Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Fear

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. 

There is No Fear in Love

Lindsey Smallwood

Lately I feel like I’ve been playing whack-a-mole with fear.

It pops up in the strangest spots and as soon as I’ve put it to rest, here it comes again, showing itself in a place I wouldn’t expect it.

Like at Bible study last week, when I was supposed to be listening to a video about prayer, I found myself wondering what would happen if someone with a gun burst into our classroom and started shooting. Would I be brave enough to cover the sweet little lady next to me with my body? Or could I try to make a run for it and get to the nursery where my babies were having snack time? What would I do if I only had seconds to decide?

I fought off the panic, reminding myself that even though mass shootings are more common than they’ve ever been, it’s still unlikely. I can trust God with whatever happens, and our church has a great building security team.

But then, just hours later, I called my husband to ask what time he’ll be home. When he didn't answer, I tried to imagine where he was. I began to find dread creeping back in. What if he’s collapsed in the basement lab where he works with no one there to help him? What if there was a shooting on campus? What if his experiment exploded and he’s been badly burned? My mind works overtime, asking wild questions like “Where would I live if I end up being a single mom?” and “What kind of funeral would he want?”

Recently after church, I went up for prayer, explaining to the prayer minister how terror and worry have been occupying my thoughts at the strangest times, how I’ve tried to fight these worries back but they just keep coming. She smiled gently, sadly almost, and told me in her service as a prayer minister, she hears a request like mine nearly every week, people wrestling with worst case scenarios and terrible “what ifs?”

She prayed for me, asking for peace to guard my heart and mind. I held onto the image, imagining peace as a little solider, playing whack-a-mole with the worry in my head.

Just a few days later, I found myself telling some friends about my mental struggle against fear as we shared lunch together. And even as they nodded, acknowledging how in different seasons each of them had waged their own battle against anxieties big and small, they began to repeat back that precious phrase about peace as a guard for our minds.

It comes from Philippians 4.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As my friend quoted that passage, reminding me of the rich promises of peace, she pointed out there are also two things this verse tells us to do.

  1. Pray. Tell God what’s worrying us. Don’t sit there until the fear is overwhelming but speak our concerns out loud, telling Him what you want and need Him to do.
  2. Give thanks. Remember all the blessings we have, all the ways we’ve been protected and sustained by God’s Spirit. Fight fear with gratitude for the abundance of things there are to be thankful for.

What a sweet gift. Not only does God promise his peace to watch over my mind, He gives me something to do with my anxiety, work to do in order to keep the worry at bay.

My wise friend also reminded me of 1 John 1:18, which, among other things, tells us that

… perfect love casts out fear.

If God Himself is love and I’m invited to find my life in Him, then fear has to go.

Have the worrisome thoughts stopped coming? Truthfully, no. Just yesterday, I lost track of my littlest as we were leaving the gym and though it was only a matter of moments until I figured out where he’d gone, I found myself beginning to imagine the horror of losing this little child I love so much.

But there, in our truck as I drove back to our house, I began to pray, thanking God for the gift of my two children, for His grace in giving us a home to live in together, for food to eat. By the time I had finished praying, I realized the fear had given way to quiet gratitude, peace was on guard again.

Thanks be to God.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.

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. 

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Call Me Maybe {Lily Ellyn Dunn}

Out of the OrdinaryLindsey Smallwood

I'm so pleased to welcome Lily to the blog today. Lily writes about life, books, faith and figuring it all out - so basically all of my favorite things. She's just back from a long season living and teaching in South Korea, which is where her out of the ordinary story takes place...

It was the night of the end-of-the-year teacher’s dinner at the Korean elementary school where I worked as an English teacher. After several rounds of speeches of which I understood only a handful of words, and copious amounts of nodding, bowing, and smiling, we’d been released to the buffet. Although I’d been living in Korea for several months now, I was still unsure of the etiquette in many situations. I closely watched my coworkers for guidance on what I should eat and how much to take. I’d long ago given up on trying to figure out what was in the various unfamiliar dishes and decided to take whatever looked interesting and make the best of it.

After managing to eat most of my dinner without fumbling my chopsticks or dropping food all over myself, I started to relax. I still felt awkward and out of place, but I understood the dynamics of a work dinner with colleagues. I had a framework for this kind of social setting. And then they wheeled in the karaoke machine.

Perhaps the only thing Koreans love as much as kimchi and soju is singing karaoke, or norebang as it is called in Korean. Singing is such a deeply embedded part of Korean culture that it’s virtually unthinkable to be Korean and not sing (sort of like being Korean and not drinking, but that’s a different story for a different time). Much like golf in America, singing karaoke is a perfectly normal and acceptable thing to do as part of a business meeting or work event.  

When we’d first arrived at the restaurant I’d scouted the room for the telltale sign of the cart with the microphones, speaker, and video screen and had been comforted when I didn’t immediately see one. I should have known there was always one in reserve.

Once the principal announced that it was time for norebang, the book of song choices was thrust into my hands and I was told, “Here. Choose song! English!” I tried a polite, “No thanks! I’ll just listen!” but my coworkers seemed to take this as a personal affront. “Just choose. Just one is OK!” they badgered until they eventually wore me down.

It should be noted that I love singing. I sing to myself all the time. But I am objectively bad at it. And for some reason, I’m much worse at karaoke than I am at singing a capella or singing along to the radio in my car. I know those machines are designed to make everyone sound like a pop star, but when I use them, I lose all sense of rhythm and pitch.

I flipped through the song book, heart racing, unable to concentrate on the words on the page much less make a purposeful decision about what to sing.  “Which one? Which one?” my coworkers asked. They wanted to pass the book to someone else.

Something caught my eye. Finally, a song I recognized! I pointed triumphantly and they nodded enthusiastically. “OK, OK. Wait one minute,” and cued up the machine.

And then, there I was, in front of the entire faculty, My heart was beating so hard I thought I might pass out, when the sweet strains of Carly Rae Jepsen’s international hit, “Call Me Maybe” came through the speaker.

My vice principal seemed inordinately pleased to see me singing, but I could tell that my coworkers were underwhelmed by my abilities.  My face was bright red and I was starting to feel like I couldn’t possibly make it to the end of the song when I had a flash of genius. I remembered a conversation I’d had with the music teacher, Mr. Kim, about western pop music. He’d been complaining about the Justin Bieber song his sixth grade students were learning for the school festival, but then mentioned that he had a daughter who loved the song “Call Me Maybe.”

I threw a Hail Mary. “Now, Mr. Kim! Sing with me!” I yelled into the mike. I grabbed the second mike from the cart rack and thrust it into his hands. The fifty-year-old Mr. Kim looked startled for a second, then put the mike to his mouth, “And all the udder boys, try to cha-ase me. But here’s my number. So call me maybe,” he belted out.

We were a hit.

Ok, maybe not a hit, but we were certainly memorable.

I sat back down feeling shaky and embarrassed, but also exhilarated. If you’d told me a year before that I would do a duet with a middle aged Korean man to a Carly Rae Jepsen song in front of a roomful of coworkers, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine it. But there I was, doing the unfathomable.

Was I embarrassed? Extremely. Was it one of those situations where I thought it was horrible, but everyone else thought it was great? No. Everyone else also thought I was horrible. (“Hmmm….Lily Teacher…Maybe you no more singing?”) But that’s OK.

It’s OK because for once I didn’t let Embarrassment or Shame dictate my choices. I didn’t let Shame tell me how to feel about myself afterwards. I said yes to something that was out of my comfort zone, and while it didn’t end in an inspirational success story I could publish in Reader’s Digest, it taught me something important.

Failure isn’t the worst thing. You will survive embarrassment. You can let Shame tell you who you are and who you have to be, or you can chase hard after Life until you catch up to him, then try to play it cool while you slip him your digits.

“So... here’s my number. Call me, maybe?”

Lily Ellyn Dunn is a faith-wrestler, a freelance writer, a substitute teacher, an avid traveler, and (most importantly) an ice cream connoisseur. She and her husband are trying to adjust to life in Columbia, SC after two years in South Korea. Lily writes about life, faith and every day grace on her blog, http://lilyellyn.com. You can also find her on Twitter @lilyellyn.


Wow! Didn't you love that ending? Failure really isn't the worst... and oh how I need to hear that often and loudly. Leave Lily a comment below and let her know your favorite karaoke song... or how much you liked her piece. 

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