My father passed away from his third heart attack when I was 12 years old. It was one of the most impactful and defining moments of my life.
As a mother myself, I often think about my future with my kids, spending years watching them grow, watching their children grow. I anticipate dance recitals and school plays, spelling bees and senior prom. But I can’t help having a twinge of sadness associated with my anticipation, knowing all the things my father missed out on. And I can’t help having a twinge of fear, knowing my genetic predisposition to heart disease.
I know first hand the sadness and struggle that follows in the wake of a parent lost too soon. I fear that for my children. I remember the life-shaking hardship my mom endured in my father’s absence. I fear that for my husband.
But even more than the emotional support and personal mentorship, the school dances and academic achievements, I want to be present for my children’s spiritual growth. I want to have a long, healthy life where I follow God faithfully. I want to visibly serve Him and seek Him in front of my children for as long as possible. I want to live a long, healthy, God-honoring life that is a beacon to generations of our family, a bright light that reflects His glory.
As women, we have so much power in the lives of our children, to set the path and focus of our home. We have a culture that encourages us and our daughter to view our bodies as ornaments, to analyze our looks and sculpt and pinch and aim for impossible ideals. But God gave us these bodies to love and serve Him, regardless of our shape and size.
I want to live a long, healthy, God-honoring life that honors the body God gave me. That thanks Him for this gift and cares for it and uses it wisely. That sets the path and focus of our home, as a place where the care of our bodies is taken seriously, so as not to squander the precious gift of life given from our Creator.
I want to raise my kids entrenched in a powerful community of women who eat healthy and exercise not because they hate their bodies, but because they are grateful for them. Not because our culture pressures to work on their looks, but because they want to be healthy enough to do work that matters.
I want to show my children that out of gratitude and faithfulness to my God, I make wise food choices, like eating more fruits and vegetables. I want to be able to participate in life with my children and husband for many years to come, and that starts with exercising today. But the more I look, the more I find a culture engulfed by looks-focused “fitness” messages, and not one that equips and empowers moms to lead their family in more positive lifestyle change.
I recently discovered the community of moms on the Moms Unite Facebook Group, built to encourage one another and share tips for leading a healthy life. What an amazing and uplifting resource! The American Heart Association (AHA) created this group for moms like me (and you) to share recipes, tips, and ideas for setting that healthy path and focus in our families. For me, health and fitness is definitely about my heart health, considering my family history, so I’m even more excited that I’ve found a community whose focus is on heart health and long life. I’m so incredibly inspired by this community and the positive, health and longevity focused resources assembled by the AHA at Life Is Why and on Pinterest. The perfect antidote to our looks-focused culture is their health-based approach to self-care.
So why do I want to live a healthier, longer life? Because I want to shine the light of Jesus on this Earth for as long as He will let me. Because I want to be present and active in the lives of my family. Because I want to do what my dad wasn’t able to, live the life he couldn’t in his stead, a long, healthy, God-honoring life, lived with a full and happy heart.