Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Children

What I Pray for My Children

Lindsey Smallwood

I want a lot for my kids.

I want happy days playing in the sunshine and the chance to for them to learn to ride a bike. I want memories made by the pool on long summer afternoons and the joy of conquering winter’s biggest sledding hill.

More importantly, I want them to develop in all the right ways. Physically, relationally, intellectually, spiritually. I long for their little lives to flourish, growing into their full potential as people, loving God and loving others the way they were made to love.

But raising kids is not another project.

If you want to write a book, you set a goal of two chapters a week, clear some time in your calendar and get after it. If you want to lose 20 pounds, you throw away the chocolate and reacquaint yourself with the elliptical machine. Turning tiny humans into actual full-fledged adult humans is different, because:

  1. it takes 18+ years, and,
  2. ultimately they get to decide how much they will develop.

My first few months of motherhood, these thoughts paralyzed me. I considered every tiny decision in light of the huge scope of parenting.

If I wait ten minutes to pick him up when he cries, will he learn to fall asleep on his own; thereby becoming a more independent person, capable of sleeping, and perhaps other tasks, without my help? Or will I teach him that the world doesn’t care about his distress, that he’s actually alone in that tiny crib-cage?

But seriously, I wondered about this stuff with everything from how to do tummy time to what kinds of food I should offer at meals. It was overwhelming.

At some point, I became more confident in my parenting decisions, realizing letting him cry while I took a much needed shower wouldn’t keep him from mental health in young adulthood, and if my dad wanted to give him an ice cream cone, it wouldn’t change his taste for healthy fruits and vegetables.

And as I’ve continued learning how to be a mother, trusting my instincts and consulting with experts (aka: the moms of adult children in my Bible study group), I’ve come to understand that while I’m responsible for shepherding my little ones through the little moments and tough challenges they face each day, I can only do so much. Both because I’m only one person with 16 awake hours every day (give or take, actually no, please don’t take), and because my children are people with hearts, minds and wills of their own.

So what do I do with all my wants? How do I manage my hopes and dreams about the people they’re becoming in light of the day to day demands of work and parenting?

I pray.

I know. This is not mind-blowing insight. But sometimes the seemingly simple tasks are the ones we need the most and tend to forget.

As I lay my babes to sleep each night, I pray they’d grow to be like Jesus. I’ve been using Luke 5:52 as my guide. It’s a tiny little verse that tells us nearly everything we know about Jesus’ childhood.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Oh that my own children would grow in wisdom! That their minds would be sharp, full of God’s truth and their intellects would develop as they better understand the world around them.

And stature! I pray that their sweet little bodies would grow healthy and strong, able to do every good work God has planned for them to do.

And that they would find favor in relationships, most importantly, with their Creator and also with all the people God brings across their path.

It’s not conquering the sledding hill or mastering tummy time, but I think this simple prayer covers all the bases that truly matter. It’s my nightly act of remembering what we’re working toward and trusting God with the outcomes, whatever they may be.

It’s that trust, for me and my kiddos, that I want most of all.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places. 

When You Need to Hear a Story

Lindsey Smallwood

I am Middle Places today on bedtime routines, a tired that won't quit, and an old, old story...

There were so many things I looked forward to before having children, but one that couldn't come fast enough was getting to enact the nightly ritual of story time again.

(Seriously, not fast enough. I think we started reading books to our first born when he was like 5 weeks old and his eyes didn't even open all the way...)

I love reading and being read to. So many of my favorite childhood memories involve cuddling up with my mom or dad, listening with anticipation as we read and re-read favorites like The Busy World of Richard Scarry and Quick as a Cricket in the waning minutes before bedtime. The ritual of time together discovering new worlds in words and pictures is one that shaped my life-long love of reading and nurtured my relationships with my parents.

It's proven still delightful, even as I now find myself on the other end of it, parenting little people who like to be read to.

We may not be great at sticking to a particular bedtime around here, but we have our pre-bedtime rituals down pat. Dinner, followed by (a very splashy) bathtime, pajamas with a little wrestling and stories together before the lights go out.

We’ve laughed at King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub.

We’ve been surprised by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

We’ve indulged in some off-key renditions of Down by the Station.

We’ve searched (and searched and searched) for Waldo. (Come on already, Waldo, stop hanging out at medieval festivals with other guys in stripes…)

I love that my one-year-old knows when to turn the pages, pointing with delight at animals he recognizes. It delights me that my toddler has favorites, that the rhythm and cadence of Marvin K. Mooney make him smile and nod along. Whether the two of them are sitting on with my husband in the rocking chair as I watch from my perma-post at the laundry pile or on those truly wonderful nights when we’re all nestled all together on our bed, these moments of telling stories to each other are sacred. As we hold together, the day coming to a close, I wish I could freeze time, that there would always be wide eyed wonder and the smell of baby shampoo in my lap.

My boys are loving the story and I am loving my boys.

///

If I’m honest, I’m a little worn out lately.

We’re one month into fall activities and routines and I’m already dreaming of spring break. The long days of summer have been replaced with weeks that fly by fast and furiously. I love to be busy, crave action and routines and social engagement, but my messy floor and missed blog deadlines and neglected correspondence have me wondering if I have bitten off more than I can chew.

I’m tired.

And here, on my couch, in the midst of my mess on a day less than half done, I hear Jesus’ words from Matthew 11:28 anew.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

And for the first time, I imagine my favorite little pocket of time, the precious moments of stories before bed with my babies, but instead of a rocking chair in that tiny bedroom, it’s a grassy green hillside, just me with the best Story-Teller of all.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

And I lean in and listen as He tells of a King and a kingdom that’s everything I’ve ever wanted and nothing like I expect. Here, in my bleary eyed tiredness, my feelings of inadequacy, the exhaustion that seems sustained, I find my heart softening at the necessary reminders that I am not made for this world, but a new one.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

This story time is just for me and I revel in it, remembering that I am the lost coin that was searched for, the lost sheep that was found with delight, the lost son who was welcomed home.I hear again the fearful words of grace that a new life is awaits me, if only I’ll die to this one.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

Hope fills my chest, making me lighter, unclouding the fatigue. I hold this good news in my heart, grateful to find myself again in an old story that always bears repeating. I am not a cog in the machine or the sum of my accomplishments. I am beloved daughter and kingdom bringer. And as I am held in this moment, hearing these truths again in Scripture and through the sweet voice of the Spirit, I know this to be true.

I am loving the story and my Jesus is loving me.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.

When Extraordinary Hovers An Inch Above The Ground {Cara Meredith}

Out of the OrdinaryLindsey Smallwood

You guys. Today's guest is my online and (amazingly) in-real-life writer-friend Cara Meredith. We're both former pastors and teachers, both lovers of Jesus and the Bay Area, both mamas to two boys. I'm so honored to have her words here today, reminding us of the wonder that's right in front of us, if only we'll pay attention. It's been a theme for me lately, and this piece struck all the chords my heart's been singing.

Enjoy.

By all outward accounts, today was just another day in September. 

We hauled ourselves to church this morning. We read books and watched Curious George and Mama went grocery shopping all by herself to the local co-op eleven minutes down the road. We walked around the lake and we swung on swings at the park. My boys and I ate margherita pizza and baby carrots and dill pickles for dinner because Dada was gone, being a friend to someone who really needs his buddies right now. 

It was completely ordinary, in every sense of the word. 

But wonder and holiness and even a sprinkling of magic filled our day, because that’s just how it is: the ordinary tends to be most extraordinary, if you ask me. 

Our ordinary, everyday lives burst at the seams with cycles of life and death and resurrection, spinning and tumbling over and over again. Gifts of grace lie in wait around every corner, if we’re just willing to open our eyes and take a peek. 

Truthfully, I wanted a better answer to this question of novelty, of extraordinariness. If I could, I’d tell you a story of paragliding in the Swiss Alps, of feeling like I was never quite so alive, never quite so birdlike when screams and laughter and silent awe shuffled together, one into the other, like a deck of cards. Or I’d tell you about the first time I went SCUBA diving in the Puget Sound, when I wore a five millimeter wetsuit and figured out that the best way to clear my ears so I could descend thirty feet was simply to gulp. The pressure released, and with every gulp I was treated to new life: hearty lingcod and gardens of giant plumose anemones, red algae and 80-year-old rockfish. 

But I never seem to get very far in this storytelling, because then I hear his song. 

Literally. 

My three-year-old tends to pick a song of the day, and today, in the middle of September, he chose “Jingle Bells.” 

It wasn’t necessarily wishful thinking on his part, with dreams of sugarplums (or Santa’s bounty-filled sleigh) dancing through his head. It was merely the tune he honed in on. 

So when the rest of the congregation joined in a jazzy rendition of an old hymn and sang, “Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms,” Canon tried his hand at a new set of lyrics. He just wanted to see if “Dashing through the snow” fit the beat, I suppose. 

Then, after church, we turned off the radio in the car and rolled our windows down and joined in the chorus with him, completing every line with a Hey! as he’s instructed us to do. 

We sang it as he rode his scooter down the hill, just because, and he sang it in the bath with Baby Brother, bubbles sprinkling their caramel bodies like speckles of snow. 

And I guess that’s why I can’t get over this extraordinariness, for it’s the gift of the present. 

Hovering an inch above the ground, I have to be fully attune to its invitation, or I just might miss it. It woos and dares and beckons me jump on in, to taste and see the colliding bounty of goodness and holiness and grace. 

For this ordinary is the extraordinary, just as the extraordinary is sometimes quite ordinary. Even if I don’t always believe it, even if I want it to look a little shinier and sparklier on the outside, it’s there - and it’s mine and yours and ours for the keeping. 

Might our eyes be open to seeing and receiving and opening it each day.

Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from the greater San Francisco area. She is passionate about theology and books, her family, meals around the table, and finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. A seven on the Enneagram, she also can’t help but try to laugh and smile at the ordinary everyday. You can find her on her blogFacebook and Twitter


Right? So gorgeously written. Where's the extraordinary in your everyday? Jump on down to the comments to tell us more and leave Cara some love. 

Have your own story to share? Check out my guest post guidelines and send it my way!

Liturgical Dancing, A Bike Light, & Enya {Kari Wilhite}

Lindsey Smallwood

Oh you guys - today I get to bring you something special. Kari Wilhite is a writer whose words seem to dance and sing. She and her friend Holly collaborate on a blog I always enjoy reading called Dreadlocks and Goldilocks - go check out their pictures to see which one is which. Today Kari is sharing about how God used a silly moment in her living room to turn her heart. 

We were at a definite low-point in ministry, if not the lowest.  At our church for 13 years we were at a leadership stalemate that was tearing us apart.  For the bulk of our marriage I had been a fan of ministry but the situation we were in brought me to the point of wanting to hit the button that said “just forget it.”  My husband and I were not in agreement and the leadership conflict was taking weeks to mediate instead of just one simple evening meeting.  I gave my husband the silent treatment par excellence for the first time in our 20 year marriage. I would not budge.

One particular evening 3 of our 4 children engaged in a theatrical dance.  It was an out-of-the-ordinary experience and one I could not have anticipated; it must have been birthed in God’s heart. I am sure the kids felt the tension in the household between their father and I, although they had no idea what was going on with “church” stuff.  It was as if their movements were giving physical witness to what was happening within us.

And we just watched...

///////

I wanted to just
get them in bed
so I could too
hoping
tomorrow he would be
closer
to an answer.

I was just done.

Instead, God escorted me
to watch them,
our children,
dance
in an hour of
spontaneous theatrics.

I sat in darkness
arms folded
trying
to muster up
smiles of encouragement
for the cast
as he sat
across the room
in frame similar.

Enya played
beautifully loud
drowning out my
inner discourse
the shoutings of
“I’m just done with this church!
Just make a decision!
Let's make a change!
We don't have to be in "ministry" to serve Jesus!
Why won’t he listen to me?”

Bike-light became
strobe light
in-sync with deep, dark notes
past play-times it annoyed
but that night
its pulsating
soothed my nerves.

And they danced.

They took turns.
They danced alone.
They danced together.
They watched their
        silhouettes flash on the
        wall behind them where lonely fiddles hung.

They moved with the force
        of the strings
        and the drums.
They embraced one minute.
They dramatically, gently
        shoved to the ground
        the next scene.
They shadow-boxed,
        laughed, gave commands.
They switched roles of
        nurture, angst
        rescue, celebration
        respite, safety.

My agitated soul
God just held still
for that hour
as we watched this
play from heaven
from the innocence
of my babes.

At the time
I could only receive
half-heartedly
and now
I see it with
grace-clarity
with
extreme
gratitude.

This unexpected
gift from
another dimension
echoed my pain
nourished my depths
strengthened my moment
in a most
beautiful display.

///////

We made it through that leadership dilemma/opportunity/challenge and we are still at our church. It took time, prayer, vulnerability with friends and even some therapy. I am grateful and overwhelmed by God’s grace and provision in bringing my heart back around to falling in love again with where we are.  

///////

Kari Wilhite used to be a "pastor's wife" and now wholeheartedly enjoys being "Kari" who happens to be married to Steve, who happens to be a pastor. She loves befriending the disabled, solitude in her backyard, watching the Brady Bunch with her kids and doing spoken word at a local coffee joint. Kari lives in Bonney Lake, WA with her husband and 4 children. Find more by Kari at her blog, Dreadlocks and Goldilocks.

///////

Lindsey again. Don't you love how Kari paints us a picture with her words? Is there a season you need to "dance through" this week? Hop on down to the comments and to share your story (and thanks) with Kari.

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