Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

The Mudroom

Let Them Love You

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

It's Maundy Thursday, the day Christians remember Jesus final night with his disciples before the gruesome events of Good Friday. I'm getting ready to preach tonight at our church here in Boulder - and I'm over at The Mudroom this morning with thoughts of what Jesus' love for His disciples should tell us about the way we give and receive love. 

I am good at loving.

I’m quick with encouraging words and enthusiasm, as in “I LOVE your new haircut and the way you’re bravely stepping into something new.”

I’m well practiced at keeping my circle wide and my hands open, so that I can welcome you to our dinner table or offer to help when it’s needed.

I’ve learned that loving in a way that matters always requires sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is as small as giving up my nap time to pick my neighbor’s kids up from school and sometimes it’s as big as agreeing to move away from the opportunity to work at my dream job so that my husband can pursue his.

I can recite 1 Corinthians 13 which tells us that love is patient and kind, not envious, boastful, proud or rude. And although I know I’m not perfect, I have to say that my self assessment tells me that in important ways, my life is moving in the right direction toward these loving ideals.

And even though I get it, that love is words and deeds, fun and sacrifice, that loving is our primary commandment from Jesus in regards to God and everyone around us, I’ve realized something lately.

I am not good at being loved.

The last few months have been tough. I haven’t felt well. The winter months has been unexpectedly depressing. My husband has been putting in a lot of hours at work, including traveling out of state. My kids are active and busy and it requires a lot of stamina to parent them through each day.  

Wonderfully there have been friends and neighbors who’ve noticed, who’ve listened, who’ve offered to help.  

Can I bring a meal?

Can I watch your kids?

Can I have you over?

That’s how it should be. If I saw someone struggling, I would do the same thing. Except that when it’s me, when it’s my struggle, when I’m the one being offered the meal, the help, I find myself refusing, demurring.

“Oh we’ll be fine.”

“That’s nice of you but I know you’re busy.”

“Don’t worry about us.”

I engage in these strange negotiations with people who are trying to love me, turning their simple offers of help into a haggling match reminiscent of an open air market in the middle east. In the end, the other person in the exchange has to nearly force them self on me in order for me to accept their offer of kindness.

But I’m learning.

Mary Carole, a woman my mother’s age who I attend Bible study with, persisted despite my protests and has been coming over a couple afternoons each week so I can rest. It’s been a sweet gift, knowing that help is on the way after a long day.

Jane, the pastor who is my supervisor at work, offered to take my kids for an afternoon when my husband was out of town last week. I struggled to say yes. After all, she’s my boss, a pastor! I should be serving her, not the other way around.

Except that if I really believe that, I’m missing the point of Jesus’ whole ministry. Jesus kept trying to explain to his disciples that the first would be last and the last would be first. He tried to reorient them from a kingdom of crowns and thrones to a kingdom of humble service. And when, on the night before he was to be crucified, they still didn’t get it, Jesus got down on the floor and washed all 24 of their dirty, sandal-shorn feet, demonstrating the sincerity of His willingness to love them by giving of himself, a willingness that would lead to His death the very next day.

I told Jane yes. And she loved me by making muffins with my kiddos while I took a shower and put my laundry away.

Because in Christ we are no longer male or female, slave or free, pastor or employee, we are people beloved by God and called to love each other by offering whatever we can. We love sacrificially – and we let others love us that way too.

Jesus did. The same man who got down on His knees to wash the dusty feet of his protesting disciples sat back in joy as Mary washed His feet and anointed them with perfume.

He loved and was loved.

I’m learning to do likewise.


This post originally appeared at The Mudroom.

Just Like Riding a Bike

Lindsey Smallwood

I'm writing over at The Mudroom today, as part of their monthlong theme of Distress, Disquietude and Dread. Sometimes dread gets bigger than it needs to, but it doesn't have to be that way...

Four years ago a teenage boy pointed a gun at me while demanding I give him my money. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Oakland, California. I was standing at the flagpole in front of the elementary school where I’d recently been assigned to teach. My husband Chris and I had ridden our bikes there together, trying to determine the best route for my commute.

After he waved it in my face, the gunman turned to Chris, jabbing the weapon toward his chest, repeating his demand for money. Chris slowly took out his wallet and passed him the bills. As he took the money and ran down the block, we got back on our bikes and rode to a liquor store where we called the police.

When the cops arrived, they took down our story, called in an account of the suspect, put our bikes in the trunk of their squad car and drove us home. Riding in the back of that car felt like being secured in a tank, there was hot relief in my chest that nothing could happen to us behind the locked doors and heavy glass. I saw a boy pass on a bicycle and it occurred to me for the first time how vulnerable it is, to pedal around the streets with no walls between you and the world around you. I wondered if I would ever ride a bike again.

I didn’t.

Though I had been a bike commuter and recreational rider for years, I didn’t get back on my bike. I didn’t get on that week or that month or that year. I tripped over it in the garage, demurred when Chris asked if I wanted to ride somewhere with him, not wanting to outright refuse and risk actually having to talk about the feelings of dread that sat heavy in my stomach every time I thought about going out into the world on my bike.

Then I got pregnant and had a baby. A few months later another followed. No one expected the pregnant lady to be tooting around on a bicycle. After our second child was born we moved to Colorado, where most people’s bikes were put away for the winter. But ever since the grass turned green and flowers began to bloom, I’ve known it’s time. Time to face the unsettled feeling I have when I see my bike leaned up on the back fence.

My 33rd birthday was last weekend. I asked Chris to fix up my bike as my gift to myself. Our first family ride was a spectacular failure. I sobbed the whole time, the trailer for the babies got a flat tire, Chris ended up going home via a different route and I panicked we couldn’t find each other for nearly half an hour. But my “I can’t” and “Never agains” died on the pavement in front of our apartment, even as the tears streamed down my face.

Wednesday night after work we tried again. I packed a picnic dinner and we rode to a park in the cool of the evening. It was beautiful, easy, like something we’d done a thousand times before. And as my toddler climbed up the play structure and my baby sucked on fruit in the grass at my feet, I thought about fear.

Sometimes we’re afraid of the wrong things. It’s a lot easier to be afraid of riding a bike and so choose to let it gather dust in my garage than it is to face the reality of living in a world where people threaten each other with guns at elementary schools.

Riding my bike with my family was a step toward deeper trust in a God who holds the whole world in His hands—the whole broken messy world where children die unexpectedly and people are shot at malls and movie theaters and no place is truly safe. I live here and though I feel afraid, I am not alone.

I’m learning again to trust Him with my fears and realizing that in not facing them for sometime, I’m out of practice. But trust is a muscle, the more I exercise it, the stronger it surges in my heart. I’m wobbling toward Jesus and remembering that this has always been the path toward freedom and away from fear.

Turns out, it’s just like riding a bike.


This post originally appeared at The Mudroom.
You can see it by clicking here

Let Them Live

Lindsey Smallwood

Writing today at the Mudroom for the first time on hiking, writing and other things that shouldn't die...

My husband is from the Cascade Mountains in Washington State.

He’s at home in the outdoors. He’s a skier and a hiker and a rock climber. He loves the idea of overnights in the wilderness, navigating with a compass and the stars. My preferred form of adventure is trying a new grocery store, but I’ve been known to hike a mountain or two, especially if it means quiet time together with Chris.

There aren’t a lot of quiet wilderness moments when you have two babies in two years. Our life together lately is mostly focused on tending to our little ones and occasionally squeezing in quick family outings in between nap times. And though we moved to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains nearly five months ago, we haven’t actually made it much past the city limits.

Until yesterday.

After a leisurely morning building block towers, we decided to take a lunch up to a nearby State Park for a picnic. But loading and packing took more time than we anticipated and a wrong turn led us astray. We ended up eating our picnic in the parking lot of a hillside government building and then getting right back in the car to get home for nap time.

As we were driving down the hill to our apartment, we noticed a trail leading up the mountain, busy with hikers and families.

“Someday, I guess, “ Chris said, the disappointment thick in this voice.

Returning home, the boys went down for naps and we commenced with our weekend cleaning rituals.

Dinnertime neared and Chris suggested we get something ready to eat.

And as I looked out the window behind him, I was struck by how light it was outside, that even at 6:00, we still had at least 90 minutes of daylight left.

“Let’s go,” I told him. “We’ll give the boys a quick dinner and we’ll go hiking up that trail, the one we passed on the way home.”

“But it’s late,” he said. “It’ll be dark soon and they need baths and it takes time to load everything up.”

“Let’s go anyway,” I said, not responding to his valid points.

“You’re serious?” he asked, eyes beginning to spark with adventure.

“Totally,” I replied.

Off we went, infant and toddler in tow, with plans to hike a mountain before bedtime.

Arriving at the trailhead, we strapped on the babies and began to climb. The further we got into the trees, the fuller Chris’ chest seemed to become. Step by step, I watched as he relished in the surroundings and relaxed into a state of quiet joy.

“I feel . . alive again,” he told me, slowly. “You know? There’s a part of me that needs this.”

“I know,” I replied.

And I did know. I could see it in his expression, his posture, his movements.  He was standing straighter, smiling, moving with a zest I hadn’t seen in awhile.

And I knew because I understood what it’s like to bring a passion back to life.

Scurrying up a hillside is not my cup of tea. I’d prefer the cup of tea—with a spot to write a story or a song. But since becoming a mother, I haven’t often made time for these loves.

Instead I find myself flipping on the TV for the last ten minutes of a home renovation show or scrolling through my news feed. Not my passions, but who has time for those?

Giving up social media for Lent this year made me realize how much I missed being creative. When I stopped consuming everyone else’s updates and comments and ideas, I wanted to make my own.

And so I started to carve out time. A few minutes in the morning. A half-hour in the afternoon. Some nights after bedtime.

Time to be alive again.

To feel the spark of creativity. To craft words into stories for the pleasure of it. To find myself on the page.

It’s bringing me to life in new ways.

There are passions that will cause the heart to ache if they are not given space to flourish.

Let them live.

There won’t be enough time.

Let them live anyway.

There are other things that need to be done.

But let your passions live. Resurrect them if you must.

Remember that you are alive but once.

And that mountains can be climbed before bedtime.

This story originally appeared at The Mudroom.
Find it by clicking here

When Time is Not on Our Side

Lindsey Smallwood

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

A time for everything – it’s beautifully written and on its face, reminds us that no matter what season we find ourselves in, it won’t last forever. If you’re in a time for crying, you can be sure that a time to laugh will come. That’s the nature of life, nothing stays the same forever.

The deeper, more challenging truth of this passage comes in the start of verse 11 –

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. 

It’s God who ordains time, it’s God who sets the seasons of the world and of our lives. Again, if we don’t think too deeply, this is a sweet reminder. It points us to the promise in Romans that God is working all things together, that He is doing good things for us.

When we chew on that truth a little longer, really holding it and looking at it from all angles, this passage becomes a good news/bad news situation. And since I always like to end on a positive note, let’s start with the bad news...

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