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

 

 

 

 

 

Where do we go from here?

Breathe

As I walked back to my house one early morning this week, through the brisk cool air and heard these words it was like magic to my soul.  I was listening to a podcast that had a guest that was sharing a harrowing experience about her life (All in: Brooke Snow).  And when she said these words “Christ is the breath of life”, it stopped me in my tracks.  You might say it took my breath away for a minute.  I let it sink in and wash over me.  As I listened to her experience, thoughts of my struggle with mental illness raced through my mind.  Time after time when Christ had become the breath in whom I trusted to help me make it through another day.

This pandemic has been a hard punch in the gut for a lot of people.  It has literally taken the breath away from most of us in all different ways.  It has caused us to reflect and remember the things that should take priority in our lives.  And it has been HARD.  In so many ways it has been hard.  So where do we go from here?  How do we move forward when at times it feels so paralyzing?

All of the plans that we had for this year have been irrevocably changed and we can never go back and change what we’ve missed.  Weddings, funerals, graduations, trips, and events.   Some people said that 2020 was the year of perfect vision.  The year when all our dreams could come true.  And then boom…. in an instant our world was turned upside down.  

But one thing I have learned through all of my struggles with depressions, anxiety and bipolar is that Christ is truly where it all has to start.   We are all capable of change.  After all, even though it’s been rough, we are making it through this change, somehow. Even though the path may not be clear at this moment.

Miracles can happen when we are willing to put our trust in Christ.  Let Him breathe life into our weary souls. Because He sees the big picture.  He sees what we can not.  And like a baby being born and taking that first breath of air, we must look to the Lord to learn how to breathe when breathing seems impossible or almost like we are suffocating.

About partway through this quarantine, I realized that I needed to increase my yoga (meditation process) to stay grounded.  Otherwise I think I would lose my mind and end up moving backward instead of forward with my illness.  Normally, I do it once a week. It’s a good way to stretch and let go. Release the worries of the previous week and look ahead to the new week.  But now I have been practicing it daily and it has made such a difference in my life and my days.  I am a beginner and have a long way to go. I’m learning to understand how yoga/meditation work. 

Important note: I am not saying that you should pick up yoga. But finding time to quiet my mind helps me to take things that are bothering me or frustrating me, and just let them melt away for a little while.  It has helped me gain a new perspective on me as a person.  I have found that I  am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.  

So what I am proposing as you move forward as the quarantine is lifted, and slowly move back into a daily routine, work, school, sports, etc., remember the ways that you have changed through this experience.  Remember the experiences that have shaped you into a “new” person.  Because certainly none of  us can come out of this experience saying that we have not been changed in some way.

Find time as often as possible to sit for 5 minutes a day and just breathe.  Let Christ be the breath of life for you.  Just breathe in and out, deep breaths and let the worries of the world melt away.  Clear your mind and take just 5-10 minutes to remember this experience and how strong you have become as a person.

You are resilient, you are strong, you are in charge of your own mind and your own life.  Of course, there have been many negative things that have happened  because of this experience.  We may tend to look at it as one big negative.  But I strongly encourage you to take the time to recognize the good that can come out it.  

One thing that we can always be certain of, is that there will always be change.  

President Russell M. Nelson taught:  “We can change our behavior.  Our very desires can change.  … but true change–permanent–change can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”   Let Christ Change you.  Let him help you breathe.  Let Him help you move forward and embrace what is going to be a new normal for all of us.  Christ is the breath of life.  

In Ezekiel 36 verse 26-27 we read: A new heart also will I give you, and  a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stoney heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  

27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

My hope is that as you move into this next phase of your life that your heart will stay soft and if  it has been hardened through this trial, allow Christ to breathe new life into you.   Allow him to heal your weary soul.  You are His.  He loves you and wants the best for you.  Breathe in and breathe out and let Christ be the sail on your boat slowly pushing you forward. 

Where do we go from here?  In my mind the only answer is fearlessly forward!

XO Wendy

 

 

A New Normal

We are living in a world that is going to have a “new normal”.  As the events of the past few months have unfolded before us, we’ve felt many emotions.  Fear, Shock, disappointment, loss, suffering, helplessness, hopelessness, and many more.  

For some that are single or live alone, loneliness and isolation have been a big part of the past month. As well as those who have had to isolate because of infection by the virus. Or people who have been otherwise hospitalized, who have had to do so without the support of loved ones by their  side.  

Whether for a sickness, or lingering illness, or the joyous event of delivering a baby.  Which has been bittersweet, both joyful and heartbreaking to not be able to share that experience in person with friends and family 

At the same time, as we have practiced social distancing and followed the “stay safe, stay at home”  orders that have been implemented in many states, we’ve felt a closeness to our families that may have been lost.  We’ve been comforted by the fact that we are experiencing the same feelings as people all over the world. We’ve felt joy, compassion, love, tenderness, empathy for those working on the front lines and those who are ill. We’ve mourned for those who have lost their jobs and livelihood and those that have had to give up dreams that they’ve worked their whole life for. 

Many of us have developed a great love for our leaders.  Whether they be government, church, educators, scientists, healthcare workers, or even company owners who have come forward to help in the face of tragedy.

We’ve felt a renewed love for our Lord and Savior and his atonement and suffering for all of us.  We have realized that we can not carry this burden alone. That nobody should carry these burdens alone. And so we have become united in purpose to eliminate and eradicate this awful virus that has infected not only our bodies, but our lives.

It has been incredible to witness the heroics of so many in our communities as we have faced the pandemic and world calamities (earthquakes and tornados, etc.).  Our hearts fill with gratitude as we see a world come together through something that can’t be seen but only felt.

As someone who already suffers from mental illness and the effects of isolation that it can bring,  I feel a deep compassion for those who have never experienced those feelings who now will find themselves in deep depressions.  Whether from loss, unemployment, isolation, financial struggles or family dysfunction which may have become front and center. Or those who will suffer PTSD from witnessing the most horrible experiences one can imagine. 

But I will forever be an optimist.  I know that we CAN come together as a nation and as a world to fight this horrible disease.  We can make our world whole again by the kindness and love and the attitude with which we choose to move forward.

Will it be easy?  Absolutely not. We have all experienced something that will forever be implanted in our very souls.  Something horrendous. But out of the ashes rises the Phoenix! We can rise as a nation/world. We can rebuild our world and each other instead of tearing each other down.

We can spread love and kindness and come together in a way that no one anticipated a few short months ago. We can find that “new normal” together.  We can build a new world from the love and common ground that we’ve found through the most tragic of events.  

We have been told that it may be much longer than anyone thought that we will be in this situation.  Both fighting for our lives and fighting to stay healthy. But through this time there are still ways that we can reach out.  There are still ways that we can stay healthy and maintain a good attitude. And with the Lord’s help we will conquer this pandemic while simultaneously building stronger families, friendships and communities.

Revelation Chapter 21

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new

A new normal? Yes.  But possibly a better way of life? Most definitely!

All my love,

XO Wendy