Author Archives: Bonnie Lyn Smith

About Bonnie Lyn Smith

Like anyone else, I have worn many hats: editor, speaker, columnist, Sunday School teacher, prayer warrior, traveler, depression fighter, child advocate, dance/band/robotics/karate/basketball mom, coffee server, foot-in-mouth socially awkward person, and, most recently, author. I hope, on my better days, I am mostly servant of Jesus, loving wife and mother, and devoted friend.

Unsent Letters: The Lost Art of Self-Control

Unsent Letters_

Every few months I write a letter to a particular person in my life. I process, digest it, and ultimately decide not to send it. When I review the many letters I have scrawled out over the course of time, I can see the progression of healing, the quieting of anger or pain, and the increase of forgiveness. Perhaps because writing is my therapy, this was a useful exercise, but even better is being able to look back to something tangible—a journal of sorts—and see where years of prayer about the issue and the person have taken me.

So, why not send it, Bonnie? Big whoopedy-doo that you wrote it. Isn’t reconciliation about the sending?

Sometimes, yes. But had I sent my original versions, I doubt they would have bridged any communication gaps with their raw emotion. And if I don’t wait on God for the timing, no matter how “ready” I am, the other person may not be. So, I don’t know. Will I ever send one? I believe I will. My heart beats for reconciliation. But the peace of God has to be there first. That is what I have been sorting out recently as I wrote letter #5 or #6 to this person. I’ve lost count.

I’ve drafted many letters along these lines to many people, never having sent them to:

  • school administration or teaching staff
  • church leadership
  • friends
  • family members
  • other parents

for various reasons: Read the rest of this entry »


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Pushing Through Fears

Pushing Through FearsDo you have any fears that hold you back from fully functioning? Does it sometimes feel like you are pushing against a weight of overwhelm? Maybe your fears taunt you in the middle of other areas where you feel accomplished. They may look different for each of us, but they can be paralyzing and growth-stopping.

You know what else they do? They deliver a feeling of defeat.

And you know what? That’s not Kingdom (-of-God) living.

Some of my fears are irrational. For example, I fear that if I stop advocating for certain injustices or for my son with special education needs, the world will stop turning. That’s called hypervigilance and sometimes crosses the line into catastrophic thinking. I usually can do the self talk involved to chill myself out, talk myself down.

Like many people, I am afraid of letting people I love down, not meeting expectations, or  unintentionally hurting someone.

I back out of my driveway panicked that a child on a bike will go by.

I fear the local black bear entering my yard (it has entered my neighbor’s property) and eating my Shih Tzus.

I can’t say these fears regularly keep me up at night, but they definitely steal joy.

Know what I mean?

Here are the ways they thieve me of peace: Read the rest of this entry »


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Loving Little Man

Loving Little ManFear is a funny thing—and so are the emotions of a parent watching a child suffer.

I thought I had all the wonderful ingredients to be a special needs parent, as if it was some kind of recipe God puts together. Actually, I think that it is. You see, I was born a warrior. I have always been an advocate. I have never found myself to be fearful when confronting authority in the name of justice. When I see unfairness, my heart always screams, and my mouth is soon to follow.

On the flip side, I am deeply compassionate. That’s probably why I feel stirred to speak up for the downcast. I was one of the few students in junior high school who made a point to include and interact with a fellow youth group student with mental retardation. I saw her. I wanted her to know she mattered.

But then I had my own special needs child.

On the precipice of receiving diagnoses after reaching a significant crisis point, there are two choices in our flesh: a spiral into fear or a rapid bearing of fangs. In the beginning, separating those emotions is impossible. Wrapped up in all the pain are fierce anger, a sense of desperate protection, scary projections of what the future holds, and an overall desire to howl at the moon. When our children are touched so directly by the fall from perfection in the Garden of Eden, there is something so base, so animal, within us that wants to sit at the gate and beg the angel to let us back in the Garden and slam the doors shut again.

Within four months of his birth, my fair-skinned, redheaded little boy (Little Man) Read the rest of this entry »


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Of Bats and Brides: Who’s Your Valentine?

Of Bats and Brides- Who's Your ValentineTwo years ago, I thought I could pick up some easy address-and-sticker valentines for my last elementary school child, Little Man, to bring in for 19 other happy third graders. Then he casually mentioned finding extra construction paper, and I thought: “Oh, yey! He’s making them this year!”

Settling into the lovely thought of slapping some supplies and the class list on the table, my lofty dreams of a Sunday afternoon nap were abruptly interrupted with this declaration:

“Let’s make valentines about bats! We can give them each a fact they might not know.”

Okay, yeah, my enthusiasm completely missing, I felt that Mother Guilt twang—you know, the one that comes along and reminds you there aren’t as many photos on the walls of Child Number 3. Before my mouth fully checked in with my mind, I agreed to do this, and several bat web sites later, we had more than enough encyclopedic information to delight any budding chiropterologist. Really, National Geographic Kids should be calling me any time now offering me a regular contributor gig [smile].

I started thinking about the great lengths Little Man and I went to in order to best represent his interests to the recipients and how we found the right pictures, communicated mild humor, chose words that sounded like something he would say, and offered some education along the way.

It was important to Little Man to represent himself honestly. He didn’t want to convey just any message. He wanted to remain true to himself.

When his classmates open that valentine, many of them will not even need to turn it over to see its sender. It will look and read so much like Little Man, that anyone who truly knows him, or is his daily companion, will recognize the author’s voice.

Valentine’s Day may be a loaded occasion for you. Maybe you have Read the rest of this entry »


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Why I Left My Church One Easter

Why I Left My Church One Easter-3It took me more than five and a half years to write this story, the one where my heart left my church one Easter. And even now, I am fully aware of the following:

  • I left a building and a shepherd, not the people and not my true Shepherd. I still run a prayer group (going strong many years now) with wonderful women I met there. The Church, ultimately, is the Body of Christ, and I will never abandon her.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, ESV
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

  • I still love the people who remain, and I am keenly aware that they have their reasons for finding something of value there. For a few years, I did as well.
  • None of this is to disrespect that particular church or shepherd. We are all God’s children.

But I believe this story has value. I hope you can have an open heart while reading it.

As Easter 2011 approached, I felt that sick feeling in my gut I had been feeling for years, really. Easter is a time to invite friends to church, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, to spread love to a world that needs it (yes, we should be doing that all the time, but people tend to seek a church out for Christian holidays).

But I had a major problem:

I couldn’t picture wanting to invite anyone to my church.

In my mind at the time, right or wrong: If they were already broken, they could break more. If they needed Christ, they would only find Him being beaten on a cross.

They wouldn’t necessarily get the message that His resurrection brought grace.

I agree that it is very important we understand He took on our sin. Our sin and what should have been our judgment placed upon His body are realities we must never forget.

The judgment-only focus did not mix well with depression, anxiety, and abandonment already part of my history. Nor did it help a young mother longing to connect with a real, loving, compassionate God.

So, I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I begged my husband to go away that weekend with the kids. We could still attend church—just not our own. How sad is that? I’m not proud of that moment, but I needed the other half of the story. I needed grace. So to Burlington, VT, we went and worshipped and celebrated Easter with a lovely evangelical church there who took us in.

And that’s the day I knew I had to leave. Read the rest of this entry »


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To Be Called by Name

To Be Called by NameIsaiah 43:1, ESV

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Our house is full of new pet excitement right now. After researching lionhead rabbits for two months, we found a lovely breeder on a small farm in Nowheresville, New Hampshire, about an hour north of us.

Four years ago, we brought home our first family pets: two Shih Tzus (lion dogs). We are apparently obsessed with animals with a lion resemblance! Earlier this summer, we rescued a few tadpoles from our pool that are now tree frogs in a terrarium. And now a bunny. I did not grow up with pets, so the fact we now have five still amazes me. And while my Shih Tzus’ names were chosen before they were born, my frogs still don’t have names. My younger son insists that they are full-grown before we attempt to give them specific identities.

And this bunny. This fluffy, double-maned, dwarf-sized rabbit is basically a ball of fur with feet and ears. It is a black and gray beauty, and despite our hours of brainstorming names like Truffles, Mistletoe, and Avocado, it remains nameless*.

When I asked my daughter how she chose this particular baby rabbit from the four does that were available, she said: “It was the softest. That is what I wanted.” And a memory from 13 years ago completely snapped into place for me: a tiny ten month old crawling down the hall toward the only shag carpet we had…in the bathroom, collapsing victoriously onto the edge where she pet that carpet over and over again as her reward for all the strenuous drag of her body. At that moment, I thought: “God made this bunny for her. He knew she would identify its fluff as hers when they met.”

But I will tell you something. The bunny knows my daughter’s scent, her light touch, her cuddle, the warmth of her cheek against its side. In just a few days, it anticipates her cupping her hands to support its baby hind legs. It hears her rustle in the loft bed above her cage and knows its owner is there. It is secure and can snuggle down for the night. Hay and water will be there in the morning.

What I find so difficult is talking to the frogs and bunny but having no clear way to address them. I feel like somehow it holds part of my affection back, that until they are associated with a name, I cannot fully give my heart to them. Somehow a name Read the rest of this entry »


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A Lesson from Life on the Prairie

A Lesson from Life on the Prairie-2Over school breaks, my family likes to binge-watch some of our favorite television series. We are a bizarre mix of interests: everything from science fiction to historical drama. We are huge Doctor Who fans, and recently, I introduced my two younger children to LOST. At the time that show first aired, our family had made a decision to accept a temporary post in the Marshall Islands for a few years. LOST became a reality to us in more ways than one, but that is a story for another day. My tween son really enjoys The Flash.

When she can manage to find the time, my daughter loves following Little House on the Prairie, which takes me back to my childhood. My mother and I have vastly different emotional wiring, but the end of a Little House episode was one of the few times I would see her shed tears. As an adult now, I think I understand why. The wholesome, Christian values presented in every crisis on the show are the end goal, right? They show what we should aim for, more or less, but also where we currently fall short. Whatever he was in his personal, real life, the actor who played Pa Ingalls brought an ideal into our living rooms each week.

And Pa regularly weeps.

My stoic daughter sees this as a bit overdramatic at times, and perhaps it is. But for me, Pa’s tears are a huge relief.

Life hurts. We fail at times. We can’t control other people or outcomes. And wayward children/teens/adults often have to learn the hard way.

We have made our way (after many years of intermittent watching) to Season 9, the final season, and in it, Pa’s adopted son Albert starts experiencing negative behavioral changes. He is hanging out with the wrong crowd, needing acceptance, and in the city life, he falls prey to a morphine addiction. Pa does what he can to change the environment to give him a new start; they temporarily move out to Walnut Grove again, but taking the addict away from the temptation does not produce a cure.

When I entered our family room, I caught a scene where Pa locks Albert Read the rest of this entry »


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