“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.