This week Beth and I got to sit down with our partner, Allison for her Q & A interview. She let us know ahead of time that no questions were off the table and we hope you enjoy getting to know a bit more about her as much as we did--we have to admit she surprised us!
Photo by Rachael Hairston
Beth: From what major influence do you attribute your deep faith life (person, experience, etc.)?
Allison: That’s a good question. I think it’s definitely a combination. I didn't grow up going to church from birth. My mom started taking us to our Catholic Church, St. Leo’s, when I was older. I didn’t get baptized or receive the sacrament of First Holy Communion until I was in 5th grade, so joining the church is something I was definitely a very active participant in. Our church was very progressive and I was actually baptized by full submersion in a huge tub of water. I would say it was a pretty impactful way to join the Christian faith, and a very rare way to join the Catholic Church. Our church was one of the first churches to allow female alter servers and I was one of the first girls to serve in the Catholic Church. There was also a full band instead of a traditional choir. My entry into Catholicism was unique on so many levels, and in a way that I think I felt personally connected to it.
Later, I went to a public high school, but joined a retreat with some friends, called LOG (Love of God) , a non-denominational Christian retreat. Witnessing the love and connection that happened through those weekend retreats and then planning them was pretty remarkable. You would see all kinds of high school kids come together in a way that was truly incredible. Thinking back to it now, it’s even more amazing to me to think about the level of vulnerability and love that was shared among teenagers, who many would otherwise probably never be in the same room. At that point in my life I think I started to see my faith differently. I think maybe this was when I first started experiencing my faith in the sense of relationship. At those retreats it was all about experiencing God through relationship. Sharing feelings, situations, ideas and making ourselves vulnerable, and then listening, holding space and accepting others. We found God somewhere in the sharing and receiving between us in a way that was very, very real.
As far as people, definitely my mom, who first started bringing me to church and always had a belief in a higher power and believed in the power of community and people. I am grateful that she gave me the experience of a faith-filled community. She also always gave us a lot of room to question, doubt, and struggle with the parts of faith that can be hard to comprehend. I think struggling with your faith is such an important part, and deeply connected to the depth of your faith. Its necessary. Without the space to struggle with those aspects, I don’t know if my faith would be what it is today.
And Mother Teresa. Reading her book, “Where There Is Love, There Is God: A Path to Closer Union with God and Greater Love for Others,” transformed me and my faith and definitely in a way that deepened it. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it.
Stacie: When you think of the future of Chasing Grace what are you most excited about?
Allison: So much. but I do get excited about the smallest things when it comes to CG, and so many of those things have already happened. I think right now I would say I look forward to getting to a place where we are able to take a really-crazy-big-risk with the brand, like seriously push our limits on something and not worry at all about the possibility of failure. I think that sounds like so much fun!
I was asked to Love my neighbor, Love my people, eat bread with them every week and then go and serve them the best I can. My faith has never asked me to do anything else," Allison Sebastiani
Beth: Which of your children is most like you and why?
Allison: Definitely Gus. They all have traits that at times remind me of myself but. Gus is so much like me, especially as a kid. He prefers to be alone rather than in large groups. He is also very guarded with himself, sharing his true feelings and thoughts only with people he feels entirely comfortable with. He spends so much time sitting back and watching before he will decide to jump into something or not. I remember once in a grocery store a woman trying to talk to Gus and he refused to answer, and then she asked me if he couldn’t talk. I don’t remember what I said but I remember thinking, “No he talks plenty, he just doesn’t want to talk to you.” That part of Gus, reminds me so much when I was a kid. I think we both have a lot of quirks and we both aren’t too worried about how the rest of the world thinks or feels about them.
Photo by Allyson Wiley.
Pictured with her husband, August and 4 children: Gabriella 11, Sofia 9, Gus 5, Paul 3
Stacie: What do you find is the most joyful part of being a Christian? What component of the Christian religion do you have the hardest time relating to?
Allison: The most joyful part of being Christian for me has been service. When I think about the times in my life when I have felt my heart is the most full, the most joyful, and so certain that I was exactly where I was meant to be, has been when I have been in service to others. Working to feed, cloth, care for and love someone else, no questions and nothing in return, has been truly joyful. I think the feeling can almost be addicting too, because there is no substitute for the feeling you get when you experience that kind of Love for others. This question also reminded me of one of my favorite quotes (by Mother T of course ), “Joy is a net of Love by which you can catch souls". I just love that visual of what joy is.
And the component that I have the hardest time relating to is: RULES. Man, the rules. Why are there so many? Why does every denomination have different ones? I can’t even. I am not anti-rules, but I think so much of the time they get in they way of the good stuff. I struggle with how much time is wasted debating which rules are the right ones, and how they are interpreted and who is following this rule, and who isn’t following that rule. Just stick to the loving people part, and move on. For example, someone recently was discussing the church ‘rules” and wanted to know what I thought about gay marriage and the catholic church. Did I believe in gay marriage or that the church should take a stance on it, etc. They wanted me to weigh in on the topic as a whole. My answer was this: As a Catholic and a Christian never has my God, nor my religion has ever asked me to have an opinion about this or about others. I was asked to Love my neighbor, Love my people, eat bread with them every week and then go and serve them the best I can. My faith has never asked me to do anything else, and if the end goal is always to Love them, I would like to skip all the rest and just get to the good stuff, So yes, I don’t eat meet on Fridays during lent, and some other stuff, but I struggle when the rules seem to get in the way of the Loving people part.
Beth: What is the biggest change, movement, or shift you hope to see as a nation in the next 5 to 10 years?
Allison: I hope that there is a shift in the way we treat, protect, discipline and educate our children. To be completely, honest I think we need overhaul and a huge paradigm shift on the way we, as a country, handle our children. From the epidemic of child trafficking, and pedophilia all the way to the way we educate and discipline our children is something that needs to be greatly improved. I think people get uncomfortable when we talk about the topic of abuse and wrongdoing toward children and it is uncomfortable, but it is also unacceptable. I think about how different the next generation of adults would be if we cherished them as children more. If we had the greatest respect for them as people, if we protected them like our life depended on it.
I am hopeful, though. The past 2 months there have been record amounts of arrests in our country in child trafficking as well as pedophiles. I hope we can start to talk about the uncomfortable things, I hope we can be brave. I hope that our country will be brave enough to be uncomfortable, for the sake of our children, because the bitter truth is, if we don’t, no one else will.
Stacie: What has been the most powerful memory in your life and why?
Allison: I hate my answer for this one and I wish it were something else. July 13, 1999 is a day I never forget. It was the summer before my senior year in high school. One of my best friends, Sarah and I were on the phone talking when her other landline rang. I was in my front yard wearing a work out swimsuit from water polo practice and cleaning out my car while talking on our wireless phone. She answered the other line and I was still on the phone in her hand, and I was listening to every word while she heard that her younger brother, Brian had been in a rafting accident and died. He was 14. I remember every second for the rest of that day and yet it seems like a blur all at the same time. I remember the sound of her screaming and I remember the drive there. It was the most painfully long car ride of my life— trying to get to her. I knew she was home alone. I remember the overwhelming sadness and helplessness we all felt, I can still feel it in my bones when I think about it. I remember the sadness that sat in every room for the following days, weeks, and months. For many of us, at that point, it was the greatest loss of our lives. For Sarah, I know it still is. I had traveled through Mexico with Sarah and her brother the summer before, and he was going to be a freshman at our high school in the Fall. That moment, that and day, and the loss is definitely my most powerful memory. Every July 13th I remember it, and on his birthday, March 31st I think about it, and every time I see a monarch butterfly I think about it. I have never been asked this question before and I have to be honest my answer takes me aback a little. Human suffering is powerful in that way though, and I think it changes you. I know it changed me.
Beth: When you organize a look, say for an evening out, what is your process and what can’t you leave the house with out putting on (excluding Chasing Grace pieces)?
Allison: This question makes me laugh, because the word “organize” is super generous and I literally picture myself getting ready, which would give anyone a good laugh. My looks have to be classic and have a level of simplicity. I also prioritize comfort, not in the sense of the actual clothes (well sometimes) but the look,— I have to feel 100% comfortable in the look, or I won’t wear it. Luckily at this point in my life I know myself pretty well. I start with the pants and decide if it will be a jean, leather legging, or trouser, etc. Then that will determine the style of top and then last outerwear: jacket, sweater, etc.
I think Stacie would say the thing I can’t leave the house with is a white t-shirt, which on most days would be true. I love me my white tees. Yeah, I will stick with a white tee because I can’t think of anything else. Oh, maybe a gangster grey zip up hoodie—that could be debatable. (That’s for you Reba.)
What is your favorite piece from each of the CG Jewelry, tees, and hats, and why?
Tee: Beatitudes Tee. I adore the beatitudes and in more recent years fell in love with Nadia Bolz Weber's sermon on the passage. I also love the way it just looks like a beautiful piece of art, but then when you read it--there is so much there. And its handwritten, so it's literally one of a kind. .
Jewelry: The Simple Spike Trio. I love wearing the 14", 24" and the 36" set all together. For me it is a beautiful and subtle alternative to the crucifix. Most people might not realize that the 3 spikes are a representation of the 3 nails of the crucifix. I really love them.
Hat: Fitted Logo Hat. I love the fit and I know I really love our logo. I wear it all the time!