An Invitation to Wider Margins
Decorating our home for Christmas took on a whole new meaning for me when we were living in Ecuador. In Quito, December was full of sunny blue skies and 70-degree days, and it was hard to get into the holiday spirit when the weather was so different from the Christmas seasons I experienced growing up in the Midwest. We did learn to love the unique signs of the season, such as December being the time when we could buy mangos by the box-full on the side of the road. But it was also important to me to put up twinkle lights and garland, cut out snowflakes from white paper for our windows with our kids, and rearrange all the furniture in the living room to make room for a Christmas tree.
A few years ago, as the first week of January rolled around, I got the kids to bed, sat down on the couch—and realized that our house felt so empty. All of the Christmas decorations had been put away, and the space they had filled during Advent was now just blank. I immediately began to think about what I needed to do to fill that space. Redecorate or find more art for the walls? Or maybe more houseplants? More pictures of the kids? The empty space was making me uncomfortable.
As I sat there with my cup of tea, I took in all the unused physical space. And I felt God say, “Remember, Jenny, I am a God of the margins.”
God deeply loves people and communities who are often marginalized by society, and God also guides us to the margins in how we are called to live—how we spend our days and use our resources. We are a people called to make space for purposeful pauses in our life. In that post-Christmas empty space in our home, God showed me the places in our life where I was often too quick to fill to the brim—our schedules, our budget, and my daily to-do list.
The reality of growing up in a culture obsessed with consumption and addicted to busyness crashed in as I sat with my discomfort and was confronted with emptiness, with margin. It felt like God saying to me, “You’ve got to leave some of it empty so you have room to say yes when what I have for you comes along. You need to embrace the anticipation and the waiting.”
A few weeks after that night on the couch, I came across an amazing wooden tray in an artisan market in Quito. The tray was beautiful in its simplicity and unlike anything I had seen in my many previous explorations through the market. As I bartered with the vendor, I knew this beautiful tray was my “yes”—the yes I was meant to discover, the yes I may not have had room for or even been looking for if I had hurried to fill in the empty space in our home.
Now that tray sits on our coffee table, a reminder of the gift and the grace that exists along the journey as we make space for margin and extend invitations into our life with purpose.