A Year. Chaos. Joy. Blessing.

Seventeen days ago marked the one-year anniversary of my {foster} son, moving in with me. The month of March 2018 was one of the worst months of my life. I’ve never felt more alone, more exhausted, and more certain I’d made a horrible decision.

My son moved in with his little sister. And the combination of the two of them was too much. From my vantage point in March of 2019 I understand so much better why this was the case. And now, I know that saying yes to these two children was a tremendous gift though they needed to be separated. It wasn’t a horrible decision – it was God at work in all of our lives.

When our placement was disrupted & FD5, went to live with another foster family, our world changed so much. She has done well. She is doing well. And my son? He is a different boy than he was in March of 2018.

We’ve had our struggles. He has had his struggles. But his fear has lessened. The joy that makes him literally scream with excitement and pure happiness, as he plays in the waves at the beach, is such a beautiful thing.

He has a tremendous capacity for joy. I have only learned in tiny little chunks why this great joy is sometimes beyond comprehension. One of the things I hate most about foster care is how little I’ve been told about his case & life. You’d think someone would want me to know. And yet, well…no. They don’t want me to know.

But I’ve learned more of his story recently. And my heart grieves for him. My heart grieves because it’s not supposed to be like this. The world is so twisted and sick. Innocent kids are caught in the midst of family strife, cycles of poverty and loss, and so much more.

Yet, in spite of this, he is determined, joyful beyond belief, so caring & kind, and absolutely adores life. His excitement over the biggest and smallest moments in life are honestly mind boggling. They’re mind boggling because in this passion for life, I am reminded of the mercy & grace of God. My boy’s life could have been very different.

He refuses to sink. I refuse to let him.

Tonight, his eldest sister sleeps in the bedroom next to his. It’s odd how life works out. The baby of the family moved out at the end of March of 2018. And in mid-February of 2019, the eldest girl, in a family of seven children, moved into our home.

I didn’t think our journey would bring us here. And if you would have asked me in November of 2018, after meeting their beautiful mama {whom I weep for} if this would have happened, I would have laughed at you. And possibly flipped you off. Mostly because I am hated by his family. I so wish this was not the case. But I am – because I’m white. That’s pretty much the gist of it. So who could imagine that this smart, beautiful, determined young woman would agree to stay here?

It’s funny how life works out.

My sweet boy is growing and changing every day. We have a long road ahead of us. His case is not as clear cut as I’d come to believe. It seems to get more complicated and hopeless with every court hearing. I grow fearful and desperate at times – thinking we’ll never reach the end.

Or worse? That he’ll be taken from me. I fear for his future in those moments and want to claw my way out. And then, when I cannot stand the desperation one second longer, God reminds me that He is writing a story. It’s one I’m just not going to be privy to the ending of until it’s upon us. Lord knows I’m not good with ambiguity and confusion.

But “through all of this chaos, you are writing a symphony.”

So though I do not trust family court in this county, DSS {because of the resources & manpower they lack}, nor do I trust that justice prevails, I trust the One who loves my sweet boy more than I ever could.

I trust him, his sisters, his brothers, and their mama to the One who loves them so desperately that He’s chasing hard after them. There’s nothing I can do to change what’s happened before, what happens in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, or where this road leads.

I can only love and respond.

So in the midst of the chaos, I’m trusting Him to write this beautiful story.

Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired

This post is my way of holding myself accountable for the health journey I’m finally ready to start.

I’ve been on a sixteen-year journey with autoimmune disease. In the last several years, the inflammation in my body increased, my joints started swelling more, and my pain increased along with the inflammation. The fatigue got worse too. Sometimes I think the fatigue is the worst part.

We’re not just talking tired. We’re talking complete and total – hard to function as a normal adult – exhaustion. This is the kind of exhaustion that is overwhelming and life-altering.

With a busy career, that sometimes required long hours no matter what was happening in my own life, all of my energy went toward being able to succeed at work. When I came home, there was nothing left. I often talk about being an introvert as the sole cause of my not getting out, making new friends, dating, etc.

The truth of the matter was {and is} that I couldn’t function. I only had enough energy to get through my work week. My evenings and weekends? I was running at a deficit. There was nothing left to give. There is nothing left to give.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

– Hippocrates

As a result of the constant struggle to be healthy and get in remission, I started taking a series of “biologics.” I started with injections at home and then when I was at my worst, I started receiving infusions at an Infusion Center near home.

There was one drug that seemed to work and work well – within 48-hours of every infusion, remicade made me feel like a million bucks. But continuously throughout my treatment, as my hair fell out and I read about what is in that drug & the others like it, I grew more and more uncomfortable with them.

The longer I’ve been on them, the sicker I get when I catch bugs from my son. My last cough {we are talking scary, hacking a lung cough, here} lasted three months until I could get a nebulizer at home. The stomach flu, respiratory infections, etc. hang on and on.

And yet, inflammation markers don’t decrease and in multiple cases, they’ve continued to increase, as have questions and concerns I have about other test results that indicate active disease. In the last round of tests this week, one particular result that’s always high – is even higher now.

If I read up on how that test is used, it can demonstrate current disease activity {i.e., I’m not in remission} in autoimmune diseases like mine. I know, I know. I’m not a doctor and neither is the Interwebs.

But guess what is not doing me any good at all? Doctors and traditional medicine. So I’ve decided to figure this out on my own. My immune system is being suppressed by these biologics {one famously made out of mice “protein”}, I’m getting sick with every little bug, and yet they do nothing for the pain and inflammation.

So guess what? I’m done.

Done.

Done.

Done.

Over time, I have read about many others in my situation. They were sick and tired and not getting better – all the while, they were being pumped full of awful drugs that in some cases, made them sicker. I’m in several Facebook groups with folks like these. Folks like me.

But there are also some within these chronically ill communities that I follow, that fight back – for their health. They find healing and remission, without dangerous {aka “high-risk”} drugs.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading, watching, and following along. I’ve toyed with a few ideas – like the keto diet. But a full blown keto diet is not for me. I’ve settled into a belief that the Paleo “diet” is, however. Though much of what is at the heart of keto, stripped down, is right on {we need good fats to survive & thrive}.

About eighty percent of the food on shelves of supermarkets today didn’t exist 100 years ago.
― Larry McCleary,

The new drug I’ve been on is doing very little for me. I’m not surprised. Honestly, neither is my rheumatologist. So why? Why am I taking this serious medication that is doing me no good?

I’ve seen no benefit. But I have seen a benefit to the therapeutic levels vitamin D I’m taking, thanks to Rodan + Fields. It isn’t helping my pain levels, yet. But it sure has helped my fatigue & energy. My energy levels are dramatically improved.

So let’s get this straight . . . dangerous meds are not working and cause me to get random viruses. Vitamin D has increased my energy level causing me to get more done in the last four weeks than I have in nearly a year.

This is my public way of holding myself accountable. I’m making some changes which include going off of the immune suppressants. I’m going to be cutting out grains & legumes, reducing my dairy intake, and cutting out processed, refined sugar. I have been mostly gluten free since 2009. But I’m fully committing now, after a nice chat with my new GI doctor.

I’m going to take my supplements daily. Which ones? All of them. Ha. Probiotics, fish oil, enzymes, vitamins, iron, magnesium, etc.. I’m going to drink more water. I’m also going to be using CBD oil. My GI doctor has recommended a specific brand but I’m going to do a little research before purchasing.

I’ve wanted to try CBD for some time, because I’ve heard great things about the way it impacts inflammation and pain levels. On a recent trip to Asheville, I purchased a cream from the Asheville Salt Cave, made with CBD, essential oils, Himalayan sea salt, and a couple other ingredients. Using it on my hips, on my trip, I was able to get in and out of the car on my long drive home, with zero pain. None. I got out of the car like I was a kid.

Wait . . . isn’t that what these “high-risk drugs” are supposed to do?

Getting home without pain & stiffness in my hips? That might as well be a miracle. Since getting home, when I use it, my hips are in great shape. When I don’t use it, I have a lot of pain and stiffness getting up from my desk, in and out of the car, etc.

I’m so done with this traditional medicine nonsense. It’s getting me nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place. But the truth is, I don’t believe modern medicine wants a cure for what ails us. They want to treat symptoms – not cure disease.

If you take any time at all to watch any food documentaries out there these days, they are powerful reminders at how our first world life in America, has caused us to change and manufacture what is supposed to be food – into something that resembles it – but is not actually food.

I’m going to make changes. I’m going to eat actual food. And I’m going to hope and pray for a total transformation of my health.

If you’re a Paleo {or keto, or AIP} person, I’d love to hear your favorite tips, websites, and recipes. Care to share? I’m not sure how I’ll often I post on my blog, but I hope I’ll find time to share some of this journey. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your experiences.

Dreamers & Risk Takers

Walt Disney, Elaina Avalos, Dreamers, Chasing Dreams, Dream Chaser, Dream Catcher, Disneyland

I took this photo about 10 years ago, at Disneyland – one of my favorite places on earth. That’s probably the last time I was there. I can’t wait to take another trip (hopefully with my son) soon.

When I was growing up, Disneyland was such an inspiration to the creative dreamer in me. My favorite places in the park were of places I dreamed of visiting – the French Quarter being one. In Pirates of the Caribbean, as the ride ends, you pass by the restaurant inside the ride (the Blue Bayou) and with the Spanish moss and “star” filled sky, I just knew I had to live in the south someday. How a girl from Orange County, California comes to live on the coast of North Carolina probably has its roots in those summer trips to Disneyland as I dreamed of live oaks and Spanish moss.

I had never seen this quote by Walt Disney until last night. So much of our talk of dreams can seem so flighty and honestly . . . just downright silly.

Or so it seems. Sometimes our dreams are exactly why we were placed on this earth. I love that in this quote he mentions that he tests his dreams against his beliefs. I love this – especially for me – who tries to live a life of faith.

But after a little examination – it’s time to take risks and act. This is the stage I’m in now, on several different dreams. Once you get there, it’s not always easy. I have had doubts, even recently. But you never get anywhere in life if you let your doubts rule you.

So . . . what are your dreams? What was that thing the little you dreamed of being & doing? Chances are . . . that’s truly who you were and are, meant to be.

Do a little dreaming. Take some risks. And jump in.

Sunday Nights if You Were Here

elaina avalos, chasing dreams, sunday night, sunday nights if you were here, love, romance, cooking

Sunday is the ever so weekly reminder that the work week has returned and I’m being drawn away from what I most want to be doing.

It’s Sunday night again. If you were here, our lazy day of rest would turn into a relaxed evening as we cook together. We would turn on the music and talk our way through our plans for the week.

You are the calm to my storm. You are my deep breath. Sunday night if you were here, your larger than life presence filling up this small space, I would think twice as I watch you washing dishes, about complaining that Monday is on our heels.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/12104616/playlist/6OkGLXpaRl9LIR8nDIY3v8

It has taken us so long to get to this moment. I don’t want to take a single second for granted. In the mundane of this every day moment, while you wash dishes, and I finish making our meal, I am reminded that this is everything I’ve ever wanted as quiet and normal as it is.

Sunday night if you were here, you would be another reminder of how the days and weeks conspire, with God’s hand on it all, to bring us exactly where we are meant to be, at exactly the right moment in time.

New Year. Not New You?


“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)

It’s that time of year. You know . . . the time of year that causes you to think about all you didn’t do the past eleven months. You may contemplating the new you, for the New Year, right this very minute.

A Washington Post, article from January 1st 2018, stated that 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. But how many more of us don’t formalize resolutions but make inner promises to be better, to do better, or to try harder?

This is the year I’ll go back to church. This is the year I’ll finish my degree. I’m going to work out and lose weight. I’m going to drink less and eat better.

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.

I think the number who don’t finalize resolutions, but still long for change, is quite high. There are many of us out there who silently long to change those things about our character, appearance, or circumstances that we wish were different.

But when the newness of the year wears off, where do we stand with all of those things we wanted to change about our lives? If you’re anything like I used to be, I found myself defeated, frustrated, and overwhelmed when I couldn’t keep up with my own demands {on myself!}.

How exactly does one go about making changes that are lasting and significant?

The article mentioned above has a couple of good tips – like “piggybacking” your goals or resolutions to something you really love. The example was to tie going to the gym to your Game of Thrones binge watching {i.e., only watch Game of Thrones while working out}. There’s some validity there.

Perhaps that might make those new goals stick around longer – if you had a tangible way to tie the “exercise” of working on your new goal, to something you already love.

Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods.

But, I found another way quite a few years ago now. When I really examined what my year had been like and where I had “failed” to meet my own standard, there was a common thread woven throughout my failures. There was also something in common with my successes.

Nine times out of ten – it was ONE single thing that kept me going to find success. And still other times, it was ONE single thing that kept me from meeting my goals.

Which brings me to how I started transforming my life, my goals, and chasing dreams. One word. That’s it. Not a list of resolutions that I’d never keep – a word.

It came about in a weird set of circumstances – this one word thing. All at once I felt this discomfort with my resolutions and thought I need to focus in. I heard about people using a word to live by in the new year. I liked the idea! Shortly thereafter, I heard from an online writer friend that used one word, too. The rest is history – it has been at least 10 years that this one word thing has touched my life in a profound way.

Friends – these words over the years have absolutely been right on. I may sketch out things I’d like to see happen in my life in the coming year. But what remains the theme throughout is always, always, always tied to this word. It’s in the living out and practicing of the word, I find myself meeting some of those standards I’d sketched out at the beginning of the year.

I find ways to act – ensuring my word is a verb. Other times, I find myself forced to live out the word because of circumstances beyond my control. Still other times, God shows me, much to my chagrin, when I’m not meeting the intent of the word.

This year, my word was fearless. In 2017 it was hope. There were never two more perfect words for the last couple of years. I have the evidence to prove it. This year, I did live fearlessly in all the ways it counts. I was fearful – but I pressed forward. And that’s what this is all about.

Resolutions stifle me. They hold me back and hold me down because I can’t meet the list of standards. But one word? It has changed me – every year, for the better. Even the year that I failed at being intentional – until December – when I learned a hard lesson through my lack of intention. But dude . . . did that word ever change me!

Guess what? I’m more intentional about everything now – including my one word for each year.

So here I am . . . in the final day of 2018 with a new word already being tested. My word is rest. I fail at rest. I fail at it in the deepest sense of the word.

OneWord365, OneWord, Rest, Abide, Faith, Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos, Chasing Dreams

Even now, I feel the pressure, strain, and tension beating at the door. But it is clear that rest is the word for 2019. Choosing a word over a list of resolutions isn’t easier. But it is easier to manage bite-size pieces of life – particularly when it’s areas of your life you want to change.

Rest. This might be my hardest word, yet.

So how about you, friends? Are you a resolution person? Or are you open to trying one word? I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you want to try the one word experience, check out, this website where you can register your word and find others with the same one.

Learning Life Lessons from a Seven-Year-Old

Today didn’t go quite as planned. My disorganization at home has caught up with me. I was frustrated and irritated. It’s all an inside job. I could’ve saved myself the trouble by slowing down & relaxing. I turned a moment that should’ve been fun – baking Christmas cookies with my kiddo – into a chore.

Granted, I had plastic covering the walls in my dining room making unpacking my office a challenge, a hole in the wall of the hall closet (a closet I need to store boxes – now kept in the second kid bedroom), and other issues about the house. I keep putting off unpacking and the longer this goes on, the more frustrated I become. By the way, if I fill the closet with boxes again, I’ll just have to move them back out when the drywall and painting is done. Phew. So . . . it’s no wonder I couldn’t find my Grandma’s old cookie cutters.

I searched frantically – making even more of a mess. I had to have them. How could I make cookies, for the first time as a mom, without them? My office went from unruly to a disaster area (also when I ripped the plastic down from the walls – the room will get drywall and paint & I’ve been looking at plastic for weeks). Meanwhile, all my little guy wanted to do was bake cookies.

But I made it into a chore.

We started making cookies and then ran into another little kerfuffle & our baking came to a halt. My kiddo lost his electronics privileges, I was stressed and tired, and we still have about 3 dozen cookies waiting to be made.

After getting through dinner, we sat down to do our Advent devotional and read a verse from his Advent calendar. We read, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”

The question was, “Why were the wisemen joyful? What brings you joy?”

I asked my sweet kid – who’d only an hour before gotten in trouble & who was driving me bonkers – what brings you joy? His answer? “You, Mama A. You bring me joy.”

Talk about a punch to the gut. Talk about learning life lessons from a seven-year-old.

The only thing that really matters is what really matters. In this season of rushing, picture-perfect wrapped packages and Pinterest worthy entertaining, I hope I’ll remember these moments with him, always.

My kiddo doesn’t care about all the extra stuff. He just wanted to bake cookies with me. Nothing is more important than his little heart and it doesn’t matter if our house is Pinterest perfect, if I have it all together, or . . . I don’t. All that matters is making memories with him. And that doesn’t require a picture perfect moment. It requires my presence fully there with him – not distracted by things that don’t last and don’t matter.

Hope When We Least Expect It

Beaufort NC, Beaufort, Crystal Coast, Hope, Fear, Grief, Southern Fiction, Women's Fiction

My novel, Chasing Hope, is about . . . hope, light, and healing after fighting your way through grief. It’s about loss and renewal. It’s about finding a family where and when you least expect it.

I’m hoping to return back to my Sample Sunday tradition to end 2018 & head into a new & BIG year for my little family. So in keeping with that, here are some of the first words I wrote for this novel that holds a special place in my heart.