I learned a lot on my six-day road trip through Iceland.
But what I learned most is how to receive grace. And what I mean by grace is: acceptance, forgiveness, understanding.
Receiving grace has always been so hard for me. It’s the central theme of my testimony, a lifelong struggle and a reason why I often push myself more than I should.
It’s the central idea of Christianity: that we are blameless and free in the eyes of God, and that we should embrace that and live in to a life of freedom, peace and joy.
But it’s so much easier said than done. I constantly beat myself up for whether I was a good friend to people that day, what I eat or don’t eat, how much or how little I exercise, how much work I get done each day, whether I helped make the world just a tiny bit better, the list goes on and on.
One way I experience grace is through people: when My People seem to love me despite my biggest failures. My People make me feel alive—free and joyful and peaceful—because they accept me as I am. I can be silly and fun, quirky and nerdy, not-funny-but-trying-to-be-funny, creative, deep, thoughtful, adventurous, spontaneous, loud and confused—and they’ll still look at me like I’m doing great and like they wouldn’t rather be hanging out with anyone else.
So let me tell you about how I experienced grace for six straight days on a roadtrip. And how I learned how to accept that grace and feel more alive and secure than any other time in my entire life.
Within the first hour of the trip, David and I were already amid a giant hiccup. I had left our nice camera in the backseat of the car. Her house was a 20-minute drive from the airport. She raced back to RDU, and I set off on a sprint from our gate to security. I looked around security for someone who looked nice, and happened upon this middle-aged, black-haired, smiley guy who seemed easy-going by the way he laughed at his friend’s not-funny joke.
“Hi, I’m so sorry to bother you, but I left my camera in my friend’s car and she is driving all the way back here to bring it to me. Also, my flight takes off in 12 minutes, and she’ll be here in 5 minutes. What do I do?”
He looked at me, smiled, and asserted himself: “Well, you know, you need to go back out, get the camera, wait in the 30-minute security line again, then go back through security, then walk to your gate. And at that point your flight will be well on its way to its destination. That’s not going to work. Take a deep breath. I’m going to save the day.”
I looked at him, floored.
“What’s your name? And what’s your friend’s name? I’ll go wait outside and get the camera. I can go in and out of security way more easily than you can. You need that camera.”
I looked down at the man’s name tag: Medina. I would remember that.
He ran outside.
David talked to the check-in woman and she said I’d be cutting it close, but that we could be the last to board.
I paced back and forth at security, hoping Medina would find Liz. Her phone died, and Medina didn’t have my number, so I just stood there praying it would work out.
A few moments later, Medina runs back in yelling my name.
“I couldn’t find her,” he said.
I looked down at my phone: 3:42.
“She said she’d be by door 5 by 3:40, without a shadow of a doubt,” I said.
Medina sprinted back out of security, and three minutes later I see the main airport doors open. Medina is sprinting back through the main airport lobby, holding my camera in the air like he just received a marathon medal, beaming. He pushed it through the security conveyer belt and then placed it in my shaking hands.
“Now go catch that flight,” he said.
I thanked him a million times, and then sprinted through the terminal. David watched from down at his gate as I picked my feet up higher and higher, with both of my shoes untied.
I arrived at the gate. We were the last to board, two minutes before the doors closed. I am amazed at the grace Medina, Liz and David showed me. No one chastised me for the mistake. Everyone tried to help, even though I didn’t deserve it. That’s grace.
The mistakes did not stop there. I also left my passport on the plane when we landed in Reykjavík. David was so rational and kept me from absolutely losing my shit (As I thought, ‘I am stuck in this airport for the rest of my life’ etc etc etc drastic thoughts).
I also swung our car door open one time during a huge gust of wind and David’s gloves flew out of the car into the giant blizzard. He then did not have gloves for the rest of the trip, for 15 degree weather and 40 mile-per-hour winds. He laughed it off and joked about his fingers going numb.
This is all by day two. And you know what the kid had the audacity to say that night to me????? That he couldn’t imagine road tripping through Iceland with anyone else.
Are you kidding me?!
That is grace.
I then proceeded to put my retainer and dance around my room. Because when someone extends you grace, you feel comfortable being silly.
I try so hard to be on top of things. I schedule out my life on Google Calendar, I text people to remind me to do things, I double check I have what I need and try to be present in situations…. But I still mess up. All the time.
And I beat myself up for these mistakes. So, when someone extends me grace and tells me that it’s okay, I am shocked and overwhelmed. I don’t receive it well.
I’m an overly generous person, but when someone does something for me, I shy away or tell them to stop. I don’t know how to say thank you properly. I push out compliments. When someone appreciates me for just existing, I can hardly believe it.
These six days in Iceland were huge growth days for me, where I learned a bit more how to see grace, receive that grace, and live out that grace.
Being back, I can see that fear of grace seeping back into my life: my friend offering to buy me breakfast and wanting to tell her she absolutely should not do that, feeling ashamed for a tenting mishap in KVille, the list goes on and on. But each time I have chosen to swallow my pride, accept grace, move on, and express my true self.
I have learned that the right people—Your People—will continue to extend grace to you, even when you don’t always do a great job of receiving it. The right people will challenge you to swallow your pride, accept defeat, and at the same time make you feel whole, loved and appreciated. To love ourselves, often we need to surround ourselves with people who actively choose to love us, especially amidst our biggest failures.