The girls were primping. I leaned back against the wall and stifled a laugh as Marie played tug-of-war with the curlers in her hair. I raised an amused eyebrow at Jillian, who was frantically searching for her hair spray. I cringed when Candace's nose collided with the mirror as she leaned in to apply bright crimson lipstick with a shaky hand. But Candace just giggled and rubbed her nose.
The girls were nervous, which was to be expected. After all, they were preparing for an important event: The annual Wayside Beautiful Womanhood Pageant.
Candace caught my eye in the mirror. "Does my lipstick look okay?" she asked.
"It looks perfect, Candace," I assured her.
"What about me?" Marie spoke up. "Did that last curler completely frizz my hair?"
I laughed. "No, Marie. You look beautiful."
"I still can't find my hair spray," Jillian said.
"Here - take mine," Candace offered, handing over her bottle.
Jillian put a hand over her chest. "Oh, you're an angel! What would I do without you?"
I looked at my watch. "OK, ladies, time to go! Show starts in ten minutes!"
There was a moment of panic and one last glance in the mirror before the girls started shuffling out the door.
Marie paused long enough to shake a finger at me. "Don't you even think about rushing back in here to clean up. Wait for me - I'll help you."
"Of course," I nodded.
I said a quick silent prayer. Thank you for each one of those ladies, Lord. And thanks for this day when we can celebrate their true beauty.
I looked out over the audience and estimated fifty to seventy-five, which was up several from the year before. The pageant is getting more popular, I mused. I glanced to my left and saw the girls fidgeting anxiously behind the curtain.
"Good evening," I started. "As you know, we're here to celebrate the beauty of three marvelous women. But unlike most beauty pageants, we aren't focusing on outer beauty - although each one of these ladies is absolutely gorgeous!" I added.
"Amen!" someone shouted from the back, warranting a murmur of laughter.
I grinned. "The beauty we're celebrating today is the kind that radiates from the inside, out. The kind each of us should strive for in our own lives. There are no losers here, only winners!
"Our first contestant is Candace Andrews." Applause erupted as Candace appeared from behind the curtain, pushing her walker. When she reached me, I draped a yellow banner around her neck. "Candace receives the, 'Miss Give-The-Shirt-Off-Your Back' award. Her giving spirit has blessed so many of us here at Wayside Manor. But I have to say, if she keeps on with this giving, the only thing left in her room will be her bed."
Candace giggled. "I've heard sleeping on the floor can be quite comfortable."
When the laughter died down, I went on. "Our second contestant is Marie Manning." Marie slowly shuffled to my side. "Marie receives the 'Miss How May I Serve You?,' award. She looks for things to be done and steps in to help, not because she wants the praise, but because she has a true servant's heart."
"Everything as unto the Lord…" Marie added.
"Our final contestant is Jillian Stevens." Jillian made her way out and I placed the ribbon over her head. "Jillian receives the 'Miss Positive Perky Pants' award. I have yet to hear her utter a mean word to anyone. She is always positive, always encouraging, and always, well…perky!"
"My mother always said, 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all,'" Jillian smiled.
Laughter blended with thunderous applause.
"Please join us in the dining hall for refreshments as we continue to celebrate these beautiful women. Jillian will greet you at the door and tell you how wonderful you look. Candace will hand out the cookies - and possibly other items she feels compelled to give away. And if you don't see Marie, check the kitchen. She may not be able to shake your hand though, as hers will likely be immersed in soapy water."
The residents made their way out and I turned to embrace the three women. Their bodies may have been wearing out but their spirits were not. Wrinkles and weathered skin could never disguise true beauty. And that was something worth primping for.
Beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise." Proverbs 31:30b, 31 (NLT)