When we applied for a CCI service dog, for my daughter, Johanna, I was worried that they might not give us one because we had a history of being really bad dog owners. The first three dogs we owned ran away and two of them got hit by cars. The other one watched me go into labor with my fourth child and decided she had enough. She took off to find another home, probably one with no kids.
The application process helped me to let go of the guilt I felt about being such a terrible dog owner. The trainer assured me that the service dog would be well-trained, and I would also be trained to handle it at home and in the public. Over these past 10 years, CCI has really helped me to understand that a well trained dog is a secure and well-behaved dog. After two years in the program, we began raising puppies for CCI as well and learned so much more about the joys of responsible pet ownership. Now we have three very well trained dogs living in our home.
Although they are well-trained, the training would go right out the window if I let these dogs do whatever they want. So I am constantly reminding them and my family (especially my husband) of the boundaries. For example, we have a lot of teachers, therapists and nurses come in and out of my home on a daily basis. Even after all these years, the dogs STILL think these people have come just to visit them! Sometimes I get lazy and let them rush the door to greet people. Recently I decided I needed to retrain appropriate greetings.The two biggest offenders (140 lbs between them), are our black lab and our goofy golden. So before I answer the door, I make them get in a sit/stay position. They know they must stay until I give the command, “Release,” at which time they are free to go, possibly even to greet the person who has come into the door. One day I forgot to use the release command and 30 minutes later, I found myself wondering where the dogs went, only to realize that they were still seated at the base of stairs! I love it when they follow commands so well!
Some people consider boundaries as limits on their creativity. Boundaries are really there to give us a safe place to explore endless possibilities. Consider an artist who has an idea for a painting. The boundaries of the canvas provide structure to the creative genius as this work comes alive. Writing is also like painting with words; grammar and sentence structure are boundaries of sort, providing a needed platform for one to express ideas and communicate facts to the reader.
God likes boundaries….
The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20:1-17. The first four commandments are boundaries which direct us in our worship and relationship with God. The next six are boundaries to help us relate to one another.
In the New Testament, Jesus came to fulfill the law and He summed it up like this:
Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”( Matthew 22:37-39)
That’s why Jesus could heal the sick on the Sabbath, and ate, drank and slept with sinners. He even spoke kindly to women! What a radical man for his day! Jesus knew that the boundaries of the law were meant to help us become more loving people. He didn’t throw out the law, but rather put flesh on the law by making love the highest priority.
The best boundary God ever gave us was when the infinite God of the universe came to us as a little baby in the manger. He showed us then as He shows us now: our limitations are filled with possibilities. Our limiting circumstances can really become boundaries of grace for endless possibilities.
When I became a mother 26 years ago, I imagined that I was going to be very busy until my kids grew up and started lives of their own. It wasn’t until Johanna turned 10, that I embraced the realization that our youngest child with special needs was probably going to be living with us for the rest of her life. It did take some getting used to, but at that point, I began to craft some boundaries for myself that included hopes and dreams for a career I could pursue from home. I began to take steps to be sure that I had more time for myself for exercise, prayer, writing and just plain fun! This boundary helps me create the life I desire.
Likewise, this recent MS diagnosis has provided me with greater explanations of why my body responds (or doesn’t) to certain things. As my neurologist was going over markers in my blood work and cultures, he told me that I should be completely exhausted because of certain levels. I was relieved to know that periods of exhaustion I do experience now had some explanation. But I was also excited that I listened to my body and got the help I needed through holistic health. The limits of autoimmune disease became a life-giving boundary that helped me break the negative cycle which is so prevalent in the lives of caregivers and those with chronic illness.
Boundaries are a good thing and so are fences.
I can let the dogs out into the back yard to run because we put up a fence. However, our black lab, Lorenz is half gazelle, so he can scale any fence, even up to six feet. You know that saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side?” Well, it’s true; my neighbor has a nicer yard and their dog gets great big marrow bones that he leaves close to our property line. Lorenz is always pushing the boundaries. Because of this, I had to entice him to keep him in the yard. We play ball and watch them outside and when it’s time to come in, each dog gets a treat. Our sweet black lab never wants to be out of earshot, because he always wants to be the first one in the house to get the treat! Lorenz always comes running when we call.
Staying close to the Lord can help us to live our lives within healthy boundaries. There is a sweet reward when we stay close to God’s heart. The joy of God’s presence fill us now and give us the hope of all eternity.
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:5-11)
When we live within healthy boundaries — in our behaviors and our relationships – our lives become more secure. When we see boundaries as life-giving limitations that help us grow, the possibilities are endless.