Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Maeve Rafferty

When It's Bigger Than You Thought

Lindsey Smallwood

I’ve been on the road lately.

Last fall a nearby church invited me to speak to their mom’s group about neighboring, being present to the people God puts in our path. The talk was well received and the group leader shared my name and contact information with other mom’s groups in the state. Since then I’ve fielded invitations from many group leaders to come and encourage their women with funny stories and a fresh dose of truth.

It’s been a blast.

I’ve spoken to rancher’s wives in a tiny farm town, rocked the microphone in a strip-mall church start-up, and found myself in front of a stained glass window telling a story about failed efforts at breastfeeding.

Last week I invited my friend Gina to join me as I headed down to a nearby suburb to speak at a nighttime gathering of young moms. We had about an hour in the car to catch up while we made our way to the meeting. I had entered the address the group leader sent into my GPS, so although I was following instructions about when to turn, I wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going.

Until suddenly the computerized voice told us we’d arrived at our destination.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I was shocked. This wasn’t a tiny farm town, a small chapel with stained glass or a strip-mall start up. This was a mega-church and I mean MEGA. I’m not sure I’d ever seen a church so big in real life. It looked like it could possibly be big enough to host a professional sporting event. And the parking lot was packed.

My heart began to thud in my ears.

“Okay, wow,” I said to Gina.

“How big is this mom’s group?” she asked, echoing my own questions.

I hadn’t read the email that closely. Had they neglected to tell me that I was the opening act for Jen Hatmaker? Was it possible that I was about to speak to 3,000 women? Would my thoughts on cultivating friendships in this season of life work as well in a cavernous auditorium as they did around the table with a dozen mamas in a small town?

“Yeah, I’m not totally sure,” I replied to Gina, breathing deeply, trying to steady myself. I noticed in that moment that I hadn’t remembered to change my pants, which bore evidence of a day spent with 2 toddlers including food from lunch and dirt from playing at the park.

Why hadn’t I changed my pants? Why hadn’t I read the email? WHAT WAS HAPPENING?

I prayed, quickly, under my breath that God would carry me through whatever it was we were walking into and in we went.

As we entered the atrium, with 4 story ceilings and a fully appointed restaurant in view, an electronic marquee prominently displayed a listing of that day’s events. As I read the list, I felt myself relax. There were entries for a high school play rehearsal, a 7th grade basketball tournament, a support group for recovering addicts and a class about blending families after divorce.

And the mom’s group, upstairs, in a classroom down a hallway. Which sounded just about right.

When we walked into the room, we were warmly welcomed and invited to join a table full of other young moms, one of whom was also sporting dirty pants. My people.

The night was sweet, laughing and telling the truth about some of the challenges of developing relationships while raising children. We ate too much chocolate and told our real stories. One woman at my table cried as she shared how much she longs for deeper connections in this stage of life. As Gina and I said our goodbyes, I felt grateful, satisfied. I was in my sweet spot, speaking and teaching from the front, sharing stories in small groups, leading times of prayer.

Here’s the thing – I loved that night as it was, but I also loved that moment, that tiny space where I had to breathe deeply and accept that I might be about to get up in front of a stadium full of people. It was scary and thrilling and reminded me when life doesn’t go according to plan we can lean into what we know to be true.

That dirty pants don’t actually matter.

That God is present for big jobs and little ones.

That all we need to remember is to do the next thing.

If you’re lucky, the next thing will have fun new friends and a plenty of chocolate.

 

This post originally appear at Maeve's A Wee Spoon.

Turning Around {Maeve Rafferty}

Lindsey Smallwood

Hi - Lindsey here. So excited to bring you a new voice on the blog today. Please welcome Maeve who is sharing a story about something out of the ordinary she experienced recently. I loved reading how God used Maeve's tender heart to notice someone who needed noticing. I think you'll love it too. 


His parents must’ve forgotten to pick him up from practice. Simple mistake. We all forget things.

I hoped that was the case.

We drove past because we had somewhere we needed to be. I think that happens a lot.

I drive past, look away, keep my eyes on the traffic light, rather than the person - the person, like you and me - asking for help by my window. Sometimes, I'll give a Gatorade or granola bar and drive on with an aching heart.

But eventually, we move on right?

We move on and let go of that man or woman holding a sign.

We let go of the man who offered to shovel snow off our front stoop. We let go of the woman we made eye contact with and smiled who then yelled curse words at us. Sweet woman, I know you didn't mean it.

Truth is, I have trouble letting go. I'm sure you do too. Their faces and wrinkles and eyes stick to the fabric of my clothes and I can't shake them.

I told Matt we should turn around - he looked so young.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared to turn around. There is enough happening in our world to choose fear over faith. But fear is paralyzing, isn't it?

We looped around at the light and turned into the small parking lot.

I asked if he was okay.

He said he was - he just needed a ride to West Virginia.

"Is that home?"

He was from Massachusetts, making his way cross-country. He needed to clear his head, to find himself, to get away for a while.

"Does your family know you’re here?"

It was a bold, intrusive question but I couldn't help it. I couldn't believe this young boy was using his two feet and strangers to get to California, alone.

"Have you eaten today?"

"I drank water and ate oranges."

We pulled into a gas station and I insisted he get something - anything really. I kept pushing subs loaded with turkey and cheese. Reluctantly, he grabbed a small sandwich.

"I don't want to spoil myself." It was as if he thought he didn’t deserve a $2 sandwich. 

The nearest town was 15 minutes away. So we drove, all the while asking him questions.

"Where do you go to school?'

"What are you studying?”

That first town was a quiet, sleepy town. There was no one in sight. So, we drove another 15 minutes.

“I don't think my parents really care that I am doing this. I wish they would. I mean, they know I am headed cross-country but I left out the hitchhiking part."

The next town was a bust too.

"Have people been nice to you? Has anything bad happened?" I know, another invasive question. I hope he knew my heart. I hope he knew I never meant to sound like a judge and he was on trial.

"I wanted to walk to be reminded that people are good. I guess you could say, I sort of lost my faith in humanity."

Matthew and I listened as he shared. I kept forgetting he was so young.

"You know the free hugs campaign? Well, I sort of brought that to my campus. Because, it's like, you never know what people are going through."

I asked him to give us a shout out in his book - the one he should write one day.

I looked over at Matt, his eyes darting around, looking for a safe place to drop him off, though the thought of dropping him off made my stomach hurt.

I scribbled my number on a piece of paper and gave it to him. I told him if he ran into trouble to please call us and we'd come find him.

When we finally made it to Romney, Matt pulled into a Burger King. It felt like we were doing something wrong, like maybe leaving him here was actually illegal.

Invite him to live with you this summer.

Quit your jobs and go with him.

Be his bodyguard.

I know, completely realistic ideas.

I gave him a hug before he left and wondered if the people he gave free hugs to hugged him back.  

We were almost two hours late to our gathering. And while part of me felt rude, I think sometimes we need to make space to be inconvenienced. Sometimes our schedule should be tossed to the side and the only place we need to be is right where we are, in that present moment.

God shows up there - in the unexpected and unplanned. In the times we aren't ready, or don't feel up for it. He can show up and rock our day or flip our whole world upside down.

For me, God showed up in the form of a young boy that needed a ride, a sandwich, and a reminder that people are good.


Maeve Rafferty is a writer, coffee drinker, and people gatherer. She has a heart for missions and travel. She's learning to be more raw and vulnerable and some days, she has to fight for the gratitude and joy. Currently, Maeve lives in Virginia with her sweet husband and they hope to be newlyweds for life. Maeve writes at the wee spoon or find her on Instagram


Lindsey here again. Don't you wish you could have hugged that sweet boy too? Aren't you glad Maeve did? Are you inspired to notice the people you pass by today? Leave Maeve some love in the comments below and go check out her other writing at the wee spoon

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