23

Thoughts on my 23rd

As I enter into my 23rd year, I come with pure joy. A feeling I don’t believe I’ve ever truly felt before, until now. Joy from the grace God has given me and the patience He has shown me, specifically in my walk with Him. But also joy, because of how He has gently restored me, even though I don’t deserve it.

His patience to wait on me to buy into His goodness and understand His reckless and never-ending love that can be found nowhere else but in Him has meant everything to me. And because of that, I plan to remain faithful all my days and practice long-suffering until the day I see His face. Because kindness like this isn’t something, you forget. It changes you. It gives you peace. It’s something you tell and show the world because words simply aren’t enough.

It’s fruit.


Things I’ve Learned at 23

1. Plan

You can plan all you want, and still, God has the final say. Become comfortable with submitting your wants to Him, but also understand that when your plans don’t come to pass, the author and creator of your faith is overseeing your life. Things will work out as they should, and He has your best interest in mind.

2. You’ll Have Questions

Questions… that’s the polite way to say doubts. Whether you have questions about your purpose or your role here on Earth, there will always be things you think of that God hasn’t fully revealed to you.  The crazy thing is, some of those things might not be answered in this lifetime, and that’s okay. But one thing I will say is, meet your doubts with faith every time. Sometimes you won’t have all the answers, but if you had all the answers, it wouldn’t be faith. Let faith be the bridge between your doubts and God’s plans that you can’t see.

3. Pros & Cons

There are pros and cons to everything. I know this is a simple concept and yet it has taken me 23 years to understand. Every decision has a consequence whether good or bad, and once you are able to truly see the two in every decision, then you will make better and more informed ones.


Things I’m Thankful For at 23

1. Perspective

I never knew the power of perspective until recently. Perspective can have you feeling like the scum of the Earth or the luckiest and most blessed person in the world all while dealing with the same circumstance. Protect your mind, and keep your perspective in order. It’s so important, and I’m thankful for the change in perspective I’ve had this year.

2. Family

It’s funny, I feel like I always put this one, but it’s true. There isn’t a year that goes by where I’m not more thankful for my family than the last. You can’t choose family but God gave me a pretty good bunch, and they mean the world to me.

3. Chosen Family

In this year I’ve lost a lot of friends, I’ve gained a few, and I’ve kept a few as well. My support system (chosen family) has played a big role in my life this year as I’ve grown to understand the power of community. I’m thankful for the people in my life who put up with me, hold me together, encourage me and do life with me, daily.


Goals for 23

1. Continue to grow my faith.

2. Nurture the relationships in my life.

3. Better understand/find my purpose.


Twenty-two was an amazing year, and I’m VERY excited to see what 23 holds. Until next time, get up, get moving and be salt & light.

5 Things I Learned In Haiti

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I recently traveled to Haiti and that trip taught me a lot. So in this blog post, I will share 5 things Haiti taught me.

1. My Love for Culture and People of Color

Living in America in predominantly white places, I have never really gotten a chance to be surrounded by people of color for extended periods of time. The feelings I got in Haiti were quite similar to the ones I got after watching Black Panther. It’s hard to describe, but there is so much power in being around people who look like you. Very cliche, but I felt at home in Haiti. I didn’t feel like I stuck out, I didn’t feel out of place, and I loved it! Also, I loved the culture. Coming from a household of blended cultures (Nigerian and Kenyan) it was no surprise I fell in love the with Haitian culture and the similarities I found between it and the environment I was raised in. I saw simplicity, work ethic, and joy just to name a few but also just a strong sense of community. Most of all I saw beauty in the way the people around me lived their lives, and I found God at work in the details, the big picture… I saw Him in it all.

2. Paved Roads and Driving Laws

The last time I went to Kenya, I was two, so I don’t remember much. I rely on the stories of my parent’s childhoods to paint the picture of living in a third world country. My mom has always talked about how long it takes to do things there. Doing one thing can be an all-day event, and most of the time it’s simply because of the commute. The minute we hit our first gravel/dirt road, I finally began to understand what my mom had been talking about for all those years. Paved roads are truly a blessing and driving laws are too because they save you for almost having a heart attack on the road.

3. The Importance of Communication

As a black girl, the most frequent questions I got when I was in Haiti were are you Haitian, do you speak Creole, and do you speak French, to all of which I answered no. People were in shock, mainly because I look like them and they just assumed I was or could do all of the above, but also because it really limited my ability to talk with them. Thankfully I had wonderful translators around that were more than amazing, but I felt so entitled and even rude to be in their country without knowing even a little Creole, yet they knew anywhere from one to four languages. To say the least, I don’t plan on visiting a country without knowing at least a few common phrases. But in all honesty, I’m in the process of learning Creole as you reading this.

4. People are People

Cultures are different but people are people. While languages don’t always translate, smiles do and thank God for that! It’s funny how when you can’t communicate very well sometimes that’s when it’s easiest to see someone’s heart. It’s easy to get distracted by looks, status, etc., but nothing says more about a person than they’re joy, they’re smiling, and their heart.

5. Less Is More

A lesson I’ve been learning recently is that there are pros and cons to everything. I love living in America, but because of the privilege I have living here, a lot of my worries and concerns are of things that don’t actually matter. To put it more simply, the things I worry about most are things that I am privileged to actually worry about. But living in a third world country, many people only worry about the things that actually matter: God, food, clothing, and family. It’s amazing how short that list is how long I make mine sometimes. Or how often times we think things will bring us happiness when in reality the exact opposite is true.

So those are a few of the things I learned while in Haiti. If you haven’t already, I hope you get a chance to visit the wonderful country. It is beautiful!

Until next time, get up, get moving, and be salt and light.

Peace > Clarity

A wise man once said, “It’s hard to get your gift from God when both your hands [are] full.” – Tobe Nwigwe

Recently, not only my hands but my mind have been full, overflowing really. In this season of unemployment, I have been plagued with worry. To be honest, when I first entered this season, I was fine. I still had faith that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. But it’s funny how the testing of your faith can reveal the truth.

This is not to say that I don’t have faith in God, but this season has shown me that I need my faith to be stronger. It’s not as strong as I thought it was and just like when you grow your muscles through lifting, you are in pain and quite sore, the growing of my faith has left me just the same, sore and in pain.

I think I entered this season with a vague timeline of when I would exit. It wasn’t like I said, “On September 15th, I will have a job,” but as days continue to pass and I still don’t have one, and there isn’t much progress being made, anxiety has set in.

So, what do you do when God is late? What do you do when you underestimated your season? Well, I recently watched a sermon by Transformation Church (TC) out of Tulsa, Oklahoma called “Planted and I Underestimated.” TC is in a series called Planted Not Buried (it’s incredible, and you should watch all of it when you get a chance) where they have explained that both planting and burying is the same processes, but the outcomes are different. If you’re not careful, you could be having a funeral when you should be celebrating growth.

But in this particular sermon, one of the points made was, you need to embrace the delay when you’re waiting for God or you feel like He is late. I know when I heard that the first time I was like, “Really? You want me to be happy while waiting? You know I’m a millennial right?” But honestly, that statement couldn’t be more accurate.

It’s no surprise I haven’t been great at embracing delay, but as I have been forced to wait, it’s been amazing to see how God has revealed parts of His plan and his goodness to me.

For example, I recently went on a mission trip to Haiti. The timing of the trip couldn’t have been better because I really needed a break from my normal life. I was losing my mind… I’m not kidding. But it’s funny, how this trip popped up at the right time. Only God!

I needed to serve, I needed to live with less, I needed to lead a simpler life, and more importantly, I needed to be disconnected from the things that were causing me stress. (There will be more on my trip to Haiti in upcoming blog posts, so if your interested subscribe.) But with all that aside, I needed Haiti because I needed clarity. My current situation was draining me and I was drowning in my own sorrows.

I didn’t have high expectations for the trip because I knew it could go a number of ways. Truthfully, I was hoping God would give me an aha moment. That I would be there and realize my purpose, or get a word from God, or something and to be honest none of that happened. At least not in the groundbreaking, earth-shaking, mind-blowing way I expected. But instead, it happened subtly.

I didn’t gain the clarity I was seeking, but I did gain peace.

On the flight back to the States, I reflected on this exact topic and realized that God didn’t tell me my purpose then or give me clarity on anything, but by allowing me to live a simpler life and understand what is important, He gave me the peace to know that everything will be just fine. So, for now, I am free from worry, free from anxiety, and choosing not to dwell on uncertainty.

The funny thing is, while I am fine now, these are demons I will have to fight again, and again, and that’s okay.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:19

Worry, anxiety, and discontentment were, and still are my temptation. But Haiti was the escape God provided for me, and that trip allowed me to rediscovered God’s goodness, how unworthy I am of His love, and how He loves me dearly anyway. For that I am thankful.

Until next time, get up, get moving and be salt & light!

Vulnerability

V for Vulnerability

When I hear the word vulnerability, it’s like someone said the word “moist.” It just makes me queasy and uncomfortable. It’s funny because I used to think I had no issues being vulnerable, but what I really found out is that I’m great at keeping people at an arms distance.

The act of being vulnerable is uncomfortable, and I’m really bad at sharing personal details about my life.

I know what you’re thinking. “Sydney, you have a blog… about yourself. What are you talking about?”

I know, track with me for a minute. I do have a blog about myself, but much of what I share isn’t what I would call vulnerable information. I am willingly sharing it because it doesn’t take much out of me to share it. I share it because I love writing. I share it because maybe it can help someone else. But rarely do I share it with the intention for people to know the real me.

So about this vulnerability thing… For years, I’ve been praying for quality people and friendships to come into my life. I’ve wanted support groups, accountability partners, people who can look at me and say, “You’re not acting like yourself, what’s up?” even when I put on the facade that everything is good. I’ve wanted people who could call me out where I fall short, help me as I move towards sanctification, and much more.  Now, I’m finally in a position where I have those people, or I could have those people, but again, I keep them away.

I want you close, but not too close. I want you to know me, but only what I want you to know. Really I just want to be the introvert that goes to a coffee shop to be around people but doesn’t actually want to make conversation. That is me in a nutshell.

But as I learn more about what it means to live in community, I’ve learned those behaviors are actually the furthest thing from community. Community is allowing people to know you, all of you.

Not the Sunday morning you. Not the Beyonce version of “I woke up like this” you. But the you that nobody really wants to be around because you have problems, you.

Vulnerability is allowing people to get so close they could hurt you, but choosing the right community so that you can mitigate the unnecessary pain. You will get hurt being vulnerable, you will get hurt in community because people are imperfect, but as you exercise vulnerability in community, you begin to see what love actually looks like.

Vulnerability, community, and love. It’s hard to have one without the others, right?

It’s hard to be vulnerable, but it’s a prerequisite to community and love which are both things that we were built for because we were made in the image of God. So as I strive to become more vulnerable, no matter how hard and uncomfortable it is, I hope you strive to do the same.

Is vulnerability a hard thing for you too? Let me know in the comments below.

As always, until next time, get up, get moving and be salt and light!

The Erryday: Trials

Trials are hard. I’m sure that’s something we can all agree on, but God never said there wouldn’t be trials. What we do know is “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 – ESV). This means that all things will work together to further our sanctification, making us more like Christ our creator.

While that might not be the thing you wanted to hear, especially if you’re currently walking through a trial or in a season of tribulation, I hope you do find comfort in its truth. God is with you through it all.

God is in the trials.

God is in the mundane.

God is in the erryday.

Until next time, get up, get moving and be salt and light!

Thank you, Dear Readers

This blogging thing has been a work in progress. Some of you are OG readers and have been with me since the beginning. The beginning that was Sydney Sundays. I started that during the second semester of my sophomore year in undergrad and maintained it for about a year and a half. I took a break and then decided to rebrand myself with a lifestyle blog, hence SydneyUmeri.com.

But whether you were there from day one or this is your first time, I want to take a moment to thank you for supporting me, my blog, and for reading what I put out every Tuesday and Thursday.

Blogging isn’t easy, but it’s my passion. I love writing, storytelling, and showing myself in a different light.

While that is all great, ultimately, blogging isn’t all about me. Like many things, it takes two to tango and SydneyUmeri.com would be nothing without its readers. Partly because, I can’t tell you how many times kind words from readers and friends have kept me going.

Again, I blog because I love it, but I’d be lying if I told you I don’t look at the numbers. How many people read my post? How many people liked it? Was it well received? Should I have posted that? It all runs through my mind, and on days where I’m discouraged and feel like I shouldn’t blog because no one is really reading my stuff, it never fails, a reader, friend, acquaintance or stranger will reach out and comment on how much they enjoy reading my content.

Words cannot explain how much that moves me because it makes blogging worth it. I blog because I love it, but I love blogging because I can touch the lives of others through it.

So I just wanted to thank you guys for continuing to inspire me to do what I love even when I question if I should. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my posts, and thank you for supporting my passion. SydneyUmeri.com would be nothing without you all.

Until next time, get up, get moving, and live your best life!

Moonlight: Your Constant State of Becoming

As dynamic as the movie Moonlight and its characters were, I feel that if we look closely, we will all find Little, Chiron, and Black in ourselves. For those of you who haven’t watched the movie, I highly recommend it. It is another screenplay meant for theater that was brought to the big screen and again, another one that doesn’t disappoint. That is saying a lot coming from me because it’s not my typical happy romantic comedy. But after seeing the film, I definitely believe it lives up to every nomination it has received.

i. Little

This section of the movie hit home for me because I, like many others, was bullied during my childhood. Statistics for bullyingstatistics.org say, “About 77% of students have admitted to being the victim of on type of bullying or another,” so I know many of you can relate. It was hard to watch such a fragile child who was so unsure of himself deal with both physical and emotional abuse pertaining to topics that he had no knowledge of. It was also hard because much of his bullying stemmed from society’s unwillingness to accept him and ultimately rejecting aspects of his being because it didn’t exude masculinity as we define it today.

While I felt for this character, I also recognized the all too familiar pain of being an outcast and not truly understanding why. While my childhood bullying situation was nothing like Little’s, this was only the beginning of me understanding how our pasts have a lot to do with who we are today and how we answer the ever-illusive question, “Who are you?”

ii. Chiron

Just as many kids experience when bullied, it only gets worse as you get older. So bad that in many cases, you’re pushed to a breaking point. While Chiron was physically abused more than anything, the mental aspect of trying to figure out who he was and live a life that would grant him peace and a sense of normality was no easy task.

Like Juan alluded to earlier in the movie, “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” In this part of the movie, you see the beginning stages of Chiron defining himself, and I identified with he as he attempted to do that.

If you think about it, whether it was in high school, college, or even if you’re still waiting for this, at some point, we all have a defining moment or series of events that help us define ourselves. For me, I think my “moment” was and still is a series of events that continue to take place every day.

I am not the same person I was in high school, and now I can say I’m not the same person I was in undergrad. Always changing, I find myself constantly in a Chiron state of mind, balancing aspects of my past with current situations, and where I see myself in the future. Call me crazy, but I think we all deal with this reality at some point or another.

Chiron took a huge step towards choosing who he wanted to be. Ultimately, he made the decision to save himself from his life of physical and mental abuse by fighting back in the most literal sense. Which leads us to the manifestation of what he chose to be, Black.

iii. Black

I think if anything, we will all see a reflection of ourselves in the character Black. I know I do. As a person who is extremely keen on self-reflection and awareness, I often find myself asking who I would be if my past were a little different, or if I genuinely like/hate some of the things I claim to. After taking one too many sociology classes in undergrad, the Goffman theory that we all actors never fails to peak its head in my daily thoughts. But this movie helped to bring these ideas and theories to life.

Just as Chiron left and reinvented himself to be Black, the toughest version of himself, I feel that in some cases we all adjust our personalities and preferences to shield us from past negative experiences. But with that said, are we truly ourselves? Is that who we chose to be or is that who society forced us to become?

For me, the true beauty of this film was discovered when a concept I learned in undergrad at UVA surfaced. The idea that we are always in a constant state of becoming. This idea in its simplest form is that we are always changing into versions of our best selves. But from this movie, it also shows that we are always changing as we attempt to answer the question of “Who are you?”

I’m sure if the movie went on there would be another character following Black. But for us, as we move through different phases of life, we are not solely limited to being Little, Chiron, and Black, we have the opportunity to be so many different versions of ourselves as we continue our cycle of becoming. But with the opportunity to continually become, I hope that we have the strength despite what society says, to truly become ourselves. Not the version of ourselves that society created due to its sometimes harsh and unforgiving nature. I hope that you truly become you.