Why this Mama Runs Marathons

It’s not just for toddler naps but it doesn’t hurt.

In January of 2018, I decided to take control of my health and had weight loss surgery. I had struggled with my weight my entire life and I didn’t love the example I was setting for my children. In preparation for surgery, I lost over 30 lbs and have since dropped 100 lbs from my heaviest weight (right after I had my twins). Determined to not waist the blessing, I started running about 8 weeks after surgery. I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to run a mile without the additional weight on me. I don’t think I realized how bad I felt until I felt so good.

My dad ran a marathon while I was in high school and since then, it has always been on my bucket list. Why not now? I started researching “flattest marathons in the country.” Because I like to run but I’m not totally crazy at this point. Turns out, one of them was the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. Upon doing more research, I discovered that this marathon is HUGE. They have a lottery system to get in and only take 30,000 runners. I talked to Andrew (not sure he realized all the child raising he was signing up for at the time) and he agreed that it was worth throwing my name in the hat if it would keep me motivated. I signed up that night. At this point I was only running 3 miles at a time. I thought, gosh, if I get in I need to be a stronger runner and I took a screen shot of a marathon plan for beginners on Pinterest (super scientific approach) and started running more. Turned out all that training was perfect because I got in! In October of 2018, just 9 months after having weight loss surgery, I crossed the finish line in D.C. and completed 26.2 miles to the cheers of my amazing marathon finishing father.

I will do it again in Columbus, OH this October to the same cheers of my dad and joined by my 3 big kids, mom and husband and right next to one of my very best friends. I am so excited for this one, because there is something super cool about your children getting to see you work really hard and accomplish something huge. Makes you more life a person for a moment and not just a mom and hopefully inspires them that they can work hard and do hard things too.

In the beginning I ran because I was afraid of gaining the weight back. That is still a motivation but more than that, it has become a part of my mental health. Today, my littlest and I were just getting on each others nerves. It was not all him. I was annoying too. After lunch, I tucked him into the stroller and took off for 5 miles in the heat of the day because I needed a break and so did he. We both feel better for different reasons. About a mile in, he fell asleep and I cranked up the music on my phone (hello early 2000s hip hop music) and just sweated out all the stress of the day. At this point, I run because it makes me a better mom, and a better person. Running may not be it for you, but find something that resets you, contributes to your health and breathes a little bit of gratitude into your spirit. Now if only I could smoothly transition this sleeping stud from stroller to bed. Maybe in my next mom life.

Empty Homes and Hard See Ya Laters

There is something super final about walking through your empty home after the movers have loaded all your things. For weeks we have known it was coming. For weeks we have told friends and family and watched them be sad for our pending departure but it wasn’t until the stuff of our life in Ohio started exiting my front door that it hit me like a ton of bricks. Cue the tears and the running across the culdesac to hug my neighbor that I borrowed countless packs of taco seasoning from. For those of you who don’t know, taco seasoning is the modern day version of a cup of sugar. So much has happened in this home. We potty trained twin toddlers in this home. (Air High Five to ME!). We sent our oldest three kiddos off to their first days of kindergarten here. We accepted placement of a tiny baby who became our son under this roof. Our kids have grown so close to their amazing grandparents and other extended family. So much life has happened. We have made friends here. We have made friends who have become family here.

So much to be grateful for. And if I think about it purely, I’m not sure I’m actually experiencing sadness as much as I am extreme gratitude for all of it. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be so close to our family for these years. I am also so grateful that we won’t be that far away in our new home. I am so grateful for the amazing people that God has blessed us with. So many unexpected people blessings. I’m so grateful we said yes to foster care and the joy that our little boy has brought to our lives. I’m thankful for all the Aunt Sarah dates that my sister in law has taken our kids on and the relationship they have grown. It is overwhelming how amazing these last 4 years have been.

I’m not scared for our new adventure. I trust that we five extroverts (don’t worry honey, we have it covered) will secure new friends in our new town. I’m feeling confident that the school will be welcoming and exciting for the kids and I am so excited for the new opportunity for Andrew that is bringing us into this new adventure. What is giving me some pause is what this all means for me. I will no longer be a foster mom in our new state. I will no longer work for a non-profit. I will be something new and different. I’m curious about what that might look like. I am, however, confident that I will figure it out. Anyone else out there have a 1/3 life crisis? We will all figure it out right? Certainly. Until then, here’s to unloading, unpacking, painting, driver’s license securing, church hunting, extracurricular activity securing and marathon training. We can all sleep when we are dead, mama friends, there are important things to do and figure out.

A Moment of Silence for Foster Care

It’s been a minute or 957,600.  I have started numerous blog posts and published none of them because we were swimming in the trauma, exhaustion, blessing, joy and grief that is foster care.  To say that it has been a roller coaster doesn’t do it justice.  The highs along the last couple of years have been so high and the lows have been devastatingly low.  We have experienced the unbelievable blessing of adoption and the unusual grief that accompanies that.  We have dealt with the post adoptive blues which I was totally unprepared for and will talk more about in another post.  I have experienced the heaviness of working in child welfare while doing child welfare in my home.  Our compassion has grown immeasurably.  Our family has grown by two little and very busy feet.

Each year that passes, I look back and think, that was a little insane.  Next year will be calmer but that isn’t true.  In the last 12 or so months, I started a new job, lost 70 lbs, ran a literal marathon, finalized the adoption of our son, supported my husband in a job search and we are now finalizing the sale of our home and the purchase of a new one as we move out of state.  Needless to say, not much has happened since we last spoke (insert eye roll).  As I think back over the last several years they are all full of change and excitement and craziness and I’m certain it will continue like this.  Moving forward means facing change and we Gabbards are moving forward.

I hope you will join me again I share about our family, our adventures and the lessons we learn along the way. 

Adoption Day (and completely reflective of the energy level of the newest Gabbard)

When God Just Won’t Leave You Alone

I got to see an amazing God ordained adoption take place….like front row seat witnessed it.  It forever changed me.  Ever since then I have had a nagging, notice I didn’t say gentle whisper, in my heart that perhaps we were being called to something like this.  I consistently resisted.  Come on God, we have three kids already.  We are a hot mess God. Have you met us?  You can’t be serious.  Perhaps we just need to volunteer at an agency that supports adoptive or foster parents?  Perhaps we just need to pray for these kids that need soft places to land.  That must be it.

But here’s the thing, God’s plan for our lives is like a swing.  We push it away but it keeps swinging right back to us, and if we push it away and assume it is gone it can hit us square in the face.

Examples of being hit square in the face.  My first time volunteering as sub in Sunday School at our church I ended up in a room with a lovely woman.  We were chatting while cleaning up toys and she mentioned that she was a foster parent and had helped to form the organization that supports the families in our county.  As if this weren’t enough, the sermon that Sunday was about allowing God to stretch you in your ability to serve.  After this, we literally couldn’t go anywhere without meeting someone who was fostering or had fostered.  My aunt, who didn’t even know we were debating this possibility, randomly suggested we look into it after a terribly local story was all over the news about a mistreated child.

God and I pushed this swing back and forth for about 6 months.  Meanwhile my poor husband is off to the side praying that this blasted swing will just go away.  It didn’t go away and after praying about it and talking about it we attended an informational meeting.  It was informative, sad, scary and exciting.  We came home and talked more.  We talked about what type of child we thought we could bring into our home.  How would our biological children feel about this addition?  How could we do this and keep them as safe as possible?  Could we even do this?  We are still struggling through that last one but we signed up for classes.  These classes begin tomorrow.  We may complete them and feel a calling to a different aspect of this ministry but we are marching forward.  We are scared and excited.  Everytime I think about beginning this process I get a little overwhelmed about how much this could change our lives.  The additional doctors appointments, the treatment for trama, the extra patience, the feeling of complete inadequacy is daunting.  But once I quiet some of that I begin to imagine our first child.  I imagine the difficult and challenging circumstances they may be currently experiencing or will be experiencing shortly and it hurts my heart so much that it makes me grateful that God and I are no long pushing the swing back and forth.

In the coming weeks and months we request your prayers for the following things:

-Pray for our child.  Pray for this little one that is going through something so hard that they need to be scooped up and placed in our care.

-Pray for our children.  Pray for their little hearts to expand to love one more.  Pray for this to be an opportunity for them to show Jesus’ love to another child with their own kindness and gentleness.

-Pray for Andrew and I.  We are terrified.  We feel unprepared and unworthy of this opportunity.

-Pray for a community to raise up to support us as we move forward.  We are relatively new to our local community and would love to experience additional support from those who are close by.

-Pray for the Mamas and Daddys that will be having their children placed into care.  I can’t imagine what that would feel like or the circumstances that you would have to go through to have it come to that point.

Inspite of the fact that I was a very resistant servant, I can tell you that we have experienced a peace since we signed up for our first training class.  If there is something that you feel God is urging you to look into, I would encourage you to investigate it.  Jeremiah 29:11 keeps coming to my mind when I get scared thinking about this new adventure.  For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans give you hope and a future.  I keep hearing those words both for ourselves and for our future foster babe.  Get with the plan.  Find the peace.  Stop pushing the swing.

He Marches to a Different Beat…and that’s okay.

DSC_4420This is my Benjamin.  He is so different from my other crazies.  He is busy and yet highly focused on what he is doing.  He is challenging and very loving and sweet.  He doesn’t follow instructions well but is very sensitive to correction.  He is cuddly and yet has a hard time receiving too many snuggles because he has so much to do.  He is hard to teach and coach but extremely curious about how things work and often takes things apart and puts them back together.  He even answers questions in unusual ways.

Benjamin, what do you want to be when you grow up?

A dump truck.

Do you mean a dump truck driver?

No, I mean a dump truck.

While coloring recently, I got on his case about how he holds his crayon and was encouraging him to try to color inside the lines.  He looked up at me with these big brown eyes and said, “Mama, those lines aren’t for me.”  He’s right.  They aren’t for him.  He just sees things differently.  He challenges me to try to see things from a new perspective.  I want so badly to understand him but he is so beautifully complicated.

He views the world in a very different way than anyone I have ever met.  In 1st Peter 4:10-11  it says, God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  My sweet Benjamin is a gift to me.  He challenges the way I see things.  He encourages me to seek understanding over judgement.  He draws me in because I want to know him more.  He’s right.  The lines aren’t for him.  He marches to the beat of his own drummer because my drummer is either too fast or too slow.  His differences from me are so beautiful and mysterious.  What a blessing he is, not just as my son, but as a constant reminder of how our uniqueness is not a mistake but a plan for us to better serve others and serve God.  He will grow up to challenge the way we think about the world and for that I am grateful.  Color outside those lines little man.  Love you.

10 Crazy Things This Mom Says Daily

1.  Stop fighting over imaginary toys!

2. Don’t stand there and dance, just go to the bathroom.

3.  I don’t have any napkins, just lick your fingers.

4. That was not a snuggle, you just wiped your face off on my shirt!

5.  That’s nice but you aren’t at grandma’s house right now so NO!

6. Go back in there, wipe your bottom and wash your hands…..and turn off the light!

7. What do you have in your mouth?

8. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

9. You better eat all your pizza (or insert any other unhealthy kid food here) or you don’t get any ice cream.

10. Did you need that drink 10 minutes ago when I was in the kitchen, or do you just need it now that I’m trying to use the bathroom by myself?

The struggle is real.  What crazy things do you say?

This Parenting Thing is no Joke!

A few months ago I took a very scientific approach to finding out what parents were hoping to instill in their children….you know….I asked on Facebook.  I got a variety of answers.  Some were hoping for their child to have a love of learning, to be successful, to work hard.  I spent a lot of time thinking about what my hopes are for my kids and I found myself floating between things that the world says are great and things that are Spirit-filled.  I hope for my children to be financially stable, for them to fall in love and stay in love.  I hope for them to find something that they love to do as a career.  I hope they will take care of me in my old age (wink).  I hope they are successful.  We spend a lot of time instilling these concepts in our kids.  We work on our letter and numbers.  They have chores they need to complete.  We try different sports and activities to see what they will be good at, but when I really slow down and think about the things that will make me the most proud of them, it isn’t their success at a sport or in a career.  It isn’t their ability to find and hold down a steady job.  It isn’t even that they will be “happy.”  It’s more important than the stuff that comes from a “good life.”

I really want them to be good people.  In Galatians 5, Paul lists the fruits of the spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Ever since I memorized these as a child, I have always thought of the fruits of the spirit as what should come out of you if you are full of Jesus.  Some of these I feel like we work on with our kids on the regular.  Concepts like patience are constantly coming up in our home.  “Be patient with her, she’s grumpy in the morning.”  We love well and we laugh hard.  We even talk about kindness and what it means to be kind with our words and actions.  I think that some of the more counter-cultural concepts are faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Our culture doesn’t love these concepts.  We constantly hear about marriages breaking up due to unfaithfulness.  We praise aggressiveness in sports and winning at all cost in business.  We are bombarded by marketing that encourages us to buy now, eat now, drink now.  I think its hard to raise gentle kids who don’t get walked all over.  I think it’s hard to raise kids with self control and patience when so much around them is about instant gratification.

Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we don’t try.  Perhaps we could raise a kinder and gentler generation.  My hope for them is that they love others the way Jesus did, holding nothing back.  My prayer for them is that they put others before themselves and take care of others recklessly.  I’m going to look for these fruits in my kids this week and put just as much energy into encouraging and pointing out their success in these areas as I do when they write their names with no backward letters.