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.

Lenten Legacy

Editor’s Note: This article was written by my Mom, Margie Echols, in March 2006. She wrote it for The Glendale New Church newsletter that year. I am one of the homeschooling kids she mentions in the later part of the article. I don’t remember what I gave up that year (I think it was either TV or chocolate), but I do remember it made a big impact on me! It’s been useful to re-read this article as I prepare to focus on Lent this year with my kids.

Growing up in a family of eight children with a New Church minister for a father, and a 3rd generation New Church minister’s daughter for a mother, I pretty much felt sure of what made up a distinctive New Church lifestyle. I was taught this by both of my parents and it was heartily reinforced by my older siblings, in their zeal to shepherd us younger ones along. Our dad trained all of the teachers to instill New Church principles along with the Bible stories they taught to us kids in Sunday School.

I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I was prideful in my certitude that I knew what comprised a New Church person’s life. And a Lent Sacrifice certainly was NOT included, in my early view. In fact, when my childhood friends in public school did give up certain foods or privileges for Lent, I felt quite sorry for them. I did not think any religion should require a little child to give up meat, or going to the movies, or anything at all. It made me feel very separated from my friends, because I knew they must be suffering from a wrong understanding of the one God over us all.

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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.