You guys remember how a few years back I got to go to the Super Bowl? No? Well, I freakingdo! I was totally GONNA write a blog post telling you guys all about the experience, but life was so crazy busy at the time.
Nick, my late husband, had passed away January 7th so I was knee deep in sympathy cards, waist deep in paperwork, and neck deep in a puddle of my own tears. Our daughter was just 9 months old. She was just beginning to walk and starting to find ways to get into trouble (imagine a baby who is suddenly able to open all the cabinets in your home, purposefully step on the dogs tail, and falls down every single time her toe hits a grout line on the tile floor… Chaos?Exactly. Moms of babies/toddlers, you hear me. Total. Complete. Chaos.).
So, there I am, trudging along, a 27 year old widow (The heck?! Those last four words will NEVER look right to me). I’m trying to keep my smiles up for my little girl, my head up for my sanity, wondering how I’ll ever trust God again, and I get a phone call.
“Alyssa! The pastor of our church was given Super Bowl tickets. They don’t know who they are from, but the person who dropped them off asked that they be given to somebody who needs some joy in their life. Pastor Mike saw your blog posts and knows about Nick. Anyway, he picked YOU! Two tickets to the Super Bowl, airfare to New York, and a hotel. What do you think?”
At first, it seemed like the smartest answer would be “NO WAY.” And, it probably would have been. I was suddenly a single mom. Who was I to think about bringing my sweet little baby girl girl to NYC? I was super busy… But the more I thought about it, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I knew that Nick was looking down on me and how dang disappointed he would be if I said No.
Right then and there, I made a pact with myself. I would never pass up another opportunity just because I was scared. No. More. Fear.
Fear had ruled far too much of my life. Nick and I hadn’t done that many awesome and exciting things in our marriage. Mainly, because we were afraid (okay, okay… it was mostly me). We were afraid we would miss out on too much work, that we might not have the money, that we might get lost in a foreign country (valid fear tho: Jay and I got lost in Paris. True Story.) the list goes on and on…
We didn’t start REALLY taking chances until Nick was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. What a wake up call, right?! After that, especially once he was given a bill of clean health (which only ended up lasting 10 months), we took EVERY SINGLE opportunity we could to do the things we wanted to do. We went on a vacation (I swear that I hardly knew what that word meant before cancer) to Hawaii. We got pregnant (enter: Baby Girl Magnotti). We spent more time together. And, we spent QUALITY time together (imagine that)!
So, would I like to go to Super Bowl? “HECK YES!”
The trip was amazing, one of a lifetime and I don’t regret one second of it! One of my sweet friends, Cat, came with me to the big game and stood by my side to cheer the Hawks on. Austyn came along and my dad too for extra help!
I got to see our team, the Hawks, WIN the Super Bowl, in person!!!
I got to stay at a beautifulUpper East Side Manhatten apartment that a sweet friend online (who’s sister also passed of Appendix Cancer[same as Nick]) let us borrow for 5 nights!
I got to see New York City!
I got to stand in the middle of Times Square!
I get to tell Austyn she’s been to NYC, something that took me 27 years to achieve. :] PS. I am TOTALLY going to take her back there once she’s old enough to remember it.
A local news station covered the story. We did an interview here in Seattle before the game and then one at Columbus Circle in NYC. When those videos hit the news channel, there was a lot of love…. But, there were also some nasty comments.
One commenter said something like, “She must not have loved her husband if she is going to the Super Bowl just one month after he died.”
The answer that came straight to mind was “I must love my husband SO MUCH to go to the Super Bowl right after he’s died.”
Doing things AFTER loss isn’t disrespectful. Doing things might be hard though. You should NOT feel guilty and don’t let people make you feel that way. You very well might be scared, but please don’t let that hold you back.
Whether you’ve lost someone or not… remember that LIFE is for LIVING. Stop being afraid. Put on your BRAVE PANTS. Live every single day… on purpose!
So go on then…. Oh, and GO HAWKS!
Read the crazy story BEHIND the tickets at the bottom. You’ll never guess who the “mystery person” was who gave their SUPER BOWL TICKETS to the church!
SO…. WHO GAVE THE TICKETS TO THE CHURCH? >>> The guy who gave the tickets to Overlake Christian Church contacted me when he saw the story on the news. The reason he had dropped two perfectly good Super Bowl tickets at the front desk of the church that day, just a few weeks before the game, was because he knew he would need to stay home. You see, his father was sick with cancer and he wanted to be there for him. As it turns out, his father passed away the very day after the big game.
PS>>> Mike Howerton has become a great resource for me for my upcoming book! He’s an author himself and has offered great advice and amazing resources. Seriously. God sets things up in some pretty awesome, amazing ways, don’t you think?!
You lost your best friend, your spouse. You’ve experienced deep, deep pain. There’s an elephant in the room that you can’t seem to hide, no matter how hard you try. It feels like everyone must see it (even strangers you’ve just met): there is a horrible gaping absence right next to you. Nothing feels right.
I feel you, I do. But, I don’t pity you. I really don’t. Not because what happened to you isn’t in every way horrible (it is!!!), but because I have been through this walk, too. And, I know that pity just isn’t helpful. Friendship, yes. Companionship, duh. Empathy, abso-freaking-lutely. But, not pity.
I’ve found through the years that those friends (many) who have gently encouraged me to take a good look at myself, to tally up my strengths, and to become more self-aware…. Those encouragers, their words, have been the most helpful. Especially those who have walked this path before me. They speak of heartache, but they speak also of growth, of unprecedented strength, and profound opportunity. I’ve found their words to be true. And I want to share my own encouragements with you here, today.
The word “opportunity” might seem absolutely crazy to you right now. You might be wondering if I’m out of my mind. Especially if you’re in the beginning of this journey when the only “opportunities” around might seem to be negative ones. Like the “opportunity” to break the world’s record for how many nights in a row one can cry herself to sleep. Or the “opportunity” to observe how long a human being can exist with a black hole that opened up right where his heart used to be. Yeah, it might super sound like a REALLY crazy idea right now. To consider this purely horrible situation an opportunity would be to consider it a foundation you can build upon. It would be to consider it a starting point for improvement. Opportunity??? REALLY?!?!? Yes. Really.
At some point, dear one, you will be able to get out of bed. You will be able to get off the couch. It will be hard. It will feel like your limbs weigh 500 lbs (each!) and you’re walking through the thickest tar. But, you must remember, that with time, it will get easier. I promise.
Sure, you’ll have up days and down days. Up weeks and down weeks. Good years and horribly crappy ones. But, overall, your trajectory will improve (if you let it, but we will get to that).
As these steps and days eventually get the tiniest bit easier, widowhood will finally present its beautiful sparkling face of opportunity. Whether you like it or not, whether you plan to or not, this opportunity will force itself upon you in one way or another. And, then, you’ll just need to decide.
The choice is yours and yours alone. Will you take this opportunity for all its worth?
Being forced into autonomy is not an easy transition. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It feels downright barbaric really… Like a torture of the most horrible kind.
But, during those long, cold nights, you’ll learn something about yourself. You’ll learn who you are… and, more importantly, who you want to be.
That person you’ll come to know will be a different version of the “self” you knew before your loss. (No matter what, great love and great loss will forever change you, alter you, it’s unavoidable.) But, get to know the new you… Believe me, you are worth knowing.
When you were married, your “i”s became “we”s and your “singles” become “pairs.” You had a date for every wedding. A companion for most meals. A person to look over you. Gosh, even just someone to just talk to about your day! (Ahhh… How I missed that, so!)
When you’ve been widowed, those things are suddenly (and seemingly irreversibly) stripped away.
Now, it’s just you.
Alone in a huge, unfamiliar world.
Along with that empty space in the bed next to you and the closet full of shoes that won’t be worn again, everything has changed. And, your plans for today, for tomorrow, for next week, and for a decade from now? They are different, too. Entirely.
So…. What are you to do with yourself? What really matters now? Who are you anyway?
At the beginning (and there’s no timeline here…. sometimes the beginning could last quite some time) the answers to these questions might be, simply: 1. Nothing. 2. Nothing. And, 3. Who cares?!
But, eventually (and you’ll know when you get there) you’ll start to wonder about these things.
You had plans before but they changed. You were you before but now you’ve changed. Maybe changed most of all is a truth realized:
You didn’t know how short life was but now that fact is FOREVER implanted in your skull.
So, what do you do?
This, my friend, is where the choice arises. You have been given a unique gift. A chance to rediscover yourself. To fashion a life you want. To do that thing God’s always called you to do. You’ve been given a wake up call. Answer it!
Not because your late spouse wouldn’t have let you go after these things before (quite the contrary;they probably would have encouraged it), but because you finally got the kick in the pants that you needed.
It’s a swift and devastatingly beautiful truth. THIS is the ONE, precious short life we have.
How else is there to live, I wonder, than to make the most of every single day?
I once was blind but, through my husband’s death, now I see.
**My kick in the pants has pushed me to finally begin a journey towards my lifelong passion and the calling I believe God has always had on my life. I am in the process of writing a book (anyone know any awesome literary agents?)! Please Subscribe via Email to this blog in the upper left hand corner (below the fold) to receive my posts (via email, hehe, as stated), so you’re sure not to miss a thing! :]
Sending you all my gratitude for reading and sharing,
I feel like we’ve just stepped off the plane from Paris. It was, in actuality, 3 months ago but life has been FLYING by since then (pun intended… teehee). This 14 hour flight is going to be a doozy, that’s for sure, but it’ll be worth it! Though I’m gonna miss my little girl, I can’t wait to land in this beautiful city with it’s impressive skylines and walk amongst the 7.2 million people that call Hong Kong home.
So, why the heck are we going to Hong Kong? Let me get there…
I’ve wanted to go on a missions trip for years, almost decades now. I’ve wanted to be in another country with the purpose of seeing others through Jesus, helping how we can, without going exclusively for pleasure or business. The desire for a trip of this caliber was reinforced when I met Nick at 19 years old. He, too, wanted to go on a missions trip and we vowed to do one together someday.
But, life got busy and excuses took over. We got planned a wedding and got married the first year we met, and that was busy. We were newlyweds the first year we were married… and, that was busy too. Then, we were excelling in our careers the second year of marriage and I didn’t have the time to think about vacations, let alone, trips for others (bah-humbug…). The third year we were married, my mind was somewhere else entirely and then Nick was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. As you might guess, we didn’t end up having much time left to plan a missions trip. We fought and fought cancer and squeezed every ounce of joy out of life, but Nick passed two and a half years (and a baby) later.
“Anywayyyyy….” (always a great segway), we are meeting my friend Pastor Eric and his amazing wife Virginia in Hong Kong! Eric, whom I still call “Pastor Eric” or “Pastor E,” (though he doesn’t officially pastor a church anymore) has been an an amazing friend to me for going on 10 years. He began preaching at mine and my parents church when I was in High School, walked me (and most of my family) through my parents heartbreaking divorce, conducted Nick and I’s pre-marital counseling, married Nick and I, counseled us kids some more, and eventually helped me walk Nick home. Pastor E has been so much more to me though than a counselor or a pastor, he has been a true friend and modeled Jesus’ heart so clearly.
In fact, the way that Pastor Eric responded to me during my times of pain, intense doubt, fear, frustrations, worry and grief are the ways that I aim to respond to people when they now come to me with their pains, doubts, fears, frustrations, worries or grief. He never seems to judge me (or, if he does, he doesn’t ever give himself away) and he always tries to sympathize without claiming to understand. It’s incredible to have him as a listener and I’ll always cherish his friendship.
Pastor Eric left the church he had pastored for 8 years when he felt called to be the Asia Area Director for the Free Methodist Church. He now oversees the missionary team in Asia, partners with Asian national leaders to build a strategy to bring more people hope through Jesus, and works to more purposefully connect the church in Asia with the church here in the United States. (What a mouthful! This right here is a busy guy!) He is convinced that the relationship between the church at home and the church abroad can be mutually beneficial… And, let me tell you, I agree!
The more connected we can be with people in our world, the better… whether that’s with people across the street or across the seas. We’re all the same. We all need each other.
So, I had texted Pastor Eric back in February of 2015. I had just realized that I’d been throwing around the idea of a missions trip for going on two decades. And I decided that enough was enough. I decided to be DONE with EXCUSES!
I would ALWAYS be able to come up with an excuse NOT to go. And excuse NOT to get outside my comfort zone. But, if I wanted to make it happen, then I needed to do just that. Stop making excuses and start making plans. So, I made a pact with myself. I would do a missions trip within the year. And, to keep myself accountable, I texted Pastor E, too. “Friend, I want to go on a missions trip before February of 2016.”
I told him I didn’t know where, with whom, or for what organization. But, asked him to pray for me and try to help hold me accountable. In the months that followed the thought of a mission trip would pop in and out of my head. I pushed it aside as I focused on more pressing matters. I moved myself and my tiny toddler from Florida back to Seattle, my sweet girl turned 2 years old, I continued working as a contractor and wrote blog post after blog post. I even started thinking about writing a book. Things were getting busier and busier, but I didn’t forget my promise.
Then the very first time Jay and I reconnected this summer, Jay brought up the trip he had gone on months before, in February of 2015 (the same month I had texted Eric about my promise to myself. Coincidence?!). He had gone with a group from his church to Guatemala. He told me of the children, of the lives there, of the friends he made. Then he said that he wanted to go on another missions trip in 2016…. by February.
“So funny! I texted my pastor in February and told him that I needed to go on a trip before February 2016. Weird! Let me know if you end up planning a trip again…. maybe I can tag along?”
At the time, we were obviously oblivious (try saying “obviously oblivious” ten times fast!) that our friendship would progress the way it did and that we would end up together just a few weeks later. Funny how that works.
So, back to the trip! We actually started talking seriously about a missions trip back in September, knowing that we needed to get something on our calendars to really make it happen. We looked at a few different organizations and threw around some ideas. But, the more that I thought on it and prayed about, I kept coming back to my friend’s ministry. I had supported Pastor Eric and his wife and their mission with some tithing every month. I really wanted to learn more about their work. He had mentioned that they would love to have us along on a trip. And, the more I thought on it, what better way to learn more about missions work than to accompany one of the top leaders for the church in Asia missions?! And, added bonus, that that very same top leader is one of my favorite people (who I would love for Jay to get to know better and vice versa).
So, there you have it, more or less. This is how Jay and I ended up Hong Kong bound – and stoked about it!!
We leave on Saturday and arrive on Sunday. We fly for something like 14 hours and land in a timezone that is 16 hours ahead. How’s that for amazing? So, basically, we lose a whole day traveling there, and travel through timezones at lightning speeds on the way back! (HA!) I expect that our landing back home will feel a lot like the Twilight Zone.
Pastor Eric and Virginia will be meeting us in Hong Kong come Sunday and will be leading us on this adventure and throughout the city for about a week.
God will guide your footsteps… But only if you are willing to move your feet.
Yes, sir… They are a moving! One step, two, three…
I don’t know exactly what to expect on this trip of ours. I know that we will learn A LOT more about a culture and a people who are fairly unfamiliar to me. I know we will see things we aren’t used to. But, I also know that Hong Kong is a *little bit* like Seattle.
Whatever happens, whatever the outcome, I pray that God uses us on this trip to touch at least one life. Maybe even just to be the support to our dear friends who do this month in and month out. You never know what God has in store.
Until next time, Bon Voyage! Or, however you say that in Cantonese… ;)
I remember my dad’s dad, my grandfather, holding me in his lap on a night when I was five… or six, or seven. My parents had gone away for a vacation and I had been whimpering in my bed. Homesick, momsick, dadsick… I had just wanted my. people. back. My grandfather had heard my quiet cries. The floorboards creaked as I heard him get up from his chair and make his way he across the room, slowly, so as not to wake my brother and sister. He bent down and easily scooped me right up. He brought me back to his favorite rocking chair and held me tight as I squished my favorite stuffed dog right into my chest. Even then, he smelled like old spice and coffee, aftershave and peppermint. He softly sang in my ear, my favorite song of his. A hilarious rendition of “Ain’t it Fun to Be Crazy.” Normally he did it with gusto, but that night, he sang it slow and sweet, almost whispering. He rocked and rocked, he made small circles on my back, he sang, and, eventually, my whimpers faded. And I slept.
That was over 20 years ago now. I took my grandfather to an appointment the other day and I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since. He’s had a hard time these last few months. A hard time figuring things out, a hard time remembering. He has dementia. I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard those words, uttered not too many weeks ago. But I see the signs of it now, I understand just a little bit more every time I see him. “It’s a really hard thing when the mind goes first… This disease is so tough.” That’s what I had overheard the therapist say to my grandmother. And my grandmother, my Nana, when Grpa was in his appointment, had turned to me and told me that she feels like no one understands, unless they’d been through it. None could understand what it’s like to caregive for someone who is horribly ill. “It’s like watching someone disappear.” Her eyes fill with tears. All I can do is nod and wish. Oh, how I wished I didn’t know. How I wished I could unsee some of the things I’ve seen. How I wished I could unhear the things I’ve heard. But then, my grandmother might not see me as she does now, see me as someone who just might get it. So I stop wishing. And I just listen.
January 7th marked two years since my husband, Nick, passed from this earth. But October 4th has actually been the real tough day for me as far as remembering goes. For October 4th 2012, was the day that I realized I would watch my sweet Nick disappear from my world. Nick reminded me of a star on so many occasions those last few years. Like one of those stars that you hear about that shines so bright and pure that it just can’t possibly go on forever. So it ebbs and it flows, it shimmers, shines, darkens and then it gives one last hurrah. You hold your breath as you wait for it to light up again, but for all the times you’ve seen it before, this time… it never does. It forever fades from the sky.
I don’t know how to comfort those that hurt anymore than I used to. I still don’t know what to say. But, if the years and my grandfather’s generosity with me as a young girl have taught me anything… It’s that sometimes all a hurting person needs is someone who is willing to scoop up the sadness and quietly sit with it until it too finally starts to fade.
There was a time… not very long ago… when I decided that I would be just FINE. No matter what. And, I was.
I was just fine with so little of what the world thinks women my age need to be happy. I knew I didn’t NEED a husband, I didn’t NEED a house, and I didn’t NEED a normal full-time job. I knew that the ONLY thing I truly NEEDED was JESUS. And, at risk of sounding like a religious freak, I’ve honestly found this to be true. He is truly all that I need. He is truly, as odd as it may sound, ENOUGH.
You guys… I’ve been told over and over again (especially since finding a new, wonderful, beautiful love) that I am so lucky. And, while I do agree, I HAVE to say that I was lucky and blessed BEFORE all this. And, no, I don’t mean because I had the memory a husband who loved me, or because I had a bomb career, or owned a beautiful house… (though those things were blessings as well). But, I was blessed… Because, I chose to see what was real.
I was blessed because…
**I KNEW that the love of Jesus would hold me, no matter what this life held for me.**
So much of finding new love, new light, and new joy in this life is about CHOICE. These choices aren’t always easy to make.
LIVING after MAJOR LOSS is DAMN HARD. Heck, living life on this planet is equally as hard. People are broken. Times can be dark. Choosing to LOVE and LET LOVE can be the hardest choice you’ll ever make. The choice to LIVE instead of cower could bring a person to their knees.
Love is the *perfect* gateway for hurt.
Choosing to live will result in gut-wrenching changes.
Going after the things that your soul has always longed for will open you up to criticism and doubt.
Yes, God HAS blessed me. But, I had to make a VERY conscious decision to allow Him to do so. I had to make a decision, out loud, to let Him take over, no matter what. I had to DECIDE that I would be happy with WHATEVER He provided. Whatever the next step on His path for me might be. And just around the corner of that choice to live my life, God has lined up some of those blessings that I already decided I could and would live without.
Jay and I will be married this June (wooohooo!) AND (we are so happy to announce) we’ve purchased a HOME that is scheduled to be completed in May!!!
(The story of how and when we landed this beautiful place is a doozy… It’ll need its own blog post. Holy smokes! God is TOO good!)
Tears of joy have been running rampant as 2015 came to a close…. Equally so, tears of loss, as we approach two years without my sweet husband,Nick Magnotti. Life is so much of both kinds of tears. Always a contrast. Always happy with sad.
But, the good and the bad, that beautiful contrast, is what makes everything in life SO MUCH CLEARER. It gives DEPTH to that which used to be flat. It gives EXPANSION and SPACE to things that used to feel cramped.
I still don’t understand so much of the bad, but I will thank God anyway. I will thank Him for that which I do understand and I will thank Him for the hundreds of things that I don’t. Because, in the end, I know that God holds my life in His hands. I know His plan for me is beautiful and full of hope and promise. I will thank Him and praise Him on days filled with pain and on the days that are filled with unfathomable Joy, for He is worthy to be praised!! heart emoticonheart emoticon
Wow… You guys… Where do I begin? What do I say? How can I convey to you ALL of these FEELINGS when I can barely identify them myself? Well, I’ll try…
How Did Jay and I Meet?
Jay and I have technically known each other for 8 years. If you haven’t read it elsewhere before… He was one of Nick’s best friends back when I met Nick all those lifetimes ago. Jay and Nick had owned a small business together in college and hung out a lot at work events and at various “guy nights.”
I remember telling Nick when we were dating that I wasn’t too sure about his friend, Jay. I suggested that maybe he might not be the best influence for Nick’s life. But, Nick would go to bat for him EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
“Jay is one of the truest friends I have.”
“Jay is one of the nicest guys I have ever known.”
“Jay is loyal and trustworthy. I won’t ever give him up.”
Jay and I didn’t hang out much because, well, I wasn’t so sure about him. But, Nick hung out with Jay whenever they could make it work. And, Nick ended up choosing Jay as one of his groomsmen in our wedding.
From that point forward, I only ended up seeing Jay a couple of times, though I heard about him and his life often, through Nick.
Fast forward to 3 years ago, when Nick got insanely sick and received his diagnosis of a horrible cancer recurrence. We had just gotten the horrible news and were trying to process all that was happening when Nick got a phone call that contained some very good news! Nick couldn’t wait to share it with me.
“Alyssa, you’ll never guess! You know Jay? He just got saved! He accepted Christ!” Nick’s smile was wide as ever. His eyes glistened with tears.
We high-fived each other and said a prayer of blessing over Jay and his commitment to Jesus. I was truly happy to hear that Nick’s friend’s life was moving in the right direction.
Where “We” Began
So… How did this all begin with Jay and I? Well, I hadn’t seen Jay since Nick’s Celebration of Life in January of 2013. But, this summer, I had asked Jay if we could meet up to discuss local churches. I had recently returned from Florida and was looking for a new church home and was stalking my community for any helpful input anyone might have. I reached out to multiple people in my network over the course of a month or so, looking for the perfect new place to call my church home. It just so happened, that I saw a post from Jay about his church and wanted to know more.
When we met for coffee, we unexpectedly hit it off as friends. We had never said much more than “Hey, how are you?” in the years before, but conversation came so easily this time and we decided that we should get together again soon. This started a great friendship. And, it took me only a little while, but I started to see some of the things in Jay that Nick had seen years ago. And, I began to see other desirable things in him too. His life was on the right track. He had made incredible changes to his life. He was motivated. He was insanely generous (a characteristic that reminds me so very much of Nick). And, much more attractive than I had remembered or ever noticed. (Blush!)
It took some clearing up for Jay of what Nick wanted, of what God says about all of this, and of how I felt about love after Nick. But, eventually, Jay saw me in a new light too. And, our friendship began to develop into something deeper.
Do You Like Me? (Check Yes or No.)
So… On July 14th, Jay brought flowers and, cute as ever, asked me to be his girlfriend. He had come prepared with a list of reasons he thought he would be the best man for me. Ten items were on his list and they were as precious as can be. He included being a good father figure for Austyn as long as we wanted him, leading me ever closer to God, putting our relationship above all others, and other absolutely honorable and perfect things. I said yes (under two conditions: 1. Absolutely No Clown Pranks. (I hate clowns.) And, 2. New Boyfriend Must Kill All Spiders. No exceptions.).
The rest honestly, already feels like history. (He’s kept both of my conditions thus far as well as all of his beautiful promises to me.) We’ve had an amazing 5 months! I know… that seems so fast, huh? But, I guess I’m just the type… When you know, you know, you know?! (Nick and I got engaged back in the day after just 6 months. And, yeah, that was one of the very best decisions of my whole life! DUH. )
Jay and I have spent these last five months doing so very much: learning how we might fit as a family, how we fight, how we love, how to listen, how to hold each other’s hearts and hurts, we’ve traveled locally and internationally, we’ve spent days on end together, met and spent time with each other’s families (including Nick’s family who will forever remain mine), celebrated both of our birthdays, taught Austyn to pee in the toilet (and celebrated accordingly — this was a HUGE deal so potty dances are now a “thing” in my house), and lived the monotonous as well as the adventurous.
He Popped the Question!
I know, I know… you want to know about the engagement!! Well, here it is!
Last night was our official 5 month anniversary. December 14th. Jay had planned a “surprise date night” and I had a guess that a sparkly thing might be on its way, but quickly the thought was dismissed. (We had discussed marriage and so many things related, but I try hard these days not to get my hopes up too high. I’d rather be surprised than disappointed, you know?)
When Jay showed up at my house to pick me up for our date night, he handed me a beautiful bouquet of 18 red roses. GOORRRgeous! We gave our hugs and said our goodbyes to Austyn and my dad (who was over to babysit Austyn for me) and made our way to the car.
Jay opened the door for me as we walked out of the house and ran ahead to get the car door as well. (This is a normal occurrence… He is so good at that!) My sweet guy! We showed up at the Bellevue park and I knew what we were doing for sure… Finally! Ice skating! I’d been wanting to go again for years and had mentioned it before to Jay. “This is gonna be so fun!” I thought. It was the cutest little rink set up right in the pond in downtown Bellevue park. We had hot cocoa to warm up first and then got our skates on and slipped out onto the ice (not so gracefully, BUT we didn’t fall!). As expected, we had so much fun! There were about a hundred people there but we had a blast anyway and we were even able to pull off a couple spins!!
I was starving so we left right after skating and headed across the park to a “mystery” restaurant. (He wouldn’t tell me where.) We walked and talked (at first about Austyn’s latest poopy accident LOL) and then about the last five months and all the wonderful things that have been happening. We slowly made our way up the steps at the North end of the park, hand in hand. It was cold and we could see our breath but luckily, we both had good jackets on. Once at the top of the stairs, I noticed a man playing Christmas music softly on a guitar behind one of the light posts facing the park but couldn’t see his face. It was beautiful and I commented on the fact. “What a perfect night!”
I was honestly still completely clueless. Suddenly, Jay stopped me. We were standing under a tree and Jay pointed up. “Oh, look! Mistletoe!”
I didn’t hesitate or want to miss the chance, so I kissed him immediately. (Duh! He’s so stinking cute and I love him so much! Any chance to kiss and I’m in! 100%!) When I pulled away, I finally started to put two and two together realizing that the smooth Christmas performance and mistletoe randomly hanging from a tree in the middle of the park aren’t really a “normal” thing.
Just then, my suspicions were confirmed. Jay reached his hand into the tree… And, out came a ring box! He got down on one knee and…
You guys… I couldn’t stop jumping from that point on! I was so insanely happy!
His words were perfect, the ring was perfect, and I couldn’t help but feel God was smiling down on us!
I screamed YES with all my heart and kissed him hard!
Just as he stood up and slipped the ring on my finger, I noticed the guitar guy walking towards us. I looked at his face and it registered… It had been one of my best friends, Sean, playing guitar!!! And, he was still playing and singing “Jingle Bells!” Then, out popped Andy from the next light post over, one of Jay’s good friends! And, as I turned to see him, I saw Cat (one of my other best friends, who is married to Sean) come from behind the next pole shaking some actual jingle bells (Seriously. Cuteness.). And, then out came Jacki, Jay’s best friend and girlfriend to Andy!! Oh my goodness! All four of them had been waiting for us to arrive, setting up and then videotaped and photographed the whole thing from a distance. I couldn’t believe it!
I was so surprised and my voice was uncontrollably squeaky as I asked for details and stood in disbelief! It turns out that these two couples, plus some of my family and friends, and many more had kept this secret for a while now! Jay had been planning the proposal for weeks!! Jay had even asked my dad for his permission to ask me to marry him almost a month ago!
My favorite Prosecco was brought out and we toasted and the night wasn’t even out of surprises yet. Jay and I hung back, hand in hand, as I asked him so many questions about the night and our friends led the way.
Jay had gone to great lengths to plan a perfect dinner for right after our engagement. We got to Palomino’s downtown with all our friends and we sat and ate dinner while watching the Snowflake Lane performance on the main stage right outside our window. Jay and Jacki had scoped out the perfect place to eat during Snowflake Lane and it really was! There was snow, christmas lights, dancers and drumming nutcrackers. Seriously magical…. Not to mention, complimentary champagne, appetizers and dessert!!
Seriously… What a night!!!
Now, after all has settled down, and I look back at last night, I can’t help but want to write down every detail. I know I will want to remember last night for the rest of my life. <3
Austyn was incredibly excited this morning when she woke up to see such a sparkling ring on my finger. I FaceTimed Jay into the conversation and we told her what the ring meant. That Mommy and Jay were getting married and that Jay was going to be her new daddy. You should have seen her sweet little face!!! Austyn’s eyes lit up and her smile was as wide as her daddy’s the day he found out he would see his best friend in Heaven again someday. I saw Nick’s smile then, in Austyn’s smile now. And, just, whoa. SO. Many. Feels.
Jay and I both started crying… My goodness. We were just a big sloppy mess of beautiful and joyous tears over here!
I won’t EVER tell you that any bit of sickness or death is a part of God’s plan. Because it is NOT. I won’t ever tell you that there is a REASON for hurt or heartache, pain or disease, broken marriages or lost lives. But, I will tell you… God CAN and DOES work ALL things (the good and the bad) together for ULTIMATE GOOD for those who love and believe in Him.
Two years ago today, I was just weeks away from losing my husband, my very best friend. Today, I rejoice in finding a new best friend to spend the rest of my days on this earth with (God willing).
Nothing will ever change who Nick was to me. Nothing will ever take away from our love. And, no wedding will ever revoke my widowed title to Nick. But, now I am “fiancee” to Jay and I just couldn’t feel more blessed to start planning for the day I become his wife.
I have had the love of two absolutely amazing men in my life and, my goodness, I know I don’t deserve it, but I’m going to enjoy it just as much as I possibly can. <3
My close friends and family have seen me on the tough days, when smiling feels impossible (yes, I have had those days…). There are days when I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of bed.
I’ve been through a lot. Definitely not more than many but, quite possibly more than most (most my age, anyway). Despite all I’ve been through, I have learned through the years to remain as positive as possible. Deep down, I know that I always have a reason to smile. So, I can normally scrounge one up, even if it might be a little bit forced.
For the most part, I am pretty good at smiling through even the darkest days. I don’t smile because I have lost, I smile about what I had and what I still have. Yes, I have my little girl, a good job, and a roof over my head. I have lots of earthly things I can be grateful for! But, I am not promised forever with any of that so those can’t be my main reasons for being content.
Instead, and especially when things aren’t going according to my plan, I smile about having God… And about God having me.
I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Philippians 4:12
DONT STUFF IT
I don’t believe it’s ever smart to stuff your feelings. If you are mad, be mad. If you are sad, be sad. But, once those feelings have been let out, if it is at all possible for you to focus on the truths that you know, even just ONE truth, even just for a second. I would encourage you to. When anger boils back up, that’s fine. Let it out again. Just aim to go back to your place of happiness and contentment in the life that you have now.
The one truth you will want to focus on may just be that you know you are loved by a handful of people. Or, that you are loved by one person. Or, that you are loved by your dog. (Seriously, that’s ok too!) Or, (hopefully) it might be that you know that you are loved by the One who created you and knows you better than you know yourself. Can any of those truths bring you a smile today? And, if it can. Can you aim to try to fix your mind on those thoughts? To focus on the positives?
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8-9
TIME TO CHOOSE, AGAIN
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with my relationship here in Florida the way that we had planned. I won’t go into details but I can tell you that it has been very difficult.
Lies that float through my head: I’ll be forever single, I’m bad at relationships, I’ll never find my second “forever,” or being single for now or forever means I’ve failed (it doesn’t!). But instead, I am choosing to believe in the truths and think positively. Muster up as many smiles as I can! (And, I’m doing it!)
TRUTHS TO SMILE ABOUT
Here are some truths that make me smile:
1. God loves me! (Psalm 86:15)
2. God still has a plan for me! (Jeremiah 29:11)
3. God hasn’t forgotten me! (Deuteronomy 31:6)
God isn’t through with me. He has a plan for me. I believe in that plan and I know that I can go through a million dark days, knowing the truths above. It took me a while to really believe these truths. I questioned them for a while. But they are unquestionable to me now (maybe a blog post on this later). Anyway, the above applies to YOU, too. YOU are loved, there is a plan for YOU and YOU are NOT forgotten!
So, here I am again. Another crossroad in my life (and maybe yours, too?) where I could choose to give into the fear… or choose to hold onto faith. I bet you can guess what I’m gonna do? What about you?
I originally wrote this post in April, just before I moved back to Seattle! I conquered my fear of packing and moving yet again! Fears, watch out! You don’t have nothing on me! Hopefully I’ll get to update you guys soon on what’s new since coming home. God definitely had plans for me back here and I know He put me in Florida for a reason. So awesome to look back at the crazy path He’s lead me on!
People tell me all the time, “You are so strong. I don’t think I could ever go through what you’re going through.” I normally think, “Yeah… I don’t think I will get through it either.” (But, of course I don’t say so out loud!) But, really… You never know if you can get through something until you face it, a day at a time.
I’m a 27 year old widowed momma and I’ve already lived through a lifetime’s worth of hurt. That hurt has afforded me so many lessons that I think you could benefit from. One of those lessons is how to stay strong and not buckle under the pressures of tomorrow… Let’s face it, some of us feel like we are going to cave any second, especially when facing insurmountable odds. So, how did I get through it? How did I keep a smile on my face? Watch and find out.
In the growing up and the knowing more, you realize that life isn’t really about figuring it out. That maybe it’s more about just going through it, together, with everyone else who is doing the same. Sharing in the good and the bad. The heavy and the light. And, the heavy light.
I sit on my mother’s couch, in her one bedroom apartment, reading my devotional, waiting for my sleeping daughter to wake. We are four days away from moving into my next new beginning, the home I aim to create for my sweet daughter and I. I read, I reflect on the things that I’m thankful for. I start my day with positive intention. But, my thoughts wander, as they do some mornings, to the people who are struggling to survive. The ones without the things that I am thanking Him for. What about those without power? Without water? Without the hope for health? The ones walking the cancer battles with their family now? What about those who simply never experience the feeling of safety? The ones living despite ISIS? The people who live out our nightmares? How do we help them? What can we do?
Austyn’s cries of “Momma” from the next room interrupt my thoughts. I push them aside. And I smile. She needs me and I can give her safety and warm fuzzy feelings. Though I sometimes feel desperate for others that I can’t help, I know what I can do, right now. I can help her.
As I lift my smiling girl out of her makeshift bedroom at Nama’s (which is a crib in a walk-in closet, exactly) she immediately requests the thing that she needs most in the moment. “Momma!” She uses her hands to make sure my eyes find hers. “Nack?” (“Nack” means “Snack”.) I assure her, a snack is most assuredly waiting. And, it’s called breakfast, in fact. Momma made oatmeal.
I lie her down to change her (I hope to start potty-training soon, and there is actually a chance that I will miss this bit of her dependence on me). Once I finish, I lightly touch her side, where she’s the most ticklish, to see if she might be in the mood for a giggle or two. The room erupts with her contagious and beautiful laughter. Light seems to explode from her and fill the room, and the sounds are heaven. She sparkles. I can’t bear to let this moment pass.
If I can give my girl this much joy, with just one touch, I will stretch this moment until it becomes too thin. So, I nuzzle my face into her side. Her laughter bounces, echoes, she squirms and she loves it. Suddenly, there are tears pouring from my eyes. I am overflowing. I am laughing, but I am crying. The joy is light… and it is very unbearably heavy sometimes.
We get up and make our way to the kitchen. She, a giggling mess. Me attempting, quite poorly, not to confuse her with the conflicting emotions so evident on my face.
Her easy laughter reminds me so much of Nick. So much of the joy that lived inside him. Right under the surface. Easy and sure and ready to break free at a moment’s notice. I think that joy lives in each of us. Sometimes, we just have to dig a little deeper to find it. And, sometimes, we need someone else to coax it out of us… Sometimes it only takes one word. Sometimes it only takes one touch.
The adventure that is this life stretches ahead of us. Austyn’s virus that added a fever to her asthma is gone now. She is healthy. I am healthy. We walk ahead, not alone. With God in every movement, every breath, every sigh. He is here. He is in the light. In the heavy. He is in the laughter. And, the tears. And, I know that Nick’s in it all a little bit too. Those we love, truly, don’t ever really leave.
I never thought I would be lying awake again, in the middle of the night, worried about the health of the one held dearest to me. No, Austyn is not “extremely” ill. But, she has been sick. And, this momma is having a hard time with it. And “hard” is most certainly an understatement.
She’s suffered from quite a few respiratory infections since she was little, with coughs seeming to hold on longer than they should. Over the course of the last few months, she has been sleeping with a cough on and off almost continuously. I’ve taken her to the doctors and done all that I could think of. They suspected childhood asthma and now, it’s all but been confirmed.
She also has some pretty nasty allergies. Tree pollen, grass, weeds, animal dander and yellow food dye 4 and 5. Her asthma seems to be induced by her allergies. When the pollen counts are high, her cough is much worse. I’ve been in the process of planning a move back to the Seattle area, and it seems that it couldn’t be coming at a better time (allergens are much less prevalent in the Pacific Northwest).
She will grow out of it, more than likely, the doctor suspects. She seems and acts fine during the day, smiley and cute as ever (albeit a bit overtired). But, some nights… the bad ones… like tonight… She coughs incessantly, no matter what I do. It feels as if I’ve stepped over the edge of a cliff and that the fall will never, ever stop.
I’ve been doing everything I can think of, everything I can find, I’ve taken her to the typical Western medicine doctors and to a Naturopath. I’m doing showers immediately after being outdoors, essential oils, cough medicines, chest rubs, and even a low dose of steroids (with extreme caution and after much internal debate). What less would I do for one that I love? No less than give anything and everything I own to make her well. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that, even everything you’ve got isn’t always enough.
People used to tell me when Nick was sick that I was, “So brave.” They said the same thing at his funeral. And again when I moved from Washington to Florida with my little girl. They tell me I’m brave now that I’m moving back. I don’t mean to be argumentative, but I normally respond with a “It’s not me.” Or, a “Not really.”
Because…. in all honesty…. there are days, and especially nights, that I just don’t feel brave at all. Or, any version of the word. I’m scared. I’m trembling. I’ve felt a few monumental losses so I know there is probably some overreaction here… but even my baby’s painful coughs rip right through my heart. Each one reminds me of what I’ve lost… Reminds me of what I could lose again.
So, how do I do it? How do I smile? How do I make it through the years of seemingly endless nights? Here’s the thing… The thing that brings me through. When I feel like I can’t do this. When I feel like I just can’t live this life filled with pain, suffering, loss and darkness. I look to the Light.
LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
It is in our deepest and darkest nights, that our Light can be brightest. We must only remember to look.
The journey I’ve been on these last few (almost) five years has been nothing short of staggering. I’ve experienced things that I wouldn’t wish on the devil himself. But, I’ve also been blessed beyond my wildest dreams by coming to know the One that my soul lives for.
I’m still on this journey to figure out exactly who He is, because I don’t believe that journey ever ends… But, I’m working towards really knowing my Creator, my God, my Jesus. And, I can tell you one thing.
He is here.
In the broken, bitter dark.
In the endless nights of tear stained pillowcases.
In the scraped knees and wheezing breaths of our babies.
Even in the horrendous massacres of our fellow brothers and sisters across the oceans.
He is here.
And, he is there… with you. Too. Right next to you… Right now.
Sometimes, He can feel like He’s a million miles away. (Believe me, I experience this, too.) But, most every time, I have found, especially as we’ve grown closer that… when I call on Him, when I tell Him that I need His bravery, His wisdom, His courage tonight… He ALWAYS answers me.
AND… When He speaks, His answers don’t echo from millions of miles away. They are soft words, breathed so near to my ear, that I’m sure I am wrapped in His embrace.
So much of this world is hard. So much of it is broken. So much of it doesn’t make a damned bit of sense (I’m sorry for the language, but I mean, really!).
But, there is so much in this world in the way of Lightness, too. So much Bravery in His Glory. So much Honor in His Love. So much to Cherish in His Creation. Find the Light. Find Him…
Remember that it’s okay to ask for the Light. It’s okay to open your eyes and look. And, it’s okay if you are finally WILLING to SEE.
(*Sidenote: I fully understand that MANY parents have to deal with sicknesses, allergies, and asthma with their children… Or far worse. It breaks my heart. And I am so sorry if you are in that place with a child, or a loved one. May the Light guide you to peace.)