How To Run The Race When Life Gets Tough

May 18, 2017

When I first heard the words uttered from a professional, “Your child may have a mental illness,” I couldn’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of this statement.  I had no idea that this would be a journey which required tremendous perseverance.  How could I ever run this race?

With determination, I set out to fix things. I began spinning in all directions grasping for wisdom to make sense out of something I didn’t understand. At the time I had taken no classes, known of no one with an illness like this, and wasn’t even sure I believed there was such a thing as mental illness.

I had always lived my life by the philosophy that one just needs to “try harder.” You know mind over matter. This did not work.

Entering into the arena of mental health challenges was foreign to me. I threw myself in 200%; no stone would be left unturned. I studied, read countless books, contacted experts in the field and found the best help we could. I would not rest. After all, this was my child, and I was her momma. I grasped for wisdom from everywhere.

Of course, I quickly became overwhelmed as I worried about yesterday, today and tomorrow all at the same time. I quickly found out determination and mind over matter would not cure mental illness. I had met my match.

No matter how much I loved my child, I was not God nor did I have the power to wash away the illness.

I desperately needed some help, a tool of some sort to keep going.

My sweet friend could see I had faith that was unwavering and that I had fixed my eyes on Jesus, but she didn’t stop there. She knew I would never last the long haul at the rate I was going. She kindly shared with me what it is like to run a marathon. Her words stuck with me,

“Just focus on the next mile marker.”

At first, I didn’t understand how valuable this information was nor did I even have a clue what it was like to run a marathon. You see I am not a runner. However, I had just started the biggest race of my life, one that I desperately wanted to finish.

Quitting was not an option for me, so I needed to figure out how to keep going with a heart filled with guilt, sadness, and a longing for the way it used to be. I wanted to learn how to persevere in the worst of times. I was determined to keep going when those around me opposed my race, quit, or even when my child wanted to give up.

Don’t for a minute think God was not with me, He was. He took every single step with me. My eyes were fixed on him. He never left my side. I had faith that said, “God will bring us through,” but I was no fool –

I had to do my part too. I had to learn how to cope and love in the midst of my child’s mental illness.

I soon found out I would need to run the race with mental heath challenges like a marathoner. I would need to keep my eyes fixed on the next mile marker and not the finish line.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” Walter Elliot

Planning is my forte, so this was a lesson that did not come easy. I had prided myself on the ability to see the future and plan ten markers ahead. But now the fog would not clear, and the finish line became out of focus. It was unbearable to look to the future when the present held so much pain and uncertainty.

It has been over eleven years since we first started down the road with mental health challenges in our family. I am forever grateful for learning about focusing on the mile marker. It has become one of my most valuable lessons in life. Focus only on the next mile marker.

Now when life comes crashing down around me which it does from time to time,

I immediately fix my eyes on God and figure out what my next mile marker is.

I am always amazed at how I can get through the unthinkable using this method.

You may not have mental health challenges in your family, but I know life gives us all the unbearable at times. At some point, you will find yourself on a path where you can’t see a clear way. When that happens, I encourage you to stay on the road.

Fix your eyes on Jesus and remember you just have to get to the next mile-marker.

……… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2

Join me next week as I share seven lessons taken from those that run marathons.

I would love to hear what helps you run the race when life gets tough? 

I hope you will join our community at Embracing the Unexpected –  sign up today to receive posts straight to your inbox along with a small gift.

For the month of May, our Monthly Favorite Page will highlight mental health resources, organizations, and things that have been helpful on our journey. Please keep checking back throughout the month for additional items.



  1. Reply

    Running The Race Of Life Like A Marathoner – Embracing the Unexpected

    […] my last post – How to Run the Race When Life Gets Tough, I shared with you a tool that helps me when I am […]

  2. Reply


    Your post really resonated – almost one year ago my stepdaughter was diagnosed with several mental health diagnoses. It has been a struggle and as a runner and a runner of half marathons this is a great analogy.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Julia – I am so sorry to hear your family has also entered the world of mental health challenges. Hoping and praying you are finding the help your family needs.

      I am so glad you liked the analogy. I am a wanna be runner, especially after learning about how marathon runners get to the finish line.


  3. Reply

    Theresa Boedeker

    Maree, this is an inspiring post. I would have been just like you. 200% and full bore. This reminds me of the story about how you eat an elephant. One bite at a time. Great idea to focus on the next 1/2 mile marker.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee


      Thank you for sharing another great analogy. Yes, to eat an elephant you would need to do one bite at a time. Hope you have a wonderful day.

  4. Reply


    Thanks for sharing part of your journey. It is so important that we talk about mental health issues. I have a friend who has struggled and it is definitely not easy for anyone- the person or their family and friends. I love your advice about focussing on the next mile marker. I think that’s a good way to persevere.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee


      Friends can be amazing and so important in the journey. They can offer a hurting friend something family can’t. I find they are like a rare jewel when they choose to run the race alongside their hurting friend. Maree

  5. Reply

    Sarah Geringer

    Maree, thanks for bravely sharing your story today at #unite. I have dealt with mental illness among many family members, and I affirm you for researching and being positive. I feel better when I research our family problems, because then I don’t feel so overwhelmed and confused. Praying for you today!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Sarah – Yes, knowledge is key. I find the more I understand the more willing I am to equip myself. Praying for you too this morning. Maree

  6. Reply


    God has connected us again through the #RaRaLinkup. Thanks so much for your encouragement in this post. Your writing is a blessing. As you fix your eyes on the prize may there come a release of breakthrough in you and your family. Praying you sense a new ‘wind on your back’ as you faithfully live for Him.
    Be Blessed & Refreshed,
    ~Sherry Stahl

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee


      I love it when he connect us. I am glad my writing was a blessing to you this week. Thank you so much for your beautiful words and your prayer. I too am praying for you as I send this. Looking forward to jumping on over to your blog and see what you wrote this week. Maree

  7. Reply


    Wow, thank you for sharing your story! Learning to let go of the control and give it over to God can be so hard. Looking forward to reading your series on this topic! <3

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      So true – letting go and giving it to God is so hard. I find I do it and then I somehow take it back little by little. Good new is I just have to hit the repeat button and give it back to God again.

  8. Reply


    Thankyou for sharing this wisdom, I really like the idea of looking ahead to the next 1/2 mile marker, breaks life down in to manageable chunks 🙂

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Lauren – Yep, life is so much easier in manageable chunks. Thanks for visiting today. Maree

  9. Reply

    Karen Del Tatto

    Maree, I remember when my son was diagnosed with severe ADHD and thinking those same thoughts, “Why can’t things be the way they used to be “before the diagnosis”. But I then learned that there was now freedom in knowing the diagnosis.

    I have a personality very similar to yours and I appreciated so much your transparency as you shared about your navigation through the early days, weeks and months of your daughters mental health diagnosis.

    Thank you for imparting such encouraging wisdom to focus on the next mile marker which is so helpful in anything we face.


    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Karen – You are so right, there is freedom in knowing the diagnosis. I had never looked at it that way. Thank you for sharing. I hope you and your son are doing well with his diagnosis.

      I have to laugh because I have been teaching classes for years so sometimes I can come off as if have it mastered which I don’t. One night one of the participants remarked that it was unfair to think he could learn the skills. He explained that his personality was different and that the skills must just come naturally to me. I almost fell off my chair. None of this came easy or naturally to me other than my deep love for my child. Everything went against my personality, but I learned people can change. I did.

      Thank you for commenting today.It was fun chatting.


  10. Reply

    Michele Morin

    Your words here make me wish that I could experience the intensity of running a marathon, the physical determination and self-denial that gets the body to the finish line because I can see that the parallel to the spiritual life is so powerful.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Michele – I too want to experience the intensity of running a marathon. I just don’t think my darn knee would hold out. However, I totally feel like I have run one in a few areas of my life. I just want to feel that exhilaration of passing by the finish line. I guess we will get that when we get to heaven. Maree

  11. Reply


    Sadly God goes MIA when my mental illness is at its worst. Although I have been a believer all my long life He is silent.
    It’s a dark lonely journey

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Gail – I hate it when God feels MIA. Thank you for sharing it is when your mental illness is at its worst. It gives me a better awareness into how my family might feel at those times. I would imagine it does feel dark and lonely. I am so glad you are a believer. Hope it is okay to send prayers up for you. I am right now as I reply back to you.

      I know I once heard a speaker talk about when God feels silent how she switches into just knowing he is there. He does promise he will never leave us. I try to do that, and it helps, but I sure do miss feeling he is near during those times.



  12. Reply

    Erin @

    I LOVE this post! Thank you for your bravery and transparency in sharing a topic that most people shy away from. You are shining a light in a very dark place. But, what is brought into the light can no longer hurt us.

    As I was reading this, I prayed Psalm 147:3 over you and your child. It is a verse that was prayed over a child I was raising- “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” This scripture is similar to Isaiah 61:1-4, which I typed up and framed in the child’s room. I think God’s Words, as presented in these scriptures and others, are healing balm to the children and to us. We need healing prayer as we worry over the ones we are raising.

    Do not feel like you have to read this post that I am going to try to attach. However, there is a comment, at the bottom, written by a woman who is trying to care for an adult daughter. Her powerful words remind me to thank God, even in difficult situations-

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Thank you for your encouraging post and your prayers.I am sending prayers for you too as I reply back. I love the verses.

      I am hoping over right now to read the post. Thank you for sharing with me.


      1. Reply

        Erin @

        Maree, It is such an honor to “meet” you online. God is so good and so gracious to bring His children together. His plans and timing are perfect. You have hit on a topic that is so relevant and yet so masked within our society.

        I began compiling interviews, about mental illness, last week. Hopefully, they will be typed up soon. In the meantime, here is a wonderful scripture I have started saying aloud, over my loved one’s problems. Perhaps this will encourage you and your readers. I read about praying Philippians 2:10-11 over your home. The article said to confess Jesus as Lord over every room in your home. It brings such peace when I realize that even though I do not have control, He does.

        Maree, may you be blessed for your honesty, transparency, and your love of our Lord.

        1. Reply

          Maree Dee

          Thank you for sharing that scripture. What a great idea. Maree

  13. Reply

    Debbie Kitterman

    Maree – As you may know I am writing as part of a series on perseverance – this quote by Walter Elliot is fantastic. … “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” Thank you for linking this post up at #TuneInThursday
    and for sharing your story of running the race – 1 mile marker at a time. Oh and just so you know, I am a planner and can figure out what to do with all the potential things 10 steps ahead too, but there are some things, we just have to focus on what’s next. Especially when it comes with trusting God to care for our kids and help us through the process at the same time. I love your heart and am so proud of the many miles you have journey over these past 11 years. Keep on keeping on – one step, one mile at a time and know you are not alone – there are others cheering you on.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Debbie – What an encouraging comment. Thank you! Yes, I do know you have a series on perseverance. I have loved it.

      Glad to know I am not alone in the planning department. I have had to learn to set aside some of the best plans and just be. I can now do it with more ease, but I will always be a work in process. Pluss I have come to realize living in the moment is pretty darn good. I was missing lots of life always planning.

      Hope you have a fantastic weekend,


  14. Reply


    Such an encouraging post Marcee! It reminds of Dory’s catch phrase, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming..” Thanks for linking up at Salt & Light!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      You are so right it is like that catch phrases. I love that phrases, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” Not so strange but I needed that phrase at this very moment. Maree

  15. Reply

    Unmasking the Mess

    Maree- what an inspiring post! I think this tip will be helpful in so many aspects of life. Focus on the next mile marker!
    Visiting from #ChasingCommunity

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Julie, I am so glad you found the post inspiring. Yes, this tip is helpful in so many aspects of life. It is not just with mental health challenges. I recently found myself overwhelmed with some pretty big losses and at the same time a child graduating. I went right back to Jesus and the mile marker and muddled my way through the days. We managed to embrace both the loss and the celebration. Blessings, Maree

  16. Reply


    i feel as though I could’ve written these words . ..

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Alma – It is so nice to have you in our circle where we can share our similar struggles and find support. Maree

  17. Reply


    That motto is also what I have used to get through, Maree! Especially in times like these when I am staying with our daughter & family and lose patience & perspective, sometimes. I really appreciate the reminders and tips – and am so grateful we have each other! Most importantly, I am thankful for the Lord Jesus who lovingly guides us & gives us the strength to run this difficult race!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Bette, I am so grateful too that we have each other. What a wonderful mother you are to give and give even when it hurts. You are a great example. Praying for your time while you are away. Maree

  18. Reply


    “Fix your eyes on Jesus and remember you just have to get to the next mile-marker.” What a great image! Most of the time, seeing beyond that is overwhelming.Planning is my forte, so this was a lesson that did not come easy. I had prided myself on the ability to see the future and plan ten markers ahead. But now the fog would not clear, and the finish line became out of focus. It was unbearable to look to the future when the present held so much pain and uncertainty.” Describes my experience perfectly. I can’t believe how much we share in common. Looking forward to your next post.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      I can’t wait to have a chance to connect with you and hear your story. It is always so nice to find someone that has similarities where you can support one another. Thank you for your messages on facebook too. Blessings, Maree

  19. Reply


    “Focus on the next mile marker.” I like that a lot. Fixing our eyes on Jesus…holding His gaze gives us more power than we know to recognize, doesn’t it? Good reminders today, Maree. ((hug))

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Brenda — Thank you for stopping by I love hearing from you. Maree

  20. Reply

    Lance Price Blog 2017

    Maree, thank you for sharing this post with the world—for being vulnerable, honest, and letting openness about mental illness in your child’s life to be a testimony to the power of faith in Jesus. I find this encouraging and uplifting. God bless you!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Lance – Thank you for your wonderful comment. It encourages me to keep writing. Maree

  21. Reply


    Thank you ! I love this encouragement . Just focus on Jesus …and keep your eye on the next 1/2 mile marker. Some days I feel so overwhelmed. Extended family members don’t understand mental illness and can be so judge mental and mean .

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Lori, I think mental illness is hard to understand if you haven’t walked in those shoes. I know I haven’t always done a good job explaining it or educating my extended family on mental illness. I know awareness helps but heck some days are just overwhelming with or without an illness in the family. The eye on the next mile marker works for those days too. Blessings, Maree

  22. Reply


    Great post, Maree Dee. I love this thought, “Fix your eyes on Jesus and remember you just have to get to the next mile-marker.” Amen! Blessings!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Karen – I am so glad you like the thought. I know it has been a life saver for me in all areas of life. Blessings to you, Maree

  23. Reply


    Yes the challenges with mental health are at times overwhelming. The is not a sprint, it is not a marathon, it is a slow as snails pace putting one foot in front of the other with prayer in between steps. And it is hard on you, the person with the disease and everyone who walks the path with you because you may not see the results until we are transformed , made perfect in our eternal life. I just look for the little glimpses of that next step and when a window opens, sing praises. Have a good day

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      I agree sometimes it does feel slow as snails. Those are the times I find it best to look back and see how far we have come. Challenges with mental health are just that challenging. My heroes are those that get up every single morning and fight it. They are running a difficult race but those that that love them hurt too as you know. I love what you said about, “a window opens, sing praises.”

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