Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

When Learning Looks Like Failing

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Over at Middle Places, we're thinking about learning this month. Turns out, my own learning hasn't been pretty lately...

Learning looks a lot like failing right now.

Like when I tried to teach a new song to kids at our church's VBS program last month. I hadn't practiced the motions before I started and ended up tripping myself and tumbling dramatically to the carpet. Much to the delight of the assembled four-year-olds watching my slow motion dance-tastrophe. 

Or the long strange silence reverberating through the sanctuary on a Sunday in June. The room should have been filled with the sound of the congregation reciting the Apostle's Creed. Except I assisted in worship and forgot what came next. Just totally forgot, even though I held the program in my hand. The silence might have gone on forever had the choir leader not stood up from his seat in the loft and prompted me that now would be a good time to affirm our faith together. In my flustered state, I called for the offering instead.

Nothing like standing up in front of 500 people and getting it all wrong.

Sometimes the failing looks less embarrassing and more endearing. Like this picture I snapped of my two-year old last month. Those sweet little shoes are on the wrong feet, but they’re on at all because he did it himself. He’s learning, figuring out a new skill one piece at time.

That’s the thing about learning anything that matters. Most of time making mistakes is part of the process. Experimenting and trying and failing and trying again.

I didn’t know this when I was younger. A lot of things came easily to me, especially academics. In fact, school was so easy for so long that when I began to struggle with upper level math and science courses in high school, I just assumed that those were beyond my abilities, that I wasn’t a science person. The truth is I hadn’t yet learned to persevere when things didn’t come easy to me.

But God in his great grace has given me a lot of opportunities to learn to persevere since then, challenging jobs, a long-term relationship and especially parenting  have all been spaces of learning how to fail — and try again. In all of these contexts and more, I’ve noticed the best and most important things in my life require carrying on even when it’s hard, even after you fail.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he reminds them of the calling to grow in our understanding and bear with each other. He writes:

Let us not become weary in doing good,

for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

 

Don’t give up! Keep on doing the right thing even when you’re weary, even when yesterday you made a spectacular mess of things. When we’re building toward what really matters, we keep our eyes on the final result, the harvest God has planned, not the ways we get tripped up on the way there.

Like the sweet VBS kids who managed to learn God’s truth through music despite my terrible dance moves. Or my son, who’s continuing to build skills allowing him to fulfill God’s purposes in his life someday.

And me. I’m signed up to assist in worship again next week. You better believe that I’ll be practicing in front of the mirror in hopes of avoiding another thundering silence. But ultimately I know I’m learning to lead, that the opportunity to work on a church staff and serve our congregation is a way that God’s growing me in this season.

Learning sometimes looks like failing. But as we persevere, even when we’d rather sit in the back row and not risk embarrassment, we move closer to the good things God called us to do.

This post originally appeared at Middle Places. 

The Beautiful Gift of the Multi-Generational Church

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I'm back at iBelieve this month with thoughts on being an multi-generational church...

One of the unique gifts of a local church is the chance to develop relationships with people who are older and younger than us. This is especially true in a world where so many live miles from extended family and our jobs and hobbies often tend to sort us into groups of people of similar ages and life stages. It is good for us to worship together, to offer leadership to the younger among us, to learn to listen to our elders, to take the lessons of their lives and allow our own to be shaped.

I made a new friend at my church last year – who, at more than 80 years old, has lived twice as long as I have. We’ve gotten to know each other over Bible study sessions and lunches together and I’ve been so challenged in my faith listening to her stories about her life. In the 1960s, she and her husband developed a ministry to homeless people and transients, offering things like showers, haircuts and access to typewriters to make resumes back before the town where we live offered any services of this kind. Listening to her stories is inspiring and has caused me to think deeply about my own choices to care for those around me. Not only that, she’s loved me so well as a friend. When I unexpectedly miscarried a baby in the fall, not only did she pray for me, she sent a special Bible verse in the mail, reminding me of God’s care in that hard season.

Continue reading at iBelieve.com by clicking here

Peculiar People Resist

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Our church, First Presbyterian Church of Boulder, spent this summer going through the book of 1 Peter, a dense letter written to a church facing times of trials and change. I had the joy on concluding the series on being "Peculiar People" called together with a look at chapter 5, on learning from different generations, resisting evil and standing firm in the faith.

The full sermon is available below for streaming or download.

Finding a Place in the Sisterhood

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One of my regrets from my time as a college student was never joining a sorority.

I know sometimes sororities get a bad rap for being too focused on looks or emphasizing conformity. But something about the systematic approach to relationship building, the clearly defined roles, and even the matching t-shirts totally appeals to my people (and order) loving heart.  

At the southern university I attended, the process of initiation into the Greek system takes place in the summer before school begins. When I moved into the dorms the week before classes started my freshman year, sororities had already welcomed their new pledges. At that point in my young life, I didn’t even know what a sorority was and I certainly had never considered moving away to college early to join one. I missed my opportunity before I even knew it existed.

There was a second chance, a week a year later when sophomores could pursue the initiation process. But by the time sophomore year rolled around my calendar was full with other commitments. Plus, I worried that I’d be the odd-ball, joining a class of girls younger than I was.

Still in the nearly 15 years since graduation, I’ve often wondered how my college experience would have been different if I’d had the chance to join one of those storied sisterhoods. It’s a small sadness that surfaces whenever the word “sorority” pops up in conversation.

Until recently...

Continue reading at (in)Courage by clicking here.