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.
This is a deeply personal piece. I wish it weren’t. I wish I had skipped over these genes in the gene pool. I wish mental health struggles didn’t ravage families, shooting out shrapnel like loaded cannons to anyone and everything around them trying to help.
And yet—they do.
My mental health journey started before we had children. Round One for me was setting right in my head what my heart mislearned along the way for a lot of reasons. At age 27, I was simply trying to make sense of adulthood and childhood, and mesh it all together. I needed to pull out the good I learned and discard the rest, like anyone else does at that age. That time, a therapist was helpful, but chemically I remained untreated.
Round Two was third-child-post-partum. It was short-lived, and I was fairly well supported by friends and my husband. It was a brief re-dip in a dark well. I had a lot to live for. My hormones simply were not cooperating.
Round Three almost killed me. We were on a tiny South Pacific island with three young children for two years. I spent my evenings biking around looking for a place to change my sense of desperate.
(Let me emphasize that I still had a lot to live for then. Three amazing, beautiful, spunky children and a loving husband. That had not changed.)
I was all the way around the world from all that I knew, living a fish-bowl military base, ex-pat lifestyle in a beautiful setting—only Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: ADD, ADHD, anxiety, chemical imbalance, childhood depression, christ in you, Colossians 1:27, coping mechanisms, depression, Hebrews 4:15, high priest, high priest who sympathizes, hope of glory, Jesus, mental health, not just on sundays, obedient to the point of death, parenting mental health, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, relationship with God, social anxiety, social isolation, suicidal, suicidal ideation, teens and anxiety, teens and depression, therapist
I wrote this years ago. It is once again relevant for different reasons. I still feel a lifelong commitment to beating back the front line that comes at us from time to time. I call for a retreat of enemy forces. Anxiety, you do not get to thieve, poke, defeat, crumble, discourage, speak your lies about the truth, or distort perspective. Not on my watch!
If this is you or someone you know and love, please consider reading through to the end. May it help someone to know you are not alone and there can be victory!
☕ Espressos of Faith ☕
This piece is deeply personal. More than usual. It opens a window into a vulnerable moment and struggle in our lives. But I felt God calling me out of deep depression years ago to tell my stories openly—protectively, but openly. To make sure others know they are not alone in their struggles and to show them the hope that is ever before them if they can just outstretch a hand and a heart. Belief and trust start out tiny. They are a walk and a dance with Christ that are lifelong.
Perhaps you don’t believe in Christ and want to just know what I have to say about anxiety. I welcome you here, but please know my faith informs what I have to say because once I started my relationship with Christ, I never wanted to leave His beautiful heartbeat. It brings me comfort on the darkest of nights.
We believe for better…
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This piece is deeply personal to me. I almost didn’t write it. But something that has been bubbling to the surface for a very long time erupted in me as I watched my high school daughter dance at her recital dress rehearsal. It was as if time stopped, and God said:
“I see, Bonnie. I see. You think nobody else does, but Ido. Now, you find a way to communicate that to her.”
And my strong, sometimes fierce, and always feisty self crumpled as I shakily held the iPhone camera to record what I could for family who could not make it to the recital. There was an inner tremble, a hurt child within me, that let go as I watched her glide across the stage with such grace to John Legend’s “If You’re Out There.”
The message of the song is about people coming together in the name of peace. That’s an awesome concept, for sure. But I saw a very quiet, non-attention-seeking young lady dance for the pure joy of it,
“if you’re out there” watching or not.
And it spoke to me in all the hollow places where as a parent I had watched her hurt for so long in several arenas after a very difficult year of poor health and adjusting to a big high school—after time and time again of having amazing character and compassion to offer, but feeling like a wallflower.
My dear sweet daughter, you are not a wallflower. People in your social circles may not know what you can do and what your many gifts are, Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: acquainted with all my ways, being overlooked, called you by name, eyes of the LORD, fear not, feeling overlooked, God calls us by name, God knows us, God loves us, good shepherd, I have called you by name, Isaiah 43:1, psalm 139, shyness, the Lord looks on the heart, unnoticed, wallflower, you are mine, you have searched and known me
Our oldest son graduates high school, along with close to 400 classmates. Maybe even in the rain. Outside. Oh, joy! It seems to culminate in this one night, but truthfully, the past few weeks have been nonstop events on our calendar: senior awards, senior scholarships, band banquet, language awards, induction ceremony, baccalaureate, etc. It was so hectic I found myself rescheduling medical appointments multiple times on the day of some of these events. Despite syncing Apple Calendar and setting a timer on my phone, I could not keep it all straight. That panicky feeling kept creeping in insisting that I was going to miss something important.
And then there it was: That maroon and white tassel with 2018 dangling off the end of it. And I completely flashed back to 1990. Rainy day just the same, almost three decades earlier. All the nerves of exiting one chapter and entering another one rattling around like a live wire inside me.
Only this time, in 2018, it was my firstborn.
This day was the end of many things, yes, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of choices, decisions, dreams, achieving, and sometimes falling, sometimes failing.
What? Why so negative? Not the most inspiring graduation message, Bonnie!
Oh, but it is! Because the road ahead Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: class of 2018, crossroads, crown of righeousness, faith, finished the race, following God's lead, God's purposes, good and faithful servant, graduate, graduation, I am with you always, joy of your master, letting God lead, listening to God, mortarboard, personal growth, relationship with God, run the race, tassel, to the end of the age, walking with God, well done
I came downstairs one morning, sleep still in my eyes, hair wild, and hands feeling around for the coffee machine. Then I remembered to turn on the lamp above our frog terrarium and spray some instant humidity into the screen at the top. As I wiped away the blur from my morning stupor, two of our three baby tree frogs were sitting reverently together with their eyes toward heaven. It occurred to me that perhaps they just might know something that I did not in that moment.
There was an awareness, awe, expectancy.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were having a moment conversing in their amphibian tongue with God.
But do I know better? I am not so sure. Instantly, this verse came to mind:
Psalm 121:1-2, ESV
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
Much to my chagrin, we haven’t named the frogs yet. My 12-year-old son wants them to reach a more significant size so he can name them with greater precision, aligning his name choices with what he assumes is gender. Not me. I’d rather just jump right in (hahahaha) and call them “Jeepers” and “Fly Breath,” but he has insisted that I wait.
After observing these little web-footed friends since their tadpole stage, I am convinced they are identifiable and that they each have a God-given personality, an imprint from their Creator.
“A frog, Bonnie? Seriously?”
I don’t pretend to have conversations with them that they reciprocate in any way, but I can see their expectant eyes. They know they are cared for. While they follow instinct leaping around their habitat rapidly extending those amazing tongues to catch fruit flies, I see the care of God in their eyes. They look up, frequently. They do something we humans don’t often understand: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: adoration, being still, Christ, creation, creator, expectancy, expectant, expectant worship, eye on the sparrow, frog, frogs, frogs in the Bible, Imprint, lift my eyes up, Matthew 10:29, more than sparrows, more value than sparrows, my help comes from the Lord, psalm 121, rest in Christ, sparrows, stillness, terrarium, where does my help come from, worship
“I am sorry. I am going to have to cancel. I am overwhelmed with work and life right now.”
“I can’t get to this today like I promised. Probably not until next week or the week after.”
“I’m not going to be able to drive you there. Something has come up.”
“We are not able to attend as we originally planned. Please have a great celebration.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Either you have said them recently, or someone has spoken them to you?
It isn’t a big deal when it happens once in a while, right? But what about repeat offenders? How does it make us feel when we are regularly cancelled on? Even when it’s a professional appointment, like a doctor’s office calling, we tend to find it flaky after a while, right?
After going through each statement with different folks in mind as your usual suspects, the ones who often don’t carry through, now read the list as your own statements.
Hmmmm. Me, too.
I find these self-reflection exercises so helpful in reassessing my priorities. I am a feeler so I’m naturally wired to process how other people feel. And lately, I’ve been hyperaware I have been letting people down.
To be honest, sometimes, it is about unfair expectations placed on us, but often, we are simply overextending ourselves. Even with good intentions, we fail to say “no” when we need to, and while that seems kind at the time, it demonstrates a lack of integrity if we repeatedly prove not to be true to our word.
Matthew 5:33-37, ESV
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
This verse has been circling round and round in my mind. Granted, this is Jesus speaking, and He is referring to taking oaths and the importance of honoring them. I could choose to blow past it and consider it very specific in context except that it was included in His Sermon on the Mount. He had a captive audience, and He was offering instruction to the crowd. The caution in it cannot be ignored. Like every word that came from The Word’s mouth (Jesus was called “the Word” in John 1:1), Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: assessing priorities, busy life, busyness, cancel, cancellations, commitments, expectations, integrity, keeping commitments, keeping promises, keeping vows, letting people down, life of busy, oath, overbook, overcommitted, overscheduled, priorities, prioritizing, promise, saying no, shall not swear falsely, swear, true to our word, yes be yes
Almost two years ago, my father passed away. Right around that time, my oldest child, an older teen, started a cold-turkey diet of eating clean: no sugars, no preservatives, and organic whenever possible. Mostly fruits and vegetables. Lean meats. He claims there was no connection to my father’s unrelenting battle with seven cancers over four decades. That’s okay. My mother’s heart saw something in that choice that spoke of legacy, taking control where there wasn’t any, and making sense of loss—maybe with some growing health consciousness added to the mix.
At first I was resistant, almost angry. For years, I had spent so much of my time accommodating major food allergies in my youngest child, that meal planning and cooking became a nightmare. On the flip side, it served as the first attempt our family had made to eat more natural. (We were also living in the middle of the South Pacific, but that’s a story for another day.)
Fast-forward eight years later, and here we were: accommodating one child who wanted to be healthier (and who could argue with that?) while the rest of us still had processed food and sugars, just as much as we had any fruits (and sometimes vegetables). Pasta was my go-to. Produce was washed but certainly not organic. Salads—even attractively dressed ones—were not my friends.
Not only did it take me at least a year to adjust to the cost difference of eating healthier, I also had to train myself to limit what I purchased from the center grocery aisles. Everything is fresh in the perimeter; stick to the perimeter! And can I lament for one minute about the condemnation I felt as my hyperaware teen health nut watched the rest of us indulge in unhealthy choices! It was a year of my fighting back, defending my choices, and pointing out that we don’t all have to change just because he decided to be OCD about labels. And he was. I would go out of my way to buy something I thought was all-natural only to find out they snuck in a chemical imposter! I was not a happy girl!
Since that time, especially after the one-year mark of these changes in my son, I began to Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: cancer, clean eating, Dwelling place of God, eating clean, emotional detox, emotional health, God's temple, healthy boundaries, healthy eating, healthy emotions, healthy living, idols, negativity, physical health, safe relationships, spiritual health, temple of God, toxic relationships, unclean
Relaxed. Coffee in hand. A comfortable heart-to-heart with a very dear (and emotionally safe) person. No expectations. Just sharing our thoughts together.
Doesn’t that sound so lovely? We may as well add some calming lavender essential oil in a diffuser, a dog to cuddle with, a warm blanket, a cozy fire in the fireplace.
Seriously, I was at my calmest.
But then that same painful topic came up again: the trigger. You know what I mean, right? The one where a deep gash healed over but the skin that covered it is thin and crackly? After spending two years praying, crying, healing, remembering, forgiving, talking it out, and back to remembering again, I really felt I had cycled through so many times I was in a good place.
And, overall, I am.
But wow, did that volcano of past emotion rumble only a few times before spewing it out. I had no idea it still boiled under the surface. I thought it was quiet—well, mostly.
I think we were both surprised that going back to that space in my head set sparks flying across the room again. I was back to fight-or-flight. Abandonment. This time, remembering was a piercing jab. How does that happen? How does our peace fly out the window like that?
Here’s what James, the brother of Jesus, said in the Bible:
James 1:19-20, ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Okay, James, that’s awesome. It’s true that anger does not produce righteousness, but what about anger from wreckage someone dumped all over you? What about the shrapnel of betrayal? How do we ever get over that?
One part that is key in the verse in James is this: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: anger, anger lodges in the heart of fools, anger of man, as God in Christ forgave you, betrayal, bitter root, bitterness, do not let the sun go down, emotional trigger, essential oil, fight-or-flight, full vent to his spirit, godly counsel, is anger wrong?, no corrupting talk, peace, righteousness of God, self-control, slow to anger, slow to speak, taking thoughts captive
Did you ever have a moment in middle or high school when you felt like as soon as you entered a conversation, your peers would suddenly have something else to do and become scarce? (Okay, self-reveal: Maybe that was just socially awkward me?)
Maybe you came to pick up your child to leave a playmate’s home only to experience the frustration of him hiding in a closet so he didn’t have to leave.
Ever find your dog, tail-down, hovering in the crate or under the crouch because she had an accident and knows you won’t be pleased?
My daughter has a bunny with the annoying habit of retreating to her hideaway whenever I come in to offer fresh pellets or hay. It’s not very rewarding to have her scamper away at the sight of my presence.
Do you ever feel this way about God? Like you came into the room, so to speak, to ask Him something, but He might be busy listening to someone else or have better things to do?
Be honest with yourself. This is important. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Chronicles 28:9, clothed with righteousness, come to me, finding God, God with us, God's promises, he will be found by you, hide and seek, hiding from God, I know the plans I have for you, I will be found by you, jeremiah 29:11, king david, Matthew 11:28, robe of righteousness, seek God, seek me with all your heart, seek the Lord, seeking God, you will seek me and find me
A few years ago, Boston endured one blizzard after another until the snowblowers and shovels had nowhere else to deposit the snow. (Yes, believe it or not, I am not talking about this year’s March-a-geddon.) It was almost impossible to street-park in the city, and driveways in the burbs looked like Arctic dunes. Backing out of one’s driveway almost required a traffic cop, and seeing the neighbor’s yard from your car? Forget it if you are shorter than 5 foot 5 inches. We accumulated more than five feet of snow!
The one good part about it, amidst sore backs and snowdrifts that continually crossed pathways out all our doors, was the trail we were able to create in the backyard for our Shih Tzus. Only one foot off the ground, at best, they could not break free and take off across our yet-unfenced yard. For about three weeks, they had a fence of snow that they did not even attempt to climb. It may as well have been Shih Tzu Everest.
During that time, I remember posting a photo of myself next to our driveway’s towering guardrail of white. With shovel in hand, it was even more clear to our Midwest relatives how hard Boston was hit by Jack Frost. And while my husband was understandably overworked preventing ice dams by scraping, salt-bombing, and warming the roof, I was secretly enjoying the pent-up feeling.
The human-sized height of the snow made me feel so safe, so protected, so walled-in. I love when school and other activities are cancelled and nobody can get to our house. As awful as that sounds, for an introvert, it is a little bit of paradise to have a few days off from the world at large. Even the governor of Massachusetts had my back that year with that whole State of Emergency thing.
But even for an introvert, Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Thessalonians 5:11, blizzard, Body of Christ, build one another up, Christian fellowship, confession of our hope, do not forsake the fellowship, encourage one another, fortress, fruit of the Spirit, gathering, God is our refuge, he who promised is faithful, Hebrews 10:23, king of glory, love and good works, meeting together, not neglecting to meet together, Psalm 24:7, Psalm 46:11, refuge, relationship walls, self-protection, self-protective, shadow, shadow of your wings, sharing of lives, shih tzu, walls