It’s 10:20 in the morning when I look down from my second story window of our terrace house to people walking past, checking the mood of the weather from the clothes they are wearing. Sun illumines leaves on vines cascading from rooftops, framing windows with lime green translucence. I notice jackets instead of coats and flats instead of boots.

Good, it’s warm out. I won’t have to wear my coat.

When I open the door and walk into the street, the clack-clack of my shoes echos on the concrete, breaking up an uncanny stillness in London. Sky is a clean sheet of brilliant cornflower hanging from the heavenlies.

On the corner of the next block a vintage tea room greets me with café tables and chairs lining the sidewalk. Each cushioned seat holds a blanket neatly folded, fringe hanging over the edges. For patrons who long to enjoy the fresh atmosphere of spring sans the chill that lingers from winter.

“I’m meeting someone here,” I inquire the young woman inside, standing behind the counter.

With a twinkle in her eye and a smile spreading out perfectly lined red lips, she says in a lovely British accent, “She’s just beaten you here by a few seconds, she’s downstairs in the loo.”

“We’ve never met in person,” I tell her, “I don’t know what she looks like. Well, actually she knows what I look like because my photo is on my website.”

She tilts her head and eyes dim as they slant. And then I realize how abnormal this sounds, meeting someone at a tea shop whom I’ve never encountered beyond an email exchange or comment box.

But this has become my new normal since moving to London — meeting people who reveal they’ve been following our journey to London through what I write on my blog, Redemptions Beauty and weekly email letters to the Sabbath Society.

cafe

Some say meeting strangers is risky. I see it like meeting cousins you’ve only heard about from your Mother.

God handpicks those in your spiritual family while you walk the earth. Some influence us daily and others, a few brief moments. I don’t want to miss out on knowing the people He’s choosing to connect me with by creating borders with reasoning and assumptions.

What if she doesn’t like me as much as my writing?
What if we don’t find common ground and the meeting is awkward?
What if she is needy? Emotionally unhealthy? Too talkative? Too quiet?
What if we don’t share the same beliefs?

All perfectly good questions to ask, unless you are a believer in the sacrament of presence, then those questions become irrelevant.

Visible signs of inward grace lose the ability to transform us when we create boundaries with intellect, social prejudice and spiritual hoops to jump through.

In true friendship, practicing the sacrament of presence means we sit equal at the table; nothing else matters except the person staring back at you.

Revelation 3:20 says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” I like to think Jesus finishes my sentences the more we talk to each other.

At a table near boxes of chocolate and confections heaped on glass pedestals, Elaine and I sip tea, wipe crumbs from our chins with paper napkins and talk about the beauty in the winding paths our lives are taking. The only border between us is tea cups and plates.

True Friendship

Before parting, the clack-clack of our shoes on the street creates a rhythm in the crescendo of life buzzing toward the lunch hour, until we rest in front of my house.

She asks how I feel about prayer in public. I tell her I practice it often and she laughs.

Sitting next to each other on the cold stone wall in front of my kitchen window, a woman I’ve only known through email letters blesses our coming to London with words that graft the branches of our lives together.

“By the way, how did you find my blog and the Sabbath Society?” I ask her.

“I have no idea, I can’t remember,” she says. “God just often leads me to people.”

Is it hard for you to initiate new friendships? What is holding you back from taking risks? What is one thing you could do today to break down barriers in practicing the sacrament of presence with someone?

Shelly Miller / Posts / Blog
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, will release with Bethany House Publishers in the fall of 2016 with a second launching in 2017 with Lion Hudson. Find more of Shelly’s writing on her blog, Redemptions Beauty, and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.
  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Such a lovely post, shelly, and I’m loving reading about how you are so amicably settling into the big city of London, and making it small-town hospitable through these intimate encounters. Strangers are becoming friends, and the unfamiliar is becoming home. I recall the first time that I met you at the Jumping Tandem retreat in 2013 in Nebraska, and we put faces and smiles to the words that we had only since shared electronically on your blog and in the email inbox. It was as if our friendship had brewed there, but was now coming to life as we sipped and savored joy in person. I am so grateful for BLOGS and the REAL community that they foster. Now my dream is to meet you in that sidewalk café. And at that time, we will already know the face for whom we are searching and take joy in the familiar. Bless you dear one on this adventure of a lifetime! I see God’s hospitable hand in it everywhere.
    Love
    Lynn

    May 6th, 2015 12:34
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      The big city doesn’t feel so big once you wander around in it a bit Lynn. One thing I’m learning is that people are people wherever you go, we have the same intrinsic need to be loved and known no matter age, color, affiliations or religious background. You were a kindred spirit the first time you landed in my comment box. I’m looking forward to the day we sit and chat over tea at a cafe. God is faithful.

      May 7th, 2015 11:57
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      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Shelly, right here you have summed up what the Lord wants us to know and how He longs for us to act. I love your sentiments here. And yes oh yes. Tea in a café or tearoom in England for certain. I’m holding you to it! 🙂

        May 7th, 2015 22:31
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  • TeresaR

    Isn’t it exciting how God plans encounters? I meet people when I am out walking my dog; he is very friendly and wants to meet everyone on the street or in their yard. I also work at a hotel so I find lots of ways to start a conversation, and these have led to new friends. During the year, we have guests stay who are attending Kenneth Copeland’s Believers’ Convention. I go to the church pastored by his son-in-law and that starts a good talk about faith and our Savior

    May 7th, 2015 3:49
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      Dogs and kids are the greatest at knocking down any foreseen awkward barriers between strangers, aren’t they? I’ve met more of my neighbors by walking my dog than any other thing I’ve done. Thanks for leaving a comment today!

      May 7th, 2015 11:59
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  • Joy B. Rudolph
    http://joybrudolph.com/

    I love this, Shelly. I’ve been considering meeting with people I’ve only known online since our move to Houston. Thanks for the encouragement. As always, you bless me.

    May 7th, 2015 14:53
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  • Jody Ohlsen Collins
    Jody Ohlsen Collins

    The tears welled up when I got to the lines about you two sitting on the front steps praying. And then when she said ‘she had no idea’ how she found you, because ‘God just leads me to people.’ Yes, He does that. Thank you for taking us along, Shelly.

    May 7th, 2015 18:15
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  • Janet from FL

    Hi, Shelly! So great to follow you here to the table. It is cool when you are able to meet someone you know from the internet. It’s amazing how small the world becomes when we are online. We can “talk” to people from different countries, just like they are in our own neighborhood.

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