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Growing up was great, I felt like I was on a TV show: big family, adopted siblings, and crazy adventures. We grew up in Seattle as devout Catholics, and I have fond memories of going to Adoration together as a family. Adoration is where people come to pray in front of the Eucharist, it’s the bread we receive at Mass, which becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus when the Priest blesses it. During Adoration, Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist is placed in a golden stand, called the monstrance, for us to pray and adore Him.

I always knew Jesus loved me, but I spent much of my childhood comparing myself to other people. I’m naturally a reserved person and my one passion in school was to learn. Eventually, I felt abandoned by my peers and believed the lie that maybe I’m not lovable. Going into high school, I was sick and tired of crying over myself, so I took on a resolution I called Just Be. I was simply going to be myself: no more comparisons, no more internal battles, no more worrying about what people think of me.

Turns out, I couldn’t continue my ‘Just Be resolution’ on my own until I encountered the Love of Jesus Christ. I had wandered into the one place in my loud-family house I thought no one would find me: a dark corner of our garage, and I sat there frustrated because I so desperately wanted to see outside myself but I couldn’t figure out how. When I heard footsteps coming toward me I looked up, and there was my dad. He knew I was there, he knows what it’s like to feel abandoned far more than I could ever imagine, and even though my pain was small in comparison, my dad went out of his way to be with me in that dark corner of the garage. I remember him telling me, “Joelle, the secret to life is to take up your cross and follow Jesus.” Since then, I’ve come to see my identity not as the world does, but with the cross as a beloved daughter of God.

In experiencing how Jesus builds us up with His love in the areas we are weak, I’ve desired more than ever to serve Jesus, and this year I’m working as a missionary with NET Ministries Ireland. Here on NET we usually have time of prayer with music in Adoration, and one day, we were singing, “Take me a little deeper, I want to know Your heart, I want to know Your love.” This is what my heart longed for, yet there was still another lie I had to weed out that sprouted from feeling abandoned by my peers in school. I needed to know that Jesus was truly there, present with me. So I prayed, “Jesus, heal my unbelief,” then I looked up at Jesus in the Eucharist, and so much joy and peace filled me! That simple prayer brought out the love Jesus gave to us with each excruciating breath He took on the cross to breath life in us. And the joy of His resurrection filled me; the victory has already been won, love has conquered darkness!

I encourage you; if you want to know Jesus more, begin with prayer. Prayer is simply a conversation with Jesus and conversations build friendships. Just as you would spend time with a friend, Adoration is a way to talk to Jesus face-to-face by His presence in the Eucharist. Seek Jesus out as He is seeking you and everyday, whether you are full of joy or full of despair, Just Be. Just be who you are in the presence of the living Jesus, who is alive and with you right now. Jesus will never abandon you and He never has.

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