Purpose In Every Step

May 12, 2010 | 32 comments

It all started back in January, when she saw me lace up those Asics for the first time.

“Mommy, are you sure you can do this?” she asked with legitimate concern. Or was it dread I heard in her voice?

And honestly, I wondered the same: Could I? Still, I pronounced: “Of course, I can!”

In February, she watched me plod along the treadmill, back when it took me nearly 30 minutes to run two miles. (People walk faster than that!)

In March, she was standing at the back door, with her Daddy, to offer fist-bumps when I wobbled into the house after my first-ever six-mile run.

In April, she prayed that God would heal these old mama muscles. And she thanked Him when He did.

On May 2, along city streets abloom with lilacs, she cheered for her mama running her first half-marathon. And I could see the pride in those little hazel eyes that look so much like mine.

And on May 9 — on Mother’s Day 2010 — the girl who watched her mama do something completely illogical and ridiculously wondrous??? Well, she came upstairs dressed just like me. She found black capri tights, and those one-size-too-big black shorts. She wore a pink shirt and steely determination.

“Mommy,” she said. “I want to run like you.”

And so we did. We ran on Mother’s Day. (She asked, Could she train for a half-marathon, too? I’m encouraging her to try a 5K first. ~smile~)

We can preach with our words. Or we can teach with our actions.

I could have told her to run, to step away from the Wii, and get a little exercise, for Heaven’s sake.

We do that sometimes, don’t we? We try to tell our children what’s best for them:

Eat your peas.
Read your Bible.
Brush your teeth.
Don’t forget to say your prayers.

We use the stern words and the clipped commands, and forget that we can model the behavior we want to see in them. We can demonstrate our deepest hopes, and then watch them come alive.


So on Mother’s Day, we laced up our shoes, and drove three miles north to the little lake surrounded by cornfields and cow pastures.

We put one foot in front of another, and plodded out a path, side by side with purpose in every step.

“You go, girl!” I cheered as we ran. “You are looking good, so good!”

“You, too, Mommy!” she belted out. “You’re an AWESOME runner! You’re so cool!”

And she pumped those little legs for two whole miles.


We have these small windows of time when we can hold captive their attention. We have these years — wee bits of time, really — to demonstrate what it means to live … to really live.

Right now, she thinks I’m cool. In reality, I’m a nerd, a complete goof and a klutz and an Iowa farm hick who feels mostly uncultured and uncool. But she thinks I’m cool.

And yes, in this parenting life, there’s already the occasional eye roll, and the clenched jaw, and the arms defiantly crossed over the chest, and the stomp-stomp-stomp out of the room. (And that’s just my behavior! ~wink~)

But right now, my daughters think I’m cool. I don’t want to squander these moments when their eyes are on me, watching for the congruence of my words and my actions.

There’s no such thing as “just” in life — not when someone’s watching.

My half-marathon was more than “just” a run. There was purpose in every step.
That dinner you cooked for your family last night? It was more than “just” a meal.
That bedtime prayer your prayed? More than “just.”
The time she saw you reading the Word? Sending the card? Writing the check? Making the meal?

All of it. More than just.

They saw it. It all has purpose: Every step, every prayer, every meal, every kind word, every embrace.

“So I run with purpose in every step…”
— 1 Corinthians 9:26

holy experience

Each Wednesday, I join Ann Voskamp in her Walk with Him Wednesday series. Today, we continue to explore Cultivating the Life God Desires. You can find Ann at http://www.aholyexperience.com/ .

by | May 12, 2010 | 32 comments


  1. Rosario

    wonderful post! thanks for your comment. I will be praying for you too sister. Keep up the good work. Your post has given me energies to get up from this chair, turn off computer and get working on blessing my home.

  2. Runner Mom

    My box of kleenex….where are you??? Oh, just precious! Thanks for the words of encouragement too! You are a cool mama!!!

  3. Doug Spurling

    there's no such thing as "just" in life…
    I love that. I JUST think I'll steel it.
    Thanks Jen – keep running.

  4. Deidra

    The window is small, indeed. While it's open, let's throw "just" out of it! You ARE so cool! Very, very cool!

  5. Deb

    Thank you Jennifer for this … wonderful post!

  6. keLi

    love the image of your shoes entangled … so great that you are literally running before her, leading her along the way!

  7. Nancy

    It is a small window indeed…. Kids do watch their mama's, but they also watch other kids "mama's". Thank you, Jen for living all of your life with purpose, so that even my kids see. I am blessed to know you. Nancy

    PS – I think you're cool… WAY cool! 😉

  8. Laura

    This made me cry. What a beautiful mommy you are, you. And those pictures? What a sweetie.

    Sometimes I forget this important lesson. They do see it all. I've been feeling a bit mommied out lately…shame on me. I think it was the field trip that did it. Your words are helping to re-charge my engine.

    Thank you, Jennifer.

  9. Graceful

    Oh my, your Walk with Him Wednesday posts are the best, but this one takes the cake. So sweet — the photos are darling. And you are right — wise words, teaching by demonstrating, instead of just by talking or preaching. Good stuff, Jennifer.

    BTW: I bought some of the Lee Family Farm chocolate-covered soy beans at my local healthfood store last night. The kids LOVE your soy nuts!!! It made me so happy to see your family farm product on the shelf!

  10. A Simple Country Girl

    From one complete goof and a klutz and hick who feels mostly uncultured and uncool to another…hey, I think you are terrific.

    This is one of my favorite posts. What a blessing!

  11. Nancy

    Thanks for your kind words to me today. I have to admit that the very idea of running just makes my knees hurt, so good for you and your daughter! I also have to admit that I've modeled the stomp-stomp-stomp out of the room far too many times than I care to admit. Ugh! So thankful for grace to fill up where I'm lacking and encouraging words like yours that I find out here in blog world. Blessings.

  12. patty

    So sweet and so true…
    love, me

    by the way, Josh ran his first 5K at 7 with my dad. 🙂

  13. alicia

    awwww, that is great. What a sweetie pie! oh to always be cool in our kids' eyes… 🙂

  14. elaine @ peace for the journey

    Beautiful, Jennifer. Tears well in my eyes… my 9 year old has been running with me as well. He's having a hard time, can only do about 1/2 mile, but I think you're right. He just wants his mom all to himself and sees our time outdoors as an ample opportunity.

    I love my little man. Wish life wasn't so hard for him.


  15. Lisa

    Ahh..so,so true! This is a truth that I've been wrestling with a lot recently. What do I want my kids to see as important to me? Time in the Word or hours on the computer? Self-control or lazy, half-heartedness? Thanks for the reminder and encouragement!

  16. Wendy Paine Miller

    How is it that you find a way to get me every single time?!

    I was just thinking this morning, I don't want to word my faith into them…I want to love it into them, I want to live it into them.

    This post spoke beautifully to the realization I had while making my bed this morning.
    ~ Wendy

  17. Lynda Young

    This post has such a wonderful message. Thank you,
    (And I really like the last photo – precious)

  18. Stephani

    Completely wonderful!

  19. Jennifer

    You've left me in tears, Jennifer. And that picture of the entwined shoes is just too perfect. My three little ones have been going through a phase the past two 1/2 weeks where mommy is definitely NOT cool. The clipped command, the living it with them–nothing seems to be working. They want to defy anything associated with mommy. I know it'll pass. The beauty of your daughters is just so striking in comparison. Enjoy the blessing.

  20. ~*Michelle*~

    OH Jennifer……your words are piercing right to my heart. My eyes are teary and I feel comfort surrounding me. I am in the middle of a trial with my oldest son…..and your words are such a source of comfort and hope that these past 18 years were more than "just"

    This (visiting at this very moment), my friend…..was God's leading.

  21. Julie

    Wonderful post, Jennifer.

    What a blessing for you to share in this with your beautiful daughter.

    I am so happy to see how far you have come – you have inspired me to quit making excuses and just do it.


  22. Lyla Lindquist

    Oh, man…

    At a complete loss.

  23. Karen

    All of this…so very very good…what a legacy you are giving your children…..

  24. ~ Being Woven

    Being a living example is a child's best teacher whether the child is 7 or 70. We all can learn from those who walk the walk.
    Thanks for a beautiful, encouraging post.
    ~ linda

  25. Carey

    Thanks so much for the reminder. And for still encouraging me to be more than I am (from one last-pick to another). LOVE the shoe picture. Love it!

  26. RCUBEs

    There is a one "just" that came to mind knowing that we serve a God Who is not passive….that Nike ads: "JUST do it!"…You have an awesome runner in the making! God bless.

  27. Shirl

    Precious! And I agree…there is no such thing as a 'just a' 🙂

  28. Kay @ Off the Beaten Path

    So proud of you for investing so wisely in your girls. You're a great mom. And a pretty swell photographer too. Those are great photos!

  29. travelmom

    Way to go Jennifer! Yes, more than "just." Thank you for that!

  30. cindy

    You make me cry! I think of all the years I wasted with my children. Always to tired or some other "valid" reason I couldn't play or run ior whatever it was.

    You are blessed to realize what time really does hold. And you know what, I don't think your girls are going to see you as most children see their parents.

    take care-

  31. Lisa notes...

    "There's no such thing as "just" in life — not when someone's watching."

    What a great line! I'll be more careful of my use of "just" from now on. Thanks for sharing so beautifully.

    And I'm very impressed that you were able to run a half-marathon.

  32. Billy Coffey

    Modeling by example rather than words is a tough thing to do sometimes, but I think our kids will always remember what we do more than what we say. And I am currently basking in my coolness right now, too. I know the time will come when my kids will think I'm much more an old fogey. But not today…

    Congrats. To both of you.


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