Blog | Lindsey Smallwood


Life: the Sublime & the Mundane

Lindsey Smallwood

The day I got married was my all-time favorite day.

Sure, I went a little nuts with the hot glue gun in the weeks leading up to the big event, making over-the-top bird cage centerpieces. And yes, there were tears I vowed I'd never cry about things like booking the band and the catering menu. But by the time the actual day dawned everything was perfect.

I mean not perfect.

My dress got stuck on the back row pew and I almost got slingshotted backward walking down the aisle. And there were pictures we forgot to take and people I didn't get to talk to. But still, there was magic in the air, as everyone we loved gathered in one place to sing and dance and eat cake.

My heart has never been so full, before or since. Thinking about our final dance, spinning around and singing along to Journey's Don't Stop Believing never fails to bring a smile to my lips.

Compare that to yesterday. My husband is sick, which is not his specialty. He's grumpy and tired and struggling to get life done with a cough that won't quit. I'm in the final weeks of pregnancy and am having trouble sleeping, so the days are long and exhausting. My toddlers are feisty balls of energy that leave a mess in any space they've occupied for more than two minutes, so everything in my life is dirty or out of place.

By bedtime last night, not only did our tiny apartment look like a tornado had blown through, there'd been yelling and harsh words and even a slammed door.

Not exactly magical.

But that’s life – the sublime and the mundane, the good and the bad, our best days and our worst. If we’re living as people who really believe God works all things together for our good, to make us more like Jesus, then we should expect both kinds of days.

The author of Ecclesiastes knew this. In many ways his book is a warning that life’s highs and lows can be deceptive. Good times create the false expectation that life will always be good. It won’t.

Bad times create the illusion that life has no meaning, no purpose, no justice. Not true. 

What is true is that life is both/and. God designed it that way, as we read in Ecclesiastes 7:14 (The Message):

On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.

Both kinds of days are in the plans, friends. So don’t be surprised when life is terrible – or wonderful. That’s how God arranged it.

There’s a warning implied here and it’s this: Don’t spend your good days waiting for the other shoe to drop. Take time to enjoy your life. Treasure those moments when everything is working, when the music is playing, when it seems like love is everywhere you look.

We're in the middle of some big life changes. If I’m not careful, I end up filling good days of time with friends and meaningful work and joy in watching my kids play with worries about the future and silent brainstorming about logistical challenges. Instead I’m trying to remember this advice from the author of Ecclesiastes to enjoy life, savoring the good days and not filling them with fears about the future.

And on the days when doors get slammed and things get yelled that I’d rather not repeat here in cyber-space, I’m taking time to tune in, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to examine my heart and ask myself where I need Jesus in the middle of it all.

God arranges for both kinds of days so that we don’t take anything for granted.

I’m learning to live that truth.


This post originally appeared at Middle Places

When Hoping is Hard...

Lindsey Smallwood

Writing today at Middle Places about falling in love and finding it wasn't all I was looking for...

I was single for most of my twenties.

I was hopeful about finding Mr. Right but it seemed like a long shot because I was a campus pastor. Most of the men in my life were college undergraduates or married colleagues in ministry, neither of which were appropriate pools for mate selection.

After reading a book about looking for love, I ambitiously tried to put myself out there, wanting to expand my circle of potential love interests.

I took an open-to-the-community class at Stanford University where I worked. I met a lot of men, median age 72.

I signed up for knitting lessons at the community center. I met 5 middle aged women and a cat.

I started regularly going to a nearby café by myself without my phone or a book, hoping to strike up a conversation. But since everyone else did have a friend, phone or book, love didn’t find me there either. I did meet one interesting guy, but halfway through our conversation I realized he wanted me to invest in his time-share. Sigh.

I told my friends I’d be open to blind dates. After 2 blind dates, I told my friends I was not open to blind dates. Can I get an amen?

And then it just happened one day, at the wedding of mutual friends. I was officiating the service and Chris was a groomsman. At the reception he told me he liked my sermon and then asked me to dance.

I know. What a pickup line.

He called three days after the wedding and the next weekend, we had our first date.

If there’d been a checklist – and let’s be honest, there was sort of a checklist – he ticked every box.

Handsome? Check.
Shares my faith? Check.
Fun to talk to? Check.
Hobbies include things other than video games and paintball? Check.

Seriously, a dreamboat.

We started dating and I knew I was falling hard for this Physics grad student.

But here’s what I didn’t expect: that the hoping would get harder.

I wanted to find love, a partner, someone to share my life with. I’d been praying quiet prayers for years, crying with friends over coffee, struggling with jealousy when wedding invitations came in the mail.

I’d been hoping.

Suddenly that hope had a face and a name and a personality. I didn’t want just any partner, I wanted this one.

Yet I knew our relationship was new and needed some time to grow and develop before we made commitments.

Oh, the hoping was hard.

Sitting in my little apartment, knitting the heck out yet another scarf, willing him to call on the phone. Laying in bed at night, wondering what he was doing, what he was thinking, if I was crazy to feel things this strongly.

To hope is to wait in want. And in an age where Amazon can send coffee and paper towels to your doorstep and you can stream an entire movie on the phone in your pocket, we are not used to either wanting or waiting.

Here’s the thing though: we are hope people. We have to be, because even in an on-demand world, nothing is for certain. We can dream and plan and work and try all we want, but there are a lot of things outside of our control.

Will this job be offered?
Will that relationship stand the test of time?
Will our family get to add another baby?

Most of the time, we have to wait in our wanting.

Hope isn’t like love. Love does. It’s an action. It’s self-sacrifice and giving and hard work. Personally, I like it because it gives me something to do.

But hope is. It just is. It sits there, usually quietly, waiting in want. Not knowing.

As my relationship with Chris grew and we both began to see that it was developing into something serious, the urgent hoping that things would work out was slowly, gently replaced by a trust in our ability to grow together, to communicate, to work through challenges. I no longer felt panicked that this dream might die right in front of me.

My hope that Chris would be “the one” was realized. But a whole new set of hopes emerged after we decided to get married – hopes for a long life together, for good health, for a family.

Romans 12:12 (ESV) invites us to “be joyful in hope.” Real talk: it’s not easy. If my poorly knitted scarves could talk, they would tell you that joy is not my default emotion in the waiting.

But we are hope people. And since we know that we are going to spend a lot of our life hoping, this is a gracious invitation to find the beauty in the waiting and experience joy even in the unknown. I’ve seen it myself these last few years, losing hope in the face of miscarriage and finding it again in the strength of community.

Hoping is hard. But there can be joy in hard things.

Here’s to finding yours.

Joy on the Journey

Lindsey Smallwood

I have a friend named Tina.  

I know, right? You like her already.

I know, right? You like her already.

Tina and I were housemates when I lived in Bellingham, WA during my first year as a campus pastor.  Being housemates didn't mean automatic friendship since there were, ahem, fifteen women living together under one roof. But Tina and I were fast friends.

I think our friendship was cemented when we spent an afternoon scoping deals at grocery stores around town while intermittently scream singing Alanis Morrissette songs in her tiny Honda with the windows down. Because, well, that's what friends do sometimes.  

Um, I know old people say this all the time but we look so young!

Um, I know old people say this all the time but we look so young!

Tina is one of those people, everyone has them (I hope!), where no matter how much time has passed, you can pick up where you left off.  And tell the truth.  And cry big, hard tears.  And also laugh your head off.  

Like when I came and slept in her grandma's house so I could be a bridesmaid for our friend Jess and we watched musicals until way too late at night.  Or when she came to visit me at Stanford and got right up on top of the Stanford's tomb for a picture, like you do.  Or when she brought her giant seven months pregnant belly full of baby to Berkeley so she could be the "details" person for my wedding reception (read: the person in charge of making sure there was a bird on everything.)

One of my favorite Tina memories is the weekend that Jess, Tina and I cloistered ourselves in at Tina's parents house for a girl's getaway.  We had all come off some pretty serious personal disappointments and the time away together was this perfect gift, time to pray and talk and grieve and laugh and heal.  

Is there anything better than being known and loved by good people?

Is there anything better than being known and loved by good people?

When Tina got engaged, she asked me to write a song for her wedding ceremony.  It turned into one of my favorite "homemade" songs. I wrote it thinking about her sweet love story with her husband Jason.  They were good friends and partners in ministry before they started dating.  

That's me in the middle, the meat in their sweetheart sandwich.

That's me in the middle, the meat in their sweetheart sandwich.

It was so fun to sing this song for my sweet friends on their wedding day.  

Tina & Jason, rocking the reception. 

Tina & Jason, rocking the reception. 

And it's so tender today to reflect on what beautiful examples they've been of grace, faithfulness and promise keeping in their own marriage.  They have truly honored their covenant to God and to each other through some challenging years and it's been my privilege to watch from the sidelines.  

Joy on the journey.  A hand to hold as we walk through this life.  Thanking God today for my sweet friends and for my own marriage.  What a good gift. 

Joy on the Journey: A Wedding Song

Quiet prayers you don’t talk about

There were things I hadn’t told to anyone

But I’d been hoping


We were friends, oh

The best kind of friends

The laugh till you cry kind

The makes things all right kind

And then I began to see

That it could be



My joy on the journey

My hand to hold

As we walk through this life

and Now                  

I make you this promise          

All of me to you only

As we follow Christ


My best friend becoming my beloved

Dreams long dreamt, now are coming true

And I’m still hoping

With you, I’m hoping


That as the years pass

And we grow old together

We’ll be faithful to each other

Living like our Saviour

Today I make a covenant with you

And the one who gave me


I am my beloveds

I am my beloveds     

I am my beloveds and you are mine

And how you shine