Smiling and Loving…and coffee cups

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, my handsome husband texted me from his conference in Las Vegas this week.
Tom: Our keynote is trying to tell me that it’s not all about me. She’s full of it.
Me: Someone should have informed her.
Tom: She also wants me to be positive and find the good in people. She doesn’t get me.
Me: Lmao! She is unqualified to give a keynote to accountants. Someone should have vetted her. Heads will roll.
Tom: Now she wants me to lighten up. Come on woman.
Now, part of what makes our marriage work is that I have a self-imposed rule that I don’t write about Tom. However, I am making an exception today to illustrate two things. First, I’m not really all that good at following rules. Second, he is a truly funny guy who makes me laugh aloud now and then. Laughing leads to smiling and I happen to believe whole-hardheartedly in smiling.

The most authentic voice that has ever spoken about the importance of smiling, in my mind, is Mother Teresa. She said this, (and so much more) about the matter.

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Well, what if we’re not actually happy? What if we have an “Eeyore” temperament or our personal circumstances are a mess? Isn’t it a little deceptive to fake it?
I have one friend who is from a large, wealthy family who was taught at a young age that she must appear cheerful. She and her siblings felt they were shaming their parents if they didn’t appear to be happy. This kind of “pressure” to smile does feel inauthentic, don’t you think?
On the other hand, several years ago I received a letter from an awkward, even geeky, former classmate. The note came decades after we had been in school together. “You were the reason I made it through school. I knew every afternoon when I got to English class you would be there smiling at me and saying hello. Except for you, the experience was pure misery.” I didn’t see this coming at all.  The thing is, though, I remember making a choice to be kind to this kid. It was my mom. She endlessly told us that we would never be sorry we were too nice. Spot on, Mom. Thanks.
I share these two stories to make a point. These are two very different types of smiles. In the first example, my friend spent her growing up years “faking” joy. It was feigned and deceptive. The purpose? It was done to make people think favorably about oneself, and it’s difficult to pull this off successfully. Why? Because human beings can feel it when you are “all about me.”

Perhaps unbeknownst to Mom, she was channeling Mother Teresa’s approach to joy with her ever present instruction. YOU WILL NEVER BE SORRY YOU WERE TOO NICE. Mom taught us the outward looking smile. The smile which is aimed at another for his or her benefit is silent and powerful acknowledgment that you see the presence of Christ in that person.
“Spread love everywhere you go….”
Love is a decision. When we love, we are making a decision to look outward. It’s not about impressing someone or looking the part. Have you ever considered how you might answer if God someday asks, “How did you love me?”
Here’s three minutes worth seeing that speaks about this truth of our job to love and be a witness to love in a very accessible and relatable way. The priest who is featured is known only to me as “Fr. Rob.” He publishes at This particular video speaks about the red cups at Starbucks that have been on every media outlet ad nauseum the last few days. I think you’ll enjoy it, so I’ve put a link at the end of this post.

What’s my point in all of this?
Even if I’m not feeling it, even if I’m not in the mood, even if you’re like the sarcastic comedian I’m married to and you claim it’s not part of your natural temperament– I do think we should go out of our way (even if we have to force it) to see the good in others, to perform little kindnesses, and to smile at others in our daily path.
Did you know Mother Teresa felt a profound darkness of soul for the last many years of her life? She was experiencing tremendous interior misery for many years. It was a shocking revelation only revealed after her death. It was mind blowing to many, because the world saw intense joy in her eyes, and deep peace in all that she revealed to others.
She smiled for love of God, so that’s the message we received from her. LOVE.
It’s not about you.

P.S. Do you think Mother Teresa would care about the color of a coffee cup? Me neither.

I’ve got quick thumbs and I cannot lie….

OfferitUpMy son texted me after his last final of the trimester this week.  His needs and desires were immediately clear to me after the better part of 2 decades of being his mama.  I’m curious what you think of our interaction.

Kid:  Mom I am so mad. Guidance has changed my whole schedule for the rest of the year.

Oh Lord, let my heart be kind. 

Me:  I trust this injustice largely centers around the fact that your friends are no longer in your classes as opposed to you are not going to meet graduation requirements?

Kid: I’m really mad Mom.

Me:  Well then, great day!  You have been blessed with the opportunity to offer up this horrible alienation from your friends for the good of some deserving person or cause.  I mean, maybe you are the one who is gonna convince God to infuse my sorry rear with grace to stay ON the diet?  Or maybe your sacrifice will help your brother’s pelvic bone heal more quickly or heck…maybe there will be some soul in heaven who was previously in purgatory cuz of you!  #Blessed #Awesome

Kid:  Well thanks for the insight mom.  #Not Funny

I can’t shoot a basketball, and I’m miserable at any math above junior high level.  The “house” part of housewife gives me fits.  It’s true, I’ve been tried and convicted, with cause, of having the attention span of a squirrel.  Parenting with the backdrop of my sarcastic temperament, however, does sometimes entertain me.  It’s one thing I really do like about being me.  Now that we communicate a lot via technology, I admit celebrating my very fast thumbs with excessive giggling on a fairly regular basis.  What I’m trying to say is that I crack myself up.

This exchange made me laugh….BUT it also gave me pause.  I pray that I don’t use my “gifts” for evil.  This tiny episode happened very near another one which also veered near the “sense of entitlement” end of the teenager spectrum.

So, did I nip it in the bud with humor and love….or am I a snarky mom who lacks compassion?  I wonder who among you would disagree with my tactics?  Would you have called the guidance counselor?  Other parents, what say you?

Oh, Lord, let my heart be kind and my children respectful.