In the Eye of the Beholder

Youngest child stroked the cat’s short fur, leaned back on grass and sighed. “I don’t see how anybody could throw out such a beautiful cat,” she said, shaking her head. I bit my lip, nodded, scratched behind the cat’s ears. I smiled at her, the little girl with the big heart. The cat just lay there, eyes half open, soaking in the warmth of the sun. My three children fell in love with this creature the instant they found her in our garage. They are brimming with praise for the stray who adopted us.

She’s a pretty good cat…she uses a litter box, she’s street-wise, and she knows how to handle our dog–who has quickly learned to give her a wide berth. She does have fantastic green eyes. But beautiful? I must admit, the first time I saw her…cuddled in Eldest’s arms and looking like she hadn’t eaten in…about a year….Beautiful was not what I was thinking. Mangy was more like it. Ratty. She was bony and gangly and filthy with neglect. Upon closer inspection, her coat did not actually have mangy patches…her fur just naturally looked like it did. The best thing a person could say about her coat was that in the Spring, when the Box Elder trees drop their little round confetti seeds and the cat lay on her side in the driveway…she blended in perfectly with the concrete. Honestly, I don’t know when I’ve seen a more homely cat.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? And, as my grandmother used to say, “Beauty is as Beauty does.” In the weeks since we’ve adopted her, Roam (as she was affectionatly dubbed) has proven to have her own kind of beauty. She likes her new family and enjoys people, but she doesn’t demand a lot of attention. She comes inside and hangs out, but is happier outside…where she has decimated the rodent population and proven more effective than any number of clever traps. She is the sort of cat that you love to have around…just affectionate enough, but not high maintenance. Not long after she appeared in our garage, I looked out the window and saw this:

And I knew we had ourselves a cat. Roam somehow knew that Youngest needed some company, and lay there patiently while Youngest told her one story after another. She’s good like that.

Not long after, we discovered that the weight our new adoptee was putting on was not due only to our feeding her daily. Several weeks ago we increased the cat population at our house by six! I am not as thrilled about this development as the kids are, but it has been a lot of fun. And Roam has proven to be an excellent cat-mother. The kittens are predictably darling.

This morning, as Roam sat by and contentedly watched the kids play with her kittens, I thought about what I saw when I looked at the cat versus what the kids saw. I saw a scrubby-coated, skin-and-bones, scrappy little mouth to feed, they saw the potential hidden under the neglect. They saw the possibilities behind the surface, while I only saw…well, the surface. The little kittens climbed over each other, making their way into the kids’ laps and stumbling over their own feet. Middle child laughed as Roam nudged a stray kitten back into the pile of mewing fur. I smiled and stroked Roam’s speckled, bony back. As I left the room I said to the kids, “You know, she really is a beautiful cat.”

Lord, help me to see through the ugliness that sometimes presents itself, to the beauty that You mean for us to see. Help me to see the potential rather than the surface, and to appreciate it! And thank you, Lord, for looking through the ugliness in me and seeing instead the beauty you intended there to be.

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