Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

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Deep Breaths & Big Dreams

Lindsey Smallwood

You guys. 

I started this blog in February and creating this space for the last six months has been a blast. Seriously. It's a pleasure to share my words here, connecting with you all over stories and ideas and building community in this unique online way. 

For the next month-ish, I am taking a break from blogging, aside from a couple of posts that are already scheduled. The boys and I will be spending time with my family in Alaska. I'm hoping to work on a book (!) and begin praying and preparing for the season to come. 

If you think of it, I'd appreciate prayers during this time of listening and dreaming, of creativity and rest. And I hope to "see" you back here in September, the best part of all of this is sharing it with you.

Until then, a benediction - 

The Lord bless you, and keep you:
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you:  
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace,
now and forevermore. 

May it be, my friends, may it be. 

Making It Mine

Lindsey Smallwood

I'm delighted to have been asked to become a regular contributor over at Middle Places, a collaborative blog produced by a fantastic group of women. I love being a part of the conversations they are having on the messy ways of grace. I'm sharing there today, reflecting on how writing helped me heal after we were held up at gunpoint at the elementary school where I worked. 

In my third year as an elementary school teacher I was reassigned to a new school.

The following Saturday, after looking on Google Maps and realizing the new school was only 4 miles from our home, my husband Chris and I decided to ride our bikes over to find the best route for me to bike commute to work.

We set off after lunch on the sunny California afternoon for a ride that would change our lives forever.

The school was nestled between the heart of downtown and the large West Oakland housing projects. We rode up onto the sidewalk in front of the flagpole and stopped to take in what would be my new workplace. A beautiful student-made mural celebrating Martin Luther King’s dream of equality covered the front of the building.

Reaching into my bike basket, I wanted to find my phone to take a photo of the mural. I fumbled with my helmet and tried to get Chris to take it from me so my hands would be free.

“Here,” I said. “Can you take this?”

No answer. I was still looking in my basket and assumed he just didn’t hear me.

“Chris, can you take my helmet for me?”

Again, no answer.

I looked up and saw him standing completely still, both hands up in the air.

Turning I saw two teenage boys looking at us, expressionless. The shorter one held a small black gun now pointed at me.

“Gimme all your money,” he demanded.

“I don’t have any money,” I stammered, holding out my phone to offer it instead.

He turned, thrusting the gun toward Chris.

“I said, gimme all your money.”

Slowly, deliberately, Chris pulled out his wallet. He had been out with friends from work the night before and, thankfully, had more cash on hand than usual.

He took it out, fanning the bills and placing them in the gunman’s empty hand.

The two boys nodded at each other and then turned, running down the block.

“Let’s get out of here, “ Chris directed.

I was too stunned to speak. We walked our bikes out past the playground and around the corner to a nearby liquor store where we called 911 and eventually got a ride home from the police.

The next 24 hours were a haze of feelings – gratitude, anger, fear, loss. I felt a deep need to tell people what had happened but I struggled with how to talk about it. By Sunday afternoon I developed an unrest in my chest, a sense that I needed to do something, anything to take hold of the wave of emotions.

I took out my laptop and began to write, fresh hurt, fierce anger, deep sadness pouring out as I typed.

I wrote about the faces of the muggers and wondered why them and why us and why then. And I knew while I wrote that those questions were bigger than them and us and that corner on that day.

I wrote about the grace of the Yemeni liquor store owners and the help of the overworked policemen and felt immense gratitude for good people working in hard places.

I wrote about all the ways it could have been worse – being alone or getting shot or not having money to give them. As I wrote those sentences I felt fear, then relief and fear again.

In the aftermath of that awful afternoon, moving the feelings from my chest to the page began to change things for me. As I wrote about moving forward, working in that neighborhood, preparing myself to revisit the scene of the crime every morning as I got my students off the bus, I realized that I really wanted to go back to that place, to work to change it.

When I finished writing, I wanted to share my story, to invite my community into my experience. I quickly formatted a website and hit publish. It became the genesis for a blog where I would tell redemptive stories of teaching a beautiful class of 4th and 5th graders with significant cognitive disabilities over the next few years.

Facing the gunman at the flagpole that afternoon, I felt more powerless than I ever had before or since. But writing gave me the power to shape the narrative of that day and the days that followed. When I told my own story, I didn’t see a victim. I found instead in my telling an opportunity to find beauty for ashes, to see strength instead of fear.

The Loveliest Things

Lindsey Smallwood

So excited to be posting over at Stephanie May Wilson's blog today. Some local friends and I are doing her friendship small group study this summer, I can't wait. Stephanie writes in such an encouraging way! It's super fun to collaborate with her today.

1. Twinning

One of the most fun things about having boys just 14 months apart is dressing them alike. The cuteness factor is exponential, seriously I just melt at the cuteness! I know, I know, someday they’re probably going to submit my snapshots to Awkward Family Photos but in the meantime, yes please, I’ll take 2 of those tiny chambray button ups.

2. Finding My Jam

During Lent this year, I started writing again – songs, poems, stories, essays. At first it was a private way for me to process life during my Lenten break from social media. But I decided to turn it into a blog and it’s been an incredibly meaningful project, connecting with others online and discovering my own voice in new ways.

3) Girls Night Out

We recently moved across country and have only been living in our new hometown of Boulder, Colorado for a few months. But I’ve made an intentional effort to “go first“, inviting friends for coffee dates and play times. A few other moms I met at church and I have been meeting up after bedtime for a late night happy hour a couple times a month. It’s so much fun to connect with these women, trading stories and laughing the night away.

4) Making Bread

A new friend from Girl’s Night Out told us about a super simple recipe to make your own bread. It’s literally just flour, water, salt and yeast. You don’t have to knead it or anything. I gave it a try last weekend and it turned out so beautifully! The loaf is crusty outside and soft inside, just like you buy at a bakery. For real, you guys, the sandwiches at our house this week are fantastic. You can check out the step by step instructions here.

5) Family

A couple weeks ago we had a big family reunion. There were awkward moments and hard conversations but I felt so thankful to hear about my heritage and spend time with my people. My favorite part was getting to share my little guys with my 88 year old grandmother. My almost two year old especially loved going for rides on her walker and helping her find Waldo. Sweet memories.

Creating a New Way

Lindsey Smallwood

I decided to give up social media for Lent. 

Well, really Chris and I gave up dessert for Lent.  But then we went to Ash Wednesday service and the pastor gave this sermon about making space for God and before I knew it, I was up and getting ashes and then back in my pew deleting Instagram on my phone, while Chris looked on in surprise. 

Make that delight.  For a nerd, Chris is actually quite the luddite.  He rarely goes on Facebook, hates to have the computer on when he's not working and uses a flip phone where the most advanced feature is a pill reminder.  For real.  He was thrilled with my less-time-online plan.

I love technology (cue the Napolean Dynamite soundtrack).  I love reading status updates, blogs, and articles in online magazines.  I've been connecting here locally since we moved through group websites and community organizations.  I get joy by following my friends as they work for social justice, push babies out into the world and wax poetic about their favorite bands that I will never listen to. 

But as soon as I cut all of that out, I realized it wasn't just a joy.  It was also a crutch, one I didn't need.  I was loving the feeling of being connected without actually connecting in real ways.  And I was tuning out my babies a lot more than I'd like to admit. 

Another startling realization: when I stopped spending so much time consuming other people's stories and pictures and ideas, I felt the urge to create my own. That first week I wrote a song, something that's always been life-giving for me but a practice I hadn't made time for since I had kids. I had the desire to write again, to piece words together into stories for the pleasure of it.  I began to sense God's presence in new ways, in the faces of my babies, in the changing season here in Boulder, in my marriage.  I laid awake in bed at night, alive with ideas about writing and making and connecting and speaking. 

Isn't that just like Jesus to take an empty place and bring it to life?

And thus, Songbird and a Nerd was born. It's my hope that this will be a place of creativity, truth-telling and hope.

Lent is over.  I'm excited about rejoining my "online life" - seeing who adopted a shelter pet and took an amazing trip that necessitated multiple pictures of sunsets.  But I'm also eager to leave space, space to notice what's happening right in front of me, space to reflect on God's goodness in each day, space to attend to my sweet little ones who are changing all the time, 

space to write, 

space to dream, 

space to create a new way. 

Lent is over.  Easter has come.  The promise of a new life, filled with grace, arrives in the resurrected body of Jesus.  Grace to make a new way, springing up. 

photo from MOPS.Org

photo from MOPS.Org