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WE’VE GOT AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE!!
It might not be the one you’d expect, but it DOES have to do with a BABY… my baby girl, to be exact.
Austyn Elizabeth has OFFICIALLY been adopted!!!!
She OFFICIALLY has TWO daddies now…. Her sweet biological daddy in Heaven, Nick Magnotti, who stuck around as long as he POSSIBLY could. And, her amazing present daddy, Jay Galios, who fell in LOVE with her & STEPPED UP gladly to a commitment greater than almost ANY other. 🤗
Being a solo* mom was one of the HARDEST things I have EVER had to do in my ENTIRE life. (Well, maybe it ties right up there with watching my husband and best friend slowly fade away…)
*Solo parenting means that there literally is no other parent AT ALL responsible for the child on the face of the planet.
When Nick passed away & for two and a half years after, it was just me and my sweet baby girl. And while the challenge was ROUGH, to say the least, it also taught me sooo much about myself, about God’s love for us, AND it really showed me just how much of a FATHER & best friend that God can REALLY be.
Anyway, I digress… back to the story: When I met Jay, I wasn’t struggling. Not in the least. Not in any way.
Financially… I was making good money working writing contracts. I had invested some of the insurance money Nick had left us and that was helping too so that I only had to work and have Austyn in school PART TIME.
Emotionally… I was FINALLY at a place of COMPLETE trusting in God. I had no worries or cares though I should have. I didn’t fret for the future. Or what would happen when the insurance money ran out… I was just living & ENJOYING every single day.
I was renting a house just four blocks away from Greenlake in Seattle. For those of you not familiar with the area, it’s an AMAZING little neighborhood, centered around a beautiful lake, surrounded by a green city park and fun little shops and restaurants. Just a five minutes drive from downtown. We had just moved back across the country from a sabbatical of sorts on the Gulf of Mexico.
And, I had found a perfect little 1,000 SF house for me and my just barely two year old. I had found a PERFECT Montessori school just a short five minute gorgeous drive around the lake.. And, my office was the CUTEST little local coffee shop.
I was LOVING LIFE.
And, I was committed to being the BEST single momma I could be.
I felt like I FAILED every single day at something (heck, I still do). 🤗
BUT, I was TRYING my absolute best &&& giving myself GRACE where I needed it.
So, things were GOOD. And I believed they would continue to get BETTER.
Because I FINALLY believed whole-heartedly in God’s goodness.
I wasn’t a damsel in distress, by any means.
& I was fine with my lost-love-story.
I knew Nick was in Heaven. Doing miraculously well. So, I was going to be here. And do my damn best. I would make him, myself and GOD proud.
Then, Jay plopped into my life.
And everything CHANGED.
… for the even better!!
This guy filled cracks that only GOD knew of… and where ONLY God knew what could be the GLUE.
I married Jay in June, that’s when Austyn started to call him “dad.” But, TRUTHFULLY, she stole his heart long before that.
In August, Jay began the process of a step parent adoption. And, let me tell you, it WAS a PROCCCEEESSSS.
We did it “pro se” (meaning we had no lawyer and did all the legal work ourselves). And, NOW I understand why lawyers get paid so much!! Holy smokes! This process was basically a part time job for me for MONTHS!
Home visits, dr appointments, social worker interviews, court appointments, documents upon documents, paperwork galore, and, FINALLY, a hearing date.
Before a judge, Jay PROMISED to take full responsibility for Austyn as her father. To love her and care for her as if she was his own.
My heart skipped a beat, you guys. Right there in that courtroom, SUDDENLY, I had something I had NEVER had.
An ENTIRE family; all THREE of us HEALTHY and VERY MUCH ALIVE.
Jay and Austyn have a BEAUTIFUL relationship. One that I know will continue to grow and strengthen as time goes on. What an added blessing to know that Jay will be able to help me tell her all about Nick when she starts asking questions about her biological daddy.
Instead of choosing to be upset that she never got to know Nick in this life, I’m OVERJOYED that this little girl has not only ONE but TWO very committed, GENEROUS, loving and Godly daddies to look over her!
When you have something to celebrate, you sing it from the ROOFTOPS & that’s what I’m doing now!!
GOD continues to bring:
BEAUTY from my ashes.
JOY from my sadness.
And a SONG from my heart.
FOREVER & EVER grateful for HIM & this crazy beautiful, broken family. For, in HIM, we are WHOLE.
I will sing the Lords praise for He has been good to me!!! Psalm 13:6
#adoption #adoptionday #foreverfamily #stepparentadoption #grateful #blessed #onechildsworldchangedforever
Hey YOU, AMERICA!!
(And, anyone watching us!) 👋🏼
TODAY, ESPECIALLY today, I can pretty much GUARANTEE that you WILL hear or SEE or READ things that don’t make a bit of sense to you. 🙊
You might find that some of the stuff being said scares you to the core. I get it. Believe me. But, PLEASE, don’t react out of place of FEAR. 🙅🏼
💕❤️INSTEAD, ACT with LOVE. ❤️️💕
(Then do it again.)
&, please, for the LOVE (!!), exercise your self-control. 🙏🏼
If you’re in a minority (if you’re an immigrant, a woman, an LGBTQ, a person of color, an abuse victim, if you’re Hindu, or Muslim, or some other religion, or a minority in someway that I forgot to list here), please DON’T be scared.
The United States DOES NOT hate you.
Many of us here, don’t. In fact, quite opposite, MANY of us here:
❤️ We LOVE you.
❤️ We are STANDING WITH you.
❤️ This changes NOTHING about how a LOT of people feel about you.
This change in leadership in our country is only ONE branch of a three branch system. 🙏🏼
As messed up as things can get around here, our founders actually were quite GENIUS, never allowing one group of people to rule too much of the government for their own agendas. 👌🏼
Whoever won the election last night, this post would be going up. Because in either case, I have friends who would be scared and worried.
BUT, whoever is PRESIDENT today or tomorrow (or January 1st) doesn’t affect who I AM today (or tomorrow or January 1st). And it doesn’t have to affect you EITHER. Thank goodness!!! 😁
So, today, JUST LIKE every day, I will:
❤️ Be POSITIVE and HOPEFUL.
❤️ Be the BEST me that I can be.
❤️ Stand up for what is RIGHT and TRUE.
❤️ Trust that GOD’s got this, too.
YOU DECIDE who LEADS your heart. 🙏🏼
I know who is leading mine. And, I’m feeling REALLY good about it. ✌🏼️
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. 💓
Yeah… It can be.
But, guess what?
You were MADE to do hard things.
Literally, you were CREATED to live this life and point to ALL THE GLORY despite the crap.
You were made for brave.
So, cheer up friend… It may be tough, but you’re equipped to handle this.
Oh, but I’ve lived through some scary days in my short 28 years, but I’ve found SO MUCH TRUTH in exactly what this quote says.
Nothing stings worse than regret.
ANYTIME that God has put something on my heart and I’ve turned the other way, pretending not to hear His call, I’ve regretted it. HARD.
So, I stopped turning away from Him as best I could and, each time, risked looking a bit like a fool. In the end, GOD CAME THROUGH, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
In 2007, I dumped my long time high school boyfriend when, a guy I barely knew, came back into my life asking for another chance (only to realize that very guy was my very soul and a perfect mate).
In 2008, I said “Yes” to a proposal at 20 years old, before we had lived together or slept together. The world thought we were crazy (only to be utterly grateful and find that His “crazy” way of living is exactly how God intended). <3 PS… Happy 8 Year Would-be-versary, Nicholas… We had it good, love. We were so blessed. We ARE SO blessed, even now, huh? We HAVE it good. <3
In 2011, I sat by my husband and planned a trip to meet with a rare cancer specialist though we had no money in the bank as we had just bought our first house (only to get a call an hour later from someone who wanted to give us their airline miles, which covered every cent of those last minute flights).
In 2012, I quit a job with my husband in remission and me, 9 weeks pregnant (only to find God had a better one lined up for me, where I could work from home. Just so happens that Nick’s cancer came back with a vengeance three months after that job change and I was able to take care of him AND work. GOD. SEND.)
In 2012, I asked for time off when our money had all but run out, with a mortgage to pay and medical bills stacked higher than a chimney (only to be told that ANY and ALL time off that I needed would be PAID, in full, though I had accrued no PTO to spend).
In 2013, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, her life thrived while my husband’s disappeared before my eyes. And yet I FOUGHT my instincts and chose to trust Him anyway (only to find, later on, that He really was worth trusting all along).
In 2014, I walked my 9 month old daughter down the aisle of a church at my husband’s funeral and I smiled and I laughed (only because I KNEW that I could still find a reason to smile, even though it felt as though life had been torn from me).
In 2014, I moved across the country, to Florida when He called me there with my 1.5 year old little girl, 5,000 miles away from my friends and family (only to realize that I needed this time to myself to figure out who I was AFTER loss, that I could be a good single mom, and to come closer to my God).
And, in 2016, with many mistakes behind me but fewer regrets than before, I said “Yes” on the alter to a man who people exclaimed “I had only dated for a year!” (Only to find that peace that surpasses understanding, that I knew THIS MAN was made to be my *second first*.)
The list goes on and on and on… And I *also* have a list of times I’ve turned my back on what God whispered to my heart… That one isn’t as pretty. I’ve found that following a God who whispers to your soul, even when it seems like a crazy bunch of nutso is ALWAYS, ALWAYS worth it. Because sometimes the LOUDEST plan isn’t the RIGHT one.
God’s plan DOESNT always make sense. And, often, He will ask us to take a step, even when we might be close to THE LEDGE. He asks us to step out, NOT BECAUSE ITS SAFE but because HE IS THERE.
You can be COMFORTABLE or you can be COURAGEOUS.
BUT YOU CANNOT BE BOTH. ❤️
Sooo DANG GRATEFUL for the people in my life who have spoken into me, believed in Gods direction for my life, followed Gods direction on their own, and held their tongues if they ever thought me a fool. There are many but specifically, I would love to thank Nick, Jay, Judy, Eric, Daniel, Kat, Cat, Sean, James, Mike, Genna, Kinslee, and my whole family and COUNTLESS friends. I could never forget all you’ve done for me. ❤️ #danggrateful
I wear a ring on my right hand. It’s a sweet eternity, a hope, a memory.
It was given to me for my 26th birthday, by my husband, Nick, who was undergoing endless chemo, attempting to kill the monster that was consuming him from his middle out. Literally. (Appendix cancer is a nasty beast. And, its rare, but more common than you might think. Look it up sometime.)
Our daughter was 6 months old then, all smiles and giggles and teeeeeny, tiny blonde hairs. She took in the world around her for what it was, she didn’t know how soon ALL of it might fall apart.
But, I knew. I had seen the wires and tubes sticking out of her daddy’s body more times than I could count… I had hoped and dreamed and raged and fought, but still, when I looked at it straight, it looked like we were losing the battle anyway. Even after all THAT. After all the work, all the prayers, all the medicine, all the green drinks, the specialists consultations across the continent… The feeling of failure was so palpable at times that I could taste it in my mouth; under my tongue, sharp, acid, HARD fail.
I started to give this OUT OF CONTROL situation up to God. I gave Him my feeling of failure, my last hope. When there honestly wasn’t anything else I could do and I had exhausted every other option… I decided to try and make the best of it. And, I knew that I would need SUPERNATURAL help to do so.
It was hard and it sucked and it was the worst thing I have ever faced in my entire life…. But, I began to try to view each day as an adventure. Even the super crappy ones. Even the ones spent in the ER, and the ones spent lying next to my weakening husband in bed.
When I brought him home from a hospice center in November, to live out the rest of his life as it turned out, I could hardly recognize his earthly body anymore.
Sure, technically, it WAS the same body. The very one that had lifted me effortlessly, spun me around, and thrown me into the lake my mother lived on just a few years before. It WAS the body that had so easily stood into a handstand during our engagement photo shoot. It WAS the same body that fathered our child, but it looked different now.
“Hollow” would be the only word I could use to describe those last months, physically. But, spiritually, he was BRIMMING. His relationship with God was DEEPER than any I had ever seen. He truly trusted and had grown closer to His Savior than I could have ever hoped for for myself.
He handed it over. His everything. His life. I saw him lay himself and his hopes down a little bit more every day. But, not in exchange for something worse. Honestly, you could FEEL it in your bones. HE KNEW that he was laying down this life FOR SOMETHING EVEN BETTER.
In early December, when pain had kept him (and us) up for another endless night, he asked if I would help him get out of bed.
“Will you pray with me?”
We knelt down against the couch that didn’t belong in our bedroom. The one that we had brought in for Nick to sit in when his pain was so bad that lying down at any angle caused intense pain to shoot, unbridled, through his abdomen. His tumors were stringy, and they latched on tight, wouldn’t let go, pushing and pulling on his organs (the ones that were still left after surgery, anyway).
“God. You know I love you. And, I trust you. I’ve been having such a hard time letting my girls go. But, I know you have a plan. And, God, I want you to know… I’m ready. I only want your will. Whatever it is. If I stay, that’s SO fine with me. But, if I need to go… Lord, I trust you.”
Tears streamed from his eyes down his cheeks, onto our tightly clasped hands, but when he opened his eyes again and looked to mine, I saw PEACE, not pain.
He died one month later..
I wear a ring on my left hand. A solitaire; a gift, a promise.
On a night last December, among Christmas lights and a winter breeze, my best friend got down on his knee and asked me to become his wife.
It had felt a little complicated at first… Jay and I. I mean, I had JUST come to terms with my being a widow, with my being a single mom. And, instead of those things being bad things, I let those things mean ADVENTURE. I could live wherever I wanted so I tried 10 months on the Gulf of Mexico. I could do what I wanted for work, so I crafted my best job ever and went after it, writing blog posts for startups and entrepreneurs. I didn’t have to double check my choices with anyone or risk being questioned, so I listened to music for hours on end after putting my little girl to bed. I ate ice cream for dinner on more than one occasion. I joined a gym and went to yoga on the evenings. I read book after book after book, because once the toddler was asleep and work was done, nothing else really required my attention.
Needless to say, I was single… but I was ALSO satisfied. Years after my late husband’s death, I had finally come to terms with whatever life God had planned for me. I had finally TRUSTED HIM with the trust that I had seen in Nick so many years before. Endlessly, recklessly, completely.
When I moved back to Seattle, I rented a house in the sweetest little neighborhood. Austyn and I walked to dinner and to the park by the lake. I would drop her off at her Montessori school in the morning and walk to the cutest little coffee shop you’ve ever seen, drink an Americano, and type like a mad woman. This. Was. Life.
I didn’t think there was someone out there that could ADD anything to the situation, really. I mean, sure, I definitely wondered what it might be like to have a Partner in Parenting and sometimes I wished there was someone to talk to on the nights that I couldn’t sleep. But, for the most part, God became THAT person for me and I LOVED growing in my relationship with HIM, exclusively. It honestly was pretty incredible and I will cherish that time forever.
So, back to Jay… I had known him for years, technically. He had been one of my late husband’s best friends, back when we had first met. I wasn’t too sure about Jay at first, all those years ago, but Nick had vouched for him every time I questioned their friendship. Telling me that Jay was still “growing” and to give it a few years. He said that EVENTUALLY I would see what he saw in his friend: someone who was loyal, trustworthy, hardworking, and kind to a fault.
I hadn’t seen Jay in years when I returned to Seattle, but when we met for smoothies with Austyn, I KNEW something was up. I had reached out to him, to catch up and mainly to talk about local churches (Jay, just a few years into his relationship with Our Father). But, when we sat down nearly a year ago today, I had felt a stirring in my soul. I tried to ignore it at first…. Because, let’s face it, change is SCARY as heck and I was HAPPY where I was at, thank you very much!
But, God had plans… And, ignoring Jay just WASN’T an option when at the FIRST sign of a crush, he sent me a page-long note asking me about dating a widow, what Nick would think, and what the Bible says. He wanted to get it right, and if we were going to do this, he wanted me to know he wasn’t messing around.
“I haven’t had a girlfriend in five years. Because I’m so picky. I won’t date someone unless they have the qualities I want. I feel like I know you but not all that well, but based off what I do know from the past and our recent communication I know you have many qualities and characteristics that I personally look for in a woman.”
This guy, who I had previously decided was simply a “bad influence” on my husband, would come to mean more to me than I could have imagined. His life, I would come to find out, had been changed BIG TIME since we had last really spoke. By the VERY ONE who changed my life too, Jesus Christ.
The rest, as they might say is history…
I get remarried in just 9 days. I get to marry my best friend, who used to be best friends with my other best friend.
It might sound kind of weird to other people. It might not.
To me, its perfect.
There are TWO INCREDIBLE LIVES we might live. Our own DREAM or our DESTINY. Sometimes, they are one in the same….. But, sometimes, they are not. Many times, our DREAM leads us to our DESTINY. But, while you’ve spent a lifetime coming up with your DREAM, God has been busy, working in the background, crafting your DESTINY. And, it’s one wilder and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
There will be AS MUCH beauty in your DESTINY as there is in your DREAM. So, LET GO of what you think you want and let God guide you. After all, HE MADE YOU.
You were made for MORE than your DREAMS. You were made for BRAVER than you believe. You were made for a CRAZY BEAUTIFUL life.
Goodbyes just plain suck. All of ’em. To hell with ’em. We weren’t built for ’em. Especially the permanent ones. You know, the ones where you know it will be impossible to see your loved one’s face again, on this earth? Those ones. They freaking bite. When you know that the next time you’ll meet eye-to-eye will be when your journey is complete. And, right then, you have no idea when that day will come and it feels like forever away.
Indefinite goodbyes suck.
Indefinite goodbyes without the hope of reunion suck even more.
I’ve been trying to explain goodbyes to Austyn these last few weeks because she’s gonna be missing some sweet friends of hers very soon. I’m her momma. I want to prepare her. So, I’ve been trying to tell her that, because of our move up North, she won’t be attending her awesome little Montessori school here in Seattle anymore.
Today was her last day. And on the way to school, I tried to warn her again. I didn’t want her to freak out but I didn’t want this day to slip by without her realizing it’s seeming significance. I told her that today there should be long hugs and extra kisses. In my heart, I know that these kids that she’s made into friends and the teachers she’s made into family will fade into the background soon.
But, she didn’t really seem to understand. I know this isn’t goodbye forever necessarily. We hope to visit back to her school a few times in the coming year at least. But, the day to day will be gone. Every day she doesn’t have school during the week this past year, she tells me she misses her “fwends.” I am nervous for the day she tells me this, this coming week. Break. My. Heart.
I’ve never really liked goodbyes. Not to my parents when they left for vacation when I was a kid, not to my friends for summer break, not to my bestie when we chose colleges that were states apart, not to the baby I never got to meet, and DEFINITELY not to my husband when he died of cancer just five years into our marriage. No, definitely not then.
I remember crossing the hallway between our master bedroom and Austyns nursery in the early morning, just hours before Nick would leave this earth. I had been watching his chest rise and fall for the last half hour, not much unlike the past two weeks. However, this time, when I had been awakened by my usual alarm to give him his next dose of pain meds, I noticed right away that something was different. The hospice nurses had warned me that would happen. They told me that his breathing would “change.” I had worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell. “You’ll know.” They had assured me.
And, I definitely did.
It was coming… Our final goodbye. I had spent the last two years saying goodbye to small parts of my husband, small bits of us, and large chunks of me that had been tangled up in him. First it was goodbye to cancer free conversations, then date nights, then grocery outings, then morning coffee, then goodbye to our sex life… Next came goodbye to his lucid words, goodbye to his sound advice and goodbye forever to our flow of conversation. Then, goodbye to his kisses. Goodbye to his voice and then his whispers. It was obvious that this real last goodbye had been a long time coming. And, yet, my heart felt so surprised. Already? We hadn’t had near long enough.
That last night of his on this earth was also the very last night I breastfed our little girl, Austyn. (Last night of breastfeeding because my milk supply cut off the very next day. The stress of losing my husband’s life proving too much for my body to handle along with sustaining my little girl’s life.) I remember wondering if I was nuts to leave Nick alone in that room, but I knew Austyn needed to eat and I had a strange peace that he wouldn’t leave me until I made my way back to his side.
As I crossed the distance between the two loves in my life, angels were with me every step of the way. God was physically present. I felt Him there, in the house. I felt Him in my bones. And, though, I was trembling and heartbroken, peace flooded me like none I’d ever felt. I remember caressing Austyn’s soft little hand as she sleepily drank and letting tears roll down my cheeks as I thought of not only my loss, but hers.
Nick died when Austyn was barely 9 months old. She hadn’t walked yet or talked yet. She hadn’t learned to count. Or ride a bike. It just all felt so unfair. At the very very least, it seemed a girl should have her dad for her first soccer game, for her first dance, even for her wedding. My heart ached for her and shattered for me. Split wide open, right down the middle, for us both.
Looking back now, I realize a silver lining that I hadn’t seen then. The innocence that was preserved in my little girl. Obviously it would have been an immense blessing if Nick had been able to live his life into the years that will eventually reside in Austyn’s memory. But, he didn’t. And so, my sweet girl doesn’t know goodbyes like I do.
As we passed Greenlake for the last time on our way home from school today, she told me something.
“My teacher sad today.” She frowned in the rearview mirror and I longed to see the dimple that shows when she smiles.
“Is she baby? Why do you think?” I asked.
“Because it my last day at school.” She said.
“Yeah. She’s going to miss you, sweetheart.” My girl captured hearts there, even through her terrible twos.
“Yes. BUT!!” Austyn’s eyes twinkled and that dimple appeared fast as her smile grew. “She will feel better soon maybe. Maybe I will give her a hug someday and she will feel all better. Soon, mom. Let’s see! She WILL feel better. Not tomorrow. But SOON!”
My sweet child. My heart swelled with pride and with grief, happy and sad tears threatened to brim.
I know she will miss her friends and her teachers come next week. But, I also know that she will make more friends.
I made a conscious decision long ago, with the help of my God, my pastor, my grief counselor and countless psychiatrists studies, that I wouldn’t share my grief with my little girl. At least, as best I can. I share my grief with you, with the world, with other adults in my life. But, not with her. Not yet. She’s been far too young to understand goodbyes of this magnitude. And, I’m trusting that decision even more now.
Nevertheless, she has surely seen me cry and have hard days. When as a single momma, I just couldn’t keep those tears from falling to the floor.
And, I don’t know if it’s so much that, or just who God has made her to be, but she is honestly one of the most compassionate toddlers I have ever seen. Her heart is on her sleeve and its pure as gold, untarnished. She’s got her bad days, I assure you, but her tenderness and care for others is as plain as day. She puts others needs first, especially if they are having a hard time. She pats backs, asks to kiss boo boos and all around wonders aloud “You doin okay in there?” And, I pray my daughter and this love for others always stays that way. It’s the very best gift she could ever possess.
In all her childlikeness, I realize how very much I strive to be just like her. And, sometimes, I really do accomplish it.
A sweet acceptance that a “someday reunion” is good enough. And, that living life for JOY in the meantime is all there really is to do.
Goodbyes suck. They sure do. But, you WILL feel better. Maybe not tomorrow. But, soon! <3
We leave in 5 days for… Hong Kong!
I feel like we’ve just stepped off the plane from Paris. It was, in actuality, 3 months ago but life has been FLYING by since then (pun intended… teehee). This 14 hour flight is going to be a doozy, that’s for sure, but it’ll be worth it! Though I’m gonna miss my little girl, I can’t wait to land in this beautiful city with it’s impressive skylines and walk amongst the 7.2 million people that call Hong Kong home.
So, why the heck are we going to Hong Kong? Let me get there…
I’ve wanted to go on a missions trip for years, almost decades now. I’ve wanted to be in another country with the purpose of seeing others through Jesus, helping how we can, without going exclusively for pleasure or business. The desire for a trip of this caliber was reinforced when I met Nick at 19 years old. He, too, wanted to go on a missions trip and we vowed to do one together someday.
But, life got busy and excuses took over. We got planned a wedding and got married the first year we met, and that was busy. We were newlyweds the first year we were married… and, that was busy too. Then, we were excelling in our careers the second year of marriage and I didn’t have the time to think about vacations, let alone, trips for others (bah-humbug…). The third year we were married, my mind was somewhere else entirely and then Nick was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. As you might guess, we didn’t end up having much time left to plan a missions trip. We fought and fought cancer and squeezed every ounce of joy out of life, but Nick passed two and a half years (and a baby) later.
“Anywayyyyy….” (always a great segway), we are meeting my friend Pastor Eric and his amazing wife Virginia in Hong Kong! Eric, whom I still call “Pastor Eric” or “Pastor E,” (though he doesn’t officially pastor a church anymore) has been an an amazing friend to me for going on 10 years. He began preaching at mine and my parents church when I was in High School, walked me (and most of my family) through my parents heartbreaking divorce, conducted Nick and I’s pre-marital counseling, married Nick and I, counseled us kids some more, and eventually helped me walk Nick home. Pastor E has been so much more to me though than a counselor or a pastor, he has been a true friend and modeled Jesus’ heart so clearly.
In fact, the way that Pastor Eric responded to me during my times of pain, intense doubt, fear, frustrations, worry and grief are the ways that I aim to respond to people when they now come to me with their pains, doubts, fears, frustrations, worries or grief. He never seems to judge me (or, if he does, he doesn’t ever give himself away) and he always tries to sympathize without claiming to understand. It’s incredible to have him as a listener and I’ll always cherish his friendship.
Pastor Eric left the church he had pastored for 8 years when he felt called to be the Asia Area Director for the Free Methodist Church. He now oversees the missionary team in Asia, partners with Asian national leaders to build a strategy to bring more people hope through Jesus, and works to more purposefully connect the church in Asia with the church here in the United States. (What a mouthful! This right here is a busy guy!) He is convinced that the relationship between the church at home and the church abroad can be mutually beneficial… And, let me tell you, I agree!
The more connected we can be with people in our world, the better… whether that’s with people across the street or across the seas. We’re all the same. We all need each other.
So, I had texted Pastor Eric back in February of 2015. I had just realized that I’d been throwing around the idea of a missions trip for going on two decades. And I decided that enough was enough. I decided to be DONE with EXCUSES!
I would ALWAYS be able to come up with an excuse NOT to go. And excuse NOT to get outside my comfort zone. But, if I wanted to make it happen, then I needed to do just that. Stop making excuses and start making plans. So, I made a pact with myself. I would do a missions trip within the year. And, to keep myself accountable, I texted Pastor E, too. “Friend, I want to go on a missions trip before February of 2016.”
I told him I didn’t know where, with whom, or for what organization. But, asked him to pray for me and try to help hold me accountable. In the months that followed the thought of a mission trip would pop in and out of my head. I pushed it aside as I focused on more pressing matters. I moved myself and my tiny toddler from Florida back to Seattle, my sweet girl turned 2 years old, I continued working as a contractor and wrote blog post after blog post. I even started thinking about writing a book. Things were getting busier and busier, but I didn’t forget my promise.
Then the very first time Jay and I reconnected this summer, Jay brought up the trip he had gone on months before, in February of 2015 (the same month I had texted Eric about my promise to myself. Coincidence?!). He had gone with a group from his church to Guatemala. He told me of the children, of the lives there, of the friends he made. Then he said that he wanted to go on another missions trip in 2016…. by February.
“So funny! I texted my pastor in February and told him that I needed to go on a trip before February 2016. Weird! Let me know if you end up planning a trip again…. maybe I can tag along?”
At the time, we were obviously oblivious (try saying “obviously oblivious” ten times fast!) that our friendship would progress the way it did and that we would end up together just a few weeks later. Funny how that works.
So, back to the trip! We actually started talking seriously about a missions trip back in September, knowing that we needed to get something on our calendars to really make it happen. We looked at a few different organizations and threw around some ideas. But, the more that I thought on it and prayed about, I kept coming back to my friend’s ministry. I had supported Pastor Eric and his wife and their mission with some tithing every month. I really wanted to learn more about their work. He had mentioned that they would love to have us along on a trip. And, the more I thought on it, what better way to learn more about missions work than to accompany one of the top leaders for the church in Asia missions?! And, added bonus, that that very same top leader is one of my favorite people (who I would love for Jay to get to know better and vice versa).
So, there you have it, more or less. This is how Jay and I ended up Hong Kong bound – and stoked about it!!
We leave on Saturday and arrive on Sunday. We fly for something like 14 hours and land in a timezone that is 16 hours ahead. How’s that for amazing? So, basically, we lose a whole day traveling there, and travel through timezones at lightning speeds on the way back! (HA!) I expect that our landing back home will feel a lot like the Twilight Zone.
Pastor Eric and Virginia will be meeting us in Hong Kong come Sunday and will be leading us on this adventure and throughout the city for about a week.
Our mission will be one part cultural awareness, one part prayer, one part marketing brain storm, and one part pre-marital counseling. Sound like we will have enough to do? ;] We will get to experience the city and places like: The Stanley Market, The Peak, Kowloon Walled City Park and even Hong Kong Disneyland! Get ready for some sweet HK pics on my instagram!!
I read this quote once and took it to heart.
God will guide your footsteps… But only if you are willing to move your feet.
Yes, sir… They are a moving! One step, two, three…
I don’t know exactly what to expect on this trip of ours. I know that we will learn A LOT more about a culture and a people who are fairly unfamiliar to me. I know we will see things we aren’t used to. But, I also know that Hong Kong is a *little bit* like Seattle.
Whatever happens, whatever the outcome, I pray that God uses us on this trip to touch at least one life. Maybe even just to be the support to our dear friends who do this month in and month out. You never know what God has in store.
Until next time, Bon Voyage! Or, however you say that in Cantonese… ;)
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.