About Our Guest
Sandra Stanley is a Georgia native and has lived in the Atlanta area since graduating from Georgia Tech in 1988. She married Andy that same year and they founded North Point Ministries in 1995. Sandra’s ministry passion is promoting foster care in the local church.
Much of her time these days is spent in seminary classes through Dallas Theological Seminary, working on various writing projects, and continuing her involvement with Fostering Together—the foster care initiative at North Point Ministries.
Tell people a little about your story.
I’m a native Georgian. I met Andy my junior year of college, and this summer we’ll have been married 30 years. We have three kids, and our middle son is married, so we also have a daughter-in-law.
We have foster kids in and out of our house, and just got our 18-year-old foster daughter transitioned to an independent living program. So we are empty nesters!
What is it like being an empty nester?
Andy and I still like each other a lot, so being empty nesters is great! I think it hangs its hat on how well you do marriage leading up to those empty-nester years.
You shifted your focus and started writing books. What led to that shift?
When our oldest child was in ninth grade, I realized that empty nester-hood was a reality. When kids are young, that can seem like a myth. But I realized there really was going to be a next season.
I started asking God to give me direction, wisdom, and preparation for what would come next. He began giving me a heart for children from hard places. I really didn’t see that coming!
I’m also in seminary now—about halfway through my masters, so that’s been fun and challenging.
How do you create breathing room in your marriage?
There are so many different seasons—married without kids, married with babies, etc. It looked different for us in each season. When we started North Point Community Church, we had two toddlers and another on the way.
During those years, we recognized that it was a tricky, time-consuming season. That’s when Andy started going before the Lord and saying he had 45 hours a week to give. He started going to work at 6:30-7 am so he could be home by 4-5 pm.
Talk a little about what breathing room actually is.
Breathing room is another way to say margin. We define it as the space between our current pace and our limit.
In the study, we talk about developing and maintaining breathing room with our time, finances, and relationships. It started as a sermon series Andy did that really impacted me. I thought it’d be fun to take it and craft it into a series for women.
Do you think there’s a tension people feel to not disappoint others?
We talk about that in the study. Our tendency to not create breathing room boils down to a set of fears—the fear of missing out, the fear of falling behind, the fear of not mattering, and the fear of disappointing people.
How did you start saying ‘No’ to things when you wanted to say ‘Yes’?
For Andy and me, it was important to have ongoing conversations in each new season about what’s most important. Once those priorities were identified, we would make sure that our calendar lined up with them.
What impact does a lack of breathing room have on your marriage?
As it relates to marriage in particular, when the calendar fills up the opportunities for intimacy and connection begin to evaporate. The urgent can trump the important. It comes back to that idea of having constant conversations about how we’re doing.
If you see your spouse running out of breathing room, how do you approach that conversation with them?
Approach is everything. For different personalities, there are different approaches that are effective.
Part of having a great marriage is being a student of your spouse and understanding the best approach or environment to have this conversation. Rather than launching into the question, it’s about taking a pause and asking yourself the best approach for the conversation.
How does having breathing room set you up for success?
That goes back to your own personality and what rejuvenates you. For me, I just need some quiet time. Andy and I are both introverts and we both recharge in the quiet.
One of the things that is so important is time alone with the Lord to be part of our regular rhythm. In those moments, God presses the reset button for us.
How do we deal with the guilt of saying ‘No,’ or not doing what all the other parents are doing for their kids?
Let me start with an illustration. When our boys were playing baseball, their birthdays fell in such a way that they could be on the same team every other year. One particular season, when Andy was coaching, he let the parents know that the two of us would be out of town the next week, and the team would need a substitute coach.
The parents were all shocked to find out that he and I were leaving for a get-away without our kids. A couple of parents even expressed that they had not done that since having kids!
Often, when we take the the necessary steps to make sure our priorities are represented on our calendars, and we create breathing room, it gives other people permission to do the same thing. So we have to get in the habit of saying “no” to the things that are less important, so we can say “yes” to the most important things.
What are some practical ways we can find space for the things we have to do, and still have margin?
It goes back to a set of questions you’re asking each other, looking at the calendar, and planning ahead. It may be as simple as looking ahead and saying that in a few weeks you’re getting away together. It may be crazy until then, but you have that set on the calendar.
Different seasons are different. Some issues that arise are “problems to solve,” and some are “tensions to manage.” In certain seasons, it is what it is and you have to move to the conversation of how to manage the temporary tension.
What happens once we finally create the breathing room?
There’s peace, which is huge. Also, I’ve found that the Holy Spirit has more ground to manifest the fruits of the Spirit in me!
The other main discovery for me has been recognizing that I have far fewer regrets when I look back on those seasons where I had some breathing room, versus those seasons where I didn’t. That’s a big deal.
Some people have jobs that don’t allow them to cut down on their hours. What would you say to them?
The reality is that there are going to be seasons for all of us where maintaining breathing room just isn’t possible. And, it’s not necessarily because of any poor decisions we’ve made. Some seasons are just tougher than others.
- Trim where you can.
- Lean heavily into your Heavenly Father for His grace and mercy, which He promises. He’s great at filling in those gaps where we’re lacking.
- Be a gracious receiver.
This is really hard for some people. Sometimes we’re in seasons where we can give, but sometimes we need to allow others to love on us and help us. Your time to give will come back around.
One Simple Thing
Recognize and renew your mind to the fact that a ‘no for now’ is not necessarily a ‘no’ for always. And if you’re so bold, ask your spouse—if you could adjust my schedule any way you wanted, what would that look like?
Thanks for joining us for the MarriedPeople Podcast. We hope you’ll subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave a review —they help us make the podcast better.
You can find Sandra Stanley on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And you can check out more about Breathing Room.
We want to hear from you! Visit us on Facebook or Instagram and tell us about some things you fill in your breathing room time with! If you want more resources, check out Your Best Us. Finally, we hope you’ll join us for next week’s episode!
At Married People, we want to help make marriage real, fun, and simple. Because when your marriage is better, everything is better. We do that with weekly blog posts, podcast episodes, ebooks, and other awesome resources for couples everywhere.
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