How Kansas Prepared me for Hollywood

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I moved to L.A for one reason: I believe God called me to. I didn’t want to. I internally kicked and screamed until God smacked me in the face with an open door I couldn’t refuse. He didn’t have to, but He is characterized by being sweet when I’m sour. In 2009 I moved to Kansas City from Chicago for the same reason and established myself. Moving there was easier because I liked the mid-west…I have never liked the West coast. That is, until I actually moved here. Ridiculous, I know.

On the trip down to Kansas in '09 my car decided to have the hiccups
On the trip down to Kansas in ’09 my car decided to have the hiccups

Two and a half years living in Kansas I felt that I needed to change my major from Business/Journalism to Film/Communications. From that moment on I thought, “God….if you’re wanting me in Film and believe in me, trust me within the film industry, you’re going to put me in L.A aren’t you.” And….bada bing bada boom, I am here–writing this in the heart of Hollywood. Given my personality, I belong in the mountains where it’s gloomy, rainy, snowy and filled with coffee, Death Cab for Cutie tunes, scarfs and conversation. I’m a one on one person, I like heart to hearts. I don’t like networking or chitchat, I like depth. Yet, I am ambitious, a dreamer, an executer…one who likes to get things done and get them done well. Laziness is one of my pet peeves. Before moving, my idea of Los Angeles was encompassed with a bubble of superficial people who are selfish, eat kale, think they’re the best, juice for every meal and have the attitude of, “you should be so lucky to visit the best city on planet earth.” Turns out I’m in the city of Dreamers:  populated by hard-working, ambitious, executing people. I did not know why I was going to Kansas in 2009, except that God wanted me to. That part was clear as day. I took a giant leap of faith and can’t imagine my life without the friends I met there. Friends I made needed me in their life, and them in mine.  God knew friends I made needed someone who would pray continually, encourage them–me. He knew I needed laughter, friends who valued loyalty and quality time, which each of them did. However,  those years were the hardest in all categories: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Pure, innocent me became best friends with people who were addicted to drugs, sex, alcohol….emotionally breaking my heart on the daily. I dealt with nightly calls from friends drunk driving, others calling me from AA after they relapsed. I had many friends on the edge of overdosing, friends who chose abortion. I had a hard time focusing on school or work when I knew what my friends were facing. My heart would cry, “Lord, why do you have me walking life out with these people? I haven’t walked what they are walking, I can’t relate. And yet you put them here, depending on me and wanting to spend time with me.”

A few of the people who made the initial Kansas years a blast
A few of the people who made the initial Kansas years a blast

Lesson I learned from that: God uses me to help people with struggles I don’t struggle with. I’ve always been different from my peers. I went to public High School, never liking the party scene, as well as choosing not to date. I chose not to date in High School because I didn’t see the point and decided my free time should be invested in hobbies or friendships with my close girlfriends.  I’ve held the word of Truth tightly since an early age, which automatically set me apart from classmates, co-workers, anyone alike. This transcended into college as being the girl with high standards, one who never compromised. Ironically, I became friends with people whose personality and lifestyles were complete opposite to mine,  leaving me wondering how on earth we got so close. I found the drug dealer in high school more hilarious than the worship leader at youth group, I thought the “school slut” had a heart of gold, one that truly, genuinely cared for everyone, whereas I had a hard time taking a leader at church seriously because when I was vulnerable she would interrupt and say, “I’ll pray for you.” The attention seeking girl in school listened intently, gave words of comfort, followed with a big hug. The church leader heard me, the girl listened.   Drugs and board games may connect people momentarily, but souls connect magnetically. Despite my friends seeking fulfillment differently than how I did, we connected. God divinely orchestrated my timing in meeting those in high school and Kansas, knowing both parties would benefit, learn, and grow in different ways. God called me to Kansas not to enjoy the scenery, although that was a perk, but to reach people and for people to reach me.

My view for many years. Apron, dirty shoes, espresso rag.
My view for many years. Apron, dirty shoes, espresso rag.

Another view I grew used to.    In Jr. High I asked for a non-cliché life, a life that was different, one where I would make a change and making an imprint on my path. I trusted that God would answer this, but was curious as to where He’d have me. If I wrote my story I would not say, “hum, I think going to America’s heartland would be great…because I want to end up in Hollywood. Kansas is the perfect place to prepare me for Hollywood.” People would think I was crazy for having that logic. In fact, they did. Telling people in Chicago I was going to a Jr. College in Kansas was rough because I was drilled for my reasoning. The main reason was “God told me,” but 17-year-old High School seniors require a lot more. Their questions were valid:

  • “You have a great GPA, why not apply to a University?”
  • “Why are you in these extra-curricular activities if you are just going to settle for a community college?”
  • “Why KANSAS?”

Thankfully, God went before me and gave me a lot of strength and words of grace to respond to them. I am one sensitive, compassionate, empathetic person. I’m easily affected by problems that are not mine. It’s easy for me to carry other people’s burdens. People were worried for me growing up because they knew I was fragile and delicate. God has used those characteristics, however, and cultivated what people viewed as weaknesses and churned them into strengths. If He had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.   1479065_10152084850132867_400569536_n   Kansas was where He marinated me and prepared me for Los Angeles. For nearly five years I learned how to live independently: how to budget well, pay bills, fix sinks, vacuums and deal with dead squirrels left on my porch. I learned how to love, communicate and appreciate personalities from all spectrums. I learned how I grieve death and the loss of friendship. Who knows what life would have looked like if I had chosen what man thought made sense: The University of Kansas, University of Illinois or my local college in Illinois. I’m sure I would have learned similar lessons, but I believe moving to Kansas was His best for me and has prepared me best for where I am today, California.

Surrounded by some of my favorite people, taken in KC at my graduation party, three weeks before moving
Surrounded by some of my favorite people, taken in KC at my graduation party, three weeks before moving

Lesson from Kansas: no matter how you feel, obey. Obeying what I believe was the Voice of the Lord to move to Kansas didn’t stop there with choosing obedience. Obedience is something chosen daily.  When I chose obedience, I was blessed with much. I gained a best friend within a month of moving to Kansas, Anna…i.e. Beck. She moved in 2010 back to Colorado, and I wanted to quit LatteLand, where I met her. I didn’t find the job fun and I didn’t feel appreciated. If I quit when I wanted to then, after Beck moved, I wouldn’t have met Tori or Danielle, who are now two of my best friends and two of the co-workers who begun shortly after Anna moved. When I transferred to the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2011 I wanted to quit LatteLand. If I was starting over with a new school I thought, why not start over with a new job? But nope, I prayed about it and it was another “stay with LatteLand” feeling. There was another LatteLand location a mile away from my new school. I transferred there. If I had quit when I wanted to (again) before transferring schools, I would have never met Patrick or Jack, two of my all-time favorite people. Working with them and the other co-workers was my favorite time in Kansas City. I loved my school, my classes, and this new crew at LatteLand. For over a year no one quit, no one was hired. We had the longest running consistent crew LatteLand has ever seen.

Patrick and I, circa 2011
Patrick and I, circa 2011
Jack and I, circa 2012
Jack and I, circa 2012

In 2012 our beloved Jack took his own life, the hardest thing I have and hopefully ever will walk through. I wanted to quit then, but I stayed. I only stayed because when I prayed I felt strongly that I should stay.  I’m still wondering why God had me stay, I may not ever know. Sure, I’ve made a lot of great friends there since his death, but having to work in the physical space I built a strong friendship in was unbearable. Obedience was asked in my home life, too. I had an adorable apartment on the Plaza with Danielle, and I felt tugged to move out. I didn’t know where I would move, but I knew God was releasing me to move. Not only did He provide for me after that moment, but He provided for me BIG. Before, I was driving to school from my apartment, paying for a space at school.  This new house was a street away, making it easy to walk to class. My rented ended up being 50% less than my apartment. Before I was living with someone who had a different lifestyle, the roommates in this house lived very similar to how I live.  Danielle and I are still very close, and the girls I met moving from my apartment to this house are some of my closest friends, favorite people ever.

Danielle and I in our Plaza apartment
Danielle and I in our Plaza apartment

Lesson I learned about chasing dreams: sacrifice is the only thing that will suffice. I sacrificed a lot to get to where I am today. I chose more hours at work to have less debt– resulting in never having a Saturday off. Ever. I chose to take harder classes such as Linguistics and Accounting rather than Bowling or an Independent Study course….just so I was better educated. I chose, for two years, to drive 45 minutes twice a week for a three hour Sign Language night class. I learned that to learn or accomplish something, it means to sacrifice all fun things. I thought that because I wanted to know how to know how to Sign, going to the class would be fun. Mmmm, no. 80% of the time I dreaded driving to class. My days were jammed with opening the coffee shop at 5:45am, off at 11am, class from 12-4pm, driving to Sign Language from 5-9:30pm. My energy by that point was as high as a dandelion that has gone to seed, and the world blew me into the wind, wishing me the best.

In-between work, homework and classes I invested my free time in people. Shifts shuffled weekly, forcing me to be spontaneous, planning things moment by moment. Those moments of free time involved meeting a friend for lunch, coffee, or meeting up after a shift and bringing them a free latte to their apartment. I am a people person, and with everything that was on my plate, I am so thankful God provided those time slots for me to grow in many friendships.

Shekinah, my home the last two years in Kansas City
Shekinah, my home the last two years in Kansas City
The amazing women I moved in with after the Plaza apartment. From left: Jordan, Christiana, Erica and I
The amazing women I moved in with after the Plaza apartment. From left: Jordan, Christiana, Erica and I

So, what is the point of elaborating on all I did throughout my time in Kansas, how I chose to set high goals for myself academically and invested all free time in people? This is why: the harder you face, the wiser you become.                                              Ecclesiastes 1:18 says this:

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis says this: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  Asking God to bring me people to love sometimes ended in much sorrow. 

  • When a friend followed through with an abortion, that brought sorrow.
  • When a friend had her heart broken and cried on my bed for two days, that brought sorrow.
  • When best friend’s moved away, that brought sorrow.
  • When a friend decided not to talk to me for two months because he didn’t want to confront me in an area he hurt me in, that brought sorrow.
  • When a close friend chose to kill himself, more sorrow than I wish on anyone 
Danielle and I at Jack's funeral
Danielle and I at Jack’s funeral

I was vulnerable in friendships, loved many deeply. Occasionally through opening myself emotionally ended in hurt and pain. I am quite familiar with crying into my pillow, pulling over my car to cry, journaling until my pen runs out of ink and marking my bible with tear stains. In the end, C.S. Lewis is right: to love is to be vulnerable. It is better to love than to love not at all. My college years were not about making lattes or earning my degree. It was about people, the friendships. God loves seeing us passionate, talented and excited about things. A few of my favorite things are editing, film, kitties, coffee and cold weather. He brought me to a school with a great film program, provided me with a job where I had unlimited coffee for years, blessed me with a kitty Karen–all in a place with the four seasons. He knew the desires of my heart and fulfilled them. Last October I knew I needed to move to Los Angeles, but I was kicking and screaming internally. God knew I would go, but He knew I didn’t want to go.  Once I knew I was leaving after graduation, I prayed for doors to open. Weeks went by where I didn’t know anything, except that I was moving to Los Angeles. I am a planner; I like having a game plan. I think because of that God has enjoyed waiting until the last minute to provide, just so  I’m reminded who the Provider is–Him. He is the planner. Weeks past and I felt that I was in a hotel hallway, with every door unknown to me. I prayed God would open a door, any door. I was desperate and committed to walking through whatever He had. THE next day my brother asked me to call him. I won’t ever forget calling him at midnight after my shift and hearing him explain what had happened: he was asked to find someone to move into a beautiful home with an amazing set-up. Just like that, it was settled.

At the air-port January 15, departing to Los Angeles
At the air-port January 15, departing to Los Angeles

Here I am, in Hollywood, working in the Post-Production department for a television show. I’ve grown to love this city and in just five months have been blessed beyond measure. I see my siblings regularly, found a church I love with solid, solid people.  I landed a position that is nearly impossible to get with great people, am living in a safe, beautiful neighborhood with the most kind-hearted, funny, inspiring woman. Who knows what my future will bring, but if I continue to laugh, pray, listen & obey, I know I’m in for an adventure–a non-cliché life. 1972516_10152255866357867_413542838_n

One thought on “How Kansas Prepared me for Hollywood

  1. Marissa Jestice

    I read every word. Thank you for a solid lesson in obedience and God’s provision. I look forward to the day that we get to hangout in person.

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