Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy by Stephanie Nielson

from Amazon: Stephanie Nielson began sharing her life in 2005 on, drawing readers in with her warmth and candor. She quickly attracted a loyal following that was captivated by the upbeat mother happily raising her young children, madly in love with her husband, Christian (Mr. Nielson to her readers), and filled with gratitude for her blessed life.

However, everything changed in an instant on a sunny day in August 2008, when Stephanie and Christian were in a horrific plane crash. Christian was burned over 40 percent of his body, and Stephanie was on the brink of death, with burns over 80 percent of her body. She would remain in a coma for four months.

In this moving memoir, Stephanie tells the full, extraordinary story of her unlikely recovery and the incredible love behind it—from a riveting account of the crash to all that followed in its wake. With vivid detail, Stephanie recounts her emotional and physical journey, from her first painful days after awakening from the coma to the first time she saw her face in the mirror, the first kiss she shared with Christian after the accident, and the first time she talked to her children after their long separation. She also reflects back on life before the accident, to her happy childhood as one of nine siblings, her close-knit community and strong Mormon faith, and her fairy-tale love story, all of which became her foundation of strength as she rebuilt her life.

What emerges from the wreckage of a tragic accident is a unique perspective on joy, beauty, and overcoming adversity that is as gripping as it is inspirational. Heaven Is Here is a poignant reminder of how faith and family, love and community can bolster us, sustain us, and quite literally, in some cases, save us.

I discovered Stephanie's blog (nieniedialogues) just after her accident, and have been following it for the last four years. I greatly admire her passion of motherhood, her faith, and love of life. I loved her book, written in her fresh, honest style. She is very real, and tells it like it is. I laughed and cried through her whole book while reading of her trials and triumphs.

I read her book a month after it was published--the same month I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and it really helped me understand that my challenges don't need to define who I am. While not as drastic as Stephanie's experience, I had to go through a process of re-building my life with new eating and exercise habits, doctor visits and tests. While my challenges are small in comparison, I drew strength from reading how she gets through hard times with faith, optimism, grace, and acceptance.

I loved Stephanie's frankness as she recounts how she had to come to terms with her new self. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, "I know, now, without a doubt that the true source of happiness, self-worth, and authentic beauty doesn't come from the outside. Women are constantly being persuaded to want something unachievable, to look younger or thinner and above all to fit in because being different is too painful and embarrassing. I have accepted myself in a world that does not accept me, because I have learned [ . . . ] that our hearts matter most... It's a beautiful heart, not a perfect body, that leads to a beautiful life." Such a great reminder!

This is an incredible story of survival and overcoming hard things. I greatly admire Stephanie-she is truly a courageous woman, and her story has inspired me to stay positive, try harder, and have faith in God's plan for me.

Rating: 4
Published: 4.2012

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