New York City. Constantly wailing sirens. Incessant horns telling of the near-constant gridlock. A persistent buzz of words, מילה , palabras, mots, parolas, كلمة…This is not where I expected to hear God..it is where I prayed to be able to hear God amidst the sensory overload! And as God does, He appeared in the least-likely of places, in the most surprising of ways. In so doing, He reminded me that God can not be kept in a box of my making, rather, He is free to be the Creation of His making.
It had been a tough decision…to go to New York….to the hustle and bustle, the lights, the action, the shopping, the Stationery Show that could change my life and most importantly the life of my friend and business associate; a few days away…to be me. “Oh please, you jest,” I hear you saying. “How can deciding whether to go to New York or not be a tough decision?” Well..that same week, I was scheduled to be at my last intensive for a Spiritual Direction course I have been taking over the past year. That too was going to be a time away, but a time of peace, quiet, and contemplation. Time with God in His Creation, time with friends sharing God’s work in our lives, looking deeper into our hearts. Hearing God in the silence. How could I willingly (even defiantly) turn away from a place I so desperately wanted to be and where it seemed God had been clearly calling me to be. How could I chose New York over time contemplating and connecting with God?
I had to make a decision…and with the knowledge that hospitality is my vocation, and thinking about what my Spiritual Director had said about providing hospitality to others outside of your own home,…I took the leap to go to New York. During my five days there, God confirmed on numerous occasions, very, very clearly, that this was where He wanted me to be.
Our first full day in New York was bright, sunny, and extremely cold and windy. The monstrous skyscrapers ( it’s very obvious in NYC why they have that name) create Manhattan-wide wind tunnels from one side of the island to the other. My little summer dress wasn’t really the right choice for that day!
However, Sunday in New York city was a Gift. I walked and walked and walked…marvelling at the throngs of people, the plethora of cars, the spectacular buildings and burst of green that make that metropolis what it is. My head became more and more full of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that I am not used to in the suburbs of western Canada! I ducked into Saks 5th Avenue, an homage to my mum who lived for a while in NYC and loves it as much as I do. It was Sabbath but I needed to eat. I needed to have a sabbath from NYC! I needed quiet which, in actual fact, is rare at home too. I sat, alone, and savoured each bite of my exquisite Tuna Niçoise sandwich…what a gift! What a Sabbath rest…to sit, to eat, to savor. Uninterrupted.
Having spent an hour and a half (!), lounging at the table, my body and mind were craving a spiritual connection. Immediately next to Saks is St. Patrick’s Cathedral (rather ironic I thought – secular world on steroids, next to one of the holiest places in NYC!). I wonder if non-Christians feel the euphoria and peace I feel, upon entering a place of worship, when they enter a place of consumption? Sad to think about…but probably true.
St. Patrick’s is truly a work of art. The pure white of the stone, the awesome size, the exquisite works of art that are the lead-light windows. Truly breathtaking.
If it hadn’t been packed with tourists checking their IG feed, or posting messages on Facebook, I might have sat and spent a few moments in God’s presence…even though it is a Catholic church 😉
Technology has taken over the church. Proper etiquette and reverence has gone out the window…or disappeared with the last text message. This was not the place to be, after all.
Just a block down 5th Avenue though, I found my refuge. I found my escape from the assault to my senses that is NYC. (I know that sounds harsh…but don’t get me wrong. I LOVE NYC with all my heart. My heart just needs a siesta from it now and again.) As I walked up the steps to St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, an older couple in front of me caught my eye and I was thrust back to the 50’s, to a time when dress, respect, and manners were part of the Christian experience. Holding open the door for his exquisitely-dressed wife was a man in tails – full morning suite. Wow! So glad I wasn’t in jeans! As I stepped through the doors, I was transported away to a place of reverence, of wooden pews, of kneeling benches; the Book of Common Prayer; of exquisite lead-light windows radiating the colors of God’s rainbow. Pure young male voices filled the Church to the very eves, hundreds of feet above. Now this was church. As I sat there, immersed in the experience of meeting with God on Pentecost Sunday, I could not believe that, amidst the madness of the city, God had found me. God had brought me in and centred me. He challenged me, as the minister said, to accept the grace of God to work with me in the challenge that is life…that is living in a wild, noisy, secular world. As the minister read the lessons, as he spoke his sermon, and as the choir’s voices brought me to Him, I could feel myself reaching up to the Lord, to embrace Him, to reconnect with Him, to feel safe and sound in my faith.
It was hard to get up and leave…I have to say. However, I left the church revived, my thirst and hunger replenished, my restlessness calmed.
While this was the only visit I was able to make to the church that week, I met with God so many times that week – in the book I was reading on Sabbath which helped me to find rest in the busy week; in the quotes by Hasidic Rabbis in that book that helped me to connect my experience with that of my Jewish business partner and friend. He was there for Shula, leading her into the vocation and the world which He had chosen for her before she was even conceived. My calming presence, she said, helped her step out of her comfort zone and make inroads which will likely change her life.
I was able to look at the days’ events and see God’s hand in them…the Instagram camera that didn’t work…that led us to come back again to take another picture at a particular booth. The resultant conversation with one of the “big whigs” who was crazy about my partner’s work. The “We have to continue this conversation” comment that gave Shula the key to a door she had only dreamed of opening. I saw God yesterday, when an old friend of Shula’s “happened” to sit next to the President of that very same company with whom Shula had been speaking last week. This time, the President asked for Shula’s contact information…I would say the door’s wide open now! God is so amazing!!!
Shula hadn’t seen this friend of hers for 28 years. I had never met her…and yet the meeting of us three, was so Divinely ordained. (See last paragraph!) This friend knew friends I hadn’t seen in 28 years. This friend had a brother with Aspergers, about whom she had been unable to share anything. My son has Aspergers. She had unsuccessfully tried to get pregnant via IVF. I tried too…but successfully. She had never been able to talk to anyone about that either. And then she met the President!
The list goes on and on. Shula and I talked for hours about our families, who have so many of the same issues and challenges. I am a few steps further along the path of understanding, so was able to share with her things I have learned along the way.
God is amazing…Even amidst the hustle and bustle, He opened my eyes to how much I love Him, how much I want to serve Him, and how good He has made me at this vocation. He has made me see that my gift is not just for my benefit. It is for others and I need to be careful that while I build up my skills and my relationship with God, that I ensure I balance that with guiding and building up others. God needed me with Shula this week. For Shula… And for me.
So now what…now that I’m home? I love working. I love being who God made me to be. I love being positive and surrounded by people who are positive. I love action. I love creativity. I love making dreams reality. I love my husband. I love my son. I love my family and friends. Be with me God and help me to combine this all into a seamless piece of exquisite fabric that stimulates all the senses!
In His Name and for His Glory,