I cheerfully made up the guest room in anticipation of the arrival of my good friend, Annie. We became fast friends living next door to one another when we were both young mothers. With our children grown we have ended up living far enough apart that it requires weekend visits. My anticipation of seeing her was not without one small glitch, however; Annie loves shopping. Not just a quick trip to the mall either, that would never do. It must be an all day affair, pausing only for a nice lunch to rest weary feet before continuing on with more shopping. So, as much as I was looking forward to seeing my good friend, I was not entirely thrilled about spending the day shopping, which has honestly never been my favorite pastime.
Annie arrived right on schedule. We had time for a lovely dinner followed by a cozy chat, seated on cushions in front of a roaring fire in the stone covered fireplace. She said something I found a little puzzling at first, but then I knew exactly what she was up to, or at least I thought I did.
“I think maybe we should get some rest, I have a big surprise for us this weekend.” She said.
“You know I hate surprises, what are you up to now?”
“Shirley, you just never mind, get some rest, we need to be up early and on our way.” She said.
I wasn’t really that curious because I was sure I knew exactly what her surprise entailed, it was a new mall somewhere within driving distance. Wow, I thought. I am going to have to be excited about this shopping trip. After all I only have the pleasure of visiting with her about once a year. I was almost asleep before my head hit the pillow, and couldn’t believe it could possibly be morning when I heard Annie softly tap on my door.
“Rise and shine, coffee’s on.” She said.
What a great hostess I am, allowing my guest to get up and make the coffee, I lectured myself. I headed down the stairs, dressed for a day of shopping. I could hear Annie singing in the kitchen.
“You sound in splendid form this morning.” I said.
“I’m anxious to tell you my big surprise.”
I took a seat at the table and pick up the cup of coffee she had poured for me. “Which mall are we going to?”
“Don’t look so smug, it isn’t a mall at all. I have tickets for “The Women of Faith” conference at the Anaheim Stadium. I realize how much you indulge my shopping sprees when I visit, so this time I wanted to surprise you with a little token of my appreciation, with something I know we will both enjoy.”
“A little token, this is not little, this is huge!”
“We best hurry if we want good seats.” She beamed.
For the duration of the conference, we were both on the edge of our seats as we listened to the messages of each speaker. However, the highlight for me was the thrill of hearing Sheila Walsh and Luci Swindoll, two of my absolute favorite speakers.
Oh, we did get to go shopping after all, and I loved it. We made the rounds of the tables filled with inspirational books, CD’s and DVD’s; now that’s my kind of shopping!
The following year, my dear friend, Annie, was diagnosed with cancer. Her prognosis told us her time would be short. I visited with her as often as possible. I overflowed with great sadness when I received the devastating phone call from her husband.
“Shirley, it’s getting close and she’s asking to see you.” He said.
I went to my friend, prepared to stay with her until the end. I couldn’t believe the way cancer had ravished her body, but not her spirit. I took the items with me I had purchased during our shopping spree at the conference. Sometimes, I read the bible to her, other times we listened to the CD’s from the conference. The theme of the conference had been “Irrepressible Hope”, we didn’t know when we attended the conference how much we would need those revitalizing stories of hope resonating in our souls.
Not quite a year after she was diagnosed, Annie went home to the arms of Jesus, filled with hope and love, His irrepressible hope and His eternal love.
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