Tag Archives: boundaries

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.

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.