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the year that changed me

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

That wise ancient proverb is so true, isn’t it? Every single journey that we have ever taken as a family—no matter whether it’s moving continents, adopting a child, starting a new venture, making decisions regarding our children—every single one of them has required a single step forward.

A tiny step toward a goal. Toward change.

Armed sometimes with only a tiny mustard seed of faith, a sometimes even pitiful, miniscule step forward toward a new challenge or a life-changing event can make such a difference!

It can change everything!

Sixteen months ago, I took a tiny step toward becoming a better, stronger, healthier me. I had not consistently exercised for many years and was the most out of shape I had ever been in my life.  From out of nowhere, it felt like, the pounds had snuck up on me. The afternoons left me dragging with very little energy to get through the rest of the day. I knew that I desperately needed a change. For me, yes, most definitely. But mostly for the family who God has given me to care for. I wanted to become a stronger, more energetic, healthier, fitter version of me to be the very best that I could be for them.

I longed to give them the very best of me!

To say that my journey into the crazy world of CrossFit has been one of the hardest, most stretching things I have ever done is an understatement. I so clearly remember walking into the gym for my very first class absolutely terrified of the step that I had just taken. I had never lifted a barbell in my life and the thought of doing a handstand at my age left me feeling like my only option was to leg it out of there as fast as my extremely unfit legs could carry me.

Miraculously, I didn’t. I stayed. For many months now I have consistently worked on improving my health and my strength. It’s been ridiculously humbling, to say the least. In all these months, I think I can count on one hand the number of workouts I have been able to complete as prescribed. I quickly learned that the word “modify” would become my BFF in CrossFit. It’s been insanely tough. And it’s been the very best decision that I could ever have made for me. I have learned how to do things that I never imagined possible for a non-athlete like me. In spite of dealing with a super-messed-up lower back and living with chronic pain every day of my life, with the help of incredible coaching and a community that I have come to love dearly, I have pushed this middle-aged body of mine to do things that felt literally impossible just one year ago.

Last week I lay on my bed and fought back tears. I had made a very big (and totally dumb!) mistake in the gym and had taken a fall straight onto my extremely tender lower back. I knew instantly that the impact had caused even more damage to my already degenerated, bulging discs and my sacroiliac joint that causes me an enormous amount of pain. Hardly able to move, I lay wondering if I would even be able to continue with my CrossFit journey.

As I rested (whatever that means!) last weekend I could not help but think about my new lifestyle of learning what it means to find a healthier balance in my life, and being consistent in doing something that makes me a better wife and mother. With my pain level through the roof, it would have been so easy for me to walk away from everything that I have worked for in the gym.  Everything that I have worked so hard to improve or even just be able to get sort of right for the first time (which for me is always a sweet victory because absolutely nothing comes naturally to my uncoordinated self in the gym).

Because, sadly, that’s me. For so many years I have done just that. With my very legitimate excuses, of course. When I have felt a sense of failure, I have chosen to close the door and walk as far away from the thing that caused me pain or regret as possible. When the going got tough and the road took me places that I didn’t want to go, too often I have chosen the easy way out.

For so many years, I became a master of quietly walking away from the things that made me uncomfortable.

Sometimes life and circumstances and the things that we go through have a way of robbing us of our courage, our zeal, and our zest for life. For so many years I avoided doing hard things. I avoided things and situations that I knew would be difficult. Because living in my predictable, familiar, pain-free bubble was so, so much easier and safer than facing my fears with a courageous heart.

For too long I told myself that being a busy mother to a very large family disqualified me from doing a lot of other things. Weirdly enough, I believed that to be truth. I felt guilty for doing anything that would take me away from my family. With our incredibly busy lives and very carefully planned out schedules, I convinced myself that taking on just one more thing would be too much. Just way too much! And so I didn’t. I said thanks but no thanks.

For so many years I was content in that season.

But seasons change and so do dreams and desires of the heart. There is just so much more in this life that I want to achieve. I adore being a mom to my ten children. It is one of my greatest joys in this life, and I am thankful beyond words for the absolute honor of being called Mom by many. But the truth is, the last year or so has changed me. I want to embrace every challenge and every adventure that comes my way.  I want to stretch myself and learn new things. I never want to become comfortable with living a life where I am too afraid to try new things and too comfortable to push myself to become the best version of me that I can be.  I want to learn to do ridiculous things in CrossFit and keep beating my personal records, however puny they may be.  I want to grab onto every opportunity that God gives me and run my race with perseverance and determination.

I am such a work in progress.

The last sixteen months have been about so much more than just me getting stronger. Yes, that’s been a blessing and I am so thankful for where I am today compared to just a year ago when I literally could not add one weight to a barbell because it was too heavy for me to lift. But this journey has reminded me of what a blessing it is to persevere in the midst of difficult situations and to never, ever give up. A truth that I had forgotten.

This road has helped me to find my discipline again and be an example to my children that when we fall down, when life doesn’t go our way, when we feel like the only thing we’re doing is failing and not getting things right, when we face obstacles that feel insurmountable and when we lose our courage…

Get back up.

Press on.

Dig deep.

Don’t ever give up!

Sometimes I get it right.  Sometimes I fail miserably.

On Monday, I walked back into my gym knowing that there was absolutely no way on God’s green earth that I could do the workout of the day. My back ached terribly. My awful fear of getting back onto the high bar from which I fell had my heart beating fast in my chest.  But I also know my people there. They’re so kind and patient and they have been instrumental in helping me to find my courage again. They have been a gift from heaven in helping me to overcome massive physical obstacles and helped me to believe that I am capable of doing so, so much more than I ever thought I could do. And so, instead of a pity party at home and even entertaining the idea of throwing in the towel, I went—with all of my fear and my achy back and my self-confidence that had taken a beating—I just showed up.

Because sometimes…most times…simply showing up turns that tiny step forward into a huge victory.

Even when our self-confidence feels as small as a grain of sand on a vast beach.

Even when it’s the last thing in the world that we feel like doing.

Even when it hurts like heck.

Keep pressing on!

I speak to moms just like me all the time.  Moms who love, love raising their families but wonder, “Will I ever be able to find the time to do something that makes me a better mom and wife?”, “What about my dreams and the things I want to learn and accomplish?”

A thousand times, YES! Go! Take on new challenges. Make time for you. Try new things. Find ways to become healthier, fitter and stronger. Take a class that you’ve been dreaming about doing. I can tell you with all of my heart, it matters and it makes a difference.  YOU matter! A lot!

Start your journey of a thousand miles. Take that tiny step of faith toward seeing every dream and every desire on your heart become a reality.

With a heart overflowing with gratitude today.