Last night we had the rare and humbling opportunity to hear from Stephanie Nielsen, of the beloved Nie-Nie Dialogues (and the infamous plane crash).
And today I cannot stop thinking about this extraordinary person.
She gave every woman in the room the most remarkable gift, my first of the season: Vision.
She talked about how beautiful and amazing we are because we have skin. Skin.
I've actually never been very comfortable in my own skin. I've even found lots of reasons to complain about it (I'll spare you my litany of defects.) The bottom line is, the word grateful never comes to mind when I think of my skin. I've always felt instead like I got the short end of the stick in the Heredity lottery. Yet suddenly Nie-Nie had me marveling at the miracle that is...my own soft, self-healing, waterproof, pliable, wearable skin.
Now ditto that whole paragraph and replace the word "skin" with Bodies. One of my favorite things she said in this gift of vision: "I am not my body." So true. Here we are defining ourselves by our bodies, when our innermost selves—our spirits—may not look anything like our physical bodies. I am not my body.
She talked about Choices. She said she chose to come to earth...and chose to come back after nearly dying. She said the choice and the offer that was given to her felt almost like a bishop's interview, and that it wasn't an easy choice. She was told there would be plenty for her to do on either side, but she thought of all the joyful things she'd miss -- her daughters' weddings, her sons going on missions, and she chose life. She chose to come back. It gave me a huge, larger-than-life appreciation for the chance to spend a series of days and years here on earth.
She talked about Angels. She talked about guardian angels she believes are assigned to her (and to each of us) -- she calls them her "team." She spoke especially of her departed grandmother helping her out of the plane, and remaining with her to this day. That resonated for me, and reminded me of similar experiences I've had...times when loved ones from the other side of the veil have come to comfort, heal, and support me through difficult times. Heaven is so much closer than we think.
She spoke of the Savior so knowingly and lovingly, with such certainty. I found it the perfect way to usher in the season celebrating his birth...to hear her testify so humbly about His role in her life, reminding us how important it is to involve Him in all of our decisions, in all of our trials, in celebrating our joys, every day of our lives. It felt truly sacred to be in the presence of one who knows Him so well.
When it was over, I looked right into her eyes and tears welled up in mine as I reached up to give her a hug, and told her candidly how beautiful she is. Her eyes are like crystal pools of light and love, carrying a depth of vision few of us will ever know, as do her words. I hope to hang onto that vision she gave us all Christmas long...and over a lifetime.