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A few weeks ago, Dr. Whitlock, President of Oklahoma Baptist University, told the parents of the incoming freshman class that the task of parenting wouldn’t be complete until they went to see Jesus, an overwhelming thought to those of us sitting in the stands.

I have to admit that I panicked just a little. Then I remembered that all things are possible with God, even Parenting Short List rule #8.

  1. Finish strong.

As my husband Todd trained for his first half-marathon this past spring, I happened to notice just how similar parenting and long-distance running are. To finish strong in either one, you have to do the following.

  • Prepare.

The night before Todd’s race, we drove the route. It helped to see where the hills and valleys were and where the refreshment stands would be.

While there’s no way to anticipate every single hill and valley that you will experience as a parent, it does help to know where other parents have experienced challenges and set-backs as well as when you might expect to reach the light at the end of your current tunnel.

  • Train.

Todd spent the two months leading up to his race talking with veteran runners who not only warned him about, but told him how to handle blisters, dehydration, cramping, high temperatures, and humidity. This proved to be invaluable on the day of the race.

Likewise, much of the advice we got from seasoned Christian parents on everything from potty training to preparing our children to date has proven very helpful.   In my opinion, it’s always better to get too much advice than not enough.

  • Run your own race.

While I’m sure Todd would have liked to win the half-marathon, it would have been unrealistic for him to expect to do so his first time out. Instead, he focused on making his splits, taking care of his body, and enjoying his first half-marathon for the unique experience it was.   In the end, he was content, pleased with his own performance, and more knowledgeable than he was before.

Resist the urge to compare your parenting race to anyone else’s. No two families are the same. Instead, focus on obeying the Lord, taking care of what God has given you, and enjoying the journey. You only run it once.

  • Stay hydrated.

By the time Todd ran the half-marathon, he had already run many slightly shorter races. He’d never had trouble with dehydration until the day of the race. Humidity was high that morning. Thankfully, Todd had taken precautions and was able to continue even when his body thought about quitting.

Trust me, parenting can really take it out of you sometimes. If you aren’t being filled with the Living Water of Jesus Christ on a daily basis, you’re going to cramp up and give out.

  • Keep moving.

At one point, I thought I might just join Todd in running that half-marathon. Then, I ran a few miles with him.   He saw me struggling and said, “Focus on the steps. Be in the moment.” He knew that if I thought about how much it hurt, how tired I was, or how much longer I had to run before I was finished, I would quit.

Friend, if you haven’t felt that way as a parent yet, you will. So, let me encourage you ahead of time, “Focus on the steps. Be in the moment.” In other words, do what you know to do, lean on the Lord, and trust that your feet will keep falling where they are supposed to.   If you happen to roll your ankle, step on a rock, or stumble off the path, things that happen to the most experienced runners, don’t give up. Steady yourself, refocus, and just pick up where you left off.

This concludes The Parenting Short List. I hope you’ve found it helpful. Remember that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). The world rests in His hands, not yours. You are going to mess up now and then, but you won’t mess up too badly as long as you are listening and learning from Him.