My little 2-year-old Tillie Rose is a born entertainer. Lately I can’t help but shake my head at the things she’s coming up with. Like the other day, my three girls had all just woken up from their naps, and so I brought them to the kitchen and set them in their high chairs while I got their dinner. Immediately they all started slapping their chubby hands on their trays, demanding that I get food pronto. Over the noise of the twins I heard Tillie’s high-pitched voice say, “Mom, let’s get down to business!”
There’s nothing like a 2-year-old.
However, my favorite Tillie phrase came right in the middle of a “disciplining moment” (me lecturing her for the 100th time about why we don’t throw food on the ground). As I went on in my serious tone, Tillie looked up at me and said, “Mom, can you just smile for me?” which she quickly followed with, “Mom, just laugh!” Needless to say, as a laugh escaped my lips the disciplining moment was gone, and we both knew we were off the hook.
As funny as she is, I haven’t been able to get the phrase, “can you just smile for me?” out of my mind. I am notorious for taking myself too seriously (I started a website about faith after all!), and I used to feel guilty when I made my own happiness a priority. But the last few years I’ve changed my mind. God wants us to be happy! While trials and heartache are real, being a disciple of Christ should be full of joy! The Savior has commanded us to “be of good cheer” and to “rejoice in Him”, and has taught us that “a joyful heart is good medicine.”
So how can we find joy as we’re busy serving God and seeking to do His will? Here are five ways that have helped me.
- Find your purpose. I tend to be a people pleaser, and growing up I worried a lot about meeting others expectations. While worrying about what others thought helped me stay on task and get good grades, somewhere in my 20’s I realized I wanted to be true to who I was. I took time to pray and ponder on what gifts I had. The irony was that as I was true to myself and what made me happy, I was in a better position to please others in ways that mattered.
- Serve, serve, serve. Once you’ve found your purpose, use it to help others! Last summer while I was in the hospital the hospital chaplain (who I love!) shared a quote with me that resonated to my bones, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner). As I’ve found the things that bring me “deep gladness” and use them to fill the “deep hunger” of those around me, I’ve found my calling. A few things that bring me deep gladness are creating, reading, and sharing the gospel. Creating a space on the internet where I can do all three has brought me so much joy and purpose!
- Shake it off! Sometimes we need time to work through heartache and trials, but other times we just need to shake things off. My husband Dave has taught me so much about this, as has Tillie. (Aren’t kids amazing at forgiving, forgetting, and moving on?!) Some meals don’t turn out, some people don’t want to be our friends, and at times we all feel left out and looked over. In times like these we just need to shake it off! I think one of Satan’s greatest tools is to tempt us to hold on to things that God wants us to forget. Guilt, remorse and pain have no place once we’ve turned to God and moved on. So when things don’t go as you hoped, shake it off, find something to laugh about, and be of good cheer!
- Keep it all in perspective. This life is short. So you gained 5 lbs, lost a game, or heaven forbid failed a test. It’s ok. So many of the things we let work us up or weigh us down simply don’t matter. When I think back on many of the arguments I’ve had with siblings or my husband, I can rarely even remember what we were arguing about. Life’s too short to fight, to be unkind, or to live a life that isn’t true to yourself and God.
- Just smile! Tillie was spot on with this one. Just smile! Laugh! As one of my heroes Gordon B. Hinckley said, “There is nothing that dulls a personality so much as a negative outlook.” Look around you at all the things God has given you and be grateful for His goodness! If you open your eyes and ask God to show you what He’s done for you, I promise you will find something to smile about—this beautiful world, your gifts and talents, warmth, good food, and relationships are enough to bring a glow to your heart and countenance.
Life can be complex, but at times even a 2-year-old has the answers. Just smile.