Fridays are my favorite in this season of life. For many reasons…

First of all, I feel accomplished and content having completed my lesson planning for the week! I only teach my Advisory Group and one period of 9th grade History, at the end of the day on Fridays. This last week, I felt so engaged, relaxed, and connected with my students as we discussed the consequences of the Black Death/bubonic plague in 14th century Europe and then played a card game to simulate the spread of the plague. They played along wonderfully and I soaked up the fun teenage energy on a Friday afternoon!

I enjoyed little moments of connection with several students, talking about figure skating, witty expressions, and the Senior Night Basketball games the day before. Typically when students leave the classroom, there are a few who say “Thank you, Mrs. Bonilla!” This last Friday, it was a chorus of “thanks yous” as the students left the classroom, and I was moved by the tenderness of the moment.

The main reason Fridays are my favorite right now is the routine Sienna and I have of going for a late afternoon drive. During the pandemic, when there wasn’t much to do, the kids and I started taking long drives through the back roads of Rancho Santa Fe to Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. It’s a beautiful drive through exquisite houses and horse ranches with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean at the end!

Mateo’s sports practice schedule has helped facilitate our drives. His coach is a parent at our school, so he purposely schedules practices on Fridays, to avoid conflicting with the heavy homework load! Dennis and Teo hang out on Fridays after school while Sienna and I grab our Starbucks treats and go for our drive.

Sienna is 14 years old and, right on time, has discovered the joys of pop music. On our drives she plays DJ and introduces me to new songs. I’ve been an Ed Sheeran fan and she loves him too! Lately she’s discovered Ruth B., Ariana Grande, The Weekend and Justin Bieber. I’ve definitely thought “What are kids listening to these days?!” on occasion, but generally I’m enjoying the music. It’s very insightful to hear what she’s listening to and it opens up conversation about lyrics that may not be totally appropriate.

These times, alone with my sweet daughter, are so precious. During the week, she likes to keep a healthy distance from her mom at school. Our agreement is, in exchange for giving her space at school, I get to hug and cuddle her at home whenever I want! (Kind of.) Honestly, we are both quite busy during the school week, so catching up on Fridays feels particularly special.

Lately it feels like I’m watching the kids grow and change right before my eyes. The more I sit back and listen, the more Sienna shares (or, as she says, “talks my ear off”)! Listening to her explore ideas, consider how she behaves, and generally contemplate life is such a joy. Hopefully our Friday drives will be a steady routine through her teen years.


Accepting My Limits, at Christmas and Throughout the Year

At the beginning of Christmas break, I prayed repeatedly for God to grant me peace and presence to enjoy the holidays with my family and prepare well for the return to school for the last three weeks of the semester.  Knowing myself, I didn’t want pressure to work on school prep to steal my attention away from the joyful moments of Christmas celebration.

Two days after Christmas, as I continued to battle a nasty cold that left me voiceless and tired, I realized that God had answered my prayers!  Ironically, illness had stripped away my constant striving for productivity and cleared my schedule. It quieted all the “shoulds” that typically echo in my mind as I accepted my condition and allowed myself to rest. Gratefully, we made it to Christmas Eve’s Lessons and Carols celebration at church, though my coughing kept me from singing very much. 

Christmas morning, my cold was at it’s worse. My throat and ears hurt. I couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for my stocking stuffers and asked my family to forgive my reactions!  But, in that moment, I prayed again. Lord, help me to accept how I’m feeling and be present with my family today. Help me remember that the blessings of Christmas abound far beyond today and just rest if your grace.

The inclination to have unhelpful thoughts such as, “I hate that I feel so sick on Christmas morning!” is a very normal, human reaction.  We build up a day or an event and want it to live up to our expectations.  But we’re not in control of so many factors, including how our body feels on any given day.  Letting those thoughts guide my spirit would only make me feel worse.

I am so grateful for these little moments of stillness and contemplation of what is most important.  Our Christmas was cozy. We played with our rambunctious puppy, watched movies, and said prayers of thanksgiving for the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem all those years ago.  I had just enough energy to make Christmas dinner and my family was compassionate all day.  Sienna kept looking at me with concern, asking: “Mom, how are you feeling?”

All this unscheduled time at home has led to a lot of interesting studying in preparation for units on the Peloponnesian War and the Magna Carta when school resumes in January.  Rather than feeling stressed to fit in work over the break, I’ve had fun curiously studying these topics. The fact that I didn’t have much else to do just provided extra motivation to study! 

This has been an intense season of learning and growth as I teach history (to teenagers!) for the first time.  It’s hard and humbling and fun and fulfilling. I’ve been praying for peace and presence over and over again.  God truly gives me the energy and focus I need, when I get out of my own way and cease striving to do it all and do it all perfectly. Admitting my limits and therefore not expecting unreasonable performance helps me remember how needy I am for the grace and guidance of Jesus, our beloved manger king. 

Merry Christmas!


Embracing my smallness…

Going into this season of life, I expected that my inner critique would be triggered by the stress and uncertainty of starting to teach for the first time. After over 16 years of working at the same company, I’d experienced a level of familiarity and comfort that brought routine and ease into my life.

Doing something so different is exciting! But, it’s also unsettling, disorienting, anxiety-producing, and a minefield of possible mistakes. When you’ve spent so much of your life trying to do things right it’s overwhelming to voluntarily put yourself in a situation where you’re undoubtedly going to do things wrong!

I could start writing about how a growth mindset transforms the statement above into an opportunity instead of something to dread; and it does. But, this ability of mine to reframe everything so that it sounds good and right again, doesn’t actually allow me to feel my feelings and be authentically in the hard stuff. So, I’ll resist the temptation…

I told my advisor yesterday that I’m experiencing a familiar feeling from my days in graduate school. It’s the sense that there’s always something that needs to be read or studied. Even if I’m “caught up” there’s always another book or topic waiting for a lesson plan that needs to be written soon. Teaching new curriculum is a universally overwhelming experience, I’m told. So, there’s comfort in that!

My inner critique voice tells me several unhelpful things about this constant stream of studying, but the most common is: I don’t have time to study everything I need to on this topic. Now, I know full well that no one expects me to know “everything” but my inner critique apparently doesn’t understand the basic limitations of time and human frailty.

When my mind is spinning these unhelpful and uncompassionate stories, I know the only way through is to pray, rest, and trust in God’s provision and faithfulness to me. He knows my frailty and limitations and sent an answer in his son Jesus. Coming back to dependence on Christ reframes my perspective in the most beautiful way. I’m called to model grace, forgiveness and virtue to my students as I connect with them. Allowing myself to receive grace is the best preparation for the work he’s called me to do.

… in my smallness, I find rest, quiet, comfort. Trusting that his provision, not my striving will accomplish His will.” – Sally Clarkson


A New Meaning of Confidence

Last night I enjoyed a lovely FaceTime call with my dad and stepmom as we caught up on life and we talked about my big transition to becoming a teacher. I shared an experience from back in late August that gave me rich insight into my self-perception.

At the House Retreat, we played a game where everyone sits in a circle of chairs and the House Master calls out certain characteristics, like “Birthday is in July” or “Plays an instrument” – something like that. Then, if the statement applies to you, you jump up and take a chair that’s been vacated by others who also fit the description. Towards the end of the game, the statement was “Is a runner” and I was the only person who got up. As I stood there, I felt a little silly and instantly thought, Well, I’m kind of a runner.

I’d never had such a clear experience of what people call “imposter syndrome” and it was fascinating. By all empirical reasoning, I AM a runner. I typically run about 20 miles per week and have completed several half-marathons and one full marathon. Running it a big part of my life and I love it. Why then did I not identify as “a runner”?

A week or so later, I was at school one morning and noticed an anxious thought: I don’t feel confident. I should feel more like a confident teacher. Quickly, I reframed my thoughts: Really?!? It’s your second week of teaching, Kels. Why would you feel confident already?

Then it hit me. I’ve been running regularly for about 15 years and, on some level, I don’t “feel” like a runner. Maybe what I’m actually doing is more important than what my inner voice tells me about my identify.

As I shared this all with my dad and Moni, my dad had a great insight for me. He asked, “Do you know the Latin roots in the word confident?” With some prompting, I recognized that “con” means “with” and “-fident” comes from the word fidelis which means “faithfulness”. Thank you Marine Corp motto! Dad went on to explain how it works as a legal description of holding someone’s information in “confidence” or “with faithfulness”.

I LOVE this reframing of the word confident! Instead of trying to feel self-assured, being a confident teacher could mean approaching my teaching vocation with faithfulness.

In the best moments over the past several weeks, I’ve been focused on connecting with my students and engaging with interesting historical information. In other words, I’m fully present in “doing” the activities of teaching instead of analyzing and judging how I feel about my performance as a teacher.

Words have power. Our mind’s ability to fuse with words dramatically changes our experience. Praying for confidence takes on an entirely new and richer meaning when it means acting with faithfulness. Amen!


Gabriel’s Oboe

In one of my favorite movies, The Holiday, Jack Black’s character tells Kate Winslet’s character about the amazing soundtrack from the film The Mission. It was a scene I watched over and over but never thought much about the composer that’s specifically mentioned: Morricone.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of studying and often need to drown out the noise of my family or students (in my shared office/classroom). I’m listening to classical music on Amazon Music and Pandora daily at this point and have discovered many beautiful songs. My favorite though is Yo-Yo Ma’s performance of Gabriel’s Oboe which is from The Mission and was composed by Ennio Morricone.

Take a few moments to appreciate this beautiful song… Enjoy!


The Messy Middle

I suppose I knew life would feel unsettled during my first year of teaching. That’s totally to be expected, right? I don’t have any established and practiced routines for lesson planning. Everything is new to me: taking attendance, classroom routines, software programs, you name it.

But, my ability to suppress unwanted feelings is incredibly strong. It’s a gift, really. I’m able to reframe situations and circumstances so I don’t feel the anxiety of the unknown, for awhile anyway. This typically takes the form of avoidance of reality. Then the ensuing panic hits and I hit my knees in prayer as I recognize my control strategy has backfired.

The irony isn’t lost on me. While I love history and enjoy the process of studying and preparing lessons, my desire to teach well combined with inexperience triggers anxiety. However, when I’m able to make room for my feelings of anxiety and engage in the work, both with students and the preparation beforehand, wonderful feelings of joy and purpose pour in!

First Day of School – August 25, 2021

My mindfulness strategies from The Happiness Trap have served me very well lately. Likewise, lessons about embracing a growth mindset, which our school deeply values. The harsh inner voice that whispers that I’m not capable, don’t know enough, or will not measure up gets louder in times of stress and anxiety. Being able to accept these feelings and defuse these thoughts allows me to fully connect to the present moment. Then, in the present moment I can connect with my students, the class content, and whatever needs my attention. I then make room for growth: for them and for me.

God has equipped me for this vocation, in this place, for this time. When I rest in this truth and trust that God will daily provide for my needs, the harsh inner voice gets a lot quieter. God isn’t asking me to be a perfect teacher. He doesn’t expect me to confidently know what I’m doing in my first full week of classes! My job is simply to use the gifts he’s given me and the passion he’s put in my heart to engage in teaching his beloved children.

At lunch after church today, I shared my feelings of anxiety with Dennis, Sienna and Mateo. Getting out of my head by talking about these feelings brought such relief. I needed to be honest with myself and my family by saying aloud that I would be working a lot this year. I want to study and be well prepared for teaching. It’s not a burden, but a gift. This vocation is what I’ve prayed about for years. Growing in my skills as a teacher will take devotion and effort, but it’s so worth it. They were completely supportive and tears prickled my eyes as I realized, once again, that I can ask for help and rely on my family for support.

So, this is where I am right now. In the messy middle of learning, growing, engaging, and praying.


My Constant Companion for 28 Years

Today is the 28th anniversary of my diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes. Thanks to Facebook, I had the opportunity to review my many postings each July 27th over the past ten years. Exactly a decade ago I celebrated 18 years of living with diabetes and shared my joy of being complication free. Today at 28 years, I’ve now dealt with my first complication: diabetic retinopathy. Though difficult at times, I’m now familiar with the laser treatment and it’s not so scary.

Diabetes is a constant companion in my daily life. Whatever else is going on, each day I test my blood about ten times, deliver an injection of long-acting insulin, calculate and inject fast-acting insulin for meals, and gauge my activities from exercise to water consumption based on blood sugar management needs.

Fortunately, I tend to enjoy routine (and diabetes loves routine!). Also, I’ve long ago resigned myself to eating healthfully and enduring the blood sugar results when I choose to indulge! So, while diabetes is relentless in its presence, I don’t find it particularly bothersome. Most of the time.

So, on this anniversary, I’m going to focus on my precious life as I celebrate that diabetes hasn’t adversely impacted in (much) over the past 28 years.

I’ve been in a huge period of transition the past couple months! My last day at CBIZ was June 11th and my family promptly hit the road for our annual Northern California trip just two days later. Dennis, me, Sienna, and Mateo left our sweet dog Claira in the care of neighbors and drove up to Dennis’s hometown of Marysville first. We spent a few days relaxing with family and our dear friend John, including a fun day in Old Town Sacramento before the high heat hit. Next we spent two nights at my cousin Pam’s horse ranch in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It’s was lovely to visit and get the kids on horses, even though the heat was oppressive! Finally, we traded the hot temperatures for Humboldt fog as we enjoyed a couple weeks with my family. Dennis and I spent most of the trip at our family ranch, making daytrips into town for activities.

Having this prolonged trip away provided a great transition period for me to adjust to life without a corporate job and time to embrace my new vocation as student and teacher. For the first week or so, I experienced this nagging feeling that there was something on my phone I needed to check. I realized that it was my old CBIZ email that was giving me these phantom pangs of responsibility. Instead of responding to inquiries and solving a seemingly endless string of management issues, my job was now to read a huge stack of historical texts.

While on vacation at the ranch, I got to finish a book on the Byzantine empire and start one on the Peloponnesian War while sitting by the pool. “I can’t believe this is my job right now!” I kept exclaiming to Dennis who lovingly sat beside me with a book for hours at a time. During this season we also enjoyed watching our Phoenix Suns in the NBA playoffs. They had a great run which was really fun for us!

Back home, I’ve been able to embrace my scholarly life and am learning the rhythms of my body (i.e. reading between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm is impossible!) so I can structure my days efficiently. Dennis and I had about 10 days at home sans children as Sienna and Mateo stayed up in Humboldt with family before my mom (aka Gaga) brought them home in the middle of July. During that stretch, we had a lovely ladies reunion with my friend Melinda and I got a lot of studying done. When Gaga and the kids got back, we had fun shopping for “school clothes” for me and exploring San Diego in the summer time between study sessions. Next week starts full-time training on campus and I’m so excited to dig in!

Several years ago, I realized that one thing I never prayed about was my diabetes. I quickly changed that and started praying for God’s wisdom and guidance when blood sugar management became overwhelming. Through God’s grace in teaching me acceptance, my perspective on diabetes has become more flexible. I can see how routines and habits can be helpful for a season and then need to be adjusted as life or my body changes. I expect there will be some diabetes routine tweaks in order as the school years begins and my daily life looks different.

Sienna asked me the other day if I would tell my students about my diabetes. I paused, since I hadn’t considered it at all yet. Considering my desire to be open and transparent I replied, “Yes, I definitely will”. I want to be authentically present to my students and diabetes has been a part of me for 28 years.

Diabetes is a constant companion and it will be along for the ride as I start this next chapter of life.


A New Beginning and a Dream Fulfilled

In early February, a recruiter reached out to me via LinkedIn about a position in a law firm.  After nearly a year of the pandemic plus plans for a restructuring of my team at work, I felt ready to make a change. I updated my resume for the first time in over a decade!  As I engaged in the recruiting process, I contemplated what God had planned for my life’s work.  The law firm job was enticing from a compensation standpoint, but it also sounded very intense and potentially soul crushing.

While praying about the future on Ash Wednesday, I suddenly thought: If I’m going to leave CBIZ, I should pursue my heart’s desire, which is to work at Cambridge. I wonder if they are hiring right now.  I should check…  

My dream for the past few years has been to teach at The Cambridge School. In 2008, I finished my Master’s Degree in History but then put my teaching dream on hold for financial reasons. CBIZ has been a wonderful place to work and grow for over 16 years, and it provided well for me and our family.  However, my desire to teach and participate in a school community was ever present.  As the kids matriculated to Cambridge and experienced a rich Christian, classical curriculum, it rekindled my passion for this kind of formative education. 

Upon checking the Cambridge Careers webpage, I was ecstatic to find a posting for a newly created position: History Department Chair for the Upper School!  The full description confirmed my hunch that this was my dream job!   It had the administrative, operations and leadership responsibilities that I’d cultivated during my years at CBIZ, plus the joy of teaching history!  My heart sank when I read the requirements which included an advanced degree in History and five years of teaching experience.  My teaching experience was deficient, limited to just one year teaching as a Graduate Assistant at SDSU.

As God’s perfect timing rolled out, Dennis and I had a video call scheduled with the Head of School and Director of Advancement, Jean and Jeff, the very next morning.  Dennis and I discussed and decided to ask them on the call whether I should apply for the position or not.  Maybe the experience issue would be a non-starter.  I prayed that God’s will would be done and eagerly anticipated our call the next morning. We had a delightful conversation and both Jean and Jeff encouraged me to apply for the position!

The next week was a whirlwind!  Turns out the recruiting process was wrapping up so I hustled to complete the application and essay questions before turning my attention to preparing for my demo lesson on Friday.  I was asked to prepare a lesson for the modern European History class, which had already covered the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment philosophies.  Since the class just started studying the French Revolution, I chose to teach a lesson on how Enlightenment ideas shaped the French Revolution. 

I’m teaching a demo lesson in three days on a topic I’m not entirely comfortable with yet! This idea was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating!  I prayed constantly as I sought insight, focus, and a whole lot of inner calm.  One of my favorite verses brought such peace: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7

Off to Barnes & Noble I went after work on Tuesday evening to get my source material.  My little scholarly heart was overjoyed to have a topic to research!  The next morning I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep as ideas and questions popped into my mind.  Finally at 5:00 a.m. I got up, started the coffee, and dug into the readings.  I spent all day reading, taking notes, and formulating an outline of the historical events.  Dennis watched me and commented, “You’re loving this, aren’t you?” 

“Yes, so much!” I replied.  Getting to use these mental muscles was pure joy, plus I was fueled by the nervous energy of striving for a job I wanted so badly.  Giddiness interspersed with moments of terror characterized those few days.

It was really sweet to watch the kids, Sienna in particular, grapple with the idea of their mom working at Cambridge.  At first, Sienna was wary.  On Wednesday evening she said to me, “You should get this job, mom.  You’re working so hard.” Then, on Thursday afternoon as we sat in the Starbucks drive-thru, she dreamily commented, “Oh, I could tell kids ‘My mom works at Cambridge!’” My sweet girl.

As my notes and timeline came together, I struggled with finding the right balance between lecture and discussion for the demo class.  I’d come across a great primary source to read and discuss: the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.  It was drafted during the revolution and clearly showed the influence of Enlightenment philosophies.  By practicing my lecture over dinner to Dennis, Sienna and Mateo, I was able to identify places to cut back to make room for the discussion.  After calling my brother (who did the same Great Books program as me at St. Mary’s) to talk through my plans, I finally felt ready!

By the time Friday morning arrived, I was full of excited energy.  When my anxiety flared, I kept praying and reminding myself to be fully present to soak in every moment.  The interviews, conversations, and lunch gathering were all so stimulating and supportive.  I felt such a connection and so comfortable with the wonderful people who already found their vocations at Cambridge. The demo lesson went well!  I identified some things I wished I’d done differently, but all in all, I was proud of what I accomplished.

The thing I want to remember from this experience is how utterly I depended on God for peace, grace, and wisdom during the days of preparation.  It was a real life illustration of how a growth mindset sets you free to try your best.  If I had a fixed mindset or was hooked by fears of failure (i.e. perfectionism!) I would have collapsed under the stress of preparing for the demo lesson and interviews. 

Relaxing at the beach after the interviews and demo lesson – what a great feeling!!

In hindsight, I could see how God only gave me the information I needed to take each next step in faith.  If I’d known when I asked Jean and Jeff about the position that I’d be teaching a demo lesson a week later, I may not have had the courage to ask!  As it happened, I just took the next step and prayed fervently for strength, wisdom, and peace to handle each task in front of me. 

I’ve also reflected a lot over the ensuing months about the ways God equips us for our vocations in his kingdom slowly throughout our lives.  My undergrad program at Saint Mary’s and then my MA in History were wonderful preparation to teach in a classical school.  Obviously, I had no way of knowing that Cambridge was in my future when embarking on those studies, but God did.  Likewise, it’s fulfilling to see how my experiences at CBIZ helped me build skills that are transferrable to a school setting.  

As the Holy Spirit suggested might happen (during one of my morning runs), rather than the History Department Chair, I was offered a position to teach history in the upper school! Cambridge is giving me the opportunity to grow into the chair role by providing the teaching experience I need.  I’m so humbled and grateful that they are giving me time and space to grow.  What a gift and further confirmation that God equips us over time.

It’s so exciting to finally share this news!  I’m wrapping up my time at CBIZ next week, after almost 16 ½ years.  Transitions are hard, but the past few months have given me time to adjust and the leadership has been very supportive. I’ve developed some special relationships at work that can now become personal friendships. 

Now I’m off to read and prepare for my two classes next fall! 


No Condemnation.

While on my long run Saturday morning, I noticed my thoughts were demanding all my attention.  Try as I might to be present and in touch with the moment, I kept getting pulled into my head as judgments caught my attention: I hate how my eyes keep watering! This run isn’t feeling all that great. Am I going to turn at Camino Del Sur or keep going down the bike path? Why can’t I stop thinking so much?! Rubbing my eyes so much can’t be good for the dark circles under my eyes… Etc.

I came to a hill, (ironically, the same place where I thought of the idea for this post about not fearing the hills!) and I could feel myself struggle against the pain of running up the hill.  I didn’t want to go through the discomfort, though I’d been looking forward to running this particular route for the past week.  It hit me, I was not accepting my feelings at all.  I wanted to go on feeling steady and comfortable, which doesn’t allow you to do hard things, like run hills! 

I prayed for help: “God, please help me get out of my head and accept my feelings.”  I thanked my mind for all the stories and actively connected to the moment.  I started observing my thoughts instead of fusing with them, which allowed me to see the critical nature of all these thoughts. 

Oh yeah, it’s my harsh inner critic! I suddenly realized.  It’s amazing how in touch I’ll be with this part of me and then completely forget it even exists. 

So, obviously the harsh inner critic is just me.  It’s the voice that tells me I have to do things perfectly.  I must always make the right decision in terms of food choices, insulin doses, activities, behavior, etc.  It tells me to strive harder and then proudly praises me when I accomplish something.  It also judges, judges, judges, all the time.  I mean, how can you tell you’re doing the “right” thing unless you identify all the “wrong” things?  Black and white, all or nothing thinking is very important for the inner critic.

What I’m referring to as the inner critic is also described as the “false self” my others.  The “Old Adam” is how Luther describes the remaining sinful nature that is alive and active in us, even though we are redeemed and sanctified through baptism into the triune God. 

It’s insidious how this part of me gets triggered.  It’s been triggered in the past by keeping a planner and wearing a tracking watch; really anything that helps me measure my performance. Recently, I realized that social media, Instagram in particular, caused me to judge my healthy eating and exercise habits against those “influencers” I follow.  I’d started to compare my routines against these curated ones and found myself coming up short.  It’s crazy that I kept putting these images in front of me! 

It helps to refer to this part of me as a separate entity so I can more easily identify how unhelpful this perfectionistic attitude is.  But, it’s actually just my sinful nature rearing its head.  When I’m in this state, it’s like I tell God, “Thanks for all you’ve done for me; I’ve got it from here!” 

I know that I’m not performing for God’s approval, his love for me is unconditional and assured.  I’m performing for my own sense of accomplishment and gratification.  I want my inner critic to go easy on me, so I choose rightly to keep the condemnation to a minimum.

Oh, the peace and relief that comes when I recognize my striving and surrender – it’s incredible!  Today’s sermon at church touched my heart deeply as Pastor Horn reminded us: “In baptism, you have God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit constantly watching over you and taking care of your every need.” When I repent and accept grace as the free gift it is, the inner critic gets awfully quiet.  After all, there’s now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1).  Amen.


Set my Spirit Free

For the past several months, I’ve started the day by reading the Daily Lectionary most mornings. The lectionary provides readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and a Psalm for each day, following the themes of the church year. Mateo picked up on this routine and started asking me to wake him up early so he could do “devotions” with me.

Yesterday morning we read from Luke over breakfast, concluding chapter 11 with Jesus’s warnings to the religious hypocrites of his day. This led to a great conversation with the kids about the dangers of self-righteousness. We talked about constantly returning to Christ’s grace and our need for forgiveness, rather than trying to uphold the law ourselves and then looking down on the sins of others.

The Lutheran Study Bible has wonderful notes and prayers that I cherish! This reading shared the lyrics of a hymn in the form of prayer:

Not what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load.

Thy work along, O Christ,
Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
Can give me peace within.
“Not What These Hands Have Done” (Lutheran Service Book, 567: 2-3)

There’s such freedom in this knowledge as we acknowledge, over and over again, that our peace, hope and salvation are because of Christ’s work, not our own. When I readily accept this grace, (which includes repenting of my sinfulness), I allow the kids to receive grace too. Which, in turn, turns the pressure down on all of us!

When I looked up the hymn reference, I found such comfort and peace in the fourth verse:

Thy love to me, O God,
Not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest
And set my spirit free.
“Not What These Hands Have Done” (Lutheran Service Book, 567: 4)

Amen, Jesus.