Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Buying a House

Making a Home Where You Are {Jamie Wright Bagley}

Out of the OrdinaryLindsey Smallwood

So excited to feature Jamie Wright Bagley today, a mama/writer/poet friend I met through my #wholemama group this summer. I love her thoughts about making a home as art and calling. And I might feel a trip to Ikea coming on...

Homemaking is my dream. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that these days, because of my beliefs that women are capable, worthy, and excellent at so much more than playing a certain role, but I think I have to say it anyway, because it is true.

It is not my only dream, but homemaking is one of the big dreams of mine. I don’t think it’s a women’s role anyway. I believe it is an artist’s role. And art belongs to all of us as an invitation and a birthright.

Inside each dwelling is a daily invitation to artistry. I want to put paint on the walls and curtains on the windows and flowers in the backyard and on my dining table. I want to decorate with area rugs and throw pillows and cozy blankets draped neatly over the back of the sofa. I want to simplify my home so that every item and surface can experience the joy of restoration daily or weekly. Why? I love beauty, and I want to create space to live, and laugh, and love well.

Live. Laugh. Love.

I saw these words on the wall of a home on an HGTV show, right after the home had been staged to sell. I don’t watch HGTV regularly, because cable is not on our personal priorities list, but when a show comes to Netflix, I will breeze right through a season of home makeovers and restorations, because they feed the fire of my homemaking aspirations.

My home-ownership dream is yet to be fulfilled. This year, upon realizing not only had we been in our living space for four years but that we would need to continue for at least another year, there was a stirring in my heart where despair usually sets in. While I usually become forlorn at the prospect of being “trapped” in a place that is not my ideal housing arrangement, this year I saw it as a chance to dive in and explore my resources. The stirring was a question: What if wecould make this place home right now? We have all the important ingredients: It takes love, laughter, and vision. It takes caring, determination, and commitment. It takes a healthy dose of creativity. We could certainly do this!

My husband and I accepted the invitation to artistry. We redecorated our living space this summer on a teeny, tiny budget, and it was so good for our hearts. We checked sales papers, and walked through Ikea several times, looking more than buying. It has taken a lot of exploring to decide what we like, because our taste preferences are often opposite: He finds peace in darker colors and earth tones, while I find joy in all things light and bright. He finds comfort in large and overstuffed furniture, and I love to relax with clean lines and lots of white space.

We started small with a couple of needed bed frames. Then it was a new curtain for the shower, where the choice was based on style preference rather than price point. It makes a big difference to buy what you love, even if it costs a little extra. Not a lot extra, mind you. I’m talking $10 or so, because when I say “teeny, tiny budget,” I am not joking. Our wiggle room lies in giving things up, like wine, or cream for coffee, or dessert treats. Those things are not missed because of the happiness factor: A newly decorated room shoots that happiness meter right up to Wowza! When an ordinary apartment has been transformed into a cozy home, the soda and chocolate deficit suddenly seems less significant.

Live. Laugh. Love.

I need these words in my home. I need them to call out from the walls each morning when I rise too early, and move too slowly, and worry too much to be grateful for the goodness of life. I need them to be the prayer I always pray, the blessing I speak over myself and my family, and the mantra I repeat to keep me on track with the things I value: Home, happiness, and togetherness.

Once upon a time, I didn’t bother to have feelings about home decor, or find things that made us happy, because I didn’t believe I was “home” yet. We’ve moved around through a lot of rentals, and I have always shrugged and found it pointless to make it lovely since we probably wouldn’t be there for very long. Renting is hard on a homemaking heart. Waiting is hard on a homemaking heart. It is hard, but it is not impossible. It is possible, and it is worth it. We just have to keep reminding ourselves of what matters the most. I think that’s what inspired our summer makeover.

Life is never the same old, same old. It’s far too breathtaking for that -In ALL the ways! 

This year, I started to believe it.

In the storm of a transforming life, Jamie clings to what matters most: connection, empathy, freedom, happiness, hope, and love. Dreams may have a life cycle, but they are always worth pursuing. What keeps her going is the poetry of living, breathing, and sharing from the depths of her heart.  Find more of her words at or on Twitter @jamiebrightley.

Interested in sharing your story here? Check out my guest post guidelines, I'd love to hear from you.

Heavenly Treasures {Jamie Calloway Hanauer}

Lindsey Smallwood

Lindsey here. Today I'm honored to feature a guest post by a fellow writer and personal friend Jamie Calloway Hanauer. Jamie was one of my first mom-friends, her two youngest are just a little older than mine and she welcomed me into motherhood with tips on which Bible studies had good childcare and how to sneak time for yourself - all new moms need a friend like that! 

Jamie's telling us about an out of the ordinary season where she had to give up one dream to go live another. 

My husband was recently offered a job at a faith-based non-profit in Washington, DC. It’s the job of his dreams: working on policy to help the word’s neediest rise from poverty. We are both thrilled with the opportunity.

I did not, however, enter into the moving process with such a glad and thankful heart.

At the time the offer was made, we lived in California, a full 3000 or so miles away from my husband’s dream job. So when I heard that his greatest life desire had been offered to him for the taking, my response was not what it should have been. Although I was happy for him, my thoughts turned not toward the good work he would be doing for the world’s poorest, or how my own work for those in need would be better served by living in the hub of American politics, but instead to the realization that, in order to make the move, we would have to sell our home.

Our California home was the first we owned. We purchased it as a “fixer-upper,” and we put years of thought, love, and sweat into “fixing” it to meet our specifications. I picked out every paint color, every light fixture, even agonized over door hinges. I told myself it was understandable to feel disappointment at leaving behind a labor of love, but I found myself saddened to the point of wanting my husband to refuse the job. After all, San Francisco has jobs, too. Why couldn’t he find his dream job there?

But the truth is, he couldn’t. His field of work is housed in the nation’s capitol, and to be part of that work—and part of following God’s call to serve the poorest among us—we had to be there. Three thousand miles and several time zones from the four walls we first called home. And honestly, the move would better serve my own vocational goals of impacting policy related to women, children, and the impoverished. It was a win-win situation in many ways. My worldly ties, however, muddied my thinking. Instead of feeling joy that we would be able to serve more people in more ways—thus following the teachings of Jesus and lifting the burdens on our hearts to help others—I felt angry that I would have to give up my treasure: my home.

I laid awake nights, crying about losing the kitchen cabinets we had built to the exact dimensions needed to hold my widest serving dish and extra-tall blender. The homemade curtains in my daughter’s room that would be useless in another home. The attic we had planned to turn into a master suite. I begged God to hand my husband another job offer—this time a local one—on a silver platter, preferably one that would fit into my custom cabinets.

Somewhere in the midst of feeling sorry for myself, I began to realize just what it was I was asking God to do: to convince my husband to give up on a job that could lift millions—millions!—out of poverty, while also allowing me to better serve needy women and children. Why? So that I could keep my comforts, my material belongings, my beloved square footage.

In that moment of realization, it could not have been clearer where my heart’s treasure was. It was in California, residing selfishly in about 3000 square feet of living space.

That is not the person I want to be, and on most days, I don’t think it’s the person I really am. But knowing what’s important in life and then acting on that knowledge, especially when it’s uncomfortable and requires sacrifice, is hard. I’m not often faced with situations where I have to be so uncomfortable. It’s one thing to take a sick friend a meal on a day that I’m already overwhelmed. It’s another to sell a home and pack up and move cross-country with three children, a dog, and no friends, family, or community to welcome you.

But sometimes that’s exactly what God requires: giving up our worldly treasures so that we can build our true stores in Heaven by acting as here-and-now agents of His great love, and going where He needs us, instead of where we (think we) need to be. It might not be easy, but then again, who ever said it would be?

In years past, Jamie has been a hotel housekeeper, a graveyard shift donut fryer, and a welfare recipient, as well as an attorney, White House intern, and an elected official. In her current life, Jamie is a writer, editor, and M.Div. student at Fuller Theological Seminary. She blogs at, and you can also find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Lindsey again - are you challenged to think about where your treasure lies today? I know I am. No matter what season I'm in, I always find that there's something I've decided to hold on to, instead of laying my life out fully before God. Isn't Jamie's story a beautiful reminder to live life with open hands? Skip down to the comments to tell her what it meant to you today.

Do you have a story to tell? Check out my guest post guidelines, I'd love to hear from you.

Not Our Home

Lindsey Smallwood

When my husband finished his Physics PhD last summer, he was offered a research fellowship at CU Boulder.  Colorado seemed like a great place to move our growing family and we were excited about all the prospects.

Add to that - there were three of us living in our 450 square foot cottage in Berkeley and we were soon to welcome a fourth to our little clan.  Finding a new place to live was feeling pretty pressing.

His research fellowship flew us out in August for a house-hunting trip. A friend of a friend helped us find a realtor. 

We had never bought a house before. There was so much to think about, so many things to consider. Would it be in “right” neighborhood? What was the resale potential? Did we like carpet or hardwood floors?

But, being that I am an unashamed HGTV binge watcher, I loved it every minute. Looking at houses. Imagining where the piano would go. Dreaming about meals around a new table.

We found “the house” a couple hours into our search.

A cute ranch style with a little room to grow into. A quiet neighborhood with tree lined streets. A park around the corner to play with the boys.

Also - two closets in the master bedroom. Yes and amen.

Before putting in an offer, we decided to tour university housing, where dorms were available for families working at the college. As we walked through the apartments, various pungent food smells filled the hallways. The concrete townhouse units were small and built like army bunkers. There were mattresses in the dumpsters marked “bedbugs”.

Chris didn’t even have to ask me what I thought.

Our offer on the house was accepted and we were overjoyed.

Shortly before closing, Chris’ new boss called to let him know that he had taken new position and would be moving his lab, including his research equipment and personnel, to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The move was set to take place the following summer.

Michigan! We hadn’t even got to Colorado yet. Were we really going to move only to move again a few months later?

And what about the house?

I told Chris he needed to find a new job in Colorado, that it was the only thing that made sense.  We could still buy the house, still move our family, he would just work somewhere else.

I liked our plan, I planned our plan, I was on-board with our plan. I did not want the plan to change.

But then, God began to soften my heart.

What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of missing this opportunity. It’s a great house.

There’ll be other houses. What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of not having anywhere to live.

I hold the whole world in my hands. What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of not being in control of our future, of not knowing what comes next.

I am in control, I hold your future.

 And there it was.

I was disappointed, fairly. I was surprised and unsure what to do next. But really I was afraid. Afraid to let go of the life I had imagined in my head, the life in the little ranch house. The safe, beautiful, two closet life that I had picked out for myself.

But there was another life in front of me.

A life with Chris, who wanted the freedom to say yes to Michigan if it was the right thing for his career.

A life with two boys who needed a mama that says yes to God’s leading more than a house on a tree-lined street in the suburbs.

A life living in the in-between for awhile, without a long-term plan, surrendering control to the One who’s always proven himself faithful.

Jesus said this world is not our home. He meant that we're not supposed to get too comfortable here, too attached to what we have. If we really buy into life in His kingdom, then we can't hold on to any plan very firmly or any thing very tightly

But we can always trust that if we let Him lead us in His kingdom way, His plans are for our good, to prosper and not harm us, to make us more fully into His image.

Enjoying the mountain view from the playground in our courtyard.

Enjoying the mountain view from the playground in our courtyard.

Guess where we're living? Yep, good ol' bunker style university family housing.

And I love it.

We have new friends from all over the world, including buddies who we swap child-care with, a stunning view of the mountains, a maintenance crew that’s quick to fix what’s broken, a playground 2 minutes from our front door and more than enough room for our post-grad school belongings.  It’s small and (usually) tidy and it feels like home.

Laying down a dream is never easy.  But God is in the business of making all things new. 

New dreams in new homes.

And, thankfully, new hearts.

What about you - have you ever given up a dream?  Has the outcome surprised you? I’d love to hear about it.