Stories of gratitude

Gatitude what is
Below is the final episode of the season 1 podcast pointing toward hope.  Tune in.  See you there!

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1304677/6552526-episode-12-stories-of-gratitude.js?container_id=buzzsprout-player-6552526&player=small

Take Courage

Take courage

You can listen to this post here

“If I may speak to you individually … may I suggest that your personal struggles — your individual sorrows, pains, tribulations, and infirmities of every kind — are all known to our Father in Heaven and to His Son. Take courage! Have faith! And believe in the promises of God!” —Evan A. Schmutz

The reason I started this blog, Pointing toward hope, was twofold.  First it was a way for me to document my journey through the trials of being diagnosed Bipolar.  But second and even more important to me was that I would be able to help someone else who might be going through similar situations.  I felt that if I could help just one person.  It would be so worth it. But what I have realized along the way is that we all take our turns on the struggle bus!  It doesn’t matter that my particular burden is not the same as yours. We can all help one another to become better, stronger, and most importantly, find hope.  So that is what I want to talk about today.  Hope! 

But first I want to share a scripture that we will talk about a little later but it’s one of my favorites.  It comes from the Doctrine and Covenants section 84:88 And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.  

When I was a young mother, I had just had my fourth child.  There were some complications during the birthing process.  Consequently my precious tiny boy was rushed to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City.  For most of the 12 days that he spent in the NICU we wondered if he would be coming home at all.  It was heart wrenching to see that tiny little body lay lifeless in the incubator except for the machine that was helping him breath.  I remember feeling so overwhelmed with heartache, pain and anguish, blaming myself for something that I may have done during my pregnancy.  I had wished so hard for this baby to be born early and now he was, (2 weeks) and at what cost?  What had I done? It was a terrifying experience that many young couples experience when their child is born with medical issues.  Luckily for us, his stay was brief and we were able to bring him home with just a feeding tube, which he was able to go without, in just a few days of being home.

It wasn’t long after that experience that I started to have some serious postpartum depression.  Which eventually moved into full blown manic depression.  I had 4 young kids, all under the age of 6!  I knew that I needed help. I just wasn’t sure how to find it.  And so it went on for several months.  I’d had postpartum depression with each of my kids but it had subsided eventually and I’d been able to move forward with life.  But this time with the combination of having complications and then 3 other very young children.  It just became super overwhelming. I remember one day getting breakfast for my oldest before he would go off to kindergarten.  I grabbed a box of cheerios out of the cupboard and it slipped out of my hands and onto the floor scattering cheerios everywhere.  I was in such a state of hopelessness and despair that it was like the last straw.  I just sat in the middle of the floor and started sobbing.  I was screaming at the Lord in my head.  Why?  Why is this happening?  Why aren’t you helping me?  How do I go forward when everything just seems so out of control?

Finally after what seemed like an eternity (but was probably just a few minutes), my 4 year old daughter came into the kitchen.  She looked at the mess and then she put her hand on my shoulder, she climbed into my lap and hugged me and said “It’s ok mommy.” And at that moment I felt the Lord’s arms encircling me in His love.  In a few minutes my daughter got up and she started picking up cheerios one by one. (lol).  That was going to take a while, I thought.

Eventually I was able to get up and clean up the mess, get breakfast and take my son to school.  Which was another major chore with 3 other littles that couldn’t be left alone.  So I would have to pack up car seats and buckle them all in and just everything that goes along with that.  But it was tender mercies like that little sliver of light that came from a 4 year old that kept me going.  It was around that time period that I realized that I did have a choice.   For so long I had believed that this was something that I just had to endure.  I hadn’t been clinically diagnosed at that point, but I was familiar enough with postpartum and I believed that was what I was still dealing with.  I remember the thought coming to me as clear as a bell one day as I was feeling hopeless and lost.  You do have a choice you know?  I thought about it again.  I do have a choice.  I can sit here and live with this horrible feeling of despair and hopelessness OR I could get up and do something about it!  I don’t know where the strength came from that day.  Maybe it was angels surrounding me bearing me up.  But I do know that I realized without a shadow of a doubt in that moment I DID HAVE a CHOICE.  And despite what you may think about your own struggles and trials, you also have a choice!

I am privileged to be in many facebook groups and I follow a number of people online that are such an inspiration to me.  We didn’t have those back in the day.  One woman that I follow has gone through her own struggle these past several years as she lost her husband due to mental illness.  I have loved seeing how courageously she has faced this gigantic burden head on.  She has since written a book about her experiences and speaks on many podcasts and events.  She talked about choice in one of her recent posts and it went along so well with what I have been thinking about that I was to share it with you.  Her name is Kayla Steck and the book is called fear gone wild.  I haven’t read it yet but I am sure if it is anything like her page, it’s complete inspiration!  This is what she said in a recent post.  And I want you to insert whatever it is that is your particular struggle where she writes the word death.

“Death (insert struggle) sometimes steals our entire life, but when we hang on, when we push through, when we fight to rebuild again and again and again we are choosing to take back our life.”

I love that because it reminded me of that time that I realized, I do have a choice.  I don’t have to live like this.  I CAN and will take back my life!

Anyway back to my story.  The day that I had that thought about choice was the day that I picked up the phone and made my first appointment with a therapist. I pretty much counted down the days until I was able to go.  I was so in need of encouragement and strength.  I felt like my life was hanging in the balance.  I remember waiting in the lobby to be seen and having all kinds of unfamiliar feelings.  Was it going to be good?  What would they say? How long would it take?  And all the things.

She called me back and we talked about what I’d been going through.  I felt strangely comforted to just be able to unload all the pressure and worries and stress that I’d been experiencing to a total stranger who didn’t have any previous knowledge about my life.  No preconceived thoughts.  Her only job was to figure out where I would go next.  

If you have never been to therapy, I can’t recommend it enough.  It is so worth every penny!  I remember her looking me straight in the eyes and saying.  Well my dear, (she called me dear, which I so loved), if you ask me you have two choices. The first one is that you can do nothing (that is a choice BTW) and live with the struggles and challenges and stresses that you’re already well aware of.  OR, choice two.  You can take your life back!  There are medications that are designed to help you with what you are going through.  At that point I never knew that was an option.  I figured we’d just talk it through and be done with it.  Which actually works great for many, many people.  But when she described it like that to me, I knew that in order to continue to survive I needed help as quickly and as easily as possible.  And that’s when I had my first experience with anti-depressants.  Which worked out great for a long time.  It definitely helped to lift that cloud of despair and hopelessness so that I could continue to work on becoming better.

Now to be clear, I am not pushing medication at all.  It was just what I needed at the time to be able to function and work through everything.  But even more importantly than medication and what had started the ball moving for me, was screaming at God on the kitchen floor that day.  You see, God is not the typical caregiver.  We read in Psalm 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.  That is His only objective. To heal us, to bind up our wounds.  To help us find peace amidst the struggle.  To find light in the deepest recesses of darkness. 

I know right now at this time in our lives, we are all exhausted!  We are over it.  Being stuck at home, kept away from others physically, struggling with work and businesses, just trying to survive.  Having world unrest and calamities come from every angle it seems.  But here is a thought for you. “What if you just tried on “making a choice to find hope in the hopeless, for size?  What if you just tried on “happy” for size?  What if you just tried on “seeing the little sliver of light” for size?  If you don’t like it, you can always take it back off.  I guess what I am saying is  that courage is a choice.

I love my Jesus, He always comes through for me.  When I was struggling with my littles, when I went through depression time and time again, when I went through my divorce.  And even when I walked away from Him for a while.  He never ever abandoned me.  One of my other favorite scriptures that the Lord put on my heart today is Jeremiah 29:11  I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you HOPE and a future!  It hangs in a frame in our bathroom so I get to look at and be reminded multiple time a day.  

But this morning as I was studying I came upon this scripture and it definitely spoke to me as I was thinking about hope and how to help you who may be feeling hopelessness in this moment.  It is found in Alma 22:16 of the Book of Mormon:  If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God yea, if thou wilt repent of all they sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, THEN shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.

So this is the way that I interpreted that scripture today.  This is the way that it spoke to me.  Basically there are 4 steps to get the hope that you desire.  1.  You have to want to find it… If thou desirest this thing.  2. bow down before God (in your closet, on your kitchen floor, in your attic, where ever it is that you go to cry unto Jesus) and incidentally I did look up the definition of bow and it said to change in character or form, change of attitude, emotion or viewpoint… so maybe try on something different for size? 3. Call upon His name (cry, kick, scream, whatever it takes.  He is not the typical caregiver.  He is not going to scold us for our tantrum… He is just going to love us harder.  And finally 4. Believe!  Just believe that He can take away your pain…. THEN shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest!

I would love to leave it right there.  But I have one final thought that I think is really important to note.  “It’s ok to not be ok!  It is.  Maybe that is the season that you are in right now.  Don’t let the world add more pressure if you’re already overwhelmed.  It’s ok if all you can do this week is survive.  In fact that’s the most important thing!”  And that is a quote from Bouncing Forward.  

Remember my friends, you are loved!  You are enough!  And you can do this!  Fight on my warrior friend, I love you!

XO Wendy

Hands

It was barely dawn and I sat in the quiet.  I let the heat of my cup of hot chocolate warm my hands.  My heart was breaking because I was unable to use these hands to help because I am so far away.  I’m struggling with this thought as I hold the mug and let the heat of the cup burn into my useless hands.  And then as I ponder and plead and pray, the sun begins to peek up over the clouds and I am reminded that the sun always rises. It is a symbol to me, that the Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, who was put up upon the cross to die, was for the exact situation that my heart is breaking for in this very moment. 

As the tears fell, blurring my vision and the ink on my journal page.  I have another thought and I dry my eyes as I realize this is Him, my Savior sending me what I needed in this moment.  I am comforted to know that He will use another’s hands in place of mine, when I am not close enough to use my own.  

I am thinking about the pain that my friend is feeling in these moments.  How broken she must feel.  How lost alone. But God….I am reminded again, He will be there for her.

You see, as I have said many, many times, God is in the details. He meets us where we are and then takes us further than we could make it on our own.  In our broken fragile state, He heals.  He restores.  

In Mosiah 14:5-6 and also found in Isaiah 53:3-5 it reads

5 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.  

6 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.   

This scripture is also found in Isaiah 53:3-5

My mind races with the thoughts she must be feeling. And then I feel a peace come over me becauseHe will make her whole again.  But not the same. No, she will never be the same.  

She will be different…. stronger, more capable, more empathetic and compassionate because she has suffered the unimaginable, not in spite of it.  

Brene Brown said. “One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.”

I love that so much!  We can be a source of strength for another…His hands. After and sometimes even during, our struggle.

But as with all trials, our hearts will break for a time… it will come in waves slapping us from behind with no warning at all.  Our legs will buckle and we will fall to our knees over and over to beg for relief from the seemingly endless pain.  But the Lord can pick up the pieces and make us a new heart.  It sounds cliche’ the overused statement, “there is always a silver lining”, but that IS how the Lord works.  As said by Thisweeksgrace on IG “I never would have guessed He was this good. God exceeds expectations. He always does.  He will make life better than we could have expected.  He is that good!”

And yet, as we look around and see the despair, the grief, the longing, the anger, the hate, we wonder.  Is there anyone that sees ME in this moment?  Is there anyone out there that really sees ME. 

I have come to understand that we are not so different, you and I.  We struggle, we strive.  We bleed, we heal, we cry, we laugh.  We are indifferent, we are passionate.  We feel betrayal and we feel love. 

We may be of different faiths, races, creeds or cultures.  But we are one to Him who created us. And He wants us, expects us, to be His hands.

I recently read an article by Carole M. Stephens entitled The Master Healer.   In it she says, “As we increase our understanding of the doctrine of Christ, we soon discover that we are developing a deeper understanding of “the great plan of happiness.” We also recognize that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is at the very heart of the plan.”

She continues, “When we learn how to apply the doctrine of Christ to our individual circumstances, our love for our Savior grows. And we recognize “that regardless of perceived differences, all of us are in need of the same infinite Atonement.” We realize that He is our foundation—“the rock of our Redeemer, … a sure foundation … whereon if [we] build [we] cannot fall.”

I have often thought about how God made each of us as individuals, unique in our own special and eloquent ways.  We each have our own set of behaviors, character traits, problems, talents, trials, successes and failures. Not one of us alike, and yet not so different in so many ways.   Although, sometimes we feel like we are totally alone and that there is no one that feels the way we do about what is happening in our lives. But…God gave us each other! He gave us each hands and hearts to reach out and embrace when He can not be there to embrace us physically.  We are not alone!  

He also gave us a gift that is beyond our comprehension.  He gave us his only begotten Son, the Savior of the world.  A Savior who loves, cares, and suffered for us, so that we can overcome all that this life throws at us. 

We can and should turn to Him in times of heartache and sorrow as our first line of defense.  Let us glorify Him in times of health and prosperity as well as in times of despair and grief. But then, open your heart up to be loved by those who are sent BY Him for YOU.  Their hands can come and embrace you and start to heal your broken heart.

Deiter F. Uchtdorf once shared a story about Hands.  It reads, “A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.

Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ, a sign with these words: “You are my hands.”

Elder Uchtdorf goes on to say that the way we become His hands is to embrace, comfort and serve.  I’ll link that talk in the show notes. It’s a good one.

I remember hearing a friend talk about a similar experience that she had as a teenager.  She had a small statue of Christ sitting on her dresser in her bedroom.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember the whole story except that she was very upset as teenagers sometimes are. She had stormed into her room and slammed the door shut behind her, the statue of Christ fell to the floor as she flopped onto the bed in tears.  When she realized that the statue had fallen, she reached down to set it back in it’s place. It was then that she realized that His delicate hands had been broken in the fall. She recalled how that was a reminder that in this particular situation that she had been upset about, she was being called to be His hands. 

Marjorie Paey Hinckley once said, “never suppress a generous thought.” Maybe it’s because she understood the power of hands.  Hands that work from a distance when God can’t be there in person. 

So I guess the question is how do we get better at becoming His hands? It’s so simple really, it’s all in the follow through. Let me explain my thought.

My stepson is a wonderful soccer player.  Which ironically, is a game played without hands.  We have been to so many games and practices and learned so much about the strategy of the game.  I remember one day when he was a few years younger, walking past the coach of another team and I heard him say, there are 3 things that I want you to remember when encountering your opponent and you have possession of the ball.  Stop, change your speed, change your direction.  Oh and one more thing.  After you have shot the ball toward the goal, don’t forget the follow through.”

As I recalled that experience today I thought, it’s much like receiving  a prompting from the Lord, or receiving a generous thought as Marjorie put it.  

First we receive the thought. Now we have possesion.  Next the trick is to maintain possession and not lose it.  That’s usually where we have the most trouble.  We start to second guess the Lord.  Was that really a prompting, or was it just my thought?  Or we start to doubt, “I can’t do that.  It’s too hard. They would think I’m weird.  Or we accept the prompting and then get distracted and lose it.  Or maybe we are so busy with so many things on our minds, that we forget about it and then pass it off as just a fleeting thought. My point is that we neglect the first reccomendation of the coach, to STOP. Just STOP and receive the ball.  Or in this case receive the prompting and maintain possession.

Second, change your speed.  In soccer this would mean, if you’re running fast, slow down.  If you’re in one spot, start running. When you change your speed it throws your opponent off balance and you can quickly maneuver around them. 

Comparing this to promptings, if you have a prompting or “generous thought”, and you’re in the middle of something, slow down.  Write it down, acknowledge it so you can keep possession.  Then you can follow through when you’re finished with your current task. If you’re not doing anything or mindlessly scrolling social media, get up and get going . Chop, chop! You have hands to fill and hearts to love on.

Third, change your direction. In soccer, the simple act of changing direction can immediately slow down your opponent because they are not anticipating the change. 

Sometimes we are prompted in ways to literally change direction.  I remember a time after I had been in the hospital and had started on my road to recovery.  Things were getting better and there had been a  lot of little miracles.  However the stress of our current situation had weighed heavily on my husband and he suddenly became very ill.  He wasn’t eating or sleeping and he had lost several pounds in just a few weeks.  I was extremely worried about him.   We both had no idea what was happening.  

One night we had been visiting with the sister missionaries in our church.  They had shared somewhat of a message with us and we had talked about the stress that he was under. He was not a member of the church of Jesus Christ at the time and not fully invested in learning anything more about it.  So they left and went on their way.  

About 15 minutes later we hear a knock on the door.  And the 2 young women stood awkwardly at the door.  One of them said, “you know we were on our way home and I got the feeling that we should turn around, come back and tell you something.  Then she said I asked her, (the other young woman she’d come with) what she thought about that” and she said, “You know , I was thinking the exact same thing”.  “So here we are”, she said.  

Joe and I looked at them and then looked at each other and opened the door wide for them to come in.

They then proceeded to tell Joe that even though he was not a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that he could still receive a priesthood blessing.  Joe looked at me a bit baffled about how to respond.  He didn’t even know what a priesthood blessing was. And for those of you listening that don’t know, a priesthood blessing is given by 2 male members of our church.  They lay their hands upon your head to call up on the power of God to heal you or comfort you.  I have seen many miracles come because of priesthood blessings.

I had requested a priesthood blessing when I was in the hospital (after leaving the church), and that had been a great source of comfort to me and had started the ball rolling toward me getting the help I needed.  But we had never considered that for him.  Looking back I knew in my heart, that in that moment, they were representing God’s hands in offering Joe something that God could not be there to do Himself.  He wanted someone to relay his message of comfort to Joe.  He wanted them to be His hands.  

And the cool thing about that experience is that those two girls didn’t hesitate on a dark winding, narrow, and hilly Tennesse road.  If you’ve ever been to Tenessee we have some really crazy roads!  But they just stopped the car and promptly changed direction and headed back our way.  He gladly accepted and it ended up being a great comfort to Him and me at that time.

And shortly thereafter he was able to receive the help he needed.

Now onto the follow through.  I remember one particular moment in a soccer game where one of our players had shot the ball toward the goal.  It looked like it was going to make it but it wasn’t rolling quite fast enough and the goalie was on the way to retrieve the ball, then out of nowhere my stepson came flying toward the ball faster than the goalie and shot it directly into the net.  A goal was scored and the team cheered.  That’s what is called a follow through.  Even when it looks like the goalie might get to it, you don’t stop, you continue forward in the hopes that you will make it before the goalie reaches it. (Link to that goal below, it’s awesome!)

https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/e7AMhwtptS/d2VuZHljYXJ0ZXIwMUBnbWFpbC5jb20=   

When considering promptings let’s review.  The 3 things to remember are Stop, change your speed, change your direction.  And finally don’t forget the follow through.  When it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Love… is the follow through.

This is after all the second and great commandment found in Matthew 22:39

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself

The first one being verse 37 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Sometimes we do all the right things, we receive the prompting and maintain possession, we slow down or speed up whichever is required.  We change direction if needed.  But on occasion we forget the most important part, the follow through.  What I mean by that is that sometimes we get so caught up in the steps leading up to being God’s hands for someone in need, that we forget, that in and of itself LOVE is the follow through. Our hands, His hands, they embrace,  they comfort, they serve. 

Of course, all those steps leading up to the follow through are definitely a large part of it.  That’s important! But in order to make the goal we have to follow through we have to remember it’s all about LOVE.  Check in with that person regularly from time to time.  Don’t just drop and dart for lack of a better term.  Really embrace them, love them, comfort them and serve them as our Savior would want us to.  

In his talk, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “…let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master, we are called to support and heal rather than condemn.  We are commanded to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” …Christ knows how to minister to others perfectly.  When the Savior stretches out His hands, those He touches are uplifted and become greater, stronger, and better people as a result.”

So let’s take a lesson from the pages of our Savior’s life.  Let’s let our hands help others be uplifted, become greater, stronger and better people as a result of us using our hands as His to LOVE them when they so desperately need His LOVE.

God has given us so much!  Is it too much to ask that we use OUR HANDS for His?

XO Wendy

on the wings of Eagles

Hello my friends!  There are so many things that I have been thinking about these past few weeks and months as we have all gone through so much with Covid, natural disasters, death, loss of businesses and the uncertain political climate.  

I myself have struggled this past several weeks with feelings of depression and isolation despite my best efforts to maintain good health.  Trying to all the right things and to just take the next right step. 

Living with Bipolar is very often that way.  It seems sometimes, when things appear to be going so well we can get caught off guard.  The adversary would have us believe that we are not worthy of the blessings of the Lord.  But I can assuredly tell that we are.  And as hard as it is, we must keep going, keep pushing, keep looking up as I talked about a few episodes back. 

The word that just keeps coming to me over and over is endure.  Because it really feels like we have been stuck in the “song that never ends” haha you know that one that you sing as kids.  Here’s the link just in case you’re not familiar https://youtu.be/xz6OGVCdov8….. Anyway, you get the picture.  Today I want to talk about the subject of enduring through adversity, but first I want to tell you about an experience that I had this past week.

I was outside one day and I watched as a beautiful hawk spread it’s wings and glided through the cool air.  And then it just so happened that I started to see hawks everywhere! Have you ever done that?  Well usually when that happens to me it’s because there is a message that I am supposed to get.  For me, that’s kind of how the spirit works.  When I start seeing things repeatedly, or get thoughts over and over that I wouldn’t have generally thought of myself, it’s usually the Lord trying to tell me something or give me a certain lesson.  What I got from this message as I started seeing these hawks soaring in the air is that I was reminded of the scripture in 

Isaiah 40:31 

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;  They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

As I thought  about eagles and what this particular scripture was trying to say, I decided to research a little more about them and here are some of the things that I learned. 

First of all, I love how big and majestic eagles look as they hover in the sky high above the ground.  Did you know that eagles can fly higher than any other birds usually around 15,000 feet high?  They get their lift from the warmer air that is closer to the sun, allowing them to glide for long periods of time.  And that is how they conserve their energy by not having to flap their wings so much.

Eagles are among the strongest animals and their eyesight is 5 times stronger than that of a human.  History has it that the eagle has the sharpest vision of all birds. When its eyesight grows dull with age it glides up towards the sun, and, by staring at the sun, which only an eagle can do, it burns away all the mistiness of age. ….They can detect UV light and can identify colors better than humans.  To keep their balance and glide smoothly in the air, eagles will shed a feather on one side when the other side loses it!

Eagles can also fly as fast as a speeding car. So their wings are extremely strong and powerful. And their vision is impeccable. 

They are unique in the way they care for their babies. Baby eagles are usually full grown by 12 weeks and too heavy for the female to carry.  So she won’t push her young out of the nest to learn to fly, instead she will discontinue feeding them when she thinks they are ready to take flight thus forcing them to fly so they can find food to survive. 

The word eagles is mentioned over 30 times in the Old and New testament of the bible and the imagery is often used to portray God’s power.

Now back to the scripture, it says “they shall mount up with wings like eagles”.  So we have already established how powerful their wings are. So let’s just find the meaning of the word, mount.

The first definition of mount is that it means to go up, climb or ascend.  Some synonyms are to arise, escalate, soar, ascend, rise, scale, tower, bestride, escalade, lift. 

The first part of the scripture says Those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up (arise, lift or soar) with wings like eagles (remember extremely powerful and strong).  Now think of all of those traits that we talked about that eagles have.  Sharp vision, they draw strength from the sun, they instinctively know how to maintain their balance and they can exceed the heights of others.

So you may be thinking well this is all great Wendy but how does this apply to enduring?  And we are gonna get there I promise.  But first we have to look at the first sentence of the scripture.  But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;

You know sometimes we feel like we have just had about all that we can take.  And I feel like practically every day this year, I wake up and something new and crazy has happened.  I think how can this get any worse? And above that, how do I keep going through all the crazy?  Well the answer I think, is that we WAIT on the Lord. One of the definitions of Wait is to look forward to eagerly. As in I can’t wait for Christmas.  But that’s not exactly what we feel like when we are in a state of enduring right?  It’s more like “you mean I have to wait longer?”

In Elder Jeffrey R.Holland’s talk from this past general conference he said, “… there will be times in our lives when even our best spiritual effort and earnest, pleading prayers do not yield the victories for which we have yearned, whether that be regarding the large global matters or the small personal ones. So while we work and wait together for the answers to some of our prayers, I offer you my apostolic promise that they are heard and they are answered, though perhaps not at the time or in the way we wanted. But they are always answered at the time and in the way an omniscient and eternally compassionate parent should answer them…..” 

I think it’s important to note that I didn’t hear this talk (or at least if I did it’s clear I wasn’t paying full attention), but after I planned this entire podcast, I was led to listen to his talk.  And I cried, because it is exactly what I needed to hear.  And maybe YOU need to hear it again too.  I’ll put the link in the show notes.

So many people are experiencing feelings of depression, isolation and fear during this 20/20 year.  Remember? This was supposed to be the year of perfect vision?  Not quite the perfect vision of the eagle that we talked about earlier. 

 It’s far worse than what we ever imagined, right?  Or is it?  What if this IS the year of perfect vision?  What if this IS the year that we learn and grow and soar more than we ever have?  What if this year IS the year that we wait on the Lord and renew our strength in Him?

 I have a couple of experiences that came to my mind about having to wait.  Going back to about 2016, I had been diagnosed with Bipolar ll and I was in a really bad place physically and emotionally.  I’m not going to go into the whole experience here. You can learn more about that by clicking on this link.  During that time I had two experiences that helped to remind me of the importance of waiting on the Lord. 

The first one was a dream that I had. I was riding in a car with my husband and it was a blizzard outside.  We could barely see the road because of the wind and the snow falling.  We were on a canyon road that was a mountain on one side and a drop off on the other.  I could see that we were dangerously close to the cliff.  Suddenly the car began to swerve and it was obvious that we were going to slide off the road.  There was nothing that we could do.  I remember feeling so helpless as I looked to my husband and saw the same look on his face.  I was thinking “Is this really how it is all going to end for us?”

As we slid off the cliff and started falling, I was astounded as I looked to the left, to see a large hand glowing white, come around the front bumper of the car.  It was a huge hand that engulfed the whole left side of the car.  And then as I glanced to the right I saw another huge glowing white hand (I can’t really say glowing, it was more like on fire), brighter than you can imagine.   I definitely knew, in my mind’s eye, that it was God’s hands coming around the car to shield us from the impending crash.  I remember feeling incredibly grateful for the strength and comfort that seeing those hands brought to me.  

I could see that we were going to crash.  But I could also see that we were going to be surrounded in the arms of his love and in some way protected from the inevitable damage that would take place.  Then, just as the hands came around us, we began to hit the trees… and that’s when I woke up.

When I told my husband about my dream he said, “well we did kind of go off a cliff!” And even though I laughed when he said it, I knew he was right.  

When I went into the hospital during my manic episode it was literally like falling off a cliff. We were also struggling with some other issues at the time.  I had been praying and pleading with the Lord to help us find a way out of the situation that we had been in.  I feel like this dream came to me to remind me that even though we experience REALLY TOUGH things in our lives, He is always there to protect us when we go off the cliff and hit the trees.  We may still hit the trees and come crashing down. But He will always be there to surround us in his love.  When we wait on the lord our strength will be renewed.

I remember at around that same time we had missionaries from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of which we are members.  They were there to teach my husband about the church and remind us of how much Jesus loves us and wants the best for us.  

One night they shared a scripture passage with us from a story in the Book of Mormon about people who had been enslaved, most of them, their whole lives. It read: 

13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. 

Isn’t that amazing?  It goes on to say:

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.  Mosiah 24:13-15

If you are not a member and would like a copy of the Book of Mormon please contact me and I can get you one.

I remember that after the sisters left, my husband and I just sat there stunned.  This was the Lord speaking directly to us!  Telling us that he would Strengthen us and that he would deliver us from our afflictions.  There is power in the scriptures, my friends, that we can not get from any other source.  I love the scriptures and the answers that we can get from the Lord through them.  

As we sat together and opened back up to that scripture I read ahead to the next verse which says, 16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.

I pondered upon that scripture as we sat there and it was as if the Lord was telling me that we were about to get through this trial.  My heart was filled with gratitude and I was so overwhelmed with joy…I was thinking on the morrow, Lord does that mean that we are almost through this.  It was like I was jumping up and down like a little kid, inside.  Until I heard Him whisper “But…” I remember thinking, no wait!   no buts what do mean, but?  And then I heard “yes this trial will end but not yet, you must endure a little longer.  You have to have great faith and patience and wait on Me, it is my timing not yours.”

I remember weeping as I thought of how much longer we might have to go through this refining process.  But it is when we wait on the Lord, that our strength will be renewed.

Also In the recent General Conference just a few weeks ago President Russell M. Nelson spoke these words, “Are you willing to let God prevail in your life?  Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life?”  He went on to say, “The word willing is crucial…. We all have our agency.  We can choose to let God prevail in our lives, or not.  We can choose to let God be the most powerful influence in our lives, or not.”

In that same thought process.  We can choose to endure, or not.  There is a great promise that comes with the Isaiah 40:31 scripture.  Did you catch it in the beginning?

Let’s read it again, But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;  They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

If we have faith and are willing to let God prevail, to wait on Him and His timing, we shall mount up with wings like eagles (remember “ arise with strength and great power”), we shall run and not be weary, we shall walk and not faint.

So just as in the scriptures we read that night with the sister missionaries,  I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage. His promise to us is that we will be able to be sustained in our waiting period.  He will give us the strength to bear up our burdens with ease if….. we will wait on Him, that our strength  will be renewed.

Like the eagle,  WE can have Sharp vision, when it comes to our future and the trials we are facing. We can draw strength from the son meaning Jesus Christ. We can instinctively know how to maintain our balance and exceed heights that we never thought possible.  Wait on the Lord, my friends, have your strength renewed through and By Him. He loves you so much!  But it is his timing and our faith and trust will create our endurance to get us through whatever hard thing we are going through.  

He loves us just like those eagles love their babies.  But sometimes He has to let us go without food for a little while so that we can learn to fly, so that we can look to Him for guidance and strength. But also realize the strength that we have in our own “wings”. 

This past Sunday we were able to return to our church building for the first time since Covid.  I was so excited to be in the building and worship with all my brothers and sisters in the gospel.  It was so touching and so great to be back.  One of the speakers we had, said something that I thought went right along with what I’m talking about.  He said, “sometimes we worry so much about the Why’s that we forget about the WITHOUTS”,  and I was intrigued and wanted to know where he was going with this.  

He went on to say that when we are enduring trials sometimes we focus so much on WHY we are facing this particular struggle, that we forget what we would be WITHOUT had we not gone through it.  I think about this and all the many miracles that have happened in my life since going into the hospital 5 years ago and being diagnosed Bipolar.  It’s humbling to think about how my life has changed and grown in ways I never thought possible.  But if all I ever focused on was the WHY did this happen part, I would not be able to enjoy all the things that I would have been WITHOUT had it not happened.  It’s difficult sometimes when you are in the middle of a trial to think of a statement like that.  It’s certainly easier to look back on the trial and see the WITHOUTS.  But that is when I want you to remember, if we wait on the Lord, our strength will be renewed!

I believe that the struggles that we’ve shared This year and some that have been individual have been for our benefit.  It’s possible that this IS part of His plan for us.  This year, this 20/20 crazy year. Could it be that it’s to help us rise up and soar to new heights and see with clear vision that the Lord will prevail? I say with God, all things are possible.  You can do this!  You can get through this trial. And you are going to look back and be so grateful for all of the things that you are not WITHOUT and all of the things you’ve learned!  

XO Wendy

Look up, lean in, walk tall

You can listen to this post by clicking the link at the bottom of post.

Last week I was on my morning walk, which I have grown to love.  It’s something that I picked up since Covid started.  You know having the time at home, not having to rush to get a workout finished before work, has allowed me a little more time to really take in my surroundings in nature and it really has been so much fun.  Breathing in the fresh air has been a balm to my soul that I didn’t know I needed and I am so glad that I have taken the time to do that.  

Anyway, back to that recent morning.  I walked out my door and it was cloudy and sprinkling a bit and I considered going back in to do a streamed workout. I was a little worried because I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a TN rainstorm or not. But I grew up in the West and we do not have the “buckets of rain” downpours that are here in the south!  I remember the first time I was in a Southern downpour.  I had to get out my phone and video it  because it was so impressive! Y’all,  if I caught in a downpour, I was going to be drenched in about 1 minute. But I heard that sweet whisper that I’ve come to know say, “keep going, I’ve got something special for you today.”  So I kept going. 

And sure enough, not far into my walk I began to notice things that I don’t normally.  Now, I don’t normally wear sunglasses on my walks because my sight since I turned about 48 has been pretty bad and I just feel like sunglasses, even though made to protect, kind of impair my vision a little more.  So I don’t wear them on my walks.  I know this is going to sound contradictive to what I just said or maybe just plain stupid but that’s just what I like, haha.  So because I don’t wear sunglasses I can’t really look up because then I have to squint because of the reflection from the sidewalk and the pavement.  So I end up looking down a lot as I walk.  So anyway as I walked I noticed that because it was cloudy, I could look up no problem.  And I heard the whisper reinforce my thought “look up”!  I walked a few more feet and heard another whisper, “Lean in”.  This is one that I’d been having repeatedly over the past several weeks but now it was all coming together.  

So here I am thinking “Look up, Lean in” and pondering upon that.  I continued walking and soon the whisper came again.  “Look up, lean in, walk tall.”  By this point I am thoroughly enjoying the light sprinkling on my face and the beautiful cloud cover that has allowed me to look up and now I feel like God is giving me this message to share with you all. “Look up, lean in, walk tall.”

Now let me just say that I know this message that I’m about to share with you was impressed upon MY heart for me but I believe there is someone out there today that needs to hear this message too (maybe a handful of you).  I’m the messenger and I pray that I can do it adequately enough to be able to touch the heart of those that need it, and that God wants to hear it.

I was reminded one of my favorite scriptures, Proverbs 3:5-7 

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.   And verse 7 that is overlooked often.

7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

I started thinking about a talk that I’d heard recently by Stanley G. Ellis in October of 2017 General Conference.

He asks the question Do we trust Him?  Meaning God.  Do we trust His commandments to be for our good?  Do we trust that the Lord does know each of us and wants to help us?  Even and especially in the midst of trials, challenges and hard times, do we still trust Him?

I recalled an event that I had several years ago at a week long girls camp that I was called to be one of the leaders of.  These camps are adventures in learning both physically and spiritually out in nature without the conveniences of everyday life.  It provides a canvas so to speak from the Lord to work with in helping these girls (and ourselves) grow closer to Him.

So there was this hike that we did every year.  It was called Mount Baldy.  I’m not sure if there is a significance to the name or not.  Maybe because it was surrounded by foliage and was flat and clear on the top, lol. It was not an easy hike though.  I remember the first mile and a half was not too terrible.  Still a hike and one that was good for the younger girls who were on their first year of camp.  Not too hard but just hard enough to learn the lessons that they needed at that time.  They stopped there in a meadow and had lunch and then would trek back down to camp. 

The older girls were required  to hike to the top of Mount Baldy and it was not an easy climb.  The last leg a quarter mile or so was especially difficult.  You could choose one of two paths to get to the top.  The first wound round and round the Mountain on a steep grade eventually getting to the top.  Though hard and longer than the other, it was not as difficult as the other less chosen path.  Which was straight up the mountainside.  Well at least it felt like straight up.  All I know is that it was steep enough that you could only see the very top of the cell phone tower that was at the completion of the hike.  Some of the braver girls had already started to scurry up the side and the other leader and myself had to draw straws as to who was going to stay with which group of girls.  I drew the short straw, lol.  

I found myself hiking up the mountainside to try and catch up with the brave, courageous girls.  Within several feet I had to stop to catch my breath.  My lungs were hot and my thighs were burning.  I turned to glance down at some of the other girls behind me.  Some were slowly making their way up and others had changed their minds and chosen the other path (which I might add was still not easy).  I saw one girl really struggling but determined to keep going.  I waited for her to catch up and grabbed her hand to urge her to keep going.  

I went a few more feet and had to stop and rest again.  At this point I started to question my forethought that I was in pretty good shape, obviously, I still had some work to do in that area!  But then I heard that familiar whisper, “Do you trust me?”,  Yes I trust you Lord.  Then keep going, it will be worth it!”  So I continued to trudge my way up the mountain side.  

Now what I haven’t told you about is that particular year there was an extreme amount of rain the first day of camp and we had been in mud up to our ankles.  Our tennis shoes had been caked with mud the whole first day and our campsites were all a muddy mess.  Me not being a lover of the outdoors, I was pretty much ready to go home on this the second day and we still had 4 days to go.  But I had not yet been to the top of Mount Baldy and had volunteered to be one of the leaders to go. 

Besides that the trail down the mountain had been closed for the day anyway because of the mud and so even if I had given up, the only way out was to walk on a very muddy, very long, hike down the mountain trail.  And that would have been even more crazy than Mount Baldy, lol.  

I was second thinking that decision now.  As we got a little higher when we looked up we could barely see the top of the tower.  When we looked down, all we could see was the forest surrounding us.  So up the side we continued to go.  Of course I was highly reconsidering my ambitious volunteerism.  But I’d been told by several, including the Lord, that it would be worth it.  I heard the whisper again, “Do you trust me?” and I was thinking of course Lord of course I trust you.  But I was reminded of the many times that I hadn’t trusted him.  

I thought of how our Savior must feel as he sees us constantly struggling to overcome the challenges that we face and the struggles that beat upon us during this life.  I remember his coaxing, “Do you trust me?” 

We know that the Lord trusts us.  He gave us this life and He has faith in us.  He sees the view from above and He sees the amazing work of art that we can be.  He trusts us to make good choices and to come to Him when we inevitably make poor choices.  He trusts us with our lives, and with the lives of our children and these girls and those around us that He has asked us to watch over through His promptings.  He trusts that we will do what He can not do.  He trusts us to be His hands.

 He trusts us to continue our hike uphill through the trees the rocks, the unseen obstacles and the mud to make it back to Him.

But the question is, do we trust Him?  Do we really trust Him?  He sees us at our best and at our worst.  He sees us in our triumphs and our failures.  He sees us in sickness and in health.  He sees us today and He will see us tomorrow.  He comes to us in the messiness, the broken, the heart wrenching and He restores us.

Do we trust Him enough to look up?  To look to Him the source for our peace?

Going back to Stanley G. Ellis’ talk He says, “Hard makes us stronger, humbles us and gives us a chance to prove to ourselves….. The hard is the constant!  We all have challenges.  The variable is our reaction to the hard.”  

That brings me to the second part “Lean in”.  When I had this thought I could picture a big huge rock.  The rock, representing the Redeemer.- I remembered a scripture that I’d recently read in Heleman 5:12 from the Book of Mormon and I could picture this giant rock and just leaning into it and knowing that no matter what, that rock was solid, it wasn’t going anywhere.  The scripture comes from a story in the Book of Mormon were a father is counseling his sons and says And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

This made me think back to the Proverbs scripture, …lean not to thine own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge Him…  the rock the one we lean TO, hang on TO for support, pray TO when all feels lost and crazy.  It’s Him that we can trust. Look up TO!  Lean in TO!  

Lean suggests a shift of balance but maybe the shift that He’s talking about there is the shift to Him, the Savior, shift TO the rock, our redeemer.  Look up, lean in and then walk tall! Only when one’s heart is fixed on God can a person begin to think properly.  Walking according to God’s will puts the person in a position to have God lead the way and open the doors to the life that He so desires for you.

Now back to the story, I’m sure you are dying to know if we all made it to the top of Mount Baldy.  You have guessed that we did I’m sure.  But let me tell you, it was one of the hardest ⅛ of a mile I have ever been on, lol.  It really was not long but boy did it feel like it. I took a couple of girls by the hand and pulled them the last few feet up.  

It was absolutely breathtaking!  I will never forget the beautiful sight at the top of Mount Baldy.  We could see all around the valley.  We could see our campsite far below.  We could breathe the clean fresh air in and out of our tired lungs.  Our legs burned, but our hearts and souls burned brighter because of the challenge we had just overcome.  We each shared our feelings of what our thoughts were as we climbed and what it felt like to reach our destination.  It was amazing the lessons that had been learned during a half day hike, most of which had happened in that last challenging part of the hike.

As I reflect back on this event I am reminded of the many challenges we face in our lifetimes.  Our paths are all different yet no less difficult. And though we can support and love each other through the difficult and the hard, we can not take that challenge away.  That is how we grow.  Look up, Lean in, Walk tall you are a child of God!

He is the source,  He is our rock.  We can hold our heads up high and walk tall because of not in spite of our challenges.  

I think about a chrysalis.  There is a story you may have heard about a man who found a chrysalis and saw a small opening appear at the top.  He watched the butterfly struggle for hours trying to get through the tiny hole.  But what happened was that suddenly the butterfly stopped and it appeared that it had completely given up.  The man, thinking that he was doing the butterfly a service, took a pair of scissors and carefully cut the opening so that the butterfly could become free.  So then the butterfly was able to get out easily but the man noticed that it’s body was swollen and the wings shriveled.  And he didn’t really think anything of it, he just watched and figured that the butterfly would develop and the fluid from it’s body would fill the wings and it would fly away.  What he didn’t realize was that in freeing the butterfly he had hampered the development that would have happened had the butterfly continued to struggle and push through the Chrisilys which is Nature’s way of  pushing the fluid from the body and into the wings of the butterfly.  Instead it spent the rest of it’s life walking around with a swollen body and shriveled wings, unable to fly.  

So back to Proverbs verse 7 Be not wise, in thine own eyes.   Sometimes we think that we know what’s best for us, that we have it all figured out.  And I  am not going to discount that intuition is a very large part of getting through our struggles and challenges.  But the variable is our reaction to the hard.  We can choose to embrace the hard, choose to control the things that we can control. 

Also, something that I learned when I was struggling to get some relief with my mental illness, I would have people say things like, “you just need to get out and get some fresh air,  or come go shopping with me, retail therapy will make you feel so much better.  And I often thought, “you can’t wish this problem away.  It is what it is. Don’t try to solve my problem, just give me faith to endure!  Just help me build the faith to make it through this challenge.  

Sometimes in our eagerness to take away another’s burden we hamper their growth.  I think of all the things that I would not have learned.  All the ways that I wouldn’t have grown.  The empathy that I never would have built.  The places that I wouldn’t have gone had I not suffered through this challenge.

We can support others, we can validate them, yes it’s hard, yes it’s a struggle.   Yes things are tough and look unending.  But through it all we must have the faith to look up, lean in and walk tall, trusting that He will carry us through the hardest, most challenging leg of our journey.  That He will open the doors in front of us that He will place the people in our path to help us when we don’t think we can take another step forward through the mud and the muck.  Let Him help you.  His way is always better, always better than ours!

XO Wendy

The journal prompt that I have for you today is: 

What can I change in my thought process of this current challenge, that can help me to Look up, Lean in and walk tall?