This chapter was written in the library of Princeton Theological Seminary, which was all together fitting because Princeton is where my friendship with Reverend Courtney Clayton Jenkins reached new heights….
Courtney is another dear friend from Cleveland and, like Amanda, Court had been waiting for me to come home so that she could wrap her loving arms around me. Courtney had been involved from the moment that Kesner died. My mom called Courtney immediately after she learned that I found Kesner; and within minutes Courtney was on the phone with Klay, Monet and Jessie, encouraging them to get to me quickly. She had also called several times during the ten day waiting period from death to funeral. And she was one of a few friends that said I could call her in the middle of the night if I couldn’t sleep or needed to talk – I would take her up on that offer later…
So I was finally home and I could see my friend face to face. She called me almost immediately after I arrived and she invited me to lunch. We didn’t go out to eat, rather she planned a picnic lunch at Horseshoe Lake. Horseshoe Lake is a peaceful nature reserve in the heart of Shaker Heights; its just minutes from my house, yet I hadn’t been there in years.
It was a beautiful day and Court had prepared an elaborate spread. I can’t remember everything that she pulled out of that picnic basket, but I do recall an unforgettable homemade black bean salsa and a really delicious sparkling pink lemonade.
Court brought a big blanket and we spread it out in the grass by the lake. The two of us sat there on the blanket surrounded by her gourmet spread, and we ate and talked. It was such a comfort to be with my friend on that beautiful day in the park. Courtney is a Pastor, and in that moment – just days after that funeral- she offered me the pastoral care that I so desperately needed.
To tell you about Courtney I have to go back… to the womb.
Courtney often introduces me as her “friend from the womb”, which almost feels true because I can’t remember a time that I didn’t know her. We grew up together and first came to know each other through our mutual involvement in the Cleveland Chapter of Jack and Jill of America. My early impressions of Courtney remind me of the song: “anything you can do, I can do better…” I am laughing as I type this. but it always seemed this way.
Anything that I was good at, Courtney was better...
Case and point: at Jack and Jill Teen conferences Court and I were among the few children that would actually compete in the oratorical competitions. Without fail I would always come in third place, having performed some rendition of a Maya Angelou classic, and Courtney would always come in first place, having written and performed an original piece. And then one year I had the nerve to run for regional teen vice president at a Jack and Jill Teen Conference. I had pink posters, and glow in the dark tee-shirts and I gave out Hershey kisses with the simple slogan “Kisses from Kim.”
It was cute, but it didn’t work out very well. On voting day, as I stood at the podium to deliver my passionate campaign speech before 600-or-so disinterested black children, I broke down in tears and could hardly get a word out. My tears were the result of the fact that I already knew that I would lose to a boy from Michigan who really blew the campaign out of the water. My tearful speech was my last stand in trying to garner the sympathy vote, which actually ended up working to some degree. After losing miserably in the vice presidential race, I was nominated from the floor (by this really nice boy from Toledo) for every other office. I didn’t win those either, but later I ended up being appointed regional parliamentarian. a small victory.
But not that Courtney. The following year Courtney ran for Mid Western regional teen vice president of Jack and Jill and she won by a landslide. And she subsequently ran for president the nextyear, and she won that also.
Courtney is a firecracker and we all knew it early on.
Court and I continued to live parallel lives, both ending up at Spelman College, though I can probably count on one hand the amount of times that we actually saw each other on campus. Yet and still it was always a comfort to know she was there in Atlanta with me; there is nothing like having a little bit of home close by. And that comfort of home followed us to Princeton Seminary. We ended up in Seminary together as well.
In seminary we began to interact more frequently and to learn each other differently. I was so thankful to be there with her. I was a sassy seminarian and there were some who didn’t understand me. But Courtney knew me, she knew my family and my sassy Mom; she could explain me to people.
And there, in seminary, I had the privilege of watching her romance with her husband, Reverend Cory Jenkins, begin and grow.
By our senior year in seminary, Courtney and I became very close. By this time Cory and Courtney were engaged and we (Courtney and Me) were on a mission to get in shape for her wedding. We would go on 3 mile hikes down the Princeton canal path and talk about everything under the sun. On one of our walks she told me that after graduation she wanted to go home for a little while and be with her dad; his health was failing. I said to her “why don’t you call Reverend Moss and see if you can work at Olivet?” She called him right away. This was significant because our mutual involvement as ministers at Olivet linked us together in a very public way. She was Rev Courtney and I was Rev Kim, we were two young sisters in ministry who are friends. We weren’t competing, we were supporting each other, and our friendship became a ministry in itself.
After her season at Olivet, Courtney got married and I was privileged to stand with her at the alter and pray for her before she walked down the aisle. And several months later, when her father passed away, I was privileged to stand with her in the pulpit and minister by her side at her father’s funeral.
Courtney is my spiritual soul sister and we have both been through a lot. But I rejoice in our trials, our ministries are richer because of them. Courtney is my confidant and I seek her advice in matters of Pastoral care (usually involving others). But on that day in the park the care was for me…
As we continued our conversation on the picnic blanket by the lake, we laid down on our backs and looked at the open blue sky. I asked Courtney “Do you ever feel your father’s presence?” I was desperately looking for affirmation that these supernatural feelings of Kesner being ‘with me’ were not mere figments of imagination. She said “yes. I feel like I can call upon him any time that I need to, and he is right there with me.”
However, she went on to say: “but I try not to call upon him too often because I worry that it takes him away from the band of angels in Heaven.”
How selfless, I thought.
I wasn’t ready to let Kesner go be with the angels. I wanted him with me. maybe later, I thought. right now i need him close, after all it was the least that he could do since he did just up and die out of nowhere.
Even though I was feeling selfish, it did help to know that someone so thoughtful and sound in her ministry had affirmed the possibility of presence.
As we prepared to leave the park that day she said “oh by the way, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from members of Olivet. Apparently somebody made the announcement that your fiancé died..”
My fiancé? – I thought. Where on earth did they get that from?
Great, I thought. Now I’ll have to go around correcting people…
© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011