Category Archives: Health

Soul Care

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I have not blogged for a couple of weeks now.  I’m just breathing in and out every day, doing my job, taking care of responsibilities.  I’ve been focusing on Soul Care issues with any spare strength I find.  Boundaries- I’m pushing back those boundary lines that have crept too close to the center, giving myself space to breathe.  One of those boundaries is pulling away from social media for who knows how long- until I feel more like myself and less like a conglomeration of acquaintances who share a page in cyberspace.  I had already been toying with the idea of not blogging so much because it was starting to feel like homework.  I need to go back to the place where writing brought me joy and for me, that means less structure and more spontaneity.

Another boundary I’ve decided to resurrect is to read more real books.  Reading articles and news headlines on line has not been renewing my mind enough to be refreshing.  I have been spending my weekends curled up in a comfy chair with a good book, ignoring the world as much as I can.  I still have to do ministry things on the weekends and take my kids to birthday parties and go to church, but I’ve decided not to feel guilty about guarding my weekends and doing what I enjoy for once.

And finally, I have been making space in my schedule to have those coffee dates with friends that I have neglected the last few months.  Even though I don’t have much to give them, just being with them, hearing their life updates, and enjoying their friendship has brought me joy.  I need to do that more often.  A friend of mine came into town as she traveled from Thailand to Dallas to Costa Rica and home to Argentina.  I dropped everything and told my husband, “Find your own dinner and take care of the kids.  Don’t call my cell phone asking when I’m going to come home.  I’m going to be with my friend for as long as I possibly can.”  And it was a magical 5 hours of talking and laughing long after the coffee and dessert was gone.  (Waiters here never bring the bill until you ask for it, they just expect that you’ll sit as long as you want after you’ve eaten.  It’s all about relationships in Latin America.)  I needed that time with her.

So here I am, just living each day one by one.  I wake up every morning and ask the Lord for the strength to get through today, for the wisdom that I will need to do my job, for the Lord to bless the work of my hands.  Having boundaries and knowing what my soul needs to be energized are part of my Soul Care plan.  You’ll see me around the blogger-sphere more sporadically for a while.  Thank you for all your loyal readership over the last 2 years.  Let’s bump into each other again soon.

P.S.  I do have a blog going up tomorrow too.  So come back then.

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Depression is a hand on the throat

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Depression is a hand on the throat, around the throat, squeezing the air out of your body.   It’s a heavy, wet blanket wrapped around your head, air molecules dodging water droplets.  Breathing comes in jagged waves- gasping for air, for life, for a life saving hand as your head goes down under again.  Depression is that 20 second pause after a fall when you look up at the clear blue sky, perfectly blue, achingly blue and you wonder how you got down here.  You wonder why your ribs are crushing your lungs.  It’s the split second before you gasp and choke and suck in air like shards of glass.  It’s getting the wind knocked out of you, over and over and over again, eyes to the sky and the blue pressing down on my chest.

There are moments where it takes all my energy just to keep breathing.  I close my eyes against the dazzling blue and try to remember why I like breathing.

If there was a reason, I could find it.  If there was a problem, I could fix it.  If there was something out of place, I could readjust.  But that’s the intangible, untouchable nature of boxing with shadows.  Nothing is lost.  Nothing is wrong.  Nothing is unjust or wicked or fraudulent or negligent.  All is right in my little world, just not inside of me.  If depression is a vapor, a fog; then anger is a liquid.  Hot tears.

“See Honey, I’m just slicing an onion.  It’s just a strong onion that’s making mommy cry.”  My hand with the knife moves automatically.  Really, I wouldn’t mind just eating cereal for the third meal of the day.

My eyes don’t need to look around me, for I can sense the shame collecting in piles of clutter.  And I have forgotten which mounds of laundry are clean and which are dirty.  And the crumbs under the dinning room table sigh at me and feel overwhelming tonight.  And the dog has taken up a forbidden position on the couch pillows, yet I just can’t muster the energy to scold him, or to pet him for that matter.

Days slip through my fingers faster than my dry eyes can make fresh tears.  I coil and uncoil myself around a pillow, back to bed now up again, night and day, dusk and dawn.  The most significant moment of the day is when I close my eyes and feel the globe spinning, sucking the air out of my lungs again, and I sleep.

Under Heavy Attack

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I walked to the refrigerator to begin making dinner.  My hand felt heavy and weak as I gripped the handle of the fridge.  I didn’t open the door.  I just laid my forehead against the back of my hand still gripping the handle and sighed.  This depression was so heavy that I physically felt tired and drained.  I whispered a silent prayer, “Lord, call off the attack.  I can’t fight this anymore.  I’m too weak and tired.”  A few tears fell from my eyes and splashed on the tile at my feet.  I know He heard my prayer.

From that moment on, I felt a turning of the tide.  I admitted my weakness and asked for help- two things I don’t do very often.  Though I don’t like it, I have begun to acknowledge and respect my own limitations because I no longer feel the imagined condemnation beating me over the head for not being stronger.  That was not from God.  That was the attack of the Enemy- and I finally recognized it.  When I asked for help, God rang the bell and called the match “over”.  HE had won on my behalf.

If you are fighting discouragement, read these words from Brother David Wilkerson and relax.  You can let God do the fighting for you.  You’re not alone.

When you are under attack from the enemy’s spirit of discouragement, you will
not feel like praying. But you still must go to the secret place and be in
Jesus’ presence. Do not worry about trying to pray your way out of despair.
This is the time for God’s Spirit to go to work in you to lift you out of the
pit.

When you go to the Lord, be honest with Him about how weak and helpless you
feel. Let Him know, “Jesus, I’m dry. I have no strength left. If I’m ever going
to get out of this depression, You are going to have to make it happen.”

In such low times, the Lord is very patient with us. He does not expect us to
exert some intense, fervent effort in prayer. He knows our condition, and He
sympathizes with us. Just sit in His presence and trust His Spirit to do in you
what He was sent to do. It doesn’t matter how cast down you are, He will never
forsake you!

We have the notion that every time we fail the Lord, the Holy Spirit flits away
like a bird because He is grieved. But how could God’s Spirit abandon me when I
need Him most? If He leaves me whenever I fail and fall deep into
discouragement, how can He be my Comforter?

Jesus promised us, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another
Comforter, that he may abide with you forever . . . I will not leave you
comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:16, 18).

When the devil’s heavy spirit of discouragement settles over your life, you may
be so distraught you cannot even whisper a prayer. But even so, you can talk to
Jesus in your spirit. Just tell Him softly, “Lord, help me. This attack is too
much for me. I can’t do anything but sit here in faith. I am trusting your
Spirit to drive it out of me.”

No room for jealousy, or is it envy?

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You would think that by listening to how people make small talk and how people interact with each other on social media that jealousy is something cute and harmless.  We banter about the phrases, “OMG I’m so jealous!” and “look what I’m doing, are you jealous?”  I think we’ve numbed ourselves to how cutting and dangerous jealousy really is.  If you don’t believe me, just try being genuinely happy for someone who has succeeded in life.  Hard, isn’t it.

Deuteronomy 5:21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Jealousy has a sister named Envy.  I actually had to google the differences between these two words because in our culture, they are often interchangeable.  However, they are indeed different, according to one of my favorite nerdy websites “Grammar Girl.”  Jealousy is usually a relationship type of word meaning “apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced.”  Jealousy is the emotion you feel when you fear that you will lose someone you love to another.  Envy, on the other hand, means “to bear a grudge towards someone due to coveting what someone has or enjoys.”  Envy is the emotion you have when you want what someone else has.  So grammatically speaking, it is more accurate to say, “OMG I’m so envious!”

BEEN THERE DONE THAT

However, both jealousy and envy will tear you apart if you let them.  It is highly possible that you have looked longingly at the details of someone else’s life and envied them.  Perhaps you’ve envied their status or their possessions.  Perhaps you’ve envied their physical appearance or their lifestyle.  I’ve been there myself.  Honestly!  I had a Facebook friend that I hardly knew, but her photos showed such a perfect, carefree lifestyle that she made me pea green with envy!  I had to hide her posts or I’d have to repent every time I logged on.  (Turns out her husband was professional photographer who retouched all her picts before she posted them.  So that made me feel a little better.)  So I know Envy, personally!

But here’s my point, when you envy someone, you never see the whole picture.  Your mind zooms in on the detail that you are fixating on, and you don’t see the negatives at all.  You don’t see the price that the other person has paid to get that rock hard body.  You don’t see the pain that they have endured in failed relationships crushed by climbing the corporate ladder.  You don’t see the sacrifices they have made to get where they are.

NOT WILLING TO COUNT THE COST

As a missionary, yes, I could talk all day long about how wonderful it is to live in the tropics.  And you may envy me the life I live.  But you have the luxury of asking your parents to babysit your kids while you go on a date night with your spouse.  My parents live 3,000 miles away.  You have the potential to own your own house while I will borrow used furniture to fill a rental house for a year when I come home on itineration next spring.   I don’t own a house.  We have one car which belongs to the mission.  And this morning when I made my breakfast I found ants in my French Press… AGAIN.  You don’t see all that when you envy a missionary.

You also don’t see the hours spent standing in lines in government offices.  You don’t see the “tips” paid to police officers to ensure that they don’t syphon gas out of your car at night.  (Yes, police officers.)  You don’t see the mounds of trash that pile up in the streets or the stray dogs that tear into the bags and spread it all over your driveway.  You never give a second thought to flushing your toilet paper.  You don’t think to thank God for a hot shower.  And you’ve never had to use a bigger shoe than the one you were wearing to kill a cockroach.

So yeah, you may envy the pretty pictures of nature that the missionary posts, but unless you’re ready to live in that nature as if you were camping in your own house, you better just look around you and appreciate all that you do have.  Don’t zoom in on one detail of the missionary’s life while ignoring the high price he’s paid.  Walk a mile in a missionary’s shoes and you probably won’t covet what he has.  Envy isn’t a good thing.  Be thankful for what you have and don’t try to take what others have.  That’s healthy living 101.

Psalm 16:6   “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

 

Of Sloths and stuff

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This past weekend was a  holiday weekend in Costa Rica.  Here Columbus Day is called “Day of the Races” or Culture Day.  It was convenient that we have Monday off of school since most of the high school kids were on a retreat with our local youth group.  With the two big kids gone, and only the little one at home with mom and dad, we made spontaneous plans with friends to go to the beach for a night.  The beach is so much more restful when you only have one child to keep an eye on!

Normally packing to go away even for one night is like packing for a trip to the moon.  Not only must I pack for myself… which would only take about 30 minutes if that’s all I had to do… but I must also pack (or check the packing of) 3 kids.  We always bring food to the beach too.  We save money by eating breakfast and lunch picnic style so we can eat dinner at a restaurant… that’s a mother’s luxury.  So food for 5 times however many breakfasts and lunches there will be must be packed.  Then there’s all the swimming gear:  boogie boards, goggles and snorkels, sand toys and diving rings, sun screen, water shoes, beach towels, and inflatables.  Usually it’s all stored in one place between trips, but occasionally someone has taken things out of the stash and we must hunt down a lost pair of goggles or the bottle of SPF 85 that I bought last month.  It’s never as easy as I imagined it would be when we first talked about leaving.

Then because it frequently rains at the beach, we bring things to entertain the kids during rainy afternoons and evenings.  A couple of board games, a bag of Barbies, and our computers to watch a movie or two are the preferred methods of entertainment for the family.  I’m just happy with my Kindle and a chair on the balcony with a jungle view.

Once we get packed into the car, the fun begins.  Just getting out of the city for a while is relaxing.  Seeing the mountains split by the ribbon of highway clinging precariously to cliffs facing deep, cloud filled gorges lined with combed rows of coffee bushes causes me to relax my shoulders and breath in the scenery.  I love where I live.  All the way to the beach there are fruit stands marking the places where little towns touch the high way.  If you need a bite to eat, there are “sodas” or little Mom-and Pop diners accompanying the stands of “Mangas” and “Pipas Frias” all along the way.

crocsEven though we’ve seen them a million times, we always stop at one particular bridge to count the giant salt water crocodiles lounging on the banks of the Tarcoles River.  Then we walk back to the road side restaurant for a plate of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) before continuing on our way to the coast.  As I sit on the wooden benches watching my children sip fresh fruit juice to wash down their rice and beans, I look up to the palm frond roof and think about how much I love this life.  I hear chickens and a rooster outside the door and an iguana climbs up the tree that serves as a wall for the dining area.  The heat is oppressive and I’m sweating through my sarong which only makes the fresh squeezed fruit juice all the more refreshing.  This is the life!

I can’t believe that I GET to live here.  When I stand on the beach and take in the scope of the bay I fall in love with Costa Rica all over again.   I realize that this is where some people come on vacation, but for me, this is my home.  And I never want to leave.

monkeyOne of our family’s favorite things about the beach is all the animals that we get to see there.  San Jose is closing down it’s zoo sometime this year, because it’s pretty pointless when you can see the same animals in the wild for free.  At the beach we spot howler monkeys, “titi” monkeys and white faced capuchins.  Iguanas the size of dogs sun themselves along the steaming hot pavement of the road.  It pays to keep your eyes on the trees, because sloths are everywhere as well.  This past weekend, we spotted a Momma sloth carrying a baby on her belly.  How cool is that?

slothI feel the stress of the last week melt off my shoulders when I consider all the amazing things about where I live.  I am reminded all over again why I love living here.  A weekend at the beach is just what the doctor ordered.

True Love Doesn’t Count the Candles on Your Cake

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Today is my husband’s 40th birthday.  He’s been a little bummed about this number for the better part of a year now.  I just can’t believe that we’ve been together for so many years.  He’s my best friend.  There is no one I’d rather spend a free day with.  There is no one I’d rather travel the world with.  At the end of the day, he’s the one I want to talk to.  When he’s with me, everything feels better.

We have history together.  I don’t care to remember much about life before Josh came along.  All of our adult life has been spent together.  We have celebrated more than 20 birthdays together and almost that many anniversaries.  We’ve made plans and dreamed together.  We’ve become parents together.  We’ve bought and sold houses, started and quit jobs, gotten lost and found ourselves again, laughed and cried together.  We share our past.  Occasionally when I look at a newly wed couple and think how sweet it would be to be falling in love all over again- I stop myself and think of all that history that we would lose if we started over again.  I remind myself that I would never really want to go back and do it again- it’s too much work to recreate what we have.  I don’t envy those just starting out.  Our relationship just keeps getting richer and deeper and more fulfilling as the years roll by.

We also have chemistry with each other.  I remember one time when I was talking with my girlfriends about our husbands.  I said, “I love that Josh can still give me butterflies in my stomach with just one look across a crowded room.”  I wasn’t being sappy or gushy, I was just making a comment that we hadn’t lost that spark.  I was shocked and sad when several of my girlfriends commented that their spouses had NEVER given them butterflies in their stomaches.  I thought,  “Wow, we really have something special then.”  I quit taking that for granted and now I know that we have a rare thing.  We can read each other’s moods without saying anything.  We know each other better than anyone else knows us.  We are one.

It’s pretty stereotypical to say that men struggle with turing 40- I’ve known many women who struggle with that number too.  But I want my husband to know that in my eyes, he’s never been more handsome than he is right now.  In my heart, I’ve never loved him more than I do at this moment.  I love that we are growing older together and we still want to be together.  I don’t take that for granted.  I know that is the stuff that dreams are made of.

So happy 40th birthday to the love of my life and my best friend.  Our adventure is just getting exciting!  I love you, Babe!

Forced to Exercise

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I’m grumpy today.  I’m being forced to exercise at work today.

I’ve had a  long standing policy to only run when chased… preferably with a weapon of some sort to provide extra motivation.   And I don’t approve of sweating.  I’m sure it’s against my religious beliefs somehow.

However, today we are having a government mandated “occupational health” day at work.  We’re calling it a staff retreat to soften the blow.  Last year they made us do aerobics.  I am probably the most uncoordinated girl alive, so my exercising is always done in the privacy of my own home.

Maybe if I had some cute work out clothes I would feel better about exercising in public, but I’m basically wearing pajamas with tennis shoes.  All my awkward junior high insecurities are bubbling up to the surface.  So I’ve decided to bring some chocolate chip banana bread to share.  That will make things all better, or at least prevent me from tipping the scales toward anorexia… which has never really been a danger for me, but it will work for today.

Sigh, off to “forced family fun”.

Where I learned something about myself

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A few weeks ago my husband and I went away for the weekend, just by ourselves.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times that we have left our children and had a weekend getaway.  We have been in full time ministry for the last 20 years and we’ve been parents for more than 17 of those years.  Weekend getaways have been few and far between.  But this year we started the year with putting two dates on the calendar before any others.  We blocked out a week vacation for a “stay-cation” at the end of summer and we blocked out a weekend away just for us.

22 Kilometers (just under an hour) of winding, climbing dirt road.

22 Kilometers (just under an hour) of winding, climbing dirt road.

We chose a new location to explore on our getaway.  We took the very, VERY bumpy and long road up to Monteverde Cloud Forest.  As we climbed up and up the mountainous dirt road separating the coastal highway from the high-altitude forest preserve, I enjoyed the scenery and the ever changing flora without the bickering of siblings and the tired, whining demands of children behind me.  We played the music WE wanted to hear.  We stopped and took pictures where WE wanted to stop.  We bought and ate the gas station snacks that WE wanted to eat.  It was lovely.

Up, up in the clouds it was cool and damp.  It was the most Fall-like weather I’ve ever experienced in the tropics.  This Minnesota girls who was starting to miss the seasonal changes got her “fall fix” and was happy.  Our hotel was at the very end of the road, just before the entrance to the National Park.  It was quiet up there.  I liked that… a lot!

The little town of Santa Elena which services the tourists coming to the cloud forest was a kitschy little collection of souvenir shops, typical Costa Rican restaurants, and “Extreme” tourism offices.  If Wisconsin Dells were transported to the Swiss Alps, that would describe Santa Elena and Monteverde.  It was cute.  After all, who doesn’t love “Reptile World” and souvenir magnets?  We ate at an amazing restaurant built into a tree.  We pretended that the Swiss Family Robinson had opened a restaurant in Costa Rica.  The food was so tasty that we went back for dinner the next night too!

Eating at the Tree House Restaurant... the original Rainforest Cafe, I suppose.

Eating at the Tree House Restaurant… the original Rainforest Cafe, I suppose.

We decided to skip the zip lining adventure since we’ve done that a million times.  And we didn’t pay to go into the National Park.  It’s been our experience that animals pay no attention to the boundary lines of parks.  They go where the food is, hence, where the people are.  So we skipped that.  We took a very disappointing night hike with an Israeli family who talked incessantly and loudly, successfully warning any animals of our presence.  The best part about the night-hike was the gigantic tarantula we found in a dead tree stump.  Note to self:  if you’re ever lost in the jungle in the night, do NOT place your back against a dead tree unless you want to be instantly covered in prehistoric sized insects of all varieties.

After the successful ATV tour through the cloud forest.

After the successful ATV tour through the cloud forest.

But the absolute best part of the weekend was that I drove an ATV (4 wheeler) for the first time!  Josh had gone before a few times, but it was my first time.  I mainly agreed to do it for my husband’s sake.  I was the only girl in the group.  I was super nervous and cautious at first.  But once I got the hang of it, I could keep up with the men no problem.  And guess what.  It was a BLAST!  I was so proud of myself for learning to drive it and for being brave.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely be doing that again!

We also spent plenty of time just reading quietly, examining birds through binoculars while sitting in our front window, and just being together… without kids!  It was a wonderful weekend getaway.  We came home feeling refreshed and ready for the next challenges that life and ministry would bring our way.  We decided we need to do that more often.  It was lovely.

Jesus had boundaries too

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Our Savior Jesus, walked in a human body with human limitations.  If the Son of God had to draw boundaries, then so do I.  In Mark 6 we have two stories back to back that show the stress and strain placed on Jesus in the ministry.  First we see him preparing to send out his disciples for some hands-on ministry training time.  He gives them instructions, forms little teams, and sends them out.  In the meantime, Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist is beheaded.  John’s own disciples go to collect the body and bury him.  (A couple of Jesus’ own disciples HAD been followers of John before Jesus started his public ministry, so this news would have come as a shock to them as well.)  So the disciples come back to Jesus to report on what they did on their mini missions trip around the area and they receive the bad news of John’s death.  This is what we read in Mark 6:30-32.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Have you ever been so busy that you haven’t had time to even EAT let alone talk with your family… or worse, you haven’t been able to grieve for a loss or celebrate a victory!  We need times of retreat to do both, to heal and to savor life.  When the pace is rapid fire, go-go-go that is a time when we need to pull in the boundary lines.  It’s not always possible to slow down and take a weekend away RIGHT NOW.  But you still need it, soon.  Put it on the calendar.  Say No to some lesser obligations to carve out space for rest and retreat.

Also, don’t forget your Sabbath Rest.  This is a commandment!  You need one day per week to stop working and to honor God.  On the Sabbath we honor God with our Rest.  For most people it is Sunday- but for ministers this is a work day, so they need to take a different day for rest.  This is a commandment!  “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”  For the 6 days of creation, the Lord worked, and on the 7th day he rested… not because he was tired.  God rested to give us the example of HOW TO STOP WORKING and to honor Him.  God has ordered us to rest.  (I love rest!  I could take a nap every day!! So why is this such a hard commandment to obey?)

So back to the passage in Mark 6.  Jesus wanted his disciples to rest and retreat for a while.  But when they arrived at their retreat destination, there was a crowd of several THOUSAND people waiting for Jesus.  Rest would have to wait a while longer.  Jesus had compassion on the multitudes of “shepherdless” people, so he stayed to teach them and then feed them with miraculous provisions.  After the 5,000 were fed, we read this:

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray alone.

Jesus needed a break.  And the disciples needed a break too.  They needed it badly enough for Jesus to send them ahead while he dismissed the crowd.  It’s like saying, “Honey, take the kids out to the car and wait for me,” when you see your children having an exhaustion fueled melt-down on the floor in the church lobby.  I think Jesus knew his disciples had reached their limits.  He knew where HIS limits were too, and he knew it was time to recharge the batteries with some quiet, alone time with the Father.  Even the Son of God needed to pull away for a while and rest.  I love that.  It helps me accept and embrace my own need for rest and retreat.

Boundaries

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I’ve spent this last week thinking a lot about the need for healthy boundaries in life.  Normally I understand my own boundaries and limitations without giving it much thought, but when a major life-change comes along, sometimes the boundaries need to be shifted to accommodate that change.

For me, some of the hardest boundaries to draw are between people.  I have no problem enforcing boundaries over non-human elements.  I try not to bring work home with me.  I am retraining myself not to answer work emails on the weekends.  I am starting to shut my office door when I need to focus on some task without being interrupted.  Those boundaries are easy for me.  The more difficult boundaries are between myself and other people.

[Now, please, please, please don’t think that I’m trying to send anyone a not-so-subtle message with this blog.  If you come to me tomorrow and say, “did you write that blog about me?!”  I’m going to smack you and tell you to quit being so self absorbed.  This is NOT about one person, but it is about people in general.]

Photo credit: joiseyshowaa / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: joiseyshowaa / Foter / CC BY-SA

Here’s what I’ve noticed about boundaries between people.  When you are in a people-focused occupation… like ministry… your automatic response is to want to help people and to fix their problems.  Here’s where I get into trouble and over extend myself.  There are people in our lives who truly need and deserve our time and attention, and then there are people who are just a drain on me emotionally.  And sometimes it’s hard to know the difference.  Sometimes boundaries must be readjusted when I realize that a person is moving from one category to the other.

When a person only wants to talk about their problems, and never reciprocates concern for my wellbeing- it’s time to redraw the boundaries.  When a person’s problems never seem to get any better no matter how many suggestions I give, that’s an indication that I have them in the wrong category, and I need to make some adjustments.  I can spin my wheels in mud forever with them and nothing will be resolved, so now I need to limit the amount of time I give them.

It’s not only for MY sake, but sometimes it’s an indication that I’M not the one who can help them.  That’s not to say that NO ONE can help them.  But if they keep coming to me, they will never seek another avenue.  Plus, it’s like I’m denying that Jesus is really, ultimately the one that they need- not me.  I don’t want to create a dependency issue, so I use boundaries.

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee / Foter / CC BY

Another red flag that indicates that the boundaries are not in the right place is when a person just flat-out exhausts me.  When I start dreading seeing their name pop up in an email or I start navigating crowds to avoid someone, then it’s time to put some space between myself and the person who drains me.  I know that sounds heartless for a missionary to say.   But I need those boundaries for my own health and well being too.  How can I help others if one or two people are draining my limited energies.  For me, my feelings are the fuel indicator lights of my life.  When the big red E is blinking, we have a problem.

The last thing that I want to say about boundaries is that they can be in different places for different people.  For me, I have friends that I never get tired of being around, and others who require me to pull myself inwards and withdraw into myself more.  It depends on the person and how  they either energize me or drain me.

For other friends of mine, the time of day is the thing they need to pay attention to- that’s where their fuel light is located.  I have a friend and fellow missionary who goes to bed early.  We all know that’s her boundary.  We don’t get offended when she leaves a party early or backs out of a dinner engagement because she’s tired.  That’s just her limit.  When she’s on E she needs to go to bed.

[This same friend gave me a handy little phrase that I now use to help me say “no” without offending.  I now say, “That’s not going to work for me.”  So if you hear that from me, it means NO.]

Photo credit: kristarella / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: kristarella / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

For others, their limits involve their iPhone or cell.  They are tempted to answer every phone call, every text, every instant message they receive in the very moment that their phone dings.  (They are like Pavlov’s dogs who were trained to drool at the sound of a bell.)  That little ding becomes a demanding little dictator separating them from friends, family, and events happening right at this moment.   These friends need to learn to turn their phones off and give their attention to the present.

So you see, we all have boundary lines that need to be drawn, guarded, and reassessed frequently just to keep us emotionally fueled up and running smoothly.  That’s where I am with this new school year and new job.  I’m readjusting boundaries and reading the fuel light frequently.  I’m having to say No to people and things, not because I’m mean and hateful, just because I’m human.  Boundaries are necessary.