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!

Refresh and reframe your mindset

Quote Pointing Toward Hope pod graphic_2

At the beginning of the year 2020 we had such a positive outlook on the year ahead!  After all it was the year of “perfect vision”.  Now we are 8 months in, and as I’m sure you will all agree, it has been…. well… a year of some unmet expectations. Ok maybe a lot of unmet expectations! But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the rest of year. And neither should you. Let’s finish out this year STRONG!

So that all sounds great right? But it’s not so easy to do. Especially in our ever changing world filled with uncertainty and fear for what the third quarter of 2020 might bring. I mean I have started and stopped my goal of recreating my relationship with food (hello Covid-19), every time I read something else in the media that produces anxiety.  Maybe it’s time to step away from social media for a while (that’s why I’ve been missing in action for a hot minute, lol).

I’m not suggesting giving it up completely (thats just crazy talk), I mean we have to stay informed. Just choose wisely what you choose to fill your brain with.

Here are a five ways other than going easy on social media, that I have found to deal with the anxiety and hopelessness of the future. And to reframe thinking in a positive and productive way.

  1. Brain Dump Sometimes feelings and emotions can really become too much to bear. A practice that I have found helpful is to get out a journal (you know how I love journals!) and just “dump” all of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and scenarios that you are creating in your mind on to a blank page. You don’t even have to keep it if you don’t want to. I find that just releasing all of that emotion from your head and your heart is truly cathartic. It can be a form of therapy to just let your heart and soul out in words. Words that you’ve been tossing around and around inside your brain, creating all kinds of awful scenarios. Just get it out so you can let your brain rest.
  2. Breathe There are moments when I’m working on something whether it be at work or at home even hanging out at soccer game (yes we just started back up again, yay!), when I notice that I have been holding my breath.  It’s really a common practice to tense up when we are deeply engrossed in something. You may even be doing it at this very moment.  So stop right now and do it with me.  Close your eyes and take a big inhale through your nose (really fill up your lungs).  Now let it out slowly through your mouth.  Now do that 2 more times as you let your body just relax.  Hopefully that will help you feel a little less anxious.  Just breathe.
  3. Kill the ants automatic negative thoughts (thank youJim Kwik). Negative thoughts rob us of joy and kill our hope and steal our happiness. We’ve all heard the quote by Henry Ford,  “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Our thoughts are so powerful!  As Jillian Michaels from biggest loser always says, “If you fight for your limiting beliefs you get to keep them. ”  Don’t get caught in the trap of telling yourself that you are not (smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, motivated enough, old enough, young enough etc).  What you tell yourself you are, is what you will become.  Practice self love on a daily basis by being kind to yourself.  Don’t let the “ants” keep you from thriving
  4. Drink yo’ water!!!! I know this might seem like a crazy thing to add in this post. And I will harp on this forever (see more here). There are so many benefits to getting your water in daily (at least half of your body weight in ounces).  And so many negatives to not drinking water.  Being properly hydrated is so important.  Here are just a few benefits:  Weight loss and good skin elasticity.  Muscle efficiency, mood balancer (yes!), temperature control, memory function, and joint lubrication.  It flushes out the toxins that build up in our bodies creating good bowel function.  It aids digestion and creates better immune health.  When we become dehydrated it can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, weakened muscles and lack of motivation.  Do yourself a favor and fill up your cup!
  5. Get out of your space Sometimes we get so caught up doing things in our own little world that we forget how much of a breath of fresh air it is to get out and see others.  Being with people who love us and support us and laugh with us, might be the most useful and important activity we can do for us and for them!  I can’t wait to be able to hug big again!  Granted this has been especially hard during 2020 with Corona.  But it is not going to last forever and for the time being, we can still get out and walk our neighborhood and wave at others as they drive by, or talk and laugh 6 feet apart.  And sometimes playing games and visiting with your own family in your own home can be such a ray of sunshine. 
  1. I hope that these ideas will help you to find some ways to destress and decompress and refresh and reframe your mindset with everything that is going on in our world.  If you are struggling, please know that you are NEVER alone! 

Isaiah 52:12  For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rearward.

The Lord is always by your side with His angels to assist you.  I know this because he has been there for me over and over again.  Love to you all, have a wonderful weekend.

XO Wendy

P.S.   Big News!  Something fun coming soon!!!

Make sure to enter your email above to be alerted!  I promise you won’t want to miss it!

 

 

Letting go of the ruin

 

When I was fifteen years old, my dad and I bought an old beat up 1976 Camaro from the high school auto shop.  I was going to be driving soon, and if things worked out I’d have my own wheels and freedom!  I was so excited.  

If memory serves me right, we paid about $300 for it.  It was in fair condition.  It could be driven.  But there were several things wrong with it, including it was in bad need of a paint job.  Of course I only noticed what it looked like on the outside and I wasn’t so sure that the $300 was well spent.   But it had good “bones”.  And the interior was still pretty nice, although stained a bit.  But my dad could see something in her that I couldn’t.

My dad and I spent the better part of a summer working on that Camaro, and bringing her back to life.  He on the mechanics of it, and me helping with the stains on the interior and the frame.  I remember spending hours sanding the metal down by dipping the sandpaper in water and then removing every bit of remaining paint left.  We rubbed putty (or something of the sort) in every dent and then sanded that down.  It was a grueling process that required attention to every detail.  But that was the process that was required to make her new again.  To repair the damage that had been done and make it whole once again.

Then finally… one day she was ready to paint and get the finishing touches put on.  I had saved all summer long to be able to pay for the parts and the paint job that went into her (candy apple red!).  And I couldn’t have been more proud of the work that we had done.

The day that we put “Old Red” on the road was one of the most exciting days of my life!  All of our hard work had finally garnered the result that  I craved.  She wasn’t perfect, but she was mine, and that’s all that really mattered to me.

As I reflected on that restoration process these past few months, I have been reminded of all the processes of restoration that we all have to go through during our lives on this earth.  We are all broken down, with a few stains here and there, in bad need of repair or “restoration”.  And although we may feel like we are barely getting by, the Lord sees our “good bones”.  He sees what the outcome can be with a little sanding here and a little putty there, and maybe a shiny new coat of paint.

I have spent a lot of time pondering and asking the Lord why?  Why do I have to live with a bipolar diagnosis?  Why is it that my body is broken down, stained and dented?  What good is meant to come out of this?  What’s the purpose?

And then I remembered the story of the Old Camaro and it came to me with perfect clarity.  We come to Him (our Lord Jesus Christ), broken, beaten down, full of sorrow and He “restores” us.

When I was diagnosed bipolar, my life as I knew it ended.  Everything changed.  I went from feeling like nothing could stop me.  To feeling like a broken shell of a person.  I was struggling with finding the right medications, the right Dr., the right plan for recovery.

It was only when I laid all my fears at the feet of my Savior that true restoration began.  Where I saw a broken shell, He saw the good bones. It has not been easy.  It’s a long grueling process.  From waiting for 6 weeks just to get into see the right Dr. and then ending up in the hospital again right before that appointment.  Then waiting another 6 weeks to finally get in again. Then trying different medications, behaviors and habits that work for me and my body chemistry.  A little sanding here and a little putty there.  He truly has been my source of restoration.

Elder Holland, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, once said, “I think of that night when Christ rushed to the aid of His frightened disciples, walking as He did on the water to get to them, calling out, “It is I; be not afraid.” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Christ’s answer to him was as it always is every time: “Come,” He said. Instantly, as was his nature, Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waters. While his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well—he was coming to Christ. It was only when his faith wavered and fear took control, only when he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the ominous black gulf beneath, only then did he begin to sink into the sea. In newer terror he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Undoubtedly with some sadness, the Master over every problem and fear, He who is the solution to every discouragement and disappointment, stretched out His hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:27–31

If you are lonely, please know you can find comfort. If you are discouraged, please know you can find hope. If you are poor in spirit, please know you can be strengthened. If you feel you are broken, please know you can be mended.” (May 2006 General Conference address).

We just need to reach out to Him and then keep our eyes fixed upon Him.  He can restore us.  He can bring us hope and peace and comfort.  If we will let him.  Because He loves us.  Because He broke the bands of death.  Because we are His!

We need not be fearful of the changes and trials that come into our lives.  We need only to believe.  Believe that He will come to us in His infinite power to restore us to our former state.  Believe that He will bring us back to a state of health, soundness and vigor.  It may not happen now, it may not happen in this lifetime.  But it will happen.  One day we will be restored in all our glory.  Just like my dad and I restored Old Red.  Our Savior will restore us, and He will take us out for a spin on the road and we will be His because that’s all that really matters to Him.

XO Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

An Ordinary Box? Or Something More?

Imagine for a moment, a medium sized moving box, (maybe one that you could put a couple loads of old clothes in).  Dingy, old and worn, smelling musty from being stored for a long period of time.  Maybe even a little water damage can be seen in the ripples of the beat up box.  Dust has begun to collect from the years of being untouched.  An ordinary storage box by outward appearances.

Ok.  Do you have that mental picture in mind?

Now let’s take this imaginary box to a new level.  Though ordinary, there is something different about it.  This box can not be seen by the naked eye.  Beat down, worn out, and barely noticed anymore.  But….YOU CAN see it clearly now.  And It is time to open this box and discover what is inside. For some reason, you are a little afraid of what you might find, but you decide to open it anyway.

To your astonishment, as you open the box, familiar things begin to suddenly appear in your minds eye.  There are loads and loads of memories inside.  Good ones, bad ones, happy and sad, success and failure, adventure, and despair.  But wait.  Some of these memories you recognize, and some you have never felt or seen before.  How can that be?  It is YOUR box, right?

Then you realize deep in your soul that these are ALL of your memories!   A Lifetime’s worth!  All of your emotions, your hopes and dreams, your adventures, your experiences!  Even those you haven’t had or seen before. All of them trapped deep inside this box never to be found.  And then it hits you!

It comes to you with great force, like a huge punch in the gut. You feel sick to your stomach as you realize that this  box was created FOR YOU!  Not only that, it was built BY YOU!

You suddenly realize that there is one emotion that is not trapped or missing.  It is the very same one that kept you from opening it to start with.  The very one that you are feeling right now.  It’s Fear!  Fear of what might have been inside.  Fear of what might have happened if you opened it.  Fear of the unknown.  Plain and simple, the emotion is  Fear.  And you realize that you have been filled with fear for a very long time.

Ok, snap out of it.  Back to real life?  How do you feel?

No worries.  The great thing about imagination is that it is just that, imagination!  And that means that you can change the way this story ends!

And you know what?  It is time!  It is past time for you to take control of your fear.  Kick it to curb.  Release all of those past experiences and failures that have made you afraid to experience your life. Afraid to try new things, to take risks, to become more than you are and learn something new.

Because no one wants to look back at their life as they take their last and final breath and see that there was so much more that could have been.  If only they would have opened the box!

Break free!  Your life is waiting for you!

XO, Wendy

What prompted this post:  I realized that since I was diagnosed with Bipolar 5 years ago, I have been so afraid of what might happen.  It took several years to get meds right and get my physical, mental, and spiritual balance back.

But since then I have been somewhat paralyzed by the worry that it will happen again (meaning I would end up in the psychiatric ward again).  So what if it does?  It wouldn’t be the end of the world.  I mean, I do NOT want that to happen for sure!  However I  have survived.  I’ve been surviving it most of my life (with the help of my Savior and redeemer carrying me every step of the way).

But the difference now, is that I am so much stronger.  Because I know.  I know what I am dealing with.  I know what triggers me.  I know what precautions I need to take.  There is absolutely no reason to remain stuck in this place.  It is way past time to see what is on the other side of fear!

And if you have similar feelings of being stuck and unable to progress or move forward.  Maybe it is time to take a good look at what is holding YOU back.  I’d be willing to place a bet that it is the box of fear that you have been hiding in.

I know it’s not easy to break free from.  Believe me I have been trying for nearly 40 years.  Do not let this be your story.  There is ALWAYS hope!

P.S.  If you have not yet heard of it, check out the book Limitless by Jim Kwik.  I haven’t finished it yet but it has made me realize that  my brain is not broken.  Just untrained, underused and misunderstood.  A work in progress, but truly limitless!

 

Where do we go from here?

Breathe

As I walked back to my house one early morning this week, through the brisk cool air and heard these words it was like magic to my soul.  I was listening to a podcast that had a guest that was sharing a harrowing experience about her life (All in: Brooke Snow).  And when she said these words “Christ is the breath of life”, it stopped me in my tracks.  You might say it took my breath away for a minute.  I let it sink in and wash over me.  As I listened to her experience, thoughts of my struggle with mental illness raced through my mind.  Time after time when Christ had become the breath in whom I trusted to help me make it through another day.

This pandemic has been a hard punch in the gut for a lot of people.  It has literally taken the breath away from most of us in all different ways.  It has caused us to reflect and remember the things that should take priority in our lives.  And it has been HARD.  In so many ways it has been hard.  So where do we go from here?  How do we move forward when at times it feels so paralyzing?

All of the plans that we had for this year have been irrevocably changed and we can never go back and change what we’ve missed.  Weddings, funerals, graduations, trips, and events.   Some people said that 2020 was the year of perfect vision.  The year when all our dreams could come true.  And then boom…. in an instant our world was turned upside down.  

But one thing I have learned through all of my struggles with depressions, anxiety and bipolar is that Christ is truly where it all has to start.   We are all capable of change.  After all, even though it’s been rough, we are making it through this change, somehow. Even though the path may not be clear at this moment.

Miracles can happen when we are willing to put our trust in Christ.  Let Him breathe life into our weary souls. Because He sees the big picture.  He sees what we can not.  And like a baby being born and taking that first breath of air, we must look to the Lord to learn how to breathe when breathing seems impossible or almost like we are suffocating.

About partway through this quarantine, I realized that I needed to increase my yoga (meditation process) to stay grounded.  Otherwise I think I would lose my mind and end up moving backward instead of forward with my illness.  Normally, I do it once a week. It’s a good way to stretch and let go. Release the worries of the previous week and look ahead to the new week.  But now I have been practicing it daily and it has made such a difference in my life and my days.  I am a beginner and have a long way to go. I’m learning to understand how yoga/meditation work. 

Important note: I am not saying that you should pick up yoga. But finding time to quiet my mind helps me to take things that are bothering me or frustrating me, and just let them melt away for a little while.  It has helped me gain a new perspective on me as a person.  I have found that I  am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.  

So what I am proposing as you move forward as the quarantine is lifted, and slowly move back into a daily routine, work, school, sports, etc., remember the ways that you have changed through this experience.  Remember the experiences that have shaped you into a “new” person.  Because certainly none of  us can come out of this experience saying that we have not been changed in some way.

Find time as often as possible to sit for 5 minutes a day and just breathe.  Let Christ be the breath of life for you.  Just breathe in and out, deep breaths and let the worries of the world melt away.  Clear your mind and take just 5-10 minutes to remember this experience and how strong you have become as a person.

You are resilient, you are strong, you are in charge of your own mind and your own life.  Of course, there have been many negative things that have happened  because of this experience.  We may tend to look at it as one big negative.  But I strongly encourage you to take the time to recognize the good that can come out it.  

One thing that we can always be certain of, is that there will always be change.  

President Russell M. Nelson taught:  “We can change our behavior.  Our very desires can change.  … but true change–permanent–change can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”   Let Christ Change you.  Let him help you breathe.  Let Him help you move forward and embrace what is going to be a new normal for all of us.  Christ is the breath of life.  

In Ezekiel 36 verse 26-27 we read: A new heart also will I give you, and  a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stoney heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  

27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

My hope is that as you move into this next phase of your life that your heart will stay soft and if  it has been hardened through this trial, allow Christ to breathe new life into you.   Allow him to heal your weary soul.  You are His.  He loves you and wants the best for you.  Breathe in and breathe out and let Christ be the sail on your boat slowly pushing you forward. 

Where do we go from here?  In my mind the only answer is fearlessly forward!

XO Wendy