Are You Available?

How available are you to God’s unexpected encounters? Do you intentionally leave extra space around the edges of your life for spontaneous assignments?

Or do you stay so scheduled, each day carefully planned out, that when the unplanned happens, you have nowhere to put it?

Are you available

Margin is not a spiritual necessity. But availability is.

“God expects us to be available for the needs of others.

“And without margin, each of us would have great difficulty guaranteeing availability. Instead, when God calls, He gets the busy signal.”
– Richard Swenson, Margin

I tend to live very scheduled.

Because I accomplish more when I stick to a schedule, I like to stick to a schedule.

But that means God can get a busy signal when he calls me (if you’re old enough to remember what a busy signal is on a landline phone!). It’s a consistent battle I fight.

My to-do list often exceeds my available time. 

  • I want to clean out my laundry room,
  • I want to convert my home VHS videos to digital formats, and
  • I want to schedule lunch dates with friends to catch up.

But I don’t have enough time. My schedule is already full.

I’m trying to break free of rigidity.
To be free for flexibility.
To be available for God’s use.

I want to continue using the love of organization that God planted in me—it can be used for his glory—but I don’t want to turn a strength into a weakness.

I don’t want to out-schedule God.

So I keep looking for ways to build more margin in my life. For now, that means letting go of other things.

  • The file cabinets can stay disorganized a little longer,
  • The flower beds can continue growing more grass than flowers, and
  • Cleaning the closets can be postponed another few months.

Because when God calls, I want to be free to pick up.

I want to be available.

* * *

How do you create space for the unexpected? Please share in the comments.

Maybe I need to reread Margin. Here are my notes from the first reading.

revised from the archives

11 thoughts on “Are You Available?

  1. Michele Morin

    Wow, how did you know?
    I really struggle with the tension between my list and the opportunities that show up unscheduled. You’ve given me one more reason to pray for daily wisdom and discernment.

  2. Pam Ecrement

    I read this whole post saying “yep” to all you wrote about the challenges described, but I was also smiling a bit as I am aware that during the five years I have not been retired the Lord has gradually loosened me from this challenge more than at any time. It’s not that I have less to do or that I want to do. (Don’t we all have those VHS tapes to convert????) It has more to do with what He spoke to me when He began to nudge me toward retirement and it was exactly this issue. He made clear that He wanted more time with me. Really, Lord? Wow!

    What I discovered was the luxury of unhurried times in my red chair for quiet times with Him with no limit on how long I was there, but even now if I have an early morning appointment that gets set aside until afternoon which never seems to be as good.

    When I have let go of my “to do” and asked Him first each day to guide the day, I discover I am more productive than any other day. I read and write more. I have nearly finished the “early pics of my parents and their parents” Creative Memories album that has been waiting since my parents died in 1995 and I have been available to listen to others when He led, make goodies for neighbors, and a host of other things. Over and over I learn I am not a human “doing,” but a human “being.” In our new church of 3+ years since retiring from a large church staff, I am not slated for regular service so I can be available where and when needed that others who are regularly committed cannot be. I don’t think I could have been persuaded to live this way earlier in my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world now and I boundary my time each week to be available to Him. What a rich blessing it has been as a result!

  3. Barbara Harper

    I wrestle with this, too, Lisa. Especially when I’ve asked Him for guidance in planning my day, I can get irritated with the unexpected – even though that might be an answer to my prayer. It helped me to some extent to realize that the healing of the woman with an issue of blood was an interruption to the healing of Jairus’s daughter. Jesus was on His way to Jairus’s house when the woman touched the hem of His garment. He took it all in stride and handled it patiently. No word on whether Jairus did! 🙂 I thought once it would be interesting to do a study (maybe a future blog post) on how often in the Bible someone was interrupted with a need or request. Then I realized the whole earthly ministry of Jesus was that way. Even back in Abraham’s day, when the three strangers appeared before the destruction of Sodom — so much was involved in inviting them to stay and eat! My own interruptions or unexpected requests are minor by comparison. Yet I still have to battle wrong attitudes.

  4. Laurie

    Oh, yes…my to-do list is overly ambitious too. I never thought about the busyness interfering with my availability for God’s call. thank you for opening my eyes. I don’t want God to get a busy signal when He calls! 🙂

  5. Martha J Orlando

    Yes, I have daily routines, Lisa, but honestly, I try NOT to overschedule anything in my life. Maybe it’s that I’m retired, or I just like an unhurried, leisurely pace, but I do feel in this rhythm that I am much more available to God than I was in previous years. It’s a great feeling!

  6. Linda Stoll

    i love the whole concept of margin … and Swenson’s book is a superb one, isn’t it.

    seems like the older i get the longer things take to get around to. and it doesn’t seem to bother me like it used to back in the day where every hour was scheduled within an inch of its life …

  7. Alice V Walters

    Dear Lisa, looks like there are plenty Sisters in Christ you struggle with THE SCHEDULE. After reading “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity” by Matthew Kelly this spring, I intentionally began to leave holes in that document of determination. Don’t you know the Lord just loves it when His kids make time for Him and each other? Thanks and blessings for your transparency and exhortation!

  8. Jean Wise

    This is so me and something I struggle with all the time. My to-do list looms with more importance than people – hate to even write that. I am praying to learn to be more present and to listen and love those God places before me. I am learning to pay attention and see, actually see, what I often miss. The gospel this week is the Good Samaritan story and once again it hit me right in the face how I am the priest and Levite too often in my interactions.

  9. Julia Bettencourt

    Great reminders to be available with your time for what God has planned. I haven’t read the book, but such a great topic that we all need. I used to struggle with this more, but have learned to be a little more relaxed where scheduling is concerned. At times though I still want things to fit into my little slots, but I am trying.

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