Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Seasons

Longing for Home, or something like it

Lindsey Smallwood

I spent most of last month at home in Alaska where I grew up.

One of my favorite parts of going home again is the way so many things appear unchanged. The same sweet ladies still sit in the back of the church on Sunday mornings, hugging everyone in a ten foot radius. The annual Christmas party with sleigh rides and homemade egg nog feels much like it did when I was growing up. Even going to the mall in my hometown brings on feelings of nostalgia, remembering many hours spent there in years gone by.

The truth is that none of those things are truly unchanged. Those ladies are now in wheelchairs and walkers, nearing the end of their lives. The party is as different as it is the same, the faces present have changed over the years, as has my connection to them. Even the mall has had a facelift, with new stores and new décor.

I know those things are true, but I still want it all to be the same. I’m longing for steadiness.

Maybe it’s life with my little ones, who seem to learn new skills and grow bigger every time I’m not looking. 

Maybe it’s the news, with stories of collapsing governments and fragile economies.

Maybe it’s my own reality, facing the prospect of another cross country move a year from now.  

My friend Whitney has a life-dream to be a regular at a local coffee-shop, to be greeted by name and to be able to order “the usual.” She worked on this for awhile when we were living in the same town in California, stopping into the same place each day, ordering the same thing while she waited for her bus. Still, after months of practicing this little ritual, the barista’s still asked her name, still didn’t know her order. When she moved across the country, she vowed to try again.

I get what she’s after, I want it too. To know and be known, to find a little oasis of predictability (or three) in the vast desert of change. 

Maybe that’s why this verse we read this morning at Bible study has been echoing in my head, inviting me to consider it anew.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

Did you see it?

Not only is He the author of every good thing there is, God never changes. He doesn’t change. My understanding of Him might change. My faith can change. My circumstances will certainly change. But He won’t. He doesn’t.

So that ache I have for steadiness in an uneven world?

I think it’s actually a longing for the One true constant, a needfulness of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. It’s a desire for reconciliation with God, communion with the Lord, eternally unchanging.

It's my heart reminding me that this world is not my home.

The ache can’t be satisfied with mall trips and church lady hugs. It’s met in quiet, in worship, in remembering the One who made me and loved me enough to die in order that I might be made anew.

In a swiftly turning world, that love remains forever.

When Life Falls With The Leaves

Lindsey Smallwood

I'm back at Middle Places this week, on the changing seasons, the good news of the gospel and making room for hope again after miscarriage...

There’s a tree in the courtyard near our apartment building.

When we moved in last January it was leafless, covered in a blanket of snow. On Easter morning we took a picture in front of it, delighted that spring time had brought soft green leaves and bright pink blossoms to decorate our common area. As summer came, the blossoms became some kind of tiny cherry-apple hybrid, a fruit adored by the squirrels that share our little community.

And now, as the days grow shorter and the air becomes cooler, our big green tree has set it’s leaves on fire – they blaze orange and yellow, blanketing the ground below as each day more and more flutter off the branches and down to their resting place in the grass.

Autumn has arrived.

I’ve never really noticed the seasons this way before. I grew up in Alaska, where some describe the seasons as nearly winter, winter, still basically winter and summer – short and sweet. There was high school and college in Texas, which was a bit of the same in reverse. And then nearly a decade in California, where the seasons change nearly imperceptibly as we enjoy life outdoors all year round.

But Colorado does it right. There are four beautiful seasons here and for the first time this week, I’m entering the fourth, autumn. The tree in our courtyard is like those on the hillside and the ones I see lining the streets around town, alive with colors, leaves blowing through the air as the sense that the world is changing is everywhere.

After watching it now for nearly a year, I find myself considering the lesson of that tree outside our apartment, dying then resting each year to allow for new growth in the season to come. It reminds me of the promise of the gospel that a new life awaits us, if only we’ll die to this one. I see myself in that tree, a thousand little leaves beginning to turn. And I hope that what’s dying are the places I no longer need, the mask of having-it-all-together, the stains of dishonesty, the false pride in feeling important for using my gifts.

There was a literal death in my body last week, a miscarriage that caught us by surprise. As I’ve grieved and rested and begun to heal these last few days, I’ve fought the impulse to ask why. Why another baby lost? Why more death? Why not this time?

It’s not that why isn’t allowed, I can “why” all the live-long day. But why is less helpful than “What’s next?” And for me, I know that what’s next has to be letting go of the dreams I’d started dreaming, the plans for this sweet little life that is complete much sooner than I might have chosen. I have to let those hopes die here in my tears, as I’m held by my Comforter and Keeper, so that my heart can start to hope again.

Death isn’t easy, but it makes way for something new. It’s happening in my courtyard and it’s happening in me, if I’ll let it. I want to surrender, to open my hands and let the leaves I’m holding onto fall where they may. It’s scary, letting go, but I can do it if I trust that I am rooted and established in Christ, who holds me together, redeeming these little deaths into something full of new and lasting life.

 

Any death dangling on your tree this week, friends, waiting for you to let it fall? Hear this gracious word of new life today:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

 

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.

Prayer in the Living

#wholemamaLindsey Smallwood

It's #wholemama week again and this time we're exploring what prayer means in this season. 

When I was a child, prayer was for meals - 
for when I felt scared or needed to be healed.
As I got older, prayer felt pretend 
and my season of trying it came to an end. 

From a hospital wheelchair, on the the psych ward
I found it was God my heart turning toward.
Prayer was first "Help!", then "God, are you there?
Show me the way to get out from this chair."

Joining a church, finding paths toward recovery, 
a new season for me lead to new God-discoverys.
I wanted to know Him and was told quiet time
with a Bible alone would make this faith mine.

So I practiced the discipline all on my own, 
prayers in a journal where I sat alone, 
prayers in the dark of my room late at night, 
prayers in glow of the morning's new light. 

I found a real Friend and Savior so true
in the time set aside for my sacred views. 
Sure, I prayed before lunch and I prayed with my friends
but thought "real prayer" came only when quiet descends.

Then there was motherhood, sweet babes in my arms.
Days bled into nights full of trials and charms.
Now perhaps more tired than I knew I could be
and quiet time space is few and far between.

Where then is God in the midst of this season?
Have I lost my connection with kids as the reason?
"No!" and "Of course not!" is now my refrain, 
instead of a loss, I've here found a gain.

For prayer is the whisper of thanks as I rock
sweet babies to tiny to yet crawl or walk.
Prayer is my heartbeat when I feel afraid
of the hard world into which my children will wade.

Prayer is "Wow!", "Thanks!" and "Help!" in the noise of my day,
prayer is "O Spirit Speak" before friends come to play.
Prayer is "Jesus be near" if the crying won't quit, 
prayer is "Father, hold this" when the hurt makes me split. 

Quiet time is infrequent, devotionals short
but here in these fast years, I've found a new sort
of practice in praying, in connecting with God - 
it's a all-day communion as forward I plod. 

I'm finding anew that to pray and not cease
is a sweet way of living, I walk in fresh peace.
I see Jesus while cleaning and here in the noise - 
new mercies each day as I raise up my boys.  
 

If you haven't already, be sure to check out Esther Emery's #wholemama post this week, featuring the incredible Sarah Bessey. Loved their interview!

Out of the Deep End {Abby Norman}

Lindsey Smallwood

I think it would be fair to call myself an Abby Norman fangirl. Seriously. Whether she's reminding me to hold my own pen or revealing her jean size in search of something more or even on the days when she has nothing to say, her words are rich and true and best of all funny. And today, in living color, for one night only, she's dropping by with a story about (not) peeing in the pool and the passing of seasons, including the out-of-the-ordinary season of two kids in two years. I know it well.

Read and enjoy. 

This summer the most miraculous thing happened. We were at the pool, my two daughters and myself, when Juliet announced that she had to go to the bathroom.

I sighed.

“Okay!” I yelled back, “Let me get your sister.”

Going to the bathroom is a thing. A THING. You have to make the one who is crying potty to hold tight while you wade through the shallow end to find her sister. Then you have to convince that child to get out of the pool before her sister goes pee (or worse) on the cement just outside the pool. If parenting olympics ever becomes a thing, I will surely be a medal contender in the pool-potty relay race.

Just as I turned my back on Juliet to go find Priscilla, I heard Juliet yell, "WAIT! I can go by myself." 

I can go by myself.

These may be the most magical words I have ever heard.

I had my two babies very close together. At 16 months apart, they are just shy of Irish twins. If you ask me about the baby stage, I will tell you that it is really good but really intense. Becuase I am a teacher, I spend summers at home. There were a few summers where going back to work felt like the vacation. It was just….hard….. and so good, so sweet, so funny. The pictures are precious. But I was never not tired.

As the girls are gaining their independence, I seem to be getting mine back as well.

Yesterday, Juliet went to the bathroom all by herself and my life became exponentially easier. And I thought about this year, from four to five, and all the things she couldn’t do last year that I am now taking for granted. She puts her suit on all by herself and has yet to show up at the pool with it on backward. I have not had to carry both girls to the van as people gape - they can walk. They mostly can keep track of their own shoes.

I wonder if next year, when Priscilla can also use the facilities solo, if I will remember that it is a big deal. Motherhood is a series of changes that you are thrilled by, and then you quickly forget what you once brought so much delight. I don’t know that Motherhood is any different than life.

Thanks to timehop, I came across the album my husband put on Facebook when we moved into our house. I was THRILLED with the kitchen, I COULD NOT BELIEVE our upstairs bathroom, I felt SO LUCKY to call it home. And I still do. All of those things are true. I just sometimes forget.

One day, Juliet and Priscilla will be able to drive to the pool completely without me. I won’t even be needed to chauffer, let alone help with wrestling wet suits back on (that is hard though). I hope that I am grateful for that bittersweet independence too. And I hope I am still grateful that everyone can go potty by themselves.

Abby thrives on distributing complex ideas to the masses. As a teacher, Abby began her career in one of the most under served areas of the country. There she discovered her voice in the classroom as she explored concepts like race, gender, and social justice through the literature her students were reading. She is sure she learned more than she taught. Her students showed her that most people are interested in engaging and improving the world if they are just given the words to explore it. As the mother of a three and four year old, Abby has found that this concept holds true.

While she most often speaks to her students, Abby loves to discuss equality and justice in all forms. You can find her blogging on the intersection of faith and everyday life at accidentaldevotional.com and tweeting at @accidentaldevo.  A BlogHer 2014 voice of the year, and nationally recognized speaker, the highest praise Abby has ever received came from a 16 year old boy who told her she "made English not suck."

Abby believes in champagne for celebrating everyday life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then. Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies and literally burning lies in her backyard fire pit.


Don't you love the way Abby spins a story to help us remember what matters? Did she leave you wanting to hold on to this season a little while longer, enjoying today because tomorrow's on it way? Let her know by leaving a comment below. 

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