“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

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

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 a Wild Horse

In: Grief
Woman in water at sunset

I burst into tears the other day at the nail salon. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” came on over the speakers, and though it was muffled by people’s chatter, the line, “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow,” cut through the scars of my heart like a hot knife. Tears poured out of me and into the pedicure basin. I don’t apologize anymore, though. It used to scare me that grief was non-linear. That it can creep up without warning and strike. I would rush to hide and chide myself to pull it together....

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Let My Baby Die

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Toddler boy lying in hospital bed, color photo

I wasn’t made for this.  I am not strong enough. Lord, where are you taking me? Why does this joyful time, filled with our last baby’s firsts, have to be this way? Why did the doctors look at me that way? They know what’s coming, and deep down inside, so do I. The inevitable word that is about to come out of their mouths.  The C-word.  Cancer. It’s life-changing.  Almost as if it were a car accident. Believe me, I know about that. To be the reason behind a grown man hanging onto a thread. Completely unintentional. I just needed...

Keep Reading

Hug My Babies In Heaven For Me, God

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman looking up at sunset sky

To my babies in Heaven,  I still miss you.  Sometimes I wonder if you can see us from Heaven. Do you get to watch us raise your siblings? Do you know us, like we long to know you? Are you proud to be our child? Does God ever pass on the messages I give to you in my prayers?  I hope so. I miss you. I miss you in the car rides when I look back and see two car seats where there should be more. I miss you when your siblings are laughing together, and I wish you were...

Keep Reading

I Should Have Taken More Photos of My Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Grandmother holding newborn, color photo

What’s the one thing I wish I did before my mom died? Take more photos. But no, I assumed I’d have more time. We always have more time, right? Until we don’t. My baby was born, and I was frazzled. Lost in a sea of having a third child and postpartum anxiety. My mom asked for photos. I was nursing, I hadn’t showered. I felt gross. I didn’t want to let my last baby go from my arms. I had time, right? Until you don’t. She asked for photos. And now. We only have one. We only have one.  I...

Keep Reading

I Carry the Baby I Lost In My Heart

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Early sonogram image of baby

I ignored it at first, the pink on the tissue. It wasn’t anything to worry about. I’d known for three weeks at this point that I was expecting baby number three, and I was still giddy about it. In fact, I had just shared my news with people at work and told them when I was due.  I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.  So, when I visited the bathroom, I ignored it.  Two healthy textbook pregnancies and births, why would this be any different?  But, looking back, there was a little nagging voice at the back of my...

Keep Reading

The First Christmas Without My Parents Cuts Deep

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Sad woman with Christmas tree lit up in background

“This is going to be the first time we go through the holidays without mom.” How many times have I heard these words spoken by others? How am I just now understanding how full of meaning this statement really is? Nearly 60 years old, this will be my first Christmas as an orphan. My sister and I lost my father over 10 years ago, my mother just last summer. It will be up to us to create memories for the younger generation, and I have faith that we are up to the task.  It isn’t that my parents made a...

Keep Reading

Dear Grieving Heart, Be Still and Know

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Little girl with flowers standing next to casket, color photo

It is said that grief has stages. Five to be exact. Not sure where I am on that scale, but I can tell you I have reached acceptance and then floated right back down to denial, all in a matter of days. What I am beginning to realize is that grief isn’t linear. It goes through waves and has a rhythm all of its own. Anger and acceptance can (and do) co-exist. You can be happy and sad at the same moment. You can feel lost and confused, yet know exactly where you are or feel completely alone in a...

Keep Reading

Your Love Is Passed On

In: Grief, Loss
Woman smiling, black and white photo

For so much of my life, I never understood why people used the phrase “passed on” when someone died. I thought it was an oblique turn of phrase. A weak way to express the truth of the matter. The person died. No reason to soften the truth, no need to cushion the blow. It wasn’t until my mother left this earthly plane a year ago that I started to understand the difference between the words “died” and “passed on.” I haven’t measured the time that my mom has been gone in days or months, but rather I have marked her...

Keep Reading

I’ll Miss Your Holiday Spirit the Most

In: Grief
Little girls in Christmas dresses sitting in white chair

Being in a stepfamily means a lot of Christmases, we had one for each household plus each side of the family: Mom’s, Dad’s, Stepmom’s, and Stepdad’s. That was a lot of “Christmas mornings” growing up, and every single one of them was with you, my sister. It gave us a ton of opportunities to share in the gift-giving process too, with each package labeled From C&C.  When I got married, I vividly recall the eye roll and dramatic “ugh” when you came to realize I would now be gift-giving with my spouse, not you. Believe me, it was strange. I’m...

Keep Reading

When It Just Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas, Look for the Baby In the Manger

In: Faith, Grief
Nativity scene lit up

I don’t know about you, but each Christmas season I find myself trying to catch the “feeling.”  It seems like every year I hear myself say as December 25th looms around the corner, “It just doesn’t FEEL like Christmas.”  Part of that is living in Florida. I have never felt like I belonged here. I’ve always longed for cooler weather and the changing of seasons. Oh how my heart aches for a “white Christmas” that I fear I’ll never get.  I’ve heard others echo something similar. But it seems like we’ve become obsessed with chasing this evasive feeling that is...

Keep Reading