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.

Whirlwind

After writing my last post, things changed quickly. The home we were scheduled to move into on a temp basis, never happened.

In about a 24-hr period we went from an unknown future to having a long term lease for remodeled home.

We moved in Saturday.

This has been an odd & beautiful year.

I said goodbye. I became a mom. My responsibilities expanded in a time I least expected. There is more, but that sums it up.

This house is a gift and while it’s not the city I would’ve picked, it is clear that God’s hand has been in the midst of these circumstances.

After I unpack, I hope to get back to writing. What have you been up to?

Babies & White Picket Fences

 



One day you wake up and you’re no longer young. I mean young, young. As a woman, you near a certain point where you begin to be more and more certain that you will not give birth to a child.

Some women go through adulthood with that desire a distant thought or a “Eh. I don’t think I want kids.” The thing a woman like me is often annoyed to hear from her fertile friends with white picket fences, “I never wanted to have kids. I don’t even really like kids. But here we are.”

I am not that woman. I have wanted kids as long as I could daydream about it. But I wanted the whole picture – the husband, the family, the dog, the picket fence, and a rolling hillside.

The truth is, recent months have shown a light on this truth for me – I am not happy. I am happy. But I’m not really happy. There’s an ache and a hurt in my heart that my life looks nothing like I planned.

The healing is not close. It seems far off in the distance. And in the rush of needing to fill this quiet space, I threw some lipstick on that pig and tried to parade it around like I had it all figured out and wasn’t brokenhearted.

I don’t have it figured out. And I am brokenhearted.

The truth is, I am angry at God that countless people have child after child they can’t and don’t care for and I am alone. I am angry that my prayers have gone unanswered for so long.

I’m angry that barren women have miscarriage after miscarriage and woman have 5, 6, or more children and leave them to raise themselves – abandoning them to raise another generation of lost children, themselves.

The truth is, I want to be pregnant. I wanted to. The truth is, I want to give birth, or pick up my newborn from the hospital – as an adoptive mom. I want to raise this tiny one, from day one.

I want to share parenthood with the love of my life – my truest companion. But, as time ticks on, I stand here with 42 a little over a month away, and the sadness floods me. This was not the life I dreamed of.

But it’s not just the dream. It’s actually what I saw as my calling. I saw my family as part of the ministry God was calling me to. So how do I understand all of this now?

I probably can’t understand it. But I can pray for healing. And trust my gut and God’s timing. I make my greatest mistakes when I rush through, without prayer, and try to fix my own heart.

I can’t fix my own heart. Only He can.

So . . . if you’re anything like me . . . and you tend to run off, headlong, at full speed ahead and try to fill the pain and emptiness in your heart, with ideas, theories, or frankly, anything other than Jesus, you’re probably gonna end up like me.

Sitting in some of the deepest pain I’ve ever known, I regret how easily I run ahead of Him. It’s not so much what I got into – it’s the timing of it all.

I can’t fix my own heart. Only He can.

I can’t make happen, in my own way and timing, what He ordains for my days. And so I seek His face for healing, forgiveness, grace, and wisdom. And I pray for strength for the days ahead.

I used to listen to Fernando Ortega’s “Hymn & Meditations” album over and over again, years ago. It has been a quiet comfort in some stormy moments in the last week and a half. The hymn above fits my heart tonight, as it has so many other times in the past.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

“Bind my wandering heart to Thee…”

My wandering heart, prone to leave, is going to take a step back, admit my folly, and wait for His answer.

Desperate for Grace,

Elaina



A Love Story in Progress

Follow your dreams

Brushing a girl’s hair
behind her ear
once a day
will solve more problems
than all those
therapists
and drugs.
– Atticus

I’m writing a love story. I thought I was stuck. Last weekend, I thought I’d never get past this mess of my own heart. The pieces still broken – fearing hope.

But the story lay hidden beneath the fear – the fear living closer to the surface.

Something changed yesterday though. I’m writing the story. I found the words. I found what I needed through a quiet challenge from God in the middle of my CPR/First Aid class – have faith. Someday maybe I’ll explain that in detail.

But for now, the love story I most want to write, is being written.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. – Maya Angelou

This love I have wanted to write about? It’s the kind of love that is rooted in friendship. It’s the kind of love that gives you a vision of your future in someone else’s eyes. It’s the kind of love that ignites your belief in another’s gifts and talents far beyond what they even see for themselves.

It’s the kind of love that is passion and fire but comfort and normal. It’s the kind of love that brings a sense of calm in the midst of trial, when he brushes your hair behind your ear – his tenderness toward you is all you need. Or maybe how with one look, he knows what you need before you even speak. And above all else, it’s the kind of love shared by two broken people that didn’t fit anywhere else.

It’s the kind of love you do the hard way.

So I guess we’ll have to do it the hard way. – Keith Urban

I’m responding in faith in a lot of areas right now, my writing is no different. This is the story I most want to write.

Fearless

Fearless, OneWord365, Faith, Elaina Avalos,

As 2017 comes to a close, I started thinking about my word for 2018. Every year for quite some time, I have had a word for my year versus a list of resolutions (my resolutions were always quickly forgotten).

Somehow, the word always fits. There have been times I don’t know why that particular word finds me. Sometimes, it almost feels ironic. My word for 2017 was hope. This year brought a lot of dark times for me – sometimes feeling quite the opposite of hopeful.

But as happens every year, I see the ways in which these words are woven into my life and impact my spiritual growth and focus. Sometimes it’s in failure that I grow. A few years ago, my word was “intentional.” I was absolutely not intentional. About anything. I sucked at being intentional. But in failing at it, I learned a great deal about myself.

The year has been hard, but woven throughout has been hope. As I’ve chased dreams and worked harder at being intentional (a path I started down after failing at it a few years ago), hope found me.

Throughout this year, and in particular the last month, I’ve realized that much of this year was spent in fear. Fear of  standing up for myself. Fear of what others would think of me or did think of me. Fear of the future. Fear of being hurt. Fear of being alone. Fear of not being able to handle being a single mom. Fear I will always be single. Fear my health would keep me back from following my dreams.

I could go on and on. You can’t live a life of fear if you’re going to live a life of faith. So…this year, I’m bringing back a word. Fearless. After my Pastor’s sermon a couple of weeks back, I was pretty sure that was the word I needed front and center in my life in 2018.

I spent some time this week reading Bible verses about fear. I have a whole page in my journal of these verses. My hope is to memorize one a week for a while.

I’m sure I won’t always be fearless. I’m sure there are going to be some scary moments this coming year as I embark on a journey to being a foster mom. But I know that choosing to respond in faith is the better way.

When you want to react in fear, respond in faith. – Jason Brinker

If the idea of choosing one word for your year interests you, check out this website. There’s an entire community of people who do this every year. You can find others who have the same word as you or join the Facebook group for support.

What do you want your 2018 to look like? Do you have resolutions or goals you would like to accomplish?

Fear & Faith

faith, fear, anxiety, christmas story, virgin mary

I didn’t want to go to church last night. But I went. It’s a good thing I did. The last year has been incredibly challenging. I’m tired and worn. A few weeks back, leading up to last week, a series of events happened that have been the straw that has broken the camel’s back.

The events that started a few weeks back opened the door to a type of fear and anxiety I haven’t experienced in many years. I certainly experience stress. But fear and anxiety have not had a grip on me for a very long time.

But oh how bad the last few weeks have been. The story that has played out in front of me is not what I expected. As a result, I let fear overtake me. I have not understood what God is doing or the story He is writing.

When you want to react in fear, respond in faith. – Jason Brinker

My pastor last night talked about Mary’s story and the “plot twists” that surely must have left her confused, filled with fear, and anxiety about what God was doing in her life and family.

This Christmas season we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We have grown {maybe too} accustomed to His story, as my pastor pointed out. I think that’s certainly true for me. I know that in last night’s sermon, I looked at this story from a new direction. And one that fits my life so perfectly now.

An angel visited Mary and shared the “good news” that she would give birth to a child who would be called “the Son of God.” Yikes. Mary, a virgin, and betrothed to Joseph, was undoubtedly confused and fearful. Besides the obvious issue this raised in her relationship with Joseph, the culture she lived in wouldn’t exactly look kindly on news of a pregnant, unwed young woman.

This was not the story she would have imagined as a little girl. I can relate. She didn’t see her life taking shape in such a way. And yet, this was the story God was writing for her. He was writing her into His story of redemption and grace.

Below are the ESV and NIV versions of Luke 1:36-38 – which are the key verses for me, in this story.

NIV – “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

ESV – And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

The news delivered to Mary was what I sometimes like to call “backwards bizarro world” {everything is flipped on its head, nothing makes sense, nonsense becomes logic, etc.}. That’s what the plot twists I’ve experienced have been like. If it had been me in Mary’s shoes, my response probably would have been something like, “SAY WHAT, BRO?”

That’s what my reactions have been like lately, as I walked into backwards bizarro world. But beyond that, I’ve also reacted in fear and anxiety. But instead of reacting in fear, Mary responds in faith.

She responds by saying, “May it be done to me according to your word.” So what’s the antidote to fear? It’s certainly not focusing on the issue that’s causing the fear in the first place. Choosing faith over fear is just that – it’s a choice. But it’s not just based in my own ability to pull myself up by my bootstraps to get through.

It’s based on who I am in Him and what He says about who I am. It’s based on His unchanging Word. Replacing fear with faith requires that I actively take my thoughts captive and focus on what is true and right and lovely.

I don’t understand what God is doing. But in the last few weeks, instead of reacting with faith, I have been consumed with fear and hurt.

When you don’t understand what God is doing, remember what God has spoken.         – Jason Brinker

Besides being incredibly thankful for my pastor’s teaching, I’m also thankful for grace. God is incredibly kind to me that He allows me to change the track I’m on. I share this with you today in case you too are facing circumstances that have left you feeling fearful or confused about the story God is writing.

Do you sense that God is asking you to respond in faith, though you’re tempted to react in fear? I will challenge myself to respond in faith, if you do!

 

 

Waiting & God’s Will

Waiting, God's Will, Worship While Waiting

When I was young, I read a bunch of books by Emilie Barnes. Between her books, my desire to be a mom & adopt, my long standing love of all things homemaking, and entertaining, I was convinced I would be the best wife & mom . . . ever.

In one of Emilie’s books, The Spirit of Loveliness, she writes about how her home often became the center of action for her high-school age kids and their friends. Her son played football and her daughter was a cheerleader. She mentions preparing food with her kids and then feeding 50 football players and cheerleaders.

Her home became a gathering place because of the love, hospitality, openness, and joy her, her husband, and kids exhibited. I thought then {and prayed too} that this is what my house would become someday – full of love, noise, hospitality, and a bit of a revolving door as people came & went.

Waiting, God's Will, Waiting and God's Will

Fast forward to 2017. At 41, my life doesn’t look like that. I get to hang out with some young people. And sometimes I feed them. But, I don’t have kids or a family.  There is still so much of what I’ve prayed for, for so many decades, that remains a distant dream.

Whatever the circumstances might be, waiting when you don’t truly know what’s on the other end, isn’t easy. I wish I could say it was. There’s a tendency in the delays to despair. Or to believe that perhaps it’s just not meant to be.

Maybe it’s not. Maybe the life I always saw for myself won’t ever happen. But in all of the years of praying, I have continued to ask, and the desire is still there. I guess that means I’ll have to trust His timing.

There is purpose in your season of waiting. – Megan Smalley

Since I can’t see the future {that would be a useful skill, no?} and I don’t believe in psychics {eventually they’re gonna guess right}, trust is my only option. I’m not saying I’ve been getting it right all this time.

In fact, even this very week, I’ve struggled. But sometimes the struggle leads to our greatest lessons. And sometimes it means growing to trust God even more. The truth is, I want what is best for me and I want it His way.

So while I wait, I’ll keep looking forward to that vision of what I always wanted my life and family to look like.  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing, trusting, and praying for the hearts of the ones he’s drawing me toward.

Who loved me through my rebel way
Who chose to carry all my shame
Who breaths in me with endless life
The king of glory Jesus Christ

I will stay should the world by me fold
Lift up Your name as the darkness falls
I will wait and hold fast to Your word
Heart on Your heart and my eyes on Yours

Stay & Wait By Joel Houston