Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Love

Let Them Love You

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

It's Maundy Thursday, the day Christians remember Jesus final night with his disciples before the gruesome events of Good Friday. I'm getting ready to preach tonight at our church here in Boulder - and I'm over at The Mudroom this morning with thoughts of what Jesus' love for His disciples should tell us about the way we give and receive love. 

I am good at loving.

I’m quick with encouraging words and enthusiasm, as in “I LOVE your new haircut and the way you’re bravely stepping into something new.”

I’m well practiced at keeping my circle wide and my hands open, so that I can welcome you to our dinner table or offer to help when it’s needed.

I’ve learned that loving in a way that matters always requires sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is as small as giving up my nap time to pick my neighbor’s kids up from school and sometimes it’s as big as agreeing to move away from the opportunity to work at my dream job so that my husband can pursue his.

I can recite 1 Corinthians 13 which tells us that love is patient and kind, not envious, boastful, proud or rude. And although I know I’m not perfect, I have to say that my self assessment tells me that in important ways, my life is moving in the right direction toward these loving ideals.

And even though I get it, that love is words and deeds, fun and sacrifice, that loving is our primary commandment from Jesus in regards to God and everyone around us, I’ve realized something lately.

I am not good at being loved.

The last few months have been tough. I haven’t felt well. The winter months has been unexpectedly depressing. My husband has been putting in a lot of hours at work, including traveling out of state. My kids are active and busy and it requires a lot of stamina to parent them through each day.  

Wonderfully there have been friends and neighbors who’ve noticed, who’ve listened, who’ve offered to help.  

Can I bring a meal?

Can I watch your kids?

Can I have you over?

That’s how it should be. If I saw someone struggling, I would do the same thing. Except that when it’s me, when it’s my struggle, when I’m the one being offered the meal, the help, I find myself refusing, demurring.

“Oh we’ll be fine.”

“That’s nice of you but I know you’re busy.”

“Don’t worry about us.”

I engage in these strange negotiations with people who are trying to love me, turning their simple offers of help into a haggling match reminiscent of an open air market in the middle east. In the end, the other person in the exchange has to nearly force them self on me in order for me to accept their offer of kindness.

But I’m learning.

Mary Carole, a woman my mother’s age who I attend Bible study with, persisted despite my protests and has been coming over a couple afternoons each week so I can rest. It’s been a sweet gift, knowing that help is on the way after a long day.

Jane, the pastor who is my supervisor at work, offered to take my kids for an afternoon when my husband was out of town last week. I struggled to say yes. After all, she’s my boss, a pastor! I should be serving her, not the other way around.

Except that if I really believe that, I’m missing the point of Jesus’ whole ministry. Jesus kept trying to explain to his disciples that the first would be last and the last would be first. He tried to reorient them from a kingdom of crowns and thrones to a kingdom of humble service. And when, on the night before he was to be crucified, they still didn’t get it, Jesus got down on the floor and washed all 24 of their dirty, sandal-shorn feet, demonstrating the sincerity of His willingness to love them by giving of himself, a willingness that would lead to His death the very next day.

I told Jane yes. And she loved me by making muffins with my kiddos while I took a shower and put my laundry away.

Because in Christ we are no longer male or female, slave or free, pastor or employee, we are people beloved by God and called to love each other by offering whatever we can. We love sacrificially – and we let others love us that way too.

Jesus did. The same man who got down on His knees to wash the dusty feet of his protesting disciples sat back in joy as Mary washed His feet and anointed them with perfume.

He loved and was loved.

I’m learning to do likewise.

 

This post originally appeared at The Mudroom.

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.

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