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 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. 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.

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?

Tell the Story

elaina avalos, chasing hope by elaina avalos, maya angelou, writer

Tell the story.

Tell your story.

For far too long I’ve known it was time to tell my story.

There’s a story to share, because by God’s grace, I am not where I was. There’s a story to tell because He has redeemed and restored me.

I need to share my story. But beyond that, I’m called to do so. I’ve resisted for one reason or another. But most of the reasons ultimately come back to living my life for the betterment of an organization, versus my larger purpose on this earth.

In recent months, the why I’m here on this earth has crystallized and yet even still, I’m working my way through the details. But I do know that I need to tell my story.

Years ago I heard Anne Marie Miller (aka Anne Jackson) speak at a church. She talked about how there may be times in our lives where we’re called to give the gift of going first.

What does that mean? It means that we might need to tell our own story so others know there is hope, healing, freedom, etc. We may need to go first so they feel free to seek help, healing, and take a chance on hope.

I knew before that evening in Corona, California, that I needed to go first. Listening to Anne confirmed it.

And then life happened. I made choice after choice after choice that put me at odds with that calling. I put everything in front of my faith and the calling on my life.

The organization that deposits a paycheck in my checking account every two weeks, won. What I was being called to do by the God that chases me down, did not.

But in recent times, I’ve grown more and more certain that God is asking me to leave this old way of life, behind.

I’ve become more certain that telling my story is what He’s asking of me.

And yet, I’ve still held back.

After some of the hardest weeks and months of my life in 2016-2017, in which I lived in fear, some of the worst anxiety I’ve ever experienced, and my heart was broken (so very badly), I knew something had to change. And I knew I had to tell my story.

But I’ve still held back, ya’ll. I have such a hard head. Tell me I’m not the only one…

Fast forward to tonight. Our worship team at church somehow picked the exact songs I needed tonight. The words, as I sang them, were prayers, commitments, and reminders of the God that chases me down and is owed all of my life – every part of it – to include my story.

I didn’t notice our worship pastor’s shirt until the service was almost over and we were singing the last song (Do It Again).

It has been a favorite worship song for a while. But as the song started, I saw George’s shirt. White letters on black, “Tell the story” it said.

I smiled big.

You may think it’s a coincidence. You may not think it’s a sign. You may deny that there’s a message there for me or anyone else. But I know, like I know today is Saturday, that God could (and did) use a black t-shirt to slap me upside the face.

Do you know how many times this week I’ve begun this post? Not about a song or t-shirt but about “telling the story?” I’ve started this countless times but stopped myself every time.

So no. It’s not a coincidence.

Tell the story.

In my heart of hearts, I think we all know what our calling in life is. I think you know, yours. I know mine. I may not always know what that looks like or how the pieces will come together, but I know, that I know, that I know.

My friends – I’ve got some writing to do. Non-fiction…a devotional, a book about how the trauma of my childhood has impacted my entire life (but isn’t the end of the story because of God’s grace). I may have some other stuff to write, too.

Tell the story.

I’m going to tell the story.

 

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?