Once again seated around a dining room table, trying to keep five little children on track with productive homeschool activities, the Lord reminded me of the power of a smile. Sometimes several voices were loudly asking for help or just wanting to tell me a story. I could feel an intensity rising inside me that produced quite a serious face. I wanted, however, to smile at my grandchildren in those moments, knowing that a smile communicates my love for them. It encourages them to listen to me, and draws their hearts to me in the midst of my listening to them, helping them, and teaching them to take turns talking!
What about you? What do you want your children to remember about their growing up years with you? Will their memories be of a smiling, pleasant mommy or a furrowed-browed, stern-faced one?
Perhaps you need to do what I once did, many years ago, when my children were young. I did a smile “take-a-look” test. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and experimented with three different faces. For face one, I just talked to myself with a neutral expression. For face two, I looked sternly at myself and discussed something that shouldn’t be done as if correcting a child. That look took me aback quite a bit. I was, to be honest, surprised at the unpleasant change that had occurred between face one and face two. My mind immediately considered what my children must think when they saw me with face two.
I ended the “take-a-look” test by smiling at my reflection and having a little conversation with myself. Oh, yes! That was much, much better. Steve had motivated that test by encouraging me to smile more. Now I understood. Smiling face three was the face I desired for my family to see.
Sometimes your smiling face is simply there. It is the result of cheerful feelings inside as Scripture tells us. “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13).
Honestly, though, in the busyness of life, especially life with children, we can lose track of the feelings that generate those smiles. We have so many things to accomplish, children to direct and sometimes correct, we get tired and worn-out. Life is overwhelming, and smiles may be few and far-between.
When the smiles aren’t automatic, what do you do? I think you pray and ask the Lord to help you put a smile on your face. Then purpose to smile, even when the smiley feelings aren’t there. Determine to make a smile the habit for your face.
When you do that, do you know what is likely to happen? You will probably begin to have many more smiley feelings inside. There’s just something about the smile on the outside that changes the inside too. That was my experience after the smile “take-a-look” test. When I smiled in the midst of needing to correct a child, my heart was softer toward the child, my words were gentler, and they were more receptive to them. When I smiled in the middle of trying to accomplish three tasks at once or when two lively children were talking at the same time, that overwhelmed, “I can’t handle this” feeling melted away.
Taking Thoughts Captive
And you know what? Twenty years later, as a grandmother facing those same situations, it is just as true. That smile made all the difference – in my heart, and I believe in the hearts of my grandchildren. I love it when the smile comes from the cheerful heart, but if the cheerful heart is lacking, I can choose the smile, knowing that God can use that smile to go deep inside me and generate the cheerful heart. I have come to see it is very much a part of this process: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Putting a smile on when the cheerful feelings aren’t there, is taking my thoughts captive and bringing them into the obedience of Christ. It is the reality of my heart. I am happy, and I am content because of Jesus in my life and the wonderful blessings He daily pours out.
Try it. I think you will like it!