All posts by Abby Smith

About Abby Smith

Abby is a person. She works at being an emotionally intelligent person whose main focus currently is being a happy and loving mother to four kids and wife to Malcolm. Born and raised in a General church minister's family, she has been exposed to the Bible and the Writings since childhood but is enjoying reading and understanding these books as an adult more and more. The amazing knowledge about love and wisdom and all of the emotions that follow have truly made her a happier and more self-assured person. Her husband serves as the head pastor of New Church Westville near Durban, South Africa. While leaving family behind is a challenge, she quite enjoys living in Africa.

Enough or Too Much

I used to feel–and sort of unconsciously believe–that to be a successful parent was to be so in tune, so attentive, so on top of the perfect planning and management that my kids would never get too upset, too hungry, too tired, too frustrated, too overwhelmed on any level.  That if I was a good parent I would be able to prevent massive fights, blow ups, or any other kind of meltdown by anticipating each child’s needs managing it for them before any falling apart happened.  So any big emotions that were overwhelming were my fault.  I thought that any difficult dynamics that escalated to the point of bad behaviour were because I had been selfish and not met that child’s needs appropriately in time (maybe I kept reading the end of the chapter of a book instead of getting snacks served up).  It’s not that they weren’t supposed to experience negative emotions but more (as I, then mistakenly held it) that they shouldn’t ever be in a position of TOO much.  Or not enough either.  And it was my job to prevent anything that went too far off either end of the spectrum.

One of the problems with this outlook was that I was constantly failing, and that is exhausting.  More troubling was that I had a sense that my failure was because I was selfishly putting my own needs first, that I was stubbornly unwilling to exert just a little more energy and a little more focus, but that I could fix things if only I could push myself a little harder.  Circularly my failure to prevent the distress for my kids and my feeling that I could have if only I’d given my time and energy more freely (and somehow had no needs of my own) added fuel to the fire of negative self perception. And it allowed us to develop unhelpful boundaries.  In a sense I was enabling their behaviour in that I wasn’t helping them to develop the skills they needed to self assess what was happening within and around them, and allow them to better manage the same situation when it arose another time.  

Continue reading Enough or Too Much

Mothering Given in Faith

During this lockdown time I have been spending a lot of time with my kids.  A LOT.  Schools closed in South Africa in late March, and since then my kids have only left the house for walks and hikes and the rare drive.  Schools re-opened, but we decided to homeschool for the time being as the shuffling and juggling and necessary changing of plans and approaches by the school was too much for me.  But because of this I have been the main adult my kids have seen, and huge majority of their non-sibling interactions each day are with me.  

Since my oldest was born I’ve been a full time mom.  So in many ways this isn’t a new level of involvement.  But this time has opened my eyes to so many new things about what it means to be a mom, and what my role is in the lives of these developing humans.

Under normal circumstances there are many people they encounter and interact with who fill up their sense of self.  Excitement to share their ideas and experiences can normally be spread out to many and new people, rather than just recounted back to the people who were there when it happened.  Their ideas about what is fun to do, talk about, new inspiration for what to play with and how – all of that has been limited to our immediate family for 6 months.  And it has made me confront the ways that I speak to them, what I feedback to them about what they say to me, and the ways I respond particularly to their struggles and upset.  

Continue reading Mothering Given in Faith

Family Bible Reading

My household has undergone many ups and downs since the lockdown started.  For us in South Africa, the country went into lockdown in early April, but life had been disrupted for several weeks even before that. School and normal family routines were all thrown into the air.  I’ve tried several versions of new routines: some where I just let the kids do whatever they wanted, some where I was scheduling and managing every hour.  I’ve continued to change and juggle the routine as life continues changing – sometimes on what feels like a daily basis! But one of the things that has come out of all this is a new routine of reading the Bible with my kids.

As a family reading the Bible has always been at least an occasional part of our routine.  But in the last few years with school taking up more time as the kids moved from pre-primary to primary and even now senior primary grades, our time at home to do additional study has fallen away.  And while I know they are reading the Bible at school I am not in that routine with them.  But since the lockdown and having the kids at home we began to read daily together, and I have been amazed again and again by the experience.  

My kids all enjoy reading, so I wasn’t really surprised to find them excited at the idea of reading together.  But what I have been surprised by is their ability to read even some of the stranger or more violent parts of the Bible and then follow up with insightful and useful discussions.  We spent June reading through Revelation as we led up to New Church Day on June 19th.  We have several picture books which helped to give a more concrete understandings of some of the stranger creatures and scenes described.  But each day my kids were eager to read more, to understand more, to find passages they recognized, and to discuss the strange beasts and the terrifying plagues.  I remember reading through Revelation as a child and feeling confused but enjoying it, but I don’t remember expressing the enthusiasm my kids regularly share with me.  

When I decided to make daily Bible reading a part of our routine I expected the kids to hesitate or whine.  But I have been thoroughly enjoying my time to connect with them and watch their enjoyment as they find new Bible stories to wonder over or light up as they read a verse or a story they’ve learned about before.  It is an experience that I’m already holding on to as a bright spot in these stormy times.

The Leaves of The Tree of Life

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. (Revelation 22:1-4)

As we approach New Church Day this Friday, my family and I have been reading through Revelation. We decided to make leaves out of sculpey and put them onto a bookmark as a reminder of the Tree of Life described in the passage above.

In this year full of many unexpected changes and concerns on a global scale it has been reassuring to spend time focusing on the Word and learning more and more about living a full, loving, and meaningful life through the teachings of the New Church.

Arcana Coelestia 9481 (included below) describes the representative connection between the stories in Revelation and the New Church.

‘”In accordance with all that I show you, the pattern of the dwelling-place’ means a representative of heaven where the Lord is. This is clear from the meaning of ‘the pattern of the dwelling-place’ as a representative of heaven; for ‘the pattern’ means a representative, and ‘the dwelling-place’ means heaven. The reason why ‘the pattern’ means a representative is that Divine realities in heaven are also manifested in visible shapes, which are representatives. For the meaning of ‘the dwelling-place’ as heaven where the Lord is, see 82698309. What the representatives that appear in heaven are like is clear in the prophets, for example in John’s Book of Revelation, in which he describes lampstands, Chapter 1:12ff; a throne with twenty-four thrones around it, and four living creatures before the throne, Chapter 4:2ff; a book sealed with seven seals, Chapter 5; horses going out when the seals were opened, Chapter 6; angels who are clothed in various ways and have bowls, Chapters 9101516; a white horse, Chapter 19; and at length a new Jerusalem, its walls, gates, foundations, height, breadth, and length, Chapters 2122. Similar sights are also described by other prophets.

[2] All those sights are representatives such as appear unceasingly in heaven before angels’ eyes, manifesting in visible shapes the Divine celestial realities that belong to the good of love and the Divine spiritual realities that belong to the good of faith. Such realities taken all together were represented by the tabernacle and its contents, that is, the ark itself, the table on which loaves were laid, the altar of incense, the lampstand, and everything else. Therefore when these objects, being outward forms of Divine celestial and spiritual realities, were beheld by the people while they were engaged in holy acts of worship, such realities as were represented by those objects were brought to notice in heaven. These, as stated above, were the Divine celestial realities that belong to the good of love to the Lord and the Divine spiritual realities that belong to the good of faith in the Lord. All the representatives of that Church had that kind of effect in heaven. It should be realized that a person always has spirits and angels present with him and that a person cannot live without them. It should likewise be realized that through them the person is linked to the Lord, and that in this way the human race, and heaven too, is kept in being. From this one can see what purpose was served by the representatives and also the ritual observances of the Church established among the Israelite nation. One can also see what purpose is served by the Word, in which all things mentioned in the sense of the letter correspond to Divine realities that exist in heaven, thus in which all the objects mentioned are representative and all the words used carry a spiritual meaning. This is what brings about the linking of a person to heaven, and through heaven to the Lord. Without that link the person would have no life whatever, for without being linked to the actual Essential Being (Esse) of life, from which the Coming-into-Being (Existere) of life emanates, no one has life.

[3] But these considerations are unintelligible to those who think that life exists essentially in a person himself and that a person lives without spirits or angels, thus without influx from the Divine by way of heaven. But in actual fact anything that is not linked to the Divine perishes and ceases to exist. Indeed nothing can ever come into being without that which is prior to itself, thus without the Divine, who is the First and is self-existent Being (Esse) or Jehovah; nor consequently can it remain in being, for remaining in being is constant coming-into-being. Because ‘the dwelling-place’ means heaven where the Lord is, it also means the good of love and faith, since these compose heaven; and because all good comes from the Lord, and heaven is called heaven by virtue of its love to and faith in the Lord, ‘the dwelling-place’ also means in the highest sense the Lord, as is evident in Isaiah 63:15Jeremiah 25:30Ezekiel 37:26-27Psalms 26:843:390:191:9Exodus 15:13Deuteronomy 12:511; and other places. From this it is clear that the tabernacle was called Jehovah’s sanctuary and dwelling-place for the reason that it represented the realities mentioned above.”