Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In our Father's Hands

Last week I spoke at the North Star conference held in Provo.
Just as I was finishing the end of my address, I couldn't find
the last page of my notes.
I kind of panicked since it was the best part-
and how embarrassing anyway.
I know that this is my story, and I know every detail by heart,
but I feel like I do soooo much better with my notes.
After fumbling through my typed up pages in silence (like an idiot),
I decided to just tell the story from heart.
It turned out just fine, and I was so appreciative of the audience
 for loving me and finding the good-
and the humor in the moment.
Here is the last page of my keynote that I gave,
but kind of didn't give...
In late May- almost one year after the accident, I sat in the hot sun watching my two daughters in their elementary school field day.
 I had my two young sons Oliver and Nicholas
 sitting by my side as I filmed Claire and Jane  race. 
My sister Lucy sitting next to me.
I remembered looking around at all other Mom’s in the crowd. They seemed animated, excited, lively- everything I felt I wasn’t.  I was still pretty frail.  My skin was healing, my joints were stiff, and the scarring on my face and neck made it almost impossible for me to look up or turn my head.  But I think the thing that really got me was noticing these mothers, who had different body types and shapes were all dressed appropriately for the weather; 
they had on loose skirts, shorts, sandals, and short-sleeved shirts.
I was covered in head to toe with sunscreen and then long pants,
socks and shoes, and a sweater. 
  I also wore a giant wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Burn patients like me are advised to totally avoid the sun for a year or even for their lifetimes. 
Others are told that sun exposure is acceptable if they use some type of protection.  I was protecting my body from the harmful rays of the sun, but I think more than that, I was protecting myself from the stares, the comments, the disgust, and the questions.  I was painfully reminded multiple times almost every day that I was different and ugly.
  And every day I hated myself and all of my inadequacies. 
  I thought covering up and hiding was how to do it.   
I prayed to God asking him to help me ignore, forgive and
then love the many people who innocently hurt my feelings because they didn’t understand me, they didn’t know what I was dealing with, and they didn’t know how to talk to me or how to address my situation.  For example, I hated to be called a burn victim.  I am not a victim, I am a survivor!
My son Oliver looked at me, his dirty face had little beads of sweat dripping from his forehead.  

“Mom, aren’t you hot?!”  I looked down at him and smiled.
  “Yes, Ollie, I am really hot but I can’t get my skin in the sun, you know that.” 
  “But mom, I saw you put sunscreen on this morning.  I think you should take your sweater off.”  
I looked at my sister Lucy who was nodding.  I looked around at the crowd.  What if they look stare at me, what if when I take off my sweater people start laughing and pointing at me, what if they reject me and tell me I am not fit to be on this earth.  
I seriously envisioned people hiding the faces of their children so they 
wouldn’t have bad dreams or ruin their appetites when lunch came around.
Now I realize these thoughts are very exaggerated and that most people are wonderful and forgiving, but I my world everything and everyone was a potential disaster, and I didn’t want anything to do with them.  But I was hot, really hot, and I was so tired of worrying about what other people thought about me and they didn’t know all the improvements I was making!  Each day I was progressing- teeny tiny steps- sometimes not even steps, but inches forward, but it was something.
Reluctantly I started taking off my sweater.  Slowly I got one arm out then looked around to see who noticed.  I sat there for a few minutes looking around and observing.
 Then I took off the other sleeve, slowly slipping my arm out. 
I sat with the sweater draped over my shoulders as
 I continued to look around taking deep breaths trying to calm myself down. 
Just then, my son Nicholas who was oblivious to what I was doing and the significance of the moment, stood up and plopped right into my arms snuggling his little chubby body close to my chest and shoulders, then his eyes slowly shut and he fell asleep.  And in the process he knocked the sweater off my shoulders which then fell on the bleacher floor and then almost in slow motion it slipped through the bleacher cracks.
I watched it fall through the air falling further down onto the pavement under the bleachers.
I thought I was going to panic, I could feel the heat rise in my chest with horrible anxiety. I was on the verge of tears.  But instead something else happened.  It was as if a huge weight had slipped off my shoulders, and at that moment, I felt so much peace.  I wasn’t ashamed of who I was.  I didn’t have anything to be ashamed of.  I was a woman who was in a terrible accident.  I fought hard to live, I survived working each day to progress to be conscious and aware of myself and those around me.
 That moment was going to be a new beginning, a new start, and new life.   This little boy in my arms had showed me that I had made huge strides to where I was.  He reminded me that my role in life was to be his mother, and my body was at that very moment a place for him to feel warm and comfortable.  And specifically, in my arms- scarred, blotchy
and imperfect was the exact place that he could feel the safest.
In that beautiful moment of understanding and peace, God was teaching me a very valuable lesson.  He was teaching me that just as my children love me as their mother, and not for what my skin looks like, or my abilities at the moment, all they need are my arms and hands for acceptance and love.
Then I realized something even more valuable, I needed God’s arms and hands to guide me, lift me, love me, encourage me, defend me, and most importantly
 need and hold me just as I was doing the same for Nicholas. 
My sweater came off and so did the scales from my eyes. How long was I hiding behind my failures and disappointments and so hiding the light that was inside of me? I realized life is so much better with light and love and peace and forgiveness for ourselves and others.  This was a gradual process and I couldn’t have done it without the acceptance and compassion from my children,
 my family, friends and strangers.
Christ said “Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world.”
Christ already suffered for us so we don’t have too.   
To me that means: don’t be scared, you are mine. 
I will bless you, just hang in there with me, don’t let go! 
You are safe here in my arms, you are loved and accepted here
no matter who you are, and what you look like.  
Fear not, you belong to me.

* * * * * * * *
Teachings from RMN:
A Testimony of the Book of Mormon, October, 1999
Each individual who prayerfully studies the Book of Mormon 
can also receive a testimony of its divinity.
 In addition, this book can help with personal problems in a very real way.
Do you want to get rid of a bad habit? 
Do you want to improve relationships in your family?
 Do you want to increase your spiritual capacity? Read the Book of Mormon!
 It will bring you closer to the Lord and His loving power.
He who fed a multitude with five loaves and two fishes—He who 
helped the blind to see and the lame to walk—can also bless you! 
He has promised that those who live by the precepts of this book 
“shall receive a crown of eternal life.”