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Building Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries Quote on peach background

Life without healthy boundaries is absurd, disorderly, and not as God intended. Click To Tweet But I must confess, this is something I learned the hard way.

When I fell in love with Christ, I fell hard.

This was it! The love of my life–the clear solution to all my problems. From this point forward life would be glorious. I expected to hear, “hallelujah chorus” with each step.

I immediately signed up for every service opportunity. You’d find me at church whenever church staff called me with a need. Somehow I felt saying “no” was offensive. That the Christian thing to do was to say “yes” to everything and everyone.

I didn’t grasp that even time is limited; everyone only has 24 hours in a day. And it goes by quicker than I realized. Click To Tweet

I remember picking up my children once from preschool. My daughter proudly handed me her drawing–a piece of construction paper with blue crayon all over.

Me: “What is it, honey?”

My daughter: “The world, mommy! Be sure to hang it up when we get home.”

After about a week of passing by her picture on the refrigerator, I had a revelation. This is what my world looked like! One big messy blue streak on top of the other. And half of them ran off the page.

When God created everything, He created it with order and boundaries. Click To Tweet Something I clearly did not have in place in my life.

In her book Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequest wrote, boundaries quote from post with peach background“But you can’t have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.
In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments” Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for… Click To Tweet

It took me being outnumbered by two children, tackled by single motherhood, working 60-hour weeks and filling multiple volunteer positions in church and their school to learn a valuable lesson.

I could not do it all. Better yet, God did not want me to. 

My life was completely out of balance. Looking back, I realize I was taking on much more than God expected of me. And by trying to do it all, I wasn’t doing any one thing very well. My behavior was actually self-destructive. There were plenty of tasks I took on, that I realize now, were not what God wanted for me.

I’m not sure why I did. Perhaps I caved to the pressure of what other people expected of me. Leaving me feeling like I had something to prove – showing the world I could do it all. Either way, I know now, I was not asking God for direction in those days and had He given it to me, I was still going against His gentle guidance and acting out of my own will, stepping outside of God’s boundaries.

Scripture says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:1-5, ESV).

Genesis describes God’s intentionality when it came to creation. You don’t find fish in the air or birds in the sea. But my world was certainly out of order.

In fact, in the midst of paradise, God created mankind with boundaries. Click To Tweet

“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17, ESV).

When I stepped outside of God’s boundaries, I left myself susceptible to pains that could’ve been avoided. I was weakest when it came to my relationships. Click To Tweet

In their book Boundaries, Doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend state, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership” (Boundaries: When to Say Yes and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life).

This book shed light on my awful habit of absorbing other people’s troubles. I’d make it my duty to solve problems that weren’t mine. What I didn’t realize was how this absolved them of any responsibility. It usually left them worse off and they’d often become repeat offenders.

As a former people-pleaser, I constantly put myself in unhealthy situations where I allowed others to control my schedule, emotions, space, money, possessions, etc. I literally overextended myself to the point that there wasn’t anything left. It affected my children; my health worsened; and my relationship with God suffered because of it.

I learned I had to distance myself, regroup, re-prioritize and build healthy fences around what was mine to keep … and what had to go. To my surprise everything improved because of it. The relationships I kept were enriched and the ones I had to detach myself from were not missed.

De-cluttering my life’s messes gave me the energy I needed to focus on what was most important. Now boundaries excite me! Not only do I love to set them–I love to set the expectations of them. It’s like stating the rules before playing a game.

If you’re like the old me, I pray you learn this principle and take a stand. If you’re tired of getting walked on, it’s time to get off the floor. God created boundaries. They’re biblical. And He will help you live as He intended.

We suffer when we operate without them, and we can cause collateral damage in the process.

This important life skill isn’t taught in school, but it is all-too-important not to learn and teach to our children.

Let’s discuss this:

  • In what areas of your life (work, home, ministry, etc.) can you improve your boundaries and how?
  • How can boundaries help you be a better steward of your time and grow spiritually?
  • Take time to identify people in your life that are unwilling to respect your boundaries. How can you approach them to better your relationship?
  • How can boundaries better your relationship with God?

RESOURCES:

If you haven’t done so, make sure to check out our latest Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.

 

We also invite you to join our private online Facebook community where women can share their struggles, prayer requests, doubts, and celebrations. Find us HERE.

 

Worship

An Untapped Way to Worship

I’m convinced exercise is the most underrated way we can tap into worshipping God.

woman's feet, walking
Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

Some of you just decided to quit reading but hear me out.

Have you seen superstar country singer Carrie Underwood’s latest commercial for her athletic clothing brand, Calia? In it, she talks about putting herself first when it comes to exercise then feeling guilty when she takes the time to get a workout in but also when she doesn’t train. Though, ultimately, she’s decided to stay committed to her fitness journey. (Search #StaythePath and #FindYourPath to see this campaign.)

Now, trust me, I look nothing like Mrs. Underwood, but her sentiments resonate because I am also an avid exerciser. My workouts have changed over the years in accordance to body limitations, injuries, and time, but the constant is that I always follow some form of exercise routine five to six days a week. And honestly, I’m as addicted to it as I am Oreos which is saying a lot (and yet another reason I exercise).

Why has it developed into something I will not sacrifice in my schedule?

Because it’s become mine and God’s time.Why has it developed into something I will not sacrifice in my schedule? Because it’s become mine and God’s time. Click To Tweet Going for a run excites me because it’s such a valuable period of prayer and worship. I’m able to retreat to nature with my favorite worship music and draw close to Him in a way I can’t as easily at home when the chores beg to be done, or my computer calls me to write just a few more pages. The days I go to the gym are different but still worship as I better my body and mind in a Pilates class or pray while on the stationary bike.

In fact, I’m confident I’d be a monster without two things on a daily repeat. Connecting with God and exercise. Really! No one would want to be around me because my stress and anxiety levels would be astronomical, and I’d become a complainer and naysayer. I also know my personality leans toward irritation and impatience but with time have seen the discipline of exercise helps to alleviate impulsive reactions when I come up against things that annoy me.

So, not only can exercise provide stress relief and precious moments spent with God, it also helps us better our physical health.Not only can exercise relieve stress and become precious time spent with God, it also helps us better care for our bodies. Click To Tweet 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” The benefits of regular exercise outweigh the pain. And once your routine becomes a habit, it may become a healthy addiction. With that, you may find yourself pushing through the uncomfortable just to get the workout in.

You were bought at a price

So where can you start? I’m convinced anyone going from no exercise to simply walking (as fast as you can) or riding a stationary bike at least thirty minutes a day five times a week will see their health improve. Start there. Get outside to check out His beautiful nature if possible. But do something. Use it as a prayer time. Sing along to gospel music. Listen to a podcast from your favorite pastor, presenter, or Bible teacher. Just take time to honor God in mind, body, and spirit.

A lady, easily in her eighties, runs in my neighborhood. Whenever I pass her, I can’t help but think, “Go girl!” I want to be just like her—maybe not running at that age—but getting outside hiking, walking, or working my garden. Getting my heart rate up, challenging my muscles and expanding my lungs, all the while tapping into the worship that can happen while doing it. Imagine me rooting you on, saying, “Go girl!”

Let’s talk about this! Where can you start in using exercise as a time of reverence for God? Do you already? If so, what are some tricks you’ve used to keep it up?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.

Also, make sure to check out our latest Bible reading plan, available for free on the YouVersion Bible Reading App:

Grace Reading Plan ImageChrist’s grace has the power to change everything. We don’t have to strive, to compete, or compare, or question whether or not we measure up. We’re enough because Christ in us is enough. The cross of Christ sets us free.

Find it HERE.

 

Resting in Christ

Resting in God’s Grace is Sufficient for Me

What does it mean to rest in God’s grace? Does that sound theological and religious to anyone else?

Consider 2 Corinthians 12. Paul asked Jesus to remove a thorn in his side, something Scripture doesn’t reveal but that made Paul feel weak. Jesus response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (v.9)

Said a different way: Jesus’ undeserved favor is complete and adequate enough for me. His authority over all shines faultlessly in our flaws and feebleness. His unmatched control over the entire universe adjoins with my lowly self and supplies a lifeline to cling to, a safety net to relax in. Because of my weakness, God can vividly display His divine power.

After Paul heard from the Lord, he decided that his inadequacy was worth it. When he truly surrendered, God could shine brightly through him— which wouldn’t be seen when he relied on himself.When Apostle Paul truly surrendered, God could shine brightly through him— which wouldn’t be seen when he relied on himself... Click To Tweet

But what does “resting in God’s grace” mean for me? Was I doing a good job at letting Jesus take over when I was weak, allowing His power to fix and heal and love?

I contemplated this as I finally got around to something I’d dreaded for weeks—dealing with my son’s behavior and inability to focus at school. I began researching doctors in our network. I called with questions, made appointments, and emailed my son’s former teacher for more information. All in an attempt to get the ball rolling towards a possible diagnosis.

And I’ll be honest, even looking up doctors who might help my son broke my heart. I felt weak, unknowledgeable, inadequate, and scared. The idea of getting him help should bring me hope, yet, I kept thinking, does this mean something’s wrong with him? Surely not, because God made him exactly the way He wanted him to be…

Jesus’ words came back to me. My grace is sufficient for you. Jesus’ favor, or blessing, for me is undeserved and enough to get me through anything. And more, when I am weak, His power rests on me.Jesus’ favor, or blessing, for me is undeserved and enough to get me through anything. And more, when I am weak, His power rests on me. Click To Tweet To “rest on” means to lean on, adjoin to, combine as one. So, if Christ’s power rests on me, then His power is now on me. KristenQuoteGrace I can be sure that God will help me figure out the best steps to take as a mother, knowing God loves my son even more than I do and will hold on to him tightly. I can relax because if God can take my weakness and use it for His glory and power, then He can also do the same for my son’s weakness. He can turn what is hard for him and make it shine somehow.

I will hold on to this verse as we navigate what’s challenging.

What trial or limitation do you need to surrender to Jesus? Claim His power in your weakness and walk forward knowing He’s resting His grace and mercy on you.

 

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Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Mental illness

What I Learned About Depression — Guest Post

Quote: You're not alone

What I Learned in the Darkness

By Tara Johnson

I’ll never forget the night I told God, “I want out.”

I was Miss Christian. I did it all. Taught the classes. Organized VBS. Took the teens to church camp. Always smiling. Always ready to lend a hand.

And I was miserable inside.

Depression is a silent cry. Likewise, anxiety is a storm of crippling intensity inside the mind, but can appear like a tranquil lake on the outside. Click To Tweet

Depression is not always the dark-clad figure hiding in the back of the room. It’s the smiling cheerleader, the teacher, the mother, the pastor, or the successful businessman.

It demands perfection. Time. Energy. Spinning plates. Productivity above all. Do more. Be more. An ever-growing list of ‘shoulds’. How weighty the ‘shoulds’ become when they shift from daily tasks or career chores to demands more spiritual in nature. “I should give more.” “I should be nicer.” “I should sign up to take on one more activity at church. Isn’t that what God asks us to do…be a servant?”

Depression is the yawning chasm seeking approval. Acceptance. Sometimes it’s the brokenness of a past that has never been dealt with, a trauma never healed.

Sometimes, depression just … is. There’s no rhyme or reason for it. A broken body in a broken world.

The pressure from trying to do it all left me unable to breath, paralyzed in fear. As I lay sobbing on the bathroom floor, I remember saying, “God, I can’t breathe. I’m drowning. This isn’t the victorious life I was promised. Get me out of this. I don’t care how.”

It took a vicious battle with depression to help me realize several things: being busy for God is not the same as being close to God. Click To Tweet Second, approval and love are not the same thing. I had fallen for the lie that the way to feel loved was to do more for people. Earn their love. I was wrong.

Third, I learned Jesus is tender. He cradled me in that difficult season and loved me back into a healthy mind, restored heart and transformed spiritual walk. It wasn’t easy. I needed medical help. I needed to unlearn and replace harmful thought patterns that affected my behavior. I needed time. I needed grace.

He gave it in abundance. He also provided sweet people along the journey who had experienced the same thing. Their encouragement was a lifeline. I had no idea so many believers struggled with depression, but they do…far more than I realized.

I also met folks who didn’t understand. Who hurt me with their ignorance and hastily flung remarks. Though none of them meant to be cruel, these people taught me as well. They taught me what not to say to those who are hurting.

I believe with all my heart that the enemy of our souls uses depression as a spiritual weapon. He attacks those on the front lines with discouragement, isolation and fatigue. Click To Tweet He convinces us that sharing will mean condemnation from others. (And sometimes, it will.) Accusations of ‘a lack of faith’, or simply sharing a scripture in hopes that the afflicted person will soon bounce back from a blue funk, often cause someone battling depression to recoil deeper into isolation.

The solution is not that simple.

Complex brain chemicals and deep-seated emotional issues are not created overnight, nor can they be healed overnight. We have become a people uncomfortable with the messy. We don’t like what we don’t understand, so we try to force it into a box, put a bow on it and say, “Jesus will heal it. Smile and let’s praise Him”. Meanwhile, those who are hurting know the wounds have not been cleaned…merely bandaged over.

A wound left untreated creates a full body infection.

I don’t have all the answers. I only know we must do better supporting each other. Click To Tweet Listening more than we speak. Making sure our pastors and spiritual leaders take weekly time to rest, turn off the phones, and have safe places to share their messy stuff without condemnation. We must stop piling more on the uber-organized because they are good at what they do and take responsibility for ourselves. We must each examine our motives. Why do we serve? Strive for that promotion? What is the true intent of our hearts?

And we all need to put down our obsessions with productivity and learn to dwell with Jesus. Presence over production. Connection over to-do lists.

Most of all, we should pray. Pray for sensitivity. Pray for our eyes to be opened to those silently suffering. If we see another struggling under the weight of their load, we offer a helping hand.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2

For all the uncertainties, lack of answers, and complexities, there was one abiding truth I learned in the darkness … Jesus is there. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about this! Did Tara’s post resonate with you? Do you feel alone? What are some ways you can remind yourself that God is with you and sees you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with Wholly Loved Ministries on Facebook and Instagram!

Get to Know Tara

Tara Johnson's headshotTara Johnson is an author and speaker, and loves to write stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves.

Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and finaled in the Carol and Christy awards. In addition to be published in a variety of digital and print magazines, she has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. She is a history nerd, especially the Civil War, and adores making people laugh. She, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.

Website: www.TaraJohnsonStories.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarajohnsonministry/

Check out her latest release Where Dandelions Bloom:

Tara Johnson's Cover ImageCassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.

Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.

Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?

Buy it HERE.

***

If this devotion encouraged you, make sure to check out our Bible reading plan available now on the YouVersion app! You can find it HERE! And maybe sure to grab a copy of our 90-day devotional, Drawing Near. You can find that HERE.

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Prayer, surrender

Empowered in Daily Struggles

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Worried thoughts swirl as I drink my morning coffee. Insecurity about work and big decisions, pressure to perform better, fear of upcoming hurdles, and the weight of trying to meet everyone’s needs. Jesus understands what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. He carried the weight of the world. And yet, He was completely victorious. So how can He help us overcome our daily struggles?

When I read through Scripture, I see Jesus constantly walking into people’s needs. He was always in a crowd healing people, teaching His 12 disciples, or transforming lives one-on-one. He was forever surrounded by people and constantly giving of Himself. 

Sometimes I feel like that. Do you?

We have work responsibilities, kids, spouse, friends, church, parties, holidays, laundry, dishes, meals…repeat. When Jesus, fully God, but fully man, was exhausted like we are from serving, He purposefully withdrew from people and recharged with His Father.

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16, ESV). 

Why? Because it was there that the Father renewed His strength. Even Jesus needed the quiet, where He spent time just Him and His Father. He found everything He needed to keep going, keep serving, and keep loving. 

I wonder what He prayed about. I imagine He probably spoke thanksgiving, requests, and offered surrender– an opening of His Spirit to be filled up for the next thing He needed to do.

I need that too. My soul needs a quiet place to recharge with God through prayer. I used to think asking God for help showed weakness, but after practicing prayer, it has become like breathing. Necessary and life-giving.

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Sometimes I connect with God in the dark of the morning before the kids awake and life’s chaos begins. I ask God for help and energy before I get out of the covers. Other times I pray when I’m up against something big that I can’t navigate on my own. I go to my room, shut the door, and receive peace from God as I entrust the situation to Him. 

Scripture asserts that “…though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

You guys, prayer is a weapon against darkness. It is one of the biggest shields we can stand behind against our negative or fearful thoughts. God didn’t abandon us in our paralyzing doubts or overwhelming stress. In Christ, we have divine power to take down every worry, lie, fear, insecurity. As we come to the Father through prayer, we affirm that God is in control and we can trust that He’s working where we can’t. He’s powerful in our weakness. He’s our peace in the chaos. 

When I try to overcome my fears and challenges by my strength, or don’t make time to talk to God during the day, I get weary. I start to think victory depends on my effort, and frustration rises. I end up angry with the people I want to serve because I haven’t allowed God to fill me when I’m running low. My job is to give Him my stress and concerns through prayer, and to remember His goodness and provision by the Holy Spirit. My job is to give Him my stress and concerns through prayer, and to remember His goodness and provision by the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

Are you often weary, digging deeper and deeper into your limited reserve of energy? Or are you coming to Jesus each day to be refueled by His awesome power? I humbly recommend finding a special place in your home, away from others, to retreat when anxiety rises. He wants to be included in your life and fill you up with His love and strength daily.

Let’s talk about this! Where do you retreat to when you feel overwhelmed? How do you come near to God when the chaos rises? Comment below or connect with us on Facebook or Instagram  to join the conversation.

Grace Reading Plan ImageBefore you go, make sure to check out our latest Bible reading plan, Resting in Grace, available on the Back to the Bible app. Find it HERE.

Christ’s grace has the power to change everything. We don’t have to strive, to compete or compare, or question whether or not we measure up. We’re enough because Christ in us in enough. The cross of Christ sets us free.

Make sure to join our private Facebook community, a safe place to share your struggles, doubts, celebrations, and prayer requests.