Mrs. Edna, the mean old lady next door who terrified us, working the concession stand for the local baseball field, sweet Sunday school teachers and family beach trips.
There was so much intentional margin and freedom and rest. I was so lucky. Or was I? Was it just luck or did my parents realize the margin they left for us? Did they realize they were filling the margin with meaning and memories?
As an adolescent counselor, I am concerned. I am concerned about the kids in my office that are stressed and angry. They are tired and lonely. They aren’t connected with family anymore. They are staying on their screens until late at night and choosing their phones over real people. Their schedules are maxed out with school and sports and there is no margin or rest or freedom. I had to show two dads this week how to set screen time limits on their daughter’s phones. And they pay me real money for this.
Our small group recently started the series, Breathing Room, by Andy Stanley. It’s all about margin and how we need that space to rest and be free. Margin is necessary. But once we create it, are we filling it with meaning and memories? Are we making the most of it? Are we using it to ground us and our kids? Are we responding to the urgent in life or are we diving into what is important? What a challenge! Was I just lucky or did mom and dad realize what they were doing? Were they just creating more of what they were given as kids? Am I doing the same? Am I honoring the lessons I learned from them and my grandparents? I know I long for this kind of margin.
I heard a pastor say, “Eventually we will mimic the culture we invest in.” I had to ask myself, is my culture worth mimicking? What kind of culture am I creating in my home and for my people? It can’t just be luck. I have to create a culture of intentional margin and rest and freedom.
I believe margin, rest and freedom are all the culture of the Kingdom. I believe that is why my heart longs for them. The Spirit inside me longs for Kingdom Culture. Mom and dad and my grandparents longed for it too. Now dad is living Kingdom Culture daily. How lucky is he!
What people or activities made you feel grounded and secure as a child? What about now? What does your heart long for? What culture do you desire to create for your kids, your family? What margin do you need? Once you have, how will you spend it? We can’t just hope we will be lucky. We have to create intentional margin. We have to create Kingdom Culture. Thanks mom and dad for the beautiful gift that was my childhood.