Editor’s Note: Hannah Hagarty, Missioner who recently finished Formation and will soon be going to Jamaica to serve for two years, reflects on her identity as she faces transition.

Advent is a time of waiting. Not too long ago, I packed up my things, gave long hugs with tearful goodbyes to my housemates, and left the Casa San Salvador. I am now in Iowa, waiting for the season of Christmas, and for my time on mission to begin in Jamaica.

The first few days I was home from were spent celebrating Thanksgiving with loving family and savory food. But now, everyone has gone back to work or school, and I am home, waiting in my own personal advent. In preparation for my time on mission in Jamaica, and in the Franciscan practice of simple living, I decided to spend time sorting and downsizing my childhood home.

I have been able to efficiently work through my bedroom, tossing items into growing piles destined to become donations, hand-me-downs to a family member, or to be thrown out. During this process, I came to the shelves in my closet occupied by my t-shirts. This presented a surprisingly difficult challenge. Those who know me well, have witnessed this t-shirt collection of mine. The shirts have become part of my identity, souvenirs from every point in my life.  And I have kept them all.

In my closet today, I find two American Girl t-shirts (one for me, one for my doll), a mickey mouse club t-shirt from Walt Disney world, t-shirts from a dozen national parks and other vacation destinations, horse camp shirts, and church camp shirts. One shelf is the dedicated home of t-shirts from all the sports I played through all the years I played. Below that and to the left I found shirts from all the school and community clubs I participated in. The top shelf holds shirts from college, the bottom shelf, hand decorated and dyed shirts. One pile includes the shirts that matched my sisters for school picture day.

Smiling, I dig deeper to find shirts in three sizes. Some shirts have the sleeves cut off for wearing under my basketball practice jersey (Mom didn’t like me cutting up shirts). Some shirts were first worn by someone else: those from my dad’s fraternity and mom’s sorority, and those I took from my grandpa’s closet after he passed away. Some shirts tout my favorite NFL, MLB, and college teams.  The most recent additions include a t-shirt from Christ House and one that reads “Hanging out with Franciscans – Make it a Habit.” I have shirts from every part of my life. They have become a source of comfort for me.

I even brought some of these shirts to DC with me for Formation. As I was packing up to move back to Iowa, I realized that I didn’t even wear a dozen of the t-shirts that I had packed. I didn’t bring them to wear. I brought them because they were my identity. Now, as I am trying to live simply, I wonder what to do with all of my shirts. I know some of the shirts will make the long trek to Jamaica, but which ones? And for what purpose?

Sorting though the piles, I am reflecting on my post Formation/pre-mission identity. What does this t-shirt look like? What does it say? Who am I now?  I imagine that my post-Formation t-shirt would say Love Blooms written above the image of a sprawling hedge that covers space and time. Some blossoms from childhood have wilted over time, casting seeds of new life into the breeze.  Some flowers are in full bloom–signs of my formation at Casa San Salvador–and other branches are bursting with tiny buds–loving experiences waiting to be lived in Jamaica. For now I’ll slip in to the well worn “Christ Reigns” shirt from the 2010 National Catholic Youth Conference, clean out my sock drawer, and excitedly wait to see where the blossoms of love will come from next.

Reflection Question: What in your life do you hold on to for the comfort and support?