Ella was at Mission Meal tonight.
Except Mission Meal wasn't at Immanuel.
It was at the Mission.
She got there a few minutes late (daddy thought we started at the usual time, but we started a little early) and was so eager to find me so she could help me with whatever I was doing.
Mission Meal is Ella's time to spend with me. She calls it "the night I get to help Erin at the church." I don't think she has any clue how much I love that time, too.
Tonight there wasn't much to do. Because we were at the mission, we had taken things that were disposable. We had no silverware to sort, no tables to wipe down, no salt and pepper to put away - all the things Ella and I usually do together didn't exist tonight.
She had brought her own meal with her and she wanted to sit down, but the tables were full of the residents, so I plopped her down on the giant huge island in the middle of the kitchen and gave her her sandwich. (Susan, you would have LOOOVED this kitchen!) She sat there and ate, asked for a piece of cake, and munched on that. All the while we talked and giggled and I soaked in the smell of her hair and the sound of her laugh and the almost-green of her eyes. Ella only lives here part time now, and I miss her so much. It seems that she just gets here and it's already time to tell her goodbye again. I can only imagine how her daddy feels!
So as I was soaking up the Ella-time, I reached to the leftover pulled pork BBQ (yum, Backwoods!) still in the pan.
"What're you eating, Erin?" she asked.
"Mmmmm... Bar-b-Que. Do you want to try a bite?"
The next thing I know, this sweet strawberry blonde has a forkful of lemon icing in one hand and scraps of getting-cold BBQ in the other and she's practically alternating bites!
Here she sits, on the counter of a homeless shelter, eating the scraps out of a pan that sits between us and all I can think is that before I turn around twice she'll be leaning against that counter with me telling me about boyfriends and high school and college choices. If I tell her then about tonight, she'll roll her eyes at me in embarassment and I'll smile at the little girl I once knew.
It is moments like tonight that make me wonder how a parent's heart doesn't burst with all of the love they have for their child.
Ella isn't mine.
She isn't even related to me.
And still my heart swells when she comes running in to the office.
Thanks, Chris and Susan, for sharing her with me.
She is an amazing little girl.