Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Devotional

Learning to be Lonely

Lindsey Smallwood

Lately I’ve been longing to be lonely.

It’s totally weird for me.

I’ve always been the most extroverty of extroverts, totally energized by noise and people and busyness. Practicing a devotional life of quiet mediation on Scripture and private prayer is a discipline I’ve always struggled with because, well, booooring.

But all of a sudden I’m finding a longing to get away, to be alone with my thoughts, to rest not just by napping but by taking the easy yoke Jesus offers. I desire to hear His still small voice in my heart and to experience the restorative power of studying scripture.

It’s a model set by Jesus, we see it in Mark 1.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he (Jesus) departed and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.

This little verse follows the dynamic work Jesus was doing, teaching, healing the sick, casting out demons. It proceeds another passage full of Jesus proclaiming good news and performing miracles.

In the midst of this busy-ness, Jesus needs a break, time to be in touch with His Father, a lonely place to make sense of His work and His life.

I love Henri Nouwen’s take on what’s happening here.

Somewhere we know that without a lonely place, our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures.

It’s quiet that helps us know what to say, solitude that makes our time in community meaningful. As I balance raising two little ones who both want to talk to me all the time, working at my church, and being involved in my neighborhood and community, I’m realizing that I need to make space for God more than I ever have before.

In the past, I’ve experienced that longing as a burden, an unloved discipline, something else to add to my planner or pencil in my to-do list. But I’m beginning to see it more as a reward, a joy, something I can sneak into my day the way I do the Halloween M&Ms still hiding behind my canned goods in my pantry.

I’ve started keeping my Bible in my gym bag, taking time to read and pray after I finish cardio but before the childcare time runs out. When I get the boys to bed (*finally*) I take a moment to sit in the dark at the top of the stairs and think about the day, with gratitude for all God has done. I bought a tiny journal that lives in my purse and sometimes I’ll jot down a prayer as it comes to mind, just right there in the middle of my every day life.

I’m sneaking in solitude and discovering that it is it’s own reward, that time spent thinking and listening to God and considering truth is nourishing and even delightful.

I’m learning to love the lonely place.


What about you?
How do you make space for spiritual practice?
Is it a joy? Challenge? Both? 
Here's to finding your lonely place today.

On Anthropolgie Bedspreads

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

A few weeks ago a new friend from my mom's group invited me over for a playdate. 

I always kind of get the first-date jitters when I hang out with someone for the first time. Little pricks of insecurity and fear, made worse by my instinct to put unrealistic expectations on new relationships.

Will I say the wrong thing?

Will she like me?

Will our kids get along?

Will we become besties and then will our husbands become besties and then can we take family vacations together every spring break for the rest of our lives?

Yeah - there's some crazy in there. 

But as I walked into her house I was overcome with a different but not unfamiliar emotion. 

                        photo  via , edited under  license

                        photo via, edited under license

Jealousy.

It was like a physical presence in my chest. An attack of the "I wants". I want that Pottery Barn lounge chair and this open floor plan and that eight person hot tub and this farmhouse dining room table. I want. I want. I really really want. 

The truth is most of the time I like my life just like it is. Sure I wish we had extra in the budget for a housekeeper (please and thank you) or twice yearly trips to Hawaii. But still, I'm grateful that we do have enough for Clorox wipes - heck, I'm thankful that those exist, period - and rental fees at the KOA campground. Yet somehow, when I get in new situations, my tendency is to assess and compare and categorize the ways I find my life wanting. 

I wish my husband came home from work at 5:00 like hers does.

I wish we could afford a place with a guest room so our friends could stay with us.

I wish I could find a part time job where I made enough money to pay a nanny. 

Last week I saw on Facebook that a friend is pregnant with twin girls and, no joke, my first thought was "Where are my twin girls, God?" And the not-crazy part of my brain says "Really Linds? Is that what you need today while you try to get your toddler to eat anything at all without throwing it on the floor and you can't see your bedspread because the laundry volcano that is your bedroom finally erupted and you're massaging your own neck because it's all warped and tired since your infant never wants to be put down? Should we toss you some pregnancy brain and two more babies on the way?"

I'm telling you, things get ridiculous up in here. 

But I've been fighting back.

The most concise treatise on how to fight jealousy that I know of comes from Romans. 

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.

That's it. 

When I go over to someone's house and they have an amazing light fixture made of reclaimed barn wood over their Anthropologie bedspread, I rejoice for them. I don't mourn for me. If I do, I'm getting it all backward. 

I celebrate their home-early husbands and their cool part-time jobs. 

I celebrate their twin babies on the way and their freshly painted guest rooms.

I celebrate whole-heartedly. Because there's no joy in jealousy but there's great fun in celebration.

And I'd way rather have joy than Pottery Barn patio furniture. 

A Little Too Tidy

Lindsey Smallwood

My toddler is tidy. 

I know, it's weird.

Most of the tiny humans I know are like little Tazmanian devils leaving a whirl of blocks and balls in their wake.

But Bobby likes his blocks "cweaned up" and his balls put away. He asks to have his hands wiped at meals. He runs to the kitchen and gets towels if I spill my drink.

As an extension of this cleanliness craze, he loves to put things in the garbage can, which is awesome when it's a dirty diaper or a used napkin. Less awesome when it's a dropped library card or a misplaced turquoise ring, both of which had to be rescued from my kitchen trash recently. 

We laughed when, after an Easter egg hunt, Bobby opened his eggs, removed the candy and proceeded to immediately throw the empty eggs away. He didn't see the potential to use the brightly colored plastic shells as stacking cups, bath toys or rock containers. He just took what was familiar to him - the candy - and moved on.

Sometimes, we're all like this.

We try to move quickly through hard times because we don't want to be dirtied by heartache or doubt or grief. We want to get to the good stuff, the familiar place.

But we can miss out on life's lessons because we think it's easier not to dwell on the mess.

I'm totally guilty of this. Like in hard conversation with a friend. Or bad news from the doctor. Or an argument with my husband that leads to both us walking away, quiet and hurt. 

In those moments, when I'd rather flip on the TV or scroll through my phone, soothing myself through distraction, there's instead an opportunity. 

Messes can be opportunities. Opportunities to start fresh, to put pieces back together in new ways, to reevaluate what matters. To say "Let's start over" or "We're in this together". To allow the still small voice within us to teach and comfort and guide.

We crave what's familiar. We want life to be orderly and predictable. But messes happen. And when they do, we can't always go back to the way things were before. But we can trust that if we listen and watch and wait, there is beauty to be found, to be made in our chaos.

So put the dustpan down and sit awhile. You might just learn something.


How's it looking, friends? Are you facing a messy situation?

Here's to learning together as we live it out.

 

 

 

Not the Detox I Was Looking For {Susanna Foth Aughtmon}

Lindsey Smallwood

You guys - Lindsey here. I am so honored to have a guest post today from my friend Sue. She and her husband were my pastors when I first moved to California and they walked with me through the joys and challenges of being single in my twenties. (I previously wrote an ode to Sue and her scones - you've got to try them.)

Since I've met her, Sue decided to pursue her dream of writing and has published 6 books! (My favorite is My Bangs Look Good and Other Lies I Tell Myself. I know. The book is as funny as the title.) Sue's living her dream while raising three boys in Silicon Valley. I'm so thrilled that she's written this piece for us today - it made me giggle and think, two of my favorite things to do.

A few weeks ago, I decided to do a 10 day detox.

You know…one of those ones where you give up dairy, caffeine, sugar and flour.

Basically, all the things that make life beautiful and worth living.

The idea was to spend those 10 days nurturing myself, concentrating on getting healthy: taking morning walks, limiting social media, ending each day with soak in lavender Epsom salts and reconnecting with Jesus through my devotional time.

I had a vision of coming out of the detox a few pounds lighter, more focused and you know, holier.

Let me tell you how my detox went.

I spent the first two days in fetal position trying to sleep off hideous caffeine headaches.

This was followed by a single morning walk which ratcheted up my hip muscles like a tightly wound jack-in-the-box just waiting to jump out with a big “Surprise!”

The big surprise was that after one lavender Epsom salts detoxifying bath, my entire back decided to seize up on me.

Because tall girls shouldn’t take baths.

There is no possible way to get all of your long body and legs into a small bathtub.

So I went from soaking to icing.

And taking Advil and muscle relaxants. Could anything be more toxic?

The back thing has happened 3 times in the last 4 years.  And each time I think,

“Sweet Jesus! Not again.”

I dread the fogginess of the drugs, the painful physical therapy and slow geriatric recovery that follows.

But …deep breath….I am learning to see the silver lining in my imminent couch time.

You should know that I always get a good cry in first before I consider any silver linings.

I have to recognize one more time that I am not in control. But Jesus is.

That I am needy and worn down and wanting. But He is not.

And that Jesus can meet me just as easily mid-back pain as he can mid-detox.

I have felt His presence in the kindness of my husband as unloads the washing machine. (True love in action!)

In the prayers of my friends. In the faces of my boys when they ask, “Mom, are you okay?”

And in the moments of quiet when the boys are at school the reconnecting part is happening.

Maybe it takes a good hip spasm for me to get quiet before him.

And He has brought this verse to mind,

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.”

The lying down part? Done.

The leading me beside still waters? In the works.

So….one more deep breath….and let the restoration begin. 

Author & speaker Susanna Foth Aughtmon is a pastor's wife and mother of three boys. She assists her husband, Scott, in various ministries at their church plant, Pathway Church, in Redwood City, California. For fun, she likes to eat chocolate, read lots of fiction and drink coffee with her girlfriends. Find her on Facebook or check out her hilarious blog The Tired Supergirl.

Lindsey again - didn't I tell you that you would giggle and think? Leave Sue some love in the comments for her to read on the couch and then go read her blog - you can't not be encouraged.