by Liz Burgess
“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
I have been a consistent walker for my self-care a few times in my life. The most recent began three years ago. But let me first share the beginning of my journey as a young mother of two small children.
The youngest was still nursing. My spouse, their father, died of Leukemia. I was rudderless. I had no faith, but I believed in God and the Golden Rule. I read in the Sunday news magazine a Bible quote from Joshua 1:9.
These words profoundly changed my life. After I remarried, I was baptized alongside my young children and began to serve my Lord through my congregation and Women of the ELCA.
When I started walking, I couldn’t leave Bill home alone for too long. I was out of shape, so my walks were not very long. I stopped and rested and then huffed and puffed up the hill leading back to our home. I am so glad I kept going. I also relied on the idea of walking for a cause to keep me focused. I became part of a team to raise money for Camp Calumet Lutheran. In 2021 an incredible 1,400 volunteers formed teams and walked for a dear cause.
Over the last three years of walking, I now realize the benefits of my almost daily walk outdoors: sunshine (Vitamin D), fresh air, time to pray, listening to music, podcasts, storytellers, or bird calls. I am less isolated. I met neighbors both in my little neighborhood and some miles away.
As my stress decreased, I was more present in my surroundings. A Pileated woodpecker was working on a telephone pole. I was thinking that God provided an amazing skull structure that protects the bird’s brain from injury. I got between a fox and its prey. I have enjoyed many sunsets, heat, rain, and a bit of snow. As my stamina increased, I started choosing to include hills in my route. I slept better and increased my energy even as I grieved my person with Dementia’s death. Earlier this winter, a neighbor stopped in his truck and gifted me a visibility jacket. (It’s pictured here along with my post-walk glow.).
The constant benefit for me has been the effect of endorphins released after you have been walking or working out for 20 minutes or so. I’m addicted to that feeling. Every day I need that walk to feel grounded, calm, and spiritually connected to my neighborhood.
Get out there. Invest in some good walking shoes. Invite a friend. Start small. Say a little prayer for yourself to keep going. You will be glad you did.
Elizabeth Brennan Burgess serves as a member of the churchwide executive board of Women of the ELCA (from 2016 to the present). She currently serves as vice-president of Emmanuel, her Lutheran Episcopal Congregation in Augusta, Maine.