Tuesday, September 16, 2008

as i went down by the river to pray...

my soul seems to be drawn to the river quite often these days. because of its beauty. because of its simplicity. because there is solitude. because there is community. and nature. and everyday life. it's where people wash. and bathe. and clean fish. and splash. and play. and live.

saturday was a washing day. so i gathered my clothes and bucket and headed down to the river. don't anticipate river washing wherever i end up next. so trying to cherish these occasions. stephon was there washing a two piece of clothes. soon deandra and her two little brothers arrived. deandra helped her mother wash. and the boys joyfully played for what must have been hours. i admired thier innocense. and imagination. soon paulita joined us. my washing companion. she settled down in her usual place in the shade. and we smiled at the boys playing. and i offered thanks for the simple moments alongside her. kedra came. and we chatted a bit. but there were also times of silence. times to listen to the music of the river. times to watch the raindrops dance as clouds passed by.

and i thought of the rivers in my life. the new river at elk shoals. the river along the trail at price park. the yadkin river by the greenway. as well as countless streams and tributaries along the way. and i gave thanks for the rivers i've been able to sit beside. and i wondered what rivers my soul will encounter in journeys to come. and in all my wandering thoughts, i sought mindfulness of the river flowing right before me.

somewhere i read that you can't stand in the same river twice. water continuously moving. changing. time moving. changing. right before our eyes. without us even realizing it.

so i washed and rinsed. and i softly sung, "as i went down by the river to pray..." and i finished just as showers of blessings began to fall in abundance. and i spread my clothes on the line when the sunshine returned.

then sunday morning, as i got back from church, a group of folks were gathered in the river down near mr. black's shop. clearing bush. picking up garbage. covered in mud. "good morning abby. we're here cleaning the river. go change your clothes and come back and help." they were half kidding. but i didn't have any pressing plans, so i took them up on the offer. and barefoot, i journeyed up the river with miss gloria, miss clessie, and mr. james and kenrick and kobe and a host of others.

and i picked up trash where i could. and cleaned the river of the bush being cut down. piece by piece. helping in the ways i knew how. and i was overjoyed to be actively caring for creation alongside people in my community. and i was excited to be a part of something positive. and i was glad to see people taking initiative and putting words into action. it was all quite refreshing.

we made it up to where i usually go in the river. there behind daisy's house. the plan is to continue from there next week sunday. so i cleaned up my muddy self in the river. and made my way up the hill near miss gloria's. they cooked a big pot of oil down to share among those who worked. and the food took its sweet time. so we waited. amidst hair plaiting. and chatting. and liming. and finally they shared out the food. breadfruit and callilou and carrots and meat and dumplings and coconut milk and saffron all mixed together. and kenrick said that the dumplings were a little dry. but i didn't mind. i was simply thankful for the shared experience. for community. for something to be a part of. especially something that involved the river.

there's something unique and ordinary about the grand roy river. and i pray that i might embrace it. that i might be a part of its beauty. and listen to its wisdom. as it sings sweet songs of melodies pure and true.

during all our river adventures, miss gloria said multiple times with a chuckle: "abby, you could write a book when you go back." maybe i will, miss gloria. maybe i will. after all, there are so many stories to tell.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ordinary beauty.

i tend to be a continually reflective person. but i've felt even more reflective lately.

last friday, 29th august, marked a year since my arrival in grenada. so i've found myself pondering what life was like a year ago. and what life is like now. and i've been escaping to waterfalls. and sitting by the sea. as i've read old journal entries. and entered new ones.

i discovered these words written on the plane ride. somewhere between jamaica and barbados...

"i think how ridiculous this all is. i just left everything i've ever known to go to some random place. with a vague job description. having communicated with only one person. primarily through email. and i'm staying for sixteen months. no one's going to look like me. talk like me. what the hell am i getting myself into? some might say i'm going on faith. i've got more courage than most. i think i'm naieve and foolish myself. but for some reason, or set of reasons, this is how life is working out. on my own, i'm bound to screw this up. it is you, God, that can make this beautiful. take all that i am - broken, awkward, anxious, unsure. and make me into an instrument of your peace. an instrument of your love. overcome my imperfection. not my self-ambitious will. but your pure and good will be done. on earth as it is in heaven. make me one with your spirit. as you guide my feet. might i joyfully follow you. right now i feel pretty alone. and i long for some sort of community to be a part of. to live alongside people. serve alongside people. pray and worship alongside people. where there is suffering. where there is poverty. where there is injustice. and not that i can overcome these things by any means on my own. restoration comes from you. it is my prayer that i might be a part of what you're doing. that through you, i might do 'small things with great love.'"

and following these words, on fresh pages of a new journal, i began to record this grenadian life. and i'm amazed at the newness in my voice. the idealism. the wide open eyes. and i give thanks for those first experiences. learning to wash in the river. learning to cook grenadian food. sitting by the road with glenda. walking around barefoot. playing in the sea with kids. hiking to waterfalls. visiting st. george's. figuring things out. missing home. discovering home.

and i really didn't know what i was getting myself into. but i prayed for a community to be a part of. and i found it.

and i feel like the newness has certainly worn off. and life has become ordinary. but there is beauty in the ordinary. as i still wash in the river. these days beside paulita. as i bathe in the sea. and admire the sunset. as i take in the cool evening breeze with bloatie. and wait for the bread van with daisy. as i make a morning stroll through a neighborhood where everyone knows my name.

and my perspective is certainly different than those first days. beyond ways i can express in words. because of all i've seen. and heard. and lived. and these days, it is my prayer that i might continue to live with openness. to everyday life here. to be mindful of the gift that all this is. to seek guidance from the holiness dwelling in me. to honor the holiness in others. and all around me. to give thanks for where i've come from. to appreciate where i am. to trust in where i'm going.

so thank you to all. who have offered your love and support and prayers on this ridiculous journey i've found myself on. may God guide our feet on these paths. as we seek to do small things. with great love. wherever we are. amidst whatever ordinary beauty we find ourselves.