Even This?

Jim Elliot, Joshua Tree, JTNP,

I had the privilege growing up of going to a church that hadΒ some pretty great youth leaders. In junior high we were challenged with a question. Will you follow Him no matter what it takes?

I said yes. Not a doubt in my mind. I was willing to die if that’s what it took.

My heroes of the faith were Amy Carmichael – a mama to countless children in India, Gladys Aylward – who saved Chinese children during WWII at great risk and peril, Hudson Taylor, Elisabeth & Jim Elliot {Elliot famously said, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ He was killed by the people he had gone to serve.}, and many others who followed a path I thought I would.

At Forest Home, before I started seventh grade, I listened to a few people {college age and a little older} talk about their lives and the ways they had chosen to follow Him. One of these people became a mentor because she also happened to be part of my home church. She had spent time as a missionary in a place that seemed so exotic and unusual at the time.

Between her impact on me, and that of our youth leaders, I said I’d go anywhere and do anything for Him.

I don’t always think the decisions you make at twelve will stay with you. Sometimes they do. And sometimes? You probably wish they didn’t. I said, “Here I am, send me.” I said I’d follow “no matter what it takes.” The question today, in the midst of pain is, “even this?”

Even this?

Even this?

This?

His reply is twofold:

  • Do you trust me enough to pray wild, impossible prayers and to have scandalous, wild faith? Will you dream the big dreams and trust me with them?
  • And then . . . will you follow me no matter my answer? Will you follow me even if I say no? Will you follow me if the family you have wanted is not my plan?

Even this?

Yes. Even this.

Turns out He may not have expected me to spend my life on the mission field. Or die for my faith. But maybe He’s asked me to lay something down that I cling to even more. Like Abraham who finally had a son to take his name and birthright, is He asking me to lay down the one thing I want more than anything? Yes. Even that. He wanted Abraham, the Father of many nations, to be willing to lay his Isaac down. He asked Abraham, in different words but with the same weight, “Even this?”

Abraham, this great hero of the faith for so many said, “Yes. Even this.”

So here I am, declaring my public, “Even this.”

Even this.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

Messy hair. Thirsty heart.


I drove my messy hair and thirsty heart here a short time ago. There are times when the pain is too much, and the ache too deep. Today? It’s one of those days. Oh is it one of those days.

Mother’s Day brings it out in me. At least in recent years. I try hard to let it slip by, but in the south, where politeness is a way of life, the constant refrain of “Happy Mother’s Day,” to every adult female, is too much.

I lost a baby. She would be close to 10. And now, at 40, I’m childless. The one title I’ve wanted for as long as I remember, I don’t have. I made it past my 40th birthday without facing this.

But I couldn’t escape it any longer. A few weeks back, I faced a disappointing moment in my career. I longed for a change because it was the only way I could fathom becoming a single mother through foster care & adoption. My schedule now, in my current job, is too erratic. It’s not that other people don’t do it – they do. But for me? I’m not sure I could choose to do it alone. I was raised by a single mother. I don’t have any lofty ideas about what it is and isn’t. But that’s the one reason why I needed and longed for this career change.

People I know from work were happy about this {they told me so} because it meant I would stay with them. But it broke my heart. They didn’t mean to hurt me, but the hurt piled up. What does one do when the only way you can imagine getting to the dream, goes up in smoke? Especially at a time that seems so ripe with meaning for women {turning 40}. Single women in particular.

Everywhere I turn today, however, are words and songs of encouragement. Last night, Ann Voskamp posted on her Facebook page about being brave. You can see it here. I saw it today however. I needed it. Right in that moment. Not last night when she wrote it. I have cried buckets today. And when feeling frustrated with my messy heart and tears, I read a quote that showed up “randomly” in my Facebook feed, about tears. It spoke comfort to my tired heart.

I could go on. There are other examples. I still don’t know if the pain will ever go away. I still don’t know why God answers some prayers and remains silent other times. I don’t know why some people are blessed with children and other dreams of their hearts, while others long. I don’t know why He hasn’t taken this desire from me if this isn’t to be my life.

But I know He is a good, good Father. Somewhere, beyond my vision, there’s peace – though I don’t feel it now. The things I’ve read & the songs I’ve heard remind me of this. I don’t know if there’s a reason, but I know there’s peace.

From the time I was a kid, the ocean brought peace into my life. My grandparents lived at the beach most of the summer and we stayed with them when it was possible.
We would nap with the fresh ocean air blowing past us and we would walk on the beach for hours. My Grandma Avalos was a woman with messy hair and a wild, artist’s heart. Our countless hours with her, when my brother and I were kids, taught me to dream big and wide. And as wild as my heart could take.

I’m sure she didn’t set out to do that. But messy haired women with wild, thirsty hearts will do that for you if you pay attention. Today, my messy hair & thirsty heart needed to sit by the sea to be reminded how to dream big and wide and as wild as my heart can take.

Because the God that made the ocean that gives me so much peace? He’s bigger still. And as wild and deep and wide as my dreams are, His for me are deeper still.

The Color Green

trees, woods, jungle, eastern carolina, eastern north carolina
Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

– Rich Mullins

I spent much of the day yesterday dilly-dallying and working in my yard {might have also had a mint julep or two}. I loved it. My hands were caked with potting soil, as were my clothes, but it was a great feeling to work all day at making my deck pretty, after nearly a year here.

I’ve spent about ten months in this house. I won’t lie . . . I have hated pretty close to every second of it.

mint julep, cocktail, southern drinks,

The house is too small. The neighbors are way too loud. I can smell the hog farm about half of the week, all day – from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. The lighting is terrible. Terrible. The house is very dark. On and on my complaints have gone.

I started looking at houses online. I was determined to move when my lease was up. The noisy neighbors and their dogs were my last straw. And then . . . something happened. Spring? Wisdom? Discernment? Maybe a combination of all three.

I drive into my driveway every evening after work and there’s this adorable house in front of me – it looks like a cabin in the woods. It makes my heart all girly and squishy. I walk out onto the back deck with my dog and all I can see is . . . green.

woods, trees, eastern carolina, eastern north carolina

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My backyard is beautiful. It’s huge. And it’s green. And it’s beautifully shaded – there’s almost too much shade. Funny things grow back there in all that shade. Just behind my fence is a jungle of even more green with a creek running alongside.

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The jungle behind the house!

Suddenly, within the last 2-3 weeks I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to move. I love this yard. I love the overwhelming green that reminds me of life, grace, and of dreams coming true. When I was a little girl, I used to look at picture books and dream away about where I wanted to live and what I wanted that magical place {far away from Orange County, California} to look like.

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It looks like here. It looks like this. It looks like what I’m seeing out my office/guest room window as I type this very minute. This house is where I belong for now. My little cabin in the woods is home. And while it is, I’m going to soak up all the green that I can.

Speaking of green. Growing up in Southern California, one doesn’t realize just how much green you’re missing out on. I grew up on a busy, loud street right in the center of Orange County. There was more asphalt and concrete than green.

Trees? We had them. But not like this. I lose count of the number of trees in my yard when I try to count. It’s hard to grasp as a native SoCal’er just what is out there beyond that Shangri-La. I even lived in the desert of California for a couple of years. Green in that town of Joshua Tree is really a special sight to behold when you lay your eyes upon it. My neighbor’s yard had a huge pine tree and I would sit for ages on those desert windy days, just to hear the sound of the wind through the pine, hankering for the East Coast and green.

Green. Deep, rich, life-giving green. It’s the first color we see after a long winter. The first buds of leaves in the spring are almost fluorescent they’re so green. It’s nearly impossible to give up the beauty of spring as it trails into summer. So, no. I don’t want to leave just yet. I dreamed of this place. So here is where I will write. And this is where I will wait.

Office

So here I sit. At my Grandma’s desk, looking out at the green – writing. No, I’m not going anywhere right now. I’ll stay right here with the color green. This is where I will write. And this is where I will wait.

Good Wine & Great Chow

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My first event at the Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend was awesome — the Wine, Bread & Cheese seminar. The second, “The Truck Stops Here”? Not great. The majority of the food was fried which is a total non-starter when you can’t eat gluten. There were simply not enough “food trucks” providing food to make the price of admission worth it for me, taking into consideration the fried thing.

As a result of my frustration from Friday night, I’m not going to lie . . . I was not even a little excited about Saturday. But I went to the Vin de Mer Epicurean Village {at Front Street Village} anyway. I’m happy to say that it was awesome. It was much more organized than the food truck event. There was simply no possible way for me to try every wine {although I’m sure there were some there that tried}. And while I was a little overwhelmed at where to start, I came up with a sort-of-ish plan to start with the whites, working around the tent and sampling the awesome food in between.

Here’s what I did enjoy {that I remembered to write down or snap a photo of}:

Charcuterie, Charcuterie Board, Cheese, Southern Foods

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My favorite eats were:

  • Sesame Seared Tuna from the Channel Marker
  • Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream and Caramelized Onions {and ugh…I can’t remember where this came from}
  • Asian Pulled Pork Taco with soy-ginger slaw and sour cream from Circa-81
  • Spring salad with strawberries, feta & basil-peach vinaigrette (Olive Oil & Vinegar from Beaufort Olive Oil Company made by Chef Merrell from Circa-81.
  • The fish & shrimp stew from Sammy’s Seafood House & Oyster Bar
  • TheΒ Charcuterie board from Southern Foods

Circa 81, Clarke Merrell, tapas, cocktails, Beaufort Wine and Food Weekend

I only saw one cooking demo – from Chef Merrell of Circa-81 {And Dank Burrito. And Beaufort Olive Oil Company.} but it was fun. I learned a few things from the demo. Like for instance, did you know that when you buy extra virgin olive oil from the grocery store, it may have as little as 15% extra olive virgin oil. The rest could be . . . anything. Eww. Kind of annoyed about the olive oil I purchase at the store. I also learned that clear bottles should be avoided which is a shame since I bought clear glass bottles for my olive oil and vinegar.

Chef Merrell made a spring salad that we were able to sample. I had a taste of a really good Sauvignon Blanc, with it, that I cannot remember the name of, for the life of me. Nonetheless, it was a fun demo and like I mentioned, I learned a few things. One of the things I enjoyed about the chef’s presentation was his advice to try stuff out when you’re cooking taking a “no rules” approach. I like that.

Before I forget, I also loved the Gin & Β Tonic from Mother Earth Spirits out of Kinston. P.S. I’m a cocktail fan but I had never had a Gin & Tonic before. I’m a new fan. I bought a bottle of Crude Bitters – Rosemary, Grapefruit & Peppercorn. I can’t wait to try it. I also had a sample of their Orange & Fig. So good!

bitters, Crude Bitters,

Overall, it was a really awesome experience. I had a ton of fun. I have been to quite a few wine dinners, tastings, etc., over recent years. But this was the first time attending a wine & food festival of this type. There are things I would do differently next year for sure. But mark my words, at the very least I’ll be back for the Vin de Mer Epicurean Village next year!