today, i want to invite you to a practice. but, let me contextualize the practice with a story/testimony.
i spent this sabbath flying home from my covid-reunion with my best friend. i hadn’t seen her since January 2020, when we celebrated my 35th birthday. for context, we had never gone this long without seeing one another. even through the years that i spent trekking around the country for school, we still always found a way to keep our regularly scheduled get-togethers, including our birthdays, summer meet-ups, and homecoming at our alma mater. for the last fifteen years, she’s been the “frick” to my “frack.” together, we’ve weathered many mountains and valleys, in season and out of season. to this day, i believe that she’s the pioneer behind the Black girl term of endearment, “sis.” over ten years ago, she was the first person i ever heard to use it. when it started popping up everywhere, in my eyes, my best friend’s creativity and ingenuity had been sealed and honored by Black girls the world over! #gobestfriend
even during this pandemic, my best friend still managed to be my rock. with so much confusion, anxiety, and immediate change happening, the ways that found time to connect became bedrocks of comfort. we’d kiki-ed on countless FaceTime dates. we held each other accountable for staying active. together, we tried to make sense of what was happening in the world. one of our common tactics was to find ways to bring creativity and community into our lives. we did this by embracing new hobbies. coffee for me, and roller skating for her. one day, she randomly bought a pair of skates and started rolling around her backyard. soon, she was finding open-air spaces to skate, building quite a skate collection, spending time learning how to skate online, and sharing videos of her progress. she started an instagram page that celebrates the Blackness of roller skating history in the United States. i marveled as the page eventually grew to socially distanced skating events for Black folks in Los Angeles. she found a passion in skating, and it provided a platform for her gifts of leadership. it was, and continues to be, so awesome to see my sister come to life when she gets on those skates.
in the middle of 2020, she even convinced me to purchase a pair of skates, and we knew that we wanted this to be a part of our Covid reunion. so, over the weekend, we skated together for the first time. we masked up and hit this beautiful open trail at Long Beach. she provided tunes via her curated skating playlist. she told me to watch out for sand piles on the concrete and to slightly brace myself for the rough sections on the trail. i’m a nervous skater because falling is basically one of my worst fears. thankfully, i have a patient sister who held my hand for the first twenty minutes of the skate, and probably rolled a lot slower than she would’ve had he been on her own.
we will be processing the impact of this pandemic for years to come. in some way, every area and facet of our lives has been intimately touched. transformed. for better and for worst. undoubtably, friendships were also impacted. for many, the true quality of our relationships was revealed by the test of not being to physically gather. some are probably grieving lost relationships, or lower degrees of intimacy in other relationships. while it’s popular to speak of such loss and change as somehow being good, it’s often also true that it hurts and it’s disappointing.
indeed, this time has tested many of our closest bonds. however, i believe that there are also stories of bonds that have been tightened and deepened, and connections that have grown in this season. i’m not ready to buy into the dominant narrative that the pandemic only, or even mostly, broke up happy homes and longstanding relationships. to be sure, i do look forward to reconnecting with friends whom i haven’t seen in over a year, or spoken to in several months. but, this period of time has illuminated the places in my where deep love resides in my life. i’ll name a few:
in my partner, who lovingly counseled several individuals who struggled in isolation and couples who struggled in quarantine, free of charge.
in my parents, who packed up and came to Atlanta during the pandemic, to support my sister and her husband with my nephews and nieces. their move has since turned permanent, and we couldn’t be more grateful to have been reunited in the light of so much devastation.
in my dog, who is just all the things. who brought so much comfort and joy. who got me up off the couch and out of the house when he needed to be walked. who is always concerned for my safety and wellbeing, as evidenced by the way that he keeps a close watch and follows my every step throughout the house.
in friends from various seasons of my life, who entertained invitations for FaceTime catch-up calls. in friend groups who gathered on Zoom for birthdays and random dance parties. in friends who thought that virtual happy hour was a cute idea. in friends, who checked in via text and e-mail. in friends who understood that it wasn’t a good time to talk because i was tired, drained, or sad.
in my assistant, who helped me to establish and maintain professional boundaries, and took some of the emotive stress out of doing ministry.
in my best friend, who, from California, scoured the internet looking for a a vaccine appointment in Atlanta, when I simply could NOT find anything.
and, in myself, who decided that it would be best to love myself for who i am right now, not just for who i hope to be in the future. not just on the basis of my accomplishments, but on the merit of my beautiful heart.
in God. in Spirit. in Jesus. in the Ancestors. who continuously keep, sustain and inspire.
i’d like to commend this sabbath exercise to you. i don’t have a name for it, but it’s something that i’ve done very regularly throughout this season. it’s a derivative of a gratitude practice, but it focuses on love.
sit and take a mental survey of where the love resides in your life. you know best how you feel and receive love (who hasn’t read Gary Chapman’s book or at least taken a quiz?), and you know best who and what fills your life with love. take a few minutes. light a candle. maybe put some really beautiful music on. make a list of the things, places, and people who bring love to life for you. it could be a person or a pet. it could be a place, such as your porch or your bed. it could be a ritual or a practice, such as reading, watering your plants, or prayer. it could be an ancestor or a memory that fills your heart upon remembrance. write these things down. these are what i call “love sources.” say a word of thanks over your list, no matter how short or long it is.
then, bring a symbol into your home, just to remind yourself that you are loved. for me, this is often fresh flowers. for you, it might be a new book or a beautiful new set of wine glasses. another option is to do something that makes you feel loved: taking a long bath by candellght. or, reading a poem, scripture or short story out loud. one that makes your heart expand, makes you marvel at the inexplicable power of a lovingly crafted set of words. end your practice by affirming, “i am loved.”
finally, if you feel like spreading your joy, let your love sources know that they make you feel loved, and that you are grateful. if you love them, too, say so. everyone and every being needs love, and ‘i love you’ are some of the most gratifying words to hear.
this is new sabbath: despite what we have lived, and are currently living through, knowing and feeling that we are loved, by God and a few of God’s most loving agents. creating fellowship, and savoring the newness of our relationships on this other, vaccinated side of a period of heart-wrenching separation. it is coming into the reflective awareness that as we traversed, we were kept. as our relationships were tested, they prevailed.
what about you? what or who are your love sources?
for what and for whom are we grateful?
let me know. i love hearing from you. i heard some really wonderful food stories last week, and it blessed me to hear your memories.
as i was clicking and scrolling through my phone recently, i found my prayers from both of Spelman’s graduation ceremonies last month. please receive this benediction, originally spoken over the Class of 2020:
Class of 2020, at this time to receive this blessing,
as you prepare to go back into the world, may you know that
no eye has seen, no ear has heard
neither has it entered into your heart, all that God has in store for you.
know that your path has been laid out, the plan for your life has been made, and it is a plan to prosper you, not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future.
know that your steps have been ordered, and,
now, run on-
your ancestors in front of you,
grace and mercy beside you,
God deep within you,
and the village of Spelman behind you
go on, run on and see what the end shall be!
until we meet again,
go in peace, power and love.