I like to pick a word or phrase each year to help me grow throughout the year. Last year’s was “Be Kind.” I applied it many ways including with my husband, my children, driving, and checking out at the grocery store. This year I’ve chosen one word and one phrase because I couldn’t decide which one to pick. I chose  “Intentional & Mental Strength.” I’ve also set some intentional goals for this year. I like intentions instead of resolutions because I feel like resolutions are all or nothing kind of goals. Then I’m setting myself up for failure because if I don’t reach my goals perfectly, I usually just stop trying to meet them at all.

I think these goals or decisions I’ve made have just happened to coincide with this time of of year. I’ve been thinking about making changes in my life for awhile. I told Chris a few weeks ago that I feel like if I don’t start making the changes now, I’ll never make them.  My half-hearted attempts at what I’m putting into my body and mind, exercise, and spiritual practices need to be dealt with now. But when I don’t meet my intentions, I’m not going to beat myself up and just quit. I’m going to be more strong mentally.  I also feel like the fog of grief has lifted so that I can think more clearly and feel like now is the time to stop floating along. I’ve often felt like a balloon just bobbing along and not being grounded. I’ve had a harder time making goals/plans and sticking to them because I’ve let my emotions and grief rule my life. And I don’t meal rule in a bad way. I think it’s normal and necessary to feel the emotions of grief to heal, even if that means slowing down goals and some commitments during this time.

I feel that for me personally, it’s time for me to deal with my grief more head on (and more on that later) not to escape through emotional eating or zoning out on pointless television shows.  It’s time for me to exercise and eat well consistently to keep my physical body strong. I pray frequently thought the day, but I need to be more intentional about my prayer time and time to reading my Bible.

Another goal of mine is to run a half-marathon. I’ve been a runner just about 20 years now, but I’ve only done about 5 or 6 races with the farthest run being a 10k. So I decided I’m going to commit to this race and my training schedule. I prefer to do sprints and fartleks (yep, that’s a word for those not familiar). I have never liked endurance training. I used to loathe when my track coach made us run the cross country trail instead of doing my 400m and 800m practices. I mean loathe. So here I am trying to run a half marathon in the spring with thoughts of a full marathon on my mind for the fall. I haven’t committed to that full yet because I need to see how my body is going to keep up with the half. That’s one way I’m working on mental strength. I know my body can do more. Another goal is to be more gentle to myself and give myself grace without just giving up. I struggle with chronic ankle sprains. I sprained my right ankle in high school during competitive cheerleading season and then started track season right after that and now my ankle does not thank me.  I did not take the time to fully heal it and so I struggle. I’m on day 13 of my running plan, and I just twisted it walking on the grass yesterday. ugh. At first, I just thought “well, this is it. I’m not going to be able to run and I”m not going to be able to do this race.” I was so disappointed last night. However, today is a new day. I reminded myself of my intentions and how I’m working on mental strength. My ankle is swollen today, but I’m not going to beat myself up. It will heal. In the past I just would sprain it and take off for months at a time from running, without trying to be purposeful in healing/strengthening my ankle. This time I’m going to focus on strength training and lay off the running until it’s healed enough to run again. I am also going to focus on strengthening my ankle instead of just seeing how it does. I just need to focus on these mental strength exercises and keep going.

I watched a 5k race in the fall and one of the runners had on a vest that said “Embrace the Suck.” I am trying to figure out a more positive way of phrasing that to myself, but I haven’t yet. I’ve been keeping it in my mind when I’m working out and I want to stop. When my calves are tight, and I want to walk. When I’ve had a sad day I still need to workout and making healthy eating choices.

One of my hopes is that keeping my goals/gaining mental strength will also help me during this next month of February. It will be the 4th anniversary of Jackson’s death and his birthday. I know some people who have lost children and get a lot of motivation to do things in life in honor of their child that has passed. I’ve never been able to find motivation that way. Not that I don’t want to honor Jackson, but I just can’t say “I run because Jackson would have wanted me to be healthy” or “I run because Jackson cannot anymore.” Jackson is just fine right now. He is in God’s safekeeping, whatever that looks like.  But I do get motivation from the thought of seeing Jackson again. And as amazing as that will be, I know that seeing God, my father, will be even more amazing. So I do hard things to learn to persevere so that I can continue to persevere through this life so I can get to Heaven and see God and Jackson.

I would be amiss if I said that my mental strength comes from within myself. It comes from God. I have to be intentional to practice it, but it is he that gives it to me when I ask. When I am running outside, I love to  look at the natural surroundings. And I think of the verse “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” That verse has become more familiar to me because of the song “Shoulders” by For King & Country, which is one of my favorites.  You should listen to it if you have not. The last verse of the song is

“My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ’cause I know, ’cause I know it’s true”

I know it’s true that God gives me strength. I know it’s true that God gives me grace. I know it’s true that he is faithful, loving and forgiving. It is true that God is near to the brokenhearted. He will provide for me. He will help me meet my all goals in one way or another, if I ask of him. I believe that with my whole heart. I share all this because I want others to feel the hope I have. It’s not always easy, but it will always be worth it.





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