EASTER & BEYOND: the cross as crossing over

shadow.jpg

cross: to start one place and get to the other side

When I was young, I saw time and again a drawing of the cross used as a bridge.

We are on one side, completely disconnected from God, while holiness is across the large abyss that is life and sin.

Then, Jesus comes along, and suddenly we know God. He comes along and bridges the gap with the power of the cross.

Bridge.jpg

 

Every time I saw that diagram I felt a need to be saved again, to re-commit, to gather up all my ugliness and lay it at the foot of the cross, where Jesus would throw it as far as the east is from the west.

But here’s the problem: I wasn’t all ugliness.

I was already loved by God.

The miracle that happened on the cross and later at the tomb already held me steady.

I heard recently that “Jesus was never Plan B.”

Jesus was never the lightbulb that went off above God’s head, a sudden realization that maybe this wretched universe could be saved, after all.

Maybe Jesus was just the face- the body, the sweat, the blood- of God.

And maybe there is no large abyss between us and God, or maybe the abyss isn’t as large as we draw it out to be. Maybe we can still see God in our everyday experiences.

Maybe our life is holy just because it is. 

What if God is over there, we are here, and Jesus is everywhere in between?

Or what if God is everywhere in between, we are over here, and Jesus is everywhere, too, always with us?

Jesus is like us, but he is like God.

With us, but with God.

With us.

To cross something is to journey.

They crossed the Jordan.

They crossed the bridge at Selma.

They crossed the Trail of Tears.

They crossed the immigrant-bearing ocean.

What if the cross is the journey, after all?

And what if we are crossing from Jesus to Jesus, from God to Jesus, from God to God,

from here to there,

from person to person?

What if the cross of Jesus’ death is a forever symbol, and indeed, we are forgiven?

There could very well be an abyss. The stains of sin could very well still stain us.

But I’m more concerned with the act of crossing right now—

the way I cross over from here to there,

from me to you,

from the way I say that I love to the people I actually show my love to.

I believe Jesus was and is a journeyer, and so he is concerned with the crossing, too.

He’s concerned with what I see when I look from where I stand over to where you stand, and how you look at me from your life angle.

He’s concerned with the way I see God, not as a far off judge, but as a close listener, an active force that steadies us and teaches us, always, that there is a better and kinder way.

So Easter? Lent? The season of the Messiah who died and rose again?

Maybe it’s teaching us in this political, social, economic, religious, and racial climate to be people who are not afraid to cross over, who are not afraid to see Jesus in the journey, who are not afraid to stand up when too many people care too much about that abyss that threatens below.

Love can overcome that.

Crossing can overcome that.

Jesus overcame that.

Hallelujah, for the gift to cross. 

 

 

The Truth About Your Story Is That The World Needs To Hear It

Fall seven times and stand up eight.- Japanese Proverb.png

When I began my blog five years ago, I named it Stories because I needed a space to tell mine, and a space that might encourage others to tell theirs as well.

Many things in my life have changed in these last five years, but the reality that storytelling is necessary in our world hasn’t.

In fact, that necessity has become increasingly more clear.

On March 6th, I hosted an event in my city called DAPL & NATIVE AMERICA: AN EVENING OF DISCUSSION & MUSIC. We gathered at a church that I’ve only been in a few times, an episcopal parish that invited me to take part in an event last November that was a celebration of the earth and a lament that we have not taken care of her.

At that time, things in Standing Rock were particularly heavy, and so in the deepest parts of my heart, I was processing what it means to be a Potawatomi woman in today’s America. So I remembered this church and their support of me as an indigenous person, and I asked them to host my event on March 6th.

I gathered a few speakers, native and non-native, to share their stories, to discuss what it means to care for the earth and take an active role in the community and the world.

For months, I had this event on my calendar, and for the most part, I was ready for it. I was ready to hear the stories of my new friends, who had been to Standing Rock and had things to say about Native America, pipelines and oil, and the treatment of indigenous people.

I wanted a space in which people could listen and learn and have a chance to respond, to bring their own ideas and share their own journey.

For the past five years, I’ve been a sort of public story-teller, and every time I hear another person say to me, “I’ve never been able to tell my story like that,” I know why it’s necessary.

The evening of March 6th was about storytelling, but in a way that I wasn’t at all expecting. It was about my story and my friend Beth’s story, but it became the story of every person in the room: we are called to be good, to be kind, to care for one another and to care for this planet that we call home.

That was it. The simplicity of it astounded me, and the longer we lingered in that space, the more I realized that all of this is about Standing Rock, and it’s about so much more than Standing Rock. It’s about native peoples, and it’s about so much more than just nativeness.

It’s about our identity as human beings, about giving each other the space to share who and where we come from, who we are now, and who we one day hope to be.

A few of the speakers for the event weren’t able to make it, so I struggled with the fear that I’d disappoint my guests, having not been to Standing Rock to share that piece of the evening. If I advertised an event meant to “educate and empower,” was my story enough to do that?

That evening before the event, I posted a picture of myself in my car, sitting in the drive-thru at Chic-Fil-A.

17097728_10156003050923902_7471183883917315379_o.jpg

“I’m ready for this. I think. If you’re the praying type, send one around for me tonight as I speak to a few people about #nodapl,creation care and #nativeamerica ,” I wrote to my social media family on Instagram and Facebook. People began to respond, “We’re praying; you’ve got this; hugs and prayers my sweet, strong friend.”

I carried their words with me into the empty church nave. I carried their words with me into a space filled up with over forty people. I carried their prayers into my own journey.

“Tonight, I want to begin by telling you some of my story,” I began.

“I am a tribal member of the Potawatomi Citizen Band from Oklahoma. I was born in ADA, the capital of the Chickasaw nation, in an Indian hospital. I grew up moving between Oklahoma and New Mexico, where we lived on reservations. My father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs until I was nine years old.

At that time, my parents divorced, and I found myself spending my teenage years in a mostly white, southern Missouri town. Much of the native culture I’d spent my childhood in was a distant memory by the time I graduated high school.

Now, as an adult, I’m asking a lot of questions of my memories and my past.  I’m looking backward, to remember, wondering what I’ve missed all these years and how I can step back into my native culture again. It is important that who I am as a Potawatomi woman be found as I look back and as I look ahead. The more I seek my own identity, it leads me to things like caring for the earth, living a simple life, learning my native language, and practicing native culture with my two young boys.

Because this has been a pretty new part of my journey, the events at Standing Rock brought an awareness to my life that I belong to a family of native peoples, and that it is my duty to create environments in which I can share my own story and the story of other indigenous people in hopes that we all begin to learn the true history of America and the treatment of native people, even today.

Tonight is not only for my own story, but yours, too. What happens in our world today is that we neglect the power of communication, of shared stories. What happened in your childhood that matters to who you are today? Who were your ancestors and what do they teach you about the person you want to become?

Tonight we focus on Native America, what we call Turtle Island. We focus on care for the earth, the danger of fossil fuels and pipelines, why native people fight them and why non-native people fight as well.

I’ve not been to Standing Rock, but we see the pattern of colonial struggle that native peoples have prayed against for years—to take a stand for mother earth and our place here. We honor the water because water is literally life to us, and as a woman, I am to care for the water. I tend to the earth with my hands, I plant seeds and I recycle, I learn my tribe’s language, and I do what I can to make sure I care for what I’ve been so graciously given.

And it’s not only native peoples who have felt this way, and that is why I am so thankful you’re all here. I am so grateful to my indigenous brothers and sisters who are here tonight, and I’m grateful to those of you who are non-natives allies. You give me hope to continue to tell my story. You give me hope to hear your story and to decide where we go from here.

Tonight is about who we are as individuals, and about what we are capable of TOGETHER.

This is the beginning of something, not the end, just as Standing Rock was another beginning, and is not over. All over the country there are people coming together to stand up for clean water, clean air, living environments that are respected and cared for.

The Dakota Access Pipeline set the stage for something to happen that the whole world became a part of. We as native peoples have been pushing and praying and speaking for a long time, but this movement of native and non-native peoples coming together was something so sacred for the world to see, and it’s changing things. My hope is that it continues to spur conversations, that it allows us to break up some of the lies that have been told about native americans and native communities for so long. So I ask that as you go from here, you learn more. You investigate and ask questions, you dig and re-evaluate the things you were taught as a child, you engage cultures that are different than yours. We have a chance to change things, even within our faith communities, to build together and partner with indigenous peoples.

I’m here as native American woman to build this world into a better place with each of you.

I pray that this is the beginning of many conversations. I dream that more spaces like this bubble up all over our city, our country, and our world, and I believe they are. It is what we can do with our power, with our power as people, our power as citizens.”

The rest of the evening was full of singing and sharing. Because two of my speakers couldn’t make it, I opened up the mic for anyone who wanted to share. We sat quietly for a few seconds while the first person gathered their courage to walk forward and speak. She shared a song she’d written for Standing Rock, while her daughter stood behind and looked up at the mother who’d brought her to the event.

My friend Julia shared her desire to cut herself off from investments that support pipelines.

Jonathan shared his experiences as a Navajo man. With tears in my eyes, I listened as he asked what it means to live in a good way, as our ancestors would want us to. We live for simple moments, we are good to each other, we care for each other– this is the native way, he said.

Another woman talked about the division she faces in her own skin, and the difficult task of loving her Creole self and her native self in a way that honors both parts of her heritage.

Each of us, inside of our own skin, empathized with each of those stories. Each of us asked in those moments who we are, why we were there, what these issues have to do with us.

FullSizeRender 10.jpg

I should have known then that things would happen this way– so organically. I should have seen it when we split into groups and people shared for nearly twenty minutes who they were and why they’d come.

I should have known when I saw the quiet faces watching me tell my story, every now and then with an approving nod in my direction.

I should have known that these people would be ready, without judgment, to care for one another’s journeys.

What I’d hoped for the evening was so different from what actually transpired, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

At the end of the night, I sang Wade in the Water and an original song that I felt I needed to share with everyone. I described how I’d first found Wade in the Water through a project in sixth grade I’d done on Sojourner Truth, how I fell in love with the song then, and how I’d rediscovered in as an adult.

To end the evening, I said, “I just want you to know that I am okay with spontaneity, and this was perfect! Thank you!” We all laughed and applauded the night in all its rawness, in all its humanity.

Can I describe in words to you what it’s like to gather in a room with people of all different races and say to each other that we are the same?

One of the most powerful ways this can happen is through storytelling, through a judgment free empathy for one another, for the places we’ve been and the hope we hold for ourselves, hope that beats in the hearts in our chests, hope that carries us from one day to the next, no matter who our people are.

We experienced that, and when the night was over, I decided that I will continue to tell my story and invite others to tell theirs. We will continue to gather to listen to one another, to open up the microphone so that someone can come forward and say, “This is who I am and this is who I one day hope to be. Let’s journey together.” This event may have been about DAPL & NATIVE AMERICA, but it was about so much more.

It was about the opportunity to express what it means to be human, to connect to others, to recognize that no matter who our ancestors were, today we have the chance to be good to each other, to make what is wrong right, to use our activism wisely.

It is why I have hope for today’s America. It is why I have hope for my people. It is why I have hope for my own community and the world that my children will one day make their own way in.

We have hope because we have stories.

No one can take those away from us.

 

SEVEN GRATITUDES: prayers in every language

sevengratitudes

Migwetch Mamogosnan. Thank you, Creator.

This Potawatomi prayer has been on repeat in my head and heart for several months, ever since I began learning my native language. Basically, it’s a general prayer of thanks, because native people tend to be grateful people.

Thank you, Creator, for everything that you have done for me…

And it continues from there, relaying gratitude after gratitude, asking that God be present and known.

So in that vein, I pray today, in snippets. In bits and pieces. I lift up seven gratitudes with a few of my friends, and as we do, I pray that you lift up yours within yourself, that we learn to practice grateful prayer on a regular basis, in whatever language we use to connect to the sacred.

My eyes have been sore this week from too much time spent on the computer, too much time reading over book endorsements and waiting for emails to come in. So I go outside to remember. I go outside to the “tonic of wilderness,” as Thoreau called it, and nothing could be more true. It is medicine to close my eyes and listen to the world do whatever she needs to do in that moment, to speak whatever she needs to speak.

It is there that grateful prayers pour forth, that we remember our place here. So we pray.

Seven Gratitudes: a prayer

Migwetch Mamogosnan, for the Center for Action and Contemplation, for a class on the Franciscan Way that reminds me I am not alone.

Migwetch Mamogosnan, for the ways you resurrect us every day when we’ve forgotten that even the coldest places inside of us can be resurrected.

Migwetch Mamogosnan, for people who do not give up on each other, who do not give up on you. It is there that we are truly the church.

Migwetch Mamogosnan, for two rowdy, Lego-building boys who are so full of life their bodies can hardly contain it. Were we once so young and alive? Remind us.

Migwetch Mamogosnan, for seasons in which dreams are made reality, for seasons in which we grieve and repair what is broken. In all seasons, You are there. 

Migwetch Mamogosnan, for the hammock in my front yard, from where I can see the hawks fly overhead, from where I can hear the birds talk about the universe, their chittering a sure sign of spring.

Migwetch Mamogosnan, for the gifts of activism and voice and protest, by which we shift the world one nonviolent voice at a time. And surely, you were always with us, and surely, You will always be.  Migwetch, for knowing my name, my sister’s name, my brother’s name, the names of those we thought would never be remembered. You do not forget. 

Migwetch, Migwetch, Migwetch.

Amen. 

 

IMG_6767

Defining Myself Without Fear

Photo by Amy Paulson Photography

I’ve never been one for confrontation. My need for inner and communal harmony is pretty high, so you can imagine that with the current dividedness of our country, and the ongoing pain of learning about my native ancestors’ struggle over what we call Turtle Island, I am pretty emotionally exhausted.

Since the election, I’ve been wary of calling myself a liberal or a progressive out loud, because with every mention of a political or ideological title, things can get hateful pretty quickly. My own church is an umbrella church under which there is a mixture of people, a mixture of beliefs. I’m grateful for it, because when we are together we are forced to step outside of ourselves for a few hours and rest at the bottom-line of Jesus.

Still, as I continue to write and find my voice as a leader in the church and as a native woman in America today, I feel I need to make a decision.

Am I truly a progressive?

I checked to see.

Progressive: happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step; a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.

Then, I looked up liberal: open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.

But on our Facebook and Twitter walls, we attack each other for such titles, so I’ve had a hard time placing myself in a particular group. Is it possible that I am a female, Christian, Native American, Progressive, Liberal?

It seems that it is.

And while I claim the title, I am so many other things beyond it and within it. We have to remember that we are varied in every belief or stance, ranging from extreme to somewhere in the middle and back to the extreme side again.

So that’s what we need to see in each other: we exist beyond our labels, but our labels guide the spaces we inhabit and the arguments we make.

So I argue for change, as it happens step by step, as it moves with our lives, as it journeys within our journey. And in the midst of an ever-changing society, I wait and watch.

I wait and watch as the world asks what’s next.

I wait and watch what native peoples will fight for in the coming years, with a realization that those things are the same things we’ve fought for since the beginning.

I wait and watch as the world asks what it means to be a woman, and what it looks like for women to have the ability to choose what their lives are about.

I wait and watch as people learn to be human to each other, to step over dividing lines to remember that we belong to each other.

I wait and watch as the church — my church included — decides what to do with the chaos in the world, decides who to stand up for and who to listen to when things get heated.

Mostly, I watch the trees outside my window and my two young boys play with Legos on the kitchen floor. I watch the everydayness of my life, and know that I am tethered to that shalom kind of sacredness in this country and in this world, even if that means constant change and a future that looks different than the past.

So if I am a progressive liberal, can I begin as one with a blank slate?

If I call my brother or sister a conservative, can I see their blank slate as well?

If we are afraid of the titles we hold over one another, then we must learn to give each other grace within those beliefs, and from there, to hold each other accountable on the basis of our humanity, our responsibility to care for one another and the world around us.

Dividing lines will always exist.

But they don’t have to define us.

— — — — -

Jesus,

You had a reputation, you know.

You stood with women that you shouldn’t have stood by.

You neglected the important aspects of worship.

You ate meals with dirty fishermen

and you gave the poor the rich man’s best food and clothes.

You were called every name, I’m sure.

I’m sure when you walked by groups of dissent,

whispers slithered back and forth like snakes,

and you were always the culprit,

always the man who should never have been

called Messiah.

And yet.

And yet, you stood by the wells

and ate meals with the dirty

and kissed lepers.

And yet, you called the children

close and told them the whole

world belonged to their dreams.

You, Jesus,

lived beyond every title,

lived only by the rules of the

shalom you created.

May we live that way.

May we live that way.

May we live that way.

Amen.

4 TOXINS OF THE SPIRIT: #2, neglect of soul care/creation connection

This is part two of my series, 4 TOXINS OF THE SPIRIT. If you’d like to read part one, it’s here for you. I’d love to know what you think.


If you’ve ever been in grad school or around someone who is enduring it, you know that it is a total stripping of the mind and soul from the moment classes begin. I’ve watched people I know re-arrange their brains to understand new ways of thinking, to take on new challenges and goals in their classes. And I’ve read articles that expound on the importance of soul care in “long night” seasons like these—it’s essential, or the toxin of exhaustion becomes degrading at the very core of a person.

But it’s not just in the dark nights that this happens. We see people who appear to be healthy and normal every day, falling apart because they are not connected to their inner purpose or listening to their inner voice. It may be that the din of society overshadows our own needs, and we lose who we are to work and social pressures.

Or is it that we are so clouded by the din of our religious rhetoric we forget what it means to care for the soul? I think Jesus had his moments of escape, when he ran to the hillside or the mountaintop and asked in the quiet what it was his soul needed most to get through the day. He built things with scraps of wood and cooked in the kitchen with his mom. He knew what it meant to connect back again, to engage and live and breathe with meaning and purpose.

We get that wrong when we fill up the spaces with more noise, because what is so particular about the outdoors and wide open spaces is that we find ourselves in the company of sacred, years-old created things. When we get it right, we realize that the grasshopper in the field can teach us something about God, just as the pine tree in the back yard does.

In Native American culture this is not animism, but a connection, through creation, with the Creator. So we fight the toxin of neglecting our souls when we re-connect with the pieces of this world that have carried people along from the beginning.

When we get it right, we realize that the grasshopper in the field can teach us something about God, just as the pine tree in the back yard does..png

There’s a small habitat in the middle of our city where I take our boys or visit alone in between meetings on my work day. It’s got Christmas ferns and those towering pines, a harbor of bird feeders and a stage so children can use their imaginations as they engage with creation. I lay on that stage and look up through the pine trees’ arms and know that whatever happened when things were first created, and whatever happens today or tomorrow, there’s something solid in the prospect of a Creator who knows and sees and cares. And that reality can do nothing but fill our souls back up again.

Even there, I have to admit that talking to another person isn’t what can give me peace, either. There is something sacred about listening to the foreign language of the wind in the leaves and the birds in their chanting. Even if I do not understand, God speaks, just as God spoke to Jesus on those mountaintops and in those forests.

maple.jpg

Personal soul care is more than engaging a new hobby or spending quiet time with Netflix. Personal soul care is finding a space in this created universe that reminds us we are not alone, that we are tethered even in our wandering. And the danger of letting the toxin of soul-neglect eat away at us is that we turn to the noise, to the isolating actions that strip us further of what we’re created for.

In our world climate, the best thing we can do for ourselves is acknowledge that true soul therapy doesn’t come from a quiet moment of Facebook feed scrolling, but looking out the window and remembering that the sky that hangs bright and mighty over us is the sky that says our souls have always been worth the steady and hard work of maintaining.

This is soul work with creation, an ancient and sacred work worth rejuvenating within ourselves today.


If you’d like to get this series and more in your inbox, be sure to add your email to my subscribers by clicking the Subscribe box to the right.

Thanks for all your support, friends. It means the world to me.

7 GRATITUDES: always a sacred thread

sevengratitudes

My upcoming book is about finding glory in every season of life. One of those seasons for me was a particularly difficult one, when I was abandoned by a family member. You can read about it when my book comes out this fall, and if you read that story you’ll hear that thin place, where I was lonely and afraid, but I was held by the grace of God and the people who loved me.

As we search for glory in our every day lives, we search for gratefulness, too. It is hidden sometimes, and we have to dig to get there. It is difficult to place it, to name it, and yet we try, because we need it to survive.

This week, I’m grateful for seven things, seven things that keep me tethered to the good, to the holy, to the sacred, even in the midst of a mad world.

But before we get to my gratefulness, watch this video of my favorite lullaby to help you get in the mood:

  1. I’m grateful to be indigenous. Today is the Natives March on Washington, and I am with my brothers and sisters in spirit. I pray that their peaceful voices rise, high across the tallest buildings of Washington. Peace cannot be ignored, and I’m so grateful for that.
  2. I’m grateful for the endorsements I’ve received for my book this week and a more official release date in October. Endorsements include this one from Brian McLaren:”Kaitlin writes with a gentle voice that leads us on a journey. In this book, she walks with us into the heart of glory, asking what it means to find sacred spaces in everything. Her young, indigenous voice brings a fresh perspective of lyrical prayer and storytelling to the world. If you love the wisdom and poetry of Kathleen Norris, Barbara Brown Taylor, Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, and Richard Rohr, you’ll love Kaitlin Curtice.”
  3. I’m grateful for that moment, lying on the couch with my five year old, when I told him stories about my childhood, stories even I’d forgotten. Now I’m trying to trace my memories back, to recall more moments that I can relay to him about the beautiful childhood I had with my siblings, so we can laugh and remember together. Those moments are sacred, indeed.
  4. I’m grateful for a husband that gardens and knows his days are meant for holy things. He bought pansies for our yard and fashioned them in a pattern around our bird feeder because our five year old thinks in patterns. It is a difficult and hard-working season to pass through to get a PhD, but he persists. He works and he plays and he asks questions of himself along the way. He loves us and shows it and I’m grateful I get to be his partner, to watch him grow, even when it feels long and slow.
  5. I’m grateful for the whispered prayer of “Thy will be done.” It may be subconscious that I tilt my voice a little heavenward when I do something that I am unsure about, when I’m looking for an answer to a question or starting a new leg of the journey. Thy will be done invites me into adventure, but tethers me to the sacred love of God inside that journey, and I’m eternally grateful for it.
  6. I’m grateful to be a woman this week. As we celebrated International Women’s Day, I also celebrated my Grandmother’s birthday, a woman who doesn’t journey with her body on this earth anymore but speaks to me every day with her spirit. I carry her with me, as does my mother every day that she learns about her own roots. Women– we are never alone, and our bonds are not easily broken.
  7. I’m grateful for #letterstotrump Tuesday at a local coffee shop where I sit with my boys to write a weekly letter to President Trump, and I’m grateful that whether or not he ever answers or reads those letters, they work something out in me, a slow and steady crawl toward dealing graciously with someone I don’t agree with. I’m grateful that shalom covers us and restores what is broken, and that the work of our hands is sacred when we use it for good. You can read more about my letters and the work of my hands as resistance at Sojourners. Grateful they are willing to publish the things I write every now and then.

And of course, I’m grateful for the group of women who pour out their seven gratitudes weekly, including my dear friend Leanna, who began this link-up in the first place. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, I encourage you to! 

If I love all the pieces of myself today, I can love all the pieces of you today, too..png

 

 

DEAR PRESIDENT TRUMP: The Reason I Write

letters

Dear President Trump,

Every Tuesday now, I gather with my boys (so far) at a local coffee shop to write you these letters. I write to you because I want you to know my story.

I write you these letters in hopes that one day my boys will feel empowered to write letters to whoever the president is when they are adults.

I write to you as an indigenous woman because my people’s voices matter.

I write to you as a Christian because I believe God cares for the immigrant, the native, the muslim, the homeless teenager, the LGBT person, the African American spending years in a for-profit prison.

I write to you every week to remind you of your humanity, to remind you that every voice matters, not just yours or the others like it.

I write because I care for this country.

So do not forget that we are here.

Do not forget our voices, even if they differ from yours.

That difference is what makes America Great.

 

With Watching Eyes & Steady Hand,

Kaitlin Curtice 

ONLY LOVE (every part of yourself) TODAY

cfc75002-8b21-41ee-9b68-00960aef691a.jpg

In a small group exercise recently, all participants were asked to rank our life identities or roles from 1-4, most to least important. Twenty-something of us sat with our papers folded into four spaces, our pens and markers unsteady for the task. We sat around the quiet room for a few moments and thought about what we call ourselves, what we do, who we care about, and what we dream to one day be.

Immediately I felt uncomfortable and conflicted with the assignment, but chose to go along with it. Some of us were moms, some dads, friends, brothers and sisters, lawyers and educators and students and nurses. Parents and grandparents. We were many things, but being asked to rank those things by their importance was a very difficult task for me.

Am I a Native American woman more than a mother, wife, or worship leader? Do my roles bump up against and fight with one another or do they feed into one another? What do they teach me about who I am and what I do, about how to be better in loving myself and others?

CurticeAll-80.jpg

For weeks after that exercise, I felt guilty that I’d put my identity as a native woman before my motherhood.

Until I went to a conference in Nashville. There, I’d decided to put pieces of my identity behind other pieces. I’d decided that in that space I’d be worship leader Kaitlin and not Native American Kaitlin. By the end of the conference, the fact that I’m Potawatomi became who I was in that space to all the people around me. I needed that part of myself in that setting, and by trying to stifle it, I’d denied myself my own voice.

Driving four hours home, I realized that every piece of who I am is connected.

My dear friend Rachel of Hands Free Mama has a new book coming out on March 7th, and her words speak to what I’ve walked through:

“…life– despite its challenges and daily disappointments– holds moments of joy, hope, comfort, and peace when we choose to start over and offer a second chance to others and ourselves…”

When Rachel writes about slowing down and stopping, about listening and curating moments for the sake of spending time with the people who matter most to us, she’s writing about you and me. She’s writing about our relationships, about our humanity.

But she’s also writing about the things going on inside our own skin, our own tendencies to not listen to ourselves, to neglect the parts of us that may be asking to be heard.

“I just want to celebrate you as you are instead of waiting for you to become what the world expects you to be.”

So if I don’t have to rank my identity and split who I am into pieces, can I love all of who I am called to be?

Can I Only Love Today, my Potawatomi self, my wife self, my worship leading self?

Can I love that all that I am bleeds into everything else that I am or ever hope to be?

There, I find both grace and responsibility.

There, I find grace for other’s stories too, an understanding that every part of our stories matters and makes us who we are today.

If I love all the pieces of myself today, I can love all the pieces of you today, too.

“I hope you feel brave enough to bare the colors of your soul.” 

Only Love Today.

Only Love [ your child-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your adult-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your broken-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your black, white, muslim, jewish, atheist, foreign, native-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your brothers and sisters ] Today.

Only Love [ your enemies ] Today.

Only Love [ the story of your neighbor ] Today.

Only Love [ all those people who are outcasts ] Today.

Only Love [ the outcast parts of your own soul ] Today.

Only Love [ when you have no idea how to love ] Today.

Only. Love. Today.

512-3MxiFXL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Pre-order your copy of Rachel’s book today, and find daily reminders that all of who you are deserves love, and all of the love that you give deserves to be given.

Together, may we Only Love [ every part of ourselves ] Today. 

7 Gratitudes: pray & be grateful (when words are few)

sevengratitudes

” Awakened by surprise, we can recognize that what we call a ‘given’ world is truly given. For we have not made it, earned it, or deserved it; chances are that we have not even fully approved of it. What confronts us is a given reality, and we recognize it as given. But only if we acknowledge this gift will our recognition lead to gratefulness. And acknowledging a gift may be far more difficult than recognizing it.” –Brother David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer

Last night I found unexpected solace in saying a bedtime prayer. My husband is out of town for a few days, and in that nearly quiet, I spoke to the air knowing that there is a force of great love in the reality of Jesus around me.

I mourned yesterday, again, in my soul and in my mind. Police raided what was left of Standing Rock camp, arresting a number of people. I pulled away long enough to dig in my garden and play baseball with my five year old, but my heart is so heavy with a years-and-years long reality that my native brothers and sisters are recognized as less than worth the energy and effort to be cared for.

Still, it isn’t over. Something has begun, so in my weariness I hold onto that reality. I pray and I rest and I remember and I educate myself and my boys.

But this morning, I need gratefulness. I need to recognize this life as a gift, and my response must be a response of gratitude for all I’ve been given.

Are you with me?

So, along with my dear friend Leanna and a few others, I  count what I can be grateful for. These are simple and my words are few, because some days, gratefulness comes quietly.

  1. Smudging.  Every afternoon I light sage, pray, and breathe. I began doing this a few months ago, and to my surprise, it became something I looked forward to every day. It calms me and cleanses me, reminds me to stop and to breathe— something we could certainly use a little more of these days. pray-breathe
  2. An afternoon at the river with our dog. FullSizeRender 9.jpg
  3. A date night at an Irish pub. statues
  4. Progress on my book, with a fancy new hashtag: #gloryhappening! Join me in recognizing the glory of our everyday spaces, and share on social media where you find scared spaces, not unlike where we find spaces fit for gratefulness. I’ve got a national book signing date in October and a speaking slot at the Wild Goose Festival this July. I couldn’t be more grateful for the gift of writing. never fade.png
  5. This guy and his heart for our family, his work, and the world. img_6714
  6. Flower Power, seriously. We live in a house that we’re told was once inhabited by a WWII widow, and her passion was plants. As spring approaches, we are greeted by southern blooms that I had no idea existed, and as we grow our own garden, her spirit rests with us in this place, especially in the heart of this five year old boy who loves nature to the very core of his being.img_6691
  7. And then, there’s this guy.You don’t know love for Legos until you meet him, because he spends his whole day in a LegoLand, fighting the bad guys and making the world right again. img_6727

“A lot of us religious types go around saying thank you to God when we find a good parking space, or locate the house keys or the wandering phone, or finally get a good night’s sleep. And while that may be annoying to the people around us, it’s important because if we are lucky, gratitude becomes a habit.” –Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow

 

BEFORE: a poem

statues

Last week I spent a few days in Nashville at the Convergence Music Project conference– a group of church leaders coming together to figure out how to lead in a different way that reflects inclusive grace in our worship spaces.

I expected to go to this conference and sit and listen. I expected to meet one or two people, to keep my head down, to take notes and be still. I expected to keep my Native American self a little behind my worship leading self, to learn things that I could take home and apply in my own life and in the life of my church.

But what I expected, of course, was different than my graciously given reality.

There were only a few people of color at this conference, and it was pointed out in numerous ways, at numerous times. We all lamented that our group was not more diverse, and posed questions throughout the conference asking how this can change in the future. Convergence honors the voice of people of color, and I’m so grateful for that.

Still, I kept my head down and my voice hushed. I listened. But then, I was asked to speak. Then who I am– as a whole– came to the surface of my speaking and my listening and my interactions, and I realized again that I cannot separate who I am, not even for a minute. I cannot say that in this space I’ll be worship leader and in that space I’ll be native and in another space I’ll be mom and wife and friend. I am all of these things in all of these spaces, and they make me whole.

So, by the third day of the conference, I’d understood. The day before, Brian McLaren had taken us in an unexpected direction in a conversation about the Doctrine of Discovery.

The conference had taken a turn toward acknowledging the church’s complicity in the abuse of native peoples and African peoples, and throughout our time there the theme kept coming back up, kept making its way to the forefront– if we are to worship in our churches, something must change, be acknowledged, be reckoned with. 

It is a subject we can no longer ignore.

On Friday morning, we gathered for our own church service, our minds and hearts reeling and ready and engaged from three days of sharing and brainstorming a few new ways forward.

And when my friend Brian Sirchio stood at the front of the room and once more acknowledged what happened to my ancestors, and acknowledged why it is wrong that in my native skin I don’t know how to fit into the white church, I fell apart (again).

We listened to a man play two native flutes and we processed together. My shoulders heaved with both the pain of our history and with a great swell of hope– if the people in this room can see me, can see my African American brothers and sisters, we can see that a new way forward is at least possible– we can see that the world is literally shifting all around us, and we must be ready to hold onto each other in all of our cultural and skin colored differences.

That morning as the flutes played, I wrote. A poem poured out of me and my hand could hardly keep up with my heart. I stopped every few seconds to wipe tears, and I thought in that moment this is it. A piece of Kingdom.

I stood after the music was over and read the poem, and I felt a release. I felt a release inside of my own chest to find a way to be who I am, without the need to  compartmentalize. I felt a release to be who I am without dualistic ties, without categorizing my identity into neat boxes.

In these words, I released into all of us the permission to say that who we are today is a chance to move forward to who we want to be tomorrow, as individuals and as the church.

That is the greatest release I can imagine.

Before you knew me, you knew my story–

the story of humanity,

the story of breath in lungs,

eyes and hearts,

longing and desire,

the known and unknown parts.

Before I knew you, I knew your story–

the labor to grow,

the roots of your love,

the culturedness that

brings your being to life.

Before we knew God,

we were held in something,

a sacred womb

that does not let us go,

still,

a table that continues 

to get bigger,

more and more chairs

for a larger and larger feast.

This means that we were never alone,

you and me.

We were never broken before,

never 

stolen or battered,

maimed or abused.

In the Before, we were

held in eternal

Shalom.

In the After,

today,

you, me, 

our stories,

our table–

it grows bigger, still.

 

Amen.