Good morning! Well actually…it didn’t start off as a good morning. It started off like this: (you can listen to it in a little more detail by clicking on the podcast link.)
It started out with my usual morning routine.
Journal entry: “I’m tired today. And feeling just kind of blah. I think I slept pretty good. But my motivation is pretty much drained. It’s frustrating to me that I can just wake up and feel yucky for no good reason. I hate bipolar! I hate that it’s just always there. I hate that despite trying so hard to do all the right things that it just is there… If I miss a workout or maybe eat the wrong foods or my sleep is off a little. It’s just frustrating and I hate that I am broken.
Luckily God restores broken… eventually. And I know This, but hard days are just HARD. And there is just no way of getting away from that.
Gratitude: Grateful I have a husband who tries to understand and catches me when I fall.”
Scripture Journal: (still distracted and trying to sort things out) “I guess I should have seen it coming. It’s kind of like a freight train… I can’t hear it until it gets close and starts blaring the whistle, and then its too late. It’s already here. And I have to back track and ask why? What did I do different? Why is it coming or happening now? And a part of me just wants to go back to bed and not deal with these feelings of despair and worthlessness. I hate it and I hate that my children will probably have to deal with it at some point.
A thought comes to my mind. I will not leave you comfortless. And suddenly I have to find the scripture that those words come from. It’s palpable, I desperately need to find it. I go to my phone, the Gospel Library App. I click it open….and there it is staring me so hard in the face that I had to take a screenshot to prove to myself that this actually happened. It clicked right to comfortless: will not leave you comfortless, John 14:18!
I must have been in the topical guide when I last studied but I don’t remember searching this topic. But God knew. He knew that I would need this today.
This is what I wrote after to document my experience: Sometimes we go to God and sometimes He comes to us. That’s how I felt this morning. I could feel the depression settling in like a black storm cloud that I have grown accustomed to feeling. Waiting to enfold me in its blackness. And just when the tears began to fall and I was feeling so alone, I had a thought. Not my thought. It was the spirit sending me this message. “I will not leave you comfortless”… Where is that scripture I thought and I grabbed for my phone to look it up in the Topical guide to search it out. And then… a miracle.
I don’t know how He does it. I guess because He is God and He knows what we need when we need it. It was almost as if He was saying… No really– I won’t. You see it was the VERY FIRST thing that popped up when I opened the app. I didn’t even search it out. Staring up at me from the phone was the word comfortless, will not leave you comfortless, it read. And the scripture reference. Here’s the screen shot I had to take to remind myself how quickly God works sometimes. I couldn’t believe that for some crazy reason, it just happened to be on that exact page when I needed it the most. I needed to know that He knows where I’m at and what I’m feeling. And He was reminding me with absolutely no room to even doubt, that He does. He really does know me individually and wants what’s best for me.
And for you as well! You are His and He is yours.
As I thought about that word and that promise I am reminded of the covenants that I renew each week in church as I partake of His sacraments. (I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and we do this each week to remind us of the covenants that we made with the Lord when we were baptized.) I promise that I will keep His commandments that I will always remember Him, that I will take His name upon me. And then He promises me that I will ALWAYS have His spirit to be with me.
As I contemplated on that I realized that promise is one of the greatest promises that we can have. It’s no wonder or no mistake that those prayers are repeated to us every single week. He wants us to know without room at all to doubt…. that He will never, ever, even in our darkest moments, that He will not leave us comfortless. That we will ALWAYS have His spirit to be with us.
I think I may have to frame that scripture to remind me daily that I am worthy of His comfort. I am His and even through the times in our days and in our lives, He says, “I will not leave you comfortless and the final phrase of the scripture….. I WILL COME TO YOU!”
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Today we are talking about light. And boy, don’t we all need a little light in our life these days?
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 us have faced together, many have had to face the normal day to day challenges and inevitable trials that unexpectedly would come our way in our so-called “normal” pre-Covid life.
As I have been struggling, I have been searching for ways to pull myself out of the funk that I have been in. To find the light. Sometimes, in this ever darkening world it gets harder and harder to find the light. We start to ask questions such as who am I? Where am I going? What is my mission? Do I even have a mission? Do I matter? What is my purpose in this life? These are questions that we ask ourselves in times of darkness. Or when we are really struggling to find the light. The light of Christ. The light within ourselves. The light of others. So how do we answer the tough questions? How do we find the light?
Well wouldn’t you know it as I have been pondering these questions, especially the last couple of weeks, God came through with something that I needed. And maybe you need it too so I thought I’d share. It’s important for me to say that 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.
In Matthew 7:7-8
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
And so I thought I would just put that to the test, as I have on many occasions. It is such a great promise from the Lord. And the Lord will never let us down.
And so I asked Him. Where do I find the light? And when I asked I realized that the first step was exactly what I was doing. To look to the light for answers.
In John 8:12 we read
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
Jesus Christ our Savior is the ultimate example of light and hope. He is the giver of light, the light of the world. So merely by looking to Him and asking Him for help will bring a measure of light that can’t be found elsewhere in this world. How reassuring is that? He is our exemplar and our strength. He is the “light in the darkness”.
From the words of the Psalm 27:1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When we choose to follow him and make Him the center of our lives we are choosing to become like Him. Our fears will be replaced by courage and we will have a desire to reflect that light in our own lives.
In a talk given in October of 2015 by President Thomas S. Monson, says, “To each of you, I say that you are a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. You have come from His presence to live on this earth for a season, to reflect the Savior’s teachings, and bravely let your light shine for all to see.”
Upon reading that, immediately a quote came to mind that I used to repeat over and over when I was practicing daily affirmations (which is probably a practice I should return to. It can be so helpful.), it goes like this “There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it!”
How do we find the light again? The way is simple, we can find our light again by looking to the Savior for guidance and peace and by following the path he marked for us.
President Monson goes on to say “Life is perfect for none of us, and at times the challenges and difficulties we face may become overwhelming, causing our light to dim. However, with help from our Heavenly Father, coupled with the support from others, we can regain that light which will illuminate our own path once again and provide the light others may need.”
So then I thought about the mirror or reflection, and I was reminded of the scripture from the sermon on the mount.
Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.
And then in 1 Timothy 4:12… but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
So in essence we draw our strength, our light, from the Savior and then reflect that light to those around us. And you know the crazy thing about that is that when we do that, the light comes back to us. It’s like a boomerang effect. The more you throw out light, love, peace, kindness, the more you are filled with it yourself.
I have thought about this phenomenon and also of the opposite which would come from the adversary. Satan would have us remain in isolation, loneliness, and darkness. Questioning ourselves and what our purpose is. He would love nothing more than to have us succumb to depression, to anger, to bitterness. But that’s not who we were meant to be. That’s not who we were created to be.
We were created to be lovers of light. Lovers of “The Light” our Savior who completed the ultimate sacrifice for us. Who suffered for all the hurt, pain, and loneliness that we feel. We were created to be givers of light! Our purpose is unquestionable in my opinion. Our purpose as believers of our Savior is to bring that light of Christ to others. That’s it, that’s our purpose!
Now our mission or our calling is different and that’s a whole other show. So we can talk about that another time.
But, our purpose is to remember that there are two ways of spreading that light, the light of Christ. To be the candle, OR the mirror that reflects it. That’s the boomerang effect. We can BE the light to others. But, we can also REFLECT that light that is given to us through others’ light. It’s so cool how that works! Whatever you send out into the world be it love, kindness, peace, it is going to bounce back to you!
Unfortunately, the boomerang effect can work in the opposite way as well concerning darkness. If we dish it out negativity, ill will, anger, and contention, we get it back. That is not God’s way. There is only one place that all of that comes from. And that is Satan. He would have us believe that evil is good, and good is evil. Isaiah warns of this when he says in Isaiah 5:20
20 ¶ Woe unto them that call evilgood, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
But let’s not dwell on this because it truly is not God’s way.
President Monson went on to say. “each of us came to earth having been given the light of Christ. As we follow the example of the Savior and live as He lived and as He taught, that light will burn within us and will light the way for others.”
Now I am going to get a little vulnerable and tell you an experience about how letting your light shine affected me in such a big, big way.
When I went through my divorce 10 yrs ago, I really struggled. It was a terrible time trying to figure out what to do and where to go next. And I was bitter. I’m not going to lie about that. I had friends that I felt abandoned me when I needed them most. But I tried really hard not to let that influence my decisions, but it truly did shake my faith. It was one of the reasons that I walked away from my church. I felt that if that was the way members of my faith acted when someone needed them most, then that wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of. I felt that the people in the church should be that reflection of what we preached about each week. Of our Savior. And I knew that my Savior would never treat me that way. I moved out of the area and subsequently went to a different building of the same faith. I was welcomed there but I still felt that touch of judgement when people learned of my divorce. But I kept going because I knew my Savior didn’t feel that way about me. I tried so hard to stay close to my Savior. But it got harder and harder as I felt more and more ostresized. Looking back, it wasn’t so much their fault as it was mine. I could have been more forgiving of the way that I was treated. But I was hurting and sometimes when people are hurting they don’t look at things in a logical way.
Any way, When I moved to Nashville in 2012 there was a certain woman who truly stood out as a light for me from the Savior. She lived in my neighborhood and every time that I did come to church (and it wasn’t that often) she made sure that I knew that she knew that I was there. She reached out and tried to find things in common. She was a lifeline making a mark on my life that literally saved it, when the time came. When I went through my health problems, she was the one that I knew I could reach out to. She was the one that I knew, no matter what she was doing, would drop everything to come to my rescue. And she did. When I suffered through my two back to back times in the hospital she was there to help pick up the pieces. She probably didn’t even know how much her small acts of kindness changed my heart. Many, many times I remember her being so friendly and kind and doing her best to make me feel welcome and loved. She was such a light in my life when I really, really needed it.
Looking back, I can’t blame those friends for not reaching out. Sometimes we encounter awkward situations where we just don’t know how to respond or what to do. But what I have learned through this experience is that it really doesn’t matter how small your gesture. A phone call, a text, a smile, a hug can all go a very long way when someone is going through something difficult and just needs to see a tiny sliver of light.
I can speak from experience when I say it’s not an easy process to find your way back to the light. To trust in and look to the Savior. It takes time, it takes faith, it takes healing. But I promise you that if you can do that, if you can put your trust in Him, He will bring the light back into your life again. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. There’s always a way!
As your faith in Jesus Christ grows and you glean from his example the light can’t help but shine through you. You will be able to help not only yourself, but others who “labour and are heavy laden” to find rest in Him and to find peace. And especially to find that light in themselves again! Because oftentimes that is where the real struggle is.
So…turn to the Savior! Find your light again. And then ask yourself, what kind of mark will I make in the lives of those around me? What kind of light will I hold up? What kind of reflection will I be?
Put some real thought into those questions. Journal about them. Write down your journey towards finding your light. And then, remember all of this as we approach this season of giving and of love when we remember the birth of our Savior. When we come upon a new year and take time to re-evaluate our lives and our priorities. What kinds of changes can you make that will help you to rekindle that light in yourself? And then how can you use that as a boomerang effect so you continue receiving more light? Because if you can do that, I promise you that you will have an endless supply of light in your lamp when the time comes that you really need it. And you will have ample to share with others along the way!
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.
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!
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?
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.
Bipolar disorder (BPD), is a big part of my life, whether I like it or not (…Not!). However I have to give it credit for being a catalyst for so much good and positive change in my life. That’s right! When it all boils down, I am grateful for the disorder for helping me to grow toward becoming a more positive, healthy, empathetic, and gratuitous person.
I still have a journey ahead of me, of course, but I am happy with how far I have come. When I look back at the road less traveled (or maybe I should say less acknowledged), I can see the many times that BPD has been a blessing in my life.
The annual report of the state of mental health in America, came out today and while I was pleased to see that substance use disorder has dropped some, it is clear that we have a lot more work to do in bringing awareness to mental illness and suicide prevention. I hope that my posts have had some effect in bringing that awareness to others.
Here are just a few of the reasons that I have found, to see my illness as a blessing. It is worth mentioning there is always the flip side of the coin but in this post I want to stick to the positives.
GET Stuff Done! While I had severe bouts with depression when my kids were little (I had four within 7 years!), I credit being able to get A LOT of stuff done to the manic side of BPD. I remember being called the “energizer bunny” because I could accomplish so many projects in a day. It probably wasn’t the healthiest way to get things done. But when my kids were little and required so much time and attention I was able to give them what they needed. And as they got older and all had different schedules and activities, I was able to get them all where they needed to be when they needed to be there, keep a house of order, cook and clean and stay organized. I often look back and wonder how I did it all! Now I know.
More Empathetic. Not that I wasn’t always a caring person, it’s been in my nature to care for others since I was little. I had a mother that was a great example of this. However, being diagnosed with a mental illness, especially one as serious as the one that I have, has helped me to recognize the loneliness that people with mental illnesses experience. We all feel like no one understands and that no one knows what we are going through. We withdraw and retreat into ourselves because of that. But I want you to know that you are NEVER EVER alone. I see you! And so do a lot of others out there who have struggled with similar disorders. And Jesus Christ KNOWS exactly what you have and will experience, because he descended below it all for you and for me! Jesus will always have your back.
I Know in Whom I trust. Speaking of Jesus Christ, I would never have come to know my Savior in the way that I now do if it hadn’t been for what I have gone through on my road to better health. One of my favorite scriptures came to me in a time when I was most in need. Jeremiah 29:11 says: ForI know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Whenever I was down or was having a particularly hard day (which there have plenty of), I looked to that scripture and remembered that my Lord is always aware of me and knows my needs and wants the best outcome for me.
Live in Gratitude Daily. That probably sounds strange to some people, especially to those who suffer with debilitating illnesses. But I have learned that keeping a daily gratitude journal is one of the best practices that one can do for physical, spiritual and mental well being. Sometimes I may have to dig deep to find the tender mercies of a day. But when I do, I am always filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the life that I have blessed with, illness and all.
Appreciate the Really Good Days. I’ll be the first one to admit that there are some really, really hard days when dealing with these types of illnesses. There are days when you feel like you can’t go on, that it is all too hard and you can’t survive another day. Even though I am on medication and am in a better spot than I have ever been in, I still have bad days. However, it makes me appreciate, really truly appreciate. Every. Single. Day. That I am alive. That I am here and that I can share and help others who may have similar experiences. My good days are something to be celebrated. And celebrate I do, with every day I live I am grateful for having been blessed with BPD. It has made my life fuller and richer in so many ways.