Take Courage

Take courage

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“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 84:88 And 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 147:3 He 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 29:11  I 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!

XO Wendy

Ha! Didn’t see that coming.

I was looking back on some of my posts from this year and boy oh boy, did I NOT see all of this coming in 2020.  I’m sure that we can all say that, unfortunately.

But I am an eternal optimist, and although this year started off with a bang, I am determined to make sure that the experiences that we’ve all been through this year don’t end up without a lesson learned.

So tell me what lessons have you learned this year?  Here are a few of mine (in no particular order).

  1. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.  I believe this has been a tough one for all of us to learn.  Especially if we may not have heeded the warnings over the years from our leaders. We have been exhorted to keep several months worth of food storage.  To have a 72 hour preparedness kit on hand should the need arise.  Unfortunately the need has arisen this past year.  Not only have we needed to be physically prepared, this year has given us great cause to be spiritually prepared as places of worship have been unable to operate and social distancing has precluded us from spending time with our fellowshipping communities.  We have been counseled to be spiritually prepared in probably the most often quoted passage from President Russell M. Nelson this year.  He strongly admonished us to be ready.  He said, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”  I trust that we have all learned this great lesson to be prepared both physically and spiritually.
  2. Family and friendships should be first on the priority list, ALWAYS.  We have really learned this lesson the hard way!  Around the world we were/are all asked to social distance to keep Covid-19 from spreading.  So no more hugging, shaking hands, going to lunch and just plain hanging out with friends.  We have been limited to spending time in our homes with our immediate family members with limited resources for entertainment.  With schools and entertainment venues being closed, we have had to go back to a former time when riding bikes, doing puzzles, playing games and being bored sometimes, were the norm.  I think we have realized that all of those things have great value and importance in building and strengthening our relationships as we slowly return back to a new normal.
  3. Human life is fragile and can change in the blink of an eye.  So many of us (if not all) have been forever changed by tragedy this year.  From tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods,  to sickness, depression, loss of life, and loss of celebration of our most precious moments.  I think it’s safe to say that we have all been affected in some way or another. Not being able to be with someone in the hospital and them having to shoulder something horrible all by themselves, has been one of the most heart wrenching experiences to witness.  The importance of being with our loved ones in hard times and in times of great joy have new meaning now.  Leaving this Earth, coming into this world, and loving while here on this Earth have hopefully been deeply ingrained as the most important elements of our life here on Earth.  That lesson has been deep and hard in so many ways.  May we be forever grateful for all the life we have been given, and not take another single minute for granted.  It can all be taken away from us without a moment’s notice.
  4. Stillness is a practice to be appreciated.  For the Bertagnolli household, all of the craziness of life, work, school, running kids to and from activities and practices, all came to a screeching halt when the tornado hit us on March 2-3rd (in the middle of the night).  The boys’ school was destroyed.  So the focus became, where and how are the boys going to have school?  The first 2 weeks of March (approximately) that was our primary focus.  Thank goodness we did not sustain damage to our home but many, many of our friends did.  Not only did they have to worry about school, but how and where they were going to return to normal life?  And then, within days of decisions being made as to where the boys would be going to school and cleanup and repairs being made to homes and businesses, BOOM, shut down the world!  And suddenly life how we knew became very still.  Most of us are not used to being still, running around crazy all the time from one activity to the next.  And suddenly we are completely compelled to “be still”.  If ever there was a time that God spoke to us, “Be still and know that I am God”- psalms 46:10,  it has been in the year 2020.  We have had to turn our hearts to God to merely survive all of the craziness that has been thrown at us this year.   And if you haven’t learned that lesson yourself, I highly encourage you to make the time to be still, to meditate, to pray and then listen.  God knows you, He hears you, and trust me when I say you are never ever alone.  Be still and know!
  5. Good health is everything. Being a self proclaimed expert in the field of mental illness (joking), I have been reminded over and over again of how important it is to stay mentally, physically and spiritually healthy.  I am so grateful that 2019 was year of  improved mental health for me.  I think had it not been, I may have been one that succumbed to the pressures and stresses of living with mental illness create. I sincerely hope not, but you just don’t know do you?  I am torn apart to hear about friends and family that have not been able to cope with the sudden changes that have taken place.  I am heartbroken to hear of illness and loss of physical health due to the effects that this year has brought on.  I am distressed by the number of people that have walked away from God during this time when we should be seeking Him for deliverance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                .                                                                                                                                                                                                 I will be forever changed (hopefully for the better) because of the events of 2020.  And I know you will too.  How can we have a year like this and not be changed for life?  Only time will tell if these lessons will be ingrained within us.  I fear that as time goes on and life returns to somewhat normal, hatred, fear, and anger will return with a vengeance (as we have already seen politically speaking).  It is Satan’s way.  But as I said in the beginning, I am and will always be an optimist and I choose to remember and retain the good lessons that I have learned.  And I will more wholey choose hope and joy every day of the week.  I hope you will too.   Let me know in the comments what lessons you have learned this year.

XO Wendy

P.S.  Pointing toward hope is now on podcast!  Just search for Pointing toward hope on most podcasting platforms. Instagram, and Facebook.  I hope you come and follow me in pointing toward hope every day.  If you or someone you know has an inspiring story to share that will lift others in meeting life’s challenges, please contact me.  I would LOVE to reach out and have them on the show for an episode.  Choose joy!