I want to live, but not like the short breaths of a bucket list

I’m staring at a square box at the end of a grid of square boxes that says today we celebrate William being born. I’ve been staring at that box all day, in my mind. During all the lame office emergencies and in between the tip-tap typing of emails… Yes, I’ll write those meeting notes for you, Ed. Sure, I’ll create a new job number for that client. Ok, I’ll have that little envelope sent by messenger.

Everything is dust because I’m staring at a square box in my mind, a blank square box because William is not alive inside of it to be celebrated. And it feels wrong.

It is Tuesday and then it will be Wednesday and then Saturday will come and then more days after that. The days are drunk, blurring slurs with excuses about all the ways my body refuses to be productive.

I can’t seem to make any progress on the list – that growing list of normal, important, useful things – because my body is all the meaning of the word “weight.” And it is effort to pull it up, make it walk and talk and dance and think and smile. It is effort I don’t have in me.

I am called to live.

It was the phrase repeating in my head to the question printed on the guide in my lap last week. We were meditating on Acts 3, on the way Peter and John fixed their gaze on the lame man and offered him something other than what he was begging for. The guide was asking us what we are to do with our eyes and hands and hearts in this city. I could only speak in my head, but it was just that phrase, “I am called to live.”

I am not convinced I know what that means, but it feels important. And it mostly feels important by default. I still have breath. I’m here on the day my brother was born and I am breathing while he is not. So, it must be a calling. God formed me 29 years ago and has since not stopped breathing life into my bones. He is actively preserving me from death today, at least for right now. Maybe calling that a “calling” is wrong, but it is that phrase that keeps repeating.

Being back in Brooklyn reminds me how much breath there is here. So many humans and all with breath in their bones – so many folks with life happening to them because God is declaring it so. I don’t know who is really living – it’s hard to tell. I work with the moneymakers. They are happy sometimes and very unhappy other times, but they are always at the office. I live with my neighbors and my friends and all the subway riders. They have their good days and their bad days, but they (we, most of us) are always in a hurry. I wonder who is really living and who is confident to define “really living” anyway?

I want to be alive.

I don’t mean I want to skydive and eat tarantulas. This calling that is happening to me and not happening to my brother feels bigger than extreme sport clichés. I don’t want to feel alive with breath catching in my lungs like a bucket list.

I want the most core, purest essence, the singlest bottom line of all of it. I want to sidle up to the very breath of life – the slows and fasts and quiets and louds of it. I want every moment I am present to be as heavy as every moment he is absent. I want the same heaviness without any marketing or mottos or catchy repeating choruses.

We must be a wayward mess of our calling. I am, anyway. Because I can’t catch the slows and fasts on the right beat. I can’t seem to run to the right finish line. I can’t pick up the right groceries for this calling. I’ve Amelia Bedelia-ed the whole thing – always flopping wild toward what I think is life in my apron with half-baked cookies. And we are a whole city of flopping, frenzied messes chasing life and breathing in just enough of it to flop and frenzy some more.

Life must be about getting close, like a nail under a hammer inside a board, to the One giving us all this breath. The steps are messier than chronology because days are like years and my brother is not here for his birthday. And if I was a beggar today by the entrance to the temple when Peter and John walked by, I would be asking for Will. I would have hands outstretched, asking for someone to bring him back to his wife and his family and his friends. And if Peter and John fixed their gaze on me, they’d probably say something like, “William I do not have, but what I do have I give to you…”

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:6-10 ESV)

I don’t know what that means for my “calling,” except that William will never come back. I’m not called to search for him. I know where he is, because he believed in eternity and he believed that Jesus prepared a place for him there by going to the cross. He is having the best birthday with the One who made him – all the mechanical brilliance and adventurous spunk of him. But, here, I am still breathing. I have a hole in my left, black sock and I haven’t changed out of my Manhattan work clothes yet, but I am still breathing.

The closest I can think – the nail under the hammer in the board – is knowing that same Lord, the one who is deciding to give me breath. The rest of it is still suffering to make sense – the minutes in every day and the celebrations and the guilt when I get paralyzed. The rest, outside of knowing the God who gives me breath, still feels like a thousand faces staring at me on the subway.

I am called to live. And I’ll start by trying to know the Life-Giver.

I have a place to start and that’s something. As far as I know, I have a box inside a grid of boxes called October and I would like each one to prove that I am alive.


Find all our grief notes at this link and join with my family as we mourn in hope.

there is a record repeating

There is a record repeating inside your head.

I don’t know what your record sounds like, but I can tell you mine. While baking and biking and bantering with my dear friend this weekend, I leaned in to hear all the layers of God’s grace. While running and laughing and backyard bonfiring, I tried to feel the beat of His provision for my soul.

Some things are too precious to pare down into typed phrases… the music rightly refuses to be smashed into lyrical lines. But as much as beauty transcends structure, it also acquiesces in a way that allows us to see and hear the glory.

Ok, enough of the abstract.

Today the words of Psalm 18:30-31 gave lyric to the melody I’ve been hearing for the past week. Deep inside the anxious moments full of questions – those moments that threaten to steal beauty’s song (When will I move to NYC? Will I have a job? Am I stupid for relocating across the country? Is God’s grace deep enough to reach me when I’m stupid? Money – do I have to make it?), God is there. Deep inside the moments where I don’t know how to rightly enjoy all the gifts – when I am drowning in blessings and beauty and grace – God is there. As sure as Mt. Everest is rooted in the ground of China and Nepal, God is steady and faithful and sure. Always.

Steady, faithful, sure.
Steady, faithful, sure.

This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—

There is no debate, no blessing, no disaster, no gift, no doubt or heartache that can alter His character. Who is like God? No one. Absolutely no one can say what God can say and be truthful.

This record repeating in my heart found words today in these verses. I have been singing them all day long, trusting and hoping and believing that the word of the Lord proves true.

And as I trust his way is perfect, his word is true, his shield is refuge – as I believe these things deep inside the tangled mess of beauty/grace/anxious/doubting moments – I claim His victory over death and His provision of life.

He is steady. He is faithful. He is sure.

What a beautiful record repeating in my soul. Now, that my heart would align with the song!

Trust in the Lord, and do good.

Piper suggested (well, he said “perhaps”) the whole Old Testament could be summed up in this tiny verse.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good.” Psalm 37:3

Does that cause you to pause at all? a little? Well, it does me. The whole Old Testament in seven words. Hm. Trust in the Lord is one of those “givens” I might breeze by in my morning reading because my heart is used to the way it sounds. Of course, trust in the Lord. Lean not on my own understanding. Yes, yes. Trust in the Lord and in His mighty power.

Have you ever done that when you are reading a book that has texts of Scripture in it? They appear as large chunks indented on either side to make them stand out and draw your attention. Sometimes (embarrassed admission), I breeze past what feels like “givens” so I can get to the point. It’s like my mind is saying, “Caroline, of course you agree with that part – it’s Scripture. Just move on so you can find the conclusion.”

Well, this morning I lingered on Psalm 37:3 because I didn’t want to breeze past its truth. If I believe the Word is powerful and sharper than any two edged sword – that it never returns void and holds the secrets to abundant life – than nothing should ever be breezed by (no matter how many times I’ve read it).

“Trust in the Lord, and do good.” Psalm 37:3

Piper follows his assertion by saying, “…let the great works of past grace sustain your faith in future grace so that you always trust God rather than the offers of help and guidance that come from other gods or other counselors. The root issue behind the disobedience of Israel was lack of faith in future grace.”

Could the root issue of my disobedience look like similar faithlessness? The Israelites had many proofs of God’s faithfulness and salvation, but they chose unbelief. They chose not to trust the Lord’s word would be true for the future as it had been in the past. They chose instead to take their chances with a future of their own contriving.

The “do good” piece is not just tacked on for good measure. As much as the trusting is an act of belief in what God can and will do, “doing good” physically walks out this belief in the offices and street corners and dining room tables of life.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy…
today, where you are, as you trust in the Lord who empowered you to love at all