These Hands


My mom has told me the story many times of how, when she was pregnant with me, she hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t resemble her in any way – except her hands.

She didn’t want me to get her curly hair or unusually tall height. She didn’t necessarily want me to have her green eyes or fair skin. But her hands? Her hands are the one feature that she likes. And so she wished for her baby girl to inherit the genes of long fingers and nicely rounded fingernails.

If you’ve ever seen my mom and me, you know things didn’t exactly work out as she’d hoped. For most of my life, I’ve been the spitting imagine of my mother – except my hands.

My hands look a lot like my dad’s – and that’s worse than it even sounds. I’m not talking about callouses or bitten nails. Instead, my hands have the same short, stubby fingers and nails that his do – and to top it all off, my knuckles play hide and seek, only showing up to remind me that I still have what my parents mockingly lovingly call “baby knuckles.”


Last month I received a manicure at Blissdom. The polish color choices were pretty slim, and given the choice of barely there pink, goth purple and hooker red, I went with the red. Between the special treatment and the splash of color, I felt just a touch more pretty and feminine than normal. (And I had to admit that the garish shade went perfectly with my flash mob fingerless gloves!)

But after a few days, the paint began to chip. Partly because I didn’t want to let go of my Blissdom “souvenir” and partly because I’m lazy, I still put off removing the paint. And then, in my typical overachieving fashion, I put it off some more. Until I looked down at my hands (many days later) and realized how awful my fingers looked!

Just like that, I was back to hating my stubby little fingers.

Before I had the chance to remove the now-offensive paint, I heard a small voice whisper, “Look at your hands. No, look at them! Now, tell me what these hands do.”

[Now, before you think I’m either a) super holy or b) totally crazy, let me clarify. It wasn’t an audible voice whispering in my ear. It was more a thought that flitted through my mind: These hands. These hands. These hands! But I’m calling that a whisper. So there.]


These hands . . .

. . . hug, help, clean, protect, reassure, love my daughter.
. . . hold, comfort, support, love my husband.
. . . cook [sometimes] delicious and [occasionally] healthy meals.
. . . wash and fold and scrub and wipe and sweep.
. . . write blog posts and news releases and letters and tweets and stories.
. . . play lovely songs laced with emotion and [a few] wrong notes.
. . . pet my cats. Even when they’re annoying.
. . . create scrapbooks that highlight and hold my memories.
. . . capture those memories with my camera.
. . . make to-do lists and grocery lists and calendar dates.
. . . say hello and I love you and thank you and you’re wonderful.

And, of course, that’s just the beginning. These hands also have car dance parties and indoor picnics, write thank you notes and love notes, pour tea and laundry detergent and love, and operate remotes and radios and lives.

These hands are kind of a big deal. I’m thankful for these hands – even if their fingers are short, their cuticles are ripped and their knuckles are ridiculously non-existent. I love these hands.

Maybe you have hands like mine – dry, chubby, under-appreciated. Or perhaps it’s not your hands that need a little love. Maybe you need a new perspective on your legs or your hair or your stomach or your face. Whatever it is, could it be that this part of your body, this part of you, deserves a second look?

What do you love about your hands? (Or legs or hair or stomach or face or . . .?)

If you’d like another look at my hands and what they can do, here’s a recording of me playing the piano. I didn’t want to videotape my whole body – or the still-not-finished spare room my piano lives in, so I kept the camera focused on my hands. I cringed when I first watched it, both from the wrong notes and the chubby hands (not to mention how badly my piano needs tuned!). But now that I think about it more, I think I like this video just fine. These hands play a lovely song.

Photos of hands by Mattias, derya, and laura dye.

29 Comments These Hands

  1. Sarah February 18, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Wonderful post and it totally made me cry over my coffee. I’ve always wished for “better” hands. I’ve been a nail biter since I can remember and my fingers always look awful. To top it off, they get super dry during the winter, so now they look like I’m 80. Lovely. But they are lovely. If not in the worldly sense, in the what-good-they’ve-done sense. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      Yes, ma’am. Our hands do a lot of good – and that’s way more important than silky smooth skin. (Right? RIGHT? Oh, yeah. Right…) :)

  2. Erin February 18, 2011 at 7:24 am

    What an awesome post, Mary! Thanks for reminding me to be grateful for what I’ve been given. :)

  3. Stefanie Brown February 18, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I really enjoyed this post! Being grateful for who we are and who HE created to be is a lost art. Thank you for the sweet reminder!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      You are quite welcome. And yes, it IS an art!

  4. nikki February 18, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Oh Mar! I miss hearing you play the piano! You still play beautifully! I’ve always wished I could play, but it’s so hard to pick up as an adult!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 18, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      Aww, thank you! I’ve talked to Mark about taking lessons again, and he suggested just starting up when we start Annalyn in lessons. Maybe you could do that – take lessons if/when your kids do?

  5. ThankfulMomma February 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    This made me cry. I have the same hands. Last night I was showing my too-dry, starting-to-look-old hands. He said I was being silly, but I can’t get past it. I hate my hands.

    Thank you for reminding me to be kinder to myself and remember how God is using these weary hands (and body).

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      Yes, yes! Be kind to your hands. Be kind to yourself. :)

  6. Angela Mackey February 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    My hands crack and dry and look decades older than I am. So I know that hand feeling. However I am so glad that my hands do so many things…Writing, loving, creating, cooking, knitting, nursing, etc. Oh, I am so blessed to have hands at all!

    Thank you for this reminder!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      Great point. Hands that work, hands AT ALL – what a blessing!

  7. Charlie February 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    That just gave me chills listening to you play….

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      The good chills, right? Not the creeped out, somebody’s behind the window kind? :)

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  9. Vanderbilt Wife February 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    My fingers are so stubby I about sprained one trying to learn to play guitar. I have a beautiful Fender acoustic guitar that I just can. not. play. But I can’t get rid of it …

    My husband probably liked that I told him my short fingers could only handle a small diamond!

  10. Sarah L February 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Lovely post. I love my hands, probably how your mom loves hers. I inherited them from my father. Well, actually, my aunt. She had beautiful hands and I’ve got to say, I like my hands quite a bit. This was probably spurred on by adoration from my mother who also loved that I got long, skinny fingers from my father (and killer nails that grow well even when I’m not pregnant). I hope my daughter has my hands, but more because they remind me of my aunt (the namesake for my daughter’s middle name). She passed away a little over a year ago from breast cancer. I think of her when I look at my hands or wear one of her rings.

    On another note, have you seen Kenny Boyce’s video on Facebook about his sister-in-law who lost both of her hands to rebels when she was a child in Africa. It is pretty inspirational. It make me thankful for these hands no matter how they look.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm

      Wow. I haven’t seen Kenny’s video! What a vivid reminder to be thankful for what we have!!

  11. Mel @ Trailing After God February 18, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    What a great reminder! I hate my stubby hands too but in light of all that they do, I have to say that it is a blessing to have two working hands who do so very much! Thanks for the new perspective :)

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  12. Sarah February 18, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I love this post. Very challenging, and well written!

  13. The Diaper Diaries February 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I have always hated that I got my dad’s fingers. Short and stubby as well. They are honestly one of my least favorite things about me. Yet another freakish thing we have in common. thanks for the reminder to love what God has blessed you with.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 22, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      I know I need as many of those reminders as I can get! (And yes…once again we are twinsies.)

  14. Ceane February 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    My mom and my sister have hands with long slender fingers and nice nails. I, like you, got my dad’s hands. My dad’s hands are great for him. But I’ve always envied my mom and my sister’s hands.

    I love this post though. What I do love is that along with my dad’s hands I got his ability to use tools. I love using drills and hammers. I don’t think women should be afraid to use power tools.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      Well, there you go! I love that you use your [dad’s] hands similarly to the way he uses his own!

  15. Tiffany February 18, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    My hands are long and skinny but they are huge. My husband has even jokingly said that I have man hands. They are scarred, cracked, and look like they belong to a carpenter, not a mom. Thank you for reminding me that it’s what they do, not how they look, that counts.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      “Man hands” or not, I’m sure your hands do very good work – and THAT is beautiful.

  16. gitz February 20, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    this was really good, friend. i think i need to do that more often… i’m so annoyed with the pain in my body that it can become my enemy. a list of what it still gives me may be in order.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      It’s easier said than done, that’s for sure. Perspective makes a world of difference though. Not that I’m telling you something new!

  17. Amanda D February 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Love this post. My hands do a lot of the same things you mentioned. They also cut hair, make and people feel good. They play games and hold books, turn pages and wash fingerprints off the wall.

    Thanks for making me realize how grateful I am for my body!

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