For a long time, we've been trying to help our little girl understand the difference between what we simply call "sad tears" and "happy tears." She's got a very sensitive heart, and it always distresses her when she sees someone crying. She usually assumes (understandably) that it means they're sad. So we've tried to explain the concept of being happy enough to cry for joy. She's tried to comprehend it, but you can tell that one's still a learning curve for her, which is just fine. :-)
The other evening I unintentionally nuanced the whole discussion even further. D. had to work late so it was just me and the sweet girl at advent devotions. We were praying together at the end, and as I prayed and thanked God for the gift of Jesus, I found myself getting really choked up. When I finished, the sweet girl looked at me with a little alarm and asked, "Mommy, why did you sound like that?" I explained that sometimes when I think about how good God is and how Jesus came as a tiny baby to show us how much he loved us, that it's just so beautiful that I end up crying some happy tears. "Sometimes beautiful things can move us and make us have tears," I think was how I said it.
Last night I realized how much those words had sunk in when we got to prayer time again. We were just about to start when I looked over and saw how my daughter had arranged the creche while we were singing and reading. She's been allowed to get out two new figures each night, so the little stable is getting quite crowded. Last night she finally had to move some of the figures outside rather than crowding them all in. But she made sure that baby Jesus in the manger was in the corner, and the rest of the figures, every single one, was turned toward him. She pointed this out to me so I wouldn't miss it. "Look Mommy, I turned them all this way so they can all see Jesus."
Guess what? More tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn't help it. I looked at that crowd of little creche figures, all bunched up together and all turned toward the baby and my heart just felt so touched and warmed. I didn't sniffle or anything, but I think the sweet girl could hear the catch in my voice when I responded. She cast me a suspicious look and then glanced more closely at my eyes and saw the tears. "Mommy, why do you look beautiful?" she asked suddenly. "Because of Jesus?"