Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Good News/Bad News

Lindsey Smallwood

I’m writing for our church’s blog this week on leftover Easter candy, Prince Harry’s new baby, Rachel Held Evan’s death and the tensions always present when trying to live in reality with hope.

My kids got a lot of candy on Easter this year, so much candy that I had to make a rule about how much they could eat each day. My youngest responded to the new rule in typical two-year-old fashion: a fist-pounding screaming tantrum on the floor.

I calmly responded that if he stopped his fit, there would be a chance for more candy tomorrow but if he persisted, I would just throw it all away. The tears dried up instantly.

Later, apropos of nothing, he told my husband (who hadn’t seen the incident) “Dad, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is no. But the good news is tomorrow.” My husband looked at me, confused, and I explained about the candy.

But then my toddler just kept saying it:

I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is no.
The good news is tomorrow.

In the last couple weeks, he’s repeated these words to friends who came for dinner. The teacher in his Bible class. A clerk at the store.

All over town, Oliver keeps making this announcement. I’ve stopped explaining about the candy and I’ve just let the words speak for themselves. The more I’ve heard them, the truer they seem.

I have good news and bad news.

Isn’t this the way life feels? I find myself constantly navigating joy and sadness, hope and doubt. Reading through my news feed this morning, I was overwhelmed again with sadness at the passing of Rachel Held Evans, a writer whose work and witness have shaped my faith. She died recently of complications from the flu, despite being otherwise healthy, leaving behind a husband and two young children. It seems so senseless and tragic.

But also on my news feed was a video of Prince Harry, who became a dad today for the first time. The joy on his face as he shares his news and exclaims “…how any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension!” is so tender and sweet. 

Good news and bad news is always happening all at once but…

Continue reading at The River Church Community’s Estuaries Blog.

Laying Branches Low

Lindsey Smallwood

When the people greeted Jesus with palm branches, what were they hoping for?
When I come to God, what am I hoping for?


Why the cross? What does it mean?
Why my pain? What does it mean?


Last Sunday I preached at our church to kick off Holy Week, exploring the strange events of Palm Sunday and the hopes and aches we all can’t seem to shake. From the children of Israel who wondered if God had brought them through the waters to freedom only to abandon them in the wilderness, to my own heart in Silicon Valley where I find myself bitter about the Tesla next door, this is a message about looking again at Jesus and finding our story in His story.

You can stream or download the sermon here:

New Stars in the Sky

Lindsey Smallwood

On Sunday, I preached for the first time at our new church home in San Jose, The River Church Community. Our Advent series is based in the stories about Jesus’ birth from the book of Matthew. Last week our lead pastor taught from the genealogies of Jesus, highlighting how the inclusion of women, and marginalized women at that, helps us see a God who is for all.

This week we read the Epiphany story, finding ourselves on the Magi’s journey, looking at the ways God reveals himself to everyone, even those a long way off from faith.

Unlike Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds who all receive visit from angels speaking their language and explaining what’s happening, the Magi merely see a new star and are left to decide what to do about what they’ve seen.

Me, telling a childhood story, because #always

Me, telling a childhood story, because #always

To hear more about faith journeys, paying attention and the stars we must make sense of, you can listen to the sermon here:

When Life Gives You Lemons

Lindsey Smallwood

As weird as it sounds to me today, 5 months ago I did not want to move to California. 

When Chris got the job offer here, I congratulated him and then cried by myself. Trying to make a life in the Bay Area, in Silicon Valley seemed too ambitious. Houses here are twice as much as they were in Colorado, 4 times as much as Michigan. Everything’s more expensive here. Plus the pace of life, the culture of materialism, the radical inequality between rich and poor - where would I fit into all of that? There were 100 places where it seemed like it would be easier for us to go. I wrote out all my fears in my journal.

Once I got the fears out I started to dream a little. I had a firm handle on what could go wrong. But for the first time I started to imagine what could go right. I remembered the mountains, the beaches, palm trees and redwoods. I thought about all the people we love here. I imagined all of the opportunities that exist living in such an innovative and well-connected place.

And I thought about lemon trees.

I love lemon trees. Looooooove. My grandma had one at her home in Monterey County when I was growing up. We had one in Berkeley. I love the smell and watching the fruit grow. I love every lemon thing: scones and cakes, fresh juice soaked into salmon, wedges squeezed in iced tea. I wrote down “lemon tree?” in my list of dreams and left it there.

When we were house hunting, we couldn’t decide what we wanted. Tiny apartment downtown near campus? Condo in a family-ish neighborhood? A house an hour away? We started applying for places and quickly realized it wouldn’t be about what we wanted as much as what we could get. The market to get a rental is very competitive, with requests for us to send personal resumes and family photos.

We got to the final round for a house on a hillside nearby and then got a text saying that they’d given the house to someone else but we were the next choice. I felt like the runner up in a beauty pageant I did not want to be in.

We applied for a condo, only to be told that the HOA specified the unit could not be occupied by more than 4 people. I told the woman that I was keeping all my people so we’d have to pull our application.

One landlord told me he preferred not to rent to people with children, another place seemed promising but wasn’t willing to wait for us to come out 5 days later when they could sign a lease with someone who was already in front of them.

Then I found a Zillow listing for a small house in our price range and sent in my application without totally thinking it through. There were no pictures of the backyard, just the promise there was one. The photos they did have weren’t great; the place seemed old, and not in a charming way. I kept looking.

But the little house’s landlord liked our application and offered us a lease long distance, sight unseen. We asked friends to go walk through for us, to make sure everything was on the up and up and then nervously committed to living somewhere we’d never laid eyes on.

When we came for the first time to get the keys, I couldn’t stop smiling. I loved the blue tile in the kitchen, my very own laundry room, the closet with shelves built in. I could see how our family would fit here. Plus there was a pumpkin patch in the front yard which was delightful and unexpected.

But my favorite surprise of all was the lemon tree blooming out back. I cried little tears, a gift flowering under our windows, a reminder that this new season might be challenging and the way forward isn’t yet clear, but there’s so much to look forward to.

The first lemon from our California tree.

The first lemon from our California tree.

This morning I went out to water the tree. I sing it it sometimes, because I can and because my tree never interrupts me on the chorus to say “Hey mom, Hey mom, Hey mom.” And as I sing my song to the flowering blossoms turning to little lemon buds, I marvel at the truth that sometimes dreams come true because we work and hustle and make it happen. But sometimes dreams come true through no fault of our own.

That, I think, is Grace.