The One with Staying

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If I could add just one more little piece of travel advice to my previous posts, it would be to give yourself plenty of downtime upon your return.

Friends, we did not stick our landing. We arrived stateside completely exhausted and homesick for our dog. We spent a hurried two days unpacking, doing laundry, and running all the errands. We then headed to western Maryland for a weekend of camping with our friends. From there we went directly south to be reunited with our puppy and spend Independence day with family. By the time we made it back to Baltimore and our own bed, we were plumb worn out. Finally, after a week of rest and puppy snuggles, we’re feeling back to our old selves.

What was especially tough for me was the camping trip. Sixteen of our closest friends piled into four campsites at Swallow Falls State Park, and while you’d think that would offer an opportunity for relaxing and quality time, I could not handle any of it. I was exhausted both physically and mentally, I was overwhelmed by upcoming job changes, and I just wanted to not be traveling again. In other words, I wasn’t fit for company. What I really needed was alone time and what I got was nonstop togetherness in nature. The result included eye rolls, cranky comments, and terse replies.

The panic began to settle in as we drove away early that Sunday morning. I had shown my ugly impatient side. I was everything but kind. As the shame rolled over me, I listed at least a dozen reasons why we should leave our community. Running was my first instinct. When my not-so-pretty side shows, I want as much distance as I can afford. Staying means leaving room to be hurt or rejected, and so running seems that much easier. I rationalized our transition to a new church, found reasons why leaving Horizon and our friends there would be okay and maybe even better for us. Upon our return to Baltimore, my heart was heavy. I felt so uncertain stepping back into the place we’d been gone from and was hesitant to interact with the friends I’d just been so short with. What if I’d hurt them? What if they didn’t want to embrace me anymore?

As I tiptoed back into the community I was prepared to leave, I was enveloped with understanding and kindness – two things I did nothing to deserve. Grace upon grace.

Friends nodded their heads as I recounted our crazy travels, laughed in agreement about those times where you’re just not up for company, and didn’t bat a single eye about my bad camping behavior. They offered up true grace in the form of undeserved forgiveness. It’s been so long since I’ve seen glimpses of that, I’d almost forgotten how beautifully humbling it is to receive.

So we stayed. Despite my panic, we let grace cover our shortcomings. The secret is out – cranky Kaitlin is a real bear. But leaving would be letting shame and guilt and the lies win. Having flaws and big old ugly sides does not make us unworthy of love and forgiveness. Real grace covers that. In the prodigal son, rejection is never what the son is met with, and it is just the same for us. We get the arms full of grace every single time. And while being loved by other human beings means that it doesn’t always look perfect and there’s margin for error on how far that grace might extend, when you’re surrounded by a community of people really living for God’s grace, you find it given to you that much more.

One million thank you’s and shout outs to my camping friends who were all lovely when I was not, and who graciously keep opening their arms and their hearts to me. You make Baltimore our home.

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The One with Prayer

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As I sit in the middle of piles of photos and laundry to sort through, I’m struck with a wave of sadness.

Another shooting. Senseless violence and loss.

And honestly, the simple thing to do would to just keep my head down and go about my business – that’s the benefit of privilege. But that’s not the life Christ has called his people to. He continually called his followers to hard places, fighting injustice and giving voices to those being silenced. I am just one person, with a very limited reach for how far my voice might project, but speaking up here is the right thing to do. Let us all say something – share our stories and experiences. Let us listen to our neighbors, what they’ve been through and how their experience has shaped their views. Let us engage in respectful dialog about what it looks like to make things better for our world right now, exactly where we are.

And for the love and grace and mercy of God, let us pray.

 

When terrorists attack our churches and nightclubs, let us pray.

When our friends and brothers are killed because of their skin color, let us pray.

When our police officers are killed because of their job, let us pray.

When our headlines are filled with deaths, let us pray.

 

A few things that have helped me process, and that might help you, too:

Around this time last year when the Baltimore riots were fresh, our church held an open dialog about what it looks like to discuss the issues of injustice in a way that is reflective of Christ. Something that stuck with me from that conversation is that as Christians, people against injustice and in support of public servants, is that we are called to hold tension between being against police brutality and being for the police. These things are not mutually exclusive. Here is the podcast link if you’re interested.

What has also helped me is gaining an understanding of the #blacklivesmatter posters that sit in my neighbor’s yards. At first, I thought that #alllivesmatter was probably a better statement, that no one life was more important than the other. But through conversations with neighbors and friends, I realized that #alllivesmatter undermines the entire point of #blacklivesmatter. The concept behind #blacklivesmatter is that throughout history, black lives have been held at a lesser value. And while in the 21st century we would like to think this isn’t true, cracks in our justice system show that black lives are devalued to this very day. #blacklivesmatter is a symbol that brings this issue to the forefront – it states that this injustice exists in modern society.

This article by Design Mom has helped me gain a lot of footing here, and this article on Sojourners gave great points from a biblical perspective.

A disclaimer that likely belongs on all of my posts: these are my thoughts and opinions, never absolutes or even always the right answers. I encourage further conversations about this from different perspectives, and appreciate respectful language in that regard. What I hope and pray for at the end of the day is that we can work together towards a more complete understanding of the issues at hand, so that while building our future we can do better. In these hard and painful times, let our words and prayers bring us together. Now is the time for unity, at the throne of God, begging for healing for our broken world.

 

The One with Fear

My everyday life consists of things that sixteen-year-old Kaitlin would’ve found scary – speaking in front of a classroom, driving on big highways, and paying bills. But the one fear that seems timeless is sharing a struggle. When we open up and share in deep ways, there’s room for hurt or rejection. But the fear and the struggle are important parts of the story. The scary stuff leaves room for growth. If the metanarrative of our lives echoes that of the Bible (and I think it does), in terms of the creation-fall-redemption-restoration story, I think the struggle finds us somewhere near restoration where we are being made holy. For me, the struggle looks the thing that I’m being refined through as part of the redemptive movements of grace. It’s not always creation-fall-redemption then happily ever after. There’s hard and holy work being done over and over, both in us and through us. If we only ever share creation-fall-redemption parts of our stories, we’re missing out on a beautifully important part of the big picture – the part where we are restored to God. And in an effort to make my whole story known, here’s a little bit of what that scary struggle looks like for me right now:

I felt it moving in subtle ways at the beginning – small insecurities I thought were buried came back to life suddenly; relationships that felt easy hit a few snags; self-doubt crept in slowly at first and then all at once. The fear was back, and I only just put a name to it after struggling my way through the past couple of months. You would think that walking through the wilderness a time or two before would help me recognize it again, but the trick is that it looks different every time. Before, it looked bleak and felt like being trapped. Now it looks more fuzzy and feels like not being enough and, simultaneously, being too much (if that doesn’t make sense to you, just ask any woman who has been described as being “strong” and she’ll tell you).

What caught me most off guard is that instead of feeling far from God, I feel far from myself. My Bible is laying on the kitchen island instead of only seeing the inside of a nightstand, and I actually feel excited about the things I’m learning from my church and my community. The disconnect is between my head and my heart, I think. I can’t reconcile what I feel with what I know. And what makes it more difficult is that I can’t even adequately voice what I need. My sweet husband with the heart of a helper is pulling out all sorts of ways to make me feel loved and reassured, but I still can’t quite bring myself to take it all in. I mourn all the ways I’m hurting and all the things that I’m not doing right. I’ve become fragile and needy and completely resentful towards how that makes me feel. I want to walk around apologizing for all of my rough edges and the copious amounts of affirmation I crave. The downswing of a mobile self-worth is a scary beast, and I’ve lost confidence in my ability to walk through it gracefully. If there was a sidewalk for managing my fear, I lost sight of it. I haven’t seen trail markers in a couple of weeks. I’m scared of returning to that wilderness. I only just survived it.

If this is all I’ve got, this fear, then it feels paralyzing. But in the context of the bigger story, the story of me and the story of God, there is so much more. While there’s surely heartache and brokenness here, there’s beauty, too. And in the midst of fear and self-doubt, the metanarrative declares:

You are not forgotten. You are loved. You were created with purpose and you were redeemed with purpose. Throughout wild desert places, you are remembered and you are being restored.restore2bwallpaper1

 

The One Before Easter

If we’re being totally honest over here, between the different spring breaks (which really amount to no true breaks) and the ever-growing pile of to-do lists, Easter completely snuck up on me. Friends of ours are getting married this weekend (yay!) which means we’re staying in town for the holiday. While at the grocery store earlier this week, I rolled through our usual list of dinners and realized that I had penciled in Sunday as breakfast for dinner, and it struck me that we’d be eating pancakes for our Easter meal. Later in the week a friend called and didn’t want to fly solo for Easter, so we’re pulling together a last minute meal (come join, if you’re local!), but all this to say – Easter has been an afterthought for us this year.

Our church arranged a Good Friday prayer opportunity that was open all day long, filled with seven stations equipped with scripture and a prayer focus. I hadn’t originally planned to go, but I accidentally arrived to a photoshoot early and realized that with time to kill and church right down the road, I might as well swing by. So I walked into the fellowship hall with twenty minutes to kill and made the risky decision to leave my phone left on ring, in case the client called. My heart was ready for none of the things that were laid out at each table. I moved quietly through each station, reading sacred words, focusing each prayer with barely more than an “Abba, please”. The whisper of my heart, a desperate plea.

I think I tend to give the holidays a wide berth, avoiding them generously out of a desire to skirt around the heart and soul evaluation they so often lend themselves to. I’d rather not check in, not really, because that might require more work than I’m ready for. But Easter waits for no man, and when confronted with the truth of sacrifice and the wonder of resurrection, there is nowhere else to turn but inward and upward. Contrite heart, with arms lifted up. Hosanna in the highest, indeed.

There’s no sunrise at Windjammer for me this year, but instead I’m aiming for honesty – about where I am and who I am, and rest in knowing that while my sin was strong, Jesus is stronger.

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