A choice to make

Well hello again! I can’t believe it’s been nearly 3 months since my life began to rock a little. But I am back and happy to be here.

So let’s start this out right. Good morning! And welcome to the pointing toward hope podcast I am Wendy Bertagnolli and this is episode 32.

I have to say that sometimes when I think I’ve got it all figured out, God steps in and says, no, I have something else in store for you. And when that happens I am almost always caught a little off guard by it. As most of us usually are.

Back in April when I was posting daily, I was on a great run. I was so prepared, things seemed to be flowing freely and I was doing so well with the blog and podcast that I was able to stay a week ahead (which I thought was fabulous). Until that last week. I had completed 3 podcasts for the next week.

But for some reason they just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel good about them and so I decided not to post them and see if something esle came to mind that felt right. Nothing ever did. But I am so glad that I didn’t delete them because now is definitely the time the Lord intended for them to be heard/read.

I have said so many times that I feel like a lot of this process of doing the podcast and writing the posts is mostly for myself. It’s very therapeutic for me. But I also want to extend the things that I learn on this journey with others.

Living with Bipolar, and really, walking this journey of life in general, is much more difficult to do alone. But in this particular case there was definitely something that I was supposed to learn.

Over the past 3 months since I stopped posting it has been quite the roller coaster. If you’d like to jump back to episode 31 and take a listen, I talked about the Lord catching you when you fall. Well I think He was giving me a little heads up. It’s time to practice what you preach! Lucky me!

To my credit, one of the reasons that I let the posts go for a while was because I was starting to become more stressed and worried about it than I would have liked to have been. I was worried about staying on schedule. I would ask myself: Was I getting the right message out? How can I market this so that more people who need it can get to it? And #1 on my mind was how do I find the right people to interview that will be willing to share their experiences with others in the hopes that it might lift and help another. Because I think that’s so important when it comes to the trials of life that we endure. When we share what we’ve overcome, it can be someone else’s survival guide.

All of that was just weighing heavy on my mind and I realized that I just needed to let it all go for a minute and focus on my health.

Stress, as you may recall from episode 6 Habits to adopt for good mental health, is a major catalyst in pushing someone with bipolar ll toward a manic episode so I have to be super careful about that. If you have’t listened to that one, I highly recommend going to check it out.

As I mentioned in episode 31 I talked about trusting the Lord enough to let Him catch you when you fall. But looking back, I may have been a little slow on the uptake of that one! Things started happening that were signals that I was slowly progressing towards the manic side of the scale.

One thing that most people might not know about Bipolar, is that when tiny little incidences occur it is easy for them to go unnoticed. Especially to the person who is experiencing them. It’s quite common that they don’t recogize these things in themselves. But hopefully, they have a good support system or caretaker in place that will likely pick up on these things long before it becomes a problem.

That’s what happened in my case. Now it’s really important to note that when confronted by your caretaker it may come as an unwelcome blow. I mean we already feel that we are “broken” and to have someone tell you that there are some cracks becoming visible, can be hard to take when you think you feel great!

It may seem like they are trying to take that good feeling away from you. And some people become somewhat argumentative, depending upon their nature of course. But, it is in these times that you need to be so full of trust with your main caretaker as well as with your Savior. You have to have so much trust that He’s got you in the palm of His hands. Always!

Having my caretaker (my husband) intervene is where the lesson began for me.

The rest of this podcast and the following 3 (which will be posted every other day) were previously recorded the week that I didn’t feel good about posting them.

The episode after that will be my experience of looking back to what came after that to see where things started to become unbalanced.

I will say that this episode may be a bit of a trigger for those of you who suffer with trauma. I think I did a pretty good job of maintaining composure enough to get the message across. But it was certainly a very down day for me, as you may pick up on.

You might also think (after listening to all 4 episodes) that everything with me seemed fine. Which for the most part it was. But after that last week things began to deteriorate slowly but steadily. And over the following few months it was clear to my husband that something was wrong and it was time to intervene.

I tell you this because, to anyone else (including myself) I would have seemed completely normal and put together. But now, being able to look back, I can see clearly the path that I was on.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here because I will get into that in episode 36. In that episode I will be as real and as raw as I can about what bipolar and the progression toward manic episodes is really like. So stay tuned for that.

With all that in mind enjoy the next few episodes. Once they are finished my posts will become a little more sporadic. 1x a week to monthly or bi monthly is my goal. Because I have most definitely learned my lesson that self care and my mental health must always be at the forefront of my mind. Ok here we go!

I lay here in the dark and I think of you in a beautiful garden. Exhausted from your work here on Earth. As you kneel near the rock, under the tree, I see you open your hands to the Heavens. And the words start to pour out of your mouth. It’s as if He’s right there, your Father, knowing what has to come next.

I begin to weep as I realize that the pain you must suffer is in some small part, due to me and my choices, to the decisions that I made, that I made a clear choice to create. The tears come freely now as I begin to understand that it is not just my choices, but my pain, my life, my illness that you so clearly will experience in these moments of the most awful act anyone could ever endure. 

 I am torn…on the one hand I feel the utter disgust at the decisions, the choices, I made that are causing you pain in this moment.  Yet on the other hand, I feel the most incredible feeling of love and peace knowing that YOU love ME enough to do this for ME.  Who am I?  I am not learned, or important, or worth the pain that you are suffering at my expense. 

I watch as you begin to cry.  It’s as if I can feel your tears on my open hands.  They fall in great droplets of pain and empathy and I am taken in great waves of grief. How could this happen?  Why is this happening?  Who would allow this to happen?  And then I remember with great clarity, that this…. THIS was part of the plan.  His plan, to save us all.  

I hear the words ring in my ears that you speak aloud.

John 17:1-4

1 … Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

For a moment I am taken back to the fight.  The fight for this plan to save us all. This eternal plan.  And I remember it is in large part about our choices.  Something called agency.  Some call it “free” agency.  But it is not FREE, it comes at a cost.  A cost you so freely give

In the Book of Mormon we read in

Alma 7:11–13

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

In D. Todd Christofferson’s talk Free forever to act for themselves.

He said “It is God’s will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, that we be free from the humiliating limitations of poverty and the bondage of sin, that we enjoy self-respect and independence, that we be prepared in all things to join Him in His celestial kingdom.”

He goes on to say,

“I am under no illusion that this can be achieved by our own efforts alone without His very substantial and constant help. “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”  And we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency. My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with.”

I see Him there.  Bleeding and in pain and I think of the many who suffer due to a choice that they did not choose.  For those that do, it’s comforting to know that we have a Savior, who lives, who loves us, and who suffered the unspeakable, so that we can know joy again, no matter our circumstance.

I turn away as the pain is too much to bear.  And then I am back, in my bed, laying in the dark and my pillow is wet with the tears that I wept.  And I realize that I do have a choice.  In this moment of sadness and pain.  I do have a choice, because of you, my Savior, my brother, my redeemer, my friend.  And I silently thank you, once again for allowing me to remember that I am not alone.

XO Wendy

Cast thy burden upon the Lord

I am going to tell you about my very first real experience with true grace in my life.  I was around 27-28 years old.  And had a growing, flourishing family.  I had 4 children that were under the age of around 8.  

I had struggled with depression for some time at this point and quite frankly,I just needed a break from all the chaos just for a little while. It was a beautiful Sunday morning  And so I did something that I really never did at that time.  I faked sick and had my husband take the children to church.  

I really didn’t fake it totally.  Depression is most definitely a sickness.  But on this particular day, I just felt like if I didn’t get a break, I wasn’t going to make it one more day.  Just to be clear, I was not suicidal, I just needed time to regroup.  And 3 glorious hours to myself, sounded heavenly!  At that time in the history of our church we spent 3 hours on the sabbath worshipping our Savior in the church building.

I  was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday saints, and so I’d had many experiences learning about repentance, forgiveness and grace.  But had only applied it to my life in a few instances.  I thought that repentance was for the really wrong things that you had done in your life, not something that I needed to do on a continual basis.  I know, pretty naive. 

Now I feel like repentance, forgiveness, and grace, are kind of like learning to ride a bike.  At first it might be difficult and you may be a little wobbly and require trainging wheels to begin with.  But once you learn, and those training wheels come off, you never forget the feeling of freedom you have,  I know that because I was a bit of a slow learner.  

I didn’t learn to ride a bike without training wheels until I was about 7 and all my friends had already learned.  It was one of my best friends in the neighborhood who taught me how on her little red bike.  I had gotten a cool shwinn with a basket for Christmas but it was a bit big for me still, which I think is why it took me longer.  My friend Shelly, was so patient. She taught me how to balance and get my footing.  She would walk with me each time we tried.  And when I fell, she would get on the bike and show me the way again.  

It wasn’t long before she was running beside me to catch me if I fell.  But I had it down now, I was so proud!  It was an exhilarating feeling, the wind in my hair and the gratitude that comes with accomplishment of something difficult.

Now let’s go back to Sunday that I faked sick.  Just to give a little context, I had been a bit of a wild teenager.  I had some rebellious years where I made a lot of stupid choices, as teenagers sometimes do.  But by this time I had already taken care of those experiences through the repentance process.  But I had a hard time forgiving myself for the stupid choices that I made during that time in my life.  It seemed it would crop up and make me feel like I didn’t take care of it properly, or that I somehow wasn’t worthy to have the grace promised by the Savior.  

Of course now I know, that all of that was just the adversary trying to keep me from moving forward and progressing.  He really does that!  He will try everything, especially when you are being obedient to the covenants that you have made with the Lord.  His greatest joy is to have power over you. 

On that Sunday morning, I happened to be feeling especially unworthy, I had just skipped church for no good reason. And made my husband take on that responsibility, knowing that it would be difficult to keep all 4 children under control and get them to where they needed to be, when it was time to go to Sunday school and primary.  That’s what we call the worship for all our little children in our faith.

The longer it went the more guilty I felt.  Even though it was a small thing, Satan began to work on me bringing up all the mistakes of the past and my mistakes and failings as a young parent.  

Finally I opened up my scriptures and in the front of it, nicely folded from age.  Was a blessing that in my church we receive at some point in our lives that we feel is given for direction and to help guide us here in our life on this side of the veil.  It is something that we hold very sacred, specifically given to us, and not to be shared lightly with others.  I hadn’t read mine in quite some time.  I picked up the worn piece of paper and began to read.  The words on the page seemed to jump out at me.  Even though I’d read it dozens of times.  Nuggets of wisdom and strength poured into my worn out mind and even my physical body.  I began to highlight specific phrases and was guided to the parts that made me realize that though I had made all of those mistakes years ago and had taken care of it with the Lord.  I never forgot about it. 

In Isaiah chapter 1 verse 18, we read, Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” 

Again, in the fifty-eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 42, which came with great force to my mind, we read, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”

That scripture came into my mind with such force and I knew that the Lord was telling me, it’s time to forget those things.  I have forgotten them, now it’s your turn to forgive yourself.  He promises us that through the holy ghost He will bring all things to our remembrance.  And at that time I needed to remember that his grace will always be there to catch me when I fall.

I don’t need the training wheels anymore, once I’ve taken them off and released that burden, I can fly forward and go as far and as fast as I want, as long as I remember that His grace will always be with me.  His grace is sufficient. 

Forgiving ourselves for the stupid choices that we make is one of the most glorious parts of grace that the Savior gives us. Psalm 55:22 “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Today my invitation to you is to take that thing that’s holding you back and like the training wheels, throw it out. It is of no use to you anymore. You are His, and He is yours!

Have a great weekend my friends and I will catch you all again next week!

XO, Wendy 

It’s all about love

Today I want to share with you another way that the Savior uses His grace to influence and guide our lives. In his recent conference talk Elder Gary E. Stevenson shares a story about a scientific experiment on bunnies. I am not going to tell the whole story here but I encourage you to go and listen or read it. I will link that in the show notes. It is really quite remarkable. After sharing the story he concluded by saying, “In recent years, Dr. Kelli Harding published a book titled The Rabbit Effect that takes its name from the experiment. Her conclusion: “Take a rabbit with an unhealthy lifestyle. Talk to it. Hold it. Give it affection. … The relationship made a difference. … Ultimately,” she concludes, “what affects our health in the most meaningful ways has as much to do with how we treat one another, how we live, and how we think about what it means to be human.”

Now apply that to the way the Savior taught us.  In the New testament in John 13:34 we are commanded to “love one another as I have loved you,that ye also love one another”. 

But it seems this simple commandment is often overlooked in today’s world. Everywhere we turn we find judgement cast upon others.  Whether it be a disagreement on social media that sparks heated discussions and contentious encounters with people we may not even know, to neglect and abandoment of those who may be less fortunate or afflicted in such a way that we feel repelled by them.  And so we fear getting involved.  That is not Christ’s way!  

If we are to be true disciples of our Lord and Savior, we will do everything we can to lift up the hands that hang down to mourn with those that mourn. To love those that despitefully use you and persecute you.  None of us are any better than another.  We are all God’s children and we all deserve the love of a God that LOVES ALL of his children deeply.  

Yes, some are harder to love than others but that is not our call to make.  We are commanded to love one another as I have loved you.  It’s not optional.  We are commanded to share the grace that we have found through the Savior with everyone that we encounter.  Jesus spent his days with those who were deemed unloveable.  But he took them by the hand, picked them up, and loved them until they were whole again.

I’ve told you before that I believe a lot of what I share here is for my own benefit, so don’t think for a minute that I don’t struggle at times with this commandment. 

We are human, we are going to make mistakes and hurt people.  That’s part of how life is on this side of the veil.  But I think we owe it to our Savior who gives us so much grace, more than we could ever handle, to then turn that grace, that strength that love to someone in desperate need of the “rabbit effect”.  

Elder Stevenson goes on to say, “We have a primary responsibility to set a tone and be role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility—to teach Christlike behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act. It is especially important as we observe a marked societal shift toward division in politics, social class, and nearly every other man-made distinction.

The Lord expects us to teach that inclusion is a positive means toward unity and that exclusion leads to division.”

My invitation to you today, is to soften your heart.  Open your eyes to see and your ears to hear those around you that are suffering or are in need of the grace that our Lord promises.  Love them, include them, give them the “rabbit effect”.  And then watch how the Savior’s grace will not only descend upon them, but upon you as well.

Have a great day my friends.  And we’ll do it all again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

Courage to Forgive

Today I want to talk to you about something that is really, really, difficult to do.  Especially when you feel like you’ve been wronged or betrayed in some way.  But if you can “just let that go” your life will be so much better!

President Gordan B. Hinckley once said A spirit of forgiveness and an attitude of love and compassion toward those who may have wronged us is of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us has need of this spirit. The whole world has need of it. The Lord taught it. He exemplified it as none other has exemplified it.”

I’m going to be real and share a story with you about my own experience with forgiveness.  It is an experience that affected my life in a much larger way than it needed to and one that I’m not proud of.   It took me nearly 15 years to forgive someone who I felt had wronged me in a deep and personal way. And sadly, it all happened because of gossip!

It involved a very dear and loved friend of mine.  She was actually like a sister to me.  We talked everyday on the phone, we were partners in a great “adventure”, and spent time with eachother’s families.  We were nearly inseparable. She meant the world to me.  But, sadly, I chose to walk away from her over something someone told me that she had been doing behind my back for years.  

I was devastated!  I was heartsick, but most of all I just felt betrayed.  How could she do such a thing?  But at the time puzzle pieces began to fall into place of why others had treated me in such a negative way.  I was told she had twisted my words and turned them into lies so that others would think poorly of me. This person went so far as to give me specific experiences, people, places, and things that had happened.  How could I not believe them?  They had proof, or so it seemed.  I immediately confronted her with it over the phone.  She had no explanation.  She denied it all, sobbing uncontrollably that she would never do such a thing.  But it all made so much sense to me about the way I had been treated through our little joint “adventure”, that I didn’t even give her a chance.  I was so hurt and so angry. So I did the worst thing anyone can ever do to someone they love.  I walked away. 

I cried for days over our lost friendship.  And the lies grew easier to believe. Our adventure had ended and I moved on with my life.  Or so I thought. 

For years and years I would play the scene in my head.  How could she hurt me that way?  She was so dear to me.  Why would she do it?  She was my friend.  How did I not see it?  Night after night I would think of how much I missed her friendship.  Over the years the pain faded but I would think about it often and would grieve again for the loss of such a dear friend.

Then years later, when I was returning to the fold of Christ I realized that it was time. Truth is, it was way past time.  It was time for me to just let it all go.  It was the only way to move forward and be free of the pain.  So one night I mustered up all the courage in the world and I sent her a heartfelt plea to forgive me for not giving her the chance to explain.  I told her how sorry I was. And that I was wrong for behaving the way that I did.  And that I hoped someday she could forgive me for behaving in that way. It certainly was not Christlike.  I told her how much I missed our friendship and that I hoped she was doing good.  And then I pressed send, not expecting to hear anything in return.

When I hit that button I felt peace flood over me for the first time in all those years.  No matter what had really happened I was no longer going to let it hold space in my life going forward.  It is not God’s way to carry such feelings in our hearts.  The only place that comes from is the adversary.  He wants nothing more than for us to live with regrets, remorse, anger, and hurt.  Because then, he wins.  Don’t let him win!  You may not be able to control other’s agency to act in the way that they do, but you can control your agency! Have the courage to use your agency to forgive and move on with your life. There are bright things awaiting you.

Do you want to know the craziest part of this whole experience.  A couple of days later, I received a message back from my long lost friend.  I was afraid to open it.  

But I think her words are the best way to end this podcast.  (I hope she won’t mind).  The message read:

“I too am sorry for the way things ended up between us. I do apologize from the bottom of my heart for the heartache I caused you. I NEVER, EVER would have done anything to intentionally cause you harm or heartache. In fact to this day… I’m not even sure what the whole-what’s, when’s or how’s this situation all happened?!?! What I do know is we all made mistakes and then our friendship was over. It broke my heart too. 

As for forgiving you…I pray you can forgive me of the heartache I caused you?! I am so deeply sorry! All I know is… life is too short to hold on to any grudges. We need to put our arms around each other and push forward. Just so you know… I’ve always held you in high regard and have always considered you my friend. Even though we’ve had this little “hiccup” I let it go along time ago. You will always be considered a friend and my heart and door are always open to you. ….There’s no need to ask for forgiveness or worry about this anymore. You have always been good in my book.”

How’s that for Christ like behavior?!  She definitely is great women in the body of Christ! She taught me the true meaning of forgiveness that day.  It’s all about love!

So today my invitation to you is to muster up the courage to use your agency to forgive someone that has hurt you.  It may not end the way that mine did.  But I promise you that if you will just let go, and let God take the wheel.  It will bring a peace to your soul that can not be matched!

Have a great day my friends.  Talk to you all again tomorrow!

XO Wendy