Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Dreams

I Want To Be Afraid Of Other Things {Meredith Bazzoli}

Out of the OrdinaryLindsey Smallwood

I really heart my writer friend Meredith. Probably because besides looking for truth and beauty, she always manages to find the funny - like when she thought she got left behind in the rapture (what evangelical kid didn't? right? anyone?) or when hearing a kid play his recorder during the offertory at her church inspired her to challenge us all to be weirder together. Today's story has some laughs - and some real truth I'm still wrestling through. Enjoy. 

Photo:  Lilliana Winkworth

Photo: Lilliana Winkworth

 

One of my improv teams went on a trip to a cabin in the middle of a series of corn fields. It was an unlikely retreat, a small town in Wisconsin where bars and churches compete for the attention of bored citizens. Certainly not a vacation town, just a place where people live, farm, drive their pickups, and gaze at outsiders with suspicion and curiosity.

After arriving under the cover of night, straining our eyes in the darkness to discern whether we were on a road, long driveway, or cow path, the daylight made the area seem friendly-- a pastoral ideal or perhaps a Mayberry, where everyone knows your name.

We walked down the country roads as a team, and I even picked a wild violet and tucked it behind my ear. We sang to cows, taking thirsty gulps of the country air, stretching our limbs in the wide open spaces. Those who had arrived yesterday had some magical locations to show the rest of us, places already storied with the adventures of the day before.

As we approached one of the properties, I felt my palms begin to sweat. I hated the feeling that I might get caught, and as we sauntered down the road, it felt like the eyes of the town were on us. My people-pleasing reaches beyond bosses and friends to strangers in a small farm town in Wisconsin--I didn’t want to get in trouble. What had appeared to my teammates to be an abandoned barn the day before seemed more like an old barn on someone’s actual working farm. 

When a man pulled into the drive on a tractor, I thought I might explode with anxiety, but this guy ended up being pretty nice. He was taken in by the ragtag group of city folks who found farm life fascinating and open spaces, irresistible. He gestured to the schoolhouse across the street, a more decidedly abandoned building and told us how he used to attend school there. He gave us permission to roam his property, but warned us his barn was nearly falling over.

The schoolhouse became the object of our interest. At some point, a double wide had been parked in the school yard, along with an old Ford that looked like it could have played a part in the O. J. Simpson trial.

Photo:  Lilliana Winkworth

Photo: Lilliana Winkworth

The cabin of the car was stuffed with newspapers dating back to the 1980’s. I thought my teammates went around the back to take pictures, but when I rounded the corner, I saw another person hoisting themselves up into the broken frame of a window. Two of them already stood knee deep in what appeared to be the dumping grounds for an entire family history.

They held up one treasure after another. When you’re uncovering 70’s wedding pictures, entire sets of ancient china, victorian era couches, and mint condition 19th century shaving brushes, you don’t feel like a trespasser, you feel like an archaeologist, wiping the rat droppings off priceless pieces of the past.

One by one, my teammates braced their foot against the base of the crumbling window frame and helped each other in. For a while, it seemed like it was our space, a long forgotten secret left for us to discover, but then we heard a rumbling motor sidling up next to the school house.

As one of the teammates on the outside just looking in the window, I rounded the corner to meet two farm boys with sideburns and overalls, that most definitely had a gun in their pickup truck. They were straight out of a Coen brothers movie or my imagined worst case scenario. There were two extra tall cans of mountain dew sweating in their cupholders. We smiled our naive city-folk smiles but they looked back with stony, “what the hell do you think you’re doing” stares.

“You’re on our bosses property…”

“Oh sorry guys, we thought this belonged to the farmer across the way and he had given us permission to look around.”

“Nope, that’s the other Jim. We work for the Jim who owns this property.”

At this point, I grabbed the hand of one of my teammates. More-so than an actual fear of cops showing up and giving us a stern talking to, I hated the idea of being in trouble. I hated the idea that these two country bumpkins sent to come get us saw me as stupid or un-likeable.

At what point had my greatest fears become so shallow? So outwardly focused, so wrapped up in my anxiety and self-hatred?

As a kid growing up in pre-9/11 America, I was most afraid of robbers who most definitely lived in my basement. Their footsteps would echo behind mine as I ran for my life up the basement stairs. I worried over my parents dying while I was away at sleepovers and thought through how I would escape my house if it caught on fire.

Somewhere in my teens, the fears started getting more tame--less cinematic and more existential. I worried about finding a group in English class or finding someone to sit with in the cafeteria.

These types of dread followed me through college and beyond. I feared coworkers dislikes and the annoyance of guy friends; I analyzed my behavior and interactions with a terrible feeling in my gut that I was unlovely and unlikeable. I avoided risk and “trouble” to preserve a perfectionist ideal, not out of moral or ethical conviction.

Sometimes it takes something like trespassing in rural Wisconsin to make you examine these fears. As more town members parked on the road and the owner’s wife pulled up with fire in her eyes, I had a little conversation with myself… “Don’t be afraid of this.”

Photo:  Lilliana Winkworth

Photo: Lilliana Winkworth

I want to be afraid of holding back on my dreams and missing opportunities to live abundantly. I want to live motivated by love, unafraid of what people might read into my actions. I want to be kept up at night dreaming about the day ahead, inhaling breathe as precious life running through me. I want to fear negative inertia and being controlled by negative thoughts.

More than anything, I want fear to transform to awe, to a posture with arms open and face held up to drink in the smell of crunchy leaves or spring blossoms, or to feel the chill of a winter wind. I’m still rolling around in my head the idea of proper fear, imagining what life free of shame and people-pleasing would look like. I don’t know if I know yet, but I see glimmers.

That day, we escaped major consequences and suffered through only a few stern talkings to about the dangers and legal liabilities of trespassing. We all felt a bit spooked and ready to return to the city. But I left with this thought rolling around in my head...

I want to be afraid of other things. 

Meredith (Vosburg) Bazzoli is a writer and comedian living in the Chicagoland area. Meredith loves hearing and recording other's stories, finding glimmers in the mundane,  exploring and collaborating creatively, making good food, and seeking what it means to love and follow Christ in the everyday. She writes about living the revealed life on this blog and performs at the iO and Playground theaters in Chicago. Meredith is married to Drew, a web designer and 6'4" man with the self-described physique of a tube sock. Connect with her on InstagramTwitter, or her blog


Me too, Meredith, me too. Didn't you find yourself nodding along at the end of this one, friends? Skip on down to the comments and leave Meredith some love. 

Do you have a story to tell? Check out my guest post guidelines, I love to feature good words. 

Deep Breaths & Big Dreams

Lindsey Smallwood

You guys. 

I started this blog in February and creating this space for the last six months has been a blast. Seriously. It's a pleasure to share my words here, connecting with you all over stories and ideas and building community in this unique online way. 

For the next month-ish, I am taking a break from blogging, aside from a couple of posts that are already scheduled. The boys and I will be spending time with my family in Alaska. I'm hoping to work on a book (!) and begin praying and preparing for the season to come. 

If you think of it, I'd appreciate prayers during this time of listening and dreaming, of creativity and rest. And I hope to "see" you back here in September, the best part of all of this is sharing it with you.

Until then, a benediction - 

The Lord bless you, and keep you:
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you:  
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace,
now and forevermore. 

May it be, my friends, may it be. 

Opening the Thin Envelope

Lindsey Smallwood

It is such a pleasure to write with my friends over at Middle Places. If you haven't taken the time to read some of the other bloggers there, I encourage you to poke around. This months theme of being (re)Routed has lead to some really great writing. I'm sharing a story about dreams and rejection today - and praying you find hope to take your own brave steps. 

No one wants to get the thin envelope.

You've been there. Checking the mailbox everyday, hoping and dreaming and planning for the future, and then it comes, addressed to you. The return address is right, it's the school you want to get into or the company you hope to work for. But the slim profile betrays the news hidden inside.

"We regret to inform you..."

Rejection. Hopes deferred. Dreams stopped in their tracks. Usually softened by language about the talented applicant pool or hopes that you will reapply in the future. But the disappointing view of a longed-for possibly closing it's doors is never easy to take in.

In my final year as an undergraduate, I applied to a national teaching program. Honestly, I was not sure what I wanted to do. I clerked at a law firm as a part time job during college and considered law school. I found community in a campus ministry after I returned to campus from treatment for an eating disorder and thought about working in ministry as a full time job. One of my classes required community service hours tutoring at an elementary school and I'd enjoyed working with kids, which lead to my application to the teaching program.

It wasn’t just paperwork, I prepared a lesson plan and taught it to the interview panel. I answered questions based on case studies. I sat before a group of current teachers and responded to their queries about my experiences and motivations. I left the interview day tired and confident; going through the process left me sure that I would be a great teacher and optimistic that I would be selected.

Until the thin envelope came.

“Dear Lindsey, We regret to inform you…”

For a few days, I felt deep disappointment. I knew my application hadn’t been lost in a pile; they had really looked at me, asked me personal questions and watched me teach, and had decided I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

My pastor encouraged me to consider ministry again, reminding me of how my gifts of teaching and connecting with people could be useful in that setting. I prayed for an open door, and, finding one, decided to pursue vocational church work. That opportunity lead to another and then another and for six years I worked in full time ministry.

As that season drew to a close and I was trying to decide what to do next, I felt drawn again to classroom teaching. But, having already applied and been rejected many years before, I was afraid to pursue that dream again. The door had closed. It seemed foolish to bring that hope back to life.

Heeding the counsel of some close friends and family, I decided to face the possibility of rejection and go through the process again. The pre-tests, the lesson plan, the group interview – I did it all. And six weeks later, to my surprise and delight, a big fat manila envelope filled my mailbox, welcoming me to the program and outlining my next steps.

My dream of teaching wasn’t lost when I was rejected from that program in college. It was rerouted. I just didn’t know it at the time. But in order to find the way back to my dream, I had to take a risk.

Most things worth doing are scary. Our dreams are worth risking rejection and failure. If you’re in the middle of a reroute in your own life, I challenge you to think about what brave steps you might need to take to find your way back to a dream long dreamt. Remember sweet friends, this is still just the middle of our stories.

Daring to Speak Your Dream

Lindsey Smallwood

This month I met four new friends.

We first connected in a blogging group online and since we all live locally, we made a date to gather in person for support and encouragement.

After exchanging pleasantries and picking each other’s brains about style and formatting techniques, we dove a little deeper.

“What is your dream for your blog?” someone asked.

We went around the table, the answers varied and interesting. One woman hopes to eventually turn her blog about fixing up old furniture into a shop in her neighborhood selling rehabbed antiques. Another told about her desire to use her online writing as a way to support a family missions project.

As I listened to these women I hardly knew talk about their dreams, I noticed the way their eyes danced and their faces became expressive. These closely held desires had lived long in their hearts and sharing them with us was fanning their hopes back into flame. Instead of getting stuck in the details of how to format a blog post, we were remembering why we had chosen to write in the first place. It was a powerful moment that helped me realize I need to remember my hopes more often.

Maybe today we all need to take a step back and answer this question:

What are your dreams for your life?

So much of our everyday life is details. Getting to an appointment on time. Making sure the bills are paid. Meeting deadlines at work. Preparing dinner for our families.

But there desires there, tucked away, waiting to be given room to grow. Hopes that need tending so they might flourish.

Taking time to remember these yearnings gives us space to dream anew, to evaluate whether we are moving in the direction of the life we long for, and to invite others to encourage us as we pursue the desires God has breathed in our hearts.

It can be scary, saying our dreams out loud. There’s risk involved, opening ourselves up to criticism and the possibility of failure. But there’s also the opportunity to receive support on the journey as we advance toward the future we envision for our jobs, our families, and ourselves.

Here’s more good news: God is already at work and his dreams for us are bigger than we can even conceive. After speaking them to my new friends that morning, I thanked God for the dreams He's placed in my heart and giving myself space to see how I can take steps from hoping to doing. 

Will you join me? 

"Now glory be to God,

who by his mighty power

at work within us

is able to do far more than

 we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—

infinitely beyond our highest prayers,

desires, thoughts, or hopes."

Ephesians 3:20 (Living Bible)