I've been following Stephanie Nielson's blog for quite a while now. She is a young mother who, with her husband and a family friend, were in a horrific plane crash. Her husband was burned over 30% of his body. Stephanie was burned over 80% of her body. It's a miracle that she survived not just the crash and the initial injuries, but also the frequent unending surgeries and procedures that a burn that extensive requires.
As a burn survivor myself, I can understand at least a small piece of what she's been through. Granted, her experiences have been much different; still, there's a sort of camaraderie among those of us who have had to endure the mental, physical, and emotional trials that are unavoidable in such a situation.
NieNie recently published a memoir called "Heaven is Here", talking about her life before the crash as well as the crash itself and the aftermath. I'd been planning on asking Brett to give it to me for my birthday, but my mom surprised me with it last week. (What can I say? She definitely knows me!) I had assumed I'd race through it that night like I usually do with books, but I couldn't.
It took me a few days to read Nienie's book, and I just finished it last night. It was incredibly well written, and I loved it. But for me, it was an incredibly difficult read. (Most of why it took me so long to read it? I was crying hard enough that I had to keep stopping to blink/wipe away tears so I could see the page. I cried through 2/3 of the book.) I think it would be hard for anyone to read such a heart-wrenching story. Having experienced some of the same things, I couldn't detach myself from the emotions of the book. I've felt so much of what she did. And my heart just broke for her, not because I pity her or feel sorry for her, but because of what she has been through and the way she has faced her trials.
Nienie talks, among other things, about how difficult it was to accept the way she looked, her insecurities about being able to care for her (then) four children, her fear of being rejected by her children, and her fear of being unattractive to her husband. Some of her fears came true--one of her daughters, after seeing her for the first time after the accident, wouldn't look at her for weeks. But she faced each challenge, and with the help of her family and her Heavenly Father, she met each challenge with faith, hope, and with grace.
My challenges as a burn survivor have been different since my injuries were so much earlier in life. I don't remember a time before I was burned. But many of my fears have been so similar! Insecurities about my body and the way I look. Fear that I would never find a man who could love me or find me attractive in spite of my scars. Fear that my emotional scars would prevent me from raising children and caring for them the way I wanted to. So many fears! I don't usually think of myself as a fearful person. In fact, I think I'm pretty bold! But when I consider some of my more irrational worries, I see a side of myself that I really don't like. Reading Nienie's book was like looking in a mirror and seeing not just my fears and the "darker" side of myself that I try to avoid so much, but seeing what kind of a woman, a wife, and a mother I can become if I continue to rely on my Heavenly Father. It gives me hope that even though I still deal with the vast amount of emotional baggage that comes from my abuse, that I can still be the woman I hope to be if I have faith and work hard at it. So thank you, Nienie!
Toward the end of her book, she talks about an opportunity to meet and visit with Elder Holland, one of the leaders of our church. She writes about a few of the things he told her, and this quote really hit me hard:
"We look for Christ's scars because they are evidence of what He did for us. They'll be the first things He shows us when we see Him again. Your scars tell a story, too. Although they may not make you feel attractive, they are a witness of a miracle, that God blessed you to live, and that you have accomplished very difficult things."
My scars tell a story. They certainly don't make me feel attractive. But they are a witness of a miracle. I was blessed to live, to be accepted into a loving family, and to rise above the circumstances that have contributed so greatly to who I am. I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows me, and who guides my life so that I can return to live with Him.