It started last Christmas. After weeks of thoughtful shopping, I sat giddy in front of my daughters, eager to relish their squeals over every toy and game. But each time my second-grader tore open a piece of wrapping paper revealing some much wished-for gift, all I got was a solemn face and a quiet “thank you.”
“Sweetheart, don’t you like your gifts?” I crinkled my eyebrows, wondering why she wasn’t jumping off the sofa in excitement. “You don’t seem very happy.”
“Mom,” she dropped her chin and peered at me over her glasses. “I’m excited on the inside, but serious on the outside.”
That is her personality in a nutshell.
As my sweet girl grows, I’ve observed a sober, pensive leaning to her temperament. This is how God made her, and I want to nurture that. However, sometimes our natural tendencies can work against us, and we need to stretch beyond them. Like last Saturday—at her eighth birthday party.
“Sweetie, remember to smile, okay?” I whispered in my daughter’s ear as she reached for the first gift. Fifteen lovely pals surrounded her, and each of them had contributed a generous present to the pile. They were anxious to see the birthday girl’s reaction.
Of course Momma knew what that reaction was going to be. And I thought our party guests deserved a little more, uh, outward evidence of my daughter’s gratitude. So I offered a few quick instructions.
“I know you’re excited on the inside, but try to show it on the outside, too,” I whispered some more. “Smile big and say a nice loud ‘thank you’ to your friends so they know how much you appreciate their gifts.”
She nodded and immediately flashed a stiff smile to confirm she understood. Precious child, for the next twenty minutes she worked those smile muscles so hard they ached.
Don’t we all need a little help sometimes? When our natural inclination is to withdraw or hide or appear ungrateful, we sure could benefit from a guiding whisper in our ear.
Don’t do that.
Remember to count your blessings.
And by the way, do you know how much I love you?
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).
God isn’t just some big, benevolent grandfather in the sky. He’s here, walking with us, indwelling us, and gently whispering encouragements to our souls. When was the last time you listened for it?
Sometimes the clamor and busyness of everyday living drowns out his still, small voice and so we miss the cues. But he loves us enough to lean in and speak above the proverbial party noise so that even when everything around us overwhelms, we have the chance to hear him. And then we can go where he leads us.
My daughter returned home from her party with a bagful of treasures and an even bigger haul of memories. And I came away with a reminder that God is with us, guiding us, and showering us with blessings. Anybody who wants proof of a loving God needs only to look at a child. Eight years ago, I had no idea how huge my heart could grow.
Happy birthday, my love. I thank God so dearly for you—on the inside and the outside!
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