I write a lot over here on simple rhythms and spacious margins, but it wasn’t the original intent of this space, nor was it a practice that came naturally to me. In 2016, my family was going in so many directions—I was working full time as a marketing director with some evening and weekend hours; my children were attending a private school we couldn’t actually afford; we were hosting a 15-year-old international student; every child was in a sport or extracurricular activity; my husband was traveling for work, sometimes gone for weeks at a time to Europe; we were volunteering in our church and community; my son was diagnosed with ADHD and began weekly therapy.
Just writing that makes me anxious, y’all. It was too much. And then in April, I found out I was pregnant with our fourth baby.
And something HAD TO GIVE.
Actually a lot of somethings had to give.
That summer, we took a trip to Maine and I read a book that changed my life. I know how that sounds—overplayed. But I mean it. In Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist spoke directly to my soul when she wrote about being frantically busy but starved of real connection. I sat with that book for days and underlined and cried and prayed. And then I told Graham that we had to make change.
And we did.
But not all at once. As it turns out, it is hard to unravel busy. I still had that full-time job when Winnie was born, though two of our kids transitioned to public school to give us needed breathing room in our budget. Graham continued to travel extensively for work, but we scaled back the volunteering and extracurricular activities for the kids. I started working more from home and eventually went part time.
Over months, I began to see that margin was possible and busy was not a badge of honor. In fact, I vowed never to answer the how are you question from a friend with “I’m just so busy” ever ever again.
Because busy isn’t an emotion; it’s a construct of our own making and I was leaving that way of life.
Since beginning my journey toward rest and rhythms, I’ve devoured books, podcasts and articles on the topic. I quote them and talk about them a lot. And I’ve discovered a community of readers and fellow sojourners to whom this is speaking. So here’s a list of five favorite reads (with some honorable mentions because who can choose just five?) on the topic. Some are directly related to simple rhythms and spacious margins, and others are more ambiguous. Some are written from a Christian belief system, others are not. All have been a deep part of my journey. My prayer is that they will be for yours, too.
Five Favorite Books on Rhythms & Margins
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
This guide on soulful living is a series of essays that cut to the quick of a harried life. Shauna writes, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realize that the best thing about me was I was organized.” There is no magic bullet in her conclusion, no twelve step program to unraveling busy, but it will absolutely inspire you to change. I reread this book every single year. Truly.
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
Oh my goodness, best book of 2020 for me for SURE. By breaking down the tasks we do everyday—first waking, making the bed, eating leftovers, losing keys, sitting in traffic—and putting them in the context of rhythm and theology, Tish opens the reader up to complex doctrine penned in plain speak. She writes, “…small bits of our day are profoundly meaningful
because they are the site of our worship. The crucible of our formation is in the monotony of our daily routines.”
The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions by Emily P Freeman
Oh, how I loved reading and now gifting this book. Emily’s prescription for chronic hesitation and decision fatigue is just to take the next right step in love. I read this book cover to cover in just a few days and found it to be a beautiful companion to her beloved weekly podcast. Her soothing voice and short, poignant messages feel like homilies of the best kind, and her book delves a little deeper and leaves space for reflection at the end of each chapter. A short prayer: “Ease my fatigue with your presence and my hesitation with your peace.”
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Hear me on this one. James isn’t talking about cadence and rhythms. What he is talking about are small habits that shape our lives over time for better or for worse. James writes, “Your habits are modern day solutions to ancient desires.” When it comes to making tiny changes that bring about a big difference, he says we must make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy and make it satisfying. Great advice.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
This book, now ten years old, is still saying it louder for the people in the back. Leading shame and vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown, who has published so many important reads since 2010, laid the foundation with The Gifts of Imperfection by writing profoundly about the social science of wholehearted living. Brené explores how to cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to embrace your imperfections and to recognize your inherent worth. I read it cover to cover on an airplane a few years ago and have gone back to it many times.
Other reads I’d recommend on rhythms & margins:
Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey
The Road Back to You by Ian Cron
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
Placemaker by Christie Purifoy