Pace & Parenting

Pace & Parenting

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 presetI was wrapped in the metallic blanket, my legs already turning to jello. I had hugged my husband, my girls, my sister, my parents and in-laws. Then this man, who four-and-a-half hours ago had been a stranger, walked up to me and said, “Congratulations! You did it!” With all the strength left in my exhausted body I said, “Thank you for everything. I couldn’t have done it without you.” This person I had not met prior to the race helped me cross a finish line that once seemed impossible. All because he set the pace and kept me to it. He kept my nervous, jittery self from running too fast in the beginning and not having the strength to finish. He kept my weary self from slowing down during the hills on miles 20-24 when it would have been easy to give up.

Runners know how valuable pacers are, but do we as parents know it? Do we recognize how our pace affects those within our home, those little lives we are entrusted with? A couple weekends ago, we pulled in the garage late Sunday night, and I told Matt I needed a weekend to recover from the weekend. Like I’m often prone to do, I had filled our weekend with my to-do list and pushed us all too hard. We had gone from one thing to another for three days straight, and now our van seats were a mess of tears and weariness and grumpy moods.

After that weekend, I was reading in Genesis and noticed a little passage I’ve never paid attention to before. Tucked in Genesis 33, Jacob has brought his family and herds to reconcile with his brother Esau. Esau suggests Jacob go with him, but Jacob tells Esau, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children … .”

There’s no such thing as “hurry up offense” for children. Rather, the moment I try to make mine go faster we enter some weird time warp where it seems like everything but the clock stands still. This is the moment one decides she doesn’t like her hair up and wants it down instead. This is the moment the sparkle shoes that are absolutely necessary cannot be found. This is the moment the car seat buckle must be buckled by herself even if it takes 39 attempts. This is the moment I remember I haven’t eaten a single thing all day. And thirty minutes later we have moved the vast distance of three-and-a-half feet, and the back door is still eight feet away. At this rate, I should have packed a lunch and maybe dinner too.

One of the hardest lessons for me in parenting has been learning to roll with the punches and adjust my expectations. The truth is children move at a slower pace. Jacob recognized it when he was making his journey to reconcile with Esau. Jesus recognized it when the people brought their children to Him so He could lay hands on them, but the disciples became upset because they wanted to stay on schedule.

And when I examine my calendar with honest eyes I see the source of all that doing and running and achieving. I cram the calendar full of events and parties and RSVPs because I want to be liked. I stack the day’s agenda so I can prove my worth. I drag the kids from one place to another so they can do and run and achieve just like me.

There is a time to push yourself in a marathon, but there is also a time to restrain yourself. As parents we have to strike that balance too. In our family I am usually the one pushing, and Matt is usually the one slowing. Both are vital. Sometimes we need a push to serve in a new way or take on more responsibility so that our children know they are capable of doing big things for God’s kingdom. But sometimes, and especially if we have young children, we need to slow our pace. We need to say no to good things that aren’t our best yes right now. We need to quit some things that we really enjoy–not for forever but for this season–so that we can enjoy the relationships within our home.

I’m taking a semester off from leading Bible study with our ladies ministry. This decision was so difficult for me because those women have been my midweek sanity for two years now. But God has been whispering this message about pace to me over and over recently, and I can’t ignore Him. With homeschooling and potty training and feeding a newborn, our mornings just go much better if we aren’t trying to rush out the door by a certain time. With margin, there is more room for grace and peace and spilled sippy cups. With an empty morning on the calendar, we can move a little slower, read that book they’re begging for, and bandage that invisible boo-boo she’s certain she just acquired. With a little less on the day’s agenda, we can all take a deep breath and maybe get a second cup of caffeine.

Like everything else, this is a season. Their little legs will one day run everywhere. Their little hands will one day move faster than ours. Before we know it, their feet will be pushing the pedals of a car and walking down the aisle. They won’t be this small for long, and one day it will be time to pick up our pace, time to surge ahead. But this race called parenting is a marathon, and it’s one I want to finish well. And right now, we must slow our pace. For the sake of our children.

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The End of 2014

The End of 2014

2014 began with this…

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And ended with this…

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A special year indeed. When I chose my word for 2014–Behold–I had big goals. I wanted to run 1000 miles this year. I wanted to go to Colombia with my dad and teach women about the love of their Savior. I wanted to start writing a book. None of those things happened.

Instead, I spent much of the year being the vessel for God to grow a beautiful baby girl. Which means I spent much of the year moving more slowly than I would have liked. “Be still,” I heard him whisper over and over.

We begged God to keep Ethiopian adoptions open, and I heard Him remind me, “Hold on.” I walked with two people I love dearly through the searing pain of divorce and heard the same reminder, “Hold on.”

I faced new fears, new doubts, new questions and felt the weight of the angels’ anthem, “Fear not. For Behold, I bring you good news of great joy.”

I never imagined Behold becoming so literal, but it did. Be still and hold on. Two things I struggle with greatly. I want to go and do and move and see. He asks me to be still and know that He is God. I want to abandon the endeavor when it gets hard or I think I might fail. He asks me to hold fast to my Hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.

I loved studying how often God used the word Behold in his love story to us. It’s as if He knew we would need the reminder time and time again. It’s as if He knew I would be prone to struggle with control and perfectionism. He knows me so well.

Sometimes we run across the finish line and sometimes we pad gingerly banged up and bearing scars. But I’ve learned this year, what matters most isn’t the speed I travel but the Hand I’m holding.

He who calls you is faithful. He will surely do it. (1 Thes 5:24) Someone needs to hear that promise today. Someone needs to be still. Someone needs to hold on. Someone needs to stare fear in the face and declare, “Behold.” We do not walk this road alone. And tomorrow we begin a new year, but before the clock strikes midnight tomorrow night we will have already messed up. But January 2nd we will begin again. And January 3rd and January 4th.  Our goals may change because God has surprises in store we cannot imagine. Some we will like. Some we will resist. But the promise we can always hold on to is that He is faithful. Great is His faithfulness. Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

With a grateful heart for the blessings and lessons of 2014 and with an expectant heart for what 2015 holds, thank you, Lord, for being my Sustainer and for never letting go.

The Finish Line

The Finish Line

marathonWhen I saw the sign for 26 miles, tears welled. In 365 yards I would cross the finish line. After 375 days of training, the finish line was right there before me. As I turned the corner, I saw my family, my cheerleaders, my home team. I threw my hands in the air and yelled at the top of my lungs. Because this thing which once seemed impossible had just become possible, this dream had just come true.

Saturday was one of those days I will never forget… waking up at 4:30 so I could eat my oatmeal and applesauce,  pinning my bib in place and my Ziploc baggie containing my chocolate coconut Clif Bar bites to the inside of my shorts, kissing Matt goodbye when I got in place at the starting line, nervously finding the 4:30 pace group and hoping I could keep up with them, hearing the national anthem and the final countdown and then the sound of 3500 pairs of running shoes hitting the pavement.

It was a beautiful day, and I soaked up the sunshine. The first 13.1 miles passed by easily. I ran past Thalia Mara where I graduated high school, past The Old Capitol Inn where I married my best friend and past the house where Matt’s late grandparents once lived and where I first had Kitty’s famous broccoli cheese casserole. We all talked and shared running stories. I told them it was my first marathon, and, from then on, they went out of their way to cheer me on.

By mile 17, our pace group had thinned a little. The pauses in our conversation grew lengthier as we focused on each breath, each stride. Mile 20 brought with it hill after hill after hill. Four miles of rolling hills. I could feel my calves growing tight but I kept reminding myself, “One foot in front of the other.” As we rounded Mile 24, my pacer Charles said, “You’re about to be a marathoner. For the rest of your life, you’ll remember this day.”

All the five o’clock alarms, all the runs in single digits and runs in triple digits, all the sore muscles and blisters, it was all worth it, to cross that finish line.

26.2 miles. 4 hours, 26 minutes, 46 seconds. Marathoner.

Running Hard

Running Hard

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOne foot in front of the other.

Those are the words I will say over and over to myself tomorrow. My friend Heather gave me that sage advice at the beginning of my training and it’s the phrase I’ve repeated countless times, sometimes with my hands in the air and other times muttering those words through clinched teeth. I packed my bag this morning preparing for warm temperatures. The high is 65 tomorrow. Earlier this week I ran in single digits, so the weather change should be interesting. My tummy feels like butterflies have taken up residence, but I’m really just ready for my feet to hit the pavement.

Somewhere during the early part of my training I realized this journey of training was about far more than just physical stamina. I have this habit of writing Scriptures I’m praying on little paint chips collected from trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s. One day last spring on a little peach paint chip, I scribbled 1 Corinthians 9:26-27…

Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

The New Living Translation says, “So I run with purpose in every step…” Purpose in every step. The easy ones and the ones that leave me cringing. The beautiful ones where it seems almost easy and the ugly ones where I’m tempted to give up. The brave ones and the ones that leave my toes curled in fear. Each footprint on the asphalt a testimony to God’s redeeming work in my life.

This morning I took my peach paint chip off the cork board in my closet so I could pack it in my bag. But before I put it away, I pulled out The Message to see its interpretation of this Scripture…

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

God, you are my Sustainer, and I’m grateful for this journey you’ve brought me on this year. I’ll forever treasure the sunrises You painted for me, the timely truth you brought to my ears and the freedom You’ve given me over perfectionism. Thank you for never giving up on this very imperfect girl. I pray every victory I experience brings glory to the One I love.

One foot in front of the other. Purpose in every step. Running hard for the finish line. Tomorrow and every day. This is my prayer.