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.

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.

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. 


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.


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.


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

Home Sweet Home

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.

photo by Jenny Stein

It is a miracle that we have a house at all. The circumstances that converged to allow us to leap into the echelon of homeowners in our forties still shocks me. 

Twenty one years ago John came to Pennsylvania and heard from his boss that we would be leaving California to live here. My mother took him to the station to catch a plane home to tell me about this, and as he boarded the train my cousin stepped off. Mom, eager to help us find a place, asked her nephew if he knew of a house for sale in our tiny town.

“Actually the man across the street from me is getting ready to put his on the market.” 

As providence would have it, I was coming to stay with my mother the next week, so we drove by the property and dreamed of living there. My sister went with me to knock on the door of these total strangers and we asked for a look. They were caught off guard but let us tour the first floor. Then, under my sister’s instructions, I offered them $1000 to retain it while I figured out if we could buy it. Surprised, they took the check and agreed.

I called John to say I had given people I had just met $1000 in earnest money for a house he knew nothing about.

“You did what?”

“My sister said I should.”

“Oh. Ok.”

For the next two months we worked with a mortgage company by phone and fax to buy a home that John had still never laid eyes on and could not google. Assuming as we were that I would find a job, not having yet figured out that I would be having twins instead, it looked like we qualified for the loan.

Then our firstborn totaled his beloved car. He was crushed. (So was the car.) We switched focus and spent the next few days on the phone with insurance agents, and were relieved when they decided to pay the remaining debt on the vehicle. 

We returned to the task of the mortgage. John was pacing with the phone, still attached to the wall with a long curly cord as they were back then, when the person broke the sad news that we almost made the cut, except for the outstanding loan in our name. 

“The car? Oh, that was totaled on Friday. Insurance paid it off.”  

The next weeks were a blur of packing, me not understanding that my diminishing energy had more to do with a pregnancy of multiples than the strain of smashing our worldly belongings into a 24 foot truck. Then our last day in California arrived. We had turned off the landline and John conducted his final church service. We were about to start the ignitions of the van and U-Haul when the church phone rang. 

My mother’s apartment had flooded and everything she owned was gone. I collapsed on the church floor and sobbed (being pregnant and emotional).

Then I realized. We had a new house… well almost. She could live with us. Never mind that she was manic, she was with me when I first dreamed of owning it. Mom would live there too. 

We drove across the country unable to talk to sisters and mothers and brothers, not yet belonging to the family plan of five cell phones for eight people, and I wondered what the future would look like. 

My sister, the financially competent one, had of course purchased insurance when our mother was flooded two years earlier. So there was a handy sum waiting for us when we moved in with which to build her a grandmother’s addition. 

My mother enjoyed her last years in that apartment and has found a way to support our family even after she died. The renters who have inhabited it since have been a blessing. 

That is the interesting part about change. Looking ahead can seem foggy. But gazing back, I have the clear sense of being cared for.