Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Change

Longing for Home, or something like it

Lindsey Smallwood

I spent most of last month at home in Alaska where I grew up.

One of my favorite parts of going home again is the way so many things appear unchanged. The same sweet ladies still sit in the back of the church on Sunday mornings, hugging everyone in a ten foot radius. The annual Christmas party with sleigh rides and homemade egg nog feels much like it did when I was growing up. Even going to the mall in my hometown brings on feelings of nostalgia, remembering many hours spent there in years gone by.

The truth is that none of those things are truly unchanged. Those ladies are now in wheelchairs and walkers, nearing the end of their lives. The party is as different as it is the same, the faces present have changed over the years, as has my connection to them. Even the mall has had a facelift, with new stores and new décor.

I know those things are true, but I still want it all to be the same. I’m longing for steadiness.

Maybe it’s life with my little ones, who seem to learn new skills and grow bigger every time I’m not looking. 

Maybe it’s the news, with stories of collapsing governments and fragile economies.

Maybe it’s my own reality, facing the prospect of another cross country move a year from now.  

My friend Whitney has a life-dream to be a regular at a local coffee-shop, to be greeted by name and to be able to order “the usual.” She worked on this for awhile when we were living in the same town in California, stopping into the same place each day, ordering the same thing while she waited for her bus. Still, after months of practicing this little ritual, the barista’s still asked her name, still didn’t know her order. When she moved across the country, she vowed to try again.

I get what she’s after, I want it too. To know and be known, to find a little oasis of predictability (or three) in the vast desert of change. 

Maybe that’s why this verse we read this morning at Bible study has been echoing in my head, inviting me to consider it anew.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

Did you see it?

Not only is He the author of every good thing there is, God never changes. He doesn’t change. My understanding of Him might change. My faith can change. My circumstances will certainly change. But He won’t. He doesn’t.

So that ache I have for steadiness in an uneven world?

I think it’s actually a longing for the One true constant, a needfulness of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. It’s a desire for reconciliation with God, communion with the Lord, eternally unchanging.

It's my heart reminding me that this world is not my home.

The ache can’t be satisfied with mall trips and church lady hugs. It’s met in quiet, in worship, in remembering the One who made me and loved me enough to die in order that I might be made anew.

In a swiftly turning world, that love remains forever.

Out of the Deep End {Abby Norman}

Lindsey Smallwood

I think it would be fair to call myself an Abby Norman fangirl. Seriously. Whether she's reminding me to hold my own pen or revealing her jean size in search of something more or even on the days when she has nothing to say, her words are rich and true and best of all funny. And today, in living color, for one night only, she's dropping by with a story about (not) peeing in the pool and the passing of seasons, including the out-of-the-ordinary season of two kids in two years. I know it well.

Read and enjoy. 

This summer the most miraculous thing happened. We were at the pool, my two daughters and myself, when Juliet announced that she had to go to the bathroom.

I sighed.

“Okay!” I yelled back, “Let me get your sister.”

Going to the bathroom is a thing. A THING. You have to make the one who is crying potty to hold tight while you wade through the shallow end to find her sister. Then you have to convince that child to get out of the pool before her sister goes pee (or worse) on the cement just outside the pool. If parenting olympics ever becomes a thing, I will surely be a medal contender in the pool-potty relay race.

Just as I turned my back on Juliet to go find Priscilla, I heard Juliet yell, "WAIT! I can go by myself." 

I can go by myself.

These may be the most magical words I have ever heard.

I had my two babies very close together. At 16 months apart, they are just shy of Irish twins. If you ask me about the baby stage, I will tell you that it is really good but really intense. Becuase I am a teacher, I spend summers at home. There were a few summers where going back to work felt like the vacation. It was just….hard….. and so good, so sweet, so funny. The pictures are precious. But I was never not tired.

As the girls are gaining their independence, I seem to be getting mine back as well.

Yesterday, Juliet went to the bathroom all by herself and my life became exponentially easier. And I thought about this year, from four to five, and all the things she couldn’t do last year that I am now taking for granted. She puts her suit on all by herself and has yet to show up at the pool with it on backward. I have not had to carry both girls to the van as people gape - they can walk. They mostly can keep track of their own shoes.

I wonder if next year, when Priscilla can also use the facilities solo, if I will remember that it is a big deal. Motherhood is a series of changes that you are thrilled by, and then you quickly forget what you once brought so much delight. I don’t know that Motherhood is any different than life.

Thanks to timehop, I came across the album my husband put on Facebook when we moved into our house. I was THRILLED with the kitchen, I COULD NOT BELIEVE our upstairs bathroom, I felt SO LUCKY to call it home. And I still do. All of those things are true. I just sometimes forget.

One day, Juliet and Priscilla will be able to drive to the pool completely without me. I won’t even be needed to chauffer, let alone help with wrestling wet suits back on (that is hard though). I hope that I am grateful for that bittersweet independence too. And I hope I am still grateful that everyone can go potty by themselves.

Abby thrives on distributing complex ideas to the masses. As a teacher, Abby began her career in one of the most under served areas of the country. There she discovered her voice in the classroom as she explored concepts like race, gender, and social justice through the literature her students were reading. She is sure she learned more than she taught. Her students showed her that most people are interested in engaging and improving the world if they are just given the words to explore it. As the mother of a three and four year old, Abby has found that this concept holds true.

While she most often speaks to her students, Abby loves to discuss equality and justice in all forms. You can find her blogging on the intersection of faith and everyday life at accidentaldevotional.com and tweeting at @accidentaldevo.  A BlogHer 2014 voice of the year, and nationally recognized speaker, the highest praise Abby has ever received came from a 16 year old boy who told her she "made English not suck."

Abby believes in champagne for celebrating everyday life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then. Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies and literally burning lies in her backyard fire pit.


Don't you love the way Abby spins a story to help us remember what matters? Did she leave you wanting to hold on to this season a little while longer, enjoying today because tomorrow's on it way? Let her know by leaving a comment below. 

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.