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The Cold Air is Enough to Make Me Want to Run

January 27, 2009

I live close to the most beautiful library. I stopped by after work today to pick up a few books that had been recommended to me. It was a swift trip, lasting only a few minutes, and as I was walking over to check out, I looked up.

Up, up, up my vision went, traveling past the open floors with their wrought iron balconies, the huge vaulted ceiling painted the burning color of the reddest autumn leaves. My eyes focused in on the gentle intricacies in the woodwork, my ears on the muffled, sharp sound of feet tapping along the marble floors. Libraries are one of the few places where you can go to breathe in the silence, hold it in your lungs, roll its taste around on your tongue, and savor it until you are ready to face the chaos outside the door again. I go here all the time and yet I have never looked up. It was like being inside an entirely different building.

I walked outside with books in hand and inhaled as deeply as I could. It has been an unusually cold winter here, with the temperature wavering around 15 degrees or lower for the past few weeks. As I drew in my breath, it stung like I was swallowing hot ice. I felt the watery burn in the back of my throat and was humbled by how alive I felt with each breath. I’m not all too fond of extreme cold, but this was like drinking in some kind of living elixir. The cold hadn’t changed, it was I who was different. I closed my eyes and began to focus on each singular breath as my chest rose and fell. I spend so much time thinking about the next step that I rarely feel the ground beneath my feet or the air rushing through my lungs.

I met an old friend at my favorite local coffee shop last night. He’s one of the first people I met when I moved to Michigan and I’m blessed that nearly 15 years later, we still remain friends. I don’t see him often but when I do, it’s something like tripping and crashing into joy. He’s a truly good person, with a patient and wise demeanor, and a heart that invests in each person he encounters.

As we passed the hours, drinking tea, we began talking about the life transition that we are both feeling our way through. I shared with him my fears and frustrations with trying to understand what God’s will looks like — if I’m not digging wells or holding orphans, I always feel that whatever I’m doing isn’t good enough. Other people sell all their possessions and move to Somalia and die for God. I feel so selfish most of the time, with all my books and my $300 mixer and Europe fixation. His response was simple and yet it is still pounding through my head:

“The world doesn’t need another Mother Teresa. What they need is a Caroline.”

(breathe in)

(breathe out)

Stopping, balancing, letting go, holding my breath, exhaling, focusing, going.
This is what living tastes like.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    January 28, 2009 12:55 pm

    This is beautiful.

    I cannot wait to get together with you and chat. As I have expressed before I often feel like I am running in this hamster wheel of life, where I read books about God how to change my character to be more for him, and then I just live, live, live, live the way I think is right? The same.

    Time to breathe and taste life…..not just the amazing food he lets me taste 🙂

  2. Caroline permalink*
    January 28, 2009 4:05 pm

    I am looking forward to our coffee date as well! I think we will have a lot to talk about. 🙂

    And hey, food is a part of life…I say, taste away!

  3. Glo permalink
    January 29, 2009 10:15 am

    Dear Caroline,

    I have that fear too, that anything that I do other than jet off to deepest, darkest Africa will be an utter failure of life. This is literally something that I seem to wrestle with every single day. But, with you being another building block, I am starting to see that perhaps God has something totally different than “missions” for me. Though I love that Christianity has come very far in seeing that the world needs us to help, I feel like there has been a lot of rhetoric lately that its the ONLY way to be a good Christian. Its confusing. If God came in and told you or I today that our purpose in life was to sit behind a desk and shut up, would we do it?

    Hmmmm…
    Glo

  4. Caroline permalink*
    January 29, 2009 10:37 am

    My lovely Glo,

    I am glad to know I am not alone in this. I have struggled for a long time whether or not missions were the only truly good calling and I feel bombarded (like you say) by the recent influx of rhetoric about it being the only way (serving the God of the oppressed etc.). While missions are wonderful and necessary, I am beginning to see that a life lived, chasing after God’s heart, is a mission in itself, regardless if you ever step foot in Africa or dig a well or anything. One of my favorite quotes that I come back to again and again is this:

    “We cannot all do great things. We can do small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa

    Her life wasn’t meant to be some grand mission. She did what she loved and what lit her up inside, and it became a mission because of that.

    I can’t wait to see you sometime soon and have a good, long talk.

    Love love you.

  5. Your Mom permalink
    January 29, 2009 7:54 pm

    “Your friend” is right. The world is a better place for you and I knew the day you were born God had a special purpose for you. You bring tears of joy to my eyes always. Thanks also for helping me to breathe deep, and know that He is God! I always need reminded to look at the wonderful details of life we have been blessed with! See you Friday nite…it will be the 3 of us!

  6. Caroline permalink*
    January 30, 2009 4:18 am

    Hi Mama. 🙂

    Thanks for always loving me in a way that encourages me to be myself. See you tomorrow (today!) for dinner — I hope it includes chocolate. :p

    Love you.

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