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.

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)

Not Our Home

Lindsey Smallwood

When my husband finished his Physics PhD last summer, he was offered a research fellowship at CU Boulder.  Colorado seemed like a great place to move our growing family and we were excited about all the prospects.

Add to that - there were three of us living in our 450 square foot cottage in Berkeley and we were soon to welcome a fourth to our little clan.  Finding a new place to live was feeling pretty pressing.

His research fellowship flew us out in August for a house-hunting trip. A friend of a friend helped us find a realtor. 

We had never bought a house before. There was so much to think about, so many things to consider. Would it be in “right” neighborhood? What was the resale potential? Did we like carpet or hardwood floors?

But, being that I am an unashamed HGTV binge watcher, I loved it every minute. Looking at houses. Imagining where the piano would go. Dreaming about meals around a new table.

We found “the house” a couple hours into our search.

A cute ranch style with a little room to grow into. A quiet neighborhood with tree lined streets. A park around the corner to play with the boys.

Also - two closets in the master bedroom. Yes and amen.

Before putting in an offer, we decided to tour university housing, where dorms were available for families working at the college. As we walked through the apartments, various pungent food smells filled the hallways. The concrete townhouse units were small and built like army bunkers. There were mattresses in the dumpsters marked “bedbugs”.

Chris didn’t even have to ask me what I thought.

Our offer on the house was accepted and we were overjoyed.

Shortly before closing, Chris’ new boss called to let him know that he had taken new position and would be moving his lab, including his research equipment and personnel, to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The move was set to take place the following summer.

Michigan! We hadn’t even got to Colorado yet. Were we really going to move only to move again a few months later?

And what about the house?

I told Chris he needed to find a new job in Colorado, that it was the only thing that made sense.  We could still buy the house, still move our family, he would just work somewhere else.

I liked our plan, I planned our plan, I was on-board with our plan. I did not want the plan to change.

But then, God began to soften my heart.

What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of missing this opportunity. It’s a great house.

There’ll be other houses. What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of not having anywhere to live.

I hold the whole world in my hands. What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of not being in control of our future, of not knowing what comes next.

I am in control, I hold your future.

 And there it was.

I was disappointed, fairly. I was surprised and unsure what to do next. But really I was afraid. Afraid to let go of the life I had imagined in my head, the life in the little ranch house. The safe, beautiful, two closet life that I had picked out for myself.

But there was another life in front of me.

A life with Chris, who wanted the freedom to say yes to Michigan if it was the right thing for his career.

A life with two boys who needed a mama that says yes to God’s leading more than a house on a tree-lined street in the suburbs.

A life living in the in-between for awhile, without a long-term plan, surrendering control to the One who’s always proven himself faithful.

Jesus said this world is not our home. He meant that we're not supposed to get too comfortable here, too attached to what we have. If we really buy into life in His kingdom, then we can't hold on to any plan very firmly or any thing very tightly

But we can always trust that if we let Him lead us in His kingdom way, His plans are for our good, to prosper and not harm us, to make us more fully into His image.

Enjoying the mountain view from the playground in our courtyard.

Enjoying the mountain view from the playground in our courtyard.

Guess where we're living? Yep, good ol' bunker style university family housing.

And I love it.

We have new friends from all over the world, including buddies who we swap child-care with, a stunning view of the mountains, a maintenance crew that’s quick to fix what’s broken, a playground 2 minutes from our front door and more than enough room for our post-grad school belongings.  It’s small and (usually) tidy and it feels like home.

Laying down a dream is never easy.  But God is in the business of making all things new. 

New dreams in new homes.

And, thankfully, new hearts.

What about you - have you ever given up a dream?  Has the outcome surprised you? I’d love to hear about it.