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Step by Step…


I hope you have the NKOTB song in your head now. I do.

I am 27 days into September and have hit 10,000 all of them so far. There are days when it has been impossible yet somehow I still scramble and finish. There have been multiple laps around the tables in the fellowship hall at church, prayer laps around the sanctuary, dance parties in the house as Steve and I both try to hit our step goals.

I’ve learned that Violent Femmes and Paul Simon have many songs with good dance/walk tempos. I’ve learned that Alexa will play whatever music I need to boogie down to and she keeps me entertained with jokes and encouraging quotes when I’m smart enough to ask.

Benny and Phoebe enjoy exercising with me, though Benny mostly will look for any reason to race around the house with his big puffy tail and huge paranoid kittycat eyes.

I have rediscovered muscles I didn’t remember that I had. I get frustrated that the number on the scale isn’t going down dramatically but I remember that muscle weighs more. I can feel myself changing. I feel lighter somehow, but also more energetic.

I’ll try to post a summary in a couple of days. This month has been pretty hectic at church and home, but working out has been a much needed constant. I’ll continue with it after October comes, but probably won’t be frantically leaping through the house at 10:30 pm if I don’t have quite enough steps.

Stepping update


This step challenge has been more difficult than I thought. I always have intentions of getting a chunk of my steps done in the morning so there will be fewer in the evening. With meetings and hospital visits, though, it’s proven hard to consistently exercise at the same time.

I told my dad when all of this started: I don’t know how I can do this for a whole month. But then I realized I just have to take a day at a time. It’s not “how can I achieve this whole, big goal” but instead it’s “what can I do today that will help make tomorrow easier.”

That said, I’m over 110,000 steps into my 300,000 goal. I’ve somehow managed to get 10,000 a day, and a lot of that is because of the consistent encouragement from my dad and my husband. Steve should get $1 every time he says “You can do this. I believe in you.”

I’m doing all of this to raise a little money for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Not everyone knows what CP is. I’m still learning about it, too. But here’s Zach Anner, one of my favorite people talking a little about CP. It’s a good starting point for conversation, Ethel. 🙂

300,000 steps for a good cause


Usually I scroll past the promoted posts on my facebook newsfeed. Last month, though, one caught my eye. There was a non-profit hyping a fundraiser that worked like this: you’d sign up to log 10,000 steps every day through most of the days of September, pay a registration fee, and recruit sponsors. The non-profit was supporting research for cerebral palsy. CP is near and dear to my heart because my husband Steve has CP.

I looked into the organization a little bit more, read through their website, and searched for more information. Their primary goal is curing CP. Talking it over with Steve confirmed my sense that finding a cure is not as helpful to people we know who already live with CP every day.  It’s a subtle nuance maybe, but I wanted to contribute to research for treatment and support for people like Steve and other friends who are living great lives, and also happen to have CP. So I’m not using the clever name the other organization came up with (and I truly hope their pitch goes well) but instead of paying registration fees and getting a “free” pedometer I don’t need, I’m going rogue.

Here’s a different organization that I like better: Cerebral Palsy Foundation. From their website: “The Cerebral Palsy Foundation is dedicated to transforming lives for people with cerebral palsy today through research, innovation, and collaboration.” This is the one I want to support. So here’s 300,000 steps I’m taking towards better health.

300,000 steps!

This is how I’ve decided to spend my September. I am planning to donate $2 for every 10,000 step day I can muster in the month of September. I wanted to make sure it was do-able before I shared my plan but since I already have 5 days of 10,000 steps under my belt, I’m ready to tell y’all about it. Though a challenge for me, especially in the upcoming meeting-filled days, I know this is something I can see through for another 25 days. My dad is keeping up with me in steps and encouraging me. Steve is incredibly supportive, too, and he is committed to log 1,000 steps a day. It’ll be good for all of us to move a little more. Supporting a wonderful cause gives that extra nudge of motivation.

I’ll try to check in a few times over the next couple weeks to share how everything is going. And you’re welcome to join me in supporting family and friends with CP by stepping along or donating to the CP Foundation. I’m looking forward to sharing more about CP and whining about how sore I am as I wake up muscles I forgot I had.

50,000 down and 250,000 to go!

Thankful Thursday


Ten Things I’m Thankful for Today


  • Birthdays! My brother’s birthday was Monday. My mom’s birthday is tomorrow. My husband’s birthday is Saturday. That’s a lot of birthday love in the span of a week. Tonight after work, Steve and I are heading to Okoboji to join up with Mom, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my adorable nieces. We will celebrate birthdays and life and summer.
  • Pastor-y things! I do love being a pastor. As I move into my second year in Goldfield, I’m grateful that even the hard days are good days. Serving this church and this community excites me.
  • Cheap school supplies! I don’t really need them, but I can’t resist a cheap notebook and new pens.
  • Laundry! No, really. I was remembering all the trips to the laundromat a few years ago. I hope I never take forgranted that I can do laundry in my basement whenever I want.
  • Rain! Man, did we need it. I’m thankful that we’ve gotten a little bit the last two days. I don’t know a lot about corn, but I swear it’s standing a little taller and swaying with a little more exuberance because of the rain.
  • Walking! Since I bought my fitbit, I’ve become one of those people who tracks steps. I don’t completely obsess, but it’s helped to make me more active. I just left my desk for five minutes to walk a few laps around the sanctuary and the fellowship room. Probably looks weird, but it got blood moving and gave me more energy.
  • Points! I’ve rejoined WW and tracking food is tedious, but it keeps me focused and helps me avoid temptation a little better. I’m grateful for fruits and veggies… and trying a little harder to eat both.
  • Books! I ordered a few that were recommended during the morning class I took at Synod School last week. The class was The Productive Pastor. I’ll share the book titles as I get to them.
  • A new dress! I was the target of a facebook ad and I fell for it. Torrid has a dress that has muppets all over the skirt. Who can resist a good Muppet dress? It came in the mail today.
  • Renewing a domain name! Well, that’s just crazy. But I did pay to keep for another year. Enter the optimism about posting more in the future and blah blah blah. But maybe this time I will.

Radical self care


During seminary, self care was at the heart of recurring messages from professors and mentors. “Take care of yourself.” How obvious it seemed. Read your Bible. Take time to pray. Go on a walk. Remember to drink water. Breathe. All good things.

Self care should be simple. Turns out that’s not how it works, though. I get lost in the list. Seems like there’s always another two or ten things to do at the end of a day. Even when I’m efficient, even when I’m focused, even when I’m on top of my game, I still struggle with guilt that I’m not getting enough done. I’m not able to be everything to everyone.

If I crush it at church, I am exhausted at home. If I clear out time for home and family, I feel bad that I’m leaving stuff unfinished at church. The balance part baffles me. In the middle of everything else, I’m not very faithful at self-care. In the scramble to stay on top of household responsibilities, I lose my good intentions to the chaos of just getting by.

I know I’m not alone in this. Sometimes at the store I make eye contact with others who have the same weary, yet frenzied look on their face. I see social media posts and assume people might put on a brave face, but they’re trying to get through it all, too.

I don’t want to just get through. I don’t want to lose my life in the blur of the next ten things I need to do. And so I’m trying to return to self-care without the accompanying guilt. I signed up for Weight Watchers online and I’m relearning what it means to eat nourishing food. I’m finding balance in treats and counting food with points.

Yesterday, Steve and I signed up to join a wellness center. I couldn’t make it back to workout before they closed at 7, but I did an inhome walking dvd to practice sweating and taking time to exercise. It’s a new rhythm. I hope it sticks.

Part of the rhythm of self-care is going to include writing for me. Not writing for a sermon, a newsletter, social media… but just writing for me. And it’s okay to carve out time for things that refresh and give me life. I’ll repeat that until it sinks in deep.

Muscle Memory and the Muppet Show Theme Song


I have owned a piano for almost six months now. When we loaded it in my car, I remember thinking “In six months, if I haven’t used this much, I will resell it and free up space in our living room.” I wasn’t sure that I would practice piano anymore as an adult than I did as a middle school kid. Mom faithfully paid my piano teacher Mrs. Gatrost, and I faithfully showed up at her house for my lesson each week, having tried to cram a week worth of practice into the half hour before my lesson.

I have owned a piano for almost six months now and something crazy has happened: I have played it nearly every day. I started with some of the piano lesson books, trying to figure out what level I would be. The lessons didn’t really do it for me, so I picked up a couple fun easy piano books. I’m not great at it. I play at varying speeds. I hit wrong notes. On some songs, I just plain suck.

But I’ve been playing more. I have a book of hymns that I keep flipping through. I play a mean “Jesus Loves Me” and “Blessed Assurance.” I can stumble my way through half a dozen other hymns. Playing them soothes me (though I doubt it would be soothing for a listener.) I used to have a book of Sesame Street songs but lost it sometime around college. I reordered that and also found a book of easy Muppet music.

I’ve been trying to master the Muppet Show theme and “Moving Right Along.” I’m trying to get them up to tempo. I’m realizing the more I play them– and really it’s just 15 minutes in the morning, maybe 10-20 minutes at night– the more my hands hit the right keys without trying. In fact, I sound so much worse on the piano when I do try. Crazy. But my muscles are learning where the keys are. And they’re remembering.

Music saves me at the end of stressful days. Music sets my mind in the right place at the start of my day. Playing great songs, wrong notes and all, has become a spiritual discipline. And it’s amazing how many alternate lyrics we’ve come up with at my house for the Muppet theme. “It’s time to pet a kitty…”

So here’s the update for today: I’m keeping the piano.

Piano Practice


I did something a little crazy. I bought an electric piano. I didn’t even know that I wanted a piano until I saw a listing for one on a facebook for sale group. This is the piano that I ended up buying (used and reasonably priced.)


I enjoy plucking out hymn melodies when trying to find songs for the bulletin, but I’m self-conscious about practicing the piano at church, where people can actually hear me play.

So I talked it over with Steve and did some research on different models of pianos and keyboards. This one isn’t super flashy– no bells, whistles, or drums. But it has weighted keys and sounds like an actual piano. It also is portable, which will come in handy next time we have a community ecumenical church service at the old school, where there’s not a piano we can use.

I’ve played the piano every day this week. I can’t help but picture my childhood piano teacher Mrs. Gatrost smiling and I hear her counting in my head. The seller threw in some piano lesson books and I’ve enjoyed figuring out what level I’m at. I’m certainly practicing more and trying harder than I did all through elementary and middle school. The muscle memory is slow to come back but it will, in time. Steve says he doesn’t mind the extra noise. This is the face the orange cat makes when I practice, so I suspect the cats might have a different opinion.


20161123_101335 I knew being a pastor would be stressful. I had heard pastors describe the weight of the call and the difficulty in finding a way to unwind. Music helps. It helps me to listen and sing along. It helps me to play and practice. I’m not sure I’ll ever be awesome at piano, but I would love to be able to sight read a few hymns. I’d love to not have a panic attack when I’m heading to a worship service without a piano player, and am told I’ll have to lead singing acapella. Pitch is irrelevant when I sing– something I’ve learned my niece does not particularly enjoy. This is how she listened to us sing happy birthday to her other aunt.


I’m thankful for the chance to unwind a little and I’m especially grateful for my mom who paid for piano lessons all of those years, even when I sort of just gave up on playing. Coincidentally, I think she’s excited, too. When I told her I bought a piano, she said she would dig out some of her sheet music and bring it over so she could play again, too.