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Life: the Sublime & the Mundane

Lindsey Smallwood

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

Finding a Place in the Sisterhood

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

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.

Listen & Learn: Philemon & Colossians Weekly Talks (Audio Files)

Lindsey Smallwood

Last week I announced the publication of my new Bible study guide book - Philemon & Colossians: In Christ Alone. It's been so fun sharing it with all of you. There are still copies available with special discounts and free shipping for small groups.

This week, I'm thrilled to share a bonus component for the five week study on Philemon & Colossians - audio files of the weekly talks you can stream or download to use in your small group. Each talk is 10-20 minutes long and contains insights into the chapter, along with some personal stories and other Scripture connections. 

Thanks for reading and listening along!

Note: You're welcome to listen along even if you're not doing the study. Just know that on week 1, I spend the first 5 and 1/2 minutes tackling some study-related administrative stuff - so if you're only looking for Scripture talks, fast forward to 5 min, 30 seconds into the Philemon message and you'll be good to go!

Want to know more about the book? Check out Philemon & Colossians: In Christ Alone here

Note: You're welcome to listen along even if you're not doing the study. Just know that on week 1, I spend the first 5 and 1/2 minutes tackling some study-related administrative stuff - so if you're only looking for Scripture talks, fast forward to 5 min, 30 seconds into the Philemon message and you'll be good to go!

Want to know more about the book? Check out Philemon & Colossians: In Christ Alone here

How to Start a Summer Book Club

Lindsey Smallwood

...in which I share about our super fun summer friend group and invite your own group to dive into the book I wrote this spring!

Summer is my favorite. 

I know there are people who live for crunching leaves in the fall, those who can't wait to hit the ski hills every weekend in the winter and the gardeners among us who live for spring's planting season. But oh man, for me, summer is where it's at. 

I love short sleeves and sunshine, days spent at the pool or the beach and the long hours of daylight that somehow make you feel like anything is possible. Some of my best memories are summer memories, like the time I decided to work at a circus camp for 12 weeks or the year I drove cross country with six friends in a mini-van.

Last summer my family and I had just moved to Colorado a few months before. We were settling into life in our new home when all of sudden, summer appeared. And when summer started, everything else ended. My Mom's Group. My Bible Study. The Community Playgroup I'd joined. All of my regular activities went on hiatus. So I knew I needed something more. 

I decided to start a summer book club.

Here's how:

1) Ask some people.

For real. Just put yourself out there. It's as easy as sending some emails. I asked a random assortment of women I'd met in different places since we moved. Some already knew each other and some didn't. A few said no - but most said yes! Many of them have since told me how thankful they were that I was willing to go first so our little group could be born. 

2) Choose a time.

Figure out what works for everyone. Everyone I asked had young kids, so we decided to meet in the morning so our kids could play outside while we talked. If you're working, night-time probably works better. 

Some of my super fun summer book club friends - and a few of our teeny-tinies.

Some of my super fun summer book club friends - and a few of our teeny-tinies.

3) Find a spot to meet. 

We live in the dorms. Much as I love to play hostess, there's literally not room in our place for 10 other women and their kiddos. But that's okay! I still started the group, even without knowing where we'd all meet together. Before our first meeting, I send out a question about ideas on where to meet and a couple of the gals volunteered their homes. 

4) Pick a book.

There are so many great books out there. You could go fiction (The NightengaleWhere'd You Go, Bernadette? and Me Before You are some recent faves) or non-fiction (I always recommend The Geography of Bliss and Boys in the Boat is a great one).  Last summer we decided to go the get-to-know-you route and do a small group workbook on friendship by Stephanie May Wilson. It was fabulous.  

If you're interested in a more spiritual selection, there are so many great reads to choose from. But if I may - this is where I invite you to pick me!

Over the winter, I wrote a Bible study guide for small groups on the New Testament books of Philemon and Colossians, which are fascinating letters with ideas about identity, calling and living in community. This spring 60 women in our church piloted the study in small groups. And now, I'm thrilled to bring it to all of you!

The book is designed to be completed in 5 weeks, although those who prefer to move at a slower pace could easily do it in 10 instead. There are chapter introductions, daily homework, devotional reflections, and small group questions. In addition to the book, there are short talks for each chapter (soon to be available here) which you can stream or download for personal or small group use. And, just for fun, I've created adult coloring pages which you'll receive as a free download when you order.

If you're thinking about a summer book club - just do it! And if you're interested in using my new Bible Study guide, I'd love to send you one. They're available for individual purchase by using the link below, or contact me with larger orders, I offer discounts and free shipping for small groups! 

Happy Summer! Here's to good time with your people in the months to come.

Order Your Copy of Philemon & Colossians: In Christ Alone