Chelli Look

What brought you to Chicago?

Technically, college, but the heart of it was my desire to live in an urban/city environment.

Where are you from?

Born and raised in St Louis, MO; spent my high school years in Morton, IL.

What do you find challenging about living here?

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."

What are some of the reasons you love it?

I love the every 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. I love the public spaces and parks; locations that preserve Chicago's charm....also making for great spots to people watch!

Why do you stay?

This is a great question because for a long time.....very long time, my heart would beat for New York. And in many ways, it forever will. At the beginning of our marriage, we were enduring a dark season within our family/friends that kept us here in almost a waiting period because of all of the circumstances surrounding it. 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!)

How has community affected your time here?

It has changed everything. Before we decided to be planted here, regardless of how long we are here, our life became way more enriched. Being intentional brings enrichment and thriving, regardless of external circumstances. Being in community is also a type of obedience and God blesses obedience. I used to walk with a type of bitterness and cynicism to community because of a hurtful history and it wasn't until stepping into the obedience of forgiveness that He brought freedom to those areas. Bitterness, cynicism and un-forgiveness are prisons we think others put us in because of their actions, but truly receiving His love allows us to love others...and there is so much freedom in love. We are created to be conduits, pouring out all that He pours into us and this happens best in community. The moment that flow gets damned because of bitterness/un-forgiveness, it becomes stagnant and polluted.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community (specifically in the circle of people you spend time with)? How does it inspire you?

As I mentioned above, there is a hunger here, creatively. In order to even be hungry/ambitious, it means that there is an openness to learn which always leads to growth. What I love about the creative circles I'm around here is that while they are excelling in their fields, they have an openness to learn from each other. This excites me because its playful. Creativity is strong when people are willing to play, to learn, to try.

When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?

I feel most empowered and comfortable in my own skin either when I am part of collaborative ideation, serving or creating.

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach your day-to-day look? If so, how?

I mean, yes, space influences me massively. But also, the more and more He redeems my insecurities, the freer and freer my style gets.

If you're up for it, would you share a specific story about an encounter you've had in Chicago that has moved you/stayed with you?

In the winter of 2005, I was a sophomore in college. I had just transferred to Columbia College (downtown) from Dominican University (River Forest). My closest, dearest friend, Renee, was also studying fashion, but at ISU in Bloomington. Our plan since connecting in high school was to move to NYC post-graduation and start a fashion business together. This meant that much of our additional time during college was spent dreaming/planning but enjoying the city. Any time possible, she would travel north to spend time in the city. One weekend in December opened up spontaneously for her and she called me to tell me she was coming up that night. I was ecstatic as I hadn't seen her in awhile and I happened to have the weekend open. She called me while enroute and we chatted and laughed about current happenings and things we wanted to do while she was in town. New to the downtown area, the plan was to meet her in River Forest where she could park for free at my former college and not have to worry about her car all weekend. We hung up just hours before i was to meet her in the suburbs. A little time past and I hadn't heard back from her. Then a couple hours past and still no word. Fretting but not trying to stress, I gathered some things and just decided to commute to the suburbs where we were supposed to meet. I boarded the green line and headed west, still unable to reach her. I sat there on the train staring out the window, heart sunk just praying she was ok but trying not to let my mind wander too far. As it was December, it was lightly snowing and certainly cold out. By now it was past 9pm, and the farther and farther the train travelled west, the emptier and emptier it got. And then my low-battery cell phone rang and it was a friend of Renee's family. It was as if the world around me froze. There was no good reason for him to be calling me. I answered almost in the same motion of standing up, beginning to pace inside the train. He explained to me that he received a call from Renee's parents saying that she had been in a terrible car accident and they were working to keep her stable. I don't know how I kept the phone to my ears because all the feeling in my body left me. And then the train stalled. As he explained what hospital she was at, my pacing continued, trying to keep my body from completely shaking. I told him my battery was dying and that I would find my way to the hospital. I hung up the phone and not a second later, the only other person still on the (stalled mid-air) greenline train was this older woman. "Honey, what's wrong." I don't even remember what I told her in response, but it was enough information that she replied, "Well, I'll be praying right now. You're not alone." ........this story continues on in much length to several other ways God's gracious hand carried me through the evening, holding me so close, even through the passing of my best friend. But that encounter with that woman has marked me for life. She didn't have to care, she didn't have to even say anything to me. She didn't have to offer to pray or show kindness to me in anyway. She didn't know me or anything about me nor would she ever know how the evening concluded. But that one moment of kindness and intentionality of entering into my story (even just for me to not feel absolute isolation and loneliness on a near-empty CTA train, stalling on an elevated track on a cold evening when my world had just been flipped) has changed me.

Little moments aren't little. Our actions & words matter, all the time. They shape & change the world & people around us, whether or not we understand how on this side of eternity.

Anything else you'd like to share about your time in Chicago?

It's an honor to be here, in a city that God loves. His heart is so tender towards it. He's more passionate and faithful about bringing continued redemption than we could ever imagine. It's a city being redeemed, rebuilt and restored by His goodness. To be invited by Him to step into co-laboring with Him in that is humbling and exhilarating.