The Stories Of My Life

The Stories Of My Life

The Chronicle of my (Not So) Religious Upbringing

Gold edged pages tucked between laminated blue, a red ribbon draped across our latest adventure. Beside it, another blue, this one with bright images cutting through the hitherto uninterrupted span of cyan. Beyond that, green, with a golden bee drifting up the side. Then red, then white, all stowed between the warm brown of ancient wood. My childhood world, tucked away on a corner shelf.

I cannot recall when I came to know religion. I have yet to reach the point where I can say with peace and honesty that I understand it. It has always been present. What “it” is though, is another matter entirely.

In the early years, it was just another story. The Children’s Bible, the Children’s Torah, the Tao of Pooh, Treasury of Fairytales, they were all one in the same come bed time each night. They all existed together, separate but the same. My eyes were alight with the tales of great whales, rising from death-like sleep, forbidden apples, roses, lions, deals with dark beings, saviors, and magic. They were all ideas, and they all fit together, the puzzle pieces of my world.

Though I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when wonder turned to resentment, I can guess at it’s origin, in the sweltering presbyterian church of my grandparents, where dreaded Sunday mornings were wasted several times a year during dutiful family gatherings and involuntary visits when our parents gleefully dumped my younger brother and I into the arms of our waiting grandparents and would-be religious guides.

All the visits have more or less blended together into one uncomfortable blob, but there is one moment—of particular boredom, of pricking sweat, and the itching of frilly sleeves shoved up my soft six-year-old skin—which brews to the surface. It was easter. For my younger brother and I, easter was a day for bunny rabbits and chocolates. I knew the story of Jesus and some part of me must have understood he was vaguely connected to the holiday by this point, but all I remember thinking about was how much I wanted to leave that creaking church, with it’s endless lumpy-seated pews and judgmental retiree stares. I hated coming into the church, hiding behind my mother’s skirts as stampedes of white-haired people congratulated my grandparents on their lovely family, boring down on me with too-straight smiles and too-wide eyes, their skin emitting a smell something like lavender and baby powder and something else that made my little nose wrinkle.

“Stand up,” my father snapped at me when the hymns began. And up I would go, carefully placing my folded paper masterpiece at the edge of my seat before returning to my post behind my mom’s leg, my blond head just peeping over the top of the pew as I stared at my toes, wriggling between the gaps in my little white sandals.

Then there were the later years, after I began to feel the judgement of my grandparents on me, no longer deflected completely by my parents. When I resented the church not only for the uncomfortable hours stolen, but also for the hate I felt for a God I wasn't sure I believed in, a god who, if he, she, it, existed, took my aunt from me despite her faith, her strength, her kindness.

I do, despite the hazy shift from fantasy to reality, remember the moment when I was sure I would never fall into the easy classification of christian that my non-church going parents still so easily slipped into.

It was another easter. I was fourteen. I wore a green dress that my mom made me and curled my hair. I always tried to pretend it was something to look forward to. I liked dressing up. My brother had mis-buttoned his shirt, and while my mom fixed it in the shadow of the car in the church parking lot he sprinkled soft chocolate across the pale blue fabric as he chewed his way through at least half a dozen Hershey’s easter eggs.

My grandfather made some passive aggressive comment that we all pretended not to hear as we trudged across the uneven lot to the inconsequential little merit island church. I shook hands with people I didn't know, pretended to smile and took my seat quietly.

At the start of the service, I stood as directed and turned to those around me, shaking hands and murmuring “peace be with you” “peace be with you” “peace be with you” with my plaster and paint smile. I stood for the hymns I did not know and stared at the grains of wood in the great center cross. My eyes pricked and my sweat welled and in the middle of the third hymn I felt the sudden urge to scream and cry and run from the building, tearing down the gaudy pastel decorations as I went. I did not belong here. I was not this girl. If the thing this place was made for existed it did not deserve my devotion.

Why would I ever believe something that required my subjugation, my devotion, my time, my mind, my fear, my life? Why would I ever love something that could take my aunt from me and force me to return, again and again, to this white-washed place with brain-washed people who had been singing the same songs I didn't know since long before I was even the whisper of an idea on this earth?

After that I refused to go to church. My parents, who in the privacy of our own home were sympathetic, tried to sway me “for the sake of my grandparents.”

I stubbornly heard that they could love me as I was or not at all.

Though now, looking back, I see my attitude was rash, hateful, hurtful, I do not regret it. I was not wrong. I was raised by stories of all ideas, and of none. I had never been given a way of thinking and told it was the truth. On the rare occasions when I asked for clarification between reality and fairytale, my mother told me it was up to me to decide.

I remember one occasion shortly after that easter spent in the green dress, when the world had become very dark and muddled, I asked my mother with tears dripping black tracks down my cheeks and knees pulled up with a pink pillow against my chest, “Which religion is real? Which god is real?”

And she brushed my messy hair back and said, “None of them. And all of them. It doesn’t really matter. What counts is the message. And at the bottom of all the stories, all the enchantresses and gods and prophets and ideologies is just,” she shrugged, “Be Good. And you are good. So the rest is for you to decide for yourself.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve been angry. Confused maybe, but in the best sense. I have accepted the truth that I do not know, and will never know, the “truth”. Instead I explore, I ponder, I learn. I soak in every story, every opinion, every idea, and collect those that build upon that foundation handed to me. Be Good, Be Good, Be Good.

Cover Image Credit:
Cover Image Credit: Marian College

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.

Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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From The Outside Looking In, UNC Is A Liberal Campus, But That Doesn't Mean God Isn't Working Here

Just because we don't always seem Him working doesn't mean He isn't


When I decided to go to Carolina during my senior year of high school I specifically remember people immediately saying how they'd be praying for me and my faith as I headed off to such a liberal university. It wasn't until I actually stepped foot onto UNC's campus and became a part of the culture here that I realized how inaccurate people's assumptions of this campus truly are.

People's assumptions about what UNC is and isn't stems from a lot of stereotypes and preconceived notions they have about a university that many of those same people never actually attended. I know that comes off as harsh, and maybe it is, but the truth is you are never truly able to understand what an environment is like until you spend a significant portion of time there. It's the mundane moments or the day to day life events that I get to take part in which allow me to fully embrace all that UNC is. Until I was able to experience that for myself I too feared that my faith would be muddled by UNC.

Those mundane moments I mentioned, it has been within those moments that I've been able to experience the overwhelming love of Christ and see the work He is doing on this campus. It's sitting at a table in the Union to finish up some homework and overhearing a conversation about Christ or walking through Lenoir at dinner time and hearing a group of friends praying before dinner. If you aren't looking for it you'd probably overlook it or cast it off as another conversation, but these moments are so much more than that. The best part of it all, those are just the mundane moments.

Maybe it's bold of me to say that God has a plan for this campus, but I'm fine with being bold in that. I find the confidence in saying this because I get to experience Tuesday nights in a church on Franklin Street as a congregation of students fills the pews and for 45 minutes we stop what we are doing and praise God together. There are no denominations there, there are no barriers, it's a group of students coming together to worship God through music. Then as we break away and go our separate ways for the rest of the week each of us falls back into our own sphere of influence. In these spheres of influence, we build a deeper community that binds us to different churches and campus ministries and organizations, but at the end of the day, we all find our way back to that same church every Tuesday evening.

I will not deny that my generation has shown a drastic decrease in the amount of college-aged students who regularly attend church services on Sunday, but that a) doesn't mean that they've fully forsaken the faith or b) that God is not working on college campuses like UNC. As with everything else, I think it is important to put these statistics into context. When students come to UNC, or any college for that matter, most of the time they find themselves trying to reestablish who they are and redefine their identity. This seems to stem from a lack of community and not really knowing where their niche is just yet. Loss of a well-established Christian community can be detrimental for a lot of students as they go off to college and struggle to balance all their new responsibilities while trying to figure out who they are. So that drastic decrease we see may be less of college-aged students fully parting ways with the faith and more of them not being able to find a community where they feel at home.

This area, in particular, is one that really defines why I say that God is truly working on this campus. As a student, it can be hard to find that community, as I said, but UNC has so many campus ministries or local churches that before long students seem to meander into their niche. I know for me it happened fairly quickly, but for others, it doesn't happen like that and it takes time. At the end of the day though, people seem to find a community that suits them well and where they feel loved and known. For me, that's the most important reason behind why I say God is here working on this campus.

To anyone who ever worried about me going to such a "liberal" campus, fear not because God has a plan and has placed me on a campus full of people that He loves and wants to minister to for a reason. Don't let false assumptions and stereotypes jade your perception of the work God can do. He's working here, it's now just up to us to listen and obey His commands.

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