When my husband prayed for God to be at the center of our 24th anniversary adventure in New York City, he meant it. God answered his prayer. Our trip became everything we imagined and more, including the imperfections among the perfections.
Yes, our anniversary was about us. After all, we’d never in our entire 24 years of marriage, ever gone away without our children. We’d had premature babies, chronic illness, severe illness, difficult moves, and painful trials. When it finally became doable, we were already in our patterns, and frankly; we were just worn down by years of damage from our childhoods, lies from the enemy, and the daily stressors of living life.
But we were desperate to reconnect, and see what God could do for us in a marriage where we’ve continued to pursue Him no matter how difficult the journey has been. So, our 24th anniversary was yes, about us; but also about our young adult twin sons and our daughter, strangers in the city, and about you… yes, you. It’s been another step towards encouraging others in this ministry in which God has been preparing us for years.
Therefore, we were glad to stop and take the time to interact with complete strangers in New York City; in order to plant seeds of love and encouragement, and offer blessings in the name of Jesus. Because for us, Jesus defines our marriage. For we are not special or unique or amazing by ourselves; we are living in the world as a strong, united force, only because we’ve invited Jesus Christ to live in the center of our hearts, and our marriage.
We had an incredible weekend filled with fine foods, dazzling broadway theatre shows, famous landmarks and famous people sightings, a carriage ride in Central Park, and the fun of losing ourselves while holding hands and exploring the city. But where God seemed to reveal Himself most, was among the imperfections and the meeting of strangers in the stores and the streets. I can’t help but think it’s because we are meant to reach out to others wherever we are, by shining brighter than the enormous signs in Times Square. We were light, by letting it be known that we are children of The One and Only Most High God; and we did it together, as a team.
Agreeing to give our hotel house keeper a friendly thank you note with a daily tip, we found ourselves laughing as she called down the hall to us at the elevator, to see if we needed anything else. Each day we returned to a surplus of extra soaps and shampoos, towels, and water bottles. A little appreciation for people working hard to serve others really goes a long way, and it made our stay so much more comfortable. “Coco, have a good day. God bless you.”
The day we explored the city, I was delighted to unexpectedly run into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with its breathtaking architecture and kaleidoscope of colorful stained glass windows. We chose to light candles in front of our favorite statue of Mary holding her grown son, Jesus, after our beloved Savior had been crucified for our sins. We are not Catholic, nor do we claim to be any other religion. We are simply Christians following Jesus because we love him. God hears the prayers of His children whether they are inside or outside of church. However, lighting candles in such a majestically beautiful holy place, was a symbolic gesture in acknowledgement of God’s glory, and a lovely opportunity to thank him for his good gifts, while praying for our marriage and our family. May God bless you, our precious children.
The day we went for a relaxing carriage ride through Central Park, was the same day offering only a small window of sunshine, which God provided for us. We didn’t mind when our driver Luis, told us Prince the horse was stopping because he needed a drink from a puddle. Luis apologized when Prince stopped to eat some pieces of tall, dark green grass. We told him apologies weren’t necessary; after all it was a great day to enjoy some greenery… plus, we love animals! Luis took us out of the park through a Brooklyn neighborhood, as a Sunday bonus. Because of the extended route, I happened to see our favorite Italian restaurant, which we later decided to go to after seeing the incredibly talented cast, and beautiful set work, at a Sunday matinee of Hello Dolly. The fruit of the spirit, patience, had made our carriage ride extra fun, which resulted in an amazing cozy dinner at Pappardella, where we stayed warm and cozy as it pored buckets of rain outside. Thank you for a great tour. God bless you, Luis.
That same day, the humidity, noise, and hustling in Times Square was overwhelming. But there stood a man in a “Saved from Hell” tee shirt, handing out Christian tracts with information about how people can receive eternal life through Jesus Christ. People mainly ignored and avoided him, except for a Christian woman named Sharon, who stood conversing with him about the lies being fed to people in the city. I waited for a bit and then put out my hand and asked his name. Guarded, he said, “Saved.” But he shook my hand, and asked my name as well. I said, “I, also, am ‘Saved.’ ” Relaxing, he smiled as I introduced my husband, Dave, telling him we were Christians from Virginia, celebrating our anniversary in NYC.
We thanked him for making the time to stand in the heat, craziness, and chaos of Times Square, and for wanting nothing but to tell others about Jesus, so they could be saved too. Knowing we were with him in spirit, he told us his real name was Aaron, like the brother of Moses in the Bible. We talked about Times Square Church, of which Sharon was a member. We discussed its founder, David Wilkerson, along with the story of Nicky Cruz and The Cross and the Switchblade. Sharon also spoke with us, pulling a notebook from her bag and writing down the name of my blog for both of them. I felt thrilled to have met complete strangers in the midst of thousands of people rushing here and there on the dirty sidewalks, knowing they planned to read my words online; but most of all, knowing with absolute certainty, that we would see both of them again one day in Heaven. Aaron, thank you for telling New York City about Jesus. God bless you. Sharon, thank you for caring about people who work to lead others to Christ. God bless you.
On the last day of our stay, our actual anniversary, we first went to Mood, the famous fabric store in the Garment District; where fashion designers shop for the TV hit, Project Runway. I was delighted to meet the store’s famous mascot, Swatch the dog. I decided not to disturb him, because he looked sooo comfortable lying among the reams of fabric. Isn’t he sweet?
But the best was meeting a new friend, Brenda, who works at Mood Home Furnishing, right next door, where one can choose from thousands of fabric swatches. We bonded over our delightful children: school and homeschooling, moving, battling food allergies, our young adults’ futures, and how they could best use their talents and gifts. She said she felt encouraged after talking to us, and I felt such joy at being able to build her up. I felt honored that she took time from her busy schedule to get to know us. She is working and sacrificing to give her four kids the good things in life. We took a photo together, exchanged info, and gave each other a huge hug when it was time to go. Brenda, you’re a great mom! God bless you!
There came a point later in the day when I became overwhelmed by the heat and the choices of restaurants, and the simple fact that it was such a joyful time with so much emotional baggage we needed to leave behind from 24 years. I ended up crying in Little Italy. And I never cry for myself. It’s been years. I hate being vulnerable, but somehow, in that huge, crowded city, we sought out a non-touristy restaurant; and that’s when the dam broke. But even that was part of God’s plan; it connected me to my husband in a special way, because he was eventually able to understand why I couldn’t stop the tears. That’s another post for our 96 Roses Marriage Blog that we’ve been praying about writing together. The tears were revealing, helpful, and healing; and right now that’s all that matters.
Because, the crying is what timed us for meeting our most favorite stranger, our “Sweet Little Man.” (Years ago, in my first book Black Beat, I wrote a favorite poem entitled “Tin Can Man” which I’ll post soon. Now I know why God gave me such a strong desire to write it.) We had bought gourmet food earlier, in a French market stocked with fine foods. We saw a homeless man crying outside the store, so we started a basket for him, filling it with fresh fruits and vegetables, granola, a hoagie and a water, A Coca Cola and candy. But first, we prayed, right there in the store. We asked God to lead us to the exact person He wanted us to bless. I had no anxiety about rushing to the man outside, and in fact, was not surprised as we exited the store, to find him gone.
We hailed a cab, and in a frenzy went past our hotel in order to buy our daughter a gift before the toy/bookstore closed. We were sweaty, exhausted, and uncomfortable; but still happy. We needed to get back to the hotel to freshen up, but some stores were closing, so we bought some last minute items before getting ready for our anniversary dinner. And then, I spotted him. Again. For the third time that day… an elderly, skinny, black man with his head down; carrying two gigantic bags filled with cans and bottles to recycle. The bags were as big as he was. “Look!” I said to Dave, “It’s that same man!”
“He’s the one, then!” said my husband, assuredly.
“But he’s about to cross the street!”
Urgently, he said, “Run! Go give him the bag before he crosses!”
So I ran. And to my dismay, he started to cross when the red hand still said stop. So I shouted, “Stop!” And in the midst of all those people who did not stop, he did. I stood in front of him blocking the crosswalk. “Are you hungry?”
“Yes,” he said calmly. But he couldn’t look up. His neck was bent down permanently. So I put the bag underneath his face, but with enough space so he could see inside. “I have food for you! There is a sandwich, a water, a candy bar, and a note that tells you Jesus loves you!”
As I spoke, he watched his face break into a wide grin. It was as if the clouds parted and the sun came out to shine and brighten the whole city. He was beautiful. He looked at me sideways with a grin, “Thank you, God bless you!”
“Can you carry it?” I asked. I was concerned for him. He had two huge bags already, from a hard day’s work, along with the food bag, which contained enough food for about three meals, was heavy. He was frail.
“Yes,” he laughed. “I’m going to eat it over there!” He pointed towards the outskirts of bustling Bryant Park. His face looked like a child’s on Christmas Day. I gave him a gentle hug and fought back tears. “God bless you,” we both called to each other. And then he was gone. You have humbled my heart, beautiful man; God bless you.
My husband stood watching from a very short distance, ladled down with our bags from the day’s shopping, his eyes never leaving me. Even before I reached Dave, I could see that he shared in my joy; knowing God loves this precious man’s soul so much that he provided for him in a city where hundreds pass him by every day. For God is The One that provided him with the food; giving us us the privilege and honor of serving His beloved child, a sweet little man.
“B,” our humble, kind server from Ethiopia made our anniversary dinner an unforgettable experience. I can’t even begin to guess the spelling of his long, cool, ethnic name, so I’ll call him “B.” We called ahead, and he and the manager allowed us to be seated late. They waited on us hand and foot, insisting we stay as long as we want, even after closing. In the end, we had the entire restaurant to ourselves, and were completely spoiled by the staff. We asked B questions, and found out about his dream to be in a Broadway Show. In fact, he told us, he had tried out for A Bronx Tale, which we were fortunate enough to be able to attend while we were there. We told him how much we loved it, and that we had loved meeting Chaz Palminteri. We told B that we liked his wonderful, genuine, personality, and that it would shine through on stage. We thought he’d be excellent in the famous musical, and we encouraged him to never give up, telling him that God cares about him, and is watching over him. He brought us a delicious anniversary dessert on the house. We had a delightful, romantic dinner, and the connection with B made it even more fun, because God let share our joy. We hope to see you someday on Broadway, B. God bless you!
To my dear husband: May we continue to be a force to be reckoned with because we are a Christian couple with hearts belonging to Jesus. I’m so thankful for our time together where it was just the two of us, yet you’ve remained my partner in connecting with people, so they can see Jesus in the two of us. Thank you for taking me to the Museum of Modern Art. It means so much that I mentioned the MOMA, and you insisted we go. I’m so glad you liked learning some of the interesting art facts our artist son has taught me, which brings art to life even more. I’m so happy you fell in love with Van Gogh’s Starry Night, especially because he’s my favorite artist. It was fun to witness your enthusiasm over its accompanying daytime partner, The Olive Trees, as well. I’m thankful to be married to a godly man. God bless you, Dave. I’m yours, and I love you.
To our new friends in NYC, you’re no longer strangers; you are friends. We care about you. We love you. Jesus loves you. To New York: God bless you. To my readers around the world: God bless you.
Maybe your anniversary this year is on the rocks. Maybe a glass of sparkling water and a slice of pizza is all you can manage, as you hope for an hour alone together before the baby cries to be nursed. I feel for you; I’ve been there! Maybe you’re afraid and uncertain of where your relationship is going. Maybe you’re wishing to meet someone special, or maybe you’re healing from a painful divorce. It may be that everything seems to be going wrong… but maybe it just so happens… that you also know Jesus. If so, the Silver Lining is shining on the horizon for you! Keep hoping and praying. The clouds will part and you will see the sun, for God watches you wherever you walk on the earth. He uses every single step you take, every interaction you have with strangers on the streets, every single second of his perfect timing; all to bring about His perfect will for you. In a city of thousands, you’re no stranger to The Lord, God. He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. He sees your wife, or your husband, or your future spouse, or your parents, or your children; and he says, “I Am. I, God, bless you, in the name of my Son, Jesus!”
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2 NIV).
Note: Though several new friends posed for photos with me, for privacy purposes, I chose not to include them in this post. The pictures were for the joy of connecting with real New Yorkers, on a genuine, personal level, and I felt that when they smiled and agreed to a photo with me, it was an act of trust. However, something told me that Swatch wouldn’t mind too much. After all, like Chaz Palmineri, I think Swatch is rather used to his celebrity status!
For more related posts, visit The Silver Lining at angelaslittleattic.com and choose topic or search tags: “marriage,” “travel,” “poverty,” and “freedom.” Also of related interest, are posts about “healing” and “forgiveness.” In addition more posts related to NYC are forthcoming with the tag: “New York.” Feel free to share this post from the provided links, and join us for more beautiful NYC photos, along with photos and encouraging words from other beautiful places around the world at The Silver Lining Ministry Facebook page. Thank you for traveling with me!