Finding Beauty in the Unexpected
by Courtney Westlake
I sat my daughter, Brenna, up on her changing pad as I snapped up her outfit after a diaper change. And as she looked around, chattering, her eyes fell on my feet, with toenails painted in deep pink.
“Ow?” she asked, associating the color with blood and a hurt toe.
“No, not ow. Mommy put a pretty color of paint on my toenails,” I explained as best I could in toddler language.
I had never painted Brenna’s nails before, though she was two and a half years old at the time. I had really never even thought about painting her nails.
Brenna’s toenails are a product of a rare skin disorder she was born with, a diagnosis that came as a shock to ev-eryone after a typical pregnancy. Like her skin, Brenna’s nails grow way too fast—an ef-fect of a mutated gene. This single mutated gene means the top layer of her skin has trouble doing its jobs.
I balked just for a second before courage set in. I didn’t know exactly how her nails—thick but sensi-tive—would react to polish. I worried about the polish get-ting on her skin and causing an adverse reaction.
But as her bright blue eyes begged me to open the bot-tle, I said enthusiastically, “Yes, let’s paint your nails!”
“Wow!” I exclaimed as I dabbed a final spot, waiting for her reaction.
“Wooo-ow,” she whispered slowly.
Two brightly colored toenails, one on each foot. And the admiration that followed—the beaming as she held up her foot in the light that streamed in from the window.
The kind of admiration that made five minutes of painted toenails come to life in a celebration. I slowly real-ized the magic we were creating in those five minutes and in the moments that followed as she proudly showed off her pretty pink toes for the next week.
It had nothing to do with the polish or the color. Rather, it was all about how she felt about herself. The way she felt as we painted together—loved and special. The way she felt around others—admired and engaged. Brenna felt beautiful because she was living in joy, in celebration, with those around her.
Since Brenna’s birth, simple celebration is what we have discovered for ourselves, in and around of some very hard parts of life. But with that has come a joy-filled life that we also never expected, the kind of overwhelming richness that is beyond comprehension. Because even on the worst days, we can find beauty.
There is a whole new kind of beautiful to be discov-ered when we stop closing our eyes and our hearts to what is unfamiliar or unexpected. When we can focus on the goodness we are feeling rather than seeing, we can learn what it truly means to celebrate beauty in life—the joy, the passion, the deep relationships with each other and God, the dazzling, fleeting moments in front of us that might not otherwise cause us to pause.
Like painting with pink nail polish.
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