“There’s a lot to choose from, isn’t there?” I commented.
“Yes, and I’m getting one for my wife. She’s picky about her coffee!”
People in Maine love to talk about their coffee, so we discussed the different flavors, and whether the strong coffee tastes better than the milder blend. The cashier wasn’t busy and leaned over the counter to offer her opinion of the best coffee flavor. Finally the lady chose a flavor for her wife, and then for herself. Then I filled my cup.
We moved to another counter to add cream and sugar, and the friendly banter continued between us. We both agreed that we weren’t able to read the fine print on the small flavor shots like we used to. That spot in the store was usually bustling with people trying to get their morning brew, but on this morning it was just the two of us.
She was a friendly lady, and asked if I was from the area. I told her where I lived, then asked her if she was from around here.
She said she had grown up here, and didn’t live in-state any more, but was back because her Dad died yesterday. Her casual statement caught me by surprise, and I caught my breath in a quiet gasp. My eyes instantly switched off the coffee I was stirring and onto her face. Shock and horror filled my voice as I said:
“Oh, I’m SO sorry!”
She said it was okay, he had been sick for a while, and it had been difficult to watch him under hospice care. Her voice was resigned to his death, and it was clear she felt that the better thing had happened.
The coffee didn’t matter any more. This woman needed prayer, and the Lord prompted me to pray for her while we were standing there. But I argued with him that I didn’t have to pray here, instead I could just tell her I would pray for her today. But no, I felt God wanted me to pray now!
“What’s your name?”
I jumped into the next sentence before I could lose courage: “Lisa, would you mind if I prayed for you right now?”
She seemed to jump at the idea: “Oh, yes, go right ahead!”
I leaned toward her a little, careful not to overwhelm her personal space. I wondered how to pray, but in faith I started: “Dear Heavenly Father,” trusting the Lord to guide me, and he did. I asked God to give Lisa comfort and strength in the days to come. I also asked Him to help her whole family.
I said “Amen” and lifted my eyes to find that Lisa had bowed her head and leaned in to catch every word. The store had stayed quiet so the cashier witnessed the entire exchange.
We said goodbye, I paid the kindly cashier for my coffee and headed for the car.
Driving away, I was filled with wonder to realize the need to stop at Irving for coffee had nothing to do with my preference for a certain kind of coffee. Instead it had everything to do with a broken hearted woman who needed prayer.
I did pray for Lisa that day, and I’ve prayed for her several times since then. In retrospect I wonder if she had family members or friends praying for her. It was clear that she had already had some hard times, and the days ahead of her were going to be difficult. Maybe someone was praying that she would run into a Christian who would show her Christ’s love. Maybe a family member was asking God to send someone who would witness to her.
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know that God told his people in Isaiah 30:21 “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” I know I was supposed to be at that very Irving that very morning, at that very moment. Although I had argued with God about which place to stop for coffee, His guiding hand put me where I was supposed to be.
While I was driving that morning I was concentrating on the ladies’ conference, and the different topics that I would speak on. I was asking God to go ahead of me and prepare the ladies’ hearts to receive a blessing, and God did do that. But before I could arrive at the church, God had already gone ahead of me for a stop I hadn’t planned.
Sometimes God’s hand goes ahead of us in wonderfully unexpected ways, if only we’re willing to follow His guidance.
“What a wonderful story! I'm so glad you listened to the Lord's prompting. Then the fact that you listened compassionately to Lisa and prayed for her on the spot is wonderful. You were faithful and God used you to touch a hurting person for His glory. Another interesting thought is that she could be a real hurting person or she could even be an angel in disguise. In any case, what an encouragement to abide with Christ and listen for that still, small voice that will tell you where to go (left, right, or wait).”