Valentines Day: My Thoughts Along With Part 5 of My Story

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Valentine’s Day… yep… here it comes again! This holiday carries a bitter sweet tone for me. Bitter, because love has been a not so cool topic with me as far as the guy and girl relationship area goes. Looking back, I can see that every relationship I’ve had has turned out to be a disaster. I don’t recall ever having a Valentine’s Day that actually went smoothly in the relationship department. I have always experienced some sort of heartbreak as far as men go on that specific day; even when I was in my long-term relationship. Thankfully, the Lord has healed me of that. So… the sweet part of this holiday is that I’ve learned to give my heart to those who actually have been there for me and who truly mean the world to me. People like my family and my dearest friends. I make this the time of year when I can find ways to be a blessing to them and give them the love that I never received on that day. Plus… my mom is the most adorable human being in the world and always finds little ways to make each holiday special, so I look forward to this especially on Valentine’s Day! Also, since my last name is Barnhart (I know… Hart not heart… too bad sounds the same)… I have a fixation with hearts! Valentines Day gives me the perfect opportunity to find all the heart shaped dishes and various other items that have hearts on them, and, if I have the money, I buy them so I can have them for when I move out into place of my own.

As for the relationship department with me… hmmm well… I’ve been single for about six years now. And while having a relationship would be nice, I’ve learned to wait for God’s time and trust His plan. I’ve had a bad habit of chasing after what I think I want. Then, it either turns out that the person totally doesn’t like me and I make a fool of myself or I end up with someone who is just wrong for me. As for those who have pursued me, put it this way, I haven’t been pursued very much, but when I have been it’s usually by someone that I’m not that interested in and/ or they’re really creepy guys. This has been a weird pattern in my life. I’m talking all. out. creepers… the kind who think that if they keep nudging and keep bugging that they are going to get what they want even though I have bluntly told them no. Manipulative ones, the perverted ones, the stocker ones, I could elaborate more, but I’ll just leave it at that. This time, I’m waiting on God to open the right door at the right time. Yes, I’m 34. No, this does not make me an old maid. Besides, with the way that my life has been, it would take a very special person to really truly love and accept me for me.

As for my life as it is right now. Every day has been a challenge. I continue to face each challenge as it comes, asking God for the strength to keep pressing on. Honestly, I just don’t want to go into details about anything right now because I want to stop talking ABOUT my mountains and allow the God who can do ANYTHING to move them for me and help me get the strength to do what I can in order to help them move.

Now, It’s time to continue where I left off in my journey in my last post. I had just finished the Oakland marathon and was facing some very uncertain times. For those of you who have joined me so far, thank you so much and I hope that you continue to bear with me as I share many struggles, heartaches as well as triumphs that have been tools that God has used to help mold and make me into the person I am today. In essence, I hope that sharing my story will help anyone who’s going through a dark time to find a ray of hope in Christ and be able to move forward to do the impossible with their lives.

My Story Part 5

Marathon recovery, what a rough and rigid time! Those of you who have actually run any sort of race for the first time well know that the day after can be a little challenging to face due to muscle recovering. With a marathon, I have to say it was one of the most challenging recoveries I had ever been through. There I was, just shoved out of my own home due to trials with my troubled loved one, living in a mobile home on the property where I had to heat up water to take a bath, spent days at a time alone, and was facing some of the worst physical and emotional pain I had ever been through. You see, the day after the marathon my legs were completely swollen and sore. I tried to do a nice light walk/jog to shake out my legs and help fluids move properly in my body. While doing so, the injury that occurred when I fell on my back during training in the dog park reared its ugly head! My left leg was in pain!!! I had felt it start to bother me during the last portion of the marathon, but I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. I pushed through, went back to the mobile home, took an ice bath and tried to occupy myself mentally as best as I could.

That afternoon, I received a phone call from the restaurant that I had just gotten hired at. The manager there wanted me to start work that night but I just couldn’t do it. I had to let her know that I couldn’t start until my actual start date. This automatically set a bad tone at my new job. The next few days, I spent alone in the mobile home. I continued to push myself to go for walks and runs. I did some cross training and weightlifting. I tried reading the word of God and praying but all I could do was cry. I was so hurt, alone and bitter.

I went to my last day of work at Hometown buffet where the pressure had just gotten out of control. Management had been over oppressive and overloading all of the employees. I finally broke and snapped at one of the managers and he told me to clock out early. My last day at a company that I had worked for for nearly four years, a company were people had become like a family to me… ended in a way I never wanted it to. The following day I started work at the new restaurant. I went from serving tables at hometown 3-4 days a week and making over $70 in a night in tips to working 2 days a week busing tables and making $5 -$20 a night in tips if I was lucky. Slowly things went downhill. My car began to need work. This became a more frequent issue. All the money I had saved while working at Hometown quickly vanished. It finally got to the point where a friend of mine who actually helped me get the new job out of the kindness of his heart came out and tried to help me. Like a big brother, he dropped by provision for food and helped with getting my car fixed. I was (and am) so grateful for this man. The new job was a blessing because it got me away from the craziness at hometown and the oppressive hand that was there while giving me the hope of learning to become a server and make more money than I was making at hometown. The problem is, little did I know, the restaurant was slowly going downhill.

As all of this was happening, I found release and the performing arts and ended up scoring one of the lead roles in my second performance at Contra Costa College. I drove myself into running, performing, helping at youth group at Hilltop Community Church and (with a dear friend of mine) continued putting together a fundraiser race to help raise money for Teen Challenge to build a home for refugees of human trafficking in the Bay Area.The thrill of the stage (living out my lifelong dream of becoming an actor) along with the opportunity to raise funds for cause I am very passionate about was such an amazing blessing to have! Business, it was the only thing keeping me from losing my mind despite the physical pain, financial struggles, and family drama that was going on around me…. I mean… While I lived in a different building, I still lived on the same land plot as my trouble loved one. This meant I wasn’t completely free from dealing with constant fear of what might happen next. Lack of control began to take a serious toll on my nutrition. I started eliminating fats that I needed and would only eat what I considered healthy, vegetarian meals. I was just destroying myself and I didn’t even know it.

Slowly, in the back of my mind, I began to remember the encouraging words of a few people during my time of serious competitive racing. I was encouraged to pursue the Olympics. I had always wanted to be an Olympian growing up. I admired the ice skaters and later the gymnasts. The funny thing is, I was not a serious athlete by any means until I became an adult. At the same time, I figured that if this was being brought up to me, somehow there must be some sort of potential that someone saw me. So… I started taking those comments very seriously. I signed up for USA track and field, however like a very uneducated individual that area, I didn’t go to very many of their events. I chose instead to local fundraising races trail races such as the Lake Chabot half marathon that my godmother and godfather took me out to run for my birthday. I kept thinking that God uses the foolish things of the world… right?

It was during the Chabot Challenge event that I completely and totally fell in love with the trails! I found a sense of strength that I never knew I had! Despite the pain in my left leg, I pushed up giant hills and joyfully flew down the other sides! It was raining and the I could feel the soft dirt underneath my feet, the patches of mud that nearly trapped my legs at times, the wind going past my face and the air filling my lungs, rain dripping all over my face… all while experiencing the views of God’s amazing natural beauty… (deep breath) I can most feel every moment of that races as I imagine it now! Despite how beautiful and wonderful that event was, part of me so badly wanted it to be over. At just the last mile, I crossed a bridge and looked up to see my godfather cheering me on with amazing enthusiasm! That big smile on his face coaching me on my kick,”kick it in! Kick it in! Keep pushing!” He was there at just the right moment, when I was ready to give up, and helped give me that extra energy that I needed to just push through and make it to place 2nd in my age group and 7th overall female. After the big finish, we went on to spend time with my God grandmother and then had our first meal together at a place called China House! At the restaurant, my godmother and I shared a big plate of steamed rock cod, rice, and steamed vegetables. My body soaked up every bit of nutrient that I took in at that table! It was probably the first solid, real, well-rounded meal I had eaten in a long time! This was followed by big bowls of frozen yogurt! The amazing race was one thing, but the fellowship along being trusted and welcomed into their lives was irreplaceable.This was all during a time when our friendships were just barely beginning. The thing is, something in my spirit told me that this would be the best friendship that I ever had with any people in my entire life! While at the time they were not considered my godparents, God was helping us come together and get to know one another to a point of what would later lead to them calling me their God daughter and me having the honor of calling them my godparents.

After the event, I returned home to more craziness. I was soon scheduled to do a house it up the street. During that time, I was given another opportunity to run a race with my godmother and I had auditioned for and scored yet another lead role and another major production at Contra Costa College. This was a production that I had been wanting to be in since the first time I saw it… “Rivets” written by one of my favorite professors at school.

At the end of the House sit, I packed my things, went back to the mobile home, and found that there had been severe trouble on the property due to some people my troubled loved one was involved with. As a result, the possibility of eviction had arisen. I was also informed that I needed to leave the mobile home because it was a temporary agreement, so I packed my things and search for a new place. Thankfully, a woman that I knew from church and the race field was kind enough to let me stay in her spare room for a very short period of time. What a mess! Here I was, trying to finish preparing for the fundraising race, still trying to heal from thatnagging injury, getting ready to do another performance, job slowly falling apart, me barely able to make ends meet, my family life shattered, and on top of everything else it was time for me to leave again.

For now, I will leave you all at this point. I hope that my trials are not freaking you out, but rather that they are giving you some sort of courage to face whatever you’re dealing with today! Lord willing, I’ll continue my journey next week! Until then, God bless!

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Adventures in Boston Qualifying: My Journey Continues With Part 4

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Hey all I’m back again and I hope you all have had a wonderful week! Mine has been trying to say the least, however I’m learning to be grateful for the little things. I’ve really been trying to work on my attitude most of all. To be honest, it hasn’t been the greatest. I was hit in many areas… my body has been hurting and I went to see Dr. Runco. He had to adjust my hips, neck, lumbar, thoracic and other regions of my spine and legs. Facing each day has been a challenge. Between the pain and not having a vehicle and ether being stuck in my apartment all day or having to stay out with my mom all and/ or take the bus in order to get things done… my mind and body just feel worn and beaten. Don’t get me wrong, I love ❤️ taking the bus but the hill up to my house from the stop tears my body up. On top of it, it’s been a struggle to make ends meet at times. At the same time, I feel this gives me the perfect opportunity to really, truly trust God! In these moments, I’ve been able to make lists of things I’m grateful for, and lists of people and things to pray for. In these moments, I’m free to study the word and get to know God so much better than I EVER have before. So… I’m choosing to cherish them.

No, when I left off in last weeks post, I had fallen asleep and was getting ready to wake up to run my first marathon in Oakland, Ca in March 2011. Now, my journey continues…

My Journey Part 4

Marathon… for those of you who don’t know what exactly this is… let me clear up a little bit of confusion for you! A marathon is not a 5K, 10K, 1 mile, 10 mile or even 13 mile foot race. A marathon is the name given to a race with the precise distance of 26.2 miles. Anything outside of that range is given an alternate name such as 5K (3.107 Miles) 10k (6.214 miles), ultra marathon is anything greater than 26.2 miles. The list goes on… so, Marathon is not a name given to any other distance other than the 26.2. For more history and information on this event, please take a look at this article: History of the Marathon.

So, why was the marathon distance such a big deal for me? Well, it is estimated that approximately only 1% of the worlds population has actually run a full marathon. I thrived on distance, I loved distance! I wanted to challenge myself to really go the distance as a way of celebrating freedom from drug addiction! The training with long runs (which I increased in a very different way than most people do) followed by gluten free pancakes and eggs… hours of open road, clearing my head, praying, worshipping… such an incredible time of connection with God, nature, and my body unlike any other! Mix that with runner’s high and a sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving a new goal… mannnn! I was definitely doing what I love to do! Also, while in training for this event, the possibility of running in the Olympics at some point was brought up to me. I will talk more about this later.

Marathon morning, I woke up expecting to just see my mom in car. I was really hoping for just a peaceful event. My heart sank, selfishly, as I saw my troubled loved one sitting in the passenger seat. I quickly adjusted my attitude, chose to remain mostly silent on the way out to the start line, and just prepared myself mentally for the event that was to come. I remember nervously chewing an entire pack of gum on the way out there, fidgeting with my packets of gu to make sure I had enough, checking and double checking my shorts, stretchy pants that I wore underneath, and my purse to make sure that I had my ID and everything I needed at the finish line.

Upon arrival in Oakland, my heart began to race! This was it! I was really going to do this! The moment of truth, do or die, all the training, all the hard work, all for this moment! My mom dropped me off with everything I needed and I headed towards the restroom line to get prepped for the event. While there, I ran into a woman who is part of the “marathon maniacs” crew! She mentioned that she was only going to run the race slowly and stated that she ran marathons and ultramarathons regularly. Ultramarathons? I had heard about these events before. My pastor at the time had previously told me about Dean Karnazes ( lithe amazing ultramarathon man) and I had actually wanted to run one. I just never met anyone that actually ran them… FREQUENTLY! I felt two mixed emotions. 1. I was semi-prideful, wondering why she wouldn’t want to run fast. All I knew was fast running! I loved running at a competitive pace! No feeling like it! 2. I was in awe that a female ran these insane distances! I shook it off, completed my pre-race preparation, and headed off to the starting line.

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or those of you competitive athletes who are reading this, you will probably laugh because in all honesty, I had no idea how big of a deal the Boston marathon was let alone that there was a qualifying time for it. I seriously went into this race to simply run and finish it. I had no intention of placing or achieving one of the most coveted qualifications in the running world, a chance of possibly running Boston.

That being said… I walked up to the start line. Beyond nervous… While there, I saw people holding signs. Each had a different set of numbers on it. One of them said “3:00” another “3:30”… yeah, I did not do my homework! I had no idea what these were! I had no CLUE where to stand either! So, I walked confidently up to the 3:30 pacer, hoping I wasn’t standing in some designated spot. There I stood, nervously waiting for the start!

As I waited, I talked to a few people that were standing there. One person was talking about injuries, so I diverted my attention to something less stressful for my mind. I then talked to someone else who asked if it was my first marathon. I told him that was, so he told me to pace myself, stick with him, start at a slow speed, gradually increase the pace, then finish with a bang! As it just so happens, this was a man partnered with the pacer for the 3:30 mark. I then turned inward, and began to pray asking God to help me make it through the event. I just wanted to finish!

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y heart started racing as the countdown began! I could feel the energy from the crowd of people watching the event from the sidelines… ba dum.. ba dum.. ba dum…. then, race signaled to start, and we all headed on our way through the city of Oakland California! What an incredible journey it was! Around every corner, was a new portion of the city! I was able to view the beauty of the greatest cultural mesh pot cities in the country by foot!!!

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rowds were so encouraging as they watched from the sidelines! The energy from the people in the city was just so amazing! I even met someone who was running the marathon as his long run for an ultra marathon! He gave me some tips on prepping for ultramarathons, and we chatted a little bit. He then encouraged me to push past him and said to just keep going because I “was guaranteed qualify for Boston!“ Again, that Boston thing! Looking back, I feel so ashamed of not knowing anything about that incredible marathon!

The best part of this event is that I was asked by a couple people why I was running the marathon. I got to share my testimony with people as I ran! I got to tell them how God delivered me from crystal meth addiction and made me a runner for Christ! I told each one of them that my purpose for crossing the finish line was to meet my troubled loved one who was there waiting for me. I wanted to prove to her that her life could change too!

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ot closer and closer to the final 10K of the event, something that Kara Goucher mentioned in a Runner’s World magazine I had received in the mail a few weeks prior kept running over and over in my mind. She said that the last 10k of a marathon is like a whole new race! That’s when you have to take everything that’s left in you, and give it all you’ve got! That’s exactly what I did! The final 10k approached, my endorphins kicked in, the exhaustion I felt from the previous 20 miles seemed to dissipate, I popped a packet of gu and began to run as though I just heard the gunshot go off at the beginning of a 10K race!

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ush towards the finish line, I was again given me opportunity share my story! A woman in the crowd yelled out, “El Sobrante Runner!!!” “What?” I said. “ you run all the time by my house!“ this is a name I had been called before, and I was always humbled that someone would recognize me and give me a label. I was even stopped at times in the grocery store and asked why I ran. Each time, I used as an opportunity to share what God had done in my life. This time though, on the race field? I was totally humbled and in awe of opportunity God was giving me share his glory with yet another person! I slowed my pace for just a moment to give glory to God for all that he did and to encourage her to keep pressing on! She then told me to push my butt towards the finish line and cheered me as I went on ahead of her! WHAT A BLESSING!

The last 3 miles felt like the longest 3 I’d ever run! Suddenly, a young guy looked like he was going to give in. His legs were aching and cramping. I encouraged him to keep pressing on. I ran next to him and kept letting him know we were almost at the finish line, to keep his chin up, and that I was rooting for him! Shortly after that, began to get dehydrated and needed some fuel. I encouraged him to sip on some water, just enough to make sure he didn’t get stomach cramps and to take another packet of gu.

Soon, I started to grow weary. A woman who was like an angel came right next to me, cheering ME on, handed me gu, kept telling me to keep going and let me know as each mile passed. After the last mile, she ran on ahead of me and I pushed into finish at the incredible time of 3:32:06!!!

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a few seconds after I cross the finish, I heard, “Hey Romans!” I looked back, remembering that I had “Romans 10:14-15” on the back of my race shirt! “ I can’t thank you enough for encouraging me,“he said! “I never would have finished, if you didn’t help push me along! My legs were so tore up! I didn’t make my goal time though!“” but you finished right? That’s what matters! And it was only by the grace of God that I was able to help you! I’m so glad you finished, “ I said. He have me a big hug and we both went on to get our finisher medals and foil blankets so we could recover.

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st immediately, I saw my troubled loved one. Meanwhile my mom was trying to track her down because she had taken off with her cell phone! So, the family drama had already begun! I went on to take my pictures and decided not to let my home life destroy what was probably the greatest moment of my life! After I got my photos taken and grabbed a few snacks, we headed off to have Pho at one of the local restaurants. Thankfully, it was such a nice time enjoying hot meal with my family talking about my journey! When we headed home… it was time to face reality again. Just prior to the marathon, I begun to transition into a new job at a restaurant in Orinda. I headed home, hopeful about the new opportunity yet dreading having to sleep in a cold mobile home alone and worried about what might be ahead of us now that my troubled loved one had returned.

Again, I had to shake off the worry and focus on recovery! Soon, I was informed by Big Al that I had qualified for Boston! Still… I had no clue help major this was! Not only that, but I also found out that I was Second in my age group and had won a pair of skecher running shoes that I gove to my mom as a thank you for all she had done for me! So many great happenings mixed with so many uncertainties…. so the recovery process began.

Now, I’m afraid of gotten carried away with this post! As you can see, this race holds a very special place my heart! Once again, I’ll have to continue with the rest my journey in a later post. Thank you all for joining me and reading about the events that made me who I am today. As for my current situation, each day I’m thankful for each step that I take. My body aches, yet my spirit begs to be set free to run! I can only hope that God‘s hand will move miraculously to release me to do so! Yet, one thing that I learned especially from running the Oakland marathon… in life, you have to continue cheer people on. Even when you feel like your legs and your body can’t take it, you have to press on, finish your race, and help others do the same! No matter what the outcome of my life is. Whether or not I ever run or walk normally again, I have to choose on a daily basis be grateful for life and ask God for the grace to keep pressing on until my dying day! Until next time, have a great week!

My story Part 3

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Hello all! I’m back again and it’s been quite a week! Still battling some physical pain which has caused me to take it easy minus a few short workouts to just keep my body moving and going. I’m learning I have to really just feel my body out and be kind to myself right now. Instead of going out while my mom goes to work, I’ve opted to stay home and clean my room which was really hard to do during the semester between school work, work, and physical pain. I’ve also spent a lot more time reading the word of God. I found that in times like this, the word of God is my ONLY source of strength. God is my only true source of comfort and companionship. Honestly, this has become yet another season incredible loneliness and pain. At times, it feels like my life has become a prison. Thankfully, it’s nothing like some seasons I’ll review over the next few coming posts as I continue on with my journey. In order to keep my mind off of the negativity, I’ve arranged time to meet with friends as their schedules provide, tried to be at work a little bit more as my body and my health allows, and most of all, I’ve have kept my head and spirit in the word and in worship. Now, I left off last week with my troubled loved one returning home after being forced into sex trafficking on the streets of San Francisco, and that’s exactly where I’ll pick up!

My Journey Part 3

I don’t know if any of you reading have experienced this, however I found throughout my life that various songs, smells, or sounds bring back emotions or memories that can stir up incredible feelings of joy and/or pain. One particular sound that brought a mixture of feelings of relief and trauma at the same time was the sound of the Dora the explorer theme song! That along with pretty much anything that has to do with Dora the Explorer almost brings me back emotionally to time when I would wake up in the morning and be terrified yet relieved all at the same time to hear the song playing on our television.

You see, when my troubled loved one returned, she tried to stay away from her predators. The problem is… the process of brainwashing is a very intense and psychological process that pimps put their victims through. She had been severely brainwashed and traumatized. So, as many victims of this form of slavery do, she kept returning to the very people who striped her of what was left of her virtue.

For days on end, she would be missing. My heart sank as I would see the worn and stressed look on my mom‘s face as she and I both worried about what was going on while she was gone, yet were terrified of her returning home due to the fits of out rage that she would go through and the havoc she would wreak on the property as a result of her ties to the drug and sex trade world. Every morning I would either wake up to silence or to the sound of Dorothy explore playing on our television. If there was silence, she wouldn’t be there. If the music was playing, she was normally sleeping on the living room chair or couch and I would be terrified to wake her not knowing what kind of mood she would be in. I remember one time waking up and just crying not knowing what to do. I hated what was happening to her, what was happening to our family. Some nights, we would get frantic phone calls from her saying she needed to be picked up somewhere or had been beaten by her pimp in a liquor store.

One night, I saw her come out of one of the rooms in our house dressed to perfection. She looked like an innocent, pure, young lady… almost like a porcelain doll! She had a beautiful yellow sundress on. Her makeup was done so perfectly: eyelashes long and beautiful, cheeks just the right shade of rose with a hint of burgundy, white frosted eyeshadow around her eyes with just enough eyeliner to accent them… Her hair was done to perfection as well. Part of me envied her. The other part of me, just wanted to throw up knowing that men were using her like high priced toilet paper for their dirty deeds! On the streets of San Francisco, these men just saw her as a high-priced toy. When she came home, I saw her as someone I wanted to hold and hug and tell the little girl inside of her that it’s OK to watch Dora the Explorer, it’s OK just be a kid, and that she didn’t have to be a toy for those monsters anymore!

Within just a few short months, she went from being a high priced prostitute in San Francisco to being sold for just a few dollars on the streets much closer home. She went from looking like something you would see on the cover of a magazine to looking like someone who had really been drug through the mud. Finally after several months of dealing with the constant tug-of-war, police calls, emotional breakdowns from her as well as the rest of us in the house, dear friends of ours helped us get her on a plane and sent her back to New Mexico in hopes that this would help put an end to this phase of life. I felt so guilty, thinking I hadn’t been there enough for her, that there was something I could’ve done. At the same time I was so angry at her for all that she put us through! So much love yet so much bitterness all at the same time towards the same person. I was even more bitter at the people who did that to her, and all the childhood trauma we both had been through that lead us to that point, again bringing me back to sense of guilt… wishing I could have done something to save her…. in hindsight, I know now that there really was nothing I could do. I couldn’t save her from childhood abuse, I couldn’t save her from those men. What I COULD do, was try my best to stay straight and set an example that hopefully one day she would follow.

When she got on the plane, my family and I tried to go about living her life normally again. It was just really hard to shake it all off. My mom went about working her butt off day in and day out, my brother did his best to just be a normal kid, and I continued working at hometown and housesitting, racing, started attending CCC for performing arts, and worked in various areas of ministry including the worship ministry at Rock Harbor and youth ministry for an organization called younglife and wildlife. Meanwhile, public speaking opportunities begain to open up for me.

(Me speeding at a church called the Journey for their Celebrate Recovery meeting)

A youth group leader that saw me at one of the races recognized me from running on the street of El Sobrante and asked me to speak at the El Sobrante Christian academy. It was such a blessing and an honor to share my passion for running and the story of what God brought me through to so many beautiful, young faces! On top of it, I was reunited with my dad’s parents and siblings after over 20 years of separation! Finally… it felt like life was coming together!

In January 2010, I ended up in my first relationship since my move to the bay area. From the beginning, I felt a stirring in my gut that it just wasn’t right. Yes, we were both believers. The problem is, we were both very broken believers. After dealing with a few uncool situations where I could sense that he was trying to control and manipulate me, I finally exploded at him over the phone and hung up. He quickly broke up with me, and I later found out that he was following me after our separation. Though it doesn’t sound like much, being in the situation was horrifying. Shortly after that relationship ended my grandfather (on my mom’s side) passed away after dealing with severe battle COPD. I did my best to focus on classes, work, bought my first used car and just kept pressing on… meanwhile, I began to try to find control with food. Slowly, I started eliminating different foods in order to be “healthier.” This would later become a much larger issue.

Around August 2010, I received a notice in the mail announcing the Oakland marathon! It was to be held in March 2011. I thought that this would be the perfect way to celebrate 4 years of being drug free. Thankfully, that semester I had decided to step back from classes and focus on ministry and work. While on staff at hometown, one of my customers was interested in my story and why ran. We later exchanged information, and she offered to sponsor me for the event! Meanwhile, after being asked to speak for the youth group at hilltop community Church, I joined the youth leadership team there and a dear friend who was also a leader joined with me and helped me kick off was to be known as the “Race to Break the Chains,” which was a event 5k/ 10k running event that we were going to head up the following June to help raise money for Teen Challenge to help them build a home in San Jose for women trying to escape human trafficking. This was obviously a cause that hit very dear to my heart… then the major attacks came!

While out training for the marathon, I was knocked off my feet at a dog park by two dogs that had rushed out of the water. I shook it off and told the owners that I was going to be OK. Little did I know, that injury would lead to bigger issues down the road.

Soon, my mother and I received news that my troubled loved one was trying to return. Race day began to come nearer and nearer, and threats of her return did the same… finally, just two days before the event, they were no longer threats. I quickly had to pack all of my belongings, and by the grace of God, our landlord allowed me to stay in a mobile home on the property. Day before the race, I headed out for my last 3 mile run with my godmother who talked and prayed with me, a sense of dread overcame me. When we finished, and parted ways, I returned home and saw my mother and her sitting in the window at the counter in our home discussing life. I went in, tried to be as cordial as possible, and went about my day, preparing for the following day’s event. Right away, arguments and fighting began. I quickly left, went to the mobile home, and ate my dinner. As I went to bed, I started to cry. I hated arguing, I hated the chaos, and I just wanted a normal family life! I felt shoved out of my home and unsafe… so much chaos and commotion right before was to become one of the biggest days of my life! I don’t mean to sound selfish, but this had been something I had wanted to do for years. All I really wanted to do was to enjoy the race, and have an amazing recovery meal with my happy family… That feeling that I feel after I had split for my exfiancé in San Diego started to flare up! I felt so empty…. yet there with me in the loneliness was Jesus.

Now, this is where I’ll have to leave off. I do want you all to know that I love my troubled loved one with all my heart! It was never my intention for there to ever be any anger or bitterness between us. If you have someone in your family that you’re able to have contact with and you have differences between the two of you. Let them go! If you have someone in your household that you take for granted and you don’t hug on a daily basis… HUG them and hold them close! Don’t take them for granted! Don’t go one day without letting the people that you hold deer know that you love them!Honestly, I have let mine go… though circumstances that will be discussed (within reason) later have kept me separated from my troubled loved one… when I HAVE seen her, I’ve done my UTMOST to make sure she knows how much I love her.! This is why I stated time and time again, live, love, and give with your whole heart! Until my next post, God bless and give love!

Refreshing times with good company as my journey continues with part 2 of my story

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Well, it’s been an odd yet blessed week to say the least. I’ve continued to press through each day regardless of physical ailments and just keep hoping. The wonderful thing is, there’s often blessings in the storm! This last semester was my final one CCC. Upon my exit of this fall term, I have fulfilled the requirements to receive not just one AA, but two AA’s and a STEM certificate and biological studies! This is a journey I’ll cover in better detail as I review my story. As a celebration of this success, my godmother invited my dear friend and sister in the Lord, and me to share a day at a very prestigious spa called Burke Williams in San Francisco! Honestly, I have never been so pampered in my life! Time in the Jacuzzi, sauna, 50 minute massage, all the provisions that were there… ugggh it was like heaven on earth!!! We then headed out for some sushi and window shopping! I got to explore Tiffany and co, where I found their new scent. (Just FYI, don’t smell it on the paper tester… You HAVE to smell it on skin)! It’s so wonderful! After all the fun, we all headed toward the BART and then went off to face our responsibilities for the remainder of the day. I closed my day with some time with my beloved counselor who I see more as a mentor/ trusted friend that I get to see every week. Then, I headed home and enjoyed dinner and some dark chocolate and almonds, which has become my new favorite dessert! The whole day was like a day of refreshing after sharing the first part of my testimony with you all of which was also probably one of the hardest parts for me to unwrap. Now, it’s time to continue where I left off. To those of you who have read the first portion, thank you for sharing in my journey! To those of you just joining me, feel free to look at my previous post to see how my journey ties together. One thing I will say before I begin is that I don’t want you all to feel sorry for me or pity me one bit. The fact of the matter is, life. brings. trials. Plain and simple. What I want you to do is to look at it and be encouraged to see how many times God has brought me through! My trials have given me strength and character that I would’ve developed no other way! They have brought me to points where I’ve been near the end of myself at times; however, I wouldn’t trade them for the world! I am who I am today because of them and because of Christ in me! Now… my journey continues…

My Journey Part 2

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

http://bible.com/114/php.3.13-14.nkjv

I love how the Bible uses pressing on, persevering, and running towards a goal or prize to display a point of releasing the past and embracing all that God has for you! What I love even more-so is how true this is in my own life! It seems that so many times I’ve had to let go of what I thought I wanted and press on towards what God wants for my life.

Now, I left off in my journey with the phone call that I made to my mom and the ticket that she sent me to get on the greyhound bus and head toward Oakland, Ca to meet her. Just prior to my call, a friend of mine asked me what my New Year’s resolution was. I told them half heartedly that I wanted a roof over my head, to get clean, and a cat of my own. January 10, 2007 I got high one last time and was soon after dropped off at the Greyhound bus station in San Diego with just a couple of dollars in my pocket and a suitcase with one carry-on that held the scarce remains of the 23 & 1/2 years I had lived. My mind I kept thinking that this was a temporary visit. I wanted to believe so badly that I would end up returning to San Diego to wallow in the addiction that nearly killed me several times, BUT God had other plans!

As I got on the bus, a slight chill ran over me. I sat down next to the window and I stared coldly at the world outside, trying my best to choke back tears as thoughts of everything I’d been through ran through my head. “I’ll return… I’ll make some money and come right back,” I thought. Then, like a moment in a movie, the bus driver turned on the bus, the radio came along with it. That moment, the song “I’m coming home“ by Daughtry played. My gut sank, and my spirit knew that this trip was not temporary. It was permanent. It amazes me how life circulates and such familiar patterns. Here I am in another transition in my life, exiting the community college level, and the anniversary of my exit into freedom from drug addiction is just a few short days from now.

The bus took off and all I could think about was how to get a hold of some more drugs. During one of the pitstops, I asked the guy was sitting next to me if he had anything. Apparently, he had just finished his. Then, another man that overheard me said that if I got off on the next stop with him that we could make an arrangement. I automatically knew what he was talking about, but I was hoping that he would just take a trade for some items.

The next stop came, I got off the bus, and the man and I headed to a motel in Los Angeles. When we checked into his room, he made it clear that he was wanting something sexual from me. I begged him to let me trade him my cell phone for some drugs, but he refused. He started getting aggressive, and I panicked and began to cry and beg him to let me go back to the bus and go home. He gave me five dollars for a taxi and told me that I could just use my greyhound ticket to get back on the next bus going to San Diego so I could complete my journey. I quickly took the money, grabbed my bags and headed out the door.

The front desk called a cab for me. After they picked me up, we headed towards the bus station, and the toll meter showed that the cost of the ride was going to be more than what was given to me. I told the driver that I really needed to get back to the Greyhound station and he so graciously took the five dollars and let me off to catch my bus. Obviously Satan try to grab a hold of me again, but God’s grace came to the rescue!

On the bus, I encountered a few people who were kind and shared their food with me. The next morning, after staying awake all night, I arrived at the Oakland bus station earlier then my scheduled arrival (believe it or not), and called my mom so I could meet up with her. My mom showed up and there I was… smelling like trash and coming down from my last meth high. She just gave me a big hug! Truly, I was home.

During the ride to El Sobrante, we talked about life and what we both had been up to. I was honest with her and told her about the severity of my situation. That evening I asked if we go for a walk, and she invited me to walk up to a place called Kennedy Grove. During this four mile journey, I ran ahead of her about a half block and then ran back. I then reflected on my evening jogs in high school and how much I loved to run when I lived in San Diego before I became a drug addict. I then told my mom that I wanted to run marathons! It’s something I had always wanted to do when I ran in San Diego. I had talked about it a lot and just never did it. She let off a slight laugh, I look her and said that I wanted to at least become able to run up and down each hill that we passed as we walked. She smiled.

Those walks became our evening moments of stress relief. Each night, I would walk with her and sometimes my little brother would come too. I would run ahead a little bit and run back. One block of running became two, one mile became two miles and so on… then… One hill, became two hills and then countless others… I would lose myself in prayer and worship as I journeyed by foot through the streets, hills, and trails of El Sobrante and the many surrounding areas! Then, one day as I was running along side of the road, I came across a man named “Big Al” Who hosted races in the area. Thanksgiving day of 2008, I ran my first 4 mile race and came in second place female. From that point on, I began to run more races ranging in distances from the 100 on the track to a 50 K race in 2014. My journey in running quickly became a metaphor for my recovery. One day clean became two, then one month, a year and so on. Life‘s battles came at me like the mountains I climbed each day when I ran. One by one, by the power of God, I was able to face each giant.

(Picture on left is the very first straight of road that I ran on. Photo on the right bottom is me at my first race. Photo right top is me with”Big Al” at my first half marathon.)

Slowly my life began to come together. Within my first year of living in El Sobrante, I had been gifted a kitten for my birthday that I bottle fed raised, had a consistent place to live, had my first job in my new clean life at Hometown buffet in Pinole California and started making friends (two of which later adopted me as their Goddaughter). My New Year’s resolution had come to pass and then some! I began almost immediately to attend church as well as Celebrate Recovery meetings where I found the love and support from so many people that really helped me grow and become strong in my faith. Soon, I started attending college and dove immediately into the performing arts. It seemed that my life was allll coming together; However, my family life began to take a down hill turn.

A troubled family member of mine Who had already had a Trumatic visit with us prior came to live with us. Along with her came temperament issues as well as severe issues with addiction. Though I tried to rebuild a relationship with her, her lifestyle lead to major conflicts between us. These conflicts as well as her severe addictions lead to several police involved situations. Finally, her actions lead to her owing the wrong people money. She went missing for several days and… my mom received a call that is every mom’s worst nightmare… the police had received a call from my troubled loved one’s friend in New Mexico saying that my troubled loved one had been kidnapped… upon hearing the news… my gut sank and I fell apart. Through some careful questioning of her friends, my mom found out that she had been forced into sex trafficking in San Francisco in order repay a debt. The details of her situation I will keep very minimal as this is not my story to tell.

I used my anguish over the situation to push myself on my daily runs. I purposely ran around areas I knew that she frequented hoping for a sign of her. Family members from New Mexico came out to see if there was anything they could do to help find her, but it all seemed hopeless.

Finally, one morning it was dark and gloomy. I headed out for my morning run and it started raining. I pushed myself to the top of one of my favorite hills in a neighborhood and fell to my knees weeping, asking God why… begging Him to bring her home. Thankfully within a day, she showed up on the porch at my landlord’s house. Just one day before her 16th birthday, she had escaped. She was home. The problem is… what we thought was the end of that trial, was the beginning of a whole new realm of trials we never expected in our wildest dreams.

Now, this post has just gotten a bit lengthy and I feel that it’s a good place to leave off before I continue to share my journey with you. Again, I hope that in sharing my trails with you, you are beautiful to see God‘s hand moving intricately through my life. Though the journey has been dark at times, He has never failed me and never will. If there is anything that I have learned through all of this, it’s that just like the apostle Paul said, I have to let go of what lies behiynd and press on towards the fresh, new beginning’s they God has called me to. I hope you all have a great week, until next post… God bless and Happy New Year!

photo credit: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/f9/25/8c/f9258cc4961be5763e60b81fed00892e.jpg