Prayer and Laughter

I’m back! Eight glorious days on the east coast … and oh, how we laughed. Irma Pressley and Sherri Youngward are two of my very closest friends. I think what I love the most about them is that we default to our twelve-year-old selves whenever we’re together, but we also can (and do) share our deep thoughts. And there’s just something healing about having friends you can laugh with one minute and pray with the next.

We gathered in Bellmawr, New Jersey for Irma’s ladies’ Christmas Tea. Sherri led worship for the gathering, and I gave a message. Sherri and I were also in Red Bank and Old Bridge together, and it was during that morning in Red Bank that we learned of the tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. We’d gone to lunch with Candace, the pastor’s wife from Calvary Chapel Coastlands, at the Good Karma Vegan Cafe. While waiting for our Love Bowls and India Plates, I saw a friend’s Facebook update on my phone. She said, “After what happened in Connecticut this morning, I’m thinking maybe the world will end next week after all.”

“What happened in Connecticut?” I asked Sherri and Candace. They didn’t know either, so I did a quick check on the internet and read the news. Eighteen children dead, at that time … and that was bad enough. I won’t ever forget sitting at that table and trying to get my mind around that sadness.

Before Sherri and I left for Old Bridge (Sherri was singing at their women’s Christmas Dessert), Candace took us around the Highlands area and we saw some of the devastation Hurricane Sandy left. I couldn’t believe the sight there … mountains of debris in front of every home, and houses with everything stripped from the first floor except lonely sticks of lumber that somehow still managed to hold up the rest of the house. One sign in front of a damaged house read, “What will it take?” People were out shoveling sand, heads down to their work … not catching our eyes as we drove past.

While driving through the town, we saw a group of volunteers in front of the Jesus Fellowship Calvary Chapel.

Across the street was a truck with a sign that read, “Calvary Relief.” Both Sherri and I wanted to get a picture of that truck, so we turned around and did so. And then I rolled my window down and yelled up to the volunteers, “God bless you guys for what you’re doing. We’re from Calvarys in Washington and California.”

From the crowd, I heard a girl’s voice. “Shannon Woodward?”

And there was Ashley … a girl I had met and prayed with while teaching a retreat for Calvary Fellowship. She was from Maine, but attending the Bible College in Seattle … and now here she was in Red Bank, New Jersey. How small is this world?

We laughed over our hug and shook our heads at how God has this way of arranging surprises for us. He never stops amazing me.

There was so much more … subway rides, train rides, Philly, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Cantata. I could describe it all for you, but I think the pictures will tell the story best.

Downtown Philly

Macy’s, where we waited for the Hallelujah flash mob.

When they never showed, we decided we’d be our own flash mob.

At the Franklin Institute, where we saw the Titanic Exhibit. That Irma … she knows absolutely everyone.

The Hobbit in 3D


Rockefeller Center


Times Square

Day two: taking the train from Yonkers (technically Bronxville) to Manhattan

Outside the subway

Irma, Sherri and Stephanie discussing our subway choices

Music to decide by …

Once in Brooklyn, we decided to have dinner before heading to the Cantata. This is the after-dinner Chocolate Egg Cream that I felt compelled to have. I mean, it’s New York.

More flash-mobbing ensued in Junior’s.

Brooklyn beauty

Brooklyn Tabernacle’s last Cantata of the season

And back to Grand Central Station to catch the train back to Bronxville.

Good-bye, New York … but only for now. I’ll be back!



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Luscious photos! Glad you had such a beautiful time… Merry, blessed Christmas!

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