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WE’VE GOT AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE!!
It might not be the one you’d expect, but it DOES have to do with a BABY… my baby girl, to be exact.
Austyn Elizabeth has OFFICIALLY been adopted!!!!
She OFFICIALLY has TWO daddies now…. Her sweet biological daddy in Heaven, Nick Magnotti, who stuck around as long as he POSSIBLY could. And, her amazing present daddy, Jay Galios, who fell in LOVE with her & STEPPED UP gladly to a commitment greater than almost ANY other. 🤗
Being a solo* mom was one of the HARDEST things I have EVER had to do in my ENTIRE life. (Well, maybe it ties right up there with watching my husband and best friend slowly fade away…)
*Solo parenting means that there literally is no other parent AT ALL responsible for the child on the face of the planet.
When Nick passed away & for two and a half years after, it was just me and my sweet baby girl. And while the challenge was ROUGH, to say the least, it also taught me sooo much about myself, about God’s love for us, AND it really showed me just how much of a FATHER & best friend that God can REALLY be.
Anyway, I digress… back to the story: When I met Jay, I wasn’t struggling. Not in the least. Not in any way.
Financially… I was making good money working writing contracts. I had invested some of the insurance money Nick had left us and that was helping too so that I only had to work and have Austyn in school PART TIME.
Emotionally… I was FINALLY at a place of COMPLETE trusting in God. I had no worries or cares though I should have. I didn’t fret for the future. Or what would happen when the insurance money ran out… I was just living & ENJOYING every single day.
I was renting a house just four blocks away from Greenlake in Seattle. For those of you not familiar with the area, it’s an AMAZING little neighborhood, centered around a beautiful lake, surrounded by a green city park and fun little shops and restaurants. Just a five minutes drive from downtown. We had just moved back across the country from a sabbatical of sorts on the Gulf of Mexico.
And, I had found a perfect little 1,000 SF house for me and my just barely two year old. I had found a PERFECT Montessori school just a short five minute gorgeous drive around the lake.. And, my office was the CUTEST little local coffee shop.
I was LOVING LIFE.
And, I was committed to being the BEST single momma I could be.
I felt like I FAILED every single day at something (heck, I still do). 🤗
BUT, I was TRYING my absolute best &&& giving myself GRACE where I needed it.
So, things were GOOD. And I believed they would continue to get BETTER.
Because I FINALLY believed whole-heartedly in God’s goodness.
I wasn’t a damsel in distress, by any means.
& I was fine with my lost-love-story.
I knew Nick was in Heaven. Doing miraculously well. So, I was going to be here. And do my damn best. I would make him, myself and GOD proud.
Then, Jay plopped into my life.
And everything CHANGED.
… for the even better!!
This guy filled cracks that only GOD knew of… and where ONLY God knew what could be the GLUE.
I married Jay in June, that’s when Austyn started to call him “dad.” But, TRUTHFULLY, she stole his heart long before that.
In August, Jay began the process of a step parent adoption. And, let me tell you, it WAS a PROCCCEEESSSS.
We did it “pro se” (meaning we had no lawyer and did all the legal work ourselves). And, NOW I understand why lawyers get paid so much!! Holy smokes! This process was basically a part time job for me for MONTHS!
Home visits, dr appointments, social worker interviews, court appointments, documents upon documents, paperwork galore, and, FINALLY, a hearing date.
Before a judge, Jay PROMISED to take full responsibility for Austyn as her father. To love her and care for her as if she was his own.
My heart skipped a beat, you guys. Right there in that courtroom, SUDDENLY, I had something I had NEVER had.
An ENTIRE family; all THREE of us HEALTHY and VERY MUCH ALIVE.
Jay and Austyn have a BEAUTIFUL relationship. One that I know will continue to grow and strengthen as time goes on. What an added blessing to know that Jay will be able to help me tell her all about Nick when she starts asking questions about her biological daddy.
Instead of choosing to be upset that she never got to know Nick in this life, I’m OVERJOYED that this little girl has not only ONE but TWO very committed, GENEROUS, loving and Godly daddies to look over her!
When you have something to celebrate, you sing it from the ROOFTOPS & that’s what I’m doing now!!
GOD continues to bring:
BEAUTY from my ashes.
JOY from my sadness.
And a SONG from my heart.
FOREVER & EVER grateful for HIM & this crazy beautiful, broken family. For, in HIM, we are WHOLE.
I will sing the Lords praise for He has been good to me!!! Psalm 13:6
#adoption #adoptionday #foreverfamily #stepparentadoption #grateful #blessed #onechildsworldchangedforever
I wear a ring on my right hand. It’s a sweet eternity, a hope, a memory.
It was given to me for my 26th birthday, by my husband, Nick, who was undergoing endless chemo, attempting to kill the monster that was consuming him from his middle out. Literally. (Appendix cancer is a nasty beast. And, its rare, but more common than you might think. Look it up sometime.)
Our daughter was 6 months old then, all smiles and giggles and teeeeeny, tiny blonde hairs. She took in the world around her for what it was, she didn’t know how soon ALL of it might fall apart.
But, I knew. I had seen the wires and tubes sticking out of her daddy’s body more times than I could count… I had hoped and dreamed and raged and fought, but still, when I looked at it straight, it looked like we were losing the battle anyway. Even after all THAT. After all the work, all the prayers, all the medicine, all the green drinks, the specialists consultations across the continent… The feeling of failure was so palpable at times that I could taste it in my mouth; under my tongue, sharp, acid, HARD fail.
I started to give this OUT OF CONTROL situation up to God. I gave Him my feeling of failure, my last hope. When there honestly wasn’t anything else I could do and I had exhausted every other option… I decided to try and make the best of it. And, I knew that I would need SUPERNATURAL help to do so.
It was hard and it sucked and it was the worst thing I have ever faced in my entire life…. But, I began to try to view each day as an adventure. Even the super crappy ones. Even the ones spent in the ER, and the ones spent lying next to my weakening husband in bed.
When I brought him home from a hospice center in November, to live out the rest of his life as it turned out, I could hardly recognize his earthly body anymore.
Sure, technically, it WAS the same body. The very one that had lifted me effortlessly, spun me around, and thrown me into the lake my mother lived on just a few years before. It WAS the body that had so easily stood into a handstand during our engagement photo shoot. It WAS the same body that fathered our child, but it looked different now.
“Hollow” would be the only word I could use to describe those last months, physically. But, spiritually, he was BRIMMING. His relationship with God was DEEPER than any I had ever seen. He truly trusted and had grown closer to His Savior than I could have ever hoped for for myself.
He handed it over. His everything. His life. I saw him lay himself and his hopes down a little bit more every day. But, not in exchange for something worse. Honestly, you could FEEL it in your bones. HE KNEW that he was laying down this life FOR SOMETHING EVEN BETTER.
In early December, when pain had kept him (and us) up for another endless night, he asked if I would help him get out of bed.
“Will you pray with me?”
We knelt down against the couch that didn’t belong in our bedroom. The one that we had brought in for Nick to sit in when his pain was so bad that lying down at any angle caused intense pain to shoot, unbridled, through his abdomen. His tumors were stringy, and they latched on tight, wouldn’t let go, pushing and pulling on his organs (the ones that were still left after surgery, anyway).
“God. You know I love you. And, I trust you. I’ve been having such a hard time letting my girls go. But, I know you have a plan. And, God, I want you to know… I’m ready. I only want your will. Whatever it is. If I stay, that’s SO fine with me. But, if I need to go… Lord, I trust you.”
Tears streamed from his eyes down his cheeks, onto our tightly clasped hands, but when he opened his eyes again and looked to mine, I saw PEACE, not pain.
He died one month later..
I wear a ring on my left hand. A solitaire; a gift, a promise.
On a night last December, among Christmas lights and a winter breeze, my best friend got down on his knee and asked me to become his wife.
It had felt a little complicated at first… Jay and I. I mean, I had JUST come to terms with my being a widow, with my being a single mom. And, instead of those things being bad things, I let those things mean ADVENTURE. I could live wherever I wanted so I tried 10 months on the Gulf of Mexico. I could do what I wanted for work, so I crafted my best job ever and went after it, writing blog posts for startups and entrepreneurs. I didn’t have to double check my choices with anyone or risk being questioned, so I listened to music for hours on end after putting my little girl to bed. I ate ice cream for dinner on more than one occasion. I joined a gym and went to yoga on the evenings. I read book after book after book, because once the toddler was asleep and work was done, nothing else really required my attention.
Needless to say, I was single… but I was ALSO satisfied. Years after my late husband’s death, I had finally come to terms with whatever life God had planned for me. I had finally TRUSTED HIM with the trust that I had seen in Nick so many years before. Endlessly, recklessly, completely.
When I moved back to Seattle, I rented a house in the sweetest little neighborhood. Austyn and I walked to dinner and to the park by the lake. I would drop her off at her Montessori school in the morning and walk to the cutest little coffee shop you’ve ever seen, drink an Americano, and type like a mad woman. This. Was. Life.
I didn’t think there was someone out there that could ADD anything to the situation, really. I mean, sure, I definitely wondered what it might be like to have a Partner in Parenting and sometimes I wished there was someone to talk to on the nights that I couldn’t sleep. But, for the most part, God became THAT person for me and I LOVED growing in my relationship with HIM, exclusively. It honestly was pretty incredible and I will cherish that time forever.
So, back to Jay… I had known him for years, technically. He had been one of my late husband’s best friends, back when we had first met. I wasn’t too sure about Jay at first, all those years ago, but Nick had vouched for him every time I questioned their friendship. Telling me that Jay was still “growing” and to give it a few years. He said that EVENTUALLY I would see what he saw in his friend: someone who was loyal, trustworthy, hardworking, and kind to a fault.
I hadn’t seen Jay in years when I returned to Seattle, but when we met for smoothies with Austyn, I KNEW something was up. I had reached out to him, to catch up and mainly to talk about local churches (Jay, just a few years into his relationship with Our Father). But, when we sat down nearly a year ago today, I had felt a stirring in my soul. I tried to ignore it at first…. Because, let’s face it, change is SCARY as heck and I was HAPPY where I was at, thank you very much!
But, God had plans… And, ignoring Jay just WASN’T an option when at the FIRST sign of a crush, he sent me a page-long note asking me about dating a widow, what Nick would think, and what the Bible says. He wanted to get it right, and if we were going to do this, he wanted me to know he wasn’t messing around.
“I haven’t had a girlfriend in five years. Because I’m so picky. I won’t date someone unless they have the qualities I want. I feel like I know you but not all that well, but based off what I do know from the past and our recent communication I know you have many qualities and characteristics that I personally look for in a woman.”
This guy, who I had previously decided was simply a “bad influence” on my husband, would come to mean more to me than I could have imagined. His life, I would come to find out, had been changed BIG TIME since we had last really spoke. By the VERY ONE who changed my life too, Jesus Christ.
The rest, as they might say is history…
I get remarried in just 9 days. I get to marry my best friend, who used to be best friends with my other best friend.
It might sound kind of weird to other people. It might not.
To me, its perfect.
There are TWO INCREDIBLE LIVES we might live. Our own DREAM or our DESTINY. Sometimes, they are one in the same….. But, sometimes, they are not. Many times, our DREAM leads us to our DESTINY. But, while you’ve spent a lifetime coming up with your DREAM, God has been busy, working in the background, crafting your DESTINY. And, it’s one wilder and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
There will be AS MUCH beauty in your DESTINY as there is in your DREAM. So, LET GO of what you think you want and let God guide you. After all, HE MADE YOU.
You were made for MORE than your DREAMS. You were made for BRAVER than you believe. You were made for a CRAZY BEAUTIFUL life.
Goodbyes just plain suck. All of ’em. To hell with ’em. We weren’t built for ’em. Especially the permanent ones. You know, the ones where you know it will be impossible to see your loved one’s face again, on this earth? Those ones. They freaking bite. When you know that the next time you’ll meet eye-to-eye will be when your journey is complete. And, right then, you have no idea when that day will come and it feels like forever away.
Indefinite goodbyes suck.
Indefinite goodbyes without the hope of reunion suck even more.
I’ve been trying to explain goodbyes to Austyn these last few weeks because she’s gonna be missing some sweet friends of hers very soon. I’m her momma. I want to prepare her. So, I’ve been trying to tell her that, because of our move up North, she won’t be attending her awesome little Montessori school here in Seattle anymore.
Today was her last day. And on the way to school, I tried to warn her again. I didn’t want her to freak out but I didn’t want this day to slip by without her realizing it’s seeming significance. I told her that today there should be long hugs and extra kisses. In my heart, I know that these kids that she’s made into friends and the teachers she’s made into family will fade into the background soon.
But, she didn’t really seem to understand. I know this isn’t goodbye forever necessarily. We hope to visit back to her school a few times in the coming year at least. But, the day to day will be gone. Every day she doesn’t have school during the week this past year, she tells me she misses her “fwends.” I am nervous for the day she tells me this, this coming week. Break. My. Heart.
I’ve never really liked goodbyes. Not to my parents when they left for vacation when I was a kid, not to my friends for summer break, not to my bestie when we chose colleges that were states apart, not to the baby I never got to meet, and DEFINITELY not to my husband when he died of cancer just five years into our marriage. No, definitely not then.
I remember crossing the hallway between our master bedroom and Austyns nursery in the early morning, just hours before Nick would leave this earth. I had been watching his chest rise and fall for the last half hour, not much unlike the past two weeks. However, this time, when I had been awakened by my usual alarm to give him his next dose of pain meds, I noticed right away that something was different. The hospice nurses had warned me that would happen. They told me that his breathing would “change.” I had worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell. “You’ll know.” They had assured me.
And, I definitely did.
It was coming… Our final goodbye. I had spent the last two years saying goodbye to small parts of my husband, small bits of us, and large chunks of me that had been tangled up in him. First it was goodbye to cancer free conversations, then date nights, then grocery outings, then morning coffee, then goodbye to our sex life… Next came goodbye to his lucid words, goodbye to his sound advice and goodbye forever to our flow of conversation. Then, goodbye to his kisses. Goodbye to his voice and then his whispers. It was obvious that this real last goodbye had been a long time coming. And, yet, my heart felt so surprised. Already? We hadn’t had near long enough.
That last night of his on this earth was also the very last night I breastfed our little girl, Austyn. (Last night of breastfeeding because my milk supply cut off the very next day. The stress of losing my husband’s life proving too much for my body to handle along with sustaining my little girl’s life.) I remember wondering if I was nuts to leave Nick alone in that room, but I knew Austyn needed to eat and I had a strange peace that he wouldn’t leave me until I made my way back to his side.
As I crossed the distance between the two loves in my life, angels were with me every step of the way. God was physically present. I felt Him there, in the house. I felt Him in my bones. And, though, I was trembling and heartbroken, peace flooded me like none I’d ever felt. I remember caressing Austyn’s soft little hand as she sleepily drank and letting tears roll down my cheeks as I thought of not only my loss, but hers.
Nick died when Austyn was barely 9 months old. She hadn’t walked yet or talked yet. She hadn’t learned to count. Or ride a bike. It just all felt so unfair. At the very very least, it seemed a girl should have her dad for her first soccer game, for her first dance, even for her wedding. My heart ached for her and shattered for me. Split wide open, right down the middle, for us both.
Looking back now, I realize a silver lining that I hadn’t seen then. The innocence that was preserved in my little girl. Obviously it would have been an immense blessing if Nick had been able to live his life into the years that will eventually reside in Austyn’s memory. But, he didn’t. And so, my sweet girl doesn’t know goodbyes like I do.
As we passed Greenlake for the last time on our way home from school today, she told me something.
“My teacher sad today.” She frowned in the rearview mirror and I longed to see the dimple that shows when she smiles.
“Is she baby? Why do you think?” I asked.
“Because it my last day at school.” She said.
“Yeah. She’s going to miss you, sweetheart.” My girl captured hearts there, even through her terrible twos.
“Yes. BUT!!” Austyn’s eyes twinkled and that dimple appeared fast as her smile grew. “She will feel better soon maybe. Maybe I will give her a hug someday and she will feel all better. Soon, mom. Let’s see! She WILL feel better. Not tomorrow. But SOON!”
My sweet child. My heart swelled with pride and with grief, happy and sad tears threatened to brim.
I know she will miss her friends and her teachers come next week. But, I also know that she will make more friends.
I made a conscious decision long ago, with the help of my God, my pastor, my grief counselor and countless psychiatrists studies, that I wouldn’t share my grief with my little girl. At least, as best I can. I share my grief with you, with the world, with other adults in my life. But, not with her. Not yet. She’s been far too young to understand goodbyes of this magnitude. And, I’m trusting that decision even more now.
Nevertheless, she has surely seen me cry and have hard days. When as a single momma, I just couldn’t keep those tears from falling to the floor.
And, I don’t know if it’s so much that, or just who God has made her to be, but she is honestly one of the most compassionate toddlers I have ever seen. Her heart is on her sleeve and its pure as gold, untarnished. She’s got her bad days, I assure you, but her tenderness and care for others is as plain as day. She puts others needs first, especially if they are having a hard time. She pats backs, asks to kiss boo boos and all around wonders aloud “You doin okay in there?” And, I pray my daughter and this love for others always stays that way. It’s the very best gift she could ever possess.
In all her childlikeness, I realize how very much I strive to be just like her. And, sometimes, I really do accomplish it.
A sweet acceptance that a “someday reunion” is good enough. And, that living life for JOY in the meantime is all there really is to do.
Goodbyes suck. They sure do. But, you WILL feel better. Maybe not tomorrow. But, soon! <3
Dear Future Husband,
I’ve gotta warn you about me… I’ve got scars on my scars and rips that cut deep from words that felt like teeth.
Sometimes, my heart tears right through. No, I’m not a victim. Most all of the time, I conquer… But, sometimes my past haunts me. Memories uncontrollably explode through me… no matter how hard I’ve tried to heal. They rip and roar and relentlessly crash.
At first, it’s just a sudden intake of breath, a hard crack in my chest, where my heart is. But then, suddenly, I feel it shatter. A million tiny pieces thrown onto the floor, rolling, bumping into each other, and then resting in every far away corner.
Don’t worry, it’s not your job to find them all, pick them up and put me back together again (God’s the only one big enough for that). But, I will need you to do something. I’ll need you to be prepared to catch me before I hit the floor, to push my hair back from my eyes so I can see yours through my tears. Let me see your love for me, your compassion, your “want” to be my protector. Hold me until the blackhole that consumes lets me breathe again. And then please just love me anyway.
Please don’t despise me for my pain, instead despise the pain itself. I despise it, too, that wretched pain.
You might not have signed up for this. You might have thought I was just a bright and shiny thing. A person whose happy fills up every room. And, on a good day, I think it does.
But, not every day is a good day. Not every day looks new and shiny. Some days, sometimes way too many in a row, look grey, broken, and all-around god-forsaken. I hate the grey days. I loath the dark. And, I rage against both.
Fight those days with me. Don’t give up on me. The shiny days are lasting longer now. Sometimes, they string together in beautiful rows, all lined up with colorful, sparkling layers, like a perfect rainbow. And, because of the rain that preceded them, the rainbow days are that much more beautiful. Just wait till you see!
I may look young. But, my heart feels about one hundred years old. I feel like I’ve lived two lifetimes over, at least. Be aware of this. And please love this old, tired heart anyway.
If we’re going to the alter or we’ve already been then you can rest assured that I adore you. I cherish you. Because YOU are an answer to a prayer that I wasn’t sure would ever be answered. You are “the dream” that I never thought would come true.
Dear future husband, because I’ve seen what I’ve seen and know what I know, I can promise you that without a doubt I’m your ride or die chick. That I will be there for you through your dark days, your callouses, and your hidden hurts.
I will hold you together if you ever fall apart. And, no matter what, I will always love you anyway.
Sincerely and always,
Your Future Wife
PS: One last thing…. I tend to get hangry. VERY HANGRY. So, for your own benefit, and mine, feed me often. (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for the things that I say when I’m hungry. And, love me anyway. tehehe)
It’s challenging enough to balance your own emotions between a lost spouse and a new-found love. But, trying to balance the emotions and responses of others can prove to be even more exhausting.
Losing someone is difficult, no matter to what capacity you lost them or to what capacity your relationship had reached. When you lose a best friend, a lover, a husband, your heart is ripped clear open and into a thousand many pieces. The face you present to your loved ones, to your family, to the public is one that’s put together even if inside it feels like you are falling apart.
Eventually you might find a way (I honestly think this can only happen with God’s help) to put yourself back together again, for realz this time, on the inside. But, that genuine smile. That glow. Especially if you’ve fallen in love with another might hit others wrong.
To them, it might feel like a slap in the face. They may think that you’ve forgotten who you lost. They might think it doesn’t hurt anymore. After all, they don’t see the waves of grief wash over you, so clearly those waves must not exist.
YOU know where YOU are at with your grief. You KNOW that your love for your lost loved one will NEVER go away, even if you wanted it to. Don’t let what other people think or don’t know about you get in your way of moving forward.
There is NOTHING wrong with moving FORWARD.
There is NOTHING wrong with falling in love again.
There is NOTHING wrong with starting a family with someone who wants to be a part of your broken life and help you hold together your broken heart.
There is NOTHING wrong with continuing to LIVE even if your late love didn’t have the chance to make it this far.
Your story CAN be BEAUTIFUL again and you can be HAPPY about sharing that BEAUTIFUL STORY. So, do it, friend!
Guilt can be a powerful thing. It can hold us back… Especially Guilt mixed with Grief. Sometimes it can be hard to smile when you know that smile might cause someone pain… But, I CAN ONLY CONTROL ME. And YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL YOU.
As long as you are doing your best, LIVING your life, and remembering the one you lost without letting it consume you, I would say you are doing a DAMN GOOD JOB! Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
You do you. There are no timelines or agendas to follow as far as grief goes. You know you. You do you. That is all.
So, no matter where you are in life… Live for God. Live for you. Don’t live for others. God’s opinion is TRULY the ONLY ONE that counts. <3
To borrow some cheesy quote from some brand that I can’t quite remember right now… “It’s YOUR life. Live it Beautifully.”
Be brave, dear one. You’re doing great!!
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!
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!
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