Ah, February. The month of love. Black History Month. For the shortest month of the year, it sure is full of things! This month I was overwhelmed with feelings in the best way possible. Overwhelmed with love, gratitude, amazement, and above all, this feeling of investment.
This month brought with it the first time I stopped and looked around and thought, “This is my community. This is my life. This is real.” It was this feeling of realization, a mini epiphany of sorts, where I saw the roots that have formed as I’ve spent time in this place and with these people. Perfect timing, since this month also marked the halfway point of my Mission Year (so wild). With this realization and feeling of investment, I also felt recharged. January was a long month for me and for many of my teammates. I felt drained and overwhelmed with starting back up with the program after a two-week break for Christmas. I hit the ground running and quickly found myself out of breath and exhausted. Thankfully, we had our first “sabbath weekend” the last weekend in January, which allowed me to have some much needed self-care and wellness time.
The beautiful thing about self-care is that when you’re rested and energized, you can love and care for others. With this age of “burnout culture” it is so easy to get caught up in doing, doing, doing that you forget that rest is important and necessary. My friend Eleni recently sent me this great article that talks about this era of “burnout” and specifically how it is impacting the Millennial generation (my generation!). I recommend giving it a read here.
With my rest and rejuvenation, I poured my heart into two specific events to kick off February: Valentine’s Day and Black Lives Matter Week of Action. First up, Valentine’s Day. I have a lot of passion for V-Day. Not only is it my mom’s birthday (happy birthday Momma!), but it’s also a day I grew up loving. To me, it was a day of celebrating everything and everyone I love. It was a day filled with chocolate and hugs and cute little valentines. It was a day that made me feel joy.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized this day often sparks anything but joy. It’s a day for couples to celebrate and showcase their love, while singles stand by wondering when their “person” is going to come. Even for people with significant others, it can be a day that feels more like an obligation to observe than a blessing to honor. It’s a day many people feel is stupid, pointless, and even damaging. It seems that Valentine’s Day has become a day that hits a nerve in people, picking out every carefully covered feeling and bringing it to the surface. Struggle with loneliness, despair, or heartbreak? Valentine’s Day is about to make you feel all of that at once.
This breaks my heart. Ever since I’ve realized this is a miserable day for many people, I’ve made it my low-key mission to make people feel loved and special on this day. I strive to do that everyday, but I feel like V-Day deserves extra effort!
Rather than giving my theology on reclaiming Valentine’s Day, I’m going to leave you with this blog post I wrote last year that encapsulates it all. Sorry if that sounds like a cliff-hanger! But I want to use the rest of this newsletter wisely, so it makes more sense to me to direct you to this story I’ve already written on that topic so I can spend my time here writing about something else.
Onto the next event I invested time in this month: Black Lives Matter Week of Action. This week is put on by the organization Black Lives Matter in Schools. It’s a week for educators and advocates to intentionally listen to Black voices and hear the experiences and concerns of Black youth in schools. The hope is this is happening all the time, but the reality is due to the oppressive systems that exist, Black voices are often overlooked and shut down. The week ranged in events depending on where you were at in the country, but nationally the week recognized four national demands:
I attended three events as part of this week: a rally that kicked off the week, a movie showing of “The Hate U Give” at KIPP DuBois (the school where I work), and a panel on gun violence and trauma in schools. So so SO many good things were said at these events. I found myself feeling challenged and my comfortable bubble pushed. I struggled with feelings of guilt as a white person and thinking about the ways I intentionally and unconsciously uphold this system of white supremacy. I prayed and engaged in dialogue. I listened and I questioned and I contemplated. Through it all I heard God continuously saying to me: “Yes, daughter. Listen. Learn.”
Despite all the discomfort that accompanied this week, it was all so necessary. If I believe in the wholeness and goodness of every human being as a child of God made in the image of God, I have to listen to every voice. This means that even if I don’t fully understand systemic racism because I have white privilege and will never fully understand what it means to be oppressed because of my race, I still have to listen and believe the voices of my Black brothers and sisters. I still have to show up to the rallies, panels, and protests, even when I feel uncomfortable and like I don’t deserve to be there because I am white.
God has been teaching me a whole lot this year, and this week was further evidence of that. As I sit and think about why I’m here in Mission Year, why I’m in Philly, why I’m working at a school, why I’m diving deeper into this messy process of love and justice, I don’t have a whole lot of concrete answers to those questions. Probably because there aren’t a whole lot of concrete answers to deeply spiritual questions. But what I do have is this constant feeling of the Holy Spirit inside me, this constant voice telling me “Keep going. Keep pushing. Keep wondering. Keep challenging. Keep up in love.” What I do have is this incredible feeling of being alive, despite all the challenges and mixed emotions everything in this year is bringing up for me. What I do have is Jesus inside me and beside me pulling me along and showing me this beautiful picture of His kin-dom that we are called to create. I think that’s what it means to create “heaven on earth.” It means to be invested in the people and community around you. It means to be invested in your faith so much so that it moves you to action. It means to struggle with the hard stuff and sit in all the tensions because Jesus is worth it and His people are worth it.
Let heaven come down.