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WE’VE GOT AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE!!
It might not be the one you’d expect, but it DOES have to do with a BABY… my baby girl, to be exact.
Austyn Elizabeth has OFFICIALLY been adopted!!!!
She OFFICIALLY has TWO daddies now…. Her sweet biological daddy in Heaven, Nick Magnotti, who stuck around as long as he POSSIBLY could. And, her amazing present daddy, Jay Galios, who fell in LOVE with her & STEPPED UP gladly to a commitment greater than almost ANY other. 🤗
Being a solo* mom was one of the HARDEST things I have EVER had to do in my ENTIRE life. (Well, maybe it ties right up there with watching my husband and best friend slowly fade away…)
*Solo parenting means that there literally is no other parent AT ALL responsible for the child on the face of the planet.
When Nick passed away & for two and a half years after, it was just me and my sweet baby girl. And while the challenge was ROUGH, to say the least, it also taught me sooo much about myself, about God’s love for us, AND it really showed me just how much of a FATHER & best friend that God can REALLY be.
Anyway, I digress… back to the story: When I met Jay, I wasn’t struggling. Not in the least. Not in any way.
Financially… I was making good money working writing contracts. I had invested some of the insurance money Nick had left us and that was helping too so that I only had to work and have Austyn in school PART TIME.
Emotionally… I was FINALLY at a place of COMPLETE trusting in God. I had no worries or cares though I should have. I didn’t fret for the future. Or what would happen when the insurance money ran out… I was just living & ENJOYING every single day.
I was renting a house just four blocks away from Greenlake in Seattle. For those of you not familiar with the area, it’s an AMAZING little neighborhood, centered around a beautiful lake, surrounded by a green city park and fun little shops and restaurants. Just a five minutes drive from downtown. We had just moved back across the country from a sabbatical of sorts on the Gulf of Mexico.
And, I had found a perfect little 1,000 SF house for me and my just barely two year old. I had found a PERFECT Montessori school just a short five minute gorgeous drive around the lake.. And, my office was the CUTEST little local coffee shop.
I was LOVING LIFE.
And, I was committed to being the BEST single momma I could be.
I felt like I FAILED every single day at something (heck, I still do). 🤗
BUT, I was TRYING my absolute best &&& giving myself GRACE where I needed it.
So, things were GOOD. And I believed they would continue to get BETTER.
Because I FINALLY believed whole-heartedly in God’s goodness.
I wasn’t a damsel in distress, by any means.
& I was fine with my lost-love-story.
I knew Nick was in Heaven. Doing miraculously well. So, I was going to be here. And do my damn best. I would make him, myself and GOD proud.
Then, Jay plopped into my life.
And everything CHANGED.
… for the even better!!
This guy filled cracks that only GOD knew of… and where ONLY God knew what could be the GLUE.
I married Jay in June, that’s when Austyn started to call him “dad.” But, TRUTHFULLY, she stole his heart long before that.
In August, Jay began the process of a step parent adoption. And, let me tell you, it WAS a PROCCCEEESSSS.
We did it “pro se” (meaning we had no lawyer and did all the legal work ourselves). And, NOW I understand why lawyers get paid so much!! Holy smokes! This process was basically a part time job for me for MONTHS!
Home visits, dr appointments, social worker interviews, court appointments, documents upon documents, paperwork galore, and, FINALLY, a hearing date.
Before a judge, Jay PROMISED to take full responsibility for Austyn as her father. To love her and care for her as if she was his own.
My heart skipped a beat, you guys. Right there in that courtroom, SUDDENLY, I had something I had NEVER had.
An ENTIRE family; all THREE of us HEALTHY and VERY MUCH ALIVE.
Jay and Austyn have a BEAUTIFUL relationship. One that I know will continue to grow and strengthen as time goes on. What an added blessing to know that Jay will be able to help me tell her all about Nick when she starts asking questions about her biological daddy.
Instead of choosing to be upset that she never got to know Nick in this life, I’m OVERJOYED that this little girl has not only ONE but TWO very committed, GENEROUS, loving and Godly daddies to look over her!
When you have something to celebrate, you sing it from the ROOFTOPS & that’s what I’m doing now!!
GOD continues to bring:
BEAUTY from my ashes.
JOY from my sadness.
And a SONG from my heart.
FOREVER & EVER grateful for HIM & this crazy beautiful, broken family. For, in HIM, we are WHOLE.
I will sing the Lords praise for He has been good to me!!! Psalm 13:6
#adoption #adoptionday #foreverfamily #stepparentadoption #grateful #blessed #onechildsworldchangedforever
Happy Birthday, my love, my friend.
I miss you.
Today, your daughter sat snug in my lap while we watched morning cartoons. We were 30 min away from having to leave and I was still in my pajamas, breakfast uneaten, makeup not done… But I couldn’t get up. Because, as I do many days, I was SOAKING her up.
Every so often, in between her crunching and munching on apples, our 3-year-old tilts her head back far and looks up at me. Her eyes sparkle and a grin spreads across her face. Oh, how that grin reminds me of you.
This is the third year that we are celebrating your birthday without you here. That seems impossible, for two reasons. 1. How could it be 3 years? On one hand, it feels like you were here yesterday! And, 2. How could it be ONLY 3 years? I’ve lived a lifetimes since I last saw your face.
Things have changed around here. Your girls have moved 4 times since you left, we’ve crossed from one side of the country to the other; twice. We’ve adopted a new man into our little family and we are working hard to make it the best little patched-up glorious family that we can.
Almost all the furniture is different. My style has changed a bit and I gravitate so much more to the things that I love instead of the things people always told me I should.
I do still decorate for all the little holidays. The fall stuff is up now. I remember how you always told me how much you loved that I did that. Back when we were dating and I lived in that tiny apartment, I remember how enamored you were that I decorated. At the time, I thought it was silly. But, now, I love how much you loved it. I love that you noticed and smiled that I took the time and spent the money to get dollar store autumn leaves on the window, because it made me happy inside.
I’m so different now, too. Not just where we live. As a person, I am different entirely. I’m not sure you would recognize this soul so well. It’s old now. Weathered and strong. I’m BRAVER now than ever before. I’m not scared of anything. Literally. Isn’t that crazy? Remember when I told you that I wouldn’t be able to live without you? I told you (and believed) that if you died, I would die. But, you swore to me I wouldn’t.
You said I was stronger than I thought. That God would carry me through. That our little babe needed me.
I cried then, in your arms, imagining the nightmare that loomed ahead and wishing with all my being that we could switch places. Oh, how I longed to switch places with you.
It’s crazy now, looking at what you said. That I would be okay. You said it with such confidence. How did you know? You knew that you knew. And I had NO idea. I truly think that ONLY God could have helped you see and given you that peace. It was ALL true. Now, I see what you saw then.
I think, I kept on living at first mainly because, I took a long, hard look at your short life and figured that… You wanted to live SO BAD and you didn’t get to. So, I better truly LIVE my days out in your honor. Not surviving, but thriving. Not wallowing, but celebrating. Not wishing I was dead, but creating a life I WANTED.
Like you always said He would, God came near during the darkest times. That day they told us your cancer was back and I collapsed to the floor, clutching the new life in my stomach as if I could somehow protect her from those words. That day 3 years ago, almost to the date, that you started hospice when your eyes were glazed over from the pain and yet you still breathed the word “blessed.” That day that they came and took you away and your hospice bed lay empty, all of you GONE in a single day.
In the end looking days like today straight in the face, can be hard for me. Only because I wish that maybe, as some sort of birthday miracle, you could come down and give me a little sign. But, I know how selfish that is. I’m lucky enough to have seen signs of you often and feel your love settling down on us every single day. Like gently falling snow, you are here.
It’s different now. But, our love is the same. It’s different now. But, you’re smile graces my presence every day. It’s different now, but somehow, it’s all okay.
It’s been 5 years since I celebrated a HEALTHY birthday of yours with you. 5 long years. And, though, the many healthy happy birthdays spent with you were FUN, none of them actually compare to all of these since. Because, once you got sick. EVERYTHING became clearer than it’s ever been.
God opened up my eyes to LIFE because of YOUR life. He showed me what being grateful truly meant. That life is so much more about living for people, for love, for hopes and dreams than it is living for money, or boats, or houses, retirement or things.
Your love, our love, has wings.
I’m so grateful I get to see it fly.
Happy 30th, Nicholas. Forever and a day.
I’ve definitely experienced periods in my life where I didn’t feel like I knew which way God wanted me to go. Where I felt like God wasn’t really giving me direction and I didn’t know what His will was. But, none of those periods were quite as QUIET as when I lived in Florida.
I had felt a tugging to move to Pensacola…. a tiny beach town on the Gulf of Mexico, and I hadn’t known WHY, really. I knew God wanted me there, I had made a few friends in the area, had spent a month vacationing there, had a little crush on a local, but none of THAT constituted a move. I mean it was BEAUTIFUL there too, but NOT like Washington-beautiful.
I didn’t know the answer but I KNEW I had to answer the call anyway. My husband, the love of my life, and my baby daddy, had passed just a year before, I would have to sell the house and uproot my one year old and, as a SINGLE WIDOWED Mom, trek across the country, THOUSANDS of miles away from my family and all reliable babysitters.
It didn’t make sense. It was nuts. My friends and family (most of them) didn’t really get it, but I shrugged my shoulders and told them, “Neither do I. I just know I have to go.”
When I started making plans, God moved in big ways, assuring me that He wanted me down there. I had an offer on my house for ABOVE asking within five days of listing it. I found a moving company within my budget quickly and felt ok trusting them with all my stuff. A town house the PERFECT size for Austyn and I basically fell into my lap that was just minutes from the beach. And, I secured new contracts with local Pensacola businesses in a matter of weeks.
When God gives you marching orders and you follow, He sure will make sure your path is straight.
So, I went through 45 days of hustle and got everything set… Flew across the country, settled in, found a part timeChristian pre-preschool for Austyn for while I worked, I went to markets, I dated that local, I joined a gym, I raised my baby girl, I made some great friends… and then, the rest of the time, I prayed a TON.
“What now, God?”
My question seemed to go unanswered, for so long.
“Helllllooooo? YOU brought me down here. What do you want me to do?”
Finally, one day, I got it. “Be still.”
“That’s it?! Really. Move across the country… and then…. Do NOTHING?!”
At first I felt cheated. And confused. Like why?? But, then I decided just to listen and do what He asked. Because, in my experience, even when it doesn’t make sense in the moment, God always makes sense later. So, I stilled. I worked on me and on work and on Austyn but other than that, I was still, UN-PLANNING (which is so UNLIKE me).
So, for months, there was:
NO moving forward with my book like I was planning.
NO direction or heading for my relationship with my then-boyfriend-now-ex.
NO direction on my career, which I knew would be more than just a writer.
NO planning of a family or a house or a future.
Just, me. Still. Waiting. Listening.
Waiting is hard. I kind of hate it. But I did my best to do it anyway. And to stay grateful in the waiting. I prayed. And did my best each day to listen.
EVENTUALLY, piece-by-piece He revealed a bit of the next steps for His plan. But ONLY one step at a time. I couldn’t see the whole staircase, as they say.
First step was to break it off with the local which was so scary, especially because he was one of the only people I had come to know in Fl and also because my heart was still so very fragile from losing Nick.
Months later, it was a direction to move home. To give up the life I had just finally gotten used to, the white sand beached and the salty air. The best friend who lives just a few miles away….. Just up and pack AGAIN.
And, revealing the next step in my career path didn’t even come for almost a YEAR after that.
I think, in the end, following Gods will is all about TRUST. It’s about taking it a step at a time. A day at a time. And trusting, that, in th is end, HOW He’s leading will all make sense in the end.
Sometimes that means quitting something even when we don’t see where we are going to next.
Sometimes it means resting where we are without even attempting to plan the future.
Sometimes it means starting something new.
But only you can know what God is speaking to your heart.
Continue to pray, read His word, and TRUST that HE can figure it all out for you. One step and one day at a time.
Oh, and now, looking back on my time in Florida…. I can see SO MANY REASONS for my time there. SOOOOOO MANY.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the time spent on, what felt like, the other side of the world. My trust in God and my dependence on Him wouldn’t be as strong. My confidence in myself and appreciation for silence wouldn’t be so ingrained. And I might not have this thick skin that formed from following God even when everyone else thought I was whacko.
NONE of those reasons were apparent to me BEFORE I moved there or even immediately upon returning to Seattle. Funny, isn’t it, what God and Time can reveal to us, when we give them the room to not make sense?
Oh, but I’ve lived through some scary days in my short 28 years, but I’ve found SO MUCH TRUTH in exactly what this quote says.
Nothing stings worse than regret.
ANYTIME that God has put something on my heart and I’ve turned the other way, pretending not to hear His call, I’ve regretted it. HARD.
So, I stopped turning away from Him as best I could and, each time, risked looking a bit like a fool. In the end, GOD CAME THROUGH, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
In 2007, I dumped my long time high school boyfriend when, a guy I barely knew, came back into my life asking for another chance (only to realize that very guy was my very soul and a perfect mate).
In 2008, I said “Yes” to a proposal at 20 years old, before we had lived together or slept together. The world thought we were crazy (only to be utterly grateful and find that His “crazy” way of living is exactly how God intended). <3 PS… Happy 8 Year Would-be-versary, Nicholas… We had it good, love. We were so blessed. We ARE SO blessed, even now, huh? We HAVE it good. <3
In 2011, I sat by my husband and planned a trip to meet with a rare cancer specialist though we had no money in the bank as we had just bought our first house (only to get a call an hour later from someone who wanted to give us their airline miles, which covered every cent of those last minute flights).
In 2012, I quit a job with my husband in remission and me, 9 weeks pregnant (only to find God had a better one lined up for me, where I could work from home. Just so happens that Nick’s cancer came back with a vengeance three months after that job change and I was able to take care of him AND work. GOD. SEND.)
In 2012, I asked for time off when our money had all but run out, with a mortgage to pay and medical bills stacked higher than a chimney (only to be told that ANY and ALL time off that I needed would be PAID, in full, though I had accrued no PTO to spend).
In 2013, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, her life thrived while my husband’s disappeared before my eyes. And yet I FOUGHT my instincts and chose to trust Him anyway (only to find, later on, that He really was worth trusting all along).
In 2014, I walked my 9 month old daughter down the aisle of a church at my husband’s funeral and I smiled and I laughed (only because I KNEW that I could still find a reason to smile, even though it felt as though life had been torn from me).
In 2014, I moved across the country, to Florida when He called me there with my 1.5 year old little girl, 5,000 miles away from my friends and family (only to realize that I needed this time to myself to figure out who I was AFTER loss, that I could be a good single mom, and to come closer to my God).
And, in 2016, with many mistakes behind me but fewer regrets than before, I said “Yes” on the alter to a man who people exclaimed “I had only dated for a year!” (Only to find that peace that surpasses understanding, that I knew THIS MAN was made to be my *second first*.)
The list goes on and on and on… And I *also* have a list of times I’ve turned my back on what God whispered to my heart… That one isn’t as pretty. I’ve found that following a God who whispers to your soul, even when it seems like a crazy bunch of nutso is ALWAYS, ALWAYS worth it. Because sometimes the LOUDEST plan isn’t the RIGHT one.
God’s plan DOESNT always make sense. And, often, He will ask us to take a step, even when we might be close to THE LEDGE. He asks us to step out, NOT BECAUSE ITS SAFE but because HE IS THERE.
You can be COMFORTABLE or you can be COURAGEOUS.
BUT YOU CANNOT BE BOTH. ❤️
Sooo DANG GRATEFUL for the people in my life who have spoken into me, believed in Gods direction for my life, followed Gods direction on their own, and held their tongues if they ever thought me a fool. There are many but specifically, I would love to thank Nick, Jay, Judy, Eric, Daniel, Kat, Cat, Sean, James, Mike, Genna, Kinslee, and my whole family and COUNTLESS friends. I could never forget all you’ve done for me. ❤️ #danggrateful
I wear a ring on my right hand. It’s a sweet eternity, a hope, a memory.
It was given to me for my 26th birthday, by my husband, Nick, who was undergoing endless chemo, attempting to kill the monster that was consuming him from his middle out. Literally. (Appendix cancer is a nasty beast. And, its rare, but more common than you might think. Look it up sometime.)
Our daughter was 6 months old then, all smiles and giggles and teeeeeny, tiny blonde hairs. She took in the world around her for what it was, she didn’t know how soon ALL of it might fall apart.
But, I knew. I had seen the wires and tubes sticking out of her daddy’s body more times than I could count… I had hoped and dreamed and raged and fought, but still, when I looked at it straight, it looked like we were losing the battle anyway. Even after all THAT. After all the work, all the prayers, all the medicine, all the green drinks, the specialists consultations across the continent… The feeling of failure was so palpable at times that I could taste it in my mouth; under my tongue, sharp, acid, HARD fail.
I started to give this OUT OF CONTROL situation up to God. I gave Him my feeling of failure, my last hope. When there honestly wasn’t anything else I could do and I had exhausted every other option… I decided to try and make the best of it. And, I knew that I would need SUPERNATURAL help to do so.
It was hard and it sucked and it was the worst thing I have ever faced in my entire life…. But, I began to try to view each day as an adventure. Even the super crappy ones. Even the ones spent in the ER, and the ones spent lying next to my weakening husband in bed.
When I brought him home from a hospice center in November, to live out the rest of his life as it turned out, I could hardly recognize his earthly body anymore.
Sure, technically, it WAS the same body. The very one that had lifted me effortlessly, spun me around, and thrown me into the lake my mother lived on just a few years before. It WAS the body that had so easily stood into a handstand during our engagement photo shoot. It WAS the same body that fathered our child, but it looked different now.
“Hollow” would be the only word I could use to describe those last months, physically. But, spiritually, he was BRIMMING. His relationship with God was DEEPER than any I had ever seen. He truly trusted and had grown closer to His Savior than I could have ever hoped for for myself.
He handed it over. His everything. His life. I saw him lay himself and his hopes down a little bit more every day. But, not in exchange for something worse. Honestly, you could FEEL it in your bones. HE KNEW that he was laying down this life FOR SOMETHING EVEN BETTER.
In early December, when pain had kept him (and us) up for another endless night, he asked if I would help him get out of bed.
“Will you pray with me?”
We knelt down against the couch that didn’t belong in our bedroom. The one that we had brought in for Nick to sit in when his pain was so bad that lying down at any angle caused intense pain to shoot, unbridled, through his abdomen. His tumors were stringy, and they latched on tight, wouldn’t let go, pushing and pulling on his organs (the ones that were still left after surgery, anyway).
“God. You know I love you. And, I trust you. I’ve been having such a hard time letting my girls go. But, I know you have a plan. And, God, I want you to know… I’m ready. I only want your will. Whatever it is. If I stay, that’s SO fine with me. But, if I need to go… Lord, I trust you.”
Tears streamed from his eyes down his cheeks, onto our tightly clasped hands, but when he opened his eyes again and looked to mine, I saw PEACE, not pain.
He died one month later..
I wear a ring on my left hand. A solitaire; a gift, a promise.
On a night last December, among Christmas lights and a winter breeze, my best friend got down on his knee and asked me to become his wife.
It had felt a little complicated at first… Jay and I. I mean, I had JUST come to terms with my being a widow, with my being a single mom. And, instead of those things being bad things, I let those things mean ADVENTURE. I could live wherever I wanted so I tried 10 months on the Gulf of Mexico. I could do what I wanted for work, so I crafted my best job ever and went after it, writing blog posts for startups and entrepreneurs. I didn’t have to double check my choices with anyone or risk being questioned, so I listened to music for hours on end after putting my little girl to bed. I ate ice cream for dinner on more than one occasion. I joined a gym and went to yoga on the evenings. I read book after book after book, because once the toddler was asleep and work was done, nothing else really required my attention.
Needless to say, I was single… but I was ALSO satisfied. Years after my late husband’s death, I had finally come to terms with whatever life God had planned for me. I had finally TRUSTED HIM with the trust that I had seen in Nick so many years before. Endlessly, recklessly, completely.
When I moved back to Seattle, I rented a house in the sweetest little neighborhood. Austyn and I walked to dinner and to the park by the lake. I would drop her off at her Montessori school in the morning and walk to the cutest little coffee shop you’ve ever seen, drink an Americano, and type like a mad woman. This. Was. Life.
I didn’t think there was someone out there that could ADD anything to the situation, really. I mean, sure, I definitely wondered what it might be like to have a Partner in Parenting and sometimes I wished there was someone to talk to on the nights that I couldn’t sleep. But, for the most part, God became THAT person for me and I LOVED growing in my relationship with HIM, exclusively. It honestly was pretty incredible and I will cherish that time forever.
So, back to Jay… I had known him for years, technically. He had been one of my late husband’s best friends, back when we had first met. I wasn’t too sure about Jay at first, all those years ago, but Nick had vouched for him every time I questioned their friendship. Telling me that Jay was still “growing” and to give it a few years. He said that EVENTUALLY I would see what he saw in his friend: someone who was loyal, trustworthy, hardworking, and kind to a fault.
I hadn’t seen Jay in years when I returned to Seattle, but when we met for smoothies with Austyn, I KNEW something was up. I had reached out to him, to catch up and mainly to talk about local churches (Jay, just a few years into his relationship with Our Father). But, when we sat down nearly a year ago today, I had felt a stirring in my soul. I tried to ignore it at first…. Because, let’s face it, change is SCARY as heck and I was HAPPY where I was at, thank you very much!
But, God had plans… And, ignoring Jay just WASN’T an option when at the FIRST sign of a crush, he sent me a page-long note asking me about dating a widow, what Nick would think, and what the Bible says. He wanted to get it right, and if we were going to do this, he wanted me to know he wasn’t messing around.
“I haven’t had a girlfriend in five years. Because I’m so picky. I won’t date someone unless they have the qualities I want. I feel like I know you but not all that well, but based off what I do know from the past and our recent communication I know you have many qualities and characteristics that I personally look for in a woman.”
This guy, who I had previously decided was simply a “bad influence” on my husband, would come to mean more to me than I could have imagined. His life, I would come to find out, had been changed BIG TIME since we had last really spoke. By the VERY ONE who changed my life too, Jesus Christ.
The rest, as they might say is history…
I get remarried in just 9 days. I get to marry my best friend, who used to be best friends with my other best friend.
It might sound kind of weird to other people. It might not.
To me, its perfect.
There are TWO INCREDIBLE LIVES we might live. Our own DREAM or our DESTINY. Sometimes, they are one in the same….. But, sometimes, they are not. Many times, our DREAM leads us to our DESTINY. But, while you’ve spent a lifetime coming up with your DREAM, God has been busy, working in the background, crafting your DESTINY. And, it’s one wilder and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
There will be AS MUCH beauty in your DESTINY as there is in your DREAM. So, LET GO of what you think you want and let God guide you. After all, HE MADE YOU.
You were made for MORE than your DREAMS. You were made for BRAVER than you believe. You were made for a CRAZY BEAUTIFUL life.
Goodbyes just plain suck. All of ’em. To hell with ’em. We weren’t built for ’em. Especially the permanent ones. You know, the ones where you know it will be impossible to see your loved one’s face again, on this earth? Those ones. They freaking bite. When you know that the next time you’ll meet eye-to-eye will be when your journey is complete. And, right then, you have no idea when that day will come and it feels like forever away.
Indefinite goodbyes suck.
Indefinite goodbyes without the hope of reunion suck even more.
I’ve been trying to explain goodbyes to Austyn these last few weeks because she’s gonna be missing some sweet friends of hers very soon. I’m her momma. I want to prepare her. So, I’ve been trying to tell her that, because of our move up North, she won’t be attending her awesome little Montessori school here in Seattle anymore.
Today was her last day. And on the way to school, I tried to warn her again. I didn’t want her to freak out but I didn’t want this day to slip by without her realizing it’s seeming significance. I told her that today there should be long hugs and extra kisses. In my heart, I know that these kids that she’s made into friends and the teachers she’s made into family will fade into the background soon.
But, she didn’t really seem to understand. I know this isn’t goodbye forever necessarily. We hope to visit back to her school a few times in the coming year at least. But, the day to day will be gone. Every day she doesn’t have school during the week this past year, she tells me she misses her “fwends.” I am nervous for the day she tells me this, this coming week. Break. My. Heart.
I’ve never really liked goodbyes. Not to my parents when they left for vacation when I was a kid, not to my friends for summer break, not to my bestie when we chose colleges that were states apart, not to the baby I never got to meet, and DEFINITELY not to my husband when he died of cancer just five years into our marriage. No, definitely not then.
I remember crossing the hallway between our master bedroom and Austyns nursery in the early morning, just hours before Nick would leave this earth. I had been watching his chest rise and fall for the last half hour, not much unlike the past two weeks. However, this time, when I had been awakened by my usual alarm to give him his next dose of pain meds, I noticed right away that something was different. The hospice nurses had warned me that would happen. They told me that his breathing would “change.” I had worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell. “You’ll know.” They had assured me.
And, I definitely did.
It was coming… Our final goodbye. I had spent the last two years saying goodbye to small parts of my husband, small bits of us, and large chunks of me that had been tangled up in him. First it was goodbye to cancer free conversations, then date nights, then grocery outings, then morning coffee, then goodbye to our sex life… Next came goodbye to his lucid words, goodbye to his sound advice and goodbye forever to our flow of conversation. Then, goodbye to his kisses. Goodbye to his voice and then his whispers. It was obvious that this real last goodbye had been a long time coming. And, yet, my heart felt so surprised. Already? We hadn’t had near long enough.
That last night of his on this earth was also the very last night I breastfed our little girl, Austyn. (Last night of breastfeeding because my milk supply cut off the very next day. The stress of losing my husband’s life proving too much for my body to handle along with sustaining my little girl’s life.) I remember wondering if I was nuts to leave Nick alone in that room, but I knew Austyn needed to eat and I had a strange peace that he wouldn’t leave me until I made my way back to his side.
As I crossed the distance between the two loves in my life, angels were with me every step of the way. God was physically present. I felt Him there, in the house. I felt Him in my bones. And, though, I was trembling and heartbroken, peace flooded me like none I’d ever felt. I remember caressing Austyn’s soft little hand as she sleepily drank and letting tears roll down my cheeks as I thought of not only my loss, but hers.
Nick died when Austyn was barely 9 months old. She hadn’t walked yet or talked yet. She hadn’t learned to count. Or ride a bike. It just all felt so unfair. At the very very least, it seemed a girl should have her dad for her first soccer game, for her first dance, even for her wedding. My heart ached for her and shattered for me. Split wide open, right down the middle, for us both.
Looking back now, I realize a silver lining that I hadn’t seen then. The innocence that was preserved in my little girl. Obviously it would have been an immense blessing if Nick had been able to live his life into the years that will eventually reside in Austyn’s memory. But, he didn’t. And so, my sweet girl doesn’t know goodbyes like I do.
As we passed Greenlake for the last time on our way home from school today, she told me something.
“My teacher sad today.” She frowned in the rearview mirror and I longed to see the dimple that shows when she smiles.
“Is she baby? Why do you think?” I asked.
“Because it my last day at school.” She said.
“Yeah. She’s going to miss you, sweetheart.” My girl captured hearts there, even through her terrible twos.
“Yes. BUT!!” Austyn’s eyes twinkled and that dimple appeared fast as her smile grew. “She will feel better soon maybe. Maybe I will give her a hug someday and she will feel all better. Soon, mom. Let’s see! She WILL feel better. Not tomorrow. But SOON!”
My sweet child. My heart swelled with pride and with grief, happy and sad tears threatened to brim.
I know she will miss her friends and her teachers come next week. But, I also know that she will make more friends.
I made a conscious decision long ago, with the help of my God, my pastor, my grief counselor and countless psychiatrists studies, that I wouldn’t share my grief with my little girl. At least, as best I can. I share my grief with you, with the world, with other adults in my life. But, not with her. Not yet. She’s been far too young to understand goodbyes of this magnitude. And, I’m trusting that decision even more now.
Nevertheless, she has surely seen me cry and have hard days. When as a single momma, I just couldn’t keep those tears from falling to the floor.
And, I don’t know if it’s so much that, or just who God has made her to be, but she is honestly one of the most compassionate toddlers I have ever seen. Her heart is on her sleeve and its pure as gold, untarnished. She’s got her bad days, I assure you, but her tenderness and care for others is as plain as day. She puts others needs first, especially if they are having a hard time. She pats backs, asks to kiss boo boos and all around wonders aloud “You doin okay in there?” And, I pray my daughter and this love for others always stays that way. It’s the very best gift she could ever possess.
In all her childlikeness, I realize how very much I strive to be just like her. And, sometimes, I really do accomplish it.
A sweet acceptance that a “someday reunion” is good enough. And, that living life for JOY in the meantime is all there really is to do.
Goodbyes suck. They sure do. But, you WILL feel better. Maybe not tomorrow. But, soon! <3
It’s challenging enough to balance your own emotions between a lost spouse and a new-found love. But, trying to balance the emotions and responses of others can prove to be even more exhausting.
Losing someone is difficult, no matter to what capacity you lost them or to what capacity your relationship had reached. When you lose a best friend, a lover, a husband, your heart is ripped clear open and into a thousand many pieces. The face you present to your loved ones, to your family, to the public is one that’s put together even if inside it feels like you are falling apart.
Eventually you might find a way (I honestly think this can only happen with God’s help) to put yourself back together again, for realz this time, on the inside. But, that genuine smile. That glow. Especially if you’ve fallen in love with another might hit others wrong.
To them, it might feel like a slap in the face. They may think that you’ve forgotten who you lost. They might think it doesn’t hurt anymore. After all, they don’t see the waves of grief wash over you, so clearly those waves must not exist.
YOU know where YOU are at with your grief. You KNOW that your love for your lost loved one will NEVER go away, even if you wanted it to. Don’t let what other people think or don’t know about you get in your way of moving forward.
There is NOTHING wrong with moving FORWARD.
There is NOTHING wrong with falling in love again.
There is NOTHING wrong with starting a family with someone who wants to be a part of your broken life and help you hold together your broken heart.
There is NOTHING wrong with continuing to LIVE even if your late love didn’t have the chance to make it this far.
Your story CAN be BEAUTIFUL again and you can be HAPPY about sharing that BEAUTIFUL STORY. So, do it, friend!
Guilt can be a powerful thing. It can hold us back… Especially Guilt mixed with Grief. Sometimes it can be hard to smile when you know that smile might cause someone pain… But, I CAN ONLY CONTROL ME. And YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL YOU.
As long as you are doing your best, LIVING your life, and remembering the one you lost without letting it consume you, I would say you are doing a DAMN GOOD JOB! Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
You do you. There are no timelines or agendas to follow as far as grief goes. You know you. You do you. That is all.
So, no matter where you are in life… Live for God. Live for you. Don’t live for others. God’s opinion is TRULY the ONLY ONE that counts. <3
To borrow some cheesy quote from some brand that I can’t quite remember right now… “It’s YOUR life. Live it Beautifully.”
Be brave, dear one. You’re doing great!!
You guys remember how a few years back I got to go to the Super Bowl? No? Well, I freaking do! 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!
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?!
We leave in 5 days for… Hong Kong!
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.
Our mission will be one part cultural awareness, one part prayer, one part marketing brain storm, and one part pre-marital counseling. Sound like we will have enough to do? ;] We will get to experience the city and places like: The Stanley Market, The Peak, Kowloon Walled City Park and even Hong Kong Disneyland! Get ready for some sweet HK pics on my instagram!!
I read this quote once and took it to heart.
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… ;)