A Year of Smiles – Day 356: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #22 (Reason to SMILE #356): THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

There’s something about this time of year that brings out the best in people. Children begin behaving, doing their chores without complaining, offering to help around the house – mostly to secure their place on Santa’s “Nice List”! Families set aside differences and grudges and gather together sharing, laughing and embracing freely and wholeheartedly. Even strangers stop on the street, at the stores and in restaurants to greet each other and wish happiness and joy to all those around.

Sure, the holidays can also bring out the worst in some people. Crowds at the mall, busy city streets and noisy public venues can test anyone’s patience and place a damper on Christmas cheer. But with every “Merry Christmas” I hear as I navigate this busy season, I am reassured that the spirit of Christmas remains alive and well. And when I return each greeting with a warm SMILE and a Christmas blessing of my own, I am doing my part to spread love and joy to a world longing for Christmas Spirit and longing for the Hope and Peace it brings.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our Christmas Spirit endured all year round?

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

– “Let There be Peace on Earth” by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller

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A Year of Smiles – Day 344: The SMILES of Christmas

Adobe Spark

Christmas SMILE #10 (Reason to SMILE #344): THE LIGHTS

There’s a house on my drive home from work that is decked with a huge display of Christmas lights. Glowing Christmas characters and flashing trees fill the yard. And if you tune into a particular radio frequency, you can even hear Christmas music playing along with the blinking lights. This house is a bright and cheery beacon of Christmas spirit on an otherwise dark and quiet stretch of road.

The lights of Christmas are beautiful and whether it’s a simple string of white bulbs draped over the azalea bushes or a grandiose exhibit of colorful luminaries dancing wildly to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells”, you cannot deny the cheer these lights bring to a dark and dreary world. And for the few brief moments we are enjoying their brilliant display along a neighborhood street or basking in their soft glow around the family Christmas tree, we find a sense of comfort, peace and joy. We forget our worries and we find a SMILE.

Then we drive down the road or unplug the tree lights and the darkness surrounds us once again, stealing away our security and contentment.

Oh, but the respite we find while enjoying the lights of Christmas does not have to end when their gleam can no longer be seen. The darkness does not have to overrun our lives. For there is a Light that brings unwavering joy and everlasting peace. This Light reaches the darkest crevices of our lives, drives out the shadows of our hopelessness and despair and brings hope to a weary world, to a weary soul, to a weary you and to a weary me.

This True Light of Christmas is Jesus. He is the reason for our celebration, the reason for our joy. He is the reason we can SMILE in the midst of our darkest nights.

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:2-3a, 6 (NIV)

A tiny baby born in Bethlehem pierced the darkness of a dying world more than two thousand years ago. Though the shadow of death followed Him, the Light of the Son of God could not be extinguished, even on the cross. The Light of our Risen Savior and Reigning King still shines brightly for all to see today. And though the shadows of darkness threaten to overtake us, we’ve no need to fear. The True Light of Christmas has conquered the darkness so you and I can have life – a life filled with uncontainable joy!

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 334

Reason to SMILE #334: A PLACE OF SANCTUARY

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Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, I find myself spending more and more time in my living room. The Christmas tree is up. The lights are sparkling. The room is clean! 😉 And a sense of tranquility permeates the entire space.

This morning, as I sat in the glow of the tree lights, I began to pray for the two SMILES I needed to write today. (Yep. Behind again. <SIGH> ) As I prayed, I leaned back in my recliner and my thoughts turned to the state of all the rooms in my house. (Does your mind drift when you pray? Mine does all the time. I’m so grateful my God is patient and full of grace.) Though my living room is clean, quiet and inviting, the rest of my house looks like a construction site. My dining room is half dining room half wood flooring storage. My kitchen is filled with paint supplies and Christmas decoration boxes. The hallway houses a toilet and miscellaneous tools being used in our bathroom renovation and just about every other room has a new door and frame leaning against a wall waiting to be installed. It’s a mess. It’s chaotic and it is in no way peaceful.

In all of the craziness of installing new floors and new doors and renovating a bathroom, my living room, which is smack dab in the middle of my house and newly decorated for the Christmas season, has become my sanctuary. No matter the state of the other rooms in my house, no matter what craziness is happening in those rooms, if I’m sitting in my living room with the tree all aglow, I can find peace. I can find joy.

Hmmm. I suppose not all wanderings of the mind during prayer time are distractions. Sometimes, those thoughts that seem to pull us from our communion with the Father are actually the whispers of the Holy Spirit calling us to a truth or lesson He wants us to learn. As I was contemplating the contrast between my living room and the remaining rooms of my house, I realized my sanctuary was the perfect example of the mind-boggling peace God offers to his children in the midst of a chaotic world.

Ah! There was my SMILE. No matter what is happening in the world around me, no matter the news stories, no matter the political messes, no matter the financial woes, no matter the family dysfunctions, no matter the worries, sicknesses, sorrows or fears, if I’m resting in the sanctuary of my Heavenly Father’s arms, I can find peace. I can find joy. And I can find a SMILE.

A Year of Smiles – Days 306 and 307

Reason to SMILE #306: THE DRIVE HOME

driving-918950_1280Sometimes you have those days when you can’t seem to catch your breath, when the work hits you as soon as you walk in the door and it doesn’t stop ’til, well – it doesn’t stop. You simply have to get to a point where you say, “Enough. This will have to wait until tomorrow.” So, you dog-ear a page, turn a document sideways in the file, save your open computer files, grab your purse and run.

No! Don’t answer that ringing phone. Don’t look back at those unopened emails. Just go! Get in your car and go.

Ahhhh! As you drive away, the stresses of work grow smaller and smaller. Your headache begins to fade and your attitude gradually adjusts. Although your stomach is loudly reminding you of your missed lunch break, you still cannot help but SMILE. You are on your way home.

And when you get there, you can sit back, relax and enjoy…

Reason to SMILE #307: A COKE AND A NUTTY BUDDY

After supper, of course! 😉 coke and nb

Yep. Sometimes you just need an extra jolt of sugar and caffeine to bring out that SMILE!!

Don’t worry.

After my busy day, not even this could keep me from sleeping tonight.

Zzzzzzzzzz!

A Year of Smiles – Day 295

Reason to SMILE #295: WHEN GOD SHOWS UP FOR COFFEE

coffee mug

And God said, “Hmm. That mug needs a little something extra.”

How beautiful is that! The sun peered through my kitchen window and hit my coffee mug in the perfect spot. For someone who doesn’t enjoy mornings, I was able to find my SMILE much faster when this caught my eye. And this definitely made my morning a bit – well – brighter!

I’ve said it many times before and I’m sure I’ll say it many times to come. The smallest things can make the biggest difference. And God must agree. Why else would He have sent this sparkling SMILE my way?

A Year of Smiles – Day 288

Reason to SMILE #288: CAMPFIRES 


There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire watching the flames dance and the embers glow to calm the nerves and ease a troubled mind. Tonight’s crisp air begged for the warmth of a fire. My husband obliged and I’m glad he did.

I needed to hear the cheerful crackle of the flames. I needed to gaze into the fire’s soothing glow. I needed to feel my burdens float away with the ashes as they drifted through the air and disappeared into the night.

Sigh. 

What a relaxing SMILE!

There is one thing that could’ve made it better, though…

Marshmallows! If I’d only had marshmallows! 😉

A Year of Smiles – Day 262

Reason to SMILE #262: TODAY

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This IS the day the Lord has made – yes, even THIS day. And all the days He made before it have prepared you for today. All the moments of gladness, moments of struggle, moments of doubt, moments of triumph and moments of sorrow that have filled your previous days have built the foundation of strength that will see you through this day.

This IS the day the Lord has made and HE will not allow you to live this day alone.  HE plans to spend it with you. HE intends to experience every moment by your side.  You can walk through this day with confidence for there is nothing in this day that will take it’s Maker by surprise.

Yes, this IS the day the Lord has made.  No matter what it holds, joy or sadness, healing or pain, celebration or mourning, THIS day is God’s gift to you.  And in this great gift, you can REJOICE and be glad!

A Year of Smiles – Day 252 and 253

I’ve fallen behind again on my SMILES so here’s another double feature.

Adobe Spark (10)REASON TO SMILE #252: LUNCH IN THE PARK

My weekday lunchtime is often non-existent. Typically, I run through a drive thru close to my office and eat my lunch at my desk. Sometimes, however, I need a break from the computer screen and the noise of the office. On days like this, I eat my lunch at the park. Unfortunately, I don’t always get the chance to find a quiet place of escape but when I do, no matter how short the break, I always find a SMILE. It’s nice to have a quiet place to reflect or decompress when the stresses of work or co-workers are stealing your SMILE. It’s even better when some of that peaceful time is spent talking with a friend which brings me to…

REASON TO SMILE #253: PHONE CALLS

I’m really not much of a conversationalist. I listen well but don’t always know the right things to say. So phone calls for me are usually one-side or extremely short. But let the phone conversation be with my sister or a trusted friend and that’s a different story altogether. When I don’t feel like I need to impress, like I can express my true feelings and say anything that comes to mind without being judged, those are the phone calls I love. Phone calls filled with laughter, silliness, transparency, reminiscing, and maybe a few tears from time to time, always leave me with a SMILE.

A Year of Smiles – Day 216

Reason to SMILE #216: SECURITY

“Ma’am, how am I supposed to know that you weren’t actually trying to brake in to this house?” asked the police officer.

At least, that’s what I imagined he would ask after he arrived at my parents’ house finding me on the front porch while the security alarm wailed. You see, I had only gone to pick up my child who was probably two or three at the time. I knew my parents had taken him out for a while and they hadn’t made it back home. I also knew I would get to their house before they did and I would have to wait on them. I should have waited in the car. Instead, I decided to sit on their front porch.

As I made my way onto the porch, I noticed my parents’ cat looking out of a large picture window. So, I did what any normal person would do. I walked up to the window, bent down to get a closer look, said, “Hello, Cali,” and gently tapped the window at the vicinity of the cat’s face.

Do you know those signs at the pet store that say, “Do not tap glass”? That also applies to any window anywhere through which animals are staring at you from the other side. Just don’t do it. Ever.

As soon as I tapped the glass – and I mean, I barely touched it – the alarm began to blast. I froze. What was I going to do? My parents weren’t home, yet, and I couldn’t get into the house to turn the alarm off. All I could do was sit there listening to the alarm and imagining what I was going to tell the police when they pulled up in the yard.

Fortunately, my parents returned home shortly thereafter and the police were never dispatched. As my parents were unlocking the house, I began explaining how I set off the alarm. “I didn’t know what I was going to do if the police arrived. I didn’t know how I was going to prove my relationship to you and that I belonged here.”

“Karen,” my mom replied as she opened the front door and pointed in the house to the wall directly in front of us, “Your picture is right there as you walk in the door. That’s all the proof they’d need.”

You know, one day we are all going to stand before an even greater authority than our fine men and women in blue. We are all going to stand before our Creator and the question of our belonging in His eternal home is going to be posed. What are you going to do? Are you going to rattle off examples of your good deeds, your acts of charity, your adherence to the Ten Commandments? Are you certain that you will even have a place in Heaven one day?

The Bible tells us that the only way to an eternal home with our Heavenly Father is by faith in His Son Jesus Christ. (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9John 14:6) The Bible also tells us that once we make the decision to become a follower of Jesus by admitting we are sinners and in need of salvation from an eternal death, believing Jesus is the only Son of God and He paid the price for our sins through death on a cross and resurrection from the grave, and confessing our sins and committing our lives to Him, then we can know for sure that we have an eternal home in heaven that no one can question or take away. (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:35-39) And on the day you stand before the throne of God and your belonging is questioned, you won’t have to wonder what you will say. Your Savior will step forward, point to your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and say, “Yes. she’s mine. See right there. That’s her name!”

I know my eternity is secure. What a SMILE that brings to my soul! What about you? Are you sure of your eternal home?