An expanse of space lies between myself and the only other person seated on the front pew.  I shift my body, slide on the hard seat, and smile over at this girl with the doe eyes who lives her life but a decade, carries herself like an old soul. 

She wears a red sweater, green feathers in her hair.  Spreads out as if this sanctuary is home.  An art pad, pencil, and drawing book to keep the hands busy.  A Styrofoam cup with straw for sipping placed carefully under the pew.   

And when her mother begins to strum the guitar from behind the altar, leading us to the throne with holy words, this girl whose name means beautiful, she stands and sings like the words own her the way she grows into her name, Bella.

That voice, above the cadence of the mature, it stands out like God whispering in the ears:

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” ~ Matthew 18:3

Yes, Lord. I hear you; remind me of what it is like to be a child again. Take me low so I can go high.

I invite her to join me for communion and she mouths the words, “I will go if you want me to.” And we kneel together at the altar and I do remember. 

She holds her tiny hands with the orange-chipped nail polish cupped to receive.  Because He wants her to and the heart says yes.

And I remember the first day I cupped my hands to receive.  The day I wore the brown dress with the white polka dots, white ribbon tied around my thick ponytail.  That day I said yes to Him kneeling at the altar.  Think of His words again:

“Let them come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” ~Matthew 19:14

She returns to the drawing pad, looks at the picture she tries to copy, puts pencil to paper, erases, and starts again.  I think about a drawing lesson a few years ago sitting on the banks of the Bogue Sound.  How the artist tells me to look at something and draw intuitively without looking down at my paper.  My amazement at how much better I capture the outlines of what I see when I let go of perfection.

Think about how sometimes God wants us to walk in the freedom of the outline, look up to Him in abandonment so He can create the beauty inside those lines. How when we try to copy the gift of someone else, be like all the others, we feel defeated, unable to measure up.  We stop drawing altogether.

And in the midst of the singing, the words spoken from the pulpit, He reminds me through the presence of Bella, to embrace the beauty the way He gives it.  Shows me His endless love though a little girl born with a beautiful name meaning – God’s promise.

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.  Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! ~Psalm 116:1-2

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose

and Ann at A Holy Experience