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If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.  ~~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

This week I had a conversation with another mom who is struggling with the all-too-familiar endless battle of finding a healthy balance with everything that she is navigating in her life. In listening and sharing my heart and my own journey with her, I felt led to share my own walk over the last nearly ten months here. Not for any other reason other than that we, as moms, share so many of the same struggles. We share the common daily battle of finding healthier balances with everything that we juggle in our lives. We share the same desire to want to be as healthy as we can be for our families with everything that we have, but so often, we just can’t figure out how to get there in the busy-ness of life. And we share the same daily challenge of feeling like we never have enough time to do everything that we need to do–including caring for ourselves. So often we feel like we care for everyone else and have absolutely nothing left to offer at the end of long, exhausting days. And some days, we just feel like we fall short.  Period.

I get it!  Really, I do. And I hope my own journey will be an encouragement to some of you who, like me, try and fail, try and fail, try and fail at achieving that perfect balance between being Mom and juggling many other things.  I’m positive that I won’t perfect the art of the healthy balance this side of heaven, but I sure am going to keep moving forward.

You see, ten months ago, that was me. I was the mother to nine of the most amazing children who was desperate for a healthier balance. Last year certainly had its challenges. The ebb and flow of life is normal, I’m still learning. I poured my whole heart into caring for my family and absolutely loved every minute of it. I got my certification as a health coach and made it my mission to continue to change our diets, get healthy food into my family, learn about alternative medicine options to keep our children with compromised immune systems healthy, and stole moments here and there to continue my studies in natural health. My family was doing well and each of my children was growing and blossoming. Life was busy with therapies, sports, four different schools, crazy schedules, a new job, endless grocery shopping, a gazillion medical appointments, and still finding time to pour into our marriage. I absolutely loved all those things.

But deep down, I was wrestling with so much. Living in a new city where we didn’t have any close friends, dealing with the deep, painful emotional wound of giving up our greatest dream to go back on the mission field, and just living with feelings of sadness mixed with loneliness left me feeling like I desperately needed to get to a place in my life where every part of me was better nurtured–my walk with God, physically and emotionally.

For so many years, I had neglected to care for me. In addition to that, for a year I had been struggling with the worst lower back pain ever–pain to the point of hardly being able to pick up my children. An MRI revealed herniation and degeneration of my four lower discs.  In addition, my SI joint was completely shot. Physical pain left me battling to get out of bed in the morning.

My children were growing and getting heavier, and I needed to make some major changes to be the best mom that I could be. I knew I needed to get stronger in order to help my back. I loved my life and counted my many blessings daily, but I knew I needed to take care of me too.

Me…who felt like I just never had enough hours in the day.

Me…who would much rather just be at home than commit to doing one more thing.

Me…who had never made a consistent effort to do anything other than being a wife and a mom.

Me…who already literally fell into bed at night.  Exhausted.

Me…who always, always had the best excuse in the world to not get moving. Moms of large families have an easy opt out.

Oh, I’ve exercised before.  Sure have!  Bought the gym memberships and used them for maybe a few weeks before I gave up with the best excuse under the sun, of course.

Last December, as my 45th birthday was fast approaching, I made the decision to be intentional about finding some form of exercise that I would actually enjoy and stick with. I used to be a competitive swimmer in high school, but that was a very, very long time ago. From my failed experiences in the gym, I knew that randomly getting on a treadmill just wasn’t going to do it for me.  I got bored quickly and gave up.  I also knew that finding some body conditioning or high-impact class wasn’t going to work either.  Been there, done that and didn’t love it. Instead, I needed a challenge. Something new. Something that I had never done before. Something where there would be community and other like-minded people.  I needed community!

So I googled. First up I found kick-boxing. Easy peasy, I thought!  Beating the heck out of a punching bag sounded so liberating–the perfect place to release some pent up emotional energy. With great enthusiasm, I signed up for my free trial class. My first step toward being healthier! Yay me! The next day I excitedly went to the class. Oh boy, oh boy! Was I clueless! Who knew that there were so many different ways to punch a stupid (seriously heavy!) bag?! Those massive gloves felt awkward and I just couldn’t get the hang of it. At all! And then add to the punching, there was also the kicking. I was utterly hopeless and felt like the most uncoordinated, unfit person on the planet. I just felt ridiculous. I ended up giggling my way through the entire class and counted down the seconds for the torture to end. I’m pretty sure the trainer dude didn’t even see an iota of hope in my cause. He never invited me back. I came home and declared to my family, “Ummm….never again!”

And that was that.

A few days later, while driving home from the grocery store, I noticed a new CrossFit gym where I shop. CrossFit?! I had seen a few ladies share their CrossFit pictures on Facebook and every time I wondered why anyone would ever choose to actually put themselves through that! Barbells? Weights? AMRAPS? WOD? I had no idea and the whole craze seemed slightly terrifying to my middle-aged self. The one thing I could tell from what others shared was that it was not for sissies. Strong chicks only! That alone immediately disqualified me from the deal. I have never been a very strong person. At all!

Still, I was curious. And for some crazy reason, I needed a very big challenge in my life.  Call it my midlife moment, or whatever.

I didn’t go straight home with my groceries that day. I walked into the gym, told the owner, Nate, that I had horrible back pain, hadn’t worked out for flipping centuries, didn’t know one single thing about CrossFit, was a total weakling, had never lifted a barbell or any kind of weighs in my forty five years of life on this earth, had a terrible fear of failing at this too, felt completely and utterly intimidated at the mere thought of even trying a class…

…but here I was with just one tiny thing in my favor.

I was willing to try.

I needed to try.

This time I didn’t do the free trial class nor did I do the required fundamentals class because it was in the evening, which is just not possible for me. I threw myself into the deep end and figured I’d learn as I went along. Probably not one of my finer decisions given my back issues, but that’s just how I roll…sink or swim.

The following day I nervously went to my first class. I walked in and my first thought was, “Geez! I am so freaking old to be doing this!” There were young people in that class. Lots of young people. And me. But from Day One I was accepted. In my umpteenth I seriously feel like I am about to die and go and meet Jesus face-to-face moments, to every tiny victory that I have had in the gym over the last nine months, I have been encouraged and inspired to work harder, get fitter, try new things that I never dreamed possible and reach new goals.

Photo courtesy of The Yet Cave.

Needless to say, the first three months were rough. Like, ROUGH! Between my messed up back and getting my very unfit body to do things that it had either never done before or last attempted when I was ten years old (think cartwheels and handstands!), I had days when muscles I never even knew I had screamed at me to just stop the madness. I had days back then when I wondered whether I had lost my mind for taking this crazy sport on.

Through every ache, every pain, and every ridiculously tough workout where I felt like giving up but somehow, somehow didn’t, I challenged myself to do just one thing consistently.

Not for anyone else.

But for me.

Just keep showing up.

No matter how hard it got and no matter how tired I felt, it felt so good to be taking care of me. And somewhere along the journey in those early days, something changed. As I trained my body to move again and pushed myself to get stronger, I started to feel so much better physically and emotionally. It felt so good to have a healthier balance in my life–one where I poured my whole heart and soul into my family and into becoming the very best me that I can be for them.

Day after day after day…

I just kept showing up.

I am almost ten months into my CrossFit journey now.  No, it hasn’t been at all easy. Truth is, it’s been one of the hardest darn things I have ever done. It hasn’t come naturally to me. But to see where I am now compared to where I was last December, it makes me a little tearful. For nineteen years I have been Mom and I have loved and treasured every minute of it. But to be in a season of life where I am setting myself goals again and reaching new personal bests, well, it just feels good. Not just for me, but to know that I am becoming the fittest, strongest mom my kids have ever had is a good feeling. And the sweetest part of the adventure for me has been involving my oldest sons and being able to work out with them.  They too have developed a love for the sport, and it’s been amazing watching them improve.

One year ago I didn’t feel like making the effort was worth it. I didn’t feel like I was worth it. But, as hard as it has been, I can honestly say with all my heart that, as a wife and a mother, making the time to become a healthier, happier version of me has been the very, very best thing that I could ever have done for my family. It’s been worth every sacrifice that I’ve had to make along the way and every early summer’s morning I had to get up to show up. I am so grateful for the community of friends that I have made along the way. Their support and encouragement has enabled me to believe once again that I really, really can do hard things.

Thanks for the gift of your friendship, Karen!  I am so blessed to know you.

Photo courtesy of The Yeti Cave

I still get mixed up with what movements go with which name and I have days when I wonder if I’ll ever master the stupid double under or be able to walk on my hands (probably not!), but I’m learning that that’s okay. I’ll never have my name on any leaderboard and I’ll probably still be perfecting my clean and jerk until kingdom come, and that too is okay. Because really, the only thing that truly matters is that win or lose, hit a personal best or not, succeed or fail a hundred times…

…the greatest desire of my heart is that I will be around for a very long time to care for my treasured family. And so, for today, and tomorrow, and for as long as the Lord enables me, I will continue to try new things, push myself a little harder…

…and just keep showing up.