Running a Good Race

Twin Cities Marathon 2010 009Motherhood is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I ran my first marathon 5 years ago this fall. In the midst of training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I started to compare running to my journey as a mom, and now, 5 years and four marathons later, I still see the correlation.

I have learned that I can train as hard as I want, but I will never fully be prepared. How can you prepare for the unexpected?  I can study the terrain, but there’s always going to be that bump in the road that I didn’t see on paper. And it may get simpler with each race – I may have more clarity with each race – but the journey to the finish line is never the same.

Thinking back to 5 years ago, what did I do to prepare for my first 26.2 mile race? I associated with runners who have already been there who could give me words of encouragement and advice. I followed the game plan to build my endurance – the payoff? I finished. Did I finish perfect? No, but I finished strong.

The same thing goes for parenting. As mothers, we need the association of moms whom we see as positive role models who have already been there. They’ve traveled that road and paved the way. They can train us, teach us, and give us a game plan for success.

We also need the association of moms who are in the same season as we are. They know exactly what we are going through at each stage because they’re going through the same things. They can give us a shoulder to cry on, make us laugh, or encourage us to keep going. They will become our best friends. A shared experience always brings people together.

When I crossed the starting line of the Twin Cities Marathon, I was engulfed with many emotions: fear, nervousness, excitement, joy, and a sense of accomplishment.

The first couple of miles seemed easy — The same happened when I became a mom. The first few weeks I enjoyed the honeymoon stage of motherhood. I was so in awe of my precious gift that I saw no flaws and thought that the road would be simple.

Around mile 5 or 6, it started feeling mundane. It started sinking in that I still had a long way ahead of me. However, the crowds of people cheering me on made it fun – In the same way, after weeks and months of tending to baby’s every needs, I began to feel like I was in a rut. It seemed like the same routine day in and day out. I was tired from a lack of sleep and feeling like I didn’t have time for me anymore. But then a mom would say a word of encouragement, or my beautiful baby would giggle, and my joy would be renewed.

By mile 13, the halfway point, I realized running a marathon was a huge commitment. I started seeing the endurance and toughness that it takes to go on – being a mom is no different. I started to feel challenged by my boy’s tantrums or stubbornness. I saw that I needed to be emotionally tough to handle challenges that being a mom brings. If I don’t know my purpose, I can stress and feel like a failure.Twin Cities Marathon 2010 001

By mile 18, I started questioning my ability to go on. Negative thoughts started creeping in. I began playing the comparison
game with all the other runners who seemed unaffected by the pain. I started to think I wasn’t strong enough to be a marathoner — There are times when I question my ability to be an effective mom as well. Sometimes I compare myself to the mom who looks like she has everything put together – she appears well rested and fashionably dressed with makeup on and well-behaved kids right by her side. But then I have to step back and realize it’s not fair to me to compare someone’s best with my worst. And then a little voice softly whispers, “I love you mom,” and it melts my heart.

By mile 23, I started to breathe a little easier. I knew the pain was temporary now. I started to believe in myself and could see the end – I think we all have those days where we breathe a sigh of relief or a little prayer of thanks when a stage our children are in comes to a close.

At mile 25, the adrenaline took over, and I began to sprint with a smile on my face. I was thrilled that it was almost over, that I was about to accomplish something great. I crossed the finish line at the State Capitol with tears streaming down my face knowing my hard work paid off – There’s always a finish line.

I know a mother’s job is never done, but there is a point of victory at every stage of the journey. It’s the little rewards: their first steps, their first word, their first A on a report card, their starting spot in the basketball game. The ups and downs are all worth it knowing you’ve done all you can to raise your children to be men and women of strong character. I see the finish line as all the “I love you’s” and “thank you’s” and hugs and kisses that you get along the way, but ultimately, the finish line is letting them go to affect others the same way you affected them.

I think of Paul in Philippians when he says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

You’re in the race of your life as a mother. Stay on the course and finish strong. It’s always worth it!

Walking in Love,

Gabe

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5 Things I learned on my Whole 30 Journey

untitledDuring the month of January, I decided to join the Whole 30 bandwagon.

The Whole 30 (http://whole30.com) is based on the book, It Starts With Food, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. Going a month without sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy is supposed to help boost energy, kick the sugar craving, alleviate pains, and more. The book shares that many of our symptoms are revealed through the foods we eat. If we eliminate those foods from our diet, the symptoms can disappear.

This was a tough journey, but over the course of the 30 days, I learned five important life lessons:

1. Self-discipline: Anything can become an idol in our lives if we let it, and I was always craving for another treat or more food. Sometimes the thoughts of ice cream or chocolate would cloud my mind and make me lose focus on what is truly important. I would eat when I was bored, or I justified a milkshake because I had a bad day. I realized I needed self-discipline in the small things so I could also have it in the big things. The Whole 30 requires self-discipline. It required me to decide if I was going to give in to my flesh or if I was going to stand strong and win. It would have been easy to give up and go back to my old ways, but I knew they weren’t getting me where I wanted to be. If nothing changes, nothing changes. The cool thing about the Whole 30 is that it is a 30-day plan, and it only takes 20 days to create a habit. Now a lot of what I learned is ingrained in my daily routine.

2. How to cook/prepare meals: I am not a cook. I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it. I don’t even want to be in the kitchen. I hate the time that it requires. I hate the mess that it makes — I could go on and on. Starting the Whole 30, I quickly realized that cooking is necessary to change things up and not have the same boring meal day after day. I needed to learn how to add different flavors to things so I could savor my food instead of crave something unhealthy. In order to eat whole, clean foods, I needed discipline to plan and prepare my meals. In doing so, I learned that it’s not as bad as I once thought it was, and it actually became somewhat enjoyable. I found myself on Pinterest daily looking for yummy recipes to try. The key for me, however, was to find simple recipes for tasty meals. I have had fun finding out how to use spices in meals to spruce things up, something I’ve never done before. I learned it doesn’t have to be fancy or take hours to prepare in order for it to be a family favorite. Now I have chosen to plan ahead for the week. I have a sheet that I write down what we are going to have for dinner, and I stick to it. It helps keep us within our budget when I grocery shop, and it helps me to stay focused. It keeps me on guard at all times. A game plan is good.

3. It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet: A diet is all about what you’re limited to — you can’t have this, and you can’t have that. Count the calories. There’s too much salt or too much fat. The list goes on. I don’t want that! I want it to be about what I can eat and why it’s enjoyable. I want to see my meals as something to look forward to. I wanted to retrain my brain to know what this isn’t about being on a diet or restrictions. It’s about eating what’s healthy for me and having those “other” things in moderation. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says our bodies are God’s temple, and that comes down to the food we use to fuel our bodies. I don’t want mine to be backed up and unusable. I want to be able to be a vessel and a light to others.

4. Real foods can make great treats: Banana ice cream, frozen berries, smoothies — all great, delicious choices for a sweet treat. After the Whole 30, I haven’t had many treats, but I’ve noticed just how sweet they are. Fruit has become sweet enough for me now, and that makes me happy. Does that mean I don’t eat any chocolate or cookies? Nope. It just means I will no longer let the thought of dessert control me. I will enjoy treats in moderation and still be proud of how far I’ve come.

3. It’s going to be OK: If I crave chocolate, and I don’t give in to my desires, it’s going to be OK. If my flesh says I need more, and I don’t cave, it’s going to be OK. I thought I needed all the treats and pastas and breads to be fully satisfied, but I don’t. I don’t need any of it. Food is a tool to fuel my body, keep me healthy, and give me the ability to fulfill my call in life. My life is about giving glory to God. I want my thoughts to be centered around Him and not around my fleshly desires. And if I put Him in the center, then I know everything is going to be OK.

My journey is only beginning, and I know I have a long way to go, but it is worth it, and the refining process is good.