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.

Where have I come from?

The beginning of a new year is often a time for reflection and pondering. This week, prompted in part by the sermon last Sunday, I’ve taken time to sit and process. The last few months have held many changes for me and for my family. There is a lot for me to ponder, and a lot of it can pull me down and leave me feeling sort of stuck and foggy and confused. I’m grateful though that I’ve been able to prioritize using a variety of tools to find anchors for my values, stories that help me make sense of the world, and some reassuring ideas that progress will happen and there will be good things as I keep working through life one step at a time.

A few years ago I was feeling trapped in failure and feeling so useless. I couldn’t make sense of why I was so bad at reaching out and creating connections. But in what began as a defensive moment, I sat down and made a long list of the last 10 years or so, noting the significant things that had happened each year. And suddenly I could see where my “failure” made a lot of sense. For example, I have twin boys. But when I looked back in my timeline I remembered the work that was involved with having twins. There was only one birth day, but before that there were weeks of thinking about and discussing if we were ready for more kids. Then there were 9 months of many appointments, and stress, and watching. Then came the demanding weeks around their birth. Then came approximately 2 years of literally constant demands to keep two infants and a toddler alive and unharmed. That adds up to around 3 years of unexpected strain and effort – all of which has actually been successful.

BUT that incredible amount of work DID detract from energy left for other efforts, resulting in my sense of failure in reaching out to other people. In that low time as I evaluated where I was it was immensely helpful to look back at where I was coming from.  It made my sense of failure shift and I could see the positive results of my years of work, even if it wasn’t what I had expected. And I could see that I didn’t have to hold on to these feelings of defeat, or my defensive responses to my lack of growth in other areas.

I was reminded powerfully of that exercise this week because of a suggested activity offered at church. The sermon (you can find it here) was about Hagar and her times in the desert when the angel of the Lord asks her “Where are you coming from? Where are you going?” and “What ails you?” We were given a worksheet to go along with the story giving space to reflect for ourselves on these questions. This was useful for me but the second part was the most striking – a space to add in what the Lord says in the Word about my answers. I was surprised at the stories and quotes that quickly flowed in as responses.

For example, when thinking about where I have come from I noted long times of feeling drained. And as I moved to the question of what the Lords says, immediately the story of the woman healed from a constant flow of blood came into mind. When we seek the Lord there is healing even from the things that have drained us for nearly a lifetime. Such a peaceful and hopeful answer I didn’t even know I needed before I sat down with this simple piece of paper.

In this busy time with work and school and plans all starting up again, I found it profound to take a few minutes to sit and ponder. I invite you to see if you can fit it in too. You can find the worksheet here, and the video, audio, and text for the sermon at the link above.

Making A List

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.

Every week day I make a list for Benjamin. It helps focus him with the piles of laundry threatening to evict him from his own room.

Today’s list was varied.
Walk to the post office and get the mail
Empty the dishwasher
Fold clothes and put them away
Write two Christmas cards

I feel confident that the items will get crossed off. No debates about the relevance of the tasks. Apparently he trusts me. No back talk.

Santa has a reputation for making lists. He even double checks for accuracy. The elves follow up on Christmas Eve when they pack his sleigh. No insubordination at the North Pole.

God made me a list. It’s called the Ten Commandments. It includes a “Do this” as well as a “Don’t do this” category.

The one about “Don’t kill” came to mind yesterday when a clever but snarky comment sat perched on my tongue ready to lob at John. While no blood would have been spilled in its delivery the label killjoy would have fit. I closed my mouth soundlessly. No back talk. Because the fact is, I trust Him.

Love, Lori

Wiggling My Toes

I’ve had braces for the last two years and I had upper jaw surgery a few months ago as part of the process.  This week I had the bottom brackets removed – I’m getting so close to the end of what’s been a long and often painful process. One of the things I’ve reflected on in these years is the power there is in focussing my attention.  

On Monday at the orthodontist I used a tool I learned as a small child – wiggling my toes.  I had a lot of dental work as a kid and for almost every appointment my Dad would be there, squeezing my hand, rubbing my leg, reminding me to breathe, and sometimes he would tell me to wiggle my toes.  I followed his coaching and while I don’t think I realised it at the time, it almost certainly made a huge difference in the moment of my experiences.  It calmed me to hear him and feel his soothing touch.  And to wiggle my toes drew my attention away from the pain in my mouth and helped me to notice that there were more parts of my body.

So earlier this week at the orthodontist, when there was a sense of building discomfort and I was starting to worry that I wasn’t going to be able to keep still and calm, I wiggled my toes.  Only after I wiggled my toes did I remember that I wasn’t really breathing and I took some good, deep and steadying breaths.  And quickly the hyper-focused feeling of hating having to squish my tongue at the back of my mouth was replaced with feeling my chest move up and down and laughing inwardly at my toes wiggling ridiculously at the end of the chair.  And my body could be calm a while longer.

Continue reading Wiggling My Toes

Dismantled

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.

Image
photo by Joy Feerrar

We zoomed with a couple who are trying to navigate the uptick of covid cases where they live. She was unraveling the wool sweater she’d knitted, which didn’t fit. Part of me was sad to see her cable stitches unspool, yet she was clear. It was worth the effort to retrieve the soft fiber rather than go to the store and pick up an acrylic substitute. 

Her husband is a minister, trying to serve his congregation without being in the same room. He spoke about the laborious process of dismantling his sermon and readings from the hymns. Then he could record and reconfigure them into a fluid service.

These are examples of the common need to take things apart before we can put them back together. It’s messy. I am in the midst of reorganizing my sewing room, which entails pulling fabric and patterns off the shelves, tossing scraps and refolding yardage. I purposely chose a week when there would be no students. The chaos is not a congenial space in which to be creative. But my hope is that when I finish the ideas will flow like silk ribbons.

People too need to fall apart. When the pieces lay in shambles at our feet, we can choose those parts that truly fit. It keeps us warm to be spun from innocence. 

Before anything is restored to order it is very common for everything to be reduced first of all to a state of confusion resembling chaos so that things that are not compatible may be separated from one another. And once these have been separated the Lord arranges them into order.  Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 842:3

Love,
Lori