Are you a mall rat? I’m not. Sooo not.

A writer friend and I often sit across from each other on Saturday mornings at a local coffee shop. We talk some, but not a lot. We write.

A few weeks ago she said she was not going to make it on Saturday because she had promised to take her teenage daughter and a friend to a major mall about a hour away. My friend, however, planned to sit in the food court and smith some words while the girls roamed the endless acres. Lightbulb! I should go, too, right?

It was astounding to me how much that simple invitation gave me something to anticipate, and later savor.

We chatted in the car, but after my friend’s superb parking efforts, we got down to business. No outlets in the food court. Too many people. Uncomfortable chairs.Ā Even the Starbucks had no plugs.

We peered at a map and spied a customer service center. That sounded like a land of electricity. Sure enough, there were comfy seats tucked under a perfect ledge and outlets galore.

We plugged in, set up, and cranked on our works in progress. We did not go into one single store. Not one. We were not even tempted. The girls checked in about every hour. They were happy. We were happy. This outing was all about the teenagers. For us, it was all about companionship and camaraderie in the struggle to find time to write among other work, family demands, exhaustion.

Later, we got dinner and took it back to my friend’s house, where the girls opted to disappear with their plates and eat off on their own. My friend and I sat at the table having conversation that reached into our hearts and poured grace over us both.

For me it was a day drenched in “withness.” No agenda. No demands. No crisis. Just withness snatched from the jaws of over-scheduling. Withness came in simplicity. It came in traveling a common road, in opening our souls to what the next moment held for us without knowing what it might be.

The withness of God is like that. It came to us in the simplicity of a stable, in a baby born to travel our road of frailty and show us shining moments in darkness.

The second week of Advent has begun. At my house now we will light two thick purple candles as darkness falls each night and we wait for Messiah. Our hearts long for Emmanuel, God with us.