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?

 

 

Ha! Didn’t see that coming.

I was looking back on some of my posts from this year and boy oh boy, did I NOT see all of this coming in 2020.  I’m sure that we can all say that, unfortunately.

But I am an eternal optimist, and although this year started off with a bang, I am determined to make sure that the experiences that we’ve all been through this year don’t end up without a lesson learned.

So tell me what lessons have you learned this year?  Here are a few of mine (in no particular order).

  1. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.  I believe this has been a tough one for all of us to learn.  Especially if we may not have heeded the warnings over the years from our leaders. We have been exhorted to keep several months worth of food storage.  To have a 72 hour preparedness kit on hand should the need arise.  Unfortunately the need has arisen this past year.  Not only have we needed to be physically prepared, this year has given us great cause to be spiritually prepared as places of worship have been unable to operate and social distancing has precluded us from spending time with our fellowshipping communities.  We have been counseled to be spiritually prepared in probably the most often quoted passage from President Russell M. Nelson this year.  He strongly admonished us to be ready.  He said, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”  I trust that we have all learned this great lesson to be prepared both physically and spiritually.
  2. Family and friendships should be first on the priority list, ALWAYS.  We have really learned this lesson the hard way!  Around the world we were/are all asked to social distance to keep Covid-19 from spreading.  So no more hugging, shaking hands, going to lunch and just plain hanging out with friends.  We have been limited to spending time in our homes with our immediate family members with limited resources for entertainment.  With schools and entertainment venues being closed, we have had to go back to a former time when riding bikes, doing puzzles, playing games and being bored sometimes, were the norm.  I think we have realized that all of those things have great value and importance in building and strengthening our relationships as we slowly return back to a new normal.
  3. Human life is fragile and can change in the blink of an eye.  So many of us (if not all) have been forever changed by tragedy this year.  From tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods,  to sickness, depression, loss of life, and loss of celebration of our most precious moments.  I think it’s safe to say that we have all been affected in some way or another. Not being able to be with someone in the hospital and them having to shoulder something horrible all by themselves, has been one of the most heart wrenching experiences to witness.  The importance of being with our loved ones in hard times and in times of great joy have new meaning now.  Leaving this Earth, coming into this world, and loving while here on this Earth have hopefully been deeply ingrained as the most important elements of our life here on Earth.  That lesson has been deep and hard in so many ways.  May we be forever grateful for all the life we have been given, and not take another single minute for granted.  It can all be taken away from us without a moment’s notice.
  4. Stillness is a practice to be appreciated.  For the Bertagnolli household, all of the craziness of life, work, school, running kids to and from activities and practices, all came to a screeching halt when the tornado hit us on March 2-3rd (in the middle of the night).  The boys’ school was destroyed.  So the focus became, where and how are the boys going to have school?  The first 2 weeks of March (approximately) that was our primary focus.  Thank goodness we did not sustain damage to our home but many, many of our friends did.  Not only did they have to worry about school, but how and where they were going to return to normal life?  And then, within days of decisions being made as to where the boys would be going to school and cleanup and repairs being made to homes and businesses, BOOM, shut down the world!  And suddenly life how we knew became very still.  Most of us are not used to being still, running around crazy all the time from one activity to the next.  And suddenly we are completely compelled to “be still”.  If ever there was a time that God spoke to us, “Be still and know that I am God”- psalms 46:10,  it has been in the year 2020.  We have had to turn our hearts to God to merely survive all of the craziness that has been thrown at us this year.   And if you haven’t learned that lesson yourself, I highly encourage you to make the time to be still, to meditate, to pray and then listen.  God knows you, He hears you, and trust me when I say you are never ever alone.  Be still and know!
  5. Good health is everything. Being a self proclaimed expert in the field of mental illness (joking), I have been reminded over and over again of how important it is to stay mentally, physically and spiritually healthy.  I am so grateful that 2019 was year of  improved mental health for me.  I think had it not been, I may have been one that succumbed to the pressures and stresses of living with mental illness create. I sincerely hope not, but you just don’t know do you?  I am torn apart to hear about friends and family that have not been able to cope with the sudden changes that have taken place.  I am heartbroken to hear of illness and loss of physical health due to the effects that this year has brought on.  I am distressed by the number of people that have walked away from God during this time when we should be seeking Him for deliverance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                .                                                                                                                                                                                                 I will be forever changed (hopefully for the better) because of the events of 2020.  And I know you will too.  How can we have a year like this and not be changed for life?  Only time will tell if these lessons will be ingrained within us.  I fear that as time goes on and life returns to somewhat normal, hatred, fear, and anger will return with a vengeance (as we have already seen politically speaking).  It is Satan’s way.  But as I said in the beginning, I am and will always be an optimist and I choose to remember and retain the good lessons that I have learned.  And I will more wholey choose hope and joy every day of the week.  I hope you will too.   Let me know in the comments what lessons you have learned this year.

XO Wendy

P.S.  Pointing toward hope is now on podcast!  Just search for Pointing toward hope on most podcasting platforms. Instagram, and Facebook.  I hope you come and follow me in pointing toward hope every day.  If you or someone you know has an inspiring story to share that will lift others in meeting life’s challenges, please contact me.  I would LOVE to reach out and have them on the show for an episode.  Choose joy!

Stronger than you think.

The past couple of months have been super challenging.  I know that I am not the only one that feels this way.  It’s ironic because back in February before all the craziness started, I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally than I had in a very long time.  Stronger.  More equipped to fight off the adversary.  More confident, after struggling for so long to regain what I felt being diagnosed Bipolar, had taken away from me.  Courage to face the challenges that would come my way.  Little did I know what myself and others would be facing over the next several months.

Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you, doesn’t it?  I don’t know if there is anything that could have prepared us for what we have all been through over the past several months.   And on top of the many circumstances that each of has faced together, many have had to face the normal day to day challenges and inevitable trials that unexpectedly come our way in our so-called “normal” pre-Covid life.

So as I have been struggling, I have been searching for ways to pull myself out of the funk that I have been in.  And wouldn’t you know it, God always comes through with something that I need.  It didn’t just happen.  I have been praying for days to feel better and re-gain that strength and faith and courage that I had just a few short months ago.  As I have mentioned many, many times, we can’t just wait for it, we have to look for it and ask for it.

meme_matthew_knock

Today, I just wanted to share a little bit of what I have been thinking and pondering over and what I feel like God has been guiding me towards this past month.

You may have noticed that after my last post, I’ve been pretty scarce with social media.  I feel like I have had to shield my spirit away from so much of the negativity that has been going on, just as I would to my children.  Maybe I am different than most mothers, but looking back I don’t think that I would have allowed my children to see a lot of what is blasted over social media.

I was pretty careful about what I allowed my kids to see and be a part of when they were little.  Though the internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, the T. V. was a big influence.  So I instituted what we called “No T.V. week” once a month.  We used that time to read books, spend time together as a family, to go outside and enjoy nature and to find other sources of entertainment.

We also had many shows that were off limits, that the kids were not allowed to view.  I just didn’t appreciate the influence and ideas of disrespect, negativity, and irresponsibility, etc. that some of those shows portrayed.  And I think it has only gotten worse as the years have gone on (especially with all the venues that are available today for viewing).

The point that I am getting to is that maybe…. maybe we need to treat ourselves and our spirits exactly how we would our children.  We are given stewardship over our children.  They are not ours.  They are His, just as we are His.

And just as tenderly as we treat and love our children, is how we should treat and love ourselves.  We need to give ourselves the grace that God gives us and that we give our children.  Even if that means taking the internet away from ourselves for a week ;).

How awful would it be if the first time our child tried to walk, we chastised them when they fell and discouraged from trying again?  But we don’t do that.. we encourage them over and over and over again until they can do it on their own.  And then we continue to do that with everything that they come across throughout their lives, even as they grow older and have their own children.  We never stop loving and encouraging and allowing them to grow and become better than they were before.

We only have this one body…. it is a gift from the Father.  Ours to take care of, to have “stewardship” over.  And even though our bodies come to us with many different challenges, our spirits that are housed by those bodies are precious and so loved by the Father.

I remember many times, rushing to my child’s side as they fell down. Tenderly lifting them onto a counter, kissing “ouchies”  better and gently placing bandaids on the scrapes and bruises.  Giving them a hug and holding them as long as they needed until they felt strong enough to get back to what they were doing when they fell.  And most often, with that boost of love and care, they were able to try again pretty quickly without even a negative thought.

Maybe I’m not so alone in the fact that I don’t treat myself the way I would my child, my family members, or my friends.  I don’t give myself grace when I make mistakes.  I have a hard time picking myself up when I fall.  Instead of wiping away the tears as I would my child when they fall and scrape their knees, and encouraging them to get back up.  I tend to chastise and beat myself up for falling in the first place. That is not what the Lord would want for us.  There is only one place that negativity, self doubt, fear, and discouragement come from and that is from the adversary!

So as I move forward (and I hope you’ll join me) through this unchartered territory that we are all exposed to at this time, I am going to do my best to remember that this body is given to me to house my beautiful, tender, and loving spirit.  I am going to show up for myself just as I do for my children and friends and family. I am going to wrap myself in a big giant hug and tell myself that everything is going to be ok.  Because it will be.

I am going to let God cradle me in His grace when I fall.  I’m going to get back up and try again when I make mistakes or fail.  Because one thing is for sure, we can not move forward when we are always looking back.  We can not look ahead when we are always looking back.  We can not become better when we are always telling ourselves how bad we are.

Falling is not the problem.  Making the choice to get back up when we fall is where the real victory begins!

XO Wendy

 

Letting go of the ruin

 

When I was fifteen years old, my dad and I bought an old beat up 1976 Camaro from the high school auto shop.  I was going to be driving soon, and if things worked out I’d have my own wheels and freedom!  I was so excited.  

If memory serves me right, we paid about $300 for it.  It was in fair condition.  It could be driven.  But there were several things wrong with it, including it was in bad need of a paint job.  Of course I only noticed what it looked like on the outside and I wasn’t so sure that the $300 was well spent.   But it had good “bones”.  And the interior was still pretty nice, although stained a bit.  But my dad could see something in her that I couldn’t.

My dad and I spent the better part of a summer working on that Camaro, and bringing her back to life.  He on the mechanics of it, and me helping with the stains on the interior and the frame.  I remember spending hours sanding the metal down by dipping the sandpaper in water and then removing every bit of remaining paint left.  We rubbed putty (or something of the sort) in every dent and then sanded that down.  It was a grueling process that required attention to every detail.  But that was the process that was required to make her new again.  To repair the damage that had been done and make it whole once again.

Then finally… one day she was ready to paint and get the finishing touches put on.  I had saved all summer long to be able to pay for the parts and the paint job that went into her (candy apple red!).  And I couldn’t have been more proud of the work that we had done.

The day that we put “Old Red” on the road was one of the most exciting days of my life!  All of our hard work had finally garnered the result that  I craved.  She wasn’t perfect, but she was mine, and that’s all that really mattered to me.

As I reflected on that restoration process these past few months, I have been reminded of all the processes of restoration that we all have to go through during our lives on this earth.  We are all broken down, with a few stains here and there, in bad need of repair or “restoration”.  And although we may feel like we are barely getting by, the Lord sees our “good bones”.  He sees what the outcome can be with a little sanding here and a little putty there, and maybe a shiny new coat of paint.

I have spent a lot of time pondering and asking the Lord why?  Why do I have to live with a bipolar diagnosis?  Why is it that my body is broken down, stained and dented?  What good is meant to come out of this?  What’s the purpose?

And then I remembered the story of the Old Camaro and it came to me with perfect clarity.  We come to Him (our Lord Jesus Christ), broken, beaten down, full of sorrow and He “restores” us.

When I was diagnosed bipolar, my life as I knew it ended.  Everything changed.  I went from feeling like nothing could stop me.  To feeling like a broken shell of a person.  I was struggling with finding the right medications, the right Dr., the right plan for recovery.

It was only when I laid all my fears at the feet of my Savior that true restoration began.  Where I saw a broken shell, He saw the good bones. It has not been easy.  It’s a long grueling process.  From waiting for 6 weeks just to get into see the right Dr. and then ending up in the hospital again right before that appointment.  Then waiting another 6 weeks to finally get in again. Then trying different medications, behaviors and habits that work for me and my body chemistry.  A little sanding here and a little putty there.  He truly has been my source of restoration.

Elder Holland, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, once said, “I think of that night when Christ rushed to the aid of His frightened disciples, walking as He did on the water to get to them, calling out, “It is I; be not afraid.” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Christ’s answer to him was as it always is every time: “Come,” He said. Instantly, as was his nature, Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waters. While his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well—he was coming to Christ. It was only when his faith wavered and fear took control, only when he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the ominous black gulf beneath, only then did he begin to sink into the sea. In newer terror he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Undoubtedly with some sadness, the Master over every problem and fear, He who is the solution to every discouragement and disappointment, stretched out His hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:27–31

If you are lonely, please know you can find comfort. If you are discouraged, please know you can find hope. If you are poor in spirit, please know you can be strengthened. If you feel you are broken, please know you can be mended.” (May 2006 General Conference address).

We just need to reach out to Him and then keep our eyes fixed upon Him.  He can restore us.  He can bring us hope and peace and comfort.  If we will let him.  Because He loves us.  Because He broke the bands of death.  Because we are His!

We need not be fearful of the changes and trials that come into our lives.  We need only to believe.  Believe that He will come to us in His infinite power to restore us to our former state.  Believe that He will bring us back to a state of health, soundness and vigor.  It may not happen now, it may not happen in this lifetime.  But it will happen.  One day we will be restored in all our glory.  Just like my dad and I restored Old Red.  Our Savior will restore us, and He will take us out for a spin on the road and we will be His because that’s all that really matters to Him.

XO Wendy