When I got there, parking was a mess. I arrived at the WSC Ballroom late, and people were still arriving. They kept coming till at least half an hour after it was to start. People were crammed into every space possible! They crowded in the back until the booths had to relocate. They filled up the stage on the side. They extended out to the "lobby" and the hallways. They had to be asked multiple times to get out of the aisle for fire safety codes.
I was so excited! I was so glad that so many people had come to hear Stephanie speak.
Listening to her tell her story (with more details than I've heard before--I loved it), I was impressed with how very sweet she is. She has a darling sense of humor, and she's just as honest as she seems on her blog. We didn't have time to talk with her individually.
Stephanie talked about how her life had seemed ideal, fairytale-like, before the accident. She talked about how love can help you navigate through any and all trials. I believe that. I also believe that in a way, her life is ideal again. For her. We'd never want the same trials, but countless people are strengthened by her strength, uplifted by her example. I'm sure she is fulfilling every bit of potential Heavenly Father has planned for her life. And I want to be like that, too.
When I was pregnant with Ender, there were handfuls of complications. Michael gave me a priesthood blessing. And in the blessing, I was told that the birth would be ideal. I pondered on that for the remaining months of the pregnancy. When we got to that point, I kept it in my thoughts. There were even some problems during the labor and birth, but I never felt scared because I knew it would be according to Heavenly Father's plan--which doesn't often mean our definition of perfect. I think that Heavenly Father's ideal plans for us include all the experiences we could possibly need to make us the best version of ourselves. Ideal can mean trials because we can grow in trials. And growth is good.
*The labor and birth have become such a beautiful, sacred experience to me. I wholeheartedly agree that it was ideal.*
When we hurt ourselves by denying our beauty, it blocks growth.
A shallow example: when you look grungy and someone knocks on your door, it's likely that the only thing on your mind while you talk to them is a great big zit on your chin, your obviously greasy hair, your disgusting sweats and your morning breath. After they've left, the opportunity is gone for you to have been a spot of light in their day. When you dress nicely, it's easy to forget about your image when you answer that door. You'll probably smile and feel gracious towards your visitor...which would surely brighten their day.
A deeper example: when you give in to angry feelings, when you abuse yourself with unkindness, you are far from the Holy Ghost, and your own spirit is hurt. In the weak and captive state brought on by sin (which does indeed include anger and self abuse), your progress is seriously maimed.
During Stephanie's talk, I felt reminded of all the times it's been said in General Conferences that women have angelic qualities. They really do. And I felt impressed that beauty is as much a part of our divine nature as motherhood and godhood. I believe that inner beauty can translate itself into outer beauty.
Did you know Stephanie is really, really beautiful? Two pictures were shown in the slideshow, depicting Stephanie before and after the accident, side by side. And I found myself preferring the picture of the current Stephanie. I felt drawn to that one...I sincerely thought it was prettier. More beautiful--in every way! She is a woman whose inner beauty cannot be held back by scars from burns or any other limitation her body has given her.
She's not the only one who can be like that! Inner beauty can prove itself in outer beauty. Sometimes, perhaps, you have to look with different eyes to see it. But in the great cases of undeniable inner beauty, everyone sees it.
Inner beauty comes from living close to the Spirit, obeying the promptings received in such a lifestyle and being a person of charity in all things.
I have some work to do!
Thank you, Stephanie Nielson, for the life you live!
ps: if she feels bad for crying the whole time, she shouldn't...because I was fanning my eyes with my yellow notepad and chewing my flavorless gum rather furiously the entire time (trying not to cry--because as soon as I let loose, I knew I'd be sobbing like a dying seal somewhere in the back of the Ballroom. I had the warning signs of the knot in my throat and the snot threatening to break the dam)(the event was filmed, but let's hope I stayed anonymous in the massive crowd).