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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?
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.
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?!
Sometimes I just sit and let overwhelming AWE flow over me. HOW IN THE WORLD have I been given the love of not only one but TWO amazing men? God’s given me SO MUCH. I have nothing that I can’t look to God and thank Him for. He’s given me LIFE, FREEDOM from the consequences of my sins, and His FOREVER FRIENDSHIP (the greatest gifts of all)! And, as if that wasn’t enough, He’s proven time and time again that He CAN somehow conjure up GOODNESS in the wake of tragedy.
Just this morning, Austyn was pulling apart an orange with her breakfast. “Look, mom! A tiny one!!!” she said as she pulled a small section away from the fruit. “And… Look! A DADDY one!” her eyes lit up as she held a larger piece of fruit out for me to see.
That is THE. FIRST. time she has ever named any bigger “thing” as a “daddy.” If theres a small item and a bigger one… it has ALWAYS been a “mommy one.” That’s because it’s always been just her and I…. A Mommy and a tiny one.
This little girl lost her biological father when she was just 9 months old, a week out from her first step, a year away from her first words… Her world was forever altered before she even knew what her world could have been.
And now, somehow, years later, it seems that our plan includes a second daddy for Austyn. What a lucky girl! An awesome daddy in Heaven and a sweet daddy on Earth! God is just TOO good!
Jay will be adopting Austyn (officially) shortly after our marriage this summer. I can’t put into words the feelings that arise when I hear Austyn call Jay her “Daddy.” As she transitions into having an earthly Father, I ask for your continued prayers over our family, for strength, for growth, for understanding and for beautiful, wonderful unity.
Things are CRAZY good over here. Crazy hard, too, sometimes. Crazy different. Crazy LOTS-to-get-used-to. But, I am loving every second of it!
Dear Widows and Widowers,
You lost your best friend, your spouse. You’ve experienced deep, deep pain. There’s an elephant in the room that you can’t seem to hide, no matter how hard you try. It feels like everyone must see it (even strangers you’ve just met): there is a horrible gaping absence right next to you. Nothing feels right.
I feel you, I do. But, I don’t pity you. I really don’t. Not because what happened to you isn’t in every way horrible (it is!!!), but because I have been through this walk, too. And, I know that pity just isn’t helpful. Friendship, yes. Companionship, duh. Empathy, abso-freaking-lutely. But, not pity.
I’ve found through the years that those friends (many) who have gently encouraged me to take a good look at myself, to tally up my strengths, and to become more self-aware…. Those encouragers, their words, have been the most helpful. Especially those who have walked this path before me. They speak of heartache, but they speak also of growth, of unprecedented strength, and profound opportunity. I’ve found their words to be true. And I want to share my own encouragements with you here, today.
The word “opportunity” might seem absolutely crazy to you right now. You might be wondering if I’m out of my mind. Especially if you’re in the beginning of this journey when the only “opportunities” around might seem to be negative ones. Like the “opportunity” to break the world’s record for how many nights in a row one can cry herself to sleep. Or the “opportunity” to observe how long a human being can exist with a black hole that opened up right where his heart used to be. Yeah, it might super sound like a REALLY crazy idea right now. To consider this purely horrible situation an opportunity would be to consider it a foundation you can build upon. It would be to consider it a starting point for improvement. Opportunity??? REALLY?!?!? Yes. Really.
At some point, dear one, you will be able to get out of bed. You will be able to get off the couch. It will be hard. It will feel like your limbs weigh 500 lbs (each!) and you’re walking through the thickest tar. But, you must remember, that with time, it will get easier. I promise.
Sure, you’ll have up days and down days. Up weeks and down weeks. Good years and horribly crappy ones. But, overall, your trajectory will improve (if you let it, but we will get to that).
As these steps and days eventually get the tiniest bit easier, widowhood will finally present its beautiful sparkling face of opportunity. Whether you like it or not, whether you plan to or not, this opportunity will force itself upon you in one way or another. And, then, you’ll just need to decide.
The choice is yours and yours alone. Will you take this opportunity for all its worth?
Being forced into autonomy is not an easy transition. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It feels downright barbaric really… Like a torture of the most horrible kind.
But, during those long, cold nights, you’ll learn something about yourself. You’ll learn who you are… and, more importantly, who you want to be.
That person you’ll come to know will be a different version of the “self” you knew before your loss. (No matter what, great love and great loss will forever change you, alter you, it’s unavoidable.) But, get to know the new you… Believe me, you are worth knowing.
When you were married, your “i”s became “we”s and your “singles” become “pairs.” You had a date for every wedding. A companion for most meals. A person to look over you. Gosh, even just someone to just talk to about your day! (Ahhh… How I missed that, so!)
When you’ve been widowed, those things are suddenly (and seemingly irreversibly) stripped away.
Now, it’s just you.
Alone in a huge, unfamiliar world.
Along with that empty space in the bed next to you and the closet full of shoes that won’t be worn again, everything has changed. And, your plans for today, for tomorrow, for next week, and for a decade from now? They are different, too. Entirely.
So…. What are you to do with yourself? What really matters now? Who are you anyway?
At the beginning (and there’s no timeline here…. sometimes the beginning could last quite some time) the answers to these questions might be, simply: 1. Nothing. 2. Nothing. And, 3. Who cares?!
But, eventually (and you’ll know when you get there) you’ll start to wonder about these things.
You had plans before but they changed. You were you before but now you’ve changed. Maybe changed most of all is a truth realized:
You didn’t know how short life was but now that fact is FOREVER implanted in your skull.
So, what do you do?
This, my friend, is where the choice arises. You have been given a unique gift. A chance to rediscover yourself. To fashion a life you want. To do that thing God’s always called you to do. You’ve been given a wake up call. Answer it!
Not because your late spouse wouldn’t have let you go after these things before (quite the contrary; they probably would have encouraged it), but because you finally got the kick in the pants that you needed.
It’s a swift and devastatingly beautiful truth. THIS is the ONE, precious short life we have.
How else is there to live, I wonder, than to make the most of every single day?
I once was blind but, through my husband’s death, now I see.
**My kick in the pants has pushed me to finally begin a journey towards my lifelong passion and the calling I believe God has always had on my life. I am in the process of writing a book (anyone know any awesome literary agents?)! Please Subscribe via Email to this blog in the upper left hand corner (below the fold) to receive my posts (via email, hehe, as stated), so you’re sure not to miss a thing! :]
Sending you all my gratitude for reading and sharing,
WE GOT A HOUSE!!
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 emoticon heart emoticon
Love ya’ll. Happy 2016!!! Cheers! xox
Wow… You guys… Where do I begin? What do I say? How can I convey to you ALL of these FEELINGS when I can barely identify them myself? Well, I’ll try…
How Did Jay and I Meet?
Jay and I have technically known each other for 8 years. If you haven’t read it elsewhere before… He was one of Nick’s best friends back when I met Nick all those lifetimes ago. Jay and Nick had owned a small business together in college and hung out a lot at work events and at various “guy nights.”
I remember telling Nick when we were dating that I wasn’t too sure about his friend, Jay. I suggested that maybe he might not be the best influence for Nick’s life. But, Nick would go to bat for him EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
“Jay is one of the truest friends I have.”
“Jay is one of the nicest guys I have ever known.”
“Jay is loyal and trustworthy. I won’t ever give him up.”
Jay and I didn’t hang out much because, well, I wasn’t so sure about him. But, Nick hung out with Jay whenever they could make it work. And, Nick ended up choosing Jay as one of his groomsmen in our wedding.
From that point forward, I only ended up seeing Jay a couple of times, though I heard about him and his life often, through Nick.
Fast forward to 3 years ago, when Nick got insanely sick and received his diagnosis of a horrible cancer recurrence. We had just gotten the horrible news and were trying to process all that was happening when Nick got a phone call that contained some very good news! Nick couldn’t wait to share it with me.
“Alyssa, you’ll never guess! You know Jay? He just got saved! He accepted Christ!” Nick’s smile was wide as ever. His eyes glistened with tears.
We high-fived each other and said a prayer of blessing over Jay and his commitment to Jesus. I was truly happy to hear that Nick’s friend’s life was moving in the right direction.
Where “We” Began
So… How did this all begin with Jay and I? Well, I hadn’t seen Jay since Nick’s Celebration of Life in January of 2013. But, this summer, I had asked Jay if we could meet up to discuss local churches. I had recently returned from Florida and was looking for a new church home and was stalking my community for any helpful input anyone might have. I reached out to multiple people in my network over the course of a month or so, looking for the perfect new place to call my church home. It just so happened, that I saw a post from Jay about his church and wanted to know more.
When we met for coffee, we unexpectedly hit it off as friends. We had never said much more than “Hey, how are you?” in the years before, but conversation came so easily this time and we decided that we should get together again soon. This started a great friendship. And, it took me only a little while, but I started to see some of the things in Jay that Nick had seen years ago. And, I began to see other desirable things in him too. His life was on the right track. He had made incredible changes to his life. He was motivated. He was insanely generous (a characteristic that reminds me so very much of Nick). And, much more attractive than I had remembered or ever noticed. (Blush!)
It took some clearing up for Jay of what Nick wanted, of what God says about all of this, and of how I felt about love after Nick. But, eventually, Jay saw me in a new light too. And, our friendship began to develop into something deeper.
Do You Like Me? (Check Yes or No.)
So… On July 14th, Jay brought flowers and, cute as ever, asked me to be his girlfriend. He had come prepared with a list of reasons he thought he would be the best man for me. Ten items were on his list and they were as precious as can be. He included being a good father figure for Austyn as long as we wanted him, leading me ever closer to God, putting our relationship above all others, and other absolutely honorable and perfect things. I said yes (under two conditions: 1. Absolutely No Clown Pranks. (I hate clowns.) And, 2. New Boyfriend Must Kill All Spiders. No exceptions.).
The rest honestly, already feels like history. (He’s kept both of my conditions thus far as well as all of his beautiful promises to me.) We’ve had an amazing 5 months! I know… that seems so fast, huh? But, I guess I’m just the type… When you know, you know, you know?! (Nick and I got engaged back in the day after just 6 months. And, yeah, that was one of the very best decisions of my whole life! DUH. )
Jay and I have spent these last five months doing so very much: learning how we might fit as a family, how we fight, how we love, how to listen, how to hold each other’s hearts and hurts, we’ve traveled locally and internationally, we’ve spent days on end together, met and spent time with each other’s families (including Nick’s family who will forever remain mine), celebrated both of our birthdays, taught Austyn to pee in the toilet (and celebrated accordingly — this was a HUGE deal so potty dances are now a “thing” in my house), and lived the monotonous as well as the adventurous.
He Popped the Question!
I know, I know… you want to know about the engagement!! Well, here it is!
Last night was our official 5 month anniversary. December 14th. Jay had planned a “surprise date night” and I had a guess that a sparkly thing might be on its way, but quickly the thought was dismissed. (We had discussed marriage and so many things related, but I try hard these days not to get my hopes up too high. I’d rather be surprised than disappointed, you know?)
When Jay showed up at my house to pick me up for our date night, he handed me a beautiful bouquet of 18 red roses. GOORRRgeous! We gave our hugs and said our goodbyes to Austyn and my dad (who was over to babysit Austyn for me) and made our way to the car.
Jay opened the door for me as we walked out of the house and ran ahead to get the car door as well. (This is a normal occurrence… He is so good at that!) My sweet guy! We showed up at the Bellevue park and I knew what we were doing for sure… Finally! Ice skating! I’d been wanting to go again for years and had mentioned it before to Jay. “This is gonna be so fun!” I thought. It was the cutest little rink set up right in the pond in downtown Bellevue park. We had hot cocoa to warm up first and then got our skates on and slipped out onto the ice (not so gracefully, BUT we didn’t fall!). As expected, we had so much fun! There were about a hundred people there but we had a blast anyway and we were even able to pull off a couple spins!!
I was starving so we left right after skating and headed across the park to a “mystery” restaurant. (He wouldn’t tell me where.) We walked and talked (at first about Austyn’s latest poopy accident LOL) and then about the last five months and all the wonderful things that have been happening. We slowly made our way up the steps at the North end of the park, hand in hand. It was cold and we could see our breath but luckily, we both had good jackets on. Once at the top of the stairs, I noticed a man playing Christmas music softly on a guitar behind one of the light posts facing the park but couldn’t see his face. It was beautiful and I commented on the fact. “What a perfect night!”
I was honestly still completely clueless. Suddenly, Jay stopped me. We were standing under a tree and Jay pointed up. “Oh, look! Mistletoe!”
I didn’t hesitate or want to miss the chance, so I kissed him immediately. (Duh! He’s so stinking cute and I love him so much! Any chance to kiss and I’m in! 100%!) When I pulled away, I finally started to put two and two together realizing that the smooth Christmas performance and mistletoe randomly hanging from a tree in the middle of the park aren’t really a “normal” thing.
Just then, my suspicions were confirmed. Jay reached his hand into the tree… And, out came a ring box! He got down on one knee and…
You guys… I couldn’t stop jumping from that point on! I was so insanely happy!
His words were perfect, the ring was perfect, and I couldn’t help but feel God was smiling down on us!
I screamed YES with all my heart and kissed him hard!
Just as he stood up and slipped the ring on my finger, I noticed the guitar guy walking towards us. I looked at his face and it registered… It had been one of my best friends, Sean, playing guitar!!! And, he was still playing and singing “Jingle Bells!” Then, out popped Andy from the next light post over, one of Jay’s good friends! And, as I turned to see him, I saw Cat (one of my other best friends, who is married to Sean) come from behind the next pole shaking some actual jingle bells (Seriously. Cuteness.). And, then out came Jacki, Jay’s best friend and girlfriend to Andy!! Oh my goodness! All four of them had been waiting for us to arrive, setting up and then videotaped and photographed the whole thing from a distance. I couldn’t believe it!
I was so surprised and my voice was uncontrollably squeaky as I asked for details and stood in disbelief! It turns out that these two couples, plus some of my family and friends, and many more had kept this secret for a while now! Jay had been planning the proposal for weeks!! Jay had even asked my dad for his permission to ask me to marry him almost a month ago!
My favorite Prosecco was brought out and we toasted and the night wasn’t even out of surprises yet. Jay and I hung back, hand in hand, as I asked him so many questions about the night and our friends led the way.
Jay had gone to great lengths to plan a perfect dinner for right after our engagement. We got to Palomino’s downtown with all our friends and we sat and ate dinner while watching the Snowflake Lane performance on the main stage right outside our window. Jay and Jacki had scoped out the perfect place to eat during Snowflake Lane and it really was! There was snow, christmas lights, dancers and drumming nutcrackers. Seriously magical…. Not to mention, complimentary champagne, appetizers and dessert!!
Seriously… What a night!!!
Now, after all has settled down, and I look back at last night, I can’t help but want to write down every detail. I know I will want to remember last night for the rest of my life. <3
Austyn was incredibly excited this morning when she woke up to see such a sparkling ring on my finger. I FaceTimed Jay into the conversation and we told her what the ring meant. That Mommy and Jay were getting married and that Jay was going to be her new daddy. You should have seen her sweet little face!!! Austyn’s eyes lit up and her smile was as wide as her daddy’s the day he found out he would see his best friend in Heaven again someday. I saw Nick’s smile then, in Austyn’s smile now. And, just, whoa. SO. Many. Feels.
Jay and I both started crying… My goodness. We were just a big sloppy mess of beautiful and joyous tears over here!
I won’t EVER tell you that any bit of sickness or death is a part of God’s plan. Because it is NOT. I won’t ever tell you that there is a REASON for hurt or heartache, pain or disease, broken marriages or lost lives. But, I will tell you… God CAN and DOES work ALL things (the good and the bad) together for ULTIMATE GOOD for those who love and believe in Him.
Two years ago today, I was just weeks away from losing my husband, my very best friend. Today, I rejoice in finding a new best friend to spend the rest of my days on this earth with (God willing).
Nothing will ever change who Nick was to me. Nothing will ever take away from our love. And, no wedding will ever revoke my widowed title to Nick. But, now I am “fiancee” to Jay and I just couldn’t feel more blessed to start planning for the day I become his wife.
I have had the love of two absolutely amazing men in my life and, my goodness, I know I don’t deserve it, but I’m going to enjoy it just as much as I possibly can. <3
There is just TOO MUCH THAT’S WRONG. When is enough ENOUGH?
Far… Bombings in Paris. Genocide. Starvation. Civil Wars. Child Slavery. Terrorism.
Near… Poverty. Homelessness. Separation. Prostitution. Anxiety. Depression. Suicide. Addiction.
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.
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