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
My close friends and family have seen me on the tough days, when smiling feels impossible (yes, I have had those days…). There are days when I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of bed.
I’ve been through a lot. Definitely not more than many but, quite possibly more than most (most my age, anyway). Despite all I’ve been through, I have learned through the years to remain as positive as possible. Deep down, I know that I always have a reason to smile. So, I can normally scrounge one up, even if it might be a little bit forced.
For the most part, I am pretty good at smiling through even the darkest days. I don’t smile because I have lost, I smile about what I had and what I still have. Yes, I have my little girl, a good job, and a roof over my head. I have lots of earthly things I can be grateful for! But, I am not promised forever with any of that so those can’t be my main reasons for being content.
Instead, and especially when things aren’t going according to my plan, I smile about having God… And about God having me.
I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Philippians 4:12
DONT STUFF IT
I don’t believe it’s ever smart to stuff your feelings. If you are mad, be mad. If you are sad, be sad. But, once those feelings have been let out, if it is at all possible for you to focus on the truths that you know, even just ONE truth, even just for a second. I would encourage you to. When anger boils back up, that’s fine. Let it out again. Just aim to go back to your place of happiness and contentment in the life that you have now.
The one truth you will want to focus on may just be that you know you are loved by a handful of people. Or, that you are loved by one person. Or, that you are loved by your dog. (Seriously, that’s ok too!) Or, (hopefully) it might be that you know that you are loved by the One who created you and knows you better than you know yourself. Can any of those truths bring you a smile today? And, if it can. Can you aim to try to fix your mind on those thoughts? To focus on the positives?
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8-9
TIME TO CHOOSE, AGAIN
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with my relationship here in Florida the way that we had planned. I won’t go into details but I can tell you that it has been very difficult.
Lies that float through my head: I’ll be forever single, I’m bad at relationships, I’ll never find my second “forever,” or being single for now or forever means I’ve failed (it doesn’t!). But instead, I am choosing to believe in the truths and think positively. Muster up as many smiles as I can! (And, I’m doing it!)
TRUTHS TO SMILE ABOUT
Here are some truths that make me smile:
1. God loves me! (Psalm 86:15)
2. God still has a plan for me! (Jeremiah 29:11)
3. God hasn’t forgotten me! (Deuteronomy 31:6)
God isn’t through with me. He has a plan for me. I believe in that plan and I know that I can go through a million dark days, knowing the truths above. It took me a while to really believe these truths. I questioned them for a while. But they are unquestionable to me now (maybe a blog post on this later). Anyway, the above applies to YOU, too. YOU are loved, there is a plan for YOU and YOU are NOT forgotten!
So, here I am again. Another crossroad in my life (and maybe yours, too?) where I could choose to give into the fear… or choose to hold onto faith. I bet you can guess what I’m gonna do? What about you?
I originally wrote this post in April, just before I moved back to Seattle! I conquered my fear of packing and moving yet again! Fears, watch out! You don’t have nothing on me! Hopefully I’ll get to update you guys soon on what’s new since coming home. God definitely had plans for me back here and I know He put me in Florida for a reason. So awesome to look back at the crazy path He’s lead me on!
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?
The words speak to me. They jump at me. They hit me square in the heart. It started when today’s service opened up with a verse that spoke directly to my situation. The lead pastor said “This is for someone here today.” Roger, that was me…
Then, I read the outline and the message was titled “Why Are You So Afraid?” Now, folks, let me tell you… I could have sworn the Pastor was speaking right to me, the entire message. In reality, he was speaking to an entire room full of people… But, I know that God WAS speaking… right to me. “WHY are you so afraid? Do you STILL have no faith?”
The word “still” in this context seems to imply that something had changed over time. And, it had. The disciples had spent a lot of time with Jesus… they had been through too much to doubt. Hadn’t they? Haven’t I? Bah! You would think. (Big sigh…)
When Jesus asked this of the disciples, I am sure the questions echoed in their hearts, too. I am sure that they wondered the same thing, “Is my faith still really so small?”
At this point… The disciples had spent days upon days with Jesus himself. They had seen Him teach to throngs of people and perform one miracle after another. They had traveled thousands of miles with Him, trusted in Him for their care, left their jobs, and their lives to follow Him. He had befriended them, become like a brother to them. They had been walking with, talking with, and living with God Himself. And, yet, they still felt immense fear. They still let themselves worry.
I get caught up in worries, anxieties, and fears far more than I would care to admit. But, I am trying to look at God’s track record in my life, instead of looking at an unknown future. He has always been faithful, even in the very worst of things.
God Can’t Be In Your Made Up Future
I was speaking with a trusted friend and loved advisor recently and he brought up an incredible point. God can’t be in your made up future. Worry is simply letting your mind think about circumstances or events that have not happened and may never happen at all. While God promises He is here for us here and now, He never promised us He could be here for us in a future that hasn’t even happened. Does this make sense? It’s kind of a hard idea to follow the first time. Let me try again…
When we worry about tomorrow, we are worrying about a time that hasn’t happened. Jesus isn’t in it. We are worrying outside of His grace and outside of His presence. You really can’t do anything about a scenario that might not ever happen… and, neither can God… because it hasn’t happened. Do you follow? God’s grace and love are sufficient for you here, right now. For any scenarios that you imagine in your future, you aren’t imagining that scenario with God’s grace in it. You are imagining it outside of Him.
What Ever Shall We Do?
What can we do? Well, as the Bible states over and over again, we really should try not worry or fear. We should try to trust. We should not falter. I know… easier said than done. (By the way, did I ever tell you that I have to go back and read my blog posts over and over sometimes? I am ALWAYS preaching to myself on these things. So, don’t think I’ve got this all nailed down. We are all in this together.)
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Philippians 4:6
And those are just three of the verses in the Bible that mention worry. There are many, many more (1 Peter 5:7, Luke 12:11 & 22, Matthew 6:25 and so on).
But, what else can we do? I mean, not worrying is all well and good, any other tips? Turns out there are… along with casting out worry, we can aim to persevere, to ask for wisdom and to believe. Check out these verses from James 1.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:2-8
I mean, jeeze, James… That was a little harsh dude. But, here’s the thing. I can’t argue with God on this one for I know all of this to be true. Not just because it’s in the Bible… But because I have experienced it firsthand. When I am letting doubts creep into my mind and into my heart… I AM like a wave in the sea… A whimpering wave, a scared little wave… Tossed around by my emotions and others’ reactions. I become double-minded. I become unstable and… it really ain’t pretty. It ain’t even a hot mess.
Grace Upon Grace
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I almost gotta put this one into context for myself to really hear it… “My grace is sufficient for you, Alyssa. My power is perfected in your doubt, your grief, your frustration, and this journey.” Try it with your name too. Try it with some of your weaknesses. What do you think? Do you think God can work beyond your unbelief? Beyond your doubts? Beyond your fears? Beyond whatever you are struggling with?
I believe that He can. I believe that He is. I am already thanking Him for His hand in my future, because I know He will be in whatever comes my way. I don’t aim to try to figure out what that future will be anymore. Not because I don’t want to know. But, because I know that worrying doesn’t help a thing. In fact, it often makes things worse. And God cant be in my made up future.
Live in the moment. Breathe in the blessings of today. Expect God to show up in all of your unexpected future. Be brave. Be strong. Do NOT give up. And know… It’s okay. You are not alone. (Psalm 31:24)