When You Just Need To Turn Your Life Around

I am all alone.  It's a miracle. You too would "get it", if you had four kids and a husbands whose lives never stop.

Church calls me, and I cannot stay calm...inside four walls, with Jesus fading.  The corporate body, like a current in me, calling me to come and praise Him.

"Still" seeps in the thoughts of God, in the songs absorbing deep in my soul.  Church is finished, so I take the wheel and head back home.  Hoping to fill, those that wait me...

Because Jesus wasn't meant for walls, and meeting, and hiding in some church building.  His goodness was made for spreading, and pouring out, igniting a world awaiting Him.  For any true God, who chooses to reveal himself through His resurrection...There is no containing...

I drive up the hill and from the right of my eye, I feel an urging to take the longer, sight-seeing journey to where fields praise Him, clouds float in the heavens.  On a road not unfamiliar to my loud, bellowing praises from this heart refusing to stay silent.

It's a windy route, the scenic route, but a drive finding beauty in the journey....as much as the destination.

I look at the clock.  Time presses.  Baby wakes soon.  And I can't foresee using an extra three minutes to take the scenic route...when life waits for no one.

I stay on the straight and narrow.  For doesn't "life" tell us....the world often trying to convince us...The greatest things in life are found by "staying on the road", following the crowd to safe predictability?

I bend towards the seventy mile, multi-lane freeway, already feeling a hollowing from the dark paved streets and all the metal traps racing to no where.  I can almost feel the residue of heaven fading from my soul, for instead of gazing at His beauty....my eyes start spacing and this well-known freeway drive quickly turns my soul to "auto-pilot".

Following the crowd never stirs creativity. Finding yourself gridlocked in other people's thoughtless driving, never draws the God of the Universe in a way abandoned praise, and selfless prayers, down windy roads rejuvenates the soul can.

My mind drifts to the weaving, winding road that often gifts me with cows, birds, and sometimes deer.  I miss the bellowing clouds drawing my eyes to heaven, and the old houses along there, that stir dreams inside me...of a deeper life, a richer time...when people didn't strive so hard....or live using "hurried" as badges equating to "importance".

Then slowly, the traps slow even more in their lanes.  For people following aimlessly...always come to a "halt", in time, eventually....don't they?  

I slow to a creeping. And the vehicles I'm following lead to an even slower stilling. Until I'm locked between cars and I just want to exit from this madness.

Like in real life?  Maybe.

Lanes lead to a dead stop.  And the cement drowns me in thoughts of, "why didn't I obey that still small voice?"  If I did, right now I would be singing praises to open skies instead of cursing the cars around me, trapping me in traffic that isn't moving.  Here where there is nothing to look at, but angry people, and man-made vehicles that never exuberant praise and worship...At least from my mouth.

Then, I see an out.  Over four lanes, a road leading out and down.  I squeeze in....because desperate people do desperate things.  And because living in Seattle has taught me you must fight for things...things you are in need of...

Even if it means escaping the straight and narrow thinking of a world going nowhere.

I make the exit, barely.  Now going, who-knows-where.  Still, thrilled for escaping this sufficating traffic.

I think now about how I wasted so much time in the following.  How disobedience, even to that small voice often leads us to our deficit, slowing us further from the places God wants to take us...even if that road is windy, and the journey is timely or makes no sense at all...

Down and away I keep driving from those metal contraptios jammed on the freeway.  Taking in the trees.  Thankful for the farmlands I pass...on this road still going to nowhere.

But then, I find it.  Was it happenstance?  Was it chance?  The road I detour on drops straight into the very same valley road God whispered for me to take, in the first place.

I can hardly believe it.  My journey of disobedience, the detour I took due to "logic" and from a place of my worrisome "need to's"....took me back to the same open road God had called me on originally.

And I wonder if it's true...

  • When you are a Christian...all roads really do lead home. 
  • Any detour really will direct you to the very same path God had for you in the first place.  
  • That even disobedience never truly ever can...pull you away from the call of God. 
  • And in His Still Small Voice...there is always a plan...if we are silent enough, humble enough to listen...

Have you taken a detour?  Are you following the crowd?  Has the road you are on only leading you to crowds, and traffic, and all kinds of noise you were not expecting?

Well friends, today I want to encourage you.  It's not hard.  Grab the wheel, and make the decision to turn your life around. In Christ their is only grace, no ridicule or condemnation.

God always has a plan.  And that plan includes keeping you on the beautiful, glorious journey He originally planned for you.

Will you listen?  Will you follow where He is leading?  Will you fill your life with praise...instead of sticking on "cruise control" and just following an ever con-jested crowd?

Can't you almost, look to the right....see the open fields, swaying hay dancing in the breeze?  The bright and morning sun, piercing through the puffy clouds?  The road turning and winding while you sit back, feeling the breeze, with the top of your car off?  Breathing it all in...

Because sometimes, life is about the listening to His still, small voice, going where He leads, and absorbing the fullness of His goodness, while praising Him in the journey....

Don't you think?

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Writer or Not....You Were Not Made to be Invisible

I blogged for years.  Anonymous. No name.  No blog tied to my Facebook.

Just words, bubbling forth. Deep from the soul.  Uncoated.  Untamed.  Fearless. Real.

And now, there is a name, Jen Avellaneda.  The name I'd always hidden from.  Run from. Unowned, because I never wanted to be seen or known....by anyone...

Let alone the millions on the world wide web.

And yet, it was when a close friend found me. When little by little, people close to me began opening up these words scratched fast from the core of my being...

I hide from my writer's mind.  Put up a shield, started to dumb down my thoughts, and quickly turned to be what others expected of me...

Instead of being me.

Can you relate?  Please tell me, "yes"...the urge to please, to be all that you have been asked to be tugs at your heart too sometimes. 

And yet, as I molded, formed, softened, and curled up in the home of what others said I, "should be"...I lost my voice.  The power to tap into my feelings, pour out in words this authenticity inside me...

Being real in a way that heals the wounded soul.

For a writer mind is different, not like the rest of the world.  Where others separate thinking and feeling...a writer's mind is like a ball of colored thread all intertwined....thoughts, feelings, ideas, passions, intellectualisms....

And the more we hide, the more we keep that tape of doubt over the mouths of our voices...the more we start to die...little by little...one thought at a time.

See, writing deciphers thoughts and reality, hope and concern, faith and insecurities.  Writing is more than our words, but our eyes that see who we are.  It's the step we move forward from, one word at a time....

And there are those that say, "do", "be", "go"....but a writer knows, we must see with the vision the Lord has given us first. Then, through those words, we can move forward...

And, aren't we all just tired of empty religion, noisy chatter, scattered business....words typed for fame, without any heart or passion behind them?

And don't we all want faith.  Faith that not only says...but does.  Faith that moves forward....faith that truly loves?

And I have hidden that kind of faith, lately.  Bold faith.  In your face, fearlessly un-doubting faith. 
Faith that doesn't apologize or hold back.  Faith that changes lives...

Because in this world we live in we will have trouble....but true faith, the action calling others forth from a true writer, will always change the world...

And I have learned in my quiet complacency...doubt has no sons or daughters.  Only gravestones to point at and take pictures of...

But, we are of a generation that doesn't want to stand, staring at immoveable objects.  We won't settle for people blabbing about "how to", "when to" take real action...

We are a people that doesn't hold back because we fear "man" sitting at the other end of the screen criticizing.  We don't cower, withdraw, or question who we are because other people can see us.

Yes, we see....and we know...love has the power to change the world.

So, what is your voice today?  How has God called you to stand up, get out, and impact the world with the love of Jesus?

Have you been like me?  Apologizing?  Silencing your voice because you question your identity, or fear other people?

And though the enemy wants to keep you, closed up, locked up, trembling in fear, making you feel inadequate....

God has called you to rise!  Rise and serve those He loves.  Rise to be the wife, or mother, or friend others need in the world today.  He has called all of us to live fearlessly declaring His name....

Because it's true, despite what others tell you....His people were each, given a new name.  A name and a face, and a place to live free as children of a God without shame...

What is your name today friend?  How can you use your place in this world to share His great and glorious name?

For regardless of what calamities strike the world, the doubt, or fear you might be feeling...one thing is guaranteed.... 

You were never made to be invisible.

When Faith Looks Like a Leopard Print Dress for a Girl I've Never Met

Faith is the assurance of things unseen...

I had been feeling the tugging at the core of my being. Seen it on the horizon.  Had dreams that the crib we leave open for foster children wasn't going to be empty for too long.

My mind saw no name, or age, or date...but my spirit saw a face.  And sometimes the pictures in our sleep are more real than the information any logical mind can keep.

And though some are born in womb...others are born in thoughts and heart....long before their physical form is standing before our human eyes.

A cream, and black, and hot pink dress dangles from the racks of a second hand store. I have just braved past my fears (and my OCD) to shop consignment.  Because kids grow quick and one thing I have learned over the years...we are not rich.

"Size 8".  Not one wrinkle, brand new, looking perfectly pressed....a little big, but soon it should fit for my 7 yr old daughter. 

And then, I float past other sizes, until there, a matching dress, also brand new, size 24 months catches my eyes.  And I cannot move on.  

Our last placement was only 3 months old, the one before that 11 yrs old. So, 24 months?  In my wildest dreams, I could never imagine a toddler.  And with a million ages, and sizes, who ever guesses which child will comes next and what size she will wear.

Still, faith demands more than standing in the isles contemplating and debating, wondering and dreaming.  True faith requires spending what we have to grab a hold of the unseen, the things we are sure of....yet, our physical eyes have yet to see it...

I tiptoe to the counter to double check the prices.  I look to my husband when the store clerk announces $4.95 each....Way cheaper than the price tag's listing them.

He nods.  Yet, I can tell...he's understandably curious and skeptical as to why we are buying a dress for a child we've never met.

Both dresses sit in our closet.  Weeks pass. Months.  And I don't feel any prompting to take a child from placement as I scroll the countless posting daily of children needing homes from my e-mailing listing.

So, I wait.  And wait.  Because often there is waiting...much waiting...much trusting before the "seeing" of things sent from heaven. 

But then, I feel it, see her face in my dreams more clearly.  I get a call, and I know that I know, this is the child we are supposed to welcome with the love of Jesus. 

She is 15 months old. The same Asian eyes I had seen while sleeping a few nights earlier.  Yet, this child comes with work, and faith, and grace abundant....as we struggle, and cling through abandonment, neglect, serious trauma that we still have yet, to understand completely.  

And just when the waters calm. When Easter comes lurking around the corner, with it's hopes of the resurrection, promised freedom, and faith and hope in a God who sits no longer in the grave of His affliction...I dig through the closet to find something for the girls to wear on this one, very special day of the year.

"Oh ya", The fluffy bottoms of one dress, then another, calls me from the closet. I had forgotten I had even bought them. But even there, smack dab, in the middle of the evidence of a God who sees tomorrows happenings, even before we have witnessed them.....

There, my rational mind does what it does best, analyzes with skepticism, "No, there is no way these both could fit".

I try the size 8 on my now, nearly eight year old daughter.  "Perfect". And then, cautiously, optimistically, someone speechless I fasten the buttons and tie the bow to this little one who stands before me..."Exactly the right size for our 'healthy' little foster child."

And sometimes, I think faith is like that. God calling us to "take faith-steps" long before we see the full picture, before we can hold the end result, well-dressed, of His newness, in our arms.

He calls us to trust the closing our eyes, Spirit of the Living God...long before we can touch and tangibly see the wholeness of a picture God painted for our lives, long before we know or could anticipate where He is leading us.

A year prior, at the same store, a random isle, a small shirt was out of place with the words "grace" embroidered thick on across it's chest.

My mind argued with the purchase.  And logic won against any prompting to buy a $3.00 shirt that I totally couldn't see wanting or needing at the time.

Yet, today, I hold the child that could have been wearing a shirt announcing "grace" to all who meet her. 

And isn't that the way it is with us...

Sometimes we miss "grace" because we are so busy, working so hard, trying to make sense of it all....longing to touch the evidence before we can justify purchasing things we don't see?

So today friends, will you join me, in seeing with the eyes God's given us?  Can we step out believing...faith doesn't have to "make sense" before we move towards it obediently, with fear and trepidation?  Will we risk our ego, our purposes, and even our reputations for a God who has more than "safe journeys", "logical callings", "sensible journeys" for us....ones we can do effortlessly, without the help of God?

Where is God calling your heart to trust Him today? Where is He asking you to "take steps" even though you may not yet see the full staircase?  How can we all be convicted that the reality of the things not seen, the heavenly things, are actually more real that those things that we can touch our feel?

"Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]." ~  Hebrews 11:1 Amp


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Feel like Dorothy from Wizard of Oz?

Ever feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, caught up in a whirlwind of business

I step on the soil in Dominic Republic.  Off the grid; no running water, only a short time each day on a
generator with electricity; dust and dirt everywhere. 

Still, somehow I settle into a peace I have desperately needed.

We take cold, bucket baths behind resurrected steel; poured down like grace, washing away our filth.  And I am reminded by this awakening….

His mercies are new every morning, regardless of where we live.

And yet somehow I miss those promises back home, where I carelessly wasted resources, failing to let grace wash over me thinking, for some reason, I couldn’t be dirty…simply because I could not see my own filth.

It is there, dark glasses hinder me from acknowledging the light of an abundantly blessed culture, and I miss thanksgiving, though I have so much to be thankful for.

Yet in Dominican, I seem to live wearing proverbial glasses of gratefulness; though water is cold, food scarce, poverty lurks, and my resources are lacking in every sense of the word. 

And why is it, sometimes, our deficits reveal our need for God, our necessity for other people?

At night in DR.....

Today, I am over here, writing about Colliding with Stillness with some of the most humble, missions-minded women.  (Join my, here to read the rest of this article.)

(Linking with Barbie)

When Your Losing Faith and Need Some Inspiration

We gather around table, bowing heads.  No pews.  No holy cross staring at us from some sanctuary.  No spiritual music calling us deeper.

Just ladies.  All ages. Weak.  Vulnerable.  Trying to gain faith and strength in our weariness.

And we recognize, sometimes "having faith" can be tough, in a day where children die, lives get ripped apart, sickness ravishes those we love...even though we prayed hard for their healing.

And sometimes faith is more like floating, face to heaven, back arched, body vulnerable to the ever-changing, life-giving water beneath us.  Seemingly going nowhere...though a current moves deep beneath...in a place we cannot see.

He's about to run a race, our friend from the Special Olympics.  "I want the gold"...he says this year, I am "going for it". He's trained and fought, and waited for this opportunity.  And even disabilities won't keep him...excuses, explanations, or coddling that says, "Don't worry.  You have every excuse to not try hard". 

The race begins...and isn't it there, the spikes of this life always want to disqualify us?  But rules, regulations, or his challenges aren't about to stop a person who knows and lives out, exactly what they were created for. (Watch Kyle's inspiring video HERE)

Because when real faith burns...its inferno is contagious and we have to follow what's always "fruit-producing)...something tangable our eyes will eventually see...either in this side of heaven, or in eternity.

A friend of my daughter, her dad went surfing in Hawaii this past week.  A fun vacation, a time of memories, laughter, and relaxing...

But sometimes the waves in our lives have other plans.  He was changed forever that day.  Today He sits paralyzed from the neck down.  That wave, unapologetic-ally bashing him against the ground of the ocean floor. (Follow the journey to healing HERE)

But this man's excuse that he cannot move from the chest down, does not rob him from his smile, from his pouring love on those that visit him in the hospital of Honolulu.

And isn't that faith friends?  When you can't move.  When you can't see how you will ever get out of a situation.  When your livelihood fails, health fails, and when all your hopes and dreams come crashing down by some unseen current that you never saw coming, or expected...

Yet, you retain joy.  Because joy and peace ,and hope are the effects of one who knows who they are in Christ, despite their visible circumstances.

Our other friend is young.  He was the "biker I met in the back of our church" one day, years ago. (Read our friends story HERE) Big, appearing gruff man...but filled with so much faith.  The hurricane of thoughts that poured from him the first time he came to our small group, I still can remember clearly.

Unpolished and unassuming...but his faith burned like fire in a room of "lukewarm" Christians.

And though he just had a heart attack, though everyone around him have been dying off like flies little by little, one at a time...and his heart has been broken in a thousand pieces....This powerhouse of the faith has come to cling to the only one who sustains us when all else fails...

For isn't true faith unconditional on circumstances, unwavered by feelings, or worship, or preachers, or meetings, or something external that our hands can retain....

Faith, true, lasting, sustainable faith, can only burn in us...when we fan the flames, looking to the Author and Perfecter of our faith, as we keep treading one foot in front of the other...and commit to not stopping until we finish the race.

We sit around our kitchen table.  Us women.  Believing waves of this life were made to carry us...never to intentionally destroy us.  Clinging to a God who is with us; when people die, lives curl up in pain...and things don't go away.

Because faith, held onto, believed and is best sustainable when many stand with us, committed to help us ignite something in us, multiplying the faith already in us...until heated coals turn into fanning flames.

And it is there, we trust a God who is the God of the waves, the God of life and death, the God of all of our races...whether we win in perfectly laced shoes...or pass the finish line, bare...broken, hurting, needing friends beside us to bandage our wounds.

Today friends, you are welcome to my kitchen table.  It's old, cup stained, and the chairs are warn and weary....But together, we can lift each other up to the God who always was and who reigns for all of eternity.

And wherever you are at, flying high, or taken back by the obstacles, seemingly determined to paralyze us...

Together.  Here.  Now.  We can encourage one other. Living a life of faith.  Faith that is not flat-line...but rises higher, burns stronger, continues relentlessly until together we finish the race....

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. ~ 2 Cor 5:6-7

(Linking with Tracy, Lyli)

Why You Never Need to "Find" God. And UNITE Linky

"Crazy.  I was just about to call you." I can almost hear his smile on the other end of the line.

"That's just the way it is when you have been married a long time." His words confirm our heart connection that only comes after knowing someone, deep, personally, intimately...for a very long time.

But I can never understand how He can speak the exact thing I was thinking, or finish my sentences, as if he somehow took up camp, there inside my brain; reading every thought, knowing exactly what I am going to say...even before I say it.

With our foster baby, birthday parties, camp, and so many other things occupying my time...I have not been able to grab my leather bound Bible and curl up on the coach for five hours at a time.

And I get that sometimes worship comes in works, and prayers like darting arrows, God hears just as much as long, elaborate, face-planted devotion...or songs that go on for hours.

And yet, this morning God reminds me, "I know the look in your eyes, the tilt of your head, I know every thought, and what makes your heart beat in a way no one ever has."

And why do I forget, God is not far off, someone I don't need to bow my head to, fold my hands and tell him over and over how much I love Him...like I did when I was five years old?

Why do I feel like I need to attract him with good works, or right thinking, or sitting in quiet for hours and hours before He'll meet me?

When He has never left or forsaken us.  He is with us always...even unto the end of the age.

Yes, God is a God who still shines, though we are in the shadows.  He is a God who still loves, though we might approach Him with nothing.  He is a God who draws near to us...even in our weakest moments.

And I want a God like that.  One who knows my every thought, one who hears my unspoken purposes.  One who calls me exactly when I need Him...regardless of my deserving of Him to be near...

Other religions say you must pray, and fast, do good works, or earn the presence of a living God who is mean, distant, or conditional on our behavior.  But if God is omnipresence, doesn't that mean He is constantly, continually, always with us?  Doesn't that say that although we may not see or feel Him....His goodness is only a breathe away?

And oh the saints that didn't labor in pray for hours on end, fast for three days to lure the God of all creation near them...But oh those that trusted the ever-presence of a God they couldn't see. Leaning on His fullness, effortlesssly and just naturally, in each and every situation.

For didn't Jesus tell Thomas, "Greater is he who believes but has not seen"?

And oh when we "get it", really get that His very breathe, the breathe of God, Ruach Elohim, is in us...here, now, always...regardless of what we do or don't do to earn it...

That Jesus left so that His ever present Spirit could reside in us, day and night, awake or sleeping, through good times and bad...

And that we can't ever run far from Him, occupy all our time, or fail to acknowledge the breathe of anyone besides ourselves wtihin us...

He is alive and working in us...always, continually, every hour, and every moment, because the love of the Father surpasses any earthly shadow of human, carnal, fleeting love conditional on how we behave.

My husband "get's me" when I retreat, when I ramble with passions and future plans to change a world that can be unbelieveably broken.  He knows how I like my coffee, that I like to wake slowly, and that the quiet of nature always fills me with life...

After all, we have been married a long time.

But how much more does The One who brought life out of dusk, who molded us in His image, and called us His and His alone, know every thought, every need, every hair upon our head...

For He cares for the little sparrow, He cares for the lilly's that sway in the field...

How much more is He there?  How much more does He love and watch over us?

Will you join me in trusting the omnipresence of God today?


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