Blog | Lindsey Smallwood


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.

Peace is a Tough-Britches Choice {Heather Caliri}

Out of the OrdinaryLindsey Smallwood

Today's guest post will give you a lot to think about - in a great way. I find Heather's words often do. Whether she's tearing apart her Bible or bravely showing us her heart in the hard work of making friends, Heather is a writer I admire because her stories both encourage and (often) discomfit me. I'm honored to share her hard won plan for peace with you today. 

I am a creature of habit.

Every morning, I browse one of my four usual advice columns as I eat two eggs, toast and tea. I tackle the same chores on the same days of the week. I love the second in a series of murder mysteries because by the second book, I know what to expect. And every night after I put the kids to bed, I pick up my journal and write one page, just like every night before.

I brace myself for changes of routine, like taking my children to the science museum or an hour trip to the beach. I balk when my husband asks if I want to watch a new sitcom or drama—and consider stopping TV altogether when my favorites end the season or their run. When we take vacation, I get twitchy without my Swifter on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Sometimes, I feel a little sorry for my family, especially my husband. Spontaneous, I am not.

You might read all this and think I need therapy.

Good news! I go every other week!

But the truth is, choosing routine, choosing sameness, choosing ordinary is not a sign of brokenness for me.

It is a measure of newfound strength.

Before I was a creature of habit, I was a creature of anxiety. Growing up, ugly surprises happened over and over and over. I had little control over the forces that tore apart my family, pecked at my faith, hurt those I loved. I put my head down and survived, but the stress created stuck with me.

For years in early adulthood, surviving—heart racing, second-guessing, and frantic effort—was my default. Every morning, I faced a tide of anxiety before I even got out of bed. I did not know why it was so hard for me to relax, to sleep, to be creative. I did not realize how tightly wound I was.

But every time I found something that settled me, that stilled me—just for a second—I grabbed onto it like a life raft.

At first, I found peace by accident. Later, I connected the dots and started seeking stillness on purpose. I’ve learned each day to pay attention to what spreads in my heart like ripples in a pond. I learned to say no to everything that doesn’t.

As I pursue calm habits, I’ve learned two things.

First, I’ve learned that out-of-the-ordinary is in the eyes of the beholder.

I see people engaged with full schedules beautifully, and I salute them, and stay home. I see people who manage to keep abreast of pop culture and engage wittily with it, and I applaud their savvy without tuning into their suggestions. I see people travel regularly or wear twenty different hats and I commend them for their flexibility from the comfort of my couch. I see people marching for social justice and I celebrate their efforts online, then choose, whenever possible, activism that fits my temperament better.

Their extraordinary isn’t mine, their lives not right for me, and vice versa. Lack of comparison is another still, safe place to rest.

The other thing I’ve learned is that peace is an over-and-over, tough-britches choice. It means saying no to spending time with friends during my non-negotiable quiet time with my kids. It means not writing after 5 pm. It means leaving the room if a TV show turns violent. It means turning down fun nighttime activities if I have therapy that week to keep from busyness.

Peace is a firm, sincere no. Calm is a hard choice. Out-of-the-ordinary—however you define it—does not happen by chance.

I live a life with a wide, wide margin. Absolutely, some of that is privilege—being able to afford me staying home, having the resources, a few years ago, to pay down persistent debt. But there’s choice involved, too: choosing housing we could truly afford. Saying no to commitments that drain me. Watching out for routines that give me space to breathe.

If stress ratchets up in my life, I take drastic measures to find whatever still, small point of equilibrium is available.

For me, peace is out of the ordinary. Sleeping all night, not rushing my children to activities, being able to breathe—these are unfathomable treasures. So too is the beauty of every precious choice, and the star-lit quiet of accepting who my soul wants me to be.

Heather Caliri empowers others to seek Jesus' easy yoke. In the process, she's finding an light burden, too. Click here to visit her blog, where you can subscribe to hear more from Heather and receive a copy of her free e-book, Dancing Back to Jesus .

Aren't you grateful Heather shared her story with us? I am left realizing that, once again, I need to look at my days to see where my goals and hopes for my life aren't aligned with my schedule. How did Heather's words connect with you? Skip on down to the comments and let her know.

Do you have a story to tell? Check out my guest post guidelines and submit your story. 

The Gift of Quiet

#wholemamaLindsey Smallwood

We're back at it with #wholemama week 3. This time - reflecting on our need for quiet spaces. 

My name is Lindsey and I love the noise
of music and chatting and life with small boys.
I've always liked being in the middle of things,
talking and laughing both make my heart sing.

But there's a part of us all that needs peace and quiet, 
even extroverts must find ways to try it.
For it's in the silence that still voice can speak.
It's in the quiet where the Spirit I meet.

When I schedule my days with action and friends 
& fill in with podcasts and words that I've penned, 
I miss out on time with the Best Friend of all
& space for my heart to again be enthralled -

- with the mystery and wonder we live in each day.
Sometimes, in noise, that magic fades away.
But it's there to be relished if I'll only stop,
and for a short time, allow for a swap. 

If I trade in my phone and my shows and my tunes
and my friends and my tweets so that I can attune
to the nothing, the empty yet full space around
where instead of my chaos there isn't a sound. 

In the practice of quiet, I don't think, I feel.
I sense gentle correction, I remember I'm healed. 
Sadness sometimes comes in my quiet place
as all that's been pent up suddenly has space. 

I am whole in the quiet, afresh and anew
because I am loved, not for what I do.
I am held in the quiet, if I choose to see
that my Maker and Keeper is quiet with me. 

And oh, when He speaks, what a wonder that I, 
can hear in my heart echoes from on high, 
calling me back to a place of Shalom,
with reminders that this world is not my home. 

In the quiet I'm readied for action, for life, 
to again be a friend, mother and wife. 
As the noise comes back and my world fills again
I give thanks for the gift of the pause. Amen.

Friends, do you love the silence or do you have to create the discipline to be quiet? What are you learning in your quiet places? I'd love to know more, leave me a comment below. 

Want to join the #wholemama fun? Click here to join this week's link up and see a #wholemama interview with author Micha Boyett. 

Shalom on the Line

#wholemamaLindsey Smallwood

Hey hey to you all!

This summer I am joining in with some writing friends to participate in #wholemama, a season of being a community who remembers what matters. (Hint: It's not finishing my summer bucket list or losing a jean size.) There are hashtags and love bombs and Fuzes - oh my. What looks to be my favorite part is we plan to write in response to a weekly prompt and share our thoughts with each other and all of you.

In an attempt to bring more joy into my week, I've decided to write my weekly #wholemama posts as poetry. Not elegant little ditties like Luci Shaw or Emily Dickinson. I'm talking about straight up Dr. Suess-style stuff - except without all the wockets and zazzles. Singsong rhyming poetry was the first thing I loved to write as a kid, it was my drug of choice in the hormone filled junior high years and it's still a simple pleasure in which I find delight. But I rarely make time for it. 

Until now.

For the next eight weeks...

I'm setting aside Tuesdays for writing in verse. 
Hoping to be clever, truthful and terse. 
Here's hoping for something uplifting to you
Now onto the prompt without further ado...

See what I did there ;)

This week's topic - Yearning for wholeness, peace & Shalom. 

Last weekend we went to go hiking
and sleep in a tent by the shore.
Though we left for just 24 hours,
we came home with laundry galore.

Dirty Pack 'n Play sheets and blankets,
campfire smoke on our shirts,
the towels we used as a doormat,
bloody shorts from where Bobby got hurt.

Back at home it turned into a mountain,
peaking as tall as my thighs.
It grew even more when I realized
there were clothes in the hamper, besides.

We live in a tiny apartment,
with a washer hidden by a door.
No dryers allowed in our unit,
just a small drying rack on the floor. 

As I stared at my laundry volcano
erupting out into the room,
I cursed our dorm-style living,
awash in self-pity and gloom.

"Someday I will live in a house,"
I said in my downhearted funk.
"With a beautiful washer and dryer - 
a whole room to fold all this junk."

Sleep deprived from our trip in the wild
and longing to head off to bed, 
instead I began to fill the machine
as the small voice inside of me said: 

"It's a grace gift, your tiny apartment,
where you live with your husband and sons.
It's a grace gift, this pile of laundry, 
evidence of adventure and fun.

It's a grace gift to have all the water
you will need to finish your chores.
It's a grace gift, this moment of quiet,
as you pick your things up off the floor."

As I stood in front of my washer,
I remembered anew and again - 
There is a peace that comes in letting go
of "I wants" and "Someday whens".

Instead - sweet joy in taking time to see
the riches already mine.
As I hung our camping laundry
I found Shalom - there on the line.

Friends, where are you finding Shalom - peace - wholeness these days? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. 

Oh, and in case you missed it, the rhyming verse fun started last week with my #wholemama rap - check it out here