Sifting Through the Rubble

elaina avalos, chasing dreams, chasing hope,

One day I woke up and knew I loved him. It was a shock. And yet, not.

We are nothing alike. And yet he was home. We are nothing alike – and yet, somehow still, so very similar.

One August day, sitting next to him, as he handed me something to clean off my sunglasses, without me asking, I knew.

I knew then that I’d waited a lifetime to love a man like him.

I knew then that my life had changed.

I will spend a lifetime trying to understand God’s purpose in this confusion and heartbreak. After everything I’ve seen and experienced, I’m not sure I will ever open my heart again.

After so many months, after so much time to process what was, what was not, and what will not ever be, I thought it would make sense by now. Or, that I’d come to a place of numbness – that I’d move on.

I haven’t. I’m not sure I ever will.

August has brought something of him to me in new ways, as long as I’ve known him. The first August, it was the knowledge that I loved him. The second August brought a crazy, faith-rooted belief that he was the man I’d waited for, for so long. That conversation, a little over a year after I knew I loved him, he told me something that rocked my world.

It sounded an awful lot like answers to a lifetime of prayers. No man has ever come close – didn’t hold a candle – to who he is and the ways in which I believed God answered a lifetime of prayers in this man I never dreamed I’d like, let alone love.

Here we are, at another August – and I miss him in increasing measure. I never knew it was possible to miss someone this much. I thought time would make it easier. It has not. Today hurts in a way I would not have imagined.

I expected by now, with distance and time, that I’d have a better understanding or find some meaning behind it all. There is no understanding. And the pain is somehow worse.

One day, I knew I loved him. And that’s about all I understand.

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Flash Fiction: The Hard Way

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It is summer. Eastern Carolina is a sight to behold in the summer, even more so on the coast where the air is like a sultry, sexy Flamenco. It just seeps way down deep into your bones. The light in the early evening is like this living thing. It almost breathes. Deep. It wraps me up – safe and content.

He, the beautiful man of the hard way, is a challenge I am sometimes convinced I can’t meet. Even after all these years. Today, in a quiet moment in the midst of a busy day, I thought about the way his eyes hold mine. There has been fire and light for me in his eyes – for me, for as long as I can remember. Me. His fierceness lights me from the inside out with just one look. In the middle of an everyday moment, I look up to see his eyes on me. And there in that moment when I’m nothing special on my own and living in the mundane, I am all there is in his eyes. I am the only one in a room filled with people.

And then as quickly as he is fierce and passion, strength and fire, he is vulnerable. His tenderness for me still churns my insides like it did from the beginning. In those moments, I think I love him more than I knew was possible. On nights like these when the lightening bugs pop and flash in the approaching night, as we sit quietly on the porch, I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. There is stillness and quiet between us just like it used to be in the beginning, when he said all he needed to without a word spoken. The heat surrounds us in spite of the encroaching darkness. The rising moon isn’t bringing relief from the swelter.

But somehow, in spite of the sweat that trickles, and the air thick, all I can think about is the way fire and heat burn off the dross. We have been tried and tested in the fire. In the quiet, he reaches over and takes my hand in his. Ten years and a handful of days after the first time he did that very thing, it lights me up inside. Still. I close my eyes, lay my head back, and breathe deeply of the contentment that comes from loving him above myself – even when we do it the hard way. Even when we are tested in the fire.

– Flash fiction by Elaina M. Avalos

Inspiration & Imagination: Kudzu, Lightening Bugs, and Farm Stands

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It’s summer in the south. I know. Not news, right? Growing up in Southern California, you’d think a hot, humid, and rainy summer would not be one of my favorite things. But it so is.

california-coconut-daylight-585005

The summers of my childhood were filled with beach trips, camping along the 5 freeway at San Onofre or with my grandparents in San Clemente. Summers in SoCal are beach days on the right side (extremely important) of the Huntington Beach pier, professional surfers & volleyball players, surfers changing into or out of their wet suits on the side of the road. SoCal summers are KROQ and the Santa Ana winds, wildfires, and the cool marine layer that rolls in off the ocean that makes you pull out a sweatshirt, as the temperature dips.

Summer in Southern California is exactly what it should be and precisely what you’d expect.

elaina avalos, chasing hope, chasing dreams,

And yet, I didn’t know what I was missing until I moved to the coast of North Carolina. The humidity may be soul-sucking gross at times, but there’s something very . . . healing in the scorch of the sun and the wet air.

A few years ago, I house sat for a couple I’ve known since 2001. This is the second time I’ve made their home, my home, for a few months. After a year lease ended – they were getting ready to take a long trip. The timing was perfect. They live on my favorite river.

Abby the Wonder Dog & I would sit for hours on the back deck – even on the hottest, most humid evenings, watching the river. When I really needed to soak in sun and heat, we’d sit on the stairway at the top of their berm.

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My trusty buddy right beside me – soaking it all in, too.

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There’s something so cleansing about the humidity as it seeps in. Don’t believe me? Try it some evening. Sit quietly, as it settles in around you. Somehow, I feel the day drain off and clarity seep in.

As the summer wears on, the green grows even deeper than it was in spring – as if this was even possible. Nature somehow defies what is already the glorious beauty of green to be even better – deeper – as the kudzu spreads through the jungle of trees.

new bern nc, new bern, elaina avalos, chasing hope, chasing dreams

 

The spanish moss, set against the green is breathtaking. The tobacco, corn, and soy bean fields are constant reminders – as I drive between home and the store, or home and work – of how different life is now – from the concrete jungle of my youth.

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Growing up, I dreamed of seeing lightening bugs (aka fireflies for the rest of the country) but didn’t see a single one until I was an adult. How is that possible? How is it possible for you to live a full life without the pop of white light, that brightens the humid evenings? You can’t, I tell you.

Farmer’s markets are more popular today than ever. And though new farmer’s markets have popped up here in recent years, the farm stand is tried & true. They’re a joy and a favorite weekend stop. I have my favorites. I’d go every day if I could.

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My favorite purchase every year – for the brief time I can get them – is green tomatoes. I learned to make fried green tomatoes about four years ago – in a kitchen overlooking the Neuse. It’s probably one of my all time favorite dishes (just behind homemade enchiladas and tamales).

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The truth is, June and July are the best kind of summer. The days are long and there is so much to soak in. By August, I’m ready for the routine of autumn to settle in. The beauty of the long days wears at you a little.

You begin to long for open windows and cool days. If you’re anything like me, you start wishing it was football season before July has fully let go of you. Growing up with a perpetual summer, I don’t know if you fully appreciate the true beauty of the seasons as they change.

Though August erodes my patience as it grows hotter, I’m convinced I’d never appreciate fall in the way I do, without the scorcher of August. Isn’t that just like life, though? As I think about the beauty of summer as it barrels toward fall, I am certain that each season has a beauty of its own.

It may not be roasted peanuts from a farm stand in Cedar Point, beauty – but it’s beauty just the same. I’m grateful for both seasons of my life – SoCal’s palm tree, surfer, Huntington Beach beauty – and the perfect beauty of a tobacco field against the deep blue Carolina sky.

 

When Do You Stop Chasing Dreams?

elaina avalos, risk, chasing dreams, taking risks

When do you stop chasing dreams? That is the question for me right now.

This blog – like many decisions I’ve made in the past two years, is about chasing dreams down. It’s about all of those things that make up my greatest life’s dreams – that I’m still in pursuit of. Like this. Or this. Or this.

After hitting the big 4-0 and realizing how much time I’d wasted, I knew it was time to stop wasting time.

Some might say that the long trail to get where you want to be is all part of the journey. That may be the case for some people. Sometimes, we just make really dumb decisions and that’s how we end up so far from the life we imagined.

Everything happens for a reason. But sometimes the reason is that you’re stupid and you make bad decisions.

That’s me. About 15 years after a derailed life, I finally figured out what I needed to figure out. However, the dreams I hold most dear, that require more than just my own determination and pluck, look so very far from possible.

Each time someone I know announces she is pregnant, or my friends experience new milestones with their families, or I hear about how easy it is for some people to meet new dudes & date – it looks more and more impossible.

With each passing day, my age is making very clear that my chances for my greatest dream, are probably in my rear view mirror {giving birth to the baby I’ve prayed and longed for, for so long}. With each passing day, this truth settles in a little deeper.

The dream – the greatest dream is a house full of kids and a marriage to my best friend and truest companion. I’ve prayed for him more years than I can even count – before I was even a teen, really.

Lots of kids – some entering our home through foster care and adoption – a husband who seeks God and leads our home and wants God’s will in his and our lives more than his own – that is the dream.

The dream is our kids bringing home their friends, especially those friends who need it most, our door always open. The dream is adult kids who love to be around their family – us as parents, their siblings, and their kids.

chasing dreams, elaina avalos, parenthood, big family

Have you ever watched the show Parenthood? I know, I know. Not real life. But my favorite things about that show are the chaotic moments when everyone is talking at once and they’re sharing a meal – parents, adult kids, and the grandchildren – all gathered around one table.

The dream is a long legacy of loving the people who come through our door. Maybe they step across our threshold for a meal or a soft place to land when they have nowhere to go. The dream is that my family is part of showing a hurting world around us the love of Jesus that has been so lavished on us.

That’s the dream.

That’s the dream. But it is so far from my reality right now it’s not even funny.

But that’s the dream. That’s the one. It’s also a dream that I don’t think can happen by my own sheer determination. Otherwise, it would have happened by now.

Instead, this is the kind of dream you pray for.

The question is, when is it time to let go? When is it time to believe He has answered that prayer and the answer is no? When is it time to stop chasing dreams?

Friends I come to you today with a heart that is tender and sore in this area. I wonder every day if it’s time to give up on this dream. Especially as the calendar tells me another day has passed by me.

I am not sure there’s an easy answer.

You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him. – St. Teresa of Avila

Wait. There is an easy answer. Pray without ceasing. That is the answer. I know how it looks. It doesn’t look good. If you saw the messages I got on match.com {insert eye roll here} you would know just how impossible this vision and dream, appears.

For reals. It looks impossible. It looks improbable.

That’s probably a good place to be as much as my humanness fights it {about 90% of the time}.

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There is simply no way for me to make this happen. I can pray. I can live my life in pursuit of His will and plan. I can trust Him. And I can chase this dream by chasing Him. Otherwise, it’s about as impossible as it could get.

So . . . my friends . . . the answer? The answer is to keep chasing. The answer is to keep praying. The answer is to trust Him to place and remove the dreams and hopes that are on your heart.

The answer is to trust your greatest longing, your deepest hurt, and your wildest dreams to the One who gave them to you in the first place.

Keep dreaming, friend. Keep chasing.

As I pray for my own dreams, what can I pray for, for you?