Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Jesus

Making Purple Spaces

Lindsey Smallwood

I spent the last week of June in my sweet spot, serving as the speaker for Maker Camp at The River Church Community. Maker Camp is five days of kids being creative, everything from robot petting zoos and a giant box city, to homemade pasta and learning to write music. My (very fun) job was to lead chapel each morning, where we learned about our creative God through stories, songs, dancing, videos and the occasional pie-in-the-face. Because one of the things I like to make is fun.

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The Sunday following Maker Camp, The River hosted an all church celebration, where we invited campers and their families to join us in a service where we reflected on creativity. I preached on what it looks like when the stuff of heaven - beauty and justice and love - meets the reality of our life on earth. I invited us to dream together about creating new ways of bringing heaven to earth, making purple spaces in the world. The link to listen or download the sermon is here:

A couple notes:

  • In the sermon, I mention The Bible Project, a resource I have found really helpful this year. Check out their free video library at www.thebibleproject.com.

  • I also shared about ways our family and our church is seeking to help migrants at the border. For ways you can join us, check out Global Immersion and/or this NYT article.

Laying Branches Low

Lindsey Smallwood

When the people greeted Jesus with palm branches, what were they hoping for?
When I come to God, what am I hoping for?

and

Why the cross? What does it mean?
Why my pain? What does it mean?

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Last Sunday I preached at our church to kick off Holy Week, exploring the strange events of Palm Sunday and the hopes and aches we all can’t seem to shake. From the children of Israel who wondered if God had brought them through the waters to freedom only to abandon them in the wilderness, to my own heart in Silicon Valley where I find myself bitter about the Tesla next door, this is a message about looking again at Jesus and finding our story in His story.

You can stream or download the sermon here:

Feeling Lonely is Not the Same as Being Alone

Lindsey Smallwood

This isn't the first time I've written on loneliness. It probably won't be the last. No matter how many connections I make, people I befriend, babies I birth, I think learning to be alone is one of the deep joys, true sadnesses and profound challenges of my life. (There aren't many things I can say that about!) I'm thrilled to be back at Middle Places with thoughts on solitude, extroversion and why Jesus always gets to ride shotgun. 

For someone who's never alone, feeling lonely happens way more than you might think.

I'm raising two toddlers, so on any given day there's a lot of cuddling and carrying and breaking up wrestling matches.

I work part-time at a church, where I lead Bible studies, meet with women and use shared office space.

I'm an extrovert and my free time includes things like workout classes, mom's group and book club.

I'm married, which in my case means I sleep close enough to my husband to feel him breathe.

And add to all that, I'm pregnant, so even when I actually am alone, I can feel a tiny person swimming around inside me.

And yet, even with all of these daily connections, I find myself wondering about the quality of my relationships at church, in my friendships, with my family. Though I'm grateful for all the places I'm connected in this season of life, I find myself searching for more because I'm feeling lonely.

When I think back to the early days of our marriage, I remember long walks with my husband, holding hands as we caught up on life and dreamed dreams together. These days, walks include a double stroller, snacks, a just-in-case diaper bag and a nearly super-human patience to answer my two-year-old’s repetitive questions over and over again without raising our voices.

I long for the days when I’d go meet a friend for happy hour, and we’d talk so long and laugh so hard that we’d have to order dinner to have more time together. Those extended times of just hanging out feel like a distant memory in my current life where every minute has to be coordinated and arranged in advance.

I know this is a season – and I can’t even count the number of times people stop to tell me how quickly this time passes. But I hear about the fun date nights my neighbors do every week, and I notice the way some of my other mom friends seem to make space for fun time together and I wonder if I’m missing out.

The truth is I am missing out. It’s inevitable. None of us can do it all, so there will always be areas where our lives seem to fall short. That’s the danger of comparing our lives with our neighbors.

But here’s the other piece – I always have been missing out. Even during the time I now recall as blissful early in my marriage, if I’m honest, I remember how I wanted us to have more couple friends, or I worried we weren’t planning enough for the future. And for all of those fun friend times, there were nights where no one texted back, where I found out I hadn’t been included, where I obsessed over whether I’d said or done the wrong thing during a coffee date or small group meeting.

I’ve always been searching for more in my relationships, for friendships and connections that are meaningful and deep. It’s a human problem existing since the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had an actual perfect relationship – with God and with each other – and still they wanted more! It’s that longing that led them to the sin that would take them away from the garden forever.

It’s never going to perfect. My relationships with others, even in my best moments, won’t offer the total fulfillment my heart longs for. But in the midst of the search, of trying to find contentment in the season I’m in, I have this wonderful promise from Jesus –

… I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

If you're feeling lonely, consider this:

A woman in our church decided to try and make that promise seem more real to her during Lent. She created an actual physical space for Jesus everywhere she went to remind herself that He is, in fact, always with her. At work, she pulled an extra chair into her cubicle. At the dinner table, she set an extra place. Even in her car, she made her friends ride in the backseat during those 40 days because, of course, Jesus always rides shotgun.

What a way to paint the picture!

He’s there.

In my loneliness.

In the search for meaningful relationships.

In the longing for more.

In the challenges of this season.

Jesus is with me. Always. Every moment. Ready to soothe my doubts and calm my fears and offering a relationship better than any I’ve ever known.

I’m learning to see Him.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places. 

What If I Tell Jesus What I Really Want?

Lindsey Smallwood

Over at Middle Places this month, our writers are exploring what it means to be in the middle of healing. I'm on the blog sharing what I've learned from answering Jesus' question to a blind guy on the road.

Sometimes I pray for what’s right, instead of what’s real.

Like right now – I hope my good friend who is fighting cancer will be healed, but I don’t know whether God will do it so instead of praying for healing, I pray that God’s will be done.

And I would love to know what the timeline is for changes coming in my husband’s job, but instead of telling the Lord that, I find myself saying things like “I trust you with our future” and “I know you’ve always been faithful.”

The thing is, all of those things are true. It’s good to pray for God’s will to be done. I do trust Him with our future. He has always been faithful. But those aren’t the thoughts and feelings bouncing around my heart most days. Instead, it’s fear about what will happen to our family or a deep yearning to see my friend’s pain end.

Recently, I reread the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10. In the passage, Jesus passes a blind man named Bartimaeus as he’s walking down the road to his destination. The man calls out to Him, and Jesus stops, asking him this question: “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want?

 

On its face, it seems like a simple question. Yet answering it requires great courage because we risk finding out we may not get what we hope for. Even the good and godly things.

In Bartimaeus’ case, he asks to receive his sight. Jesus immediately heals him, and Bartimaeus looks at Jesus and follows Him down the road.

I can’t help but ask – what if my story isn’t like Bartimaeus’ happy ending? What if I tell Jesus what I want, what I really want, and He says “no” or “not now” or “wait”?

It’s scary to tell Him how much I long for another baby because in the simple act of saying what I want, I’m acknowledging I might not get it.

Yet relationships, real relationships, can only flourish where there’s honesty and open communication. I think that includes our relationship with God.

I know God wants me to have right theology, to pray for His will to be done, to understand He’s ultimately in control. But He also desires me to bring my whole self to Him: my questions, my challenges, my longings.

As I hear Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus, I imagine Him asking me: “Lindsey, what do you want?”

Slowly, carefully, I let my unspoken desires come to light.

I want my friend to be completely healed from cancer.

I want another baby.

I want the restoration of a broken relationship with a friend.

Saying what’s really in my heart, out loud, to the One who knows me better than I know myself is scary and liberating all at the same time. It’s a step toward deeper relationship with Him. It’s the best possible place to be vulnerable, telling the truth to a God who will never leave me or forsake me, even if His answer is no.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.