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The Smile that Shines Through Tears

I committed this poem to memory when I was going through a particularly hard time in life and it has stayed with me for almost 30 years. It has been a source of strength, encouraging a positive perspective on those days when everything seems to go wrong.

I had one of those mornings several years ago. My younger sister had been rushed to the hospital the day before with the symptoms of an aneurism, and the situation felt dire. This particular morning, she was scheduled for a very important procedure that could result in good or bad news, and I felt I should be there.

I’d been at the hospital for several hours the evening before, so I was exhausted when I pulled myself out of bed to get the kids up and moving. I would have to drop them off at school before I headed to the hospital in Dallas, an hour away. I hurriedly showered so I’d have enough time to manage things before I left.

Suddenly, Emma burst into my room, remembering that she was supposed to have been at school an hour earlier for her middle school basketball tryouts. I’d had a church activity the same night of the information meeting, so my husband had attended instead. Unfortunately, the early morning tryouts never made it on the family calendar.

This was important to her, so I stopped and searched for details about the tryouts. Was today the only day? Was it too late? As it turns out, the coach had emailed about it but, with all that was going on with my sister, I hadn't seen it.

I had a little twitch of mom guilt. I just wasn't on my “A” game and by then, it was too late to take her to the tryout. Disappointed that she had forgotten, she left in tears. All we could hope for was some understanding from the coach. I knew it was not likely, but I would write her to explain . . . though it would have to be later because we had to go!

I was now more frantically trying to get ready as time was running out. If the kids were to be on time, we’d have to leave in a matter of minutes, but I wasn't ready, and the dog still needed to be fed and taken outside.

I took a deep breath and calmly decided I’d have to regroup. I’d take the kids to school and then come back to quickly finish up before heading to Dallas.

That's when I heard Derek cry out in anger and despair. He had caught the dog chewing his one-week-old, very-expensive-to-replace retainer (a scenario which we [and the orthodontist] had warned him about repeatedly). Now, Derek was in tears and we were supposed to be leaving!

These are the moments that try a mom’s soul. I just stood there, unable to cope. My mind was swirling, my emotions kicked into full-panic mode, and I felt I might come unglued.

I needed to be on my way to the hospital NOW. What if something goes wrong and I’m not there?

This morning had turned upside down. Both kids were sad and mad and crying. My knee-jerk response was to yell at the dog, who quickly tucked his tail and ran into his crate.

“We have got to go!” my mind was crying out.

Now, in my younger mother years, I would have pressed on in stubborn frustration, yelling and crying and hustling the kids out the door anyway. We would have arrived at our destinations upset and I would have later been filled with regret.

But, not today, I decided. My adversities have worked together for my good, gifting me with a deeper reservoir of patience and humble submission. In quiet desperation, I found myself, instead, pleading with Father above, "Please, help us manage this moment!"

Almost instantly, grace entered my heart and I surrendered to the moment. I called both of my children lovingly to me. We dropped to our knees to say a prayer, asking for peace, calm, and the wisdom to know what to do. I prayed that all would be well with my sister, and I thanked my Heavenly Father for everything, especially all of the mostly good days! 

Within moments, we were calm. We started to figure things out. I felt impressed to cut a small portion, the only part that had been actually chewed, off the back of Derek’s retainer so that it was smooth. The top retainer was fine and the bottom one was only missing one back molar. It was good enough to get through the day.

Derek, who had been ready to get rid of the dog only moments ago, walked over to Oliver and, with tear-stained cheeks, gently chastised him, but then hugged and quickly forgave him, recognizing that he was responsible for keeping his retainer safe. (A future tender mercy was that the orthodontist only charged us $100 for a replacement instead of the normal $500.)

I emailed Emma’s coach in hopes that she would make an allowance. She didn’t, but we soon realized that, with daily afternoon musical and choir rehearsals, Emma had more than enough on her plate. In hindsight, it was really the best outcome for her.

The kids were late, of course. I went in with each of them and talked to the ladies in the front office. They were very compassionate and understanding, giving me more reason to believe that most people are intrinsically good.

The best news came while I was dropping off my now calm and content kids. My brother-in-law texted that the procedure went beautifully and that everything was as good as it could possibly be. I could now relax, drive carefully, and look forward to a pleasant visit with my sister and family.

Yes, that day was a sober reminder that bad things sometimes happen to good people. But, it also reminded me that I can always take a step back, seek divine comfort and guidance, and trust that it will all be ok in the end.

Four things I was grateful for that day:

Agency: There’s a space between stimulus and response. In that space is my power to choose—a response of faith or doubt. In stressful moments, I can strive to:

Breathe deeply.

Clear my mind.

Choose a positive response.

Say a prayer.

Invite divine guidance.

Listen for promptings of the spirit.

Trust my own innate wisdom.

Act swiftly on promptings.

Love more purely and freely.

Grace: Which came only after my surrender to God’s will.

When I notice an inner struggle or resistance, I am learning to intentionally surrender to the way things are in the moment.

I choose not to support my ego’s demands to change or make war on the conditions of the moment.

I can soften my heart, open my mind, and wonder, “What else is possible?”

When I allow myself and the moment to just be, my mind, body and spirit are prepared to receive and experience the fullness of God’s presence and grace.

Trust: My trust in Heavenly Father wasn’t established that day, but it was reinforced. Like a muscle, my belief in His promises has strengthened over time as I have learned to exercise faith and rely on His love and guidance.

I also felt more acutely that Heavenly Father entrusted me with several of His

own spirit children. I am a powerful influence in their lives and they learn from

my example. I am more resolved to live the gospel in a Christ-like way.

Eternal Truths: When I have a negative (-), I can “focus up” (↑) to turn it into a positive (+). When I keep my focus on eternity, earthly upsets don’t seem so overwhelming. Yes, there will be hard days, but I know they won’t last forever.

We learn and grow best through opposition. After all, it is an essential part of God’s Great Plan of Happiness. Yet, we have His promise that the blessings are sure if we will be obedient and endure in faith.

Yes, I am ever grateful for God’s tender mercies, and for the divine support of angels, who stand ready to gracefully assist as we humble ourselves and ask in faith.

Often, this assistance comes in calm reassurances and feelings of comfort. Sometimes, it comes through strong promptings to act or respond in higher, holier ways. Other times, it comes when humans show up as earthly angels. But, it comes . . . by divine design and in perfect divine timing.

This picture is of us that morning, just before we walked out the door: late, imperfect, with tear-stained faces, but smiling, because we had each other and we knew everything would be ok.


Trudy Johnson is a blogger, a life coach, and a faith-based mentor.

She is the wife of a loving husband, mother of four amazing human beings (and one crazy little dog), and grandmother of three darling grandchildren.

She is a student of life and life has been a great teacher. Having experienced much adversity, she has learned to rise above the trappings of a victim mentality, embracing both the messiness and beauty of God’s great plan for ultimate and eternal happiness.

You can find many of the insights, tools, and techniques she has discovered on her journey to wholeness, happiness, and grace at everydaybetterandbetter.


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