Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I know the last couple of years have been hard. A global pandemic, sometimes isolation from the people we care about, and so much instability in the world. It’s hard to see the good things, at times – especially when that’s what fills our Facebook “newsfeeds,” social media, and what we see on the news.

But the Good News is, there is hope. This has been a hard few years for me. I’ve lost a child I believed I would raise, I lost in love, and I faced a toxic situation that has now contributed to my health facing new challenges. But there is hope. There is always hope. No season lasts. No trial endures forever. The Good News for me is in the form of Emmanuel – God With Us – Jesus.

I don’t care much for religion and the ways in which we’ve perverted His message and the reason He came. But I do know with complete certainty that I’d be lost without Jesus. And so, that is where, in spite of all of the ugliness, where my hope lies.

I wish you & yours a beautiful holiday season. And I hope your day today is filled with peace, joy, and all the good things.

Hope, Faith, & Ho’oponopono

viktor frankl, stimulus quote, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

When I posted on Monday, I was a little down in the dumps. My heart is a little beat up and on top of it all, Tuesday morning, I took an early morning phone call, while getting ready for work. A former colleague has passed away. I felt like a zombie all day Tuesday. I made stupid mistakes, I was all over the place. Tuesday afternoon, I took the dog to the vet. She’s got some powerful meds to help get her through an infection and some inflammation. I hope this will put her on the right track. But she’s “old” and I worry about losing her. By last night, I just wasn’t okay. It has been one thing after another, you know?

The thing about this former colleague is that it not only broke my heart – but it drove home – how short our time on earth, actually is. It is just a mere blip. I just saw this person a few weeks ago at work. Initially, I felt a weight in the grief of it all. I had a good long cry last night. But as this loss settles in, I think it’s a far more powerful tribute to the impact this person made in my professional community, to doggedly live this wild life I know is waiting for me. Maybe the word, wild throws you off. I’ll have to write about that someday. But one of the things I mean by that is that I want to live counter to a culture that celebrates things and titles and live in the moment tasting and experiencing life and all it offers us. There’s a richness and beauty to life, but it’s often lost in the pursuit of everything else. But it’s not just that! I think we often lose out on the life we are meant to live – the life we want to live – as these painful moments rear their head, because we won’t face them.

The temptation for me & I’m sure for many others, is to shrink back in our moments of loss, pain, grief, etc. But I’ve decided this is exactly when I need to turn the dial up on my commitment to myself to chase dreams and live fully – each day. What I’m now learning (and leaning to accept) is that I can’t get there without facing the losses, pain, and grief. My words for 2021 were hope & faith. In these moments when I most want to pull the cover over my head and escape the sadness of it all, I’d rather choose hope and faith. I love joy. I love the simple things in life. In the weight of loss, it’s easy to lose track of that. I’m choosing hope & faith – against appearances. But I can’t get there without first facing the other stuff, head on.

In a slightly related and possibly also unrelated note (I’m sure that makes perfect sense to everyone), I read an article yesterday, on Elephant Journal, about the concept of HO’OPONOPONO. The article on Elephant Journal doesn’t do the concept justice – in my opinion. But I’m so glad I saw it. That article led me to do some more reading and then I found this article & video. I found it far more helpful. It’s essentially an ancient Hawaiian practice used to resolve conflicts within family units. But was used later by a therapist Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and others.

The thing about HO’OPONOPONO, in what I’ve read so far, is that I think its beauty and the healing concepts, come – as you choose acceptance for what is – for wrong done to you or that you’ve done, for that matter. You’re not focusing on changing the person who has hurt you, or who you need to forgive, or the situation, for that matter. You are, however, working on your perception of the situation. The result is forgiveness, love, and comfort, too. This is all a lot to add to this post. Especially when I just read about it for the first time yesterday. But the way it ties together for me, is that my perception of what’s happening, is often what is pulling me out into the current – further from hope & faith. The balance that is gained (or I guess I should say regained) can open the door to that restoration of your hope and faith – because you’re no longer tied down by unforgiveness and the painful emotions.

I’m rambling now. The bottom line is that I’m learning all around me – from people like Brene (in this post), my therapist, and in unlikely places too – that facing the stuff head on is actually the route to hope, healing, and light in the dark places. So in this season of loss, added to the season before it, I’ve made that commitment to myself this evening. I’ll keep facing it. And through that, I’m certain I’ll get closer and closer to living this dream I’ve been chasing so long.

*The Viktor Frankl quote above was given to me today, by my therapist. It’s perfect.

And honestly, it’s kind of freeing, in my opinion.*

The Cure for Anything

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” ~ Isak Dinesen

I am not ashamed that therapy is a thing I’ve needed since March of last year. It’s self-care. I think more people should go. But sometimes therapy comes in the form of Vitamin D, salt air, & sea breezes. So after work today, I drove the 12 minutes to the beach – in the opposite direction of home, because while it’s not exactly a cure for what ails me, it’s as close as I’m gonna get right now. Countless beautiful memories growing up, all the way through college – happened in the salt air or in the mountains of California. I’ve always found clarity in the wilderness or as waves crash against the shoreline. As I look ahead to what awaits me – from August on – I know it’s in the stillness and quiet my next steps will be made clear.

I hope you find a cure for what ails you, friends. Sometimes a walk in the sunshine is all you need.

Opening my Hands

I had a strong faith for a long time. A very long time. I was raised in the church and my faith was an incredibly important part of my life. But I’ve had my moments of not really feeling it. Frankly, that’s been true for the last couple of years, in particular. Recent years have brought a lot of hard things my way. It’s not that I have a fair weather faith that can only function in what feels like favorable conditions. That’s actually why I struggled – because I have held onto my faith through the hardest times. To be honest, there was bitterness in my heart because I had done things the “right way” for so long. And still feel like I got screwed over. My life looks nothing like I planned. Even still, I did my best to make the most of where I was. I enjoyed my life as it was. Even stepping out to be a foster parent (and pursing adoption) was part of what I saw, as me just adjusting to how different my life looked, than what I’d planned. I chose not to focus constantly on what was missing. I didn’t want to be a single parent. But I wasn’t married. So I pursued foster care & adoption because I’ve always believed it would be part of my life in some way. And…I had the space (I had a big house), the desire to give a home to kids that needed it, and the ability to do it. But more than that, there are countless children in need and I believe that I am called to care for the “least” of these.

But the experience of being a foster parent also broke my heart. It broke my heart in a way I didn’t anticipate. I expected hard days, loss, and struggles. What I didn’t expect was the devastation that happened. Going on two years later, I haven’t fully recovered. I’m getting there. I’m a whole heck of a lot closer than I was a year ago – or six months ago. But I’ve still got work to do on my heart and honestly, my brain. I’ve also got work to do on my body. Letting go of my {foster} son was one of the most deeply painful things I’ve gone through. Very few people in my life know how bad things got and how painful. The truth is, there’s a lot I can’t share openly for privacy reasons. But I will tell you this, everything changed in my home – in a very short few months because my {foster} son’s family created a very hostile situation. My home had physical damage to it – that set me back for a while financially, personal belongings of mine were destroyed, and I feared for my safety. It was painful and honestly? It was terrifying.

I saw everything crumble in front of me. The way I handled those days and weeks and months after he left, weren’t great. I gained a lot of weight. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I drank way more than I ever had. I ate terribly. And I couldn’t deal with God. I couldn’t talk to Him and I certainly didn’t pray. I was hurt, heartbroken, bitter, and angry. It has taken me a long time to even partially want to trust God again. Even recently, I’ve struggled. I’ve questioned. And I’ve been bitter that my life doesn’t look like I wanted it to.

Slowly, however – in recent weeks and months, I’ve been sensing a new thing happening in my faith. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t understand – anything, quite frankly. But I do know that I’m never going to get anywhere staying in the same state of mind I’ve been in. I’m not going to church yet. But I have been watching online as much as possible. I’ve been pushing myself to pray, for myself and others – even when I don’t feel like it. And though I’m about a five-hour drive from Elevation Church, I’ve been feeling at “home” watching their services online. Today, in particular, really got to me. I felt a bit like today’s sermon was written for me, to be honest. Though I still can’t imagine what God can do – going forward, I don’t want to hold onto what caused me so much pain. So I’m ready to trust that by opening my hands, there will be something amazing that comes from it – even if it’s healing for others (i.e., my pain helping others). That’s what I took from today’s message, Protect the Vessel, by Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation.

I hope someone finds it as encouraging as I did.

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.