Sunday, May 8, 2016

Marathon Mothering



I ran in my first, last, and only marathon in the fall of 2000.  Whatever gave me the idea that I could or even should run a marathon, I can't remember, but I did.  My husband had just left on his second overseas deployment, I had one child, and a ton of time on my hands.  I enjoyed running long distances, had a babysitter that lived next door, and 8 months of enough alone time that could, well, could fill a marathon.  I remember signing up, training, telling people I would be running, reading as much information I could get my hands on, and even had an online trainer.  I was as ready as one could be for the unknown.  Who told me I could run a marathon?

On the day of the marathon, I was 100% sure that I could not only run this race, but run it well.  I had even set a time for myself.  I didn't want to just finish, I wanted to finish the best I could.  I looked the part, I was as prepared as a rookie marathoner could be, and I was determined.  As the race started, my first rookie mistake was not taking into account my time slot.  I had signed up for my estimated time and to my surprise, it put me in the last third of the runners.  Before I ever crossed the starting line, not only had time on the overhead clock started ticking but runners were already crossing the 2 mile marker. I was already comparing myself to others.  A chip on my own shoe would start my real time, but for the entire race I would face the mental block of the starting line clock I crossed at 8+ minutes and every roadside clock I would pass.  I was losing confidence with each step forward.

I did it though, but not without scars.  Not without failure and not without self-doubt.  But what got me through were the others.

My husband.

He could have finished his first marathon about two hours quicker, but he chose to stick by my side.  He silently rooted me on.  He spoke words of encouragement and when I wanted to quit at mile 13, he wouldn't let me. I was close enough to the start to know I had to keep going but far enough from the finish I felt like I couldn't.  He walked when I walked, he stopped at my every porta potty stop, he grabbed water cups for me, he rooted me on.

Other runners.

They were of every shape, size, color, and ability.  Ones I thought would never make it were the very ones shouting cheers as they passed me, encouraging me on.  As runners were lined up along the bridge getting sick, you would hear shouts of encouragement from the ones passing, "Get it out and come on!"  "You're almost there!"  "Can't quit now!"  Some runners would stop and pick up lost bibs from sick runners, walk beside complete strangers and push them to continue.  Some would shout as they ran by.  But we were all going in the same direction.  All with a common goal.  Finishing what we had started.  What we had trained and wanted for so long.  There wasn't anyone whispering on the sidelines, "Look at her, she shouldn't be running!"  "Who told him he should be a runner??"  Not one biting word.  Not one sideways, prideful glance.

Spectators.

I guess what honestly surprised me the most were the very people who came out just to watch.  Those there to cheer on loved ones but added so many other runners to their list.  Runners had their names painted on their shirts and I quickly learned why, "Keep going Chris! You look great!"  "Water station is up ahead, Melissa, keep going!"  Cheering on those they knew and those they didn't.  Building up complete strangers because just from watching they knew how hard the task at hand was and how quickly those negative thoughts could sideline a runner who had come so far.  They sat through hours and miles of runners and held signs, passed out waters, and patted others  on the back.  I ran next to a woman who had "Amy" written on her shirt and those shouts of encouragement meant for her, were heard by me and I seemed to run a little easier.

The finish line came whether I expected to or not.  Those 26 miles seemed to go so slow as I was running but in the last .2, I couldn't believe it was over.  It had gone so fast and it was done.  I was done.  I got a medal on my neck, a silver blanket wrapped around my shoulders, and a banana placed in my hand, but quickly they were looking beyond me.  To those coming.  Ready to do the same.  Welcome them.  So many runners crossed the finish line and went back to run with others trying to finish.  So many found friends, and coworkers to encourage.  Others went to stand at the finish and cheer the hundreds left.  No one was comparing.  No one was judging.  It was all about getting everyone across that line.

I didn't see the final runner cross that line. But one thing I am certain, there were people there.  Not shouting, "Come on!  Everyone is ready to go home."  "What is taking you so long?"  "Why are you so slow?"  There were shouts of welcome.  I can almost imagine the cheering was even louder for the last runner who stayed the course than for even the first.  What I learned that day was a marathon is not a race for 99% of the people who enter; it's not a race because in a race someone has to win.  It's a run.  A run to start, make it through each mile, and finish.

Today, God brought to mind mothering.  On the eve of Mother's Day, I can't help but reflect on my own mothering.  Sometimes I look back to March 17, 1999 and I think how confident I was.  I had read all of the books.  I had prepared a nursery.  I had bought all of the cute clothes and the latest and greatest gadgets.  But nothing could have prepared me for my first moment of mothering.  As he cried those first nights in the hospital and I couldn't find a way to feed him or soothe him and I felt behind before I even began.  Who told me I could be a mother?  Walking into that hospital I was prepared and confident, walking out was a completely different story.  From that very moment of strapping him into the carseat and wondering how all of the buckles fit, I have been losing confidence ever since.  But what has gotten me this far, is not my preparation, my knowledge…it's the others.  The others that have built into me.

My husband.

He has been my biggest cheerleader since walking into that hospital.  He never left my side.  He encouraged me in that delivery room and everyday since.  When those fears and doubts and moments of failure creep in, he pushes them out with his words of confidence.  He points me to our Savior.  He speaks Truth.  He never lets me wallow in self-doubt.  He has my back and I don't think I could have done a marathon without him but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I could not do this mothering marathon without him.

Other mothers and spectators.

You know the ones.  The ones who validate.  Those who affirm.  Those who just let you ramble.  Those who don't let you down.  Those who love because they know how important this job is.  I have had older women come along side and speak Truth in love.  I have had pep talks from my mom.  I have had pity parties with my sisters and shared yellow cake and chocolate frosting and all of a sudden I can keep going.  I have had women in my same season of life walk beside me and bounce ideas with.  We have grabbed coffee, swapped kids, run miles together.  All the while loving one another just because we are on the same path.  I have passed younger mothers and have seen that look.  I hope I have spoken encouragement to them and helped them to run just a little bit stronger.  I have been "cheered" on by complete strangers, those who just know how hard this job of mothering can be.

God.

He is the very one I do this for.  His glory.  His plan and His purpose.  He tells me that I can do this.  He knows my name.  He is the living water.  He is my source of strength.  He is my reason to get up everyday and do what He has called me to do.  He is not comparing me to all of the others.  He knows my struggles and knows the right words to keep me moving forward.  He is there for each and everyone of us as we run this marathon of mothering.  His love and compassion is as great for the first as it will be for the last.  These children?  They are His.  They are His reward.  Our medals.  He wants them to rise up and bless us and shine for His Son.  The end of the run is not our reward, He says the very run itself is.

Why do we make mothering a contest?  Why do we compare ourselves, our children, our marriages?  Why do we think it's all about being better than the next person?  On this Mother's Day, why can't it be our marathon?  Why don't we stop watching others and judging them and just encourage them?  There is a common goal, especially for families of Believers…to see each other and our children in Eternity.  Why don't we cheer them on?  Why don't we come beside and hand each other Truth?  Why don't we stop running and take a minute to walk to encourage another?

My running marathon days are behind me... I think.  But my mothering days are not. I feel like I am at mile marker 13.  Close enough to the start to know I have to keep going, but far enough from the finish to feel weary.  I am currently purposeful in surrounding myself with other marathoning mothers.  Those headed in the same direction, with the same goals.  Those who just want to encourage and love me where I am. We don't look the same and the way we run our own marathons of mothering won't look the same either. I am determined to be one of the marathoning mothers for those around me.  I want to encourage, cheer you on, and truly celebrate with you when you finish your mile well and eventually come to the end.  Then I want to go back~run along side those still in the run.  Those who just need that one spoken word to keep going.  I want to finish my marathon well and help those around me, in front of me, and behind me finish well too.  This Mother's Day, let's not make it about ourselves but about all of us.  One run.  One goal.  One Mothering Marathon.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

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