by Linda Post Bushkofsky—

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve not always made self-care a priority, so the topic of stewardship of emotions (and all that we are) in this issue really intrigues me. When I was in my 20s and 30s, self-care seemed unnecessary. I thought I could do it all and never run out of steam. I worked a full-time job as an attorney; I was a Girl Scout troop leader; I was involved in a quilt guild and taught quilting classes; and I was at church nearly every weeknight for some committee meeting. Sleep was expendable. It never crossed my mind that getting less than optimal amounts of sleep might negatively impact major organs in my body. Like many of my friends, we read the then-popular book, Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, and laughed off our crazy schedules.

As I moved into my 40s and became a mother via adoption, the pace didn’t slow. My focus shifted from activities of my choice to activities involving our daughter. When I became executive director of Women of the ELCA at age 43, my schedule shifted again, to add a significant amount of travel. The travel meant that I wasn’t able to always engage in creative and life-giving activities such as quilting, gardening and making music. I didn’t stop to consider the negative impact this might have on my wellbeing. I just ploughed ahead.

Even in 2005, when Women of the ELCA adopted its health initiative, Raising Up Healthy Women and Girls, I didn’t really put into practice its lessons about caring for our emotional, spiritual and physical (ESP) health. I knew what needed to happen, but I somehow fooled myself into thinking I didn’t need to focus on my ESP health.

Somehow, as I turned 50 and moved beyond that, these messages finally took hold. Perhaps I was finally listening to my body—total knee replacements, pneumonia and sleep apnea have a way of grabbing one’s attention. I also became more realistic about what was reasonable to expect I would accomplish in this lifetime, what could be left to others, even reevaluating what’s been called the “work-life balance.” (That’s a topic for another column, because I don’t think there’s any such thing!)

Now, at 60, I guard my 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I no longer drink soft drinks. I walk 10,000 steps nearly every day, thanks to our new dog. I’m quilting and reading, knitting and writing, even gardening a bit. I worship regularly (I’ve always done that), but I’m much more attentive to prayer. I’m more mindful and intentional about everything I do—from the clothes I wear to the food I purchase to the books I read. And you know what? I’m more content and happy than I’ve ever been. I’m living my life at a comfortable pace.

I invite you to spend time this month, either individually or in your circles, reflecting on the stewardship of your life. The articles in this month’s magazine offer so many helpful starting points, especially around emotional health. Consider: Are you leading the life you want to lead? If not, you might contemplate putting some changes into place to get where you’d like to be. If you already lead the life you want, celebrate! The more we move towards our optimal ESP health, the more able we are, as disciples of Christ, to respond to God’s mission and purpose as Women of the ELCA.

Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.

This article is excerpted from the September 2019 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.