Sunday, August 25, 2013

Willow Chicago- Welcome Home

Today has barely started and already I've had an utterly amazing experience. Truly, I am amazed and awestruck.

What happened? You might ask that question- and I will answer!
I went to church this morning.

No before I loose half of my readers due to religious differences, please stick with me and read this post. I'm not going to preach at you, I'm writing about a much needed experience about something that is important in my life.
Chances are, if you are friends with me, my faith will come up in conversation. I'm not looking to shove my faith down anyone's throat, but my beliefs are important to me and shape how I act and view the world. The most important aspect of my faith that I try to live out (imperfectly, because I am human) is to love everyone. That itself is a tricky concept that I could and might try to explain another time, but that's not this particular story.

During the summer months, I don't really get to go to church. I'm performing at Bristol and that takes up my Sunday time. I do try to read my Bible during the week (not really good at the every day part, but several times a week is my low end of the goal), and sometimes listen to sermons (maybe once every few weeks or at most twice a month because I'm really bad at going online to listen to a free podcast). Even when I would go to church, I would often struggle with being there. Not because of any crisis of faith or because I didn't get anything out of the sermon.

I simply didn't feel like I belonged. Now, the church I had been going to is a wonderful church. They do so many good things and they are full of good people. Their sermons are often geared towards those who are coming into church as "seekers" (aka people curious about what this is all about). That's fantastic! However, as someone who was apart of the faith since I was 13, I always was left feeling like I wanted a little bit more.
Now- that church I spent age 10-present age at had a solution for those who were past the seeking phase! Small groups during the middle of the week and on Sundays. I tried. I really did. Midweek college services were not welcoming. I sat by myself and felt alone in a crowd of people who had already found their group and while they were friendly towards me, I didn't really feel like they wanted me around. This was made clear by the point that they kept giving me half of their attention and really didn't care about what I had to say.
I'd already gone through much the same experience in the High School small groups. I left because I never connected with anyone and my group was split up and I was set with another leader who I really didn't connect with. I wasn't going to do that again.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a neat person. I'm a mess. Every human is a mess, we're just really good at hiding how messy we are from 99% of the world's population. My faith gives me a foundation and a relationship that I don't have to worry about hiding myself from. For years I've longed for a place where I can be myself among people who share my faith and I won't be too much, or too messy, a place where people would believe in me and the things I could do. A place where I could be that weird mix of liberal and conservative and it didn't matter how far I went one way or another. I wanted a place where I could be imperfect in a world that labels me as a "trying to be perfect hypocrite." Because that's what the media says about those who follow Christ. I know that label because I've given it out, and that's not right. That's not what my faith is about or who I should be. I have no right to judge others when I have only to look into my mirror to see someone as equally broken as anyone else.
Unfortunately, I've been judged. Most of the time I've been judged by those who share my faith. There's a reason I like hanging out with people who don't share my faith because most of the time they are accepting of me and my mess. I was amazed last year when I went to Bristol and saw the love these people show each other and wondered "what if the people who shared my faith treated each other this way?"

I digress from my rant. I'm still working through a lot of the bitterness and hurt that I've amassed. I'm trying to put that behind me as a bump in the road in my journey. I'm trying to forgive, and it's not always easy when you feel that stabbing pain of being alone in a room full of people who (you're told by the pastor) are supposed to love you. Now, my whole experience was not all bad. I've had wonderful times at Willow Creek Barrington. It's just been a severely mixed bag and I've gotten a few vomit flavored Bertie Bots Jelly Beans along with the toffee and watermelon flavors. 

I've done a lot of growing over the past two years in my faith. I love where it is taking me. It's not easy and it's scary some times, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. My faith brought me to where I am today, and I want to know where it will take me tomorrow.

Today I decided to give Willow Creek Chicago a try. I was hoping that it would be a little bit different from Willow Creek Barrington. I was hoping that as a performing artist who thought a little differently from the suburban crowd (generally speaking), that I would find at least one person who was like me. Plus, I missed church. I really do like going and learning about the Bible. It's like a history class that has practical application.
I didn't go with any of my new classmates, and my roommate was still fast asleep when I left at 9:45 for the 10AM service. It's kind of nice to live that close to church.

I walked in through the doors and was greeted with a "Good Morning." from the welcome staff. I like the welcome staff at churches because they are genuine, so I always try to say good morning back to them. Then I found out that there was free coffee. I hadn't had any breakfast so the free coffee was fantastic and it was good coffee too, and you could bring it into the auditorium! 

The songs that we sang for worship were a bit older, but I like them better than the slightly more obscure songs I've been learning and singing back at WCB. The vocalists were outstanding, but that's not really what I was focusing on. The people there made it really easy to focus on praising my God.
The best part was what I heard during the songs, in that still, quiet, voice that can ring more clearly that any bell.
"Welcome Home."
I have to tell you that I almost started crying. Here I was in a church were I knew nobody, but I felt at home and accepted right off the bat. I didn't feel like I was dressed to shabbily, or to fancy. I didn't even feel like it mattered what I looked like.

The pastor who spoke today was preaching on Romans 12. Years ago, my little sister and I had to memorize Romans 12. I can't remember all of it, but Romans 12:2 is still one of my "life verses" that I try to emulate and dwell on. Today I got to listen as the pastor unpacked the entire chapter about what Romans 12 was about. I wrote four pages of notes in my journal. I've never written more than two about any sermon before. There was just so much for me to take in and I could feel my heart soaring with all of the information and understanding I was gaining.
During the service I was made aware of some people who I need to be kind to, even if I'm having trouble dealing with them right now. That's part of my faith, is being kind and loving to everyone. That doesn't mean letting everyone walk all over me, because that's completely wrong. However, just because someone is trying to tear me down doesn't mean I do the same to them.
We took communion today, and I honestly can't tell you the last time I took communion. When I started going to WCB, we didn't take communion as much. I've missed communion and the symbolism that goes along with it. 

I went up to the pastor after the service and thanked him and let him know where I had come from and how much this service had meant to me. I know WCC is smaller than WCB, but I've never talked to any pastor at my other church before after a service. They always seemed a bit removed.

I think that's what the trouble was. Everything always felt a bit removed for me at WCB. I didn't ever feel like I really connected. Something was always slightly off and tilted at the wrong angle, a bit like a picture frame that hangs 97% straight. It's almost there, but just a hair or two off.

To me, WCC was a place where people admitted that we are messed up. We are broken humans. We are not perfect. We are loved and called to love others. We do not have enough words to thank our God for what he's given us, or have enough words to convey the love He has for us and us for Him.
It's been very rare that I've had such a full feeling in my soul. It's like feeling the most alive you can feel and then some. You can feel the energy inside of you moving. I've never had that happen in a circumstance where it was simply meant to tell me I was in the right place and Welcome Home. I'm hoping that this continues and I'm able to really make a small place for myself at Willow Chicago, hopefully with the community. I want to get to know these people and I can't wait to go back.

Thank you, those of you who stuck with me while I shared this. Normally I don't post too much about my faith, but it is important to me, and this particular joy needed to be shared. It's definitely given me the strength I need to go forward during the next week of full fledged classwork.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

College- Week 1

I can officially say that I have survived my first week of "sleep away" college. I'd like to think that I've done a little bit more than just survive (although I'm feeling a bit exhausted). I've already learned a LOT and the bumps have been very small so far.

So here are the things that I have learned so far

1) Walking everywhere will make your legs hurt a LOT. Basically I'm walking as much as I am at Bristol every single day. I'm guessing that's about 6 miles a day. That's the "easy" setting for walking distance on the Oregon Trail computer game I played (obsessively) when I was younger. I'm hoping that I will soon adjust. It isn't going to get easier once I'm dancing almost every day.

2) I know this is where I need to be. Over the past week I've been hearing things from my professors that have confirmed that this is the place I need to be. I had a moment where I was reflecting on where I've come from to get to this point and I realized something huge. All of those people who said I wouldn't make it as a performer and shouldn't pursue theater were wrong. I've proven them wrong already and now I'm just continuing to do so. There's a little bit of smug satisfaction in that, I will admit. However, I think the better part of that is that I haven't let the nay-sayers drag me down. Also will note that none of those people are going into the performing arts and I'm not really in touch with them anymore.

3) I will make friends, it does take time, and the people who I invest in are important. I've been slowly connecting with some people and I've fallen in with a bunch of the students who are closer to my age (since I've spent the past two years at community college), and a few others. I'm able to respect everyone in my class, but I'm glad that I am connecting a bit more closely with some of them. I'm looking forward to seeing how those friendships (and hopefully others) develop.

4) When something big comes up, people will be kind. My Papa (paternal Grandfather) passed away the day before I moved in, so Thursday night and most of Friday I was back at home for the wake and funeral. The faculty and my classmates were sincerely kind and generous during this time. I'm handling things well right now, but I know that if something comes up down the road that I have people who will be gracious and understanding.

So that's a little bit of what I'm learning that isn't really academic. If you wanted a play by play, I'm not sure I could have given you one. I've been doing so much and hanging out with so many people!
I suppose a few highlights would be.....

- Seeing Book Of Mormon for $25.
- Taking a boat tour around the city.
- Freshman Showings when I got up and sang and monologue-ed in front of my classmates.
- Researching the hauntings at the Congress Hotel (which I can see from my window)
- Today's afternoon at the Lincoln Park Zoo with a group of friends.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to going to church and then showing my Aunt and Nana my dorm room. Then I get to throw myself into a crazy week of classes and then labor day weekend back with my Faire family (one way or another).

-Until next time

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

if just One person believes in you (or it takes a village to raise a child)

Even though this post is about the Ren Faire, I felt like it belongs here on my personal blog. Unfortunately, my Anne-Drew blog has gone without post for a few months and while I'd love to write something for it, now is the time to focus on what's going on in my life and not my character (even if this post really could have been posted on Anne-Drew's blog).

This year as the Faire season started with rehearsals and classes through BAPA, I knew that I wouldn't be able to stay the entire season. This Friday I'll be moving into a dorm and starting a new chapter in my college journey. The thought of leaving Bristol early would make me feel sick and torn up inside. Like someone had walked into my sanctuary and smashed it to pieces.

Bristol really is like a home to me. I call it home. It was and always has been a sanctuary for me. Especially this summer, as I got more and more worried and stressed out about college and various other things in my life (that shall not be posted on the internet because the internet is forever), Bristol gave me a place where I had friends and a place where I belonged and was supported.

Last year, Bristol taught me that I am not alone in my weirdness. Growing up, I always felt like I was too much in one way or another. Bristol also taught me that I have gifts and can do much more than I thought that I could. It gave me healing from some of the baggage I was working through. Bristol gave me laughter and I learned how to feel again. This year I've worked really hard on working through feelings instead of shutting down and going numb. I lived in a strange sense of numbness for several years of my life and then was slowly coming out of it, only to be slammed back in full force. Bristol really helped me through the kindness and friendship shown me that first year.

This year, Bristol has taught me that I have family (more than my biological one) that love me and support me and will continue to do so, even outside of Faire. I gained an 'older sister,' who calls me mei-mei. Any of you Browncoats will understand the reference.
During the week leading up to my last weekend at Faire, I really was mourning the loss before it happened. I felt like I was about to leap out of one of the safest places I know into a world of strange uncertainty that was both exciting, but deeply terrifying.

This past weekend I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who came up to me and made a point to tell me that they had a couch open if I need a night away from college, or a homecooked meal, or just some familiar companionship. The amount of people who said "We're going to have dinner, or lunch, or tea, or come to me when you need help- with anything." made me realize that these are people who won't let me drown. Not that I ever doubted them, it just took me a while to realize that I'm counted as friend and family to these people. The compliments about how well I'm going to do at school and the kind of performer I am almost brought me to tears. The surprises and bits that I was able to perform with people amazed me and had me laughing all day. Heck- I was GIVEN a really nice printer and some ink!

I really owe my onstage acting work to two people in particular. The first is my drama teacher from my homeschool co-op whom I've studied under since 7th grade. She pushed me and held me to standards as an actress that stretched me and helped me grow in my character as well as in my acting.
The second is my Captain and now Director of Street Cast. He has been the best mentor and friend I could have asked for to teach me how to work in the streets of Bristol. From pushing me out on my very first day and forcing me to start interactions, to giving me ideas for bits that really had nothing to do with my character but made fantastic patron interactions (and I still managed to slip Anne in there somewhere).

I was anticipating to be a wreak after closing gate on Sunday. However, I found that my eyes were dry and I was at peace. I will not be forgotten or abandoned by these people who I have gotten to know and have come to love like my family. Even if I can't make it back for Labor Day weekend (and I'm going to do my damn best to make that happen), I'm going to be okay. The hugs and well wishes made me feel like I can face this next part of my life and have a shot at excelling beyond even my dreams.

I feel like I'm ready now. I'm sure that feeling will ebb and flow, but I feel much more sure of myself that I did last week.

"And one day we'll meet again, it shall not be long
And I will remember when we both sang this song
Of a place called Bristol 
Upon England's shor
And there we will sing our farewell song once more"
~ Dan the Bard's Farewell to Bristol

Friday, August 9, 2013


Tell me I'm going to be okay.
Tell me I'm going to make friends and people won't think I'm odd and awkward.
Tell me that leaving my comfort zone, my home, my family, my Bristol, is going to be worth it.
Tell me that it wasn't a mistake that I got into this school.
Tell me that I might have a shot in hell at making it in this business.

I started packing for college today. My best friend is moving to Texas for school today. I'll be moving into my dorm next week.

I have my last night at work tonight. 

This weekend I say goodbye to Bristol until next year. I keep tearing up and hurting inside at the thought of leaving before the run of the Faire ends. My Faire family has been so supportive and caring to me this past year and a half. Even the thought of not playing with patrons on the weekend is heartbreaking.

I'm a little bit stretched, a little scared, and I don't like the unexpected upheaval that's happening inside of me right now.

I have an awesome roommate/suite mates for my dorm. I will have my Bristol friends living closer to me because I'll be in the city. I have a lot to look forward to, but I'm still terrified. My family will only be a train ride away, and I can come home when and if I need to.

I need to breath and trust that God's got his plan and it's going to work out for me to keep going to Roosevelt for these next four years. My family is taking it one year at a time, but it would be beyond amazing to be able to stay there. Right now, I need to make it past the first semester.

And packing....

Back to packing....

The Stone Kingdom (Book Two of The Wilderhark Tales), Or the Shameless Plug

HEY EVERYONE- my friend Danielle Shipley wrote a book! WAIT A PAR BOILED MINUTE- she wrote TWO books! 

Due to unfortunate circumstances (Cough*College*Cough) I haven't been able to dive into either copy of the story. However, I have read Danielle's work before and she's brilliant. This means that you all need to BUY THIS BOOK after reading the blurb below. This girl is awesome and I know you'll love her story just as much as I will. It's at the top of my reading list, once I have time to read good literature again. For now I have to hit the plays and critical essays! However, you should read The Wilderhark Tales and The Stone Kingdom. 

Love and prince,
Both true, wed rose of white in realm of stone;
For blood begins,
But naught can be put right by blood alone.”

One thoughtless act is all it takes to bring the curse threatened
on Rosalba’s christening day to pass. Now the princess must combine
her desperate determination with the service of benevolent tailor Edgwyn Wyle
to find the second half of the key to her kingdom’s restoration.

The Stone Kingdom
Book Two of The Wilderhark Tales

<> ~ <> ~ <>

An enchantress’s curse turns a spoiled royal into a beast;
A princess’s pricked finger places her under a hundred-year spell;
Bales of straw are spun as golden as the singing harp whisked down a giant beanstalk –
All within sight of Wilderhark, the forest that’s seen it all.

You’ve heard the stories –
of young men scaling rope-like braids to assist
the tower-bound damsel; of gorgeous gowns
appearing just in time for a midnight ball;
of frog princes, and swan princes,
and princes saved from drowning by maidens of the sea.

Tales of magic. Tales of adventure. Most of all, tales of true love.

Once upon a time, you knew them as fairytales.
Know them now as Wilderhark’s.

About the Author:

Danielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. …Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: Packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them. She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing young adult novels, she’s probably blogging about it at

Book Details:

Full Title: “The Stone Kingdom (Book Two of The Wilderhark Tales)
ISBN: 978-0-9891846-1-8
Genre: Young Adult Fairytale
Length: Novella (179 pages)
Release Date: September 20th, 2013
Future availability: Paperback ( and eBook ( and