Feet in Two Worlds
Hello! I’m excited to introduce you to my friend, Kaitlin Curtice, today. Kaitlin is a Native American worship leader, author and speaker who writes about the intersection of spirituality and everyday life. Here, she talks to us about her beautiful new book, Glory Happening: Find the Divine in Everyday Places.
When I was young, I wasn’t really aware that I was Native American. You see, it was this thing that we just were, but I didn’t take the time to think about it. There were no conversations to be had, no meetings held to talk about what it means to be Potawatomi in America, in the church. And so, I lived just as I thought every other American did. I lived the life of a young southern Baptist girl, engaged in the church and unengaged with my Potawatomi identity.
Now, as an adult, I’m understanding what it means to claim the world I’m from, to claim something that I can’t always name. When I began writing my first book, Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places last year, my heart and soul were stretching into two new realms that many would say oppose one another: my indigenous heritage and faith and my Christian faith.
I was learning more about the Christian mystics, about how to live a life of contemplation. I was reading from Brennan Manning, Richard Rohr and others who were teaching me so many new things. Then I would learn that to live in the way my ancestors lived, I must move slowly, be patient, understand that time is not to control my life, but that life is to be savored at every moment — with gratitude abounding.
So as I wrote these stories, I didn’t feel myself stretching in opposite directions as many people might assume. I actually felt myself, all of myself, walking in one steady direction toward God, with one foot on the path of my people and one foot on the path of the gospel. And inside of me, they keep me steady. They keep me walking and working. They keep me alive.
There are stories in the book about experiences in my life that were painful — my father leaving when I was nine, deaths in my family, times when expectations weren’t met. And other stories are about celebration, about moments when we received exactly what we needed. These are stories of human experience, not just mine, but for all of us. Whether you’ve experienced what I have or not, you’ve experienced something that points you both to yourself and to God in your midst, to glory, to that thing that is exceptionally beautiful, even in the mundane.
So my hope is that if you buy my book, you discover where your feet walk. My hope is that you truly take on the idea that you can take off your shoes, because you are on holy ground — not just in holy places, but in all places, because truly, all places are sacred. All places show us that God is bigger than we believe and calls us into a new kind of seeing.
Here’s the very first chapter of the book, the part of my story that calls my feet to begin walking a new and necessary journey. I hope it speaks to your journey, as well.
1. The New World
Everything looked fresh, and the new green of Spring was shimmering in the fields and on the tips of the trees’ fingers. — J. R. R. Tolkien[i]
When we moved to Georgia, I went to a bustling coffee shop called Dancing Goats with a pile of books shoved into my purse. I read about being quiet, and I listened to Ben Howard as loud as I could in my little earbuds. Ben called out for more life and more adventure. He understood something I didn’t, saw something ahead of me yet to be discovered.
I read from Thomas Merton and Brennan Manning, tiny pieces of the monastic life coming alive in me in ways I could not yet understand.
I took notes and underlined full pages; I listened and felt the muscles of my soul being stretched into some different shape. I was being molded into someone entirely new, the very essence of transforming power taking root inside of me.
Thomas Merton once said,
The will of the Lord is not a static center drawing our souls blindly toward itself. It is a creative power, working everywhere, giving life and being and direction to all things, and above all forming and creating, in the midst of an old creation, a whole new world which is called the Kingdom of God.[ii]
There, the door to reading and writing blew wide open, into a green space I’d never seen before, let alone imagined even through the wildest beauty of Narnia. A world of authors I’d never heard of seemed to meet me at my doorstep — the words of Barbara Brown Taylor, Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, Brother David Steindl-Rast, Richard Rohr, Randy Woodley, and Erika Morrison speaking truth to all the spaces in my spirit that were shifting and trying to create something new.
I’d sit on my balcony garden later in the day, surrounded by basil towers and celosias, zinnias and spindles of rosemary, and Barbara Brown Taylor would seem to lean in and say, “People encounter God under shady oak trees, on riverbanks, at the tops of mountains, and in long stretches of barren wilderness.”[iii]
And I’d sit back and watch the trees swaying in the wind around my apartment complex. And I’d ask God what was happening with me there, where those little child-steps were leading me.
And I’d keep reading.
“God shows up in the whirlwinds,” Barbara would whisper, “in the starry skies, burning bushes, and perfect strangers. When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, to women kneading bread and workers lining up for their pay.”[iv]
And the more I read Barbara’s words, the more they became the soft-spoken words of my own heart — the journey I’d started in 2014 when we moved to sunny Georgia, and the journey I began in order to learn more about my Native American heritage.
I sat and felt life beside me — those little bright beings reaching their arms up toward the sun, digging their heels into the comfort of their home soil. I could hear the seeds whisper, their quiet, soft hearts beckoned from the womb of dirt to the waiting outside air.
It’s all life, all abundance.
Not just the husky at my feet, but the red ink on my page, the cream in my coffee, the towering basil.
They all speak one deep breath of hallelujah and amen.
I closed the book for a moment, closed off the new world in which I had begun to live perpetually — a world of new truth, new listening, all learning, all wide-eyed wonder. I closed the book and took a deep breath and whispered thank you to the life God had started creating in me.
You are the stillness in this place. Holy One, Kingdom come. Embrace us here, now. Speak into our hollow places where we’ve lost our words and find only utterances, only experiences and observations to teach us who you are. Secure us by your kind mercy. Jesus, speak in the quiet. Give us rest.
[i] J. R. R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 45.
[ii] Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 1955), 53.
[iii] Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 12–13.