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Longing for Home, or something like it

Lindsey Smallwood

I spent most of last month at home in Alaska where I grew up.

One of my favorite parts of going home again is the way so many things appear unchanged. The same sweet ladies still sit in the back of the church on Sunday mornings, hugging everyone in a ten foot radius. The annual Christmas party with sleigh rides and homemade egg nog feels much like it did when I was growing up. Even going to the mall in my hometown brings on feelings of nostalgia, remembering many hours spent there in years gone by.

The truth is that none of those things are truly unchanged. Those ladies are now in wheelchairs and walkers, nearing the end of their lives. The party is as different as it is the same, the faces present have changed over the years, as has my connection to them. Even the mall has had a facelift, with new stores and new décor.

I know those things are true, but I still want it all to be the same. I’m longing for steadiness.

Maybe it’s life with my little ones, who seem to learn new skills and grow bigger every time I’m not looking. 

Maybe it’s the news, with stories of collapsing governments and fragile economies.

Maybe it’s my own reality, facing the prospect of another cross country move a year from now.  

My friend Whitney has a life-dream to be a regular at a local coffee-shop, to be greeted by name and to be able to order “the usual.” She worked on this for awhile when we were living in the same town in California, stopping into the same place each day, ordering the same thing while she waited for her bus. Still, after months of practicing this little ritual, the barista’s still asked her name, still didn’t know her order. When she moved across the country, she vowed to try again.

I get what she’s after, I want it too. To know and be known, to find a little oasis of predictability (or three) in the vast desert of change. 

Maybe that’s why this verse we read this morning at Bible study has been echoing in my head, inviting me to consider it anew.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

Did you see it?

Not only is He the author of every good thing there is, God never changes. He doesn’t change. My understanding of Him might change. My faith can change. My circumstances will certainly change. But He won’t. He doesn’t.

So that ache I have for steadiness in an uneven world?

I think it’s actually a longing for the One true constant, a needfulness of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. It’s a desire for reconciliation with God, communion with the Lord, eternally unchanging.

It's my heart reminding me that this world is not my home.

The ache can’t be satisfied with mall trips and church lady hugs. It’s met in quiet, in worship, in remembering the One who made me and loved me enough to die in order that I might be made anew.

In a swiftly turning world, that love remains forever.

Coming Home: A Love Story

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

Dr. Ashley Hales is a wise and generous mama-writer. I enjoy following along at her blog - especially as she shares stories of finding grace right in the middle of life's messiness. Today I'm over at her place - Circling the Story - with an reflection on the gift of coming home again. 

As I write this, my dad and my brother are in the driveway tuning up the race-car they take to the local dirt track on the weekends. There is a rich, savory aroma hanging in the air from the bean soup my mom is simmering on the stove. I can hear the sound of plastic hitting plastic as my sons try to build a tower with blocks in the living room. And nestled in the couch with a cup of decaf coffee and time to write, I smile at the familiarness of it all.

I am home.

Not the home where I live most of the time, the tiny spot in the family dorms where my husband makes homemade pesto and the boys and I dance to trombone music in the afternoons. I’ve left that home for a month away. I’m living again in my parent’s house these five weeks, in the town where I was born, the neighborhood where I was raised.

It’s good to come home.

There are the obvious reasons, like not being the only one in charge of planning the meals and the gift of a bubble bath while my parents take my sons to the park.  There are hugs from my favorite church ladies and lazy afternoons spent laughing with my mom while the boys nap. We tell inside jokes and eat meals made from family recipes and enact little rituals I’d forgotten about, like the daily pot of oatmeal and coffee hour after church. Present in all of these moments is an ease that comes from being totally known. These are my people, they love me. It’s like a long exhale after 6 months of making a life in a new city. I don’t have to tell my stories here, because my family already knows them.

It wasn’t always this way.

Throughout late adolescence and into my college years, I was always trying to conceal, finding acceptance through revealing only parts of myself I thought people wanted to see. I was a Christian living with deep doubt, an athlete practicing an eating disorder, a beloved sister and daughter struggling through depression and a string of broken relationships. I didn’t want to be fully known because I hated the reality of who I was, didn’t want to be really seen because some part of me knew that I would have to change. Being known felt scary.

Because home wasn’t a place I could hide.

My family saw me, saw the distance between who I was trying to be and the real aching broken person underneath. They challenged me, asking questions I wasn’t ready to answer but needed to think about anyway. I didn’t come home often in those years, and when I did, the trips were short and busy. Coming back in that season was a taste of what I was dying for, a longing to be known and loved for who I was. But it was also a reminder that in order to live into that place fully, I needed to let go of the layers of sin and secrecy keeping me from the real connection I craved.

Eventually love changed me.

I found love in Scripture, in prayers prayed at recovery meetings, in the church I started attending. I found love in the quiet whispers of grace that spoke in my moments of weakness and self-doubt. I found love in the community of friends I met in a campus Christian group. And all this love reminded me of the love I’d known my whole life long, being known and held by the people who named me and raised me and saw me through dark days. For the first time in a long time I was ready to let them love me again.

Love led me home.

Now, home is a gift. It’s stories with my babies and loud laughter; it’s easy forgiveness and hope for each other. It’s a place where I can be fully myself and know that I’m accepted, even if my parents watch Fox News while I listen to NPR and my brother would rather talk Nascar than new babies. Home isn’t perfect and it isn’t always easy, but there’s a beauty in the ordinariness of being together inside these four walls, loving each other for who we really are. 

And I’m so grateful.

 

 

Find this post where it originally appeared at Circling the Story by clicking here

Rituals: The Taste of Taco Tuesday

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

So excited to be a part of what Cara Meredith is doing over at Be, Mama. Be. She is a talented writer who finds stories to tell in ordinary places. I'm guest posting today as a part of her series on rituals, finding meaning in the little habits in our lives. My ritual is pretty delicious.

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Once a week I cook sizzling ground beef in a skillet, grate a giant pile of cheddar cheese, chop lettuce and fry up fluffy flour tortillas.

Oh boy, it’s Taco Tuesday.

Or Wednesday, or Thursday.  I’m not so precise about the day, as long as there are tacos. Cheesy, meaty tacos topped with cool sour cream, fresh avocado and ketchup.

Yes, ketchup. It’s true. The more appropriate choice would be salsa. Or taco sauce. Or even just some freshly chopped tomatoes.

But for me, it’s got to be ketchup. 

Taco night was a tradition that started when I was growing up. My parents, my brother and I gathered around the kitchen table, talking about our day over flour tortillas and refried beans.

I was a picky eater, preferring the bland and the familiar. But my mom never made us special meals, we had to eat what was served. So I slathered the spicy beef and crunchy lettuce in my favorite thing of all: ketchup.

Ketchup is the taste of my childhood, of making Mom’s meatloaf swallow-able, of fast food after soccer practice, of burgers on report card day. As an adult, it’s a condiment I rarely use at home, in favor of fresher and fancier tastes like pesto and goat cheese and pico de gallo.

But it always comes out for taco night.

I know – ketchup on tacos.

It’s not quite right, but it feels like home.

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There was a time I didn’t eat ketchup. Or tacos. Or much of anything, actually.

Counting calories and measuring body parts became an obsession. Undressed salads, steamed vegetables, and the occasional cup of plain pasta were my drugs of choice, except for brief and wild periods of manic consumption - binging in secret and sitting in shame.

It was the outward manifestation of an inward reality: I was miserable in my own skin. Lost in loneliness and broken in spirit, my secret was killing me slowly.

Until finally, found by a friend and admitted to the hospital, I realized something had to change.

All of my choices, all the decisions I’d made for myself up to that point in my life had ended there, with me in the psych ward, engaged in group therapy talking about how donuts made us feel.

And so, wheelchair bound because of concern about damage to my heart, I sat alone in the hospital and prayed to a God who I’d met as a child, but had walked away from years before.

“If you’re real – help.”

There were no angels. There was no magic.

But slowly, bit by difficult bit, I began to heal.

The God of my childhood became real again –

as I read scripture,

as I asked questions,

as I was loved.

I found meaning in faith, in community, in pursuing truth, rather than the size of my jeans. At least more days than not.

I still look in the mirror and fight the urge to criticize the woman I see there. Coming to peace with my feelings about how I look is a process. I know now it will be life-long.

But over the last dozen or so years since that day in the wheelchair, I’ve realized the incredible gift it is to have a body that’s healthy.

Healthy enough to hold a student through his seizure in my special education classroom.

Healthy enough to run a half marathon around the Golden Gate bridge.

Healthy enough to carry my babies inside me and push them into the world.

My body’s not perfect, but it’s mine to use for my one wild and precious life.

It’s not quite right but it feels like home.

Finally.

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Tonight when I make tacos, I’ll remember my parents and brother, who loved me so well around the dinner table as a kid and walked me through a lot of years of healing later on. Many miles separate us now, but the smell of sizzling ground beef somehow makes them seem not so far away.

And as my own little family gathers around the card table in the middle of our university housing living room, I’ll smile. This is certainly not where I thought we’d be living at this point in our lives but it’s the place God’s provided for now.

I’ll look at the faces of my precious little boys, sure to be covered with sour cream and refried beans. I’ll gaze into my husband’s eyes, acknowledging the weariness that comes after a long day of work and the joy of sharing our lives with these messy little people. We’ll take hands to pray and I’ll be grateful.

For a body that is strong and healthy enough to serve my sweet family.

For a place to live together, even this tiny dormitory apartment.

For the taste of a homemade taco with ketchup on top.

It’s not quite right but it feels like home.

 

 

This post originally appeared at
Be, mama. Be. - www.carameredith.com