Margin is not just empty space (guest post by Suzanne Woods Fisher)

Renee Ann Smith —  December 14, 2011 — 7 Comments

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from some of today’s most beloved writers (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more) as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched lives during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun … there’s also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on announced on 1/1. (US and Canadian only) You may enter once per day.

Suzanne Woods Fisher

A Christmas of Kindness
~by Suzanne Woods Fisher~

“You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” ~Amish proverb~

I do it every year.

I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by Christmas Eve I’m exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-to-make traditional Swedish meal to honor my husband’s relatives (think: Vikings), it’s time to head to church. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but the last few Christmas Eves, I have let my husband and kids head off without me. The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong as a magnet.

It’s odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn’t you think that Christmas would be simpler? Instead, it’s just the opposite. Juggling schedules to share the grandbaby with the in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the best time of day for them, dancing carefully around recently divorced family members whose children are impacted by the shards of broken relationships.

The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can’t really simplify people. We are just a complicated bunch.

Here’s where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It’s easy to get distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there’s so much more to learn from these gentle people if you’re willing to look a little deeper.

Yes, they live with less “stuff” and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered life. But it’s the reason behind this choice that is so compelling to me: they seek to create margin in their lives. Not just empty space, but space that is available to nourish family, community, and faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours or mine, but what they do fill it with is oh-so-right!

Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of the holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room corner. A few modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place settings, covered by a dishtowel . . . waiting first for Dad to read the story of Christ’s birth from the book of Luke . . . waiting until after a special breakfast has been enjoyed . . . waiting until Mom and Dad give the signal that the time has come for gifts.

Later, if Christmas doesn’t fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will gather for another big meal. If time and weather permit, the late afternoon will be filled with ice skating or sledding—and more food! )Always, always an abundance of good food.)

Faith, family, and community. That’s the focus of an Amish Christmas.

And it’s also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a young family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish couple, Jaime and C.J. Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An unlikely and tentative friendship develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol hold most dear disappears and then—ah, but you’ll just have to read the story to find out what happens next! Without giving anything away, I will say that I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season. Mattie understood that inconveniences and interruptions which come in the form of people (big ones and little ones!) are ordained by God, blessed by God.

Creating margin probably means that I won’t get Christmas cards out until the end of January, and my house won’t be uber-decorated. After all, something has to give. But it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his Alzheimer’s facility. And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-crowded event. And time to invite a new neighbor over for coffee.

Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won’t get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda but by God’s agenda, the essence of true simplicity. And that includes taking time to worship Christ’s coming at the Christmas Eve service. You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.


I’m linking up with Winsome Wednesday and Living Well Wednesdays.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and The Keeper, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Christy Award nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California.

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Renee Ann Smith

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I teach literature in a Christian high school by day and write inspirational fiction by night. I love to share heart-touching quotes and stories here on my blog. So glad you stopped by!

7 responses to Margin is not just empty space (guest post by Suzanne Woods Fisher)

  1. So very true yet hard to do! With having RA I must keep a margin in my life even during the Christmas season or pay the consequences. I love the Amish quote, Suzanne. Sometimes the giving has nothing to do with tangible things, though, like the gift of time. Praying God gives us all that margin filled with His presence during this time of year!

  2. Such a good reminder!! Suzanne’s book sounds great, as well. I am putting it on my list.

  3. I love to read all books about the Amish, especially the Christmas ones….

    Mardi Moye
    mardisgators [at] verizon [dot] net

  4. I have read that story about the couple and accident it completely changed their way of living after staying with an amish family and seeing the simple faith and one another helping when needed.
    Thanks for sharing your feelings today Suzanne.

    Merry Christmas
    Paula O

  5. Sounds like a great book! And I love the idea of Christmas cards waiting until January. I have always thought that Christmas should show a little more love to January, which tends to be a duller month, by spilling over onto it. =)

  6. Oh…having older kids does not simplify holidays….I desire to create that kind of space…first in my family…so pressure is not felt to fit into a form…but a place where all can be nourished…
    Blessings and thanks for this post…

  7. Hi Renee – what a lovely guest posting. I so enjoyed reading that. Especially the last bit “Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won’t get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda but by God’s agenda, the essence of true simplicity” Christmas is all about God’s agenda and the challenge is for me is to bring it back to that. Thank you for linking up. I really look forward to seeing you there each week 🙂
    God bless

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