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
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
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.
Be less concerned about others’ opinions and more concerned about God’s.
Have more fun.
Be a blessing.
I know I could do so many things better. So many things. I could be such a better person. When I pay attention to my thoughts… I can hear it. I can hear the person that I don’t want to be. The one that worries constantly, that judges others, that blames herself most of all. But, most of the time, I’m not paying attention to my thoughts. I’m just letting them run. Im just being “me.” Im just being my “normal” self. The self that I’ve become in twenty-seven years of living and sacrificing and striving and wanting.
As much as self-reflection hurts, as much as it stings… It’s necessary in this journey if we want to be better. It would be SO much easier for me to say, “Well, this is just who I am. I can be selfish, I can be jealous, I can be petty, and I can be stiff. I guess you all just have to deal with it.” But, I CAN also change.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s too late. I’m in my late-twenties (too funny! I totally just typed “mid-twenties” and realized that almost-twenty-eight is pretty far past that. Nice try, darlin!) and my life has shaped me. The culture I’ve grown up in, the parents I had, the situations I’ve faced, the deaths that I’ve seen, the books that I’ve read, the propaganda that flashes before my eyes, the truths I’ve experienced, the lies that I’ve trusted, the way my thoughts have twisted realities… the list goes on and on.
It’s true to a degree that no one can deny… that we are shaped by our circumstances. Not entirely, no. But, at least markedly. Growing up in the Seattle is different than growing up in Taiwan. Growing up in a nice house in a good neighborhood is different than growing up in a mobile home park governed by drug lords. Growing up with parents who cared and tried their best is different than growing up with parents who remained painfully disinterested.
We all have things that mark us. We all have things that scare us. Things that scar us.
Our choice is how much we heal. Our choice is what we do about it. Our choice is looking past what we “know.”
step it up
We can decide to unlearn the things our heart has grasped onto.
You CAN be loved again.
You CAN be happy.
You CAN succeed.
You CAN trust in the goodness of God, even when you are standing in the broken mess of your life.
So, you haven’t made it as far as you would like by now? Yeah. Me neither. You feel older than you’d like? You feel like you haven’t made a difference? You feel like time is passing too quickly and your soul isn’t catching up? I feel those things too.
But, no matter what you see, what you feel. If you try and believe it will work, you WILL make progress. I believe it.
Big changes can be so entirely overwhelming. How can I alter my fast-pace to a life lived in slow, trusting, seeing peace? How can I go from loud to quiet so others can have a voice? How can I stop caring what the world may think and start caring more about God? How can I have fun when I know the accidents that can occur when we let down our guard? How can I change from living every hour for myself to living every hour as a blessing to others?
You might have different things that you know you could improve on. Maybe you want to be a better person and to do that you know that changes must be made: to your health or your relationships or your thoughts.
Feel overwhelmed? Like the drastic end result that you are trying to achieve is just too far away, too far off from the person you are today? Just remember that God will help you if you ask. We can’t sit back and not make changes and expect God to do all the work, but we CAN do the work with God by our side. All it takes is a prayer and a single step. Every. Step. Counts.
Even if you take only one step forward and end up falling two steps back… at least you are moving.
I know what I want. And if it takes me a lifetime of trying… only to eventually fail, at least I’ll know that I tried. One baby step at a time. Focused on the God who tells me I can walk on water. I can trod on my mistakes. I can step on the lessons I’ve learned and use them to propel me ever-forward.
I believe in a God who is constant in His ability to love us…. His love molds me, teaches me, shows me.
I don’t HAVE to be better for Him. He loves me already. I don’t HAVE to do anything, but I want to.
I want to be more like the person I was made to be. I want to be changed by Him from the inside out. So, I pray for Him. I pray for more of His presense. More of His peace. And, then… I walk.
Three shaky steps.
I am on my way! I’m in motion. Let’s hope our momentum propels us forward. Wish me luck!
I share these thoughts not for me, but for you. I shared this post in my personal journal and decided then that it might be something to help another. Did it help you? Any thoughts? Please share this post as much as you’d like. Let’s move together. There’s no use in going it alone.
I’ve got problems. Lots of em. Maybe not 99… But, who’s counting (other than Jay-Z, apparently)? I’m not going to address all of my problems with you now. No thanks. At least, buy me a cup of coffee first! ;]
Thoughts That Just Won’t Quit
One of the “problems” I encounter daily is a mind full of words, of phrases, of lessons I should have learned or could have learned, of things I’ve done wrong, of things I think I’ve done right. (Confession: Another one of my problems is that I love coffee far too much. Currently, I am attempting a little break from this holy fuel of life. So, some of my obsessive thoughts might be revolving around a white chocolate Americano right now. Just maybe.)
Anyway, back to the main point. Constantly, I am thinking something. Always thinking. Guessing, comparing, reflecting, considering, pondering, day-dreaming (often about coffee… I mean, not really. But kinda.) Everyone has it; this commentary that constantly runs through your mind. But, I think that there is joy found in quieting those thoughts so you can hear from someone else, someone bigger than your problems.
Sometimes when you feel stuck because your mind is running a million laps all by itself, with or without your permission… you have to take your thoughts captive and slow them down so you can sort them out and find time to listen.
Every human being has something that calms their mind and cradles their spirit. For some, it might be sitting by the ocean, or cooking, or painting, or running, or surfing, or reading. For me, it’s definitely writing.
I do not have a problem with a lack of content. I do not struggle with writer’s block. Nope. I have an issue of the opposite nature. Just like all those thoughts would have it… I have far toomuch I want to share. I have too many topics to choose from.
What You Do Is What Counts
There are so many days, where I wake up, completely determined to write. But so often before I can get my laptop opened, I convince myself that there is no way I will be able to get started. That there is no way to prioritize all. of. the. things. That my mind is moving too fast to get any of it out. How will I pick one topic over another?
So, I tried something new today. Instead of deciding in advance what I would write about, I gathered a little courage and took a little step. I picked up my laptop, grabbed a glass of water, and planted myself on my back porch (not to brag, but the weather out here is amazing). I opened a blank page, got Spotify running, and started typing to the beat.
The result might be something entirely short of amazing, but I have done something. I’ve quieted… my… thoughts. And, maybe I will have reminded you to please quiet yours. Or, if you want more authority; maybe I can dare to remind you to just shut up for a second. Having a hard time remembering the last time your thoughts were still? Are you feeling lost? Feeling stuck?
If so, take a stinkin’ break. Seek your calm place and ask God join you. Not sure you have the energy or motivation to run, or read, or do whatever it is you need to do? Then, just take the first step. Sometimes a little momentum is really all we need. Lace up those shoes or pick up a book. Whatever you do, just make a move.
Move It or Lose It
I’m fully convinced that God moves when we move. I’m fully convinced that faith can and does move mountains. But, we must first decide to speak.
“I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.” Mark 11:2
I’m making it a priority to quiet my mind daily. Even if only for a few minutes. To get a jump start on all this and gather that momentum, I’ve almost entirely cut out social media. I’m taking three weeks away from that horribly amazing time-suck called Facebook. ;]
I am more than ready to see what God can do for me in those quiet spaces and places that are opening up. How about you? Are you ready to face the quiet? Good. Let’s do this together then.
Let me know what helps YOU quiet your thoughts. Tell me what helps you connect to God. Are you struggling to do this each day? Are you willing to make it a priority? How do you think your life might mend?
Oh, and, last question you might want to address…. if you want to help me feel a little less insane. Do YOU ever daydream about coffee?