For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on Oct. 18, 2014.]
Living Faith: If you’re in the parenting race, stay the course
By Roxane B. Salonen
Running has been with me for a long time.
Heading up the hill back to school from the track, an older student on the way down noticed the shiny new ribbons in my hands waving in the breeze.
“Holy cow, are those all yours?” she asked.
I nodded, still in shock.
By the time I left high school, my running abilities had led me several times to the Montana state track and field championships, and running had become part of my identity and strength, both inner and outer.
I brought this love with me to college, competing in track my freshman year at indoor nationals in Kansas City. But an injury sidelined my track career. Though I made the all-conference team, I never pulled off a full comeback.
At 46, my knees still show the wear, and despite living in a marathon-enthused city, I’ve had to let go of a hoped-for return to my running days. But the runner in me remains.
That’s why the email from my friend hit home. Our bond had been fashioned through our shared faith and parenting travails. Having visited some of the same troubling places I was experiencing, she offered a visual of the parenting journey I call “The Race.”
First, she reminded me of an excerpt from the Scriptural passage Hebrews 12: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”
She then shared how, in becoming a parent, she figured she’d signed up for the proverbial marathon.
“I knew it would be a challenge, but so fun, too,” she said. “People would be cheering for me, there would be water breaks, and at the end I would get my finisher medal.”
But soon, the race began to turn treacherous, the path before her uncertain.
“I was put on this dusty course with no cheering crowds and no end in sight,” she wrote, noting that in time, she even noticed occasional rocks being thrown onto her path.
“I am sure I am not the only one on this particular course, but there aren’t many of us, so we don’t run together very often,” she continued. “And yet I have to say that when I need someone the most, I turn the corner and there they are, and I ask, ‘Hey, how much farther do you think?’ ”
Her fellow parent-runners respond, “I don’t know, but I’m not stopping now or I’ll get eaten by mosquitoes, and I have worked too hard not to get the finisher medal.”
Not all races, or children, are equal, my friend said, adding that the race she’s running with her oldest child has been much more challenging than the course she’s on with her youngest.
“That (latter) one is not a marathon but a 5K, and everyone tells me what a wonderful job we’ve done in raising him,” she wrote. “And yet I want to scream, ‘This is the three easy miles. Please send the crowd of cheering fans to my other race where I need it.’ ”
Oh, how I understand the need for encouragement when we’re in those perplexing parenting places.
“But God is good,” she said. “I’m not well-hydrated on the dusty trail, but someone always seems to appear with a paper cup of water when I really need it.”
Indeed, it is a blessing, when parched, to be offered refreshment by a kind soul. It makes us want to turn around and do this for others. It might not be a lot, but it’s something; it helps with one more leg.
“Roxane,” she said, “It will be such a sweet, sweet day when we turn that corner and the finish line will finally be there, and I believe Jesus himself will put the finisher medals around our necks.”
Hope. The thing we cannot do without. I am nodding now, and a tear has formed.
“Thanks for running the course with me,” she added. “We’ll do it.”
After absorbing her words, I write back, thanking her profusely for the gift, one side-ached parent to another.
“Running is a powerful image for me,” I told her. “It was where I received a lot of my early self-confidence, and then later, it symbolized the defeat of my physical body. But running in terms of the parenting and faith journey? That’s beautiful. Thank you.”
Many of us are still in the middle of the race. Our hair is wind-blown, our legs caked with mud. But I want to encourage you as my friend did me – hang on. The finish line is just up there a ways. And it’s going to be awesome when we finally break through.