By Debora Coty

As I roll out of bed in the misty morning, I reach up and touch my cheek. What in the world? My skin feels completely foreign – grainy and dry and thick as all get-out, like on the inside it’s still me but on the outside I’m petting a python who just swallowed lunch.

Rushing to the bathroom mirror, I stand there staring at my grotesquely swollen face; my cheeks have intruded into my line of vision so I have to dip my chin to see over them. I look like the human version of a Shar-pei.

Oh, no. That new moisturizer must’ve produced some sort of allergic reaction.

I remain fully inflated in the following days, enduring gawking neighbors, loved ones, and co-workers with as much grace and humor as I can muster. But then Sunday’s here and I fear that the preschoolers at church for whom “I’m the Bible Story Lady” will get one look at my distorted visage and run screaming.

So I introduce myself as Miss Piggy instead of Miss Debbie and assure them it’s still me under all that extra face. That today there’s just more of me to love. And sure enough, love me they do, skin rolls, furrows and all.

Hmm. How do people with permanent physical disabilities cope day-after-day-after day?

I think of Buell Smith from my childhood. Buell, a friend of my grandparents and devout believer, was inflicted with a purple-ish golf-ball sized tumor that hung in a skin sack over his top lip. I vividly recall my 6-year-old self, mesmerized, as poor Buell pushed the thing aside to fork Granny’s lemon cake into his mouth.

But what I remember most about Buell was his deep, melodic laugh. And he laughed all the time. Even as a kid, I wondered how someone with a giant meatball hanging on his face could be so jolly. Buell was entirely likable, fun, and seemed perfectly joyful within his own skin. Even the extra parts.

I once offered to cut that woggly thing off with my Barbie scissors, but Buell just laughed his hearty laugh and said he wished it was that easy.

So I marvel how everyday heroes like Buell live full, rich, wonderful lives despite physical obstacles. How they choose to be filled to the brim with Papa God’s unconditional love and intentionally let it overflow to those around them?

They inspire me – and you too, I hope, if you ever wake up with a Shar-pei face – to live out loud 1 Thessalonians 3:12, MSG: “May the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you.”

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