When I was nine years old my mom took me shopping for new shoes. Mine were worn out and too small and it was time for a new pair. As we entered our local Payless shoe store, I spotted a pair of emerald green flats and fell in love. These shoes were going to change my life.
“Please mom?” I asked.
“They’re not very practical.” She answered. “Do you promise you’ll wear them?”
“I promise.” I said
We drove home and I skipped into the house thrilled with my new green shoes. I could hardly believe I owned something so beautiful. They were mine, all mine.
I wore them even though they gave me blisters. I wore them when the color scuffed off around the toes. Eventually they wore out completely.  No matter how tightly I tried to hold on, their beauty faded.
I felt a little sad when we cleaned out my closet and bagged them up along with other too small or not needed items. But soon something else caught my eye.
A couple weeks later, my friend Marie invited me to her house to play.  When she opened her bedroom door I saw a four poster bed with a white ruffle canopy. I had never seen anything so fancy.  It was so beautiful I could hardly stand it.
It is the first time I remember feeling jealous.
I wanted that bed to be mine. But I matter how much I begged and pleaded, I knew my parents would never buy my a four poster bed with a ruffle canopy.
The green shoes wouldn’t be the last time I would try to own beauty and hold it tightly.
Marie’s four poster bed with a ruffle canopy wouldn’t be the last time a would feel jealousy and longing.
As I became an adult I still craved beauty. When Steve and I were engaged I was sure i could find something–incredible wedding photos or the perfect couch or the right lipstick–to satisfy my craving. For a short time I would enjoy these things but their beauty faded. Nothing seemed to keep that jealous ache away for long.
When I was 38 weeks pregnant, we learned something was wrong with our baby. I was quickly admitted to the hospital and two days later, Steve and I held our first son, David.  He was 4 lbs, 2 oz and had only had two fingers on his left hand. We were told he had a rare genetic disorder called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome This wasn’t the baby I dreamed about. The beautiful life I had planned was slipping through my fingers. I imagined years filled with doctor visits and wheelchairs and feeding tubes. We loved David dearly, but in those first days, I couldn’t imagine beauty as part of our story. The pain of losing the baby we expected combined with navigating David’s physical needs was almost unbearable.
I was fully aware for the first time in my life that I was not in control. I began to understand I had never been in control.
I worried a lot less about finding the right lipstick and spent that energy taking care of our new baby.
I wasn’t as concerned about having the perfect home. Instead I focused on rare quiet moments with my husband while our baby was sleeping.
When David was ten weeks old he smiled for the first time. His smile was like glue healing the cracks in my broken heart.
It was beautiful.
When he was three months old he laughed for the first time. It was a rolling giggle and it was the most incredible sound we had ever heard. Steve and I looked at each other with unbridled joy.
It was beautiful.
When David was eighteen months old, his brother Matthias was born. We were relieved to meet our healthy, happy baby. Matthias balanced out our family. He was exactly what we needed.
Steve and I had two boys.
They were beautiful.
We bought our first house and filled it with thrifted furniture we sanded and painted.
It was beautiful.
Money was tight those first years. We paid our bills every month but had little left over for fun.
Sometimes we would splurge and go to Dairy Queen for chili cheese dogs. I treasure those memories with the four of us sitting in the booth at DQ.
It was beautiful.
During a particularly difficult financial time, someone from our church slipped $500 into Steve’s briefcase. We were in shock. To this day we have no idea who gave us that money.
It was one of the most humbling gifts we ever received.
It was beautiful.
Last week I stood on the beach staring at the glittering ocean waves. I let the salty ocean air fill my lungs. My heart was happy.
It was beautiful.
There is beauty in a hot cup of coffee.
There is beauty in sitting with a friend and sharing our hearts.
There is beauty in sunlight coming through the window.
There is beauty in slowing down to rest.
There is beauty in an impromptu dinner with friends.
There is beauty when my arms are tired from holding my boys.
There is beauty in the emptiness of loss, because loss means I have loved.
There is beauty in the dark places–where we least expect to find it. I have found on the hardest days, beauty shows up in real and miraculous ways.
The tighter I try to hold onto beauty, the more it slips through my fingers.
When I look to my outward beauty, my home and material things to fill me I become frustrated.
Beauty cannot be owned or possessed.
Beauty comes to me when I open my eyes and open my heart.
Beauty comes to me when I stop trying to control things and let them be what they are–messy and amazing.
There is nothing wrong with green shoes or four poster beds with a ruffle canopy. There is nothing wrong with a new couch or the perfect shade of lipstick. These things are beautiful gifts–ours to enjoy for a while. But the little things; a smile, a tiny giggle, an anonymous gift, a small hand in mine, the ocean waves, the sun warming my shoulders, these are the most beautiful gifts of all.
I want to hold beauty with open hands. I want to remind myself although I cannot own it, there is no shortage of beauty. It’s impossible to run out of beauty because the God of the Universe has filled his creation with beautiful things. He gives us gifts to enjoy, to soak up and to share with others. There is an endless supply of beauty around me. My arms and my heart are full.
In fact, this very moment, right now, is beautiful.
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