Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Parables

Behold, The Noun!

Lindsey Smallwood

This month at Middle Places we're writing about reconnection - finding the places in ourselves, in our relationships, in our activities, in our faith where we need to be brought together again. Today I'm telling a story about Bobby and how his new grasp on language is helping me reconnect in unexpected ways. 

My toddler is learning to talk.

He has a few verbs, like "Help!" and "Drink?" And, if we try to strap him in the stroller, he inevitably announces that he'd rather "Walk!!!" More recently he's added a few adjectives to his repertoire. His favorites are "Messy" and "Bobby's." Last week when I went out with Chris for a date night and actually wore a dress and high heels, he looked me up and down and declared "Nice!"

But mostly, his vocabulary is a constant parade of nouns.

Bird!
Tree!
Car!
Bridge!

There's a thrill of excitement in his voice when he uses his newfound words, connecting language with his experiences. What was once a blur of light and color is now "Sunshine" and "Flowers" and "Bees". These days walking with Bobby is never about getting from point A to point B, it's always about discovering what exists along the way. And with his growing but limited vocabulary, he's inviting me to notice our world with him.

I’m usually in a hurry. I love to say yes, so I’m often trying to hustle to get all the “to-dos” checked off before bedtime. And while we’re going from playgroup to the dry cleaner and he’s exclaiming “Doggie!” and pointing at the terrier walking by, I find myself repeating the same refrains – “Come here, Bobby” or “This way” or “Hurry up.”

Lately, though, I wonder if it’s my toddler that has the right idea.

In Emily P. Freeman‘s new book Simply Tuesday, she considers that perhaps what matters in life are not actually the things we usually ascribe of meaning to, the important meetings, the getting things done, the big events. Rather, it could be that what happens on an average Tuesday is really the life we long for, if we can learn to live into it.

Let’s dig deep, not to create meaning where there isn’t any, but to see Christ, our companion where he actually is, not where we wish he was. Let’s gently poke our sleepy souls, refusing to wait for a big event to wake us up. Let’s stop running from ordinary time but begin to sit in the midst of it.

I want to reconnect with that part of myself, the part that sees Jesus in ordinary time. I want to stop rushing from one thing to the next and live into the little moments in between, where God is just as present.

Recently I wrote a story for Abby Norman’s Modern Day Parables series. In considering the way that Jesus used parables and writing my own, I’ve begun to see again how God’s kingdom is everywhere. The kingdom of God is like the firefighters who raised money for their waitresses’ dad. It’s like the laundry on the line, washed and made ready again. It’s like the lost TV remote, out of place and longed for.

And as Bobby walks to the parking lot, exclaiming his nouns with delight, the kingdom begins to come in my heart – smelling the flowers by the playground and feeling grateful again to abide with the One who clothes the lilies of the field.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus is just as present in the dirt, stopping to watch a worm wind back and forth with my 2 year old, as he is at Bible study.

But as my toddler points his chubby finger to the sky and yells “Clouds!”, I’m learning to stop and behold them, their swiftly changing shapes, lovely and mysterious, offering the promise of rain to make things new again.

I’m finding God’s kingdom in the nouns.

The Kingdom of God is like a Big Blue Truck

Lindsey Smallwood

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm a HUGE Abby Norman fan. Her writing packs a punch and leaves me longing for more. So honored to get to share at her place today as a part of her Modern Day Parables series. 

My dad loves all kinds of cars.

He doesn’t just love to drive them - sedans and SUVs and trucks and go-karts and racecars - he’s a student of how they work. He has no fewer than five subscriptions to car magazines. He can explain why a particular car is making a particular sound better than the guys on Car Talk, although admittedly without their great accents.

When he goes on vacation, he plans his trips to coincide with events at racetracks so he can check out the latest and greatest racing in other parts of the country. On weekends, he and my brother take their own racecar on the road. Nine months ago, Dad sold me his old Suburban and sometimes when he calls he asks how it’s doing before he inquires about the 2 year old I named after him.

I told you, the man loves cars.

For most of his life, the choice about which vehicle to own for his personal use has been an expedient one. There were kids who needed seatbelts so he sold the two-door coupe. There were icy roads in Alaska where we live so he got a four-wheel drive. Once he even won grand prize in a poetry context and received an SUV for his efforts. But none of these were exactly what he wanted. They were free or sturdy or useful for transporting a hockey team.

Until last year.

After agreeing to sell me the Suburban since I have my own growing brood on icy roads to consider, Dad was in the market for a car and for the first time since before he got married 37 years ago, he was free to pick any car he wanted. Up to date on all of his options due the aforementioned magazine subscriptions, Dad jumped to test drives and quickly settled on an enormous Chevy pick up. I’m sure it has a real name, like the Megatron Truck Monster 3000, but I don’t know it. Trust me when I say, it’s big.

At the car dealership, Dad was given the option to customize his own version of the giant truck, which would then be assembled at the Chevy factory. He spent a long time pouring over the details, selecting the color of the leather seats, the high quality surround speakers he’s always wanted, the tow/haul features that would make it compatible with pulling the racecar trailer he loved. No detail escaped his attention.

He was given a code by the car dealership that allowed him to track the truck’s progress at the factory. One Wednesday morning he got an update that his carefully designed truck was born in a factory in Detroit. (Cue rad Eminem song here.) For the next two weeks, Dad watched online it was loaded onto a semi, driven across country to Seattle, packed onto a boat and shipped north to Alaska. On the day his big blue truck arrived, gleaming in the Alaska sunlight, Dad took Mom on a date way out of town to enjoy it’s long-awaited appearance.

Today, Big Blue, as we call it, is as beloved as when it arrived in the port 7 months ago. Dad fills it with gas every Sunday, keeps it washed and polished. He’s carefully made a couple of needed repairs after problems arose, which he can do because he’s read the entire manual on how it works, knows it inside and out. It sits, shining in the driveway, ready to take him to work or on a park-date with his namesake two-year-old grandson who also happens to love “Big Boo.”

And as I watched my dad tinkering with it tonight, it struck me that the kingdom of God is like a giant Chevy pickup truck and you are the truck.

Yes, you.

You were dreamed about, longed for, carefully planned no matter what story you’ve been told about your conception. Each part of you was designed with intent by a maker who calls you “good” and “beloved.” You’ve got bells and whistles and they’ve all got a purpose, even if you can’t see it yet. You are known, so fully, so completely, that no part of you is a mystery to the One who loved you first. No matter what happens – what messes cloud the view or problems need repairing –  the King of this kingdom is cleaning and restoring and making you like new again, every single day.

If you need to find Him, He likes to hang out in His truck.