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A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected

A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected

4.7 44
by Courtney Westlake

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When Courtney Westlake’s family was given the shocking news that their daughter, Brenna, was born in 2011 with a severe, life-threatening skin disorder, they began to discover a new and different beautiful in their lives–one that values extraordinary differences and appreciates the wonderful sameness found in humanity. In A Different


When Courtney Westlake’s family was given the shocking news that their daughter, Brenna, was born in 2011 with a severe, life-threatening skin disorder, they began to discover a new and different beautiful in their lives–one that values extraordinary differences and appreciates the wonderful sameness found in humanity. In A Different Beautiful, Courtney explores what her family has discovered in raising a child with physical differences and what she has learned about true beauty. Through her personal insights and experiences, Courtney shares how you, too, can learn to find and celebrate God’s version of beautiful in your life, especially within our differences and struggles.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Westlake had never heard of the medical condition of harlequin ichthyosis until her daughter, Brenna, was born with the genetic skin disease in 2011. Westlake, already the mother of a healthy two-year-old boy, Connor, was thrilled to discover she was carrying a baby girl. Her happy anticipation soon turned into overwhelming fear when doctors and nurses whisked Brenna off immediately after her birth because her skin was shedding from her tiny body. Westlake shares in up-close detail the courageous journey of parenting Brenna, and how outsiders have greeted their daughter's condition with stares and nasty comments. Rather than grow bitter, Westlake and her husband daily give thanks to God for their beautiful daughter and the countless blessings and life lessons she imparts. This is an emotional story that takes readers from those first tenuous shaky steps to a confident stride that will both inspire and fortify. Westlake's message will especially resonate with parents who have endured difficult medical challenges with their children, but her joyful, resilient, and grateful outlook will encourage individuals of all kinds. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“The most dazzling beauty in this world is not found on magazine covers, TV commercials, or fashion runways as promised by our media. Uplifting and faith-filled, Courtney Westlake’s A Different Beautiful  reaffirms, in a society that prioritizes perfection, just how wonderful different can be.”
—LeAnn Thieman, CSP, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, author Chicken Soup for the Soul: a Book of Miracles and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Answered Prayers

“I was touched and inspired by reading this story of how one family is turning what some would see as ‘difficult’ into something so positive and beautiful. No matter where you're at in life, this book will encourage you to look for the beauty in every situation.”
–Crystal Paine, Founder of MoneySavingMom.com and New York Times bestselling author of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

“In a world determined to ease or eliminate all evidence of 'different,' Courtney Westlake speaks a powerful word. It’s not our sameness that makes us beautiful, but our differences. Rather than resenting the unexpected and reeling from the resulting disappointment, you and I can learn to find beauty in the most unexpected—and incredible—places. The reward? A truly beautiful life.”
—Michele Cushatt, Author, Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life

“In A Different Beautiful, Courtney captivated me with her ability to define beauty in a countercultural way. Through Brenna’s story, you get to peek inside this family’s great journey of transformation, courage, and hope. Courtney has a gift for sharing real struggle, always entangled with hope and a higher perspective. It’s a must-read for all families looking to see the beauty from the eye of the Creator.”
—Courtney DeFeo, Author of In This House, We Will Giggle

"A Different Beautiful is a touching and tenderly told story that will inspire you to see and experience beauty through the eyes of God. Brenna's precious life and brave journey will enlarge your eyes and enliven your heart to discover beauty in your own unexpected places."
—Jeannie Cunnion, Author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child

Different Beautiful is a precious jewel that will touch your heart and inspire your soul. This book teaches us an invaluable life lesson: our wrapping is not as meaningful as the gift we have inside. This message could change your life forever!”
—Roger Crawford, Author of Think Again! and Playing from the Heart, Member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame, and Hall of Fame Division 1 Athlete (the only athlete with four impaired limbs to compete in a NCAA Division One college sport)

“This is a story for all of us, because we all deal with the unexpected in this life. Thank you, Courtney, for leading the way and for showing us how to walk through the challenges of life so beautifully."
—Jill Savage, CEO of Hearts at Home and Author of No More Perfect Moms

“To struggle through pain and confusion is difficult. To watch your child struggle through pain and confusion. . .that will change a person. In her book A Different Beautiful, Courtney Westlake gives us a glimpse into the life of a family grappling with their daughter’s unexpected and, at times, scary diagnosis. Courtney shares her story with an eloquence and wisdom that moved me. . .I couldn’t stop at the end of each chapter. As she comes face-to-face with God’s beautiful design in her precious daughter, Courtney invites us into her healing so that we can be restored along with her.”
—Sarah Kovac, Author of In Capable Arms: Living a Life Embraced by Grace

“Poignantly told without any hint of self-pity, Courtney’s story gripped me from the very first page and didn’t let go. She beautifully shares the beauty of imperfection in a way that makes us want to want to root for her, and for sweet Brenna. . .and also for ourselves. Deeply moving and encouraging, it is a message our hearts all need to hear.”
—Ruth Soukup, New York Times Bestselling Author of Living Well, Spending Less and Unstuffed

Christian Market - Elizabeth Wisz

Addressing the current trend of self-esteem programsfocused on personal awareness, she encourages readers to find their God-given worth in outward expressions of serving others. Particularly perceptive is her advice on approaching others with visible disabilities and teaching children how to treat the differently abled. An inspiring book for all, recommend to parents struggling with unexpected birth anomalies and those who support them.

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Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
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Read an Excerpt

A Different Beautiful

By Courtney Westlake

Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 Courtney Westlake
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63409-923-3


Pink Nail Polish

I sat my daughter, Brenna, up on her changing pad as snapped up her outfit after a diaper change. And as she looked around, chattering, her eyes fell on my feet, with toenails painted in deep pink.

"Ow?" she asked, associating the color with blood and a hurt toe.

"No, not ow. Mommy put a pretty color of paint on my toenails," I explained as best I could in toddler language — also beginning to think that the concept of painting nails sounded a little ridiculous as I attempted to describe it.

I showed Brenna my nail polish bottle, and then, of course, she pointed to herself. "Me!" she exclaimed, and her underdeveloped speech made it sound more like "Neigh!"

I had never painted Brenna's nails before, though she was two and a half years old at the time. I had really never even thought about painting her nails.

Brenna's toenails are a product of a rare skin disorder she was born with, a diagnosis that came as a shock to everyone after a typical pregnancy; her nails grow in such a solid, thick yellow that there have been times we've had to trim them with side-cut pliers.

Like her skin, Brenna's nails grow way too fast — an effect of a mutated gene. This single mutated gene means the top layer of her skin has trouble doing its jobs.

And with her diagnosis at birth, there were some things that I, as her mother, realized might never happen — mother-daughter traditions I envisioned for months when I heard the ultrasound tech utter, "It's a girl," that seemed lost to the staggering severity of Brenna's life-threatening condition.

Things like putting on my daughter's makeup for school dances. Things like curling my daughter's hair for a family picture.

And, so I thought, things like getting our nails painted together.

I balked just for a second before courage set in. I could have said no. But my husband and I have decided we're not really in the business of saying no in the face of the unknown anymore. We'll have to tell Brenna no enough as it is, when her body simply won't allow for something. So we refuse to say no simply when we're nervous or scared.

I didn't know exactly how her nails — thick but sensitive — would react to polish. I worried about the polish getting on her skin and causing an adverse reaction.

But as her bright blue eyes begged me to open the bottle, I said enthusiastically, "Yes, let's paint your nails!"

As I carefully applied the pink color to her two big toenails, Brenna leaned over my arm, watching intently.

"Wow!" I exclaimed as I dabbed a final spot, waiting for her reaction.

"Wooo-ow," she whispered slowly.

Two brightly colored toenails, one on each foot. And the admiration that followed — the beaming as she held up her foot in the light that streamed in from the window.

The kind of admiration that made five minutes of painted toenails come to life in a celebration. I slowly realized the magic we were creating in those five minutes and in the moments that followed as she proudly showed off her pretty pink toes for the next week, extending her foot to nearly everyone she came in contact with.

Even if her toes were covered by socks, she knew how beautiful they were underneath, and she wanted to make sure everyone else knew, too.

It had nothing to do with the polish or the color. Rather, it was all about how she felt about herself. The way she felt as we painted together — loved and special. The way she felt around others — admired and engaged. Brenna felt beautiful because she was living in joy, in celebration, with those around her.

Since Brenna's birth, simple celebration is what we have discovered for ourselves, in and around some very hard parts of life. From the beginning, there have been what feels like endless doctors' appointments with more specialists than I have pairs of shoes.

Therapy sessions have packed our weeks so we can push Brenna to learn how to do the tasks that come so easily to other children — movements like pulling up on the couch, crawling, holding wide objects, and walking on different surfaces that are a whole lot more difficult when your skin doesn't flexibly stretch.

Simply enrolling in preschool instigated a multitude of meetings with nurses and administrators and therapists and teachers, along with health plans and other preparations, to ensure Brenna would be safe, healthy, and comfortable in the new school environment. And on the day I walked through those doors without her, I felt a bit helpless in my mommy heart, relinquishing Brenna's health routines to strangers and trusting them to care for her like I had for the last three years.

We have tried medication after medication just to see what might work.

We have had sleepless nights on end as she has gone through typical baby issues, like teething, on top of skin problems like uncontrollable itching. And she has endured hospitalizations when painful bacteria found its way into her skin.

In the whirlwind of four years, there have been so many kinds of things that you never expect to experience when you bring a child into the world or dream of times spent with her.

But with that has come a joy-filled life that we also never expected, the kind of overwhelming richness that is beyond comprehension when you have focused on washing tiny pink clothes in Dreft and making a list of what to pack in your hospital bag and stocking your freezer with post-baby meals.

Because even on the worst days, we can find beauty. Even when things don't look so wonderful, we can discover beauty somewhere.

Beauty extends from all pieces of our lives, just waiting to be noticed, to be appreciated, to be celebrated. And what our family has discovered after the birth of Brenna is that the best kind of beautiful — the truest beauty that God intentionally and lovingly created for us — is not only seen but also felt.

The most dazzling beauty in this world is not found in the magazines or even seen in the mirror. It is felt deep within our souls, and it is released to those around us in the forms of love, kindness, compassion, and generosity.

In a version of myself that I can hardly remember, I once believed beauty was something you strove for, something attainable that could be seen by everyone. But there is a different beautiful than the perfection our culture often worships.

That beautiful is found not when we open our eyes but rather when we open our hearts. That different beautiful is found in the uniqueness God has bestowed on every single one of us and the gifts He has placed within us to be shared with the world, if we choose to trust in Him and tell His story with our lives and our gifts.

Sometimes the most beautiful things even come from the unexpected parts of life that encourage us to search a little harder to find where the beauty lies — to put aside preconceived notions about what beautiful is and what it isn't and let the feelings of beautiful settle deep into our souls.

That is precisely the kind of beautiful, however, that brings into sharp focus the pieces of life that we may not otherwise celebrate.

Moments of kindness can get lost in the everyday rush. The opportunities to help our neighbor, to listen — really listen — to a dear friend, or to serve a stranger often pass us by as we wrap ourselves up in errands, to-do lists, and obligations.

How many times do we miss a chance to talk on a deeper level with our children because we are preoccupied with the next part of the day? How often do we notice people and make a snap judgment about them without opening our hearts to really getting to know more of their story? How often do we say no to using our God-given talents to enrich the lives of those who need help or those who are less fortunate because it feels too uncomfortable?

There is a whole new kind of beautiful to be discovered when we stop closing our eyes and our hearts to what is unfamiliar or unexpected. When we can focus on the goodness we are feeling rather than seeing, we can learn what it truly means to celebrate beauty in life — the joy, the passion, the deep relationships with each other and God, the dazzling, fleeting moments in front of us that might not otherwise cause us to pause.

Like painting with pink nail polish.


Time to Meet Our Daughter

Do you think I should go?"

My husband, Evan, was scheduled to travel to Indianapolis with a colleague for business that morning, December 19, 2011, a Monday.

I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for a few weeks, so even when the contractions moved down into my back and intensified that previous night, they weren't at all regular or persistent enough to cause either of us to believe our baby daughter was on her way. Our two-year-old son, Connor, had been induced a week late, and my labor was a long, intense process, so we were not expecting an early arrival, especially four weeks before my due date.

Evan rolled over that morning as his alarm clock sounded at 6:00 a.m. and asked how I was feeling.

"I slept on and off, and a couple of contractions did wake me up," I admitted. "But they're still so sporadic."

I told him it was probably fine to leave, and he ultimately decided to make the three-hour trip. He showered, loaded up his stack of bank papers, and headed out the door, making me promise to call him if anything changed. I followed suit with a shower, and I even took the time to curl my hair with hot rollers, thinking that if I was going to go into labor, I wanted to try to have a slight improvement over the beat-up look I sported in Connor's arrival photos. I had pushed for two long hours on my hands and knees, which left me swollen, with popped blood vessels on my face.

I turned on some videos for Connor and began to feel a bit of anxiety as I timed my continuing contractions, but they were still not regular at all. Emotions began spinning through my head with the thought that I might be holding my daughter in my arms soon. Excitement, worry, and nervousness swept through me, and I became so aware of my heart pounding quickly in my chest ... Could this really happen today? I watched Connor for a couple of minutes, reflecting — as it seems common to do with the impending birth of a second child — on the fact that he was not going to be my only baby anymore.

I was not, however, feeling overwhelmed or overly anxious, the kind of overwhelmed you might usually feel as you debate whether you are truly in labor and what your next steps might need to be. Overwhelmed was at the top of my list of emotions with my firstborn's experience, so I was surprised to find a sense of calm to accompany my excitement, even as I considered the prospect of giving birth soon.

Eventually, I called my doctor's office and explained to the nurse what I was experiencing.

"It sounds like your body is trying to get ready for something!" she told me cheerfully.

She instructed me to head to the hospital if the contractions started coming regularly at about four minutes apart, so I called Evan and relayed this information to him.

A half hour later, I was making the bed when a contraction came on that was strong and intense enough that I had to lean against the bed to get more comfortable. I felt a huge amount of pressure, almost like I should start pushing, and I slowly made my way to the bathroom. I had just reached the bathroom tile when the pressure released, leaving me standing in a huge puddle.

For a split second, I was confused, and then it dawned on me: my water had just broken.

Our baby would be born today.

The fluid continued to stream out, giving me no choice but to awkwardly stride around my room with a towel between my legs, trying to remember what I should pack in my hospital bag. Evan was my first call as I informed him of this latest update — almost nervously giggling about the timing. At nineteen miles away from Indianapolis, he had to tell his colleague to make a U-turn at the upcoming gas station.

Connor wandered into the bathroom at that moment and pointed down to the growing puddle. "Mommy, clean it up."

My nervousness eased for a moment as I laughed at his two-year-old concern over the mess.

I quickly made calls to my mom and my mother-in-law, but they didn't answer. I panicked a little, forgetting when exactly I should go to the hospital after water breakage. I finally reached my dad, who headed over to our house to stay with Connor.

It was more than a little embarrassing to open the door for him, towel still between my legs.

"Sorry, Dad." I laughed, and he, looking everywhere but at me, told me to return to the bathroom and quit trying to pack. Thankfully, my dad deluged my mom with phone calls and finally was able to reach her and pull her out of a meeting.

Mom charged into the house as I was placing things into my hospital bag, pausing every so often for a contraction. With four weeks to go until my due date, packing a bag for the hospital was a check mark still waiting to be made on my birth list. The only thing that was folded in my black hospital bag was a tiny newborn sleeper I had picked out weeks earlier, which read "Daddy's Girl" among pink, green, and turquoise polka dots.

Though I was in active labor, I still felt the need to be as prepared as possible for an overnight stay, so I began shoving in T-shirts and sweatpants, deodorant and makeup, nursing pads and a pillow — as if no one could have brought me any of these things.

"We need to get going, honey," my mom insisted after a particularly strong contraction. "They're starting to come closer together, I think!" My mom seemed to be more observant of the timing of the contractions than I was, pulling me out of my need to control this surprise situation.

Twenty minutes later we reached the hospital, and after I got situated, I began asking for my epidural because I am not one of those women who wants anything to do with enduring more pain than I have to. And I knew from my prior birth experience that things can get pretty ugly pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, anesthesia was moving a little slow (aren't they always?), and I started clutching the hospital bed railings and trying to breathe like in the movies with every onset of a contraction.

When the doctor finally came, that enormous needle brought sweet relief, and the nurse checked my progress immediately following the epidural.

"Eight centimeters!" she declared, and I felt a tiny burst of pride that I had made it that far with no medicine; maybe I was not as much of a sissy as I thought.

With the comfort of an epidural, I updated my Facebook status from my iPhone: "In labor at the hospital ... looks like we'll be getting an early Christmas present!" Friends began to leave comments of well wishes and "Can't wait to see photos!"

My own doctor, Dr. Brown, was not on duty at the hospital that day, but I immediately liked her partner, Dr. Klein, when she introduced herself and began to monitor my progress.

"We're going to have a baby within the hour!" she announced to me and my mom. I was very surprised by this prediction, just two and a half hours after my water broke.

My mom continued to keep Evan updated and check his location, and eventually he rushed through the door of my hospital room, laughing about the craziness of his morning travels.

My nervous excitement then turned to an almost surreal elation. We're going to have a baby soon!

Less than a half hour later, it was time to meet our new daughter.


"It's Her Skin"

Evan had been convinced from the start of our pregnancy that the new baby would have two X chromosomes. Because I had guessed we would have a girl with my first pregnancy — only to be surprised when the sonogram tech drew a little baseball hat on our picture — I felt I really lacked mother's intuition in that department and wouldn't venture a guess the second time around. But I was simply so overjoyed to be pregnant again after nearly a year of trying that even the constant nausea through about the first eighteen weeks — and even sometimes after that — didn't deter me from wanting to savor every little thing about growing a child within me.

I knew, based on Evan's feelings on the subject, that this could be our last child, and I never took my hand off my growing belly, wanting to feel each flutter of movement and twinge of growth. It was not an especially easy pregnancy, between constant nausea and sciatic nerve pain in my last few weeks that left me hardly able to walk, but I never wavered in my gratitude to simply be pregnant.

Connor began to laugh at the way my belly button popped out, playfully pushing on it each time he noticed it. We moved him into his big boy room with a new red-and-navy-striped bedding set, and he started to call his old room "baby's room." I ate my way through each week, picking up steam as I felt better and better. And our list of names was forever changing, as we added and deleted and prioritized. Jaclyn, Leah, Charlotte ... I kept discovering new names that I loved, but we wanted to meet our little girl before we gave her a name, just as we had with our Connor William.

At week twenty in my pregnancy, we had the typical sonogram, and everything was measuring as expected. Evan pressed the nurse, asking almost immediately if she could tell the sex, and she replied that she could. Did we want to know?


Excerpted from A Different Beautiful by Courtney Westlake. Copyright © 2016 Courtney Westlake. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet the Author

Courtney Westlake lives in central Illinois with her husband, Evan, and two children, Connor and Brenna. When Brenna was born in 2011 with a rare and severe skin disorder called harlequin ichthyosis, Courtney began a blog to chronicle their family life and experiences raising a child with physical differences and special needs. Her writing has also been featured on other sites such as Yahoo Parenting, The Huffington Post, (in)courage, and Good Housekeeping. Besides writing, Courtney enjoys photography, traveling, and a good bag of Doritos.

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A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
SusanB143 More than 1 year ago
“A Different World” by Courtney Westlake is a touching read which challenges us to examine our perceptions of the world around us. Following the birth of her daughter, Brenna, who is born with a serious, severe skin disorder that is life-threatening, Mrs. Westlake goes on a journey of discovery about “beauty” in both the physical and spiritual world around us. She shares her journey with us in her book. While I enjoyed the chapter individually and learned much from the insights that Mrs. Westlake shared, I found that the book was difficult to read as a continuous story. There was no logical sequence to the telling of Brenna’s story. Therefore, I found myself reading it as more of a devotional or study book, requiring time to absorb the lesson or point taught in each chapter before moving on to the next. I think this would be a good book for a study group or book club. However, for me, individually, I would have preferred to read Brenna’s story chronologically and how she and her family grew in the Lord over time. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
RGNHALL 7 months ago
Courtney Westlake's water broke earlier than she had planned, and she awaited expectantly for the precious daughter that she and her husband, Evan, would soon hold in their arms and gaze in her eyes. It didn't work out that way though. Brenna was wiped and confusion and worry showed on the faces of all the doctors and nurses in the delivery room. The loving mother's heart cried out, "Where's my baby? When can I see her, hold her, kiss her tiny face?" Instead of placing her sweet daughter in her aching arms, a neonatologist was summoned immediately. Something was wrong. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with Brenna. Brenna was facing a fight. She just entered the world and she was in pain and she had to fight, because the medical staff told her that babies born with harlequin ichthyosis rarely survived more than a few days. They could keep her painfree until she passed. That's when the heaviest decision fell on their shoulders. Were they going to let Brenna just go? She'd just arrived and they longed for this daughter. Brenna's young mother, Courtney Westlake, walks us through the struggle for Brenna's life and then the joy the beautiful little girl brings to their home. Brenna is blessed with the most compassionate brother and parents that God could have given her to. I love the personal stories and the brutal honesty expressed in this book. I did wish there were photographs. I looked on Courtney's blog and looked at Brenna and smiled with tears in my eyes and whispered, "She is beautiful. She is precious." Honestly, from the description in the book of her birth, I thought she would look frightening. But she does not. Her smile is infectious. I did think that more scripture would have been helpful to accompany the stories and opinions. What a lovely book, what an inspiring family! As I finished the book, I thought of the song, "How Beautiful" by Twila Paris.
tmurrell2 More than 1 year ago
Courtney's world was changed completely when shortly after the birth of her daughter she was given the news that Brenna had a severe skin disorder. Courtney's dreams for what her future with her daughter would look like were instantly changed. Courtney shares her insights and thoughts on what she's learned in the four years since receiving the diagnosis. Her concept of beauty was changed as God worked on her heart while she cared for her daughter. The book is written simply, yet eloquently. Courtney shares from the heart about how her experiences have changed her, but she also shares a few personal details about her precious daughter Brenna. This book changed some of my thoughts and gave me a glimpse into another perspective. The book is touching, heartwarming, and thought provoking. The writing was real and honest and it felt like it came from the heart. It has stories that break up the thoughts, making this an interesting read as well. I think this is a book that everyone should read. We all need to step out of our comfort zones and preconceived ideas to take a look from someone else's view point. I received this book free of charge from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
TheFlawedStitch More than 1 year ago
I have to say I am so glad I read this amazing piece of work. I absolutely LOVE this book!! I have cried, or at the very least teared up, most of the way through this book. The author, Courtney Westlake, tells the true story of how she came to embrace a Different Beautiful for her life since the birth of her daughter, and she challenges her readers to look at life from a different viewpoint than we are conditioned to have from birth. As a mother and grandmother, I fully understand the grand plans Courtney dreamed of as she progressed through her pregnancy. Parents, especially expectant moms, often look ahead to what life will be like when their baby is finally born. They envision their child’s first steps, their first day of school, their first boyfriend, shopping with them for the perfect prom dress, and eventually their child’s wedding day. These dreams, under “normal” circumstances, are a natural progression of life. Courtney thought about all these things in anticipation of her daughter’s birth. However, her dreams were shattered (or at least put on hold) when her little girl was born with a rare life-threatening disease; Harlequin Ichthyosis. She went from dreaming of each little (and big) milestone her new baby girl would accomplish, to praying she would survive one more day, one more week, one more month. As she shares her daughter’s story, Courtney also shares about God’s dream for each of us. God gave all of us a beautiful life. He has plans for our life, and His plans vary from one individual to another. Though each of us is crafted by our Creator differently, we are all beautiful in His eyes. While Courtney struggles at times with the reactions people express toward her daughter’s appearance, she sees this as an opportunity to teach her children about acceptance. There is “much emphasis placed on appearance and looks and difference is very much a negative way. We often instill these sayings and values into our kids without even thinking about it.” Instead of reinforcing this focus on outward beauty, Courtney reminds us we must turn our focus on who each person is and cherish them for their uniqueness, their inner beauty. God looks at the heart. “And we have the opportunity, every day, to glorify God by looking at the heart, too.” For anyone who is struggling with their dreams being swept away, no matter the reason – illness, loss of job, death of a loved one, rejection, etc. – your new situation can be just as wonderful or even better than the dream you once chased. Wherever God leads you, whatever twist or crooked road your life takes, you can find love, happiness, and a Different Beautiful. I loved this book and Courtney’s willingness to share her beautiful daughter with us. This book is for anyone who has had or is facing a difficult situation that has altered the dream life they thought they were going to live. This book can reach beyond the physical and touch the spirit of all who read it. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
Mama_Cat More than 1 year ago
“’The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’" (I Sam. 16:17) How often have we studied, even memorized, this passage of Scripture, wanting the Lord’s kind of acceptance to us, thinking we are showing it to others? This reader’s hand surely goes up. Yet have we ever learned how what that looks like? Courtney Westlake and her husband heard words that no parent of a newborn ever wants to hear: their beautiful baby girl Brenna was born with a skin disorder that was not only outstandingly rare, but severe and life-threatening. Brenna was in great pain as a newborn, and within a short time her tiny body was ravaged by an infection that could end her life. She survived that, and more, until she was taken to her home, to her big brother, by two parents committed to caring for her. The author and her husband learned what they would need to do for Brenna’s care, and still she was hospitalized with infections that could occur no matter how excellent that care was. After finishing the book, I remember thinking, ‘how could they do all of that every single day?’ When you love your child, you are willing to do whatever is necessary for that child’s care. And when the Lord allows any circumstance in our lives, He gives us everything we need. Learn, we will, if we choose to trust Him. ‘A Different Beautiful’ begins with some early moments, days, and months of Brenna’s life. Throughout the book, the focus becomes more about what the Lord desires to teach them as a result of having this beautiful girl in their lives. We read Courtney’s emotions, frustrations, and victorious surrender to God. This book isn’t about trudging through life with a child who has a disease that not only gives her a different beautiful appearance that requires special care. Instead, we are blessed to see what our God has been teaching the author, and that we can learn these things ourselves and teach our children. Mrs. Westlake shows us how to see through scripture how the Lord sees us, which is nothing like the eyes of the world. We can learn to see ourselves through God’s eyes, and with that new definition, how we see others. We can learn to stop putting limits on God and on those around us. Come, join the author on this amazing journey…there are so many gems in this book that it is worth reading and re-reading, using in Sunday school or book club. This is one truth shared; I feel that if we get it, really get it, our lives and love would dramatically change: “We are God’s masterpieces. He created us in His image, and He celebrates over each of us and what we are capable of doing, through Him. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, and we are strengthened by Him as we seek out and fulfill our purpose and live out our passions. Sometimes, we ask for, or expect very limited things from our Lord, instead of allowing Him to work through us to accomplish the amazing, the unbelievable, even the impossible.” (page 195-196). I highly recommend this powerful book, ‘A Different Beautiful’ to men and women of any age whose hearts and minds are open to the truths of God, His people, and His great work. It is one of the most important Christian Living books that you will read this year. With a grateful heart, I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Barbour) in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
mymissdaisy More than 1 year ago
In A Different Beautiful, Courtney explores what her family has discovered in raising a child with physical differences and what she has learned about true beauty. Through her personal insights and experiences, Courtney shares how we can all learn to find and celebrate God’s version of beautiful in our lives, especially within our differences and struggles. Visit the authors website click here. And I thought... A special story. Written beautifully from the heart. Everyone should read this powerful story. The story is gripping and honest. Courtney's shares her struggles and her families struggles along with the wonderful blessings of family. I received a complimentary copy from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review. This review is also posted at My Reading Journeys and Good Reads. This review will be linked at the following blog parties: The Art of Homemaking, Share Your Cup, and Create with Joy
Gayla_Mazzuca More than 1 year ago
What a magnificent story that chronicles a family’s journey with a daughter that was diagnosed with a life threatening skin disorder that affects how other people look at this beautiful little girl. This story is also interwoven with stories of other parents and children that face challenges because of illness or physical deformities. Whenever something bad happens to those who believe in God, they go through the different stages of grief and wonder why this is happening to them. Something like this tests their faith, some turn away from God but others like this family turned toward God for understanding and love. The courage of Courtney and her family and the ability to surrender their lives to God is truly amazing and awe inspiring and once you read this book you will have a different view of beauty and what it really looks like. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
DChatley More than 1 year ago
Challenge to slow down and really notice the beauty all around us I highly recommend this book to everyone, as it will give you a different perspective not only on those who are different than us, but also on all forms of beauty that we encounter. And I have to say that my heart both grieved for this mother who had to deal with reality being different than her expectations, and pricked by the fact that I have not responded as I should when encountering those different then me and as such have missed opportunities to learn and grow. This book will challenge your faith as you follow this family on their journey through a path that they would not have selected for themselves, but that they realized was from God. And in acknowledging that it was the path God choose for them, they sought out the beauty in each step, and saw God’s faithfulness along each bump in the road. And as a result, they have been blessed during this journey and now allow us to share in that blessing as the author shares her heart with us in book. As such, this book is a roadmap for dealing with those hardships and obstacles that life throws our way. The author states that when these surprises come into our lives, we have one of 2 responses: to blame God and cry out in anger “How could you allow this?” or to turn to God saying “God I need your help.” Additionally this book teaches many practical lessons for those times when we come in contact with those who are not like us. The author highlights the fact that we label things as normal or not normal and thereby close ourselves off from the beauty that could be. We are reminded that what truly matters is who we are on the inside, our hearts. Yet when we look at others, are we taking the time to truly see their hearts, or judging and dismissing them based on external characteristics. I know that I have been guilty of this in the past, and am thankful that this book has opened my eyes. In chapter 12, it says that “different doesn’t have to mean strange”. Later in this chapter, the author says that when we encounter different, we can “choose to compete, to criticize, to compare. Or we can choose to connect.” And when we connect, we build bridges. I want to be a bridge builder. This quote from chapter 1 sums up this book, “Beauty extends from all pieces of our lives, just waiting to be noticed, to be appreciated, to be celebrated.” And the change begins with us, if we want to see a change in how people view each other and treat each other, this change has to start with us. Let’s open our eyes and see the world from a different perspective. So get a copy of this book and be prepared to be encouraged and challenged. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
Sandra0808 More than 1 year ago
A Different Beautiful is an honest and tender look at how a family evolves when their newborn daughter is diagnosed with harlequin ichthyosis, a rare skin disorder. Westlake describes how this shook up her family and changed them in profound ways. We all have hopes and dreams for our children, but sometimes these hopes and dreams have to be modified to new realities. Although our children’s lives may be different than we envisioned, they are nonetheless just as beautiful. This is an inspiring story that will have you rethinking the way in which you respond to life’s challenges.
CK119 More than 1 year ago
A Different Beautiful by Courtney Westlake is a moving true story of how her perceptions of beautiful changed when she gave birth to a daughter with a life-threatening skin disorder. Courtney had a normal pregnancy and expected an uneventful delivery of her daughter. Brenna, however, was born and they soon discovered she had a severe skin disorder called harlequin ichthyosis. This condition makes it difficult for her body to retain water, maintain body temperature and keep out infections. Courtney and her husband, Evan, soon found a new “normal” in the life of their family. Their very positive attitude helped their son, Conner, and other family members to see the positives in Brenna as well as anyone else they may meet. Her faith has kept her focused This book is a very open and honest account of how the family has adjusted and learned to see beauty in the world in a whole new way. Courtney explains that true beauty comes from the inside and not from outside appearances in such a way as to make the reader examine their own ideas about what is beautiful. She talks about how they deal with the stares and questions of complete strangers in ways that help to teach rather than to simply look away from stares and ignore honest questions. One of her goals is teach children, hers and others, to be compassionate and caring and to teach Brenna to face the questions rather than to shy away and feel less than and I believe she addresses this in a very down to earth way. She also shares the stories of others who have overcome physical difficulties to become well-adjusted and successful in their lives. I found this book hard to put down; I really wanted to keep reading from chapter to chapter. I found it to be very inspirational to me personally and made me think about the ways I treat others with disabilities. Do I approach and talk to them like I would a person without the disability or do I shy away and ignore them? I think this is an excellent book for everyone to read. I believe it would be particularly inspiring if you have a child or other family member who has a disability. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Janet55 More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! Every parent goes into the delivery room with the idea in mind that they will come out with this "perfectly" healthy baby. When things didn't go as planned for the Westlake family instead of turning bitter they channeled their pain and anxiousness into something constructive. This book is about a courageous family and adorable little girl doing the best they can with a very difficult diagnosis. Through the highs and lows of living with a critically ill child the Westlake's share God's love with their family, friends, other patients and their families as well as those who gawk at their child and do not understand. In some of the most unusual places the family finds love and comfort and acceptance. This is truly a story that reminds me of Isaiah 61:3...beauty from ashes. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review
delsiek51 More than 1 year ago
A “Different Beautiful is a heart touching and encouraging story of how to react to life, especially when the unexpected happens. There are two situations in this book. One is the birth of a daughter with difficult health issues. The second is how adults and children react when encountering a child or adult who is not “normal” in their eyes. I love how the author, Courtney Westlake, not only shares her experiences but teaches the reader how to respond graciously and kindly. She also stresses the importance of including our children in learning to be accepting of the differences in others. I loved the inspirational Bible verses to help us grow into the person that is sensitive to everyone we encounter, especially those who have special needs. I could personally identify with the author as my youngest sister was born with severe cerebral palsy. My parents did a wonderful job in teaching me, along with my siblings, to treat her as a person first. Unfortunately, as the author also writes, not everyone can look past the physical. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
Librarycataloger More than 1 year ago
'A Different Beautiful' tells of the journey that the Westlake family began in 2011 when their daughter Brenna was born. Courtney and her husband Evan were thrilled that their two year old son would have a baby sister and Courtney thought that her dreams of pretty dresses, hairbows, and all ot the other beautiful things associated with a daughter would now be hers to enjoy. But Brenna's birth changed her perception of beauty and beautiful was given a new definition. Her baby was born with the rare skin disorder Harlequin Ichthyosis. Instead of the soft, pink and smooth skin associated with a baby, Brenna was covered with red, hard and cracked skin. And since skin is our body's largest organ and is meant to protect us, Brenna was in grave danger of serious infection or even death. Since 2011, Courtney has learned that beauty has very little to do with the way we look physically. She states that "Beauty is a way of being and a way of living, each and every day, perhaps each and every moment". She has also learned the meaning of "letting go and letting God". She and her husband were already Christians but it was only when she put her full trust in God that she could cope with each new trial and rejoice in each small victory. It was only then that she could appreciate all of the goodness she had been given and have the ability to praise Him. She mentions that when she decided to choose to be thankful, one day at a time, her life changed so that she had many more days to be grateful and many more reasons to give Him praise. I am truly amazed at the strength and grace that Courtney Westlake has exhibited these past five years, as she continues to deal with the reality of Brenna"s condition. Christians believe that God has a plan for each one of His children and that he never makes mistakes; it is very apparent that God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose Courtney and Evan Westlake to be Brenna's parents! This family's story is more than the story of a little girl born with a rare ailment and the parents who have loved her, cared for her and cherished her life. 'A Different Beautiful' is a "how-to" book for the people who read it. It will inspire you, encourage you and motivate you to choose your own closer walk with God. It will forever change your perception of outward appearances and it will also increase your empathy for all special-needs children and the issues that their families face every day! 'A Different Beautiful' deserves a 5 star rating and I highly recommend it. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
annelr More than 1 year ago
A Different Beautiful by Courtney Westlake is a heartwarming story of one family's brave and marvelous journey with a special needs child. In this moving book, the author gives an impassioned appeal to readers to understand that beauty is found when we see not through our eyes but through our hearts. Brenna was born with a rare skin disease and Westlake shares her perspectives and the wisdom she has come to understand through her experiences in caring for and in raising Brenna. Woven throughout the book are other individual and families' life stories in dealing with physical challenges, giving unique perspectives on what true beauty is. The author reflects on celebrating the positive, focusing on the hearts of others, recognizing faith and hope come from trusting in God's greatness and sharing our differences. All this in hopes of the reader beginning to understand that difference is something to embrace and beauty comes in all forms. And just perhaps being able to touch another's life to change circumstances, their future or perhaps even change another's heart toward Jesus. A powerful, inspirational and challenging story. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
Thimbleluvr More than 1 year ago
The opportunity to read this book came at a perfect time for me. Courtney Westlake talks about the experience raising her daughter, who was born with a condition called harlequin ichthyosis, and how these experiences have helped her and her family discover a different beautiful. As I read the book, I found myself relating on many different levels to the overall theme of looking for the beauty in the world around us and not falling into the trap of being a victim. As things outside of my control seem to be beating me down, I was able to find a glimmer of hope and light through the pages of this book. My expectation when I started reading was an uplifting story of how this family handled their challenges. I didn't expect every chapter to have a personal insight and application. I need to go through again with a highlighter and capture the stories and phrases that helped me see a light and good in the world. This will be a book I turn to again and again when I need a pick-me-up. I was provided with a copy of the book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
grapes63 More than 1 year ago
I Samuel 16:7 This is a Non-fiction book about the WestLake family. "A Different Beautiful" by Courtney WestLake is about the birth of the author's second child, Brenna. Brenna is born with Harlequin ichthyosis. The mother, Courtney WestLake, writes about how she discovered the importance of seeing the beauty in differences while living with her daughter's rare skin disease. In our world, advertisements can make us feel uncomfortable. People seem perfect. They are slim, good-looking and have beautiful skin and their lives are perfect in every way. Through emotional ups and downs the lesson is learned that no one is perfect. All of us are uniquely created by God. Our differences are our blessings. I liked the fact that Courtney WestLake did not just write about harlequin ichthyosis. She also wrote about people she had met. For example, there is one mother whose child has Downs Syndrome. There are also blogs introduced in the book which I had never seen or read which are about challenges with health. A Different Beautiful by Courtney WestLake does have a few repetitions of facts. This bothered me a little bit, but I found putting the book down was not possible. No matter your struggle, this is a practical book about how to love oneself and how to love other people. The author also mentions The Golden Rule. Sadly, not much is heard about this principle today. Now, this young woman has brought it back to life because when differences are celebrated life becomes exciting in many different ways. I am grateful for a courtesy copy of the book from Barbour Publishing. barbourbooks.com/ courtneywestlake.com/adifferentbeautiful/
Sbargo More than 1 year ago
A Different Beautiful by Courtney Westlake Courtney Westlake shares her truly personal journey raising Brenna, her daughter, who was born with a life-threatening skin disease. Each day is a new challenge for this family as they rely on God's grace and faithfulness to raise their dear daughter. Many insights and Godly lessons are included in this story of a mother's love. I personally would have been interested in hearing more about everyday hurdles overcome in Brenna's life and letting the reader experience the journey along with the family. Courtney Westlake is a courageous God-loving mother and I wish her family God's richest blessings. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Eileen_B More than 1 year ago
A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected by Courtney Westlake In my opinion, no other words better describe Courtney Westlake’s challenging and inspirational journey of discovery and celebration of beauty. I admire Westlake’s courage to invite her readers into her family and share the way God transformed her family and her understanding of beauty and expectations of marriage and family. In doing so, she compares and contrasts society’s view of beauty with God’s view of beauty. She teaches her reader using real life examples of how to show respect and appreciation for others. One does not have to be a mother in order to appreciate the courage, strength, and growth, Westlake shows as she and her family walk with God in the midst of uncertainty and caring for Brenna, who has a rare skin disorder. I was immediately in Westlake’s and her daughter’s world, home, and heart in the first chapter. I like painting my nails. Brenna wanted her nails painted by her mom. Which at first is so sweet and simple, yet, is not. I also realized that I did not have to know anyone with Brenna’s skin disorder to understand the importance of finding beauty in unexpected places. Her story shows how God works in mysterious ways to transform lives, people’s perception of beauty and love. Could someone read this who does not have children, or who has not faced this kind of physical, spiritual, or mental challenge? Definitely, Westlake writes in a way that challenges her readers to “walk in the shoes” of her family, and other people who struggle in life with something that society sees as that which sets them apart from the “normal.” I was given this complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book!
sgreene01 More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful story of how life has given Courtney Westlake's family a hard, "different" life than most of us face. Their precious daughter was born with a very rare skin disease which has been very difficult. Just as most people born with a "handicap" of some sort endure stares, harsh words and insensitivity from the outside world, Courtney brings to light how her family has learned to accept the limitations, the hurtful comments, and how she wishes people would respond. They find so much beauty in their sweet daughter. Through this book she gets the reader to think about how to approach those labeled as different without causing hurtful feelings. She helps the reader realize that each of us has something in our own life that makes us realize that something beautiful can be found in it, in spite of what can be a serious illness, terrible circumstance or whatever that "handicap" may be. Courtney Westlake teaches the reader to look for and believe in the fact that there is always something beautiful, even though it may be different from what and how we expected it to be. I felt that at times, she was very repetitive in her emphasis, but did enjoy reading the book which left me with plenty to think about regarding my reactions to circumstances. Life can truly be a different beautiful. I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
jmcnutt More than 1 year ago
Every once in awhile, I'll read a book whose words touch my heart like rain on parched soil. Courtney Westlake has written that book. We all at some point in our life will suffer a traumatic event, that forces us to change. Courtney Westlake and her family experienced that, with the birth of their daughter Brenna, who was born with a life threatening skin disorder, called harlequin ichthyosis. Courtney writes " After Brenna joined our family, normal became something Iwished for, hoped for, cried over". She goes on to say "Normal is entirely based on perception." "And a year after Brenna was born, this severe skin condition that rocked our world and everything we had previously known and believed had finally become normal to me." This book is heartbreaking at times, but it is so much more a story of love and grace. Courtney Westlake's words reflect the heart of a daughter of our Heavenly Father. Words that uplift, inspire and encourage us to express what love really is, and how we are to live it differently, by reaching out to give it to others. Please buy this book, I cannot begin to express what a Blessing it is, and maybe it will change your life. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.
KatherineF2307 More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book about an amazing family! God works through the ordinary in extraordinary ways. We can all open our hearts and minds to the beauty that surrounds us everyday. The Westlake's can show you how too!
chemil33 More than 1 year ago
Courtney Westlake presents a very informative story that challenges the reader to look beyond the "ugly" differences to see the beautiful that God put in all people. I found the book easy to read and difficult to put down. I gained a spiritual perspective on interacting with all people who are considered different because of physical looks or disabilities. I can carry some of the approaches presented in the book to my personal approach to all "beautiful" people. "I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review."
knit4snow More than 1 year ago
Courtney tells the story of her daughter Breanna who was born with a rare skin disease. True beauty is what's on the inside not the outside. Very emotional story that will change the way you define beauty.
SunnieReviews More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing story of an amazing family and the things they learned about life and God and human nature. The daughter of the author, Brenna, was born with a rare and life threatening skin disorder that changed the entire lives of this family. As their child went through countless trials, the author recounts these experiences and the things they learned that could have driven them apart, but rather brought them together to do the best they could to help their daughter thrive and have as good a quality of life as she possibly could. This book was really good. I felt as though I could relate to this family in many ways. Courtney's insights were really wonderful. In one part of the book she uses a picture puzzle as an analogy and teaching moment for her son. And the letter she wrote to him as he goes to his first day of preschool will really make you think. I loved it. I received this book from the publisher for my honest review which I have given.