two months ago i traveled with 33 other people to jamaica…this is a collection of moments that i tried to capture along the way…

i don’t mind it so much here. the incessant beeping of my phone in an attempt to shake me from sleep doesn’t bother me here like it does back home. in fact, i am finding that i don’t even need it. my body seems to be beating the clock by at least five minutes each morning. the room is dark and heavy with warm, sleeping bodies…limbs peeking out from sheets and hanging over the bunks. i quickly shut the beeping off, not wanting to wake those around me…partly because i want to offer them the extra minutes of sleep, but mostly out of selfishness. i want the morning, the first few minutes of day, for myself. i have discovered the beauty in them, those minutes, and i don’t want to share. i sleepily find my towel, and quietly shuffle to the door. my body feels a bit sore, stiff from the mattress. i place my hand on the knob, and as i do my entire body swells with anticipation. my heart has pounded its way into my throat. my mouth strains to smile. my stomach churns and flutters a bit. i open the door and step out. i am enveloped by the glow. pulled into its warmth and comfort and peace. i breathe deeply the muggy air. i stand on the warming concrete and stretch my limbs as far as they can go. i bask in the silence. my eyes take in all the colors around me. the green of the trees, the blue of the sky, the brown dirt near my feet – all more vibrant, all more prickly because of the golden glow. i am in love with this glow. i am in love with this hope. this is the most holy moment of my day.

it’s his smile that captivates me. it seems to set everything right, even though it’s all wrong. we sit together on the floor of the dome. it’s bothering him again, that wound on his palm. i choke back tears as i try to scrub it clean. i’m angry that the first aid kit we brought only holds such limited supplies. i don’t know where the emotion is coming from. i don’t know why i want to hold him and cry. and i can’t, i can’t hold him and cry, and so i clean. and i make jokes. and i try to put a band-aid onto his sweaty little hand, knowing it won’t stay. he smiles at me, and i’m unable to stop it. it gently rolls down my cheek. i hop up, he slides his hand into mine, and we return to the game of cricket. i’m angry that a lousy little band-aid is all i have offer…

i’m glad to be here. i throw the pick over my shoulder and watch as it hits the ground, entering the orange, clay-like earth. i feel each muscle…left unused at home…work and groan as i move. there is honesty in this moment. something about using my hands and body, something about getting dirty and feeling the dryness in my skin, something about the sweat gathering at my hairline, something about the stillness of my thoughts – there’s an honesty in it. the truth flows from toiling and straining. the fibers of my muscles, the ache in my bones, and the weariness of my body can’t lie. there’s an honesty in this work, it’s different than what i’m used to…and i’m glad to be here.

i am grateful that cynicism does not plague me here. we don’t talk much in these moments. moments when time has stopped. hours pass by as we wait, and yet time is standing still. we don’t talk much. we choose, instead, to sing. all of us, loudly and beautifully, we lift our voices in praise. they mix together and i can’t tell one from another. we sing for hours, although time has ceased to exist. cynicism’s absence opens me up to this encounter.

we sit in a goofy looking circle. we gather together in the night air to be with one another. we’re warm and hungry. boxes and bags of snacks are making their way around, stopping in each set of hands, and they seem endless. people find courage during this time. they raise their hands and they offer stories. stories of who they are and where they’ve been. stories of pain and brokenness inside of them and inside this world. stories of healing and sometimes stories of the hope for healing. stories that evoke laughter. some are stories that have never been told, and some are stories that hadn’t been realized. i feel proud of them each. for the bravery they demonstrate as they trust and share, speak and listen. we are offering each other something beautiful here. the power of God in this circle of stories is frightening. the cool evening breeze blows chills through me…

i have been dreading this day. in fact, i wish we didn’t have to do it. i’m the only one who feels this way, though. everyone else is desperate to sink their feet in the sand. everyone else is eager to cast their bodies into the ocean. i have to admit it’s beautiful. tourism has left it untouched. the sand is white and the water is enticing as it laps the shore. they all discard their clothing and run with gusto into the waves. i am left behind battling the demons that seem to have made their home in the places where i store my beliefs. i think it’s been ten years. ten years since i have been in this place. showing so much of myself for all to see. in public. in daylight. i am so aware. i can feel each inch of myself and i want to crawl right out of my skin. i am paralyzed. i want to scream. i want to hide. i want to hate them for not being like me. and i hate myself for not being like them. standing under the shade of the beach hut, i am battling. i don’t know that this fight will ever end. i will swim today. i will walk along the beach and look at local art and clothing. i will lie next to the girls and bathe in the sun. but i will not be comfortable. i will not stop holding my breath. i will not forget. my body will remind me – with each step, each kick, and each brush of the wind – of its ugliness. i don’t know that this fight will ever end. i don’t know that I believe it can. yet.

i sat on the curb and i watched them. i saw them swinging the buckets to one another. i saw them shoveling the dirt and gravel into broken old wheelbarrows. i saw them wipe the sweat off their foreheads. i saw them offer water to each other from dusty old nalgenes. then i put my head into the palms of my hands, and i listened to them. i heard them laughing. i heard them talking. i heard the noise their shoes made as they walked in the dirt and gravel. i heard the girls shriek as the boys hosed them with water. i heard the sound of the buckets hitting their hands. i heard the shovels scraping the concrete. we were building a church. i pictured it, a couple years from now, filled with the people we had met this week: i saw the congregation singing together. i saw the children running around the place. i saw the pastor preaching and i heard the people “amen-ing.” i smelled the food they’d share with each other. we were building a church. and it made me glad to be a part of building that place. where people would grow together. where together they would struggle to figure out faith. where they would pray for one another. where the neighbors would be invited in. but as i watched, and as i listened, i saw and heard something else…i saw God was building his church. in the conversations, in the midst of the work, in the offering of water, in all of it…God was building his church. i suddenly felt very small, and all i could think to say was, “thank you.”

almost.

May 6, 2008

the recent days and weeks have been filled with a desire to articulate and compose…and an apparent inability to do either [at least, in my opinion, very well]. my experience, as of late, has reminded me of this quote a friend once sent my way…

As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing it till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall. ~Virginia Woolf

my words are nearly ready for sharing…