stay in your own lane people.

We’ve all done it, right?  Veered into another lane of traffic.  Oh, you haven’t?  Yeah right. Anyhoo, moving into another lane of traffic can be no big deal or a giant disaster.  And while I hope we all can agree that we should put down our phones and ignore our children in the backseat and pay attention to the road I’m not really here to discuss actual driving habits.  To stay in your own lane is to stick to what you know.

For the past 3 Sundays I have awoken to the desperate need for a cinnamon roll.  Not the kind you can get at a donut shop on a Sunday morning but a warm iced homemade cinnamon roll.  Guess how many weeks I happened upon said delicious breakfast treat?  ZERO.  So this weekend I decided I would make my own cinnamon rolls.  That’s right. I can perform surgery so certainly I should be able to follow a recipe and make these rolls. With great pride I proceeded to gather all my ingredients from the grocery store along with three other food projects I decided to create for our Super Bowl party.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Not only did I decide to make cinnamon rolls from scratch I figured adding a few img_7732other new recipes in the kitchen certainly wouldn’t add to my angst.  Um, oops.  Moving on, I made those cinnamon rolls.  I mixed up the dough and let it rise and put it in the fridge ready to complete my creation.  It was only then that I noticed the recipe I was using said clearly at the top: “Makes 40-50 Cinnamon Rolls.”  You have got to be kidding me. What am I going to do with 50 cinnamon rolls?  At this point I panicked and frantically phoned one of my best church girls who also happens to whip up homemade cakes and pies and other fancies in her kitchen on a daily basis.  My exact text: “WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF IN TO?”  Clearly I had veered from my own lane. Fortunately for me cinnamon rolls can be made ahead of time, they can be frozen and they can be shared with those you are lucky enough to attend Sunday School with.

In this case moving out of my comfort zone, my lane, didn’t turn out so bad. It could have turned out worse.  Sometimes we decide to swiftly move into territory in which we have no education or experience. This has the potential to be disastrous. I won’t be trying my hand at teaching kindergarten, flying a plane or operating any heavy machinery.  Our culture too often tells us we know as much as the experts. And why not? We have access to all sorts of information through the power of the internet. Exactly.  All sorts of information.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  It’s too much. In my arena we use what we call “evidence based medicine” as best we can to direct patient care and research efforts.  We are taught to examine the evidence and decide what the full body of research has concluded, if anything, on a subject. And while I have a good deal of experience reviewing medical literature it doesn’t mean I can easily read the law, interpret scripture or solve complex math problems. At other times knowledge in one area transfers easily to another. Take surgery, for example. When we plan for a gynecologic surgery our team anticipates possible deviations from the norm we might encounter based on the patient’s problem, their medical and surgical history and the procedure being performed.  We create a plan to minimize risk and maximize benefit to the patient.  Does being a gynecologic surgeon mean I should volunteer to operate on your brain or in your nose?  Well, first of all, gross. Secondly, while some principles of surgery carry over from one specialty to another like sterile technique or attempting to minimize blood loss and restore normal anatomy, a gyn surgeon does not have the expert knowledge and experience a neurosurgeon might have. If you ask me the best treatment for say, your eye disease, I’m going to tell you to go to your ophthalmologist, ask some questions about the risks and benefits of each treatment and some others on success rates, etc and then make an informed choice on what to do with the help of your physician.  On the other hand, many more of the techniques used in general surgery would apply in gynecology and vice versa.  So, should natural disaster strike, general surgeons and gynecologists would operate side by side to save life and limb.  But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.  There are lots of other examples.  Have kids in school?  Swerve into the other lane because you must know how education works!  Voted? Swerve into the other lane because you can run the government.  Been going to church awhile?  You probably know the Bible better than most. The truth is we are all stakeholders in these issues: whether it’s our own health, education, the government or theology.

So what is the best way to change lanes?  Well, we check our blind spot, we put on our signal and then deliberately move over.  Life should be much the same. How do we improve education?  We find our best educators and the best available evidence on education and then create your best practices.  I know exactly who I would approach if I want to figure out how to make low income kids succeed in the classroom.  How about government?  Well, until about 4 months ago I didn’t actually know how the electoral college works.  Or really much else about government.  Who knew those things would matter when I was ignoring them to focus on my science and math classes way back when? So I find those whom I trust who have done their homework and who will, more importantly, discuss all sides of the issue with me. And when it comes to theology, well, I’ve been learning from the Pastor for almost 16 years.  And trust me when I say he knows what he is doing people.  So let’s check our blind spots.  Let’s figure out where we have assumed we know best and admit that we don’t know best.

Here’s another “if you know me” moment.  If you know me, you know I love being right. But I’ve learned that being loud and persistent doesn’t mean you’re right.  So now I’m learning to signal to the people around me and learn about what they have to offer.  So join me in checking our blind spots. Let’s figure out where we have assumed we know best and admit we don’t know best. Otherwise we should just stay in our own lane people.

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life in the margins.

It snuck up on me.  The way that a virus sneaks up on you with a slightly scratchy throat and that little body ache.  And then all of the sudden you are overwhelmed.  You never saw it coming and then you’re down for the count.  That was me this week.  Not with a virus but just with life…my life.  The busy-ness, the listening, the work, the productivity, the juggling of schedules and priorities, the bearing of burdens for others, the overwhelming brokenness of our world.  I was over it.  So I did what any one in my position would do.

I had a meltdown.

It was not pretty.

The pastor was there to sit with me when I got home and tell me that life would be ok, that I would be ok.  And I was.  Or at least I think I am.

Then came a profound statement from one of the church girls.  When I told her that all of the sudden I had nothing left to give she said to me “friend…where are your margins?”  It knocked me off my feet.  A margin.  White space.  The leftovers on the page where stuff doesn’t go.  We don’t think about margins.  They are hard to notice.  They just exist in the space around what you have filled the page with.  They can be made larger or smaller depending on how much space you need for all the words and things.  It’s easy not to notice them until they are gone.  When the margins are suddenly wiped out then all you have is an overflowing page in your life.  Words and phrases and ink running from top to bottom, from side to side.  No blanks, no pauses, no space to breathe.  And that, my friends, is where I found myself this week.  I had no margin in my life.  No space for anything else.

How did I lose the margins from my life and how do we get them back when they are gone and then keep them in place?  I’m not sure I have the answers but I will try my best.  (And since when did not being sure stop me from sharing opinions on anything).  We lose the margins in our life when we let them go.  Or better, when we fill them with things we think are good or worthwhile.  We take what little time we have left and fill it with the extras of life. For me it’s saying yes to everything and everyone.  Picking up work that someone else didn’t do.  Being constantly available.  Sometimes it’s not activity that fills our margins but instead they are filled with expectations to do and be and act in ways you are not.  To fit some mold created by social media or the couple next door or even our families.  How do we regain the margin?  For me, it’s naming my discontent.  It is asking for help.  It’s learning to value the work and not the end sum.  It’s finding peace instead of isolation in the uniqueness of being a pastor’s wife and physician mom.

Why do we need margins in our lives?  Because without them we have nothing left to give.  And we must have something left.  We need space to be refueled and revived.  We need time to refocus and find contentment.  When our margins are filled the ink starts to run and we can be pulled into a puddle of dark.  It’s in that place where we lose the ability to be a light to others.  So I’m looking for my margins on this long weekend.  Because when we have space in our lives we have room to be light.  We have room to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the sojourner around us.  When we find contentment and peace in our own lives we have space and strength to stand up against domestic violence, sexual assault, hunger, poverty and so much more.   If our margins get too wide then we have little substance left in the middle.  Margins create balance.

So may we find margins in our life.   I’m sure when I worship with my church tomorrow my margin will start to show up again.  But it will also remind me that between the margins matters as well.  What lies between is not not what I have created but what God has created through me.  May my margins not grow so wide that I am not able to see the dark places and move towards them and may it not grow so small that my light has no fuel left in it.

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