Hello lovely readers! Happy Christmas Season! I’m so glad that listening to Christmas music is finally acceptable (after all, I start playing holiday music in early October, and most people find that very strange).

You could say that playing Christmas music in October is a fear of mine (because of the odd looks I receive from friends and family after hearing that I listen to “Silent Night” 8 weeks before I should be). All jokes aside, fear has really been on my heart recently. I can confidently say that this semester, I’ve faced many of my fears but one still plagues my thoughts: growing up.

When I was younger, I used to wake up in the middle of the night and start crying because I was a day older. I cried because I knew the carefree, childlike life I lived would someday pass. Even back then, I recognized that change is terrifying, and growing up is one change that is guaranteed with life.

I moved out of my parent’s house in June and because of that, I have more obligations than I’ve ever had. Not only did I move out, but this semester, I took on multiple responsibilities at work and in the extracurricular activities that I was involved in. I was constantly thinking ahead to the next project I had to get done instead of enjoying the present moment. I wondered where my joy had gone, the joy I used to have before the semester started, when I was less worried about the tasks that I had to accomplish.

I was starting to think that because of the new obligations I had, and because I had grown up so much, I would never have time to do the things that brought me joy, the things that helped me to see the world through a child’s eyes. I felt like I had to always be doing something productive to prove my worth. I felt like I was in a constant competition with my friends and peers. I knew of people who were doing more than I would ever do and they seemed to handle it well. They seemed to like having adult responsibilities. I thought that I had to be more like them. I had to embrace my adult self and leave my childlike heart behind.

This constant state of looking ahead to the next thing I had to do left me feeling empty. I found myself wondering if this was all life is. I found myself looking for the joy I used to have. I found myself wishing that I had my old life before having adult responsibilities. I felt like I was floundering and I had no one there to save me but myself. I felt depression knocking on my door, again.

I didn’t tell anyone about my suffering. I thought that I couldn’t tell anyone because everyone sees me as the happy girl. I'm the girl who sees the positive side of every situation and who thinks that everything in life is magical. I thought that if I told anyone, they would see the happiness that I exude as being fake. So I tried to forget about it, which meant filling up my schedule even more, which meant telling everyone that I was fine when I was far from it.

Like always, although I tried to suppress my feelings, I end up bursting into an emotional mess. And like always, my sister detected my pain, even though I had done my best to hide it. I spilled everything in a fit of tears. She gently reminded me of the homily the priest at our church gave that weekend: “The only mountain that God can’t handle is the one that you don’t show Him.” So, I concluded that in order to heal, I had to show God my mountain of fear.

Ironically, the next day, one of the old churches in my hometown was open for adoration, something that happens only once a month. I went, grateful that it had come during a time when I needed it most.

As soon as I sat in the creaking pew, tears sprung to my eyes. When I was younger, I cried to my parents that I was growing up, but now, it was time for me to cry to the Heavenly Father.

I heard God telling me to close my eyes. I was reluctant at first because I was never good at imaginative prayer and I knew that’s what He was going to show me, but I followed His gentle nudge and closed my eyes.

I instantly saw myself as a 7th grader. I was sitting with my class in a circle and our pastor at the time was teaching us the fundamentals of meditative prayer. “I want you to close your eyes,” he said, “and imagine a place where you are most peaceful.” Back then, I remember imagining a secluded beach, the waves lapping at my bare feet. But this night, I imagined a trail on the mountains near my house that my family often hiked in autumn. The forest was a mixture of aspen and fir and pine. Birds called to each other in the trees and chipmunks scurried on and off the trail as golden leaves fluttered to the ground.

Then, I remember the pastor saying, “Once you’ve got your peaceful place, imagine that Jesus is there with you.”

I imagined myself on the trail, Jesus up ahead of me, leading the way. I didn’t know where I was going, but He did, and I was reliant on Him to know the way. I wasn’t worried about anything. I was enjoying the moment with Him and I was overflowing with happiness. We explored the area with a childlike wonder. I started dancing down the trail, finding joy in being a kid again. I used to dance constantly when I was younger, and dancing with Jesus brought so much joy to my heart.

Then, I was back in the church and Jesus was sitting next to me. With His arm around me and with our eyes on the tabernacle, Jesus said, “See Kirsten, with me, you can always be a child.”

I had thought I had to leave my childlike heart behind. I had thought that because I’m growing into an adult, my childlike wonder was gone. But being with Jesus in my imagination, I was completely myself. I felt free to dance and to enjoy the wonder of the moment, like a child. He helped me to see that deep joy still abides in my spirit and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

This doesn’t mean that I forget about my adult responsibilities. However, I should also take time for myself to do the things that bring me peace, the things that help me to see the world through a child’s joyous eyes. I shouldn’t be ashamed to be childlike and to enjoy life like children do.

I pray that you see God leading you this Advent. I pray that you can take moments for yourself during this season. Enjoy life through the lens of children and marvel at the wonders that God has placed in your life. May you have the most blessed Christmas Season!

With love,

Kirst

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