Shop the fall collection ➔

“Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.”

– Rabindranath Tagore

Hey, friend: I want to talk about your face. That’s right—your face, and what’s nice about it.

But first, let’s talk about cheese.

My theory is that the obligatory camera time cliché “cheese” originated from the fact that that is exactly what those Velveeta-smooth smiles seem to portray: cheese—as in unnatural, forced, cheesiness—like the kind that graces your face when your two-year-old tries to feed you pizza.

Even though I looked it up and this theory is not actually correct, I like it and am sticking to it.

A fact that does hold true, however, is that your brain and body have the ability to actually tell whether a smile is real or fake; and only a real one—I’m thinking Wisconsin aged sharp cheddar here—endows us with its stress-reducing, happiness-spreading, brain-changing benefits. (If you don’t believe me, check out articles like this one.)

But back to your face– amidst the chaos of kid-rearing, husband-helping, or job-performing, did you notice your smile today? If not, take a moment to do so. Because it’s the prettiest part about you. The real one, that is.

The one that emerged because instead of being glued to your iPhone, you were stuck on the sparkle in your child’s eyes.

The one that took shape not after lip-shaping and applying a few layers of makeup, but rather when your husband slapped your booty then said you were beautiful with a wink.

The one that materialized not from pride in a killer selfie, but from the satisfaction of having done something selfless.

The one that grew into a guffaw when your toddler tooted, then blamed it on her dad.

The one that came about because instead of pretending to be happy around someone, you were happy to be real.

The one that surfaced when you caught your kid being kind instead of mischievous.

The one that swelled from the depths of your soul when you remembered that despite all your inadequacies, you are loved by your Creator.

“A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance.” – Proverbs 15:13

And now, a moment of silence for all the faces that fell and smiles that died today.

Maybe it was your own radiant beam that faded after a bout with disappointment—disappointment in your spouse, your children, your friend. In yourself, for being a joy-killer; or in life, for killing your joy.

My smile died with my grandpa today.

So why in the world am I on this soapbox, stumping for more smiling? Because my grandpa’s dying has me thinking about living. And smiling is how I’m going to cope.

I’m going to smile at the memories of eating ice cream with my gramp: how he always got an entire gallon of the chocolate almond to go, how he’d make me laugh by wiggling his nose, and how he would answer any of us grandkids that complained about any non-life-threatening issue with, “Oh, yeah? That’s nothing compared to living in a muddy wartime foxhole for a week, so suffer!”

Most importantly, I’m going to smile because my grandpa had the hope of Heaven. If he happens to peek down at me from up there, I want to meet his heavenly gaze with something better than a scowl.

After all, the seasons of sadness or disappointment my face often betrays are just that—seasons: temporary periods that give way to change sooner or later. And something that lives right under my nose will never be out of reach.

If during life’s summers we stockpile sweet memories and sunshine in our heart, perhaps we can tap into its stores and still find a reason to stretch our lips upward when life gets wintry. If we continually nourish our soul with the goodness that comes from ingesting truth and feeding kindness to others, perhaps we can resurrect our joy from the inside out.

Because we need to.

Our smile makes our children smile. It’s what makes us, our homes, our earth a more beautiful place. And, without knowing the dimensions of one’s grief, it’s something that we can share as a symbol of hope.

Now please excuse me while I clean up my act, wipe the tears and cheese from my face, and give the world a grandpa-sized grin. I think it would make him proud.

“Before you put on a frown, make absolutely sure there are no smiles available.” – Jim Beggs

Leann Clarke

Leann Clarke is an outdoor-loving mama who enjoys riding horses, dancing, soaking in a good book, and hunting with her husband. She’s also mom to two active kiddos who excel at keeping her humble. She believes strongly in prayer, laughter, and eating chocolate for breakfast. Leann shares snippets of her life in Montana and more on her blog, The Hunting Mom.


Grief Is Persistent But God Is Faithful

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Woman praying by ocean

The loss of a parent doesn’t just sting, it leaves you with an irreplaceable hole in your heart. It’s been two years since my loving daddy went home to be with Jesus, and the loss I feel is still unimaginable.  I know in my heart he’s in a better place that is absent of pain and distress. However, his physical presence and wisdom are so dearly missed here on this earth.  He left behind an army of a family who adored him and looked to him for solid guidance. No matter how hard I try to look to the bright...

Keep Reading

l Will Never Stop Missing My Sister

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Woman in red shirt

It might be 16 years too late to properly depict the depressive senses that engulfed my whole being when I lost my only sister Aurora to colon cancer in 2006. Painful flashbacks continue to fill my everyday life at the most inopportune moments that  writing about it might somehow alleviate my grief. I remember getting that random phone call from her one sunny day in September 2006 and how guilt automatically hit me. It had been a while since I last saw her. “It’s positive,” she said. Backed with years of joking around and playing tricks on her since childhood,...

Keep Reading

My Parents Are Both Gone Now, and I’m Struggling

In: Grief
Man holding smiling infant, color photo

I lost my dad at the beginning of the summer. The last time I saw him, my daughter and I picked him up from the hospital after his bout of pneumonia. She talked to him about her last day of kindergarten and how she would now be a first-grader. He sat cupping his warm mug of coffee in his favorite chair while his favorite blanket covered his legs. He smiled and giggled about the kindergarten stories. He and my daughter share the same birthday so he always had that Pop-Pop proud look on his face toward her. He was tired...

Keep Reading

Having Cancer at 34 Taught Me How to Live

In: Cancer
Husband and wife on boat, color photo

This picture came up in my Facebook memories today. It took my breath away for a moment, just like it has for nine years now. It was the last picture taken of me before my midwife found the lump and my life changed forever.  The first time I saw that photo, I realized I didn’t know that woman anymore. She was naive. Laying there in the sun without any inkling that a cancer was growing inside her. Look at her—unafraid and without anxiety. Less than 48 hours later, she would be gone, replaced by someone who was afraid of each...

Keep Reading

My Hands Are Full, but They Should Be Fuller

In: Grief, Loss
Family walking on beach

When they are gay, the waves echo their gaiety; but when they are sad, then every breaker, as it rolls, seems to bring additional sadness, and to speak to us of hopelessness and of the pettiness of all our joys. -Baroness Orczy I sat in the sand at the edge of the shore, looked out at the vast Atlantic Ocean, and watched the waves change the landscape with each crash. I absentmindedly dug a hole in the sand next to me, but then a wave came. The hole filled first with water. Then, wet sand caved in. The surface of...

Keep Reading

To My Sons in Heaven: Your Short Lives Changed Mine Forever

In: Grief
Woman at sunse

Dear Noah, Caleb, and Micah: I can’t believe it’s been nine years since I held you in my arms. My sweet sons, losing you broke me in a way that I never thought was possible. I have loved you every second of every day since we first heard of your pending arrival. RELATED: A Letter to my Daughter in Heaven With each day that you have spent in eternity, my love for you has grown exponentially. I have a vision of the day we will hug once more. I imagine that by then, my heart will have expanded so much...

Keep Reading

What If I Could Meet My Mom Now?

In: Grief, Grown Children
Retro photo of woman in sunglasses

I attempt to swallow. My heart is in my throat. I hold back tears. The woman who stands before me is 36 and looks a lot like me, but is not me. I squeeze my arms, pinch my thigh to make sure. I don’t wake up. “Hello.” Her voice is soprano and nasally like mine. Her black, Farrah Fawcett hair frames her round face. We are the same height. We share the same eyes. The same smile. The same white teeth. The same nose. The same long legs. She wears a baggy t-shirt with white-washed jeans, the kind that are...

Keep Reading

317 Days of Love

In: Grief, Motherhood
Smiling baby girl

She couldn’t speak, yet her life spoke to so many. 317 days she was on this earth. She couldn’t speak . . . only one word she said before she passed. One precious word: “Mama.” I can still hear it clear as day. I remember the moment she was born. I looked at her daddy with tear-streaked cheeks, shaking as I heard her cry. The nurse said, “You have a baby girl!” and I was in such awe. I looked at her daddy whispering, “We have a baby girl.” I was in complete adoration. From her dainty little fingers to...

Keep Reading

The Woman He Married Is Long Gone

In: Grief, Kids, Marriage
Young couple smiling

My husband has been married to at least five different women—and they’re all versions of me. His first wife was the 21-year-old version of me, who was a fit and focused college athlete. She was a driven, perfectionist dream-chaser. She was ready to push and sacrifice to chase the dream. No challenge was too hard—but then again, the hardest thing in her life was her organic chemistry final. She had the eternal optimism that comes with naivety and innocence. She loved him with eagerness and couldn’t wait to build a life with him. He often still daydreams of this first...

Keep Reading

Not Having My Mom Here Never Stops Hurting

In: Grief
Sad woman

Each phase of life since my mom died has brought different struggles, triumphs, and varieties of emotion. I always knew that grief was lifelong and complicated, however, I definitely underestimated the ways in which it changes as time goes on. I remember the beginning years as survival mode. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through each day until that day had passed and I was on to the next one. It was figuring out who I was and what my life was going to become during this awful new normal. Some days were harder than others and...

Keep Reading