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 do so 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 the heart.
It turned out just OK, and I was so appreciative of the audience
 for loving me and finding the good-
and the humor at 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 
at their elementary school field day.
 My two young sons, Oliver and Nicholas,
 sat beside me as I filmed Claire and Jane's race. 
My sister Lucy sitting next to me.
I remembered looking around at all the other Moms 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 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 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 avoid the sun for a year or even their lifetimes. 
Others are told that sun exposure is acceptable if they use some type of protection. 
I was protecting my body from the sun's harmful rays, 
but I think more than that; I was protecting myself from the stares, 
comments, disgust, and questions. 
I was painfully reminded almost every day just by looking in the mirror
 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." 
Then he said, "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 
and thought to myself, what if they look stare at me? 
What if people start laughing and pointing at me when I take off my sweater? 
What if they reject me and tell me I don't belong there?
I seriously envisioned people hiding their children's faces so they 
wouldn't have bad dreams or ruin their appetites when lunch came around.
Now I realize these thoughts are wildly exaggerated and 
that most people are lovely and forgiving. 
Still, my world, everything, and everyone was a potential disaster,
 and I didn't want anything to do with them. 
But I was 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- 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 and 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, 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 
onto the pavement under the bleachers.
I thought I would 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 would be a new beginning, a new start, and new life.   
This little boy in my arms showed me that I had made 
huge strides toward 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 where he could feel the safest.
God was teaching me a valuable lesson in that beautiful moment 
of understanding and peace. He was preparing 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
  , 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 much better with light, love, peace, 
and forgiveness for ourselves and others. 
This was a gradual process, and I couldn't have done 
it without the acceptance and compassion of 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 to.   
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."

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