Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stephanie Nielson: A Woman of God


If I wrote about anything but Stephanie Nielson and her appearance on Oprah yesterday, I wouldn't be true to myself. Her segment moved me to the extent that I was emotional (yep, cried like a baby) most of the way through it, not because I felt sorry for her but because I admired and was inspired by her.

It was more than that, really. I had a spiritual experience watching her. What I mean to say is, I could see her spirit shining through not just her eyes, but her entire face. This brightness didn't make Stephanie's scars disappear altogether, yet to a great degree that was the effect, because her spiritual countenance somehow eclipsed the physical. She was simply radiant; and when I looked at her, what glowed back at me was Stephanie in all her pre-accident glory, magnified by her experiences and superimposed on the physical planes of her wounded face in some kind of translucent way that no special effects genius could ever replicate. It was like I was seeing her in two dimensions, and the ethereal one overshadowed the other.

I'm not explaining it well enough, but those of you who saw her must know what I mean. It is not a polite exaggeration to say that she looked absolutely beautiful, for she did. I wrote on her Facebook page that she reminded me of that city on a hill that cannot be hid. And because of the amazing example she was, is, and has been to women all over the world, she brought to my mind these words from Sheri Dew:

"I will never forget my first experience on the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee. As I sat on that storied place, I saw in the distance a city built on a hill. The visual image of a city that could not be hid was stunning, and as I pondered the symbolism I had an overwhelming impression that we, as women of God, are like that city. If we will leave behind the things of the world and come unto Christ so that the Spirit radiates through our lives and from our eyes, if we will cherish our covenants and 'hold out faithful to the end,' our collective and individual uniqueness will be as a light unto the world...a wellspring of hope, peace, virtue, and joy."

"The Relief Society Declaration proclaims that 'we are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity' who rejoice in motherhood, womanhood, and the sanctity of the family. We cannot be women of the world, for we are latter-day women of God. (Sheri Dew)

And that's what Stephanie Nielson clearly is, a woman of God. She did us all proud yesterday. She did herself proud, too, and she did the Lord proud. Her kindness (in bringing a young woman discouraged by motherhood into her home and showing her, in the gentlest way imaginable, the sacred nature of caring for those you love) was deeply touching. I am certain that Stephanie changed that mother's life for the better. Not only was she able to see mothering from a whole new perspective, but she felt the spirit in the Nielson home. In fact, it was obvious that she had commented at length about what she and Oprah called the "energy" of the home, because Oprah asked her to explain it. Her description spoke of an immediate feeling of warmth, peace, calm, relaxed ease, and acceptance.

After discussing the feeling in the Nielson home, Oprah went on to ask the young mother (Andrea) what she had observed about Christian and his relationship to and with Stephanie. Her answer described a celestial marriage in every sense of the word...for all the world to hear. And the world got a good look at celestial marriage as well, in the eyes and faces of both Stephanie and Christian as they related to each other. It was a gift. One the audience felt and received.

Stephanie flat-lined twice in the hospital, and she shared with the viewers a near-death experience where she was given the choice to come back to "have a hard life" and raise her family or remain in the spirit world to wait for them. She said the choice was "easy." "I chose the hard way, because of the family," she explained. "Definitely." Stephanie would be there for her husband and children, no matter how difficult.

I saw a woman of God in the most unlikely place yesterday, on the Oprah show. And she made me want to be better, for "few people can resist a woman who lives and conducts her life under the influence of the Holy Ghost. No woman is a more vibrant instrument in the hands of the Lord than a woman of God who is thrilled to be who she is!" (Sheri Dew)

Life is harder now, with challenges at once immense and unrelenting, but Stephanie Nielson remains thrilled to be who she is. Her reason? Because, as she told the young mother who visited her (gesturing toward the family picture taken before her accident), "I still have all of these people in my life, and all of this is still love."

Which is what eternal families are all about. Still living. Still loving. Forever.

18 comments:

Momza said...

I cried too...Stephanie's example is a light to the rest of us to follow Christ and rejoice in the calling of motherhood.
Excellent post, Sue!

Carolyn said...

I've looked all over the internet trying to find the clip of her interview but I can't.

It sounds amazing. I hope I find it soon.

karen said...

I'm so sorry that I missed it. I've become quite a fan of hers. So young, but so wise. She is the epitome of grace, although she probably wouldn't look at herself that way.

Joyful Noise said...

Amen! I also cried and was inspired. I just have to meet you someday since you always have exactly the same thought as I.

Jill said...

Sue, you said it all so well. What an honor to know her through her blog, and now on Oprah. I agree, I think she is still absolutely beautiful. I was surprised quite frankly that no one mentioned this on Oprah. There was one scene that made me a bit uncomfortable. Andrea was saying something like, "You were beautiful." I don't think the word "were" is appropriate. Andrea also asked if she ever feels like 2 different people...the beautiful one and now the one with scars. I wanted to say, 'She's even better now. She has a beauty that surpasses all beauty.'

~Shari said...

You said it beautifully Sue. I could NOT have said it more elequantly.....no REALLY.
Thank you for a beautiful summation.
~Shari R.

jen said...

You have such a gift with words. With Oprah tossing around words like motherhood is "sacred," and "energy," I wondered if it would ever come up that she was LDS. Subject carefully avoided. How I wish the world could know what really got her through--faith, priesthood blessings, and her amazing family.
But we know. And the world could see it, even if they don't know that's what it is.

KC Mom said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. I was truly mesmerized with her yesterday. She truly glows with the Spirit. I couldn't believe how positive and smiling she is and how sweet her relationship with her husband is. Truly a great example for all to follow. I had never heard that she was given the choice before, whether to stay or go but I don't doubt for a minute that that was her choice to make. How could a loving Father force someone to stay knowing how hard it would be? But family was worth it to her. Her story is so inspiring and even if I was only better for the day after watching her, it was worth it.

Darlene said...

I don't watch Oprah much anymore, but I am grateful I watched this episode. I too was gratefully impressed by Stephanie's demeanor on this show. What a great lady she is. It saddened me so much though that she couldn't hold her chilren after their bath. It's impossible for her children to really understand. That is when I really broke down and cried. I could relate, in ever such a tiny way in comparison, because it saddens me that I cannot hold my dearest great grandchildren. I couldn't do this even when they were small. It just hurts too much. I do hope she will improve enough so that one day she and they will be able to experience this once again. That was one of the things that really took hold of Adrea's emotions too. To know that she could go home and really hold her children took on new meaning for her. I am so glad you introduced us to Stephanie a long time ago. It's amazing to me that she has come so far in just a little over a year. I am still overcome by the experience of watching her on that show.

Katie Blacker said...

I found myself get really emotional too and haven't had the heart to delete the DVR recording of the show in case in a few days or weeks I need reminding. A reminder of how I should act and what I can be.

Mach Momma said...

My daughter who is 23 introduced me to nienie dialogues. She is her hero.
One day she came into the store where she works and was to chicken to talk to her, well about 2 weeks later they were both at the same eating establishment. She didn't let this chance go by. They had a good visit. She is everything she proclaims to be. What a great example for all of us. Young, old or in between.
I don't watch Oprah but I did that day. Stephanie just radiated goodness.
You have a great gift of putting thought on paper!

Sue said...

I'm not going to be deleting my DVR recording any time soon either, Katie.

Fiauna said...

She may have returned for her children, but she is here to teach the rest of us as well. I am so impressed by her.

Em said...

such an amazing woman. i knew i'd be in for a cry fest when i started tearing up over the previews for the show! remember me telling you how i wrote oprah about her last year? i wonder how many others wrote her too!!! there must have been tons!

Amy said...

I had such similar feelings. In fact, I am pretty much shocked at what a "friendship/sisterhood" I feel I've developed with someone I have never, and probably will never meet. As I go through my own personal struggles, I am very grateful for her inspiration and example.

Heather Anderson said...

It was the first O show I have watched in many years... but it was good. I was moved by the same things as you... as always your words described my own feelings that I cannot put to words and as I read the blog I was teared up (but not when I saw the show). Thanks for the uplifting post.

Jed and Lizzy said...

Well said. Nie looked BEAUTIFUL. I don't normally watch Oprah, but it was great to see Stephanie on stage and exuding radiance. Her spirit is strong and vibrant. I wonder if she will ever write out her NDE for all to read! Oh, I would treasure that.

Caroline said...

Wow. This is an excellent post. Well said..and thank you so much for sharing this with us all.

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