Behind Beloved Chicago Worship with Lauren Awtry & Mia Gjeldum

Mia Gjeldum & Lauren Awtry of Beloved

Beloved is "a worship movement rooted in the city of Chicago set out to ignite a fire in the Midwest and beyond, spreading passion for our King Jesus through completely free worship and expression." Behind this movement is the powerhouse duo Lauren Awtry and Mia Gjeldum. These ladies found themselves a kindred connection via Missio Dei Wrigleyville (also my church home) in 2015, and they're on a mission to use their gifts of song and leading worship to help you experience the true freedom in Jesus. 

One late spring evening – over weekday evening lattes – my go-to stylist and dear friend Devin Sutter and I felt the resonance of Lauren and Mia stories as they shared their points of provision over their journeys to and amidst Beloved. And one day in June, the four of us ventured out through Lincoln Park and Lakeview to capture some of Beloved's beauty. This wasn't any normal photo session though. Lauren and Mia led us to the lake while worshipping.

I pray these photos I captured along the way honor their faithful and passionate hearts for Jesus. Each of us bears witness to His goodness as we abide in those leaps of faith. May these interviews encourage you in your own journey. 


What brought you to Chicago?

Lauren: My dad’s job brought me to the Chicagoland area in 7th grade. That was a really rough time for my family. Although my siblings and I were born in New Hampshire, we had lived in Oklahoma for over 10 years. Our roots were there - my grandparents, friends, & our favorite college football team. I remember writing a very nasty letter to my uncle (who lived in Chicago and was trying to get my dad, his brother, to start a business with him there) at 12 years old. I explained how much he was ruining my life for making us move, again. I still have that letter and laugh every time because moving to Chicago actually was the best thing that could have happened for my family. Now, I look at it as the biggest blessing in my life. My roots might be in Oklahoma, but my home, my community, where God has so divinely placed me is here in Chicago. The really funny thing is I was recently hired at my dad and uncle’s company. That was not the original plan, but I really love it, and it allows me to pursue worship. I guess things have a way of coming full circle. 

Mia: Chicago and me go way back… I have lived in the same house my entire life, exactly 37 miles away from Chicago. Also, with relatives living in the heart of the city, it has seemed that my whole life has been soaked in suburb and city. I remember sleeping over at my Aunt Amy’s house as just a little girl and specially asking to sleep by the window in order to hear the hustle and bustle of the city— dreaming about the day I would live in my own apartment someday. Eventually when my college years approached, it was a given that I would seek out schools in the city I’ve always dreamed of calling “home.” So I did. And it has been wonderful.

How did the two of you meet?

L: I originally heard Mia’s voice at the 24 Hours of Pursuit [at Missio Dei] - I was sitting behind the wall that separates the congregation and little side area. During a prayer session, I heard this angelic voice that gave me goosebumps all over. I peeked over to see who it was to find a girl with short blonde hair rehearsing with our friends and musicians Tony and Bethany. A few Sundays later, I led worship and the same blonde girl grabbed my arm when I walked back to my seat after the set.

She squeezed my arm and whispered “thank you.” I guess you could say it was love at first worship. 

M: Lauren and I met at Missio Dei Wrigleyville. In search of a new church, I remember visiting Missio one weekend in early March of 2016. She happened to be leading worship. Full disclosure, whenever music is involved, I usually find myself in the thickness of comparison. Being a performer / musician since I was young, it is natural for one to compare and contrast talent — especially as a woman. It’s what you’re taught very early on in the “industry.” I walked into Missio Dei a broken heart, thirsty for community and, ultimately, the love of God.

As I remember, Lauren was leading worship, and there was a serious presence of the Spirit that overflowed from her worship. With grace and passion, she ushered in the presence of Jesus. Oh, how refreshing it was… it still is. After attending Missio regularly after my initial weekend, I always looked forward to hearing Lauren sing again — not joking. A few weeks later, Lauren was leading worship, and I stopped her mid-tracks, thanking her for her worship. First and only interaction at the point.

Weeks passed.

The summer of 2016 is when I joined Missio’s worship team. It was the afternoon of 24-Hours Pursuit, actually. Tony asked me to join the team that Saturday afternoon, and to my surprise, invited me to sing the next day for Sunday morning gathering. That’s when Lauren heard me sing for the first time. (In hindsight, it really makes all the sense in the world that we would be best friends. We're both worship leaders, extroverts, lovers of Jesus, in the same season of life, and so and so on.) After the Sunday I led worship, Lauren then came up to me and expressed her “girl crush” and wanted to be friends. I was quick to jump on board and explain the weeks and weeks of “crushing” I had already been doing. We exchanged numbers and were giddy over the idea of singing together someday.

As life does, it got in the way, and if I remember correctly, it was about a little over month until we finally found a mutual time to get together. August 30, 2016 was the day to be exact. (Thanks, Instagram.)  It was that early fall, Thursday night that I remember sitting on Lauren’s couch telling her all about the surface details of my life. We laughed,  we shared, we ate pizza, and then we sang. And it was somethin’ else.

How was Beloved born?

L: Beloved was born in the tiny bedroom of my old apartment. Mia and I were worshiping on my bed and it kind of just dawned on us. Mia turned to me and asked, “Wanna start a band?” Without hesitation I replied “duh.” After a few weeks of messing around with the idea, Mia asked what we should we called. I was standing in worship practice when she texted me. Without hesitant I replied, “Beloved daughters.” ‘Beloved daughter’ was a phrase I heard a friend of mind in GC use when praying over my other friend before her move to Denver. It stuck with me all year as an anthem in my heart and mind. Later we decided on just Beloved. More and more months passed, and the Lord made it so evident that that should we our name and that we are supposed to be doing this. Even today, he gives me whispers of affirmation or even big loud booms of, “You’re doing this.” When I have doubts, He’s there loud and clear. I really don’t have an option HAHA. Like having Mia’s sister show up on my same flight to San Diego. Or having Chelli text me about the name David that means Beloved - and to think he was such a worshipper and one after God’s heart. Or that time I was at a soccer game for the little girl I babysit and I met a little boy’s dad who was a pastor. After chatting for a while, he spoke encouragement, blessings, and affirmation over Beloved. It’s usually in the completely day-to-day / ordinary / mundane things when God makes it clear to me this is what he is calling me to do. Every time I doubt or hesitate, he’s like, 

NOPE. HERE IS A CRAZY OCCURRENCE THAT WILL MAKE YOU CERTAIN YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING THIS. 

M: As time passed, Lauren and I found ourselves hanging out a lot. Which admittedly, hasn’t been the case with a majority of my college friendships. I believe we live in a culture now where, “I love yous” and “Let’s get togethers” are so incredibly passive and thoughtless, unfortunately. Fortunately, that was not the case for me and Lauren. Between Sunday mornings and both of our love for spontaneity, we found ourselves hanging out two to three times a week on average! Late-night worship, mostly. And as time passed, worship and walking in life together went hand-in-hand. On good days, we praised the King. On bad days, we praised the King a little harder. On confusing days, we would ask all the questions and find ourselves back at His feet. But the theme here is / was, we also found ourselves worshiping and singing together. Months and months of pursuing life alongside each other.

About seven months in our friendship, this past March, Lauren was getting ready to graduate and had to make some pretty big decisions as far as her career. She had interviews all over — Indiana, central Illinois, some even in LA! Now obviously, I am biased in saying I didn’t want her to go! What beautiful friendship we have found in each other. One specific night comes to mind when Lauren was expressing fear and confusion moving forward with her plans to pursue broadcasting. I remember hesitantly asking her the question, “Lauren, if money didn’t matter, what is your dream life? Your dream career?” “I just wanna worship, Meems,” was what she said to me. “Then let’s do it! Let’s be a band.” Giggles and laughter followed as we would never actually entertain the thought of pursuing a worship leading career. I wasn’t even pursuing a Bachelor's degree at this time, and the thought of not using her degree would be a “waste of money.”

I don’t remember the exact day that this light-hearted fairytale became an actual day-to-day pursuit, but I think as Lauren and I continued to worship and do life with each other, pressing into the Lord, pressing into HIS desires, this “band idea” wasn’t going anywhere.

The name Beloved came up in conversation one day via text about us continuing this joke about what our lives would look like if we actually went for this thing. I asked Lauren what our band name would be and she said “Beloved Daughters” and then quickly corrected herself and said, “No, 'Beloved' because we are all beloved children of God and I think thats what I want to live out.”

From there? God just kept revealing piece-by-piece what He had in store for us. Feeling more free to worship and taking risks in that; worshiping more; writing more. There was a clear shift of motivation in my and Lauren’s relationship; Josh Taylor [Missio Dei's lead pastor] reaching out to talk about wanting to possibly start a new gathering focusing on worship specially; Leading a Be1 [evening of worshipping and praying over Chicago] together and people responding to our passion; having a follow-up meeting with Josh and Melissa who invited us to lead an “Evening of Pursuit” AS Beloved; pictures by talented sisters; and word of this “Beloved movement” spreading like wildfire, so it seemed. One day it wasn’t real, and then one day it was. Nothing in our power, I believe, could have conjured up all the minute and not so minute details of what this has come to be.

What is your goal/hope for Beloved?

L: Complete and utter freedom in worship - that people can come before the throne of Jesus completely naked, raw, and unhidden, where they can experience all of his goodness, awe, and wonder, where they can be washed clean and know they are forgiven, where they can rejoice in His presence and sing praises at the top of their lungs, where they can taste the sweetness and pureness of Heaven, where they can come to the table as they are. That’s what I hope for for Beloved. But my main hope is God uses us/it for what He wants; not for our goals and dreams. 

M: In simpler terms, not so official…

I want to see people be set free. 

I want to pursue the greatness and manifestation of GOD Himself. I want people to realize the difference between musical expression and worshiping King Jesus — and I mean sitting at His feet and adoring who He is. Nothing else. Music or not, chords or not, microphones or not, I want Beloved to be a movement of people chasing after God’s will, trusting that He is who He says He is. As far as today, that’s all I can put my finger on as far as “goals” or “hopes.” We just want to worship, adore Him, seek Him… with everything.

What does worship mean to you?

L: For me, worship is intimacy with Jesus. That’s all. I could cry just thinking about that. 

M: What does worship mean to me? I find myself chuckling at this question. Not because it’s a bad question, just because it feels nearly impossible to answer. The thought of “worship” is so insanely intimate and incredibly massive, that I have no idea where to begin to try and explain the depth or width of my passion for this very thing— if were talking specifically “musical worship leading”. Universally, what I believe worship to be is the simple adoration of something. What consumes your conscious and subconscious thoughts. What drives you. The first thing your mind fixates on in the morning. And honestly, for me, that hasn’t always been God. In recent years, I have had some pretty gut-wrenching life change, to the point where it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest. Granted, I am naturally a feeler, so what some may call “growing up” is what I call gut-wrenching. Because there are real worries. Real heart-break. Real consequences for actions. If I put myself on a timeline, in all of my years of calling myself a “christian”, it seems to me just the past two years of my life I would consider myself a Christ-follower.

Until the very thing that I ACTUALLY worshiped was stripped from my life, which was my relationship of a year and a half at the time, that’s when I was on the fast-track of learning that if you ask God for things, He will provide. In the thickness of my relationship / obsession at the time, I remember crying out to the Lord asking “Where are you, Lord?” “What are you doing” What I’ve learned is if we “don’t hear newness from the Lord”, He’s probably inviting you into the last thing He said. Which for me at the time, was to go separate ways with this lover and pursue God Himself. So, I did (which I say so lightly because this was after multiple attempts of failure)! Which is right around the time Lauren and I met. Even though I was surrounded by blessing, my eyes and heart were so fixated on the very thing that was totaling my life. I was convinced this was the man I was going to marry, and him being a worship leader himself, I was also convinced we were going to change the world together. Oh, how blind I was to my first love. Blind. When I finally gave God my yes, when I finally stepped into obedience with Him, that is when my worship and life shifted drastically. When I put King Jesus on the throne of my heart,

Everything changed.

I heard the Lord’s calling on my life to become a worship leader. He provided people and leaders to speak into that calling. Beloved happened. My gifting of prophetic word, stronger than ever. I was confident! The Lord provided my journey to Bethel Church in Redding, California. I picked up the guitar again. I started seeing true transformation. 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” How ironic, a God of His promise." 
Matthew 6:33

What are some lessons God is teaching you as you both journey together as he brings Beloved to life?

L: God is teaching us patience, humility, confidence, unity, forgiveness in this season. He's teaching us to be slow to anger, quick to kindness, and to take a MASSIVE leap of faith daily. He's shaping, molding, and expanding us. He's testing, challenging, and growing us. He is showing us we are capable and able and good enough. 

M: Faithfulness. Patience. Sanctification. Patience. Selfless love. Patience. Hearing each other out. Patience. Trusting each other. Patience. Laying yourself down for a brother. Patience. You name it, sister. As far as what were teaching each other? Lauren is teaching me how to sit at His feet; I believe I’m teaching her to take more risks, ask bigger questions.

What is your response to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, "We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God."?

L: Yes and amen to that. All about that. Bring on the interruption Lord. 

I got a text over the weekend from someone saying she’s praying for hunger in me. Specifically, “that hunger for His presence would become the greatest interruption in your days.” I hope and pray that becomes my reality.

A truth I walk in everyday. On a global scale, yes - that I will listen to His plans over my life and  what he is calling me to do regardless of MY plan. But, I crave that truth on a smaller scale, in the ordinary of everyday, too. That I will be interrupted by His whispers and be interrupted by His shouts that I so often ignore. To be “interrupted” by Him at any volume at any and every time of day. So often I feel like I approach God in a bitter way - expecting him to show up and being disappointed when he doesn’t. Maybe if my approach was focused not on expecting Him to speak to me when I “need” him to, but to listen when he’s speaking to me, I wouldn’t feel disappointed. Rather, I’d feel filled and satisfied in His presence that I know is with me of every moment of every day. 

M: Yes and amen! 

I think as a Western culture, we are so focused on our individual relationships with God. How God fits in OUR story. How God can serve US. How are we seeking to serve Him? How often are we positioning ourselves under His authority, His parenting, and allowing ourselves to move with the very breath of His voice? More specifically, how am I, as a worship leader, allowing God to lead His people in worship instead of believing that I’m going to bring the glory? This summer while studying at Bethel, I remember Jeremy Riddle explaining how when he really stepped into submission of being a worship leader, he made a promise to himself that if he felt the Lord resting on a moment, he would never blaze through it again.

As a worship leader, my hope for the Church is to completely shatter our timelines and expectations and allow the Lord to penetrate us with His intimacy and relationship. Why are we so quick to leave Sunday morning gatherings? Why are we so obsessed with structured service? I long to see a people (myself included) that is so in tune to the Holy Spirit that time no longer exists. That expectation no longer exists. We show up and ask the Lord to do the rest. Which can bleed into my whole other tangent about being people of sustained praise. That worship never really ceases, it just takes different form.

When do you feel closest to God?

L: I would say I feel closest to God when I’m in worship. It breaks down any barriers I experience when coming before God. Barriers I place in my own heart and mind. When I’m truly worshipping, there are no barriers. 

My favorite worship spots are in the car, outside on the porch, or the lake.

M: I feel closest to God when I am in my secret place. When I am leading worship. When I am intentional about seeking His will. When I am driving in the car, blasting worship. I erased this answer at least four times trying to perfectly put how my relationship with God is, but I’ll just be honest in saying that I think I’m meeting God in much more practical ways these days than I am “spiritually” or “emotionally”. When I treat God like my closest friend, that’s when I feel closest to Him.


We couldn't help but ask some #OurChicagoStories Questions.


What do you find challenging about living here?

L: It can be challenging living in a city that is so fast-paced and where everyone is so busy all the time. I have no room to talk because I’m constantly go go going, but it can truly be a bit overwhelming at times to keep up with work, friends, outings, brunch, coffee dates, and everything else the city offers. There’s just so too options! It’s beautiful. There’s no place I’d rather be (besides maybe Paris). But sometimes I long to live in a city that allows and encourages me to slow down. That’s why the suburbs (where I’m currently living) is a weird breath of fresh air. But, at the end of the day, I’m ready to get back to my city. 

M: Living in Chicago has been challenging for many different reasonings, specifically for me because of the very season of life I am in. After leaving Moody Bible Institute in the winter of 2016, I was so integrated throughout the city, that it didn’t feel right for me to go. So at 20 years old, I was determined to move away from the comfort of the only house I ever lived in, and make a life for myself here. I got the cheapest apartment I could find, got promoted, picked up another job, and called Chicago home. I was so proud of this city, that as six months added up, I didn’t fully come aware of the financial debt I was slowly but surely accumulating. 

My parents consistently would encourage me over the phone that, “We weren’t living alone, supporting ourselves at 20 years old. You are doing what most people can’t do until way later on.” Comments like those, I believe, just fueled my pride. That no matter what battle or trial, I had something to prove to the world, and I was going to make this work.

That city became very lonely for me. I found myself working so much, that that’s all I would do - work to live, work to afford the next day’s groceries, work so that when my friends would ask to go out, I could pay for my night that I really couldn’t afford. 

See, my challenge has been accepting my season of my life.

That as a 21-year old, living within my means and stewarding the money / job God has provided means living in my suburban home, just outside the city and waiting for my turn to come once again.

Why do you love it?

L: Everyone in the city is different. I absolutely love people watching because no one person is the same. That’s why I love the city. Everyone is so different yet all living, communing and doing life alongside each other. I also love how different the neighborhoods are and how they so accurately reflect and depict the people that make them up.

M: I love living in Chicago because of the fact that you could drive 10 minutes west, and be in a completely different culture than you were before. I love the different family dynamic’s. I love the dozens of different neighborhoods. I love that there is such a variety of opportunity in Chicago, it has a freshness to it that any other city holds. I love the fact that you drive east or west on Addison Street, and you see trees bordering the streets. I love the fact that you drive just 15 minutes east to the lake, and you see one of the most stunning skylines I think the world ever did see. I love the fact that in spring and fall, when the axel of the Earth is titled just right,  the sky becomes a pink or orange backdrop for all the skyscrapers. I love the vibe. I love how far we’ve come as a city. I love our history. I love it. 

Why do you stay?

L: HA. Wow, I could write a novel about this. Let me start by saying I completely changed my career because of how much I wanted to stay. Let me end by saying the Lord is simply calling me to stay put, therefore, I stay. He has a major plan for me in this city. I think. Saying that out loud… or on paper… sounds crazy.

M: I stay because I also see the deeply broken parts of the city, but in hopes that one day, the darkest parts of our city, will soon be penetrated by the Light itself. I long for the day in history that this city alone shines so brightly for the glory of God, that the memory of the old will completely fade into the orange and pink. I stay because I believe in a city made new. I stay because God hasn’t told me to go yet. I stay because I have yet to see the calling of Chicago come alive. I believe — I feel it in my bones — God is on the brink of something. I stay because I believe theres so much left to be said.

How has community affected your time here?

L: It’s affected it in every way. In the best of way. I don’t think i would live here if i didn’t have the community i do. My community is home. I feel so secure because of my community.

M: I would be absolutely nowhere without the community God has surrounded me with. My time at Moody was most definitely seasonal, but I am so thankful for the Missio Dei congregation. I am proud of the creative charge we hold as a whole. I believe that it is because of community alone, I am so driven to stay. But I mean the real community. The “community” that feels so close to family, sometimes you can’t tell the two apart.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

L: Everyone is so creative in Chicago! I love witnessing that and being a part of different people’s passions and lines of work. It’s so cool to see and experience. I love the community surrounded by creativity. It’s absolutely beautiful. It challenges me to live more authentically and full and overall better.

M: Like I was saying before, I like that Chicago has its own sound, its own feel, its own mark, that I think we haven’t completely uncovered yet. I think as a Church, we are stepping into a place of true surrender with the Lord where He is just about to set the next Chicago fire. I really believe that is coming. I believe that will be and has been Chicago’s charge and change to the world.

The mixture of minds and the authenticity of hearts has such a power that I think we have yet to come to terms with. I think as a people, once we can truly activate our sound, this fire is going to spread far beyond our streets.

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

L: Never? That’s a hard one. I’m going to come back to.

This is me coming back to this. I’m definitely most comfortable in my own skin when I’m leading in authentic worship.

M: I feel the most empowered when I am leading a set of worship. When I lock gaze with the Father Himself and He allows me to activate my sound that He’s anointed me with. I feel the most comfortable in my own skin when I am surrounded by family and friends of like-mindedness.

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase / invest in. If so, how?

L: I spend a lot of money in Chicago. Not necessarily a good thing. HA.

M: Oh my, yes. My style specially, I have always loved the “thrifty” look, and I think that came into full bloom living here. I love being different. I love thinking outside the box and creating beyond what’s comfortable, and then wearing that as my own expression. And as far as my approach to purchasing that look, they go hand-in-hand, you work with what you got and get creative with it— and have fun doing it. Learning to embrace your season and making the most out of that. I’ve learned to wear confidence the best.

How has Chicago affected your worldview, if at all?

L: Yes. In every way. Mostly it’s opened up my eyes to the problems regarding segregation, poverty, race, and the list goes on.

M: Chicago has affected my worldview very, very much. I think anytime you step out of what’s always been comfortable, the first time any bird leaves the nest if you will, there is going to be rainstorms and there is going to be sunshine.I believe I’ve seen some rain and I’ve seen some sun.

I’ve seen the beauty this city can produce; I’ve seen some darkness, as well. Because of that, I believe I’ve become more sensitive to the world as a whole.

I think the sweetness of the city has kept me close, but I believe the sourness has opened my eyes— sometimes I find myself asking God if I have seen some things prematurely. It’s kept me compassionate; it’s hardened my heart. It’s helped me appreciate what God’s given me; it’s had me questioning God Himself.

Do you have an experience or a specific encounter here that has moved you/stayed with you that you'd be up for sharing? 

L: Just meeting different believers throughout the city. From all different walks, backgrounds, denominations, ethnicities. That’s what has moved me to stay. The vision that seems to unite us all is God’s kingdom overcoming and rising up Chicago. 

Is there any scripture that's been on your heart / resonated with you lately?

L: 

It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad They see me as their competition, and so worse it goes for me, the better - they think - for them. So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

Philippians 1:15-19

M: 

Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.
I said to the Lord, You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of their gods.
Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!
I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Psalm 16
It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that i am here defending the Message, 
wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad They see me as their competition, and so worse it goes for me, the better - they think - for them. So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!
 Philippians 1:15-19



What about music? What are you listening to lately?

L: Love Housefires. We recently discovered the Upper Room from Dallas, TX. Amazing. Amanda Cook and Bethel. I also really enjoy the song Nothing Is Holding Me Back by Bryan and Katie Torwalt. My favorite band is Handsome and Gretyl. And last but not least Bruno Mars, of course. 

M: Bethel, Upper Room Music, United Pursuit, The Lumineers — always, Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift (now that she's back on Spotify), Judah & the Lion, and a little bit of classical and instrumental


Can you provide the meaning behind your tattoos?

L: Wow, yes! I’ve loved tattoos since I was a kid. I hope to marry a man with a bunch on his arms. Just saying. Moving on…

Both of my tattoos happened pretty spontaneously. I’ve always loved tattoos and dreamed of having my own (dare I say it, sorry mom, a sleeve), but never had anything planned. I got my first tattoo when I was 19. My current roommate and really close friend got one pretty recently and it inspired me to go out and check out the local tattoo shops in Chicago. I found an artist I liked online and decided to go visit the studio. Turns out you need an appointment with him and he only does really large pieces, however, the night I stopped by his previous appointment had canceled and he said he was willing to do mine right then in there. Well, I didn’t have much time! I knew what I wanted (a cross on the back of my neck) but was only 99% sure. I didn’t have time for that 1% hesitation because before I knew it it was permanently on my body. 

I got my second tattoo this past March. I was on a worship leader retreat with some folks from Missio. We were right outside of Gelena, IL, which I’ve never been before. Kid you not, the first morning we were there I woke up and has an yearning to get a tattoo. It was so random! I ran downstairs and suggested to some of the peeps there that we should get tattoos today! No one was really having it. Fast forward to 15 minutes later and Mia (who was in the shower prior) came downstairs and suggested the exact same thing. We had not talked about it before nor did we even know there was a tattoo parlor in the town. Too funny. I ended up getting my favorite verse right above my elbow. Philippians 1:21. For to me, to live is Christ and die is to gain. Since I was a junior in high school, I always knew I wanted that verse somewhere on my body. I picked above my elbow because I have psoriasis on my elbows. I’ve always been extremely insecure about my elbows so now I have a little reminder to not cover them up, rather show them off. 

M:

  • two triangles on my wrists — my very first tattoos

One being solid black, the other just an outline of a triangle. One being black; one being "white" to represent extremities and not to live in them. I am a walking feeling. Anyone who knows me knows that I think — in my life thus far — emotions have sometimes taken the throne of my heart. but I believe as we become closer with our Jesus, we also become more consistent and balanced. It is the undoing of our flesh. Also, the six points represent each person in my family, and none of us would be complete without the other. 

Full disclosure: I have yet to perfect this meaning. But fun fact: It was a 2am art school decision with my middle school best friend, and a drunk guy did them and ended up scaring my skin forever.

  • Baby pine tree on the back of my neck — my first stick and poke
"It's your breath in our lungs and we pour out our praise to you only." - All Sons and Daughters

This was actually after their concert a few years back. Another late-night decision. A tree because nature has been a huge part of my upbringing. We have a cabin up north, and the pines there have always taken my breath away.

Also, learning to be thankful for the very breath that God has placed inside my lungs. Pouring out my praise to Him and Him only.

  • "yes &" in the middle of my left forearm

Theater has always been a huge part of my life, ever since I was a child. When I was at Moody Bible Institute, theater took a different shape. All three of my semesters, I was part of the improv team called "iNfoRmaL." They were my whole world at the time.

A huge rule in improv, and I've also learned in life, is the concept of "yes &." It's the universal idea of support. That when your partner or fellow improvisor throws out an idea, you do not deny their idea, making them feel unsupported, but rather saying, "Yes!" Adding onto their idea by saying, "Yes, and..." It's an act of selfishness. It's an act of laying your ideas down for one another.

My "yes &" moments with God have been my most challenging this past season, but I believe when we give God our yes, He provides our amen. He provides our blessing. He provides, period.

So it also represents a spirit of obedience and submission at the feet of Jesus. Putting His ideas before my own. 

  • "here" in the middle of my right forearm

Simply being before the Lord. Being still, knowing He is God. Embracing my season. "This too shall pass" concept

  • The three symbols on my left bicep

It's the crown of thrones, the cross, and the empty tomb. Christ's resurrection and my undoing. 

If there's anything else you'd like to share about Beloved's journey?

L: We just need continued prayers!! 

M: If I’m being honest, Beloved has been the hardest, but most satisfying, sanctifying, journey of my life. It is the most unsure, sure I have ever felt about anything in my life. It is the most vulnerable I’ve had to be. It is the most trusting in God I’ve had to be. What I want to share and be open with is this has not been easy. But not easy doesn’t always mean (but it can mean) bad.  I asked the Lord for more, so He’s providing more. I told the Lord I want to be “so sold out for Him”, so He’s showing me what that looks like. I asked the Lord to use my gifts, so He is. We are in the process, which I’ve learned at times, makes it hard to proclaim God’s faithfulness, but we do. We don’t run from the desert because we find living water there. We don’t run from suffering because joy is not, and never will be, circumstantial. What I’d like to share is this has been far from easy, but the most satisfied I’ve felt in my life. And I want my journey to be an example of living out calling.

The Lord laid something thick on my heart, provided a dear friend with a similar heart (scary similar), provided community, provided opportunity, and said “Go.” So we do just that. We’re goin’ for it.

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Hair by: Devin Sutter