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.

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.

Foster Care Adventures – Part Two


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.

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.