"Watch your face," Mom used to say. "You can't go around looking all sour. People will talk."
It was time to greet others during Sunday service. Ivy turned out of habit, hand extended to greet whatever random parishioner stood closest. To her chagrin, she stood face to face with her former college roommate.
"Shannon! What are you doing here?"
"Peace," Shannon replied, offering a strangely cordial hug.
Ivy said nothing, her eyes and mouth agape.
"Let's talk after the service," Shannon said softly. "There's so much to catch up on."
Ivy agreed, but only because they were in church. Shannon never even went to church. And why was she speaking as though the painful past did not exist?
Ivy did not "watch her face." Her lips curled into a determined pout. The sermon was about love, but she didn't hear a single word.
Ivy and Shannon sipped lattes at the coffee shop down the street from the church. Ivy broke the ice. "So I hear you're married now."
"I was for a while, but—"
"Oh, I'm sorry. Divorce? That's unfortunate."
"No, not at all. My husband died in a car accident three years ago. I'm raising our twins, Matt and Jay. Would you like to see some pictures?" She reached for her cell phone and began scrolling for the best ones.
"Oh, Shannon, I didn't know. I'm sorry for your loss."
"No, no. I've accepted that this is what God thought best. I'll probably never know the reasons. But enough about me. What's going on in your life? You look well. Are you married? Do you have kids?"
"No, but I'm okay with that. I thought it was what I wanted, but . . . " Ivy stared into her coffee cup, voice trailing. What does she want from me, Lord?
"Look. It's been a long time, and I know you've never really forgiven me for all I put you through. I've been sober for nine years now. I said it before, but I'll say it again. I'm really sorry, Ivy. I was a different person then."
"I know. I can see that."
"I was hoping we could start over . . . be friends again, you know?"
"Okay, fine." Ivy smiled in spite of herself. "I'll try. But let's change the subject. No need to rehash the grim. How's work?"
"I'm a store manager. It's tough trying to make ends meet. If I don't find something better soon, I won't be able to make my mortgage."
Ivy's brows furrowed. "I wish there was something I could do to help."
"Oh, but there is!" Shannon's eyes lit up. "I was hoping you could help me find another job – or at least give me a reference."
A reference? After all the craziness this girl put me through? Talk about awkward. I'm glad she's saved and sober, but I'm not putting my good name out there for her to —
Ivy felt a convicting check in her spirit. Let it go, Ivy, came His voice. Love thinks the best of others. Love hopes. Love believes. Be a blessing. Put her in touch with Jenna.
"Ivy?" Shannon asked, snapping her fingers wildly.
Ivy had drifted off in thought. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? She reached for her phone. "Shannon, I think I may know someone who can help you."
Ivy motioned for silence as Shannon listened in.
"Jenna! Hey, how are you? Ivy here. Listen, remember that job opening you mentioned last week? The one for regional manager? Is it still available? I think I know the perfect candidate." In five minutes, she had gotten an interview for her old friend.
The two women sighed and stared out of the coffee shop window for several moments. Now Shannon spoke first. "There's freedom in knowing the Lord. I thank God for allowing us to run into each other today."
"There's freedom in letting go of the past, too—allowing others the freedom to grow and be healed. Thanks for helping me see that."
Ivy grabbed her coat and purse. "I'm heading back to the church for evening service. Want to join me?"
"Sorry … I can't. Got to pick up the boys from their grandma's house, then I'm going to head home. I need to brush up on my interview skills! Thanks again."
This time Ivy watched her face. She smiled as broadly as she could, and meant it.
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