Coming back to our condo in San Diego after three months spent on my husband’s family farm in Michigan was jarring. For a few days, I could only see all the ways in which our house wasn’t measuring up to my ideals. No yard. Shared walls. Very little natural light in the main living area. Too many stairs.
I felt confined and trapped by the space, unhappy with many little things. I let myself wallow in self-pity for exactly two days and then turned to my husband to brainstorm solutions. With a critical eye, we reevaluated our space and our current needs – all four of us working from home without tripping over each other.
We rearranged our master bedroom to accommodate a reading nook with a soft chair and a side table. It took me all day to clear out the junk under our bed, and vacuum, and scrub our neglected baseboards. It was a lot of work but now we officially have a space of our own to retreat from the kids! The soft chair we used was moved out of the living room, and when we collapsed our dining room table from eight seats to six seats, we added about 30 square feet to our living space.
Next, we thought about our guest room and decided to move the bed down to our garage. We’ll be putting a loveseat there instead, so now it will be a cozy workspace with a desk in one of the only rooms that gets a lot of natural light.
Changing our focus
Refreshing our physical space has refreshed my soul. The constraints and limits of our house had discouraged me for so long because I only focused on what I couldn’t change.
Do you do that too? Do you bump up against the natural limitations of your life and feel frustrated and discontent? Is your soul a little bruised from constantly hitting the same wall, wishing it would move? I know that feeling so well. What if instead of seeing limits as holding you back, you viewed them as an invitation to other possibilities? What if you shifted your focus from what you can’t do do what you can do? You might be surprised by the good things you find there. You might discover, like I did, that small changes can make a big impact.
Our God-given limitations
God created a natural world full of limits and constraints. Gravity. Day and night. Land and water. Our own physical limitations. And he has giving us so much freedom within these limits. But we are toddlers sometimes, railing against the things we believe hold us back. We want what’s out of reach, what’s beyond our borders. Instead, may we take on the posture of the psalmist who says:
“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance (…) You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16: 15-6, 11)
There is a deep contentment in these words acknowledging that what is within God’s limits is pleasant and secure. God’s joyful presence is right there on the psalmist’s path, just like his presence is right there on our path too. Even when our neighbor’s path looks smoother. Even when we doubt where our path might be heading.
“If we are to live our lives fully and well, we must learn to embrace the opposites, to live in a creative tension between our limits and our potentials. We must honor our limitations in ways that do not distort our nature, and we must trust and use our gifts in ways that fulfill the potentials God gave us.”Parker Palmer “Let Your Life Speak“
Acknowledge and reframe
Look around you. What are your limiting factors? For me, it was my physical space. Maybe for you, it’s constraints on your time. Maybe it’s a season of babies and toddlers. Maybe the pandemic is limiting your movements for now. Maybe your health is limiting your activity. I would encourage you to first acknowledge God’s presence with you through it all. And secondly, I’d encourage you to reframe your limitations into an invitation to use your God-given potential in creative ways. May you find that your boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places!