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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

Questions to Ponder…

What would the Savior do?  What would He say?  How would he handle this particular circumstance?

These are the questions that I pondered this week as my social media feed filled with the opinions and thoughts of others concerning a certain large event that took place over the weekend.   I am sure you can guess what it was and I don’t feel the need to name what it was because of the controversy that has been stirred up over it.

I thought I could stay silent like the many that have.  Or I could join in with the rationalizations that are happening.  Or I could have the courage to take a stand.  “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”, is a quote that I grew up believing in.

Nevertheless, I am just going to drop this here and you can do with it what you will.  Just like everyone that has voiced an opinion, this is merely my opinion.  You don’t have to agree with it.  That’s the great thing about opinions and discussions.  They are food for thought.  Then you get to take those thoughts and figure out where you stand and what you will do with it.

Over these past few days there has been a portion of a talk that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.  President Nelson shared this talk at the General Women’s conference last October.  I am posting it here so you don’t have to go digging for it. I had to go back and listen again because there was one statement that kept rolling around in my head.

“…my dear sisters, your ability to discern truth from error, to be society’s guardians of morality, is crucial in these latter days. And we depend upon you to teach others to do likewise. Let me be very clear about this: if the world loses the moral rectitude of its women, the world will never recover.

I remember the seriousness in his tone as he spoke those words.  He began that thought by stating the following:

“Now a little word of warning. There are those who would undermine your ability to call upon the power of God. There are some who would have you doubt yourself and minimize your stellar spiritual capacity as a righteous woman…

…Satan and his minions will constantly contrive roadblocks to prevent you from understanding the spiritual gifts with which you have been and can be blessed.”

I don’t want to say too much about my personal experience with my own thoughts and ponderings this week, because the idea of me even writing this is to get you to take a look at your own thoughts and what your heart and mind is telling you.

I personally have many mixed thoughts and could actually sit on both sides of the fence.  But what it all boils down to for me is this:

Where do we draw the line?  When do we say enough is enough?  If I am uncomfortable with something, do I have the moral fortitude to turn away from it?

So yes, I personally was completely offended by what I saw and witnessed and feel awful that I didn’t walk away.  I have learned the lesson that I personally was meant to learn.  That in the future when something like this happens, I just have to be strong enough to  “say no to some things, even though they may seem harmless.” (President Nelson).

I’m not naive, I know that this is a completely different world than the one I grew up in or even the one that I raised my children in.  However, when something happens that causes so much controversy and so many opinions, you have to check yourself and where you stand!  Even if it’s not popular and even if it’s a little uncomfortable.

Just a side note, for those of you that have a different opinion.  I completely respect you for having the courage to stand for what you believe in.

XO Wendy

Here is the talk:  the quotes I spoke of come around the the 6:10 mark.

 

 

Coming back…

“…in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.” President Russell M. Nelson remarked in 2018 General Conference.

This particular passage came into my mind with such force this morning.  I don’t know why. I’ve learned not to question. But to allow things like this to marinate a little and wash over me.  What is the reason? What is the purpose for this? Maybe a reminder to not take my experiences for granted. Because there was a time when I did just that.  Took it all for granted.  

We are all a constant work in progress.  Trying to live each day in the best way we know how.  Despite the many setbacks, trials, sicknesses, and other life events that we encounter, we push forward to find a way…. Our way.  

My way is certainly not the best way, but it’s my way, my journey. And your way, is your journey.  And no matter the circumstances we face in our lives, part of living is learning to enjoy and even flourish amidst all that we face in these confusing and sometimes dark days.  

Pain is part of it. Joy is part of it.  Tears and heartache are part of it. Success and conquering are all part of this journey!

This blog is my story, my life, my journey.  I can’t change anything for you in your personal life.  Only YOU can do that. But as I have mentioned in many of the posts I have written.  You don’t have to do it alone. You are NEVER, EVER alone!

Sometimes it may feel like it.  Sometimes it may feel like Heaven’s doors are shut and locked to many of us.  We want to know and to hear and understand, but sometimes (and I’m just speaking from my own experiences here), it is not the Lord that walks away from us.  We distance ourselves from Him. Not in a completely intentional way but in an “I’m not sure this is what I want in my life right now,” sort of way. I just want to find out for myself.”  And I am here to suggest that this is EXACTLY what you need to do. Find out for yourself!  

No one can get you to feel or grow and progress spiritually except for you. And it takes work.  You can’t just expect to have all the answers laid out in a neat little package for you. But questioning is part of that work. And though it may feel as though Heaven is closed, believe me when I say, those windows and doors are wide open, waiting to pour out blessings upon you.

We do have to ask, seek, knock in order for those answers to come. And it is hard.  He never said it would be easy, only that it would be worth it! 

Several years ago (It’s been almost 8 years to be exact), I found myself in a position of questioning and struggling with things of a spiritual nature.  I would ask myself (and sometimes others) the impossible questions. Why faith? Why is everything predicated upon faith? If there is a God, why do bad things happen to good people?  Why are there starving people in the world? Why is there so much sickness and despair and natural disasters? If there is a God, why can’t I feel Him, why does He talk to others but not me?  And where is my “beyond a doubt” moment? And so many other relevant questions that many of you are asking yourselves right now.

I certainly do not have all the answers.  I am a work in progress, just like everyone else.  I only see it the way that it happened for me. As it is for all of us.

When I left the Church that I was raised in, I walked away from a culture.  I walked away from a “building”. I walked away from what I knew at the time.  I slowly moved away from my Savior, (even though I didn’t believe that at the time).

But when I came back, I came back because my Savior found me. He found ME. Though I was lost, HE went out looking for me.  He left the other sheep to find the ONE. I don’t know how or why it happened for me the way that it did. I don’t know why that passage came to me with such force this morning.  I’m still not sure. Maybe the good shepherd is out there looking for YOU.  Perhaps I am just the messenger.

I know you are struggling right now to find answers.  Your road will not be easy.

My road was NOT an easy road.  And to have it to do over again… I’m sure I would have pleaded to find another way.  A way that wasn’t as painful and full of struggles as it was. But in that same breath, I have learned and grown in ways I never could have imagined.  Ways that I never would have if my road had been different.  

He heals me every day that I allow him to.  He carries me when the days are long and hard.  He finds me when I get lost for a moment. He LOVES me without condition.  He is my strength when I feel weak. He is my hope when I feel despair. He brings me so much joy and peace.  He found ME but in HIM I find my peace, strength, love, hope, and healing. He is my Savior and redeemer.  

This is my story, it is my journey, my life.  And through it all He WAS there. Even when I thought He wasn’t.  He WAS THERE! For ME. The ONE!

And he will be there for YOU too!

XO 

Wendy

Matthew 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Faith, Trust, Courage

Sometimes, in fact most times, it’s difficult to have the courage to face hard things.  Everyday, I wake up and know that I have to do hard things to keep my health in check. For example, working out (which sometimes I just really don’t wanna!), making healthy food choices, (when I really want something full of sugar, like ice cream) and getting good rest (when what I really want is to stay up late and finish that book!). 

From the outside those may not seem like things that particularly take courage.  Or faith or trust. But living with mental illness (or any illness or hard thing) and knowing that every day might bring something that totally changes everything, takes courage to face.

Especially this time of year when night comes quickly and the weather is gloomy. 

I have been so impressed by Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, even more so than usual as I have begun to ponder and pray about the story of his family this year in the Come follow me manual.

Nephi was courageous this was his reply, “I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands.  I know the Lord provides a way, He wants me to obey. (primary songbook, Nephi’s courage)

I have begun to see an overarching theme within Nephi’s personality, or maybe a spiritual gift that he’s been blessed with.

He has the most incredible FAITH in the Lord and then he TRUSTS the Lord with all his heart.  So much so that it gives him the COURAGE to follow through with whatever the Lord asks of him. No questions.

I want to follow that example of Nephi, I can say with confidence, “I will take on this illness, because I have FAITH and TRUST that the Lord will take me through it.  And the COURAGE to believe that I am going to come out on the other side of this a better person.” Even on the days when it’s really, really hard to see the light.

How would your life be different if you had that kind of faith, trust and courage in the Lord?

And on that same trend of thought; The Lord does so much for US.  I mean, sit down and make a list of all the things the Lord has done for YOU in your lifetime.  It’s a pretty long list.

Now ask yourself, what do I DO for HIM?  Do I love Him? And if so, how do I show it?

Just a few things to ponder about today.  And if you feel like it, go back and read Chapters 4 and 17.  So much wisdom to be gained.

 

XO Wendy