Editor’s Note: Former DCSC volunteer and House Manager, Amanda Saunders, takes part in FMS’ Advent blog series by looking introspectively into the question, “What am I carrying?” and how to bear the weight of those answers.

Throughout the Bible, we are given many images of carrying. We see in the Old Testament with the carrying of the ark of the covenant. We see it countless times in the New Testament starting with the carrying of Mary by a donkey to Bethlehem. We continue to see it with the Gospel story of the people carrying their friend who cannot walk to where Jesus is and lowering him through the roof so Jesus would heal him. And the one we may think of first, the carrying of the Cross by Jesus to his crucifixion.

We are given examples of promise, hope, faith, and sacrifice through these images.

Recently I have been trying to be more intentional about taking an inventory of how I am feeling. I ask myself, “what am I carrying?” I usually ask myself this in the car on my way to work and in the car on my way home from work. It helps me know what I am bringing into my classroom and into my home at the end of the day (more often than not, it is helping me identify what I need to leave behind).

Recently I have been carrying false promises of “normal life” returning. False promises that I have been telling myself to make myself feel better when I have a Zoom hang out with my friends or I have yet another virtual class that falls a little bit flat.

I have been carrying hopes of a more just world. A world where everyone is not only respected for who they are but celebrated and protected. I have been carrying hopes of a future that is filled with empathy and generosity leaving behind hate and judgment.

I have been carrying an, admittedly and somewhat shamefully, weak lukewarm faith that is struggling to blossom and grow with a lack of community and routine. The things my faith has been built on are no longer available in the same way and I am carrying around that struggle while working through how to rebuild it.

I have been carrying the sacrifice of not seeing my family and friends as often. The sacrifice of not being with my students in person. The sacrifice of not being with my coworkers. The sacrifice that is vital. The sacrifice that for me is so draped with privilege– and carrying that too.

This Advent season, I am carrying all of these moments, emotions, fears, and hopes. I want to be honest with myself in what I am carrying. Not only admit the good things that I have but also share my struggles.

This Advent season, as I am preparing for the Lord’s birth, I want to be asking myself the question that Mary asked herself as a young woman too in an unprecedented time in her life: “How is what I am carrying changing me and changing the world?”

So I leave you with that question. Be gentle with yourself, friends. There is a lot you are carrying. Never be afraid to ask for help.