A few years ago I met with a new client named Brian who was in charge of a large retirement home. After our meeting he took me on a tour of the facility. As we waited for the elevator, an adorable little old lady approached us.
"Hello, Mrs. MacFarland," Brian greeted her. She returned his greeting with genuine sparkle.
As we stepped into the elevator together, I smiled, extended my hand and introduced myself. She looked up at me and said, "Well, you're awfully pretty. Really. Very beautiful." Caught a little off guard, I thanked her awkwardly, unable to get over the way she made such a fuss over my looks.
We walked a little further through the facility, then Brian casually commented, "You know that lady in the elevator?" I nodded. "She's legally blind." (ba-doom-ba!)
I laughed about that one all the way home. Perhaps it was my inner beauty she saw? But the irony wasn’t lost on me either. In fact, it stung a little. Because for most of my life I’ve been carrying around a pretty heavy ugly complex. I inherited this complex from my mother, who was strikingly beautiful, but also felt she got the short end of the stick when it came to looks.
In the last six months, two things have made a difference for me. Not changed the way I look. But changed the way I feel about how I look.
First, this book.
Precious Bane, written in 1924 and somehow overlooked as a classic (but clutched tenaciously by those who value great literature, including C. S. Lewis) has some of the most beautiful, poetic passages you can ever hope to read. Set in Shropshire, England in the 1800s, it’s a fairy tale of operatic proportions. There is love and hate, lust and innocence, birth and death, fire and flood. The heroine was born with a cleft palate (hare lip) for which she’s despised and accused of witchcraft. Yet she never gives up hope of being loved and cherished. While her brother allows his obsession with riches to poison and destroy him, Prudence rises to a shining level of wisdom and grace. Ultimately, one wonderful man sees beyond her physical flaw to her radiant inner beauty, and it becomes a love story that is powerful and unsurpassed. How I was engulfed in the pages of this marvelous book, where a woman is loved for what she truly is on the inside, rather than for how the rest of the world sees her! This is the kind of love story I’ve always believed in: True beauty rewarded with truest love.
Next, this talk, by a modern prophet.
When Thomas Monson rose to speak to a large group of women from our church, a palpable hush fell over the crowd. Toward the end he told the story of Mary Bartels, an innkeeper of sorts, who rented a room to a shriveled, misshapen old man whom many had turned away. Over the years she came to know and befriend this man, and discovered he had a generous and humble heart and a beautiful soul. Besides the symbolism of the innkeeper, this is the part that undid me:
After the man passed away, Mary was visiting with a friend who had a greenhouse. As she looked at her friend’s flowers, she noticed a beautiful golden chrysanthemum but was puzzled that it was growing in a dented, old, rusty bucket. Her friend explained, “I ran short of pots, and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, until I can put it out in the garden.”Mary smiled as she imagined just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when He came to the soul of the little old man. “He won’t mind starting in this small, misshapen body.” But that was long ago, and in God’s garden how tall this lovely soul must stand!
This reached me on such a deep level it unleashed cathartic sobs. I felt a power and a soothing in his words, as if God Himself had spoken them directly to some deep hiding place in my heart. And some healing happened. I left that grand, sweeping room feeling almost beautiful.
After all that, I'm sure you can imagine how fondly I'm looking forward to hearing him speak again this weekend. Tune in if you get a chance. You’ll never know what all those inspired words could do for you if you don't stop to hear them.
And now, we have a winner to announce: Random.org chose LisAway -- who also won a book in my December giveaway -- to win the signed copy of Miss Delacourt Has Her Day by Heidi Ashworth. Lisa, the book gods must hold you in high favour! Next, the set of "Miss Delacourt's Roses" notecards goes to Patty Ann. Hopefully one of my wonderful readers also won the original painting over at Heidi's blog. But if not, don't despair. I have more notecards and giclee prints available through my website. And I'm always just an email away.