I turned 10 smack dab in the middle of summer.
It was hot and sunny and I was happy. A friend gave me a set of nail polish for my birthday– pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, like a modified rainbow. I wore them that way, too. Pink on my little toes, then orange, yellow, and green on each of the next, and then I’d split the blue and purple in half on each of my big toes. I called them “happy feet” (long, long before that penguin movie took the name). I especially remember diving into our big van after soccer games and changing out of my cleats, socks, and shin guards and into flip flops or slip-on kicks; I’d look at my toes and just be happy.
That’s the one thing I still do to this day to feel pretty or feminine or just “me.”
Since I was 10, I’ve only not had my toes painted for a collective two weeks. It’s my one vanity. Something I could change easily and quickly at will, something that could express whatever I wanted it to express, something low stakes. Something that has become a part of me. When I was 12 and very into Hanson (who am I trying to fool? I’m still very into them), I’d paint my toes orange and green, “Hanson colors.” Sometimes I’d paint them red with black polka dots (the “Hanson bug,” according to my best friend and I). As I got older, classmates would ask me, bewildered, why my toe nails never matched my fingernails (when I bothered to paint my fingernails). I’d shrug and say, “Where’s the fun in that?”
For me, painting my nails wasn’t, and isn’t, about being neat, tidy, or done-up, or whatnot; it’s just about being me. It’s about color and whimsy and how everything in life doesn’t need to be tied up in neat little bows. It’s just sheer pleasure and happiness.
That’s God, to me. He’s pure happiness and He doesn’t have to make sense to us or be logical or neat and tidy; He just is.
He is big and is everything at the same time that He’s small and insignificant. He’s colorful and complicated at the same time that He’s grayscale and simple. He’s joy at the same time that He’s sorrow. Sometimes we forget to see Him as much in the small and passing things as we see Him in the grandeur of the world, but He’s there. I know this world and all it contains will pass away, and must! But God is still in these passing things. He’s unchanging, and that, significantly, means that He’s in the passing things as much as He’s in the eternal.
When my first child, my daughter, was born, my cousin and I got pedicures.
It was so I could have some small reminder of womanhood and beauty before the pain of labor and childbirth. We chose a sparkly red, “ruby slippers” it was called, because my daughter’s name is Ruby. Honestly, I didn’t look at my feet much during labor or afterwards and even less did I think about my ruby red toes, but having that physical connection to this great spiritual, and physical, feat of bearing a new life into the world was so helpful.
What I did remember during my daughter’s birth was the meditation I kept having. It was of my mother, at that point four and a half years deceased, in the living room of the house I grew up in, sitting in her blue recliner, watching tv as we waited for her granddaughter to make her entrance. I remember my mom’s feet– they were long and narrow and had the beginnings of bunions and her nails were painted a respectable mauve. She always sat like that in her chair– feet up, relaxed, maybe eating Triscuits right out of the box. When contractions became too intense for me to even meditate well, this image of my mother stayed in my mind and I kept repeating, “I’m bringing her to you, Mommabear. I’m bringing her to you.” That is how I made it through labor.
The world was created to be beautiful.
And this in a deeper sense than we can ever truly know this side of heaven. We were created to be beautiful. “Beauty will save the world,” Dostoyevsky wrote in The Idiot. Beauty born of love will save the world. Beauty is love and Love illuminates beauty. Am I speaking only of physical beauty? No. Certainly, physical beauty can be deceiving. I am speaking of the beauty of a new baby in the arms of her mother. The beauty of late night coffee and conversation with a kindred spirit. The beauty of a declaration of faith in the midst of persecution. The beauty of the Savior mangled and dying on the cross to wipe away all sin and open the gates of Heaven. The beauty of saying, “Lord, I want to believe. Help my unbelief.” The beauty of painted toe nails.
The simple things can be an anchor to the wonder of the physical reality we’ve been gifted. But they can also be a diving board into the depths of Love. Ever deeper and deeper until we are positively drowning in love and beauty. This is how I wish to die– never forgetting and ever exploring the depths and beauty of Love, and with my toe nails painted.
Image courtesy of https://www.maxpixel.net/Red-Lacquered-Leg-Foot-Nail-Varnish-Ten-Feet-60001