How to create margin

Last week I was in Albany, Oregon with my daughter, Summer, who was house-hunting. We stopped into Margin Coffee in the old downtown area for hot beverages.


Photo: Margin Coffee website

Margin isn’t a common name for a coffee shop. Which made me curious.

And so I visited their website and came across this explanation. Quite profound for a coffee shop:

Let’s face it, we could all use a little more margin in our lives. You know, intentional breathing room, a different pace of life, space. … That’s why we are called Margin Coffee.

I’ve written more than one blog about saying Yes. Yes to people who want to support us in our hard places.

Yes to adventures that challenge us, make us braver.

Yes to keeping our hearts open because although that’s how the pain gets in, it’s also how people get in.

But I’d like to say a few words about the discipline of saying No when it’s needed.

No is difficult because we don’t want to disappoint people. We don’t want others to think of us as slackers. Or we derive a false sense of value based on how crazy full our calendars are.

But saying No to those things that don’t light us up gives us space to say Yes to something else that’s a better fit for our passions and skills and life experiences.

Saying No to chauffeuring our kids to soccer and gymnastics, followed by violin and then French lesson gives us more meaningful time to spend with our children.

Saying No to a lifestyle that fills our calendars—because look at how significant we are, based on our busy-ness—provides us with more breathing room.

Did you hear that? Look at how significant we are, based on our busy-ness. That’s crazy thinking.

Brad Lomenick, a Catalyst leader, writes how margin is a powerful concept, about how, when we carve out space for family time, it generates memories.

And when we establish boundaries into our personal finances, it produces opportunity for generosity.

And when we build margin into our friendships, there is more impact.

Margin in our lives overall creates options. Options to pursue dreams, think, pray, relax, meditate, process, grow and ultimately live life more fully.

What if?

What if we could come to understand when to say Yes and when to say No?

What if, by saying No, we could build more margin into our lives, our work, and our families for fullest living?

The last sentence of the coffee shop purpose statement reads like this:

We are a place to come, not to escape life, but to allow some time in our day to simply be.

Photo: Margin Coffee website

What if we could learn to simply be?


Does your perspective need tweaking?


You need to read this if your life hasn’t gone as planned


  1. Grace Lawson

    Allowing time in our day to “simply be” is wonderful !!! Our Lord directs our steps if we let Him !!! Praise God !!!

    • You’re so right, Grace … and yet how hard it is for us to find time in our days to do nothing but sit with a cup of coffee/tea and think and journal and pray and read. How many times have we heard retirees say, “I’m busier now than when I was working!” It’s good for retirees to find worthwhile things to occupy their days. And it’s very good to sit and “simply be”, as you said.

  2. Cheryl white

    This is great. I often say “yes” or “I’ll be there” with the very best intentions – but because of my health issues and Steve’s heath, often had to cancel at the last minute. It made me feel like a big flake – especially with new friends that I seemed to cancel with at the last minute (waiting until then – still hoping I would be able to make it to the meeting – or party/shower, etc). How do you deal with that? I don’t want to leave them hanging but often won’t know until the last minute if I will be able to attend – or help. I’m afraid I’ve made bad first impressions when I seem to “flake out” more than I make it.

    • Cheryl, can you say something like, “I’m going to say ‘yes’ for now. But is it OK if I have to cancel at the last minute in case of my health?” It seems that most people would be understanding of last-minute cancellations if they were aware of your uncertain health issues.

  3. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    Sorry I’ve/we’ve been missing these past weeks, I have read and so appreciated each and every one (i.e. the past 3 blogs). I just wish to say that, ‘God wants us all to just be’, it’s so easy to forget and find ones self so busy and maybe even… ‘Anxious for Nothing’. It’s good to be reminded to take time ‘with God, in what He wants us to be’.
    I’m learning Marlys and seeing/knowing the benefits is so joyous. Thanks so much, Bx & P.

    • This is so true, Peter: “It’s so easy to forget and find ones self so busy and maybe even … Anxious for Nothing.” How often I find myself in that “anxious for nothing” place.

  4. Thank you for the encouragement I needed!

  5. Margins are an interesting concept.

    You are correct. We are more productive when we understand the word, “No.”

    • Marilyn, I happen to be in the middle of a women’s Bible study by Priscilla Shirer, titled, “Breathe.” Ironically, she uses the word ‘margins’, as well.

  6. Thank you Marlys. Such a vital thing to learn! I keep learning this, and then falling back into old habits of over commitment (because I want to do it all!). Then God brings me back to balance once again. Sometimes by allowing me to get sick and have a forced time of rest (like last week). Sigh. I’m so grateful for His patience with us and another chance to grasp His wisdom.

  7. Allison McCormick

    Slowing down, saying “no”, taking time to “just be” are all soooo hard! But my what an amazing blessing that comes with the discipline of doing each. Thank you for the reminder and the challenge to be courageous and follow God’s design for our lives and not our own plans.

  8. Tina Hohman

    So good Marlys!! I’m working on this, but it is definitely easier said than done! ? Hope Josh & Summer fins a great place in Albany! So glad to have them back in Oregon! ?

    • Yes, Tina – easier said than done. (I’m still pinching myself to make sure I’m not simply dreaming that Josh & Summer and family are relocating back to Oregon! smile.)

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