Get to the Good Part

I haven’t shared a lot about my faith on this site or anywhere, in a long time. Mostly because I didn’t want to sound preachy when I’m not really some paragon of faith. I’m still figuring it out. But I watched this sermon earlier {While cleaning the kitchen by the way. I like this online church deal.} and I felt really compelled to share.

One of my favorite dudes in the Bible, even though his story is also super annoying {because God just does whatever He wants – against what we think should happen}, is that of Joseph. This guy. Man, did he ever go through some crap. Unlike other well-known stories, Joseph didn’t make tons of bad choices. Moses did stuff he shouldn’t have done. So did Jacob. Jonah literally ran away from what God told him to do. I could go down a long list. Joseph, as a teenager, immaturely told his brothers about his prophetic dream {that they would one day bow down to him}. Now, that was a pretty big problem for them (haha) and they literally sold him into slavery because of how they viewed this. But he was a dumb kid. He was immature. But unlike David, he didn’t murder the husband of his mistress. I mean, Joseph kind of suffered for more than two decades from an immature decision. But the truth is, it was all part of this huge plan. We want to get to the good part. And we usually don’t like the wait. We definitely don’t like going through dark, bad things to get to the good part.

Joseph’s story was dark. He was accused of rape, wrongly imprisoned, ignored by men he helped save and wasn’t paid back for his excellent work ethic and service. He was left to rot in a prison for heaven’s sake. But at the end of the day, the good part was coming. It just took way longer than what we think it should have been. Ultimately, it took two decades before his dream became a reality. When it did, it saved his family and he lived a long, prosperous life with children and grandchildren, after that.

I have been following some of Steven Furtick’s sermons {Elevation Church}, recently. There’s been a common theme for me in what he’s been teaching – that also fits into other things I seem to reading and seeing come across my path. I think God is trying to tell me something. Today’s message was good and as I mentioned above, I felt compelled to share. If you are going through a dark time – particularly if you are delayed in seeing those good things coming your way, consider watching. My words for the year are hope & faith. This was a little reminder not to give up – to press forward with hope and faith. The good part is coming.

Getting Through

And in the category of getting through, here’s a little music getting me through. Just gotta get through it. There’s no way around it. I’ve tried. Have you ever had something standing in the way of what you want? And as much as you try to finagle your way around, it’s just not possible. You just gotta get through it, until you end up on the other side – with what you want, more than anything.

So while I work on getting through it, music keeps me writing and pushing forward.

Mom is not gonna like this one. Haha.

Chasing Dreams – A Tip for Beginning Your Journey

elaina avalos, chasing dreams,

I’ve mentioned that I’m ready for a new adventure & that I’ve got a timeline for making some decisions about the future. The closer I get to needing to solidify my plan, the more convinced I become of this one thing – I have more dreams to chase. When you grieve, it’s easier to lay aside the big, fat scary dreams that require stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s easier. It’s safer. I’ve done that (avoided scary things) since the moment I said goodbye to the sweet boy that made me a mom.

I don’t like easy & safe. I never have. I’m not made for it. I’ve never feared chasing dreams and I’ve never shied away from going after them.

That may mean that I have to travel paths others don’t, but I’ve always been good with that. As a writer and artist at heart, I’m comfortable with the hard things and grey lines. Those hard things make writing and creating, richer. If you’re willing, it also makes you a better lover of people. It makes you better able to love and care for others in their hardest moments. I think it adds more to my writing too. I don’t like to live on the surface. The hard things we face can either make life richer or they dwarf us and make us bitter.

I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
― Anais Nin

I’ve lived in a dwarfed state, because of my grief, much longer than I’m comfortable with. I’m done with all of that though. I am chasing dreams again – whatever that means and wherever that takes me.

So, if you’re anything like me, and you’re ready to chase some dreams, what’s the first step? The first step is letting go. Letting go of what, you may ask? That I can’t tell you. Maybe it’s other’s expectations. Maybe it’s fear of the consequences of heading in a new direction. Maybe it’s a combination of a few things. Whatever it is, that’s your first step – let go.

By the way, the first step is the hardest one. But if you’re chasing dreams, it’s where the meat is. Make. Up. Your. Mind. And. Do. It.

Let go.

There’s a scene in The West Wing in season 2’s “Two Cathedrals” that I love. If I could have found it for you, I would have shared (below is what happens just before the press conference). The show has spent multiple episodes up to this point, dealing with a popular president’s hidden multiple sclerosis diagnosis. President Bartlet knows he wants to run again. But the looming possibility that by hiding his diagnosis, it will all go up and flames, is consuming the Bartlet White House. They’re all focused on the consequence of what happens when the country learns that he didn’t divulge this important information. They’re worried about the future – all of them.

Meanwhile, President Bartlet is reliving memories of his beloved secretary (that he’s known since high school – she worked for his father) who died in a car accident and is buried the very day he’s going public, with his diagnosis. The truth is, he wants to run again. He believes he has more to do. He has a dream. And in his gut, he knows what he needs to do. But the circumstances are seemingly insurmountable. Their pollster has already given them the skinny – you can’t win after telling the country you have MS (and hid it from the world).

But on this painful day that he buries Mrs. Landingham, he faces down the circumstances, the dream, and work left undone. He fights it out with God in the National Cathedral and has a conversation with “her” afterward – just before his press conference. As he stands there at the podium, soaking wet from an unusual May hurricane-like storm, with questions being shouted out at him, he goes against his Press Secretary’s advice and takes a question from the wrong reporter. She asks him if he’s going to run for President again.

At first, he seems disoriented. And then, and then. His gaze is steely, he puts his hands in his pockets, and he faces the wild press corps. He knows what he has to do. He lets go of the grief, he lets go of the circumstances (all telling him he shouldn’t do this thing), and he lets go of the worries about how hard the path ahead is going to be. The show ends with his Chief of Staff saying, “Watch this.”

He let go and went for it.

So that’s it – friend. Let go. That’s where you have to start. It’s not going to be easy. You’ll face tests along the way. But I’m convinced that’s often a good sign you’re where you need to be. Take the first step and the rest will become clear.

What dream are you contemplating pursuing? What holds you back? What are the chances you’re stuck at what could do wrong? Don’t stay stuck at what could go wrong . . .

Through the Fog

In the evenings, along the coast of Southern California, the marine layer rolls in part of the year and covers wide swaths of the southland. It’s what makes for blazing hot days – but cool evenings that require sweatshirts or jackets. The marine layer is also what makes cities like Temecula, perfect for growing grapes & making wine. I spent the first twenty-three years of my life watching this layer of cloud and fog roll in from the coast and over mountains. I spent my summers on OC beaches, with the “June Gloom” making our blue skies dark & grey (but not enough to keep us from the beach). The low hanging grey is as home as the Santa Ana winds, real Mexican food, and those places and people that I treasure and miss the most.

Along the central and northern coast, thick blankets of fog roll out from the sea toward land. San Francisco is one of my favorite places. Roaming around the city as a kid or teen, in the middle of a summer day – the temp could turn to chilly and the sky suddenly darker – as the fog blanketed the city. There’s something deeply comforting to me about the way it settles in. Maybe it’s the melancholy that follows writers around, that makes this comforting to me?

Except for right now. Right now, I’m in the midst of a fog that’s disorienting. It’s like the most socked-in fog I’ve ever experienced, except there’s not actually any fog in sight. I’m not intimidated by hard feelings, stressful circumstances, complicated relationships, dark nights of the soul, greys and shades of truth. We can suck the marrow out of life in these dark moments, in a way we can’t, when the sky is blue and everything is light and airy. But right now, I am dizzy and lost – as the dark settles in lower and lower. I can’t see past my own hand. After summers camping at San Clemente or in the Redwoods, or wandering through my favorite city, or watching the marine layer roll in over the “Ortegas” from my Grandma’s backyard, the fog, as it turned a bright day, dark – is comfort and home. It was the best kind of feeling and attached to so many of my favorite memories.

But right now, I can’t see clearly. It’s dark. Dark in a way I’m not comfortable with. And I’m not afraid of dark feelings and greying lines. I’m not afraid of wild things. But now? I can’t see through. I can’t see around. And I’m no closer to knowing what to do next, than I was the day the fog settled in.

And so I hope and pray that I’ll understand soon – why I’m here and how to find my way through the fog. Because right now, it’s too heavy and I long for clarity.

I Need a New Adventure

Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos, comfort zone

The days repeat, each day bearing resemblance to the one before. In the quiet of my evenings, as the day fades and I prepare for a new one, I think about what the months ahead will bring. I long for change. I wait, not so patiently (though I try), for what has eluded me so far. I hope against hope that on the other side, the life waiting there is what I’ve prayed for, for so long. I am ready for the next steps. I don’t know where they’re leading, but I know where I want them to lead.

“The comfort zone is nothing else but a graveyard for your dreams & ideas.” -Anonymous

I question, as I sit here alone, what I’m waiting for. I know what my heart is waiting for. But I know why my head wants to press forward. I turn 45 in a few months and as April gets closer each day, the pull I feel, to pack up and move on, gets stronger. This birthday feels significant to me – far more than so many others. I tell myself to wait just a little longer. I get to an end of another long weekend and waiting seems futile in this silence. Today, I feel defeated in the midst of all this waiting. But I wait a little longer still. I honestly don’t know anymore, what exactly it is that I’m waiting for. If there was a clear sense that I was called to something greater or that I was meant to be here, making a difference, perhaps it wouldn’t be quite so hard? Perhaps I could press on. But the truth is, the wait appears on the surface to hold no purpose.              

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.” -Brene Brown

In the wait, I only grow more certain that major change is needed. And more importantly, that I’m ready for it. I’ve never been able to turn down an adventure. The desire for new scenery, opportunities, people, and places isn’t new to me. It is what brought me across the country to Washington, D.C. in 2000 and then again in 2005. It’s what brought me to the desert of California and to the coast of North Carolina a few times. So here I am again. I need a new adventure. I don’t know how much longer before I get to start out on this new road, but I know it’s coming. I am ready.

Hitting the Reset Button: Choosing my “Word” for 2021

elaina avalos, live well be well, oneword365, hope

There’s always a spark of hope at the end of each year, as I think about what could be around the corner. That has been true for me every year – except in 2019 – funny enough. At the end of each year, as I dream about a New Year, instead of resolutions I don’t keep, I’ve instead chosen a word for my year. No matter what, by December as I get ready to choose a new word, I see the old word woven throughout my experiences – even if I didn’t initially. For instance, in 2014, my word was intentional. I was anything but intentional that year. Which turned out to be the lesson – on how to be intentional {haha} going forward.

2019 was a year filled with grief and loss. I ended the year on an equally frustrating and challenging note and was fearful about what 2020 would hold. Funny that I went into 2020 fearful and worried about what was around the corner. 2020 didn’t relent. It was hard in different ways than 2019 – nonetheless, still tiring. For a bit of background on just a couple of my struggles – from November 2019 until recently, I applied for jobs in multiple states and in more urban settings here in North Carolina. While I had a few interview opportunities, nothing panned out. Instead, I remained in the same job I’ve had since 2010, though in a different location. For anyone who knows me, I’ve felt ready to not be in that job for quite some time. I’ve sought new opportunities and a new path – a new dream and adventure, for far longer than I care to admit.

I also moved to a small apartment that I struggle with – since my previous landlords sold the house I rented. After a devastating hurricane {Florence} here in coastal NC, the housing market didn’t recover for quite awhile – and now people are selling like crazy {not renting out their homes – which is common in a military town}. I’m not in a position to buy – nor do I think I want to buy in my current city. Gosh, that’s all depressing. In other news, my word for 2020 was wellness – for a reason {see all the previously discussed depressing stuff}. This word will stick with me for a long time. My understanding of the depth of this word has transformed many aspects of my life. Or at least has begun to, as I figure out what it truly means to be well and live well. Wellness was the right word for 2020. And after this wild year, I’m even more convinced that wellness is absolutely an inside job.

As I gear up for 2021, a pattern is repeating over and over again as I’ve thought, prayed, and dreamt about the road ahead. I want to hope. I want to have faith that what’s around the corner is exactly what it needs to be. I want to believe that some of my hopes will no longer be deferred. I want to have faith that God is working everything out. After this year, in which so many have struggled, I know people are making jokes about not making wild declarations about 2021 {like this meme} . . .

We’ve collectively lived through {or should I say are living through} the pandemic killing so many needlessly, political upheaval in the U.S., racial injustice {and protests and more violence}, the loss of cultural icons, the crazy weird things that have happened, food and product shortages, massive economic turmoil, and well – I could go on of course. It’s hard to even imagine what hope looks like in 2021. And for me, who questions why a good God allows so much suffering, my faith has more questions than answers, too. I think that’s true for many. I personally feel it’s doubly hard, because 2019 was so very painful.

Which brings me to 2021. I’m hitting the reset button. For the first time, I’ve got two words: hope & faith. My words for 2021 are repeats. Faith was a 2009 or 2010 word. Hope was a little more recently. I feel a bit like hope and faith are butterflies in a cocoon. They’re longing to break out of the chrysalis. I am too. While I am not going to make a big long list of what I plan to accomplish in 2021 and I can’t even imagine what tomorrow will be like, let alone six months from now – I do know that hope & faith are working their way back out.

I don’t know what 2021 holds for me or our crazy world, but I’m clinging to hope & faith.

Are you a New Years resolution person? Or do you pick a word?

I Don’t Need Much

The greatest wants in my life have never been things, but instead, my greatest want has always been a lasting love & a family – however that family is built. That will be my greatest accomplishment when I leave this world. I’m certain of this.

I don’t need much – just him and the life we will build. It’s a simple thing, really.