Excuse Me While I Draw Some Boundaries: Part I


{“We impress others with our strengths, but we connect with them in our weaknesses.” This is a new level of vulnerability–even for me, a woman who is used to airing her junk so we can grow together. Part II is here}

The Back Issue

I’ve always been bad with boundaries. Always. Always.

If a boy said hi, I was pretty sure he wanted to hang out—all the time. If I found a friend, I’d stay the night at her house as many nights in a row as her mom would let me. I got into cars with strangers. Skipped school and hung out at home with grown adults who should have probably been in college or working but weren’t. They were just living in apartments. And I hung out there because it wasn’t school.

I attached to friends’ parents and teachers and was pretty certain they would have adopted me if they could.

Personal boundaries weren’t the only things crossed, blurred, erased—whatever you’d like to call it. I had zero moral boundaries. None. If someone passed something my way and it seemed like a fun idea at the moment, I gave it a try.

And I lost days of my life. I don’t always remember the events that made me the poster-child for idiocy, but I know I was an idiot. I lost enough friends and family to prove it.

Eventually, I found Jesus. Not surprisingly, in a church with few inhibitions. The yelling and dancing, the services that didn’t run according to time, but rather by whether or not the preacher felt like stopping. Lack of structure? That’s where He found me.

It was life with wild abandon. Foolishness turned passionate. And for a while, I pursued Jesus with the same whimsical, whatever-He-asks-of-me, I’ll go anywhere do anything sort of attitude. And I have to say, it was beautiful. I met my husband this way. In the whirlwind of who I was, we met and married in less than six months.

As we grew together in our relationship and our ministry, I sort of expected that age and understanding naturally produced the ability to be healthy in my relationships. I was an adult. I had all this.

The Present Problem

Rather all this had me.

I’ve known it for a few years, that my horrific inability to draw boundaries in life and relationships had ridden on the coattails of this new life.

Let me give you some examples:

1.  I saw an ad a woman placed on Craigslist asking for help. She was pregnant and scared and wanted someone to finance her pregnancy.

I emailed her.

That relationship exploded a year later. Into a thousand pieces. Half of them my heart and half of them hers.

2. Several years ago, I attended a meeting with the intention of changing some things up. I hadn’t thought of strategy, just that things needed to change and obviously everyone would agree. After I explained it to them.

I must have spoken a foreign language. The former pastor’s wife was at that meeting and she ripped me a new one. Like a brand new one. And I don’t really know what “one” is…I can only imagine. But I’m quite sure my guts were spilled in the church foyer that day because I didn’t know how to keep my mouth shut before it was time.

3. During a hard season of marriage, when I should have set my boundaries firmly in place and turned my back to the outside for the sake of reconstruction within, I did just the opposite. Anyone who had anything nice to say had all my attention. As if I actually believed I could prance my way out of a promise to the land of happy and carefree.


Where ever I am is where I am. I’ve always lived in the moment and for the moment.

I work when I should rest. I rest when I should be working. Instead of cleaning for company, I get lost in organizing my spice cabinet.

Something needs to change. I need to find boundaries in life and relationships and ministry. I need to find boundaries so that I can have a life, so I can invest in relationships, and so that I can serve others in a way that matters.

My kids need me to find them. My husband needs me to find them. I desperately need them, because let me tell you, after thirty-four years, I’m exhausted.

And if you’re ready, I suppose I’m going to take you along for the hunt.

So let’s talk.

Let’s talk about some symptoms that indicate you might, like me, have some issues in life concerning healthy limitations on where we will and will not go in life. Let’s cover things we will and will not do in friendships. Events we will and will not schedule on that calendar of ours. Places we will and will not answer our cell phone.

Okay, not the last one. I don’t have one of those modern gadgets. I have a landline. That’s right. I’m like the last of the dinosaurs. Hanging tight to that which is cheaper. I’m pretty much like my father. He wore aviators long enough after the 80’s that they came back around again. That’s what I’m holding out for. I’m sure this is connected to my inability to live within structure, but we’ll explore that later. Back to today.

Mis-directed Anger

Two weeks ago, I started to realize that I was incredibly angry at a lot of people. Like a lot. I was even angry with myself. What am I doing with life? What am I waiting for? Why can’t I focus? Why do I run?

I was frustrated with my husband because he had a life. A work life that allows him lunch dates with other men. Coffee breaks in places that smell soooo much like coffee. He has scheduled writing time every week and other adults to joke with during the day. Isn’t he horrible? Seriously. The wrath of me—all on him.

I was frustrated with my children because they had to eat three times a day plus snacks. And that required I go to the grocery store. Don’t forget I had to educate them, run them to sports, and remind them one hundred and five times every night that it was bedtime. Add in the fact that one of them refuses to use a toilet at thirteen months? They are practically out to get me. More of my wrath.

I was frustrated with friends. Pulling me in and pushing me back out. I was frustrated when they vented about husbands and ministry and kids and life. I was over it. Just be happy and fake already.

I was frustrated with church. I just serve and serve and serve and serve and serve and pretty much give hours of my week so that the ministry my husband does there can be more effective. I was just downright angry. I was so over the two-for-one pastor and family. Because where did it really ever say that we were supposed to pour out all of ourselves for the sake of the kingdom? Don’t answer that. I already know.

I know all these attitudes reek of selfishness. They are a precursor to what I call my ‘turtle mode.’ It’s what happens right before I quit everything I’m involved in and pop back into my shell so no one can see me and no one can find me and no one can need anything from me. Because I am done.

Except that this is not the way I want to live life anymore.

I’ve been praying hard for God to show me why I cycle like this and I think I’m getting an answer:

My frustration with everyone around me is all smoke and mirrors—a distraction that ties my emotions up so that I never take time to look in the mirror. Because the real issue is with me.

Let’s examine all those frustrations through the lens of reality:

I am horrible at time management during the day. I waste more time than anyone I know. This is the opposite of my husband. He’s Mr. Productivity. He has a block schedule to prove it. So when I see how well he does at accomplishing that which he intends, I get frustrated that I wasted my day. I start to imagine that I will never amount to anything in life, I panic slightly, and then I blame him.

I’ve homeschooled our children for five years now, but this baby did me in for energy. The fact is that we live in a great school system with great schools and that those schools are filled with teachers who are {don’t burst my bubble} passionate about their jobs. I’ve just been too afraid to let go. It’s not the demands of my children which have worn me out, it’s carrying around this fear for ages. It’s got to go. We’ve got to step into new territory folks, as I admit that I’m hanging onto something that isn’t supposed to be mine any longer.

And my friends. Oh my word. I’ve been a horrendous friend since I was old enough to talk. Horrendous. Like, this is a totally different post. I forget to return calls. I never send cards. I do well enough to remember it’s a birthday month. Baby shower gifts? Yeah, I forget those too. Mostly, I’m surrounded by people who are better than me and I have yet to do the hard work of rising to the occasion and becoming a good friend.

And church. I swear I’ve been serving like I’m their Jesus. It has to stop. No one asked me to do that. Likely nobody even likes seeing me that much anyway.

So all this frustration…all this misdirected animosity?

It was my first symptom that something was wrong. That my boundaries are non-existent. It’s like an entire army of red flags waving at me to turn around and make some changes.


So what do we do? What are we supposed to do when we realize that we have stretched ourselves to the point of anger?

I have no idea, but I can tell you what I did this week. I cleared everything. If it didn’t have to do with feeding people and educating them, I put it on pause. It’s like a fast on time.

Today my husband was at a conference getting poured into and instead of being angry, I picked up a rake and a shovel and headed outside with my daughter. She and I shoveled dog poop for an hour and a half. {I don’t want to talk about that either.} It was so much fun. She told me how she loved the dirtiest and grossest jobs and I told her I was pretty sure I’m a modern day Jonah—running away from all that God has called me to and filling my life with frivolities that don’t really matter. She had no idea what I was talking about. Her response was, “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to learn a bible verse.” And so I taught her one. Right in the middle of that mountain of poop.

Release it, Marian.

Let it go.

God’s power doesn’t depend upon you.

Do you know what I love about the idea of the kingdom of God? A kingdom has boundaries.

More to come…



15 thoughts on “Excuse Me While I Draw Some Boundaries: Part I

  1. Really appreciated your honesty….I know that is hard to do….I can relate to alot of what you shared. I’m a pastor’s wife also and I have felt many of those same feelings…hold on and be open to what God has in store for you!

    1. Allyson, Thank you for your encouragement! I am really looking forward to the moving through it. Holding tight while learning to let go. 🙂

  2. Marian, you may/may not remember me! I am the little white-haired lady who attended Cornerstone a few times while you & Nate were in C’ville. Wow, “Excuse Me While I Draw Some Boundaries” was a bold, transparent step in-the-right-direction!! In my first marriage, I was a minister’s wife (for 15 yrs). While at the time I thought what I was doing was “for the Lord”, reading your blog caused me to admit that often I did what I did “for the people”. As a result, I placed unealistic expectations on myself and especially on my children to whom I probably at-times came-across-as “holier than thou”. Although my “junk” may be different than the “junk” you’ve aired, it is no-less “junk”. Nate met my 2nd husband who has brought balance to my life with his analytical manner (didn’t really need the degrees in Psychology and Social Work he earned because that’s his nature/spirit!), after the pain my children and I experienced living all those years with a bi-polar preacher. “God forgive me for resenting being stuck in this religious town with the dark-cloud over-it, and help me to allow you to use me while I’m here rather than taking-out-my-anger on my husband!” Thanks for listening, and keep-up the good-writing. You are in my prayers.

    1. Nina,

      Of course I remember you! I had no idea about your experience in ministry, though. How grateful I am to you for sharing..and for giving me honest and wise feedback from your journey as you travel a few steps ahead. There few things as valuable as wisdom exchanged between generations. Thank you for reading. I treasure the people who come here and join me.

  3. As usual, your rawness and vulnerability is incredible, empowering, and just plain refreshing. Somehow, the fact that we are all human never gets old. Thank you for sharing here. I totally resonate with so much of what you said and at one time or another, have experienced myself having the same thoughts and feelings.
    I know for me, boundaries are an ongoing process and I am always learning to balance all of the wonderfulness this life has to offer. I remember a year and some back when I started to feel overwhelmed and suffocated by all that was going on in my life, particularly caring for and helping others. For me, what brought me back to the place where I once again savored my “duties” as a mom, wife, and friend was to take time to pursue my passions and to feed my own soul. Something awakened in me as I did this, as I pursued the longings of my own heart. It felt selfish as I made this transition at first, but it wasn’t long before I found out I was a better mom, a better friend, and a better wife when I took time to feed the longings of my soul. As I continue to step out, it is still such a balancing act as even today I felt a tinge of guilt for spending so much time away from home. Always learning, always growing (sigh).
    I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you as you enter this new part of your life. I’ll check in for part 2. Thank you for letting us learn along side of you.

    1. Anne, I imagine there is so much you can teach me on boundaries! I think that you surmised exactly what has been so astonishing about this particular post. It has now reached 16 different countries and counting–but that’s not what impresses me. What impresses me is that something about this struggle–this tug of war in finding boundaries that allow us to be real in relationships, which allow us to have negative space in our calendars, which allow us to avoid distractions but embrace the interruptions–that is a desire of women around the world. We are all human and, indeed, it never does get old! Thank you for your wisdom, friend.

  4. Oh my GOSH, I love your post. It resonates. And your writing style gets me giggling just like Glennon’s. I’m a fellow Messy Beautiful warrior, and you, my dear, are at the top of my “add to favorites” list. I will be reading again. Glad to have found you!


    1. Hi Jenni! And I loved yours! We have a family who just recently received news of their daughter’s lymphoma. It was beautiful to read your story of God’s leading and teaching through this time. I love your clay heart. So glad you took time to comment.

  5. “I know all these attitudes reek of selfishness. They are a precursor to what I call my ‘turtle mode.’ It’s what happens right before I quit everything I’m involved in and pop back into my shell so no one can see me and no one can find me and no one can need anything from me. Because I am done.” – this really resonates with me!! Love this post!

  6. “Turtle Mode”… a great name for that thing I’m sometimes guilty of doing as well. Pulling back. Hiding. Retreating. It’s usually due to me holding out my heart and being vulnerable, and then it not being received or handled well. I’m thankful that God keeps drawing me out, never letting me stay in that place for long. I enjoyed your post… so honest, real, and insightful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh my word. You nailed the reason behind turtle mode. Thank you for that. It was clarity for me. And since I think vulnerability is so vitally important, I’ll take the risk alongside you and let God keep drawing me back out.

  7. This is so awesome to me and so relevant to where I am in life and my walk with Christ! I am not married nor do I have children but I identify with so much of what you spoke of. I too have had boundary issues my entire life, partly because of my upbringing and the lack of direction on how to have productive relationships that are fruitful. The biggest thing you spoke of is the time management, I call it “wasting grace”. God’s grace is sufficient moment to moment and I have come to the conclusion that I can choose to waste that grace on things that may not be very profitable to me in any manner or I can use it for productivity. Anyhoo lol Thanks for your transparency. God bless!

    1. Brandi, I love the “wasting grace” verbiage. Um…yes…all the time. 🙂 I think I’ll be writing your insight down for future use–everyday. Thank YOU for taking time to comment and share your wisdom.

  8. Aaaahhh… as in – Oh My Gah… time management! “Boundaries” I can work within (or around) but time management – that is it. I love my Bossy Lists of Things To Do and have boundaries in place for the most part – except, well – the internet! When my daughter bought me an iPhone, my husbands’ response? “Well, I will miss her.” I gotta prove him wrong… or – um – not that… (but really, exactly that!) Love this post and can’t wait to read more! Visiting from Momastery and happy to be a Messy Beautiful Warrior with you!

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