Advice from Oprah on Trying & Failure

Oprah, Oprah Winfrey, dreams, leap of faith, trying, failure

A few years ago, I ran into the image below on Pinterest. I immediately added it as a profile photo on Facebook. I could not even help myself. It’s adorable but also a reminder for us dreamer types. To keep pressing forward, we have to believe in our abilities and in the rightness of the journey (see what I did there), in the first place.

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I jumped into the fire in June, by becoming an indie author. My first novel is called Chasing HopeI’m not sure I was ready. But knowing how I am, I’m so glad I jumped when I did. I’m not sure time would have better prepared me. It’s far more likely that I would have found a multitude of reasons why I shouldn’t publish my novel.

Now that I’m a month into this process, I am not selling as many books as I would like. There’s a temptation to let that discourage me. I certainly felt that a few times this weekend. But this is just a distraction from the main point . . .

I took a leap of faith. Now is not exactly the time to stop believing.

Duh.

Like with anything, when you take a big risk, or at least what feels like a big risk, you hope to see some reward. That’s a no-brainer.

Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it. – Oprah Winfrey

But some of our reward comes from choosing to step out in faith in the first place and then not giving up. No, really. If you’re not trying, of course you’re not failing. If you’re not trying, you’re never going to accomplish those big dreams of yours.

But taking those steps of faith, whatever they are, are part of the joy of the process. It’s thrilling (really) to do something you’ve dreamed about for decades. It’s actually thrilling.

The thing is, I might fail at this.

There are moments that I care about that. But most of the time, I’m just so excited that I’ve become more focused on finding my way to success. Keep in mind that whatever it is that you’re aiming for, jumping into the fire is not just your first step to success.

It’s actually your first reward along the way, too. Not everyone takes these leaps of faith. Many like to talk, dream, or think about it and yet, they remain fixed and focused on the potential for failure. Their focus on the potential for failure keeps them mired in the same spot.

But, I can tell you that the joy (mixed with a little fear and trembling) that comes from stepping right smack dab into a dream, is the best feeling ever. It has taken me long enough. I hope you will jump in, too.

Feel like jumping into the fire, with me? What’s your big dream? 

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.

Foster Care Adventures – Part Two

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October 2015, a little guy hung around at work, for a week or so. On Wednesday of that week, he “helped” me work. He sat on my lap, we hung out with friends, and then he played with my calculator & drew with my pens. He feel asleep there at my desk, in my arms, and I worked around him {not so successfully}. I lost my heart. I think about him all the time. Mostly because he was part of the journey {part one anyway} that I finished tonight as my foster parent training classes came to a close.

He was a reminder of everything I’ve always known about who I am and what I was put on this earth to do. He was the happiest boy. I saw him the following week and he “talked” all about the book he had with him. I will never forget this sweet boy. And I’m grateful for how God used him to remind me of what I’ve always known.

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Throughout the last 11 weeks or so, I’ve grown more confident that though there is more work to be done, there isn’t anything I’d rather do more than provide a loving home for kids.

So with part one complete, I’m on to the next part of this crazy adventure. I don’t know who my first placement will be. I don’t know his or her age, name, or background. But God does and He’s already put me on this path to cross his or her path.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27.

Home Sweet Home

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When I last wrote, I was still struggling through the home search process. Why is that so stressful, ya’ll? But I found the house, finished packing, and last Saturday, moved in! So thankful that process is over!

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The new neighborhood is so quiet. I love it. My kitchen, my favorite room in the house, is perfect. It’s huge. This house is everything the last house wasn’t. The biggest bonus of all is definitely the kitchen. I’m in love.

I’ve given my mom a couple of rooms so she can stretch out a little while she works and plans and dreams for her own place. For now, the plan is for one kid’s room. Someday, I may be adding a second kid’s room but for now, mom is using that for her Etsy business and craft stuff. The kiddo room is painted blue and has a crazy planets ceiling fan. It’s pretty boy friendly.

As I think about the kiddo that might stay there, first, I’m contemplating changing the ceiling fan. I’ve spent some time on Etsy looking for gender neutral {all ages friendly} rooms so that may be the first thing to go. But more on that later . . .

Back to the heart of the home. Did I mention I love it?

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I’m looking forward to cooking in it! It was definitely the first room to be unpacked and organized. The other rooms are coming together. But the kitchen has definitely been my focus.

The yard will take a little work. The patio is super small and there’s no shade. But thanks to Pinterest I have some ideas for fixing that, too. But I still love it. It’s awesome to have a privacy fence again after a year with a chain link fence and nosey neighbors and loud dogs.

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IMG_4627 Abby approves. She adores this yard.

After one full week in this house, I can honestly say that all of the stress was worth it. I’m so thankful to be getting settled. I am dreaming and hoping, with joy, at what lies ahead.

My foster parent orientation is on August 3rd – just a few days away. I can’t wait to meet the first child that will call this place home.

Dreaming

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One of the hardest things to face, for me as a childless woman {who doesn’t want to be}, is the longing that is deep down, in the deepest part of me, to be a mother. As life has marched on, over the years, when the desire surfaces, I have had two reactions – sorrow and grief or . . . I stuff it down, far down.

I have always wanted a family. I never imagined that I would turn 40 and still be without that family. For reasons I don’t want to explain fully now, I made choices that brought me here. Except I didn’t realize at the time that’s what I was doing. My career the last six years has been my sole focus. And prior to that, while I can’t say it was my sole focus, it took an inordinate amount of my time.

I made those choices. But I wasn’t actually intentional. I didn’t see then the cause and effect. I threw my life into work because I don’t do anything half-assed. But, I also didn’t feel fulfilled personally so I found fulfillment at work, particularly after a relationship ended. In the wake of that experience, I moved across the country and jumped in to work in a small desert town and made the families I served, mine. But that started a cycle that brought me here. Here. I’m not where I want to be, here. A few months ago, I was filled with an incredible amount of grief because I thought the only way I was going to get to this dream was thwarted.

But as I mentioned last time, I came to a place where I decided it’s time. I decided it was time regardless of my expectation of how it should happen.

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When I made that decision, I let myself daydream a bit for the first time in ages. Recently, I bought some clothes for a couple of kids I know. Standing in that store, making those decisions about what to buy was a tiny reminder of a simple thing parents do all the time. It was a sweet joy. I spent way too much time in that store.

Last fall I had a tiny boy spend some time with me over the course of a couple of days, at work. He was a baby really, but smarter than heck and the most joy-filled kid I’d met in years. He babbled. He scribbled with a pen, on scrap paper at my desk. He tried desperately to play with my keyboard while I answered e-mails. And then he fell asleep in my arms. Do you know what a gift your sleeping kiddo is, mama? What a sweet joy those moments were. So normal and every day.

I have allowed myself to think about moments like those in recent weeks. Those are just two examples of many. I’ve wondered about the first child who will step across the threshold of my home. For the first time ever, I let myself think about how wonderful it would be to have a baby in my house, or a five-year old. Or a big kid who wants a little bit of normal they’ve missed out on for the past ten years of his or her life.

What a sweet joy this has been. I am allowing myself to dream, without the sorrow of lost years, for the first time in ages. It’s a beautiful thing. It won’t be easy. But it is my dream.

Even This?

Jim Elliot, Joshua Tree, JTNP,

I had the privilege growing up of going to a church that had some pretty great youth leaders. In junior high we were challenged with a question. Will you follow Him no matter what it takes?

I said yes. Not a doubt in my mind. I was willing to die if that’s what it took.

My heroes of the faith were Amy Carmichael – a mama to countless children in India, Gladys Aylward – who saved Chinese children during WWII at great risk and peril, Hudson Taylor, Elisabeth & Jim Elliot {Elliot famously said, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ He was killed by the people he had gone to serve.}, and many others who followed a path I thought I would.

At Forest Home, before I started seventh grade, I listened to a few people {college age and a little older} talk about their lives and the ways they had chosen to follow Him. One of these people became a mentor because she also happened to be part of my home church. She had spent time as a missionary in a place that seemed so exotic and unusual at the time.

Between her impact on me, and that of our youth leaders, I said I’d go anywhere and do anything for Him.

I don’t always think the decisions you make at twelve will stay with you. Sometimes they do. And sometimes? You probably wish they didn’t. I said, “Here I am, send me.” I said I’d follow “no matter what it takes.” The question today, in the midst of pain is, “even this?”

Even this?

Even this?

This?

His reply is twofold:

  • Do you trust me enough to pray wild, impossible prayers and to have scandalous, wild faith? Will you dream the big dreams and trust me with them?
  • And then . . . will you follow me no matter my answer? Will you follow me even if I say no? Will you follow me if the family you have wanted is not my plan?

Even this?

Yes. Even this.

Turns out He may not have expected me to spend my life on the mission field. Or die for my faith. But maybe He’s asked me to lay something down that I cling to even more. Like Abraham who finally had a son to take his name and birthright, is He asking me to lay down the one thing I want more than anything? Yes. Even that. He wanted Abraham, the Father of many nations, to be willing to lay his Isaac down. He asked Abraham, in different words but with the same weight, “Even this?”

Abraham, this great hero of the faith for so many said, “Yes. Even this.”

So here I am, declaring my public, “Even this.”

Even this.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

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.

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?

Prince Charming and Happy-ish Ever After

Once Upon A Time, Prince Charming, Love, Fairy Tales, Dreams

I used to think, when I was a little girl, that some Prince Charming type (he, of course, loved football, Jesus, and politics) would stride into my life, sweep me off my feet, and then? We would live happy-ish forever, with our house full of kids, somewhere near Washington, D.C. (my dreams are very specific).

Life’s not perfect so while I believed in the proverbial fairy tale, I wasn’t completely out of touch. My head was in the clouds only part of the time. After my childhood, I knew that life had its challenges and pain came along with the beauty. But I was convinced that our love would be like a fairy tale. How could it not? There weren’t any other options.

There’s something incredibly beautiful about the way kids look at the world. They’re full of faith and a dogged, bright hope. They don’t really ever consider any other outcome than the one they dream. A kid wants to be an astronaut when she grows up? Why not? What could possibly keep her from being an astronaut? As far as she’s concerned . . . nothing.

Children are resilient. I was resilient. I am resilient. Every time I turn around, the logical, adult side of my heart, that has long since met and been acquainted with disappointment, sadness, and life kicking you in the teeth from time to time, wants me to give up the dream.

Prince Charming? Happy-ish ever after? Give up. Face reality. A house full of kids? Prepare for the worst, Elaina. I had dinner with a couple of other over 35-ish folks, while I was in California. The conversation was familiar but eventually turned startling and depressing. I love being able to talk to other single people who understand how frustrating dating is in today’s society. There is so much to laugh at and commiserate over. It’s all the same story on repeat – different friends, different places, personalities, and backgrounds but the story about dating is the same.

But the conversation shifted and left me with a sense of hopelessness. I couldn’t kick it for days. I was frustrated, mad, and just generally in a bad mood. I’m sure my grief over losing Grandma didn’t help. Nonetheless, all I could think about was a few sentences spoken into the cool Orange County air that centered around the increasing improbability of having a family the older we get.

In spite of the hopelessness expressed that night and my frustration in the couple of days that followed, the truth is, I am simply unwilling to give up hope. Unwill-ing.

I don’t want a backup plan. I don’t want to prepare for the worst. I’m not willing to give up hope that the dream is just that – a dream. We so often spend our lives living for some moment in the future. I don’t want that either. But I won’t spend my days living with a sense of defeat and hopelessness.

Sometimes I think I lack faith. But then I remember how convinced, beyond physical appearances sometimes, that what I have always wanted is still out there. The faith remains, the hope remains. Why? Because even in my weakness, even when I’m tired and over the waiting, I believe a God who does crazy, improbable things in the lives of His loved ones.

I don’t know where my “Prince Charming” is (probably hating football & politics and living in Alaska), but I do know that this dream doesn’t die. More importantly, I’m convinced to my core it was placed there for a reason. So here’s my challenge to you single folks out there . . . resist the urge to be negative about dating, singlehood, waiting, etc.

It’s not easy. But I know for certain that how we think impacts our actions. Try it with me . . . think differently. Live with some hope. Don’t be afraid to dream. If your desires haven’t changed, press forward. Keep dreaming. Continue to hope.

What do you have to lose?

Me? I have nothing to lose.