Nothing Will Fall Out As You Expect

north topsail island, topsail beach“Nothing will fall out as you expect. Your guide will keep to no beaten path. He will lead you by a way such as you never dreamed your eyes would look upon. He knows no far, and He expects you to fear nothing while He is with you.” – Streams in the Desert

I’ve been reading the Streams in the Desert devotional on and off for many years. I don’t read it everyday anymore. Sometimes I open it on the exact day, in the exact moment, that I need to read it. Today, I opened it to the April 16th entry and it met me right where I’m at.

Nothing has happened like I expected and certainly not how I “planned.” There are days when this overwhelms me with grief. Today started off that way. It’s a holiday. That usually happens on holidays. I watched a video on Facebook {this one} and that threatened to take me a little further down the path to being overwhelmed.

I cried. I’m not going to lie. I started to wander down that ugly path that takes me to the inevitable end: wondering why it is that this life I’ve always wanted and dreamed of still remains so far off. Usually when that happens I don’t come back very quickly or easily. It takes me awhile to work my way back from the hurt.

But something different happened entirely. The sadness happened for the briefest of moments. And then I turned my thoughts towards what God has for me. The questions were there . . . why is what I want so far off? Why do You – God – keep all of this from me?

Something stirred in me though. Something different. The reminders of what I don’t have, were met with reminders of those who clung to hope, and their faith, long after it made sense to do so. The verse that goes along with the April 16th devotional is Hebrews 11:8. Hebrews 11 is always described as the faith hall of fame, in one way or another.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. – Hebrews 11:8

Whether it was Joseph {his story always means the most to me}, Abraham, Sarah, or Moses, yjey clung to promises long after reason and logic would tell them to do so.  They didn’t know where they were going. They didn’t take hold of the promise within an amount of time that seems reasonable {to me anyway}. And yet, they held on.

Holidays are always the hardest. I miss what is missing {obvi} and on these days I fear that it will always be this way. But today, against reason and logic, I know it won’t be. I know I’m just gearing up for the next adventure. My prayer today has been – lead me to the next adventure, Lord.

I’m ready.

“Where’d Who Go?”

You win the Expert Movie Quote Guesser Award if you know what movie the title of this post, comes from. “Remember boys, no points for second place” {same movie}. And using our friend Google doesn’t count.

But I digress. Where’d I go? I don’t even know where to begin so I won’t go back in time. Honestly, I don’t even know anymore. But it got me here. In a way, I might be five years down a rabbit hole. And where am I now? Sick {literally} and hoping desperately that I’m turning a corner – physically and spiritually.

Tonight I go in for an MRI because of a mass on my liver. Let’s just say I’m trying to convince myself it’s out of an abundance of caution. But there’s always this nagging “what if.” And then next week, on the 10th, I’m going in for a stress test because of some chest pain.

Meanwhile, there’s some other stuff going on. What it brings me to is that I have stressed myself here. I’m working on getting myself out. The writing is good {the fiction that is}. But the living has not been good. I have not been living as I want to live.

How many times do we watch as time passes, wishing we could do things differently? Well, now is that time for me.

Sunday Nights

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Sunday is always the hardest. Filled with regret and longing and sadness.

Sunday is the ever so weekly reminder that this isn’t what I planned.

If you were here, this is what I would say to you. On a Sunday night. Or a Monday night. Or any other.

I love you, you Beautiful Man.

You are crazy. So crazy. But you’re my kind of crazy.

Promise me you’ll always look at me like you do right now.

You are the sweetest, soulful jerk I know.

Play me a song.

Hold me close & don’t let go. Not ever.

Now that you’re here, I have no plans to say goodbye. So settle in with me, now.

When Monday comes, we will go our separate ways when work calls us away. I will go about my day waiting for the next moment with you.

I love your heart.

All She Wants to do is Dance

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If it weren’t for Don Henley, my “about me” on social media and my blog would be less nerdy. He is always there, front and center, along with Jesus, my dog, pine trees, and wine (and occasionally tequila). I had a come to Jesus moment early this year when I realized that I was turning 40 with nothing not enough to show for it.

I took myself to a Food & Wine festival. I’ve started the foster care process. I’ve lost 30.6 pounds so far. And earlier this summer, after seeing that Don Henley would be performing at Wolf Trap in Virginia, I bought a ticket. To go to a concert by myself? Hell yes.

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But things have been a little complicated lately. And in the stress and worry, I called off my trip. On Wednesday, by the end of the work day, I had been convinced to go. I won’t bore you with all of the details of the conversations that led to the change. I will say this – they both said very similar things. It was enough to remind me that I only have this one chance at this life. I don’t get a do-over. I’ve already wasted too much time.

So I drove to Virginia – tired. I was in Quantico for a couple of hours before heading north to Vienna. It was a rush to get there on time. But I made it. I found a spot on the little hill. I knew I’d lost my chance to get better seats, but I didn’t care. Not even a little. I laid out my blanket and enjoyed a picnic. The great thing about a concert like this is all the…hippies. Or maybe they’re retired hippies. Whatever.

They didn’t care one bit about how anything looked. They wanted to dance? They danced. They didn’t care what they looked like, sounded like, or how freaking hot and humid it was. The crowd was great. While there were definitely youngins’ around, the majority of the crowd was my age and older (emphasis on older). The couple in front of me were adorable – the husband read a book until the music started and got excited every time he sang older hits.

Don sang songs from his forty-four career! What in the world? He was awesome. The entire concert was awesome. His last song (before the encore) was “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. The last thing I expected, but really good.  But his encore was the best part. He sang some favorites including “Hotel California.” When he started to sing “All She Wants to do is Dance” I wondered why I sat while everyone else danced. So I danced. In the dark. On a horribly humid night. Alone. It was a blast.

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I was so far away from the stage! I mean…so far away. In the photo above, the lighted area was the stage. If I stood to the right (and on my tippy toes) I could see a tiny Don Henley. And I mean tiny. But it was still a great night. I’m so grateful that there are people around me who get me. My two closest friends knew I needed to be there. And the conversations I had at work sealed the deal. I needed to do this.

I needed to go to this concert. Like there are some other things I need to do this year. Everything is changing.

 

Uncertain

Onslow Beach, Atlantic Ocean, Beach, Ocean

“I have seafoam in my veins, I understand the language of waves.” – Le Testament d’Orphée
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When we were little, my grandparents lived in San Clemente part of the year because my Grandpa worked for California State Parks. They lived at the beach – on that cliff where the campground is – where we camped every summer & then stayed after with them.

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Grandma would take us down the path that led through the cliffs to the beach, early in the day and we would play in the sand or collect shell after shell. Grandma, a true artist, always found new ways to talk about the beauty. I learned some lessons on the beach at San Clemente, that have stayed with me more than 30 years later. Mostly that when I feel the least certain, I find certainty here.

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“I am made of salt and sand and the deep jade green of the Atlantic. The salt air courses through my veins. This place, these waves, the sea glass and shells with rounded edges, beaten constantly in the surf, are the pieces and places of my very soul.” – Elaina

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Trust || One Word 365

Trust 2016

A few years ago, I gave up resolutions. Instead of spending the year trying to keep up with a list of goals that seemed to be more about rules and regulations than actual change {and might I add, quickly abandoned} I decided I would go with a word – just one word for the year.

This one word feels as if it were ordained just for me. It has always fit. It has been laced in and out of my experiences, opportunities to grow, the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Some years, I haven’t been super happy with that word {like last year}. I struggled with the 2015 word. Oh, how I struggled. But, see that’s how God has a sense of humor. The struggle was the lesson. My word last year? Intentional.

I learned so much about being intentional. Although I don’t think I got it until December. I wanted to be more deliberate in certain areas of my life. I wasn’t deliberate. In fact, at the end of the year, I saw more of what I didn’t accomplish than what I did.

But sometimes the best lessons come from losing. I learned fairly quickly, in just a few weeks time this December, what I lost in not being as deliberate as I planned.

Which brings me to 2016. It’s a big year. It’s the year I turn 40. It’s the year I may step away from a path I’ve been on career wise. It’s the year I hope to make more concrete plans regarding being a foster parent. There’s more but I’ll spare you the details.

However comma, since I wasn’t very purposeful and intentional last year, it doesn’t seem on the surface of it all that 2016 holds what I hope it will. If you look at the circumstances, I should just phone it in, ya’ll. Give up. Walk away.

I may be a lot of things. But one thing I’m not? A quitter. So while it looks a little bleak, I am being challenged to trust the God that has my future in His hands.

Trust. My word for 2016.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Deuteronomy 1:32 But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God…

Psalm 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 37:3 Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

I could go on.

I don’t know where the path is leading but the best way ahead is trust. Whatever that means.

It’s not too late to pick your word for 2016! You can check out the OneWord 365 website, here. You can join the Facebook group, here.

Will you join me? What do you have to lose?

Everything is Changing

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De Luz, California

I’ve been in California since the 27th of August. My grandmother passed away on Saturday the 29th. I will have more to say on my Grandma, later. She was so special to me and the grief is close. But along with losing Grandma, there are other changes coming.

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IMG_6656My Mom, who has lived with Grandma for nearly ten years, and has taken care of her full-time for several years, is facing a transition. The house has a reverse mortgage so it goes back to the bank. Having spent the last few years taking care of Grandma, with me being in NC, and California being ridiculously expensive, it only makes sense for her to head east.

It’s the logical choice. But somehow, the thought of this has really put me in a bad mood. With my Mom moving to NC, I’m basically saying goodbye to “home.” Grandma’s house has been home base. Mom has been here – where I grew up. I come home once or twice a year, I see my family, eat a ton of Mexican food, stop at In N Out, enjoy mountain views and palm trees and then go back to my adopted home.

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Grandma’s yard – love the view of the mountains. Over the mountain is San Juan Capistrano.

We won’t be back for holidays. I won’t get my at least yearly break in So Cal and that leads to . . . when will I see the rest of my family? Granted, I don’t see them often anyway. It’s hard enough to find time to see my brother when I’m here, what happens when my Mom is no longer here? I can’t even imagine when I’ll see him, my aunts, cousins, etc., again.

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Grandma’s 90th birthday in July 20014. Most of my cousins are in this photo.

Everything is changing.

And then . . . as we’ve begun to go through my Mom’s and Grandma’s stuff, getting ready to pack some up, sell the rest, etc., I’ve had to go through some boxes left here, myself. My childhood flashed before my eyes! The things I’d saved, the things that mattered to me as a kid or young teen speak to the dreams that are still mine – still just dreams.

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Long story, longer . . . this has been an emotional trip home. There’s been plenty of tears to go around. And frankly, I’m uneasy about the future, sad to say goodbye to my beloved Grandma, and California. And I’m trying hard to hold on to the dream.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I still cling to hope that though each day is filled with joy, good work accomplished, and meaning, there is more on the horizon. While it doesn’t always feel like that in the moment, I’m going to trust that this is another step in the direction I’m meant to take.

Everything is changing. Challenging yourself to see change as an adventure isn’t easy. But finding the joy, living in the moment and being thankful for the beauty of life as it is, in all of its messy wonder, is worth it.