Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Hanging in to the Finish

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

By the time this post gets published, I will have likely had a baby.

Oh God, please let that be true.

But today, as I sit at my computer with my feet up on the desk, I’m 8 months along and feeling huge and uncomfortable. I have to go to the bathroom all the live-long day. Everything makes me cry. Bending over requires a fully thought out getting-back-up strategy.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted this pregnancy, celebrated at each happy milestone as the months have progressed, can’t wait to add another little life to our family.

But today? I’m done. D to the O to the N to the E. As in get this guy outta here already.

But no. He’s tucked in tight for a little while longer. And my job is to persevere until this season is finished.

Truth be told, most of life is like this. There are seasons and jobs and sometimes even people we’d like to be done with. But often, we have to wait until the time comes, hanging in there to the finish. The thing I’m trying to remember this week, swollen ankles and all, is how God offers joy and peace in the middle of it.

I like Kay Warren’s definition from her book – Choose Joy Because Happiness is not Enough.

Joy is the settled assurance God controls all the details of my life. The quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. The determined choice to praise God in every situation.

Paul knew this. He wrote the book of Philippians, essentially a treatise on joyful living in community, from his prison cell.  In chains and unable to make choices about his life and freedom, he nonetheless expresses deep joy in Christ and exhorts the Philippians to do the same.

We’ve all seen examples of this in our life, people who face death, disappointment, loss, uncertainty with a steady gaze toward Jesus. There can be joy, even in grief and trials, when we choose to trust a God whom Scripture tells us is immensely trustworthy. On our worst days we still have the best hope. That’s where joy comes from.

Peace is similar. It is a result of trusting God. But whereas joy comes when we trust our lives to a big God who holds the whole world in His hands, peace comes from choosing to rest in Him in the middle of the storm.

To say it differently, joy comes from looking up from our circumstances and remembering God is at work. Peace comes when we look over and see God is with us in the middle of our circumstances. His presence offers comfort only He can bring.

Here’s an example from my real life this week. After a long day with two busy boys, dragging around my giant belly, and trying to keep things somewhat orderly while not passing out in our not-air conditioned house, I made dinner.

While I stood at the counter chopping grapes and walnuts for chicken salad I looked up and noticed a picture on the wall. It’s a picture that’s always there, a snapshot of my little family that I’ve looked at 100 times before. But seeing it there reminded me of what all this current waiting is for – the tiredness, the mess, the dirty hair and peanut butter stained shirt, the yelling from the other room, this is an answer to prayer.

This is my family. This is what I begged God for and looking at that snapshot filled my heart with joy.

A few minutes later, Chris walked in the door. He took off his shoes, dropped his bag, hugged the boys while breaking up some kind of fight I was only vaguely aware of and then came into the kitchen where I was getting out plates and silverware.

“Hey you,” he said, (“You” is our most frequent term of endearment) and then leaned in to give me a kiss. And as he did, I felt myself relax. Because if Chris is home then my partner’s there, I can enjoy him. And my load gets lighter because not every little thing that’s going on in our house is my responsibility anymore. He shares the responsibilities with me, even taking them from me sometimes. And when he’s there, usually, life just gets better.

That’s peace. Joy is persevering in our circumstances, knowing that we are part of God’s bigger story – and it’s a good one. Peace is acknowledging His presence with us right in the moment where we need Him and learning to experience the rest that comes from trusting Him.

Peace is a rest that comes from being cared for. To experience peace, we have to truly believe 1 Peter 5:7 which says –

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

If we want to know joy, allow the Holy Spirit to remind and teach us again that God really is in control, working all things together for our good. And if we want to know peace, we have to be willing to rest from our efforts to solve our own problems, giving our cares to God and finding peace in His presence with us.

Especially when you have a while to go until you finish.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places

Sometimes It's Good to be Wrong

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

I never wanted to live here.
Colorado? Yes.
Boulder? Absolutely!
In the family dorms on campus behind the football field? Definitely not the dream.

We had a deal. My husband received a sweet fellowship to follow his dream of working in Physics research. I was supposed to get a cute little house on a tree-lined street in the suburbs where I would stay home with my babies.

Except the boss moved the research lab to Michigan.
So the house fell through.
And suddenly we found ourselves thousands of miles from anything we knew with no place to call our own and an uncertain professional future.

Well, not no place. The university housing office offered us a spot, 840 square feet of linoleum floors and concrete walls with neighbors on every side. I knew I should be thankful. There was the nagging voice in my head, reminding me that our new home on campus was more than enough to meet our needs, more than many have the world over.

But I’d been telling myself a story. After living in dorms and apartments for nearly 15 years, I wanted a home. I wanted paint chips and flooring samples. I wanted space for a piano and room to entertain. I’d convinced myself I deserved those things.

It’s a spiritually dangerous place, living as though you’re owed something.

Continue reading at Jen Pollock Michel's blog by clicking here

Life: the Sublime & the Mundane

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

The day I got married was my all-time favorite day.

Sure, I went a little nuts with the hot glue gun in the weeks leading up to the big event, making over-the-top bird cage centerpieces. And yes, there were tears I vowed I'd never cry about things like booking the band and the catering menu. But by the time the actual day dawned everything was perfect.

I mean not perfect.

My dress got stuck on the back row pew and I almost got slingshotted backward walking down the aisle. And there were pictures we forgot to take and people I didn't get to talk to. But still, there was magic in the air, as everyone we loved gathered in one place to sing and dance and eat cake.

My heart has never been so full, before or since. Thinking about our final dance, spinning around and singing along to Journey's Don't Stop Believing never fails to bring a smile to my lips.

Compare that to yesterday. My husband is sick, which is not his specialty. He's grumpy and tired and struggling to get life done with a cough that won't quit. I'm in the final weeks of pregnancy and am having trouble sleeping, so the days are long and exhausting. My toddlers are feisty balls of energy that leave a mess in any space they've occupied for more than two minutes, so everything in my life is dirty or out of place.

By bedtime last night, not only did our tiny apartment look like a tornado had blown through, there'd been yelling and harsh words and even a slammed door.

Not exactly magical.

But that’s life – the sublime and the mundane, the good and the bad, our best days and our worst. If we’re living as people who really believe God works all things together for our good, to make us more like Jesus, then we should expect both kinds of days.

The author of Ecclesiastes knew this. In many ways his book is a warning that life’s highs and lows can be deceptive. Good times create the false expectation that life will always be good. It won’t.

Bad times create the illusion that life has no meaning, no purpose, no justice. Not true. 

What is true is that life is both/and. God designed it that way, as we read in Ecclesiastes 7:14 (The Message):

On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.

Both kinds of days are in the plans, friends. So don’t be surprised when life is terrible – or wonderful. That’s how God arranged it.

There’s a warning implied here and it’s this: Don’t spend your good days waiting for the other shoe to drop. Take time to enjoy your life. Treasure those moments when everything is working, when the music is playing, when it seems like love is everywhere you look.

We're in the middle of some big life changes. If I’m not careful, I end up filling good days of time with friends and meaningful work and joy in watching my kids play with worries about the future and silent brainstorming about logistical challenges. Instead I’m trying to remember this advice from the author of Ecclesiastes to enjoy life, savoring the good days and not filling them with fears about the future.

And on the days when doors get slammed and things get yelled that I’d rather not repeat here in cyber-space, I’m taking time to tune in, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to examine my heart and ask myself where I need Jesus in the middle of it all.

God arranges for both kinds of days so that we don’t take anything for granted.

I’m learning to live that truth.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places

Growing in Goodness

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

Over the summer, I taught a Bible study at our church on the fruit of Spirit. We did a little exercise in the beginning where we listed them out, these qualities that Paul defines in Galatians as evidence that we are living as people connected to Christ. I asked those who had come which ones they longed to grow in their own lives.

Not surprisingly, most people wanted more patience or recognized a need for deeper self-control. But when it came to “goodness,” only 2 lonely hands went up. Maybe it’s because everyone else is already exceeding in goodness, but I suspect it might be that while most of us have a handle on what it means to be loving and patient and kind, goodness is less obvious. It’s meaning is obscured to us because the word ‘good’ is used 100 times a day in our everyday lives and seems to be so subjective.

Still it’s an important idea, this notion that we need to be good, to practice goodness. Paul (and Moses, Solomon, David, Micah, Isaiah and Jesus before him) challenged us that our lives ought to be full of goodness.

As Christians, Christ followers, we believe we were created by God. We were made by Him to bear His image. The Imageo Dei, the image of God, is what makes us human in our essence. As His people, his representatives, his image bearers, there are certain things that we were created to do. One of those things is to be full of goodness. So what does it mean to be and to do good?

Continue reading at iBelieve by clicking here.