The first glance I got of the steep incline from the train window set my heart on fire. I honestly have no explanation for why a snow covered mountain gives me this joy and peace. Courage was in my soul. My adventure was just about to start and I knew I was going to love every second of it.
It started weeks before I boarded the mountain train. I was on the phone with my mom talking about Christmas break and the typical question came up “So…what do you want for Christmas?” I had always dreamed of taking my own adventure someday and I felt like the time was now. So I asked for a train ticket and an air bnb room in the mountains. It was not the typical gift, but my mom got just as excited as I did and said the experience I will get from this trip will last a lifetime. So the plans started forming…
Before I knew it It was 5:00 am and time to get out of bed to catch the first bus. I was so excited to know the day had come to have my adventure. The adventurous side of me often got squashed by my fragile health but today I was thanking God that I actually felt good. A big part of me wanted to find out what I can do and who I really was at this point in my life. I’m only 22 but I have gone through a lot with the ups and down of a chronic illness. I felt like God was tugging at my heart asking me to do something spontaneous and be ok with no knowing what comes next.
I took a few buses to get from Boulder to the Union station and it was quite fun hauling around a weekend bag through the big Denver city. God has a lot of fun things planned for me. The first was my train buddy. This 80 something year old grandpa who shared his story about life and his perseverance through a hurricane and his wife death and how he never lost his faith. I really do love getting to know older people because they have so much wisdom to share.
As the train slowly chugged up the mountain, my jaw started to drop out of awe and amazement. God created these mountains and the closer I got to the top, the closer I felt to Him. After the 10 minute long tunnel the view was pure white. Snow was piled high in Fraser and as I stepped of the train, I felt the cold pass me by. It was awesome because I love the cold. The snow was exactly what I needed too because Boulder was still sunny and warm. I was craving a cold snowy adventure. I quickly looked at my list of what I wanted to do up here in the mountains. Here is what I wrote: 1.) have a spontaneous adventure 2.) try something new 3.) make a snow angel 4.) make friends with random people 5.) listen to God’s voice 6.) eat snow
I was dropped off the train at the “station” which was basically an outdoor platform. I never considered a bus from the platform to the air bnb because I wanted the adventure of the mile walk in the snow…with my suitcase. Little did I know, the sidewalks were piled with snow so I ended up dragging my suitcase in the snow. I took a few stops to unload all the snow gear and put it on, to make the bag lighter. I’m sure people were wondering where exactly I was going. But the big question was.. did I know where I was going?
Eventually I made it and ended up getting a 5 second ride form a handy man up the very steep hill to the airbnb lodge. He wanted so badly to help, so I let him (don’t worry he looked like a nice stranger!) and he gave me a high five as I got out of the car. This little act of kindness gave me the security that this town was sincere and friendly, which indeed it is.
I was exhausted and took a nap right as I got in the door. Oh, but before that I found a spoon and bowl and filled it up with fresh snow to eat. Then when I woke up, it was time for exploring and finding food so I walked to the grocery store down the road and decided to pick up some things for the weekend. I got to know the friendly air bob hosts. The husband and wife showed me around the kitchen and made me feel very at home. They thought it was quite funny when they found out I ate snow. They told me they normally hand wash dishes and I turned around and quietly unloaded my bowl and spoon from the dishwasher. They asked if I ate dinner and I said “kinda…it was actually a bowl of snow.” They broke out laughing but I guess it was not they typical first meal their guests eat :). I decided to go to bed semi-early so I could wake up for church feeling refreshed. The snow was just starting to fall and I excited for the morning.
I woke up to big thumps on the roof. The snow was getting heavy and sliding off the roof. Kinda a fun way to wake up. The first thing I noticed was how clean mountain air is (It felt so good to breath!).
So sometimes there are those people you meet in life that really make an impression on your life. I got to spend the pink Sunday (the 3rd Sunday of Advent) with the best Catholics in the Mountains. A friend picked me up and we ended up driving to get another young guy and girl. We are all about the same age and share the same faith so it was really fun to talk and get to know each other.
As we entered the beautiful church of Our Lady of the Snow and found our pew, the priest opens the confessional door with a young girl fainted in his arms. I had met this priest when I came to this town with my mom on our little trip to this mountain town a few months before. It was a simple look as he darted his eyes to our pew that he wanted our help. I offer water to the young girl as my friend checks her pulse. Her mom runs through the door to see what is going on with her daughter. It ended up being little bit of dehydration.
I remember the mom looking up at me and asking “who are you?” This moment was imprinted in my memory because it was a question I have been asking myself for a while and partly the reason why I wanted this adventure…to understand better the person God is forming me into. I explained I am visiting from Boulder and my friend goes to this church. But that question really got me thinking inside about how God is shaping me.
Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8
Community is a foundation of daily life. It’s not that I have not found great people in Boulder, but I feel like I’m searching for my community still. This unsettled feeling is God trying to tell me to push a little further and keep seeking until I find the people He wants me to be surrounded by. This small mountain parish gave me a glimpse of Gods Love.
People need each other and there is no way around it. I sometimes try to force myself to be ok in certain situations, a big one is feeling lonely in a new environment. I crave a familiar face or a voice but all that is familiar is back in Minnesota. A phone call to family helps, but I know Gods is opening a door in my life to new people and opportunities.
The rest of the day was filled with witnessing unexpected goodness of these new Catholic friends. Its always a relief to be sitting around people where you can watch a movie about John Paul 2, talk about God, your favorite saints, pray the rosary and listen to Catholic music. Allowing God into your day is so natural and fulfilling when you are surrounded by people who Love God with all their heart and mind. The 4 of us made a fun breakfast together, did random walks in the snow, and I even got my snow angel in :).
One memorable thing was pulling out a rope rosary I had been carrying around with me for 2 weeks. I had a feeling I was going to give it away to someone and it was one of the young Catholic guys I met that weekend. He is discerning the priesthood and liked to say the rosary. So I found it fitting and he could wear it on his wrist like I saw my brother and friends back at home do. I like how God prepares us in random ways like that.
I find that true friends help each other grow in their faith. It does not always matter how long you know the person or even how much you know about them. Sometimes you just get the opportunity to be friends easily and conversation comes naturally. Those are the friendships and people God had planned from the beginning.
The 3rd day (Monday) was a strange day. I felt like I had not gotten closure to the questions in my heart. I walked around the town and got some coffee. But the day felt empty. I was scheduled to board the train at 5:00 and honestly I didn’t want to leave because I think I fell in love with the mountain town. I decided to meet my friend before he had to go to work. I had no idea I was in for a hike in the deep snow, but its exactly what was missing from my adventure.
It was a bit of a struggle, one foot off the path and you got buried up to your thigh in cold fluffy snow. So this is what hiking in snow was like! I was stepping in deep snow and taking the plunge and risk of freezing my toes off. But I didn’t care really about being cold. All I wanted was to hear Gods answers to the questions I had holding inside. It was silent so I just kept walking.
Thats how life is sometimes. You just have to keep walking, one step at a time. It may be a desert you are walking in, or a rainforest or on a beach. But for me, its stepping in deep snow. Blindness to if the step in front of me will lead me to get buried in snow or if I will actually keep my balance. A friend walking behind making sure I don’t freeze me toes off helps too.
I willingly jumped on a train to lead me here. I opened my heart to the unexpected. Why? Because honestly I felt like I was running from something inside. I wanted to find out what and I wanted to let God dig me out of the snow and reach out his hand. It was time I let go and trust God.
“Wherever You Go”There’s a train leaving your heart tonight.
There’s a silence inside your head and you’re running you’re running from it.But I’m coming for you, coming for you, wherever you go.
I’m coming for you, I’m coming for you wherever you go.Open your hands and look into my eyes; all that you see here,
you’ll soon leave behind, so open your hands and look into my eyes
’cause I’m coming for you, coming for you wherever you go
As I fell over and over again into the deep snow, the fear of sinking slipped away. Before now I was very scared of the deepness of life. I was scared of more pain. I avoiding making mistakes. But all of this blocked off the love God was trying to place into my life. He was coming for me, wherever I was going.
Stepping into the deep can be scary but fun too. There is joy in getting buried in snow even if the cold stings. Sometimes we can’t hear God, but we can only see and experience what He is doing in our lives.
I left Fraser ready to start a new chapter of my life. I was ready to accept any pain and deepness in front of me. But I was also ready to experience joy in every step I take. I knew I needed to trust God would bring me good catholic friends (close by) to guide my step or simply walk along side of me, because we are not meant to live life alone.
Life is about sharing Gods love. Having joy and willingness to help guide our friends on the path to God and also let them help us too, is the best gift.
So a week goes by and I repack to leave for Minnesota. I was a bit nervous going back home for the first time since I moved here. So much has changed, but it was time to get on that plane to go meet my family back home for Christmas. The trip was filled with love from my siblings, parents, friends, and Coopers slobbers and hair. It was exactly what I needed. A big dose of love and support. Only pictures can describe how fulfilling this trip was.
I did not know that my leaving the hometown of Minnesota can become the source of talk among families. I honestly don’t mind people talking because its a good story. “A sick young Caroline gets better and decides to follow Gods will and leave to the mountain state. Not knowing anyone or even any street but the call in her heart got her on her feet.”
I do miss my big snuggle bug. I got used to sleeping with orange rubber toys and waking up with dried up slobber on my face. I found myself sneaking into my sisters room to snuggle up next to them at night. I sat at the top of the stairs listening to my parents conversations as they cleaned up the kitchen. As much as I dreaded the drilling/pounding for the kitchen lights, stove, countertops, faucets, etc. (aka project make-lunger-kitchen-the-heart-of-the-home), I eagerly awaited seeing the handy men from my church that I grew up at. I cherished the familiar voices, the many hugs and kisses and the cold winter icy snow and the howling wind across the Minnesota lake. The nonstop dinner conversations and banana split therapy for a down day are only a glimpse into the love my family has for each other. Never before have I appreciated home as much.
I knew it was going to be hard to leave, but remembering that God brought me to Colorado gave me the reassurance that I will survive once I got back. It took a lot of willpower to convince myself I will be OK. Knowing I had no family or good friends waiting for me, gave me a feeling of emptiness. I did not realize this emptiness was being filled with sadness instead of joy and excitement for new opportunities.
God has allowed this emptiness and I decided it will only be filled with His Love. All I needed to do was lift up my eyes to Him and reach out my hand. Trust.
I got to the Denver airport exhausted and feeling like I left something. The feeling was very truthful becasue I did leave something behind me. I cleared away any lie that I had told the person I used to be when I was very sick. I had shown my home town its possible to change, its possible to do the impossible if God is your guide.
My childhood friend in Minnesota told me that every hardship I have endured while living in Colorado was necessary and it ultimately got me to the path that God has planned for me. It’s here, and I feel it with all my heart, but the feeling is emptiness. It’s emptiness that is going to only be filled with Gods plans for my life that only He knows right now. What’s left for me to do, is be patient and keep walking in the deep snow, unafraid of sinking. I have learned that control only fills the heart with sadness and fear. Emptiness can be scary but it can be so good.
Feeling broken is ok. Its part of Gods plan to rebuild us. Stepping in the deep snow and doing what I am scared of, breaks down the walls of lies and fears of the past. Something is needed to break the cycle for each and everyone of us. We all get weary and need a friend to walk along side of us, and its ok to sometimes reach your hand out so they can pull us out the deep snow when we fall off the path.
I love these lyrics of Audrey Assad’s song…
“You’ve been let down, it’s true
Your pain is so easy to see
You’re haunted by your history
And it feels like you’ve got no escape
Lift up your head
Help is on the way
And it won’t pass you by
You just gotta reach out your hand
Lift up your eyes
Love is on the way
And it won’t pass you by
You just gotta reach out your hand”
Not much time has gone by and I am already seeing Gods love fill this emptiness I once thought was bad. Catholic families I never knew before have let me care for their kids. Being a nanny and caring for Gods children gives me joy. Each day something new happens and you have to tackle it right on the spot.
I don’t fear being lonely anymore but instead I pray for the people in my life and the people I will meet in the future. I want to show them that once they are broken down and have that hole of emptiness, it can be filled, but only with Gods love. Even if its only a smile, the light inside of them has been lit.
A person once told me that when I feel unsettled, its God trying to speak to us so we do something about it. Peace is what God wants for us and its what we should seek. We should not settle but always seek for a true and honest life.
It was about 5:00pm mountain time and I was watching the horizon as I got closer to Boulder. I was tried from the long day of travel and was already missing home. I was lacking courage. But a glimpse of the snow filled mountains lit me heart of fire once agin. I took a deep breath, it will all be ok. I forgot that feeling and instantly the emptiness inside was filled with hope and courage. God speaks to each of us in different ways and he was speaking to me at that very moment.
Deep snow is beautiful because its there that I find Gods helping hand waiting for me. It’s in the deep snow I find happiness.
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
― Pope John Paul II
To complete this season of my life in one blog post I want to wrap up a few things. I’m still studying to be a catholic doula. I get antsy on my days off that are set aside for studying so I bounce around on my exercise ball/chair, listening to Audrey Assad, eat spoon fulls of brain food (coconut oil) and sniffle through boxes of tissues (aka 4th sinus infection in 6 months!). So that left me bringing in new Years eve with an unexpected visit to the Dr. and getting prescribed antibiotics and sinus surgery soon to expand my ever beautiful sinus bones that God designed a little too narrow. Please pray for me, I’m a bit nervous.
I met a great Catholic friend who loves saying novenas and also eats paleo. I’m keeping myself occupied nannying cute little ones and enjoying getting dumped in snow this past week in Boulder. I picked my patron saint of 2017- St. Gianna. I find it fitting because this year I am nannying and studying to be a Catholic doula.
God is calling me to live each day and breathe each breath to the fullest. It’s good and I’m thankful.