Posted in Faith, Mental health

“Let Your Heart Smile”

It’s been a hard year. I think many of us are in a place where we could agree with that statement. For me personally, it hasn’t been a bad year, but yes, it’s been hard. The shock of when I first read those two words – “global pandemic.” The uncertainty of what this virus actually was. Would it hurt me, or my loved ones?

The adjustment to schooling my children at home. Which I welcomed, in fact…because I was afraid. And I wanted nothing more than to hide them under my wing, here at home. But eventually, that initial comfort turned into the daily frustrations of coping with my children’s boredom, and their resistance to doing the schoolwork that was important, but at times frustrating. I felt my mental health declining under the strain of their constant demands, the lack of alone time, and the sense of disorder and chaos within my home. As the school year and then the summer finally drew to a close, I welcomed the chance to send them to school and preschool again…though warily, because…how would they cope with all the new restrictions? The masks? The constant sanitizing? Being chained to a desk? Or, being prevented from something as natural and normal as interacting in close proximity to their peers?

Whatever the case, it didn’t last long. A few months later, and they were back at home again, and everything was shut down. There was nowhere we could go. Some days, I felt as if my mind was literally slipping away. I watched frontline and essential workers become celebrated heroes (and rightly so), but felt nameless and faceless at home with my kids, doing and doing and doing, without recognition, while politicians scolded us from our screens for questioning their methods. Money was thrown around to people who already had plenty. I began to worry about economics. How would our country pay off so many irresponsible expenditures? Why were wealthy people profiting even more from pandemic handouts?

Then my church split, and my heart broke. It wasn’t caused by the pandemic, but was complicated by it. I felt anger, at times, rise up within me like some unfamiliar, wild beast. I didn’t know I was capable of such. But the divisive issues that I saw everywhere brought out the worst in me, as they also did in others.

As the new year began, we kept putting our feet in front of each other, but our pace had decidedly slowed. Promises of normal gatherings and celebrations that had been dangled in front of us like carrots were pulled further and further away. I began to wonder what was more deadly – the virus itself, or the toll of trying to avoid it?

Finding myself, now, halfway (!) into the year, my province is in the midst of a ‘third wave.’ (I wonder how long they will keep numbering the waves.) The weather is gorgeous, my children are happy and healthy and laughing, the seeds are sprouting, the trees are green, and the flowers are blooming.

And yet, I seem to be stuck, in this rut of sullenness. I don’t blame COVID, necessarily. I blame habit. And I blame my own focus. My own gaze.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Matthew 6:22-23 NIV

I ask myself the question: Where am I looking? Am I looking only at the things that infuriate and depress me? Am I fixated on areas of lack, want, and trouble?

In the midst of this, I have heard a simple phrase, whispered gently to me beneath the mental clamour of my own complaints: Let your heart smile. Perhaps, because the Lord knows I am tired of clichรฉ sayings such as “look at the bright side,” “be thankful,” and “practice gratitude,” He has provided an alternative wording which speaks directly to the condition of my heart – which seems to be operating from a misguided, twisted sense of duty. As if I must remain upset about the world’s problems, or as though I will change them by continuing to sulk about them. But in doing so, I am turning away from the joyful things that surround me. And in doing so, I am refusing to let my heart smile.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Luke 12:25-26 NIV

So when I look out my window and see a beautiful June day; as I watch my children run, giggling, through the sprinkler; as I see the faces of women on a video call who want to interact and pray; I have begun to allow myself to be filled with joy. There is no use fighting it. God has given reasons for my heart to smile. No, it’s not something I can muster up. It’s a gift that God is offering, that I need to stop throwing back at him. As a tree does not grimace or strain to overflow with fruit, so the fruits of God’s Spirit are not produced by my efforts.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

I thank you, Lord, for the fruit you produce in our lives, that we cannot bring forth on our own. I thank you, Lord, that we may leave all the solutions to the world’s problems up to you. I accept the peace, and joy, that you want to give to me. I will allow my heart to smile. And maybe, even my face as well.

How are you doing, and what are you smiling about today? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Author:

Hi, I'm Lisa, a born-and-bred-in-Manitoba mom of 2 boys. Having lived in 7 different Manitoba towns or cities, I've managed to stay warm in them all ๐Ÿ˜œโ„. I am trained as a music therapist but currently work as a fulltime stay-at-home-mom by day, and a piano teacher in the evenings. By night, well...I sleep. Usually.

9 thoughts on ““Let Your Heart Smile”

  1. Love this! I realized that during the pandemic I was looking at all the negatives and forgetting to focus on the positives. This weekend I twisted my ankle and now I have to stay off it it. (I’m a mom and that’s nearly impossible!) But I’m focusing on the positives – I get to rest, catch up on my blog, catch up on TV shows, and my husband is doing the dishes! ๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I appreciated your point that we sometimes act as if it is our duty to remain upset about the world’s problems. So true. Not that there aren’t days to ponder and pray for the serious issues around us, but God truly is in control. It’s okay to trust that and yes, to let our heart smile! Enlightening post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, thank you. Yes, I think positivity can sometimes become toxic when we ignore the problems around us or our responsibilities. Or belittle the feelings of those who are suffering. Yet I am thankful that I’m not required to carry every problem on my back, so long as I’m doing what is in my power (usually, praying).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “…what was more deadly โ€“ the virus itself, or the toll of trying to avoid it?” Whew! My sentiments, exactly.

    It’s frustrating that I have no pull, no voice, no power to stop my “free” country from becoming a prison of rules, regulations, and restrictions. My “Freedom and equality for all!” country had divided its people into “Covid-belief” sects that hate one another, are even afraid of one another. And since I’m not a polition or a doctor, my insight appears to hold no value. It infuriates me!

    More and more and more, I’m beginning to see that this is where I must learn to trust. Trust God to act on my behalf. Trust God to grant me peace despite the problems surrounding me. Trust God to give me strength to bear the heaviness of my season. Trust God’s Words that “all things work together for the good of those who love God…” When all is stripped away, will I still trust?

    Your story mimics my own experiences (with school and mom-ness, anyway) throughout the past year. I relate completely. I love how you brought us along with you on the timeline with honesty about how you felt at each point. Thank you. Reading your story makes me feel less alone.

    This last weekend I set up a little pool for the kids, surprising them after school with a watery way to cool off. They were pumped! Even my teenager jounced around in this tiny blue pool. They made up silly games within their 6 feet of water park and laughed and squealed. Pure joy! Thank you, Father! We need some joy.

    While I watched them play, I felt both relieved that I’d found a way to “save” their hot summer days, but also grieved that this summer (like last summer) won’t be what it has always been for us over the years – a reprieve from stress, a paradise of carefreeness.

    I’ve been thinking lately about Jesus’s promise of “abundant life.” I’ve been realizing that joy and grief can walk hand in hand as long as I have Jesus. My life is abundant because He continues to sustain me and bring me pockets of joy amidst the grief.

    “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

    Father, bless us! May your favour shine upon your people even in the midst of a depraved nation. Gift us with joy by your Holy Spirit. Help us to trust you. Make us a light to those who are living in fear and hate. We love you and adore you. Amen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen! Yes I have felt so powerless as well. I’m a nobody; my voice doesn’t count. But then I think of how God has answered so many of my very specific prayers, with very clear provision. He listens to nobodies. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am so happy you and your kids could have fun in the little pool. Those small things can be so important to the kids. They are amazing…their resilience and positivity. That’s what I’ve noticed throughout this pandemic, and the loss of so many things I thought they needed. They are just truly grateful for what they have. It’s no wonder Jesus told us to be more like them. Your words are an encouragement and I pray that God would continue to bless you with miraculous joy and peace!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lisa I just love this post. You beautifully articulate the stages and feelings that all of us mothers have gone through this past year. Thank you for sharing the words God is speaking to bring you out of the discouragement. As I look around, I too have realized that when I put down my phone and focus on the here and now, on the happy little people around me, on the beautiful blessings of birds, growth, sunshine and rain, my heart is filled with peace. I want to stay there.

    Liked by 1 person

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