Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Rest

When You Need to Hear a Story

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

I am Middle Places today on bedtime routines, a tired that won't quit, and an old, old story...

There were so many things I looked forward to before having children, but one that couldn't come fast enough was getting to enact the nightly ritual of story time again.

(Seriously, not fast enough. I think we started reading books to our first born when he was like 5 weeks old and his eyes didn't even open all the way...)

I love reading and being read to. So many of my favorite childhood memories involve cuddling up with my mom or dad, listening with anticipation as we read and re-read favorites like The Busy World of Richard Scarry and Quick as a Cricket in the waning minutes before bedtime. The ritual of time together discovering new worlds in words and pictures is one that shaped my life-long love of reading and nurtured my relationships with my parents.

It's proven still delightful, even as I now find myself on the other end of it, parenting little people who like to be read to.

We may not be great at sticking to a particular bedtime around here, but we have our pre-bedtime rituals down pat. Dinner, followed by (a very splashy) bathtime, pajamas with a little wrestling and stories together before the lights go out.

We’ve laughed at King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub.

We’ve been surprised by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

We’ve indulged in some off-key renditions of Down by the Station.

We’ve searched (and searched and searched) for Waldo. (Come on already, Waldo, stop hanging out at medieval festivals with other guys in stripes…)

I love that my one-year-old knows when to turn the pages, pointing with delight at animals he recognizes. It delights me that my toddler has favorites, that the rhythm and cadence of Marvin K. Mooney make him smile and nod along. Whether the two of them are sitting on with my husband in the rocking chair as I watch from my perma-post at the laundry pile or on those truly wonderful nights when we’re all nestled all together on our bed, these moments of telling stories to each other are sacred. As we hold together, the day coming to a close, I wish I could freeze time, that there would always be wide eyed wonder and the smell of baby shampoo in my lap.

My boys are loving the story and I am loving my boys.

///

If I’m honest, I’m a little worn out lately.

We’re one month into fall activities and routines and I’m already dreaming of spring break. The long days of summer have been replaced with weeks that fly by fast and furiously. I love to be busy, crave action and routines and social engagement, but my messy floor and missed blog deadlines and neglected correspondence have me wondering if I have bitten off more than I can chew.

I’m tired.

And here, on my couch, in the midst of my mess on a day less than half done, I hear Jesus’ words from Matthew 11:28 anew.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

And for the first time, I imagine my favorite little pocket of time, the precious moments of stories before bed with my babies, but instead of a rocking chair in that tiny bedroom, it’s a grassy green hillside, just me with the best Story-Teller of all.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

And I lean in and listen as He tells of a King and a kingdom that’s everything I’ve ever wanted and nothing like I expect. Here, in my bleary eyed tiredness, my feelings of inadequacy, the exhaustion that seems sustained, I find my heart softening at the necessary reminders that I am not made for this world, but a new one.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

This story time is just for me and I revel in it, remembering that I am the lost coin that was searched for, the lost sheep that was found with delight, the lost son who was welcomed home.I hear again the fearful words of grace that a new life is awaits me, if only I’ll die to this one.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

Hope fills my chest, making me lighter, unclouding the fatigue. I hold this good news in my heart, grateful to find myself again in an old story that always bears repeating. I am not a cog in the machine or the sum of my accomplishments. I am beloved daughter and kingdom bringer. And as I am held in this moment, hearing these truths again in Scripture and through the sweet voice of the Spirit, I know this to be true.

I am loving the story and my Jesus is loving me.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.

There's Only So Much You

Lindsey Smallwood

Vacation is over. And I spent mine saying no. It was great.

I'm over at Middle Places today with more...

I’ve been visiting my family in Alaska for the last five weeks.

It’s been awesome, but not the awesome I expected.

There was a plan, a dream for this trip. I was going to come home and use my extra vacation time to make headway on a book I’m dreaming about writing. In my mind, my kids would go to bed at 7, I would write every night until 11 and maybe sneak in a few extra words at nap time. In five weeks, I would write 40,000 words, maybe 50,000 if I really got to it.

You can probably guess how this story ends - I’m back in my Colorado home sweet home with something like 8,000 words written and most of them aren’t even that great.

Sure, there are reasons – like how I forgot how fun it is to splash in the kiddie pool after dinner because the Alaska sun is still high in the sky. Or how my toddler figured out how to climb out of crib and I spent a lot of nights laying in the dark next to him to help him learn that nighttime is not the right time for block towers. I could tell you about the cheesy Hallmark movies I watched with my mom or sneaking out to the theater after bedtime to see an actual movie on the big screen for the first time in months.

But the real reason is this: I needed to say no.

I love yes. I love saying it, the way I feel generous and needed and important when I can accomplish something useful. I enjoy setting a goal and telling myself to go for it. When someone asks me for something, my instinct is to find a way to say yes everytime. My friend and fellow Middle Sister Stephanie calls it “Oprahing”:

“You get a yes! And you get a yes! You get a yes! Yesses for everyone!”

Yes to date night and part-time jobs and small group leadership and park dates and BBQs and guest blogging and book club and hey, while I’m at it, why not write a book all while raising two busy boys?

I think of myself as a do-er. And it’s true. I’m happiest and most fulfilled when I’m active and participating in meaningful ways in the communities I am apart of. Yet arriving at home 5 weeks ago, I found myself thankful that there was no one to say yes to. No appointments, no activities, no deadlines, even ones I created for myself. It was like my insides exhaled and asked for a fruity vacation drink.

So I lived into my simple season of no. I goofed off and slept late – which worked since my babies stayed up well into the evening hours, enjoying the sunshine with the rest of us. I read novels and binge watched bad TV. I spent a lot of time talking to Jesus and dreaming up new routines and projects for fall  – which is already blowing in (!) – all while enjoying time with my sweet family and taking in some gorgeous Alaskan summer days. I regrouped. And now I find myself (mostly) rested and full of hope for the weeks and months to come.

My “no’s” made me ready for all the “yesses” on the horizon.

The thing is, it always works that way. There’s only so much “you.” Sometimes you have to say no if you want to have some “you” left over to say yes to something else. Maybe other people know this intuitively and don’t plan to write novels in their time off. But I learned my lesson one simple summer night at a time.

Deep Breaths & Big Dreams

Lindsey Smallwood

You guys. 

I started this blog in February and creating this space for the last six months has been a blast. Seriously. It's a pleasure to share my words here, connecting with you all over stories and ideas and building community in this unique online way. 

For the next month-ish, I am taking a break from blogging, aside from a couple of posts that are already scheduled. The boys and I will be spending time with my family in Alaska. I'm hoping to work on a book (!) and begin praying and preparing for the season to come. 

If you think of it, I'd appreciate prayers during this time of listening and dreaming, of creativity and rest. And I hope to "see" you back here in September, the best part of all of this is sharing it with you.

Until then, a benediction - 

The Lord bless you, and keep you:
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you:  
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace,
now and forevermore. 

May it be, my friends, may it be. 

Shabbat Shalom In A Baby Season

Lindsey Smallwood

After we moved to Boulder, I joined a Thursday morning Bible Study.  You guys, it is so much fun. There are ladies from many different churches and all walks of life.  I especially love sharing our answers to the weekly homework in our small group, which includes women at every age and stage of life. 

We've been studying the Old Testament prophets these last few weeks and one of the topics that we come back to time and again is the importance of keeping the Sabbath.  It was one of the 10 commandments, God's most important instructions about how to live. 

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.  from Exodus 20

God rested and so we should rest, take one total day off from work during the week. The Old Testament lists hundreds of ways this should be specifically observed, from what to do with your livestock to how to feed your family. 

As a Christian, looking at the New Testament, the language is frequently about grace for our sin and freedom from the law because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.  But even though we have freedom from the law, the other nine commandments still apply - no murdering, no stealing, honor your parents, etc.  So it stands to reason that the Sabbath is still a principle that we should still seek to honor in our lives.  

But how do you take one day off from work when your job is changing diapers, preparing meals, cleaning the kitchen and bathing the babies.  This is what my house looked like after a 45 minute playdate last week:

If I stop doing my job there is diaper rash and a hungry (read: grumpy) toddler and a puzzle/board book/race car land mine in my living room.  What does Sabbath look like when my little ones are so helpless?

Our new neighbors are devout Jews.  They observe the Sabbath by following some important rules set in their community, including not using technology or answering their phones on Shabbat, not driving a car to get anywhere, and, one I find super interesting, not being creative (ie: crafts, writing, etc.) but instead enjoying creation "as is".  It's been challenging for me to watch their lives, to overhear their sweet Saturday afternoon family time spent in the grass behind our apartment, to realize that our family hasn't prioritized God's good gift of rest. 

I told Chris that I wished there were Christian rules for observing Sabbath in 2015.  I do so much better with rules. Grace can be confusing.

We talked about this in our small group Bible study a couple Thursdays ago.  After many of us talked about the ways we had tried and failed to make a God-honoring day of rest a part of our family life, one of the ladies, sweet Dee, gently interjected that she'd always thought of Sabbath as having three main components - worship, rest, and fellowship.  

Worship.

Rest.

Fellowship.

A litmus test for the age of grace.  If it's not worshipful, restful or contributing to fellowship, it's not a Sabbath activity.  

Dee went on to remind us that one important exception is helping your neighbor.  "After all," she added. "When do people move? The weekend.  And they need you to carry their boxes and make them some cookies." Too true, sweet Dee, too true.  

In Matthew 12, Jesus said

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

We tried to keep Sabbath yesterday.  

We lingered in bed in the morning. We shared a meal with friends. We worshipped together with our church.  We didn't turn on the TV.  And God gave us the chance to do good, to help a neighbor start their car and get directions to Babies R Us. 

Sweet start to our Sabbath day.

Sweet start to our Sabbath day.

I still changed diapers and gave baths and picked up toys.  But our fellowship, our life together as a family relies on these things at the moment.  It won't always be like this.

I decided that I can keep Sabbath in my heart while caring for my family.  These are good things.  And Jesus said it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  

Shabbat Shalom.  

Our neighbors call it to friends from their temple.  It means peaceful Sabbath.  Literally it means "May you have peace as you stop."

Stop working.

Stop trying.

Stop creating.

Instead, have peace.  Peace in worship.  Peace in rest.  Peace in fellowship.

Amen.