Tabitha Lyons-McRunnels has been a strong, independent woman for a long-time. While expecting her second daughter, Morgan, her husband suddenly died from a brain aneurysm at the age of 24. For Lyons-McRunnels, who was then only 21, this was one of the scariest times she can remember. She will be the first to admit being blessed to have help from both her family and the family of her late husband.
“They were really good about being there for me,” McRunnels said. “Because at that time, it was just Laken and me. They took up with us.”
After nine years of raising her girls by herself, Lyons-McRunnels remarried. The transition from being a single mom to having two adults in the home was not an easy one. She credits lots of prayer and good advice as the catalyst to begin accepting Joseph as a member of their now blended family.
“I just didn’t know if I could trust that or if I could trust somebody else with them. But I remember my grandmama saying, ‘He is the man of that household and you have got to let him lead this family.’ You know, that’s still a struggle. Because they are my babies.” McRunnels said.
Later on, they decided to bring Lyons-McRunnels’ nephew into their home. “He was about four and his mom was moving around a lot and just wasn’t in a good place to keep him so that he could just be stable. And Joseph looked at me one day and said ‘We’ve got to get him.’ And I was like, ‘No!’ But we did and he has not left. His mom is in a better position, but he’s comfortable.”
After many years of taking care of her family, one day Lyons-McRunnels recognized it was also time for her to take care of herself.
“My wake-up call was not being able to walk the mall. You know, the struggle just to get out and go into Walmart or just do basic things like grocery shopping without getting winded,” Lyons-McRunnels said.
At that time, she weighed 381 pounds. She knew she had to do something, not only for herself, but to set a good example for her family.
She began her journey by making one change at a time. The very first thing she did was make the decision to incorporate walking into her day. “I went to this little track right beside our office and just started walking. I didn’t try to walk fast. I just got up and started moving.” Then Lyons-McRunnels added an increased amount of water intake to her daily routine. The weight began to come off.
Once these became new practices, she started bringing her lunch to work instead of eating out. She knew changing daily habits would add up to an overall different lifestyle. Now Lyons-McRunnels is down to 231 pounds and feels better than she ever has before. “Even if I don’t lose another pound, I’m okay. It’s all about feeling good.”
Commit to Be Fit is the name Lyons-McRunnels gave the class that is part of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program through Mississippi State University Extension Campus in Tupelo. The classes are held twice a year at the MSU Extension Campus, but Lyons-McRunnels will gladly go anywhere a group of people want to gather for her to teach them. The most recent class began on Tuesday, May 16th from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at an endocrinologist’s office in Tupelo and will meet every Tuesday for six weeks. Participants will learn about changing habits, shopping smart, planning meals, following nutrition guidelines, and making wise choices for a healthier lifestyle. There is no charge for the class. Anyone interested in the Commit to Fit class can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Admitting all she has wrestled with in her life physically, financially, and spiritually reveal Lyons-McRunnels’ testimony.
“When Derek died I really struggled with, “Okay God, what are you doing?” You know, I felt like I did it the right way. I felt like that was my soulmate. We got married and had kids and now I’m 21 years old and I’ve got to figure out what to do now, how to raise them, and I really struggled. I kept going to church, but I was really, really struggling with my faith and with staying focused. I’m very sure my family was praying for me.” McRunnels stated.
Caring for her girls motivated her to keep going. “Even now I say to them, ‘Hey, we made it!’ And they aren’t what statistics say they should be. They really are good kids. They’re smart girls. They do what they’re supposed to do. And we made it.”
Above all else Lyons-McRunnels’ says her greatest accomplishments are that her girls graduated high school and that they love Jesus. “Cause you know what I tell them? ‘When I die, I don’t have anything to leave you, but I know I will leave you Jesus.’ They know who He is. They know what He can do. I’ve just been diligent about making sure that I’ve instilled that in them.”
At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing for Lyons-McRunnels—motherhood. “Joseph and I were talking one day and he said, ‘What is your goal? What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do?’ And it was to be a good mother. Even when I was a little kid, that’s what I always said, ‘I just want to be a good mom.’ I’m living my dream.”
By Amanda Jewel Warren