Word of the Week 10 – Run an Honorable Race

Since we have such a large crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.  Hebrews 12:1 Living Bible (TLB)

A Prayer for Burden-Free Parenting

Heavenly Father, I praise you for the unique race you’ve set before me and for the little (and not so little) eyes that are watching me run. Free me from any burden that threatens to trip me up and slow me down today – a bad attitude, faulty thinking, judgement, lack of self control, ego, fear…. whatever it may be. Pull me from its grip and help me to run a clean, unencumbered race. May each of my steps glorify You. And may others see in me Your love, Your grace and Your mercy. Thank you, Lord! Amen!

How Running Makes Me a Better Mom

When it comes to motherhood, I have a theory that runner moms have a huge advantage over other mothers simply because we run. Here’s why:

Running is undeniably not for wimps and neither is parenting. Each demands mental and physical toughness that, at times, seem to exceed human capacity. But running provides a training ground for flexing many of the same muscles needed to be an incredible mother. I’m basing my logic on personal experience. Even though I’ve been running half marathons for years, and I’m a professional parenting coach with teenagers of my own, the obstacles in running and parenting can still kick my butt. It’s in the challenge of striving for personal best that I’ve become better at both.

One of the things I love about running is that each accomplished mile is a concrete reminder of just how strong, determined and resilient I can be. On days when endless parenting failures leave me so defeated I’m ready to give myself up for adoption, a good cathartic run beats even a glass of Cab or a pint of Haagen-Dazs.

But the benefits of stress-reducing workouts go far beyond their restorative powers. I’m convinced that they actually equip moms to be wiser, stronger and more effective parents. Determination, self discipline, perspective and focus are just a few of the parenting traits that naturally emerge during a run.

My Story

Inspired by one of my post-run journal entries:

At the end of an exhausting day of endless parenting fails, collapsing on the sofa in an Emmy award winning pity-party sounds pretty darn inviting. Exerting real effort in anything constructive is totally out of the question. And engaging in any form of exercise seems laughable.

But, before I have time to start sobbing, a small and powerful inner voice inevitably whispers, “Go for a run. It’ll make you feel better. You know it will… Go on… Do it!” After bantering with my thoughts for longer than a sane person should, I find the determination to lace up my shoes, untangle my headphones and step outside.

Plugging the earbuds into my ears, I shut out the world and focus on the task at hand. My finger jabs at the red button on my Nike Running app, and the familiar male voice announces, “Beginning workout…” My feet feel compelled to move, and I cynically applaud myself for the herculean effort that got me here. Playing sloth on the sofa still seems like the better option, but at least the hardest part is now behind me.

My first few steps on the street are labored and intentional. I actually have to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other. “No excuses.” “You’ve got this,” “It WILL get easier,“ I remind myself. And by the time I reach the mailbox, I settle into a comfortable pace in sync with my running playlist. Peacefully alone, my narrow-minded perspective slowly broadens, allowing rays of sunshine to rush in. Earlier arguments with my kids over homework and snippy attitudes don’t seem as drastic now, and life’s more reasonable solutions come out of hiding.

At the mile and a half mark, I hit what I call a “warm-up wall.” My legs feel like they’re dragging through quicksand, and I have trouble catching my breath. Another inner whine begs me to “Slow down and walk.” In my defense, I open up a can of perseverance and keep running. This mama refuses to wallow in regret all the way home. Besides, I know that if I just push through to mile 2, my feet will become lighter, and I’ll find my happy pace.

By mile 2, my melodramatic complaining turns to grateful celebration as countless reasons to be thankful emerge. In truth, nothing about my chaotic day has changed, but the endorphins dancing in my brain remind me to lighten up and focus on the positive. And in this time of genuine thanksgiving, I discover what I’d been missing all day – my connection to God. In the middle of the muck, I had dropped my life line and tried to go it alone. No wonder I was such a mess. My perfect source of strength, encouragement and wisdom was cut off, and I have no one to blame but myself. Skip the blame. Instead, I ask for forgiveness and allow God’s grace to carry me the last half mile back home.

As I end my 3 mile workout, I log it with a smile emoji, and a renewed sense of self confidence showers over me. Sure, I may have totally messed up in the Mom Department today, but I did manage, against all odds, to successfully complete a stinkin’ run. And in one 30 minute workout, I feel like a new woman.

Who knows what parenting obstacles tomorrow will bring, but I’m more ready than ever. I’m a runner mom.

More to follow…

Join me in the next few weeks as I dive into more detail about the specific traits that make moms successful. We’ll take a look at WHY those attributes are so important to parenting, and HOW moms can strengthen them with every workout.

I hope you’ll join me!

Question: How has running helped you as a mom? I’d love to hear your story! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Beware of Labels, Even Good Ones

When people ask me if I’m a runner, I’m reluctant to say, “Yes,” even though I do run at least three times a week, and I’m usually training for a half marathon or a triathlon. I’m comfortable telling people I run, but I’m intimidated by the thought of being labeled a “runner.”

In my mind, runners run far and fast and look like they’ve just stepped off the cover of Women’s Running Magazine. If people perceive me as a  runner, I fear they’ll think less of me if they know my average run is four miles and I barely break 10 minute miles. But if they simply know I sometimes run, there is less pressure to live up to. Labels, both good and bad, come with expectations. And, while those expectations can be beneficial at times, they can also create unnecessary stress. This same phenomenon is true when we label kids.

Take a “positive” label for instance, like such a smart girl. A bright, straight A student may enjoy the admiration that’s attached to a characterization like this, but what happens when she gets a D on her first test or when schoolwork starts to feel challenging? For kids who feel even partially defined by their performance based labels, setbacks can knock them completely off their rockers. It’s not uncommon to hear huge doubt setting with comments like, “I made a D: I must be Dumb.” or “School isn’t as easy for me this year…maybe I wasn’t so smart after all.”

But imagine what might happen if that same child is raised to believe she is incredibly special, not for what she does but for who she is. And that she is full of potential. And that she is loved– not just by her parents but also by her Heavenly Father who created her. What if that same child was taught that none of us are perfect (nope, not even Mom or Dad), but through the unique strengths and gifts that God gives us, we are able to overcome our mistakes and our weaknesses?

Kids who know that they are loved and valued are better equipped to defeat challenges in their lives and are less susceptible to the influence of labels. As parents, we can help our children through tough situations by reassuring them of our love and our confidence in them simply by active listening.

For Example

Here’s how that might sound between a parent and third grader who brings a failed spelling test home from school. Listen to how Mom connects with her daughter and helps her feel supported while guiding her to a solution.

Sally (close to tears): “I’m so dumb! I can’t believe I failed my spelling test today!”

Mom (showing empathy): “Oh, Sally! It hurts to do poorly on a test. And you studied hard for that one… no wonder you sound so disappointed.”

Sally (wrinkling her face in frustration): “I just don’t get it!”

Mom (gently): “It really surprised you, huh? I’m surprised, too. You usually do great on spelling tests. How would you like to take a look at it together and figure out what went wrong?

Sally (relaxing a bit): “Yeah, ok.”

Mom: “Let’s get a snack first and recharge that brain of yours. The good news is that there is lots to learn from making mistakes, and what you learn can help you even more on future tests!”

Recap

Sally tried to label herself as dumb because she did poorly on her test. Instead of trying to convince her daughter that she isn’t dumb, Mom connected at a deeper level to help her feel valued and loved. Sally moved from feeling defeated to empowered, and she left the labels in the dust.

As you go through your day, I challenge you to listen for labels that are placed on people, and then watch closely. Their reactions may surprise you.

When I need a little reassurance that God’s impression of me is all that matters, I love to listen to Francesca Batastelli’s He Knows My Name. What an awesome reminder of God’s love for us!

Soggy with a Sense of Accomplishment

This is the first post of Random Running Reflections, a place where I share thoughts and inspiration I find while running…

I woke up to 53 degrees and constant, light rain today. Not my idea of ideal running conditions, but I made myself a promise to continue running outdoors though Fall this year. With a half marathon on the books for January, I’m gonna need to train in the great NorthWest rain and toughen up. (Of course, I’ll reevaluate my outdoor commitment at the first sign of freezing precipitation, but for now, on go the running shoes!)

Weeks ago I purchased a Paradox, water-proof, running jacket at Costo for an amazing price. It’s a trendy, lavender, sporty, women’s cut and promises to keep me dry. So I figured it would be just the motivation I’d need when the actual rainy day arrived.

But talking about running in the rain and doing it are two totally different things. And this morning, a litany of excuses to stay inside rattled in my brain. Ultimately, I convinced myself to hit the trail. I tossed on my lululemon running capris, a billed cap, and a sacrificial pair of old running shoes. Then I ceremoniously zipped up my new, wet weather, deflector shield and felt a renewed sense of commitment. Off I went.

To my delight and sheer surprise, the rainy run turned out to be amazing. The temps were cool enough to keep me comfortable throughout my 6 miles, and the rain rolled off my head and torso like a duck. The Autumn leaves that remained on the trees provided gorgeous canopies of canary and emerald, crimson, maroon, and orange. Looking down, I skipped across carpets of vibrant colors that were created by the fallen foliage. And even the puddles had a cheery glimmer. Though I did my best to avoid them.

At the end of my run, I was thrilled that I’d decided to brave the elements after all. I was so close to convincing myself to wimp out, but if I had, I would have totally missed out. Motivation was the key to following through. And this time my incentive took the form of a simple new rain coat.

Today I learned that soggy with sense of accomplishment trumps cozy, warm and regretful any day.

Question: What will your motivation be to get you to do that one task you’d rather not (but need to) do? I challenge you to find it, and procrastinate no more! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Who’s on Your Parenting Team?

“WAY TO GO, LIL SIS!”  “GO, BIG SIS!” My sister and I heard these cheers as we ran by the spectators lining the streets of the Portland Half Marathon. Races are amazing that way! Total strangers calling out to runners by the name or number printed on their race bibs, encouraging them to keep going.  You’ll find them all over the race course, but I especially appreciate the ones planted along a major hill or at points where my legs and lungs whine the most.  I  love hearing their cow bells and applause, but my favorite is reading their homemade signs.  “Go, Random Stranger, Go!”  “Run Like You Stole Something!” and  “Smile if You Peed a Little” help me laugh through the pain.

Wouldn’t it be great if encouraging strangers lined the aisles of Target or grocery stores, supporting moms whose kids are having major temper tantrums? Imagine this: Little Lily reaches the end of her rope, wailing and screaming in seismic waves of destruction. Not an eardrum in the store is spared and shoppers get whiplash turning to stare at the commotion. Mom, glowing red with humiliation and helplessness, seriously considers climbing into the basket to cry alongside Lily.

Versus this: As the first sonic blast erupts from Lily, shoppers turn to Mom holding signs that say, “THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS!” “We <3 you, Mom!” And all the while, they gently smile, and tell the embarrassed mother they’ve been there before. They survived, and she will, too. Calmed by their empathy, Mom maintains her composure and quietly talks to Lily while hurrying to finish her shop or take the tearful toddler to the car.

OK, so a fan club like this sounds more like a fairy tale. But the truth is, each one of us already has a support system even more powerful and more reliable than we could ever dream. What’s even more incredible is that it can be ours simply by asking. I’m talking about a relationship with God, our most loyal fan and the perfect parenting partner. He never meant for us to parent alone, and He waits patiently to help in any situation. It took me a while to realize this, but now that I know my Heavenly Father is standing WITH me, it really doesn’t matter who seems to be against me – even nosey shoppers who stop to stare at the worst moments.

In God’s perfection, I am able to be my Personal Best. He’s the essential third person of my parent-child-God “TriParenting Team. ” When chaos erupts, I invite Him into the room. (Yeah, you’re right: He was already in the room, but I’m not always good at remembering that). And before I act, I ask God to guide my words, calm my heart, and help me love my child through whatever it is we are facing…no matter how ugly. I’m constantly amazed at how much easier it is to handle even the toughest battles when I acknowledge His strong and loving presence.

Question: Who’s on your “parenting team”? Have you thought about inviting God to be the captain? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Word of the Week 3: God’s Got Your Back

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

A Prayer to Remind You You’re Not Alone

Heavenly Father, sometimes parenting can feel so overwhelming… and lonely. And, while I try my hardest to be the best mom I can be, I fall short more times than I’d like to admit.

I don’t have all the answers. Even though I wish I did.

And I can’t do this alone. Even though I often try.

Help me to remember that you are with me always to pave the way, support and guide me. Thank you for going before me in every temper tantrum, tummy ache, and battle of the wills. In you, I’m never alone. And in you I’m able to be the best mom I can be.

I’m so very thankful to have you on my team!  Amen

How to Turn “I Can’t!” into “I Can!”

One of the quickest ways I’ve found to FAIL is tell myself “I CAN’T.” And, if someone sympathizes with me that the task is too tough or the journey is too long, chances are I’ll quit before even trying. Far better is the friend who can help me see what I CAN do and encourages me to build on that instead. Like when I first considered running a half marathon…

Big disclaimer: I’m a runner, but not a die-hard runner.  (I much prefer to bike or swim than pound the pavement on foot). But my sister challenged me to join her in a 13.1 mile race, and I couldn’t resist. Shortly thereafter, reality struck, reminding me I’d never run more than 6 miles before, and those 6 felt like 600. Seriously, WHAT was I thinking? “I CAN’T RUN 13.1 miles!”

When I mentioned this half marathon goal to my current training buddies, they were quick to build me up. They pointed out my strengths and reminded me of all the 5K’s, sprint triathlons and walk relays I’d already accomplished. They even helped me find a realistic training plan and agreed to hold me accountable to it. Convinced, my “can’t” quickly transformed into “Let’s do this!”

Translated to Parenting

Kids who think they can’t face the same challenges and need the same help that I did. Often, though, parents are quick to jump in and either rescue the child or add to the frustration by insisting the child can. But there are steps that parents can take to help kids believe that they really can. Here’s an example:

Four year old Jacob flops down on the floor, tossing his shoes and complaining, “I CAN’T tie these!”

Mom sits down next to him and shows she wants to team up to solve the problem. (The trick is to help him calm down so he is receptive to hearing and trying).

She says,”It looks like your having trouble. Tying laces is hard work. I know you can learn to do this. Let me see what you can do, and I’ll help with the rest.”

“But I CAAAN’T.”

Mom, staying positive, says, “Let’s start with what you can do. What do we need to do first?” (Mom encourages Jacob to take the first step of putting his shoes on his own feet).

Shoes are on. Mom says, “Great that’s the first step. Shoes are on. Now what?” (Then she encourages him to take the laces in both hands and (if needed) gently guides his hands to hold them properly).

Once in hand, Mom asks, “Now can you show me how to make the first crossover tie?”

Each step continues like this, with Mom allowing Jacob to do as much as he can without her direct help. When Mom does take over the more complicated steps, she can encourage him to either guide her through the rest of the steps or verbally repeat and copy what she says and does. When the shoes are tied, Mom gives a big hug or high-five and points out how much closer Jacob is to tying his shoes all by himself. “Ta-da!”

Breaking a task into bite-sized, attainable pieces makes it seem less overwhelming. And confidence grows with each small success. So, it pays to have patience, be consistent, and stay positive.

P.S. After (mostly) sticking to my training plan and seeking encouragement from my close friends, I ran my first Half Marathon with my sister. We walked about a mile of it, but we did it! And we were so pumped afterward, that we signed up for another. And now it’s become a semi-annual tradition.

Question: What task easily frustrates your child ? What can you do to break it down into baby steps? What can you say and do to empower him or her to do as much as possible on his or her own? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Here’s a popular resource for help tying shoes.

Word of the Week 2 – for Strength

I can do all things through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

A Prayer When You Need Strength and Reassurance

Heavenly Father, thank you for today! Help me to approach this day with confidence, knowing that whatever obstacles I face, I CAN overcome them through you.  Help me to turn monsters into mole hills. And help me to rely on your endless strength and power, particularly when mine seems to fizzle out. Alone I feel weak, but in your power, I truly am Super Mom! Thank you! Amen.

Word of the Week 1 – Grace and Mercy

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses… 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.      Hebrews 4:15-16,  New International Version (NIV)  

A Prayer for a Mom with Little Ones

Thank you, Lord, for loving me just as I am! Thank you for blessing me with the incredible privilege of being a mom. And thank you for forgiving me everytime I fall short. Help me to become the very best mom you designed me to be. May my daily victories be as plentiful as the Cheerios stuck in my car seats, and my mommy mess-ups be as few as the quiet moments I have alone in the restroom. AMEN!