Over the past many years, through SGLY Photography’s cancer ministry, I have had the privilege of taking the last professional picture of many incredible people. There is no fee for this service; yet, this gift for the individuals and their families has been truly priceless.

Personally, I have learned much behind the lens in these creative shoots. What I see spans beyond thoughtfully selected outfits, pressed shirts and combed hair. My soul sees “I love you,” “I am strong,” “I am so thankful,” “This is my family,” and “God has me.”

As a husband reaches for the hand of his wife, or a child wraps her arms around her grandfather, I have witnessed their love stories unfold in tight clasps, long gazes, gentle sighs, laughs and tears.

One thread joins them all: In their reality of being closer to Heaven, what they elect to gather in this world shifts. In getting to know each person, I was invited into a small glimpse of their world prior to them becoming ill. They were lawyers, Harley-Davidson bikers, cowboys, homemakers, teachers, dancers, students, engineers, accountants and truck drivers. They were also collectors of antiques, coins, shoes, fine wines, tools, knick-knacks and books. They spent the bulk of their time travelling, gaming, working, or dallying on their computers or cellphones. They felt busy most of the time, but not always fulfilled. Some carried the baggage of resentment and regret; others held to short tempers and anxious dispositions. Many would say the most peaceful they felt was after finally accepting their diagnosis.

“Why?” I asked one precious lady.

“Because it freed me to think clearly. I looked around at everything I was collecting and gathering around me and realized the things that I claimed were the most important to me were often not representative of how I lived. I was hoarding limited time with foolishness.”

I have thought often of what this beautiful lady shared with me. She has since passed, but her wisdom remains. How often do I hoard limited time with thinking and actions outside of God’s best for me? Just because I see those I love doesn’t mean they are always prioritized correctly, nor does it mean I prioritize God correctly just because I commit to a daily devotional. So, dear reader, I will ask of you what I have been asking of myself this Christmas as we celebrate Jesus’ birth and his sacrificial love for all:

If you were looking at your life behind a lens, what view would you see? Peace, hope, love? Foolishness?

Is there anything you need to surrender to Christ Jesus to help you keep the most important thing the most important thing?

As we gather near to us the trueness of this season, let us remember that while we look heavenward, God had a significant purpose for sending his son to free us from sin’s death and to restore our eternal relationship with him. May we experience the “good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

And may our souls each express “I love you,” “I am strong,” “I am so thankful,” “This is my family,” and “God has me.”

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You).

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian writer and an opinion columnist. To submit feedback on SGLY or to offer a specific topic idea, please contact Chartier at news@amtrib. com. Follow Chartier on Facebook: facebook. com/ tiffanychartier and Twitter: @tiffanychartier