Let the children come.
For so long I'd waited for this moment. The sun touched my nose and warmed my fingers as I pulled out my brushes and my small canvases, bought just the day before on the streets of Florence, Italy. The brightly hued city behind me was illuminated by the sun beginning its decent behind the horizon. I reminded myself to breathe and soak it in. There are moments in life that seem unreachable; a build up fantasy of emotion and long anticipated dreams. The present dream of painting in Italy had been simmering for near twenty years, with plenty of time to form into an elaborate and unreachable expectation. What do you do when finally faced with something you've been hoping for? I felt anxious, like I had to get it right. When I finally sat down on the shores of Cinqueterra, a brightly colored seaside town built into cliffs- palate out- is this how I dreamed it would be? What should I paint? Should I try and make this a spiritual moment? I faced the pastel city and began to sketch. I fumbled my pencil and erased what I drew. I ripped the page off my notepad. The boats. I would draw the boats. Rip. I tried to paint the small fishing harbor where the waves lapped against the cliff. Decent. But it seemed so uninspired. I felt like I was messing up my long awaited moment, so I stopped and prayed.
"Where are you Lord? In this moment, show me where to find you."
I had the sudden urge to change directions and rather than face the bustle of the colorful streets and boats, I turned my face towards the warmth of the sun- towards the sea. I faced out where I could only see what God had created. The scene was lovely, but simple. The sea was calm; the sky a faded color of blueish green. The sun was setting, but at the moment only looked like a small white ball. Yet I felt there was a deeper beauty in the grey rocks and light blue water in front of me. I heard a small whisper, "Watch. Watch closely. It changes every moment." As I watched the light hit the sharp rock in front me, I saw the light dance ever so slightly. I felt the need to pay attention, not to the manmade color behind me, but the simple God made grey rocks in front of me. I was struck by the light, the contrast, the silhouettes the sun created anytime something flew in front of me. But I was struck even more by how quickly it all changed with the light.
It reminded me of life- sometimes the most important moments aren’t the ones we wait our whole lives for, but the ones we miss in the hustle and bustle. The moment I needed to experience was not the one of me painting, but actually ended up being the story while I was painting.
As I was capturing the ever changing sun setting with my new Florentine acrylics, I felt the eyes of people watching me. I know it's rather common to stop and watch someone painting live- I pause if I see it too! I could feel someone take a picture over my left shoulder. I could see out of the corner of my eye multiple people stop at a distance and whisper. I noticed an older couple sit close enough to see and lean over. But the first person to stop to and talk to me was no taller than my waist. She came so close her shoulder brushed up against mine. I heard, "That's pretty." Startled by the conversation, I looked up to find a pair of tiny brown eyes looking longingly at my set up. I smiled. A younger tag-a-long ran up next to her, curious but shy. I asked them if they liked to paint, not sure if they could understand my English. She nodded. My first and only thought that came next was this, "I would love to paint with you, would you like to join me?" I pulled out 2 of the 3 pieces of watercolor paper I brought with me to Italy, and my expensive paints. I handed them each a sheet, brushes and slid my paint to them. Their eyes grew to the size of the setting sun and their smiles just a bright. My heart suddenly felt fuller than when I had been painting by myself. I could think of nothing better than teaching two little artists how to paint what God had made.
Suddenly our moment broke. "Don't touch! No!"
The (assumed) parents of the little girls sprinted over and grabbed the paper from their hands. "No! No! This is not yours!"
I immediately assured them it was a gift. I was happy to share it with them. Their mother continued to explain to the girls that the supplies were too expensive for them. The paints were too nice. I didn't have enough. I tried over and over to tell her with words and expressions that I was an art teacher- that although she couldn't see all my paper, I had so much of it to share. I told her I was happy to share my paints with the girls and would love to paint with them. The father then chimed in that he was sure the girls were bothering me. Frustrated that nothing I could say would allow them to let their children to paint, I looked instead at their little, now very sad faces. I chose to leave the girls with some advice.
"Okay, then when you get home little ones. Remember what you see here. Remember the colors and paint what you see. That’s what I’m doing."
The father laughed and coyly said, "Well if you paint what you see then you will surely paint three monsters after this." I chose not to acknowledge his harsh words and immediately addressed the girls. "I only see two beautiful curious roses. One. Two." They turned and shuffled their children away.
Probably an hour later, I felt the presence of my little friend again. She must have snuck away while her parents ate nearby, because she and her sister quietly came and just sat beside me this time. I knew they would not be able to paint, so instead I used a few moments to teach them what I could. The sun set and our moment ended, but I had the deep feeling that what God wanted me to experience was less in the painting, and more in the analogy.
That night I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I asked the Lord to help me process the day. As I closed my eyes and lay on my back, all I could see were the children running up to me with joy, expectation and unashamed inquisitiveness. They weren't afraid to be near me. They weren't afraid to talk to me, ask questions or ask for what they wanted. I heard His whisper. "That's how I want you to come to me."
I quickly heard the echo of the parents voices. "That's too expensive for you. There's not enough. You will mess it up. Don't bother her." Sound familiar? If you haven't heard it in your own head time and time again, then perhaps you've heard it in the Bible when the disciples shooed the children away from running to Jesus- much like these little girls. The analogy continued in my spirit.
The Holy Spirit reminded me, "I know you can't see all the storehouses, but if I offer it to you- I have enough. I promise. What I offer to you I have time for. What I offer to you is not too good for you. And yes little one- I actually enjoy, and would prefer being with you."
Jesus beckons us to be near Him, to create with Him. To "see" what He sees so He can teach us about His Father's heart. What voices are you hearing that keep you away from this truth? Everything in my heart ached that my new friends weren't able to create with me, even though their parents told them otherwise. We have an enemy that loves to lie about God's heart towards us. Thankfully, God is forever finding new and creative ways to be with us, speak to us, and teach us how to enjoy His presence.
I pray today that you hear Him saying to you over the false narrative that you're hearing:
"Child, I would LOVE to be with you and share this moment with you! Sit with me!"