I pretend to be gregarious to disguise the fact that I'm easily broken. Someone who smiles and talks and laughs around others isn't easily noticed as the porcelain that she is. It's the most clever of disguises.
We are molded by everything around us. Some of who we are is based on our inborn genes, our innate personalities that we can't escape. The rest of who we are is reliant upon our surroundings.
I know for myself, as I recount my personal history, every experience I've had, every acquaintance I've met, every culture I've tasted, every heart I've broken, every time someone's broken mine, every time I've found myself astray in a fallen world, every salty tear that has run down my cheek, every time that I've cried out to the heavens, every time I've wondered if they exist, every praise that has left my lips... all of this has molded me into who I am and am still becoming.
I almost cannot remember who I used to be.
I often wonder who I'd be if those experiences were altered in one way or another. How drastically would it have changed who I am today? What percentage does each of those experiences account for in the bigger spectrum of life? If one thing would have changed, would I have met my husband whom I now can't imagine life without? The thought makes me nervous for my past self.
If I hadn't made mistakes, would I have learned the lessons that I now know? Would I have the same appreciation for grace, or would I have taken it for granted?
Would I view the human race in a different light? Would I love the same way?
Would I have this perspective that I have now?
And so my mind wanders...
Today is my late great-grandmother's birthday. Nanny. She would have been ninety-one today. My bike path goes right by the funeral home where she is buried, so every now and then I'll bike up the hill to the site where she's buried and say "hello".
She was an incredible lady, a real treasure to everyone around her. She was always so excited to have her grandkids come over, and would greet us at the door, saying, "Come in this house!" She always had special snacks ready for us, as well as the Nickelodeon channel playing in the background (we didn't have cable, so that was always a treat). And when we got old enough to drive, she would always tell us that she was praying that angels would be watching over us wherever we were.
We had just moved to Nashville when I got word that she had a stroke and was in the hospital. Mom said it didn't look good. We had just arrived in Nashville a few days earlier, and didn't have a place to live yet. So we were staying with friends. I remember sitting outside on the front porch of our friend's house, listening to my mom tell me what had happened. My mom is pretty tough, yet there was despair in her voice. I couldn't believe it. Was this really happening?
Not long after that, she passed. She went to be with her Jesus, and she was ready. Even though some of us might not have been ready for her to leave us, she was ready. She loved her Jesus more than anything in this world, and was ready to be out of this world, out of the pain that she felt every day.
There is still a hole at family events without her - it still feels strange to not see her sitting at the table, joining in on conversation. But we are thankful for the impact that she made on each one of us while she was here. She left a rich legacy, full of life and hope - hopefully inspiring us all to leave a rich legacy of our own.
And there's a point when you must let go. Because life is too short and precious to waste trying to resurrect bloodless relationships that were buried long ago. They've already decomposed in the frozen ground.
But if you look outside of where you're used to, outside of what once was long ago normal, you might just find a rose amongst thorns. A green bud ready to burst amongst a grove of dead shrubbery.
You might just find hope.
To my green buds...you know who you are.
I find it amusing that people use Facebook as a part of defining their identity, as if stating where they are in the world of Facebook would somehow set them apart from everyone else. Facebook ends up surfacing in most small-talk conversations, because a fact that is getting ready to be talked about was discovered on Facebook. But there’s usually a disclaimer in there, like, “I only use Facebook to keep in touch with my family,” or “The only reason I have a Facebook is because [fill in the blank]...” because no one wants to admit to spending tons of time online. Or even snidely said, “Well, that’s why I don’t have Facebook...”
Why does a social media sharing tool even enter at all in how we define ourselves?
I'm just as guilty here. I have in the past felt the need to explain my reason(s) for being on this social sharing site, as if to debunk an affiliation in which the hearer might potentially be categorizing me.
But there’s something deeper here. Why do people feel like they have to have a disclaimer for who they really are or how they usually act? If there’s shame in how you normally act, then change the way you act. Or if it’s just a social pressure of what’s “in” or “out”, or what’s “cool” or not, then maybe just stop living for society’s or someone else’s expectations. I think we exhaust ourselves trying to be something we’re not, or trying to cover up something we are.
Societal pressures subtly and even blatantly encourage us to be anything that we're not, which is not how our souls were designed. That is why this thinking will only bring constant unrest to the soul, until we can reconcile our identity with ourselves and with our Creator.
In the Christian world, we are taught that Jesus is the answer to all our problems. He is the Savior of the world, no doubt, and I personally strive to follow Him every day. But following Jesus is not going to make your problems in life go away, or even necessarily get better. So why do some think that being a Christian will eliminate our problems? What teaching have we followed that has led us to believe this? Because that sure isn't in the Bible. As Donald Miller so perfectly pointed out in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “It’s hard to imagine how a religion steeped in so much pain and sacrifice turned into a promise for earthly euphoria.”
So often, I think we view God as a genie in a lamp – a being that exists only to give us what we want if we just ask for it. That somehow we’re immune from despair because we have wishes stored up that can be fulfilled.
Christians expect things out of being a Christian, and when those things aren't fulfilled or life doesn't turn out the way they've planned, they become disappointed or feel let down – like God didn’t deliver His end of the bargain. And that leads to becoming cynical, bitter, and angry.
So many have entered the world of Christianity with so many expectations – expectations that the church has given, knowingly or not – that they didn’t even have a fighting chance at a genuine relationship with Christ. No life can live up to the expectations that so many churches place on the Christian life. And how is anyone supposed to fight for something that they don’t really understand?
So why promise something that isn’t reality? To increase the numerical convicts per service? To pat themselves on the back? To validate their own existence? How are they fooling themselves?
How has modern day Christianity managed to turn the Gospel of Jesus Christ into simply do’s and don’ts? And then when you do a don’t – and we all do – the guilt trips are so thick that some end up never forgiving themselves, or even hating themselves, living the rest of their lives in shame. Tell me, how is one supposed to spread the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ when they feel worthless? Or like they’re just not good enough? How does the church preach against evil, and yet let evil in in the form of shame and blame? How do we miss this?
How do we miss the chance at a real relationship with Christ because we’re so busy with the religion? In the name of “modernizing” and “maintaining relevance” – terms that oh so many churches use today to justify their program-based decisions within the church – we’ve lost it. We’ve lost what it really means to follow Christ. Instead we’ve replaced it with programs, intelligent lights, fancy graphics, and trendiness.
When did we start to commercialize Christianity? And when did we lose our way and think that was right and acceptable? When did the people in the church become so uninformed of the teachings of Scripture that we fail to recognize when something is “off”?
As A.W. Tozer so concisely writes in his book The Pursuit of God,
“To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.”
I mean, wow. Does that not represent most of what we see today in the modern church culture? And does that not just make your heart sad?
And just maybe all of this has something to do with this generation’s unbelief, skepticism, cynicism, bitterness, anger, and coldness towards God.
How did we get here?
Have you ever felt like you're living someone else's life? Like you wake up one morning and you have no idea who you are and whose life you've been living. Not amnesia – well, maybe like soul amnesia. You just have no idea how you became who you are today. Or how you got where you are.
And all at once, you hate it.
You’ve come so far from what or who or where you thought you would be, you can’t even identify with yourself anymore. It’s like you forgot all the steps in between the time you had dreams of what your life would be like and now – not even remotely grasping how you have come to this current place in your life.
And it seems like everyone else around you is just carrying on as things are normal, or even worse, great. You all of the sudden feel isolated, like you’re the only one who seems to be carrying this perspective. You think that maybe something’s wrong with you. You try to convince yourself to snap out of it.
And then you’re confused and perplexed, and filled with unbelief that you are the only person who is feeling this way. You know it’s not in your head. You know that there’s something wrong with this life that’s being lived, and there’s something wrong with everything around you.
With some obvious varying differences, all humans are virtually the same. We have the same basic desires. It’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Our hearts need to love and be loved. We feel the need to have security. We have a moral sense of wrong and right, regardless of our faith or belief system. We feel the need to achieve something in our lives. We all need food, water, and breath to survive.
And at the surface, most of our lives seem to be similar. We all have people in our lives that we care about, and who care about us. We all have things that we like and dislike. We all believe in something.
And yet it just seems as if there should be more. Like our existence should merit something amazing. Our existence, the human body itself, is an incredibly amazing thing, the way every intricate part works and comes together to create who you are. Doesn’t it make sense that things you do in your every day life should be made up of something amazing as well? Some days it seems like a waste.
So what makes some people fine with living their lives the way they are? Is it ignorance? Complacency? Accepting simplicity? Pure apathy?
This nebulous feeling seems much more prevalent, although not exclusively, among those in their mid-20s and 30s. Generation “Y”. The technology generation. The lost generation. Is it possibly because we as an oversaturated generation have been exposed to so much more that we are now unsatisfied with reality?
I've talked to several people who have at one point felt this way, and read several blogs of the same. Granted, they were all Americans. We as Americans have so much at our finger tips, we are very readily and ironically bored with what we have. It seems as though we have a nation-wide identity crisis on our hands, in need of a perspective shift.
What would it be like if we just purposed to live a better story, as Donald Miller suggests in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years? “And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
What would the world look like if all of its inhabitants lived a better story?
I enjoy writing. It clears my thoughts and it’s somewhat therapeutic. When I can’t say it, I write it. Or sometimes when I can say it, but might get slapped, then I write that as well. Everyone needs an outlet. This is mine. I just feel that my perspective might be worth sharing. And if there’s one person out there that benefits somehow from what I have to say, then I’ve already succeeded.
I write from where I sit, from where I see the world, as most writers do. I analyze and dissect life, in all walks, in all situations. This means that I will sometimes have something happy and sunny to share, and then sometimes it will be a little more cynical, even dark, because let’s face it - our thoughts aren’t always rainbows and puppy dogs.
Now this doesn’t mean that I’m wallowing in depression and on the ledge about to jump. This doesn’t even necessarily mean that I am in desperate need of some verbal encouragement or an uplifting talk. This just means that I’m fearlessly sharing my thoughts - the good, the bad, and the ugly - because I don’t think people do that enough. Afraid of judgment, I suppose. I’m not - afraid of judgment, that is. Judge away, if you’re one of those people that feel the need to judge. But I’m sharing who I am, sharing my heart, for better or for worse.
So I guess I felt like I needed to disclose that as a precursor to future posts. Enjoy the ride.
I recently celebrated my 27th birthday. For some reason, 27 sounds so much older than 26. I feel like 26 is still mid-twenties, and 27 sounds more like upper twenties. Kind of like I might as well be 30. But I'm embracing it nonetheless. I definitely don't feel like I'm in my upper twenties. I've been feeling very youthful lately, whether it's a subconscious mental countering of my age, or the excitement of our recent move, or something else entirely, I'm not complaining.
It is rather funny, though - each year, we've had some major life change. And for some reason, it always ends up being on my birthday. This year, we were preparing for a big move, so we spent all day packing, cleaning, and loading our belongings into a van to leave town the next day. Last year, we had just moved back to the Midwest from Hawaii and were interviewing for a job in St. Joseph, MO, sleeping in a stanger's home. The previous year, we were transitioning out of Nashville, TN and into Maui, Hawaii, and were living with friends. The year before that, we were moving to Nashville from Springfield, literally walking around in the southern summer heat, turning in resumes in downtown Nashville (btw, I actually got a job that day - happy birthday to me).
We were sitting in Waffle House the morning of my birthday this year, before the packing and cleaning process, looking back and laughing about all of these memories, reminiscing funny stories and situations. And then I realized that I couldn't really remember my birthdays before all of those years that we had big life changes or transitions. I have distinct memories of the last few years, because there was always some crazy transition happening in our life. But I can't remember the normal more "traditional" birthdays. I'm sure they were wonderful, but I then realized that I much prefer the adventure-filled, non-predictable, non-traditional birthdays - the ones that you can look back on and smile about.
And because my husband is amazing, we always had a time in the midst of the craziness that we took and celebrated. This year, we went out with friends the night before my birthday, he took me out for breakfast and coffee the next morning, then after packing, we had a bunch of our youth group worship team kids over for an epic night of playing in the rain and playing music outside. Last year, we got a hotel room and ordered chinese food. The year before that, my friend took me out for an all-day snorkel boat trip in Maui. The year before that, Brannon bought me a hiking backpack and it came in the mail the day we moved from Nashville. I remember our upright piano in the doorway, halfway between our living room and the moving truck, him on one side and me on the other, when the package came. He threw it across the top of the piano, smiled and said "Happy birthday."
Every year, I have a very special specific memory of turning another year older. Another adventure, another crazy situation, another memorable experience. And I wouldn't trade any of them for a "normal" birthday. So here's to many more years of crazy memorable birthdays - I hope it never changes.
So in honor of this being Father's Day "week", I'd like to share a fond memory that I have of my dad...
I remember standing out on our back balcony when I was younger, probably about 11 years old, with my dad and my sister. There was a clear sky and a full moon, and the moon was much bigger in the sky than normal. It was so bright against the midnight blue sky it was almost blinding. And it was beautiful.
“I want you girls to always remember this moment,” he said.
We agreed, and there was something inside of me that wondered if I would remember it. So many memories are constantly lost. I suppose if you tried to remember everything that happened in life, every meaningful moment, your mind might explode or fold into itself.
But I did remember it. Fifteen years later, I do still remember that moment. It made me want to purpose to remember more meaningful moments in life.
My sister recently drove to visit my husband and me in St. Joseph. The three of us went on a trail run while she was here at a trail that we had recently been frequenting. Although it still felt like you were running through a hot wet blanket, the trail was mostly covered by trees, a welcomed relief in the humid Midwest heat.
As we finished, it was dusk and we started heading back to our car. There was a grassy patch to the right of the path where the skinny trees were more sparse, and the ground kind of dipped down slightly, visually separating it from the trail. And in that patch, there were thousands of fireflies that seemed to come out of nowhere filling the entire area, their glow seeming to give out a much-needed warmth for our souls.
I am not the type of person who gets overly excited about things. I’m not a naysayer, or a particularly negative person, it just takes a lot to get my jaw-dropped. But at that moment, my mental jaw dropped. I felt like a kid again, like the adult mud that had been covering my eyes was wiped off, allowing me to see beauty once again.
It was like floating glitter, the shiniest glitter you’ve ever seen, like a scene from a real-life fairy tale. I’ve never seen anything so amazing. Nevermind that they’re bioluminescent insects whose butts glow. That’s a miracle in itself. But even taking that for granted, I was blown away.
I stood there for several minutes, just staring at them in complete awe. I leaned over to my sister and asked her if she remembered what dad said when we were younger. She did.
“Never forget this moment, ok?” I said to her.
She nodded in agreement. We stood there for another several minutes until the dusk thickened even more, then walked back to our car.
It's moments like these that make me want to purpose to remember more. That if had just latched onto more moments like these, then maybe I would've kept more of those precious memories. A good reminder to live well, and not easily take those significant moments for granted.
~ ~ ~
Dedicated to my dad, Jerry Pollock, who continues to work hard and make sacrifices for our family, while somehow continuing to create meaningful and memorable moments that are unforgettable. Thanks for all you've done and continue to do, Dad. Love you.