She chattered away as I rubbed the gentle washcloth on her fingers, back and forth.
“My skin is redder than your skin is,” she commented, and I confirmed the obvious.
“Mama,” she asked me after a moment. “Will my skin always be like this?”
I felt the tightening within me at this simple question that holds so many intense feelings, so much uncertainty about the future. In our daughter Brenna’s nearly six years, we’ve always tried to be as honest as possible, because we believe – and hope – that it leads to a trusting bond between us and her. We have had hard conversations in her short time – conversations about pain, about respect for humanity (and lack thereof, as experienced by many personal encounters), about sickness and disease and death.
“Yes, you probably will have that skin forever,” I told her. “God created you, and he loves you, and you are so beautiful as you are. God makes people in all kinds of ways with different colors of skin and minds that think differently and bodies that can do different things.”
For our family, accepting reality helps us face reality, especially together, boldly and united. Just because that’s the way it is doesn’t mean that we can’t find the good in whatever it is.
I know it may very well be an uphill battle, likely with many more hard conversations. It may very well be a constant, battling for her self-confidence when the world is pushing against her.
We firmly believe there is positive and negative in every part of life, and it’s our choice what we decide to focus on – which largely determines the kind of life we build and the relationships we cultivate. For Brenna, even as she becomes aware of some of the limitations of her skin and how it feels, she also has an increasing enthrallment of the positive attributes of her condition.
Like the fact that, thanks to her body over-producing skin, any cuts or wounds she gets heal practically in front of our eyes. Small gashes are hardly noticeable by the next morning. And Brenna has become pretty proud of her extraordinary skin-making abilities.
And so it felt like a small but mighty victory when we finished up that bath routine, the one when she first asked about “having this skin forever,” while chattering matter of factly about her skin again.
“How does that make you feel,” I asked her carefully, casually, curiously, “having your skin forever?”
“I like it!” she declared. “Because I have super skin!”
We can view life through whatever lens we choose. Focusing on the positive doesn’t remove the difficulties, but it does ground us in God’s goodness, a firm foundation we can rise from to face challenges.
It is a continual conversation in our home, how different we all are. When Brenna asks about her skin, we talk about her parents’ differences, her brother’s differences, her classmates’ differences. Sometimes the world has a tendency to try to convince Brenna that she is “the different one” because of her unique outward appearance, but we know the truth. We choose to esteem God’s truth, that we are his masterpieces – every single one of us – created in his image and his likeness and his creativity.
We are all vastly different, which means rather than feeling isolated by our differences, we can actually find so much sameness in them. We are much more alike than different; we have much more to unite us than could ever divide us.
Recently, we were driving, singing along to the radio, when Brenna piped up from behind me.
“Mom, it’s pretty cool that God gave me super skin.”
My eyes brimmed with tears…grateful for her innocent, yet powerful, observation.
“It is, isn’t it? He created you like you are so that more people can learn about him. How special is that?”
How special we all are. How loved and chosen and planned. Will we always be different? Yes. And that’s “pretty cool.”