09: Discovering Your Limitations

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI have struggled to acknowledge and give names to my passions and goals, but it has been equally as difficult to acknowledge and name my limitations. For twenty-three years of my life, I groped around in the dark trying to figure out what was wrong with me, that I seemingly couldn’t accomplish big things, and that my life didn’t seem to be as fulfilled when I compared it to the lives of people around me. There have been seasons in my life when I’ve been involved in a lot of things. In high school, for example, I was in every club that even remotely peaked my interest. I did community theater and choir and Model UN and Spanish club and student counsel and FCA, and even helped a fellow student start a club for girls. The way I was juggling and spinning plates, I could have easily been mistaken for a one woman circus act. I have been the go-for, I have helped coordinate and execute from behind the scenes and out on the stage, and have really and truly enjoyed the busyness.

But in the decade since, I’ve started to recognize that all that energy is quickly spent, and I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. In the decade since, something inside me has settled and slowed, and I no longer have the endurance to spin so many plates at once. I know this because some of the plates have broken. I know this because in my haste to do so many things, I have been broken.

Then, my friend Sarah posted a blog about being a highly sensitive person. There she was, boldly saying things that my inner self had been mulling over for quite the hot minute.

It’s a big, hard thing for the pride of this self-confident woman to discover that God gave me less energy and more sensitivity than He did others. Sarah Sandel,  It Turns Out, I’m Highly Sensitive

I hunkered down under my quilt with my mug of Tazo tea and took the quiz, and it turns out that for me, highly sensitive is an understatement. See, what hadn’t dawned on me until I sat down and read her post is that probably the majority of depression or anxiety I experience during any given day or week could actually be attributed to the fact that I wasn’t in touch with my limitations. I had started to see the faint outline of big dreams, but couldn’t make out the parameters. On a side note, if I may, I like the word parameters way better than limitations. Don’t you? Scratch out any mention of the word limitations and instead, write parameters. Feels liberating, yeah?

So I’ve had to sit down (which is easy when you’re only talking about sitting externally, but I had to create space to sit down on the inside, too) and look, first, at my great big dreams (in no particular order):

  1. Write a book and get it published.
  2. Speak in front of a church.
  3. Get a masters degree in counseling.
  4. Blog regularly. Not for other people, but just for me.
  5. Lead a Bible study, host a book club, or simply invite people for dinner once a month.
  6. Be the best wife and (eventually) mother I can be.
  7. Be the best I can be at whatever job I have.

Seven seemed like enough. After all, it is the number of completion.

Then, I took a look at my parameters (also in no particular order):

  1. My someday son’s soccer game and my someday daughter’s ballet recital.
  2. Dinner at home with my family at least six nights a week.
  3. A full-time job.
  4. The need for rest, recuperation, alone time.
  5. Limited energy, (seemingly) unlimited sensitivity.
  6. Introversion.

The overwhelming idea of limitations is that they are bad. But as I look at that list, I see that my list of limitations, or rather, the parameters that God has given me, is just as positive as the items on my list of dreams. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing wrong with being a sensitive introvert.

I want to live my life in healing rhythms that honor the limits of my body, the pleasures of rest, and the delights of play. Christine Valters Painter

Good things always come in threes: the limits of my body, the pleasures of rest, and the delights of play. The secret I’ve learned when it comes to honoring those three things is that it all comes down to stewardship. I wrote some more short term goals down on my blog recently, and discovered that I didn’t actually need more than the twenty-four hours I’ve been given in a day to accomplish them -- I just had to hone my focus and manage my time more wisely.

I sat down with my planner and looked at all the little demands on my time, aware that the rub of stewardship is that you will always sacrifice something. I must give up having time with my friends in order to spend a quiet evening to myself, whether it be to write, read, paint my toenails, or watch my favorite show on Netflix. In order to spend time with friends, I must sacrifice time to myself. If I need to stay late at work to meet a deadline, I sacrifice time at home with my family. If I need to be at a PTA meeting or little league practice, I sacrifice making the deadline. Make sense?

In any event, when you sit down on the inside long enough to name and study your individual parameters for accomplishing your goals and living passionately, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that those things coincide more than you ever thought they could. Equally as true is that sometimes, God puts passions and desires in our hearts that, when measured next to our parameters, seem absolutely impossible. Maybe this is your dream? Wait on the Lord, friend.

Not so fast. When I say wait on the Lord, I totally get that that sounds crazy. I fear that the majority of people, when they hear wait on the Lord, they think that it means they don’t have to do anything, or they get confused, thinking that somehow, God is holding out on them. But when we revisit the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, the rich man praises the servants who have been faithful with the little that they have been given. Did you catch that? We’re called to wait on the Lord, but in the midst of the waiting and the gritty everyday, we’re called to be faithful with the small things that have been given to us: the dishes, the laundry, the budget report, the presentation. At the end of the day, the rich man says ‘well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. (Matthew 25:21 ESV)’

One of the things I believe that we are called to is self-care, and I’m learning that it is much more of an art than a science. For me, self-care looks like an afternoon at Starbucks with my blog, or the occasional mani/pedi. It looks like turning my cell phone off when I get home at night so I can really relish spending time with my family. I’ve realized over the past year or so, since I’ve held my current job as a social worker, that self-care isn’t selfish. It is, in fact, essential to all the other parts of my life. I can’t be a good social worker, a good wife, a good homemaker, a good daughter, sister, friend, if I am not being intentional about carving out a couple hours every now and then to take part in the things that fill me back up and make me feel beautiful.

So I charge us, all of us, to dream, and in the midst of those dreams, be faithful to what is right in front of us today.



The conversation starts here: 

Share the parameters you have been given or have constructed yourself. What do they look like? Who do they involve?

Talk about a season when you were waiting on the Lord. How did you feel? Did you struggle to be faithful in the day to day?

Share your personal self-care routine.

{Leave your questions + answers + thoughts in the comments below.}




Some Fine Print:

This is the ninth of thirty-one installments to be posted throughout the month of October. To view the entire table of contents as it is made available, click here. You can receive the entire series in your inbox for free by subscribing via email (no spam, just my heart by way of weblog). Please feel free to pass these words along to a friend. Sharing is caring!