Wendy Wilson Spooner shares how she healed from trauma and why it is important for every family to know it is okay to be imperfect (everybody is).
Wendy Spooner: 5 Lessons Every Imperfect Family Should Know
Wendy Wilson Spooner is a professional genetic genealogist by day, a writer by night, and an artist in between. Her love of what we can learn from history compels her to write the true stories she has found on earth doing research, and she has found that truth is indeed much more exciting and inspiring than fiction. She writes about family, faith, grief, art, and overcoming obstacles in life by coming to know who we truly are as children of God, and the descendants of remarkable people who paved the way before us, even if they really struggled. She believes in learning from our ancestors, honoring them, and then standing on their shoulders to become someone even better. As an award winning artist and author of professional articles and poems, Wendy turned to novel writing to share what she knows with a wider audience.
Art in Every Aspect of her Life
Wendy says that she was born with artistic abilities. She has been painting and drawing for as long as she can remember. Her mother encouraged her to enter her pieces into contest. She pursued a major in art in college. Other things became more important throughout her life, but art has always been a part of her life, even in unexpected ways, like cake decorating.
A New Novel
Art is an integral part of her new book, “Once Upon an Irish Summer.” The novel follows the true story of an epic immigration from Ireland, but also follows his descendant five generations later, a present day 15 year old who is a gifted artist. She is suffering from debilitating grief that is affecting her art career. The historical chapters are actually about the family of Wendy’s third-great grandfather. He left Ireland to find a way to save his family.
The Daughters of the American Revolution
Art even brought Wendy national prominence in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) organization. Wendy says that proving your lineage all the way back to a patriot of the Revolutionary War is very difficult, even for professional genealogists, but that she loved the challenge.
For Wendy, there was an even greater draw to the organization than the challenge of proving her descent. Every year, the Daughters of the American Revolution holds the American Heritage contest. There are lots of art categories that you can enter a piece in through the contest. All of these entries pour into the homes of vice chair members and the judging takes place in February. The winning entries go on display in Washington D.C. at the Continental Congress every two years.
In 2018, Wendy’s painting won first place. The national regent contacted Wendy and asked her to be vice chair or the art and sculpture category. Only 2% of members of the DAR will ever hold a national position, so Wendy was honored to be chosen.
Wendy’s life wasn’t always rosy though. When she was growing up, her family had some truly tragic experiences. Because of this trauma, the family had some attachment problems but they never got any help for the things they had gone through.
Wendy was very close to her brother though, who is five years older than her. When she was 13, he left to serve a mission for their church. For her, it was like her lifeline was taken away. Wendy says that she looked outside her home for a replacement, but that she didn’t attract the greatest people for friends. She started getting into a lot of trouble and lost sight of those things that are truly important. She lost all sense of how her decision would affect herself or her family. For a few years, she really struggled.
You Make an Impact
After a particularly difficult day, Wendy remembers staring out her bedroom world and just loathing her family and everything else. Suddenly, a thought came to her mind and heart: “You are right where you belong, with the people you are supposed to be with. And it’s going to be ok.”
Something switched inside of her at that moment. She trusted that even though she couldn’t stand to be with them, that her family was important. Not long after that day, her brother came home.
It definitely wasn’t smooth sailing from there, but there was a spark of hope in her life that hadn’t been there before. She stopped blaming her family and started to realize that she could have an impact on the dynamics of her home, and that it had to start with her. Wendy says she thinks many teenagers don’t realize that the things they do matter to those around them, but that moment of clarity for her was divine intervention.
Death of a Loved One
The struggles didn’t end there, though. As a 20-year-old, newlywed Wendy received a devastating call early in the morning. Her sister, who was seven years older than her, had taken her own life. She had always struggled with both physical and mental illness and was in and out of the hospital for much of her life.
Wendy remembers always trying to tell her sister that she would be ok. Something inside Wendy broke when she heard the news. She went from feeling invincible to feeling like an ant on the sidewalk. She felt the fragility of life in a way that she never had before, and she had no way to resolve it. Wendy says it took her 30 years to really heal from that experience, in part because she had never had a very strong relationship with her sister.
Lessons From the Past
Lesson #1. Healing Comes Eventually
What really put Wendy on the path to healing was a visit with a friend. This friend is an energy healer and was able to help Wendy tap into the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. She was finally able to process all of her unanswered questions with her sister as if she was really there.
Prior to this, Wendy had not even wanted to visit her sister’s grave. She didn’t want to think about all of the things that she couldn’t fix. After having this experience, Wendy picked out the prettiest flowers she could find and, after 30 years, visited her sister’s grave. Wendy finally felt the healing that comes through Jesus Christ. Wendy says she went from feeling a dark, empty hole to feeling light when she thinks about her sister.
Lesson #2: Believe the Light Will Turn On
Wendy says that the greatest lesson that she learned through all of the trials she experienced at such a young age was to never give up. You have to believe that things can change no matter what, which can be extremely difficult to do when you are in a dark place. When you are in dark place, Wendy says, “Keep believing that the light will turn on, that the winter will turn into spring, and the ice and snow will thaw.”
Lesson #3: Talk About It
Wendy has found through her work as a genealogist that no family is perfect. And that’s ok. Everyone has skeletons in the closet. She says that many families pretend that everything is fine when something bad happens. But she also says that each generation is a little bit better about addressing the problems that we have in our society.
Today, people are talking more about the hard things instead of just hiding them. Wendy has the opportunity to see a lot of healing in her line of work as a genetic genealogist. Many of her clients are adoptees or people with unknown parentage. So when she finds the biological families of her clients, more often than not it’s a very positive and healing reunion.
But those things can’t happen if we don’t talk about our problems. When we talk about our problems, we also have the opportunity to educate and inspire others. We can use our problems as a way to connect with others.
Lesson #4: No One is Perfect
Along with talking about our problems, it’s important to realize that no one’s life and no one’s family is perfect. If you’re ever thinking about how your family drives you crazy and you wish you had the perfect family like the people down the street, grab your Bible. Read the lineage of Jesus Christ. His earthly lineage is full of people who made some questionable decisions. His line comes from King David, who had Bathsheba’s husband killed so that he could marry her. He is descended from Ruth, whose second husband was Boas. Boas is a descendant of Rahab, the harlot.
Jesus Christ Himself came from a family that was just as messy as many of ours. But He came to show us that we are all part of the human family and we’re here to help each other.
Lesson #5: Claim Your Lineage
Sometimes it can feel difficult to fit into your family. This can be particularly difficult for individuals who have been adopted. Many don’t know anything about their biological family.
Wendy says that nature and nurture are both extremely powerful influences in our lives. Some individuals who are adopted fit right into their adoptive families and you would never know the difference. Wendy’s niece, Emily, is adopted but she is so much like her adoptive mom. However, some people feel they don’t fit into their family at all, even if they are biologically related.
No matter how you fit into your family, you get to claim your lineage, whatever it looks like. And you can be sure that everything is how it needs to be, because God is the master artist. He’s adding little brush strokes here and there and while we may not be able to see the whole picture at first, He definitely has it all figured out.
We all make our place in this world, no matter what our family looks like. Wendy says that you decide how and where you’re going to belong and how you’re going to make a difference in the world. Everyone has gifts, everyone has talents, and we all have somewhere that we belong where we can make a positive impact.
Once Upon an Irish Summer
Wendy’s new book, Once Upon an Irish Summer, is based on her own personal family history. Wendy’s great, great, great-grandfather was living in Ireland at the time of the rebellion around 1800. The people were suffering due to harsh tax laws imposed by England that began to affect the food supply. He left Ireland for America in 1817 when he was 18 years old. He left behind 15 boxes of manuscripts called Hamilton papers, an important record of him. Wendy took a trip to Ireland to find out more about his life.
She found that her family was connected to the area of Enniskillen and County Donegal. Wendy found a distant cousin who took her to a seaside cemetery where her ancestor’s graves are. Further up the coast was a large estate that they explored and Wendy felt like she was in a Jane Austen novel. She included the estate in her own novel. The rich detail of her visit makes her book all the more real. Once Upon an Irish Summer is available on Amazon and in many bookstores, like Barnes and Noble.
Wendy says that her number one resource for anyone who is struggling in any way is the Bible. Her favorite scripture is James 4:8, which says, “Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh to you…”
How do we draw near to God? Wendy says through searching His words and talking to Him. For her personally, she says she hears God through just small splinters of thoughts throughout her day, things like people she needs to contact, things she needs to do, ideas she needs to work on. If she starts her day with prayer, He’ll talk to her all day long. As long as she is making the right choices, she says it’s like she’s staying on the same frequency as God.
Connect With Wendy
If you want to be a part of Wendy’s amazing giveaways, which this year are related to the 100th anniversary of women gaining the vote, you can connect with her in a few different ways. She has two Facebook pages. One is the page for her novel, the other is her Facebook page. She also has two websites: Knowmyroots.com is for her genetic genealogy work. WendyWilsonSpooner.com is her author website.
But the number one message that Wendy wants her followers to hear is that all we can do is be ourselves, find out what God has in store for us, and go and change the world.