The Power of a Smile

dsc01540Picture this. Your child or husband glances your way or walks in the door—and smiles just at you. It’s a moment, fleeting yet formative. We love our family most, so it makes sense that their smiles are of greatest value to us. So, this means that our smile is of greatest value to them.

It’s a moment, fleeting yet formative.
It is one way that we encourage and build one another up. Our facial expression carries influence to a child’s heart. Throughout the day, a child receives all sorts of messages – at school, among siblings, on the bus, among peers at an event, at a sleepover, or on social media. The warmth of our smile helps wash away the film of the other messages. We communicate value.
When we’re in a challenging season with a child, a smile says, “I love you no matter what.” It’s a tangible way to demonstrate and distinguish that our dislike is toward the challenging issue at hand, not the child. When we smile, God’s love shines through and stirs relief in a child. When we smile, we invite nearness. We extend grace. We love.
dsc01529At different times God has gently shown me the absence of my smile toward Terrell or our children. I’ve realized this mostly happens when I’m distracted by a circumstance or busyness. It’s so easy to unintentionally move through a day in our home without a smile, even though these are the very people we love most on this earth. Thankfully, God is our help in all things.
“A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face” (Proverbs 15.13, The Message)
The key to a cheerful heart is our personal relationship with Jesus. He knows that daily circumstances can give us emotional whiplash. In the Old Testament, David wrestled through hard relationship challenges, yet God was his focus and this relationship sustained him. His gladness was in God and his countenance displayed this.
“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel:
     in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices…”  
(Ps. 16.7-9a)

dsc01525Our desire to smile rides on the condition of our heart. It’s easy to smile when we’re happy,  when good or encouraging things happen. But when disappointment, discouragement, or disobedience color the day, it’s hard to muster such desire. Our optimistic-tank is drained dry. God knows. Like David, we can “set the LORD always before” us. With God at our right hand, we will not be shaken. We can smile because God is good.

Dear Jesus,
I want my relationship with you to be more. I want my gladness to be found in You—and then overflow to my family. Thank you for your love. Amen.

Becoming Faith-Strong

img_0896I have that upper arm flabby skin that when I wave, the lower skin has its own wave going on. Ugh! I know the solution is exercise, so, I lift weights some-times, but not enough, nor often enough–and I’m a wimp when it comes to push-ups. Ah, if only such hard work wasn’t required!

I wonder if sometimes we think that growing in faith in God works like this—I need to work on trusting God more. I need to try harder to believe God. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10.17) We receive the gift of faith from God, as we receive Jesus as our Savior. God grows our faith as we engage in relationship with him. Simply, walk closer with him. To believe God more, get to know him more and talk with him more. Invite God to help you, to show you how. He responds. He graces us to experience his faithfulness, and he grows our muscle of faith.

img_1071When I read this, my lungs inhale hope and exhale relief. “That’s right, that’s right” echoes like a refrain on a hard day when doubt or discouragement battle for position in my head and heart. Other days, “So true, so true” whispers as testimony to a small victory or encouragement in the day. This is one verse that I use to help me know God and know He is faithful and know that He is growing my faith in him STRONG as I mess up or struggle in a circumstance.

img_0884And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2.6-7, NLT)(italics mine)

You and I believe in God. And many days we believe God—We look to him, trust and depend on Him. We have faith that He is the fullness of all that the scriptures tell . . . And then we live those days when we don’t look to Him. We look elsewhere—at our self, the other person, the relationship, the circumstance, or the history, and we end up believing one or more of these. We place our faith there. A sinking feeling weighs our heart down—yet, God is with us. He wants us to see our weakness, give it to him, draw closer, and grow strong.

We become faith-strong as we practice and exercise our muscle of faith.

img_0882Dear God,  
I have realized that I spend a lot of time thinking, fretting, worrying about people or outcomes or how to make something happen. You are LORD. You are sovereign. And You want me, all of me, all of my heart to trust you. I need your help to lay down unhealthy patterns of thinking and doing, to lay down fears—and to be still and absorb the peace of your faithfulness. Search my heart that I can unload all to you now. And fill these spaces in me with You. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When Disappointment Holds Us Down

img_0037Today I welcome my friend Linda Grabeman as our guest writer. Linda radiates the love of Jesus and shares her trust and awe for Him through her writing and as a speaker. Check out her website lindagrabeman.com to learn more!  This post is an extended version of a devotion in her second book, Praise on Purpose.

praise-on-purpose-new-front-cover-photoIt’s always in the back of our mind, if we’re not careful. It robs our joy, dilutes our peace, and clouds our understanding of who we are. It’s the lie we swallow whole, unaware of the deep ache it will cause in the belly of our souls. Like me, I’m sure you’ve thought, “Yeah, God loves me, but He is disappointed in me. I don’t always act the way He wishes I would. I’m not the mother He hoped I would be. For that matter, I’m not the wife, sister, daughter, or friend He envisioned either.” Ugh!

Well, I have the very best news for you: It’s not true! I’ll prove it, and then you’ll have a rock-solid response for Satan when he tries to bog you down the next time. What refutes a lie? Truth, right? Well, ladies, here it is:  To be disappointed in someone, you must have thought they would act in a certain way. Then, when they don’t, you feel sad, angry, disillusioned. That’s how it works for humans. Not so with God. He isn’t disappointed because He can’t be surprised. Psalm 139 says, “I’m an open book to You . . . You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.” God sees our entire life in one glance. Start to finish. No thought, word, or action is a surprise to Him. We act in the way He has always known we would…and He loves us still. A love unlike any other love we have ever received. Constant, unchanging, and relentless.

Even better, His grace is just waiting to cover those actions or words which He knows are coming. Are the chains of guilt falling off your shoulders? Lying on the ground, unable to hold you in bondage any longer? Isn’t that a huge hallelujah? It’s the freedom Jesus died to buy for us! Freedom to walk in the unexplainable, outrageous, life-changing love from our Father. Forgiving ourselves because we know we’re forgiven. No more despair. Just love, mercy, and grace…and the power to walk out God’s good plans for us! Can I get an Amen on that?