How Nester Got Her Margin Back


noun \ˈmär-jən\

a spare amount or measure or degree allowed or given for contingencies or special situations

Remember how I went on and on whining about the fact that I had to get ready to do two 1 hour sessions all by myself at the Becoming Conference? Well, it’s over and I loved it of course and to top it off, I have my life back. Jen and Jenny were the masterminds behind this project. If you were confused, my photo was on the front page of the conference site but only because I happened to go to a meeting at Jen’s house and then proceeded to make it clear that I know I’m not cut out for conference starting, just speaking for two sessions was enough to almost put me over the edge. So, no, I did not plan or put on or be in charge of this conference in any way. And that means I cannot take any credit for the huge, undeniable success that it was.

First of all 600 yes, SIX HUNDRED women attended. And I’m not saying I had low expectations but, this conference was planned in 3 months and it was intended that 250 women would attend. But demanding women won out {don’t we always} and Jen and Jenny worked their fingers to the bone. Plus, I didn’t realize that Jen and Jenny must have been specially made to run conferences. I watched. They worked really well together. Plus, I think they each did like 784 sessions during the weekend.

Angela and I were only able to hear Jen and Jenny speak once. And let me tell you, Angela was scrambling for a scrap piece of paper to make notes on and I came home and the next day bought a Sunday paper and immediately got back to my CVS shopping/couponing that I used to do every week. I got 5 or 6 SIX packs of paper towels, 5 or 6 embarrassingly large things of toilet paper {having a stock pile of both of these items makes my husband inexplicably happy} and two $10 gas cards. Jenny’s blog has all the deals organized and Jen reminded me of how much money I used to save just by paying attention.

Deciding to speak at this conference was agonizing. I pretty much made my husband decide for me. I knew the prep work would eat up my summer and it did. I’m happy to report that it didn’t rob me of enjoyment~I was able to fully experience summer and trips and hanging out with three fun boys and a cute husband but, when I was home, when I had time dedicated to work, instead of putting that into blogging like I normally do, I opted to work on my sessions. We also ate out more, my house is probably the most disorganized and dirty than it has ever been {my vacuum broke a month ago and I’ve yet to buy a new one} and I gained at least 5 pounds this summer.  I don’t know if that last part had to do with the conference but while I’m in the mood to blame, why not?  I could feel the blog quietly suffering but, something had to give and that was either family time or blog writing time or preparing to talk in front of a live audience.  Plus it’s summer, I was planning a blogging break anyway.

I knew these talks I was preparing weren’t a one time deal. Once they were done I had something I could use over and over again~like hopefully at next year’s Becoming Conference.  That had value for me and for others. Remember that series I started back in May or June? The one I never got passed the second article:: 10 Decor Ideas Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know About? Well, I adapted that to a session and now I’m at 16 Decor Ideas and counting. I’m not sure what’s going to become of that session but, it’s more than a series on this blog unless I want you all to grow weary and hate me.

My mind is mush.  I feel uncreative, uninspired and tired.  I crave change.  And it’s coming.  My boys start school next Thursday.  I’ll have hours of uninterrupted, guilt free time, something I’ve had only a few times this summer and when I did have it, I desperately felt I needed to dedicate it to the conference.

I have had my email auto respond summer “I’m on a break email me later” up since June 21st and I’m taking it down September 1st.  I have so many emails that I’ve wanted to respond to and I’m not organized enough to do it.  I’ve forgotten to return texts and phone calls and RSVPs.  I have guest posts waiting to be published, and posts I can’t wait to write.  And I have a contest that I did weeks ago but haven’t announced the winners. This is what speaking engagements do to me.

I’m reminded of the fact that I’m the kind of person who needs great margin.  I probably need more margin than you.  Sometimes I hate that about me and I’m jealous of people who can be all non-marginy. But, I know that margin is where creativity happens for me.  Margin is the planned unplanned space where I have 45 minutes to talk to a neighbor at any given moment.  If I don’t have margin, suddenly, answering emails feels like a chore.  I had a marginless summer and I’m so glad that is changing now without a looming speaking engagement haunting me.  As much as I loved it and as much as I’m glad I did it, nothing compares to protecting that much-needed, priceless margin.

All of these photos were taken by the captivating, darling Ruth from Living Well Spending Less as I was too preoccupied to take any photos.


  1. oh girl – I need margins too! Sometimes if makes me feel bad for needing all that unplanned time but I function so much better with it – I can be available more readily when others need me, I do my job at home and serve my family so much better, and invariably something always comes up that eats into those margins (sick kid, etc) so I feel safer and saner having them there. Good for you for stepping out of your comfort zone with this speaking engagement – great growing opportunity for you! But now I hope you’ll find rest in your margins and order restored to your life : )

  2. i can make my email responder say “i’m on a break email me later”??? you just changed my whole life. again. ohmygoodness.

  3. I really enjoyed your session (although I was going to email you and ask about the first few in that list of 16 because I was late to that session)! (Oops.)

    I also have a few pictures that I took at the conference, several of your sessions at:

  4. Sounds like it was well worth the effort. Sorry I missed it! Reading this made me think of the article About Budget Decorating posted on FB recently (“Caring for Your Introvert”). Did you see it? (

    • oh my word. that article! The oppression of introverts, hysterical and also kind of true. thank you!

    • Amen! I read the article and posted it to my FB page. Hopefully some of my friends and family will read it and understand me a little better. Thanks for the link!

    • As an introvert, I could totally relate to that article. Love it! I need crazy amounts of space and understand what you mean about margins. I admire you for taking on all the speaking gigs you do. I prefer to “speak” from behind my keyboard. :-)

  5. My husband and I do speaking engagements around Canada and the US (we talk about building the domestic church, making your faith life part of your family life).
    We have tracked how much time it takes to put together a one hour talk: about 100 hours if it’s one person speaking, closer to 200 hours if it’s both of us.
    So, yeah, a new talk can take weeks to put together.
    Sounds like you did great.

  6. Whew! You HAVE been busy this Summer, Nester! I think you look great, by the way. That’s a really nice shot of you with the group. It sounds like a fabulous conference. I have to admit I probably look guilty and ashamed as I read about your CVS trip. I have the CVS card. I get an email every week or so with a $5.00 coupon. I know about the machine in the front of the store that spits out more coupons and when we move, CVS is the closest and will be the chain of choice. I think I need to get to that and start saving! Especially since I won’t be working once we move!

  7. AMEN!!!!

    Rashon aka Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  8. I’ve missed you this summer, but truly I get it. I have to have margin too otherwise I am not fun to be around, stressed. We just moved {again} thanks to termites and mold at the last house. I got rid of a ton of stuff, so now my house feels more marginalized. Ha! Now to work on my schedule. :) XO

  9. I love it. We all need to find balance and it seems you did just that. I neglected my poor blog for 7 stinking weeks and guess what? Nobody died. It was still there when I got back.

    And I love your make art not war shirt so I had to google it and can it really be that you got it at Delia’s? Hope you are flattered I am going to get one for myself. Promise I won’t wear it on the same day as you.


  10. I think everyone could use a margin to some degree. I know I can! Becoming looks like an amazing conference! The couponing info. alone would be so valuable to me. I tried to figure out couponmom a few weeks ago, and I have not been successful. :s

    I don’t think you’re alone with feeling uninspired or uncreative. The summer is so hard to find that extra time for projects when what we really want to do is enjoy our kids.



  12. I love the way you expressed this: needing a margin. I am the exact same way. I look at people who go non-stop and see they thrive on it. This is all well and good until they want me to join them and be go-go-going non-stop and that’s when I get a little crazy. I simply need a lot of down time. We spend so much of our money and energy creating a beautiful home, why do we need to go away to relax? I want to stay home and enjoy it.

  13. Finally, a name for the thing I feel I often have to try to apologize for/explain to my friends- a margin! You nailed it. Some of my gal pals seem to function just fine living right up to the edge, but I definitely need the margin! Unscripted, unobliged time is essential for me to feel like I have my head on straight, and yet scheduling that time to have a clear beginning and end is necessary for me, too, to prevent a slide into pure sloth. :) Balance is where it’s at. Congrats on your super-productive summer, and on the needed downtime headed your way!

  14. Many years ago, a Quaker missionary named Thomas Kelly wrote about living a life guided by Christ. He wrote “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return.” Later he says, “I find that He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.”

    Oh boy. All too often I find myself right smack in the middle of “an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.” I think maybe we all need more margin than we’ll willing to admit, even (or especially) to ourselves.

  15. yes! a margin! well said, nester. i need margin in my life, too, but never knew quite how to put it. thank you!

  16. I’m the same way (need lots of margin…a margin hog). But, I just wanted to say that you ALL did a fabulous job! My sister-in-law and I got so much from the conference (not to mention, a couple of days away to enjoy the peace and quiet and tranquility and fellowship). Thank you ALL so much for giving of your time and resources and ideas. Thank you! Now, get back to your family and home and give yourself some margin.

  17. Girl…don’t feel bad about needing margin. I am just like you. Actually, I believe I need more margin then all people on the face of the earth, so there. I used to apologize and hate that about myself, too. I saw it as a weakness and I hated being weak in that way. I was jealous of girls who could write on multiple blogs, raise kids, keep a clean house, cook healthy meals, work out AND home school, and whatever other fabulous things those amazing women do. I thought I was a failure because I can barely pull off writing on one blog and cooking healthy meals. Oh, and the kids…

    And then I found this:

    “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh. A messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

    But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

    Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest upon me.

    That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.

    For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

    I committed that scripture to memory and I repeat it to myself all the time. I find great comfort in the fact that God doesn’t hate my weaknesses. In fact, it is there where His strength becomes reality for me. And I would SO much rather be strong in HIM than strong in ME. Know what I mean?

    I, took a long blog break this summer and I am so glad I did. I was scared I would lose all my readers…but I was just so happy to rediscover my margin.

    Big, big hugs to you.

    Marginally Yours,

  18. I don’t need margins, I need the whole page! Long, long ago when I was young (I’m 64 now), I tried to do all the things I thought I was supposed to do: PTO, Girl Scouts cookie chairman, Church finance committee, Meals on Wheels volunteer, etc. etc. Well, I didn’t enjoy any of it. Over the years I started cutting out activities. Now, I do things for and with my family and I “Home Church”–that’s it. Every few days I put on my cross necklace and I head out shopping with a prayer that God will direct me to someone who needs a kind word or a smile or maybe a homeless person who needs a little help. I am always amazed at the opportunities God puts before on those days. This suits me a whole lot better and I like it. :-)

  19. You are speaking my language girl. I am a margin gal too! I look in awe of people who can handle a lot. This made me wish I went to your church and lived in NC. This conference looked amazing. Thanks for sharing I feel normal now. : )

  20. Becoming was wonderful, I took so much away from that weekend!

    Thank you for the margin sacrifice.

    Thanks for being so kind to this crazy woman that ran up to meet you on Friday night, before everything started!!

    Me again,
    Debbie :)

  21. I’m a margin girl too. I have to be intentional to space out the stuff on my plate or my mind goes crazy. Even though I can physically pull stuff off, my brain is beserk in the process. All that to say – i can relate!

    I wish I could have heard you speak. I bet you’re amazing and inspiring! Maybe someday I’ll make my way to one of these conferences….

  22. Paola Pacheco says

    Well it feels great to know I am not the only one who needs margins!!! This is gonna sound really cheesy but ever since I have started reading your blog I am enjoying life more and enjoying the imperfections. I get more done because it doesn’t need to be perfect. And this post is a reminder that I am not a terrible, time wasting, mess of a person just because I need some margin in my life. As a matter of fact I am really getting good at building in the margins into my day. Sometimes it isn’t possible, but I agree that I function alot better with them.

  23. I used to have a friend that would say that when God created recreation…it was because he wanted time to re-create us.

    You worked you tail off, but in there, you chose the family over the blog with what time was left. Sounds like an excellent choice.

    And, in whatever form the “16+ Things Designers Don’t want You to Know ” series takes – I’m looking forward to it.

  24. Thanks for sharing… have a great and restful weekend!

  25. looks like all your hard word paid off! Wish I could have been there…maybe next year:)

  26. Nester, I know that conference was amazing! I wish I could have been there. I know you put a lot of hard work into your sessions, and it shows. Both times I heard you speak at Blissdom, I felt your sessions were the most well put together, and I felt I got practical information from you that I could immediately put to use. And I am not just saying that. As we are preparing for Haven 2012, I keep thinking to myself, “I want our sessions to be relevant and meaningful like Nester’s.”
    So I know that huge crowd of women were so blessed by all that you shared. But I am also glad you can breath a little easier and have some more time to do some of those things you’ve been missing. :)
    My oldest three boys are in school now, and my youngest, Eli, goes to Mom’s Day Out two days a week. I am loving the extra time that I have to myself to work on projects, blog, (and answer those emails!). I hope you have a great fall!! I think I saw that you will be at Relevant? Hope so. :) My sister and I will be there again this year, and we cannot wait!

    • Traci, your Haven sessions will be absolutely fantastic, I am positive of it~ such a fantastic group of inspiring women~hoping I can attend and come to one of your sessions!

  27. Thank you for speaking at the conference! My friend April and I loved it and have been telling all our friends they must come with us next year. We sat in on both your sessions, front row seats. In fact, we were the first ones in the door at your first session :) You have a wonderful speaking style, very calm and quiet and also very funny somehow at the same time. I loved how you would describe someones actions about their home that you didn’t approve of or particularly like, but you never made it sound like you were disparaging the person themselves, if that makes sense. And when you were describing the person you met who apologized for their (beautiful in your eyes) home and pointed out all the things wrong with it, that could have been me. I have a beautiful home that I love but I always feel that I must apologize for something, because after all, it’s never perfect, but now I realize how silly that is. Again, thanks for the experience, and I’m looking forward to next year!

    • oh Alicia, tears, your comment means worlds to me, you will never know.

      I remember you sitting in the front row. So glad you came and introduced yourself!


  28. Oh my, I require margin too. And when I don’t have it I get all twitchy and grumpy and, and I get a furrowed brow. Not pretty.

  29. Hi Nester, Enjoy those margins as much and as often as you can. I know about margins. I need more than margins, I need really wide berths! So, thanks for the great post and letting me put that out there, I feel like I may have a day or two margin coming on.

  30. I like the way you call it “margins”. For me, I say that I need a LOT of creative time & space. Time to just sit around and stare into space and think. And after I have LOTS of that, then I get REALLY creative. I’d say that this is the hardest part of working full time. Creative time & space gets really slim.

  31. I love the frase “I need margin”. I also need that extra time AND I also need some peace an quiet in that margin. I need to be able to hear myself think instead of having to listen to people (all the time).
    It is great to read you post and the comments. I am not alone LOL
    I would have loved to hear you speak. I love your blog, even though I never commented before.
    Enjoy your margins!

  32. Oh my friend – thank you for giving us a little of your heart for the weekend. Reading Alicia’s comment above confirmed that if only for that one person (which I know it was many, many, many more), it was worth it.

    To encourage, inspire and help prioritize the things that really matter in our home, family, finances were the goal, but more importantly, to let all other women know that they are not alone. We are all in it together and some days we do it well, and some days we don’t and that’s ok….because it’s not about perfection, it’s about contentment and choosing joy in the journey. :) Thanks for encouraging women on that journey, my friend, and for taking a gamble with this woman who had a crazy dream.
    Jenny and I are grateful.

  33. Well Nester, so glad you decided to go for it and do the conference. My gal pal Melissa, who is huge reader of your blog has subsequently gotten me hooked as well. I did not even know of Jen or Jenni but decided to go to the conference all the way from Texas! We had such a great time, and learned so very much. I came away feeling more refreshed and excited than I had felt in a long while. I immediately came home and finished painting my kitchen cabinets that had been sitting their taunting me for over a year (probably longer if I’m being truthful). Jen and Jenni were both great as well. I have decided to take back some of my margin too, because I have been way to close to the edge for way too long!

  34. Oh Nester, I loved this post! I loved meeting you & listening to your AMAZING, well-thought out, totally inspiring, & wonderfully presented talks. Your passion and creativity and wry sense of humor are evident in everything you do, in a quiet-spoken way that is utterly charming.
    I too am that girl that will apologize for my unfinished trim, missing backsplash, & lack of throw pillows or color, even knowing as the words come out of my mouth that I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve (though the offer still stands for you to come to Florida–think swimming pool & margaritas-to accessorize my very bare house.) Thank you for making me see the light.
    Enjoy your few remaining days of summer & let me know if you need any coupon tips. What I lack in decorating skills I make up for with crazy grocery savings. :-)

  35. There should be more bloggers like you :)

  36. Hey, congratulations on being so brave. I love your blog and stop all the time!

  37. I love the “margin” concept! I’m a large margin kind of girl. You got me to thinking about way back when, in junior high, how my friend had the best illustrations/doodles in the margins of all her work… that was where the FUN lived! Long live the margins in our lives!!

  38. I really love this post! It’s good to hear how other people (like you) handle it when lots of things come their way. I also need a lot of margin, definitely more than most. It sometimes makes me wonder if I’ll accomplish much in life, it can feel discouraging. But I know I’m a much happier & more creative me if I do take the time that I need. Thanks for modeling this by writing posts like this! I needed to hear this and it’s encouraging to hear if from someone like you that I look up to!

  39. you did great at the conference!! loved your sessions! so glad you stepped out and did them…thank you!!

  40. so late to the party. but i am glad to read that the weekend went so well. sometimes you just have to carry more, margins or not. and i’m so encouraged that you did it. you survived carrying more and you thrived in it. thank you for modeling grace in that.

    and. hello? now you have presentations/speeches/what do you call them? at the ready. world domination!! :).

  41. So glad the conference went so well. But, I LOVE your honesty about the prep work and your need for margin. I need margin too – more than most… I need breaks and time to think. I don’t like cramming too much in at once. I’m with you, sometimes I hate that about myself… other times I like it.

  42. Okay, so I’m a little late, but I loved this post. Margin is a perfect way to describe it. Especially the part about feeling like you have the time to talk to your neighbor, because I was just thinking about that…
    I used to do the whole couponing thing, but with projects, the blog, kids getting busier with activities, etc. etc. something had to give and that was one of the things. I kind of miss it~it can save so much! Yay on the tp deal!! :)

  43. Lisa Cuba says

    margins/non-marginy…brilliant! I need them, too, and have a guilt complex about needing “my time.” Thanks for writing about that, I love your blog!

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