It’s been a long time since I had a shopping trip with my girlfriends at the mall. A frequent outing when I was younger, my less-frequent outings with girlfriends these days focus more on coffee and conversation than on shopping. So the day I unexpectedly got to go shopping with my friend in early November was fun. But last week, the memory of that day became even sweeter.

My friend and I had planned to be together that November morning so I could be with her to have her mammogram done. Most women our age have a mutual understanding of the discomfort and unsettling anxieties wrapped around these appointments. I offered to go with her and promised that we’d have some fun afterward. Ironically, when we got there, we learned that her appointment needed to be rescheduled for another day. God rearranged and we were both at peace with it. We decided to make the most of the time and run some errands together.

It was hard not to feel like a teenage girl again as we looked at makeup, clothes, and hats together. I picked up several sweaters I decided “I had to have” because they were cute and I was cold. But as we got closer to checking out, I put the sweaters back on the rack, one by one. My friend watched me hesitate, holding the dark orange one I especially loved. At the time, I was diligently trying to pay off my credit card debt as God had called me to do, and she had been one of the people praying me through that endeavor. She knew why I was putting it back and she smiled at me, as I paid for the other items for my household.

Early last week, that same friend pulled up in front of my house with an unexpected gift. Wrapped neatly in a bag, was the dark orange sweater, just my size. I got a lump in my throat the moment I recognized the fabric. My sweet friend had paid enough attention to see the desire of my heart. My friend had seen, taken notice, and put love into action.

Holding the sweater on my lap while I write this, I’m deeply moved at the reminder that our God is the God who sees. He sees our struggles, our desires, and our efforts. And when we receive the desires of our hearts from Him, in His timing, it’s so much sweeter. I could have justified buying the sweater that day. I would have enjoyed wearing it, but I would never have known that my friend was watching in sweet admiration, or that she would put so much effort into remembering what I desired to go back and get it for me.

I also felt like it was her telling me that she was proud of me for “sacrificing” in a small way to walk out in obedience to our God. She knew the struggle personally since she had done the same thing not long before and had inspired me to pay off my debt. I had made my friend proud, and in that way, this wonderful sweater felt like a bit of a trophy. The same sweater could have come to me in many other ways and it would not have meant what it now does.

I’m not sure we can give a better gift than our loving attention. Of being the friend who sees, who loves, and who, like our God, gives a piece of our heart to put it into action.