I'm Exhausted!

Samantha on Setting Healthy Boundaries

1. Do your best

As pastors' wives, we're expected to fill a role. Yet God expects us first and foremost to care for ourselves, our husbands and our families. That's first. The rest is just gravy.

2. Know what you need — take care of yourself.

Otherwise you'll have nothing to give. It's as simple — and as difficult — as that.

3. Allow others to know what you truly need.

A friend of mine is wonderfully understanding when I need to change our plans at the last minute because I'm not feeling well. Instead of getting angry or going off and doing what we had planned in the first place, she's sensitive and flexible to alter our plans so that we can still spend time together.

4. Let go of the rest.

I could chide myself for not doing more or for not being more involved, but it's just not physically possible for me to do more. Yet, if I remain faithful to what I was called, then I'll say it was a job well-done.

We've all said it. We've all felt it. Yet after a good night's sleep, most of us feel better.

Samantha Bosman doesn't, however. Due to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), diagnosed when she was 8, Samantha feels that way every day — all day — and has for the past 15 years. It started when a cytomengalo virus hindered her body's production of adenosine triphosphate, the fuel muscles use to function. It also limited her immune system's ability to manufacture natural killer cells, which makes her susceptible to just about anything that flies by her nose.

So what does that really mean?

"I feel exhausted pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she says. "There are days when it takes me all day just to get dressed, and then it's time to go to bed again." Which is hard, especially in her role as pastor's wife. But that's where CFS has helped Samantha draw boundaries between everything she's "supposed" to do and what she can realistically accomplish.

Doing church

Samantha's husband, Jayce, is associate pastor at Glad Tidings Church near Lake Charles, La. His father is the senior pastor. "Jayce is great," she says. "He's very supportive. But though my in-laws knew all about [CFS] when Jayce and I were dating, they are just now beginning to understand [CFS's effects]."

Others on the church staff are aware Samantha struggles with CFS, but they don't truly comprehend what it means. Samantha is expected to be at any service or function Jayce participates in. And so she musters energy to attend every Sunday and midweek service.

"But then some people think I'm mad because I'm not smiling," Samantha explains. "They don't realize how much work it can be just for me to be there, let alone try to look as if I feel well."


Not everyone in the 2,000-member congregation knows of Samantha's condition — not that everyone has to. "Most people don't broadcast their illnesses and ailments," she says. "Those who do, well . . . you really don't want to be around them anyway." And over the years, Samantha has felt ostracized by many who did know.

"I received a lot of un-invitations as a kid," she says, recalling the phone calls from other children's mothers suggesting that because Samantha couldn't keep up, perhaps it would be better if she didn't come after all — comments that, while a little different in nature, are still made today.

Samantha works part-time for her father's accounting firm, which is great, because he's been dealing with her illness for as long as she has. "But there are times when a project will come up and others will suggest, 'Oh don't give that project to her.' They don't think I'll be able to complete it and that they'll have to pick up the slack."

And the music director at church turned her down for a spot in the choir. He thought it might not look good if she got tired and needed to sit down.

"In some ways I feel penalized for having CFS, because there's the perception that I am not able to handle anything," Samantha comments. "I think people just don't understand. CFS doesn't make me incompetent; I'm just not able to rise to the challenge every time one's presented."

So, what does she do?

She picks her "battles" wisely.

"When I was first diagnosed, the doctors said I'd never make it through college," Samantha says. But in December 2000, she earned a bachelor's degree in accounting.

She also plays the keyboard and piano for worship services and other functions.

"Sometimes they'll want to sing one more song, and they'll look over at me, and all I'll want to do is lay on [the piano] and go to sleep!" Samantha laughs. But the worship service is a place where she can serve — something very important to her — and so she plays, knowing she'll feel wiped out Monday and Tuesday.

Samantha finds that planning keeps her schedule somewhat consistent, though there are times she has to deviate due to a lack of energy — and she usually opts out of spur-of-the-moment activities or obligations for the same reason.

She will, however, sacrifice for things she knows will have lasting benefits, despite the toll she knows she'll pay. For example, she and Jayce made the effort to take a Florida vacation in April 2000.

"I knew it was important for me to get away with my husband; we wanted some alone time," she explains. "I also knew I would pay for it — I couldn't do anything for a month after we returned. But it was worth it." Last summer the Bosmans went with Jayce's parents and brother on a three-week missions trip to South Africa. "I did well, all things considered, but still had a hard time at moments." Yet it was a valuable sacrifice.

"People will always be critical and have opinions and expectations," she continues, "but, in the end, that doesn't really matter. What does matter is knowing that you were faithful in what you were called to do — that you took the time for your husband, your family and yourself and that you didn't 'kill' yourself in the process."

Wise words, even for those of us who merely long for a good nap.

Article copyright © 2003, Tanya Price.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.