Jocelyn Jansen became Studio director this fall, but the fledgling girls’ program is not her first Riverside rodeo. Jocelyn began costuming back in the summer of 2014, for the theatre program’s inaugural production: Robin Hood. Since then, she has costumed for a large percentage of the plays/musicals/variety shows and has run a number of successful camps for girls.
There are now ten Jansen children, all of whom have been or are still a part of Riverside, including four-year-old Zelie, who is able to join in with her sisters at Studio. And the Jansen patriarch, John, is one of Riverside’s most supportive fans for the joy it has brought to his family and the creative outlet it has provided to Jocelyn.
Check out what our new Studio director has to say about her experiences at Riverside, what she hopes for the girls’ program, and how having a creative outlet can be a balm during the most trying times.
What drew you to Riverside initially back in the day?
We had heard from several friends about a theater program starting in the summer of 2014. This caught my attention and seemed very doable for our family. We knew some families who planned to participate and after looking on the website, I found out they needed volunteers for costuming. I had minimal experience sewing, but loved the idea about helping out in some way. That first summer spending time at Mayslake Peabody Estate, working collaboratively with both our children and parents, was magical. It was very simple, but so beautiful. Our children formed many new friendships that year and we were hooked!
Now that you have been in it for a decade, what fruits have you seen in your children?
There has been so much fruit, I am not sure where to begin. It was our oldest three daughters where I saw the first fruits. I know Peter Searby’s initial focus was on the Tutorial Program for boys, but it was our girls that drew us in. Riverside became a wonderful bridge for us to connect with homeschool families on a regular basis. Our children worked alongside both boys and girls on creative projects and bonded in a deeper way. They ran barefoot outside playing frisbee, immersing themselves in nature, and having more opportunities to see friends on a regular basis. The community and projects were so wholesome and innocent.
I see the fruit with our adult children as they reminisce with Riverside friends about crazy adventures (like throwing up backstage, costume flops, lice threats, etc). There is a confidence in our children as they apply the Riverside Code in every situation. They see beyond the everyday grind, are intentional about going off alone to pray, are careful not to criticize especially when working creatively with others, and live the work because they absolutely love it. They aren’t afraid to rough it and see every challenge as an adventure! They have lived and breathed this within our family and our community and it is such a blessing seeing some of our older ones apply this outside of Riverside in their new adventures. Riverside emphasizes the importance of using our gifts always for God’s glory. This Spirit, rooted in Christ, is infectious and so refreshing and attractive within our culture today.
What has the opportunity for creative outlet and fellowship brought you as an adult?
I must admit, after my first time costuming, there was a new gift in me that I didn’t know existed. I have always loved crafting but was so limited with time because of all our children and the demands of homeschooling. God is so good to have given me this opportunity. I find that when we say Yes to Him in service, it is mutually beneficial. We read in Psalm 37:4, “Delight Yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your Heart.”
My entire family saw this new joy in me and loved seeing me so happy. My husband John has been my biggest support and my involvement with Riverside has strengthened our marriage and our family.
In August of 2018 we had lost our baby daughter Jacinta to SIDS when she was only 27 days old and during that time, I had to pull away from the community a bit. It was one of the darkest times of my life. My dearest Riverside friends stuck by my side and were very patient and loving through my grief. It wasn’t until six months later when I stepped back into costuming for the musical Coyote Cal. Many thought I was crazy to go back to costuming after having had such a loss and I was also several months pregnant with our newest baby. However, in this work, I discovered a new love for weaving when I was creating authentic Native American Costumes. I became obsessed with this fiber art, and realized that something about it was very healing. The arts are that way, being made in God’s image, we can take part in creation. I have grown so much closer to Our Lord whenever I have done work for Riverside. I know anything good I do is all Him and I am just His instrument.
What are some of the Highs and Lows of costuming?
Costuming during a Riverside Musical is all consuming. It takes up a lot of brain space and time. John and our children have to step it up, doing the work I usually do at home. I am grateful shows are seasonal and I am careful to not allow costuming take me away from my vocation, but instead strengthen it. I have often delegated costuming work to our children and it has been a joy working together creatively! It is a labor of love and costuming can become more complex and challenging, especially as Riverside grows. However, the work is starting to bear much fruit. We have a huge collection of costumes through the years, and I am finding that I am able to reuse many items and just make key pieces for plays. I have had more support from volunteers and often delegate projects to other talented seamstresses in the community which has been such a help.
I am not naturally organized, but have had to exercise that muscle to keep order and maintain my sanity. It is another way I know Our Lord wants me to grow, just like in trying to manage our 10 children, and I am grateful for these challenges.
I am always on a high during tech week. I see all the work from so many people come together to create a beautiful production. I love meeting new people in places we are renting and learning new things from more experienced people working behind the scenes.
My favorite part of costuming is working with the children. It is very powerful seeing an actor or actress truly become their character once they put on their costume. It is a beautiful way to love and serve the Riverside Community.
What drew you to take on the role of Studio Director?
My compass in everything I do outside of our home is our family. Our fourth daughter, Monica, is very imaginative and loves dancing. I could see a restlessness in her that I knew Studio could fulfill. My initial plan was to just be an aid for Studio, but God always has another plan.
After talking with those involved with Studio and seeing the need for Corbett Burick to take a step back, I knew Our Lord was calling me to take on this role. I was very drawn to this opportunity, although it caught me by surprise and I felt very inadequate. However, in that bit of struggle, I saw how God had prepared me well for this position, especially after running so many camps through Riverside before. I am able to use much of my background in education and my experiences to help me in this position. We also have an amazing team and they are such a gift to the program. Again, my wonderful husband has been such a pillar, and I could not run Studio without his love and support. God always provides when we just say Yes to Him! Often our Yes to God leads others to say Yes to Him as well.
What is your goal for Studio and the girls?
My goal is to live out the Riverside Mission with these girls. In our culture today, we have to be very intentional about the messages we send our daughters. I have made many mistakes in my early years of parenting and it wasn’t until we lost our daughter Jacinta that I realized how much of a gift each of these children are to us. Girls need to hear this all the time. That they are truly God’s treasure and have been blessed with many talents that are meant to be shared with others. It is all for God’s glory and not for us to keep to ourselves or fill our egos. I hold a high standard of how girls treat each other and themselves in the Studio. I want to help them see that the source of all their goodness is from Our Lord and nothing else.Through Riverside tasks, the girls have more opportunities to learn how to work together, encourage each other, and help them enter into a greater story on this pilgrimage to heaven.
We learn so much from both literature and the arts about how to express ourselves in a way that reflects true beauty. I tend to live in the present moment, not planning too far in the future, and my main goal is to just walk with these girls on the right path toward heaven. They certainly help me stay the course as well!
What advice would you give Riverside Families?
I’d say go to as many Riverside events as possible. Take the time during drop off or pick up to talk with parents. Find time to volunteer for a Riverside Event during the year. This will provide opportunities to meet other families and work alongside your children.
Also the tasks given in Tutorial and Studio can be done together with the family. I have often read the books (and still do) with our kids and it has been so unifying for us. We do the dances together and I go fishing and birding with my boys. Ask them to read you their stories, look in their journals, or see their projects. The more we can share with them in these creative endeavors the better. Being present to your children and loving what they love is so important to their formation.
In the midst of the great Riverside adventure, families also have to remember the Riverside Code. I know it is hard to see the gold, especially during an intense Riverside Event or when changes happen. There have been challenges especially when there is growth in the community, but there is treasure there. We just have to keep our minds on heaven and only steer in the direction of what is good. Reading Peter Searby’s books might be helpful to understand Riverside’s Mission. Our experience within this community has been a big part of our children’s education and formation and we continue to see so much fruit!