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What do I want my daughter to know when she grows up?
I want her to know that she CAN do hard things, that she was MADE FOR BRAVE. 💪🏼
I want her to respect what her body can do; to TAKE CARE of that body because she CAN & not because she has to. 💕
I want her to KNOW deep down in her soul that she is LOVED & that “BEING LOVED BY GOD” is the only thing that TRULY defines her. 🙏🏼
I want her to SEE her momma & all she’s been through & know that she is CAPABLE of thriving instead of just surviving even the worst of storms. ☔️
I KNOW that Courage. Faith. Hope. &&& most of all… LOVE. will ALWAYS be hers.
I only PRAY that she KNOWS it & NEVER EVER FORGETS. ❤
(And, to each & every Momma reading this: I pray you know the same things about you, too. Courage, faith, hope & love are yours. You just have to remember to use them! 😘)
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.
Oh, but I’ve lived through some scary days in my short 28 years, but I’ve found SO MUCH TRUTH in exactly what this quote says.
Nothing stings worse than regret.
ANYTIME that God has put something on my heart and I’ve turned the other way, pretending not to hear His call, I’ve regretted it. HARD.
So, I stopped turning away from Him as best I could and, each time, risked looking a bit like a fool. In the end, GOD CAME THROUGH, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
In 2007, I dumped my long time high school boyfriend when, a guy I barely knew, came back into my life asking for another chance (only to realize that very guy was my very soul and a perfect mate).
In 2008, I said “Yes” to a proposal at 20 years old, before we had lived together or slept together. The world thought we were crazy (only to be utterly grateful and find that His “crazy” way of living is exactly how God intended). <3 PS… Happy 8 Year Would-be-versary, Nicholas… We had it good, love. We were so blessed. We ARE SO blessed, even now, huh? We HAVE it good. <3
In 2011, I sat by my husband and planned a trip to meet with a rare cancer specialist though we had no money in the bank as we had just bought our first house (only to get a call an hour later from someone who wanted to give us their airline miles, which covered every cent of those last minute flights).
In 2012, I quit a job with my husband in remission and me, 9 weeks pregnant (only to find God had a better one lined up for me, where I could work from home. Just so happens that Nick’s cancer came back with a vengeance three months after that job change and I was able to take care of him AND work. GOD. SEND.)
In 2012, I asked for time off when our money had all but run out, with a mortgage to pay and medical bills stacked higher than a chimney (only to be told that ANY and ALL time off that I needed would be PAID, in full, though I had accrued no PTO to spend).
In 2013, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, her life thrived while my husband’s disappeared before my eyes. And yet I FOUGHT my instincts and chose to trust Him anyway (only to find, later on, that He really was worth trusting all along).
In 2014, I walked my 9 month old daughter down the aisle of a church at my husband’s funeral and I smiled and I laughed (only because I KNEW that I could still find a reason to smile, even though it felt as though life had been torn from me).
In 2014, I moved across the country, to Florida when He called me there with my 1.5 year old little girl, 5,000 miles away from my friends and family (only to realize that I needed this time to myself to figure out who I was AFTER loss, that I could be a good single mom, and to come closer to my God).
And, in 2016, with many mistakes behind me but fewer regrets than before, I said “Yes” on the alter to a man who people exclaimed “I had only dated for a year!” (Only to find that peace that surpasses understanding, that I knew THIS MAN was made to be my *second first*.)
The list goes on and on and on… And I *also* have a list of times I’ve turned my back on what God whispered to my heart… That one isn’t as pretty. I’ve found that following a God who whispers to your soul, even when it seems like a crazy bunch of nutso is ALWAYS, ALWAYS worth it. Because sometimes the LOUDEST plan isn’t the RIGHT one.
God’s plan DOESNT always make sense. And, often, He will ask us to take a step, even when we might be close to THE LEDGE. He asks us to step out, NOT BECAUSE ITS SAFE but because HE IS THERE.
You can be COMFORTABLE or you can be COURAGEOUS.
BUT YOU CANNOT BE BOTH. ❤️
Sooo DANG GRATEFUL for the people in my life who have spoken into me, believed in Gods direction for my life, followed Gods direction on their own, and held their tongues if they ever thought me a fool. There are many but specifically, I would love to thank Nick, Jay, Judy, Eric, Daniel, Kat, Cat, Sean, James, Mike, Genna, Kinslee, and my whole family and COUNTLESS friends. I could never forget all you’ve done for me. ❤️ #danggrateful
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)
We leave in 5 days for… Hong Kong!
I feel like we’ve just stepped off the plane from Paris. It was, in actuality, 3 months ago but life has been FLYING by since then (pun intended… teehee). This 14 hour flight is going to be a doozy, that’s for sure, but it’ll be worth it! Though I’m gonna miss my little girl, I can’t wait to land in this beautiful city with it’s impressive skylines and walk amongst the 7.2 million people that call Hong Kong home.
So, why the heck are we going to Hong Kong? Let me get there…
I’ve wanted to go on a missions trip for years, almost decades now. I’ve wanted to be in another country with the purpose of seeing others through Jesus, helping how we can, without going exclusively for pleasure or business. The desire for a trip of this caliber was reinforced when I met Nick at 19 years old. He, too, wanted to go on a missions trip and we vowed to do one together someday.
But, life got busy and excuses took over. We got planned a wedding and got married the first year we met, and that was busy. We were newlyweds the first year we were married… and, that was busy too. Then, we were excelling in our careers the second year of marriage and I didn’t have the time to think about vacations, let alone, trips for others (bah-humbug…). The third year we were married, my mind was somewhere else entirely and then Nick was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. As you might guess, we didn’t end up having much time left to plan a missions trip. We fought and fought cancer and squeezed every ounce of joy out of life, but Nick passed two and a half years (and a baby) later.
“Anywayyyyy….” (always a great segway), we are meeting my friend Pastor Eric and his amazing wife Virginia in Hong Kong! Eric, whom I still call “Pastor Eric” or “Pastor E,” (though he doesn’t officially pastor a church anymore) has been an an amazing friend to me for going on 10 years. He began preaching at mine and my parents church when I was in High School, walked me (and most of my family) through my parents heartbreaking divorce, conducted Nick and I’s pre-marital counseling, married Nick and I, counseled us kids some more, and eventually helped me walk Nick home. Pastor E has been so much more to me though than a counselor or a pastor, he has been a true friend and modeled Jesus’ heart so clearly.
In fact, the way that Pastor Eric responded to me during my times of pain, intense doubt, fear, frustrations, worry and grief are the ways that I aim to respond to people when they now come to me with their pains, doubts, fears, frustrations, worries or grief. He never seems to judge me (or, if he does, he doesn’t ever give himself away) and he always tries to sympathize without claiming to understand. It’s incredible to have him as a listener and I’ll always cherish his friendship.
Pastor Eric left the church he had pastored for 8 years when he felt called to be the Asia Area Director for the Free Methodist Church. He now oversees the missionary team in Asia, partners with Asian national leaders to build a strategy to bring more people hope through Jesus, and works to more purposefully connect the church in Asia with the church here in the United States. (What a mouthful! This right here is a busy guy!) He is convinced that the relationship between the church at home and the church abroad can be mutually beneficial… And, let me tell you, I agree!
The more connected we can be with people in our world, the better… whether that’s with people across the street or across the seas. We’re all the same. We all need each other.
So, I had texted Pastor Eric back in February of 2015. I had just realized that I’d been throwing around the idea of a missions trip for going on two decades. And I decided that enough was enough. I decided to be DONE with EXCUSES!
I would ALWAYS be able to come up with an excuse NOT to go. And excuse NOT to get outside my comfort zone. But, if I wanted to make it happen, then I needed to do just that. Stop making excuses and start making plans. So, I made a pact with myself. I would do a missions trip within the year. And, to keep myself accountable, I texted Pastor E, too. “Friend, I want to go on a missions trip before February of 2016.”
I told him I didn’t know where, with whom, or for what organization. But, asked him to pray for me and try to help hold me accountable. In the months that followed the thought of a mission trip would pop in and out of my head. I pushed it aside as I focused on more pressing matters. I moved myself and my tiny toddler from Florida back to Seattle, my sweet girl turned 2 years old, I continued working as a contractor and wrote blog post after blog post. I even started thinking about writing a book. Things were getting busier and busier, but I didn’t forget my promise.
Then the very first time Jay and I reconnected this summer, Jay brought up the trip he had gone on months before, in February of 2015 (the same month I had texted Eric about my promise to myself. Coincidence?!). He had gone with a group from his church to Guatemala. He told me of the children, of the lives there, of the friends he made. Then he said that he wanted to go on another missions trip in 2016…. by February.
“So funny! I texted my pastor in February and told him that I needed to go on a trip before February 2016. Weird! Let me know if you end up planning a trip again…. maybe I can tag along?”
At the time, we were obviously oblivious (try saying “obviously oblivious” ten times fast!) that our friendship would progress the way it did and that we would end up together just a few weeks later. Funny how that works.
So, back to the trip! We actually started talking seriously about a missions trip back in September, knowing that we needed to get something on our calendars to really make it happen. We looked at a few different organizations and threw around some ideas. But, the more that I thought on it and prayed about, I kept coming back to my friend’s ministry. I had supported Pastor Eric and his wife and their mission with some tithing every month. I really wanted to learn more about their work. He had mentioned that they would love to have us along on a trip. And, the more I thought on it, what better way to learn more about missions work than to accompany one of the top leaders for the church in Asia missions?! And, added bonus, that that very same top leader is one of my favorite people (who I would love for Jay to get to know better and vice versa).
So, there you have it, more or less. This is how Jay and I ended up Hong Kong bound – and stoked about it!!
We leave on Saturday and arrive on Sunday. We fly for something like 14 hours and land in a timezone that is 16 hours ahead. How’s that for amazing? So, basically, we lose a whole day traveling there, and travel through timezones at lightning speeds on the way back! (HA!) I expect that our landing back home will feel a lot like the Twilight Zone.
Pastor Eric and Virginia will be meeting us in Hong Kong come Sunday and will be leading us on this adventure and throughout the city for about a week.
Our mission will be one part cultural awareness, one part prayer, one part marketing brain storm, and one part pre-marital counseling. Sound like we will have enough to do? ;] We will get to experience the city and places like: The Stanley Market, The Peak, Kowloon Walled City Park and even Hong Kong Disneyland! Get ready for some sweet HK pics on my instagram!!
I read this quote once and took it to heart.
God will guide your footsteps… But only if you are willing to move your feet.
Yes, sir… They are a moving! One step, two, three…
I don’t know exactly what to expect on this trip of ours. I know that we will learn A LOT more about a culture and a people who are fairly unfamiliar to me. I know we will see things we aren’t used to. But, I also know that Hong Kong is a *little bit* like Seattle.
Whatever happens, whatever the outcome, I pray that God uses us on this trip to touch at least one life. Maybe even just to be the support to our dear friends who do this month in and month out. You never know what God has in store.
Until next time, Bon Voyage! Or, however you say that in Cantonese… ;)
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
Somedays it feels like my heart splits right open…
Yesterday a SENSELESS shooting and 13 DEAD, just a state away.
This morning the news of CANCER returning to a friend’s husband who is “Daddy” to two young girls.
Today, the DISCOVERY of a high schooler who is afflicted by horrible tumors consuming her abdomen.
I DONT GET IT!!!
I hear the news of all three and I can’t help but shout, “NO!” and “WHY?!” My voice crackles and splits. I didn’t realize that my heart would sound so shaken, so bent.
Some days…. Things feel HOPELESS. Things feel DARK. They feel scary-as-hell. Some days, it feels like we are ALL DOOMED.
But, somehow… After prayer, reflection… I can still find THE LIGHT. Let me share… I read this in today’s devotional, by Ann Voskamp:
When things go wrong and we are pushed outside our comfort zone, it is a GIFT. BUT!!!…. “Can you really say that to the girl who doesn’t wear her engagement ring anymore, to the beautiful mother whose husband left and the cancer has come, to the bent widow sitting next to the empty chair? Can you really say that to them, to the world? That the greatest gift we can ever receive is the gift of losing our earthly security and comfort? So that we can unwrap the intimacy of the Savior and His heavenly comfort. I swallow hard…”
And, so do I, Ann… I swallow hard. And the tears come. These emotions all CHOKED up in my chest, in my HEART.
I AM THE WIDOW.
I AM THE MOTHER WHO LOST.
I HAVE EXPERIENCED “CANCER CAME BACK.”
I’ve lost EVERY security I thought I had when I lost my 27 year old husband and father to my daughter.
I’ve had my PEACE falter. I’ve had my FAITH shaken. I’ve had my world SHATTER. I’ve had my life IMPLODE.
So…. Can I say that people should be thankful? Heck no. I would never say that… Not to them. But, I can say, that after going through it all, I AM thankful. I still hurts something awful but…
I. AM. THANKFUL.
I consider myself blessed.
Because, NOW I KNOW!
I KNOW that I can do ANYTHING with God by my side.
I KNOW that God TRULY WILL NOT leave me.
I KNOW THAT GOD. HE… IS… ENOUGH.
Praying for all of those affected by loss today. All of those affected by lost dreams, prayers unanswered, lost loves, lost children, broken hearts, broken homes, unwanted diagnoses… The list goes on and on. But, I am praying for YOU. Praying that you come to a place one day, where YOU SEE and YOU KNOW the truths.
Someday I hope you can see that even though this world sometimes doesn’t make a flipping bit of sense to us… That WE CAN TRUST GOD. That He GETS IT. And, HE LOVES US, DEARLY… Even though sometimes it can be so undeniably hard to fathom.
My heart aches for you. It aches for us. God, be with us.
BE STRONG. DO YOUR BEST. BE BRAVE. The world needs to see your SMILE today, if you can. <3