Why?

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." ~Romans 1:16

Monday, November 7, 2016

peace for this night

I really do believe that no matter who is elected President tomorrow, God is still King and still good.

I really do believe that no matter who is elected President tomorrow, I don't have to live in fear. 

I really do believe that no matter who is elected President tomorrow, I can rest in the faithfulness of God, and His protection over me.

I really do believe that no matter who is elected President tomorrow, everything is still going to happen according to God's plan.

God is Lord over all, and His ways are perfect. 

God is stronger than any person on this earth.

God will never stop being faithful to me, and He will never stop protecting me. 

God's plans have been in place since the beginning of time. Nothing comes as a surprise to Him, and nothing throws off or derails His purposes. His Will will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 

Father God, You are on Your throne in Heaven; 
YOUR name be praised!
Your Kingdom will come and Your Will will be done, 
Here on earth as we wait for Heaven.
Please give us the things we need for today,
And forgive us, Lord, for our sin,
As we forgive those who have sinned against us.
Help us when we are tempted and deliver us when evil seeks to destroy us.
For the kingdom and the power and the glory are all YOURS.
Amen.

Sleep peacefully tonight, friends. The King is still on His throne. 

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." - Proverbs 19:21


Monday, August 8, 2016

on engagement photography & where i've been


Hey everyone! I'm back!

I know, I know - it's been nearly a YEAR since my last post - where have I been?

Well, doing this:

Head directing for the first time with Spotlight Youth Theater, the company I work for
Assistant directing my favorite musical of all time, Fiddler on the Roof, with Spotlight
Head directing again for Spotlight in a county I've never worked in
(Yes you read that right - that's 3 full scale musicals in a year. Phew! Good thing I love it!!)
Choreographing 4 original pieces for the dance teams I coach through Spotlight, and 4 more for camp
Teaching 12 classes with Spotlight, 4 per semester for 3 semesters
Teaching privately at my studio in the music store downtown
Working my 7th summer as a camp counselor for 7 weeks of camp, including Project Dance camp and Middle School Overnight Camp
Continuing to lead worship at my church twice every six weeks - and this year I took on playing piano on top of singing! Crazy.

Not to mention:

Cheering my sister on as she got engaged to the love of her life and chose me for her MOH :)
Trying to like, see my family sometimes
And oh yes, dating my favorite person in the whole world for over a year now :)

So it's been a crazy time. 2015/16, you rocked/are continuing to rock.

But I have missed blogging, that's for sure. It's something I love to do, but I have a hard time making time for it.

And honestly, since this little corner of the internet is so free-form for me - that is, I don't really have a theme or anything, and it's not a business venture (aka, it doesn't make me money) - sometimes I'm not even sure what to put here. I've used this space to process and heal and grow through dark times and deep hurts, and I've used it to share my favorite tweets of the week. Whether big or small, random pieces of my life are what end up here, and I hope it's been enjoyable and inspiring to whoever happens upon it.

Anyway, I thought it was time to jump back in and see what kind of consistency I can bring to this space this year. I'm excited to see what happens!

Today I wanted to share some of the photos I took for my sister and her fiancé, who have been engaged for a while now but never took engagement photos and I was like, GUYS. It's TIME. (If you follow me on Pinterest, you know I am mildly obsessed with engagement and wedding photography.) So they kindly let me experiment and take photos for them just using my little ol' iPhone! I was nervous at first, hoping I would be able give them at least a few good photos - but wow it turned out to be so fun and the pictures turned out great! I downloaded a lovely free app for Mac (yes you heard that right too - this girl finally has a Macbook and WOW it's amazing. I'm like, so so poor now but it's WORTH IT.) called Fotor Photo Editor and I was able to add some special touches to the photos we took. I'm pretty proud of them, but more than that I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend an afternoon/evening with my sister and soon to be brother in law.

K&J both had such great ideas - especially J! It was so fun to watch them laugh and talk and walk around during the golden hour - which is another thing that made these pictures turn out so well. Lighting is SO key!

So here are a few of my favorites from the shoot!


Yes, that is my shadow. I was trying SO hard to not have my shadow in there, but oh well. I am still a newbie. :)


This streaky sun thing happened all on it's own. Not an editing thing at all. The sun is cool. 

 

Another absolute favorite. After I finished editing all their photos, I found myself wishing I had done more with this green/blue filter. I just love it. 


Probably my favorite from the whole shoot. I love me a good doorway photo, and their model faces are prime.


GAH MODELS.


I think I'm most proud of this one - catching the sun beams at just the right moment. It's right out of a fairytale. But once again, this was less about my timing and more about how COOL THE FREAKING SUN IS.

Magical.


Fun fact: This is a mural that K worked on one summer in high school. She worked several summers with an art program in Racine and got to work on more than one mural in the city. Apparently her initials are hidden in there somewhere! We didn't find them, though.




J called this a "grassy knoll" and I was very impressed. 

 
Another absolute favorite. These two. GAH. 


K asked me to play with negative space in their pictures, so these are some attempts at that. 




Love these two. So happy for them. <3 

To close out this blog, I wanted to share an encouraging moment that happened between me and T. We were talking on the phone one night as I was editing these pictures, and he said something that made my heart soar. "Sydney, you're really good at this. Do you think this is something you'd want to do more of?" I hemmed and hawed, and talked about how maybe it's not really my gifting and also my fear of being another one of those basic millennials who thinks they're a photographer. (Let's be real guys, SO many of them exist. And I've judged them pretty hard because I'm TERRIBLE.) But T was gently persistent, asking if I'd ever want to invest in a good camera and continue to do this, and saying he'd support me if I ever wanted to pursue this. Goodness I love that man. :) He is my #1 fan, and he respects me and my gifts. He delights in the things that make me happy and feel purposed, and he's so perceptive of me and my heart. He sees things in me that I can't see in myself. It's so wonderful to be loved this way.


So who knows? You may be seeing more photography from me in the future. :) But for now, Happy Monday, y'all!





Tuesday, September 29, 2015

never too much

"I'm sorry," I say as I try to wipe my face, hold my phone, and drive all at the same time.

When I called him that night, I knew that I would probably cry at some point. It had been a hard night, and my heart was heavy and confused. I even mention it to him several times in the conversation that I might cry, just to warn him.

I didn't know that I would end up sobbing.

"Don't apologize. You're totally fine," he says sweetly. I can hear in his voice that he wishes he could jump through the phone and be there with me.

I continue sobbing as I head down Highway 50 and try to find the words to explain what he has just done for me.

All my life, I've been extroverted. Enthusiastic. An external processor. Emotional. I go through many highs and lows emotionally. I've been on the mountaintop, I've been in the valley - sometimes in the same week. I even walked through a season of depression a few years ago, though I didn't even realize it until recently. I just feel things very deeply. I've always been sensitive, but I've always seen that as a weakness, mostly because of the way people would respond to my sensitivity: uncalled for, overreacting, unnecessary - too much.

That being said, ever since I was a little girl, I've been characterized by enthusiasm and joy. I'm bubbly and outgoing. I love people and stories and beauty. I love being able to connect with people and their journeys. I don't like small talk - I'd rather have a real conversation with someone. I love to laugh, long and loud. I'm the first person to jump up and do the Cha Cha Slide at a wedding reception. I love being silly, and for other people to feel safe being silly with me. I don't like being serious all the time. I hashtag out loud in everyday conversations with people. I have a new catch phrase every month. But as I went along in my life, I found that there were people out there who treated my enthusiasm for life and fun like a weakness, too: too loud, immature, lacks propriety - too much.

I'm also a huge external processor. I need other people to process. I just do. Sometimes I don't know what my opinion is until I speak it out loud. I need to ask questions and seek advice. In general, the more people I talk with about something, the better I feel. I'm not a "think about it for three weeks and then share it with someone" kind of person. If it's on my heart, I need to talk about it with someone, stat. But over the years as I became more aware of how huge a part of my personality this is, I found that it was hard to think positively about it. Like everything else, it was a weakness: tiresome, burdensome, draining, time-consuming - too much.

I couldn't really see it, but it was true: every major part of my personality had come under attack. There was little about myself that I didn't see as a weakness. They weren't personality traits. They were character flaws. And you know what? Feeling like there's more stuff about you that needs to change than stuff that doesn't - it's exhausting. And it hurts. You are too loud. You are too emotional. You talk too much. You don't think before you speak. You aren't spiritual enough. You aren't serious enough. You are fearful. You are tiring. You are annoying. You are a problem that needs to be fixed. You are not enough. You are too much.

For years I have quietly believed that I would just need to spend the rest of my life apologizing for my heart. I would just have to get used to being sorry for what I'm like - for who I am.

And then, the kindest man I know speaks words that he doesn't even know will have the impact that they do, and my heart cracks. The floodgates open, and I'm sobbing on the other side of the phone. His words completely lay me bare.

Could it be? Could it be that someone I love so much and want so badly to think I'm not all of these things actually likes these things about me and is grateful for them?

Could what he's saying be true? How this part of me, my openness, my honesty, my willingness to invite him in and share my heart with him, has changed him?

My heart bursts, and I'm overwhelmed. I find myself trying to make a joke of it, saying, "Well NOW I'm crying." There I am - still apologizing for this thing that he has just told me is beautiful and valuable and necessary and good.

I'm quiet for a minute, my babbling capabilities disarmed, because it's becoming harder to breathe and the tears are falling hard and fast. It's hitting me what this actually means, and I can hardly believe it: I don't have to apologize for my heart anymore. Not with him. I'm bursting, trying to explain the utter relief that I feel, while still trying to wrap my head around it. I tell him, "No one has ever said that to me before." I can barely get the words out. I try to catch my breath and choke out, "You have no idea how much this means to me."


Oh sweet reader, whoever you are, hear this today: You are enough. You are never too much. God loves you so much and made you just right. Your heart? You don't need to apologize for it. In fact, your heart and it's deep, deep beauty? It's changing people. And it's so, so good. Don't let anybody tell you differently.


Monday, January 5, 2015

on fresh starts

Hi there! It's been a while hasn't it? My last post was nearly 3 months ago. What have I been up to??

Well, teaching, teaching, more teaching, choreographing, the holidays, and a small time in bed due to sickness.

And now it is January. 2015. A new year.

A fresh start.

Well... it didn't feel like that for me this year. Not until today.

Why? Well, my New Year began with a terrible cold and a bitter disappointment. It started, not with grand intentions and proud declarations, but with a weepy time journaling, praying that God would somehow bend and break me to His Will, when I felt like He was stripping me of the most beautiful things.

Getting sick meant missing out on a beautiful day of music and adventures with a dear friend, and it also meant several days in bed, doctoring my sore throat and dreadful sinus pressure, and losing time to work on the things I should have done before break.

And then, just when I thought I was doing better in some sin struggles, I fell AGAIN, and I was so frustrated with myself and angry at the "fresh start" I very much wasn't having. I got before God and asked His forgiveness and help, but I felt very defeated.

But then today, something amazing happened.

I finally started reading The Gospel Primer, the book my church is reading devotionally together throughout the month of January. I got out my Bible and my journal and the book and a pen and I set to it. But just as I was getting started, one of my dogs came upstairs, whining like he had to go out.

I pulled on my robe, found my slippers, and headed downstairs with him.

But when we got downstairs, and I prodded him to come outside, he wouldn't go. He just laid down next to our other dog in our living room.

I looked around, and saw a beautiful display. The Christmas tree - our first real tree ever - lit up and beautiful. The white/gray haven outside the big picture window. And two sleepy dogs, who just wanted my presence. They didn't need to go outside. They just wanted to be with me.

So I went quickly back upstairs, pulled on a pair of stripey socks, grabbed a blanket and all my books, and headed down to sanctuary I had nearly missed.

There I sat, in our old tattered rocking chair, a giant pink fuzzy blanket to keep me warm, gospel truths pouring into my heart via the books in my lap, and the beautiful atmosphere warming my heart.

As I "Mmmed" and underlined, and journaled out some prayers, a wonderful song a friend recently told me about played over and over in my head....

I am the Lord your God, I go before you now, I stand beside you, I'm all around you..... Come to Me, I'm all you need, Come to Me, I'm your everything... Do not look to the right or to the left, keep your eyes on Me....

And as I looked up, and saw outside the beautiful newly fallen and long anticipated snow, blanketing everything in the most perfect of whites, I couldn't help but think, "This is it. This is my fresh start."

My new year didn't start at midnight on January 1st. It didn't begin with gallant decisions. It began with the breaking of my will. It began with weeping because I couldn't bear to lose such a day. It began with more weeping because the pain was too great for me to bear. It began with disgust for my sin, and the desire to truly repent. It began there, in the quiet haven of my living room, as I took in all the beauty that surrounded me and thought, "I nearly missed this."

Dear reader, I don't know how your new year started out, and I don't know what your hopes and goals are. But I do know this - if you ask God to bend and break you to His Will - He will listen, and He will do it. And it will be painful and frustrating and scary and at times even heart-wrenching.

But it will never be wrong. God's leading in your life can never, and will never be wrong.

And you will never be alone. God will be with you through it all. Wherever you go, what you do, more than you know, He will be there.

I saw this tweet the other day and it struck me. E.M. Welcher wrote, "Let me be your friend for a minute: 2015 is going hurt too. You're going to need Jesus again this year. All year."

We tend to get really mushy gushy about new years. Like, "2015, be good to me!" And, "I know this year is going to be great!" Or we get cocky about it. We plan and resolve and think everything it going to be better, simply because it's January 1st. And listen, I'm all about thinking positive and setting goals and looking forward to new and beautiful things! But I appreciate Welcher's reminder. Even in your best year - you're going to need Jesus.

And don't forget that Jesus is near because He loves you and knows that you need Him near.

This Christmas season I heard not one but two very good sermons focused on God dwelling with us. And it was so encouraging, and also sort of attention grabbing to me. I mean, I've heard that before - Jesus being Immanuel - "God With Us" - but I just couldn't help but wonder if God was trying to drum something important into me this year:

Sydney.... I am WITH you.

You see friends, fresh starts and new beginnings are wonderful, but they aren't possible without God, His work, and His nearness. God breaking us down, bending our wills, making us holy, and dwelling ever so near to us.

So, welcome Him in, and breathe in His nearness tonight. Offer up your fresh start. Surrender your gallant plans. Take your will and make it HIS. He just wants to be with you.

Go to Him. He's all you need.



Come to Me, Bethel Music Feat. Jenn Johnson
 
 
"Don't look to the right or to the left, keep your eyes on Me..."




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

bitter

Today was a fight to peel off bitterness, layer by layer.

Some days it's really easy to be gracious. To think of others. To keep a healthy perspective.

Other days (like today for me), I gather every reason to be bitter, to feel superior, to feel justified in my anger and frustration, and sort of sit in it all for a while.

I didn't deserve to go through that.

That person doesn't deserve to be blessed.

Leave me alone.

I'm better than this.

I'm better than them.

And if I'm not careful, bitterness leads quickly to hatefulness and spite.

I hope everything goes wrong for that person.

I hope they get nothing they want.

I hope she realizes how wrong she is.

I hope he has to pay for that later.

It's a fight. Have you ever felt it? Those days when your pride is pricked and old wounds are opened up, and hour after hour it's just one big fight to reclaim your day and remember what is true.

I'm so thankful for a friend who sat and Facebook chatted with me today and let me sort of throw it all out there and be honest about what was bothering me. It was especially helpful and encouraging when she shared an example of bitterness she's wrestling with in her own life. It was such a soothing reminder that I'm not alone, that I'm not the only one dealing with hurt and anger and pride and just feeling bitter. And neither are you.

I'm not going to preach at you tonight, reader, and tell you all the reasons you and I shouldn't be bitter. We both know that ultimately there's something wrong in our hearts, something we've gotta get right - and that's between us and Jesus. For now, let me just soothe our anxious, bitter hearts with the reminder that God sees. And knows. And understands. And loves us, in spite of ourselves.

Let Him make it right tonight.
 
--------------------------

"If I got unforgiveness in my heart, then there really ain't no room for love,
Plus it's stupid cause, I've been so forgiven,
That if I hold a grudge, I don't show He's risen,
But I know my sin's removed since Jesus came,
With no reason to forgive me but He did so I do the same...

...Jesus forgave the ones that pinned him up on that cross as he was hanging from it,
Holy Spirit, teach me to be just like the Son,
Remove the roots of bitterness don't stop until your work is done"

Andy Mineo, Bitter

Thursday, September 25, 2014

late September

Why are you afraid?

It’s 3am and I’m not asleep, the Word document glaring bright white in the darkness of my room, filled with words that I hope will give me some sort of clarity as I spill them out.

Are you really afraid, or are you just remembering?

I see, feel, smell, remember something and bite my lip as the back of my throat reminds me that if I keep this up I will cry any second. I’m crying so easily these days, and in front of people! I never used to be able to do that. I guess a chord has been struck. I feel everything more deeply and genuinely than I did before. And I’ll admit that sometimes I kind of like it. To be able to connect with what I’m actually feeling so quickly. I couldn’t always do that. I’m especially thankful for the genuine part. I so admire genuine people, and I desperately want to be one. But sometimes it's really hard, because remembering’s hard.

The ways it was beautiful, mixed in with all the ways it wasn’t.

I know I found "a good thing” “there in the rubble of the heart that died.” I cried as God in His compassion showed me over and over again how beautiful and right things really are. I remember when I realized that He was heaping blessing on me even as I was running from Him. It's just that sometimes, I forget.

Are you really afraid, or have you just forgotten?

Isn't God so patient with us, even when we forget what He's done, and what He's doing? What is it that you need to remember today?  

And then there's the beauty – the beauty of what’s coming someday. My heart leaps, and I think to myself, I want it, I want it so badly, and I think I'm finally ready.

It's late September, and the air is crisp and clear, carrying pieces of the past and an expectancy for tomorrow, whispering nostalgia and shouting newness. And I’m just breathing it all in, remembering, and waiting.
 

 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

just trust me

"It's mine." I whisper, as I hold my dream behind my back for no one to see, and no one to take.

Oh, but He sees, and He could take it away in a second. In fact, He's the one that's really holding it anyway. I like to consider it to be in my hands, but that really isn't very true.

"Dear One,"  He speaks softly, "I have something so much better for you. But you have to let go of that thing you're holding first."

 I bristle at the thought and take a few steps back. I consider running but I know I have no place left to go. At least not any place worth going.

"But,"  I start, barely speaking above a whisper, "if you take this, I'll have nothing left. I'll be alone."

"Will you?"  He kneels before me, gets right on my level. "Am I going somewhere?"

I don't have an answer. I just cling to my dream, heavy in my hands behind me.

"Am I not enough?"  He looks me straight in the face, and I can hardly keep His gaze.

"You are."  I stammer. "It's just that I... I want this. How am I supposed to let go? How can I know you won't forget me?"

"I promise you, Dear One. I will never forget you."

I slowly bring my dream out from behind me and hold it close to my chest. It feels lighter than it did before, now that it's in front of Him. I try to loosen my grip and whimper, "But I love it, God."

He reaches out his hand and speaks three words: "Just trust me."