A couple of weeks ago I was in Chicago for our third stop on the 2014 Level Ground Road Show. It was a great day and maybe one our most successful events yet. For the last program slot of the day, Derek Webb played a short concert intermixed with short stories from his life. He talked about inspirations for his songs, about his career of speaking out despite consequences, and even got a little unabashedly preachy.
My experience of church as a gay person over the past several years has made me wary and distrustful of worship-like experiences. So while I see enormous value in programming someone like Derek Webb to be a part of our festival, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about participating myself.
So I prepared myself…
“Chelsea, there is going to be Jesus-y language, maybe even some talk of sin and salvation. You will live through it and a lot of other people might even like it.”
“Yeah, yeah I know.”
Having prepped, I planted myself in the back of the room.
Then it started. And as he began to play, he opened his mouth and the words, “I was wrong, I’m sorry and I love you,” came out. And with those simple words, I slowly began to disarm.
I can’t fully explain it and I don’t even know if it was just nice to feel safe in a worship setting again but I felt peace unlike I had felt it in a long time—the kind of peace that reminds you who God is.
Later in the evening, Webb talked about his the inspiration for his song, “Rich Young Ruler.” I was weighing over a major life decision and his words stuck with me. He talked about the story of the rich man in the Gospels being less about wealth and poverty and more about personal sacrifice, be it of any kind. I had known what I needed to do but in that moment I saw it all the more clearly.
These past few years have been the best years of my life. I have made a family here and the best friends I could have ever asked for. I love you all more than you know and I am grateful to each and every one of you for your impact on my life.
I became whole here. I learned to love myself for the first time here. I learned what it means to exist with people in deep meaningful ways that are so very different from me. I witnessed how sustainability is a lifestyle and mindset not just a practice. I found my faith again—a faith that is not alone, that has potential to shape whole communities and that I’m proud to represent. In every way, that is thanks to all of you, my beloved friends.
Southern California has undoubtedly become my home.
However, these past few years have also at times been the worst. I dealt with bouts of depression and watched friends do the same, went through an ugly breakup, was evicted from my home, oftentimes questioned whether God exists, trudged through a family’s friends overdose, and got in a serious amount of debt.
That’s how life is though—death and life, all at the same time. That is, in fact, the hope of the resurrection (here I am getting Jesus-y). That life doesn’t end at death, even in our momentary experiences of it.
And with a sense of hopefulness and grief, I am writing to tell you I am leaving this place I have called home for three years at the end of October. As much as I don’t want to say goodbye, it is time.
I have felt for some time that I have been spinning my wheels trying to get out of debt, make ends meet, and pursue my dreams, none of which has been working. Meanwhile, over the past six weeks, Amanda has been going through a process of discernment that has ultimately led her to leave Chick-fil-A.
With the high cost of living in LA, we feel it is best to move where we can put our feet on the ground again and hit the reset button for a couple months. This has been an extraordinarily hard decision for us but we both believe it to be a necessary and even good one.
So peace be with you, my brothers and sisters. I love you all.
What you need to know:
- First and foremost, I am NOT leaving Level Ground. Things are alive and well with LG. I still love it and wholeheartedly believe in what we are doing. Because I have less pressure on my personal finances, I actually will be more capable of giving my time to LG after we move.
- We are leaving the state on October 28th. So let’s make plans to hang out before then.
- We are moving to Knoxville, TN to live with the Halligans in their in-laws suite for approximately 6 months until we are able to pay down debt and save money to make a more permanent move (Thank Kenny and Kathy!).
- Our ultimate hope is to land potentially in Portland, SoCal, or Atlanta. These aren’t set in stone but they likely our options.
- I am still pursuing film and would welcome any connections to anyone who can help me continue working as a PA or camera operator in East TN.
Want to see us before we leave:
We will probably plan some sort shindig before we go but, most importantly, you should all attend the Level Ground Fall Party. It’s free!! I mean you all know LG can throw a kick ass party and on top of that, Amanda and I will both be there. This is a super easy way to say goodbye just two days before we leave and support a good cause at the same time. RSVP here.
How you can support us:
- Help us pack. Amanda is getting surgery on her foot on Tuesday and will be basically immobile for two months so I will be doing a majority of the moving. So please come help!
- Buy our shit. We are selling basically all of furniture and some of it is pretty awesome.
- Give to Level Ground. Become a monthly donor even if it’s only $10 dollars a month. This is my life’s work and, in so many ways, Level Ground is a reflection of my (and Sam’s) experience forming community with each of you. You can set up monthly giving here.