Only a Smile

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“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.”
– Lord Byron –

There is a girl I have dreams about. Daydreams, I guess.

She always smiles–not one of those annoying grins with perpetually wrong timing, but a quiet, radiant upturn to her lips that occasionally breaks forth into a full-blown laugh. Even troubles don’t dent the assured joy that lingers through the tears.

She is the one that makes hearts skip a beat because the day was so long and life is just really hard. And then she smiles and it gets a little brighter.

In my dreams, she is known as “the girl who smiles.”

The future days are full of hope to her, possibilities, more lives to give sunshine.

She is the kind of person who has a song that throbs in her heart and she just opens her mouth and sings out a smile.

It’s catchy. It turns heads. Some people think she’s a bit loony. And some want to know what she knows that makes her so happy.

Cause she’s either naive or there’s really something, Someone, who can fill up like that.

Maybe you didn’t guess. That girl is me. Well, not me exactly. She’s who I wish I could be. She’s the girl I want to be when my feet hit the floor and I walk into a world that really needs a joy boost.

But usually I’m just trying to wrestle down my straying heart.

I still think that girl exists. I still long to live like that.

But how?

It starts with laying down self–not an easy thing, I know. Believe me, I know. It seems like every hour I am battling something that swells up like bitter waves. It’s something I hate. But it’s something that I somehow want to hold on to. This self-focus is strangling. And it’s the most joy draining thing we can do.

The only solution I’ve found: knee time. Of course, I don’t usually get on my knees literally. But as Victor Hugo said,

“Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.”

I have this habit of telling God what I’m feeling, how my desires are twisted into knots. Sometimes, often, I have to confess that I don’t even want a better attitude. Sometimes I’m just tired. And my soul falls to its knees. There is no temptation that we cannot bear with His help–He always gives a way of escape, so that we can bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Prayer is often that escape–but we must take it!

Another joy-drain–a big smile killer–is worry. Anxiety. Stress. Whatever you call it. You and I–we have to quit fooling ourselves that this worry is okay. It’s not–it’s a sign that we’re not believing in God’s adequacy. Can you trust Him? Can you leave everything in His hands, let Him handle it all? Can I leave behind my cares, cast them at His feet, and live in the release? Why do we torment ourselves with things we can’t fix anyway? One author calls God the “Blessed Controller.” Join me in this joy-journey and give over today’s cares. He is able to make you stand.

But there’s more. Unforgiveness. Ouch. Any bitterness you are holding in your heart will just DECIMATE your joy. Your prayers will be like a bubble bouncing off a wall. Your stomach will churn. Give it up. Give it over. Don’t deceive yourself–whatever is making you angry is a big deal to you. But it is nothing compared to what put Jesus on the cross. You and I, with all our sins, did more to Jesus than anyone could ever do to us. Ever. Because He forgave us, I have complete confidence in His ability to also forgive through us. Will we give it up?

The same thing goes for unconfessed sin. Is there something sucking the joy right out of your bones? Sin that lies putrefying inside you will do that. Confess. In the book of 1 John, He promises that he is faithful and just. Because God is just, He has fully accepted Jesus’ payment. This justice means He will always forgive your sin, if you turn from it and turn toward Him. His faithfulness and justice will always be there (1 John 1:9). In my family, we ask each other’s forgiveness ALL the time. I cannot describe sufficiently what a difference this makes in a home! Be quick to apologize–cultivate a soft spirit. The joy will spring up.

Oh, there’s another thing that drives out joy. Unthankfulness.  And its twin, discontent. Do you really believe God is good? Find out just how good, and praise Him for it. Look for little hints of His goodness all around you. Pause and be still. You just breathed. What a gift! Really–it is a magnificent gift. Let yourself be humbled, because He doesn’t owe you anything. In fact, we all deserve death. But there was Grace. And it’s still overflowing. Thank Him for it, this cascading, rippling, abundant, joy-welling grace.

So, those weights being cast away, there is a gift that you can give today.

You can make a life more full. You can make a heart swell with encouragement. You can give someone the courage to go on.

If you will.

If I will.

It begins with a prayer, something from the heart. Here’s mine:

“Oh God, I lay down my life today. Lead me where You want me to go. Interrupt my plans with Your plan. Replace my dreams with Your dreams. Intercept my attitudes with Your Spirit. Fill me, consecrate me, use me. Thank you, because I know my joy is full when I am poured out for You.”

And with the amen, an adventure begins.

Will you take that adventure with me today?

Today, we are on God’s mission.

Today, we are Sunshine Makers, as Mabel Hale called us in her lovely book Beautiful Girlhood.

Let’s shine!

Let’s go make the world wonder why we smile.

It’s only a smile. But it could make all the difference in the world.

“They might not need me; but they might. I’ll let my head be just in sight; a smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.”
– Emily Dickinson –

A big thank you to Atalie Bale Photography for the beautiful photo!

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