Sometimes I just sit and let overwhelming AWE flow over me. HOW IN THE WORLD have I been given the love of not only one but TWO amazing men? God’s given me SO MUCH. I have nothing that I can’t look to God and thank Him for. He’s given me LIFE, FREEDOM from the consequences of my sins, and His FOREVER FRIENDSHIP (the greatest gifts of all)! And, as if that wasn’t enough, He’s proven time and time again that He CAN somehow conjure up GOODNESS in the wake of tragedy.
Just this morning, Austyn was pulling apart an orange with her breakfast. “Look, mom! A tiny one!!!” she said as she pulled a small section away from the fruit. “And… Look! A DADDY one!” her eyes lit up as she held a larger piece of fruit out for me to see.
That is THE. FIRST. time she has ever named any bigger “thing” as a “daddy.” If theres a small item and a bigger one… it has ALWAYS been a “mommy one.” That’s because it’s always been just her and I…. A Mommy and a tiny one.
This little girl lost her biological father when she was just 9 months old, a week out from her first step, a year away from her first words… Her world was forever altered before she even knew what her world could have been.
And now, somehow, years later, it seems that our plan includes a second daddy for Austyn. What a lucky girl! An awesome daddy in Heaven and a sweet daddy on Earth! God is just TOO good!
Jay will be adopting Austyn (officially) shortly after our marriage this summer. I can’t put into words the feelings that arise when I hear Austyn call Jay her “Daddy.” As she transitions into having an earthly Father, I ask for your continued prayers over our family, for strength, for growth, for understanding and for beautiful, wonderful unity.
Things are CRAZY good over here. Crazy hard, too, sometimes. Crazy different. Crazy LOTS-to-get-used-to. But, I am loving every second of it!
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
Here… In my OWN home: Too Much Death. My first baby died in my belly. My husband died of cancer.
GOODNESS, SO. MUCH. BAD.
And, here’s the thing… We can get ADDICTED to it.
Some days, I want to hole up in my house and bawl for hours. I can’t imagine standing up and I can’t get my mind off of the horrible, the horrific and the unimaginable. For all the weight that the Far, Near and Here tragedies and evils bring on me… I worry that I won’t ever get off the floor.
BUT, THEN… There are moments of light. Moments of TRUTH.
Sparkles in my daughters’ eyes hinting at her mischief. Her smile that so much looks like her dad’s. The safety found in the arms of a man who loves me fiercely. The quiet words of my closest friend, telling me to trust in God. The smell of pine trees on a walk in the soft wind. A cup of coffee and a warm blanket. The unconditional love of family.
GOODNESS, there is SO! MUCH! GOOD!
It’s easier (for me) to focus on the bad. BUT, I consciously make the choice (and sometimes I have to make it hourly) to focus on the GOOD and spread AS MUCH of that GOOD around as I can.
Because we need to REMIND each other…. There IS GOOD after bad. There is LIFE after horrible, disgusting death. There is SEEING after blackness surrounds. There is LIGHT when all you felt before was crushing dark.
For instance… My husband died and I never thought I would find true love again. After months of battling with myself on if I should even allow myself to be happy again… I heard God’s truth over my life. I heard His call to LIVE. And, now, I can say it…. I AM TOTALLY, COMPLETELY IN LOVE.
At first, I wasn’t going to say it… quite like that. I even went back and deleted that sentence for a minute. I mean, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might have guessed… But, the people who come right out and say things like this might be viewed as unwise, or childish, or foolish. Better to simply use a hashtag, right? (#inlove)
But, no, I’m putting it back. And, saying it again. I AM IN LOVE and IT IS GOOD. I don’t think good things are ever said enough. We are seen as silly to comment on the good and maybe seen as somewhat unrealistic. But, I WANT people to know the GOOD in my life, too. And, I WANT TO KNOW THE GOOD IN YOURS! I don’t think enough LIGHT is broadcasted in this world. All the DARK overshadows and the light is covered up. But, the LIGHT is JUST as REAL and as TANGIBLE as the DARK.
Here’s the thing about the bad. We don’t have to fear it. Because… GOOD ALWAYS WINS. LOVE ALWAYS WINS.
For all the wretched days that I watched my husband battle an invisible and terrorizing illness, I wouldn’t have traded an hour to have missed out on his love.
For all the blood that gushed from me, I wouldn’t trade a drop for the love I felt for that first soul I carried in my body.
For all the hurt of the excruciatingly, lonely, cold, horribly dark nights, I wouldn’t trade even one of them for the love that I’ve found in another true friend and beautiful soul.
So, I beg you… As you watch the news. As you think over your life. As you encounter the hard things today… REMEMBER the HAPPY. REMEMBER the GOOD. REMEMBER the JOY. And BELIEVE with ALL of your heart, that these things WILL return to you.
We want evil vanquished.
We want darkness squashed.
But, we forget to remember what eradicates this evil and what beats out the darkness.
Only the GOOD, the LIGHT and the LOVE can overcome the bad, the dark and the hate.
And, the best part is, that even in the valleys, I know that LOVE HAS ALREADY WON.
I pray for every single soul reading this. That YOU will know the power of God and His light and His unfailing, ridiculous, amazing LOVE.
THIS HOPE, THIS LIGHT, THIS LOVE… WILL redeem all things.
I’ve seen it before and I’ll see it again. <3
SHOUT YOUR GOOD FROM THE ROOFTOPS! Write it in the comments below. Tell it to the next person you meet. Write it on your Facebook. What is good in your life? SPREAD THE GOOD!
P.S. I’ve added a handy space to the LEFT where you can add your email address, click subscribe, and then get notifications of new posts on this blog via email. :] So, SUBSCRIBE if you’d like. xo
I haven’t really been around for very long at all, so I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but I’ve experienced a thing or two…
Last night, I attended a wedding of a dear family friend. Two beautiful people joined together by law and by God. Before the ceremony began, thoughts of my own wedding day swirled through my mind.
A BEAUTIFUL BEGINNING
August 16, 2008 is a date that I will never forget. It was magical, perfect and I felt God’s presence and blessings so strongly that day. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, exactly when I was supposed to be there. Like a perfectly timed song on the radio, my fairytale had come and everything was as it was supposed to be.
When we were dating, Nick and I could make anything *feel* magical. But, it wasn’t because we were doing anything particularly special. It was because we APPRECIATED the time we spent with each other, and realized what a blessing the other was. I remember the day the picture above was taken. We simply went to a park after work. We took pictures and laid in the grass and talked about our childhood, our lives, our futures. Nothing was particularly romantic, but it felt romantic as ever. It was ALL mindset.
But, feelings can change. Feelings are fickle.
And, if we aren’t careful, negative feelings CAN rot our most precious gifts….
As the months and years of our marriage began to pass us by, I am ashamed to say, we let the magic fade. Nothing changed about our marriage, really. Nothing changed about the romance. But, Nick’s mindset had shifted a bit, and I had let my mindset change entirely too much.
Instead of simply realizing the blessing of *being together,* we focused on what we wanted next. A bigger house, nicer clothes, more expensive cars…
Suddenly instead of the home-made romance I had cherished before, I came to a place where I had decided I wanted NEEDED more.
I fell for the lie that materialistic things *equal* worth (and, even, your marriage’s worth). I lived in a place where exotic vacations, expensive jewelry, and fancy surprise date nights with red-carpet-worthy dresses were a sure sign of the level of adoration that your husband actually held for you. (Or, so I thought.)
It was horrible. UGLY, really. I don’t like sharing the rather hideous parts of myself (who does?) and I’m ashamed for some of these things I’m about to share. But, it’s the truth… And, though I don’t believe sharing my story makes me any less guilty (only God’s grace does that), I do believe that sharing my story may help someone else.
THIRD YEAR’S THE CHARM?
A week of particularly petty fights had lead up to our third anniversary. Nick had acted like he hadn’t planned anything for our anniversary, and I thought that he possibly was planning some sort of surprise. That there was some kind of plan. Along came our anniversary, a weekday… I went to work and didn’t get any flowers delivered. I came home and didn’t have a card waiting for me. Nick arrived home and asked where I wanted to go to dinner. He thought we should go out but didn’t want to get too far away because he had to get up early for work the next day. So, after much argument, we settled on a small local restaurant in Monroe. Sure, it was the nicest one in town, but Monroe was tiny and this place welcomed construction workers after a long day on shift. I dressed up as best I could, and without a second glance from Nick, we trekked out to the restaurant. The dinner went by uneventfully, like any other night, other than the fact that I spilled my drink completely into my lap.
Ripping disappointment seared through my heart and I felt sorely unappreciated. It hurt. And, I sulked all the way home and when we pulled in the driveway, I ran upstairs and locked myself in my walk-in closet (girl didn’t know how good she had it). Nick was apologetic but also slightly confused. After all, he had asked me multiple times that week what I wanted to do. I had hinted that he should surprise but never came right out and said it. And, let’s give the guy a break, he was 24 years old and pretty new at this whole marriage thing.
When Nick walked away, done with talking through a solid wood door, I rolled into the fetal position and cried out to God. I wondered allowed. “God, did I marry the wrong person? Does he even love me anymore?”
In hindsight, I see so much that was wrong in my thinking. I had put all the pressure on him and hadn’t taken any responsibility for making *him* feel loved either. No, he hadn’t surprised me with much, but all I had gotten him was a card at the grocery story on my weekly shopping trip and expected him to put together everything else. I wasn’t clear with him on what I wanted or expected and, honestly, I hadn’t tried hard at all to appreciate him for the last week, let alone the last few months.
But, that’s all hindsight. At the time, I thought it was a real possibility that I had made a mistake. Or, God had made a mistake. And, that maybe Nick and I weren’t meant to be together after all.
Fast forward 5 weeks later, I’m sobbing in Nick’s arms on our living room couch. He’s just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I realize that my entire world is being threatened.
So, Did You Marry The Right Person Or Not?
Let me tell you something…. If you have ever thought “Did I marry the right person?” or you are thinking it now…
HOLDING ON to your spouse during the trying times and the questions is what marriage is supposed to be about. Better or worse. Sickness or health. Fancy cars or beaters… You are in this TOGETHER.
When you said your vows, your spouse BECAME God’s will for your life.
Marriage is a sacrifice. You won’t often get what you want. You may even have days or weeks or months where you are struggling for a reason to stay. But, if you do, when you do… I can tell you that it will make all the difference in your life and in your husband’s or wife’s.
A BEGINNING AND AN END
In a short five years, I experienced the BEGINNING and the END of a marriage. We had ups and downs, like most people do…. though I would say that we had many many more joys that difficulties.
My marriage started after I stood on a stage, in front of my family and friends and pledged my life and love to the most wonderful man I had ever known. It started when, with my best friend’s hand in mine and a smile spread wide across my face, we walked down the aisle announced as Mr. and Mrs. Nick Magnotti. We were so excited for the life to come. The decades we would surely have together.
Hello. One… Two… Three… Four… Five. Goodbye.
My marriage ended five years later when I laid down on my husband’s hospice bed in the master bedroom we had shared. His fragile body had barely made an imprint on the mattress, but alone and curled up, I tried to fit into it. I got as small as I physically possibly could, trying to disappear. Noises emanated from my soul that I had never heard before. The pain burned white-hot in the middle of my being. The funeral company had taken my husband away and nothing of him at all was left.
The beginning and the end. So very different. SO. MUCH. JOY. and then SO. MUCH. PAIN.
I may have given up fancy trips and sparkly jewelry by marrying a sweetheart of a mechanic, but my GREATEST blessing was giving up my everything to care for that man in his last days.
On his worst cancer days… When I had to wash him, feed him, turn him, help him with his medications, clean up after him… The days where I didn’t take a second for myself, those days I saw MORE of what it was like to be in a REAL MARRIAGE with REAL LOVE than I could have ever seen on a trip to the Caribbean.
So, whether you are sacrificing a *little* of yourself each day, or giving up your everything for your spouse, please see it as the blessing that it is. Recognize that our time together is not promised. That YOU ARE VERY MUCH meant for your spouse. And, that you never know what God’s plan is for your life.
Your spouse may act like they don’t need you today, but maybe there’s a day coming when their life, their soul, will depend on you.
And, maybe today, it feels like you would be better off without your spouse, but if you go, I can assure you that you’ll have days you wished you had someone.
Do YOUR part.
Hold up your end of the bargain.
LOVE with ALL that you have, even if it seems like the other person isn’t trying.
It’s an amazing, AMAZING privilege just to have another person walking by your side in this crazy lonely world. Try not to forget it.<3
Everything that I had hoped for would become impossible.
My husband passed away at 27 years old. We were 6 years into our beautiful relationship, 5 years into our incredible marriage and 9 months into our journey as new parents. And, then, everything just stopped.
He was gone. More than anything he had wanted to stay. I had wanted him to stay. The pull on my soul had, at times, convinced me that my love would hold him here. That God would see our connection, see our entwined hearts and gracefully hand us our miracle.
No such luck.
Fast-forward almost two years later and I find myself, in a crazy turn of fate, in love with one of my late husband’s dear friends. Neither of us would have ever guessed. We hardly saw each other until just four months ago, but Nick and Jay had held a strong bond over the years while Nick was still with us.
This new relationship has been nothing short of romantic, poetic and truly bittersweet, all at once.
At first I was haunted by certain thoughts, certain “what ifs”, certain impossible scenarios…. Such as: “If Nick found his way back to us, what would I do? Who would I choose?”
These questions were starting to drive me insane. Because, here’s the thing, you can’t compare two different loves.
You can’t choose. So don’t make yourself. And, don’t let anyone else tell you that you must.
Last night I had a dream. I was in a white room, white everything. Bright and vivid. Nick, my late husband, was standing in front of me, about 25 feet away, clear as day. He looked beautiful. He was looking past me and said, “You have to choose.” I turned around and 25 feet the other way, stood my boyfriend (Jay) holding my daughter’s hand, and, dear God, they looked beautiful too.
I woke up just after the dream. 4am. It felt like God was telling me that I could choose life, to go on living with the living. To embrace Jay and Austyn, the blessings that I still have on this earth. Or, I could choose to drown in the memory of all that I lost. To let my now-impossible dreams strangle me.
As I thought on it more, I wondered. Was Nick telling me I had to choose him or I had to choose Jay? But, no, it was distinct. So clear. I don’t have to choose between them. I just have to choose whether or not I want to continue actually living my life.
Nick always told me that once he was gone, he would want me to fall in love again. That he wanted me to share my life with another. I refused to listen at the time, but now am happy he told me. A lot of spouses don’t get the chance to discuss it, or jealousy gets in the way, but I honestly think that all of our loved ones who have passed on would only truly want for us to be happy.
I feel like I’m supposed to share this. Like others need to know. So, forgive me but I’m going to repeat myself again. Just gotta make sure we get this straight. Everyone needs to understand this.
WIDOWS DON’T HAVE TO CHOOSE.
If you are in the same club as I… If you’ve lost your spouse, your dream, let me urge you to keep away from the unrealistic and insane questions about choice.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE between your lost love and a new one.
You DON’T actually even HAVE a choice as far as that is concerned. You can’t go back to your spouse because they are gone. Your only choice is to move forward. That doesn’t mean that you are going to find someone anytime soon or even that you will ever fall in love again.
But, you DO have ANOTHER CHOICE to make. Will you choose life?
Will you choose to move forward? I am.
Moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean that I’ve hardened my heart. Moving forward doesn’t mean I love my late husband any less. Moving forward doesn’t mean I’m over it or over him. It DOES NOT take the pain away. It doesn’t mean losing a part of me. It doesn’t mean losing any part of him. Moving forward isn’t about winning or losing. It isn’t about pulling ahead or falling behind. It’s not about blocking memories, ignoring sad thoughts or rejecting the truth. Moving forward is simply my choice to live again.
All I had with Nick is gone now. I was happy. Then, my heart was broken.
But, suddenly, I’ve realized that everything I thought was impossible, is HERE. NOW. Even though it looks a helluvah lot different than I thought it would…
I’ve walked through dark black valleys, near-drowned in the waves, and split my tired feet to get here. But, I’m moving forward one step at a time.
There’s no “arriving.” Your aim should not be to complete the process labeled “move on.” There is no such thing as grief being “over.”
But, there is LIVING. YOUR. LIFE…
That’s what I’m aiming for and I’m trusting in God as I go. Currently living a fairy tale, another beautifully impossible love story come to life. And, because I know nothing is promised, I’m loving with a very real awareness of life’s fragility. And, I’m determined to soak up as many of these blessings as I can, while I can.
So, what do you think? Have you struggled with these thoughts as a widow/widower? Have you blocked yourself into thinking that your story is over just because your spouse’s life ended on this planet? Comment below or email me at alyssa (dot) magnotti (at) gmail (dot) com.
Somedays it feels like my heart splits right open…
Yesterday a SENSELESS shooting and 13 DEAD, just a state away.
This morning the news of CANCER returning to a friend’s husband who is “Daddy” to two young girls.
Today, the DISCOVERY of a high schooler who is afflicted by horrible tumors consuming her abdomen.
I DONT GET IT!!!
I hear the news of all three and I can’t help but shout, “NO!” and “WHY?!” My voice crackles and splits. I didn’t realize that my heart would sound so shaken, so bent.
Some days…. Things feel HOPELESS. Things feel DARK. They feel scary-as-hell. Some days, it feels like we are ALL DOOMED.
But, somehow… After prayer, reflection… I can still find THE LIGHT. Let me share… I read this in today’s devotional, by Ann Voskamp:
When things go wrong and we are pushed outside our comfort zone, it is a GIFT. BUT!!!…. “Can you really say that to the girl who doesn’t wear her engagement ring anymore, to the beautiful mother whose husband left and the cancer has come, to the bent widow sitting next to the empty chair? Can you really say that to them, to the world? That the greatest gift we can ever receive is the gift of losing our earthly security and comfort? So that we can unwrap the intimacy of the Savior and His heavenly comfort. I swallow hard…”
And, so do I, Ann… I swallow hard. And the tears come. These emotions all CHOKED up in my chest, in my HEART.
I AM THE WIDOW.
I AM THE MOTHER WHO LOST.
I HAVE EXPERIENCED “CANCER CAME BACK.”
I’ve lost EVERY security I thought I had when I lost my 27 year old husband and father to my daughter.
I’ve had my PEACE falter. I’ve had my FAITH shaken. I’ve had my world SHATTER. I’ve had my life IMPLODE.
So…. Can I say that people should be thankful? Heck no. I would never say that… Not to them. But, I can say, that after going through it all, I AM thankful. I still hurts something awful but…
I. AM. THANKFUL.
I consider myself blessed.
Because, NOW I KNOW!
I KNOW that I can do ANYTHING with God by my side.
I KNOW that God TRULY WILL NOT leave me.
I KNOW THAT GOD. HE… IS… ENOUGH.
Praying for all of those affected by loss today. All of those affected by lost dreams, prayers unanswered, lost loves, lost children, broken hearts, broken homes, unwanted diagnoses… The list goes on and on. But, I am praying for YOU. Praying that you come to a place one day, where YOU SEE and YOU KNOW the truths.
Someday I hope you can see that even though this world sometimes doesn’t make a flipping bit of sense to us… That WE CAN TRUST GOD. That He GETS IT. And, HE LOVES US, DEARLY… Even though sometimes it can be so undeniably hard to fathom.
My heart aches for you. It aches for us. God, be with us.
BE STRONG. DO YOUR BEST. BE BRAVE. The world needs to see your SMILE today, if you can. <3