Who Do You Need to Be Free to Be?

By Holly

collisionone / Pixabay

Excitedly, I check my parking job a few times before squeezing myself out my barely-opened car door and climbing the skinny stairwell up to the ferry deck. Parades of windows showcasing the Puget Sound, a slow buzz of morning voices, and the cozy smell of coffee invite me to settle in for the twenty-five-minute ride to Whidbey Island. This is the life, I think as my eyes drift to jigsaw puzzles lying in waiting on long, skinny tables. I imagine back and forth passengers, piecing them together, ever so slowly. The puzzles represent so much of what my soul craves: a different kind of time, community, being en route to a better place.

Ferries and islands can seem like the answer to my deep longings. But the same thing happens on this trip to an island that always does. My dreams of a life surrounded by water that seemed so perfect, so like me, transform into my reality: After a couple of days on an island, the reliance on a state-run transportation system – and the weather – for so many things feels scary instead of romantic. I start to feel the opposite of free. On the ferry back to the Washington mainland, I pass by abandoned puzzles and find a seat by the window. My island-living conclusion is the same as always: Living that degree of stuck requires a level of surrender I do not currently possess.

I am reminded of my need to be free. As Whidbey Island shrinks into the distance, I think about how personal our definitions of freedom are; I lament that I am not spiritually mature enough to feel free no matter what.

Someday, somehow, perhaps I will live like I believe my freedom is independent from circumstances. Or maybe I will always go back and forth from this conviction like a ferry, and the best I can hope for is longer and longer stays on the island of freedom within me.

On the in-between waters of the Puget Sound, two essential questions surface. First, what do I need to be free from? My answer has more to do with how I think than where I live. Shame, worry, and pain: these are my shackles. Am I likable? Lovable? Will she judge me if she knows my whole story? Reject me? Am I doing enough? What if my kids end up messed up? Because of me?  If I stop and feel my pain, will it ever stop? I think about changing where I live, but live as if I can’t change how I think. If captivity can come down a single fear, it’s this: permanence. It’s being afraid that I will never be liked, loved, accepted, known, or enough.

Freedom’s second question feels more hopeful: Who do I need to be free to be? I know some “right” answers: my “true self” or “who God created me to be.” But what does that look and feel like, when in any given day, I switch from mom to writer to friend to marketer to physical therapist to sister to wife? After a lifetime spent trying, what I know is this: I need to be free to be a woman who surrenders. In my journey to freedom, I shed more than I gather. I find my strength in my weakness. It’s more like a free fall inward than a ride on a boat to a place faraway.

As we dock, I descend in the narrow path to my minivan. Emerging from the belly of the ferry, I begin a new drive home.

Why It’s So Hard to Be Where We Are

By Holly

While traveling, I dream of home; at home, I imagine places I would rather be.

Anyone else have this problem?

Being where we are can be our greatest struggle. 

Over the past 3 weeks, I have spent over 40 hours in the air, slept in 4 time zones and wandered through 5 states. I traveled for business, vacation and a memorial service; I went places both alone and with my family. While working in San Antonio, I missed driving my daughters from my house to school. On vacation in Hawaii, I was homesick for my morning cup of tea, home-brewed in my ceramic hand-warmer mug. And somewhere around day 10 of restaurant eating, all I wanted was to cook a simple, healthy meal in my own kitchen. How can it be, that as we live out the extraordinary lives we long for, we crave what is quite ordinary?

When I arrived home in Seattle, a local journalist reported that we have experienced exactly 3 sunny days in the past 5 months. I scroll the forecast on my phone: all I see is rain. I dream of living in a sunny place. We watch the movie Moana; I am filled with a desire to return to Hawaii. When I return to my ordinary things, why isn’t it enough?

I can point my finger at virtues like contentment, gratitude, positivity or presence, and conclude that if I could just be better at one or more of these I would be better at being where I am. It is an answer that holds truth and can be helpful. But it is also incomplete.

We struggle to fully inhabit our earthly experiences because the human heart was created for more. We were made for longing.

In a discussion about why we love fairy tales and legends, Timothy Keller argues:

“…deep in the human heart there are these desires – to experience the supernatural, to escape death, to know love that we can never lose, to not age but live long enough to realize our creative dreams, to fly, to communicate with nonhuman beings, to triumph over evil.”

Deep in our hearts lies an ache for more than what we are living now.

When I miss my cup of tea or what the Hawaiian sun feels like on my face, it is a call to pay attention, not to scold myself for my lack of presence or failure to be content. There is something deeper going on in me. Something that was meant to be. Keller captures it well:

“Our hearts sense that even though the stories themselves aren’t true, the underlying realities behind the stories are somehow true or ought to be.”

What we strive for in presence is freedom from distraction, not desire. It is both what we miss while we are away and what we long for while we are home that make us who we are. Because what we long for represents what we know ought to be true. In other words: eternity.

We cannot be 100% where we are because of who we are: humans with hearts created for eternity.

I Can Be Successful at Waiting: 2015 Reflection

by Kari

Hans / Pixabay

Three experiences in 2015 showed me that I can be successful at waiting.

1. Giving our son his first phone. For years our son bemoaned, “I’m the only kid at school who doesn’t have a phone.” And while we didn’t take that bait, we knew the day would come when we’d have to cross that technological bridge. We thought the appropriate time would be his 16th birthday. I can’t tell you what joy it was to gift him that very precious iPhone on that day. I would have never imagined that I would get emotional about giving a cell phone for a gift, nor did I think my husband would or even our son. But all 3 of us did! And did that emotion well up because of some attachment to a handheld device or because of the waiting factor?

2. Surprising our kids with a California vacation. My husbands father is a triplet and he also has a set of twin sisters. It has always been my dream to introduce our children to the extended Wilhite family that all reside in Southern California. I never knew when this could happen, but I trusted someday it would. Our kids have also dreamt of Disneyland which we would always say, “someday.” Well that someday came true in 2015! My long awaited dream of family and Disneyland began to take shape in April, but we didn’t tell them until we got to the airport on November 19th. The waiting and the fulfillment has been more than gratifying and meaningful to our whole family.

3. Preparing for a dog. What kid doesn’t want a dog? Well, the kid in me has wanted one, but the adult in me has been putting this off until now. In late 2015 my heart and mind were transformed to prepare for a dog. My kids have waited a long time to experience the emotional attachment that is possible with an animal and I have waited a long time too. I am hopeful, and a little nervous, about the fulfillment of this wait.

How about you? What things have you waited for in 2015 and it came to pass? What did you learn? And if you are in the midst of a waiting season may my stories encourage you today.


We’re On Our Way To Disneyland Today and They Have No Idea!

by Kari

marliese / Pixabay

I am giddy inside!  My boys just left on the bus for school and my girls are still sleeping.  They still have no idea what surprise is in store for them today! That we have managed to keep this a secret for several months and that no one in our inner-circle has let this out of the bag is a small miracle. I have done a ninja-type performance of packing their bags and retrieving homework from teachers right under their noses to prepare for this moment: 3:30pm we head to SeaTac airport to “help a friend” who needs a ride to the airport, but then they will discover that we are the ones going on a trip! It has been a dream of mine to surprise our kids with Disneyland since it has always been a dream of theirs. (Plus, our girls have never been on an airplane, which they talk about often.)

But more than Disneyland, the best part of the trip will be seeing family. Our kids’ cousins moved from Washington to LA last summer and they miss them like crazy. Their embraces, laughter and play will surely surpass anything from the Magic Kingdom and I can’t wait to witness it!

So stay posted, via Facebook or Instagram, to see their reactions when we SURPRISE them this afternoon!

Love Letter To My 1982 VW Westfalia

by Kari

For almost a decade vacationing for us has meant camping in our VW Vanagon.  On our 3rd one, we have landed at a 1982 Westfalia diesel.  It is a lot of fun…well…kind of.  It does go well with my dreadlocks and it is quite a conversation piece.  But, this vehicle has proved to be a thorn-in-my-side, a topic in marriage counseling and can get me worked up like no other. Why, you ask?  To say we have had more than our share of breakdowns over the years would be putting it lightly.  It is a rather unique love/hate relationship.  Before we leave this morning on vacation, I need to have some words with her.

Dear Westy,
There is just so much to say! I don’t know where to start. It seems just like yesterday Steve and I flew to TX, cash in our pocket, to buy you from some stranger over the internet whom we trusted would pick us up from the airport. I remember making our way through west Texas, humming along at 55mph, changing your oil in the wonderful park-like rest area. And oh, the feeling of getting passed by that tractor on the freeway!

Do you remember waking up our first morning in frigid Gallup, NM with a dead battery and you had to get jumped by a Chevy? That must have been embarrassing, but you always keep your composure in such situations.  And remember when we showed you off to Uncle Dale and Aunt Bonnie in Apple Valley, CA whom were more than a little concerned about the loudness of your diesel engine? Oh, and sorry about getting your fridge and stove torn out in the ghetto part of San Bernadino, but we had to make more room for our 4 kiddos.

I could recount the many, many times we have had to use our beloved AAA, the countless raised brows of our neighbors and the jeers/advice of our friends and family concerning your presence in our life. I could help you remember breaking down on the way to winter camp in 2011, the breakdown in Seattle after Steve’s parents 50th at the Metropolitan Grill in 2012, and prodding you along on the way over the pass to Wenatchee in December of 2013. And can we just forget about 2014 all together?  We’ve had our ups and downs this year as well, but I do still love you.

I’m ready to bury the hatchet (or wrench). I want to give you credit for many beautiful things in my life as well. You have given my husband a chance to learn new things.  I am so proud of him for that. You know he’s not a natural-born mechanic, but he has approached you with curiosity, care and a love of learning all he can about you. He never, ever gives up on you and always wants the best for all of us. More than once have I been Job’s wife to him concerning you. I can choose to be grateful that you keep us a little closer to the earth (literal and figurative); a little more in-tune with lessons on humility, waiting, provision, perseverance, endurance, etc.

Our whole family enjoys your features; lots of leg room with your backward facing seat that makes it great for leg fights and starring contests. Thanks for not having fancy media gadgets or even a good stereo; we wouldn’t be able to hear it anyway! Our own rap songs about you have won our hearts. We love your retro curtains and your creative storage spaces. I love that you are a stick-shift and have awesome power-steering. But of course, your most becoming feature is, yes, your pop-top. It is a comfy sleep space and looks just rad!

So, thank you for getting us (ahem) where we need to go…for the most part. I’m looking forward to our family adventures tomorrow as we head north. I just hope we’re in range of AAA.

Forever (?) Yours,