I shift in my seat, leaning against the high plush back of the worn swivel chair. Across the room, she’s tucked into one of the twin orange arm chairs. The white board, draped in Christmas lights, the day’s goals and final assignments still scrawled across it, spans the wall between us.

She appeared in the doorway not long after dismissal, stepping purposefully, peacefully into the classroom, her voice heard easily in the rare quiet. For several long minutes, I sat at my desk, half-heartedly typing an email, while she spoke. A kind of multitasking, I suppose.

But soon, the tiny screen has been folded down, its pure glow now limited to illuminating its own keyboard, while I gaze across the room, listening intently.

See, this is the kind of music that you should be listening to, always are listening to, she says as she catches the faint strains of the Disney soundtrack I’ve put on Pandora. I laugh, nodding. It’s pretty much classical and movie scores during the day, I tell her, but I break it up with some Disney in the afternoons. 

She tells me she’s begun a preaching internship, at her church. This is not remotely surprising to me, given the plethora of mini-sermons I’ve been treated to since meeting her, and I tell her this. She sits, silent for a moment, and I wait, watching her.

I know the movements she makes. The hand raise before a joke, before sarcasm. The pause, the intensity sliding into her gaze before a bold statement. The finger raised, pointing at me, calling me back to me, before a particularly relatable statement.

You’re in a different place now than you were then, she says, as the conversation weaves comparisons between this day, this week, this lesson, and the shape and flow of my life barely 10 months ago.

I’d not considered that point before- not truly- and I tilt my head, letting the comparison, the contrast, sink in. You’re right, I tell her after a moment. I’ve moved, of course. Switched schools, taken a full-time job, in the past months. But she’s not referring to locale or employment; we both know that.

I think then about the woman- the girl?- who hurtled through life all those months ago. I think about the battles I fought, the struggles I faced, the choices I made, and as I mentally run through the days, weeks, emotions, feelings of a year ago, I see last year’s self turned so inward.

I made big choices: relationships, jobs, living situation, and I look back to the hours that I spent shrinking into my own heart, my own head. Like a vacuum with no air output, I pulled my worry, my concern, my very surroundings into the chaotic, spinning fortress inside me. And there I agonized. There I stayed.

Your compassion is so evident, she says. I see it all the time. I nod, hesitant to pick up, to hold, the kindness she’s laid before me.

She speaks again, and I cross my legs, lean elbow on knee, chin in palm. The theme to Hercules plays quietly from my computer, creating soft undertones of equal parts whimsical and heroic.

You’re right, I tell her, slowly nodding my agreement. I have changed a lot, matured a lot, these past months. She rocks her head sideways, eye brows raised momentarily, the plain look of I told you so. 

I’m much more at peace,  I observe, my eyes wandering to the string of cheerful lights hanging above her head.

She agrees then; her hum of assent firm, settled. The conversation continues; winding, tracing, ebbing, flowing.

We speak the sovereignty of God. We trace lines of conversation, of memories, stories, questions, long down the trail of thought. Our conversation moves to a table in a bustling, cozy restaurant not far from school. There are pauses, thoughts, sudden bursts of excitement. We agree, we challenge. Once, I shrug, almost subconsciously. As if the weight of the words we’ve collected, savored, might simply slip of my back, dissolve into the floor like something imagined, something vague or misty.

But conversations, like friendships, and maturity, and the grace to grow yet more, are not easily dismissed, or forgotten.

Rather, they are seeds of so many things. Seeds of joy. Of hope. Of grace. Of learning. Watered with honesty and conviction, blossoming under the gentle care of time.

Because with words, with time, with dinner on a rainy Friday night in a big city- we’re always sowing seeds.




Taking Off, Putting On

What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself in 2015? 

Di sits in the passenger seat, her black overnight bag at her feet. We’re driving into the city, weaving slowly southward in the darkening twilight of January 1st.

Ooh, I nod, eyes on the road still, watching the lights beyond me turn red in slow succession. That’s a good question. 

Well, you stumped me with ‘who is the funniest person you know’ last night, she exclaims, and I laugh then, remembering the moments she spent in silence, agonizing over who might be the funniest person in her life.

She never did come up with an answer.

But we talk then, about learning, and changing, and knowing oneself, and then, as the swaying flow of traffic pulls us slowly deeper into the heart of the city, a follow-up question forms, settling pleasantly in the air between us.

What are you taking off and putting on in the new year?

She answers first, talking about fear, boldness, friendships she treasures, habits she’ll continue to cultivate.

Then, leaning back against the seat, she looks over at me. What about you?

I have my answer ready.

I want to be more giving, I tell her. Of my time. Of kindness. Of my resources. The stories, the truths, the battles, the losses, and the near misses that make my life my own; the very same things that I so often guard, keep to myself. I want to share those things, too, I tell her, because relationships are built on sharing lives, and that’s a good thing. 

Di listens, nodding emphatically, murmuring the hushed tones of ascent that I’m accustomed to.

I want to take off being entitled, I tell her, feeling the conviction of my words settling into my heart as I speak.

I feel entitled to be entitled. And even as I say it, I know that it’s true.

I hear myself, barely weeks ago, sharps words of frustration spilling over into my classroom, all the while I tell myself it’s okay- I’m entitled to let my anger set the tone in the room.

I’m entitled, I tell myself,  to quiet time. To someone else taking out the trash. To children who do what I ask them to do. To parking that is less than a half mile from my apartment.

But that’s not true, of course. Not at all. I’m entitled to nothing.

So this year, as the days slip from January to February, and then beyond, I’m taking off what I believe I should have, and putting myself into the place I know so well.

The place of Christ’s grace, my brokenness, and the thrill, the power, the joy of knowing Him more, seeing Him work more, with every passing day.

And from that, I know, will come a spirit of giving,

and so much more.