“When we can see the beautiful in the unexpected, we learn to find joy and celebration in what is, instead of mourning what isn’t.” (Courtney Westlake, A Different Beautiful)
The beaches of the Florida Panhandle are hard to beat. White sand and blue water under the pinkish-orange sunset sky is a true masterpiece of our Creator. If you ask me to take you somewhere beautiful, this is it.
We would also visit the mountains of Northeast Alabama. Trails etched into their wilderness lead you to breathtaking waterfalls and quiet shade where cool rocks offer a place to rest.
Our tour of beautiful places would include the sidewalks of downtown Birmingham on the third Saturday of the month. Here, we see a line of people forming around portable tables and boxes of food. Smiles and warm greetings pass back and forth over the table as love is served on a plate.
In her newly released book, A Different Beautiful, Courtney Westlake says, “Kindness is a beautiful art that we continually learn to create as we strive to connect with those around us.” This truth makes our third stop on the harsh, downtown streets so beautiful. Kindness and connection collide, creating a different beautiful than the sand and water we find on the shore. Different, but no less beautiful.
In A Different Beautiful, Westlake shares the story of her daughter Brenna, born with a genetic condition called harlequin ichthyosis. A mutation in her genetic code means her body does not form skin correctly. In Brenna’s case, she forms skin too quickly. She is unable to regulate her body temperature or retain moisture which leads to dehydration. She is also prone to skin infections and painful, cracking skin at her joints.
Raising and caring for Brenna taught Westlake to view beauty differently. Beauty doesn’t consist of cute outfits and blonde pigtails. A beautiful life is no longer defined by predictability and order. Relationships don’t have to be conventional or conflict-free to be considered beautiful. Westlake learned that beauty isn’t found in the traditional places, but rather in joy, kindness, and gratitude.
A Different Beautiful challenged my perception of beauty. As I read, I uncovered my tendency to focus on outward appearances, normalcy, and order. An attractive face, a home fit for the pages of Southern Living, a clear lake on a cool morning, a line of checkmarks on the margin of my to-do list—all symbolized beauty for me.
I learned beauty can be found in the strangest places.
I found beauty in the lined face of the widow at the gym, in the way her eyes shift toward the floor as she tells me how much she misses her husband of sixty-two years. Her sorrow speaks of a deep, long-lasting love and gives me hope for my own marriage.
Beauty showed up at 2 a.m. when my potty-training son called out from his room, “Mama, I got to go potty!”, our first middle-of-the-night tinkle. It symbolizes reaching another milestone and leaving behind our last connection to the baby years.
The strong coffee waiting for me in the coffee pot this morning is the beautiful evidence of two lives woven together. Eighteen years ago, my husband didn’t even drink coffee. Now he makes our coffee each morning. He makes it a bit stronger than most, but I’ve adapted. We find a daily connection and compromise around that coffee pot.
The beauty of friendship displayed across the screen of my phone in a late night text requesting prayer over a broken area. I mourn over the brokenness, but I am filled with gratitude for the trust I share with sacred friends.
My house revealed a new beauty the evening all the chairs and all the blankets came together to form a tent. The tweenager, the middle child, and the two-year-old played together blissfully for hours. I couldn’t stage a better picture of home sweet home.
I appreciate Courtney Westlake’s willingness to share from the hard places of her own life to reveal a different beautiful. A Different Beautiful gives a clear picture of 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Where might you find beautiful today? Take a look in some unexpected places for the things that bring you joy, examples of kindness, and circumstances that inspire gratitude. Maybe even look inward at the beauty you exude. A different beautiful waits to be discovered!
A Different Beautiful, Courtney Westlake.
Product links are affiliate links.
I received one or more of the products or services mentioned for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”