Clara is my niece and oh my goodness she is spunky and fun and adorable. She gave me permission to share this note with you. Although I wrote it with Clara in mind, I could have written it to myself or to you. It applies to all of us, I think. I hope it encourages you too.

Last summer at the lake, you mentioned that you don’t like your teeth. And that got me thinking.

When I was younger, I had a gap between my front teeth, too. Actually, it was a very large gap, and I had until my sophmore year of high school. I was incredibly insecure about it. I tried to smile a forced, awkward smile that didn’t show my teeth. Sometimes I would put a little piece of apple behind my front teeth, look in the mirror and try to image how much more beautiful I would be if my teeth met in the middle.

I clearly remember one of my parents’ friends telling me, “that gap is so large you could drive a semi through it!”. I’m sure he had no idea how sensitive I was about my teeth, but the comment stung. Even typing these words today, it still stings a little. Or I could tell you about the Jr. High boy who asked me if I was missing a tooth. I wanted to crawl under my desk and hide. I was embarrassed. No, it was more than that. I was ashamed of the way I looked. I didn’t want to be me.

Now I’m grown up and I’ve had work done on my teeth. They line up perfectly and there is no gap in the middle. I like my smile now. And I smile big for pictures without thinking about how my smile will look.

But I wish something. I wish that I had known that I was beautiful then. Even with a gap between my teeth, I was lovely and valuable and amazing. Outward beauty isn’t what makes a person beautiful or valuable or lovable.

I have known beautiful people who radiate kindness and love–who by the world’s standards are unattractive. And I’ve known ‘perfect’ and ‘popular’ girls who are unkind, unhappy and when I look at them, I don’t see their shiny hair or perfect skin, all I see is unkindness. Yes, by the world’s standards they may be beautiful, but it’s hard to see past the rude comments and self-centerdness.

Can I tell you something, Clara? As you get older, you’ll probably have your teeth fixed. You’ll probably learn how to apply eye shadow so that it makes your blue eyes look even brighter than they already are. And you’ll probably find the perfect pair of jeans that fit just right. But you will never be more beautiful than you are right now. Because what makes you beautiful is that you are you. You have a sweet and kind heart. You have a sparkle in your eye and a love for others. These things radiate out of you.

You are wonderfully made. Made to be YOU!

Even if you can’t see it yet, you have to believe me. You are amazing and so incredibly special. It’s not your teeth or your hair or how long your legs are that makes you lovely. It’s just you, being you.

You are beautiful.