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.
“If I may speak to you individually … may I suggest that your personal struggles — your individual sorrows, pains, tribulations, and infirmities of every kind — are all known to our Father in Heaven and to His Son. Take courage! Have faith! And believe in the promises of God!” —Evan A. Schmutz
The reason I started this blog, Pointing toward hope, was twofold. First it was a way for me to document my journey through the trials of being diagnosed Bipolar. But second and even more important to me was that I would be able to help someone else who might be going through similar situations. I felt that if I could help just one person. It would be so worth it. But what I have realized along the way is that we all take our turns on the struggle bus! It doesn’t matter that my particular burden is not the same as yours. We can all help one another to become better, stronger, and most importantly, find hope. So that is what I want to talk about today. Hope!
But first I want to share a scripture that we will talk about a little later but it’s one of my favorites. It comes from the Doctrine and Covenants section 84:88And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.
When I was a young mother, I had just had my fourth child. There were some complications during the birthing process. Consequently my precious tiny boy was rushed to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. For most of the 12 days that he spent in the NICU we wondered if he would be coming home at all. It was heart wrenching to see that tiny little body lay lifeless in the incubator except for the machine that was helping him breath. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with heartache, pain and anguish, blaming myself for something that I may have done during my pregnancy. I had wished so hard for this baby to be born early and now he was, (2 weeks) and at what cost? What had I done? It was a terrifying experience that many young couples experience when their child is born with medical issues. Luckily for us, his stay was brief and we were able to bring him home with just a feeding tube, which he was able to go without, in just a few days of being home.
It wasn’t long after that experience that I started to have some serious postpartum depression. Which eventually moved into full blown manic depression. I had 4 young kids, all under the age of 6! I knew that I needed help. I just wasn’t sure how to find it. And so it went on for several months. I’d had postpartum depression with each of my kids but it had subsided eventually and I’d been able to move forward with life. But this time with the combination of having complications and then 3 other very young children. It just became super overwhelming. I remember one day getting breakfast for my oldest before he would go off to kindergarten. I grabbed a box of cheerios out of the cupboard and it slipped out of my hands and onto the floor scattering cheerios everywhere. I was in such a state of hopelessness and despair that it was like the last straw. I just sat in the middle of the floor and started sobbing. I was screaming at the Lord in my head. Why? Why is this happening? Why aren’t you helping me? How do I go forward when everything just seems so out of control?
Finally after what seemed like an eternity (but was probably just a few minutes), my 4 year old daughter came into the kitchen. She looked at the mess and then she put her hand on my shoulder, she climbed into my lap and hugged me and said “It’s ok mommy.” And at that moment I felt the Lord’s arms encircling me in His love. In a few minutes my daughter got up and she started picking up cheerios one by one. (lol). That was going to take a while, I thought.
Eventually I was able to get up and clean up the mess, get breakfast and take my son to school. Which was another major chore with 3 other littles that couldn’t be left alone. So I would have to pack up car seats and buckle them all in and just everything that goes along with that. But it was tender mercies like that little sliver of light that came from a 4 year old that kept me going. It was around that time period that I realized that I did have a choice. For so long I had believed that this was something that I just had to endure. I hadn’t been clinically diagnosed at that point, but I was familiar enough with postpartum and I believed that was what I was still dealing with. I remember the thought coming to me as clear as a bell one day as I was feeling hopeless and lost. You do have a choice you know? I thought about it again. I do have a choice. I can sit here and live with this horrible feeling of despair and hopelessness OR I could get up and do something about it! I don’t know where the strength came from that day. Maybe it was angels surrounding me bearing me up. But I do know that I realized without a shadow of a doubt in that moment I DID HAVE a CHOICE. And despite what you may think about your own struggles and trials, you also have a choice!
I am privileged to be in many facebook groups and I follow a number of people online that are such an inspiration to me. We didn’t have those back in the day. One woman that I follow has gone through her own struggle these past several years as she lost her husband due to mental illness. I have loved seeing how courageously she has faced this gigantic burden head on. She has since written a book about her experiences and speaks on many podcasts and events. She talked about choice in one of her recent posts and it went along so well with what I have been thinking about that I was to share it with you. Her name is Kayla Steck and the book is called fear gone wild. I haven’t read it yet but I am sure if it is anything like her page, it’s complete inspiration! This is what she said in a recent post. And I want you to insert whatever it is that is your particular struggle where she writes the word death.
“Death (insert struggle) sometimes steals our entire life, but when we hang on, when we push through, when we fight to rebuild again and again and again we are choosing to take back our life.”
I love that because it reminded me of that time that I realized, I do have a choice. I don’t have to live like this. I CAN and will take back my life!
Anyway back to my story. The day that I had that thought about choice was the day that I picked up the phone and made my first appointment with a therapist. I pretty much counted down the days until I was able to go. I was so in need of encouragement and strength. I felt like my life was hanging in the balance. I remember waiting in the lobby to be seen and having all kinds of unfamiliar feelings. Was it going to be good? What would they say? How long would it take? And all the things.
She called me back and we talked about what I’d been going through. I felt strangely comforted to just be able to unload all the pressure and worries and stress that I’d been experiencing to a total stranger who didn’t have any previous knowledge about my life. No preconceived thoughts. Her only job was to figure out where I would go next.
If you have never been to therapy, I can’t recommend it enough. It is so worth every penny! I remember her looking me straight in the eyes and saying. Well my dear, (she called me dear, which I so loved), if you ask me you have two choices. The first one is that you can do nothing (that is a choice BTW) and live with the struggles and challenges and stresses that you’re already well aware of. OR, choice two. You can take your life back! There are medications that are designed to help you with what you are going through. At that point I never knew that was an option. I figured we’d just talk it through and be done with it. Which actually works great for many, many people. But when she described it like that to me, I knew that in order to continue to survive I needed help as quickly and as easily as possible. And that’s when I had my first experience with anti-depressants. Which worked out great for a long time. It definitely helped to lift that cloud of despair and hopelessness so that I could continue to work on becoming better.
Now to be clear, I am not pushing medication at all. It was just what I needed at the time to be able to function and work through everything. But even more importantly than medication and what had started the ball moving for me, was screaming at God on the kitchen floor that day. You see, God is not the typical caregiver. We read in Psalm 147:3He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. That is His only objective. To heal us, to bind up our wounds. To help us find peace amidst the struggle. To find light in the deepest recesses of darkness.
I know right now at this time in our lives, we are all exhausted! We are over it. Being stuck at home, kept away from others physically, struggling with work and businesses, just trying to survive. Having world unrest and calamities come from every angle it seems. But here is a thought for you. “What if you just tried on “making a choice to find hope in the hopeless, for size? What if you just tried on “happy” for size? What if you just tried on “seeing the little sliver of light” for size? If you don’t like it, you can always take it back off. I guess what I am saying is that courage is a choice.
I love my Jesus, He always comes through for me. When I was struggling with my littles, when I went through depression time and time again, when I went through my divorce. And even when I walked away from Him for a while. He never ever abandoned me. One of my other favorite scriptures that the Lord put on my heart today is Jeremiah 29:11I 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! It hangs in a frame in our bathroom so I get to look at and be reminded multiple time a day.
But this morning as I was studying I came upon this scripture and it definitely spoke to me as I was thinking about hope and how to help you who may be feeling hopelessness in this moment. It is found in Alma 22:16 of the Book of Mormon: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God yea, if thou wilt repent of all they sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, THEN shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.
So this is the way that I interpreted that scripture today. This is the way that it spoke to me. Basically there are 4 steps to get the hope that you desire. 1. You have to want to find it… If thou desirest this thing. 2. bow down before God (in your closet, on your kitchen floor, in your attic, where ever it is that you go to cry unto Jesus) and incidentally I did look up the definition of bow and it said to change in character or form, change of attitude, emotion or viewpoint… so maybe try on something different for size? 3. Call upon His name (cry, kick, scream, whatever it takes. He is not the typical caregiver. He is not going to scold us for our tantrum… He is just going to love us harder. And finally 4. Believe! Just believe that He can take away your pain…. THEN shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest!
I would love to leave it right there. But I have one final thought that I think is really important to note. “It’s ok to not be ok! It is. Maybe that is the season that you are in right now. Don’t let the world add more pressure if you’re already overwhelmed. It’s ok if all you can do this week is survive. In fact that’s the most important thing!” And that is a quote from Bouncing Forward.
Remember my friends, you are loved! You are enough! And you can do this! Fight on my warrior friend, I love 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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!