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/

 

DAY 1: 7 Grandfather Teachings

{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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It’s Native American Heritage Month!

Join me for daily reflections throughout this month. Today, I’m sharing about the 7 Grandfather Teachings.

In the Potawatomi tribe, we’re taught of the 7 Grandfather Teachings. When I first learned about the 7 teachings, I was mostly terribly disappointed that such a beautiful aspect of my culture is not taught, spoken of, or compared, especially, to the teachings of Jesus and other historic peacemakers.

I was disappointed because I can clearly see how they partner with each other, how the gospel that I know and other religious teachings I’ve encountered beautifully pair with my own tribe’s teachings. They support each other. They strengthen my faith.

It is told that the people were in need of new teachings, so a young boy went on a journey to meet 7 Grandfather spirits, or ancestors. They taught him the 7 ways and sent him out.

He returned, years later, to his people, who were hungry for a new way. He gave them the 7 gifts that were given to him:

Honesty.

Truth.

Humility. 

Love. 

Wisdom.

Courage.

Respect.

If we are held to these standards in our Indigenous communities, should we not also be held to these standards in the church, in our many different faiths? Shouldn’t we be held to these standards in our everyday lives with the people we encounter, with the cultures we interact with, in our politics and policies?

Understanding that Indigenous culture revolves around traits and beliefs that are honorable and good should be known in the white American church.

If we were to go back and re-wire our brains to understand that Indigenous culture practices ideas like honesty, humility and love, it would change the way history is taught, the way children are taught. It would erase savage from our vocabulary.

And so, our belonging as Potawatomi people has always been embedded in us, whether governments or systems appreciate it or not.

And as people in today’s world, it would do us so much good to recognize these teachings in one another, to find what it means to live in a “good way,” that honors creation and one another’s humanity.

“We are all poor because we are all honest.” –Red Dog, Oglala Sioux

 

Advent as Anti-Society

{LOVE.}

I’ve written before that we have slow mornings at home. We play and read, we sit on the couch and look out the windows for a while, and there is no rush.

And the more I practice this, the more I need and treasure it, and the more I mourn for our society in which so many people are pushed out their front doors before they’re even awake in the mornings.

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Advent is a slow and steady thing.

It’s a day after day, year after year reminder–

we are the people of waiting.

Steady and strong.

And what of Jesus? What do we learn from him in this season?

He was ironically part of his society and a protestor against it, all in one.

We certainly have something to learn from that, and in this advent/Christmas season, we have space if we really need it– we have those trees in our backyard, that river down the road, that book that sits dusty by the bed waiting for us to read it.

To be Anti-Society is to fight the holiday madness with cookie baking and story time and meditation.

And to be Anti-Society this advent is to also acknowledge that as we wait for the Christ child to return, we live in him, in his love.

We walk and breathe and see the holidays as something alive and good, too, even in the difficult wait.

We rest and respond.

We take our moments slow.

And we acknowledge that we are beautifully alive.

In Potawatomi culture, any inanimate object used in ceremony takes on animacy in that setting. So a pipe, a pair of moccasins, tobacco, cedar, or sage come to life.

These things come alive because they are infused with prayer, with living, with sacredness in the presence of Jesus.

And so it is with our advent days.

May we walk them in ceremony, in prayer, in sacred steps.

May we believe that we ignite the world around us with the love of this second advent week, because we are never alone.

Christ was born into a society, grew into a man within it, died because he was bound by their rules.

But then again, he knew better.

He worked hard and slow, went to the mountains to pray, broke bread with his friends and family.

And he made the cave of his birth come to life, the padding used for his bed sacred and real, the gifts given to him at his birth suddenly more meaningful than could have been imagined. He made the cross he died upon come to life, a tool used for death suddenly a symbol of resurrection life and love. Even the cloth he was wrapped in, that cloth that was infused with spices and oils, became an active thing when it was found in the empty tomb.

You see, Advent is about seeing LIFE around us infused with the LOVE of Christ.

Advent is the waiting, but it is waiting with anticipation because we know that a life truly alive is so worth living. We hold onto that, and we fight societal pressures that make us think anything different.

It’s the week of love, friends.

Love your life and watch it come alive as you wait.

Amen.

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Advent, Day 23: a Christmas Marriage Letter

 

Travis,

Have I told you lately that you’re one of the hardest people to buy Christmas presents for?

It’s what I love about you, and what challenges my gift-giving heart to no end.

But the best part about who you are is that you’re constantly you.

We met in a season in which we were both transitioning–

I was learning college and stepping out of the traditional baptist church I’d grown up in,

and you were learning life without your jeep and a head of dreadlocks.

We grew fast and crazy together, and life wasn’t without its occasional bumps.

But you were that man then,

and you’re that man now.

Do you remember that Glen Hansard concert we went to in St. Louis?

Do you remember how it was worship to us, that it opened us up again,

reminded us to dream and feel and live in Spirit realms as well as human ones?

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Marriage is the gift that allows us to watch someone else stretch and mold,

take new shape and try to sustain that deep, raw part of who they are

through each of those seasons.

This Advent, you are working hard at being a writer, political scientist and researcher, a husband to a woman who serves the church in every way she possibly can and a dad to two severely different toddler boys.

And still, you’re you.

Remember this Advent that the Savior Baby, born of Mary, calls out to you and me in all our seasons, in all our needs,

in all our wandering.

His voice beckons us to each other,

to home.

That is our greatest Christmas gift.

I love you.

Happy Advent,

Kait

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If you need a reminder that marriage is just as real life messy as it is sacred and beautiful, head on over to Seth or Amber’s blogs, my dear friends and the creators of the Marriage Letter movement.

 

Advent, Day 20: you can always start over

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It’s the holidays, and with the New Year around the corner, I bet more than a few of us are already inspecting ourselves, asking what needs to change.

My dear friend Rachel had some really sweet and wise words for me the other day.

She reminded me, with a quote that I’d actually posted days earlier, to be soft with myself and with the people I love most around me.

It’s the end of the semester, so as we gear up for the holidays and all the warm feelings they bring, we are also settling the end of a few intense months of grad school.

Travis is working hard to get his last papers done, I’m working (so hard) to try to remind myself to be more patient and more available to my boys.

But in the midst of all of it, I’ve still yelled.

I’ve still gotten frustrated over something small, I’ve still given an eye roll or snarled an insinutaion here and there.

And while I was writing to remind myself to be softer, to be kinder to my own human soul,

I was bearing it down with the guilt that I’d spent another day not being as loving and perfect as I’d hoped to be.

Remember those ancient words that tell us grace comes fresh to us every dawn?

It means you and I get to start over.

It means I can tell my boys that I’m sorry for yesterday and that I’ll try again this time,

that traditions can start new

and that every single moment can be

an opportunity to transform.

Can people change one day to the next?

With the celebration of Advent and the coming of

the Infant King,

yes,

yes we can.

Hallelujah for fresh mornings.

 

 

 

So The Garland Grows: leaves by mail

We received a shoebox full of fall leaves.

My sister-in-law and I have a thing about mailing gifts to each other, though she’s certainly done it more times than I have, kind soul.

The box was full of fruit leather and a few pumpkin spice oreos, even a fall candle. And an abundance of crunchy yellow, brown and orange foliage.

They came at just the right time, because even though it’s fall in Georgia, it’s a bit more fall-like in the cold of Indiana.

Eliot asks to go run in the fall-winter [leaves], even if it’s 75 degrees outside.

But to get a box full of autumn from 684 miles away? That’s a lot of seasonal magic.

So we gathered our blue string and Eliot piled his pens and markers and we made 2 leaf garlands.

And one hangs above the couch in the living room, the other over his bed.

“So fall can be in your room!” I said.

They are more than just crinkly, colored leaves.

They are an act of love, and a kind reminder that beauty can travel across state boundaries and from one mailbox to another.

My mom mailed a Missouri leaf to Eliot, too, and so the garland grows, and so fall asks us to cherish her beauty again and again.

Do you have an envelope handy and a tree nearby?

Go outside.

Hunt down a leaf, crinkled, golden, green, with veins of bursting color.

Send a letter, send a leaf, and cherish both seasons and relationships.

Especially when our season is hard, we must learn to cherish.

Send a leaf.

And fill your home with the quiet colors of autumn’s welcoming beauty, any way that you can.

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