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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! 😘)
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
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
People tell me all the time, “You are so strong. I don’t think I could ever go through what you’re going through.” I normally think, “Yeah… I don’t think I will get through it either.” (But, of course I don’t say so out loud!) But, really… You never know if you can get through something until you face it, a day at a time.
I’m a 27 year old widowed momma and I’ve already lived through a lifetime’s worth of hurt. That hurt has afforded me so many lessons that I think you could benefit from. One of those lessons is how to stay strong and not buckle under the pressures of tomorrow… Let’s face it, some of us feel like we are going to cave any second, especially when facing insurmountable odds. So, how did I get through it? How did I keep a smile on my face? Watch and find out.
In the growing up and the knowing more, you realize that life isn’t really about figuring it out. That maybe it’s more about just going through it, together, with everyone else who is doing the same. Sharing in the good and the bad. The heavy and the light. And, the heavy light.
I sit on my mother’s couch, in her one bedroom apartment, reading my devotional, waiting for my sleeping daughter to wake. We are four days away from moving into my next new beginning, the home I aim to create for my sweet daughter and I. I read, I reflect on the things that I’m thankful for. I start my day with positive intention. But, my thoughts wander, as they do some mornings, to the people who are struggling to survive. The ones without the things that I am thanking Him for. What about those without power? Without water? Without the hope for health? The ones walking the cancer battles with their family now? What about those who simply never experience the feeling of safety? The ones living despite ISIS? The people who live out our nightmares? How do we help them? What can we do?
Austyn’s cries of “Momma” from the next room interrupt my thoughts. I push them aside. And I smile. She needs me and I can give her safety and warm fuzzy feelings. Though I sometimes feel desperate for others that I can’t help, I know what I can do, right now. I can help her.
As I lift my smiling girl out of her makeshift bedroom at Nama’s (which is a crib in a walk-in closet, exactly) she immediately requests the thing that she needs most in the moment. “Momma!” She uses her hands to make sure my eyes find hers. “Nack?” (“Nack” means “Snack”.) I assure her, a snack is most assuredly waiting. And, it’s called breakfast, in fact. Momma made oatmeal.
I lie her down to change her (I hope to start potty-training soon, and there is actually a chance that I will miss this bit of her dependence on me). Once I finish, I lightly touch her side, where she’s the most ticklish, to see if she might be in the mood for a giggle or two. The room erupts with her contagious and beautiful laughter. Light seems to explode from her and fill the room, and the sounds are heaven. She sparkles. I can’t bear to let this moment pass.
If I can give my girl this much joy, with just one touch, I will stretch this moment until it becomes too thin. So, I nuzzle my face into her side. Her laughter bounces, echoes, she squirms and she loves it. Suddenly, there are tears pouring from my eyes. I am overflowing. I am laughing, but I am crying. The joy is light… and it is very unbearably heavy sometimes.
We get up and make our way to the kitchen. She, a giggling mess. Me attempting, quite poorly, not to confuse her with the conflicting emotions so evident on my face.
Her easy laughter reminds me so much of Nick. So much of the joy that lived inside him. Right under the surface. Easy and sure and ready to break free at a moment’s notice. I think that joy lives in each of us. Sometimes, we just have to dig a little deeper to find it. And, sometimes, we need someone else to coax it out of us… Sometimes it only takes one word. Sometimes it only takes one touch.
The adventure that is this life stretches ahead of us. Austyn’s virus that added a fever to her asthma is gone now. She is healthy. I am healthy. We walk ahead, not alone. With God in every movement, every breath, every sigh. He is here. He is in the light. In the heavy. He is in the laughter. And, the tears. And, I know that Nick’s in it all a little bit too. Those we love, truly, don’t ever really leave.
Austyn woke this morning with a fever. Her body hot. Her heart beats fast.
She looks at me through wet eyelashes, her blue eyes swollen and sad. Her hands are freezing cold and this fever seems to be caught up… all near her heart and her head.
This cough of hers hasn’t gone away. It will. I believe it. I know it. But, the reality of it stings and sears in the feverish wheezing of right now.
The doctors say asthma and allergies, but the fever is new and …. Now…. they don’t know. “An infection? Walking pneumonia? On top of the asthma? Or aside?” They wonder aloud. So, I ask more questions. I challenge and jockey for solid information. But, in the end, this is always a guessing game. I’ve had too much experience with medical trial and error. I drive to the pharmacy and on the way, I call and ask of essential oil solutions we might have missed.
I pull into the Target parking lot and glance in the rearview mirror at her sweet little face. She says “Momma” thick and slurred and her blonde hair sticks to her forehead. My heart swells and bursts. A prayer rises and speaks strong. It echoes in my very soul. I pray it and I will it. It becomes me, in that moment. “My sweet, dear child…. Be well.” I want so very much for her to be well.
Once home, she eats as much as she can handle and we’ve started our new “hopeful helps” of peppermint oil and antibiotics. I lay her sweet soft self down for a nap and creep down the stairs.
Now, I sit listening to the monitor as she naps in fits and starts. Bright sunlight streams in the window where we are staying. It’s a glorious home in the mountains of our very best friends’ and they so generously share. Friends are just one gift nestled among so many others that God has blessed me with. The other gifts start their march and I’m filled with thankfulness. Hope floats in on remembered graces and rays of sunshine. I hear Austyn cough and squirm. Then, her blankets quiet and that sliver of hope begins to form a thought…
I pick up the Bible…. and turn thin pages. And, there it is. I place my finger next to it. I drink it in so that the hope-thought grows.
Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give it a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you. Deuteronomy 31:6
The light changes and I shift my gaze. Evergreen trees and new budding greens lay just outside as grey clouds pass across the sun. I’m back in Seattle and those clouds have always seemed like a worn blanket that used to make me feel cozy and right at home. But, now, after having been through much, I know the truth. That any city, any home can feel just right when I rest in Him.
He won’t let you down. Does this mean Austyn will get better immediately? Not necessarily. But, it does mean He won’t let me go down. He will fight for me. He will fight for my daughter. Just as I am doing all that I can, which isn’t enough. He will do all He can. And, Jesus IS always enough. And I can place it ALL; her, this, me, us… in His strong and capable hands.
When my precious daughter is sick or hurting, my very being centers around a prayer that forms without thought… I live and breathe and become: “My child… Be well.” And, if these are my thoughts about my sweet little girl… Then, these and more are surely God’s intentions toward me and my beloved (and YOU). “My child. Be well.”
If the God of the Universe is on our side and only wants what is best in the end, will He not surely deliver? I am certain that He will. And because He wills it: We. Will. Be. Well.
She should wake up soon. Maybe her fever will have vanished during her nap. Maybe the prayers will have helped. Either way, I can be certain of one thing: He is willing her, and me, and all of us… well. His eye is ever on us. His heart is always with us.
So, you there, you too…. Will you see that He wills you well? Be strong, you. Take courage. “Be well, my beloved child.” Even on the tough days, the ones full of dark and light, heavy and heaping, heaving and pulling…. Look to the light. Look to the hope. And, believe you will be well because of Him.
Not sure you’ll get well? Not sure how to find hope, peace… How to find Him? Have questions for me? Comment below or email me at Alyssa (dot) magnotti (at) gmail (dot) com.
I never thought I would be lying awake again, in the middle of the night, worried about the health of the one held dearest to me. No, Austyn is not “extremely” ill. But, she has been sick. And, this momma is having a hard time with it. And “hard” is most certainly an understatement.
She’s suffered from quite a few respiratory infections since she was little, with coughs seeming to hold on longer than they should. Over the course of the last few months, she has been sleeping with a cough on and off almost continuously. I’ve taken her to the doctors and done all that I could think of. They suspected childhood asthma and now, it’s all but been confirmed.
She also has some pretty nasty allergies. Tree pollen, grass, weeds, animal dander and yellow food dye 4 and 5. Her asthma seems to be induced by her allergies. When the pollen counts are high, her cough is much worse. I’ve been in the process of planning a move back to the Seattle area, and it seems that it couldn’t be coming at a better time (allergens are much less prevalent in the Pacific Northwest).
She will grow out of it, more than likely, the doctor suspects. She seems and acts fine during the day, smiley and cute as ever (albeit a bit overtired). But, some nights… the bad ones… like tonight… She coughs incessantly, no matter what I do. It feels as if I’ve stepped over the edge of a cliff and that the fall will never, ever stop.
I’ve been doing everything I can think of, everything I can find, I’ve taken her to the typical Western medicine doctors and to a Naturopath. I’m doing showers immediately after being outdoors, essential oils, cough medicines, chest rubs, and even a low dose of steroids (with extreme caution and after much internal debate). What less would I do for one that I love? No less than give anything and everything I own to make her well. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that, even everything you’ve got isn’t always enough.
People used to tell me when Nick was sick that I was, “So brave.” They said the same thing at his funeral. And again when I moved from Washington to Florida with my little girl. They tell me I’m brave now that I’m moving back. I don’t mean to be argumentative, but I normally respond with a “It’s not me.” Or, a “Not really.”
Because…. in all honesty…. there are days, and especially nights, that I just don’t feel brave at all. Or, any version of the word. I’m scared. I’m trembling. I’ve felt a few monumental losses so I know there is probably some overreaction here… but even my baby’s painful coughs rip right through my heart. Each one reminds me of what I’ve lost… Reminds me of what I could lose again.
So, how do I do it? How do I smile? How do I make it through the years of seemingly endless nights? Here’s the thing… The thing that brings me through. When I feel like I can’t do this. When I feel like I just can’t live this life filled with pain, suffering, loss and darkness. I look to the Light.
It is in our deepest and darkest nights, that our Light can be brightest. We must only remember to look.
The journey I’ve been on these last
few (almost) five years has been nothing short of staggering. I’ve experienced things that I wouldn’t wish on the devil himself. But, I’ve also been blessed beyond my wildest dreams by coming to know the One that my soul lives for.
I’m still on this journey to figure out exactly who He is, because I don’t believe that journey ever ends… But, I’m working towards really knowing my Creator, my God, my Jesus. And, I can tell you one thing.
He is here.
In the broken, bitter dark.
In the endless nights of tear stained pillowcases.
In the scraped knees and wheezing breaths of our babies.
Even in the horrendous massacres of our fellow brothers and sisters across the oceans.
He is here.
And, he is there… with you. Too. Right next to you… Right now.
Sometimes, He can feel like He’s a million miles away. (Believe me, I experience this, too.) But, most every time, I have found, especially as we’ve grown closer that… when I call on Him, when I tell Him that I need His bravery, His wisdom, His courage tonight… He ALWAYS answers me.
AND… When He speaks, His answers don’t echo from millions of miles away. They are soft words, breathed so near to my ear, that I’m sure I am wrapped in His embrace.
So much of this world is hard. So much of it is broken. So much of it doesn’t make a damned bit of sense (I’m sorry for the language, but I mean, really!).
But, there is so much in this world in the way of Lightness, too. So much Bravery in His Glory. So much Honor in His Love. So much to Cherish in His Creation. Find the Light. Find Him…
Remember that it’s okay to ask for the Light. It’s okay to open your eyes and look. And, it’s okay if you are finally WILLING to SEE.
(*Sidenote: I fully understand that MANY parents have to deal with sicknesses, allergies, and asthma with their children… Or far worse. It breaks my heart. And I am so sorry if you are in that place with a child, or a loved one. May the Light guide you to peace.)
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?
The words speak to me. They jump at me. They hit me square in the heart. It started when today’s service opened up with a verse that spoke directly to my situation. The lead pastor said “This is for someone here today.” Roger, that was me…
Then, I read the outline and the message was titled “Why Are You So Afraid?” Now, folks, let me tell you… I could have sworn the Pastor was speaking right to me, the entire message. In reality, he was speaking to an entire room full of people… But, I know that God WAS speaking… right to me. “WHY are you so afraid? Do you STILL have no faith?”
The word “still” in this context seems to imply that something had changed over time. And, it had. The disciples had spent a lot of time with Jesus… they had been through too much to doubt. Hadn’t they? Haven’t I? Bah! You would think. (Big sigh…)
When Jesus asked this of the disciples, I am sure the questions echoed in their hearts, too. I am sure that they wondered the same thing, “Is my faith still really so small?”
At this point… The disciples had spent days upon days with Jesus himself. They had seen Him teach to throngs of people and perform one miracle after another. They had traveled thousands of miles with Him, trusted in Him for their care, left their jobs, and their lives to follow Him. He had befriended them, become like a brother to them. They had been walking with, talking with, and living with God Himself. And, yet, they still felt immense fear. They still let themselves worry.
I get caught up in worries, anxieties, and fears far more than I would care to admit. But, I am trying to look at God’s track record in my life, instead of looking at an unknown future. He has always been faithful, even in the very worst of things.
I was speaking with a trusted friend and loved advisor recently and he brought up an incredible point. God can’t be in your made up future. Worry is simply letting your mind think about circumstances or events that have not happened and may never happen at all. While God promises He is here for us here and now, He never promised us He could be here for us in a future that hasn’t even happened. Does this make sense? It’s kind of a hard idea to follow the first time. Let me try again…
When we worry about tomorrow, we are worrying about a time that hasn’t happened. Jesus isn’t in it. We are worrying outside of His grace and outside of His presence. You really can’t do anything about a scenario that might not ever happen… and, neither can God… because it hasn’t happened. Do you follow? God’s grace and love are sufficient for you here, right now. For any scenarios that you imagine in your future, you aren’t imagining that scenario with God’s grace in it. You are imagining it outside of Him.
What can we do? Well, as the Bible states over and over again, we really should try not worry or fear. We should try to trust. We should not falter. I know… easier said than done. (By the way, did I ever tell you that I have to go back and read my blog posts over and over sometimes? I am ALWAYS preaching to myself on these things. So, don’t think I’ve got this all nailed down. We are all in this together.)
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Philippians 4:6
And those are just three of the verses in the Bible that mention worry. There are many, many more (1 Peter 5:7, Luke 12:11 & 22, Matthew 6:25 and so on).
But, what else can we do? I mean, not worrying is all well and good, any other tips? Turns out there are… along with casting out worry, we can aim to persevere, to ask for wisdom and to believe. Check out these verses from James 1.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:2-8
I mean, jeeze, James… That was a little harsh dude. But, here’s the thing. I can’t argue with God on this one for I know all of this to be true. Not just because it’s in the Bible… But because I have experienced it firsthand. When I am letting doubts creep into my mind and into my heart… I AM like a wave in the sea… A whimpering wave, a scared little wave… Tossed around by my emotions and others’ reactions. I become double-minded. I become unstable and… it really ain’t pretty. It ain’t even a hot mess.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I almost gotta put this one into context for myself to really hear it… “My grace is sufficient for you, Alyssa. My power is perfected in your doubt, your grief, your frustration, and this journey.” Try it with your name too. Try it with some of your weaknesses. What do you think? Do you think God can work beyond your unbelief? Beyond your doubts? Beyond your fears? Beyond whatever you are struggling with?
I believe that He can. I believe that He is. I am already thanking Him for His hand in my future, because I know He will be in whatever comes my way. I don’t aim to try to figure out what that future will be anymore. Not because I don’t want to know. But, because I know that worrying doesn’t help a thing. In fact, it often makes things worse. And God cant be in my made up future.
Live in the moment. Breathe in the blessings of today. Expect God to show up in all of your unexpected future. Be brave. Be strong. Do NOT give up. And know… It’s okay. You are not alone. (Psalm 31:24)
Funny isn’t it? How a beginning of one thing requires an end of something else.
How we must open up our hands and let go to be able to grab on to the next thing? It can feel impossibly difficult to let go, especially when you are at the end of your rope. Especially, even more so, if the rope you’ve been holding onto is actually just a thread.
More often than not, these ropes and threads are made of fibers of fear. Our fists are tightened resolutely around what we fear we might lose.
We cling to our jobs, to our image, to our children, our spouses, or our bank accounts. What we want is control. What we want is security. We believe that if we hold something close enough there is no way it could break. But, what we tend to forget is that we aren’t gods. There are things we can’t control. And there are things that if held too tightly, and we aren’t careful, could shatter into a million pieces.
There is a time for everything. And, I think our time has come. To give up control. To let go and let go again. It’s time for you to be who you were made to be. It’s time to be brave. It’s time to open up those hands, drop that thread of security, toss those fears, and throw your empty hands skyward. Lift them and open them up to whatever it is that God wants to give you. Whatever it is He wants to show you.
Is it scary? Heck to the yes. Sometimes it seems like the scariest thing in the entire world. But, there just isn’t another way to do it. Living this life in fear… I promise you… isn’t what we are meant for.
Bravery is woven into our very being. Fear causes flying wings to flutter and falter. We must make the decision to let go of your fears if we truly want to fly.
You… You were meant to jump, friend. You were meant to live by faith.
What if you fall?
Oh, but what if you fly?
Your soul was made to soar.
This summer I let go of a few fears myself. I wish I could say that it was easy… that I was a natural. But, I wasn’t. Oye. I had to pry my fingers up one by one. It was painful and it sure wasn’t pretty. Living scared can feel a heck of a lot easier than living free.
Back in May, I was beginning to feel like God was telling me I was ready for a new relationship. And, I was scared out of my mind. Mainly for what people might think. Nick had told me over and over again at different intervals through his two and a half year illness that if he died he would want me to find someone again. Near the end he made sure to tell me again, except he didn’t say if, he said when. Inhale. Exhale. Yeah, that was hard. Overtime he told me, I fought him. I said I couldn’t imagine it. And, I honestly couldn’t.
But, once he was truly gone (and I realized that I was only 26 and not 76 like I had felt), I felt God telling me it was time to really consider being (or trying to be) in a relationship again. I had lost parts of Nick and parts of our relationship over such a long period of time and I had grieved those losses every second of every day for years. The thought of beginning again was scary, especially so soon. I was so fearful of what people might think. (And, that is a blog post in and of itself. The fears that one faces when you know what God is telling you but know that it may not be a “popular” path. Maybe I’ll go over that at some point soon.)
I remember putting Austyn down for a nap and going to my room to pray. My dad was living with me at the time, but he wasn’t home. And, that was definitely a good thing, because I collapsed. I couldn’t even make it to the couch. I fell on my hands and knees and the tears began to flow (that sounds dainty… It was more like pour, rage, cascade, gush…. Gross). The gravity of what I thought God wanted me to do felt too much to bear. How could I go on when I had finally begun to understand that there really was no going back?
I cried out to God and I prayed a big prayer. I asked God to look after whoever He had in mind for me next. I poured out to Him and my heart spoke. I knew that the only relationship that could sustain me at this point would be one that pushed me closer to Him.
So I asked God for that. I told Him that if I was to ever be in another relationship, I wanted one that brought me closer to Him. That made me stronger in Him. That made me more like Love.
Secondary to that, I wanted someone who could truly love me and love my daughter.
“And nothing else matters.” I proceeded to tell God what didn’t matter… Career. Money. Looks. Location. Dog or Cat person (I took that one back… He has to be a dog person… Just kidding).
After some time on that floor, I finally felt like I could pick myself back up. From there, I knew that God had it in His hands. I felt complete peace that He had a plan. And I didn’t know if I would meet this guy soon or in a few decades but I knew, as Nick had known and even shared with our pastor, that God had someone else in mind for me.
Fast forward a week or so. Life had gone on as normal, which included about a million diaper changes (tad exaggeration) and many wonderful moments spent staring into my sweet daughter’s eyes (when she would sit still long enough that is).
I had decided to create an account on a Christian dating site. And, let me tell you creating that profile was scaarrre-ey. Some of the emails that followed were downright horrifying (I kid… sort of). After just a few days, I was about ready to delete the whole thing when a message caught my eye.
There is so much I could tell you from there… About all of the things that God did to even get me to give this guy my number, let alone my real name. He lived in Florida so a quick coffee date wouldn’t work but we were able to get to know each other through email and, eventually, long phone calls. Then, he came up to Seattle for a week. We hung out and he was exactly who I thought he was. A strong man of God that had been through a lot, like me (well, not the man part).
This summer, I had the opportunity to take an extended vacation. I had been thinking about Southern California, but decided to change my plans. Instead, I went to Pensacola, Florida unsure of what would transpire. The month was lovely. I spent time and made time. And then spent it again.
And a good portion of that time was spent in the company of my new friend. As we grew closer, I knew that God had some kind of plan and, though I was so tempted to run in the other direction, I held on.
After much prayer on both of our ends, we became official (I felt like I was in high school again… I have a “boyfriend”… It felt like it had been ages) in August. And, before I left for Seattle, we began praying about our next steps. Neither of us wanted a long-distance relationship and we didn’t think God necessarily wanted it for us either. But, we were on literal opposite ends of the country. How in the world would we make this work?
It would be hard to write out what transpired in those last few weeks. But, God made it clear in our hearts that we were supposed to be in Florida. He started with me. And I tried so hard to ignore it; to pretend I didn’t hear or feel His prompts. But, eventually I gave in and admitted it. It felt like making that leap (or many leaps, across the stinking country!) was God’s best option for me.
Now, let’s take a detour for a second here. It’s not that I believe that God wouldn’t have blessed me had I decided not to move. God works in mysterious ways, that is for sure. And we definitely have a choice. We can follow what we believe is God’s voice or we can turn away. We can attempt to listen, or we can listen to the world. It’s really up to us and was up to me, but I felt like God’s best (read: best, not only) option for me was to make this move. Ok, back to the story.
Instead of holding onto my fears and refusing to believe He could be asking for such a thing, I decided to take a step. And, as soon as I made the decision to trust, I was given peace again.
When I told my family and my closest friends what was on my heart, they confirmed what I was feeling. That scared little voice inside me (you guys have one too, right, that’s not just me?) was actually hoping that at least one of them would think I was crazy. That at least one of them would beg for me to change my mind. But, honestly, they showed care, asked the right questions, said they would miss me like crazy but supported me through and through. I really do have the best friends in the entire world. (Why do they have to be so awesome?! I miss my Washington mountains, dangit!)
I sold my home.
I sold about a third of my furniture.
And, I signed a lease. (And, God worked crazy miracles – yes, plural – into each one of those events. Oh how I wish I could tell you fast enough!)
There you have it. I’m now living in an itsy-bisty Florida town on the Gulf of Mexico so that I can be closer to the one I love. So that we don’t have to be long distance. So, we can see what this is all made of. I took the leap.
Let’s fast forward again (because, let’s face it, I’m long-winded… I start a short storytelling bootcamp next week – psych!).
This move has taught me so many new things. It’s challenged me in ways I never imagined. It’s required bravery on days when I was sure I had none left. Though I can’t say that I know what God is doing or if this is a final destination, I can say that this adventure has brought me so much closer to God. And, if we remember from my uber blubbery prayer sesh on the floor back in May, that is exactly what I wanted.
And, my new relationship? It’s certainly pushed God and I closer still. It’s helped me see myself clearer than I have in a long time. I have an absolutely amazing man in my life. His heart is humble but brave, strong but loving, determined but gentle. He is certainly committed to a life filled with God, committed to me and committed to my little girl. This was my second request. I’m enjoying that for now.
So, here I am in a new city (on what feels like a different planet). Trying to be brave and aiming with all my might for hope. Working through a new, amazing (and different) love. I’ve got a beautiful daughter with a fighter’s heart. And, I’ve got a God on my side who I know will always have my back… I truly am blessed.
Unfortunately, I still can’t see the future (I know… shocker, right?!). I still want to clamp my fists so tightly around what I know. I’m often tempted to run headlong to my fears, grab on tight, and let all the things that could go wrong take over. Sometimes I long for the old, the remembered, the comfortable. But, then I remember something that someone very special to me used to say all the time… We aren’t to worry because “God’s got it.” (That would be my dear sweet late-hubby’s wonderful quote).
Whatever you are facing, whatever challenges, whatever fears keep you up at night… Maybe you can try, like me, to choose faith over fear. To cast aside your worry. To lift those wings, weightless, with nothing to tie you down. After all, that’s what you were made for.
Being brave is a choice. Choosing hope is courageous. I’ll let go if you will. …You first! ;]
PS: Stay tuned for more posts and videos coming soon! If you haven’t yet, follow me on Instragram and my other social media profiles to be updated of new happenings. The links are the beautiful blue icons to your left… No, your other left… ;]
PSS: I built this site on my own, but I had some major awesome help from two very awesome people (who both actually worked on the TeamMagnotti project with me too)!
BIG HUGE THANKS go out to Kyle Chicoine for his amazing logo design. He took my concepts and sketches and turned them into a little bit of delicious digital eye-candy. The logo is so perfect and cute, I could wrap it up and sing it a lullaby!
ANOTHER HUGE THANK YOU goes out to to my friend Jordan for his mastery of web design and superb coding knowledge. Without him, my site logo would probably still be in a very obscure and unflattering locale. Thank you, friend!