Archive for the ‘Boundaries’ Category

4 Margin Makers

In the interest of saving you time and margin, I want to jump right in and give you some of the margin rules that I follow and feel have been helpful in my life.

1. Learn to say “no”

You may feel guilty at first, but that’s normal. It’s always awkward to do something you’re not used to doing. And don’t feel as if you have to give a reason for not signing up to be “Room Mother” or “Den Father.” Your friends may say, “But you’ve been Room Mother for the last 5 years! How can you quit?” And you can say back, “Because I’ve been Room Mother for the last 5 years!” And leave it at that!

2. De-clutter Your Life

This goes along with learning to say “no.” You have to evaluate what is most important and trim away the excess.

For example:

  • If you have two kids and they each want to play three sports every year, then cut back to two or even one sport per child per year. Also, consider not having them play their sports all at the same time. Remember – our kids need to learn limits when they are young or they will end up like us—frazzled adults!
  • If you volunteer at your church in several areas and feel stressed, then pray about pulling back from one of the areas that is least necessary.
  • If you struggle with clutter in your home, avoid buying anything new without donating or selling something old. Remember the more you have, the more you have to keep up with and maintain!

Get the idea?

3.  Keep Regular Routines for Work and Rest

This one is more important than people realize. We all have natural rhythms that our bodies crave. When we don’t get the right amount of rest or sleep, we can’t handle even the little things in life. So keeping a specific schedule to your day, day after day is important. Allow for work times, but also allow for breaks throughout the day. Your productivity will increase if you do. And make a ritual of slowing down and doing calming activities just before bedtime—then getting in bed near to the same time each night (as well as getting up near to the same time each day).

4. Practice Contentment

There’s an irony in life, well, there are many, but the one I’m speaking of has to do with our “wanter.”

We all have a “wanter.” You would think that if you fed the “wanter,” it would be satisfied. But unfortunately, the “wanter” only gets hungrier and hungrier as it is fed–especially if it is well-fed. The way to reverse this is to focus not on our wants, but on our needs.

  • Do you really need to spend hours upon hours decorating your house for Christmas?
  • Do you really need to have your house perfectly clean for relatives who will only mess it up worse than before!
  • Do you really need to work those extra hours, so that you can buy that big screen television, so that you can watch away any margin you may have left? If this isn’t the fast track to the crazy cycle, I don’t know what is!

Christmas is all about focusing on the most important person in life—Christ. So why not use this as a time to also focus on your priorities instead of getting caught up in all the holiday hype.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Timothy 6:6 (NIV)



6 Ways to Know if You Need More Margin in Your Life

Here we go headlong into the Christmas season and with it goes our ability to “accept the things we cannot change and the wisdom to know” when to quit! In a word, we freak! Just listening to some of friend’s Walmart Black Friday stories this past weekend made me lose my “serenity!”

And in honor of Cyber Monday, there’s one gift that you need to give yourself—the ability to know if you have enough margin in your life, and if you don’t, how to get it. So, here are some questions to determine if you’ve built enough margin into your life:

  1. Are you chronically late?
  2. Do you feel that you don’t have the time to take a break each day?
  3. Do you regularly miss making the priorities in your life a priority on your schedule?
  4. Do you feel stressed or drained nearly every day and then, even though you’re exhausted, have difficulty sleeping at night?
  5. Do you usually feel angry or extremely anxious whenever you have to wait in line, be on hold, or sit in traffic?
  6. Do you regularly feel taken for granted and unappreciated for all you do?

If you answered yes to two or more, then you need to “check out” the margin section of your life. How do you build margin in your life? Well, that’s a subject for my next post. But until then, simply meditate on this encouraging passage:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:4-8 (NIV)

Don’t you already feel better?


Who Ya Gonna Call? Boundary-Busters!

Have you ever had someone in your life who continued to hurt you over and over? Let’s say you clearly communicated your concerns, perhaps gave chance after chance, but after awhile it just kept blowing up in your face. Did you ever wish that you could find someone who could wave a magic wand over your offender and change his hurtful ways?

Allow me to rewind to the old 1984 hit movie, Ghostbusters. Do you remember it? It all began with a pesky spirit haunting your abode. According to the premise of this movie “Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” And in a flash the Ghostbusters team would capture your Casper and send him directly to their “ectoplasmic containment box.” The only risk you might run would be getting in the way of the fleeing phantom and unfortunately—getting slimed! Yuck!

Yeah, it was a funny and crazy plot, but it seems to me that very often what haunts us is not a ghost, but a “Boundary-Buster.” Yes, a Boundary Buster is that person who continually steps over any line you may draw. So how do you know if you’re being haunted by a B-B?

Signs you have a Boundary-Buster in your life:

  • They give you excuses, excuses, excuses!
  • They avoid responsibility at all costs
  • They control your every move
  • They have extremely unrealistic expectations
  • They procrastinate like a pro
  • They argue for the sake of getting you off track
  • They use intimidation and threats
  • They manipulate you with guilt—“This is all your fault!” and “If you’d just change . . .”
  • When all else fails-–they lie

So what do you do if this person is your spouse, close family member, friend or your boss? Short of divorcing your spouse, quitting your job or living a day to day game of hide-and-please-don’t-seek with the B-B whenever you step out the door, you really can’t escape.

And unlike the comical Ghostbusters, there isn’t a Boundary-Busters . . . “Buster”—no one to trap the Boundary Buster in your life. In other words, you cannot change anyone but yourself.

However, there is someone who can not only soften and convict the heart of your Boundary-Buster, but also strengthen you as you deal with your B-B. That person is God. Turn to him and let him transform your B-B, but keep in mind that even God will not force a person to change. Your best option for change is allowing God to change you and your ability to deal with your B-B.

Suggestions for dealing with your B-B:

  • Surrender your B-B to God daily
  • Pray specifically for your B-B daily
  • Pray that God would give you guidance and patience with your B-B daily
  • Seek godly counsel and support
  • Read good books on setting boundaries*
  • Join a good support group (codependency, Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, etc.)
  • If you don’t already go, find and attend a Bible-believing church

* Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, or Boundaries in Marriage, or How to Have that Difficult Conversation You’ve been Avoiding, or Safe People


Marriage Mistake #6 – Turned to My Mom for Comfort

Early in my married life, I made a mistake that I feel is very common for many couples who find themselves in trouble.

This is how it worked for me:

  1. My husband did something that I perceived to be wrong or hurtful.
  2. I turned to a parent, in my case, my mother to vent about the problem.
  3. I received comfort and a, “I’m so sorry that mean old husband of yours hurt you!” pep talk.
  4. I returned to my husband to eventually work things out.
  5. My mother never got to see or hear about the resolution, (because that wasn’t nearly as interesting or fun to tell her!).
  6. My mother formed a skewed perspective of my husband and my marriage.
  7. I avoided learning how to respect my husband AND didn’t learn how to work through my private conflicts with my husband—just between the two of us.

As a result, a wedge formed between me and my husband. And the foundation that we should have been building together was filled with cracks, since I had invited an intruder into the inner workings of our marriage.

After about five years or so of walking through a revolving door between my marriage and my parent-child relationship, I realized that I was not honoring my husband. I had not “left” my parents. I was not choosing to be a full-fledged adult in my marriage relationship by fully “cleaving” or committing to my husband.

Now, I’m not saying that you can never talk to your parents about your marriage. But I am saying that your parents should not be your:

  1. Emotional Rescuer
  2. Financial Rescuer
  3. Director on important issues or decisions

If you allow your marriage to be infiltrated in those ways (and more) by your parents, then you are inviting division into your marriage. When you married, you needed to become an adult, and adults do not rely upon their parents for emotional, financial or decision-making support.

In the book of Genesis it says, “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (2:22-24, NIV)

When I learned to follow this admonition, I solidified, strengthened and improved my marriage immensely. So, I hope you learn from my mistake!

Can anyone relate?

Does anyone have an example of how turning to mom and dad negatively impacted your marriage?


Little Critters that Grow into Monster Problems

There’s a verse in Song of Solomon, “Our vineyards are in blossom; we must catch the little foxes that destroy the vineyards” (2:15, CEV), that reminds me of a principle that we need to remember. Little things don’t stay little.  If they are negative, they grow into “monsters” that can wreak havoc in our lives. I’ve compiled a list of potential negative consequences of a “little critter” on a child, and then later as it grows into a “monster” attitude in adulthood. Of course, I’m not saying that every “little critter” becomes a “monster.” I simply want to point out the progression that can occur if we are not vigilant to identify and deal with the “little critters” in our own lives and in the lives of those we influence or raise.

Little Critter –

A dad who doesn’t like conflict with his child, let’s the child play loudly and recklessly in all private and/or public settings

Monster in Training –

  • A child who never learns socially acceptable behavior
  • A child who cannot tolerate healthy boundaries
  • A child who feels insecure and unsure in social situations
  • A child who ends up physically hurting herself or others
  • A child who irritates those she is around—even her peers

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who cannot respect authority
  • A teen or adult who avoids conflict at the cost of healthy relationships
  • A teen or adult who cannot figure out why she never fits in
  • An adult who hops from marriage to marriage when trouble strikes
  • An adult who eventually gets fired from almost every job

Little Critter –

An angry mom and dad who have extreme fights that never get resolved

Monster in Training –

  • A child who is afraid of conflict
  • A child who is argumentative
  • A child who is insecure and fearful of relationships
  • A child who is full of self-hatred
  • A child who doesn’t know how to communicate effectively
  • A child who is a bully or is often picked on by bullies

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who fears intimacy
  • A teen or adult who is emotionally volatile
  • A teen or adult who is insecure and tries to find illegitimate ways to escape pain
  • A teen or adult who is drawn to the wrong crowd or people
  • An adult who has constant and extreme marriage problems
  • An adult who is angry with people
  • An adult who is angry with God

Little Critter –

Parents who do not make God their priority

Monster in Training –

  • A child who doesn’t value church, the Bible, or God
  • A child who doesn’t hunger for God’s truth
  • A child who develops his own subjective, and often faulty, moral compass
  • A child who feels insecure
  • A child who has no sense of hope or direction

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who finds God boring
  • A teen or adult who allows circumstances to dictate his actions and feelings
  • A teen or adult who looks to the world or money to fill the void
  • A teen or adult who grows hard-hearted toward God
  • An adult who feels like something is always missing in his life
  • An adult who faces eternity without God

Bottom Line –

Think through the consequences of everything you are about to do or not do, because it can make a MONSTER-SIZE difference in your life and the lives of others.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)


Dear Beth-E: “Terrified of Turkey Day with a Dad who can be a Turkey”

Re: Dealing with THAT family member during the holidays
Since the holidays are rapidly approaching, my anxiety about spending time with my father increases. Despite my love for him, he is the one person that I prefer to avoid. He completely stresses me out!!! Usually, after spending a few days around him, we end up in an argument, which causes stress to the entire family. I usually end up saying something not so nice to him, which I always regret later. He is very controlling, talks constantly, is very opinionated and critical, is quick to anger, tends to drink too much, etc. He is THAT family member. If it is not one thing, it is another. Nothing is ever right in his eyes and he always has something to complain about. If you have any advice on how to make it through the holidays with a happy and peaceful heart, I would love to hear it! God bless!
Dear “Terrified of Turkey Day with a Dad who can be a Turkey,”
I don’t know if this makes you feel any better, but you are not alone.  I know there are many out there who are dreading seeing THAT family member in their very own family get-togethers.
THAT said, here’s what I would do . . . first and foremost, prepare yourself!! I would begin by praying daily about your upcoming holiday.  Ask God to give you a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).  Then begin to read and meditate daily on Bible verses that help you with your anxiety and give you greater perspective on the upcoming event.  Here are just a few that might help:  Deut. 31:6, Psalm 27:1-3, Psalm 86:7, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 42:16, Matthew 6:19-34, 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:4-8, Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Peter 5:6-7
Also consider and write down some of the ways your father has offended you in the past at these types of gatherings (you’ve briefly mentioned some here already).  Next, consider and write down how you would like to respond to him in those difficult moments.
For example, if he tries to start an argument, silently pray asking for God’s peace.  Then commit to asking your father questions for clarification rather than feeling you have to refute what he is saying.  In other words, determine ahead of time you will avoid arguing.  Arguments always have at least two participants, so you have the power to resist doing your part.  And asking questions helps the other party to feel you are still engaged with them without conveying that you agree.  In fact, asking questions very often defuses any anger or anxiety the other party feels which might have been the trigger for them to start an argument in the first place!
However, if your father keeps on trying to engage in an argument regardless of your questions, either try to change the subject or be bold and polite by saying, “I really don’t want to argue with you, Dad.  I want to enjoy our time together, since it is so short.” Sometimes this won’t work either with a tried and true “Boundary Buster.” And if that is the case, simply walk into another room, if you can, and begin a conversation with someone else.  If you are in a car and cannot escape to another room, you could politely request a break from the conversation so that you can spend some time reading or listening to your I-pod. (Then don’t forget to bring those items with you as part of your arsenal!)
Finally, some of your anxiety may be due to the frustration you feel over how you wish your father would act.  You may think, “if I could just say this one thing to him, he’ll understand what he’s doing wrong and change!” Or you may think that his behavior says something about you, and so you are responsible for setting him straight. It’s important to realize you are not responsible for your father’s bad choices and actions.  You are responsible for how you respond to him, but not for how he responds to you or what he thinks about you.  And most importantly, you cannot change your father.  You can influence your father with love, kindness, patience and mercy, but convicting your father of his bad behavior is a job for the Holy Spirit.  So the bottom line is to accept your father as he is, and pray for him that God would do a work in his heart.  Remember there is no man that is too lost for God to reach!
Have a Question for Dear Beth-E?
If you have a question that only a counselor can answer, then send it my way.  All you have to do is click on “comment” located at the bottom of this post, then write your question in the box that pops up.  When you are asked to “choose an identity,” you can even choose “anonymous” and no one will ever have to know it was you–including me!  But others will truly benefit from your willingness to address an issue that probably many others struggle with as well.  And I will do my best to offer some helpful suggestions and/or answers to your dilemma.  So keep those questions coming readers!