Colorful gift bags graced our table as the four of us hovered together in our booth ready to banter and tease and catch up. We were four ballroom dancers, one of us the instructor. We were well acquainted on the dance floor but we counted on these occasional gatherings, be it a birthday celebration or a “just because” meal, to talk long enough for true feelings and struggles to surface.

Daily life chitchat eventually gave way to sharing of family stories, personal experiences, disappointments, and joys. Some conversation brought laughter, some called for simply listening as there were no easy answers. By the time the main course evaporated from our plates, we felt like we knew one another and our families better.

At the appointed time, the waiter brought small plates, unveiled a sweet birthday cake hand chosen by JoAnne and lit a few candles while they sang happy birthday to me. Our individual portions melted in our mouths.

“Gail, open your presents!” Sharon’s card had a dance couple painted on the front with an inside inscription of “Dance the night away!” How well it represented our shared joy of dancing. Billy, our instructor who crafts his teaching to suit our wide diversity of learning styles, handed me a gift bag that proclaimed “It’s time to Happy Dance!” The rustic wooden box inside the bag bore this inscription on the top: “You are a true blessing.” I smiled across the table, grateful that God had somehow used my friendship, our conversations, and my lifestyle to bless him.

JoAnne then announced, “This present just screamed ‘Gail’ to me.”  Curious, I pulled away the gift wrapping and lifted the lid of a tiny box. From a dainty silver chain hung a miniature heart, cross and angel wing. The cardboard underneath the necklace said in large bold lettering “BELIEVE.” The accompanying words added to the message. “Believe in miracles. Say a short prayer, and remember that miracles do come true.”

I gasped. Turning to look at JoAnne I told her something she didn’t know. “Each year I ask God to give me a word for that year. Do you know the word He gave me for this year?” She shook her head. “Believe!!”

“No way, really?!” A smile lit up her face.

“Now you know why God told you to buy that gift for me!”

She nodded in amazement. It was a connection with God she least expected. From our past personal conversations and those voiced to the whole group, I am certain she knows about God. From time to time she mentions what she has prayed and asked God for. But she hasn’t expressed interest in having a personal relationship with God and Jesus like she knows I have. She appreciates my faith but doesn’t seem to want to embrace it for herself.

God didn’t wait. He embraced her Himself by sharing a secret. When He led her to the present that was perfectly designed for me, He said, “This is the gift I want you to buy for Gail.”Silver necklace 2 from JoAnne

Once JoAnne realized the significance, she experienced God in a way she hadn’t before. It also created a deeper connection for us as friends. I believe she will never forget that encounter with God. And every time I wear my unique silver necklace I will be reminded of the seed that God planted in JoAnne’s heart in 2016. Because God loves JoAnne so much, He will continue nurturing that seed until it blooms in His appointed time.