Fall Discovery: How to Set Wise Boundaries

Most of us are not masters at setting boundaries. However, I think we can agree that all of us are in need of them. We need boundaries for our sanity and our security. Since I am not a good source of limits, I look to my Father who is the master creator of boundaries.

On the day time began, our Father spoke boundaries into the formless, empty darkness before Him. He separated darkness from light. Sky from water. Land from sea. He split day and night. He eventually split a rib so that man would not be alone. Genesis 1 & 2.

God is the master of boundaries. I don’t often know when or how to create them, but he speaks them out of wisdom and love. The Word often uses the analogy of the sea when it comes to boundaries. Proximity to the ocean and its view are peace for me. But the ocean also rages, just like our lives. God has a plan for our peace in the midst of the raging sea.

When worry and anxiety strike and control is something you don’t have, God provides the boundaries. We are not out at sea without cover. We are children of God whose nature it is to create boundaries. As his daughters and sons, we can believe and trust that the hard thing won’t consume us.

Security in the Storm

The next few verses have been safety for me when I don’t have insight to the resolution or outcome. In other words, I am speaking of the stage of circumstance when there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The chaotic season, the fearful season. The lost in the dark season. These verses give us security to know we are protected while we are in the middle of the storm. The full verses are at the bottom of this blog if you want to read more.

The one who has your best interest in mind limits the stretch of the proud waves. He rebukes chaos and puts everything in its place. God limits transgressions so that they cannot flood you. Even when the circumstances of your life are roaring against you, God places a perpetual barrier around you.

Can you feel the safety net around you? Can you feel the promise that there is no drowning in chaos? Can you believe that no matter the rage of the storm, barriers exist to protect you?

If we know, believe and trust the character of our Father, it makes sense that he holds the wisdom to help us express boundaries in our own lives.

Boundaries can feel complicated, well, because relationships and responsibilities are complicated. But there is a simple starting point that has worked for me.

You Have Control of Your 24 Hours

If you know God protects you, what in your daily practices will you protect? We know that daily practices are key to living a peaceful, productive, purposeful life. Simply start with your calendar. This is the aspect of your life where you can push back proud waves, tame chaos and create barriers. You, my dear sister, have control of the twenty-four hours a day that belong to you.

I’ve been working on this in my own life for a few years. Below are a few bullets that represent some of my daily and weekly practices. I may not be in the same season as you. We may have different likes and resources. You will have to brainstorm within your specific life circumstances. The point of my sharing is to provide evidence of how intentional daily practices are the stepping stones to strong boundaries.

Daily & Weekly Practices

  • Monday Verse of the Week, Prayer list and Inspirational Quote
  • Weekly Bible Study in a group
  • Tuesday Physical Therapy
  • No Cooking on Friday nights
  • Sunday Night Review for the week
  • Weekly act to replenish my joy
  • Weekly act of kindness towards another
  • Mail a snail mail card to someone every week
  • Regular blogging and posting
  • 2-3 walks at the beach
  • 2-3 yoga workouts

Whether or not you can relate to any of these daily and weekly practices, consider how the carving out of space for these practices results in the small steps of boundaries. As you take responsibility for the time you have been given and protect your resources, you are effectively splitting your life into yeses and nos. As you separate and split your time in positive ways, you are mirroring your Father. You are honoring your Father.

Creating boundaries in your personal life sets in motion boundaries for the rest of your life. When I am exercising my positive spiritual, mental and physical boundaries, I can offer more clarity, love and intentionality in my friendships and parenting. I can offer understanding and realism in my marriage. I can give work what it’s due but not my blood.

Boundaries Rock the Boat

When you are a woman with boundaries, you rock the boat and rile up proud, raging waves. Your opposition doesn’t like the path of your life when you are living a peaceful, productive, purposeful life with boundaries in place. Your opposition prefers that you wear yourself down and out – –  especially in the areas you are most vulnerable or insecure. The opposition intends to stop you from growing in depth, calling and wisdom.

As you assert boundaries, attacks come. Arrows hit. In these moments, we can allow these arrows to point us toward old, unhealthy ways such as

  • Overcommitting your calendar
  • Staying in toxic friendships, organizations or business relationships
  • Allowing work to take more than its allotted time on a regular basis
  • Spending more financial resources than you have or in the wrong areas
  • Taking on the needs or problems of others while neglecting your own

Or, we can interpret the arrows as opportunities to hold tight to our boundaries, even if our actions rock the boat.

Lesson in Boundaries

Recently, I had a prior client make untrue claims and unfair demands. I decided to stand by my firm’s work. At the same time, I attended to her requests to the best of my ability. In the end, my efforts failed to please her. She filed a formal complaint against me and her view of me has remained negative.

Without boundaries, I may have met her unfair demands. In this case, that would have solved the problem in a way that didn’t honor my time, credibility or resources. I maintained my boundaries and had to stretch myself to deal with the resulting “raging sea”. That was a tough arrow for me as it hit me in a place of insecurity. Who am I if I can’t make everyone happy? Am I still worthy or valuable in the face of other’s negative opinions?

I thought several times, was this experience worth setting a healthy boundary? When it comes to my bend toward people pleasing in a way that doesn’t honor my time, credibility or resources, this was an exercise of growth. Boundaries really do rock the boat. Maintaining the boundary cost me time and emotional stress. At the same time, maintaining the boundary is also growing my worth, resilience and faith. God places wise boundaries and I can do the same.

In Another Instance

In another instance, I was involved in a community project. In that role, I found myself regularly questioning my worth, attempting to earn my value and over exerting myself in areas that are not my strengths. I defaulted to an equation where if I worked hard enough, the dynamic would change. In obedience to God’s direction in my life, I decided to humbly step away. It took a full year for my soul to heal. Until writing this blog, I had not realized how important my eventual boundary was in this scenario. I pray for you and for me to learn to mirror our Father and place timely, fitting, protective boundaries in our lives.

Imagine That

Imagine yourself as a woman of worth with protections around you that are set by the authority of God. Can you shift your mindset to believe that the opportunity to set boundaries is there to grow and prosper you and not to harm you or hurt others? Can you stay alert and not be caught off guard by arrows that seek to open wounds that Jesus has healed or is healing?

My examples above may not feel as heavy to you as some of the circumstances you may be facing such as abuse or betrayal. Look less at the facts of the story and more at the lesson at hand. My experiences may be preparing you or me for bigger steps in the area of boundaries.

Stand Your Ground

When we are in the heavy circumstances of life, we don’t have to be unprepared or without clarity or direction. The Word tells us

. . . to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm . . . Ephesians 6:13-14

. . . Rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produced perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us . . . Romans 5:3-5

. . . walk in freedom for we are devoted to God’s commandments. Psalm 119:45

Let’s acknowledge how hard standing our ground can be. Let’s be candid about the process of perseverance and suffering. Obedience that leads to freedom costs us something. These are hard precepts. Hard promises. Hard love.

Let’s also recognize what God has done for us by example. He split the day from the night for our well-being. It’s not the other way around. We are not meant to be split open through overcommitting our calendar, overspending our resources or staying where we are not called to be. The unboundaried life does not get to choose how we live for Jesus. The boundaried life is one that models Jesus in wise choices of yeses and nos.

Do you feel the protection of that? Can you feel the perpetual barrier around you? Can you believe that creating boundaries are good despite how we may feel in the moment?

Mirror Your Father

Let’s mirror the Father and follow his example of setting wise boundaries.

You may come this far, but no farther; your proud waves stop here. Job 38:8-11

You set a boundary they cannot cross. Psalm 104:5-9

He set a limit for the sea so that the waters would not violate his command. Proverbs 8:27

The waves surge, but they cannot prevail. They roar but cannot pass over it. Jeremiah 5:22

Begin with a reflection of your daily practices. Stick to them not because you are a rigid person but because these practices are your lifeline to expanding boundaries in your life.

Know that setting boundaries will rock the boat. Stand firm. The same God that split night and day holds back the waters for your good. Mirror Him. You can trust the God who split open his body to make you whole.

Remember . . . the one who has your best interest in mind limits the stretch of the proud waves. He rebukes chaos and puts everything in its place. God limits transgressions so that they cannot flood you. Even when the circumstances of your life are roaring against you, God places a perpetual barrier around you.

Reflection Questions

Of the four verses describing limits, which one provides you the most security that God has your back in difficult circumstances?

What do you think about the concept that daily and weekly practices are the springboard to strong boundaries? Write a list of your current practices. Pray about adding one or two. Pray about removing one or two that are not promoting growth in this season.

What circumstance in your life feels like a raging sea? What yeses or nos can you decide upon today to start a path of healthy boundaries?

You know boundaries are working when the opposition increases. What are some ways you can stand firm and continue to cultivate a boundaried life?

Full Verses

[I] enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb . . . [I] made the clouds its garment and total darkness its blanket, [I] determined its boundaries and put its bars and doors in place, [I] declared: “You may come this far, but no farther; your proud waves stop here.” Job 38:8-11

You established the earth on its foundations; it will never be shaken. You covered it with the deep as with a garment, the water stood above the mountains. At your rebuke the water fled; at the sound of your thunder they hurried away. Mountains rose and valleys sank to the place you established for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross, they will never cover the earth again. Psalm 104:5-9

I was there when he established the heavens, when he laid out the horizon on the surface of the ocean, when he placed the skies above, when the foundations of the ocean gushed out, when he set a limit for the sea so that the waters would not violate his command, when he laid out the foundations of the earth. Proverbs 8:27

Do you not fear me? This is the Lord’s declaration. Do you not tremble before me, the one who set the sand as the boundary of the sea, an enduring barrier that it cannot cross? The wave surge, but they cannot prevail. They roar but cannot pass over it. Jeremiah 5:22

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Wisdom for the Secret Desires of Women – Part Two

Last week, we began by looking at our gifts and our value. If you missed this be sure to click HERE to read part one.

You Are Fulfilled by Living Out Your Gifts

Be honest with yourself. You have the power to choose the life you live. Think about what you are striving to be. There are many pursuits you can set your sights on. Are you setting out to live the balanced life? What about the perfect life? The happy life? The controlled life? If you are honest with yourself, you can probably find traces of each of these unworthy pursuits inside your heart. True inner peace does not live alongside balanced, perfect, happy or controlled. These are facades and misnomers that prevent personal fulfillment.

The Balanced Life

I am just going to say it. The balanced life is a sham. You can’t live peacefully if you are trying to equally serve well in every area of your life. It’s not possible to give well in all areas in every season. The balanced life is the modern word for the 70s superwoman. We are not superhuman now or then. The actual word for this kind of life is voluntary soul-slaughter.

We are called to intimately and honestly put all of our desires before a loving God. In His loving way, He moves our hearts and directs us towards the creativity He built in us. When we are living and breathing and moving in the desires He set within us, our paths become narrowly directed and focused. We realize that our life is personalized and decorated in a fashion that was not meant to be all things, all the time. 

If we listen to the voice of God speaking to our hearts, He will highlight the priorities of the season you are in. If your child has a need for deep leadership and discipleship, then it is not the time to start a challenging work project. If it is your season to lead an intense Bible study, it’s not your season to plan a fundraiser for a charitable event. If your marriage is suffering, it may not be the time to be a host family for an international student. If you put your desires before Him, He will direct your path. 

The Perfect Life

I like the idea of the perfect life because, well, it sounds fulfilling. I’d love to be totally free of faults. I’d love to have all of the qualities and characteristics of perfection. I’d love to be as good as it is possible to be in the past, present, and future. In light of my working mom status, I would even love to be in more than one place at one time. But, then, that would make me God. 

When we desire the perfect life, our fears center around failure and appearances. We are often too afraid to live out our gifts because it is too scary to fail. It is too scary to appear or to be less than perfect. The truth is that perfection prevents the good risks in life that bring the most fulfillment. Take a look back at the nine six month goals in yesterday’s post. All of the goals contain risks. Putting out your work to be accepted or rejected? Influencing others to act when they may not? Becoming a voice that could be criticized? Failure is part of the equation. Desiring the perfect life will keep you from the good chance you will take ground for the calling God put inside of you. 

If you desire inner peace and the personal fulfillment that comes along with it, you will need to let go of the perfect life. You will need to acknowledge that perfect belongs to God, not you. You will need to stop holding yourself and your family to a standard worthy only of God. You will need to choose to be less than perfect and more of who you were made to be.

The Happy Life

Who doesn’t want to be happy? Blessed? Joyful? Yes, and Amen. But what if you want a happy-go-lucky, risk-free life more than the abundant life God has planned for you? 

Living a happy, blessed, joyful life does not give you an excuse to avoid the tensions of this life. In every step you take towards living out your true self, there will be tension. There will be risk. There will be the possibility of loss. How do you know if you are pursuing surface happiness over true inner peace? Consider what choice you would make in the following scenarios. Would you face the tension and follow your call or stand on the platform of risk-free and happy?

You know you’re supposed to accept a church leadership position, but the politics of a woman in this role could be complicated. Do you accept or reject the position?

Your boss keeps bringing to you urgent, unimportant matters after business hours so that you continuously miss your free dive practice when you know this skill is part and parcel to your calling. Do you place boundaries within your workplace or do you overlook the importance of living out your passion?

You put off starting the mom’s prayer group in your city because your neighborhood is predominantly Jewish and you are Christian. Do you avoid what God has put on your heart because the group may not look like what you are accustomed to?

You haven’t applied to Bible college because you don’t have the money. You know you can ask your mentor for a loan, but you don’t want to risk harming the relationship. Do you approach your mentor or put away your dream?

Pursuing the happy life will inevitably cause you to dismiss tension and hardship that arises in your life. If you truly desire to have what you want most and the inner peace that flows from it, you will have to choose hard over happy in the proper season. Calling is crucial. Loving yourself by taking risks is worth the potential short-term loss of the happy life. The reward is an abundance of the happy, blessed, joyful life.

The Controlled Life

What does the controlled life look like? A good example is a woman who won’t veer from her calendar. She has already decided on the terms of her ideal life and has made adequate time to live it. Period. End of her story. In light of the fact that planning and preparedness are good, how do you know if you are living the controlled life? Ask yourself these questions. If you answer yes, the draw of the controlled life has a hold on you.

Do you cringe when you feel the tugs of change?

Do you cling to the status quo just because you like the safety of it?

Do you back away from the extraordinary because you don’t have sufficient time for it?

Do you decline when you are invited on an adventure because you didn’t plan for it?

Are you afraid of the idea of being outside of or away from your city, social group, church or workplace?

I can relate to the fanfare of a controlled environment. There have been multiple times in my life when several things have been out of control at the same time. In those seasons, I long for a predictable life. I want to be able to anticipate what is next. I want to see the outcome when the things that matter most to me are topsy-turvy. I want to estimate the length of the pain. I want the heads up for the future. I want to know how to handle the unexpected turns of life, right now. Seriously, there are a lot of us who would like to be our own little prophet of our own little life.

God may want you to break from your normal routine to bring light to someone’s darkness. He may be calling you to give where there is emptiness. He may be choosing you to do what is impossible for someone else to accomplish. Following His lead could shake up everything you know as normal. When He is calling your name for a purpose, clinging to the controlled life will not bring you peace. The spiritual truth is that, if you are forgoing your calling because you can’t shed control when God asks you to, you are leading yourself away from the inner peace you desire most. 

In Living Out Who You Are, You Find Strength

Strength is not realized in doing it all, all of the time. This is called burn out. Strength begins with knowing yourself well enough to know exactly where your passion and purpose intersect. When you know your specific gifts, you are able to take weekly, monthly and quarterly life-giving steps toward your calling. As you live out who you are, you realize just how much you are capable of. Here is your sweet spot. This holy pursuit starts a fire in you that can’t be easily put out. When your God-given gifts are in action, supernatural strength rolls in. When you are living out your calling to the point in which you find your strength, you will find exactly what you desire most, including inner peace.

Fourfold Wisdom

Wisdom begins with the knowledge of what your gifts are. Syncing your God-given gifts with your daily practices leads to realizing your value. Putting your gifts into practice exhibits your value to yourself and others. The eventual result of practicing your gifts and talents in a valuable way lends itself to personal fulfillment. As you live out who you were made to be in the season you are in, strength appears in ways it never has before.

You are gifted.

You are valuable.

You are fulfilled.

You are strong.

This is the fourfold wisdom for the secret desires of women.

Your soul is at peace.

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