Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Christmas

Surprised & Delighted

Lindsey Smallwood

You guys, today I have a totally fun story featured at (in)courage, which I love because

  1. (in)courage has writers I deeply admire, like Ann Voskamp and Deidre Riggs and Lysa Terkeurst and Liz Curtis Higgs. These are gals whose books are on my shelf. So I'm totally fangirling to even be included in the awesome-ness over there.

  2. It's a Christmas story, which - let's be honest - is always actually the best kind of story. Because Christmas is the best. I'm sorry. You can't tell me and my Mariah Carey CD otherwise.

Here's a quick peek at the intro, I'd love it if you hopped over to read the whole thing at (in)courage, I'll share the link at the bottom of this post. 

I had no idea it was coming.

This speaks to how clever my mom was about surprising me because I was a notorious present-peeker. Unwrapping packages without ripping the paper became my specialty. Each year I spent hours stealthily surveying the gifts under our tree, carefully pulling back the tape to discover what was inside and filing a mental inventory of who was getting what. By the time we reread the nativity story on Christmas Eve, I usually had every box accounted for.

But not that year.

I was 10 years old. As we opened our presents, I thought I knew the contents of each package with my name on it, a new dress, some socks and underwear, and a set of books I couldn’t wait to dive into.  When we were nearly finished exchanging gifts, my mom reached behind her rocking chair and pulled out a narrow package.

She handed it me, smiling as I shook the box, wondering at its contents. I took off the paper and gasped when I saw what was inside. It was a phone! Not a cellular phone — those were the size of a loaf of bread in 1992 — this was a landline phone for my bedroom, my very own extension. It was made of neon foam, like most great things were in the 90s, with an oversized yellow ear on the top and giant hot pink lips serving as the mouthpiece. I immediately imagined myself laying on my bed and having private talks with friends from school, like the girls in the books I adored.

I was completely surprised and totally delighted. It was the perfect gift, a sign that my mom knew me, knew what I would love, even before I thought to ask for it myself.

As I tell this story of Christmas, I’m struck that it is also the Story of Christmas. We think we know what’s coming but we’re handed a surprise.

“ . . . for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” {Matthew 6:8, ESV}

We would never dream of asking for a baby born in poverty to an unwed mother, but the incarnation is exactly what we’ve always longed for. It’s the reality of God with us, loving us enough to enter in to our experience. The gift of Christ’s coming in the Christmas story is God’s way of showing that He knows us, understands us, and has been planning to delight us all along.

God’s gift to us is Himself.

He’s everything we want and yet totally surprising, the way good presents usually are.

 

This post originally appeared at (in)courage.
You can find it by clicking here.

There's Nothing To Do But Wait

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

On the ways joy makes strange company with grief and other realities of Advent this year...

I miscarried six weeks ago.

I keep thinking that I’m over it, that I’m okay. What right have I to grieve when I have two tiny boys at home to cuddle and read to and tuck into bed? There are longing-to-be-mamas and those who’ve had to bury the children they’ve nursed and held in their arms. Surely my loss is insignificant in comparison.

But then I see my sweet friend across the room, her belly swollen with new life and hot tears begin to fall down my cheeks. The hurt is not over, grief still hovers close. It aches during insurance commercials and bubbles up when I hear the baby crying next door.

There is nothing to do but wait—for healing, for another chance, for the mercy of passing time.

Now Christmas comes, the story I’ve loved since childhood, of far-off kings and unexplainable stars, of angels and shepherds and unlikely hotel rooms. The story of hopes finally fulfilled, promises made true. All of it centered around pregnancy and birth and a baby. I’m not sure I can hear it so readily this year. For as angels fill the sky and prayers are answered in Bethlehem, my own prayers end in questions.

There is nothing to do but wait.

I hate the powerlessness of hope. Waiting to find out what comes next is uncomfortable, unsettling, hard. And yet as I listen again to the long cherished story of Advent, I remember that those who wait are always in good company. Elizabeth had longed to become a mother for most of her lifetime. Anna had prayed for years for God’s kingdom to come to Jerusalem. Even Mary, with her angel visits and promises from God, had to watch and wait, year after year, as her miracle baby grew into the dying Messiah.

The stories we tend to tell are the ones with action, climax, conclusions. But life—real, faith-building, character-shaping, soul-growing life—happens in the waiting, where it’s hard and lonely and unclear.

Advent reminds us that our waiting is not in vain. God is working behind the scenes to make the world right. He’s answering prayers and fulfilling promises in strange and surprising ways. Because only God could bring kings and shepherds to the same stable. Only God could grow new life in a virgin’s womb.

I don’t know what comes next, how the prayers I’m praying now will be answered. But I know that the same God who hung the star in Bethlehem has plans for me, for hope and for a future. So I sit to hear the good story of Christmas once again. The joy throughout makes for strange company in my grief. I listen anyway, treasuring its mysteries, longing for Jesus’ Advent in my own story.

But, for now, there is nothing to do but wait.

 

This post originally appeared at SheLoves Magazine.
Find it by clicking here

Pray Like This

Lindsey Smallwood

This week I am thankful for words to turn to when my own feel far away. For more, check out my new piece up at Middle Places today.

This should be a good week.

I flew home to Alaska last week for a nice long visit with my family. Mom's cooking my favorite foods. I got to hug the church ladies AND go to the children's Christmas pageant on Sunday. I haven't done a single load of laundry since I arrived and instead have used my spare time for reading novels and watching Hallmark movies with my mom. For me, this should all equal bliss.

But instead, there's been a heaviness hanging over it all.

My sweet friend lost twin babies to miscarriage, babies we'd all been hoping and praying for a long time.

A mentor in my Bible study group had a tumor removed only to discover it's malignant.

Our neighbor doesn't know if she'll have a job to go back to after the holidays - and how they'll make ends meet if she doesn't.

And that's just in my circle of people. Beyond that there's war and terrorism and divisive rhetoric everywhere I go. It all seems scary and tiring and sad. I don't know what to think, much less what to say.  My prayers feel small - just "Help!" and "Why?" and "Come quickly, Jesus."

Last Sunday at church, we prayed the Lord's prayer and I was reminded of how Jesus introduced it. He told those who were listening "...when you pray, pray like this." The people in the crowd that day were living in the middle of disease and death, racial and tribal violence, poverty and hunger.

It was a time not unlike this one. These words still matter.

So in my sadness and fear and fatigue, I’ve been dusting off those words, praying them anew and asking Jesus to let their truth remain in me.

OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN,
HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME,

God, you’re big.

So big that the world can’t contain you. You exist outside of space and time, in heaven, where you hold us in your hands.

The reality of who you are is amazing and I am amazed by you.

You aren’t like anyone or anything else.

You are Holy, Holy, Holy.

YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE
ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

Oh Lord, if only.

This is my longing and my prayer and my deepest desire.

I wish life were the way you designed it to be, that our earthly home reflected your character and your heart instead of our sinfulness.

Help me be a better kingdom bringer.

GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD.

Thank you God that you are providing for my family every day.

Would you provide for those who are hungry and homeless?

FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS,
AS WE ALSO HAVE FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS.

Create in me a clean heart, oh God.

Forgive me my selfishness, my pride, my laziness – and help me to be quick to forgive.

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION,
BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE,

Lead me in the way that leads to life, would you Lord?

Lead me so that I won’t lose my way.

Deliver me from every wicked scheme of the one who would kill and steal and destroy.

FOR YOURS IS THE KINGDOM, THE POWER
AND THE GLORY FOREVER.
AMEN.

My life is so short but you are forever. When all is said and done, you will remain.

I believe you are bigger than everything I fear.

I know you are redeeming and healing and restoring, even as the realities of this broken world persist.

Your kingdom is the true kingdom and I want to make a home there.

May it be, Lord.

May it be.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.