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.