Let it Refine You

Well hey everyone!  It’s good to be back.  I planned on taking a little break but it just ended up being a little longer than planned.  But that’s ok, because that’s kind of how life is right?  We think we have it all figured out or we have a plan and then the Lord comes in and says, “nope, I’ve got something else prepared for you…it’s going to be hard but it’s something better.”  

And that’s kind of how I feel about this whole past year.  I was looking back recently at some of the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year and I am nowhere near where I thought I would be because of the circumstances that I went through in the beginning months of this year.  And you know what?  I am not even unhappy about it!

 I feel like I am in such a better place than what I would have been.  I don’t know for sure, I mean my situation today would certainly look different than it does.  But I can most assuredly tell you that I see the hand of the Lord working in and over my life in so many ways as I look back and as I see things unfolding before me looking forward.

It’s a marvelous thing to have the spirit of the Lord guiding and directing you as you go.  But in that, there is a lot of ongoing work that has to take place to get to that point.

 As you may have guessed from the title I’m going to talk just a little bit about the refining process that we go through when faced with trials, challenges, adversity, etc. And how we can gain the inner strength to let them be a refining process rather than a defining process. 

It is the 50th episode!!!  YAY!!!! I felt like I should definitely lean in to what we are all about here at “pointing toward hope”.  And I feel like the pieces for this episode have kind of been collecting over the last several days as I have had mini moments of inspiration when things that I heard or read or dreamt just sunk in.  So I am going to try to collect all of those things and hopefully organize them into something that will be meaningful and impactful for you as you listen today.

I found a great talk By Ellen W. Smoot from April 2002 General Conference talk Called Developing Inner Strength.  I will be referring to that  throughout this podcast and will link it in the notes.  I loved this question she posed.  “How do you and I become so converted to the truth, so full of faith, so dependent on God that we are able to meet trials and even be strengthened by them?”

That just got me thinking about how we sometimes tend to lean into our trials more than lean into the Lord.  If that makes sense. 

For example, we might tend to say this is just who I am, this is how it’s always gonna be and there isn’t a thing that I can do about it.  So in my situation instead of saying I HAVE bipolar, it becomes I AM bipolar.  Which is a totally false statement.  

Do you see the difference? To say I AM something… is basically removing the possibility that I can change it from something that defines me. Just changing that one word or that one negative feeling, can allow me to turn it into something that refines me and grows me as a person if I let it.  

From my standpoint, having Bipolar is definitely not something I enjoy. But it’s definitely not who I AM either.  Changing my view of it has allowed me to turn something that has such a negative connotation into something of a miracle.

When YOU do this, then you can see the opportunity in the trial to make it into something miraclous. Something that will strengthen you from the inside to the outside.

Personally, I have worked really hard to take that feeling of being defined by my trial to being strengthened by and through it. I’ve tried to turn it into something positive that I can learn and grow from rather than feeling defeated by it. Which is not easy at all!  To be honest, somedays it just downright stinks and I do feel totally defeated by it. There are just so many negative feelings that surround it.  

I don’t think that I’m alone in that, when it comes to trials or adversity.  There are a lot of situations where negative feelings and thinking take place. Thinking that you are defined by your trial, can happen with a lot of different types of experiences that we go through. 

There are so many big traumatic parts of your life for sure!  I am not diminishing those experiences in any way!  

However, I feel like our tendency as human beings having an Earthly experience, we do tend to want to let those things define us or maybe we tend to look at them with negative thoughts and feelings. Like this is how other people define me or describe me.

I mean I could fall into that category very easily by letting those labels that are thrown around so lightly, be overwhelming and  defeating.  But I have gotten to the point where when someone says something like, “So and so is so dramatic and does this and this and this, they are definitely Bipolar”.  I can blow that off.  It always stings a little and sometimes I want to get defensive about it.  But I’ve learned that I can’t take things like that personally.  And you have to understand that when someone says something hurtful in a situation like that, they probably don’t have any idea that you were hurt.  So why make yourself a victim over it?

Anyway, I kind of got sidetracked there for a little bit but I want you to just take a second and think about some of the things in your life that you see as negative experiences or trials.  Maybe it’s not a sickness or illnes. Maybe it’s something that happened when you were a child, a mistake you made, or something that happened unexpectedly that has changed your life immensely.  We’ve all experienced that in the last two years haven’t we?  

The point I’m trying to get at is, can we try to see ourselves and our trials as a growing, learning, refining process? Think of it as being purified and polished just as a piece of metal when it’s being molded? And I’ll talk a bit more about that in a minute.

Recently, there was a brilliant woman that gave a talk in my church.  And I think her talk was what kind of started the ball rolling for me.  She gave so many good nuggets of wisdom.  Her topic was having gratitude through adversity.  That kind of sounds like an oxymoron, right?  I mean how do you have gratitude when you’re going through really difficult situations? 

While I was listening to her speak (it was a phenomenal talk btw) I kept having a thought run through my mind that I’d heard someone say on a podcast that I listen to.  “Sometimes the miracle is IN the tragedy”.  I don’t know why I was thinking that specific thought, but maybe it was because when we are going through something, anything really, if we try to look at it from a different perspective (which is what I think having gratitude in adversity means), then the whole experience can become a beautiful miracle.

At the end of this woman’s talk she said one thing that I have talked about before here on the podcast. And if you weren’t paying attention to her talk then you would have missed it.  She said, when it comes to hard things and being grateful for them, think of them as refining you, NOT defining you!  And even though I’ve said it myself many times, the way she paired it with gratitude just made me look at it from a little different perspective.  

There is a video that I have watched and I’ll try to link it if I can find it again.  About the process that a Blacksmith goes through when refining metal.  I’m not sure if you are familiar with the process but let me just explain somewhat. It is a long and grueling process that requires intense heat and repeated hammering. A refiner is really good at knowing when the fire is hot enough but not too hot!  And you also have to use fire and water, and you need to know how to use both of them together.  And the reason is because the Blacksmith (or the refiner) needs to be able to bend and mold that piece of metal into something completely different.  Free from impurities and something polished and beautiful.

Nobody wants to go through a refining process, right?  I mean it is super intense.  But in this process from what I understand the refiner is right there the whole time.  He is completely in the entire process.  The metal can not be left alone.  There are certain things that need to happen at certain times.  And you love this because in Isaiah, he teaches us about what our refiner, meaning Jesus Christ is like, when he says this in 

Chapter 43:1-3  1 But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob (insert your name), and he that formed thee, O Israel (insert your name), Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

3 For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour…

So He’s basically saying, Don’t you worry, I am going to be here every step of the way.  I love you and I’m not going to leave you!

Is’nt that just so cool?  He knows when the water comes and you feel like you’re drowning, He’s gonna be there!  He knows when you feel like you are walking through fire and the heat is too intense and you want to give up, He’s gonna be there!

He is our refiner.  

So I want you to remember that process as we talk about a couple of other mini moments of inspiration that I had this past week.  So I was reading the Book of Heleman, and if you are familiar with this part of the Book Mormon, it is part of the war chapters and it can be difficult chapters to get through.  But I determined when I started the war chapters back in Alma that I was going to get something to apply to my life out of these chapters.  And you guys,  I feel like the Lord answered my prayers on that so completely.  I have really had so many mini moments.  So I encourage you to really dig into those chapters and see if you can’t grab some gold nuggets out of there.  

Anyway, back to Helaman it is Chapter 3 So just a refresher this is a time when many people are dissenting from the church and persecuting members of the church.  At that time Nephi the son of Helaman is filling the judgement seat and he decides that because of the persecution they are going to leave Zarahemla and move to the land Northward.  And it says it was a great distance. And you know they didn’t have cars and carts and all that back then. So I’m sure they were traveling with everything on their backs or their donkeys.  It was probably extremely hot and they were thirsty and it was super hard.  

And it says they crossed over many waters and rivers (remember the water and the heat of the refiner’s fire?).  And when they arrived it was a land called Desolate.  Why? Because there was nothing on the land it was barron, everyone!  And so what did they do.  In verse 7 it says this: nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly aexpert…..  And then it goes on to say how they built houses and when trees grew they took care of them until they could use them.  They built cities!  So they took this trial that was upon them and they turned it into something amazing. And the Lord was with them through every step.

But then in verse 16 I believe, it was Mormon talking here.  He goes back to before they left Zarahemla to explain what was happening there and what caused them to leave.  And the following verse is what stopped me that morning.   

35 It reads  Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

And that’s the word that caught me, everyone! Yielding.  What happens when we yield?  We give others the right of way, right?  So in this case they are yielding their hearts to the Lord!  They are turning it over to the Lord knowing that he will sanctify them and purify them.  Just like a Blacksmith does with the metal.  When it is under that intense heat it is purifying it.  Jesus is our refiner!  He sees things from a much grander perspective.  He can turn us into something beautiful.  Something so much more than we can achieve on our own.  

It just gives me chills when I think about how many times the Savior has walked with me through my trials, and turned them into a miracle.

It reminds me of when I was younger and I went through a pretty hard experience with some friends.  I won’t get into the details, but I will tell you that it was something that happened to me way back when I was barely 13.  And it concerned being bullied. 

So you can imagine at 13, you are at such an impressionable age and you’re molding your identity and just changing so much and trying to figure out who you are. 

And just at the peak of that time in my life is when this experience happened.  It was an event that happened because of something careless that I said to someone, not thinking anything of it.  Someone walking behind us heard it, and within minutes….. I’m not even kidding.  I was surrounded by a group of girls pointing and laughing and bullying me.  My friends that were with me when they surrounded me, quickly slipped out of the circle.  And I felt so alone at that moment. 

And to make matters worse, the bullying continued for several weeks.  To the point that the principal and parents got involved.  It was really quite hard as a 13 year old.  I remember days when I thought I just couldn’t go to school.  I would get stomach aches thinking about it.  It still makes me anxious to this day. 

But it was during that time that I decided to yield my heart to the Lord.  What did he want me to do?  I decided that I needed to have my patriarchal blessing. 

So we scheduled it.  And I was determined that I was going to prepare myself and be so ready for this because I really, really needed to hear from the Lord himself that everything was going to be ok.  

So I did those things from verse 35… I fasted and I prayed and I humbled myself and I had faith that the Lord would come to me. Or at least be with me during this fire that I was experiencing. I yielded my heart to Him with all that I had. 

Well the night came that we were to go to the blessing and I remember so distinctly like it was yesterday.  I was so nervous and my palms were sweating and my stomach was growling and the Patriarch seemed to talk forever before he started the blessing.  

And so he began… it was still and quiet except for when his clock chimed at the beginning.  And at that moment I got my miracle.  In the midst of my trial I recieved a miracle.  It wasn’t from the words that were said, because honestly he was very well spoken and I didn’t understand a lot of the big words he used.  Or the way he worded it.  It was like scripture.  But…. I do remember how I felt.  When his hands and my father’s hands were on my head and the patriarch called upon the priesthood power, I felt a tangible presence like I’d nver known before.  And it stayed with me until the clock chimed again and the patriarch closed the prayer.  

It was so powerful that as we were driving home I remember asking my dad if someone else had joined them in the prayer.  He was surprised at that of course and I explained what I had felt.  And my parent’s and I were all in awe at the sacredness of that moment.  He was there to let me know that He was with me every step of the way.

When I got my blessing and read it.  There was one little part that talked about the friends I would have in my life.  And some counsel on the importance of choosing good friends. 

One thing that I determined at that time, is that I would do everything in my power to never make anyone feel the way I had through that experience

It left such an impression on me that I have never doubted the power of the priesthood.  And I never hesitated to call upon it in times of great need. 

Would I have been able to have that experience if I hadn’t gone through the bullying and felt abandoned by my friends?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  I had to go through that trial to experience the miracle.

So let’s go back to talking about finding that inner strength to keep moving forward. As we have been studying the Doctrine in Covenants, in come follow me, about all the horrible things that the early members of the church went through, it has made me think more about where that inner strength comes from.

“In sister Smoot’s talk she shares an experience from a Pioneer woman who traveled across the plains from Navoo, ILL to Utah.

She shared the following: “To demonstrate the kind of inner strength I am talking about, I would like to share the story of Susanna Stone Lloyd, who at the age of 26 left England in 1856 and traveled to Utah alone. The only member of her family to join the Church, Susanna was a member of the Willie Handcart Company. Like so many other pioneers, she endured life-threatening hunger, illness, and fatigue.

Upon arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Susanna borrowed a mirror to make herself more presentable. Despite her best efforts, she recounts: “I shall never forget how I looked. Some of my old friends did not know me.” Having sold her own mirror to an Indian for a piece of buffalo meat, she had not spent much time looking at herself. Now she did not recognize her own image. She was a different person, both inside and out. Over the course of rocky ridges and extreme hardship came a deep conviction. Her faith had been tried, and her conversion was concrete. She had been refined in ways that the very best mirror could not reflect. Susanna had prayed for strength and found it—deep within her soul.

If someone like Susannah can take a horrible situation like that and turn it into something so beautiful, can we?  I am sure that she had to dig pretty deep within her soul to find the strength that comes in and through our Savior.  Because let’s face it.  We don’t get through these experiences without divine intervention.  We can try.  But speaking from experience, it sure is a lot harder when we try to do it alone.  Without the help of our refiner.

We can walk through the fire on our own.  We can feel like we’re drowning in our adversity.  We can be hammered over and over again by the  happenings of this mortal life. But it is so much more doable when we allow our Refiner, Jesus Christ, to be a part of the process.  This proving process.  This refining and growing and polishing process.  Yes it stinks.  Yes it hurts.  But at some point we will be able to look back and see the tiny mercies.  The little miracles.  And in the end.  If we endure it well, we can come out having been molded into something beautiful that anyone who looked upon us would just say, “wow”!

Have you ever done that when you have seen something that someone made that was so intricate and detailed and beautiful that all you can say is, “wow”?  That’s the kind of miracle I’m talking about.

I promise you, everyone.  You CAN receive a miracle in the midst of your trial.  I have no doubt that the Savior is walking with you through it!  He is in the process every step of the way.  He won’t leave you.  He can’t leave you!  In order for you to be molded through the fires of life He has to remain by your side, so that the right things happen at the right time.

Lean on Him.  Trust Him.  Pray and fast often.  Be humble and YIELD your heart to him.  Let him take the lead.  And then follow Him!  I beg you to follow Him with all of your refined and purified and polished heart! 

That’s it for today my friends! If you or a friend have had an experience that you’d like to share.  Please contact me, I’d love to have you on the show. Talk to you again soon!

Hearing and Hindering Part 2

I divided this blog into 2 parts.  So if you haven’t listened or read part 1, go back and do that.  It will give you some context.  This is Episode 49 Hearing and Hindering part 2. 

Today is a subject that I approach with a little trepidation.  And the reason for that is that I really don’t want to dwell on something negative.  Or give any credit to the adversary.  However, I do believe it is incredibly crucial for us to understand how the adversary works, so that we can avoid those fiery darts (or be shielded from) as I talked about last week. And one of the things that I have learned throughout my life is that Satan is especially cunning at getting us to fall for his evil ways.

He’s been successful once or twice in getting me to walk away from the Gospel and the church that I dearly love.  I have grown up learning daily how to walk in the ways of Christ.  So you would think that would be enough to ward off all of Satan’s ploys.  But unfortunately that is not enough.  In fact I think he works even harder when we are trying to be obedient and live righteously.

I mean think about it.  We have been on this Earth for less than 80 years (most of us less) but the adversary has been around since the beginning of time.  So he has had a lot of practice honing his evil skills.  Which makes it that much more important for us to be ever vigilant in keeping ourselves prepared and aware of the way that he works on each of us individually. 

Last week we talked about specific habits, or patterns that we use to effectively learn how the Lord speaks to us and prompts us.  And this week we are going to talk a little bit about the contrast of that.  Which is how the adversary lulls and tempts with certain ways or approaches that are tailored, unfortunately, to us as individuals.  And works to get us to stop those good habits that we’ve worked so hard to create. So it’s so important that you learn how this happens for you, so you can put those habits back in place. It’s time to fight back.

I will be referring alot to Peter M. Johnson’s talk from October 2019, Power to Overcome Adversity, (one of my Absolute favorites talks of all time).  

One thing that I have learned to be wary of, is how slowly Satan works.  It happens SO slowly! Think of the 1% marginal gains that we talked about last week.  The fiery darts that he throws can be almost imperceptible if you aren’t paying attention.  One small act at a time.  One small thought at a time.  One small step at a time.  And before you know it, you’re doing or saying things that you never ever thought you would. Going places that you never imagined.   And worse than that is that you have accepted it and even believe that it’s the right way to do things or say things.  Or right where you need to be.

Ugggg I hate to even think about how awful he is.   I heard Marie Osmond say once that she won’t even give him a name.  She call’s him “scratch”.  Because sometimes he acts like an itch that just won’t leave you alone.

But the great thing is this!  We were being prepared long before this lifetime with all of the tools that we need to fight the battles that will come our way.  We are taught by President Nelson that  we are “choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work.”  

In Doctrine and Covenants 138:56  We read: Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.

Which means that we are all pretty skilled already.  But those skills do take some honing. 

And one of the ways that we do that is to put on the WHOLE  Armor of God on! As explained in Ephesians 6:10-18   And we’ll talk about this in a little bit. 

In The Book Of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) Mormon Chapter 8  gives us insight into today’s world, Moroni says he has seen our day, and it includes wars and rumors of wars, great pollutions, murders, robbing, and people who tell us that there is no right or wrong in God’s eyes. He describes people who are filled with pride, caught up in the wearing of expensive clothing, and who make fun of religion. He is shown people who are so obsessed with worldly things that they allow “the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by”3 without being noticed.  Sounds a lot like today’s times doesn’t it?

But we should not despair, it is the Lord’s way that will lead us to life eternal!

The prophet David O. Mckay taught: Christ is the light to humanity. In that light man sees his way clearly; when it is rejected, the soul of man stumbles in darkness. No person, no group, no nation can achieve true success without following him who said:

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12.)

Are any of us exempt from the power of the adversary?  Nope, however, through it all, our Savior is with us. He is the advocate to the Father! So even if we fall prey to some of the adversaries’ lies, and make mistakes that we feel keep us from the light, there is always a way back.  I am living proof of that!

So in what ways can we learn how Satan works on us as indivduals.  Well, Elder Johnson had something to say about that.  He said, “You are elect sons and daughters of God. You have the power to overcome the adversary. The adversary, however, is aware of who you are. He knows of your divine heritage and seeks to limit your earthly and heavenly potential by using  three Ds:

  • Deception
  • Distraction
  • Discouragement”

Now it’s important to note that there are more ways than what Elder Johnson refers to that the adversary uses, like doubt, rejection, stress, etc.  But I loved how he used these 3 because I think they are probably common among most people.

Deception, This is a very sneaky way that is used.  For example, how many times have you heard commercials or seen ads promising instant weight loss?  Or here’s how you can have the body you always wanted in as little as 1 week? I don’t think these people do these things intentionally to hurt us.  But I do believe that it is a tool of deception to get us to forget who we are and where we came from.  And to focus on our physical bodies rather than our spiritual potential.

]We are sons and daughters of the most high God.  And there is no magic pill, or workout that can ever change that.  But sometimes we sure feel like we need to be more than we are don’t we? Elder Johnson says, “The adversary attempts to deceive by having us forget who we truly are. If we do not understand who we are, then it is difficult to recognize who we can become.”  

Distraction Wow!  This is a big one right?!  We have everything we could possibly think of to keep our minds busy and too distracted to realize what’s really happening.  Remember how slowly I said that the adversary works?  Just think about this for a minute. According to statisa.com As of 2019 and 2020, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 145 minutes per day!  That’s more than 2 hours, which doesn’t seem too terrible right? I mean our parents probably spent equal amounts of time watching the T.V. before the invention of the smartphone.  

But think about it this way.  145 minutes per day is 14 hours per week. 728 hours per year!  That’s roughly 30 days out of a 365 day year that we waste staring at our screens looking to be entertained or engaged in some way.  Wait what? Nearly one whole month a year? Holy moley!  That’s alot.

Now I’m not saying that there are not great things on social media that can be teaching you and helping you to learn and grow.  I mean I would consider podcasting/blogging a form of social media so there is that! Haha. 

I did my own little experiment of social media a few weeks ago when I went on a trip to visit family.  I was there for 10 days and so I thought, “you know”,  I am just going to delete all my social media apps so I can be fully present for my family while I’m there.  I don’t want any distractions making me waste my time with them.  And you know what’s crazy? I hardly missed it at all!  

I was having such a good time enjoying my “extra” time with them that I even decided to extend it another week after I returned home so I could be prepared for General Conference.  And guess what? That was really hard.  I had a little more free time.  And I think Satan works extra hard on all members of the church before General Conference.  The last thing he wants is for us to receive personal revelation from the Lord through our prophets, seers, and revelators.  He’s a sly one! 

There are a whole lot more distractions than social media.  But I just wanted to give you a peek at one of the ways the adversary uses pretty effectively.

The third D from elder Johnson’s talk is “discouragement. We may get discouraged when we compare ourselves to others or feel we are not living up to expectations, including our own.

I was watching a show the other night with my bonus son.  And I couldn’t believe it when I heard a statement that hit me hard.  Discouragement is one of the big ways that the adversary uses to get to ME personally.   

Last week I talked about how I put on a brave face or sometimes I refer to it as a mask or “the happy face”.   I do that so people will think that I’m fine and not be uncomfortable around me.  So when I heard this it really sunk in. It said, “A mask doesn’t heal the wounds.  A mask only hides them.”

It got me thinking about all the reason’s that other people put on a “mask” Whether it be illness, identity, abuse, etc.  Sometimes I even think that as a mom with small children we can put on that brave face even though we are so stressed and so spread thin that we can barely think straight. 

But one thing that I’m sure of, is that Satan tries to get us to keep that mask on.  He feeds us with even more reasons that we should be discouraged such as, comparing ourselves to other moms or others who have gone through similar things and come out sparkling.  He tells us that people won’t believe us, or will laugh at us, or that we will feel even smaller than we already feel.  He may make us feel like we aren’t living up to other’s expectations of us, or maybe even our own expectations! 

I am inviting you today to join me and take off your mask.  Let yourself be vulnerable.  It is the only way that we will be able to heal the wounds of the darts that have already found their mark.  Most of the thoughts that we have that discourage us are truly just that!  Thoughts!  So if we can take off that mask we may find out that there are a lot of people who are waiting to support and help us walk our journey. 

Elder Johnson goes on to say “please do not let anyone steal your happiness. Do not compare yourself to others. Please remember the loving words of the Savior: John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”   

So how do we do it? How do we find this peace, remember who we are, take off our masks, and overcome the traps of the adversary?  

Ironically, alot of the same patterns and habits that we learn to apply to hear the Lord speak to us are the same as those that help us to ward off and stay safe from the adversary’s attacks. So another reason to be very vigilant in making and keeping those good habits.  And remember that it is the 1% gains (being consistent with them) each day.

What I wanted to mention today and discuss a little is what I talked about earlier today. 

Putting on the whole armor of God.  This is something that you have to do ALL THE TIME.  ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!  You must do all the little things EVERY DAY!  Sometimes more than just once a day.  You MUST strive to keep yourself unspotted from the world.  You must strive to live IN the world but not be OF the world.  Notice I added the word “ strive”, because it’s important to remember that it’s an ongoing process.  We don’t just adopt and keep habits overnight.

The adversary’s goal is to keep us focused on the distractions, the deception, the discouragement.  He wants us to have doubts, be stressed out, feel rejected and left out…all the terrible things.  

Those are all the fiery darts that he is throwing at us day in and day out.  And President Nelson has said, and it has been repeated over and over, “… in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”

So what is the armor of God.  Well, let’s just break it down.  I remember talking about this when I was in high school seminary.  My teacher had an outline of a warrior all dressed up in every piece of the armor and we were to go through and label each piece with what it was guarding.  And then we taped it to the inside of our scriptures in  Ephesians 6:10-18  with a reference to Doctrine and Covenants 27:15-18.  

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

I remember watching a movie in seminary about warriors that were watching the woods.  They had all the armor on and were super cautious.  But at one point, one of the warriors got to a waterbed and took off his helmet to get a drink of water.  The enemy was waiting for just such a moment and the arrow pierced him quickly.  Luckily we are not facing those kinds of threats in our day and time.  But the enemy is just as watchful and waiting for the moment that we let our guard down, to pounce.

However, I am comforted to know that I need not fear for He is with me, I know where and how to find the peace that only He can give.

Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

I am confident that as I purposefully follow the commandments that I will not be led astray again.  As I keep and maintain that 1% gains each day I am fortifying my armor. 

Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles has been known to say, “If you read the Book of Mormon (and I might just add all scripture) every day, you will never fall away”. 

Now, after talking about all of this, I’d like to just tie this all up in a tight little bow and tell you that if you just keep your habits strong that you will be fully protected.  But you know it’s never that easy.  And it’s  funny how in each of these podcasts that I prepare, it seems like I have to go through my own little test, so to speak, of what I’m trying to share.  

So of course last week I had a few days where the adversary got in and tried to use his biggest tool, that he uses with me personally.  Which is discouragement.  I started thinking, “Is this even worth it?”  Does anyone even hear or get anything out of what I’m preparing?’  And for a while I just wanted to quit everything.  Well not everything, but you know how when it rains it pours and you tend to just sit down in the middle of the puddle and get soaked?  

But it wasn’t long before I remembered, this is Satan’s tool that he is using against me.  So I looked at some of my habits.  And quickly realized that I’d let a few things slide and that’s when he makes his  move. 

So this is where I want you to look at your life and see if you can find those patterns that seem to take you away from the good and solid habits that you’re working on daily.  Is it deception, discouragement, distraction, rejection, busyness, stress, etc.  See if there isn’t a way that you can start to fire back at the adversary using the contrast of those emotions.  It’s not easy!  The first part is recognizing that it’s even happening.  

So my invitation to you today is to just start to notice.  Just notice when things seem not quite how you’d like them to be.  And then go back and look at what you can change by just 1% to ward off those fiery darts.  I know you can do it.  You’re strong, you’re capable and you’ve got the Lord on your side!  With Him nothing is impossible.  That’s it for today my friends.  Remember,  choose hope, choose joy and choose to stay!  Talk to you all again soon!

Oh and if you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. 

Willing to change

Hi friends, Welcome to the Pointing Toward Hope podcast. I am your host Wendy Bertagnolli. This podcast is filled with positivity for anyone seeking to find more hope and joy in daily life. The goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of extremely hard adversity. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and leave a review so that we can help as many people as possible. If you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. This is episode 39.

Chapter 2 

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up each time we fail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson —

I want you to stop and think for a minute about all of the people you know that you would define as successful. I believe that you will find, as I did, that one of the common denominators that each of these individuals have, has to do with the pace they choose to set for their lives.

It has been shown in many studies that people who lead a busy life are more efficient and more effective people in general. Why is this? Most people would tend to believe that the opposite is true. But the main reason lies in the fact that busy people don’t sit around waiting for life to happen to them, they go out and make life happen for them!

When I graduated from high school I earned a cheerleading scholarship to attend College as well as a partial academic scholarship. It was my first experience away from home. Granted, it was only an hour drive so I could go home if the need arose. However, I was determined to survive on my own merits and so I tried to go home only on special occasions and when I had free time.

Free time was a rare commodity because I also chose to work as much as I could, to ease the financial burden on my parents. So between school, cheerleading practices, games, dating, and work, there was little time for homework let alone homesickness.

But on one particular day I was feeling relatively “blue”. Had I known what I know now, I would have been able to see this as a clear symptom of depression. It was a gray, and rainy morning and it just so happened that my first class was very early (due to work and practice commitments). To tell you the honest truth, the only reason I kept attending this class was that fact that I was really hoping for a date with a cute guy in the class!

I walked into class that morning ready to sleep through most of it, as usual, but to my surprise found written vertically on the board in huge capital letters the word PACE.

My professor proceeded to ask the class if they knew what this word meant. Most of us yelled out various definitions such as, setting the progression of an event, rate of movement, distance covered by a runner, and so on. Not one of us could give him the answer that he wanted to hear. And so he began to break it down. Positive Attitude Changes Everything! You control the PACE at which you will build your life, one experience at a time. You, and you alone control your attitude. Yes, you will experience ups and downs in this life. Yes, you will have heartache and happiness in this life. And yes, you will always be in control of the attitude with which you choose to face these experiences.

You have the power to learn and grow and become better because of these experiences. You also have the power to use these experiences as a crutch or a thorn in your side. To say, “If it wasn’t for this. . . I could have been this. . .” or “If this hadn’t happened. . . I would have been a better wife, mother, father, husband, daughter, friend, etc.” It’s time to throw out the “should haves”, “would haves”, and “if only’s”!

“Wow!” I thought. The rest of the class was a blur because I knew that with that one important lesson he was talking directly to me! I began to regret the many times that I had slept through the class thinking I “should have” taken a different class, and realized for the first time in my life that I literally had the power to control my own destiny!

Mind you, this was a small glimmer of hope, for there were many events that would take place in my life that would teach me the importance of putting that thought into action. I have to give credit to my parents, because they are two of the best role models anyone could hope for. My parents did everything they could to help me to learn that it was up to me what I would make of my life.

They helped me to build a strong foundation of religious belief, a love of God and family, and strong moral values. For this I will be eternally grateful. There have been many times when I have turned to this foundation of strength and endurance.

But there comes a time in every person’s life when they have to find these truths out for themselves. Some will call this awakening, discovering your identity. I like to call it “setting the PACE”. When everything that you have experienced in your life up to this point comes together like the pieces of a puzzle that suddenly connect.

When you finally realize, “Hey! I can make a difference in this life. I have just as much right to be whomever I want to be as any other person, regardless of what I have had to endure or what I will have to endure in the future!”

But this requires more than a thought, it requires action. Now don’t suppose that after that my life became perfect, full of sunshine and happiness. In fact, this was a small awakening that I would look back on to draw strength from, in my deepest, darkest moments.

NOTE: It’s important to take a breather here and explain that as many of you know, life happens and things can change drastically over the years. In the next section I will be talking about my former husband, who remains a good friend to this day. Was that marriage a mistake? Absolutely not. It was part of my journey and helped shape me into the person I am today. And we got 4 beautiful and amazing children along the way.

Now back to the book.

Shortly after this realization, I decided it was time to set my life on a course that I had always dreamed of. More than anything I wanted to be a wife and a mother. It just so happened that my future husband, had been chasing me relentlessly. You know the statement, “Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees?”

Well, in this case that statement rang true. This boy moved into my neighborhood when I was just eight years old and he was eleven. I will never forget my Father looking me directly in the eyes one night over dinner and saying, “Now Wendy, that’s the type of family you want to marry into!” My response was that of a typical eight year old, “Daaaaaad, ewwww!” To this day I still have not figured out how he knew before I did that that boy was the one I would eventually marry.

Our courtship was not easy. To say it was bearable would be a great understatement! My future husband would probably tell you that he would prefer to be hit by lightning than to go through our courtship again! Over a period of about a year and half, I single handedly succeeded in getting him to fall hopelessly in love with me. How I managed to do this I will never know. I think I did everything I could to torture him and drive him away.

We lived just three houses apart from each other on a dead end subdivision. I lived at the top of the street and he lived near the outlet. This put him in the perfect spot to see me drive up and down the street with various dates. Over that year and a half, we dated and then broke it off half a dozen times, and it was during those times that I proceeded to torture him.

I truly did not intend to do this. I felt that we had made it clear to each other that neither of us would have a problem with seeing the other person dating someone else. So you can imagine my surprise when he proceeded to feed me a little of my own medicine. Over a period of three weeks he made sure that I saw him having a great time with three different and very beautiful girls. Little did I know that he had no particular interest in any of them. One was “just a friend”, one was his friend’s date, and only one was actually a girl that he had any interest in. This didn’t matter to me, because what you see and what you feel can be two very different things and I felt jealous!

Not just a little bit, I was extremely jealous! To make matters worse, not only was I jealous, my mother was jealous for me! I knew it was time to make my move I had to reclaim my status with him! Now this may seem egotistical and I assure you that I really had no intention of raining on anyone’s parade, but I had finally realized what I was giving up and I wasn’t going down without a fight!

Fortunately, it never came to out and out combat. Whatever I had done to get him to fall in love with me must have been the right thing because he unloaded her like a bad habit! Lucky for me, he is a patient and very tolerable man. He has been the “wind beneath my wings” so many times I have lost count. To say he brings out the best in me would be a great disservice to him. He has treated me as if I were what I ought to be thus, I have become what I am capable of being. I hope that I do the same for him.

Having related this experience, let’s get back to setting the PACE. You see, I had to tell you a little bit about my husband in order for you to understand what he had to endure for most of the first eight years of our marriage. We brought our first child into this world just ten short months after we were married. Then seventeen months later, we had our first daughter. It was at this point that I realized how hard being a mother really is and I remember looking into my husband’s eyes and saying, “If you want more children, it’s now or never because I am not going through this stage again once I am out of it.”

If you have ever had two children in diapers and on a bottle at the same time you will be able to relate. I was so not independent and I knew if I became independent again I would never want to go back to that lack of independence.

Unfortunately, I was setting myself up for a long and hard battle with depression. First of all, if you have ever had a child or you have witnessed someone who had a child, you know how hard it is to return to pre-pregnancy shape; both emotionally and physically. Following the birth of our second child, I became pregnant again within twenty two months. After eight short weeks of constant questioning of myself, “What was I thinking?”, I miscarried this pregnancy.

Instead of seeing this as a sign that maybe I wasn’t ready for another child at this point, I blamed myself for the miscarriage because of my constant questioning. Consequently, I became pregnant again and delivered a beautiful baby girl twenty seven months after our first daughter. I think at this point I had a “help me make it through this stage Lord, and everything will be ok. ” attitude.

Boy, was I ever in need of an attitude adjustment. And yes, boy number two came along twenty two months later. So if you are doing the math, I had four children under the age five! What a nightmare! Not the children themselves, but my inability to deal with the task at hand and my ever changing hormones.

Now, you can see why I call my husband a patient man! Over the space of about four years I would go in and out of deep bouts with depression. I had a hard time coping with the mundane tasks of the day such as laundry, cooking, and cleaning up after the kids. Everything seemed overwhelming and instead of tackling one task at a time I gave up. Essentially this created a vicious circle. Not following through, giving up, and then berating myself for being such a terrible mother and person. It would get to the point where all I wanted to do was go to bed and wake up when it was all over. A serious sign of Post Partum depression.

Depression comes in different forms for everyone. So it is important that you understand that my experience with depression may not be what you have experienced but that does not make yours less real. Also it is imperative to understand that Depression is a condition that there is no cure for. Except in some cases of Post Partum Depression or other situational or environmental depression. And even then it’s tricky.

If you have been diagnosed with depression then you have to learn how to manage it so that the symptoms will be at a level that you can function with. There are many great medications available today that work very well and I highly recommend seeking out a professional who is trained in working with your specific form of depression to find out what works best for you.

For me, when a bout of depression is coming on I can actually feel a dark cloud settle upon me. It is so real to me that I feel like I could reach out and try to push it away. That’s when I know that something is out of balance and I need to re-evaluate what I have been doing. For you it might be much different.

The point is that it is important to get to know your body and your emotions well enough that you can manage it when it arises. During that four year period when I really did not know what was going on with my health, and the above situation would start to improve I would think, “Hey, things are looking up!” So what else would any normal person do at that point? You guessed it, I would take on another project. “I am woman, hear me roar”, right? Slowly and steadily, I was leading myself down a path where sometimes there is no return.

I was setting a PACE that had nothing to do with positive attitude and everything to do with lack of control. Because I felt that my abilities as a mother and a woman were out of control, I was looking for anything that I could control. As I sunk deeper into depression I struggled more to look like I was on top of it all, on the outside.

I wanted anyone and everyone to know that I was in control, when I knew full well I was anything but in control. If you have ever suffered from depression or know someone who has, you may be able to relate to this scenario. At home, behind closed doors I was falling apart and yet when I was around people I was very good at concealing what was really happening inside. I would put on what I like to call the “happy face” also known to many as the “mask”.

Of course this is not always the case, a lot of how we act and react has to do with the stages of depression we are in and how many times we have hit the lows. I happened to be very fortunate to have someone who loves me finally pick me up off the floor and tell me, “This is not real life. You don’t have to live like this!” My husband helped me to realize that it was time to ask for help. This disease was bigger than me and it was dangerously out of control!

Over the next few years I began my long road to recovery. It was never easy. My first step was to visit a therapist and talk about my options. This woman helped me to see that choosing to be on medication was not surrendering to the disease, but the beginning of the fight. She helped me to realize what my pattern had been for each bout of depression that I had experienced and what I could likely expect over the coming months.

She pointed out to me the pros and cons of being on medication. This was something that I could not have done for myself because I was not thinking rationally at that point. I feel that she helped me to understand that I needed an attitude adjustment, I needed to be willing to change my lifestyle and I needed to be able to think clearly so that I could set a new PACE.

As painful as change can be there is always growth and opportunity waiting to occur. For me, this meant starting on the road to recovery with what any person should do who has a disease, and that is to take the proper steps to help your body heal.

Even with all the controversy and stigma at that time over anti-depressants and depression in general, I couldn’t justify not taking this chance. It was a badly needed light at the end of the tunnel, it gave me hope! 

Your Assignment: 

Find a notebook or buy a cute fancy journal (whatever helps you want to write), and write down your feelings and experiences. You may think that this is a waste of time but, I can’t tell you how many times I have looked back on what I wrote during those down times.

Whenever I read the words that I penned myself, it helps me to know that things did get better, even when I could see no way out. Generally, I am not one who would push people to see a therapist.

But in the case of depression or the meriad of other emotionally dysfunctioning diseases, I highly recommend talking to someone about what you are experiencing. Even if it is just to sit down and have a real “heart to heart” with your husband, mother, sister, best friend, or clergyman.

Talking things out and getting them out in the open will not only let someone else in on what you are feeling, but it also helps you to sort things out in your mind. Talking it out and admitting that you might need some outside help, that what you are doing is not working, is the first step on your road to recovery. And believe me, what lies beyond that first step is worth the risk of putting it all out there. Hiding behind the “happy face” is no way to really LIVE life!

It’s all about love

Today I want to share with you another way that the Savior uses His grace to influence and guide our lives. In his recent conference talk Elder Gary E. Stevenson shares a story about a scientific experiment on bunnies. I am not going to tell the whole story here but I encourage you to go and listen or read it. I will link that in the show notes. It is really quite remarkable. After sharing the story he concluded by saying, “In recent years, Dr. Kelli Harding published a book titled The Rabbit Effect that takes its name from the experiment. Her conclusion: “Take a rabbit with an unhealthy lifestyle. Talk to it. Hold it. Give it affection. … The relationship made a difference. … Ultimately,” she concludes, “what affects our health in the most meaningful ways has as much to do with how we treat one another, how we live, and how we think about what it means to be human.”

Now apply that to the way the Savior taught us.  In the New testament in John 13:34 we are commanded to “love one another as I have loved you,that ye also love one another”. 

But it seems this simple commandment is often overlooked in today’s world. Everywhere we turn we find judgement cast upon others.  Whether it be a disagreement on social media that sparks heated discussions and contentious encounters with people we may not even know, to neglect and abandoment of those who may be less fortunate or afflicted in such a way that we feel repelled by them.  And so we fear getting involved.  That is not Christ’s way!  

If we are to be true disciples of our Lord and Savior, we will do everything we can to lift up the hands that hang down to mourn with those that mourn. To love those that despitefully use you and persecute you.  None of us are any better than another.  We are all God’s children and we all deserve the love of a God that LOVES ALL of his children deeply.  

Yes, some are harder to love than others but that is not our call to make.  We are commanded to love one another as I have loved you.  It’s not optional.  We are commanded to share the grace that we have found through the Savior with everyone that we encounter.  Jesus spent his days with those who were deemed unloveable.  But he took them by the hand, picked them up, and loved them until they were whole again.

I’ve told you before that I believe a lot of what I share here is for my own benefit, so don’t think for a minute that I don’t struggle at times with this commandment. 

We are human, we are going to make mistakes and hurt people.  That’s part of how life is on this side of the veil.  But I think we owe it to our Savior who gives us so much grace, more than we could ever handle, to then turn that grace, that strength that love to someone in desperate need of the “rabbit effect”.  

Elder Stevenson goes on to say, “We have a primary responsibility to set a tone and be role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility—to teach Christlike behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act. It is especially important as we observe a marked societal shift toward division in politics, social class, and nearly every other man-made distinction.

The Lord expects us to teach that inclusion is a positive means toward unity and that exclusion leads to division.”

My invitation to you today, is to soften your heart.  Open your eyes to see and your ears to hear those around you that are suffering or are in need of the grace that our Lord promises.  Love them, include them, give them the “rabbit effect”.  And then watch how the Savior’s grace will not only descend upon them, but upon you as well.

Have a great day my friends.  And we’ll do it all again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

His Grace is Sufficient

Today and throughout the week we will be talking about Grace and Love!  Specifically the love our Savior and the grace that He so freely gives us.

The definition of Grace found in the bible dictionary says; divine means of help or strength given through the bounteous mercy and Love of Jesus Christ.

I think Brad Wilcox said it best in his talk given to BYU students on July 12, 2011.  He states Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch. 

Isn’t that beautiful?

Sometimes I think we feel that we are undeserving or too weak to receive of the Savior’s Grace. But we are promised in Ether 12:27 of the Book of Mormon And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

And again in 2 Corinthians 12:9 Pauls speaks,  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul goes on to say in verse 10: Therefore I take pleasure in the infirmities, in the reproaches, in the necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  For when I am weak, then am I strong!

Such powerful words from two reliable sources of  scripture.  If you don’t have a copy of the Book of Mormon I would be happy to send one to you.  We believe as members of the church of Jesus Christ that it is modern day scripture which came forth by divine means and is another testament of Jesus Christ.  Having read it many times, there is power in that book, just as there is in the Bible that was written in ancient times. 

So how do we apply these scriptures both ancient and modern to our daily lives? 

One way is that we can first recognize our weakness.  For most of us that is easy to do.  We look at all the things that we struggle with that we feel make us less than or worthless.  We may struggle with temptations of the world that would likely convince us that we don’t need a Savior that we can handle things on our own.  And for a time, that strategy may work.  But oftentimes we need to be brought low in order to rise up.

I am reminded of the old poem by Myra Brooks Welch of the worn out distressed and broken violin that was given to be bid on at an auction.  It’s a bit long but I think it really stresses the need to let the Master take precedence in our own lives which we can compare to the old violin.  It goes like this:

‘Twas battered and scarred,

And the auctioneer thought it

hardly worth his while

To waste his time on the old violin,

but he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,

“Who starts the bidding for me?”

“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”

“Two dollars, who makes it three?”

“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”

But, No,

From the room far back a gray bearded man

Came forward and picked up the bow,

Then wiping the dust from the old violin

And tightening up the strings,

He played a melody, pure and sweet

As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer

With a voice that was quiet and low,

Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”

As he held it aloft with its’ bow.

“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”

“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”

“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,

Going and gone”, said he.

The audience cheered,

But some of them cried,

“We just don’t understand.”

“What changed its’ worth?”

Swift came the reply.

“The Touch of the Master’s Hand.”

“And many a man with life out of tune

All battered and bruised with hardship

Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd

Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,

A game and he travels on.

He is going once, he is going twice,

He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,

And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,

The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought

By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.

– Myra Brooks Welch

My invitation to you today is let the Master take hold of your bow.  Turn your weaknesses over to Him.  Though you may be low, and feel dusty and worn.  Remember that It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch. His grace is sufficient!  Only He can give us the strength we need to push forward and grow through our weakness so that we can be made strong.  That’s it for today friends.  Talk to you all again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

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