Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Trusting God

What If I Tell Jesus What I Really Want?

Lindsey Smallwood

Over at Middle Places this month, our writers are exploring what it means to be in the middle of healing. I'm on the blog sharing what I've learned from answering Jesus' question to a blind guy on the road.

Sometimes I pray for what’s right, instead of what’s real.

Like right now – I hope my good friend who is fighting cancer will be healed, but I don’t know whether God will do it so instead of praying for healing, I pray that God’s will be done.

And I would love to know what the timeline is for changes coming in my husband’s job, but instead of telling the Lord that, I find myself saying things like “I trust you with our future” and “I know you’ve always been faithful.”

The thing is, all of those things are true. It’s good to pray for God’s will to be done. I do trust Him with our future. He has always been faithful. But those aren’t the thoughts and feelings bouncing around my heart most days. Instead, it’s fear about what will happen to our family or a deep yearning to see my friend’s pain end.

Recently, I reread the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10. In the passage, Jesus passes a blind man named Bartimaeus as he’s walking down the road to his destination. The man calls out to Him, and Jesus stops, asking him this question: “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want?

 

On its face, it seems like a simple question. Yet answering it requires great courage because we risk finding out we may not get what we hope for. Even the good and godly things.

In Bartimaeus’ case, he asks to receive his sight. Jesus immediately heals him, and Bartimaeus looks at Jesus and follows Him down the road.

I can’t help but ask – what if my story isn’t like Bartimaeus’ happy ending? What if I tell Jesus what I want, what I really want, and He says “no” or “not now” or “wait”?

It’s scary to tell Him how much I long for another baby because in the simple act of saying what I want, I’m acknowledging I might not get it.

Yet relationships, real relationships, can only flourish where there’s honesty and open communication. I think that includes our relationship with God.

I know God wants me to have right theology, to pray for His will to be done, to understand He’s ultimately in control. But He also desires me to bring my whole self to Him: my questions, my challenges, my longings.

As I hear Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus, I imagine Him asking me: “Lindsey, what do you want?”

Slowly, carefully, I let my unspoken desires come to light.

I want my friend to be completely healed from cancer.

I want another baby.

I want the restoration of a broken relationship with a friend.

Saying what’s really in my heart, out loud, to the One who knows me better than I know myself is scary and liberating all at the same time. It’s a step toward deeper relationship with Him. It’s the best possible place to be vulnerable, telling the truth to a God who will never leave me or forsake me, even if His answer is no.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.

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.

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

Daring to Speak Your Dream

Lindsey Smallwood

This month I met four new friends.

We first connected in a blogging group online and since we all live locally, we made a date to gather in person for support and encouragement.

After exchanging pleasantries and picking each other’s brains about style and formatting techniques, we dove a little deeper.

“What is your dream for your blog?” someone asked.

We went around the table, the answers varied and interesting. One woman hopes to eventually turn her blog about fixing up old furniture into a shop in her neighborhood selling rehabbed antiques. Another told about her desire to use her online writing as a way to support a family missions project.

As I listened to these women I hardly knew talk about their dreams, I noticed the way their eyes danced and their faces became expressive. These closely held desires had lived long in their hearts and sharing them with us was fanning their hopes back into flame. Instead of getting stuck in the details of how to format a blog post, we were remembering why we had chosen to write in the first place. It was a powerful moment that helped me realize I need to remember my hopes more often.

Maybe today we all need to take a step back and answer this question:

What are your dreams for your life?

So much of our everyday life is details. Getting to an appointment on time. Making sure the bills are paid. Meeting deadlines at work. Preparing dinner for our families.

But there desires there, tucked away, waiting to be given room to grow. Hopes that need tending so they might flourish.

Taking time to remember these yearnings gives us space to dream anew, to evaluate whether we are moving in the direction of the life we long for, and to invite others to encourage us as we pursue the desires God has breathed in our hearts.

It can be scary, saying our dreams out loud. There’s risk involved, opening ourselves up to criticism and the possibility of failure. But there’s also the opportunity to receive support on the journey as we advance toward the future we envision for our jobs, our families, and ourselves.

Here’s more good news: God is already at work and his dreams for us are bigger than we can even conceive. After speaking them to my new friends that morning, I thanked God for the dreams He's placed in my heart and giving myself space to see how I can take steps from hoping to doing. 

Will you join me? 

"Now glory be to God,

who by his mighty power

at work within us

is able to do far more than

 we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—

infinitely beyond our highest prayers,

desires, thoughts, or hopes."

Ephesians 3:20 (Living Bible)