Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Joy

Hanging in to the Finish

Lindsey Smallwood

By the time this post gets published, I will have likely had a baby.

Oh God, please let that be true.

But today, as I sit at my computer with my feet up on the desk, I’m 8 months along and feeling huge and uncomfortable. I have to go to the bathroom all the live-long day. Everything makes me cry. Bending over requires a fully thought out getting-back-up strategy.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted this pregnancy, celebrated at each happy milestone as the months have progressed, can’t wait to add another little life to our family.

But today? I’m done. D to the O to the N to the E. As in get this guy outta here already.

But no. He’s tucked in tight for a little while longer. And my job is to persevere until this season is finished.

Truth be told, most of life is like this. There are seasons and jobs and sometimes even people we’d like to be done with. But often, we have to wait until the time comes, hanging in there to the finish. The thing I’m trying to remember this week, swollen ankles and all, is how God offers joy and peace in the middle of it.

I like Kay Warren’s definition from her book – Choose Joy Because Happiness is not Enough.

Joy is the settled assurance God controls all the details of my life. The quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. The determined choice to praise God in every situation.

Paul knew this. He wrote the book of Philippians, essentially a treatise on joyful living in community, from his prison cell.  In chains and unable to make choices about his life and freedom, he nonetheless expresses deep joy in Christ and exhorts the Philippians to do the same.

We’ve all seen examples of this in our life, people who face death, disappointment, loss, uncertainty with a steady gaze toward Jesus. There can be joy, even in grief and trials, when we choose to trust a God whom Scripture tells us is immensely trustworthy. On our worst days we still have the best hope. That’s where joy comes from.

Peace is similar. It is a result of trusting God. But whereas joy comes when we trust our lives to a big God who holds the whole world in His hands, peace comes from choosing to rest in Him in the middle of the storm.

Here’s an example from my real life this week. After a long day with two busy boys, dragging around my giant belly, and trying to keep things somewhat orderly while not passing out in our not-air conditioned house, I made dinner.

While I stood at the counter chopping grapes and walnuts for chicken salad I looked up and noticed a picture on the wall. It’s a picture that’s always there, a snapshot of my little family that I’ve looked at 100 times before. But seeing it there reminded me of what all this current waiting is for – the tiredness, the mess, the dirty hair and peanut butter stained shirt, the yelling from the other room, this is an answer to prayer.

This is my family. This is what I begged God for and looking at that snapshot filled my heart with joy.

A few minutes later, Chris walked in the door. He took off his shoes, dropped his bag, hugged the boys while breaking up some kind of fight I was only vaguely aware of and then came into the kitchen where I was getting out plates and silverware.

“Hey you,” he said, (“You” is our most frequent term of endearment) and then leaned in to give me a kiss. And as he did, I felt myself relax. Because if Chris is home then my partner’s there, I can enjoy him. And my load gets lighter because not every little thing that’s going on in our house is my responsibility anymore. He shares the responsibilities with me, even taking them from me sometimes. And when he’s there, usually, life just gets better.

Joy is persevering in our circumstances, knowing that we are part of God’s bigger story – and it’s a good one. Peace is acknowledging His presence with us right in the moment where we need Him and learning to experience the rest that comes from trusting Him.

Peace is a rest that comes from being cared for. To experience peace, we have to truly believe 1 Peter 5:7 which says –

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

If we want to know joy, allow the Holy Spirit to remind and teach us again that God really is in control, working all things together for our good. And if we want to know peace, we have to be willing to rest from our efforts to solve our own problems, giving our cares to God and finding peace in His presence with us.

Especially when you have a while to go until you finish.

How to Find Joy When Someone Else Gets What You Want

Lindsey Smallwood

When your friend gets a book deal and you get crickets on a blog post, how do you keep going with joy? I'm writing today for the first time over at iBelieve.com on jealousy, comparison and what prosperity really means. 

My friend just wrote a book.

She sent me an advance copy and it is perfect. Sharp, witty storytelling, incisive ideas, a darling cover with cool, scripty font. I loved holding the result of all of her hard work in my hands, posting a glowing Amazon review and texting her my enthusiastic congratulations.

I hate what happened next, the feelings coming in a flood, each one all too familiar.

Jealousy.
Fear.
Self-doubt.

Whether it's cheering on a friend for accomplishing a lifetime dream or seeing an Instagram pic of a gorgeous birthday cake my neighbor made for her husband, I find myself constantly comparing my life to those around me, wondering how I measure up. Will a publisher ever offer me a book contract? Why did she get that opportunity when I didn't? Does my husband care that he got a burned cake from a box mix on his special day? Beneath those are deeper, more persistent questions...

Continue reading at iBelieve by clicking here.

Seeing the Sweetness

#wholemamaLindsey Smallwood

It's #wholemama Week 2 - guess what that means? Another poem from yours truly.

This week's topic: What is your super power?

Today when you asked me to tell you about
all the ways in which I am super,
the first thoughts that began to fill up my mind
are places where I am a pooper. 

"My house is a mess, my children eat sugar,
my toddler loves Elmo and Big Bird."
As I rattled off all the ways I fall short,
I stopped and instead I considered...

I thought about where I find power and strength 
in my hard work as a mother. 
I gave myself space to see what is super
in me as opposed to the others. 

A small thing, at first glance, but maybe quite large
is the way I create good distractions. 
As my oldest starts crying over a lost toy,
my silly songs change his reaction.

Another ability making me strong - 
my keen sense of where to find lost things.
A forgotten letter, a neglected shirt - 
both powerless against my recounting.

But perhaps the quality I see in myself 
that's most super and most empowering
is the way that I manage to enjoy every day,
no matter what problems are towering.

Sometimes I feel it's a part of my heart
I must hide around those who are venting.
They tell me they're bored, my sweet mama friends, 
or they're tired or fat or resenting.

It's not that I don't understand these emotions
I feel them from time to time.
But no matter the feelings, no matter the day,
There is joy in this heart of mine.

Motherhood is a dream that I dreamt for so long
not knowing if it would come true.
So even through tantrums and piles of dishes
there's a smile that always ensues. 

"I am a mama," I say in my heart,
"These babies are mine now to keep!"
I find joy on the hard days and joy in the messes
and yes, joy when they go down to sleep.

The power I have is to see the big picture, 
that this season is sweet and it's short.
The things that feel hard are already changing;
there are new hard things to report.

But the incredible job that I get for these years
is to help them grow up through the hard,
to take these small babies and make of them people, 
first up close and then, from afar. 

So before afar comes and they're grown and they're gone
I'll delight in the tough and the trying,
with kisses and cuddles and beds left unmade,
and bad dancing to cheer up the crying.

Friends, what's your super-power? What special gift(s) help you be as whole as you can? Tell me more in the comments below and join in the #wholemama fun.

On Anthropolgie Bedspreads

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.