Sunday, January 11, 2009

What's In a Smile?

I got an inadvertent guilt trip from my five year old earlier this week—an experience I’m told is as universal as it is inevitable. It came during a review of pictures downloaded from his purple digital cheese machine. Of course he laughs hysterically as he explains all of the almost unintelligible shots; recounting to me exactly what they’re of and why he took them. And after quite a bit of head turning and a lot of imagination, I come to understand what he’s talking about and how that might be funny from his 4-foot point of view. We laugh together.

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.


Tawn said...

Mindi! I love all your posts! You make such sense about everything, and you make my heart smile! Speaking of smiles, if it makes you feel better about being in your XL t-shirt and just waking up in this photo, You still ARE SO BEAUTIFUL! We all know it's on the inside and out! I know we don't know e-chother that well, but just from the couple small little converstaions we have had about our adorable kids, and reading up on your blog, YOU TRULY ARE A WONDERFUL PERSON! You have taught me alot-through all your beautiful smiles, and sometimes more serious expressions! You are an amazing Mom, friend and overall just a wonderful person! A great example to ALL!! :)

jaci said...

Oh you make me cry! Every time! Dang you! You are beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Your smile still makes me smile, and I'm glad you are still smilin girl! You are so very strong!
Love you,

Kristi said...

Be still my heart! That was the sweetest post. I think I forget how aware our little ones are of even the smallest things (aka the type of your smile). Don't worry Mindi, you I know you will smile like that again one day.

andrea said...

Let me take a minute to wipe the tears from my eyes!
You are such an amazing woman - I have always envied you, and your strength throughout this whole thing is amazing.
I do have to say this though- this picture is the first time I have ever seen you without lipstick on! I thought that would never happen!

Annie K said...

Thanks for the post. I was wondering about my smile just this morning. I wondered if I smiled and laughed enough for my kids. I appreciate your thoughts and will have to ponder on them some more.

I am so glad you left that comment. Brian and I were going to try to stop by over Christmas but it just didn't work out. We will have to get together next time we are up. I am in awe at the ride you have taken this past year. We think about you guys and wish you the best. I will stay in touch.

Emily said...

Mindi - I've been checking in from time to time to see how your brave, strong little guy is doing. I was so happy to see that his surgery in November went so well, and I am sorry that you are struggling with mysterious bleeding. I'm glad to hear that he (and you) are doing better.

I loved this post! And may I just say how gorgeous you look - especially at nine months pregnant! Your face isn't even puffy. My cheeks seem to grow at the same rate as my belly. From your picture, I never would have guessed that you were even pregnant, much less close to delivery.

Secondly, I have thought a lot about your thoughts these past few days. Not to take away from your trial in the least, but it has made me think about everything that our family has been through the past few years. If someone would have told me to think of the most outrageous trial that we would experience, I never even could have imagined this one. My husband was flipping through some old Christmas pictures a couple of weeks ago. He commented on how different everyone looks. Ironically, he asked me if I thought we (meaning my family) would ever smile like that again, or if this experience has changed us forever.

I'm with you - I now see the world through very different eyes. Like you, I hope those eyes are more compassionate, more apt to seek to understand, and more reliant on the Savior. I know that they are more easily brought to tears and much more profound in prayer.

Your sons will be so blessed by your new outlook. And I am positive that your current smile is just a gorgeous. You are an amazing mother, and it warms my heart to see your sweet, darling, chunky little boy get stronger.