#OurChicagoStories Winter 2017

#OurChicagoStories Winter 2017

The past couple of months my and Rachel inbox's have been flooded with stories- with answers to questions we had carefully created to try and search into someones heart and find their individual Chicago Story. Every time we received a new set of answers from another person participating in #OurChicagoStories our hearts overflowed, there was beauty and vulnerability in the answers. There's something special about being asked intentional questions about our journey, everyone wants to be heard and everyone has the desire to be vulnerable but the world tells us that there's something wrong with that. We're told to hide behind a mask, to not reveal too much- and when we do have the opportunity to tell our story we must have a motive behind it. Whether it be to make the person listening like you, hire you, affirm you- and with all of these motives our stories begin to shape into an altered version of the real thing. We have the desire to create a space with #OurChicagoStories where people can tell the real version of their stories- the messy, the beautiful, the complicated, the confused, the incomplete. The reality is, there is beauty in the journey even amongst the messy and we want to hear that, we want to share that.

As I received all of the answers I actually became overwhelmed, how can I even begin to share the words I had been given? I want to shout it all out, I want everyone to read every bit of it, I want everyone to have the opportunity to meet each individual involved in #OurChicagoStories. 

I think something I am most excited about in sharing these stories and photos hand-in-hand is the emotion captured within the photos and the emotion revealed within the words. One of my favorite parts about this passion project is that the day the photos are captured we speak to the individual or pair being photographed the whole time, we create a space for them to begin speaking about their Chicago story- what brought them here, why they love it, why they feel challenged by it. In those moments true emotion is captured in a photo, its less posed, less curated- it becomes real and creates a moment of vulnerability. 

What I've decided to do is focus on three questions for each #OurChicagoStories series post. I will talk about the heart behind the question, the importance of the question, and then insert in quotes from the people participating. 

What are some of the reasons you love living in Chicago? If you live here, there has to be a reason you love it or maybe a list of reasons. Daily I think of things I love about this city I live in, daily I realize that there is so much beauty in one city- it almost overwhelms me at times. That being said, we wanted to hear from other Chicagoans what their hearts feel as they walk down the streets of Chicago, hop on the L to work, and spend time with the community around them.

Somehow, in the midst of a bustling city there is a form of  simplicity to it. You almost have to live simply in order to stay sane and make the most of it, and I love that.
— Kat Finley
I love how Chicago is Midwest nice with some grit and hustle
— Teresa Lui
The neighborhoods and distinct vibes and flair that each one has is so unique, and I love uncovering what makes each one what it is... I love love love the coffeeshop culture of the city. I try and explore as many as I can, and love having a working recommendation list for anyone and everyone who would ever ask. I do all of my work for grad school in coffeeshops, and find that it centers me... This is actually one of my primary ways I explore the city.
— Tyler Nylen
Chicago is a little more laid back than New York or LA. My ambitions sometimes get me wishing that I lived somewhere else, but I think I’ll be the happiest in the midwest.
— Anna Zajac
This is a hard-working city. It is a culture-making city. It is also a city that, though broken and pining for healing, is constantly budding with flashes of renewal here and there. I sense in some people an obstinate, burdened optimism about Chicago’s future, though usually expressed primarily as a vaguely hopeful longing.
— Jameson Allen
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I love that the city really never sleeps, that even when I am riding my bike to work at 4am there are people out.
— KJ Blair
I love the ever growing diversity of the city. There is also a grit about Chicago; people who are hungry/ambitious in their field and they are ready and willing to put in the work.
— Chelli Look
I really love the life that exists here. There is energy here that doesn’t exist in other places and it truly brings me life and joy. I love the hustle and bustle, the constant ability to try something new, we get out of the house a lot.
— Alli Allen

What do you find challenging about living in Chicago? Chicago is not an easy city, it's busy, it's loud, it can be harsh, it's broken. Getting from point A to point B sometimes takes double the time it should, you have to walk up and down flights of stairs to accomplish small tasks, people are constantly coming and going when new opportunies arise. We all feel it, and we wanted to know what others think when they say, "I love Chicago but..." We all need to know we're not alone in feeling challenges amongst joys. 

There is an expectation that it isn’t going to be home forever, that eventually another opportunity will pop up elsewhere and you will have to move. Really I imagine it is like that in all large cities, because that is just how young people approach life these days. We are mobile, adaptable; we are wanderers.
— KJ Blair
But I dream of a wooded yard or mountains in my view. Especially now that we are expecting a little one, I’m having a hard time envisioning the logistics of it all.
— Kat Finley
I also find the sheer size and occupancy of the city to be somewhat counter-productive to developing relationships, particularly until you really get “in” with a group or people in the first place.... We’re all longing to be known and heard and let our stories become held by others, but unable to actually do so until our perceived barriers are removed. While I seem to have hit my stride, I remember that this was the most challenging part of being here.
— Tyler Nylen
And unless you make the effort to physically go to the places where people look different than you, you’ll never truly understand what each communities’ strongest needs are. The city’s stark segregation has caused feelings of fear and helplessness for many, especially with last year’s events regarding Chicago police brutality. ...There’s tension in our city. It’s challenging to want to do so much, yet feel so far away from making big waves. I’ve found it important to not lose heart, to rely on God’s provisions, and to do my part in seeking justice.
— Teresa Lui
Apartment living is difficult and incredibly inconvenient! I remember when the boys were little I use to strap my two year old to my back in an ergo carrier, haul the baby seat inside with my infant in the crook of my arm, and haul two bags of groceries up two flights of stairs...wow, that sounds extreme. I’m not exaggerating. I find myself swearing one moment and rejoicing within moments of each other.
— Alli Allen
One of the most difficult things about living in Chicago, especially considering my job as a pastor, is the cultural transience. People don’t tend to stick around very long, so building family, long lasting friendships and relationships is hard.
— Jameson Allen
To be honest, dating in the city has been horrible. I wasn’t expecting that when I first moved here. I have slowly loved embracing the lifestyle being single in the city though.
— Anna Zajac
Speaking from the standpoint of being in the fashion industry; there’s limiting mentality here. This can be said of anywhere but I mean this from the standpoint of what some may title as a midwest mentality where there is a striving for safety and comfort that reigns; subconsciously or not. This takes place in decisions ranging from school to job to housing and even personal style. And if you’re not aware of it or intentional about, you end up really really limiting yourself in the decisions you make in all areas of life for the simple and boring tradeoff of playing it safe.
— Chelli Look

Why do you stay? This question is one of my favorites. It makes you stop and think, it causes time of reflection. So amongst the challenges, and amongst the joys, amongst the changes- why are you here? Why haven't you left? I think this question gives people the opportunity to have a raw moment of vulnerability. Some of the people involved aren't staying, their futures are unknown and they may not be comforted by that. But some feel they are here for life, there are reasons they feel that this is their forever home, reasons they've chosen to embrace the challenges and build a life here.

This is a hard question for me, because I actually plan on leaving at the end of July to move to Madison. To be honest, I’m really not looking forward to that. I feel Madison is my perfect fit and place for ministry and career, and that God has opened doors for me there. But I love this city, my church, the way of life I currently have here, and especially my community and friends and special people... So I want to stay so bad, because I feel I have come alive here in a way I had not been able to before. But I also sense God leading me to Madison and what is there. So it’s a struggle.
— Tyler Nylen
We’ve had offers to leave and honestly there have been seasons where that is enticing. But God just keeps Chicago and the people of Missio Dei on our hearts. This has become our home and I can’t imagine ever leaving. God has rewired our framework and pumped fresh life in our lungs here.
— Alli Allen
My sister was killed in 2007, just before we got married but the trial wasn’t until three years later. And within that time frame, we had some other deaths in the family of friends of the family that had us too emotionally occupied to even consider moving. By the time that season had finally concluded, we had a clear sense from God that we were to commit to a church and be a part of a family. When we both were unified in this, it was as if door after door continued to open and God provided such necessary relationship for that season of healing. The possibility of moving somewhere hasn’t completely left but we are now approaching from an angle of being sensitive to where God leads and as of now, that’s definitely Chicago. I would also say that after we decided to make a commitment together of planting roots here and being intentional with relationships, God truly....truly gave me new eyes to see Chicago and an absolutely new heart for the city. He has and continues to breath life on Kingdom purpose for this city and joining Him in bring His redemption to broken places and people (myself oh, so included!)
— Chelli Look
We stay because we love our jobs, and our people. We’re happy here. We’ve found a way to make it work in the city when it seems crazy to our friends from home or our coworkers in the suburbs.
— Kat Finley
I stay because I believe that a city like this (which influences the rest of the world in many ways) will only experience renewal, restoration and respite from brokenness when more and more people stay, devoting themselves to the mundane, long-suffering nature of GOD bringing HIS kingdom to earth... There’s also an honest answer to this question I have to include. That is that I don’t know why I stay. The difficulties of a pro and con list are decisive. Many think our family is crazy to stick around, but we love Chicago and the people here.
— Jameson Allen
This is a tough question for me right now. Honestly, there is a chance I will be moving over the summer. I am in my last few months of medical school, and the process of applying and getting accepted to a residency is difficult. You only match at one place... However, I am trusting that Jesus will place me exactly where I need to be. If it is Chicago, I will be thrilled at the chance to finally settle, to finally to commit to this being my longterm home. But if not, I trust that God will help me find community just like he helped me when I moved to Chicago in 2013.
— KJ Blair

So, there's a glimpse into some very special people's Chicago Stories. As I said earlier, there's so much more to share and I cannot wait to continue to share bits and pieces of each and every one of these stories. Head over to #OurChicagoStories on both my and Rachel's Instagram accounts and we will be continuing to share quotes, photos, & raw vulnerable stories from the wonderful people in this beautiful, yet challenging, city.

From Run Streak to Yoga Challenge.

From Run Streak to Yoga Challenge.

#ourChicagoStories

#ourChicagoStories