When Death Comes Knocking… Part 15 of My Journey

Standard

(Image from abcnews.com)

Sitting in bed this morning, my mind and senses took me back to a moment in Tahoe when I was just a kid. I was hanging out in Myers which is a town just outside of South Shore at my friends’ house (two gals my mom cared for) and the rain had just ended. We all enjoyed some cream of wheat and the fresh smell of the after rain air! The grey sky, the mist that remained in the air over the greenery that surrounded the area, the warm and sweet taste of delicious cream of wheat… (deep breath) I can almost feel, smell, and taste everything about that moment! There’s something so healing and beautiful about this memory! How my spirit longs for those times when things seemed so simple, when eating disorders didn’t exist, when all that mattered was that sweet and fragrant air and that big bowl of warm goodness covered in butter, sugar and milk, when my stomach could actually handle those things without cramping up until I nearly curl over in pain, and when my body was free to run, hike, sled and ride bikes all over the Lake Tahoe area. I was always an active kid until my move to Las Vegas and sexual abuse started over, making me so depressed and not really want to do anything. In that moment in Tahoe, I was safe. No predators, just good friends, good food, and the sweet after rain air! Today, I’m definitely battling pain. I’ve gone from being able to run anywhere from 2 to 14 miles and training for what was supposed to be my first marathon back from forced retirement to finding it hard to walk and run again; However, I found out why oatmeal tends to be my staple food. It’s the closest thing to that warm and comforting bowl of cream of wheat that my stomach can handle and it brings me back to one of my most cherished memories and one of the few that I have that were free of emotional and physical pain. It also brings me back to the days when I was running and racing as it was my choice fuel each morning. Anyhow, I’m going to take advantage of this time, attempt to go on a walk (run if my body allows) and continue to share my journey with you!

Now, I left off in my last post as I had just finished my summer semester biology course with and was struggling to walk again. Now… on to part 15 of my journey.

My Journey Part 15

Now, I never intended for it to take this long to share my journey! To those who have been reading so far, thank you so much! I will try to keep details as minimal as possible and get through the rest of this as quickly and painlessly as possible!

Fall semester of 2015 definitely had its battles! Classes started only a few weeks after summer classes had ended, however those few weeks were a much needed break during which worked extra hours at Kmart and got a little surprise! As I mentioned before in my last post my sister was pregnant again and was just about to have another baby. Apparently she had cleaned up and, this time around, it looked much more hopeful being that the babies father really had his life together. The problem is, she had her baby on July 10, and because of the circumstances surrounding her firstborn son and my mother having custody of him, I was unable to see the baby. Shut out, from the beginning. As much as it affected my family and me, I had to press on and move on!

I was originally signed up for a full course load of, I believe 13 units, however due to the pain I had to take care of me, cut back to working 2 days at Kmart (doing housesits to make up for the lack of hours) and drop a class. My fall class lineup included experimental analysis biology, intro to probability and statistics, Gym, beginning swimming (as I was released to do balance and water workouts), and comparative religion (philosophy). I absolutely LOVED philosophy as it gave me such a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast other faiths with my own and really see and connect the truth of God using it as a basis for all of my coursework. In essence, I was ministering to everyone who read it! What an honor!

(Evening swim where I enjoyed working off the stress from classes despite pain)

I was approved by medi-Cal for another round of treatment from the same physical therapist which was a relief. However, I was still battling a lot of the same aches and pains. Her treatment continued through the first month, but then… due to my coverage, had to come to an end. There I was, just barely through the first portion of my fall semester, and I had to use the tools that all my physical therapists had given me over time to do what are known as “self adjustments.“ With these adjustments, I had to learn how to use muscle energy to move my hips and spine back into place. However, these only worked for so long and I ended up in even more pain. During this time, I had become friends with a very kind lady who referred me to her chiropractor in El Cerrito. Meanwhile, in our visits together, she did make note of how thin I was. I took her comments as attacks assuming that she was just jealous. Yeahhh I was prideful! At the same time, I couldn’t understand why SHE would be jealous of ME because she is so beautiful! I used some of my grant money to go to a couple visits with the chiropractor she recommended and things begin to somewhat look up. He encouraged me to just ice and keep moving as it was the only way I could properly heal. Move and let the body adapt to being in alignment. That made sense! After a few visits with him, I continued to use my muscle energy exercises and combined that with his treatment in order to help me make it through the semester.

In the month of October, the pressure from classes, finances, not knowing what was going on with my sister and the new baby, and anorexia Athletica took their toll on me!

After spending several hours a week at the gym and in the pool along with all the studies and running around I had to do in order to get things done being that I didn’t have a car….. I became exhausted, depressed, and nearly lifeless. I was staying at a housesit, caring for the dog, studying till I couldn’t think straight, and on October 11, 2015, I was so exhausted from everything that I stayed home from church for the first time in a very long time. My mom came to pick me up and I was just sobbing telling her I just needed to be left alone. Even though I was dressed, I went upstairs, fell asleep, and cried when I woke up. I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to live, but I ate anyway and spent the day resting. That evening, my godmother gave me a call and invited me to go swimming with her at her gym since the following day was a holiday and we both thought that my swimming class would not be meeting. (As it turned out it was meeting but thankfully my professor let it slide).I accepted her offer and met up with her the following morning. There. I spent over an hour in the pool and got out. Afterwords, I showered and met up with her in the main part of the locker room where she said, “I think I’m going to go and weigh myself.” “ yeah,“ I said, “I like to stay OFF of the scale, it can be a danger zone for me.“ The thing is, the Holy Spirit was using her to coax me onto that scale! After she got on, I felt the urge to get on and found out that soaking wet, after eating a huge breakfast and swimming, I weighed just over 84 pounds! NO WONDER I FELT SO LIFELESS! That evening, after she dropped me off, I started an Instagram page right away to log my journey. I decided I was not going to allow 84 pounds to kill me. Little did I know, the battle for my life was only beginning.

(I originally took photos w/ out my face showing to keep myself anonymous)

Though I was stepping into, my eating patterns were still out of whack! I still ate very few fats and was still eating way below the caloric intake that I needed to. At the same time, I was being a little more open about what I included in my diet. I started eating more grains and proteins from fish, eggs and even chicken (I later found out I’m allergic to chicken). At the same time, I drenched everything and Stevia, salt, and lemon juice or vinegar.

Meanwhile, I continue to drive every bit of energy that I had into classes, jumping from housesit to housesit, counseling appointments, doctors appointments, chiropractic appointments, constant issues with illness and all dealing with financial issues and my moms car having some issues as well.

Thankfully, I made it through and finished once again with straight A’s! It seemed like the only thing going for me with school! Though during the semester I was given the opportunity to take part in filming by doing some narrative in the school orientation video, outside of that, I didn’t really get to act. Physical exercise was painful, but I did anyway and really didn’t enjoy as much. However, it definitely helped clear my mind from all the craziness that was going on!

That year, just before classes ended I was singing in the choir in the annual “Singing Christmas tree.” Once classes and the show were over, I found myself having hard time walking again! I sucked it up, enjoyed the little time of Christmas break that I had and prepare to head straight into my Spring 2016 semester. During the break, my godmother got married and at her wedding, I sang “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters. Still thin and frail, I had no idea how closely resembling my life and Karen Carpenter’s had quickly become (thankfully… I’m not dead).

As my spring semester started, I found myself plunging completely into classes.

I found it was a sanctuary away from my home life. It was a place where I could study and be away from the chaos at home. I found myself preferring to be at school drowning myself in studies rather than staying at home and facing my reality. My spring class lineup of 13.5 units included human anatomy, pre-calculus, acting on film and television, lab, assisted tutoring, swim, and Pilates. At the get go, the Holy Spirit was prompting me to take better care of myself. You see, in anatomy we had to look at cadavers throughout most of the semester. One of the cadavers just happened to have died from cancer that triggered anorexia nervosa. Her main cause of death was anorexia.

At the beginning of the semester, I began to get sick… repeatedly. I continued on with my classes. Despite the injury, I continued to do what I could to just keep pressing through. I started seeing a different chiropractor in El Sobrante. He was Very first one I had ever seen. While his treatments did help a little, I found myself still in a lot of pain. Medi-Cal was supposed to cover one visit a month and I found out later that he wasn’t taking Medi-Cal, so a bill was piling up. I was misinformed by his secretary, so unknowingly, I racked up a relatively large debt. Meanwhile chaos hit in my personal life!

You see, just as suspicions had arose, my sister had been using drugs again! As a result, she ended up in a situation that put both her and her new baby in danger and my mom and I ended up having him in our care for three days. Though this was an answered prayer because I hadn’t even met my new nephew yet, at the same time, it was me who had to stay home and inside with a traumatize child yet again!

I did the best I could to look past how the situation effected me, did what I could to emotionally hold it together, do my schoolwork, and be as loving to little guy is possible even though I was in pain. After all, it wasn’t about me, it was about my nephew who just really needed a lot of love. Soon, the little guy’s dad came to pick them up and he was taken from us once again. My heart broke! This was just another reason for me to dive even deeper into my studies and unknowingly into bad eating patterns. After all, though I was including new foods, I was not getting enough calories for all the energy that I was putting out.

Shortly after the situation with my sister and the baby, my mom’s car broke down which meant I had to take the bus to and from school and pretty much anywhere else I needed to go. It wasn’t so bad considering that I could spend the hour or so that I spent waiting for or on the bus to do my studies without interruption. The problem was that I was already putting out a lot of energy with studies and gym classes and was not eating enough to even maintain that let alone walking (carefully) to and from the bus stop and putting out more energy going from stop to stop. Along with that came trying to just maintain my health and not get hurt again. All the running around just increased the pain that I was in. To make matters worse, nearly 3/4 of the way through the semester, I received news that my grandmother on my dad side who I was not able to see and barely able to talk to over the previous two years due to the restraining order that I had on him and the fact that he lived with her had passed away! Not only that, but upon calling my Aunt D… I found out that she had suffered from severe abuse from some family members (Who I’ll keep nameless) until just a few months prior to her death. I had just gotten out of class, had been studying all day and received the original news of her death via Facebook! FACEBOOK OF ALL PLACES! No one had called me to let me know that her health was deteriorating, no one informed me of anything despite the fact that I was still in contact with some of my relatives on that side, I had to find out through Facebook of all places! I completely fell apart so much so that I ended up missing my swim class.

The next day, I Called my professor for swim and explained to him the situation with my grandmother passing and he totally understood!

(Empty pool all to myself was just what I needed to relieve the stress)

He allowed me to go to the pool and make up my class. The pool was empty, and I pretty much had it to myself that day. I think maybe one other person was there which was a total godsend! After my swim, I stood in the shower, half lifeless again, and began to weep hysterically. I then pulled my things together, finished up the little homework that I had left to do at the transfer station on campus, then caught the bus and went on with my day.

Throughout the semester, I found so much joy in learning anatomy! Professor Coatney had so much life and passion for what she did! Along with that, my acting in film and television course (taught by the amazing professor Mccarty-Shwab) gave me such an incredible outlet! I was acting, working out, and learning… I was pretty much doing everything that I loved to do! On top of it, I was just granted some help financially with getting started on my dream which is a clothing and jewelry line called “Messenger Gear” that help spread awareness and raise funds to stop human trafficking. The only problem was, my self-worth was in the toilet! The devastation from everything going on around me between my mom’s car breaking down, barely being able to afford to eat at times, the battle with the eating disorder and the death of my grandmother had finally taken their toll on my body and the Friday before finals… I was rushed to the emergency room with severe chest pain.

The ER team let me in immediately and I was placed on the scale to find that I weighed only 190 pounds. At 5 foot 4 1/2 inches, though I had gained 6 pounds over the semester, I was still not carrying nearly enough weight especially considering everything I was doing. As I sat there waiting for the doctor to come in, I obsessively went over my flash card cards for my Anatomy final exam. Then, a dear friend of mine that I had worked for as his personal assistant came in and saw the mess that I was! I was completely embarrassed!

(Yeaaahh I thought I was fat)

The doctor told me that I needed to be at 118 pounds so that my body can heal. My mind did not even want to wrap itself around the idea of gaining nearly 30 lbs. to me, 110 (which was recommended by my general practitioner) was OK, but one 118 was completely out of the question! Yep, I was definitely sick!

Finals week came and went and I came out victoriously by the hand of God with, he straight A’s again! Only by the grace of God was I able to even accomplish these things! Yes, I put in the hard work and the hours of study, but it’s only by His grace that I was able to achieve anything at all!

Summer break came and along with it came the invitation to go to my grandmothers memorial service with my cousins! This was such a bittersweet moment! My father had apparently moved back to Hawaii making it possible for me to go to the event.

(My beautiful cousin Natalie)

While there, I stayed at my grandmothers home and the PTSD set in more than I could’ve ever imagined! I repeatedly kept asking my relatives if they were sure that my dad was not coming. Around every corner of the house and everywhere I went, I watched cautiously, I panicked as my uncle took me from place to place in his car, and at the memorial I had a mini face off with my Aunt V who grabbed me by my wrist and made me feel like crap for staying in my grandmothers home while visiting. Despite what I felt in connection to the confrontation with this person, I decided to enjoy the time that I did have with my family.

The ceremony was absolutely beautiful! The thing is, the eating disorder reared its ugly head again! Though I tried to gain weight, I wasn’t eating enough again. I was very guarded about what I ate the entire time I was there! I didn’t let anybody in! I tried to work out, but my body just flared up again!

On the way home, my cousins wanted to go out to San Francisco which is just about a half hour to 45 minutes from where I live. So, in an effort to redeem the mess that my birthday was, they took me out for a day on the town!

(My cousins Josh, Brianna and me enjoying SF)

It was so refreshing to have sushi and to walk all over the city with my amazing family that I had really not even gotten to get to know until that day! Honestly, I wish I could do it all over again! That day, I experienced a lot of food freedom that I didn’t have before and was even able to do a nice long hike with them!

Then, at the end of the hike, my body acted up once again! All the sitting from traveling and the hiking up and down hills had taken it’s toll on me. Just prior to my visit out there, I had began to go to a place called the joint chiropractor in Pinole. After my cousins dropped me off at home, I rested for the evening. The next day, I tried to go for a walk and my body locked up on me. I quickly went to the chiropractor and they helped me figure out a way to help me recover. There I was again.. at ground zero, about to start summer classes and in pain. On top of it, as loving as the majority of my family was at the memorial, the whole visit caused a severe psychological set back. My being in the same area where a lot of the traumatization happened with my dad just really messed with my head! At the same time, I tried to hold onto any sign of hope that I possibly could which meant facing summer classes regardless of how I felt!

For now, I will have to leave off here! What I will say is that to give you an idea of what I’ve had to face in the healing process, it’s not just that I’ve had to go from practitioner to practitioner to practitioner, but if you all understand the fact that I’ve been traumatized by abuse repeatedly throughout the course of my life… to have to face different health practitioners who are supposed to help me only to have my health go down the toilet once again has been, to me, emotionally like being abused repeatedly. While I’m 100% sure that they all mean well and are doing the best they can by me (for which I’m eternally grateful)… Different hands touching my body, sometimes in places that aren’t quite comfortable in order to get the healing process to go through and being told by each practitioner that I will most definitely will be able to run and race again only to be left time and time again struggling to walk, crying out to God for help… I’ve just come to my wits end with the whole situation. Again, I’m at Ground Zero trying to figure out just what to do. Also, if I can be brutally honest with you all, throughout the semester even though I was doing things that I like to do, I was completely miserable! So much so that there were even times that I nearly checked myself into a mental hospital. The pressure, the pain, the trauma, emotionally and physically I just had enough! It’s only by the grace of God that I didn’t check in and that I am where I’m at today! Do know that whatever you’re facing, that God is with you! If you ever need help, don’t be afraid to reach out! I’m so grateful for my counselor and my mother that have been there throughout this time. Without them, I don’t think I’d be alive today. Until next post.. God bless and stay strong!

Advertisements

One journey ends and another begins. My story continues in part 14

Standard

Hello all! I’m sorry for the long break! For some reason, I’m finding it harder and harder to mentally pull myself back into my journey in order to get the events and timing In the correct order. AnyWho, I left off in my last post where I was barely able to walk, a loved one of mine had just passed away, I started seeing a counselor who helped me focus on Christ and His hope, and after speaking with my neighbor… I decided to focus my energy in getting signed up for classes at Contra Costa College. Now, I’ll continue where I left off! Fare warning before I begin… if you are someone who gets triggered by talking about food, over exercise, calories, weight, etc. I HIGHLY recommend that you do not proceed as I will be discussing some pretty detailed areas of my eating disorder in this blog post!!!

My Journey Part 14

Christ’s hope is the one thing that shines brightest in dark times! I found that to be true during so many dark periods of my life. As I got things in order to sign up for classes, my neighbor gave me a laptop and Internet access so that I would be able to get enrollment and School work done! What a sweetheart! Finally, everything was in place, and I was set to start school in Spring 2015 with an aim to get my degree in Liberal Arts: Math and Science with an emphasis on kinesiology. Yeah, barely able to walk and I wanted to be an exercise science major! My long-term goal was to obtain my bachelors of science at Cal State East Bay in their wellness program that includes nutrition and kinesiology, then transfer to UC Berkeley to obtain my masters and, eventually, my PhD in psychology. My purpose in getting these degrees was so that I could help people who have been abused and those who have been forced into sex/ human trafficking regain their strength psychologically, physically and nutritionally while including biblical foundations for them to build their platform from. As everything was ready for me to go, there was still the waiting period before I started classes. The months before school included Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they were some of the hardest holidays I have ever had to face! For Thanksgiving, I was housesitting and came home to enjoy dinner with my family and godmother. There I was, in so much pain! I sat there and tried so hard enjoy dinner with my family, but all I could think about was that my godmother got to race that morning and I was trapped like a prisoner pacing back-and-forth in my apartment and in the house that I was housesitting at the time. It was the only way that I could get any form of physical exercise without my body completely acting up on me. I missed the race field, I missed the people, the energy, the food, the social life connected to it all. I felt like a huge part of me died! It was like a part of my family had been ripped away! That’s something I still mourn to this day! On the up side, I used the time of pacing as my declaration time where I would memorize scripture and declare the promises of God over my life.

Anyhow, Still terrified to really eat anything solid, all I allowed myself to eat that day was a mountain of steamed vegetables, some turkey, and some fat free- sugar free pumpkin flan. The eating disorder was taking over my life at this point. I began this ritual of eating two apples for breakfast with two egg whites or half cup of nonfat cottage cheese. I would have snack of non-fat, sugar free Greek yogurt. Lunch would usually consist of just veggies and egg whites or a can of sardines. Sometimes I would have an occasional piece of turkey or some tuna or other fish. Dinner would usually be the same. I began stuffing myself with mini bell peppers and veggies until I would nearly pop. It’s as if I was panicked that I wouldn’t see another meal, I would just eat until I couldn’t eat anymore. At the same time, I still wasn’t getting enough calories in. The only source of healthy fats that I would take in were from the sardines that I would eat every other day.

As Christmas time rolled around, I prepared to do my first acting performance at Hilltop Community Church for their Christmas production! In this, I played a black Friday shopper! Being involved in this production was a total emotional lifesaver for me! The rehearsals, the performances, they were all moments of escape for me from my daily life and the struggles I faced. Meanwhile, I got to be a blessing to the community by helping to spread the story of Jesus Christ.

I mean… think about it, every day was a struggle! Having hard time walking, barely able to afford to feed myself, going to the $.99 store to stock up on the only things I could really afford and was willing to eat which were veggies, egg whites and sardines, stuffing myself into an oblivion every time we had food because I wasn’t sure if we were going to have enough, I was an emotional wreck!

Finally, once the emotional roller coaster of the holidays was over and the show had finished, I started to see a physical therapist and the switch from chiropractic to new therapy placed me in a position where I was in bed for three days and unable to walk. I iced as best as I could. I did as many stretches as I possibly could. I prayed, I cried out to God! I remember sitting down in chairs and standing up only to have my low back and sacrum literally pop right out of place… trying to walk in the parking lot of the grocery store or even through grocery store and my hip and groin area would lock up. I had to shuffle carefully everywhere I went! It was a nightmare! I continue to press on, and prayed my way through as I knew that classes were starting shortly.

The Sunday prior to my first day at school, I made sure I went to church despite the pain. I filled up on as much biblical truth as I possibly could by fellowshipping with my beloved purple book Bible study class and attending the Sunday service. That week, on January 12, 2015, I stepped onto the campus of Contra Costa College in faith. I shuffled my way through each appointment with EOPS and my counselor, shuffle from class to class, and finally made it successfully through my day! There I was, with a full 12 unit schedule that included Theatre Appreciation, Education For Healthful Living, Intermediate Algebra, and Beginning Fitness Center (so I could do core and balance work to regain my strength). I plowed myself right away into studies! This time, I was determined to not fail!

A few weeks into the semester, my theater teacher had caught wind from one of my former theatre professors that I was “one of the drama kids.” She quickly invited me to audition for the Spring show, “All in the Timing” which is a compilation of several short plays. Each actor would take on several different characters. At first, I was almost bitter that my professor would want to add more to my plate! I was already having a hard enough time walking around campus let alone getting my studies done through the chaos at home (my nephew was still dealing with temperamental issues and screamed A LOT). The thing is, I felt that art bug just tug and tug at my heart, so I took the dive! Thankfully, I was cast originally for 4 different characters and ended up doing 3 due to one of the plays being cut from the show. It’s amazing how God uses people to really help pull you into a direction that will help you find who you are created to be! Doing the production meant that I literally spent nearly every week day on campus from about 8:30 in the morning till almost 10 or 11 o’clock at night.

This time kept me focused on my studies, helped me get away from the chaos at home, and really helped me just heal emotionally giving me something good and hopeful to focus on! I continued to juggle classes, counseling appointments, doctor appointments, physical therapy, homework, family life and I still have no idea how in the world I managed to push through! Being a part of that production was such a blessing because it brought back several people who have become very much like family to me during some of the very darkest parts of my life! It also brought new people into that family! Just like running, there’s something about the performing arts that just really brings people together! It’s just so healing!

As the show was beginning to come to an end, the money that I had received from grants had run out, and as a college student, unless you’re working 20 hours a week, the government will not provide food stamps. So, I was facing some serious financial difficulties! Mom and I had no gas money and we barely had anything to eat. As a result, I started looking for work. The production went on, and it was such a wonderful show! I was so proud of all my fellow cast members and how well they had transitioned from character to character!

On top of it, I was exhilarated by having my acting skills challenged and built through my character transitions as well! What an exciting show!

One day, as I walked out on campus, I looked over at the school newspaper stand and… there I was!? Me? On the cover of the school newspaper? What a blessing! I was so humble yet excited at the same time!

The high from all the show excitement went down, spring break approached, and I began hard-core searching for a job! Finally, I landed a job at Kmart and I slowly started seeing my life come together! With hopes of getting promoted and working my way up to management, school going in a hopeful direction, progress in physical therapy to point where I was actually running on a treadmill at some points again, I was eating better well rounded meals again… hope helped me stay focused on moving forward and not the pain that tried to distract me from my school work each day. I’m talking pain when I stood up, pain when I sat down, pain when I walked, pain when I did anything. It was the hope that Christ placed my heart (and learning to take on campus naps lol) that helped me stay focused! Mind you, there were times I found myself crying in the bathroom during finals from the mental and emotional exhaustion mixed with the pain.

Finally the semester had come to an end. There had been a several week break between switching physical therapists and the stress from everything had taken its toll on my body. On top of it, I didn’t realize that my summer class was an early start, that meant I only had ONE week between the end of my spring semester and the beginning of my summer. I went to see my new physical therapist for the first time that week she informed me that she was going to have to completely take exercise from me for a while. Back in prison! The new diagnosis and form of therapy technique that she introduced landed me in bed for another three days. It’s as though every time my body had to adjust to a new way of healing, it would go into a bed ridden state. There I was, just finished with finals and all the craziness only to end up back where I started! I wept hysterically! Again… anorexia beckoned. I cried out to God and told him that I needed a sign to help me move forward! I needed to know I was going in the right direction!

The first day of my summer class, my mom dropped me off in front of the biology building and I carefully shuffle my way into the lab with a special foam roller for me to sit on, terrified of everyone and everything that I was about to face. Now, I was always told to never take a MATH class during the summer due to the amount of content that you have to cover in such a short period time. Little did I know, biology was just the same! Upon arriving, I was handed my course syllabus and was faced with a quiz every single day of the first week, three chapters of reading, our first of three major exams was after the first week and a half and a lab nearly every day! All of our labs had to be typed up! To add to the pressure, I was informed that the professor that I was working under was one of the hardest professors to get a passing grade from let alone an A. My gut sank, and I automatically felt like I was in prison! Finally, After several hours of class, we were released and I carefully walked down towards the transfer center where I checked my email and prepared to meet my mom. There, I received the greatest news and the sign that I had asked God for! Apparently, my grades from the previous semester had come in, and I had not only receive straight A’s, but I was also on the Dean’s list!!! I screamed out loud in the middle of the transfer center and began to cry! ME? The kid who could barely pass anything in elementary, middle and high school? The one who knew the “isolation table” in elementary school allll too well! The one who could barely walk during various points of the semester? The who was just trying to get their life back together? The one who had such a hard time focusing due to the pain that I was in half the time? I WAS ON THE DEAN’S LIST? That was totally by the grace of God! I took the energy and exhilaration from this and used it to help propel me through the rest of the summer semester.

Due to my courseload and pain issues during this time, I had to cut my workdays at Kmart to one day a week. Thankfully, I was asked to do a few housesits which gave me the ability to make money, some friendly critters to keep me company and quiet places for me to do my schoolwork!

Each day, I looked forward to seeing my classmates, two of whom I ended up being very close with as we formed a study group. I loved learning about the different ways that humans, plants, and animals are made! I loved learning about the ecosystems, photosynthesis and cellular respiration and so many more facets of basic biology!

To keep it short, my semester went like this… four days a week, I would go to school about 8 AM and class would be finished around 1 PM. Would usually take about a half hour to an hour break, then head straight back into the homework box to finish my labs, homework and study for any test, quizzes, and/ or exams that we had. One by one each quiz was tackled, each exam finished, each homework assignment completed, and each lab typed to near perfection!

(I found sooo much joy learning about basic biology)

A quarter of the way end of the semester, the computer that I was gifted fell off the bathroom counter and onto the floor. It was already having issues running and kept glitching but this made it worse! Thankfully, my grant money came in just before it actually crashed and I was able to get a tablet to finish the remainder of my coursework on. During the semester there were two field trips. The first one, I did get to attend, but it was also a very bittersweet moment for me. The location was at regional park that I spent countless hours training for races at. There I was, given walking sticks by my professor to help me along the journey, and I was about to walk into the very park that I used to spend hours upon hours pouring my heart out to God as I trained. Upon my arrival, I ran into somebody who used to see me running all the time. I was given a moment to briefly speak to her and then we headed as a class into the park as I swallowed back my tears. Halfway into the field trip, my professor decided to have me take the lead and show them around a bit. By the power of God I was able to help the class maneuver around on some of the trails, passed where at the Monarch butterflies hang around during butterfly season, and made our way back out to the parking lot. I felt alive again! In total, we covered about 4 miles of land! This is farther than I had walked in a long, long time! Afterward, as I went on to eat lunch with one of my lab partners and another class mate… The locking in my sacrum began again!

That week, I went and saw my physical therapist and we started from the ground up again which meant that I had to do an alternate project for the next field trip. My heart sank as my class went on to do an outdoor hike through some of the hills that I first started running in while I had to go to another location alone. Right around the same time, the same neighbor who helped me get signed up for classes allowed me to borrow a car that she had bought originally for her daughter. I went down to the other location given to me by my professor so I could do my sign meant. As I was gone observing various parts of the ecosystem and taking notes, someone broke into the car! I was mortified! Thankfully nothing was stolen, and I brought the car home and explained to my neighbor what it happened. I offered to pay for it, but by the grace of God, she refused. Wow… grace! As I continue through the semester, literally studying day and night, taking only Sundays off, I found moments of relief in the pool at one at my housesits. Finally, my body had allowed me to swim a bit here and there which was such a mental release considering all that I was dealing with! However, as the semester came to an end, the pressure from all the coursework and constant studying until nearly midnight some days along with family struggles (including the news that my sister was about to have ANOTHER baby) my body was beginning to show signs of having enough!

As the semester ended, I was relieved to have the work load lifted from my shoulders! I spent another three days in bed due to the pain that resulted from stress, and as I was carefully walking through target, I received an email from my professor letting me know that I had received one of four A’s in her class! Again, I was humbled by God’s grace and sovereign hand over my studies! I thanked her for all that she did, but then she reminded me that while she did teach me, I was the one who did the work! I then had to remind myself that it was God who gave me the grace, power, and determination to finish the work! So, another victory helped give me the strength and determination to just. keep. going!

Once again I find my post getting lengthy, so I will leave it here for now! I hope that those of you who have been reading my story are encouraged to continue pressing on no matter what you face! Know that God is with you, He sees what you need before you even need it. Never give up! Never lose hope! Until next time… GOD BE WITH YOU!

(Me with my nephew celebrating school victories! Despite the chaos, he and I have been like little buddies through it all!)

Let The Races Begin: Part 12 of My Journey and Stovetop Baked Oats!

Standard

Healing, it comes in many forms. For some, it’s a healing touch, comforting word, expressions of art or even a time of getting away from it all to clear one’s head. For others, such as myself, it’s not that easy. I’ve had to learn to heal as I go from one stressful and traumatizing situation to the next. I’m sure you all wonder if I’ve ever wanted my life to be any different. Of course I have! At the same time, more recently, I have learned that these trials are what have made me into who I am today. Without the stress, without the trauma, without the chaos, without everything that has happened in my life to bring me pain and to tear me down, I would not be nearly as strong as I am let alone have the knowledge and understanding of who God is in my life as I am and do today. No, I’m not saying that I’m in anyway shape or form perfect. I have SO far to go; however, I’m starting to see maturity birth in me as I have been more and more willing to except my circumstances, do what I can do to change them, press into God, find His strength through it all, and stop wishing my life was any different. My life is an example of how touch can cause pain instead of healing, words can tear one down to a point of feeling complete self worthlessness, and how the various forms of art that you use to heal can be torn down by others making you feel like you have no right to enjoy those things. The abuse that I suffered growing up physically, verbally, and the like along with being ridiculed and bullied as a child for liking to sing, act and dance… brought me pain in ways I can’t even begin to express. I guess you can kind of laugh with me and just call me the female version of the “Diary of Wimpy Kid.” What’s great about this is that it’s usually the wimpy kid to end up rising above by the power of God and changing the world for the better! I can only hope that my life has a powerful impact on at least a few people that I encounter during this brief moment in eternity. The main lesson I can learn from all of this is that when everything in life turns to pain, when every dream I have seems to just crumble and fall, there is one and only ONE source that I can rely on and that is Christ Himself.

Now, I left off in my journey last time where I had just had to leave my job due to lack of transportation and a severe injury. It was now time for God to strip away every bit of pride, selfishness, bitterness, everything that was not Him, and begin to build new strengths and characteristics I never thought I would ever have. Here goes with part 12 of my journey.

My Journey Part 12

So, there I was, jobless, fighting to regain my strength, and not sure of what the next day was going to hold. Each day, I forced myself to get up, get out of bed, pray and read the word, and yes … rebuild my ability to run again. One thing I witnessed during the season is God‘s providence! He always knows what we need when we need it! You see, just before leaving the grocery store, I had received a call from someone I did routine housesits for. She asked me to watch her home while she was out of town for a little over a week and then do another one for nearly a month right around Christmas. The second housesit for her would become the longest one I had ever done for anyone! The problem with this is, I would have to request time off right around Thanksgiving in order to do so because doing the job would require my not being away from the home for more than four hours at a time. I trusted God and excepted the job right away! After all, this woman had become very dear to me and so were her critters. I really didn’t want to see anyone else that she didn’t know he put in charge seeing is that she trusted me. Wow… this woman… a judge… trusted ME?! An ex drug addict… me? Yes! Truly God CAN redeem all things! Now, upon my leaving the job at the grocery store, it turned out I definitely had time to make sure that I was there for that entire housesit instead of having someone else take care of it. The first and shorter one was so refreshing! I spent most my time running and relaxing with the pup. Then I returned home and it was back to regular life where everything was a struggle. In the middle of it, my little sister reached out and helped mom and me. My sister… someone who had a kid of her own and barely had enough to take care of her self was helping us! I felt so awful! I felt like somehow I failed her! At the same time it was help… A few weeks passed and I was off to enter my next and longest housesit. This one took place over the Christmas season. Though I was very alone during this season, it was much needed time away from the craziness of life.

December 14, 2013 I FINALLY got to race again! I went to an event called “the Dam jingle bells” race hosted by a local family that has held a very special place in my heart! The feelings of being out on the race track again were incredible!

The energy of the people, the excitement of walking up to the start line, the quick push of my foot as I took the first step racing towards the finish, each moment of that beautiful course with views of the water as the clean crisp air filled my lungs all while adrenaline rushed through me like a wild fire… My spirit sang and soared! I was doing exactly what I was born to do! By the grace of God, I crossed the finish line and came in 1st in my age group! Fast… still… even though I hadn’t been racing for a while, God’s grace was on me!

On Christmas Day I went off with my mom, sister and nephew to enjoy one of my most treasured races! It was a gold rush five miler held in the Richmond hilltop area. When I arrived, I saw Big Al who automatically greeted me with a hug and a smile! I had called my godmother a few days prior and she said that she would be there, but come race day she was nowhere to be found! An anxiousness grew in my spirit. SOMETHING was off! I tried calling her a couple times, but there was no answer. I left a few messages, and prayed that she was OK. Meanwhile, the race had to go on! I stepped up to the start line, Big Al did countdown and… OFFFFFF I flew! Every step was such a blessing! The wind flowing through my hair, the pavement under my feet, my heart racing as I flew around each corner and up each hill all the way to the finish line to come in first place Female!!!! My first Christmas with my new nephew, and he got to see me finish what I love to do the most! “CONGRATULATIONS!!!” said Al! “You won!!!” “But my competition wasn’t here,” I said (meaning my godmother and a woman named Erica). “You STILL won!!!” He said! Then he continued to remark on how fast I came in for the 5 miles! It felt good, but at the same time everything just felt off without my godmother and godfather there.

Shortly after his congratulating me, Al took me aside, sat me down in his car and explained his concern to me about how I was doing. He was concerned that I left my job at the grocery store. He was just worried about me as a whole. I explained to him everything that had happened with my dad and the grocery store, and he encouraged me, like a dad, to find a way to pick up the pieces of my life and put it back together before it was too late! “get back into school,” He said, “ get another job, just don’t give up!” Those words, as encouraging as they were meant to be were better sweet to my ears! I didn’t want to do anything else but run! I was so tired of doing what everybody else wanted me to that I just felt like I needed a break from pushing myself. And looking back, I can see that his words were probably the wisest words I could’ve heard at that time. I’ll forever cherish that man and the impact that had on my life!

After the race, I went back to spend some time at the housesit with the dog, then it was out to my house to open presents and enjoy Christmas dinner with my family and a neighbor.

Just as I was sitting down for dinner, I received a call… it was my godmother. She explained to me that my godfather was in the hospital and that it would be best if I saw him as soon as possible. I knew that he had cancer, but I didn’t know how bad it was. For some reason, I didn’t realize how bad it was! I also knew that this call was serious because she had never asked me to see in the hospital before. Though we were close, she never called me unless it was important. That’s something I’ve always respected about her. I informed my mom about the situation, and we all dropped everything and went out to see them!

Upon arriving at the hospital, my godmother officially adopted me as her goddaughter. She told the staff that I was family and from that day on I have been called her goddaughter. For me, this is an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life. When I saw my godfather, they were preparing him to get to an actual hospital room. As I talked to him, he started talking running and told me my godmother was in her peak season for racing! Hahaha it was adorable how even in one of his most painful moments, all he could think about was my godmother and how much he admired her ability to run! I held his hand and talked to him a bit, and the walked out into the waiting room to spend some time with my God Grammy while my godmother and godfather got prepared to get him into a room. Once they had him settled in, my family and I went up to see him. We tried to talk as best as possible, but as it got late, we had to leave. Wow… the man who introduced me to my best friend and godmother, the man who watched over me at races, who would sacrifice his personal food preferences so that I could enjoy allergen free meals with them, who told wonderful stories of planes and cars and of his childhood, the man who cheered me on and coached me on my stride during races… the man who was like a father to me…. was dying! I didn’t know how to fully process it, so I stuffed my feelings in the back of my mind until I later found a moment alone to cry. I then went and said good night to my godmother and God Grammy, and I headed back to the house to get some rest.

The next few days and began to wind down and get ready to leave that housesit. I also beganto pray to the Lord because I didn’t know what I was going to do next about finances, and I really didn’t want to go home yet. Just two days before that job ended, I received a knock at the door. It was my dear friend and old landlord that had me caring for her husband before he passed! Apparently, her and her family were going on vacation and needed me to watch their property while they were away. The job would start immediately after I left the house sit that I was already doing! God heard my prayer! So… I gladly excepted knowing that God truly had my future in His hands!

Now, I’m going to leave off here for this week! BEFORE I go though, I’m going to give a recipe for simple stove top baked oats that I recently came up with! This is super simple and incredibly tasty. Also, since mother’s Day is tomorrow, it might be something you could make for mom for breakfast!

Stovetop baked oats

Oats

-1/2 plus 1 tsp rolled oats

-1 pinch baking soda

-1 pinch baking powder

-1/2 plus 1 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk OR water

-1/4 tbsp olive oil

Topping

-1/2 individual container Oikos triple zero vanilla yogurt

-1/2 Apple

-1/2 cup blueberries

Directions

Put oats, water/milk, baking soda, and baking powder into a blender and blend until smooth. Put Oil into a mini egg frying pan that has a lid I’ll put the link for the one that I have right here. Cook with lid on, on medium temp until baked all the way through. Flip the pan over to release oats onto a plate, top with the yogurt and fruit and serve!

In closing, I just want to say that I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day! Here’s to my mom who has been one of the greatest blessings in my life and who stood by me when most people wouldn’t dare be there for me! She’s my best friend, my rock, my everything!!!

Winter Break and food victories

Standard

Love… That’s a word that’s been on my heart this season. With the semester now at a close… So much to say… The trials I faced through the past few months were, at times frustrating and brought me nearly to a point of dropping classes all together. Yet’ one thing kept me pressing on… LOVE!
Let me be more specific for ya’ll. Since my last post, I found myself so crunched timewise between school, work, Choir, volunteer work at the church (halloween carnival) doctors/ Chiropractic appointments, ect. all while trying to manage the pain I’ve been in off and on and maintain a family life that doing anything outside of it was nearly impossible. I found myself completely staying away from any form of exercise (including ab work) simply because my body was hurting and I really have felt the need to heal. This was such a huge challenge for me! With pressures of classes, I found I needed an outlet and God provided one! I soon began to draw!
Without going into too much detail about draining trials I’ll say this… They included further blood testing to find out why my white blood cell count is still low, an injured pet that we ended up having to seek financial support for help to cover, a situation I needed to fix one my car, news about the horrific shape my troubled loved one is in and more… Between that and the war in my body…. I barely had the strength to press on through finals. However, there are always blessings in the storms of life! At the Halloween carnival, Alex Ramon’s assistant (Megan Doyle) hooked up the sweetest care package full of my favorite college snacks and drinks! Also, my modern day pen pal, Emily (who I hope to one day meet), sent a huge care package for my family and me full of food and clothing AND bible study materials! Plus… People at random from my church reached out to help. It’s incredible! Always, just when my family and I needed it!
Now… Here it is… Another break, and yes… The stress of school and struggles landed me in bed off and on  for the first few days. Knowing that there’s help out there, just praying for the miracle of provision to get it…. I continue to do what God has placed before me, taking one step at at time, trusting that He knows best! The love for my troubled loved one and for her little one that mom and I care for is truly helps me press on! With that, I’ll share some food victories with y’all. Also, before I go…

Food victories:

1.I got to try a new brand of cereal called Purely Pinole, which I TOTALLY love!

2. Oatmeal for lunch… and no… I didn’t work out during that time, so it was a BIG victory. It was a combination of Trader Joe’s gluten free oats and Rachel’s overnight oats (both the Purely Pinole and the Rachel’s were gifts from my dear pen pal Emily which were sent in a beautiful care package).

3. I started ditching my obsession with fat free yogurt for lowfat yogurt and kefir.

4. The Sunday before Christmas, I enjoyed fellowship at my God mothers’s church where they provided a meal of spanish rice, steamed veggies with EVOO, cod baked in EVOO, and salad… for me.. this was a big step out in social eating. Also, it was a BIG victory!

img_20161227_112522

In closing, I have a few questions for you…

What is your favorite part of Christmas?

What’s you favorite Christmas carol?

What do you do when it seems that nothing seems to go right in life?

Do you have any New Years resolutions?

R and R with cheese cake!

Standard

Screenshot_2016-01-13-11-17-13

Hello all… I hope your Christmas and New Years were brilliant! Mine were… well, a lesson in finding enjoyment regardless of what life brings! You see, winter break brought me to yet another season of having to mainly stay inside, at home (still not be to run outside or walk up and down too many hills and praying for provision for a car) and watch my nephew ( daycare owner was out of town and childcare coverage changed for my mom). So, outside of work, church and few outings with friends, I’very spent the majority of my break inside, trying to make the most of things.

As Christmas neared, we got a tree, my mom nd nephew decorated it (with a little help from me), then a day or two later, a family member was alerted about a pear tradition that involved child sacrifices being tied to the whole Christmas tree thing and…. that family member quickly took down the tree. Out of respect, I took down the little one in my room. I tried not to let myself dwell on our lack of tree but couldn’t help feeling disappointed. Meanwhile, I counted my blessings… the Lord provided ways for me to get some gifts for my mom, nephew and a few other people, and I got to spend a quiet day with my family.  The following day I was blessed with the opportunity to sing at a dear friend’s wedding and enjoy and amazing meal with them at the reception.

Days passed, I stayed home with little guy while mom went to work. I found ways to do some exercises and balance work to help relieve  stress from being indoors all day. I also found fun projects for me and little dude to do. This time has been very challenging for me, with battleing the urges to malnourished myself, I’ve fought through prayer and dedication to make proper changes… some days have been better than others, but hey… progress is progress. I’m now up 15 lbs from where I was and feeling much better energy wise!

As the New Year came and went, I begain to dread my time at home with little guy and actually looked forward to it. Getting to know him more, the hugs in the morning, bible devotionals, getting creative with his meals and actually making something he will eat and want more of (picky little eater ) brings joy to my heart.

Now, as the beginning  of  a  new   semester draws near… I’m battleing yet another injury. My hamstring tightened do to wearing old shoes at work and possibly some strength training I’d done, leaving me with a bit of an irritation, that along with financial struggles… praise God that’s  all I can say. I choose to continue to look at the following:

1.) God has the victory

2.) My nephew and I are now best buds

3.) Still making progress in proper nourishment

4.) Drawing closer to God (take THAT satan)

5.) Getting some real r&r before classes start

In closing, I just want to say that… life is what you make it. I can dwell on the fact that my running and fitness dreams have been repeatedly stomped on OR, I can say… “You know what…. life is a struggle at times… I’m going to embrace this season and make the most of it! I choose to focus on the many other blessings I have and praise God for keeping me alive and restoring my sanity!” Now for the recipe!

pic_013201612314

Upside-down  Ellis Quark Cheesecake

Filling
-1 container vanilla bean elliquark

-1/2 tsp knoxgelatine

-2 packets #nowfoodsstevia

Crust
-1/4 cup pumpkin joe’s os or oat flour

-1 tsp traderjoes rice krispies

-1 1/2 tbs banana
Directions
Mix gelatine, stevia, and Elli quark together and leave it in the container. Place it in the freezer for about 15-25 min. Mash up the crispies and joes o’s in a bag using a rolling pin. Mash up the banana in a small cup with a fork. Add the cerial to the banana , mix thoroughly and place onto a flattened foil cupcake liner and flatten out until about 1/4 inch from the edge. Place in a toaster oven to toast until edges are golden. Set crust aside to cool. Once cooled, use a butter knife or spatula to remove. Place over top of Elli Quark container and…. DA da daaaaa!!! Upsidedown pumpkin crust cheesecake!

Merry Christmas! With Peppermint Mocha!

Standard

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Mannnn what an amazing year it’s been! Through so many trials and tribulations, times of joy and times of peace, times of loss and times of restoration… God has just been so good! With the year coming to a close and many new things on the horizon in the upcoming year, I wanted to just leave a quick post to say… No matter where you are in life… if you’re on the mountain top of victory, or if you’re in the desolate desert, I pray that you continue to keep pressing on, having faith that God is alive and working! For me, I’m in a place where it seems a lot of my dreams have crashed and faded. Battles still raging with my body, doing all I can to try to pick up the broken pieces of a shattered life and put them back together again only to watch them crumble time and time again. I now come to a point where I’ve had to ask myself… “Am I going to give into doubt and give up, or am I going to continue to believe even when all seems hopeless… pressing on toward new journeys and adventure, knowing that somehow, some way…. God is creating a masterpiece of this mess?” Well, my answer is this… I’ve stopped try to pick up the pieces by myself. I’m handing the pieces of this shattered life and giving it to the only One who can make all things work for good! I pray that if you’re in that shattered dream boat (Lord willing, you’re far from that horrific place) that you’ll hold onto the promises of God and choose not to give up or give in. Know that God is with you. Now, being that in the new year, I’ll be taking on school, work (still looking/ believing for employment), and setting up ministry, I will be taking my posts from 1 per week to 1 per month (possibly every other week).

Now, on to the main topic of faith… with the holiday season I know many people are struggling. There are a lot of lonely people, people who have lost loved ones, people who don’t have enough money to eat, people who go out to get loaded just to avoid the pain… yeah, the season that is supposed to be filled with joy isn’t always for many. However, let me share something with you! This year marks a bitter sweet season in my life. You see, it was last Christmas that I received the call that my God Father was in the hospital. We lost him a few months later. Also, I’m a gift giver… one of the talents the Lord has given me is the gift of giving. Honestly, I really LOVE to give! With my job situation being the way it is… I didn’t know if gifts would even be in my vocabulary this year. Mom and I had a small Thanksgiving dinner, which was perfect being that it’s just her, little guy (my troubled loved one’d child we are caring for), and me. I began to pray… yes I know that Christmas is not about gifts…. but I HAD to ask… I asked the Lord to provide so I could at least get a gift for my mom, little guy and my God mom and for provision for food and other necessities. This I did with my mom. Then, I reminded her of how God blessed us with not just one, but THREE whole turkeys last year! I began to praise God for what He’d already done  and… I remembered, He provided a house sit for me this month and thankfully, I was able to use some of it for gifts!!! Plus, my aunt ordered a Christmas, turkey dinner for us. This past Sunday, I went to see a friend perform at her church. The show was beautiful and after was a gathering in the fellowship hall where I met the pastor. A total divine appointment! We talked about running and I was given the opportunity to share my testimony with him . After, some members pulled out a bunch of food donations and told everyone to help themselves! I was blessed with TONS of salad and bread! Then, the pastor opened up the freezer and… He told me to help myself. Inside was a whole bunch of frozen turkey!!!! I went home with enough food to share with my neighbors! Also, while waiting with my friends for my mom to pick me up, my mom had received a call from the church. They had presents for little guy! When she arrived she had three wrapped boxes for him AND two cards for our family. One had money and the other a grocery card. Apparently the Lord placed it on some of the members hearts to help us out for Christmas! WHAT A BLESSING!!! So, whatever you have faith for ask God. Know that He hears your cry, release your faith and watch Him work. I leave you with this question… What are you believing God for? God bless and MERRY CHRISTMAS! On to the recipe!

*EASY PEPPERMINT MOCHA*

Ingredients

-24oz of brewed Starbucks Columbia blend coffee

-8 oz non fat milk or almond milk heated to the “start” of a boil

-2 tbs Ghirardelli Chocolate syrup

-2 tbs DaVinci Peppermint syrup

-Whipped cream (I use non fat)

-1 small candy cane (crushed)

-2 small candy canes (whole)

Directions

In two 16oz mugs, 1 tbs chocolate and 1 tbs peppermint syrup, add 12 oz of freshly brewed coffee along with 4 oz of heated milk to each cup and stir. top with whipped cream, crumbled candy canes and stick one whole candy cane along the side of the cup so the stick in in the beverage and the hook hangs over the outside. Sit back by the fire with some good old “Blue Eyes” or Buble Christmas music playing and… enjoy!

Sweetmint Hot Chocolate…and Praise Praise Praise

Standard

10702217_10201946211295883_1887729790533595007_n

1 Thessalonians 5:18New King James Version (NKJV)

18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Have you ever been in a position where it seems that Murphy’s law seems to have flooded your life? Everything from financial struggles to family woes and health issues… your world seems to have hit the perfect point in the domino chain to set chaos off in every direction of your life and you’re standing there like… “Whhhhat?” Well…. yeahhh that is something I know all to well! Here it is, yet another week has gone by and this time… a midst the struggles I learned something that helped change my perspective, thus lifting my spirit and giving me hope despite what I face. You see… as we head into another holiday (Christmas), my family and I face the struggles with not being able to see my troubled loved one (due to her addictive behavior), my troubled loved one’s little guy (living with my mom and me) showing signs of aggressive behavior as he battles emotions he (as a 19 month old) can’t yet verbally express, the loss of a VERY treasured loved one (5th death I’ve experienced in the past year), mom and me being informed that we may have to do some major life changes in order to keep little guy (should my troubled loved one decide not to straighten up by March), my search for work, battles with the nagging injury that has put a damper on my running and racing career/ ministry, going to doctors, seeing a counselor to help me deal with the stress from the tidal waves that just seem to keep hitting my family and me… man… a few weeks ago, I found myself depressed and wanting to hide. I was angry with God, myself, the rest of the world and…. the Holy Spirit prompted me to look for a book that I had received from K-LOVE called “From Prison to Praise.” Right away,I (being the visual learner that I am) got a visual of where it was and I headed for my closet, pulled out this timeless classic and… began to read it for the first time. My breath was taken away! For about five years, I’ve had this book thinking I was supposed to give it to someone else, because, after all… I was never in the military… been to jail but not prison…. there’s no way that I could relate to this book! Or so I thought! Little did I know, I’d been in a prison to my circumstances. I’d allowed my attitude to be soured by my circumstances instead of seeing it through a Kingdom set of eyes. You see it’s true that the enemy can’t attack us without permission from God (Job 1:6-12). So, what do we do when that attack comes??? Think GIDEON! This man defeated a huge army with a minuscule army of his own HOW? He PRAISED! He trusted what God told him to do, reduced the number of men under his command and worshiped his way into victory by the power of God! When we praise God despite the impossibilities that surround us, your problems will fade and a sense of peace and joy will overtake you. Why? Because you’re taking your eyes off of your problem and saying, “God, I know this attack was not from you, but YOU DID permit it. For whatever reason You’ve allowed this, I choose to praise You and trust that You will work all things out for my good!(Rom 8:28)” Your problems may worsen, but continue to praise and somehow, some way… God WILL bring the victory! HOLD TIGHT CAUSE IT’S A COMMIN! In closing I’ll say this… while my troubles haven’t decreased…. my joy HAS increased. Financial problems still loom, issues with my troubled loved one… yup… still there, jogged 2 miles and felt the pain AGAIN, however what is no longer there is the sense of despair and anger. I now have peace, joy and hope knowing that God is in control and WILL come through! Be encouraged, be blessed and know that God is with you and with Him Murphy HAS NO LAW! Now, onnnn to the recipe!

Sweetmint Hot Chocolate (For two ❤ )

~Ingredients~

-2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-4 heaping tsp Hershey chocolate syrup

-1 See’s Candy Candy Cane (crushed)

-Nonfat whipped topping (I like this because it’s sweeter and has less calories than regular)

~Directions~

Place almond milk in a sauce pan and heat until it reaches a light bubble of a boil =) Add chocolate syrup and half of the crushed candy cane. place into two mugs, get some whipped cream going on the top and sprinkle crushed candy cane on top! Enjoy every last bit!