Do you ever have one of those moments when you’re happy and sad at the same time? That’s how I feel every time I look at the illustrations for Zippy and the Stripes of Courage. I’m so happy that his story is coming to life on the pages before me. I’m so happy that I’m going to have an opportunity to share him with the world and potentially help others. I’m so happy that I will get to do school visits and read his story to children. I’m so happy that his story has depth and meaning and that God has blessed me not only to write it, but to share it as well.
On the other hand, I’m so sad that he is a zebra without stripes in a world that demands them. I’m so sad that he has struggles and hardships to deal with. I’m so sad that some children may laugh at him, and even sadder for the children who can relate to his story— the children who are going through similar struggles right now in their lives.
There is a big part of me that wants to be selfish and give him stripes. It’s so hard for me to look at the illustrations and know that he doesn’t have stripes because I decided not to give them to him. When I look at the beautiful, bold colors, cute little faces, and amazing detail I’m awed, but when I look at Zippy, I’m heartbroken. And it gives me a better imagine of how I’m viewed at times.
I’ve always wondered if it hurts God to see me struggle with my scars. If it hurts him to see other people laugh and stare at me. Did it hurt Him when I used to cry and beg Him to give me beautiful hands? Through Zippy, and knowing how I feel, I have found my answers.
While I believe it does hurt God to see me go through all of these things, He knows the ending is just beautiful and worth it all. He knows my struggles have molded me into a better, more compassionate and loving person. He knows that if He removed my scars it would change my purpose. He knows that before you can truly help another person with their struggles you have to have overcome them yourself. He knows that sometimes all that is needed is a new perspective.
However, I believe it is God who gives us that different perspective. So instead of looking at Zippy as a pitiful little zebra without stripes, I now see him as a wonderfully, brave zebra who changes the world. And when I look at his pictures I’m no longer sad. So often how we see ourselves is how others will see us, too.
I know that he will help someone with their own struggles. I know that he will be a blessing to some broken heart. I know that he has a beautiful story to tell and it will help many along the way.
And I know the ones who laugh and make fun of him are the ones who need to read his story the most. They are the ones who are cold and bitter on the inside, desperately needing a different perspective.
It took me many years to write this book and there are probably a hundred different versions, but I’m so thankful that God didn’t give up on me. With each draft he showed me a little more about myself and brought me closer to the person He was molding me to be. Through Zippy he gave me a new perspective on life and taught me acceptance. And somewhere along the way I learned our stories were one in the same.
Here is one of the illustrations from the book my wonderful publisher allowed me to share. It is one of my favorites because it exemplifies how I have felt so many times in my life. So often I’ve hide in the shadows and watched the world go by because I was afraid no one would want to be my friend or that no one would like me. I believe the illustrator, Jack Foster, created this image just beautifully.