The next couple days were about the Lord underscoring a few things in our life. At this point, we were pretty confident about staying on the road past our 4 to 6 month window. But, given the change in direction in the mission/ministry of Be The Change Youth Initiative, we had absolutely no idea what any of it would look like. (And, honestly, that’s no different than anything else in this journey. But, when you’re constantly praying for God to make things clear and things just become more uncertain… it’s pretty frustrating.) Yet, despite all the unknowns, the Lord was still faithful in shining His light at our feet. In this case, He was reminding us of the three things we needed to focus on: meaningful connections, encouraging youth, and not conforming to the patterns of the world.
Before leaving San Antonio, we visited my friend Sissy and her family. Sydney and I spent the night with Sissy on our previous trip to Texas. She is, you guessed it, a Noonday friend. We traveled to Peru together a couple of years ago. Her boys fall within the age span of my middle two children and we ADORE them. When we pulled into the driveway, her youngest son met us wearing his LIVE COURAGEOUSLY shirt. (Friends who greet you wearing your merchandise are the REAL DEAL! That level of encouragement is rock star status in our book.)
What I LOVE about Sissy… and, frankly, all my Noonday Sisters… is how we can just pick up right where we left off. Jamie says I’m that way with everyone, and maybe that’s true. But, there IS something special about my relationship with THESE women. God knew I would NEED them for this time and He prepared this foundation YEARS before. It’s crazy to think about. But, this connection was starting to trickle down to Sydney. She genuinely connected with Cash and Parker, Sissy’s boys. She had previously talked to them about the struggles they were facing. Those early teen years are, arguably, the most difficult ones we’ll ever go through. Especially for their generation.
When Sydney looked at them, she couldn’t help but see her brother. Sydney’s heart is HUGE. She feels things deeply which makes her the perfect person for a ministry like this. But, there’s a cost associated with that and she pays it. However, during our time with Sissy’s family, there was laughter and joy… a reinforcement of community. Family. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to visit San Antonio without stopping by to say hello to these boys. For Sydney, a meaningful connection was made. A relationship formed. If nothing else, whatever the Lord was calling her to, it HAD to be relational. It HAD to be based on meaningful connections.
We made our way back to Houston after our weekend getaway to San Antonio with two things on the agenda. The first involved a completely new experience. Sydney was invited to speak at a local dance studio about her work with Be The Change Youth Initiative and the students were going to perform a dance routine for her… TO ONE OF HER SONGS. For so many reasons, this was a gift.
Knowing the heartache Sydney has faced in the past and listening to her pour out words of encouragement and exhortation, my heart felt like it was going to burst as I watched Romans 8:28 come full-circle in her life. But, then watching these girls use their gifts to put together a routine to Sydney’s music… I won’t lie. I had a HARD time holding back the tears. This team was also using their gifts to help make this wish come true. We were still fundraising and SLOWLY it was coming together… in His time.
Finally, we went to visit someone my kids have come to consider a friend, which means a lot to us. Ryan DeLange is the worship leader at Bayou City Church in Cypress Hill, Texas. He’s also the person who helped Sydney write and perform The Journey for Make-A-Wish. Sydney was about to release her next song, but there was still some work that needed to be done before they could get back to Nashville. So, she reached out to Ryan to see if he could help.
She and Brayden spent a couple of hours hammering out some instrumental parts at the church studio and then we spent some time just talking to Ryan… and this is what meant the most to me. Ryan shared with the kids a few things he was wrestling through. Despite the age difference, he didn’t engage in small talk, but spoke to them with a genuine kindness and invested interest in the work they were doing. Ryan was setting the BEST example for them to follow. It seems to simple. And I guess it is. But, it’s also incredibly rare: encourage the generation following behind you. But, encouragement is so much more than the words you speak. It’s the time you spend with others, helping them find their voice and cultivate their gifts. The Lord has BLESSED my kids abundantly in that area and Ryan is definitely at the top of that list.
During this time, we also had a big decision to make. Sydney had been working with a management team for a few months. We were actually half way through our six month contract with them. They were helping us book shows as we traveled across the country, as well as connecting us with others in the music/ministry “business.” Sydney was really wrestling through some of the tensions found in the ministry-business model. (For example, for months they were, understandably, advocating for her to increase her social media following. One way of doing that was a common practice called fishing. Essentially, you “follow” someone on Instagram in hopes that they will do the same. And then a few days later, you “unfollow” them… hoping they don’t do the same. Well, Sydney refused to do this. I think her exact words were, “Jesus wouldn’t do something like that so neither are we.”) Thankfully, the people we were working with understood this, allowing Sydney to push into that tension.
But, the wrestling would increase over the next few months, ultimately forcing us to make a HUGE decision.