Love Letter to the Lonely

We’ve created a world that says loneliness is our fault, mental illness is either a myth or a problem that we must suffer with or fix quietly, so we don’t disrupt the way of things.

But loneliness is not wrong.

Friend,

I’ve been thinking about you today. I’m thinking about all the ways we get things wrong on this earth, in this country.

I’m thinking about all the different forms oppression can take.

I’m thinking about the reality that we’ve created a social environment in the United States (and in other countries) that doesn’t lend grace and compassion well.

We criticize each other’s weakness. We berate one another’s stories and experiences.

I’m thinking about mental health and self-care. I’m thinking about the work of listening to the needs of the soul.


What does it mean to be lonely?

I’ve heard so many times the phrase “we are lonely, but not alone.”

But it’s okay to feel alone, right?

We’ve created a world that says loneliness is our fault, mental illness is either a myth or a problem that we must suffer with or fix quietly, so we don’t disrupt the way of things.

But loneliness is not wrong.

Depression, anxiety or any host of feelings are not sources of shame, though we shame one another for experiencing them.

We shame one another for going to therapy, for taking medications, for admitting that we are tired. We forget our humanity for a moment. We forget what it looks like to hold one another. We forget that self-care is not laziness.

And we forget that the voice of Love is everything.

And our work right now is to break the chains of shame for ourselves and for one another.


Friend, I want you to know that loneliness is not a sin or human flaw.

It also isn’t just a lie that we believe, because loneliness is real. We see it in ourselves and in others everyday, in every work environment, in every community, on every street corner.

So what if we thought of every space as an opportunity to commune?

What if our digital and physical spaces were considered sacred, just as everyone who inhabits them is sacred?

What if we live in such a way that even our online interactions create space without reducing one anther to labels of weakness or unworthiness?

What if we learn to tell ourselves that we are worthy of love?


Recently in a therapy session, I tried to explain the constant tension I walk as a woman who is Potawatomi and white, Christian but not colonized, American but also indigenous.

I feel like I am never fully one thing or another.

And while it’s lonely, the more I share my story, the more people I find who feel the same way, who are fractured, who are trying to find their footing in a world that doesn’t accept some part of who they are.

Then I remember something.

I remember the stories of Jesus, a man who seemed to be lonely a lot.

He went to quiet places. He had some close friends, but he still struggled.

“Will they ever understand?” he quietly prayed.

“Can this cup be taken away? I’m tired.”


Many of the world’s greatest leaders admit to loneliness. And in those spaces, a lot of soul care is required to remember what it means to be a leader, what it means to carry compassion and empathy as a model for others.

But what about us? What about our daily lives? What about those moments when we are too weary to do the work?

Friend, I want you to know that I’m not expecting anything from you, but to learn to love yourself and then work on the empathy and compassion that fuels you to love the world.

This is not strictly linear work, but cyclical, seasonal, an ebb and flow that doesn’t always make sense.


If you grew up in a religious or social environment that wanted rule following over love of self, you know that even as an adult it’s hard to unlearn those thought and heart patterns. I’m still working, and I bet you are, too.

But it’s possible. And it’s not selfish.

So we re-wire the way we think about ourselves. And over time, we re-wire the way we think of others.

But it doesn’t mean that loneliness isn’t a constant companion. It means that while loneliness is there with us, we are still called.

We still have important things to contribute to our communities, to our families, to the world. We still have good work to do, and that work is connected to resting in the faithfulness of this earth that we get to inhabit.

Maybe the trees can remind us that we are loved and valued.

Maybe the bird on the windowsill or the constant rising and falling tide can tell us that the world wants to continue her work because we are a part of it.

Maybe then, we’re not quite as lonely as we think.

Maybe creation meets us in our loneliness and whispers I'm still here, after all these years. And maybe the fact that we all feel loneliness in a spectrum of ways means that loneliness is universal.

Until then, I guess what I’m trying to say is, you’re not so alone, after all, and neither am I.

All my love,

Kait 


Remember, your pain isn’t wrong or a weakness. If you’re lonely and need to talk to someone, there are people available to you.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Call 1-800-273-8255
For LGBTQ:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/lgbtq/
For Youth:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/youth/
For Loss Survivors:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/loss-survivors/
For the Native American community:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/native-americans/
For Veterans:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/veterans/
For Deaf/Hard of Hearing:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/for-deaf-hard-of-hearing/

 

Humility Is Not Fun

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Let’s be honest.

So many of us have been fed a Jesus who is distant and stoic, but says the hard things when we need them to be said so that we can, you know, get back on course for a few hours. He’s not really taken seriously, and if he is, it’s in bits and pieces.  

The problem is, if we have a Jesus who is that easy to consume without a second thought, we’ve created a Jesus who doesn’t model the one written about in the gospels.

We want a Jesus who tells us things are easy, that we are always #blessed, that pain is never worth our time, that we get to live out our faith on our own terms with our own people. We want to be told that we don’t have to let go of our pride and that whoever gets in our way is the one to blame. We want Jesus to be the fun guy at the holiday parties.

Instead, Jesus was a rabble-rouser. He stirred things up and turned societal norms upside down. He had bruises and matted hair and callouses on his hands that only a carpenter might have. And when he told stories, they weren’t for entertainment, they weren’t children’s rhymes that we could tote along with us in case we got bored on a rainy day.

No, these were stories that hold up mirrors to our faces and our souls time and time again, asking what kind of people we actually are when it comes to caring for the oppressed and forgotten, when it comes to radical love.

Following Jesus isn’t really about having fun.

Sure, it’s about joy and laughter and knowing that we are loved so we can love others. 

But it’s about digging into our humanity, even and especially our pain, digging into the lives of the oppressed, getting honest about often white-washed history and constant societal injustices.

Being an advocate and an ally isn’t really fun, but it’s necessary.

Radical love requires something else that Jesus commands us to have. Humility. If being humble during a marital spat or family fight isn’t hard enough, we’re asked as followers of Jesus to be humble with our enemies, with people we don’t know, with our neighbors, with each other, with ourselves.

Jesus never said, “Hey people! So, we’re going be humble. And it’s going to be GREAT. And we’re going to have all the fun and get all the fame and money and power because of it, so buckle up because it’s going to be quite the ride!”

Instead, he says, “All of you, human just like I am human, let me tell you something. Humility hurts like hell. It’s going to put you on your face. It’s going to force you to say and do things that you really don’t want to do. It’s going to force you to look at yourself and ask who you are and who you want to be. But don’t give up. We are uncovering daily the Mysteries of God, and it’s worth it.”

But it hurts.

And it means a lot of really difficult conversations, like this one that Glennon Doyle Melton is having with white women while women like Layla Saad, a Black Muslim activist, are punished for speaking the same truth.

Glennon said it like this:

“I wonder how it feels to be a leader, writer, activist of color and watch a white woman like me earn praise for doing the same work that earns her condemnation.  I wonder how it feels to watch me be recognized for doing five percent of the work to which she’s dedicated her entire life.”

It definitely doesn’t feel like fun. And it forces us to recognize that the dose of humility we  each need is a little different from one another. What I need right now in my own skin and for my own soul is different from what you need. But we need each other to be honest about it.

It’s hard to be the voice speaking out, and even harder for women of color and indigenous women in America. And yet, we are a part of the gospel’s work if we follow Jesus, right? We are part of the world finding peace, right? We are part of the humble work, right?

It’s for all of us. All of us. And so, our job as allies to one another is to carry the burdens together in community.

Because no one should have to do the work of humility alone. 

Jesus wasn’t walking around with a fun wagon behind him, carnival songs blasting from its speakers. He wasn’t the life of the party. He healed people. He said hard things that knocked people off their feet and their high horses.

And he did it in community.

He was always sitting with the people who smell bad and look bad and don’t talk the way a “civilized” person should. He rubbed his bare skin on lepers and used mud to heal people. He told others to listen to the women, to the children, to those that are often considered disposable.

Jesus, who was human, laughed and breathed and cried and railed against a broken system like any person could.

But he did it humbly. He was a servant.

So when we look at him, we should feel the weight of the hard work ahead of us, because following this Jesus is more than getting a pat on the back and it’s more than getting a party mansion in some heavenly realm when we die.

Kingdom here, now, is about a humble trudge through the mud of what we’ve done to this earth and to each other, and how there are still sacred moments in all of it.

Humility is our faces close to the ground, so that we know what it’s like to be on the bottom, so that we know what it feels like to touch the earth. It’s not a party there, but it’s fullness.

Humility is the tool by which we walk this road, the tool by which we protest and we cry out for justice, just like Jesus did—Jesus the protestor, Jesus the prophet, Jesus the protector.

But here’s the beautiful truth. Humility is this fullness that we cannot possibly understand.

It’s the ability to say, “I am small, and I honor you,” while looking at a tree in the forest or watching the ocean, while looking another human being in the eye.

Humility is the way we get to one another and the way our stories do the work of teaching us what it means to love.

So while we learn who Jesus is, while we spend our days getting it wrong and getting it right and getting it wrong again, let’s remember that we weren’t called to just have fun, to take things lightly, or to live for the sake of political parties, blessedness, wealth, prosperity, or even people-pleasing.

We’re called into dying so that we may live, the very lesson taught to us throughout the seasons of the earth, as we tend to our gardens and hope to bear fruit.

We’re called to humility, because it brings us full circle to the person of Jesus, to that moment when we can honestly say that love is love is love and mean it from the bottom of our hearts.

“…which causes me to wonder, my own purpose on so many days as humble as the spider’s, what is beautiful that I make? What is elegant? What feeds the world?”

–Louise Erdrich

 

 

 

 

Day 13: Colonizing Christianity

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}

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People living under capitalism find it very hard to know their own center and to live from within it.

–Richard Rohr, Simplicity

If we could step out of modern day America, back to what once was, what would we find, feel, believe about ourselves, each other, this earth?

If we could think about getting the things we need not by buying them but trading, sharing, foraging, what would that feel like, look like?

Maybe we begin stepping closer back to the center of ourselves, like Richard writes.

If we imagine that the land can actually heal us, speak to us, remind us of who we are, what would we believe about our every action and their consequences?

The world of colonized Christianity has taken away that ability to imagine and then to recognize that another kind of living is also a true reality.

The world of colonized Christianity has created a bubble  in which things must be fought for, earned, bought at a high price. It has created a bubble in which those who are on the “inside” are against those on the “outside,” and the fight for our lives is the fight for who gets to go to Heaven, who goes to Hell, and how those souls can be won over while we’re here.

I spent so many hours of my childhood crying over the lost souls of my lost friends. Instead of seeing their humanity, I was taught to see the taint in their hearts, and somehow because of that was taught to believe that, though my soul was tainted too, it was at least saved. I was at least part of the in-group, and I had to reach out of that to help the out-group without becoming like them, without succumbing to their darkness.

Does this sound crazy to anyone else out there?

My friends, this is colonized Christianity. This is what happens inside of us after years of Sunday School lessons, after years of sermons in which God is described as a patriarchal God, a judge with a gavel– after all of that, we become people who see everything as us/them, and it’s based in fear.

So my work today is to decolonize my Christianity. And that is no small task.

I believe it will take the rest of my life, and many who have gone before me spent their entire lives doing it, too. I want to follow in their footsteps. I want to walk the way they walked. I want to break down the ideas of us/them, in/out. I want to see the world more wholly, and I want to walk my own journey outside the confines of colonization.

In America today, that’s difficult. Things are hostile, and walking into a church every Sunday is, honestly, very difficult. So I walk in the tension. We are constantly called to walk in the tension.

But as we walk, we have to realize that our equilibrium is off, and every day that I decolonize my faith, every day that I learn more about my Potawatomi culture and apply that lens to my Christianity, I am trying to recenter myself.

And that is difficult work, indeed.

May we do it together, friends, no matter what culture we’re from, for the sake of all of us.


 

My book, #gloryhappening, is out now!

Here’s what people are saying about it:

 

“Stop. Take a deep breath and pour a cup of coffee. This is the kind of book you will want to sit with for a while, the kind you will return to again and again. With the insights of a prophet and the attention of a poet, Kaitlin Curtice invites the reader to see the world fresh, in all its everyday glory. You will never look at a sink of dishes, a mound of dough, a game of Rummy, or the family dog the same way again. “Glory Happening” is a stunner of a debut, every sentence a feast for the senses. By the time you reach the last page, you will have kicked off your shoes, knowing you tread on holy ground.”
– Rachel Held Evans, author of SEARCHING FOR SUNDAY and A YEAR OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD
“Kaitlin B. Curtice is a young, Native American Christian mystic who portrays the sacredness of the human condition in everyday language through her writing. Her use of poetic prayers and stories in Glory Happening inspires us to find the divine in every aspect of life, and gifts us with the opportunity to embrace and mirror the gracious reality of God and glory in our midst.”
– Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation, Author, THE NAKED NOW and FALLING UPWARD

 

 

 

DAY 3: Indigenous Belief & the Gospel

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every Indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}

It’s Native American Heritage Month!

People often ask me how I can be a Christian and an Indigenous woman. And the answer is, it’s complicated. And it’s a long conversation. And it’s not simple. People ask me if I believe our Potawatomi teachings enhance the gospel.

I believe they do.

And I’d go further to say that other cultures who have unique teachings also enhance the gospel of Christ because God is a universal God, and I believe Christ honors all cultures, a Christ who is not a colonizer.

When I learn something new about my tribe’s ways, our stories, our understandings, it feeds the way I view Jesus’ teachings. We cannot read the Bible objectively.

We read it with subjective eyes, recognizing the people who wrote it and the time they lived in. Still, when I hear a parable of Jesus, I seem to lean in closer than I have in a long time. It’s like listening to an elder speak. It’s life-giving.

The work of prophets has forever been difficult. Prophets say what’s hard. As my friend Propaganda speaks in his song Andrew Mandela:

I throw stones at your sacred cows;

I dance with skeletons in closets;

I point at elephants in the room,

and make a mockery of heroes.

 

This is what prophets do.

 

When we bring our culture to the gospel, we become prophets. We point to the poison inside systems.

 

We call out institutional sins that have existed within the church for a long time, the very things Jesus fought against: racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, love of empire over people.

So in that decolonizing we learn something.

It points us back towards those seven teachings I wrote about on the first day of this series.

Our world literatures are such a beautiful learning tool, and having them helps us understand ourselves and others—if only we pay attention to our humility along the way. I’m learning to respect the Jewish traditions that make up the Hebrew Bible, a culture that is old and beautiful and has thrived through such oppression, continuing to fight white supremacy today.

In America, the Bible has been used for a lot of things– to control and manipulate, for the sole purpose of evangelizing or “saving the lost,” or, in our ancestor’s case, “killing the Indian to save the man.”

So I as I am redeeming my own Potawatomi culture for myself and my family, I am also redeeming the stories of Jesus, who honored and cared for and listened to those who were often most silenced in community. That is where my Indigenous beliefs and my beliefs in Christ come together and thrive beautifully.

I believe when we decolonize, Jesus is right there, whispering, “Yes. Keep going. Keep going.”

Don’t give up, friends. We’ve got work to do.

 

 

 

When We Pray For Dying Children

Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I got up to walk around the house for a few minutes before getting back into bed. I could hear the breathing rhythms of all four men in my house– my two boys, my husband, and our old husky who sleeps at the foot of the bed.

It’s been weighing heavily on me, news time and again that toddlers drown in a giant ocean, alone and afraid. They’ve left their homes with nothing but their families, and they die with those few things, and my mother-heart cannot comprehend that.

How do we pray for things we cannot possibly comprehend?

Sometimes prayer is tangible, words to heal body parts and minds and souls, questions that are particular and honest.

But other times, prayer is a mist, a cloud covering over something we couldn’t even hope to understand. That’s the kind of prayer I prayed last night and I pray today. It’s entering into something I don’t comprehend to ask questions I don’t know how to ask in hopes that the Spirit of God will know exactly what’s to be done.

I cannot cope with what is tangible about losing a baby to the ocean or to starvation, so I lean into Mystery, a presence that somehow knows and understands.

Yesterday when we visited the river, I walked along a canopied path alone for a few minutes. I found a black and blue dragonfly there, and she seemed to be playing with me. She’d flit from leaf to leaf, watching me watch her.

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She is a symbol of hope, a symbol of transformation, a symbol that reminds us that water is nearby, that we can drink and be taken care of, revived and refreshed.

I held that inside of me as I watched her, and then I walked back to my boys.

How can we hold hope and terror together in the same spaces? They’re beyond my comprehension, beyond my ability to grasp, and so prayers sound a lot more like unsteady breaths than strung out sentences.

But in my breathing, I hold those children and their mothers and fathers inside of me as best I can. Who says I am more alive than they are alive, more valuable than they have value?

Who says I am more capable of human emotions and beliefs than they are capable, more brave than they are brave?

These are waking-up prayers, prayers of rescuing myself out of my tunneled vision, out of my own nation, my own tribe, my own ability to understand grief.

So I lean into this praying, into that sense that we groan and the Spirit knows what’s happening anyway. We pray wordless prayers and God still knows what we hope for.

I still hope that the world can find transformation from war to peace, from fear to comfort, from individualistic living to communal.

I hold this as I pray, watch it slowly take shape over the years, watch it like I watched the dragonfly prance.

And I hold the words of Jesus over all those children, Jesus, who calmed storms and welcomed friends with words that undid every broken thing: “Peace be with you.”

Peace be with you. 

 

A MID-WEEK PRAYER: the spirit’s fruit

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O God, Gentle and Strong Mystery,

We rest our weary eyes on your horizon.

In the here-but-not-yet, we wait every day for your voice to pierce through our darkness.

And yet, our darkness teaches us how to use our senses to feel for you, to listen for your footsteps before us and behind.

O God, Gentle and Strong Mystery,

In the quiet of our homes we hope for new beginnings as the morning dawn illuminates our steaming coffee cups, as the evening calls us into the world of dreams.

And in our mid-week comings and goings, we simply ask to remain tethered to all those fruits of the Spirit we’re told, as children, will save us.

So we hope that love, joy and peace will calm our anxieties;

that kindness and goodness extend past our face-to-face interactions and into a volatile digital world;

that gentleness, faithfulness and self-control ask us to constantly become better versions of ourselves.

So if we eat this fruit, will we see you?

Will we understand that our struggles yield knowledge,

that tired bones heal,

that every blessing is meant to tether us more deeply to you?

Sometimes, we forget how small we are.

So today, we pray to remember that we’re still dust-to-dust, but dearly loved.

We’re still a part of the whole and not the grand picture, but asked to walk with purpose.

O God, Gentle and Strong Mystery,

You bear your image over us, and our journey is restored to your reality.

Restore it again and again, we pray.

Amen.

 

The Hands That Hold the World

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I think a lot about God’s hands.

Sometimes when I pray, I picture these big palms and digits holding the world in orbit right there in the middle of black-night outer space.

I see wrinkles on those palms, each one a line of a story-

yours,

mine,

the lady next door,

the man you’ve never even known existed.

Maybe His fingernails are a little dirty because He’s constantly digging in our dirt.

I imagine how He holds us all, all these tiny earth-bound bodies with kingdom-souls.

His hands, they’re always steady.

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I’m not sure that there is much I can do to steady this world of ours.

There’s not much I can control.

I have the energy that I spend, the love I try to spread from my heart to someone else’s.

But God’s hands, they are vast. They are warm and mighty, and they hold a steady grip.

That’s what keeps the earth in orbit–

my Muslim sisters

and me,

my sons,

my gay and straight friends,

the prisoners on death row,

and the children of Beirut.

These are the hands that created gravity, that crafted orbit,

so that as we watch the clouds slowly pass by in the blue-rimmed sky,

we see that yet another day has dawned,

and a kingdom of otherworldly mercy steadily approaches us.

Amen.

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