The One with Staying

IMG_1638.JPG

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.

The One with a House Warming

IMG_1785

Over the weekend we filled our home with friends and laughter and food (and Fuller House). The menu was simple, the house was clean, and it was so lovely to be able to have our friends share in celebration with us. Scared or not, we’ve put down some roots in this unexpected city.

In the hours leading up to and following the house warming, I realized two big things about my natural reactions towards parties and hosting:

One: People over details, always and always. I woke up at 5:30 the morning of the party in complete panic about having enough drinks – I was certain we’d run out of orange juice or champagne. My sweet husband reminded me that running out of things is not a party killer because, duh, there are stores nearby and friends who are always willing to bring an item if needed. And he was right. We actually didn’t need more drinks, and I was a thousand times happier when I turned off the detail-panic and instead focused on enjoying my guests.

Two: I’m still about thirteen years old when it comes to party attendance. I am 100% okay with guests not being able to come and letting me know. But my “yes” people who are a no show completely crush my soul. I know it sounds extreme, and really it only lasts for a few dramatic days, but I am a woman consumed by non-attendance. This has not changed, apparently, because I specifically remember grieving this same thing at every major life event – high school graduation, birthday parties, my wedding. All happy occasions overshadowed by who was missing. As someone who firmly falls into the love language category of “quality time”, non-attendance makes me feel unimportant and unloved. And I’m just going out on a limb here and hoping I’m not alone in this one, fellow quality-timers, but it’s so difficult for me to not jump straight from people not showing up to people not caring. My brain immediately reacts defensively, creating walls where there should be grace and understanding. Because the hard truth is that we’re all doing the best we can, and that not everyone has the same scars as I do or feels the same way. To my friends who can throw a party and enjoy every single aspect of it, I salute you! I hope to adopt more of your style. Right now I’m at the space where nerves exist and party feelings get hurt and I have to use a lot of grace talk to work past it.

So there you go, friends. If you’re insanely attached to attendance and inclined towards appetizer induced anxiety, my tips on how to have the perfect housewarming are to calm down and don’t be like me. Enjoy your sweet guests, be thankful for who is there and completely forget about who wasn’t. Root your worth in being known and loved, and don’t equate not showing up with not caring or loving. Pour yourself a glass of bubbly and go brag about your closets. ((but no one needs more kitchen brags, because really, that masterpiece speaks for itself))

IMG_1805IMG_1821IMG_1797

The One with a Puppy Christmas

IMG_1419

My super sweet puppy girl is a traveling queen this holiday season, but she remains unconcerned.  Her laser-like focus is reserved for playtime, snuggles, and pieces of food.  All the crazy scheduling and stress go unnoticed.  Instead, she carefully positions herself so that she’s in maximum contact with her people.  I could use a lesson from this smart pup.  Instead of worrying my head off about the house we just bought, the packing to be done, the ten thousand tiny things we’ll need to purchase; or the new family dynamics that I can’t quite figure, trying to split time fairly between families, or making sure I’m appropriate packed/dressed/prepared for every individual event; what if I just put the stress aside and instead refocused my priorities?

What if this season wasn’t about parties or planning or even presents?  What if instead, I soaked up every last round of rummy played at the kitchen table?  Every laugh, smile, or hug from the friends and family that surround us here in this season… those are the things that will hold me together when I realize, quite suddenly, that my darling dream home and dream job are three states away from my dearest loved ones, and that while God’s plan for us is more beautiful than I ever imagined, it’s just so far from where I pictured us.  And then there’s the purpose of everything – the reason for family and friends and loved ones and celebrations at all.  That a supremely perfect Savior was born into a world enslaved by sin, and instead of offering the judgement our sin had earned, he instead gave his life as a sacrifice so that we might live a full life.  And this full life of mine, torn between state lines and sweet friends, every corner of my story, every morning when I wake, every fresh start that I don’t deserve, all point back to the humble birth of Christ – fully human and fully God – who came into the world without pomp or circumstance, and in his death brought righteousness to the world.

IMG_1424

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

 

The One with Tea and Jesus

Can you feel the stress in the air?  The palpable anxiety that threatens to suffocate all educators during this time of year?  We’re staring down the end of the semester here, and it just doesn’t get more hectic than this.

In the midst of my two jobs, four different commutes, and house buying, I thought it would be a good idea to help out the sweet AP Chem students at BPI by subbing for their teacher while he’s on leave.  Because my days aren’t crazy enough, just yet.  But actually, I look forward to the opportunity to try out high school teaching.  And really, how hard could it be?  These college folks give me a run for my money on the regular, so a handful of crumb snatchers shouldn’t be much worse.

Throughout this busy-filled season, I’ve been asking God to open or close doors for me – to make it plain and clear which routes I’m to take and where I should be dedicating my time.  His answers have been loud and clear.  In the spring I wondered if I should keep teaching, and He responded with an incredible job at Stevenson where I am encouraged and challenged daily.  I begged to be stripped of my false idols and insecurities, to let me be laid bare and honest before him.  He answered with gentle faithfulness, and a sense of peace in every hard situation.  I asked for the door to a house on Clearspring Drive to be opened to us or closed completely, and he answered with open door after open door.  I requested purpose, and he handed me an ignited passion for ministry to women.  I searched for meaningful friendships and he delivered depth and love through sweet friends who have carried me through this season.

During days or weeks when I feel overwhelmed and the only things fueling me are tea and Jesus, I am reminded of God’s sovereignty and just how much he has provided for me.  His grace multiplies daily.

Tidings of comfort and joy abound.

IMG_0922