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.

Presumptuous

Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.

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Photo: Anita Halterman

As words go, it has a bad reputation. Being presumptuous is lumped with self righteousness, and feeling entitled. 

But what if what you are presuming is goodness? 

A mother was describing a parenting theory in which you believe that your child is doing the best they can, and that their behavior is an effort to solve a problem. Perhaps they are anxious, or overly tired, or afraid of disappointing you. Then in the process they disappoint you. 

She described how she tries not to compound her son’s anger with her own strong reaction, but instead backs off, and later tries to untangle the triggers. It may look as if she is caving to his stubbornness, but perhaps she is stepping aside while it whooshes past. She avoids the tempting tendency to tack on judgment like a dragon’s tail. 

My sense is that children, even those with parents who struggle with addiction, often give their mothers the benefit of the doubt. I recall a scene from a movie with one of those emissaries of innocence- Shirley Temple, or Anne of Green Gables- when asked about the person tasked with caring for her. 

“She meant to be kind to me. She wasn’t always but she meant to.”

Why do I find it hard to be as presumptuous? I’m referring to the respectable version. Instead of leaping off the dock of sensibility, plunging into the cold waters of blame, I could sit calmly. What if I were to consider the possibility, likelihood even, that the person I love is trying?

“Those who are guided by kindness, on the other hand, hardly even notice evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person. When they do find anything bad or false, they put a good interpretation on it. This is a characteristic of all angels — one they acquire from the Lord, who bends everything bad toward good.” Heavenly Secrets 1079, Emanuel Swedenborg

Love,
Lori

Hear Here

Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.

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Photo: Stephen Conroy

One of the songs for children that I wrote in my early twenties was about Samuel. The little boy was woken in the night by a voice calling his name. Assuming that it was the high priest Eli, Samuel ran into the next room to find him. But Eli assured him that he did not call, and to go back to bed. Three times Samuel hurried in before Eli realized that it had been the voice of God.

I recall a time that the minister described the disparity between what our heart hears, represented by Samuel, and what Eli knows, who is like our understanding. Samuel was a small boy. Eli was a judge. An inner voice can beckon us with innocence, trust, forgiveness, even while such a response is not easily justified.

An example he used was to speak a word in the Zimbabwe tongue. No one knew it, yet he used simple gestures to embellish it, and by the fourth time we guessed that it meant woman.  

The messages we receive from prayer can be confusing. Incomplete. We may be at a loss to explain our own response. But perhaps explanation is not the pinnacle of spiritual life. Is a spray of water droplets more beautiful if we narrate their fall?

There was a time when John and I were facing an enormous challenge. We each processed in our own ways, unable to really support one another because we were both unsteady. One day I asked him point blank. 

“What do you think???”

He paused as only an Odhner can. 

“I am trying not to think.”

I was stunned. And yet years later, it fits like a well worn shoe you lost under the bed last summer, and never quite gave up on finding. There are times when our answers do not come packaged in syllables. 

Love,
Lori

Small and Big

Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.

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Last month I delivered a meal to a family with a new baby. Their house is on the one block road I lived on in 1964. We were in the colonial on the left, which has had a series of upgrades since then. I gazed at the nine homes, reeling in recollections of whom each belonged to. If the family had no kids, the yard was inconsequential. The older couples only came into focus when we played Truth or Dare, and I accepted a challenge to ring the doorbell of the scary lady and run away. 

One of my inflated memories is that the seven children in our gang would perch on a red bicycle, go barreling down the hill, and crash in the field. I was little and got the back fender. My brother was older and sometimes got to pedal, though that did not also include the chance to sit. The journey felt enormous to me at six, but now I realize it was half a football field. In my Personal History, we did this all the time, but then again it is possible we only pulled it off once.

What struck me as I beheld it now in my mid sixties, was how compact the street was. This was the arena for four gripping years of my childhood, and it felt spacious then. I was not allowed to venture past the corner, but who needed to? I could explore all summer and not bump up against the edges. Now the trees seemed short, the road barely wide enough for two cars to eek past. The yard where we played kick the can and fifty scatter was the size of some people’s living rooms. Well, rich people’s living rooms. 

The ensuing afternoon entailed a series of annoyances. The package I expected was not ready when I went to pick it up and I had to go back a second time.

I had sprung for organic tomatoes, and found evidence of nibbling on their bright red skins.  The clothes someone had kindly brought up from the dryer, so that they could rotate in their own laundry, was damp. 

Yet by evening the composite of irritations seemed insignificant. Smaller than small. Unable to tip the balance on a dieter’s scale for serving sizes. 

My mind scrolled through some of the looming emergencies that plagued our family in the sixties. My father had gone back to graduate school and providing for four children weighed heavily. My mother began to act strangely, though it was another ten years before we understood the name of her demons. 

But now, fifty years later, those dire circumstances feel no heavier than a baby’s hand in the palm of One whose care spans yesterday, today and long into tomorrow.

Love,
Lori

Growing Into Letting Go

I’m always wishing to know others and be known by others.

Now I have an article to write and I don’t want to waste the opportunity.

But also, at the moment I feel empty.  I feel like my brain, my body and my heart have thought through, processed, held, and felt so much in the last two years that they’re kind of on sabbatical at the moment.  They’ve tapped out.

Every time I thought “well that was hard, glad that’s over so we can move on and get back to normal” in the last few years, it was just a few short days or weeks or months until something happened which completely threw “normal” way out of reach all over again.

I know, categorically, that the repercussions of COVID have seeped into all areas of life making normality actually impossible – but that hasn’t kept me from aiming at normal.  But so much has happened and changed that I’m really questioning just what I get to assume is in fact normal.  I’m starting to think that, as an adult and parent in 2022, “normal,” for the foreseeable future, actually means holding every thing and every plan very loosely because it’s likely everything will be constantly changing.

Continue reading Growing Into Letting Go