Today is the sixteenth year anniversary of our move to Bainbridge Island. No one, other than our friend Linda who moved with us from Colorado, will remember this anniversary. As mothers, as women, we tend to be the keepers of memories and dates.

Our family's first ferry crossing to our new home.
Our family’s first ferry crossing to our new home.

We recall the emotions that accompany events as quickly as our eyes view a photograph. Our heart is the life giving ballast that carries us across the decades of our lives. As a sailboat depends on it’s keel to keep from capsizing, we can hold the balance of our families’ well being with our hearts. If we are even keeled, it is helpful for everyone in the boat with us. We know the power of love and goodness that keeps a family afloat. It is astounding to recognize the power we have.

This is not new news. As women we know that the soil of our heart is the ground in which our family grows. One day we have an orderly garden without weeds or slugs and a few weeks later in our cycle, all we see is the fruit missing, which the raccoons and deer have devoured. The ballast is upended and the seas are frightful and dark. Once again I say, it is astounding to recognize the power we wield.

Sixteen years ago I remember our family in two cars and one truck driving down the street from our beloved home we built in Colorado. I recall the agony when neighbors poured into the street for one last goodbye. An unexpected wail of sorrow erupted out of my throat and frightened me and everyone else.

It was the longest drive down the most driven street of my life. Our oldest child drove alone in her car with fury that we were moving soon after she graduated from high school. The middle child was in my car, quiet with her feet on the back window as we listened to the same REM CD for two days.

My husband drove a U-haul truck filled with his books that were too heavy and expensive to put into the moving van. Our Australian terrier was perched on his lap and tried to jump out the window. The truck swerved and he almost hit another car. Our son sat next to his dad, unnerved by the near crash, and waved goodbye to his two best friends in the whole wide world with tears streaming down his cheeks. We were separated in our own grief as we made our way to the Puget Sound.

My ballast was missing and the awareness of tipping over was ever present. Nothing was in place. My heart ached and the words in my head said, “What are we doing here? Did we make the right decision?” When the moving van arrived we discovered the turns in the street were too tight for it to get to our house. Nothing was calm and stable. When we finally unloaded the truck to another truck, we had way too much furniture and stuff to fit into our home. Our garage was filled with things to get rid of for months and months. Everything seemed hard. Nothing seemed “level” and, actually “capsizing” sounded easier than staying afloat. It was as if the keel of my being was gone. I was a mess.

As I write today, I look out my window and the scene is oh, so different. When I look at my home, I am filled with gratitude and stability. The property that was barren is now filled with many trees and plantings that nourish our hearts. The marine air that sweeps in off the water and covers the sun for hours is not a problem as it used to be. The barking sea lions seem normal as I weed and water the flowers. Our friends are now here…nearby. The rootedness of our lives is strong and sweet.

I remember the seasickness of my soul and question of whether we would ever return to a quiet tide and the safe haven of a new shore. I look out at the beauty of my yard and I bless this odd journey. I can do so because of a heart of gratitude and the acceptance of care from others and God. It is not of my own doing.

For me, it sometimes takes a storm to remember what I am made of. By that, I do not mean being strong and moving on. What I have had to learn to do is speak up when the cracks in my heart cause me to lose sure footing. It is much easier for me to be strong and capable and… alone. It has been in the vulnerability of weakness and sharing with others when the ground becomes shaky or the waves too intense that has allowed friends to become friends. It has been in the storms on the high seas of life that have catapulted me to my knees to seek which direction to go.

Today my yoga teacher said it is okay to go in a direction but not know the destination. I was struck by the brilliance of that sentence! Especially since my husband said the exact sentence last night on the phone with our friends’ son. It is true that we do not know where we will end up, yet we are to be faithful in our steps to keep going in the right direction. And, yes, in the quiet we hear where we are to go. The anniversary of our storm tossed arrival reminds me that life doesn’t always offer stories that are safe. I am off in a few minutes to have a biopsy. That word stands alone and holds great uncertainty. I will keep going even though the outcome is not clear. We really have no choice, right?

I will not always live in this home or possibly in this part of the country. My body will certainly not stay as healthy and young as it is this present moment. (And yes, I am old yet my heart feels young). Who knows where or what the next move will be. Or when the next storm waves will cause me to be tossed and thrown about. My hope is not in avoiding tumult, but in how He will be with me every step of the journey.


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Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 36 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!

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