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