[#write31days] Day 20 “I Am Selfish”

Welcome to Day 20 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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As good and hard-working people and friends we obviously want to do our jobs well and be there for our friends. Our Christian faith commands us to love others – isn’t it egoistic to set boundaries then?

Lie #4: Setting Boundaries is unbiblical and selfish
If you talk to non-Christian friends around you what Christianity is all about they’ll probably give you one word: love. Probably one of the most overused and yet underrated words in your society, bashed in media and politics. “Those Christians” are supposed to love everyone.
If you go to church on Sunday or listen closely to sermons and Christian songs; if you browse Christian media you’ll find one slogan: We must love each other because we’ve been loved first. The brothers and sisters in our congregations, the people in our neighborhoods, the refugees flooding our countries – they all deserve our attention and help. In the Bible we can read to bear each other’s burdens, to love others like we love ourselves, so let’s do that.

These are the voices we hear around us. We’re supposed to love, care, and bear – so what if we want to set boundaries? How about that other voice saying “You can’t set boundaries. Saying NO is not biblical, it’s just a selfish move. You choose to care more about yourself than to love others.”
What do we do with these voices? Are the boundaries we set selfish and unbiblical?

I believe the Bible is true, love is the key.
Often underrated in its original form, it can truly make a difference. Love is the thing that can set us apart, that can turn lives around, that can shine light into the darkness. 
I also believe that our love’s supposed to be practical. Let’s support each other by listening, helping out, spending time and effort on those in need. Acting out love speaks louder than our words. 

But the same Bible that commands us to love also talks about protection.

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Proverbs 4:23

20b

Taking care of others, loving them unconditionally, bearing their burdens is an act of life. A helping hand is life-giving to someone else. But we’re only able to share life with all its joys and hopes when we have enough life left to give.

Imagine a basin full of water, a reservoir to provide and nourish many. But just one small leak can turn it all around. The life-giving water is running out, and eventually the abundance that was once there is gone. An empty basin can support and help no one.
You’re a basin filled with with life and many good things. You’re supposed to give and love others. But you need to protect yourself from any leaks that could come from busyness, false beliefs, pushy and demanding people.
Closing yourself off once in a while is only selfish if you choose to remain in that comfort zone, if you hide the treasures you’ve been given to share.
Withdrawing into the safety of saying NO sometimes is a necessary step to protect and recharge the abundance inside of you. Well-nourished souls will always come back stronger, more alive and more passionate to share than those running on mere reserves.

20aAnother trap is the word “care” in itself. What does it mean to care for someone else, to love someone else?
Yes, often it means getting your hands dirty, giving someone practical help. Yes, sometimes it means taking on more work than usual to give someone relief.
Taking care does not mean taking responsibility for everything and everyone. Caring too much will ultimately not help the other person, but keep them from maturing and acting responsibly themselves. Saying NO is therefore not an act of selfish egoism, but rather a step to teach others how to be responsible. One step at a time. One NO at a time.

Is the thought of selfishness familiar to you? Where do you give more than you’re actually able to? To which people do you have to say NO in order to teach them maturity?

[#write31days] Day 19 “I Don’t Want to Drive Others Away”

Welcome to Day 19 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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The problem with setting healthy boundaries, is not always connected to the work or the lack of rest – if we’re really honest and take a closer look at our heart we find a fear that drives us to never say no and just keep going.

Lie #3: My No will drive away friends, spouses, or colleagues
In the course of the last year I have practiced to say NO a bit more often.
NO to extra assignments and responsibilities.
NO to jumping on every band wagon and event.
NO to people wanting my help, my time, my effort, my creativity, my emotions.
This wasn’t an easy process. 

One of the strongest forces holding me back from setting boundaries was that voice inside of me, telling me:
“If you say NO now, people won’t like you anymore.
If you no longer invest in this friendship it’ll break apart and friends will turn their backs on you.
If you cut back on your time in church, at work or other ministries, no one will ever ask you for a leadership role ever again. They’ll find people better than you and you can’t return in the future.”

Thoughts like this kept me going for a long time, but the last year has taught me that I couldn’t just go on. So I had to take a step back and dig deeper. Why did I allow these lies settle in my heart and mind?  

19aBehind the concern for a project or other people lies fear. 
Fear to be rejected by others because I can’t give anything at the moment.
Fear to be replaced by other skilled people and losing a place of passion and influence.
Fear to be abandoned by friends when you need them the most ebcause you’re at the receiving end of a friendship for once.

And underneath is an even deeper fear.
Fear of losing my identity, the definition of who I am.

The reason why I fear rejection, replacement, and abandonment is definition gone wrong. A certain position in a ministry, a place and work I’m good at tell me who I am. I can’t deny that it’s flattering to receive compliments for my work at x or my talent in y. It feels encouraging and uplifting to be good at something. We all need a bit of appreciation once in a while, but if we don’t pay attention – if we don’t set good boundaries – the chase for appreciation will define and drive us to a wrong end.
A certain intimacy and dependency are a necessary foundation for any relationship. It requires effort, initiative, and investment. Things we’re willing to give and receive for people we love and care about. Ultimately, however, no matter how close a bond is – these people don’t define who we are. And nothing we do (or don’t do) should change our status in this relationship. Or as my friend Liz once said:

We are human beings, not human doings.

19c


This is not to say that life can be rough and relationships can look like abattlefield. And yes, sometimes friendships break apart and we’re left alone.

But who we are deep down inside, away from anyone else, has been defined a long time before you ever had any human contact.

 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.                                                             Psalm 139:13-16

When we hear this voice inside us trying to hold us back from setting boundaries, we need to look deeper. 
We need to examine and ask ourselves: What is the real fear behind it? Who or what do I allow to define who I am? 

19bGod is a good person to talk to, he is our creator and knows who he made us to be. So let’s be brave and face our fears, admit where our definition has gone wrong. And then allow His truth to illuminate our darkness and replace the lies buried inside of us.

Who or what defines you? Where have definitions gone wrong and you need to address deeper fears?
Take some time to ponder these questions together with God.

[#write31days] Day 18 Sabbath

Welcome to Day 18 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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Setting healthy boundaries also means taking care of yourself. This also includes taking time off, making time for the things you enjoy. Things that restore your soul.
Luckily, God has set an entire day aside just for us. A whole day with lots of time to spend with Him, refresh our spirits in His presence, relax and restore. Restoration looks different for everyone; it’s just important that you find something that gives you energy, joy, and peace.
One thing that restores me is cooking. During the week it’s mostly just quick and simple, but on Sabbath I actually take time to find a cool recipe (or tweek with an old one), invest time in the kitchen, and have people around me to enjoy it with. So the Sundays of October will be filled with recipes – and if you enjoy cooking, too you might want to cook along! And if not, just give it a try, you might actually like it!

Salmon Avocado Pasta

Ingredients for four people
18a4 salmons, washed

500 g Spaghetti
2 avocados
1 tomato
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
2 tsp white yoghurt
parmesan
salt, pepper, chili

boil the spaghetti in lightly salted water
season the salmon with salt, pepper, and chili (you can always add herbs if you feel like it)
fry the salmon pieces with butter/oil in a pan until soft and well-done

18bcarve out the avocados, mash them
cut tomato and onion into tiny chunks and add them to the avocado
crush garlic and add to the mixture
add yoghurt and season with salt and pepper

18carrange everything on a plate and sprinkle it with parmesan
serve with white wine

18d

[#write31days] Day 17 “Work First, Rest Later”

Welcome to Day 17 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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On Thursday we talked about a lie that often keeps us from setting healthy boundaries. Today, we’ll look at another popular example.

Lie #2: Work First, Rest Later”
I am writing this post on a Saturday, weekend. A full week of work is behind me, and as I look at my apartment, there’s even more waiting for me. It seems like a battle is going on in my mind:
“Come on, it’s the weekend. Rest a bit.” – “But look at all the work, when else do I have time to do housework, clean, stow things away?”
“There’s always time for this, but this time is not now. Now you’ll relax and do something fun, then you can always work later on.” – No, let me first file these papers and do a bit of cleaning, then I can sit down.”
This happens several days per week, so this post is definitely for me. 🙂

I don’t advocate a “do nothing” attitude here. There is a time when you need to pull through and work; leaving things unfinished isn’t a good virtue either. Nevertheless, the “work first, rest later” argument is dangerous. Why? Because work never ends. There’s always more. Something small, something urgent. It never ends.
Why are we so inclined to use the THEN, LATER lie so often?

photo-1415370303892-4bfee9411b52Rest is for lazy people
This used to be a saying older people would tell younger ones when they struggled at work or wanted to give in. People who had grown up after the war had to rebuild their homes they could then relax in. As long as they were able and fit they would work, work, work. At a factory Monday to Friday, in their gardens or at their house during the weekend. Rest was something they didn’t really know, and maybe weren’t even allowed to long for. 
In Southern Germany where I live, especially, rest seems to carry a negative connotation.
Rest is for quitters. For people who can’t go til the end. For lazy ones who can’t persevere. For weak ones who don’t have what it takes.
This attitude is somehow instilled in us Germans, without any formal or conscious teaching. Social conventions are embedded deeply in our genes and lifestyles. And somehow this old saying and attitude has taken over the lives of managers, office workers, business people. Yes, even ‘ordinary’ people like you and me.
Rest is for the weak and the lazy. And we don’t want to be called that, right? So we better work, work, work. 

Interestingly, if you ask older people for advice what they would do differently in their lives, they say, “Don’t take work so seriously. Take a break and truly rest once in a while.” Our world is really upside down…

17bI can’t enjoy rest when work is still ahead of me

I always admire people who seem to have a special gift: they can turn their backs on work and simply look the other way. As if they were blind and work did not exist. Then they sit down and relax.
I am not one of these people.
I come home, and not matter how determined I am to sit down and rest – I just can’t. I see files to be stowed away, the dirty floor to be cleaned, laundry to be folded, emails to be written, calls to make.
There’s just so much more work ahead of me! As long as my to do list is full I can’t sit back and relax. My mind would not be able to shut down because all my thoughts would revolve around the things I still have to do. I would not be able to stop planning, thinking, and worrying.
The false conclusion I often draw from this, however, is to finish all my work first before I give myself some rest.
This doesn’t happen often because, as I said, when does work ever end?
If we don’t practice shutting off our minds and hearts once in a while we’ll never find true rest.

17dToo exhausted to rest
For a while we might be able to keep going, and rest ahead of us motivates us and pushes us forward.
But only for a while.
If we keep going and going, if we don’t stop working and thinking and worrying –  we won’t find rest in the end.
We’ll run out of energy and joy and love, we’ll burn out of passion and fire for what we do, and we will be too exhausted for rest.
We won’t know anymore what it means to rest, to refresh our soul with living water, to refill our mind with life-giving thoughts, to recharge our bodies with  supernatural strength.
Let’s not push til the very end, until we break down. Let’s have breaks in between, like a well in the desert, like a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Times and places that will help us recharge and refocus for the next step ahead.

Do you rest even though there’s still so much work to be done? What keeps you from letting work be for a while and rest for a bit? 

[#write31days] Day 15 “There’s No One Else”

Welcome to Day 15 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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It’s the middle of the month and you might say: “Okay, I’ve heard a lot about boundary problems, I know why they are so important. I get it. But why is it still so hard to set boundaries?”
Good question. So let’s have a look at some of the lies in our heads that keep us from setting good boundaries.

Lie #1: There’s No One Else
I like to observe people, especially when they’re in bigger groups. Without even being aware of it, we all fall into specific roles. There are special groups dynamics and scenarios that seem to happen again and again.

Good work ethic and honesty is good. Being there for friends when they’re lonely is good. But there is a point of too much. There’s a point when we fall into the “no one else” trap.

17aThe overly responsible
Imagine a pile of work waiting to be completed and taken away. Maybe even some uncomfortable task. We all stare at each other, hoping someone will break before us and do the job already. We see others walking away pretending not to care (or maybe not pretending at all) and find ourselves left with this pile of work in front of us.
What do we do?
If you’re the overly responsible you will be the one staying late and doing the job. You feel like you can’t let your boss down and somehow the work needs to be done. No one wants to come back on Monday and see that pile of work waiting. And since all the others went home already, you’re the lucky one. It will be just this one time…maybe you’ve said this a lot of times already.

You don’t even have to leave your own house to find these dynamics. Who is the one cleaning the kitchen at night while the others watch TV? Who picks up the vacumer on Saturday because the apartment looks just too messy? Everyone in the family wants to have clean rooms, washed clothes, or food on the table, but not every one really feels responsible for it.
And so you work, and work, and don’t stop because someone has to do it.

We often associate this position with mothers, and mostly it’s true. But it can also relate to everyone else, we take patterns we learn at home with us. Patterns and roles we take on at work, with friends, with ourselves. 

17cAnd don’t we all have these experiences with friends or family members? “We need to hang out, I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“I need to talk to you because I can’t talk to anyone else.”
“If you don’t hang out with me I am all by myself and feel lonely.”
I can’t deny that I love good conversations, heart-to-heart with friends. I like to be there for friends and catch up after a while. And yes, it does sometimes feel good to be the go-to person for someone. The talk-to person, the good confidante.
But this can easily become a burden when you allow someone to completely rely on you. Instead of taking responsibility for themselves, your friends (or family members) let you carry them.
So you carry and you struggle with someone else’s problems because they have no one else. Apparently. Our extreme responsibility will tie us to others instead of teaching them to be responsible themselves.

The overly self-confident 
Sometimes it is also ourselves keeping us from setting boundaries. We can’t let go of something because we think we’re the only ones good at it.

15a
“If I leave now everything will fall apart. All this hard work I did over the years will not continue because no one but me can really do the job.”

This might be true. We are all unique, we’ve all been given unique gifts and talents. We’re all called to serve God and others with them.

Some use their talents more, others less. Some seem to be allrounders and these people are great to have at work or at church. But it can also be really hard because talent can get into your head. “I’m good at something” can also lead to “I’m the best at something”. Once you start using the perfectionist measuring tape no one else can measure up. 
I have to admit that I’ve caught myself in these thoughts sometimes. Striving for excellence is a good virtue, judging others from your high horse of perfectionism is not. Not just because it’s not my position to judge, but because I lost sight of the origin. I don’t use my talent anymore to serve others, I draw attention, appreciation and maybe even self-worth from it. This won’t serve anyone but my ego. 
I can’t go on forever, there’s a time for everything. So when I leave someone else will take over. And yes, they will do it differently because they are different. Will they be better or worse than me? Not important, it will be different.

What is your attitude? Can you stop working even though there’s still a lot to do? Can you let go of something you’re really good at? 

[#write31days] Day 14 Biblical Boundaries

Welcome to Day 14 of #write31days! 
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We have talked about boundaries found in nature and in ourselves, but there’s one more source to look for boundary foundations: the Bible speaks a lot about freedom and grace and love for each other – this does not exclude boundaries, however. It actually recommends them.

God and Boundaries
Something that many people really have a hard time wrapping their mind around is God as trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are one, and yet they are three. Each of them has unique characteristics and features. The Father as creator and provider. The Son as savior and friend. The Spirit as counselor and encourager. They are all one, and yet there are clear boundaries. Weird concept, I know, but it shows that boundaries are not unfamilar in the spiritual realm.

In fact, God himself has set boundaries in nature. We find it in the creation stories and verses such as these:

Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. Jeremiah 5:22

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. Job 26:10

We need boundaries in nature, otherwise we would constantly live in darkness (and who wouldn’t want to have these breathtaking sunrises and sunsets!). The land we live on would be swamp and our houses would sit on very shaky ground.
Certain boundaries secure and enable a safe life.

14bWhenever God sets boundaries he has good intentions for this place. A set apart place is where inheritance falls and prospers.

Thus says the Lord God: “This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Ezekiel 47:13

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

We will only see inheritance prosper if we set good boundaries. Not to close others off, but to protect our treasures. The treasures God has given us as our inheritance.


Take Care
We often consider ‘inheritance’ a physical thing – a piece of land, money etc. But especially the New Testament uses ‘inheritance’ in a different context. We as believers are promised eternal life with Christ, and parts of it are available now. Life with Christ is a life of abundance, of peace, of joy.
Faith is a gift, new abundant life is a gift. But we still need to use all our awareness and effort to protect it. Take care of that new life that’s been planted inside you.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Taking care of our hearts, guarding our minds is not just an option – the 14abible tells us it’s essential. Keeping the life – the abundance – alive in us will revive everything else; letting it flow out will eventually dry up our strength, our energy, our motivation, our joy, our sense of self.


Take (No) Responsibility
This might sound awfully selfish in some people’s ears – isn’t the main message of Christianity to love others?
Yes, we have been loved from the very beginning, through all our failures, and until the very end. Because of this love we’re called to love others, especially when it’s hard. How does that look like in practice?

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

We can show love very practically by carrying each other. Being there for each other, listening to someone’s stories. Crying with the sad, celebrating with the happy. Lifting each other up in prayer when you’re too weak to pray.
We can help each other out, cooking dinner when someone’s busy working. Moving boxes all around town when you have to change houses. Driving cross-country because someone just needs a friend.
We can only make it all the way if we walk together. 

14cYet, only three verses later Paul says this:

For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:5

Carrying each other doesn’t mean to simply drop off all our cares with someone else. I can’t just let go because someone else will do everything for me. I can’t take all the blame because a friend refuses to take responsibility for him/herself.
Growing up ultimately is about taking responsibility for yourself and forcing others to do the same. Finding the balance between persevering to the end and allowing others to help might be one of the hardest exercises in the course of life.

Take some time to re-read these pieces of scripture in their contexts. Thank God for setting boundaries in nature and in your life. Allow him to show you where you still need to take care and responsibility of yourself and less of others. 

[#write31days] Day 13 Physical Boundaries

Welcome to Day 13 of #write31days! 
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Nature has not only defined boundaries around us, our bodies are created with boundaries as well. From every hair on our head to our skin to our organs – everything has its specific order and serves a specific purpose. One. purpose. Not anyone else’s.

Early Childhood Development
We mostly complain about a lack of or the wrong kinds of boundaries as adults, but boundary foundations are actually laid at a very early age. Researchers and psychologists have made interesting discoveries when looking at how the relationship between an infant and its mother develops.
The first stage is all about close bonding. Babies know their mother really well; her smell, the sound of her voice, the shape of her face. Whenever she moves away from them they start crying. They feel insecure and lost. Why? Because they have no sense of self yet, they believe that mommy and them is one person (emotional object constancy).

12a

It is essential for infants to experience this close bonding, the love and care of a mother. They learn to feel safe and rooted in a loving and caring environment, an unbeatable foundation for their soul and spirit. 

Within the first year of life a change happens; some parents are surprised and shocked by it, when their cute and cuddling baby suddenly rebels and wants to get away from this close bond. Once again, it is important for parents to realize how necessary this step is for a child’s development. Every child needs to gain more independence and autonomy. The only way to do that is to separate and individualize. Mommy and baby are no longer the same, they are actually two independent individuals.

You can’t have “me” until you first have a “not-me”.
Cloud&Townsend. Boundaries.

I find it particular that the journey to your self and who you ARE goes via who you AREN’T. Children who never took that step to separate and explore their individual identity will struggle with setting boundaries as adults. Parents who don’t release their children to a certain extent will have trouble with respecting other people’s boundaries.
12cSeparation and individualization leads to experimentation. Toddlers (and teenagers later on) are driven by energy to explore the world. They often believe: I can do anything! This is perfectly okay because it will allow them to take risks, not shy away from challenges, and ultimately grow. Even as adults we need to experience this feeling once in a while. Nevertheless, the counterpart is just as important. Some have to learn it the hard way: I can’t do everything! And this is okay, too because somewhere along the way we’ll hopefully find our place. We’ll learn to maximize our strengths and say YES to good challenges, but also to accept our weaknesses and say NO to overburdening ourselves with the wrong tasks.

Our Body’s Radar
I find it amazing how our body has been created with a natural sense of boundaries. Just look at your skin. It protects the underlying layers of skin and organs from damage. It serves as a boundary to dirt from the outside and exchange point for bodily fluids. It keeps the good inside and the bad outside. 
Without any kind of training we have a sense of space, how close someone else is allowed to get to us. Normally we are not aware of this unless someone violates our personal space. A stranger coming closer than one meter is intimidating. He enters a space he doesn’t belong. It feels like he’s getting hold of us – our body, our soul, our mind – without even touching us. A group of people can be overwhelming at times because our personal space is taken away from us. These instincts most times are no sign of claustrophobia, they are our natural boundaries and protect our body with all its different layers.

12b These natural boundaries are a gift and we should appreciate them, especially when we think how easily this gift can be taken away. Victims of abuse and rape often suffer from a loss of boundaries. Of course, there’s physical harm, but the emotional damage is even greater: someone has violated your personal space, has overstepped your boundaries without permission, has taken something away without every giving it back.

Our physical boundaries are a gift and we should learn to appreciate and use them well.

Think about your own development for a moment: Have you ever thought about who you ARE and who you AREN’T?
What is your personal space? How close are people allowed to come, what is too close for you?

[#write31days] Day 12 Natural Boundaries

Welcome to Day 12 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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In the last few days we have talked a lot about problems we could have in setting boundaries with our family, our friends, in church, or with ourselves. We may have taken a closer look at ourselves and found some dark spots, things to work on.
And maybe a question came to mind: If so many problems can occur, why do I need boundaries? What do boundaries look like? Before we get into more practical details, let’s first discover boundaries all around us.

Boundaries in Nature
If you just take a closer look at your surroundings you’ll find boundaries that are not man-made. We have flat landscapes, hills and mountains, rivers and oceans. Somehow rivers stay in their beds unless there are floods. We also can’t just flatten mountains, we have to climb them.
We have different seasons, snow to rain to sun to drought – each takes care of the soil in its own way, with each we associate different things. Snow has its own charms, but after a long winter we all appreciate the first warmth in spring. We do want a bit of everything.

Property Rights
Of course, nature did not remain in its perfect state; man has conquered and shaped it. Before there were big towns and formal courthouses, people already had a sense to claim property. 13a
They put up stones that marked the beginning and end of their land. With time this became a bit more techy and a lot more complicated, but overall it’s the same.

We’re all familiar with the red STOP signs at big intersections. Even though many don’t always pay attention to them 🙂 they help to keep order on the street. If we all crossed at the same time there would be way more accidents.

12b2And I guess we also all have seen the NO TRESPASSING signs. Property belongs to someone, they normally payed a lot of money for it or inherited it. You can go to the courthouse and find out who it belongs to.
13bThe reason for these signs are normally not to annoy others. A town or someone owning property wants to keep out strangers, and signs make it very clear who and what is allowed and who/what isn’t. They also define the object behind the fence. You can’t go any further than the gate because this is private property. You can’t cross the intersection whenever you want because you would hurt other drivers. Boundaries tell us who we are and who we aren’t.

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins…
Cloud&Townsend. Boundaries

Moreover, though, these properties come with a lot of responsibility. Owning a house can be a lot of work because you can’t pass it on to anyone else. A mayor of a town has a lot to do, for sure. Boundaries help to set things and people apart, but they also always come with responsibility.

Keeping the Good In and the Bad Out
If we think about the word and concept of ‘boundaries’ we normally tend to attach a negative connotation to it. Boundaries close other people off, they keep others outside, they don’t allow anyone to come in.
Boundaries force me to push others away, box myself in, maybe even stay away from things, people, and places.
One of the most interesting things for me to learn on this boundaries journey was a new understanding of the concept ‘boundary’.
Yes, sometimes it means to say NO to people.
Yes, sometimes it means to stay away from things and places.
Yes, sometimes it means closing off.
Boundaries are created to keep out the bad things that destroy our souls and lives.

13cWe need to understand that boundaries are there to protect.
They tell us who we are, so we can enjoy and live in freedom. They give us a safe space to live and act.
They inspire us to take risks with people and life, and rise above ourselves.
But they also tell us who we aren’t, so we don’t outstretch ourselves.
They prevent us from burning out in exhaustion.
They enable us to maintain good treasures and don’t throw them away in vain.

Take a closer look at boundaries in nature today. Pay attention to stop signs or other signs saying something about personal property.
What are some of the good things you want to protect in your life?   

[#write31days] Day 11 Sabbath

Welcome to Day 11 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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Setting healthy boundaries also means taking care of yourself. This also includes taking time off, making time for the things you enjoy. Things that restore your soul.
Luckily, God has set an entire day aside just for us. A whole day with lots of time to spend with Him, refresh our spirits in His presence, relax and restore. Restoration looks different for everyone; it’s just important that you find something that gives you energy, joy, and peace.
One thing that restores me is cooking. During the week it’s mostly just quick and simple, but on Sabbath I actually take time to find a cool recipe (or tweek with an old one), invest time in the kitchen, and have people around me to enjoy it with. So the Sundays of October will be filled with recipes – and if you enjoy cooking, too you might want to cook along! And if not, just give it a try, you might actually like it!

10cStuffed Aubergine

Ingredients for four people
11atwo medium/large aubergines
150g parmesan cheese, shredded
250g shredded cheese
one pack of ricotta cheese (you can also use white yoghurt)
3-4 tomatoes (or canned tomatoes)
salt, pepper, a bit of garlic, oregano
olive oil 

Wash the aubergines and cut them into thin slices, put some salt on them
Spread some olive oil onto a baking pan
Put them in the oven at 160°C for about 12 minutes until they’re soft

11c

11d

 

 

 

 

Mix the ricotta cheese/yoghurt with the parmesan cheese, garlic, and spices
When the aubergines have cooled off a little, fill them with the mixture

Dice the tomatoes and season with salt, pepper, and oregano (or simply use the canned tomatoes)

11eFill the baking pan with the tomato mixture

place the filled aubergines into the pan and cover it with the shredded cheese 11f

Bake in the oven at 160°C for another 12 minutes until cheese and stuffing is melted

Serve with baguette or potatoe wedges and a bottle of good wine

11g11h

[#write31days] Day 10 The Person in the Mirror

Welcome to Day 10 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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We all have our shares of fights in life.
We fight with our parents, our spouses, our children, our friends, our colleages. And we all know (or should know) how to solve these conflicts.
We can move out from home, we can break up relationships, we can stop talking to a friend, we can change jobs.
But the one person we can’t get away from is ourselves. As long as we live it is our challenge and responsibility to get to know ourselves, benefit from the strengths, and accept the weaknesses. This ‘getting to know yourself’ process can be hard and there are a few traps we can fall into.

10aThe Helper Syndrome

I have a friend who is sick. Whenever we meet up she only complains about her stressful life. Too little sleep, too little time for herself, too much work to do. When I ask her about her day or why she is so busy it always comes down to the same thing: she can’t get her own things done because she is too busy with other people. Some call this the ‘Helper Syndrome’. Of course we all appreciate a friend who helps us when we’re in need. Of course we want to be there for others and help out. That is perfectly okay. Sometimes. There is a fine line between being a friend and losing yourself, and people with the ‘Helper Syndrome’ tend to overstep it. They take care of other people’s business, tasks, emotions, even lives, so much that they can’t take care of themselves anymore.

The Crowdsurfer
People who don’t ‘suffer from the Helper Syndrome’ often appear to be super relaxed and easy-going. Unless they drift into the other extreme, I call them ‘crowdsurfers’. Instead of doing the work themselves they rely on others. Instead of taking care of themselves they cry for help. All. the. time. One obvious example might be a student in his mid-twenties who can’t cook a meal, doesn’t know how to clean the kitchen, and has to call his mom to wash his clothes. Yes, I have seen examples of this species in real life. Being an adult means separation from your home to a certain extent. Being grown-up means taking care of yourself, falling down sometimes with no one else to blame but yourself.

The Runner
Sometimes when I talk to my sister on the phone I complain about the many things I still have to do. And sometimes she says, “Come on, be honest. You love to have a good amount of stress in your life!”
She’s right.
Psychologists distinguish two kinds of stress, the good and the bad one. We need a certain level of motivation and adrenaline that keeps us going. Positive stress pushes us to grow and do good things, work builds our confidence. Negative stress, however, destroys our energy, our creativity, our self-worth. If we look at ourselves and the people around us, it becomes shockingly obviously that we give in to negative stress far too often. We are not inspired, we are just runners. We keep on going and working for all kinds of wrong reasons: more money, a promotion, the feeling of missing something important, the fear of losing our value when we reveal our weaknesses…

10bThe more we give in to negative stress the more we become deaf to our body’s needs.
Sleep? Overrated, I can do with four hours a night.
Food? Not too much, I don’t have time to eat and you get fat anyway.
Holidays? I wish…
We’re afraid to listen, really listen, and then take action. Let the work be work, enjoy a meal instead of gulping it down, ask others for help to get back on track. Often it doesn’t take much to make a big difference for our soul life. 

We can talk a lot to others about setting boundaries, taking things slow, or living intentionally. But before that we need to live it ourselves. Our body is our closest friend and our toughest enemy. Let’s take it serious.

Take an honest look at yourself: Are you a helper, a crowdsurfer, or a runner?
Do you have too much negative stress in your life? What could you change?