Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Pregnancy

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.

Feeling Lonely is Not the Same as Being Alone

Lindsey Smallwood

This isn't the first time I've written on loneliness. It probably won't be the last. No matter how many connections I make, people I befriend, babies I birth, I think learning to be alone is one of the deep joys, true sadnesses and profound challenges of my life. (There aren't many things I can say that about!) I'm thrilled to be back at Middle Places with thoughts on solitude, extroversion and why Jesus always gets to ride shotgun. 

For someone who's never alone, feeling lonely happens way more than you might think.

I'm raising two toddlers, so on any given day there's a lot of cuddling and carrying and breaking up wrestling matches.

I work part-time at a church, where I lead Bible studies, meet with women and use shared office space.

I'm an extrovert and my free time includes things like workout classes, mom's group and book club.

I'm married, which in my case means I sleep close enough to my husband to feel him breathe.

And add to all that, I'm pregnant, so even when I actually am alone, I can feel a tiny person swimming around inside me.

And yet, even with all of these daily connections, I find myself wondering about the quality of my relationships at church, in my friendships, with my family. Though I'm grateful for all the places I'm connected in this season of life, I find myself searching for more because I'm feeling lonely.

When I think back to the early days of our marriage, I remember long walks with my husband, holding hands as we caught up on life and dreamed dreams together. These days, walks include a double stroller, snacks, a just-in-case diaper bag and a nearly super-human patience to answer my two-year-old’s repetitive questions over and over again without raising our voices.

I long for the days when I’d go meet a friend for happy hour, and we’d talk so long and laugh so hard that we’d have to order dinner to have more time together. Those extended times of just hanging out feel like a distant memory in my current life where every minute has to be coordinated and arranged in advance.

I know this is a season – and I can’t even count the number of times people stop to tell me how quickly this time passes. But I hear about the fun date nights my neighbors do every week, and I notice the way some of my other mom friends seem to make space for fun time together and I wonder if I’m missing out.

The truth is I am missing out. It’s inevitable. None of us can do it all, so there will always be areas where our lives seem to fall short. That’s the danger of comparing our lives with our neighbors.

But here’s the other piece – I always have been missing out. Even during the time I now recall as blissful early in my marriage, if I’m honest, I remember how I wanted us to have more couple friends, or I worried we weren’t planning enough for the future. And for all of those fun friend times, there were nights where no one texted back, where I found out I hadn’t been included, where I obsessed over whether I’d said or done the wrong thing during a coffee date or small group meeting.

I’ve always been searching for more in my relationships, for friendships and connections that are meaningful and deep. It’s a human problem existing since the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had an actual perfect relationship – with God and with each other – and still they wanted more! It’s that longing that led them to the sin that would take them away from the garden forever.

It’s never going to perfect. My relationships with others, even in my best moments, won’t offer the total fulfillment my heart longs for. But in the midst of the search, of trying to find contentment in the season I’m in, I have this wonderful promise from Jesus –

… I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

If you're feeling lonely, consider this:

A woman in our church decided to try and make that promise seem more real to her during Lent. She created an actual physical space for Jesus everywhere she went to remind herself that He is, in fact, always with her. At work, she pulled an extra chair into her cubicle. At the dinner table, she set an extra place. Even in her car, she made her friends ride in the backseat during those 40 days because, of course, Jesus always rides shotgun.

What a way to paint the picture!

He’s there.

In my loneliness.

In the search for meaningful relationships.

In the longing for more.

In the challenges of this season.

Jesus is with me. Always. Every moment. Ready to soothe my doubts and calm my fears and offering a relationship better than any I’ve ever known.

I’m learning to see Him.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places. 

There is New Life in Me

Lindsey Smallwood

Sometimes grace comes in unexpected places, like waves of sadness in the Mom's group bathroom. I'm over at Middle Places today on loss and grief and hoping again.

It took me by surprise. 

I hadn't been to my mom's group in a few weeks. A work meeting, a rough bout with illness that cycled through our family, and a speaking gig in a nearby town had kept me away from my usual Tuesday morning meet-up with other mom friends in the area. I had missed being there, I love the community we have together. 

As I was feeding my toddler the last bits of his breakfast, I saw my friend Gina from across the room. Her back was to me as she unfolded a tablecloth and set out the name tags. I smiled, I really enjoy Gina and hadn't seen her at book club or happy hour lately.

In fact, the last time I saw her was the week I found out I was pregnant, when I was still absorbing the news. We'd stood in line together with our kids at the pumpkin patch. As we'd made small talk, her daughter mentioned something about her baby and I'd raised my eyebrows, smiling. 

"Are you expecting?" I'd asked.

"Yes, I'm about 5 weeks along," she'd said shyly. "We haven't really told anyone yet."

"Me too," I told her, still feeling the strangeness of that reality as I said it.

Her eyes lit up and we hugged, sharing a realization that we would have these babies together. 

Three weeks later, my pregnancy ended in an unexpected miscarriage. And in the month since then, I've cried and healed and shared our loss with family and friends. I've felt sadness, thick and hard to push through and I've felt it loosen, dissipate, lift. If you'd asked me this morning how I felt about everything, I might have told you that things are back to normal. 

Then Gina turned around and I saw that underneath her darling dress she was sporting a sweet little baby bump.  I had already lifted my hand to wave hello, but stopped, frozen at the sight of her swollen middle. She came over, smiling, unaware of the out of control way my heart was pounding or the growing lump in my throat. We said hello and caught up briefly, I tried not to look at her midsection.

After she walked away, the tears began to come. A few quiet ones at first, followed by a flood I wasn’t expecting.

“There’s no new life in me.”

I saw Gina’s baby bump in my head and kept thinking this strange sad thought:

“There’s no new life in me.”

I muddled through the rest of the morning – mom’s group, followed by a work meeting and lunch with a friend. I fought back against the lump that made it hard to swallow, the waves of sadness I thought I’d already addressed.

That’s the thing about grief. It’s not neat, not easily contained. You don’t get to decide when it starts or stops. It doesn’t wait a requisite three weeks and then move on. It hovers, floats. Sometimes it comes in gently, a cloud of remembrance, a longing. Other times it hangs heavy, cloaking everything else in the weight of loss.

This afternoon, as I prepared to put my boys down for a nap, the phone rang. It was Mary Carole, my mentor from my Bible study group. She asked about my day and I recounted the whole story, ending with my surprise at how unsettling it had been to react to Gina this way.

“Perhaps unsettling is exactly what you need,” she replied. “Maybe this unsettling is God’s way of showing you that you’re not settled with all of this yet, that there’s more healing to be had, more recovering to be done. I think the best thing you could do is to take all of this to Jesus and just sit with it awhile.”

So I did.

And as more tears welled up and my heart began to ache again, I invited Jesus to sit with me in it. There, in the quiet, I sensed this sweet correction.

“There IS new life in you Lindsey. I am the Life.”

What words of grace. I’ve been thinking on them all day.

There is new life in me, and that life will last forever.

There is new life in me. It gives me hope here in my sadness.

There is new life in me, even in my grief, my loss, my feelings of failure and inadequacy. There’s new life because He is making all things new. He’s growing Gina’s baby and He’s growing my ability to trust Him. I don’t understand it, but I know it to be true.

There is new life in me.

 

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.

 

The Best Post-It Note Ever {Bronwyn Lea}

Lindsey Smallwood

So excited to bring you a guest post today from a writer I really admire. I first found Bronwyn's blog when a friend shared her post on the little word that changed her prayer life. It changed mine too and I started making a point to read her writing regularly. Whether she's parceling out advice about in-laws in her Ask Bronwyn series or helping us all win at parenting, her writing is rich and funny and real. Today she's sharing a story about an out of the ordinary note on the mirror.

Photo  via  // Edited by Lindsey Smallwood

Photo via // Edited by Lindsey Smallwood

There comes a time in marriage when you just can’t talk about a thing any more. You need to say your piece, and then leave it in peace.

This is how it was for us on the topic of when to have children. In the newness and chaos of our first year of marriage, we had made a decision to delay: at least until he was finished grad school. But as grad school dragged on, I became more and more persuaded that the reasons underlying our delay were not faith and wisdom, but fear and selfishness: How would we afford it? Would we ever get to travel again? Would we even like children? After all, they come with a strict no-returns policy.

I bundled all my reasons and wrapped them up with a g(u)ilted bow: “If we say that children are a blessing,” I wheedled, “then why do we live as if they wouldn’t be?”

But my husband didn’t agree. It wasn’t wise. It wasn’t time. This wasn’t a fear decision, and we weren’t going to talk about it any more.

We didn’t talk about it. For months. And, over the course of the summer, the nagging sense of urgency I felt abated some. I sensed God calling me, once again, to learn to trust my husband: just because he wasn’t talking about it, didn’t mean he wasn’t thinking about it. I needed to trust that he had heard me, and that he cared.

I bit my tongue a thousand times.

One crisp October morning, I rolled out of bed realizing I was running late for a women’s breakfast I was slated to speak at in less than an hour. I catapulted into the shower, mentally making lists of all the things I needed to do before heading out the door: Apply mascara. Grab something to eat. Pick up notes for the talk. Wear something compatible with a lapel mic. Oh, and it was that Saturday: the one every four weeks when I had to resume taking the little pills which kept us faithfully baby-free. I started brushing my teeth while I rummaged in the drawer for a new pack of my pills.

There was just one pack, and it had a tiny yellow piece of paper stuck on it. I did not have my glasses on yet, so I had to bend low to the drawer to read the tiny writing on the Post-It. My husband’s writing was unmistakable: “You don’t have to take these any more,” it read.

I squealed all the way back to the bedroom, leaping onto the bed with my mouth still dripping toothpaste. “Really? Really?” I giggled. “Really,” he said.

I made it to the breakfast on time, and more than a few people commented on how happy I seemed that morning. I thanked them and smiled mysteriously. It was not for the to know that while I spoke, I kept a tiny yellow post-it of promise tucked into my pocket.

Bronwyn Lea and her husband became parents a few months later, and now live in California with three lively kiddos. They can't imagine life without them. Bronwyn writes about the holy and hilarious in life and parenting at BronwynLea.com and various other fun places online. Follow her on FacebookPinterest and Twitter


Lindsey again. Don't you love how Bronwyn tells a story? And are you encouraged to practice more trust in this season of whatever you're waiting for? Here's hoping for promises to put in your pockets. Hop on down to the comments and leave Bronwyn some love.

Do you have a story to tell? Check out my guest post guidelines, I'd love to hear from you.