Thursday, December 13, 2007

can't seem to escape this theme of fish.

gouyave is known as the town that never sleeps. as well as the fishing capital of grenada. so a street festival centered around fish is perfect for this little sea town. grencoda, the organization i'm working with, helps coordinate the guoyave fish friday festival every week. people from all over come to check it out. its becoming a source of income and pride for local folks in gouyave. and recently i have had the joy of being involved with it in a couple of different ways.

one way is through music. i've managed to learn a little steel pan while i've been down here. joined the grand roy pan angels. during the christmas season - november and december - we've been playing at fish friday every other week. last week was one of my most favorite performances. despite the rain, crowds came out. joyful christmas songs. lots of dancing and energy. a delight to simply be a part of it all. danley, my co-worker at grencoda made sure to snap a few pictures of me playing...

as i typically do, during a break from playing pan, i walked around the small festival - i love this part too - greeting the different vendors selling fish. during the last couple months, i've gotten to know many of the fish vendors through a basic computer class i've been helping with. the computer class was just one component of a vendor training course that grencoda sponsored. for about eight weeks, i taught a small class and assisted with another one. i think i like teaching adults. especially adults that are interested. and motivated to learn. these vendors came a long way in their understanding of computers. and it was a joy to be a part of their learning.

as i was passing by miss eslyn's booth last friday, she beamed and motioned for me to wait on her. she came out of her booth and embraced me with the most sincere, beautiful hug. she had been sick. hadn't been to class in the last week. told her i had missed her. often times eslyn required much patience. needing words spelled. needing things pointed out. and i got to work with her one on one a lot during the course. and in that moment - that hug - i knew the course had meant something to her. she gave me a necklace made of local spices. she was selling them. but gave me one as a gift. i put it on and wore it the rest of the night. taking in the scent of grenada. thankful for the chance to know eslyn. i bought some fried fish and bakes from her and made my rounds visiting the other vendors.

our computer classes were officially over this past tuesday. the end of the training course was celebrated with a small graduation ceremony. the vendors got all dressed up. they were so proud. and i was so proud of them. the metaphor of teaching a person to fish, rather than giving a person a fish was emphasized throughout the program. always heard that as a chinese proverb. but it certainly has grenadian relevance. especially in gouyave. especially in fish friday. and although somedays i wonder how i am contributing to justice, i realized that grencoda is an organization that seeks to empower, that seeks to equip, that seeks to uphold dignity. and i was thankful to be a part of an organization with that vision. and we don't get it perfect. and progress is slow. but we keep trying. keep seeking justice. and i pray that we might be apart of the justice that God is doing. and i'm thankful that we don't have to do justice on our own.

after the ceremony, the vendors had eats and drinks and fellowship. it was a joyous celebration. i'll miss these folks. especially that faithful trio from my class - binta, anna, and mr. benjamin. but i know where to find them on friday nights. next week we're playing pan again. and then the next, my family will get to experience the magic of fish friday for themselves.

that's right. the huggins will be having a grenadian christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2007

the right place at the right time.

i keep seeing rainbows. as the sunshine and rain so often coexist these grenadian days. sunshine and rain in perfect harmony. creating this image of fleeting beauty. revealing the hidden colors that are always present, but not always visible. and my soul rejoices in the moment. in the light that illuminates. the rain that restores. and the beauty that immerges from their union.

i try to take pictures. yet they fail to fully capture the beauty. lessons that life must be embraced. experienced. firsthand. in the moments we are given. in the places where we are.

and i give thanks to be at the right place at the right time. to catch the rainbow. before it fades away. and i wonder if there is such a thing as the right place at the right time. why do moments in our lives fall into place as they do? do things just happen? or is there Something guiding all of this? why do our souls awake to particular moments of beauty? are there certain things we must inevitably experience on this journey?

a couple of times recently i found myself at the right place at the right time. after a day of learning to bake cake and bread from scratch with my dear neighbor glenda, i decided to venture down the road for a sea bath. i had barely reached the shore when excitement commenced. fish were obviously jumping around in an area not far from shore. those on the shore were shouting out to the fishermen in their boats. the fishermen quickly circled the area. dropping their nets. some from the shore swam out to help. others started pulling in the nets. i asked if i could help too. and they let me.

as always, word spread. more and more people gathered in hopes of acquiring fish. i pulled with all i could. in rhythm with the others. hands stinging from the rope and salt water. nearly a week later, the blisters on my hands are still healing.
it was quite a catch. much different from the last time i helped haul nets. an abundance of large fish. and apparently the rule is if you help haul, you get fish. which wasn't my intention. i was just thrilled to get to participate. but a lady named judy made sure i got my fish. she made sure i got two. and we're not talking one-serving-sized-fish. we're talking at least five or six pounds of fish. each.

so judy and i headed up the road. with my heavy fish in hand. she recruited some of my neighbors to help clean it. then she returned to the sea to claim her own. tolo and aj cleaned my giant fish. although i've adapted to many grenadian ways. my stomach hasn't quite adapted to the idea of cleaning out the yucky fish insides. my neighbors cut up the fish. helped me season some. freeze some. it was too late to start cooking. and they said i would have fish to feed my family at christmas now.

i felt as if i was the recipient of undeserved generosity. sure i pulled nets. but i was given abundantly more than i needed. i felt loved. and taken care of. the sea had provided for the people once again. and there was more than enough for everyone. and there was much celebration.
the next morning, i went to church. first sunday in advent. no advent wreath this year. a simple service. six of us. prayers. and hymns. and scripture. and the congregation reflecting together on the lectionary. discussions of peace. of being awake to what God is doing.

glenda and daisy had asked me to go with them to a special gathering of all the baptist congregations the same morning. i had made a commitment to help with the service at the methodist church. but they assured me that they would be passing through gouyave on the way to sauteurs and could pick me up after the seven o clock service was over. it sounded like fun. so i decided if i happened to be on the street when the bus passed by, i just might hop on and go.

sure enough, i was at the right place at the right time again. waiting for a bus to go back home, a large bus heading north, the opposite direction, came flying through. i saw familiar faces on the bus and someone called out, "abby!" i realized it was the bus full of baptists. they stopped for me. and i jumped on the bus. knowing more people on the bus than i realized i would. stephon. glenda. daisy. aj. tolo. kedra. oslyn. shakira. judy. and i went to sauteurs to a day of singing. and eating. and preaching. and it was a long day. but a joy to worship alongside people from my community. and though i'm not theoloically aligned with everything that was said, i appreciated the time to just worship. and the message centered around going beyond the walls of the church. an idea i think about a lot.

again, i felt loved. and included. and a part of things. and maybe my day spent back in grand roy would have also yielded moments of beauty. but the bus and i crossed paths at just the right time for me to hop on and go.

God of wisdom. guide our moments. guide our days. you know what our souls need. teach us what you are wanting us to learn. awake our spirits to your presence. to your beauty. and may we trust in you. trust in where we are. trust in who we are. trust that you are transforming us into who you have created us to be. through these moments. on this journey.

and thank you for the rainbows.

Friday, November 23, 2007


there's something meaningful about knowing a person's name. it recognizes their identity. honors their exisitence. as much as i remember to, i try to ask people their names when i meet them. sometimes i immediately forget people's names. and have to ask again. but after a while i get it.

in grenada its common to yell out someone's name as you pass by their house. regardless if you're planning on visiting or not. and though i'm not much of a yeller, i love to be able to greet people as i walk through my community. love to be able to say good morning daisy as she sits on the veranda across the street. good morning sherman as he starts his welding project for the day. good morning veronica as she gently waves. good morning joey as he heads to the bay in hopes of jacks. good morning dodoo as she admires her flowers. good morning kenneth as he ventures up into the bush. good morning leila as she promises to walk with me next time. good morning lena as she washes her dishes by the pipe. good morning desalyn as she gets her kids ready for school and takes care of her mom. good morning hilda as she thanks God for another day....

and more people know my name than i know their's. i guess i kind of stand out. and might be easier to remember. but it means a lot to be greeted by name. to be recognized as a person. as a part of the community.

i've been going to a little methodist church outside my community. in guoyave, a town where i don't know everyone's name yet. and there have been moments of worship. there have been moments of questioning. i've taken some sundays off. yet something in me doesn't want to give up on the greater Church. so i found myself trying church again on sunday.

as we were waiting on folks to gather, a man showed up at the door. go on. get away from here. go home. we don't want you around. that's paraphrasing, but that's pretty much what one of what one of the church ladies told the man. i asked what was going on. she said don't study him. he's a vagrant. a troublemaker. he smells. and he would steel our purses if we let him in.

but wait, i thought that's who jesus told us to love.

the man showed up at the other door. and another church lady dealt with him similarly. the lay minister, an american who doesn't always strive to understand grenadian culture, intervened. he welcomed the man in. told him jesus loved him. or something like that. the church ladies grumbled. the man stayed outside a while. wandered off.

hemingway, the minister, said we should pray for the man. the man had obviously been around before. so hemingway asked if anybody knew his name. no one knew his name. no one had ever bothered to ask.

so the preacher man prayed a nameless prayer with faith that God knew who he was referring to.

amidst an offering that would probably go to a church building. amidst songs that seemed empty and hypocritical. amidst a sermon i knew i would disagree with. i became restless. i couldn't stay in church. not with the man right there at our doorstep.

so i left church. actually the second service i'd left in the past two weeks. but that's another story.

and i went and asked the man what his name was. mitchell. easy to remember. its the surname of my neighbors in grand roy. mitchell was soft spoken. with mismatched shoes. i could barely hear what he said. we established that he was hungry. so we decided to go to the shop down the street.

mitchell hesitated to express what he wanted to eat. a lady named ruby jean stepped in. ordered mitchell a coke, some crackers, and vienna sausages. then asked him to step on outside. but encouraged me to stay. she was medium intimidating. so i obeyed. talked a bit to the shop owner. floyd. a cousin of folks i know in grand roy. eventually left. saw mitchell who asked for a dollar to buy cigarettes. this time i said no. conversation was limited. we parted ways and i ended up talking to a few other people liming on the street.

back at the church communion was over. the table we methodists open to everyone had already fed those allowed inside.

everyone knew what i had done. hemmingway commended my compassion. on the way to catch a ride home, another man, clarence, asked for bread. i hopped in the supermarket and paid a dollar for bread. he said thank you. but i don't think the church ladies approved.

the thing is. clarence is always on the street begging. and most people don't give to him. there's another man, whose name i regretably don't know, who begs around the same area. and people run him out of their shops.

i don't think always giving handouts is the answer. i don't think it solves anything. i don't think it contributes to long term justice. but how can i deny people when i have plenty in my pocket?plenty in my fridge? i want to believe in a kingdom where there is enough room for all at the table. enough food for all at the table. but i don't see the Church striving towards that. at least not the church i went to sunday.

and i still don't know how to respond in a way that is truly just.

in a different context to be written about on a different day, ms. williams said we must pray for God's spirit to guide all that we do. we must seek to live out the gospel. and jesus said, when i was hungry, you gave me something do eat.

God of compassion and mercy. may you bring your justice. and may you guide us as to how we might be a part of it. as to how their might be enough for all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

a fishing sequel.

as a sequel to the previous fishing story: i actually got to go fishing in a little boat last weekend. caught, or "held," seven fish. between kimo and i, we held around twenty. snapper. mirian. butterfish. etc. some areas of the sea were flourshing with fish. some were vacant. very few people use fishing rods in grenada. we used iron weights with fishing line and hooks tied to them. jacks for bait. lessons in patience. in waiting. in timing. in letting go. in trusting. in abundance. in scarcity. in grace. managed to get my fishing line ridiculously tangled up on several occasions. and the fish flopping around in the boat with their big eyes looking at me medium freaked me out. got caught in the rain. chatted with other fisherpeople out on the water. overall a joyful adventure.

abby held seven fish. what? returned with congratulations from the neighbors for our catch. helped clean the fish in the river. but i didn't have to do the gross part of cleaning. of course kids wandered over at the prospect of cooking. we seasoned and fried much of the fish. served them alongside some fried bakes. a houseful of kids. but enough for everyone. afterwards the dishes were cleaned, the kids stayed a little while. telling their family stories as they often do. making fun of each other in love. sharing laughter. and joy.

glenda keeps asking me when my next fishing adventure will be. with a laugh she says i must experience everything grenadian while i'm here. i don't know when the next fishing adventure will be. but i trust that many more grenadian adventures are in store. and i greet each new day with a certain openness and wonder. as to how life will beautifully fall into place.

Friday, November 9, 2007

afternoon by the sea.

miss. miss. lets swim out to the boat one more time. kellon's gotten accustomed to calling me miss both in and out of after school class. ok. one more time.

one of the boats in the bay had drifted quite close to shore. close enough for kellon and kobi and i to swim to and climb up on. the boys assured me it was allowed. we wouldn't get in trouble. we floated on the vacant boat. amidst the nets and oars. decided we could float there forever. kellon said his back was burning from the afternoon sun. splashed sea water on his back to cool off. that's what you do, miss, when your back is burning. that's the grenadian way. so i too splashed water on my back.

miss. miss. they're coming to get jacks. we have to swim to shore. so we jumped off the little boat. headed back to the beach. trading places with the fishermen swimming out to the boats. trying our best to stay out of their way. i was medium confused about what was going on. but tried to follow the boys lead.

miss. miss. start pulling the rope in. who me? you mean i can help too? people on the beach started hauling in the nets. and i was allowed to join in. easy at first. then the nets got heavy. word spreading that jacks were coming. more people showing up to help out. tried my best to mimic the motion of the others in line. pull with right. lean back. pull with left. lean back. something you have to put your whole body into. something that takes everyone working together. in rhythm with each other. a community effort.

blisters forming on my hands. burning from the salt water. arms getting weak. back aching. but it didn't matter. i was a part of things. hauling in the nets like a regular grand roy person. not just observing life. but participating in it. allowed to be a member of the community. amidst everyday life. feeling overjoyed at the idea of it all.

we hauled and hauled. eventually realizing there were no fish in the nets. the sea had not provided this time. so we let go. let the nets return. with hopes of abundance in time.

show us where to cast our nets. help us to let go. to trust.

stayed around the bay a bit longer. eating sea grapes that kids picked and shared. watched the sun begin to set. then headed back home. incredibly thankful for the chance to be a part of the community. to be a part of the family that is grand roy.

Friday, November 2, 2007

communion of souls.

although the sunsets in grenada are beautiful. they are fleeting. and night comes quickly. so it was dark when i arrived home from visiting the after school classes with mr. langaigne (a twenty year staff member of grencoda that deeply cares for the people in the communties we work with). and when i arrived in grand roy, the stars were the brightest i've seen in quite a while. like millions of candles glowing in the sky.

neighborhood kids were gathered near my steps. hovering over the candles they were lighting. they had placed candles inside tin cans. the cans were punctured with holes to let the light shine out. aj showed me his glowing can. he had made a face on it. reminded me of a jack-o-lantern. but this wasn't halloween. it was the following day: all saints day. kids went up and down the street. carrying their candles. some people were placing candles on their steps. lighting them in memory of people who had passed away. traditionally, mischievous kids "thief" people's candles and run up the street with them. although i didn't witness this.

azaria remembered that i had a lone candle in my house. the housewarming candle that amanda gave me before i left. so we went to get it. and i too placed a candle on my steps. luckily no one thiefed it.

we went up the road in search of asham, the local treat for this time of year. basically corn ground up with sugar. but alas, the asham had sold out. tomorrow, praise God, we'll have some more, the young man by the shop told me. loud noises were coming from up the street. i was informed people were "busting bamboo." pretty much homemade firecrackers. using hollow bamboo pieces. kerosene. and a little fire. young people gathering to listen. hearts jumping at every boom.

back down the road, lisia was getting ready to visit her father's grave to place candles there. invited me to go along. so we went, a few kids tagging along, down across the bridge to a humble burial place. no head stone. but she knew where to go. she carefully placed a few candles in the ground. it was simple. and beautiful. that's my daddy, she said. the kids lit some candles that had extinguished on a grave nearby. lisia took a moment. then we were on our way back. from across the river, we could see the candles glowing.

lisia explained that this had been all saints day. tomorrow was all souls day. she said that all saints was to remember christians that had died. all souls was to remember everyone.

still trying to process the distinction. i'm thankful for the idea of communing with saints. of being a part of a greater body of the Church that goes beyond place and time. of learning from the traditions of those who have gone before us.

but recently, especially with amanda, the giver of the candle, questions have come up regarding the afterlife. and what that means. if anything. and i like the idea of a day to recognize all souls. to remember all people. regardless. because something in me wants to believe of an eternal union between the Creator and all the created. but i don't really understand how all of that works. and i don't really know if being a christian makes a difference. because the idea of afterlife isn't why i'm a christian.

i tend to believe in following jesus now. in the moments we're given. of studying the way he lived. of striving to be like him. following his compassion. his justice. his love. and ever thankful for grace. i tend to believe that God can restore this world as he originally created it to be. that glimpses of kingdom. of heaven. of whatever you call it. can be present on earth. when people live side by side in the spirit of christ. in the spirit of that same compassion and justice and love. when there is a place for everyone at the table. enough for everyone at the table. when there is communion with each other. communion with God.

but what happens to our souls in the mean time? i don't have answers. i don't know if we can. i think we can live the best we know how to in this moment. live as if this was it. and be overwhelmed with joy if there is more to it. and be satisfied with how we spent our days if there's not.

so tonight i'll light my candle again. and i'll hope for a display of candles in the sky. and i'll wonder about saints and souls. and i'll consider a God present from the beginning. now. and evermore. and i'll pray for restoration. for heaven come to earth. for communion of souls.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

19 october.

things have gotten a bit busier. most weekdays i'm bouncing between adult computer classes and after school programs at grencoda. practicing steel pan and spending time with the neighbors at home. so last week, when our office was closed on friday, i was thankful for a day to be. a day to approach without agenda.

decided since i had the time, to combine my morning walk with a swim in the sea. ventured up to palmiste beach with a towel and a book to spend the morning. now i've been enjoying my sea baths thus far. but i think i fell in love with the sea that morning. it was my first solitary swim. and i floated. and twirled. and danced. and prayed. i was in wonder of this sea before me. stretching further than i could see. deeper than i could fathom. and yet somehow, i was allowed the joy of being a part of it. made me think of God. of this something beyond what i can understand. that surrounds me. that i can be part of. that i can be one with. i would lean back with my arms wide and let go and float and let the water simply move me. i haven't always been the best at floating. i'll start worrying about waves coming or think i'm sinking and put my feet down. but lately, the letting go has been easier. and i've discovered a certain freedom.

eventually wandered back home. picked up some reading books for after school on the way. journaled. visited my eighty-nine year old neighbor tiey. purchased some of glenda's homemade soursup snow ice. and then it was time to go meet my methodist-catholic-english-grenadian friend mary theresa. we were going to a prayer service in st. george's.

the prayer service was in memory of prime minister maurice bishop and the other grenadians killed on that day - october 19th - 24 years ago. the violent event in grenada's history is not recognized as a holiday. but members of our staff at grencoda, who were directly involved in the revolution, consider it a solemn day to be remembered. its why our office was closed.

now i don't understand everything about the events of october 1983. i've gathered bits and pieces from what i've read. from what people have told me. the prayer service provided more glimpses into the mystery of it.

the prayer service was at fort george - formerly fort rupert - where the killings happened. pictures were up of the people who died. pictures were up of grenada in the 80's. images of workers and farmers and women assembling. finding empowerment. making their voices heard. schools being built. communities active. people working alongside people. it looked like a fascinating time to live in grenada. a time where social justice was not just talked about. but lived out.

but somehow things went bad. talk of "communism." fear. political upheaval. a prime minister, members of his cabinet, and other grenadians sought out and killed. ms. williams, my supervisor at grencoda was imprisoned during all the excitement. had she not been, she could have been killed too. one day when she's in the right frame of mind, she says she'll sit down and tell me the whole story. one day.

and i thought it so interesting to be living in a place where people had experienced revolution firsthand. had seen social progression. had worked for change. and then had seen the people they worked alongside killed. had seen violence. and chaos. and everything turned upside down. it was only 24 years ago. and there are scars still healing.

but tomorrow's the public holiday observed. where every office is closed. october 25th. the day the american's invaded grenada. the day the american's saved the day. the calendar calls it thanksgiving.

at the prayer service, people said 19 comes before 25. people said the day we should remember is the 19th. not the 25th. but here we are. celebrating the day that people from my big country felt the need to invade this tiny island. and i although i believe every day is an occasion for thanks, i find it a strange day set aside to be thankful.

so i continue to ponder the story of all this. continue to seek out more glimpses into it. continue to pray that justice might be restored. to grenada. to this world. a justice that comes not from guns and bombs. but a justice that comes from something greater than ourselves. from a faithful God that is our Hope. a merciful God that does not abandon his children.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

lovely things.

"cricket. lovely cricket."

a phrase repeated quite frequently by the announcer at the matches on saturday. every time she said it, i chuckled a little. i went to the set of matches at the national stadium with my friend kimo. saw grenada and antigua-barbuda each win a match against each other. they played two. also saw a classic english team beat a classic west indies team. learned about wickets. and overs. and bowling. and runs. and sixes. and fours. the games were sometimes exciting. sometimes monotonous. but i learned a great deal about this sport so popular in grenada.

from the stadium, you could see mountains. and it made me think of kidd brewer stadium. and the view from it. and it made me think of homecoming at appalachian. happening simultaneously with the cricket matches.

my understanding of the game, still incomplete, took time. at first, i tried to make sense of it in terms of baseball. the two sports have similarities. with batting. and runs. and things. so i would try to grasp the concepts of cricket based on the concepts of baseball. but the sports have a lot of differences too. and i eventually had to apply my understanding further. beyond baseball knowledge.

and i thought about constructivism. that educational theory. that someone talked about one day in a class that i may or may not have been paying attention in. how we construct our new realities based on our previous experiences. we build new understandings upon the foundations of the old.

and that's kind of how i've grasped grenada. i've come with my own experiences. my own memories. my own life up until this point. trying to make sense of this new place. from the perspective i've been given. trying to understand cricket from a baseball point of view.

and i am thankful for where i come from. most certainly. yet i hope i can begin to apply my understanding further. to value the beauty of this place for what it is. to appreciate the beauty of these people for who they are. to grow. and learn. and discover. the things i was sent here to understand.

on our way out of the stadium, there was a lovely sunset over the sea.

when i got home from cricket saturday, a game of one touch football (soccer) developed in the street outside my house. started out with a few kids. then it grew as more and more kids showed up. glenda even joined in. and she could kick the ball with the best of them. a grandma. a bunch of kids. and me. playing in the street. barefoot. joyful, unplanned, lovely moments.

the next morning, i got up and caught a ride with some grand roy methodist ladies to church in guoyave. a very small congregation. they have a rotation of ministers that come to lead service. so there's someone different every week. we waited a little while, but the assigned minister didn't come. so we went ahead and started singing. different people picking different songs to sing. and for some reason the singing made me cry. it was a capella. and probably out of tune. but it was heartfelt. and sincere. an offering praise in community. and it did my soul good.

we sang for a while and realized the minister probably wasn't going to make it. (it turned out that she couldn't get a ride, so she didn't come). so we went through the order of service in the prayer book. we read scripture from the lectionary that some ladies had brought with them. discussed it in instead of having a sermon. sang some more. shared praises. prayed together. closed with come thou fount, one of my favorites.

the church exisited beyond a minister. as a body. each taking part. and perhaps that's the blessing of this circuit system. that the congregation isn't dependent on one person to function. but that they function together. faithfully.

it was church. lovely church.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

something fishy.

morning is the best time for walking in grenada. the sun rises so early. and i'm already awake from the light and the chickens. yes. there are lots of noisy chickens. plus, the temperature is still cool and breezy.

the walks allow for solitude. for thinking. for praying. for greeting the new day. they also allow for companionship. as i often come across someone walking the same direction.

the other day, i was returning from my morning walk and i could see quite a gathering at the grand roy bay. the fishermen, who had probably been up earlier than the chickens, were pulling in their nets. chenelle was at the junction. waiting on a bus to go to work in town. told me her mom - glenda - was down by the bay with the others. getting some jacks.

i decided to deviate slightly from the rest of my morning routine and go check out the jack gathering. i quickly saw glenda. she had already acquired a bag of small fish. she was simply watching now. she welcomed me to the bay.

a large group of people had their hands on a huge net. not just the fishermen. but an assortment of people. in synchronized motion, they would pull the nets in. progress was slow. quite a net they were dealing with. a beautiful image of everyone working together.

and there was a rainbow.

the moment needed to be captured. so i hurried up the street and grabbed my camera. by the time i returned, the rainbow was fading. but the net was on shore. and the fish had arrived. people were filling their buckets and bags with tiny little jacks. there was an abundance. enough for everyone to share. and still some left over for the fishermen to sell.

and i thought of jesus saying to let down the nets, even after peter had had a frustrating, unsuccessful fishing expedition. and i thought of jesus calling the ordinary, everyday fishermen to follow him. to be like him. and i thought of jesus feeding the five thousand with fish and bread. how there was enough for everyone.

and i prayed that i might let down my nets where i'm being called to. and i offered thanks that God calls the ordinary folks. and i prayed that there might be enough for everyone.

what's my favorite part about grenada? the moments. of beauty. of sharing. of grace.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

weekend adventures.

glenda determined that saturday was going to be washing day. she checked out the washing machine in the apartment below mine. was skeptical of it. decided i would use hers. she's got a machine set up in the little alley between her house and the next door neighbor's. she hasn't had the machine long. it washes. but doesn't rinse. rinsing is reserved for the river behind her house. she told me to grab my dirty clothes. and as they washed, we went to rinse some of her family's clothes. it was entirely refreshing to wade in the water, rinsing the clothes piece by piece. i tried to mimic glenda. the way she moved the clothes about in the river. the way she rung out the excess water. between her clothes and mine, we made several trips down to the river. as the morning went on, more people gathered in the river. most of which were both washing and rinsing. it was certainly the most fun i had ever had doing laundry. there was something quite beautiful about being there in the river with people. doing our chores side by side. as if i was a regular grenadian.

after the clothes were rinsed. we hung them out to dry on the line behind my house. i took a picture. to remember the moment.

later on that afternoon, my friend kimo (also known as keli) arranged a trip to see the waterfalls in concord, a nearby town. we went with glenda's grandchildren, azaria and aj, and their cousin stephon. the first set of falls were absolutely gorgeous. there was a deep pool at their base, perfect for jumping in and swimming. now, jumping into bodies of water isn't necessarily one of my hobbies. however, the other kids were jumping in and having a blast. so when in grenada... i took a leap and it was yet another refreshing moment. we jumped and swam and played for quite some time at these falls. there was abundant joy.

a couple kids from concord that were also playing let us know that the next waterfalls were not too far. so we ventured up an overgrown hiking trail in search of more beauty. at some point, aj said, "bamboo singing." i wasn't quite sure what he meant. so, i asked for clarification. "when the wind moves through the bamboo trees," he explained, "it sounds like music."

and as i listened for it, i realized that the bamboo was only part of this symphony. the mountains were shouting. the river was clapping. the flowers were rejoicing. and here i was. amidst creation. amidst this natural offering of praise. and i was in awe to be a part of it.

we made it to the second falls. and of course, they were breathtaking.

on the way home, stephon said this had been the best day of his life. stephon, my spiritual thirteen year old friend, was also in awe of the beauty we had been immersed in.

we got back too late for glenda and i to cook oil down, one of grenada's most common dishes. so we saved the cooking for the next day. callilou. okra. breadfruit. green bananas. seasoned chicken. carrots. coconut and saffron. all thrown together. i'm quite awful at cooking. but glenda has patience. she says i'm learning. she says i'm becomig grenadian.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

our first task.

a beautifully relevant quote sent by miss alycia capone.
too beautifully relevant to keep to myself:

Our first task in approaching
another people,
another culture,
another religion,
is to take off our shoes.

For the place we are approaching is holy.
Else we find ourselves treading
on another's dream.

More serious still, we may forget that
God was present before our arrival.

Raymond Hammer

unexpected joy.

a quiet, ordinary sunday afternoon. people hanging out, or "liming," around the corner store. others fixing their sunday afternoon meals. kids wandering around, perhaps headed for a swim in the sea. suddenly, the sound of a steel band takes us by surprise. a traveling steel band, one of the best of grenada i am told, has showed up at the junction in grand roy. they play on the back of a truck. and bring a host of others along with them. the street has been transformed into a party. music. dancing. the scene makes me laugh out loud.

and i get the feeling this is how life is going to be. the most beautiful moments unplanned and unexpected.

part of me wants a plan. wants clear expectations. wants a list of objectives to accomplish. but part of me is realizing the freedom in letting go. the joy in being open to whatever may come.

i kept thinking there must be some purpose to me being sent to grenada. of all places in the world i could have ended up. and i still think there is a reason. i just think it may be beyond a job description. beyond what i could have anticipated. beyond what i could have planned.

so i pray for an open spirit. to God's purpose in all of this. God. who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

and i ask for open ears. to listen to God. to people. to the sound of steel band music coming up the road. or whatever other surprises are on their way.

Monday, September 3, 2007

when in grenada...

"abby going barefoot. abby one of us now." - glenda

when i created this blog, i more or less meant the title figuratively. "going barefoot" simply meant recognizing an inherent holiness on all ground. in and among all people.

little did i know that in grand roy, my new community, a lot of people literally walk around barefoot. folks hang on on the side of the street. they cross the road to chat with neighbors. shoes aren't always necessary.

so when i showed up outside one day with no shoes on, my neighbor glenda determined that i too was grenadian. i took that as quite a compliment. and the phrase "going barefoot" took on a new depth of meaning.

glenda and her family have really taken me in. they live in a little house across the street: glenda her four daughters, and at least five grandchildren. people are perpetually coming and going. it took me a while to figure out who really lived there. they let me sit with them outside. they invite me in to sit with them inside. glenda has generously prepared grenadian food for me. she's taught me how to make passion fruit juice. how to cook green bananas. she's determined that i will return to north carolina knowing how to cook and live grenadian.

the other day, a few of us were chatting outside glenda's house. glenda was chillin' on a pile of rocks in the yard. someone asked if i'd like a chair to sit down in. oh no. i'll just sit down here on the rocks too.

lisia, one of glenda's daughters commented: "when in rome, do as the romans do."

then we established that a new phrase was fitting: "when in grenada, do as the grenadians do."

i've got along way to go before i'm fully grenadian. but i'm learning a little bit more everyday.

today was the first day of school for most students. people were busy gathering books, trying on uniforms, braiding hair.

and today was my first day at grencoda. it was a laid back day of introductions, questions, and staff meetings. and amidst the discussions, i sensed that this staff truly cared for their communities, and truly strove to honor the people within them.

hopefully soon i'll get started working with students afterschool at grand roy government school. and eventually teaching adult computer classes here at grencoda. it may be a little while before things get rolling. but i must be patient. grenadians are all about not being in a hurry. and when in grenada... well you know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

head in the clouds.

one of my favorite parts about flying is looking out the window. the temporary change in perspective. what once seemed so big becomes so small. what once seemed so narrow becomes so broad. the world continues to function. but for a few moments, i am set apart from it. and as we ascend, my only reality becomes the clouds.

and i love watching the clouds.

at my home church on sunday our minister, chris, talked about clouds. and i keep reflecting back on the sermon. more specifically, he discussed the "cloud of witnesses" that surrounds us, as mentioned in hebrews. he talked about his own cloud, made up of people from his own life who had impacted and inspired his faith. the cloud also includes people he has never met. authors. theologians. biblical figures. etc.

so i started thinking about my own cloud of witnesses that follows me around. people who have encouraged me by word. by example. by love. and i was overwhelmed to consider all the people who have impacted my life. my faith journey. and i felt entirely blessed.

chances are if you are reading this, you are part of that cloud.

and this cloud surrounds me. and is a part of me. and goes with me. wherever i fly next.

i was actually supposed to be surrounded by the clouds this very moment. as i was scheduled to fly from charlotte to jamaica to grenada this morning. but because of the hurricane destruction in jamaica, my flight has been rescheduled for august 29th - a week from tomorrow.

i was all ready to go. bags pretty much packed. but, i must wait another week. i was disappointed at first. but i'm looking forward to whatever beauty this week will inevitably hold.

when i do fly, i will look out the window. surrounded by clouds. reminded of the people in my life who have covered me with love and encouragement and grace. and in anticipation of the new people i will meet who will join this cloud of witnesses.

thank you. you mean more than you know. you will forever be part of who i am. of who i am still becoming.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

beyond the postcards.

my grace frank has been to grenada before (and by my grace frank i mean my unconventional maternal grandmother who we don't dare call grandma).

upon hearing my upcoming plans, she has given me four gifts:
a basket of spices, from "the spice island," that still remain fragrant.
a few old school three by five photographs from her venture there in the late eighties.
a postcard from grenada, already addressed to send back to her in wilkesboro.
a compact tolietry case.

now my grace frank has traveled to a lot of places. but of all the places in the world i could of ended up, its kind of neat that she's been there before me.

and its kind of crazy that i'm going to be there in a week.

even though i read about it. i hear about it. i see pictures. i still can't wrap my head around what life will be like. but maybe that's the point. maybe its about experiencing people. and cultures. and life. first hand. beyond the postcards.

still many things to pack. many details to figure out. many goodbyes to say. many hugs to give.

only to be followed by many things to unpack. many more details to figure out. many greetings to say. many people to embrace.

dear grenada. i will see you soon.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

tribute to boone.

goodbye number eight.

that's what amanda said as she closed the door to our apartment and pushed in our dysfunctional peep hole one last time.

i don't live in boone anymore. which is weird. wilkesboro is nice. it is hotter down here, though. but hey. gotta work on my hot weather tolerance for grenada.

just wanted to pay tribute to some of my favorite moments from my last few days in boonetown. in completely random order:

climbing up the colony of rocks at hebron with my brother and christine. enjoying amanda's homeade funfetti ice cream while watching friends. jogging amidst the wildflowers in the meadow near the greenway. visiting my eighty-one year old kindred spirt, mrs. mitchell, who never ceases to shower me with wisdom and laughter. eating out way too much at local places when all our food and cooking equipment were packed away. (here's to mellow mushroom. boone bagelry. cafe portifino. mile high. and even murphy's). ducking under the guy hanging in the hammock above our stairs. observing the fascinating interaction of the pratt siblings. looking through erin's amazing pictures from japan. reminising with jeffrey, amanda, erin, and andrew about college in amanda's new round house. crying with amanda when i realized i was saying goodbye...

dear boone. you mean the world to me. but there's still more world to see.

camp elk shoals is good for your souls.

got to go to one of my most favorite places last night. camp elk shoals. its where i spent last summer on staff with carolina cross connection. where i've been on countless church picnics. where i was a camper myself. went to visit miss laura adams and all the folks there for ccc. there was a ridiculous summer shower in the afternoon. but everything cleared up to have the friday evening festivities outside. we did the cookout thing. the campfire thing. neat to see some of the campers i had actually had in years past.

the part i loved the most was just being in that worship area again. that simple, rustic chapel. overlooking the mountains.

somehow i volunteered to help set up luminaries for worship with the program team. and it was so wonderful to be in that space. to have a part in preparing for worship. before campers arrived from campfire, i lied down on one of the benches. covered with stars. surrounded by candles. and there was this stillness. this silence. and it was beautiful.

soon campers came. and we took communion together. and i adore communion. a celebration of our union with God. with each other. all welcome at the table. all being filled with something holy.

and worship continued. and this fog invaded the worship area. stars were barely visible above. and there was a sort of haze all around. there was something mysterious about it all. i felt like i could sit there forever. and just be.

yet at the same time, i had a peace about leaving. i knew i would miss this place. i knew i would miss the familiar. but i also knew that this place. my memories here. are apart of me. and they go with me. wherever my feet take me next.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

too wonderful for me.

just got back from a weekend with my grandparents. grandpa's in a rehab center in florence, sc after heart surgery and a series of complications. been in the hospital pretty much the whole summer. this was the first time i really saw him awake in a long time.

and he's just as sharp as ever. cracking jokes. recounting detailed stories from long ago. his body still has a ways to go. but his spirit is alive and present.

one of my favorite moments was going to physical therapy with him. mom, andrew, and i joined in on the exercises with grandpa and a lady named ms. shupe. we sat in a circle as grandpa led us in count. we tapped our feet. lifted our legs. raised our knees. it was a neat moment of being alongside grandpa. we got a hold of an exercise ball and started kicking it around in our little circle. grandpa was smiling. i love it when he smiles. and ms. shupe seemed to be having fun too. we came to a consensus that the five of us would make a pretty sweet soccer team. with the stipulation that grandpa and ms. shupe would have to play up front to score all the goals.

other moments were not as lighthearted. grandpa tearing up in his hospital bed, admitting his own weakness, continually asking for prayer. grandma breaking down in a local diner when someone asked how mr. huggins was doing. dad and grandpa exchanging tearful i love you's. andrew commenting that that was the hardest time saying goodbye. me knowing that i'd be leaving very soon.

and amidst all of this, i started reading a little bonhoeffer. life together. his thoughts on christian community. deepening my perspective of spiritual love. of spiritual brother and sisterhood.

at some point, bonhoeffer discusses the beauty of the psalms as something to be shared in community. he reveals his secret of the psalter. to consider a different dimension to the psalms. not as our own individual prayer. that we may or may not identify with. but as prayers uttered by Christ. on behalf of His Body. on behalf of the Church. prayers that we can share in together. with Jesus. with each other.

and i heard dad and grandma mention the same story. of grandpa's adoration of two particular psalms. 100. and 139. that grandpa said there was power in those words.

o Lord you have searched me and known me. you know when i sit down and when i rise up. you discern my thoughts from far away. you search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. even before a word is on my tongue, o Lord you know it completely. you hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. such knowledge is too wonderful for me. it is so high that i cannont attain it... (beginning of psalm 139)

and the intimacy expressed in these words is too wonderful for me. between the Lord and the psalmist. between Parent and Son. between God and my grandpa.

and when i read it now. i hear the voices of Jesus. and grandpa. harmoniously interwoven. quite beautifully. and i am overwhelmed by the depth of it all.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

paint on my feet.

so my apartment has this long narrow hallway. right as you walk in. kind of a waste of space. and when we moved in, my roomate laura and i thought it needed a little something to liven it up. so naturally, we painted the hallway with blue and coral squares. no order to it. completely random. we even threw a few rectangles in the living room. it was slightly ridiculous. but beautiful still the same. a very laura and abby thing to do.

and today, i painted over the squares.

primed them first to cover the color. then painted over the squares with kestral white. to match the rest of the wall. but something was a little off. slight difference between old and new. so i sort of ended up painting the whole hallway.

and its still imperfect. but the squares are gone. which was the goal, i guess.

and as i was painting, i was mourning the loss of the squares. but more so the loss of what the squares stood for. of my last year of college. spent in this sketcy apartment. with people i deeply adore.

and the idea of painting over the familiar. of changing what i've known. was almost too much.

and then i started noticing the transformation of the wall. kind of fascinating to see the colors shift. and i realized that the squares were not gone. they'll always be a part of that wall. but that the wall will always be changing. new holes. scratches. scuffs. paint. and that is real. and that is good.

then in a sort of cliche kind of way. stevie nicks sang about being "fraid of changin" on the radio.

and my mind wandered to the transformations that will happen in me. ones i can't anticipate. ones that are bound to happen. and it terrifies me. overwhelms me. overjoys me. to consider the next adventures. the next changes. in this lifetime process of restoration.

and now there's paint on my feet. paint on the walls. and even a little on the carpet. oops.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

foot fetish.

so this is all new to me. this blog thing. writing flows much more freely when i know no one else is reading it. takes a certain amount of vulnerability. writing where everyone can see it. but here goes.

i've been thinking a lot about feet lately. even more than usual.

just returned to north carolina from a three week stay in new york. training alongside some truly amazing people to be young adult missionaries. we'll soon be headed out in all different directions. all over the country. all over the world. incredibly thankful for the community that was created within those three weeks. a community rooted in Christ. a community with a common vision for social justice. a community that will stretch and connect us wherever we may be.

realizing that my soul craves community. to be with people. living. listening. loving. sharing. serving. cannot fathom the community i'll discover and become a part of in grenada. overwhelmed by the thought of it. but in a good way.

early on in training, david wildman led a bible study. showering us with his wisdom and insights. challenging us to consider scripture in different ways. one of the phrases he used was: praying with our feet. that acts of love are prayers in themselves. beyond words.

and i would notice people's feet on the subway. flip flops. tennis shoes. ridiculous heels. wondering where these feet had gone. wondering where these feet were going. wondering what stories they could tell.

and quite often, as we'd gather, we'd sing a spiritual, as taught by david hosey.

guide my feet while i run this race.
guide my feet while i run this race.
guide my feet while i run this race.
for i don't want to run this race in vain.
race in vain.

and the young adult missionaries have some pretty rockin voices. enough to make up for whatever joyful noise that comes out of my mouth. but all those voices together were breathtakingly beautiful. and the idea of a God that is guiding us on this journey. even more beautiful.

and this song. along with don't stop believing. dancing queen. and the avett's famous flower of manhattan. rotated through my head. perpetually.

sometimes i would retreat to the park. usually nearby riverside. occasionally central or prospect. something about the trees. the grass. that was refreshing. and as i would sit, i would take off my chacos. grass between my toes. a certain freedom.

and i would think about God's command to moses. when that burning bush thing was happening. to take off his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground (exodus 3).

and taking off my shoes reminds me to be open to the holiness around me. makes me want to run around barefoot all the time. recognizing an omnipresent holiness. a God moving and being in all things.

and so. it is my hope that i might pray with barefeet. continually aware of God's guiding presence on this journey. always open to the holiness that exisits on whatever ground i'm standing on. in whatever people i'm standing beside.