“What are you doing in here?”
It was early and cold. I’d been up for hours with Rylee and Cheyne. I took advantage of everyone eating breakfast and stole away to check on our meeting space. Mom mode – check. Leader mode – check.
I pulled the cafeteria door shut, drowning out the sound of 80 students and leaders eating and laughing. I love my job. I trekked across the grass, hugging my jacket tighter. It would warm up later, I told myself. I pushed open the auditorium doors. Not too bad. The room was pretty clean.
I straightened a few things here and there. I grabbed some items and headed behind the pipe and drape.
Surprised, one of our students was behind the curtain. I laughed in confusion, “What are you doing in here?” The only twenty somethings awake right now were the ones who pulled themselves out of bed for breakfast.
Dalton, equally surprised to see me, looked caught. “Hi Dena, I’m making coffee.” A coffee connoisseur, he had all the gear and was slowly going through the steps of brewing his perfect cup. He explained that he always tried to get some alone time at intensives. He loved the intensives but knew if he didn’t get to be by himself for part of it that he wasn’t going to last.
Something in my soul sparked. A memory of who I was that I hadn’t been in a very long time.
Walking with Jesus is a dance between becoming yourself and sacrificing yourself.
Dalton made room for both.
I was so incredibly happy for him. Happy that in the midst of a demanding leadership school, full of opportunities and a sense that the clock was ticking towards the year’s end, that he had created something for himself to safeguard the way God wired him.
I don’t think I remember anything else that happened that day. I wanted nothing more than to know how to make coffee like Dalton and find a place by myself to be alone.
A still, small space.
My soul has always craved this. My older sister who lived on the East Coast called me on my birthday once. “Happy Birthday!! What are you doing?!” “Hi Jen, I’m journaling.” Long pause. “I will come rescue you!!” She couldn’t fathom that my favorite way to spend my birthday was absolutely alone with Jesus, recounting the year. But with my tall, toffee nut white mocha in hand, I didn’t need a rescue. I was exactly where I wanted to be.
The night of my graduation from college I sneaked onto my balcony and climbed on the roof. I watched the Nevada sky fade into deepest blue. I felt the stillness. I marked the passing of one age into another. It was sacred.
When my Grampie passed, I headed to the furthest corner of our backyard and climbed the fence. I watched the mountain sky and let my soul ache. Alone. Still.
The still, small spaces are centering. They are a safe retreat and I am better for them.
I tucked the memory of Dalton hiding away from everyone with his coffee and returned to it throughout the year. It reminded me of a part of myself I missed and wanted to recover.
I slowly made my way back.
It’s early right now. On family vacation. Before anyone woke I brewed some coffee. I lit a fire and I’m watching the sun rise over Truckee. I’m writing. I’m alone.
It’s a still, small place and in it I am me.