Oh friends, you’re going to love this next reading pick by Courtney Westlake. It will tug on your heart strings, but will also bring encouragement and warmth to your spirit, and maybe even change your entire perspective about what beauty really is.
The challenges that Courtney and her family face with their daughter’s special needs have not dampened their faith, but increased it. She shares in the first chapter how she’s learned that even on the worst of days, she can now find beauty somewhere if she sets her mind to it. Courtney shares that, “Beauty extends from all pieces of our lives, just waiting to be noticed, to be appreciated, to be celebrated… the best kind of beautiful – the truest beauty that God intentionally and lovingly created for us – is not only seen but also felt… beauty is not found when we open our eyes but rather when we open our hearts.”
She also wrote these inspiring words, “Sometimes the most beautiful things come from the unexpected parts of life that encourage us to search a little harder to find where the beauty lies – to put aside pre-concieved notions about what beautiful is and what it isn’t and let the feeling of beautiful settle deep into our souls.”
I don’t know about you, but just those few sentences made me start thinking about life differently and asking myself questions like, “How could I change my perspective about what I see today? How can I start looking for the beauty around me, even in the difficult circumstances I’m facing, and letting those thoughts transform my outlook, and my heart?” And I bet her book will help you begin to do the same.
I slipped on my heels as I rattled off care instructions to my parents, who would be watching my daughter with special needs for the evening while my husband, my older son, and I attended a wedding reception.
With a 6:00 p.m. wedding, the reception ran well past Brenna’s bedtime (Connor’s too, but his attendance was more important as a ring bearer!), so Brenna was freshly dressed in her pajamas while I donned a deep turquoise strapless dress for my night out celebrating.
At 18 months old, she was highly attached to her mommy, and she began to wail and reach for me. Without thinking, I picked her up and set her on my hip.
Then as I handed my little girl over to her grandparents, I turned to go and saw my mom’s face – a mix of dismay and sympathy.
There on my side, on my colorful blue dress, a deep oily stain had settled in.
Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder that causes her skin to build up and dry out quickly. One of the ways we treat this is by applying a thick cream called Aquaphor all over her body several times a day.
This ongoing routine keeps Brenna’s skin moisturized enough to move. Without regular lotion, her skin would dry out and crack, becoming extremely painful and dehydrated. But what makes Aquaphor so effective for dry skin also makes it very effective elsewhere – like walls… and furniture… and clothing.
I had really wanted to wear that turquoise dress to the wedding reception. I debated if anyone would notice the dark spot on my side, but after an examination in the mirror, I realized it was pretty obvious, and a little weird to go to a fancy wedding with a stained dress.
So I changed – my dress, my shoes, my jewelry and all. I grabbed my purse, and quickly headed out the door, smiling as I closed it behind me.
I changed my outfit. . .but I felt my insides also changing that night. I began to understand that evening that stains have the power to ruin only when we let them.
There was a time I would have cried at that stain.
Clothing has never been a priority to me, but in the beginning of Brenna’s life, as we grappled with our new lifestyle of skin care and healthcare revolving around this severe, lifelong disorder, the little things built up in my head as big things. Things like not being able to dress my daughter in clothing with velvet or lace, or knowing that her clothes would be ruined after a couple times of wear.
These minor issues seemed like one more thing to have to think about in the midst of simply worrying about keeping her alive and healthy. So, occasionally, I struggled with coming to terms with the effects Brenna’s skin care routine were having on so many aspects of our lives, even unimportant things like our clothes.
In the early days, I shed more than one tear over a damaged clothing item, and I was prone to changing before going out into public, wondering what others would think about the grease streaks on my shirts.
But I now see those streaks as part of my motherhood story.
Today, the sides of my shirts where I hold my daughter or the markings on my jeans where she sits no longer bother me one bit. Sometimes I am able to remove the stains. . .but other times, I can be found chucking a shirt into the trash after a couple of seasons of intense Aquaphor exposure. More often than not, I am thankful for what those shirts gave me—day after day of cuddling, holding, carrying, and rocking with my child.
Maybe stains aren’t tainting, but are actually telling. Maybe instead, stains stand for intense beauty, helping to tell our remarkable stories in all kinds of ways. What first seems “broken” can be redeemed to an incredible purpose in the name of our Lord.
Too often, we let stains dictate ruin on whatever they touch. But stains have an intense beauty if we look at them through a new perspective: through our hearts instead of our eyes. It’s the same for wrinkles and other marks—on our clothes, our bodies, or our hearts. These tarnishes often represent tenacity, character, pure love. When something is stained or worn, it is usually because it has been well-loved or very useful.
I worked and worked on that turquoise dress I wore the night of the wedding with its side stain of Aquaphor where my daughter sat on my hip. I tried spray after spray of stain-remover. However, I must have waited too long, or maybe the fabric just wasn’t conducive to grease. The stain stuck.
But that dress hangs in my closet still, and I smile at it thinking about that night and recalling how much my heart changed since all because of that stain.
Courtney is the author of newly released book A Different Beautiful. She lives in Illinois with her husband Evan and two children, Connor and Brenna. After Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder, Courtney began chronicling family life and experiences raising a child with physical differences and special needs on her blog. Her work has been published on sites such as the Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day and Yahoo Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
What is area of your life, or a circumstance you are facing, where you can begin looking for beauty? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment on this post and be entered to win a free copy of A Different Beauty.
When Courtney Westlake’s family was given the shocking news that their daughter, Brenna, was born in 2011 with a severe, life-threatening skin disorder, they began to discover a new and different beautiful in their lives–one that values extraordinary differences and appreciates the wonderful sameness found in humanity. In A Different Beautiful, Courtney explores what her family has discovered in raising a child with physical differences and what she has learned about true beauty. Through her personal insights and experiences, Courtney shares how you, too, can learn to find and celebrate God’s version of beautiful in your life, especially within our differences and struggles.
** The winners of last week’s giveaway are below and have been notified:
- It’s Not Fair, by Melanie Dale – Holly
- Pressing Pause, by Karen Ehman – Suzette (blog winner)
- Pressing Pause – Hayley (Facebook winner)
- Pressing Pause – brocantetreasures (Instagram winner)