A Year of Smiles – Day 365

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Reason to SMILE #365: A NEW YEAR

It’s New Year’s Eve! The countdown to 2018 has begun. Many of you may be getting all gussied up and will soon be heading out to a New Year’s Eve celebration filled with music, laughter, excitement and fun. Others, like me, are getting all gussied down (Is that a thing?), cozying up on the couch in pajamas and looking forward to a quiet evening with the family. Well, at least, until the neighborhood fireworks begin.

Whatever your plans this New Year’s Eve, please be safe. And remember to look out for the SMILES. They really are all around – in the little moments, the connections with others, the quiet thoughts, the striking revelations, the selfless acts of kindness, the gentle tears, the rays of hope and all the many different gifts God allows in every minute of our lives in order to grow us, mature us, and bring us closer to Him.

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With the new year comes new opportunities for so many SMILES. So keep your eyes peeled. God is always doing something new.

Happy New Year!

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A Year of Smiles – Day 364

Adobe Spark (73)

Reason to SMILE #364: LOOKING FORWARD

One more day, my friends, and we will be greeting the new year! Are you excited? Are you anxious for a new beginning? Or is it simply another day for you?

For me, New Year’s Day has always been “just another day” or a day off work. WooHoo! A day off work! That’s a SMILE in and of itself. And this year, New Year’s Day falls on a Monday so many of us get a three day weekend. That’s a DOUBLE SMILE! 😉 For many, though, New Year’s Day is the day to start diets and exercise regiments, to give up bad habits, to rid their houses of clutter and to begin their fulfillment of whatever resolutions they have made for the year to come.

Rarely have I made resolutions. I know myself well and I know that even if I have every intention to follow through on my personal commitments, I’ll never make it through the year. (What a sad reflection on my life! 😉 ) But my self-given challenge to find a SMILE for every day of 2017 has changed my attitude a bit. After tomorrow’s SMILE, I will have posted 365 SMILES in 2017 which means I did it. I followed through. And I have truly enjoyed seeking out SMILES this year.

After reflecting on all the SMILES of 2017 and even on the things in my life that didn’t bring a SMILE, as I endorsed in yesterday’s post (Day 363), what resolutions should I make for the year ahead? What can I do differently to better my life in 2018? I’ve come up with a few:

  1. Spend more time with God – I read my daily devotional and study God’s Word when writing on specific topics but I feel like I’m still drinking the milk as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 3:2. It’s time for the meat of God’s Word!
  2. Journal regularly – There are times I find myself with all kinds of emotions, thoughts and feelings built up inside of me. I don’t have an outlet or choose not to call on others to talk so I store it all up and end up having an emotional breakdown. That’s not healthy. If I’m not going to seek out a listening ear, I at least need to get it out on paper.
  3. Exercise regularly – You may remember that I have a muscle disorder. Running, jumping, climbing, sitting up, etc. are all difficult. I should be exercising daily. I don’t. Now I am struggling with just walking. Something has to be done!
  4. Follow a healthier diet – Earlier this year, I was told my cholesterol was a bit high. I was told to cut out fats. I did not listen. I LIKE FATS! This has to change. I want to live to see grandkids one day. Losing some weight will alleviate some of my walking difficulties, as well.
  5. Write less; write better – The daily posts have been a lot of fun but not every post has been my best work. As I look back, I cringe at some of my entries. Keeping up the habit of writing is important to me but taking the time to write something worthwhile and finishing projects are my writing goals for this year.

Wow! I may have gone a little overboard! How am I going to follow through on all of these resolutions? The same way you are going to follow through with yours – one small step at a time. The key is to begin small. There’s no way I can stop my bad eating habits all at once. I’d die! 😉 Or at least throw in the towel after the first week. No, I have to choose one bad habit, replace it with a healthier habit, then move on to the next.

Another help in keeping resolutions is accountability. Find someone to partner with you on your weight loss journey. Find someone with whom you can study God’s Word. Find someone who will pray with you through the year. I’m lucky. I have all of you to encourage me, cheer me on and keep me moving toward my goals. And by the way, you have me, too!

Remember, resolutions are important in looking toward the future. So, be sure your goals begin with the One who already knows what the future holds in store. He has a plan for you – not just for 2018 but for your entire life. You can trust Him with your goals and expectations. But you must be willing to let go of those things that weigh you down (sometimes that means reevaluating your goals!). And you must be willing to keep going even when the world, your friends, your family, your cravings! your weaknesses! tell you that you can’t.

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I’ll keep you posted on my sticktoitiveness this year. I’m not promising anything but if I can find the will power (but mostly God power) to follow through, I know I’ll have many more SMILES to share with you in 2018. And I hope you’ll have plenty to share with me, too!

 

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 363

Adobe Spark (72)

Reason to SMILE #363: LOOKING BACK

It’s that time of year, again – time to look back on the year 2017, time to reflect on prominent world events and political movements, highlights of the entertainment industry, breakthroughs in technology and medicine, clothing fads and toy crazes. If you turn on the television or open your favorite news site or blog, I’m sure you’ll find all sorts of “Year in Review” shows and articles, some focusing on the good, some on the bad and some on the downright ugly. We enjoy these retrospectives. They allow us to join together in applauding achievements, celebrating victories, crying over losses and laughing at goofball mistakes.

Yes, mistakes. We can’t look back without remembering our mistakes. But it’s one thing to reflect on the mistakes of a nation, a world leader or a celebrity. It’s quite another when the spotlight of reflection lands on our own missteps and failures.

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There may be someone out there saying, “Hold up. The past is the past. I can’t change my mistakes. All I can do is move on from them. So shouldn’t we simply leave the past in the past?”

Sure. Sometimes.

But other times, we need to take a good, long look at the past (good or bad) in order to build a better future.

With that in mind, here are a few questions you may want to consider as you look back on the past twelve months:

  1. Were there any new relationships in my life this year? Did any of my existing relationships end? What was my role in the demise?
  2. Where did I excel at work this year? Where did I fall short?
  3. What decisions did I make that were beneficial to me emotionally, physically, spiritually? What led to those decisions?
  4. Which of my decisions were the most detrimental? How did my decision-making process differ in these instances from the times I made good decisions?
  5. When did I experience the most joy this year? Where was I? Who was I with?
  6. When did I experience the most sadness? Where was I? Who was I with?
  7. Did I grow in my faith this past year? Am I closer to God now than I was a year ago? Am I further away?
  8. What good habits did I establish? What bad habits?
  9. Did I reach any goals this year? Did I have any goals? Did I give up on any goals?
  10. Did I make a difference in anyone’s life for the better? Did I share my faith? How did that make me feel?

The challenge of looking back is learning from the past and then using our retrospection to create resolutions of change or of maintaining the good in the year ahead. (I’ll explore the SMILES of resolutions tomorrow.) Yes, looking back can be painful. It can remind us of our shortcomings and weaknesses. It can bring sadness and regret. But looking back can also be encouraging for it reminds us of all the SMILES that fill our lives – the friends, the family, the experiences, the memories that will strengthen us for what lies ahead in 2018.

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 351: The SMILES of Christmas

Adobe Spark (58)Christmas SMILE #17 (Reason to SMILE #351): THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS

¹And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

I was six years old when I memorized these verses from Luke chapter 2. I was in first grade and the whole school was preparing for a huge Christmas program. My class dressed as Christmas angels and had the great responsibility of telling the story of Jesus’ birth.

Angel 1st grade

Awww, there I am – Little Orphan Annie disguised as an angel. 😉 Or maybe it was the other way around!

Looking back on my first grade Christmas program, I realize how wise my teacher was to have us memorize those sixteen verses of Scripture for Mrs. Free knew the Truth of their message would remain with us for a lifetime. And I’m sure her prayer was that each of her students would one day discover the Great Joy of which the angels sang by choosing to follow Jesus.

The story of Luke 2 will always be with me. It makes me SMILE to remember when I first learned it’s truth. Oh, but even more, it fills me with Great Joy knowing that the child in the manger became my Savior and King.

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 332

Reason to SMILE #332: SHOWING UP

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There’s a war waging over ownership of your day – your attitude, your emotional well-being, your actions, your reactions, your words, your resolve, your joy. You can fight this battle relying on your own strength but I must tell you, the odds are against you. If you truly want to experience victory each day, your strategy needs to be a bit more unconventional. Actually, it needs to be entirely illogical.

Well, maybe not entirely.

You see, the key to winning the daily battles of your life is to realize they’re not your battles to fight. Whatever you are facing, whatever situations you are dreading, whatever fears are advancing – these battles belong to the Lord and He’s already claimed the victory.

All that is required of you is waking up, dressing up and showing up. Wake up to the gift of each new day. Dress up in the armor God has given you. (Ephesians 6:10-18 – Man! I wish I would have thought of this while writing yesterday’s SMILE. <Forehead slap> Oh, well. Put on the Full Armor and a cute outfit! 😉 ) Then show up:

Show up to work, to school, to the grocery store, to the post office, to your kitchen, to your laundry room or wherever your day leads with confidence in your steps.

Show up with an attitude of gratitude.

Show up ready to honor your Victor with all you say and do.

Show up to your day with a SMILE knowing the Lord is with you to fight each battle.

You know what that means, don’t you? It means a victory celebration is waiting for you every single day! And who wouldn’t want to show up for a celebration! 😉

A Year of Smiles – Day 330

Reason to SMILE #330: WAKING UP

Adobe Spark

The first morning back to work or school after any holiday is never a happy occasion. In fact, it’s downright miserable – at least it is in the Smith household. There’s always a struggle. No one wants to wake up. No one wants to get ready. No one wants to leave the house. No one.

This morning was no different. My husband was aching from working on bathroom renovations over the break and I didn’t want to give up my extra sleep that has been so lovely these past few days. My older son hit his snooze button at least three times and my younger son, well, he suddenly came down with an incurable disease. So to say that this morning was difficult for my clan is pretty much the understatement of the century.

I’ve been at this game long enough, though, that I anticipated the problems this dreaded morning would bring. I awoke early (miracle of all miracles 😉 ), drank a cup of coffee and had my “Unless You’re Dying, You’re Going to School” speech prepared. Though the morning was determined to beat me down, I was more determined to begin this day with a SMILE.

Whew! It was a tough battle. My speech did not make me Mother of the Year and I didn’t end up being Wife of the Year, either. I wasn’t taking excuses from anyone today! And when the morning’s battle had been waged, I sat in my recliner in the glow of the Christmas lights (I needed all the help I could get this morning. 😉 ) overwhelmed by feelings of defeat.

Those feelings grew even stronger when I heard my husband leave the house. I believed that he had left for work without saying “good-bye” but a few minutes later, he came back inside to tell me he had started my car. You see, it was cold and he wanted the car to be warm for me when I left. There it was – my SMILE.

My husband’s simple act of love reminded me that no matter the morning struggles, no matter the frustrations or aggravations that await, waking up is a SMILE never to be taken for granted. And waking up to a family that loves you, even when you are reprimanding and making them do things they don’t want to do, is a SMILE I wouldn’t trade for anything – even another hour of sleep! 😉

A Year of Smiles – Day 329

Reason to SMILE #329: TRUSTING GOD’S PLAN

This was my Christmas tree.

crooked tree

It was not being very cooperative. And it certainly was not making me SMILE. (Nor my husband – Yikes!)

This is the third year that we’ve purchased a real tree. I suppose it was time for one of them to rebel. 😉 No matter what we did, the tree simply would not stand up straight. We tried everything. It was so frustrating. I almost resigned myself to decorating this leaning tower of pine needles and cocking my head to one side every time I looked at it. Tilt to the right. There! It’s perfect! 😉

As I surveyed my crooked tree, I wondered why it was being so difficult. Didn’t it know that soon it would be decorated with twinkling lights and colorful ornaments? Didn’t it know that soon it would be fulfilling it’s purpose – being a Christmas tree?

Yeah. I realize it didn’t know anything. It’s a tree but by the way it was fighting me, I couldn’t help but see it as an ornery child or…

… a stubborn Christian.

We often act like this uncooperative evergreen, don’t we? We hear God’s voice telling us to move and we feel His hand nudging us in the direction He wishes us to go but we tenaciously refuse. We’re quite comfortable with where we are, who we are and what we’re doing. Why should we make a change?

“No, God,” we object, “I don’t want to go there; I’d feel out of place. I don’t want to do that; I’m not qualified. I don’t want to get rid of that habit; it’s not that bad.” Our objections are plentiful and the “buts” flow freely as we firmly plant our feet or run in the opposite direction. Surely, God doesn’t know what He’s doing. Surely, God is mistaken.

Oh, but if we only knew. The change we so adamantly refuse or the direction we do not follow or the call we do not heed is only pointing us to our intended purposes. If we’d yield to the Heavenly Father’s urgings to move, to change, to follow, we’d enable God to create something amazing with our lives. If we’d trust His Plan, we’d discover a life more fulfilling, more abundant and more beautiful than we’d ever find on our own.

decorated tree

And in following God’s plan, we’d always find a reason to SMILE.

tree smile

A Year of Smiles – Day 328

Reason to SMILE #328: SHOPPING

What???

Not for me! There’s no way I’m going shopping on Black Friday! No bargain is that good. Spending the Friday after Thanksgiving cleaning, rearranging and pulling out the Christmas decorations – that’s what makes me SMILE.

Well, looky there! It’s beginning to feel like Christmas at the Smith household. Yeah. Sitting in the glow of the Christmas lights watching movies is a much more satisfying SMILE than shopping. 😉

A Year of Smiles – Day 326: THANKSGIVING DAY

Reason to SMILE and BE THANKFUL #326: THANKFULNESS

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Before the Thanksgiving meal each year, my family gathers together to pray. My dad usually says the blessing but before he prays, he is faithful to remind us of how good our God is, of the many blessings that have been bestowed upon our family and of the hope we have in Jesus. Dad reminds us to count our blessings and sometimes, he gives each family member the opportunity to name one thing for which he or she is thankful. It is a special time of Thanks Giving and though it usually makes me cry (because I am a huge crybaby), it always brings a SMILE to my heart.

In the midst of all your Thanksgiving festivities, remember to take the time to give thanks for all the blessings in your life. Everything that you call yours – your loved ones, your friends, your possessions, your job – is a gift from the Heavenly Father. He lavishes these blessings upon us because of His great love for us. The least we can do is pause for a moment to say, “Thank you.”

Giving thanks – what a fabulous reason for a holiday! And what a fabulous reason to SMILE! The great thing is, if you make Thanks Giving a daily habit, you’re guaranteed a daily SMILE.  Now, who wouldn’t want that? 😉