What a 3-month-old baby taught me about bathroom politics.

Lately, it feels like controversy is constantly all up in my face. So. much. input. Social media, blogs, articles, posts, comments. Everyone has an opinion. I end up feeling like I ought to have a “stance” on everything. And, if I’m honest, as a Christian it feels even MORE like I should have this stuff figured out. (Whatever “this stuff” means this week.)

“Where do YOU stand on this issue?”

Ummm? Honestly, I can’t even explain the dinosaurs. Can someone help a sister out? Because whether it’s dinosaurs or bathroom policies, there must be an actual “right” answer! Right?

But how can so many people have so many different right answers?

And on top of THAT, how can two people who both love God, walk with Jesus, and even study His Word – end up on different sides of the same issue?

I’m exhausted.

My brain needs a break. My answer-finder, stance-determiner, stand-maker needs a rest. Because even if I think I understand what’s “right” or “wrong,” somehow I can still do what is right in the wrong way.

So, I’m calling a timeout.

Have we considered – or maybe we’ve just forgotten – that we aren’t supposed to have it all figured out?

Psalm 131 says, “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful to me. [“BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DINOSAURS!?!”] But I have calmed and quieted myself. I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”

Lately, it feels like controversy is constantly all up in my face. Between articles, posts, and comments — there is so. much. input. On EVERYTHING. And then it feels like I should have a “stance” on everything too. But what if I just DON’T KNOW. Then what? Thankfully, I got my answer from my friend’s baby. Not kidding. Maybe it will help you too.Okay, not to nitpick, but, why a weaned child? Why not just any child? Don’t you imagine any child in its mother’s arms as sweet and and at rest?

Well, if you ask a nursing mother, the answer is NOPE.

Just yesterday, I watched my friend Amy hand over her almost-3-month-old son to her husband at bedtime. “Please, you take him. He settles down better with you. He just thinks of me as the food source.”

And it’s true, right? A nursing child, when cradled near his mother’s breast, is constantly looking for an answer to his hunger. It’s difficult for him to truly rest in her arms. My own children would never rest when I cradled them near my chest because they would instantly – whether instinctively or habitually – begin rooting for milk, restlessly looking for something from me.

Is that how I spend my time with God? Constantly seeking answers, understanding, or revelation? More, more, more?

Or can I simply rest in His presence? Can I stop this perpetual rooting for answers or whatever, and be content to be held?

Can I trust He knows what I need, and will provide it at the right time?

There is so much – some old (AGAIN, DINOSAURS.), some new (BAAAAATHROOOOOOMS) – just  so much I just DON’T KNOW. Yes, I’m a Christian. And no, I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what’s best. I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know.

But here’s what I DO know.

God is good.

God loves us. (All of us.)

We’re not perfect. (None of us.)

This separates us from God. (All of us.)

But, God doesn’t want even one of us to remain separated from Him. (None of us!)

So, Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin and give us access to God. (All of us!)

But, God will not force anyone to love Him. (None. None of us.)

So, we each have the opportunity to accept and receive this gift of salvation through Jesus. We have a choice. (All. of. us.)

For me, I have chosen to accept this gift from Jesus – the gift of Jesus. I’m different because of Him. In every way that is good, I am different because of His presence in my life. And I could spend the rest of my life trying to put into words who He is and all He’s done. I probably will, actually.

And in the meantime, I’m sure I will keep asking for wisdom and clarity and understanding. That is not all bad. There will be answers to find and stances to take and stands to make.

But when I don’t understand, when I don’t know the answers, may I release the quest to know more, and rest in the invitation to know Him. And by knowing Him, I believe even the way I walk through my “not knowing” will be better, truer, holier, and more loving – more like Him.


Lent for the rest of us: 2016 (Free printable reading plan!)

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is on February 10 this year, and leads us to Easter on March 27. Are you familiar with Lent?

I used to get super stressed about this season. Lent. This 40-day journey leading up to Easter… a time to prepare our hearts for Jesus… all He is and all He’s done. (No pressure, right!?)

There are many ways to engage in the Lenten season – prayer, fasting, simplistic living – all with the aim of drawing closer to God. In the past, I leaned toward the Downward Spiral route into “how can I possibly prepare my heart (AND my children’s hearts!!!) to even REMOTELY grasp what Easter really means.” And, being a recovering perfectionist, I can still easily fall into the “All or Nothing” trap. (I can’t do it ALL, so I’ll do NOTHING.) (So healthy, I know.)

This is a simple, meaningful tradition to begin with your children for the season of Lent, leading up to Easter! Enjoy this free printable reading plan!But two years ago, I began a simple new tradition with my children for these weeks leading up to Easter: we read The Jesus Storybook Bible from the very beginning through the Resurrection story. One chapter a day, for each day of Lent.

(If you’re doing the math, don’t despair — the 40 days excludes Sundays — so yes, there are actually more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.)

And you guys – reading this together has been so powerful. (Even if you don’t have children, please get a copy and read it anyway. I promise you’ll be glad you did. I get at least as much out of it as my kids.)

“But Lent and Easter are about JESUS. Why would you start all the way back at the BEGINNING of the Bible? Doesn’t Jesus show up much later?”

I’m so glad you asked!

Did you know that the entire Bible points to Jesus? All the way back to the beginning. As The Jesus Storybook Bible says: “Every story whispers His name.” Where better to start than the beginning?

To help you stay on track with which chapter you’re on, I’ve put together a new 2016 Lent Reading Plan. (And bonus – if you fold it in half lengthwise, it makes a great bookmark!) Click here or on the image below to download the FREE printable file!

Don’t have a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible yet? You can click here to purchase a copy on Amazon. Order quick and you’ll have plenty of time to catch up on the reading! 🙂

What do you think of this idea? What does your family do to prepare for and celebrate Easter? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

This is a simple, meaningful tradition to begin with your children for the season of Lent, leading up to Easter! Enjoy this free printable reading plan!
Click to open free printable!


43 Songs: The Ultimate Running Playlist

While visiting my parents in Indiana, I thought I’d be able to keep up my training for an upcoming half marathon (I’m planning to NOT repeat this total FAIL). But, I’m currently stuck inside, watching the freezing rain outside, and am just not hard core enough today to get out there and run in that mess.

Whether you're in marathon training or just looking for a great workout mix, this Ultimate Running Playlist is sure to get you moving!Meanwhile, why not take this time to finally share my running playlist with you? I listened to this mix while training to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It’s pretty random – and no, I wouldn’t let my kids listen to some of these songs – but they all either make me happy or pump me up.

So, without further ado, The Ultimate Running Playlist:

1. Renegades– X Ambassadors
2. Fight Song – Rachel Platten
3. Love Runs Out – OneRepublic
4. Stitches – Shawn Mendes
5. Shots – Imagine Dragons
6. TiK ToK – Ke$ha
7. Rolling in the Deep – Adele
8. Raise Your Glass [Clean] – Pink
9. Photograph – Ed Sheeran
10. One Thing – One Direction
11. Lose Yourself [Clean] – Eminem
12. Drive By – Train
13. Counting Stars – OneRepublic
14. Good Feeling – Flo Rida
15. Black Widow [feat. Rita Ora] [Clean] – Iggy Azalea
16. Try – Pink
17. I Lived – OneRepublic
18. Maps – Maroon 5
19. Boom Clap – CharliXCX
20. You Make Me Brave – Bethel Music
21. Bang Bang – Ariana Grande & Jessie J & Nicki Minaj
22. Brave – Sara Bareilles
23. Greater – MercyMe
24. Titanium (Feat. Sia) – David Guetta
25. Team – Lorde
26. Dark Horse – Katy Perry
27. Grenade – Bruno Mars
28. There You Go – Pink
29. Roar – Katy Perry
30. Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men
31. We Found Love – Rihanna
32. Burn – Ellie Goulding
33. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
34. Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson
35. Club Can’t Handle Me (feat. David Guetta) – Flo Rida
36. Feel Again – OneRepublic
37. Firework – Katy Perry
38. Cruise – Florida Georgia Line
39. The Lost Are Found – Hillsong Worship
40. Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
41. Awake My Soul (with Lecrae) – Chris Tomlin
42. Part Of Me – Katy Perry
43. Geronimo – Sheppard

What’s on your favorite playlist? What should I add?

When you can’t find Jesus.

"What if I can't find Jesus, mama?" The answer that came was for both of us. Maybe it's for you, too.“Mama, what happens when we die?”

She snuggled in close, 6-year-old daughter of mine, worried sick that night about tornadoes and the world and big scary things.

“We go to heaven to be with Jesus, baby.”

Her head cradled in the crook of my arm, eyes turned up toward me, wide and worried, “But what if I die and you don’t? What if I can’t find Jesus, Mama?”

Arms enfold in a fierce embrace. The tears now mine. “Oh, honey. Sweet baby girl.

Jesus finds YOU.”

And He does, doesn’t He? And not just then, but here and now.

Where are you? Have you been looking for Him? Are you wondering? Wandering?

He WANTS to be in relationship with you, you know. He WANTS to be found by you.

DO you know this?

Do you ever feel like you’re looking for Jesus and you can’t find Him? Or worse, that He’s intentionally hiding from you?

This is not my Jesus. This is not the Jesus of the Bible.

The Jesus of my Bible wants to be found by you. The Jesus of my Bible is not waiting for you to get yourself figured out or get Him figured out or attain some height of revelation or depth of understanding.

The Jesus of my Bible simply says, “Come.”

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

Tell Him you want to know Him, you want to find Him – take that first step, and see that He’s already taken all the other steps.

Seek Him, and discover He has already sought you.

And you are found.

James 4-8



I recently ran my second marathon, and, considering my Top Three Love Languages are 1. Words of Affirmation, 2. Words of Affirmation, and 3. High Fives, it’s no surprise that Marathon Day was the best. day. ever.

Consequently, the only suitable way to recall said marathon is with an outpouring of thanks and gratitude to some of the unsung heroes of the day:

Thank you, Marriott employees, for re-labeling the men’s restroom to become a 2nd ladies’ room. Because ladies stop being ladies when it’s 10 minutes to the starting gun and the bathroom line is 73 deep.

Thank you, kind people collecting discarded clothing at the starting line. Hoodies were flying left and right in those first steps, and it was nice to know it would all be cleaned and donated.

Thank you, ringers of cowbells and makers of signs. Thank you, in particular, to the makers of the following signs:

motivational sign


Enough said, really.




free banana


Not entirely inaccurate.




your mom


(I know you don’t get it, Mom.)

(Yes, it’s inappropriate.)

(And really funny.)


Thank you, tall skinny man running in front of me on the bridge. Though he be skinny, he be blocking some wind.

Thank you, o husband of mine, for handing me a bottle of flat Coke (a.k.a. Sweet Nectar From Heaven) at mile 17. Also, thank you, kind woman who took the bottle from me a block later and promised to dispose of it properly so as to keep me from being a total litterbug.

Thank you, little girl handing out Krispy Kreme donuts at mile 18. May the Lord richly bless you and your household tenfold for generations to come.

Thank you, every. single. child. who reached out for a high five. YOU’RE ALL MY FAVORITES.

Thank you, people who yelled, “You’re almost there!” at mile 19. You’re a bunch of well-meaning liars. You are not my favorites.

marathon bib


Thank you, person responsible for printing my name on my bib, and thank you, every single blessed person who cheered for me by name. I know you didn’t actually know me, but at mile 20, who gives a rip?


Thank you, two girls who simply yelled in high-pitched voices, “You’re SOOOO PRETTY!” to each and every runner. Although your sobriety was questionable at best, let’s be honest: who DOESN’T like to be called pretty at mile 21?

Thank you, feet, for faithfully carrying my body, mile after mile. After mile. Even though I distinctly remember thinking at mile 23: “I can’t feel my feet…. Suck it up. WHO NEEDS FEET!?” (I take it back. I need you, feet. I do.)

Thank you, finish line volunteers who placed a medal around my neck, a drink in my hand, and a blanket over my shoulders. And thank you, kind veteran runner standing nearby who reminded me to STRETCH and KEEP MOVING as my hips and quads locked the heck up.

Thank you, nice lady who let me borrow your cell phone to call my husband when I couldn’t find him after I finished. You were undeterred by my sweaty, salty state, and I am grateful.

marathon pic square



Thank you, photographer who got this shot of me somewhere around mile 25.




See that joy on my face? That is the face of a woman who is close enough to the finish to know she is not only going to reach her goal and qualify for the Boston Marathon, but she is also going to NOT POOP HER PANTS. And THAT, my friends, is a victory we can all be thankful for.

Force Quit: an invitation

In three days, I’ll run a marathon. I have poured hours and miles of hard work into preparing.

But just weeks ago, I thought my efforts were all in vain.

It was August. School had started for BOTH of my children, and for the first time since I could remember, how I spent my day was in MY CONTROL. The season of school-age children had finally arrived. (Cue the singing angels.)

I had looked forward to this Promised Land with great anticipation — and it was the very reason I had chosen these months to train for another marathon: MARGIN! TIME! AUTONOMY!

And then, I (repeatedly) received this question: “What are you going to DO all day!?”

While I could’ve simply shrugged my shoulders with glee, I instead received the well-meaning question as a challenge. An accusation, even.

Defenses high, I began living every day from a place of, “Oh, I’ll SHOW YOU what I’m going to do all day. I’ll be PLENTY BUSY, thankyouverymuch.”

I was living my everyday Mom Life, plus training for the marathon. But then I just kept adding things to my plate. Like, All The Things. (Because I MUST DO ALL THE THINGS BECAUSE NOW I HAVE ALL THE TIME. Obviously.) And as my schedule filled up with All The Good Important Things, REST quickly became… well, not a thing.

But the snowball had started rolling, and that sucker is hard to stop once it’s rolling downhill. Partly because I felt like, if ever, NOW is when I actually *should* be able to finally DO IT ALL.  And partly because I was scared of what it would mean about me if I had “all this time” and still *couldn’t* DO IT ALL.

Force QuitWell, let me ask you a question. Do you know the “Force Quit” option on your computer? I am quite familiar with this function because I tend to leave programs open and running forever and ever amen. So, when I try to actually shut down my laptop, there are often programs that REFUSE TO STOP RUNNING, which then keeps the computer from rebooting.

So, I have to choose “Force Quit.”

Hm. Sounds kind of familiar.

I can only run so hard for so long. Literally and figuratively.

And so one day in September, I caught my daughter’s innocent little cough. And my body – over-taxed and under-rested – took it and turned it into full-blown pneumonia.

Weeks into marathon training, that’s like a punch in the gut. (More like a knife in the lung, really.) Pneumonia!? PNEUMONIA!

And I could see it: FORCE QUIT.

Temporary, yes. But real. And real inconvenient.

I was terrified. If I stopped, how would I ever get going again? How would I regain any momentum? How could I possibly recover from this setback?

And then God opened my eyes to an alternate view. Instead of a setback, He revealed an invitation. An invitation to REST. Without guilt. Without shame. I had a “MUST REST” trump card: I had pneumonia, for crying out loud. You’re not LAZY if you rest while you have PNEUMONIA. You’re just following doctor’s *very adamant* orders!

I canceled appointments. I didn’t work out. I didn’t go out. I didn’t volunteer. I stopped. For almost two weeks, I just plain stopped.

Now, several weeks later – and just days away from the marathon – I look back on that “Force Quit” with immense gratitude. It truly WAS an invitation – but not just to stop and rest. It was also an invitation to gain respect my body’s NEED for rest – and its ability to GET BACK UP AGAIN.

Our need for rest is not a sign of weakness. It’s evidence of being HUMAN. The main reason I chose to train for a marathon this year is because I knew the kids would both be in school and I would have time to TAKE A NAP. EVERY. DAY. Because I know I need so much more sleep when I train this hard. Yet, when it came time to give that to myself, it felt like a failure, so I kept the program running, active, busy.

What would it feel like to embrace your need to rest – without shame. Without needing to prove that you can DO ALL THE THINGS with ALL THE TIME.

“Hello, my name is Amanda. I have two children in school. What do I DO with myself all day? Well, I do some stuff. But I also take a nap. I TAKE A NAP.” Because I need it. Also, because I want to and because I have time for it during this season, if I protect it.

Does this make me lazy? No. It makes me NOT AN IDIOT. If you’re tired and you have 30 minutes to spare for a nap: YOU TAKE A NAP. If “Me-as-a-Mom-with-two-little-kids-climbing-her-legs-all-day” saw “Me Today” pass up a nap, she would throat punch me. Super hard.

Where do you need to respect your need for rest? In what ways do you need to choose a “Force Quit?”

Throwback Thursday: And now you know.

As of next week, I will have two children in elementary school. That is ALL OF MY CHILDREN. As in, THERE WILL BE NO CHILDREN AT MY HOUSE ALL DAY.

Part of me (okay, a LOT of me) is just trying to keep my excitement at a civilized level.

Another part of me is simply stunned at how quickly we’ve reached this season. And if I linger too long over it, my heart feels that familiar squeeze all over again.

Here’s what I wrote the first time around, with Owen. (It all seemed a bit more intense with him. He’s my first. So, I guess that makes sense.)

But she’s my last. I’m finding that brings an ache of its own.

Originally published on August 18, 2014.

I cried the Ugly Cry today. Sometimes it seems my kids are just growing up so fast. So much that I cried the Ugly Cry about it today. Am I the only one who’s thought "WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO!?” Whether your children are babies or grown, find encouragement in this short must-read.

My firstborn, my baby boy, that sweet boy who made me a mama, that bundle of life who waited so long and then came so fast I hardly knew what hit me…

He starts school in one week.

One week from today, I will drive him to a sweet old elementary school and entrust him to the care of an exceptional staff for SEVEN HOURS. And I will do this FIVE DAYS A WEEK.

He will be just three miles away. He will have the time of his life.

And I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest.

I remember the first night I laid that baby boy to sleep in his crib in his own room. He was three steps away. But he was SO SMALL. And that crib seemed SO BIG.

Post-partum hormones crashed like a wave, and I hiccup-sobbed to my mom, “I just LOVE. HIM… SO… MUCH…”

She held me close (stifling a giggle at my snotty-hiccuppy-Ugly-Cry) and said, “And now you know.”

She pulled back so she could look in my eyes and said with all the fervor in her heart, “I still feel that way about you.”

Oh, God.

“WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO!?” I cry to Heaven, now over six years later.

And I don’t mean sending my child to school. I mean BECOMING A MOTHER.

God, how do our hearts survive this?

The cry gets uglier as I picture my aunt sending her twin boys to COLLEGE over the weekend. It seems just yesterday that THEY were babies.

In twelve years, I’ll be doing the same thing. In twelve short years, we’ll help this boy, this precious boy who laid so small in a great big crib, move into a dorm and then out in the world, and he just seems so little, and the world is just so big, and GOD, MY HEART CANNOT BEAR THIS.

Maybe next year I’ll be the mom at the end of the summer saying, “Please! Teachers! Take him back! I’m dying here!”

But this is not that year. This year, our first year sending our son to school, I hold him close. I marvel at how he’s grown, how tall he is, how funny, how altogether incredible to me.

And I marvel still more that of all the little boys in all of time, this boy calls me Mom.

My mom was right. Now I know. Oh, how I know. This ache. This blessed ache of a mother’s heart… It started with you, son. You’ve ruined me. In the most sacred of ways, you’ve ruined me.

And God, You have the audacity to say you love this child EVEN MORE THAN I DO? That claim would really piss me off, except that I know it’s true. Oh thank You, Jesus, it’s true.

Fresh tears roll as He draws me near, whispering with all the fervor in His heart:

“And now you know…

I feel that way about you.”

1John419**Hey, mama! Are you feeling a lot more “WOOHOO!!” than “Boohoo” about your kid going to school? Do you want to vomit if one more person tells you to savor every moment? Then, you probably want to read this OTHER post I wrote. 😉

There is room at the table for all of us.


One BIG parenting mistake I KEEP MAKING! (And the simple fix.)

We all make parenting mistakes. But this is a BIG ONE I just. keep. making. Have you made the same one? Find encouragement - and a solution - in this helpful post.Outwardly, I would say I do okay as a mom. But to be painfully honest, I feel like I’m really messing up. Like REALLY messing up. And I don’t even know how to be better.

Oh, I have THEORIES on how to be better. Those are crystal clear when I judge all the OTHER moms. But when shit gets real in my own home, I spin my wheels again.

My daughter whines. I’m talking Champion Whiner. The whiniest kid on the block. And she’s not 2. She’s almost 6. It’s not cute.

My son has developed social anxiety, and I can’t crack the code on why it started or how to fix it.

My exhaustion over my daughter’s whining is compounded by shame. It berates me:

You should’ve nipped this in the bud YEARS ago.

You KNOW your friends must say she’s the whiniest kid they know.

You’re her MOTHER. What’s wrong with you?

My concern about my son’s fear snowballs wildly:

What have you DONE (or not) to hurt his confidence?

Did something HAPPEN?

You’re his MOTHER. Why can’t he TELL YOU what’s wrong?

As I write down my thoughts, I recognize a theme: ME. I’ve made it all about ME.

In an attempt to be a good mom, a better mom, the BEST MOM I CAN BE, I have framed THEIR lives as a barometer of what I’M doing right or wrong. ME. ME. ME.

When did I forget that my children are on THEIR own journey of growth? A journey of learning to walk with Jesus. To depend on Jesus. To recognize – for themselves – their personal need for Jesus.

If my daughter whines every day, it’s not just because I have failed as a mother. IT’S BECAUSE SHE’S A HUMAN ON THIS PLANET AND SHE SINS LIKE THE REST OF US. I’m ALSO not handling my role in it perfectly. But may I not be so consumed with self-loathing that I forget SHE NEEDS JESUS, TOO.

If my son wrestles with anxiety, it’s not just because I haven’t loved him well enough. IT’S BECAUSE HE’S A HUMAN ON THIS PLANET AND HE NEEDS JESUS LIKE THE REST OF US. And, yes I’m still over here, being not perfect. But again, may I not be so consumed with MY anxiety about HIS anxiety that I forget to LET HIM EXPERIENCE HIS NEED FOR JESUS.

My children were not created to simply be agents in MY personal growth. God certainly does use them to refine me. (Understatement of the century.) But to consistently frame THEIR struggles as being all about ME and MY failures (or their victories as being all about ME and MY awesomeness — ouch) is to crowd out the greater reality: they are each on a journey with and toward Jesus. This is their journey of learning to trust Him and to trust His power to help them overcome their struggles.

Whether I’ve cast myself as the hero or the villain, I AM NOT THE STAR PLAYER IN MY KIDS’ STRUGGLES.

Yes, I’ve been given a crucial supporting role.

But the story of my child’s life is NOT. ABOUT. ME.

We MUST STOP making our children’s struggles (and strengths!) all about us. Instead, let’s use that time, effort, and brain space to fix our attention back on Jesus. On what He’s doing in us. On what He’s doing in them. That’s what our kids need anyway, right? More of Jesus. More of seeing their mom need Jesus. And more of seeing Jesus come through for us both.

Have you found this to be true in your parenting? What difference would it make for you to believe your child’s struggle – or strength – isn’t all about you?

Throwback Thursday: A simple plan for your worst! race! ever! (I do dumb things.)

I recently began training for my second marathon, and I’m pretty pumped about it. While there’s much to do in preparation, I can largely capture what NOT to do in this little post from last year.

Happy Throwback Thursday, people. Enjoy the laughs.

Originally published on March 10, 2014.

I did something really stupid.If you’re looking for how to run your BEST RACE EVER - this is totally NOT IT. (But if you want to feel better about yourself - or just need a really good laugh - you want to read this right now.)

I ran a half marathon.

For which I had not trained.

I don’t mean I just didn’t get in any tempo runs or mile repeats or whatever. I mean my longest “long run” was 5 miles. Also, my average weekly mileage was 5 miles. So basically I’d been going for a 5-mile run once a week for the past 8 weeks. That means this half marathon was 13.1 miles of Pure Crazy, people.

Back when I registered, the plan had been to give myself something to train for and set myself up to feel like complete awesomeness on my 35th birthday.

As described above, that didn’t really pan out, but my competitive nature still kicked in and said, “Do it. You can gut this out. Get out there. This thing CAN’T HOLD YOU DOWN. YOU’RE ARUNNERDAMMIT.”

That kind of self-talk can only lead to good things, right?

Fast forward to race morning. My alarm goes off. I don’t remember why my alarm is going off so early on a Saturday morning. I hit snooze, drowsily hoping I’ll know what’s going on when it goes off again.

Alarm goes off again. I bolt upright in bed, remembering: RACE. This thought is not met with joy.

Stumbling into the bathroom, I find a note from my husband written in shaving cream across the bathroom mirror. “Good luck. Love u.” My first thought is, “Seriously, I JUST cleaned that damn mirror. I am not cleaning that up.” Then I decide it was thoughtful and I’m a jerk.

I go through an abbreviated version of my race-morning routine. The abbreviated version because, typically, hitting snooze is not included in the routine and I’m suddenly panicked because I don’t know how to get to where I need to park uptown and why did I hit snooze I NEED THOSE NINE MINUTES BAAAAACK.

I grab my race bib & a cup of coffee, and run out the door.

I get three minutes away from my house and realize I’m starving and about to run a half marathon on a glass of water and a cup of coffee.

So, naturally, I go through the McDonald’s Drive Thru. Yes, really.

I eat a Bacon, Egg, & Cheese. ON MY WAY TO THE RACE. Like a boss.

My ninja-like navigation skillz lead me successfully around the correct parking garage three times and then into a different parking garage and then straight to the (3/4-mile-long) line of women waiting to use the bathroom.

Next stop: the starting line. This race doesn’t have designated pacing groups, and the half-marathon start is combined with the 5K start. So determining similarly-paced runners can be tricky. Left to my own devices, I resort to a tried and true method: look at people and make judgements about their fitness level based on their appearance.

The man with the teeny shorts, spindly legs, and Garmin the size of his head?
Too fast for me.

The woman in the compression socks and double braids with ice in her veins?
Too fast for me.

I wisely choose to start near the big man wearing jeans.

The gun goes off. Eleven minutes later, I cross the starting line.

The next 5 miles are quite delightful. Of course they are. I run 5 miles every week.

Miles 6, 7, & 8 are less delightful, but I’m still moving, spurred along by the cheers and homemade signs of my fans the people who know the people around me.

SIDE NOTE: In the “Homemade Signs That Made Me Smile Through the Pain” Contest, an adorable pair of little boys win 1st place with:

Second place goes to:
(Although I actually am wearing underwear, so I quickly turn my smile into a frown for the sake of accuracy.)

Third place belongs to:
RUN YOUR BUTT OFF!!! Oh wait, you don’t have one.

And honorable mention goes to:

The reason the last one only receives an honorable mention is I can only smile for a moment before I’m paranoid that THERE IS NO ONE BEHIND ME. I am in last place, aren’t I?

But I reach mile 9, and something wonderful happens. My legs go numb.

I run the next mile or so in a zombie-like state, thinking, “Just get to 10 before you walk.”

I pass the 10-mile mark, the numbness fades, and the pain rolls in with a vengeance. My competitive side suddenly barks, “Suck it up! You DON’T WALK IN A RACE!”

My realistic side says, “Excuse me. You are not, in fact, racing. You had a Bacon, Egg, & Cheese for breakfast, and you are shuffling. You can walk faster than you are currently running.”

I walk.

Fellow competitors shuffle past (I wasn’t in last place!), and through miles 10-12, I intersperse 3-4 walk breaks amid my shuffle-running.

With one (POINT ONE) mile to go, I find new strength. (Due in small part to my strong desire for the whole thing to be over already, and in large part to the woman on the sidewalk holding the neon green sign declaring, “YOU CAN.”)

I make the last turn, and the final quarter mile lies before me. At that very moment, heaven opens and the angels start singing “Can’t Hold Us.” Okay, maybe it’s Macklemore on my playlist, but whatevs. It’s a gift from the good Lord, and I receive it.

I truck it across the finish line like the man in jeans is chasing me. (Kind of fast, but not really.) Before I even know what has happened, I’m holding a finisher’s medal and a bottle of PowerAde.

I wish I had a huge spiritual epiphany to share about this experience. But sometimes the only epiphany He gives me is, “It’s really stupid to not train for a half marathon and then run it anyway. But good job. Kind of.”

Well, amen to that. Here’s to learning lessons the hard way. And Advil. Lots and lots of Advil.

Here’s to you. Yes, you.

Here’s to you, the one who got out of bed this morning. Who put on her big girl panties and drove to work. Who stayed home and made another. blessed. PB&J. Who got outside and ran one more mile. Who cleaned up somebody’s mess. Literally or figuratively. Again.

Here’s to you, the one who thinks she’s not making progress. That if she were, then things would feel easier by now. That she wouldn’t be so tired. Still. That she would just be somehow, some way, better.

Here’s to you, the one who forgets how far she’s actually come. That she has moved forward. That she’s still tired, NOT because she’s still so weak, but because she’s RUNNING FURTHER.

Here’s to you. The one who’s still showing up.

You’ve come further than you think.

Here's to you, the one who got out of bed this morning. The one who thinks she's not making progress. The one who forgets how far she's come.