SMILE by maureen maniquis

mom young portrait.JPG

Missing my mom today...thinking back over the years and all the family history, all the baggage brought to a family by two people who never really unpacked it and put it in its place.  I spent lots of time judging my mother.  I just never got her.  She was stoic and reserved but always an optimist.  I thought she walked through life wearing "rose colored glasses" and denied the reality around her.  Her favorite song was Smile by Nat King Cole. 

Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though its breaking

When there are clouds in the sky you'll get by

If you smile through your tears and sorrows

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That's the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what's the use of crying?

You'll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile.

I wish I had one more day to spend with her.  I'd like to ask her forgiveness.  I'd like to tell her I get her now.  She understood way more than I thought she did.  She understood grace.  She understood the sovereignty of God.  She understood that faith, hope and love were the trifecta for a fallen world.  I, on the other hand, in my idealistic, self-righteous younger years, rarely let them meld together as they were meant to.  There was always one over-taking the other and love usually came limping in last.  

There's an expression, "youth is wasted on the youth".  Priorities, perceptions, endeavors and longings all come in the form of a "blue flame".  You're at maximum combustion and pretty certain you've got it all figured out.  But the truth is that after years of burning hot and shooting out flames over the relevant issues of the day, it's the slow and steady embers that get you to the finish line intact.  Opinions, arguments, finger-pointing rarely change anything. 

God allows our youthful flames to burn hot.  His wisdom knows the blowback will scorch us in valuable places.  He knows, that over time, those painful burns will teach us empathy, compassion, and yes, love.

We chase after the physical beauty and strength of youth with the gusto of a triathlon.  The world tells us, "Therein lies our value".  But, deep down, we all know this is a lie.  The true value is the beauty and strength of the soul.  Ironically, it doesn't begin to develop its patina until its outward home has begun to fade.  It takes a lifetime to learn the blessings of surrender.  

When we dial back that blue flame a bit and surrender to the slow and steady embers, relinquishing our need to be right, there's a peace that nestles in.  There's a clarity that the sovereignty and grace of God will work all things out.  This is not a "giving up" but rather a recognition.  To surrender is not to be "taken over" but to be set free.

"Look at that man, bloated by self-importance--full of himself but soul-empty.  But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive."

Habakkuk 2:4


Spring Breath by maureen maniquis

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Spring is often associated with new life.  It’s that time of year when freshness appears and life flourishes in an abundant array of colors, sounds and fragrances.  It’s a time that brings with it multiple meanings of the word itself.  We can get a spring in our step as the weather warms and invigorates us toward new projects and outdoor activities.  We spring back into action after the lethargy of the cooler months.  We witness the resilience of all of nature and we smile with hope.

Living in Florida-spring often goes unnoticed.  It tends to get passed by with the mild winters moving quickly into the heat of summer.  But, this year, we have had a glorious spring of dry breezy days and cooler evenings that, for a Floridian, could bring a welcome rare chill.

I seem to find myself simultaneously in a kind of spring of the soul.  For some time now I’d been buried under a hard packed crust of lifeless ground.  My very breath was but a rote necessity of in and out, in and out, filling the lungs but never really penetrating the inner places that make a life satisfying.  I’d lost the joy of my Lord.  I’d somehow lost my connection to him and the beauty of who he is.  It took me a long time to even recognize what was missing in my daily breath, so numb had I become, so hollow.  But I began to breathe in his direction.  My breaths came in soft whispers at first rising upward to his ever bending ear.  He listened quietly as he always does when my heart is in search of understanding.  So gentle is he, like a Father who knows what his child needs, not a quick fix but a new perspective.

Over time I began to feel his breath coming in my direction.  At first, it was just a slight flutter like a ripple in my lungs.  A noticeable event if ever so brief.  I could feel a change was in the air but my senses were still in hibernation.  Soon, the ground began to soften as the moist breath of heaven fell upon it.  As I breathed in this rich mixture of love and truth, little shoots of joy began to spring up with new life.  What had seemed to be painted with a grey brush was suddenly bursting forth in brilliant colors again.

My soul has awakened and it feels so good! I thank my Lord for his very breath in me.

On this day in early spring, in the month of Abib, you have been set free.”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭13:4 NLT