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.

Hurricane Florence Through My Eyes

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On Tuesday, September 11th, I evacuated with my mom, dog, and kiddo after a mandatory evacuation order was released, for my county. We spent just over a week away from home, due to the dangerous road conditions and flooding.

We have had quite the eleven days. My beautiful eastern/coastal NC has been deeply marred by this hurricane and the flooding that followed. I know people who have lost everything – some homes, some businesses. I have neighbors, who have an entire floor of their home they’ve lost due to the intensity of rain (30 inches in my city).

It wasn’t just the event itself but the evacuation. My (foster) son had a hard time – any kid would. But his was a little more intense as his fear of losing our home and me was very real after what he’s gone through the last couple of years. I feared what would happen if we lost our home.

I’ve returned home now to the potential that there’s unseen water damage in my home as the smell of mold has intensified in the last couple of days.

Today and tomorrow, I’ll be volunteering at my church. The needs of others are so great. We have poor families, migrant workers, and so many elderly folks that have nothing to help them and nowhere to go. But Florence didn’t discriminate. And it doesn’t matter what your situation, when you lose everything.

The needs are great. And there is a great deal I want to say about this entire experience. There were funny things about our “Evacuation Vacation” as we’ve all been calling them. I want to share some of the experiences we’ve had along the way. So I plan to write a few posts to cover what this experience has been like. I just need a little time to figure out what’s happening with my house.

This isn’t my first hurricane. But it is my first evacuation – mandatory at that. And obviously the first time I’ve had to decide what to do in a storm – with a child. This has been an emotional and exhausting experience all around.

I hope I’ll feel up to sharing more, soon. In the meantime, prayers for my beautiful Eastern Carolina would be appreciated.

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.

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}.

Bob Goff, Elaina Avalos, impossible prayers, chasing dreams, faith

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?

 

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



Run & Never Tire

This time I'm speeding with no direction.Without a reason. (1)

Dear Future Husband,

There’s a prayer I’m praying right now. It’s really the same thing over and over. I am praying for you. I’m praying we can somehow get past this wall that appears to be in front of us now.

I pray nothing will stand in our way.

I pray you’ll find me, see me, run and never tire. Desire is one of my favorite Ryan Adams songs. It has been for a handful of years. But somehow it’s a good one for right now.

Two hearts fading, like a flower.
And all this waiting, for the power.
For some answer, to this fire.
Sinking slowly.
The water as higher.
Desire

I am 100% convinced that amazing things are ahead for us and for our patchwork family. But floating around the edges of those days when my faith is strong, are so many moments when the fear is greater.

This weekend, as I miss you and worry I’ll keep right on missing you, the fear and faith have mixed. Equal amounts of both. One minute I’m certain. The next, I’m dreading a life without you in it.

I’m working on a novel. It’s a love story. It’s our love story. The one that hasn’t happened yet. This too, like my prayers for you – and for us, takes more faith than I have some moments.

But the man I know you are (and are becoming) makes the risk worth every moment of fear in the midst of all this waiting.

I’m going to keep praying big prayers, Baby.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20