from the back seat of a Prius.

how I’m failing as a millennial and stopped asking strangers for rides home.

home

It’s the third thing I do after deboarding a plane, right after a beeline to the restroom and refilling my water bottle.

I pull out my phone and scroll over to the black app. I pin my location in the pickup zone and wait until the caravan of hybrid sedans matches the one on my screen. My driver helps me load my bags and I confirm the basic facts:

“Are you Emily?”

“Yes.”

“Headed home?”

“Yes.”

“From where?”

The driver automatically gets 5-stars if the conversation stops after the third question. I wish I was the kind of person who could meet you halfway after six hours of travel and a few nights away from my own bed, but at this point my only goal is to make it home with some piece of my soul left, so small talk is out of the question.

I make a point of putting in my headphones to further avoid any attempts at conversation, then I mentally prepare to spend the next 30+ minutes trying not to throw up from the stop-and-go of traffic. The pine sweetened air in the PNW helps me breathe a little easier, but that feeling is short-lived once I slide into the backseat of a Prius. It’s another reminder that I’m not quite there yet when all I want is to be home.  

Coming home is one of the main reasons I love to travel. Travel naturally removes you from routine and reveals things that your body, mind, and heart have been saying that you otherwise would have missed in your daily rhythms. But by the end of my journey after I’ve learned the things or gained the clarity or accomplished the goal, I crave home.

The homecoming I want isn’t further delayed by the unfamiliar. The homecoming I want is reliable. It’s consistent. It’s predictable. It lets me put my feet up on the dashboard. I want to come home to the feeling of being known, of being brought in, and maybe of having a hot coffee waiting for me. The homecoming doesn’t wait another minute for me to get back but instead kicks off it’s sandals and runs toward me to remind me that I’m safe here and I can take my armor off.

The welcome home I want means that I need people. Which goes against my millennial-bend to prove that I’m independent and make my own appointments and pay my own bills and I’m doing fine and I can ~stay humble and hustle hard~ because I have no needs that I cannot meet within my own ability and tools offered to me. It defies the projected image that makes me seem like I can exist all by myself in this big wide world. You can hide it behind filtered pictures of solo travels and endless story streams of who you were surrounded by but at the end of the day we are all terribly, desperately in need of a space where we can take off our uncomfortable pants and not worry if we laughed at the right things at the right times. 

It’s risky, exposing your own need to the watching world. I think we all want to argue that we don’t NEED anybody but that we WANT people. That gives us all the power in any relationship. We don’t want to risk rejection or loosen our white-knuckle grip on controlling our circumstances, even if the outcome makes us more uncomfortable and more in touch with our own alone-ness (different than loneliness, that’s another word for another time).  

Maybe I’ve failed as a millennial. Maybe there’s a part of me that isn’t cut out for the seductive productivity offered by an app. Maybe I don’t want to ask my friends for a ride because I don’t want to let them see my neediness. Or maybe I’m just not privy to being driven around by strangers. But a few trips ago I quit my millennial-independence cold turkey and started asking my friends for a ride to/from the airport. Not via an app, but from actual people who I know and talk to on a regular basis.

Call it beginner’s luck, but every person I’ve asked to drive me to or from the airport in the last year has said, “Yes!”

Who knew? People tend to show up when I stop pretending that I am fine with handling life alone and start admitting that I need a little help. They will literally drive through hell — AKA any airport arrivals platform — to bring me home.

And I think that’s it. That’s the pretty life lesson tied up with a white bow here. That people just need people to take our hands and walk us back Home.

go to Alaska & feel really small.

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I read once that great writers have daily writing rituals. They write in the same spot, at the same time, with the same cup of coffee in their favorite mug and are able to create deliberate and meaningful stories.

I’m writing this blog post from airport rocking chairs, airplanes, and charter busses. It is not stationary. It is not methodical or disciplined. But it is on purpose. So I’ll sit here and frantically thumb (I would say pen, but that’s not the reality of typing 1200 words on your iPhone) out what I think needs to be said before it disappears.


I used to hate feeling small.

All throughout elementary school, all I ever wanted was to be in the second row of the bleachers for school picture day. But every year I was always the third shortest in my class and my dreams of being in the second row were postponed until the next growth spurt. Being small meant I was seen as cute instead of capable. It was a constant fight to be seen, heard, and taken seriously. Maybe that’s because I was a girl rather than just small and often passed over, but that’s a whole different conversation. Basically, I have spent the majority of my life trying to never be small, because being small is scary. It meant I didn’t have power or safety or control.

Now, the word small takes on a different connotation. It means beautiful, desirable, and feminine. There’s a different kind of frustration wrapped up in the word because this kind of small is so darn relative. One day, average Emily will feel quite small and dainty and wanted. The next day, average Emily will feel like a clunky, repulsive giant who drags her knuckles and bumps into every corner in her living room. Real graceful, I know.

I don’t think I’m the only woman who struggles with desiring to be “small” in our culture. So many women I know expend countless hours of time and energy making themselves smaller in an effort to feel beautiful. I could go on and on about women’s equality (one of my absolute favorite topics) in the home, in the church, and in the workplace but I’ll just end this discussion of the word small with this thought:

Women have tried for many years to gain the same respect and opportunities as men and yet we still feel we have to diminish ourselves – whether that is physically or with what types of words we use and say.

We are still under the stigma to be small, and I don’t like it.

I hated the word small, and then I visited a place where the only logical feeling that made sense was “small”.

Juneau, Alaska is described as America’s most beautiful capital city, and that’s being modest. All throughout university I had friends travel here for the summer to drive tour busses or fish, each one of them raving about Juneau’s amazing views but me never fully believing them. People tend to embellish. Recently, I had a friend move to Juneau and we always joked about how I should take a mini-vacation away sometime. I guess this just shows that I have no shame in accepting these kinds of offers, but I bought myself a ticket and flew out to Alaska shortly afterward. I mean, who goes to Alaska in November? This gal! I could pretend that I went because I wanted to find answers or whatever, but really I went because I love traveling, I missed my friend, and I wanted to see snow.

I did need a weekend away though. One if the reasons I left is because Bellingham started to feel small, and we all know how much I despise that feeling. It felt constricting and it made me sad that it’s so cold and there’s no snow. So I bought a plane ticket.

The minute the plane landed my breath was taken away. If Juneau is beautiful in the summer, imagine how stunning this little town nestled in the mountains is with snow falling. My heart exploded from the beauty and grace that surrounded me. It was the most gorgeous image of solitude and so I did what any introvert would do – I cozied up in my friend’s apartment with a book and I fell asleep shortly after, content to just sit and stare out the window until I fell asleep.

I pretty much did this all weekend and it was the best.

God knows what we need. A few days later, we needed the sun to come out and glory! It did. Those mountains were practically begging us to spend time with them and this PNW girl was not complaining about it.

On Sunday during a break in the weather we hopped in the car and took off to discover. Everything was beautiful and clean and wild. Juneau is full of colors – bright turquoise and soft purples and sturdy browns. I had no words for Mendenhall glacier or the little island-shine we visited, only squeals of delight and the occasional “Oh my gosh just look at it!”

Being surrounded by the grandeur of Juneau’s mountains made me feel small again, but this was a new kind of small. I had only experienced a fraction of this kind of smallness before, often in solitary places when I pray. This sense of smallness was safe and seen. It was as if only God knew exactly where I was at that point in time. That kind of seclusion helped me silence the loud opinions this world chokes me with and to hear the small voice of Truth. That kind of small put me in right relation with a God whose majesty goes far beyond Alaskan mountains. It was gentle and humble and good.

For so long I fought smallness because it felt vulnerable and weak. I came at life on the offense, arms swinging in a desperate attempt to be bigger and be seen saying “Look at what I can do! Look at what I can achieve despite my smallness! Don’t I have worth? Am I valuable yet?”

God kneeled down to me in those mountains in an intimate, unseen, small moment and told me to stand down. To put my blazing guns away and stop letting the world name me anything else than what He already established at the beginning. God looked at me and called me “Beloved”.

“Here is My servant, whom I have chosen, My beloved, in whom My soul delights.” // Matthew 12:18

So now here I am, sitting small on a charter bus repeating my name to myself over and over until it sounds true – Beloved, Beloved, Beloved. Now I’m forever searching for the places that make me feel small.