Sunday, October 25, 2015

My War Room

Have you seen the recent movie War Room?  First, I highly recommend it if you haven't.  Second, prepare to leave the theater (or your couch) with your mind on (among other things) "where can I create my own?"

I've been thinking about it off and on for a few weeks.  An unused closet, as featured in the film, would be ideal ... small, private, quiet, almost secretive.  But in my reality, that is not practical.  Mainly because I don't have an unused closet.  I don't even have a real closet for my own clothes, one downfall of an older home.  Oh, we have closets:  one in each bedroom and one near the front door.  They are small, however.  And since my husband has a professional wardrobe in our bedroom closet, I have delegated my own clothing live at the opposite end of the house in the "attic", as we call it.  It's no a big deal, but no closet War Room here.

Which kept me pondering.  I have an office space that I share with the kids.  Thought about cleaning and rearranging in there a bit, but honestly, the computers would have been a distraction and a temptation (not to mention the amount of physical labor involved).  More pondering.  I could use my daughter's room ... the daughter that is newly off to college.  Nope.  She only just left.  Not an option as of yet.  Ponder some more.  Maybe I can just create a prayer caddie and take it from place to place ... to my recliner in the living room, to the patio in the summer, to the porch in the early spring or late fall.  But then I couldn't get away from the television, or post things on the walls, or count on nice weather.  Pondering over for a while.

Until , in the bedroom the other day, my eyes fell on the vanity.  It was always in the guest room in this, my grandmother's home.  It used to sit near the large window on the opposite wall and was home to a fluorescent-lit, double-sided mirror ... do you remember those ... one side is a normal mirror and the other shows every wrinkle and pore a bit larger than life?  (Just like this!  I loved sitting in front of that mirror when I was little, pretending I was grown-up and making myself beautiful.

Now I am grown-up, or so I'm told, and during the years that we have lived here, the guest room is now the master and the vanity has become home to my socks and slips and other unmentionables.  The vintage lamps remain and I sit in the chair to pull on my nylons on Sunday mornings, but that's about it.  I rarely sit there to do my hair, or makeup, or anything else that a vanity was intended for.  Hmmm ... I wonder ...

Add my Bible, some Sharpies, some Post-Its, a couple of prayer books and devotionals, a notebook, candles, a few of my favorite things ... I've got my war room.  At least for now.  I'll have to retrain brain to find my Bible here ... or get another one ... since I'm used to doing my morning devotional over breakfast downstairs.  This, however, may create some better prayer habits without the other morning distractions.  And it's not entirely private, but it's quiet and relatively cozy.  (Wait, I should add a blanket.)

So, now that my war "room" is complete, I think I've got some praying and growing to do.  And who knows, maybe some more thoughts to blog.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

You Will Never Understand

“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” ~ Elizabeth Stone

That feeling comes often for me, but so very much this week.  I don't know that, you - my child,  my flesh, my blood, my heart - will ever understand.

You will never know how much I prayed for you.

You will never be able to explain why I will save your baby teeth and that first lock of hair until the day that I die.

You will never comprehend that though I pretended to know all, I really knew nothing.  Nothing.

You will never figure out that I will never tire of taking your photo because I fear that I will forget all of your precious moments as I grow old.

You will never perceive how much I regret showing any little disappointment in or impatience with you - in reality, I was only seeing that in myself.

You will never see how sad I am about the time I wasted doing things I thought were important (but truly were not) instead of spending more time just being with you.

You will never be aware of the number of tears I have cried for you.

You will never believe that your accomplishments are secretly mine.

You will never understand that your pain is my pain - only magnified by a thousand; that your heartbreaks are also mine.

You will never recognize that all I want is to take that pain and the memory of it from you forever.

You will never grasp that your fears, your anxieties, your regrets are my own failures in guiding, teaching, raising you.

You will never make sense of how I wish I would have done some things so differently.

You will never begin to even fathom that my true joy is found in yours.

You will never realize how different and yet how similar you and I really are.

You will never take in how earth shattering it was for me to let go of your hand as you learned to take your first steps, or let you leave for your first day of Kindergarten, or watch you go on that last day of high school ... never mind leaving you at college.

Oh, and college ... how it kills me to not have gone myself only because I don't know how to help you through this new world.

My child, you will never understand any of this.  Never.  Until your heart is walking around outside of your body.  Only then will you understand and know how very much I love you ...

Forever and for always.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Forgive Once

I’ve been asked … repeatedly … how I do what I do; how I keep going; how I’ve gotten through the past several years.  I don’t really have much of an answer right there, on the spot – I rarely do.  So I usually just get all self-conscious and nervous and smile and say something like “It’s all God, not me” or “just one day at a time, that’s all I can do”.

But I think I found a better answer as I was finishing a novel this week.  The author wrote perfectly what’s in my heart but I can never seem to get out of my mouth.

This.  This is, for the most part, my “secret”:

… the memory of a conversation with Frank floated into her awareness.  “But how?  How can you just get over these things, darling?” she had asked him.  “You’ve had so much strife but you’re always happy.  How do you do it?”
            “I choose to,” he said.  “I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened … or I can forgive and forget.”
            “But it’s not that easy.”
            He smiled that Frank smile.  “Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting.  You only have to forgive once.  To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.  You have to keep remembering all the bad things. … I would have to make a list, a very, very long list and make sure I hated the people on it the right amount.  That I did a very proper job of hating, too. … No,” – his voice became sober – “we always have a choice.  All of us.”

So that’s it.  Somewhere along the way I decided that it was too exhausting to spend my time remembering all the bad things.  I choose to forgive the people, the circumstances, the pain and move on.

I try.  I’m not always successful … not even close to always … but it is something I strive for and, with God’s help, I’m able to achieve for the most part.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t remember, or that I don’t hurt when I do, but I don’t like to dwell there anymore.  At the moment, I’m choosing the here and now; praying and working toward a better day ahead.

We always have a choice.  All of us.  My choice is to forgive.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

He Is Holding Me Together

I’ve read about choosing a "word for the year" for several years now, but have never done it.  Until a couple of days ago.  The word I chose is not a typical word … or even a word that I would have had in my vocabulary until recently.  Let me briefly explain.
This last year and a half ... actually, the last several years ... have been particularly difficult for me.  Through the fear and the trials and the disappointments I have tried to cling to the promises of God and have been blessed endlessly by the love of family and friends.  The days ahead are still uncertain … as for any of us, I suppose ... but I will continue on the best I can with what He gives me.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been touched by a particular Bible verse and a friend sent me the link below to add a little more food for thought.  So this year … at least the beginning of it … I am claiming Colossians 1:17 (in Him ALL things hold together)  as my verse and LAMININ as my word.  Yes, laminin.
You’ll have to Google it … you have to SEE it to understand … like Louie Giglio did in his video here:
This year I will remember:  My Lord truly is holding me together, in more ways than I can even begin to imagine.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Erika L. Smith, M.O.M.

I'm a medical receptionist by profession.  Today I answered a phone call from a pharmaceutical rep who requested to speak with an MD, or an NP, or a PA, or an LPN.  Of course, because it's my job, all of the above were currently with patients unable to take the call so I offered to take a message or give a fax number that she could send any updated information to.  She asked what my position was.  My reply:  "I am just the receptionist."  She was very kind and said, "You are not JUST the receptionist.  You are the front office point of contact and you are very good at your job."  Unwilling to accept the praise, I laughed and said, "Well, I have no letters behind my name, unless you count M.O.M."  To which she in turn laughed and we went in a totally different direction with our conversation before hanging up.

Later in the day, my 17-year-old daughter texted me from work.  "I've had a bad day.  Wanna bring me supper tonight and eat down here with me?"  Sigh ... I still had to get through the rest of my workday, get groceries, make requested dinner, and a billion and one other things that M.O.M.s have to take care of.  It really would be nice to just go home to a quiet house and just BE for a few hours, especially since no one else would be home.  But for whatever reason, I  didn't make excuses and simply agreed.  I didn't think much of it at the time.

I got through the rest of my workday, went to the grocery store, came home, put the groceries away, made dinner (homemade chocolate chip pancakes as requested), packed the picnic basket, and headed to Daughter's workplace ... in a "raining cats and dogs" "beware of flash floods" thunderstorm, mind you.  Again, still not thinking much of it at the time.

Daughter works at the local old-fashioned soda fountain, less than a mile from home.  There was only one other co-worker there tonight and a family with two young children.  I set up our dinner on a table in the back and we began to eat.  The young mother walked by and said "That is just the cutest thing."  Or something like that.  Me, never being one to come up with a good comment when I need one, said, "Sometimes you just gotta be a mom."

I watched the young family as we were eating, as Daughter filled me in on her teenage drama-filled day.  And later I thought of a thousand ways I could have responded to that young mother.  I should have said:

TREASURE every minute ... they grow up way too fast.  And when your mother or any other mother tells you this, BELIEVE her.

Take the TIME to be with your babies when they ask, because the asking happens less and less with each passing year.

It breaks my heart to tell you that someday your little girl WILL NOT WANT to come here for ice cream with you.  She will not want to play checkers at the table with you and her daddy and her little brother.  She'd rather be with her friends.  ACCEPT the invitation when it is given.  Even if you have a thousand reasons not to.

LISTEN to that little boy of yours ... his crazy tales, his lame jokes, his young fears ... he needs to know that his mama will always listen ... to the little things that will evolve into bigger things as he grows.

And HE WILL GROW.  Until he is taller than you are.  And you cannot wrestle him to the carpet anymore just to prove you can.   Because you can't.

BE with your babies when you are with them.  It is hard.  Inexplicably hard.  Mamas have so much to do, so much to worry about.  But see them. Hear them.  Feel them.  Just for a few minutes ... until they run off to do something else and leave you to clean up the sticky ice cream from the table.

Always say goodbye or tuck them in at night with a KISS and a HUG.  Even if they protest. and always say "I LOVE YOU."  A lot.  Every day.  Even if one of you is angry with the other.  Sticky ice cream on the couch and broken curfews and hurtful words cannot negate your love.  Make sure they know that.  ALWAYS.

TIME IS SHORT, mama.  Trust me on this.  Know that the day will come when you are taking THE LAST FIRST day of school pictures outside the front door and you are wondering where these 13 years went and what next year at this same time is going to bring as you are leaving her at college.

TRUST ME, young mama.  This I know.  

But this I also know is part of being a M.O.M.  It's part of the process, part of the joy and the pain.  But mostly the joy, even when it is joyful sadness.  (Trust me, that's true, too.)

The above-mentioned pharmaceutical rep plans to call the office back tomorrow.  I hope I'm the one to answer her call.  I'm going to re-introduce myself as Erika L. Smith, M.O.M. ... and maybe the front office personnel that is really good at her job.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Flames in the Darkness

The world is saddened today by the death of Robin Williams.  His apparent suicide finds us among a multitude of opinions and emotions.  It is difficult to understand how someone who can portray such profound thinking and bring out so much joy in others can struggle so with the demons of the dark ... the demons that we are just not comfortable speaking of.

I have so many thoughts regarding depression and alcoholism and my heart teters between those who suffer those demons and those left in the wake of either one.  I struggle with my spiritual beliefs and the world's view of right and wrong.

In her blog today, Ann Voskamp described depression as "a room engulfed in flames and you can’t breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp — and suicide is deciding there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building."
(Full article at

In another blog I read tonight, Shawna Morrissey describes this enlightening moment years after her uncle's suicide:  "My family was watching a documentary on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for the first time, I saw footage of someone jumping from the window of one of the twin towers.  All at once, I understood what Jay’s bishop had meant.  The person was not jumping from the building to die, but rather to escape the intense and consuming flames.  Nobody would accuse that person of being selfish or of giving up on life."
(Full article at

Wow.  To feel that heat ... to feel that fear ... to feel that despair of no hope.  There's my enlightening moment.  It's only by the grace of God that I have only seen those flames from a distance; only felt their slight warmth; and have always been able to escape to safety.

I am NOT advocating that suicide is ever a good choice.  Life is too PRECIOUS.  There is HOPE and HELP no matter how deep into the darkness we lie ... even when the demons convince us otherwise.  I'm just saying that these articles, and others, have given me a different perspective on the pain and loneliness and fear one must feel when making the decision that suicide is the only "good" thing left.

I have no expert opinion on the subject - spiritual, medical, or any otherwise.  I am just another person with a saddened heart at the loss of so many precious lives.  And I am pointing no fingers except at myself.  If there is anything good to come out of this public loss, I would hope that we could all just be more aware.  That we could take off the mask of perfection and know that others are wearing it, too - hiding their darkness from those around them.  That we could be more compassionate to one another.  And that we could endeavor to be LIGHT and HOPE to those that daily face their demons in the wretched darkness.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


It's been a very long time since I've blogged.  My life hasn't been what I thought it should have been at this point in the game.  For the most part, I've been knocked down and feeling defeated and therefore, I haven't been willing to put much of myself out there.  But in this, this eve of my 41st year, I'm beginning to truly feel hopeful again.

My natural personality is that of an optimist.  I tend to want to see the best in people, even the worst of them.  I tend to look for the good that might come from a bad situation.  And I certainly don't worry about the weather report on the evening news.  I'm simply just a "the glass is half full" kind of girl.

Could that be part of the reason I can be so easily hurt?  Maybe.  I don't know.  But I do know during the past few years, my natural optimism has been greatly tested.  Even in my search for the good, the bad just kept rearing its ugly head.  It is so very hard to be hopeful in times of testing.  It is so very hard to hold on to what you believe in when most everyone around you is hinting that you could be wrong.

I don't know why I've made the choice I've made thus far.  But right now, at this moment, I am praying that because I've held on tight to that one small thing ... that tiny shred of hope ... that my "maybe" is finally going to win out over the world's "no".

So listen to that whisper.  Tell the world "no!"  And hold on to HOPE.