Her wavy long light brown hair, free-spirited, slightly messy, and stunning as always, flowed behind her as she ran down the hallway, clutching her floral notebook, her sparkly purse hanging crossbody from shoulder to hip. Ella is curious and bright, with a hint of mischief hiding in her chestnut eyes.

We struck up a conversation in the hallway.
“How are you?” I queried.
“What is the best thing that happened to you this last week?”
Pausing for thought, she replied: “My brother had a birthday party.”

We talked about her brother’s birthday party, how old he was, what it’s like to have a little two-year-old toddling around and learning to talk and getting into your things and thinking you’re the best big sister in the world.

I’m used to asking questions, and will typically keep at it until the conversation takes off naturally on its own, or it’s time to part ways. I have a stash of questions in my mental back pocket for such a time as this.

But then Ella did something that surprised me and shifted the conversation in a beautiful direction: She handed me her small floral-covered notebook, open to an empty page.

“Can you sign my friend notebook?”

Awe, how sweet: I’ve had little girls ask me to do this before. A special place to write down my name and include an encouraging note to her that she’ll look back and read later. Maybe even a verse.

“Can you sign my friend notebook?” she repeated. “Put your name first, and write down three things that you are.”

What? Three things that I am?

Not what I do, not where I live, not what I think about her, but three things that I am? Not even three things I want to be or aspire to be—those goals would be easy to declare. Three things that I am.

I stopped and paused. This was a beautiful request, and completely snapped me out of my comfortable series of questions and familiar hallway conversation with a 8-year-old friend. My pen hovered above the paper, right below my signed name: Three things that I am, that I want to link with my name in this vivacious girl’s Friend Notebook? Who am I? After racing through many options in my mind, I wrote down three things I have been praying about a lot lately as goals:

Mandy Pallock

The shift for me was not thinking about three things that I want to be. That would have been easy. Or three words that others would use to describe me. That is a little easier. Writing three things that I am.

Now if I’m honest with myself, purposeful, faithful, and loving are more attributes I aspire to be, not things I would claim for myself. But I very much appreciated the opportunity to claim the future for the now, and to see life from the free perspective of a 8-year-old. I flipped to other pages in her notebook, and it made me smile to see the way other little friends described themselves: kind, fun, gentle, smart, patient, loving.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A new creation. Forgiven. Free. Loved. Cherished. Unique. Special. Friendly. Free from condemnation. The Bride of Christ. Introspective. More than a conqueror. Chosen. Inspiring. Kind. Thoughtful. Redeemed. Loved. Loving. Secure. Peaceful. Fun.

So, in the words of my friend Ella, I ask you: “Can you sign my friend notebook? Put your name first, and write three things that you are.” How about in the comments?