McKenzie’s thoughts… Nov. 2013

It’s probably been at least 2 years since I’ve written on this, but here I am. I’m 20 years old now and over these past 4 years I’ve had more change in my life then I could ever have imagined at 16.

Recently dad and I went to a funeral for a family friend who passed away from Ovarian cancer. Her daughter is 16 and adopted, just as I was. I really grew a bond with her because only 4 years ago I was that 16 year old girl dealing with the loss of my mother. Being at that funeral really made me reflect on my life over the past 4 years and how I have grown. 4 years ago I was an awkward high school Jr.  And as a high school Jr. the biggest fears I should have had was “Am I going to be voted homecoming royalty or not?” but 4 years ago my biggest fear was “how am I going to grow up without a mother?”

I’m in my 20s now (although barely), and all I can say is growing up without a mother has been nothing I ever thought it was going to be. I grew up faster then a lot of girls I would say.  I dealt with the pain of not having my mom at my 1st prom, my high school graduation, my first day of college, my first real job, finding who my birth family was and my first real heartbreak. Though all those life experiences would have probably been a lot easier with a mom by my side. I can say that doing them on my own (and with the help of a great dad) was good for me. I have really discovered myself as a young woman more then ever these past 4 years.

I’ve been on incredible highs and incredible lows in my faith these past 4 years. Each of which I know somehow God was allowing the 16 years I had with my mom to lead me through all the decisions I had to make. She may not be here in person but she has had a major influence on who I’ve become over these past 4 years.

Now I only have a few more life experiences in which having a mother would be nice like:

  • Figuring out what I want to do for a career
  • Finding my husband
  • Picking out a wedding dress
  • My wedding
  • And helping me when I am starting my own family.

Yes those are major life experiences but I know ill be okay and I know I will survive. Because throughout these past 4 years my faith, trust, and hope in Jesus Christ has been tested more then ever before but it also is stronger then ever before.

We are now living in the beautiful Southern California and my favorite thing to do is go to the beach and just watch the ocean. I don’t believe in reincarnation but I think that if spirits of those who have gone to heaven could live through any non-human object my moms spirit would live through the ocean. The ocean is calm, graceful, and peaceful just as my mom was. It is filled with many different colors and wonders, just as my mom was. And when you push the limits and go out too far making it angry you BEST watch out for that tidal wave because it’ll teach you a lesson, just as my mom did. So here’s to the next 4 years, and that God will continue to use my moms life as a guide for me and my journey in life.

Christmas 2012

A special thank you to many of you who continue to remember McKenzie and me during the holidays and other sensitive times. Your kind words, cards, calls, visits and emails are reminders that Bonnie’s life is far reaching.  Your prayers and friendship are very much appreciated.
The holiday season reminds us, and many of you, that some of our loved ones are no longer with us.  As years go by, the list of loved ones who have passed on; either grows longer or for some of you, your list has started. This year Bonnie’s mom, Lorraine, and my brother-in-law Chuck joins Bonnie, my dad, my mom and so many others in heaven.
Obviously and without a doubt Bonnie added a great deal to our family and was a wonderful wife, incredible mom, encouraging sis and faithful friend to so many people.  She made the holidays special in many ways and her presence continues to be missed. This year we finally replaced our 19 year old tree and McKenzie used all of Bonnie’s crystal ornimats to decorate it.
I’m reminded to have a grateful heart for the blessings I do have.  Sometimes it is an emotional tug of war, but a spirit of thankfulness and a heart of gratefulness proves to be a healthier choice.   In the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:17-19) we are reminded to give thanks IN all situations, not for all situations:
17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.
I speak for McKenzie when we both say how thankful we are for faithful friends who are with us in all situations.  The love expressed from friends makes it easier to give thanks and reminds us that God presence continues to be with us throughout the year, and not just at Christmas.   I’m once again reminded of the importance that we all have to be ‘Jesus’ to someone who may have lost a loved one this year.   Click here for additional ideas I hope will will help you in your own journey.
Merry Christmas…

3 Years into the journey…

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since Bonnie entered heaven.  Some times it feels like just yesterday, other times it seems long ago.  Obviously the three years have been different without Bonnie, and we all miss her.  While our life has been different it doesn’t mean life is not good or that there have not been good times in the midst of our grief.  One thing for certain is that God’s faithfulness remains consistent – and to that we are thankful.  Three years ago, when McKenzie asked “Dad what are we going to do?”, I remember saying ‘take one day at at time’. So we take things one day at a time, one event at a time.  Making new memories while remembering the blessing of Bonnie and relaying on the hope we share in Jesus. The songs on the left side of this page have been great to listen to once again.

Sunday, McKenzie and I spent the day together (it was different sleeping in on a Sunday for me), had breakfast (out), did a little shopping, ate dinner out (OK so my cooking still needs help), in the evening we sent up Chinese lantern in memory of her at the cross at my church (MPCC).  As the lantern’s floated away I shared one of Bonnie’s favorite verses from the Bible, Isaiah 40:28-31 and a prayer of thanks for Bonnie and the blessing of life.  Then we all shared some great cookies in memory of Bonnie’s sweet tooth :).   Later that night, we even spent some time around the fire pit at night.
McKenzie had a eight page paper due on grieving for one of her classes so she spent most of her day writing that paper.
We remain grateful for each other and for God’s presence in all times.  Thank you for your continued love and concern.

A Very Thoughtful Daughter…

McKenzie had these flowers and card on our kitchen counter the morning of what would have been our 23rd Anniversary – She even spent her own money on everything.  Obviously Bonnie’s absence creates a sense of loss and sadness.  While in the mix of those emotions rests the reality that this is not, ‘the end’.  In the mix of these feelings is the reminder that God has created us to be in relationships and to be in community.  This year my heart was encouraged by the hope that is yet to come and from the stark reality of the relationships and blessings in my life.  So in our continued journey I am reminded of God’s faithfulness – which is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and lived out by so many of the friends.

Honoring a Love One

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just a couple of potentially difficult days for those whose mom and dad are no longer on this side of eternity.  I’ve taken some time to reflect (there are four parts to this mini series) in the process) on ways to step into these days  and embrace them.  Click here to read some very practical ways to honor those who have passed away.  I’d love to hear what’s working for you.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Our 23rd Anniversary

While watching our wedding video for at least the 23 time, I could not help but smile.  WOW what a celebration – I guess Bonnie knew how to throw a party!  Obviously many people in the video are now with the Lord – what a reminder that life really never stands still.  What a reminder of the many friends who were part of our bridle party and who all (17 out of 18) showed up for her memorial service.

Hearing our vows, “… for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health…” were great reminders of the commitment and patience we both had with each other.  Hearing Bonnie’s voice reminded me of her grace, beauty and gentleness.  Despite some bumps in the road, some unexpected turns, I’m so very glad the Lord brought us together and and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

My day ends with a heart for of gratefulness for God’s faithfulness in our past and the hope we all share for the future.

Bonnie’s Run 2012

A Life of Hope & EncouragementTomorrow, January 15th, I will once again run/walk (mostly walk) in the PF Chang 1/2 Marathon.  This will be my 3rd 1/2 Marathon.  I’ve been asking myself ‘why’?  Why would I get up early and run/walk 13.2 miles?  I haven’t really trained for this in the last two months, so why do I want to run and put my body through this?  The answer is easy.  I’m running for Bonnie.

The first two times, as well as the reason I started running five years ago, was an attempt to 1)  Remain healthy per Bonnie’s request (she was fearful I’d die first and leave her alone to raise McKenzie by herself and without my wonderful sense of humor :) and  2)  Raise additional funds for Bonnie’s increasing medical expenses.  As I shared with a friend this week, “I don’t want to be melodramatic about it, but this run really is a spiritual experience for me”.

When I run, I use the time to reflect, remember and really give thanks for the many people who have been so supportive.  I remember and give thanks for the friends who have encouraged and coached me in this running endeavor (many by phone and email).  I become focused and intentional to give thanks for the dozens and dozens and dozens of friends who were supportive during Bonnie’s illness and who remain supportive to McKenzie and me as we continue in our journey.   And of course, I reflect back on all the very hard work and energies that Bonnie put forth to create a healthy life for her as well as for McKenzie and me.  I am reminded at how short life really is and about what matters most on this side of eternity compared to when we cross over to ‘the other side’.  And I’m drawn back to the foundational blocks for all of us and that is genuine relationships.   Obviously the bedrock of all is our relationships is with the God of creation through Jesus, and second is the absolute necessity of community.  The blessing of authentic, loving, life changing community is an essential for each and every one of us.

So while the official name of Sunday’s run is PG Changs 1/2 and Full Marathon, in my heart it’s become, Bonnie’s Run (well and a lot of walking this year).  This focused time of gratefulness is like a detox to my soul, as it draws my heart and mind towards the gift that Bonnie was and the faithfulness of God.  I’m sure I’ll be singing in my heart numerous songs such as It Is Well with my Soul and How Great Thou Art and even this one.  This year I had a t-shirt designed to communicate why I’m running (and it helps McKenzie to spot dad among almost 30,000 people).  So if you are running this year, no doubt you will pass me, and you’ll know who I am not because I’m gasping for air, rather you’ll be seeing Bonnie’s beautiful face looking at you.

Thanksgiving Thoughts from McKenzie

Juno writing – I was asked to share some thoughts about “Thanksgiving” for the website of our church, MPCC.  So with my plate full (not with Thanksgiving food, but at work), I thought I’d give the opportunity to my daughter to see if she had some thoughts, without any pressure or guilt she shares these thoughts this Thanksgiving…

What does being thankful mean? According to Merriam – Webster dictionary, being thankful means conscious of benefit received, expressive of thanks, or well pleased or glad. Be thankful sounds like the easiest thing to do, but in reality we all know that being thankful is a lot easier said than done.

Another way we could look at being thankful is in a situation such as getting out of a bad relationship (not that I’m in any bad relationships). While the pain of ‘breaking up’ is not pleasant, we can remain thankful that God will take care of us during the transitional time, and in our hearts we know the ‘break up’ was for the best. We could also find thanks in a situation such as losing a loved one, and although losing somebody who is close to you is so hard, we can be thankful for the time that we had with that person. Another thing we can find thanks in is financial issues, we all know that financial issues can cause a lot of stress in our lives (even for college students) and it can hurt families, but it is important that when we go through struggles financially we remember all the things that we have and be thankful for those things.

I know that by me saying all these examples your probably thinking “yeah, but you don’t know how hard my life is right now.” However I am fully aware that situations life hands us can be extremely hard. God never intended that being thankful would come easy to us (maybe that’s what He reminds us to be thankful). 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “give thanks in all circumstances; for this God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This verse alone is God challenging us to be thankful. It doesn’t say to be thankful for all circumstances, rather IN all circumstances.

Why does he want to challenge us? Think about it. When you have actually taken the time to realize what you are truly thankful for, you realize things that you never would have before. Sometimes going through a hard situation in life can help us remember just how thankful we are for the love of God and all that He has given to us. God knows our true hearts and whether or not we are truly thankful. The importance of giving our thanks back to God is extremely crucial for us as Christians. God has given us all we could ever want and then some. He has given us our jobs that bring us money, our houses that cover our heads, and the food we have on our table. But not only that, God has given us eternal life! Which in itself is the greatest thing to be thankful for.

This Thanksgiving instead of going around the table saying what nice “things” you’re thankful for, share about the blessings of friendships, the health of family and friends and for the basic necessities that God has provided. Happy Thanksgiving everyone :)  McKenzie Smalley

Bonnie’s Birthday – 2011

It’s a quiet day in the Smalley home (that usually changes when McKenzie comes home for the weekend :).  This week (really this entire fall season) usually takes my heart and mind back a couple of years.  So now is a time of thinking of and remembering Bonnie, tomorrow she would have been 53 (oh that makes me 55, and I just told everyone at WMU that I was 54 oops).  Two years ago we were all thankful that Bonnie was alert to make calls and talk to people on her birthday.  I remember fighting back tears as she had the energy to dial and actually hold a conversation.  Personally,  I was experiencing the blessing of the presence of some long time friends flying in from Michigan just to ‘be with us’ – what a strong and valuable reminder of the power of a friend’s presence.

Just where does the time go?  I really don’t know – not sure!  This season of life is filled more with , “I really don’t know – not sure” answers.  And I’m OK with that… There are lots of questions:

– Does Bonnie ‘see what’s happening here on earth’?  “I really don’t know – not sure”
– Is she walking, flying, shopping?  “I really don’t know – not sure”  Well I’m sure about the last one!
– Has Bonnie met my mom, my Grandparents?  Would meeting them ‘explain everything’ to Bonnie?  “I really don’t know – not sure”
– Does time really just ‘fly’ bye (no pun intended) – Is she aware of the concept of time?

While I don’t have every answer, I’m confident that Bonnie is in God’s presence, And if someone where to ask me, What is your only comfort in life and in death?
I can answer confidently with the timeless truths found in The Heidelberg Catechism:
That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.  He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

If you have read any of my posts you know that music is one of the ways I connect with God.  Here’s a few songs that God has been using – may they give you hope…may God use them to quiet your spirit and  speak to your heart when there is at times, no words anyone can say:

May this song give you hope  – when there is nothing left to hope for or when there is no one left to lean on…

Here’s a link to a song Bonnie used when she would share with some women’s groups –  May it cause your mind to wander into God’s presence and wonder about His love.

Here’s a more recent song that Bonnie never heard, but I’m confident she experienced…  May all of you, no matter what your circumstance experience God’s blessings in a deep and powerful way:

As some of you battle your own obstacles, or grieve your own loss,  or even the death of a dream (loosing a home, a job, a business) may you find the reality of Jesus in the friends He has brought into your life.  If your not in community with others, may you have the energy to do so, so that you will experience God’s love in a very real and tangible way.  May you know That you are not your own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

McKenzie’s First Evening at College

McKenzie called home at 11:00 and ask that I post this on ‘Mom’s website’
From: McKenzie Smalley
Date: August 16, 2011 11:11:15 PM MST
To: Dad
Subject: First night at college

So it’s my first night at Arizona Christian University. Me and Dad moved in today and it went great!  Me and Tianna’s (my roommate) room has been voted the cutest room here so far!  I really miss everyone at home especially my boyfriend Jonathan and I really miss my Dad but I know I’ll have fun here too. Although today was a fun and new exciting day there’s still that part of me that really wishes my mom could have all been a part of it with me!  I know I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for her and the influence she had on my life. But I have to hand it to my Dad he did a pretty good job of getting me here :) I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for him.

There’s another part of me that is nervous for this new chapter that’s about to begin in my life.  What makes me a little nervous is that almost all the people here don’t know my story and the fact that I’ve lost my mom and that’s hard for me because in high school everyone knew that about me and here people will most likely bring up my mom and I’ll have to tell them I don’t have a mom anymore and that she passed away.

But one thing I do know is that God brought me to this college for a reason and I know He will protect me and watch over me here. I am so thankful I get to attend a Christian college. God has really provided for our family and I know that He will continue to provide for me if I stay faithful to Him and keep my heart focused on Him. So I guess now I just have to listen to Him and get ready for the amazing plan He has for me in the future :)