Over the past several months I haven’t been shopping that much. And for someone who began her career marketing and promoting shopping malls, that’s a bit unheard of. Those younger days were fun, and I still remember the very late 2:00 AM nights those few days before Thanksgiving that were spent with my maintenance and security crews installing the mall decorations so we’d be ready for the big shopping season.
And it was worth it all…so rewarding to see the looks on the faces of the children and their parents when the big day arrived and the beautifully decorated mall was unveiled! Along with Santa’s special welcoming center for all the children.
Now fast forward some 40+ years.
A different mall, in a different city. Professionally decorated by the decor company’s professional crew at least two, if not three, weeks before Thanksgiving to put shoppers in the mood to spend money as early as possible.
A different and older me…no longer a young woman just out of college, but a new grandmother with my first book being published….a five year dream come true.
Having not been to the mall in a while I hadn’t really noticed this new store there. It had actually opened back in April! It looked far too expensive for my shopping budget, but my husband said let’s just go in and take a look. The windows were beautifully decorated, so we went in, thinking we just might find something interesting in there.
Christmastime is full of stories and divine encounters. It’s a time when God puts us in certain places for the sole reason of helping someone we’ve never met before.
Yes, this was one of those times.
As I walked through the store enjoying the wonderful unique gift items and one-of-kind clothing items, I wandered back to the dressing rooms, which were also beautifully decorated. And there I saw it. And I knew my visit to that store was more than coincidence.
A prayer journal. Available for each customer to write in and request prayer for others, or themselves. And you can believe I added a prayer request for the father of a very dear friend, as well as prayed for one of the other requests in the book!
A young woman, probably not much older than our own daughter, had greeted us when we walked into the store. We’d talked briefly, just small talk between customer and sales associate, and she’d gone on to assist other customers while Ben and I looked around. Suddenly, there she was again, talking with another customer just a few feet away. When they’d finished their brief conversation, she turned to me and asked how we were enjoying the store.
Obviously I told her how impressed I was with the prayer request book, and how I’d written a request in there.
Then the God-ordained moment came, as I casually mentioned to her I was going to contact their home office to inquire about putting my new book in their stores, which had just been published that same day. She asked me what the book was about, and when I explained it dealt with losing my mother and surviving the grief afterwards, she started tearing up and trying not to cry.
“My best friend just lost her mother a month ago, and she’s going through an awful time. I don’t know how to help her. Where can I buy your book? I want to give it to her, and I want to read it as well. Maybe it’ll help….”
Of course I told her where to order it, and also gave her one of my new business cards that coincidentally I’d just received in the mail that afternoon. We talked for a few more minutes and I promised I’d pray for her friend, and that I’d contact the store’s home office and try to get some books in there. She added that she certainly hoped so, because she’d love to have a book signing there for me!
Coincidence? Absolutely not! This was one of those divine appointments that the Lord had orchestrated. He knew what this young woman and her friend needed, and He also knew I needed some encouragement that my book would be well-received and important to others.
I have no way of knowing whether she has ordered the book or not. I sincerely hope she has, or that she will. But I do know this. Visiting that store was not just a spur of the moment, “let’s go in here!” visit. It was a result of perfect timing, and following what that little inner nudge, that still small voice, said to do.
“In his heart man plots his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) And that’s certainly what happened to us that night.
We never know whose lives we will impact when we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit: when we just do what we feel we’re led to do. Who knows what this one innocent encounter in a retail store just two weeks before Christmas will do in someone’s life?
I know how it impacted me. And I pray the repercussions in that young woman’s life, and her friend’s life, will not only make a difference in both of their lives, but the lives of others they come in contact with as well.
This Christmas season especially, be watchful, and be listening to that still small voice inside of you. If your heart leads you to do something, don’t hesitate; just do it. You have no idea what a difference one encouraging word can make on someone’s life.
Be blessed, and be a blessing to someone else this Christmas.