#OurChicagoStories Spring 2017
Four times a year at Missio Dei Wrigleyville we take a pause, a time to quiet ourselves and look back on God's hand in our story- we call these Sundays Ebenezer Sundays. We remind ourselves of the story of Ebenezer in 1 Samuel 7:12; "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer, for he said, 'Till now the Lord has helped us.'" The morning is typically filled with more storytelling and some more time in worship and reflection. Each Ebenezer Sunday we roll out a scroll and we write prayers, praises, what God is teaching us- a visible way to remember God's providence over our journey. It's the same scroll each time, just rolled out further- so all of our small statements, prayers and stories are all rolled up within one single scroll, showing that it's a continuing journey and God is present throughout it all.
Back in January, Jameson Allen saw the heart of Our Chicago Stories aligning with the mission of Ebenezer Sunday's and asked Rachel and I to help design a morning incorporating what we are learning from OCS into an Ebenezer. It involved storytelling, photos, lessons learned & a whole lot of vulnerability. The responses and conversations stemmed from this morning have had God's hand all over it. It's been so amazing to see how he is using and transforming what started as a self focused passion project into a Gospel living, storytelling, beautiful, messy passion project.
The morning was so life giving, I have it on my heart to share a little bit of what Rachel and I shared to the congregation of Missio, in addition to all of the beautiful photos and quotes from Our Chicago Stories Part 2!!
When Jameson first approached Rachel and I about sharing on an Ebenezer morning, and told us OCS was Gospel Living, I think we were both a little bit taken aback by what he was seeing in what was just a passion project for us. But from the moment he sat us down and spoke about what he saw in it, it transformed and unleashed all of the thoughts we had on OCS. The heart behind it, the mission of it, what we wanted to see it become- suddenly it was all aligning and make a lot more sense. There became a deep purpose within it, that I think was there all along, but it took someone pointing it out to make us realize it.
I think one of the most important things that is completely at the center of OCS is Vulnerability within storytelling. I want to start this by saying, vulnerability, although something I crave deeply, does not in ANY way come naturally to me. My natural urge and desire is to present a perfect life to all of those around me. I'm a girl of lists, goals, and determined planning- which can all be beautiful wonderful qualities. But with the lists lacks spontaneity and openness to what life hands me daily, with the goals comes the inability to sit in the celebration before setting the next goal, and with determined planning comes irritability and impatience. And with all of those comes a deep desire to be viewed as flawed, with a bow on top.
By that I mean, I share my story- my past, but my present is harder to share. Where I'm at daily, what my current struggles are- that's where I lean towards creating a pretty picture for those around me, the “okay so this is all hard BUT look at what's great!!!” It's the inability to allow myself to accept struggle and lean in on God for my strength when I don't have it myself.
So as I'm writing about sharing stories and being vulnerable, I have by no means perfected it- far from it. God has been refining me over the last few years, specifically my years here in Chicago. Rewiring my outlook, showing me time and time again what beautiful things come from sharing the real stuff. Bringing me to a place where the thing I feel most passionate about is also the thing that scares me the most.
In this world we are taught to candy coat our lives, to tell a story but then to tie it up with a bow. We are constantly in the spotlight, especially with social media at our fingertips. I think with that we are given a unique opportunity, that others before us didn’t have, to tell stories and put our lives on display. But with that opportunity, we present a highlight real, because we’re told the real stuff isn’t pretty and if it isn’t pretty we should hide it. This isn’t just present on social media, but it’s present in our day to day lives. We meet new people, arrive at an interview for a new job, join a small group, and immediately we begin to put a guard up. We candy coat our stories, we answer every “how are you?” with “good” or “busy”, and we only let people in on the very surface of our story.
I think because of living in a society that encourages that so much, we are all craving spaces to be vulnerable, to let go, to tell the real stuff. So often we aren’t even given a space for that. But, the moment we are given that space, for a real true genuine connection, beautiful things can happen. I’ve been learning that my love for people deepens in moments of real, true, vulnerable storytelling. There’s something beautiful about sitting there hearing about the messy brokenness of someone’s life and seeing your love for them stand still, or even grow.
To be perfectly honest, I think as a Christian I so often fear telling my story, this fear that I have a standard I have to fit. Which is actually funny if you think about it because Christianity is centered in on our brokenness and the grace that we didn’t deserve being given to us. But what's truly amazing amongst that fear is that the moments I have allowed vulnerability to takeover are the moments where people have told me they see God working in me more than ever. When we tell our stories, we are revealing all of the little, or big, ways that God is working in our lives. If we can’t see it, the community around us is often able to point it out. None of that would happen if we didn’t truly do life with one another, and a huge part of that is being vulnerable, sharing your story, and letting people enter into the messy with you.
Jesus listened. He went to those who weren’t given opportunities to tell their stories, the ones who were silenced, the ones on the outskirts, pushed to the side. He heard them, He loved them, He reminded them of the truth.
Throughout Our Chicago Stories, both Rachel and I have learned so many lessons, both as a pair and individually. As we spoke about what we were going to talk about on the morning of the Ebenezer Sunday it was certainly clear that we needed to speak on the lessons being learned. The lessons show the imperfections, the challenges, and truly the lessons show how God is at work in the midst of all of it.
What I feel I have learned most throughout OCS is the reality of the fluidity of stories. This is a challenging topic for me to write about, because honestly, I'm in the midst of truly learning what that looks like. How to trust God amongst the changes, the reality of God's provision, God's plan, God's hand amongst all of the daily events, big or small.
So many of the people very dear to me in my life, myself very much included, are learning what it looks like to have your story rearranged, your journey adjusted. So many of people in my close community are facing challenges, are experiencing a sea change, are asking questions. There are conversations constantly surrounding me about these things. I think the most beautiful part of all of these conversations I've been having is how often the conversation ends in, “But. I see God's hand in this. He’s got this. I've just got to lean into Him.”
When we started Our Chicago Stories I had this vision that the photos and quotes would last forever. That they would be timeless, something we could share for as long as we wanted. What I’m learning is that the stories change, evolve, take turns we would have never expected. I look at the quotes from people’s answers in December and January and at least half of their stories have taken a turn, have changed direction, have altered. Some in joyful wonderful and exciting ways, and some in messy confusing and challenging ways. But what I’m learning, is in all those changed directions God’s hand is making things beautiful. If you look, He’s in it all, weaving the stories together, making beauty out of pain and clarity out of confusion.
I believe that’s why we need community surrounding us. Because our stories ARE changing and if we don’t have someone by our side doing life with us, pointing us back to God and the truth, it can be a lonely road. If we don’t open the space for people to share, be vulnerable, drop guards- then we will all just do what the world tells us and hide.
What are some of the reasons you love it? I think the answers to these questions tend to be some of my favorites. Reminders of the beauty you already know, or things you've never noticed before. As I read these answers my eyes are opened to everyones version of this city, what they find beauty in, what make there heart beat for Chicago.
How has community affected your time here? COMMUNITY. It changes everything in a big city, it makes a city small, approachable. In a transient city community becomes family. I love hearing the affect of community on all different people, what they experience, what they long for, what's beautiful and what's broken.
Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community (specifically in the circle of people you spend time with)? What I loved about this groups answers to this question is the variety. I feel they opened my eyes to depth and width of the meaning of the word creativity. For someone who works in a creative industry, I think its good to be reminded that creativity can be found in so much more than what tends to be identified as "creative."
Relationships. This time we asked the couples involved in OCS to speak about their relationship in some capacity. To be real, vulnerable, and open about what life looks like in a relationship, in a marriage. These answers blew me away, it gives you a glimpse into the real story behind the photo. So often you see beautiful photos of a couple, showcasing the love they feel, and you assume there's perfection within that- but that is so far from true. There's a journey within every relationship and we want to give couples the opportunity and space to tell that story.
OCS is transforming and growing into so much more than we ever envisioned. I think the heart behind OCS is developing into so much more, which makes this passion project so much more life giving for both Rachel and I, along with all of those participating and following along. I am so excited to continue this journey and see what God does with it. Our next shoot is set for July, and I cannot wait to create magic, hear stories, and share even more!!