We laugh until we reach an impressively well framed shot of me (considering the others in the bunch). For some reason the giggling stops and Ty just stares.
"Why don't you smile like that anymore Mom?" he asks.
"What?" I respond. "I smile all the time, Ty."
"Yea, but not like that," he says.
Shocked and with my feelings more than a little hurt I, too, stare at the picture now. What is so special about that smile, I think to myself. In fact the picture is a pretty unflattering shot taken from below chin level looking up at me in my XL t-shirt in my ninth month of pregnancy after just waking up. Seriously, who's gonna miss that chick? (Against my better judgement I have included the photo below merely as evidence. There is to be no downloading, no reproductions, no speaking of the photo in public~)
"Is there something wrong with the smile I use now?" I press.
"No, it's fine. Yea, it's fine mom. It's just different from that one," he says. "Oh look that's my Lego guy, he's so funny because..."
Ty had moved on from our smile discussion, unaware that I would not do so for days. I felt guilt. Had the last few months changed me more than I realized? Had I unknowingly passed that change onto the boys I had painstakingly tried to protect from it?
To know true guilt, the kind that's so sticky a good night's sleep can't scrub your heart free of it, you must disappoint someone for whose life you are currently responsible and that you love more than you can explain. I felt guilty.
So the next day I tried to smile the smile from the picture. I even wore the t-shirt. No luck. And that made me not want to smile at all.
So I asked the Lord, "What's happened to my smile? Why has my spirit changed? Please bless me to have a happy soul. To regain the smile that Ty knows."
But my answer was so very different than I expected. My mind was overwhelmed with thoughts of "A season for all things." I felt assured the Lord had blessed me with a new way of being. A wiser way of being. A more compassionate heart. A soul more aware of my blessings. Inward perspective that had changed my outward appearance. I felt impressed that Ty was not disappointed with me; just adjusting to his "new" mom. The season for that smile had passed.
Although I am not totally at ease with my answer yet, I know it is true. Try as I might to change the way my smile looks these days, even if I succeeded, it wouldn't be the new me. So maybe I am a little more serious. Maybe my smile is more reflective than gushing. What I have come to realize as I pondered the smile question, what has helped wash the guilt away, is the acknowledgement that the only thing that really matters is that I'm still smiling--and I mean it; on the inside and the out.