What I Want My Daughter to Know

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. ūüí™ūüŹľ

I want her to respect what her body can do; to TAKE CARE of that body because she CAN & not because she has to. ūüíē

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. ūüôŹūüŹľ

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. ‚ėĒÔłŹ

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! ūüėė)

#mommydaughter #myhopesforher #wifeandwidow #loveafterloss #parenting

I felt alone in my last miscarriage.

Because I didn’t really tell anyone until it was all over.

The doctor said it happened to 25% of all pregnancies. Then how come I didn’t know many who had faced it?!

It felt like it had happened to NOBODY but me. COMPLETE ISOLATION.

But, after I finally opened up to people about it, I discovered so many other families had gone through this too.

So, this time, I’m not gonna hide. I’m gonna share where I’m at. Not necessarily so that *I* don’t feel alone but so others can see that they aren’t either.

People see my happy posts and sometimes I get messages of people saying they wish they had my life. Cracks me up. I’ve got sucky things in my life always, too. Believe me. Many, in fact. I just normally focus on the good. But right now, I’m gonna share a BAD that I’m in the middle of.

Right now: my worst thing?

I’m having a miscarriage.

I’ve lost one baby before. Nick (my first and late husband) and I had a miscarriage and it was horrible. Now, with my second hubby Jay, just four months into our marriage, we’ve lost one too and it hurts just as much.

My heart is in an entirely different place this time though.

Not because God’s taken everything from me… again. But, because He is everything TO me.

I’m not quite as confused. Not because I understand WHY things like this happen. (I don’t!!) But, because I KNOW that He has a plan and that it is better than mine.

I’m sad, disappointed, heartbroken but still JOYFUL. How can that be? I think happiness is a feeling but JOY is a state of mind. And, for me… these last few years, since I really found HIM, I’ve honestly found that my JOY won’t ever be shaken. No matter what I face. My joy can’t be twisted or buried or drowned.

Because it’s anchored in a foundation that’s indestructible.

I know He hears me.
I know He sees me.
I know His plans are for me.
I trust HIS plan and HIS timing more than I trust my own feelings and guesses at what might be best.

I’ve lost two babies.
I’ve lost my first husband.
But, I will NEVER lose my joy.

This is my second miscarriage. And it hurts as much as the first.

But, my heart is in an entirely different place this time. It’s almost like it’s been made new. In fact, it kind of has. Sure, it’s been broken, but it’s been broken a few times before. And every time it breaks, it comes back together, the cracks remain but they’re healed. Like scars that have allowed openness, stretching and growth.

Every time my heart breaks, I choose to open it up again.

Not because He’s taken everything from me.

But because He IS everything to me. ūüíď

Following God When It Seems Crazy

I’ve definitely experienced periods in my life where I didn’t feel like I knew which way God wanted me to go. Where I felt like God wasn’t really giving me direction and I didn’t know what His will was. But, none of those periods were quite as QUIET as when I lived in Florida.

I had felt a tugging to move to Pensacola…. a tiny beach town on the Gulf of Mexico, and I hadn’t known WHY, really. I knew God wanted me there, I had made a few friends in the area, had spent a month vacationing there, had a little crush on a local, but none of THAT constituted a move. I mean it was BEAUTIFUL there too, but NOT like Washington-beautiful.

So, why??

I didn’t know the answer but I KNEW I had to answer the call anyway. My husband, the love of my life, and my baby daddy, had passed just a year before, I would have to sell the house and uproot my one year old and, as a SINGLE WIDOWED Mom, trek across the country, THOUSANDS of miles away from my family and all reliable babysitters.

It didn’t make sense. It was nuts. My friends and family (most of them) didn’t really get it, but I shrugged my shoulders and told them, “Neither do I. I just know I have to go.”

When I started making plans, God moved in big ways, assuring me that He wanted me down there. I had an offer on my house for ABOVE asking within five days of listing it. I found a moving company within my budget quickly and felt ok trusting them with all my stuff. A town house the PERFECT size for Austyn and I basically fell into my lap that was just minutes from the beach. And, I secured new contracts with local Pensacola businesses in a matter of weeks.

When God gives you marching orders and you follow, He sure will make sure your path is straight.

So, I went through 45 days of hustle and got everything set… Flew across the country, settled in, found a part timeChristian pre-preschool for Austyn for while I worked, I went to markets, I dated that local, I joined a gym, I raised my baby girl, I made some great friends… and then, the rest of the time, I prayed a TON.

“What now, God?”

My question seemed to go unanswered, for so long.

“Helllllooooo? YOU brought me down here. What do you want me to do?”

Finally, one day, I got it. “Be still.”

“That’s it?! Really. Move across the country… and then…. Do NOTHING?!”

At first I felt cheated. And confused. Like why?? But, then I decided just to listen and do what He asked. Because, in my experience, even when it doesn’t make sense in the moment, God always makes sense later. So, I stilled. I worked on me and on work and on Austyn but other than that, I was still, UN-PLANNING (which is so UNLIKE me).

So, for months, there was:

NO moving forward with my book like I was planning.

NO direction or heading for my relationship with my then-boyfriend-now-ex.

NO direction on my career, which I knew would be more than just a writer.

NO planning of a family or a house or a future.

Just, me. Still. Waiting. Listening.

Waiting is hard. I kind of hate it. But I did my best to do it anyway. And to stay grateful in the waiting. I prayed. And did my best each day to listen.

EVENTUALLY, piece-by-piece He revealed a bit of the next steps for His plan. But ONLY one step at a time. I couldn’t see the whole staircase, as they say.

First step was to break it off with the local which was so scary, especially because he was one of the only people I had come to know in Fl and also because my heart was still so very fragile from losing Nick.

Months later, it was a direction to move home. To give up the life I had just finally gotten used to, the white sand beached and the salty air. The best friend who lives just a few miles away….. Just up and pack AGAIN.

And, revealing the next step in my career path didn’t even come for almost a YEAR after that.

I think, in the end, following Gods will is all about TRUST. It’s about taking it a step at a time. A day at a time. And trusting, that, in th is end, HOW He’s leading will all make sense in the end.

Sometimes that means quitting something even when we don’t see where we are going to next.

Sometimes it means resting where we are without even attempting to plan the future.

Sometimes it means starting something new.

But only you can know what God is speaking to your heart.

Continue to pray, read His word, and TRUST that HE can figure it all out for you. One step and one day at a time.

Oh, and now, looking back on my time in Florida…. I can see SO MANY REASONS for my time there. SOOOOOO MANY.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the time spent on, what felt like, the other side of the world. My trust in God and my dependence on Him wouldn’t be as strong. My confidence in myself and appreciation for silence wouldn’t be so ingrained. And I might not have this thick skin that formed from following God even when everyone else thought I was whacko.

NONE of those reasons were apparent to me BEFORE I moved there or even immediately upon returning to Seattle. Funny, isn’t it, what God and Time can reveal to us, when we give them the room to not make sense?

#godswill #godsplan #itdoesntalwaysmakesense 

Only Loves

I wear a ring on my right hand. It’s a sweet eternity, a hope, a memory.

It was given to me for my 26th birthday, by my husband, Nick, who was undergoing endless chemo, attempting to kill the monster that was consuming him from his middle out. Literally. (Appendix cancer is a nasty beast. And, its rare, but more common than you might think. Look it up sometime.)

Our daughter was 6 months old then, all smiles and giggles and teeeeeny, tiny blonde hairs. She took in the¬†world around her for what it was, she didn’t know how soon ALL¬†of it might fall apart.

But, I knew. I had seen the wires and tubes sticking out of her daddy’s body more times than I could count… I had hoped and dreamed and raged and fought, but still, when I looked at it straight, it looked like we were¬†losing the battle anyway. Even after all THAT. After all the¬†work, all the¬†prayers, all the¬†medicine, all the¬†green drinks, the specialists consultations across the continent… The feeling of failure was so palpable at times that I could taste it in my mouth; under my tongue, sharp, acid, HARD fail.

I started to give this OUT OF¬†CONTROL situation¬†up to God. I gave Him my feeling of failure, my last hope.¬†When there¬†honestly wasn’t anything else I could do and I had exhausted every other option… I decided to try and make the best of it. And, I knew that I would need SUPERNATURAL help to do so.

It was hard and it sucked and it was the worst thing I have ever faced in my entire life…. But, I began to try to view each day as an adventure. Even the super crappy ones. Even the ones spent in the ER, and the ones spent lying next to my weakening husband in bed.

When I brought him home from a hospice center in November, to live out the rest of his life as it turned out, I could hardly recognize his earthly body anymore.

Sure, technically, it WAS the same body. The very one that had lifted me effortlessly, spun me around, and thrown me into the lake my mother lived on just a few years before. It WAS the body that had so easily stood into a handstand during our engagement photo shoot. It WAS the same body that fathered our child, but it looked different now.

“Hollow” would be the only word I could use to describe those last months, physically. But, spiritually, he was BRIMMING. His relationship with God was DEEPER¬†than any I had ever seen. He truly trusted and had grown closer to His Savior than I could have ever hoped for for myself.

He handed it over. His everything. His life. I saw him lay himself and his hopes down a little bit more every day. But, not in exchange for something worse. Honestly, you could FEEL it in your bones. HE KNEW that he was laying down this life FOR SOMETHING EVEN BETTER.

In early December, when pain had kept him (and us) up for another endless night, he asked if I would help him get out of bed.

“Will you pray with me?”

We knelt down against the couch that didn’t belong in our bedroom. The one that we had brought in for Nick to sit in when his¬†pain was so bad that lying down at any angle¬†caused intense pain to shoot, unbridled,¬†through his abdomen. His tumors were stringy, and they latched on tight, wouldn’t let go, pushing and pulling on his organs (the ones that were still left after surgery, anyway).

“God. You know I love you. And, I trust you. I’ve been having such a hard time letting my girls go. But, I know you have a plan. And, God, I want you to know… I’m ready. I only want your will. Whatever it is. If I stay, that’s SO¬†fine with me. But, if I need to go… Lord, I trust you.”

Tears streamed from his eyes down his cheeks, onto our tightly clasped hands, but when he opened his eyes again and looked to mine, I saw PEACE, not pain.

He died one month later..

—-

I wear a ring on my left hand. A solitaire; a gift, a promise.

On a night last December, among Christmas lights and a winter breeze, my best friend got down on his knee and asked me to become his wife.

It had felt a little complicated at first… Jay and I. I mean, I had JUST come to terms with my being a widow, with my being a single mom. And, instead of those things being bad things, I let those things mean ADVENTURE. I could live wherever I wanted so I tried 10 months on the Gulf of Mexico. I could do what I wanted for work, so I crafted my best job ever and went after it, writing blog posts for startups and entrepreneurs. I didn’t have to double check my choices with anyone or risk being questioned, so I listened to music for hours on end after putting my little girl to bed. I ate ice cream for dinner on more than one occasion. I joined a gym and went to yoga on the evenings. I read book after book after book, because once the toddler was asleep and work was done, nothing else really required my attention.

Needless to say, I was single… but I was ALSO satisfied. Years after my late husband’s death, I had finally come to terms with whatever life God had planned for me. I had finally TRUSTED HIM with the trust that I had seen in Nick so many years before. Endlessly, recklessly, completely.

When I moved back to Seattle, I rented a house in the sweetest little neighborhood. Austyn and I walked to dinner and to the park by the lake. I would drop her off at her Montessori school in the morning and walk to the cutest little coffee shop you’ve ever seen, drink an Americano, and type like a mad woman. This. Was. Life.

I didn’t think there was someone out there that could ADD anything to the situation, really. I mean, sure, I definitely wondered what it might be like to have a Partner in Parenting and sometimes I wished there was someone to talk to on the nights that I couldn’t sleep. But, for the most part, God became THAT person for me and I LOVED growing in my relationship with HIM, exclusively. It honestly was pretty incredible and I will cherish that time forever.

So, back to Jay… I had known him for years, technically. He had been one of my late husband’s best¬†friends, back when we had first met. I wasn’t too sure about Jay at first, all those years ago, but Nick had vouched for¬†him every time I questioned their friendship. Telling me that Jay was still “growing” and¬†to give it a few years. He said that EVENTUALLY I would see what he saw in his friend: someone who was loyal, trustworthy, hardworking, and kind to a fault.

I hadn’t seen Jay in years when I returned to Seattle, but when we met for smoothies with Austyn, I KNEW something was up. I had reached out to him,¬†to catch up and mainly to talk about local churches (Jay, just a few years into his relationship with Our Father). But, when we sat down nearly a year ago today,¬†¬†I had felt a stirring in my soul. I tried to ignore it at first…. Because, let’s face it, change is SCARY as heck and I was HAPPY where I was at, thank you very much!

But, God had plans… And, ignoring Jay just WASN’T an option when at the FIRST sign of a crush, he sent me a page-long note asking me about dating a widow, what Nick would think, and what the Bible says. He wanted to get it right, and if we were going to do this, he wanted me to know he wasn’t messing around.

“I haven’t had a girlfriend in five years. Because I’m so picky. I won’t date someone unless they have the qualities I want. I feel like I know you but not all that well, but based off what I do know from the past and our recent communication I know you have many qualities and characteristics that I personally look for in a woman.”

This guy, who I had previously decided¬†was¬†simply a “bad influence” on¬†my husband, would come to mean more to me than I could have imagined. His life, I would come to find out, had been changed BIG TIME since we had last really spoke. By the VERY ONE who changed my life too, Jesus Christ.

The rest, as they might say is history…

I get remarried in just 9 days. I get to marry my best friend, who used to be best friends with my other best friend.

It might sound kind of weird to other people. It might not.

To me, its perfect.

There are TWO INCREDIBLE LIVES we might live. Our own DREAM or our DESTINY. Sometimes, they are one in the same….. But, sometimes, they are not. Many times, our DREAM leads us to our DESTINY. But, while you’ve spent a lifetime coming up with your DREAM, God has been busy, working in the background, crafting your DESTINY. And, it’s one wilder and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

There will be AS MUCH beauty in your DESTINY as there is in your DREAM. So, LET GO of what you think you want and let God guide you. After all, HE MADE YOU.

You were made for MORE than your DREAMS. You were made for BRAVER than you believe. You were made for a CRAZY BEAUTIFUL life.

Jump in.

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Love Me Anyway

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

KissTY

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)

Fatherless and Unfathomable

Tortured. 

When Nick first passed and I had to fill in paperwork for doctors visits or emergency contacts or school registrations, it felt like torture. I would see the space where I was supposed to write¬†my husband’s name, where I was supposed to put my daughter’s father’s info, and feel a hot rush of anger. I’d fight¬†back tears and ball my fists. How can¬†he be GONE?

Numb.

Then, I kind of got used to it. Or, something. Numb to it, really. I would see the blank space and a jolt of “this is just plain wrong” would shoot through my heart. But, I’d move on quickly. It’s fine. I know¬†I can¬†do it alone. I wasn’t going to let myself wallow over the absurdity or the unfairness of my situation. It was just how it was. Single mom. “I’m fine.”

For example: When one of Austyn’s teachers in Florida suggested I “put another contact down for emergencies. Her¬†father, maybe?” My response was flat.¬†“He died.” I’m sure I came across rather blunt. Possibly morbid. I didn’t mean to. It had simply become a fact of my life. I have blue eyes, brown hair, and I’m a widow. Normal. Totes.

Only recently have I realized just how much I had buried my feelings of loss. Not so much the feelings of loss for ME, but the feeling of a completely devastating loss¬†for HER.¬†My daughter, who deserves more than I will ever be able to offer her, whom I love so desperately much. I felt a loss too, for her… A longing and desperation¬†to give her the experience¬†of having an earthly father, protector, influence.

Sitting across the desk from a medical provider last week, I completely missed a full sentence when I accidentally caught a glance of a particular paper as she went through¬†one of Austyn’s files.

Scrawled hastily into the box that’s supposed to¬†list her father’s name was a quick note. “Deceased.”

The familiar jolt came. And, then so many feelings I hadn’t expected instead of the usual numbness. Sadness, heck yes. But¬†happiness too! Soon, she will have a daddy on earth to fill that space in her life (and on her medical forms).

Father to the Hopeless
Daddy Jay and Austyn, Summer 2015

Grief is a strange¬†beast. Not easily figured out. As I reflect on my own journey, I see some places where I’ve suppressed and I’m sure I’ll find more as time goes on. To think¬†that, just this week, I’ve started experiencing new¬†emotions. Two years and a month later.

So, my big point in this blog post? That grief is funny sometimes. That our brains do miraculous things for us when we are faced with tragedy. That God has a plan all along. And, dang¬†girl, if you are raising your little miss or mr on your own, I’ve been where you are and the road ain’t easy but God will¬†handle it and He will give you the tools you need to succeed.¬†

God is coming full circle. He won’t leave any of us hanging on with too much to hold and not enough. He will always give enough. (Or help us forget just enough, for the time being.)

Friends… Keep on keeping on! You guys amaze me. I love hearing your stories and seeing your comments. You guys bring me JOY and I know you bring your creator even MORE. Do you. Be Brave. Follow HIM. Live well. Until next time… xo

Put Your Brave Pants On

You guys remember how a few years back I got to go to the Super Bowl? No? Well, I freaking do! I was totally GONNA write a blog post telling you guys all about the experience, but life was so crazy busy at the time.

Nick, my late husband, had passed away January 7th so I was knee deep in sympathy cards, waist deep in paperwork, and neck deep in a puddle of my own tears.¬†Our¬†daughter¬†was just 9 months old. She was just beginning to walk and starting to find ways to get into trouble (imagine a baby¬†who is suddenly able to open all the cabinets¬†in your home, purposefully step on the dogs tail, and falls¬†down every single time her toe hits¬†a¬†grout line on the tile floor… Chaos? Exactly.¬†Moms of babies/toddlers, you hear me. Total. Complete.¬†Chaos.).

So, there I am, trudging along, a 27 year old widow (The heck?! Those last four words will NEVER¬†look right to me). I’m trying to keep my smiles up for my little girl, my head up for my sanity, wondering how I’ll ever trust God again, and I get a phone call.

“Alyssa! The pastor of our church was given Super Bowl tickets. They don’t know who they are from, but the person who dropped them off asked that they be given to somebody who needs some joy in their life. Pastor Mike saw your blog posts and knows about Nick. Anyway, he picked YOU! Two tickets to the Super Bowl, airfare to New York, and a hotel. What do you think?”

At first, it seemed like the smartest answer would be “NO WAY.” And, it probably would have been. I was suddenly a single mom. Who was I to think about bringing my sweet little baby girl girl to NYC? I was super busy… But the more I thought about it, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I knew that Nick was looking down on me and how dang disappointed he would be if I said No.

Right then and there, I made a pact with myself. I would never pass up another opportunity just because I was scared. No. More. Fear.

Fear had ruled far too much of my life. Nick and I hadn’t done that many awesome and exciting things in our marriage. Mainly, because we were afraid (okay, okay… it was mostly me). We were afraid we would miss out on too much work, that we might not have the money, that we might get lost in a foreign country (valid fear tho: Jay and I got lost in Paris. True Story.) the list goes on and on…

We didn’t start REALLY taking chances until Nick was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. What a wake up call, right?! After that, especially once he was given a bill of clean health (which only ended up lasting 10 months), we took EVERY¬†SINGLE opportunity we could to¬†do the things we wanted to do. We went on a vacation¬†(I swear that I hardly knew what that word meant before cancer) to Hawaii. We got pregnant (enter: Baby Girl Magnotti). We spent more time together. And, we spent QUALITY time together (imagine that)!

So, would I like to go to Super Bowl? “HECK YES!”

The trip was amazing, one of a lifetime and I don’t regret one second of it! One of my sweet friends, Cat, came with me to the big game and stood by my side to cheer the Hawks on.¬†Austyn came along and my dad too for extra help!

  1. I got to see our team, the Hawks, WIN the Super Bowl, in person!!!
  2. I¬†got to stay at a beautiful Upper East Side Manhatten apartment that a sweet friend online (who’s sister also passed of Appendix Cancer[same as Nick]) let us borrow for 5 nights!
  3. I got to see New York City!  
  4. I got to stand in the middle of Times Square! 
  5. I get to tell Austyn she’s been to NYC, something that took me 27 years to achieve. :] PS. I am TOTALLY going to take her back there once she’s old enough to remember it.

A local news station covered the story. We did an interview here in Seattle before the game and then one at Columbus Circle in NYC. When those videos hit the news channel, there was a lot of love…. But, there were also some nasty comments.

One commenter¬†said something¬†like, “She must not have loved her husband if she is going to the Super Bowl just one month after he died.”

The answer that came straight to mind was “I must love my husband SO MUCH¬†to go to the Super Bowl right after he’s died.”

Doing things AFTER loss isn’t disrespectful. Doing things¬†might be hard though. You should NOT¬†feel guilty and don’t let people make you feel that way. You very well might be scared, but please don’t let that hold you back.

Whether you’ve lost someone or not…¬†remember that LIFE is for LIVING.¬†Stop being afraid. Put on your BRAVE PANTS. Live every single¬†day… on purpose!

So go on then….¬†¬†Oh, and GO HAWKS!¬†

Read the crazy story BEHIND the tickets at the bottom. You’ll never guess who the “mystery person” was who gave their SUPER BOWL TICKETS¬†to the church!

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Oh, you know… Just doing a little TV thing. ;]
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Me and my sweet girl in Central Park.
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It might not look like I’m excited here because I was probably in SHOCK. That game was, bar-none, the craziest most awesome game EVER! I think Nick was helping out on the field that night. <3

 

SO…. ¬†WHO GAVE THE TICKETS TO THE CHURCH?¬†>>> The guy who gave the tickets to Overlake Christian¬†Church contacted me when he saw the story on the news. The reason he had dropped two perfectly good Super Bowl tickets at the front desk of the church that day, just a few weeks before the game, was because he knew he would need to stay home. You see, his¬†father was sick with cancer and he wanted to be there for him. As it turns out, his father passed away the very day after the big game.

PS>>> Mike Howerton has become a great resource for me for my upcoming book! He’s an author himself and has offered great advice and amazing resources. Seriously. God sets things up in some pretty awesome, amazing ways, don’t you think?!

 

 

 

Waste Not Ye Widowhood

Dear Widows and Widowers,

You lost¬†your best friend, your spouse. You’ve experienced deep, deep pain. There’s an elephant in the room that you can’t seem to hide, no matter how hard you try. It feels like everyone must see it (even strangers¬†you’ve just met): there is a¬†horrible gaping absence right next to you. Nothing feels¬†right.

I feel you, I do. But,¬†I don’t pity you. I really don’t. Not because what happened to you isn’t in every way horrible (it is!!!), but because I have been through this walk, too. And, I know that pity just isn’t helpful. Friendship, yes. Companionship, duh. Empathy, abso-freaking-lutely. But, not pity.

I’ve found through the years that those friends (many) who¬†have gently encouraged me to take a good look at myself, to tally up my strengths, and to become more self-aware…. Those encouragers, their words, have been the most helpful. Especially those¬†who have walked this path before me. They speak of heartache, but they speak also of growth, of unprecedented strength,¬†and profound opportunity.¬†I’ve found their words to be true. And I want to share my own encouragements with you here, today.

The word “opportunity”¬†might seem absolutely crazy to you right now. You might be wondering if I’m out of my mind. Especially if you’re in the beginning of this journey when the only “opportunities” around might seem¬†to be negative ones. Like the “opportunity” to break the world’s record for how many nights in a row one¬†can cry herself¬†to sleep. Or the “opportunity” to observe how long a human being can exist with a black hole that opened up right where his¬†heart used to be. Yeah, it might super sound like a REALLY crazy idea right now. To consider this purely horrible situation¬†an opportunity would be¬†to consider it a foundation¬†you can build upon. It would be¬†to consider it a starting point for improvement. Opportunity??? REALLY?!?!? Yes. Really.

At some point, dear one, you will be able to get out of bed. You will be able to get off the couch. It will be hard. It will feel like your limbs weigh 500 lbs (each!) and you’re walking¬†through the thickest tar. But, you must remember, that with time, it¬†will get easier. I promise.

Sure, you’ll have up days and down days. Up weeks and down weeks. Good years and horribly crappy¬†ones. But, overall, your trajectory will improve (if you let it, but we will get to that).

As¬†these steps and days eventually get the tiniest bit easier, widowhood will finally present its beautiful sparkling face of opportunity. Whether you like it or not, whether you plan to or not, this opportunity will force itself upon you in one way or another. And, then, you’ll just need to decide.

The choice is yours and yours alone. Will you take this opportunity for all its worth?

Being forced into autonomy is not an easy transition. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It feels downright barbaric really… Like a torture of the most horrible kind.

But, during those long, cold nights, you’ll learn something about yourself. You’ll learn who you are… and, more importantly, who you want to be.

That person you’ll come to know will be a different version of the “self”¬†you knew before your loss. (No matter what, great¬†love and great loss will forever change you, alter you, it’s unavoidable.) But, get to know the new you… Believe me, you are worth knowing.

When you were married, your “i”s became¬†“we”s and your “singles” become “pairs.” You had¬†a date for every wedding. A companion for most meals. A person to look over you. Gosh, even just someone to just talk to about your day! (Ahhh… How I missed that, so!)

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When you’ve been widowed, those things are suddenly (and seemingly irreversibly) stripped away.

Now, it’s just you.

Alone.

Alone in a huge, unfamiliar world.

Along with that empty space in the bed next to you and the closet full of shoes that won’t be worn again, everything has changed. And, your plans for today, for tomorrow, for next week, and for a decade from now? They are different, too.¬†Entirely.

So…. What are you to do with yourself? What really matters now? Who are you anyway?

At the beginning (and there’s no timeline here…. sometimes the beginning could last quite some time) the answers to these questions might be, simply: 1. Nothing. 2. Nothing. And, 3. Who cares?!

But, eventually (and you’ll know when you get there) you’ll start to wonder about these things.

You had plans before but they changed. You were you before but now you’ve changed. Maybe changed most of all is a truth realized:

You didn’t know how short life was but now that fact is¬†FOREVER implanted in your skull.

So, what do you do?

This, my friend, is where the choice¬†arises. You have been given a unique gift. A chance to rediscover yourself. To fashion a life you want. To do that thing God’s¬†always called you¬†to do. You’ve been given a wake up call. Answer it!

Not because your late spouse wouldn’t have let you go after these things before (quite the contrary; they probably would have encouraged it), but because you finally got the kick in the pants that you needed.

It’s a¬†swift and devastatingly beautiful truth. THIS¬†is the ONE, precious short life we have.¬†

How else is there to live, I wonder, than to make the most of every single day?

I once was blind but, through my husband’s death, now I see.

—-

**My kick in the pants has pushed me to finally begin a journey towards my¬†lifelong passion and the calling I believe God has always had on my life. I am in the process of writing¬†a book (anyone know any awesome literary agents?)! Please Subscribe via Email to this blog in the upper left hand corner (below the fold) to receive my posts (via email, hehe, as¬†stated), so you’re sure not to miss a thing! :]¬†

Sending you all my gratitude for reading and sharing,

Alyssa :)

Like Watching Someone Disappear

I remember my dad’s dad, my grandfather, holding me in his lap on a night when I was five… or six, or seven. My parents had gone away for a vacation and I had been whimpering in my bed. Homesick, momsick, dadsick… I had just wanted my. people. back. My grandfather had heard my quiet cries. The floorboards creaked as I heard him get up from his chair and make his way he across the room, slowly, so as not to wake my brother and sister. He bent down and easily scooped me right up. He brought me back to his favorite rocking chair and held me tight as I squished my favorite stuffed dog right into my chest. Even then, he smelled like old spice and coffee, aftershave and peppermint. He softly sang in my ear, my favorite song of his. A hilarious rendition of “Ain’t it Fun to Be Crazy.” Normally he did it with gusto, but that night, he sang it slow and sweet, almost whispering. He rocked and rocked, he made small circles on my back, he sang, and, eventually, my whimpers faded. And I slept.

That was over 20 years ago now. I took my grandfather to an appointment the other day and I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since. He’s had a hard time these last few months. A hard time figuring things out, a hard time remembering. He has dementia. I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard those words, uttered not too many weeks ago. But I see the signs of it now, I understand just a little bit more every time I see him. “It’s a really hard thing when the mind goes first… This disease is so tough.” That’s what I had overheard the therapist say to my grandmother. And my grandmother, my Nana, when Grpa was in his appointment, had turned to me and told me that she feels like no one understands, unless they’d been through it. None could understand what it’s like to caregive for someone who is horribly ill. “It’s like watching someone disappear.” Her eyes fill with tears. All I can do is nod and wish. Oh, how I wished I didn’t know. How I wished I could unsee some of the things I’ve seen. How I wished I could unhear the things I’ve heard. But then, my grandmother might not see me as she does now, see me as someone who just might get it. So I stop wishing. And I just listen.

January 7th marked two years since my husband, Nick, passed from this earth. But October 4th has actually been the real tough day for me as far as remembering goes. For October 4th 2012, was the day that I realized I would watch my sweet Nick disappear from my world. Nick reminded me of a star on so many occasions those last few years. Like one of those stars that you hear about that shines so bright and pure that it just can’t possibly go on forever. So it ebbs and it flows, it shimmers, shines, darkens and then it gives one last hurrah. You hold your breath as you wait for it to light up again, but for all the times you’ve seen it before, this time… it never does. It forever fades from the sky.

I don’t know how to comfort those that hurt anymore than I used to. I still don’t know what to say. But, if the years and my grandfather’s generosity with me as a young girl have taught me anything… It’s that sometimes all a hurting person needs is someone who is willing to scoop up the sadness and quietly sit with it until it too finally starts to fade.

God’s Plan Is Never Finished; I’m Engaged!

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!!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!!

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Seriously… What a night!!!

Silent 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

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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.

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Jay and I both started crying… My goodness. We were¬†just a big sloppy mess of beautiful and joyous tears over here!

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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