Shelli Netko had long been ashamed of how her hands looked. She thought her fingers were too short, her palms too wide, her veins too visible. Her hands seemed manly, overworked, even ugly, she thought, “an extreme contrast” to her petite and slim appearance.
Embarrassed, she often tried to hide them.
“I always thought they look like dog paws versus a woman’s hands,” Netko, 55, of Gilbert, Arizona, told TODAY. “I always wanted to have hands I was proud of, and made jokes how I was never going to be a hand model.”
But a photo taken on her wedding day last month erased the shame and helped her see all the good that has come from her own two hands.
“It was the first time I thought my hands were something other than what I had thought before,” Netko said. “The photo was absolutely a gift that reminded me that what I perceived as my biggest flaw could be my biggest gift.”
She was blown away by the photo when she saw it a few days after the wedding.
“The first thing I saw was my mom’s hands, and I was crying,” Netko recalled. “Then I started thinking about all the things I’d done with my hands.”
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Netko quickly penned a Facebook post titled “‘These Hands’ — A Revelation.”
“This picture is so beautiful, it captures everything,” read part of her post. “I saw the hands that had baked about 200 birthday cakes, a truckload of cookies, changed thousands of diapers, wiped away a million crocodile tears, and clapped till they were raw, cheering my kids on through every sport.”
“I saw this picture and I saw a gift,” she wrote. “These hands may not be the smoothest, most graceful, longest, most feminine hands, but they are perfectly suited for God’s work that He’s laid out for me. These hands have been blessed with holding my newborn babies and grand-babies and holding the father of my children as he took his last breath — God’s perfect plan.”
The photo of her hands, she says, gave her a “flash of awareness” of “the magnitude of what their value is.”
“They’re a necessity and they’re a gift, and they’re just something I can’t do without," Netko said. "I’m so thankful for them.”
Netko had five children with her first husband, who died a decade ago. On March 24, she married Adam Burke and became the stepmother to his girls, 11 and 13. She also has two young grandchildren.
Netko has a lot more to accomplish with those hands.
“What I used to think was my biggest flaw and a physical flaw that I was embarrassed about, as it turns out, is my biggest gift,” she says. “It gives me the ability to continue to give to other people and my family and demonstrate love on a daily basis and have the biggest impact on everyone.”
Her post was shared on the Facebook page Love What Matters, and she was surprised to learn how many other women viewed their hands the way she had. “I had no idea there were so many women who felt the same way,” Netko says.
What’s the life lesson?
“If there’s anything you see that might be a flaw, look deep to see the good in it, because there’s goodness in everything and a purpose for everything,” Netko said. “I’ve always said to trust God’s plan, and every little bit of us is part of that plan.”
TODAY.com contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.