Choose to be kind

There are several scriptures throughout the Bible, and the Book of Mormon that speak of love, kindness and forgiveness.  In Matthew 5 verses 43 and 44 it reads:  ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.

In Moroni 7:47 we read: But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endreth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

This is a principle that I feel like I talk about every week.  To be kind, to love and to have charity toward others.  It is commanded of us that we not judge others.  And yet in our society there is judgement in every facet of our lives.  Even in our places of worship we find judgement.  But it is not our place to judge, it is our place to be kind and love.

I know that this is a difficult concept to digest.  And yet as much as we hear about love and kindness, we still seem to fail miserably when it comes to our judgement of others and maybe that is why we have to be continually reminded that it is by learning to love and treat others with respect that we will become perfected in Him.

In a talk given by Bonnie L. Oscarson in April 2014 she says, “The adversary would have us be critical or judgmental of one another. He wants us to concentrate on our differences and compare ourselves to one another.”

“To be sisters (and brothers) in Christ, implies that there is an unbreakable bond between us. We take care of each other, watch out for each other, comfort each other, and are there for each other through thick and thin. The Lord has said, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

Loving our enemies may be one of the hardest challenges we undertake here on this Earth.  When someone is judgemental of you, I think our natural inclination is to be judgemental right back.  We want to defend ourselves and prove ourselves right.  But being right all the time comes with a price.  

We must come to an understanding of how to live amongst eachother without judging another person’s acts or decisions.  Even if they are hurtful toward us or our loved ones. 

One thing I learned when I left the church for a time, was how clearly I could see the judgement of others and I would continually complain about the actions of others and that is why I made the choices that I did.  But the truth is, I was being just as judgemental to them as I felt they were towards me. 

I have often said that I believe that one of the first questions that the Lord asks us when judgement day has come, is how did you treat others?  Working towards saying “I just loved them”, is our true test.  

So today, my invitation to you is to re-evaluate the way you view others.  Are you loving and forgiving towards all people?  Or are you selective in who you choose to love?  And if you answer yes to the second question, which I think is probable for all of us, then we all have a lot of work to do.  Today, choose to love.

XO Wendy

Choose to find joy

One of my favorite scriptures comes from the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 2: 24-25 

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

In Dallin H. Oakes’ talk “Opposition in all things”  he says

“Our mortal life…. was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father … knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.”

When sore trials come upon us we are faced with all kinds of new and difficult choices. And many times these decisions and choices that we have to make seem impossible to end up with a happy result.    However, the Lord wants us to have joy in this life.  That is why we were sent here. The choice that Eve made when she chose to partake of the fruit, provided the opportunity for life to begin for us.  In the midst of what Adam and Eve believed was a big failure, God turned into something beautiful and joyful.  

Was that the end of their trials?  Of course not, they had only just begun to learn the answers to the questions that they did not even know they had.

 In order for us to progress and be able to make choices and have agency, opposition has an essential role.  In 2 Nephi 2:11  We read: For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, …. righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one;

Elder Oakes continues: “From the beginning, agency and opposition were central to the Father’s plan and to Satan’s rebellion against it. As the Lord revealed to Moses, in the council of heaven Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). That destruction was inherent in the terms of Satan’s offer. He came before the Father and said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).

And while that may have seemed like a great plan on the outside, without agency there could have been no joy, because we would have never known sadness there could be no growth because our choices would be taken away from us.  So you can see the importance of our Savior’s plan to give us the opportunity to choose for ourselves.  

Choosing joy is not to say that you are happy every minute of every day.  It is an overarching feeling of peace and gladness that will sustain us through our weaknesses and difficulties.

In today’s changing world we are taught to believe that everything is about equality and to a certain extent that is true.  We are equally all of God’s children, and He equally loves us all. But unfortunately, we are not equally born or raised in the same situations.  God is no respecter of persons.  He loves us all regardless of where we come from or what we do.  In contrast, the adversary is the one that wants to control us.  He has a great hold upon the hearts of people in this world.  He wants us to believe that our choices do not have consequences.  That we can do anything we want that makes us happy, regardless of how it may affect others.   

And that is just not God’s way.  In order for us to learn how to have a joyful heart, we have to make the tough choices and take responsibility for whatever the consequences may be.

When you pondered upon the questions that we talked about yesterday, who am I?  Why am I here? Where am I going? What did you learn about yourself?  Did you get down on your knees and pray to understand?  Those really are some deep questions that many of us struggle with all the time. Finding true joy is a journey but once we find it, we will know.  It will sustain us when things become difficult.

 I believe that there is a difference in being happy and having joy.  There are definitely ways that we can be happy and have fun in our lives.  But happiness is fleeting.  It is not something that we can have consistently with us just because of the nature of how our lives were created.

Joy, on the other hand, is a sustaining feeling.  It can be with us even in the sad times and difficult trials.  But we still have to choose it.  

And the truth of the matter is, we must learn how to discover deep and abiding joy by trying. By making difficult decisions and choices for ourselves.  God will not live our lives for us because he wants us to know for ourselves. And once we know for ourselves where that peace and joy comes from, we will strive harder to make the choices that will ensure that we do live a joyful life.  Even during the hard.  

Have a great day my friends!  Talk to you again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

Choose to be still and know

As you might have guessed from my post yesterday that it was kind of a hard day for me.  Sometimes dealing with a disorder like bipolar can be tricky and hard to navigate.  But so is life in general.  Sometimes we just struggle and there really isn’t an easy answer or way out.  That is when we need to be still and trust,  be still and know that our Savior sees us, that He loves us, and that there may be things going on behind the scenes that He is working out in order for things to fall into place later on and it just hasn’t been figured out yet.

I do, however, want to talk today, a little more about agency.  Because the one thing that I did learn yesterday as I struggled to understand the whys, is that there are very few times in our life that we don’t have a choice.  

Whether the choice is to give up, or keep pressing forward, or to let God help grow us in a way that will help us to progress to a higher and holier way.  Now, I know that some days it is ok and necessary to give up on something for time.  But that doesn’t mean that God is not there, nor that we can never come back to that at a later time in our progression on this side of the veil.

Agency can be a tricky thing.  On the one hand we want it to truly be free.  We want to be able to do, act, and say things, without having to answer to anyone.  I know I felt that way when I left the church for a time.  But no matter what our choice is, it can never be a matter of whether it is FREE or not.  Because there will always, always, be a consequence.  That may be a good and positive consequence or it can be a bad and negative consequence.  But there is never a situation where we make a choice and there is NO consequence.  Whether we like it or not is irrelevant.  For this reason, I believe agency is one of the greatest parts of the plan that our Heavenly Father put in place.  The plan that our Savior proposed.  So that we can develop our hearts and our minds to come to a place where we realize that in this life, it is always, always about where our hearts are centered.  Are we centered in self or are we centered in the love that our Savior so perfectly taught us.  Our choices will always come back to where your heart lies.  

When we are speaking of choices, some of you may choose to disagree.  And that is ok.  That is also part of the plan.  We were put here on this Earth to learn many things.  But I think one of the most important things that we were put here to learn, is how to get along and love even when it’s difficult.  Especially when it’s difficult.  Just because someone is making a different choice than what we would have chosen, does not mean that it is a wrong choice for them.  Unless of course in the case that it is doing harm to someone else.  

I guess what I am trying to say is that having hard days, and having to make tough choices is how we progress and press forward in this life.  It isn’t always easy.  In fact it’s almost never easy.  But it’s important to remember that every choice we make has a consequence.  Even when we choose not to make a choice, that is indeed a choice.

I am going to refer back to a talk given by Russell M. Nelson in 1990.  He suggested 3 questions to ask ourselves to help us when making tough choices or decisions.

 1. Who am I?”

2. “Why am I here?”

3. “Where am I going?”

“I won’t go into the details here, because I want you to go read it and digest what he says,  but these are important questions to ponder when making choices.  

He goes on to say “As you …face many challenging choices in life, remember, there is great protection when you know who you are, why you are here, and where you are going. Let your unique identity shape each decision you make on the path toward your eternal destiny. Accountability for your choices now will bear on all that lies ahead.

May each of us choose wisely and with faith in Him who created us…”

So my invitation to you if you are faced with a difficult challenge is to Psalm 46:10 “Be still and Know” that our Savior is very aware of the things that you are going through.  Don’t leave Him out of the equation.  Pray to Him and be believing.  And He will guide you in the direction that will be best for you and your personal situation.

Have a great day my friends and I’ll talk to you all again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

A choice to make

Well hello again! I can’t believe it’s been nearly 3 months since my life began to rock a little. But I am back and happy to be here.

So let’s start this out right. Good morning! And welcome to the pointing toward hope podcast I am Wendy Bertagnolli and this is episode 32.

I have to say that sometimes when I think I’ve got it all figured out, God steps in and says, no, I have something else in store for you. And when that happens I am almost always caught a little off guard by it. As most of us usually are.

Back in April when I was posting daily, I was on a great run. I was so prepared, things seemed to be flowing freely and I was doing so well with the blog and podcast that I was able to stay a week ahead (which I thought was fabulous). Until that last week. I had completed 3 podcasts for the next week.

But for some reason they just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel good about them and so I decided not to post them and see if something esle came to mind that felt right. Nothing ever did. But I am so glad that I didn’t delete them because now is definitely the time the Lord intended for them to be heard/read.

I have said so many times that I feel like a lot of this process of doing the podcast and writing the posts is mostly for myself. It’s very therapeutic for me. But I also want to extend the things that I learn on this journey with others.

Living with Bipolar, and really, walking this journey of life in general, is much more difficult to do alone. But in this particular case there was definitely something that I was supposed to learn.

Over the past 3 months since I stopped posting it has been quite the roller coaster. If you’d like to jump back to episode 31 and take a listen, I talked about the Lord catching you when you fall. Well I think He was giving me a little heads up. It’s time to practice what you preach! Lucky me!

To my credit, one of the reasons that I let the posts go for a while was because I was starting to become more stressed and worried about it than I would have liked to have been. I was worried about staying on schedule. I would ask myself: Was I getting the right message out? How can I market this so that more people who need it can get to it? And #1 on my mind was how do I find the right people to interview that will be willing to share their experiences with others in the hopes that it might lift and help another. Because I think that’s so important when it comes to the trials of life that we endure. When we share what we’ve overcome, it can be someone else’s survival guide.

All of that was just weighing heavy on my mind and I realized that I just needed to let it all go for a minute and focus on my health.

Stress, as you may recall from episode 6 Habits to adopt for good mental health, is a major catalyst in pushing someone with bipolar ll toward a manic episode so I have to be super careful about that. If you have’t listened to that one, I highly recommend going to check it out.

As I mentioned in episode 31 I talked about trusting the Lord enough to let Him catch you when you fall. But looking back, I may have been a little slow on the uptake of that one! Things started happening that were signals that I was slowly progressing towards the manic side of the scale.

One thing that most people might not know about Bipolar, is that when tiny little incidences occur it is easy for them to go unnoticed. Especially to the person who is experiencing them. It’s quite common that they don’t recogize these things in themselves. But hopefully, they have a good support system or caretaker in place that will likely pick up on these things long before it becomes a problem.

That’s what happened in my case. Now it’s really important to note that when confronted by your caretaker it may come as an unwelcome blow. I mean we already feel that we are “broken” and to have someone tell you that there are some cracks becoming visible, can be hard to take when you think you feel great!

It may seem like they are trying to take that good feeling away from you. And some people become somewhat argumentative, depending upon their nature of course. But, it is in these times that you need to be so full of trust with your main caretaker as well as with your Savior. You have to have so much trust that He’s got you in the palm of His hands. Always!

Having my caretaker (my husband) intervene is where the lesson began for me.

The rest of this podcast and the following 3 (which will be posted every other day) were previously recorded the week that I didn’t feel good about posting them.

The episode after that will be my experience of looking back to what came after that to see where things started to become unbalanced.

I will say that this episode may be a bit of a trigger for those of you who suffer with trauma. I think I did a pretty good job of maintaining composure enough to get the message across. But it was certainly a very down day for me, as you may pick up on.

You might also think (after listening to all 4 episodes) that everything with me seemed fine. Which for the most part it was. But after that last week things began to deteriorate slowly but steadily. And over the following few months it was clear to my husband that something was wrong and it was time to intervene.

I tell you this because, to anyone else (including myself) I would have seemed completely normal and put together. But now, being able to look back, I can see clearly the path that I was on.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here because I will get into that in episode 36. In that episode I will be as real and as raw as I can about what bipolar and the progression toward manic episodes is really like. So stay tuned for that.

With all that in mind enjoy the next few episodes. Once they are finished my posts will become a little more sporadic. 1x a week to monthly or bi monthly is my goal. Because I have most definitely learned my lesson that self care and my mental health must always be at the forefront of my mind. Ok here we go!

I lay here in the dark and I think of you in a beautiful garden. Exhausted from your work here on Earth. As you kneel near the rock, under the tree, I see you open your hands to the Heavens. And the words start to pour out of your mouth. It’s as if He’s right there, your Father, knowing what has to come next.

I begin to weep as I realize that the pain you must suffer is in some small part, due to me and my choices, to the decisions that I made, that I made a clear choice to create. The tears come freely now as I begin to understand that it is not just my choices, but my pain, my life, my illness that you so clearly will experience in these moments of the most awful act anyone could ever endure. 

 I am torn…on the one hand I feel the utter disgust at the decisions, the choices, I made that are causing you pain in this moment.  Yet on the other hand, I feel the most incredible feeling of love and peace knowing that YOU love ME enough to do this for ME.  Who am I?  I am not learned, or important, or worth the pain that you are suffering at my expense. 

I watch as you begin to cry.  It’s as if I can feel your tears on my open hands.  They fall in great droplets of pain and empathy and I am taken in great waves of grief. How could this happen?  Why is this happening?  Who would allow this to happen?  And then I remember with great clarity, that this…. THIS was part of the plan.  His plan, to save us all.  

I hear the words ring in my ears that you speak aloud.

John 17:1-4

1 … Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

For a moment I am taken back to the fight.  The fight for this plan to save us all. This eternal plan.  And I remember it is in large part about our choices.  Something called agency.  Some call it “free” agency.  But it is not FREE, it comes at a cost.  A cost you so freely give

In the Book of Mormon we read in

Alma 7:11–13

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

In D. Todd Christofferson’s talk Free forever to act for themselves.

He said “It is God’s will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, that we be free from the humiliating limitations of poverty and the bondage of sin, that we enjoy self-respect and independence, that we be prepared in all things to join Him in His celestial kingdom.”

He goes on to say,

“I am under no illusion that this can be achieved by our own efforts alone without His very substantial and constant help. “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”  And we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency. My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with.”

I see Him there.  Bleeding and in pain and I think of the many who suffer due to a choice that they did not choose.  For those that do, it’s comforting to know that we have a Savior, who lives, who loves us, and who suffered the unspeakable, so that we can know joy again, no matter our circumstance.

I turn away as the pain is too much to bear.  And then I am back, in my bed, laying in the dark and my pillow is wet with the tears that I wept.  And I realize that I do have a choice.  In this moment of sadness and pain.  I do have a choice, because of you, my Savior, my brother, my redeemer, my friend.  And I silently thank you, once again for allowing me to remember that I am not alone.

XO Wendy

Cast thy burden upon the Lord

I am going to tell you about my very first real experience with true grace in my life.  I was around 27-28 years old.  And had a growing, flourishing family.  I had 4 children that were under the age of around 8.  

I had struggled with depression for some time at this point and quite frankly,I just needed a break from all the chaos just for a little while. It was a beautiful Sunday morning  And so I did something that I really never did at that time.  I faked sick and had my husband take the children to church.  

I really didn’t fake it totally.  Depression is most definitely a sickness.  But on this particular day, I just felt like if I didn’t get a break, I wasn’t going to make it one more day.  Just to be clear, I was not suicidal, I just needed time to regroup.  And 3 glorious hours to myself, sounded heavenly!  At that time in the history of our church we spent 3 hours on the sabbath worshipping our Savior in the church building.

I  was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday saints, and so I’d had many experiences learning about repentance, forgiveness and grace.  But had only applied it to my life in a few instances.  I thought that repentance was for the really wrong things that you had done in your life, not something that I needed to do on a continual basis.  I know, pretty naive. 

Now I feel like repentance, forgiveness, and grace, are kind of like learning to ride a bike.  At first it might be difficult and you may be a little wobbly and require trainging wheels to begin with.  But once you learn, and those training wheels come off, you never forget the feeling of freedom you have,  I know that because I was a bit of a slow learner.  

I didn’t learn to ride a bike without training wheels until I was about 7 and all my friends had already learned.  It was one of my best friends in the neighborhood who taught me how on her little red bike.  I had gotten a cool shwinn with a basket for Christmas but it was a bit big for me still, which I think is why it took me longer.  My friend Shelly, was so patient. She taught me how to balance and get my footing.  She would walk with me each time we tried.  And when I fell, she would get on the bike and show me the way again.  

It wasn’t long before she was running beside me to catch me if I fell.  But I had it down now, I was so proud!  It was an exhilarating feeling, the wind in my hair and the gratitude that comes with accomplishment of something difficult.

Now let’s go back to Sunday that I faked sick.  Just to give a little context, I had been a bit of a wild teenager.  I had some rebellious years where I made a lot of stupid choices, as teenagers sometimes do.  But by this time I had already taken care of those experiences through the repentance process.  But I had a hard time forgiving myself for the stupid choices that I made during that time in my life.  It seemed it would crop up and make me feel like I didn’t take care of it properly, or that I somehow wasn’t worthy to have the grace promised by the Savior.  

Of course now I know, that all of that was just the adversary trying to keep me from moving forward and progressing.  He really does that!  He will try everything, especially when you are being obedient to the covenants that you have made with the Lord.  His greatest joy is to have power over you. 

On that Sunday morning, I happened to be feeling especially unworthy, I had just skipped church for no good reason. And made my husband take on that responsibility, knowing that it would be difficult to keep all 4 children under control and get them to where they needed to be, when it was time to go to Sunday school and primary.  That’s what we call the worship for all our little children in our faith.

The longer it went the more guilty I felt.  Even though it was a small thing, Satan began to work on me bringing up all the mistakes of the past and my mistakes and failings as a young parent.  

Finally I opened up my scriptures and in the front of it, nicely folded from age.  Was a blessing that in my church we receive at some point in our lives that we feel is given for direction and to help guide us here in our life on this side of the veil.  It is something that we hold very sacred, specifically given to us, and not to be shared lightly with others.  I hadn’t read mine in quite some time.  I picked up the worn piece of paper and began to read.  The words on the page seemed to jump out at me.  Even though I’d read it dozens of times.  Nuggets of wisdom and strength poured into my worn out mind and even my physical body.  I began to highlight specific phrases and was guided to the parts that made me realize that though I had made all of those mistakes years ago and had taken care of it with the Lord.  I never forgot about it. 

In Isaiah chapter 1 verse 18, we read, Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” 

Again, in the fifty-eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 42, which came with great force to my mind, we read, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”

That scripture came into my mind with such force and I knew that the Lord was telling me, it’s time to forget those things.  I have forgotten them, now it’s your turn to forgive yourself.  He promises us that through the holy ghost He will bring all things to our remembrance.  And at that time I needed to remember that his grace will always be there to catch me when I fall.

I don’t need the training wheels anymore, once I’ve taken them off and released that burden, I can fly forward and go as far and as fast as I want, as long as I remember that His grace will always be with me.  His grace is sufficient. 

Forgiving ourselves for the stupid choices that we make is one of the most glorious parts of grace that the Savior gives us. Psalm 55:22 “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Today my invitation to you is to take that thing that’s holding you back and like the training wheels, throw it out. It is of no use to you anymore. You are His, and He is yours!

Have a great weekend my friends and I will catch you all again next week!

XO, Wendy