#OurChicagoStories Fall 2017

#OurChicagoStories Fall 2017

Wrapping up 2017's Our Chicago Stories series with a group of people who came open to sharing, getting to know one another, and having fun. Our vision for this project grows every single time. We now start the afternoon out by sitting around and introducing ourselves, telling one another how long we have each been in Chicago and what brought us to this city. It a way of setting the tone for the day and opening up dialogue. This time around Rachel and I were very intentional about which specific question we wanted to focus on for each person during their time in front of the camera, so we sat down prior to the shoot and wrote down each persons name and a question that we would like to focus on. I think it was a good way of making the process more individualized and little more planned out, rather than just asking what came to mind. It felt intentional and purposeful and it opened up amazing dialogue throughout the afternoon.

Rachel & I are in the midst of learning where we want this project to go. One year in and we want to be intentional about our next steps. That being said, a website is currently under construction!! This will be a place where all of the interview questions and photo's will live. Each person will have a page, and there will be a date at the top- reminding one another that our stories change and evolve over time. In addition to that @ourchicagostories on Instagram is now live!! We are building it up to have photos of each person who has been involved with the project, once we are caught up it will be a space to share more photos and stories of each OCS shoot.


 

EMMA LENHART

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?
Yes! I’m a blogger (@emmaklenhart), so I consider myself pretty creative. I can’t paint a masterpiece, but I can curate one heck of an Instagram feed! Being a blogger allows me to constantly network with other bloggers, photographers, and small business owners. It seems like the city is full of people doing cool, new things. And everyone, (in my opinion), is so open to collaborating or helping out. I love that.

What do you find challenging about living here?
Hmm. It’s hard for me to live here when my family lives back in Ohio, almost 7 hours away. I am a huge homebody, and super close to my family. So it breaks my heart to be away from them. I try and go home a lot, or else I feel like I’m missing out.

If you're experiencing closeness with God, how might you encourage our brothers and sisters who are wrestling with believing God is real and for us?
This is me! A class I’m taking at school right now is all about Catholic/Christian history. It’s interesting, because the class is actually counting towards filling a history requirement for my degree, not a religious one. All of the passages and documents we’ve read have pointed towards the message of Jesus being a real man, who performed miracles, here on Earth. Even from a non-religious standpoint, it is pretty much impossible to ignore the existence of Jesus.
If that doesn’t strike you, I would tell you to go out into nature, or pick up a human anatomy book. How could anything else other than Our Maker create humans, plants, animals, etc. that are so painfully intricate and detailed? Whenever I learn something new about our world that blows my mind, I know that God is real. It doesn’t make sense for anything else, or any random occurrence to have created all of this.


AIYANA TAYLOR

What do you find challenging about living here?
I think the most challenging elements of living in Chicago are the winters and minimal presence of nature. More than the actual physical difficulty of winter, I battle the cold and grey of winter mentally and emotionally. With nature, I can physically and emotionally feel the rejuvenation when I am around it so the concrete and city noises wear on me.

How has community affected your time here?
Community has greatly affected my time here, in wonderful enriching ways and also difficult ways. As in all real relationships your heart experiences joys and pains: growing and budding new relationships, ending of long-term deep relationships, strengthened friendships through trying times, heartbreak by close friends and rich family in unexpected places. 

If you're in a season of distance from God, what are your questions / struggles? On the contrary, if you're experiencing closeness with God, how might you encourage our brothers and sisters who are wrestling with believing God is real and for us?
The sense of closeness and distance varies from day to day, week to week and month to month. My questions and thoughts during distance are usually “why?” and thoughts of doubt or frustration. There was also a time during distance when there was a word of “wait patiently and be of good courage”. This has remained something I have held onto in times of distance as I remember times past the faithfulness of His closeness to return at some point and also His faithfulness of never wasting the times of distance. This would be what I would encourage others with in times of closeness as well, that He is faithful, intentional and purposeful in all He does and in all seasons.


JESSICA JOHNSON

What do you find challenging about living here?
Without going into too much detail, I work an odd schedule at a demanding job. I’m a sensitive person, and I while I can take criticism well, I also take it very personally. My year living here has been draining in this way. I taught inner city middle school science before moving here, and I try to remind myself that that job was incredibly difficult too, just in different ways.  It’s rough to work so so hard and many times not feel like it’s good enough. I do think it’s hardened me a little bit, although I try not to let it. Working a difficult job has also caused me to grow in ways that I couldn’t have acquired any other way. I think I’m more bold across the board now than I ever have been before. By trial and error(a lot of error), I’ve learned how to observe and become attentive to the needs of others, I’ve become a stronger problem solver, have learned how to respond kindly to a harsh tongue(even when I REALLY don’t want to!), and have grown to connect with people who are very different from myself in a sincere way. Sometimes when I’m having a really bad day I catch myself longing for my old job. Every job is hard though, and I’m trying to learn how to roll with the punches.
Also hard, driving successfully on lower Wacker and the trying to lessen the rate at which I receive parking tickets from the City of Chicago. ;) 

Why do you stay?
Even when my job is difficult and I feel frustrated, I don’t have a single regret in moving to Chicago. I love it here. There’s just something about this city, I feel lucky to be a part of it. It’s so odd to think that just a year ago I had no place here. It feels good to know my community and be known by it as well. As I was getting into an Uber from my apartment the other day, my neighbor yelled out, “Hey, Jessica! where’re ya going?”. Seems small, but I never really had that in the same way where I previously lived. It’s those small things that make this home. It’s my cute little dry cleaning lady who knocks on her storefront window and waves at me when I pass by. It’s walking the dog and bumping into people I know as I go through the park. It’s a little kid screaming “JESSICAAA” at me out their car window as I walk through a street fair. It’s being able to give someone directions in my neighborhood easily because you’ve finally got the street names down. It’s taken time, but I have a place here and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

How has Chicago affected your worldview, if at all?
I think Chicago has made me realize, even more so than before, how vast the disparity between rich and the poor can be in such a small area. There’s a lot of money in Chicago, I work with a lot of people who deal with it so I experience their lifestyle by association. I also see, and had seen in the news before ever living here, that Chicago is struggling. The most interesting thing to me about the disparity in economic groups here is how unaware many of the wealthy are of how close poverty is to them. Just this month, I started volunteering at my neighborhood food pantry. It was here I learned that 1 in 9 people in my comfortable and safe neighborhood struggle with hunger and not having enough food to get by. In MY neighborhood-I wouldn’t have thought that. I’m trying to be better in learning about injustices in Chicago and what I can do to play a teeny tiny part in change here. I love the Van Gogh quote, “great things are done by a series of small things brought together”. I try to remind myself of that one when I read the news and it seems like all hell may actually be breaking loose. Bring to the table the things you can give; your gifts, your time, your money. Even if we’re all bringing something small, together we can use those seemingly little things to achieve something big. 


AARON BEAN

How has community affected your time here?
Community IS my time. All I do is focus on building relationships with people. Community is how I run my business. Without community I wouldn’t want to live in Chicago. 

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?
The creative community in Chicago is like nothing i’ve ever seen. Everyone here is for each other. Creative businesses don’t seem to have competition. It all feels like we are for each other and willing to help each other grow. There is also so much talent in Chicago and that passes through, the creativity keeps growing. 

When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?
I feel the most in my skin at church, playing music or at an event taking photos. Using the gifts God has given me is so satisfying. It’s the best way I can glorify him.


JORGE DY

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you? 
There's a lot of creative people here. I grew with people that were into breakdancing, djing, tagging, and artists. And to see the same people still actively performing as adults is very inspiring. It maybe a hobby to some but it shows that creativity doesn't leave you when you reach adulthood. 

How has community affected your time here?
Having friends from different backgrounds and ethnicity definitely helped shape who I am today. Being an immigrant growing up, it was nice to find similarities and have the same upbringing as the kids around me. 

Do you have an experience or a specific encounter here that has moved you/stayed with you that you'd be up for sharing?
I grew up a Bulls fan. Michael Jordan was the first real international sports superstar. Philippines has a love for basketball and moving to Chicago during that time was a big deal. I remember hearing the city roar when they won in 1993. My bedroom window was open and you could hear cars honking down Devon Ave all night. 


CATHERINE KESMAN

 

 

What do you find challenging about living here?
I feel a deep love and affinity for the city of Chicago. I currently feel deeply challenged to find a way to connect more meaningfully with the neighborhoods of Chicago. I am increasingly aware of the idol of comfort and convicted that I do not want to flee, or live in isolation in my largely segregated, privileged neighborhood, but rather dig deep and embrace the brokenness of the city I call home. I feel a tension between my love of the world and the call to not conform to its patterns.
One of the most challenging aspects of living in Chicago has been using the time and resources I’ve been blessed with in a meaningful way [navigating how I spend my time]. This city offers a wealth of opportunity to indulge in all my favorite pastimes – socializing, trying new restaurants, ect. That being said, I often find myself succumb to the lie that more is more and pack my schedule so full I leave little time and energy for deep connection or sitting in stillness with Jesus.
In the same vein, it's also been challenging to navigate which relationships I pour myself into most fully. Having been raised in the area and gone to college nearby, I am blessed to be surrounded by family and friends from all stages of life, and most recently my church community. As someone who thrives on social interaction, I cannot express how fortunate I feel to have this wealth of relationships supporting me, however recently I’ve become increasingly aware of my own limitations and saddened by the way I let myself and those around me down when I say yes to too much. I realize I have a limited capacity with whom I can do life on life, so I’m trying to be more discerning about how I spend my time.


Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?
I’m an art director at Leo Burnett and wow do I love the creative community in Chicago. I have found it to be very welcoming and accessible – there are so many incredibly talented hand lettering artists, designers, photographers, you name it, and I’ve been amazed at how approachable and encouraging they are. I’ve been trying to learn hand lettering and have been fortunate to have so many resources available – I did a fantastic workshop with Jenna Blazevich (@vichcraft) and got to practice at a local lettering gathering Francis Macleod (@francisblank) co-hosted. People who I deeply admire and respect were all incredibly encouraging of beginners. There’s a gif I love of women physically lifting each other up as they climb higher and higher, and it feels like an apt metaphor for the creative community in Chicago - it's not a zero sum game, but rather an ever expanding web - the more we nurture one another’s creative passions, the more the community as a whole flourishes and is recognized for its creative talent which begets more opportunity in the area - a positive chain of events! I’m currently trying to brush up on photography, but have been really intimidated by my lack of equipment knowledge. I had so many advanced coworkers and friends who graciously answered my questions, sent me links, and encouraged me to embrace my interest instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting to dive in. I’m so grateful to be surrounded my people who care about others like that in such a constructive, genuine, non-competitive manner.

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase / invest in. If so, how?
Since moving to the city I’ve significantly streamlined my wardrobe. Perhaps it's the industry I work in, but I’ve adopted a very neutral palette – black, gray, white & lots of denim. I read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and it really did rock my world - I sold or donated at least two thirds of my wardrobe. It’s so much easier getting ready now, and I really do have more time and peace of mind being surrounded by less stuff. It's made me increasingly selective making future purchases because I’m only buying pieces I’m confident will be well-worn and am more mindful about consuming less overall. I firmly believe you vote with your dollar, so I try to make informed purchasing decisions and support businesses that make quality, minimal garments, provide a living wage to their employees, and minimize their environmental footprint. Everlane is my current favorite. Reformation is aspirational, but doesn't always fit me well and is often outside my budget. Girlfriend Collective makes incredible leggings from recycled water bottles. For skincare I’ve significantly reduced the number of products I use, and prioritize short, natural ingredient lists. The Good Trade has been a fantastic resource for discovering sustainable brands like Tata Harper, and the EWG is very helpful for checking the toxicity of skin and household products.


JOSH TAYLOR

With living in the city, teenage kids have the ability to get anywhere in the city- via CTA, uber, taxi, how does that affect you as a parent? What does it look like to have a desire to protect, yet a need to let go?
It accelerates their maturation process,which is good and bad. They are uber capable of getting anywhere and navigating the city, knowing culture well, being aware of diversity. It definitely accelerates that to a great degree. The problem is, it also steals a little bit of their childhood away. You see 15 year old girls riding the train, by themselves, for sometimes an hour a day, and it’s just normal. We drop Elly off at school, but we are not the norm at all, the vast majority of them ride the CTA or the Metra and they’ve done this since they were in Junior High. But they take field trips to the Steppenwolf theater, their whole class got on the CTA and went there- we’re grateful for all of that. Our boy Atticus can’t ride his bike by himself, he rides with me, but we’re on city sidewalks going by the homeless, you know that’s normal. It’s a dichotomy. We wouldn’t change it. I can’t imagine raising a kid in the suburbs. “It’s funny the suburbs make them very uncomfortable”(Aiyana) Our kids are such city elitists, they’ll say things like “this place is weird” normal suburban streets. They say “where is everybody?” or they see a parking lot and say “what a waste of space, what could we do with this space?”

How does the transience of this city affect you as a pastor in the city of Chicago?
The answer for a pastor in my position would be, I think we’re just sending people out. We’re just constantly sending them out, which is great. So we want to equip and send. Which is difficult. I think we’re learning to that it’s a picture of our privilege in a majority culture to be so transient. We have the opportunity to go to the next job, or to seek the next better education, uproot ourselves, disconnect. You look at minority cultures, it’s just not the case. There’s a reason minority cultures, in order to survive, live their lives in close by cities to family, a city for generations. That’s why people from the same family have kids still living together, that’s because survival. It’s neither here nor there, it’s just a really interesting part, we’re only able to have that conversation of transiency because we are a privileged people.

How would you encourage someone who is feeling doubt about who God is?
I encourage anyone to press into doubt, I think it’s there not to be avoided or disregarded much like pain. We have a propensity to avoid pain, avoid discomfort, avoid doubts. I think that we should be, whenever we have those doubts, I believe it’s God inviting us into an area where he is going to show himself strong and he’s going to prove his faithfulness over and over. I feel like doubt avoidance is something all of us want to be free of, like I’d love to live in a world without any doubt, like in my head. But think of the result of that, that means we’re no longer displaying the fullness of who God is. We’re on a continual journey of God inviting us into himself. I just don’t want to lose doubt because of that, because I think every time I doubt is a chance for God to show us something about himself that will blow us away. I think we need to pay attention to it, it’s there for a reason.


Our Chicago Stories Fall 2017

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JESSICA JOHNSON

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AARON BEAN

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THE TAYLORS

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CATHERINE KESMAN

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NATHAN BEAN

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JENNY LORS

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         EMMA LENHART

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         JORGE DY


There are a lot of exciting things coming up with Our Chicago Stories and Rachel & I cannot wait to share them all with you. For now, follow along for updates on our personal accounts, @devin_sutter & @rachel_loewen and most importantly our brand new @ourchicagostories!

SEE YAAA 2017!

SEE YAAA 2017!

My New Salon Journey!

My New Salon Journey!