Across the Carolinas students and educators from K-graduate school are getting ready to return to school. For students school lists are being checked off, supplies are being gathered, book bags are being filled, final schedules are being negotiated, books are being purchased and first-day outfits are being picked out.

Some of our children may by grieving the end of an awesome summer vacation. Yet, some of our children are celebrating going back to school because it means a return to two steady meals each week day.

For many families in our community, back-to-school shopping is a real financial burden. Therefore, it is imperative that those of us who are able, donate supplies to the numerous local back-to-school drives or donate directly to our teachers!

For educators, curriculum/syllabi are being created, texts are being picked, rosters are being looked over, classrooms are being decorated, and teacher work days are being completed. This is a busy and potentially stress-filled time. While these preparations are important, they are all externally focused.

I invite each of us to take a moment to reflect on the internal process needed to begin a new school year well.

Our doing is rooted in our being. In other words, how we feel about ourselves directly impacts how we move in the world. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines intention as “the thing that you plan to do or achieve: an aim or purpose.”

For students and educators alike, the beginning of a new school year can be a powerful time to set empowering intentions. This is a three-fold ongoing process: 1) cultivating the practice of self-love and compassion, 2) knowing that you are capable and 3) deciding how you will use your energy (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual).

There are so many messages around us, some even from religious institutions, that try to tear us down and make us believe we are unworthy beings that have to prove ourselves constantly. As an ordained reverend within the Alliance of Baptists, I believe wholeheartedly in the doctrine of the Imago Dei, rooted in the Judeo-Christian sacred text of Genesis 1:27, which asserts that we as human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we are good; we are at our core beautiful love-filled beings.

We, each and every one of us, are born worthy. Included in loving ourselves is the understanding that we will make mistakes, and take a few detours along life’s journey. The practice of self-compassion invites us to treat ourselves with kindness and forgiveness.

Another key concept embedded within the Imago Dei is the understanding that we are each born with the ability to actualize our unique gifts and abilities; we are born to co-create. This knowledge is particularly important for students that struggle with formal learning. Remember that there is nothing wrong with you. We are all capable of learning and growth. We each learn differently and we each have gifts in different areas.

Lastly, with the beginning of the new school year there are lots of opportunities for clubs, sports, the arts and other extracurricular activities alongside the challenging academic requirements. There is the temptation to be involved in all “the things” in order to prove that we are smart, well-liked and the best educator or student. This can lead to high amounts of stress and ignoring the basic necessities of our bodies, ie., water, food, rest and sleep.

It is important to be mindful of how we are spending our time and our energy, so that we can maintain wellness in our mind-body-spirit. It is my hope that as we start this new school year, we remember to slowdown, breathe deeply and enjoy the journey, knowing that we are made in the image of God!