#OurChicagoStories Summer 2017

#OurChicagoStories Summer 2017

Yet another day of sharing stories and capturing photos, ending with a heart full and a mind reflective. This one was a special one, as is every OCS afternoon at Chelli's studio. To be completely transparent, this one was special because this one was challenging for me. A week before this shoot, I found out my uncle had unexpectedly and tragically passed away. There was a whole lot of heartbreak and confusion within me that week. With the help of a lot of very dear family, I was able to make it back to Ohio for the services and be with everyone to try to process through another loss for my dad and his siblings. That being said, the services were on a Friday and Saturday and OCS was on a Sunday. So the day of this shoot, I woke up at 4:30 Ohio time (3:30 Chicago time), hopped in a uber to the Cleveland airport and flew back into Chi after a short 36 hours in Akron. I arrived home, got myself a donut (because my soul needed it), and headed to Missio Dei. That Sunday I was in need of some joy filled praise, a hope filled message, a spiritual hug- but that Sunday the sermon was about storms, about how life is broken and hard and we go through seasons of constant heartbreak, the beauty in those seasons is that the LORD is our hope and He is constant. Was I in need of that message? Heck yeah. Did it just increase all the emotions I was feeling? Absolutely. I arrived at the studio that afternoon with eyes that wouldn't stop looking teary, with a brain that just wanted a nap, but with palms that were open as ever to what the Lord was going to do that afternoon. 

Rachel & I had discussed the week prior that we wanted to be more intentional about asking each other questions while taking photos before people arrived. A way of centering in on the heart of OCS. A way of forcing ourselves to reflect on the journey that WE were on, not just listening to other people's journeys. We started by taking photos of me, and Rach began her question with, "Dev, this may make you cry." She then asked, "How do you see God in this season of life? Tell me about the moments you have felt a deep closeness with Him in comparison to the moments you've felt an broken distance from Him." And as she predicted, the tears filled my eyes as I began to verbalize the jumble of thoughts in my head. Head over to my post about how God has been showing up to read about the reality of God in my life right now.

What I think was beautiful about starting out the afternoon in that was was it put me in a mindset where I was ready to ask questions, get deep, while also trying to make people feel comfortable and heard. And BOY did that mindset make for a powerful afternoon. Seriously. Everyone came ready to share, ready to be heard. We were the most intentional about asking deep questions while shooting that we have been so far. We talked about Chicago, we talked about where we all came from, we talked about how we see God here, we talked about beautiful seasons with the Lord and hard seasons with the Lord. I left that day feeling like I truly understood a part of each person more than I had when we started our time there. And guys, that's the heart of this all!! We WANT to create space for people to share, for people to be vulnerable, to be heard, to be given time to reflect, to see where they are at in their journey and to talk about where they have been in the journey. 

Then, as we do every time, we started receiving emails of written answers to questions. Every single person involved in this passion project has blown me away with their answers. I am always honored that people feel comfortable to share their story with us, and amazed that they are willing for us to share it on our blogs and on social media. There is power and beauty in stories, and my heart feels full every time someone allows us to see a glimpse into their Chicago story.


 

When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin? This. Question. It certainly makes you think. When I first sat down to answer this I really had to think. I think we live our lives so often NOT comfortable or empowered. I think it is so easy to put ourselves down, we are always our biggest critic. So to be given the opportunity to really process through this, to think "when are the moments I truly feel empowered and comfortable?", is so vitally important to understanding ourselves. I think it reveals a part of our heart that we hide. What I love about reading the answers to these questions are how often they vary SO MUCH, everyone is so very different and I think that makes the world even more beautiful.

This is honestly a funny question because I never feel comfortable in my own skin. I am very self conscience and I’m always hiding something on my body. However, when I am just talking to people, I feel pretty comfortable. I am a very extroverted person and I love to be around people; especially when they are my closet friends. This may also sound weird but I am very comfortable when I am with children. I love kids with all of my heart and I swear I am a 4-year-old trap in a 20-year-old body.
— CeCe Murray
When I’m creating and doing what I love.
— Eric Carpenter
My own personal yoga practice makes me feel very alive and truly myself, but being able to share this passion with others through teaching gives me so much gratitude. It is such a gift when students come into a class with trust and an open mind. I would never want to take advantage of that trust; I only want to offer these fellow yogis the gift that the practice of yoga has offered me. It is a very humbling position to be in when a group chooses to spend a part of their day being guided through my teachings. The mutual respect in the space continues to allow myself to feel comfortable in my own skin and I hope that the gratitude and respect I have towards my students allows them to feel that same sense of empowerment on their own mats.
— Olivia Toriumi
When I am downtown among many other people, of various skin color, that are from all over the world collectively.
— Cierra Pendergrass
When I am doing something I can get lost in time doing. Whenever I am with people who I feel genuinely want what’s best for me. When I am unafraid to be myself - bold, strong-willed, outgoing, loud, etc. - and do not feel the urge to suppress it. (This was not always the case.)
— Amanda Carpenter
I used to think I felt my best when I was working and trying hard. But it’s been a journey to realize that I feel most empowered and comfortable in my own skin when I feel known, loved, and at peace amidst the tumult. That directly correlates with my relationship with God. No person – including my husband Andrew – will ever completely and fully know and love me like God does. And vice versa. When I am far away from God, my self-esteem plummets. But when I seek and prioritize His counsel and ways, my heart is postured for peace and to be in wonder and awe.
— Rachel Loewen
In Chicago I feel most empowered and comfortable in my skin on the trains. More often than not there are other black people on the train which gives me a familiar feeling. It’s empowering because I know at any given time I can get almost anywhere in this City and the more I ride the more I understand how the city is intertwined and can put the city under my foot and in my grasp.
— Kamau Pendergrass

What brought you to Chicago? A question that we all in Chicago are very use to answering, as a city of transplants I think we are all well aware that there is a story behind someone living here in Chicago. Daily, I am asked by my clients at the salon what brought me here. I have a short answer, I have a long answer, it somehow varies each time I tell it even though the story is the same. I think that by answering this question so many times I have discovered more and more the deep reasons of what brought me here, why I felt so confident in the move, and why I truly felt like Chicago was where I was suppose to go. So I love giving people the opportunity to tell this part of their story, I think it gives you so much insight into who they are, and what they feel their purpose in this city is.

God calling us to Missio Dei Wrigleyville.
— Cierra Pendergrass
For years, I had been praying that God would reveal to me where he wanted me to be career-wise. In college, I never quite knew what I wanted to be studying so I ended up just choosing a couple majors. Once graduated, I was certain I didn’t want to pursue careers in these fields and felt more confused than ever as to where God wanted me to dedicate my time and the gifts He had given me. It wasn’t for another year and a half before God pointed me to that passion & life work- acupuncture. In not even a month and a half, I applied and was accepted to my doctorate program, I had packed my bags, quit my jobs, and moved back to the one city I promised myself I never had to live in again- Chicago.
— Olivia Toriumi
Moved to the city with my wife Amanda. We came here purely for an adventure.
— Eric Carpenter
I was originally brought to Chicago in 2010 for school when I studied Music Composition at Columbia College downtown. But me and my wife’s most recent more permanent move here was a call from God. She audibly heard the voice of the Lord tell her to go and be in Chicago with her husband. Navigating the landscape of Chicago has been most challenging for me, racially, spatially, and culturally. This is such a diverse place but contained in the city’s many neighborhoods are different cultures and classes. Divided seemingly very purposefully. It’s been quite a shock.
— Kamau Pendergrass
Free will. No, seriously, E and I just wanted to live in a big city and have a fresh start.
— Manda Carpenter
My family and I moved around a lot and ended up in Evanston when I was in the 3rdgrade. Evanston is one of the suburbs of Chicago, it is literally right across the street of Chicago- lol. I decided to stay in Chicago because my father is actually a professor at the college that I attend so tuition is basically free, so my decision is kind of a no brainer.
— CeCe Murray
God fashioned a way. Chicago wasn’t on my radar until my senior year of college in Ohio in 2006. I was finishing a degree in Mass Communication, focusing on Visual Communication. I knew I needed more training to do what I wanted to do. I didn’t know exactly what that was. But a friend introduced me to Columbia College Chicago, and something lit up inside of me as I scrolled through their website. For the next year, God pointed me to Chicago through myriad things: music, people, white horses.

And in August of 2007 I finished my undergrad, an internship, and said goodbye to two jobs a week before I moved here to study Art + Design. I focused on Advertising Art Direction, and essentially found myself working to complete a second bachelor’s degree for the next three years. That was not the plan. I didn’t know what God had for me in a city where I felt so small.
— Rachel Loewen

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? This was a new question this time around. We knew the group of folks we had at this shoot were all believers so we thought it was vital to provide them a space to talk about how God is showing up, especially because for both Rachel and I OCS has been a space where we are seeing God's hand so clearly in this season. I think we can all learn from other people's seasons of life, and it's so important to provide space for people to be vulnerable about where they are at with God- I think as Christians we can feel the pressure to present a "perfect" and "healthy" relationship with God at all times, but that is just not the reality and I think there is a purpose in each season so sharing where your heart is at is so very important.

Since moving to Chicago I have been struggling with direction and purpose. I often feel a strong conviction and determination about some things. Other things I feel like I have no clue what to do or what God’s intention for me is.
— Kamau Pendergrass
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I firmly believe that by keeping it REAL in all areas of our lives, we show people that we’re REAL about God too.
— Manda Carpenter
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I didn’t grow up in the church. Jesus wooed me to Him in my college years through my own trials and suffering, and through the mystery of the beauty I found. As I go to him with everything, He continues to reveal His goodness towards me and His providence over my life. He desires intimate relationship with us!

I think doubt is natural and actually healthy at times. We should question, to a point. For those who’ve adopted believing because of the way their parents mediated their faith, and are now questioning, that is a good thing. But I think those pangs are opportunities for deepened faith.
— Rachel Loewen
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Great question. Honestly knowing the Lords love for us just gets me and many people all the time. The Greek word agape is literally the best thing to experience. Agape is the highest form of love that there is. It’s “a universal, unconditional love that transcends.” No man can express this love to each other. Only God can express this love to man and vice versa. Knowing Gods love for us just brings you closer to him. He loves us no matter what. No matter who we are or where we are coming from, He loves us. He doesn’t care what we are going through or what doubts we have, He still loves us. And He will always love us. You can be the worst person on earth and God still loves you. You could be in the worse condition in your life and God still loves you. Why? Because He made you. And He SAW that it was good. With His own eyes He looked at you and SAW your beauty and how good you were.
— Cece Murray
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How do we think critically about what’s going on with us, when we’re in a season of distance from God, or are not hearing Him clearly? What do you do when the Teacher is quiet during the test? I think you have to turn to the Word.... the written Word that still speaks today. And The rhema Word that the Holy Spirit has spoken to you intimately, already. Hold on to it, be sure, and KNOW He’s Immanuel.. God WITH us. He never left.. despite the season or hardship.
— Cierra Pendergrass
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I’m definitely in a season of distance from God. Actually not even a season, more of a perspective change. Certainly questioning the existence of an everyday God who helps people with their problems and listens to them. I think I’m on-board w/ a God who created us, to a certain extent, but I struggle to understand what role he has every day for me. Starting to formulate an idea of God that instead of him being a buddy/friend, he in instead the walls, floor, and ceiling by which I meet and develop relationship with others. He’s never been someone I talk to, vent to, praise for everyday occurrences. I see God and the universe to be one. Not sure if that makes any sense, but that’s where I’m at.
— Eric Carpenter
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I can’t be certain, but it feels as though I may be right at the turning point from a season of distance to a season of closeness with God. For at least the past year, if not longer, I have felt incredibly far from God. I haven’t heard from Him, I haven’t felt His presence, I haven’t felt as though I was growing in my faith. I have been going through the motions with Him, sometimes praying to Him and begging to hear from Him. Sometimes telling Him how upset I was with Him. I never heard anything back, and in exchange felt completely stagnant in my faith.... During this time of not hearing from Him, I was so disappointed because I had felt as though I was doing everything right- reading His word, praying and talking to Him often, spending time in community with brothers and sisters in Christ- yet I continued to feel as though I was stagnant in my faith. But He did finally break His silence- revealing to me that He was using this silence to build a more stable foundation, to encourage me to keep coming back to Him even when I didn’t feel like it. Even though I wasn’t ‘on fire for Jesus’ I continued to choose to follow Him, trust Him, and love Him. What in the moment felt like a waste of time was in reality a time God was using to deepen my faith so much more than I could have imagined.
— Olivia Toriumi

Our Chicago Stories Summer 2017

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ETHAN DARLA

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OLIVIA TORIUMI

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THE CARPENTERS

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THE PENDERGRASSES

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CECE MURRAY

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THE LOEWENS


Our Chicago Stories has become one of the most life giving things for both Rachel & I. We are learning lessons about life, about this city, about the people doing life all around us, and most importantly how God is in it ALL. We are so excited to continue sharing stories, and cannot wait for another magical Sunday this upcoming October.

#SportsBraSquad

#SportsBraSquad

How God has been showing up.

How God has been showing up.