Valentines Day and Part 7 of My Journey… the Tornado Spins

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Yay.. valentine’s Day is tomorrow! I’ll be honest, it’s been kind of hard for me to face this holiday. I think I’ve just come to point where like many other people, I do feel that I too want my happily ever after. That being said, I’m trying my best not to hang around sulking and wishing that I had some amazing day all set up with a special someone. I’ve been single for quite some time now, and while there have been a couple of people that have sparked my interest… (those of you who know me personally know that I rarely ever crush so this is a miracle for me) I’m truly waiting on God and letting Him show me what He wants me to do with my life and who He wants me to spend it with. As for life as it is currently, I’m continuing to remain very vague on this topic. I’ll post in detail when victory shows itself. In the meantime, I’m facing my current trails with faith knowing that God has already won the battle.

Now, this next portion of my story is quite a bit heavy for me. To be quite frank, I’ve been avoiding writing this for the past few days. Why? Well, the season that I’m about to dive into and share with you all is season that was probably one of most trying times that I’ve ever dealt with. What’s crazy is, I never expected to go into this much detail, however I feel that sharing my story with you all will hopefully bring about some sort of reminder to you in your life that God will see you through no matter what you’re dealing with! This portion of my journey is written in what I’ll described as a tornado of words. This was the best way I could write it and I feel it best expresses what I was going through.

Before I start, I wanted to encourage you all to go to my friend Emily‘s blog and read her post on helping people during suffering. I was given the opportunity to speak on the podcast which is linked in this post and I would love for you all to be able to hear what the Lord placed on our hearts to share with you! Also, I encourage you to continue reading her blog as it is such a blessing and an inspiration to me and many others! ANYWHO… here goes!

Part 7 of My Journey

* trigger warning! If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are easily triggered, take caution because some of the pictures that I’m posting are of me at a pretty low weight and can be triggering*

Home, you never know how sweet that word really is until the very existence of that factor becomes an inconsistency in your life. For those of you who are just joining and reading my story, I encourage you to go back and start from part one of my journey. For those of you who have stuck along so far, thank you and I hope that you continue to join me.

I left off in my last post with my mom and I finally each finding separate places to live. I was set to move in with a woman for whom I was working, taking care of her home and critters while she worked out of town and came home on the weekends. Upon my arrival there, I got ready to start my fall classes. This time they were online at DVC. I continue to look for more paid work so that I could afford food and basic essentials outside of my rent expenses and actually found a job as a nanny picking up a little girl in Berkeley and taking her to school in Napa several times a week. In the crossover from my restaurant job to my new nanny job, I found myself missing a day of work at the restaurant and having to ask them to forgive me. I explained to them my situation and why I had not shown up. They graciously understood, and I served at that restaurant for the last few days that it was opened. It was so heartbreaking to see someone’s dreams shattered before my eyes. People who invested to build a restaurant that they loved so much to watch it completely sink. Meanwhile, my own life was falling apart and I was trying everything I could to pull it together.

As classes started, and I started my new job, family and life begin to get hectic! First off, the new nanny job promised me a certain weekly wage during my interview, however because it was not in writing they decided to change it to an hourly wage which completely affected my weekly income. Gullibly, I still signed on not realizing how much of a pay cut I was actually taking.

During my first two weeks of courses, issues with my troubled loved one arose. Finally, one evening as I was doing my algebra homework I received a phone call from her saying that she was stranded, and she felt she was ready to go to Teen Challenge. She was crying hysterically, terrified and riding a bus. I previously had promised her that the moment she was ready to get clean I would be right by her side. Holding true to my promise, I dropped everything I was doing, got in my car, called the number she called me from to find out it was the bus driver’s phone, and went to find her on the street that he last left her.

As I drove down Appian Way toward El Sobrante, I saw her walking fast with her head down and tears streaming down her face. I quickly pulled over, had her get the car. “thank you!“She said. “I made a promise to you, you’re serious about this right?!“ “YES!” She said.

Tears streaming down my face with gratitude to God, I drove off and decided to take her to a shelter for the evening so we could figure out and arrange a way for her to get to Teen Challenge the following day. I immediately called Pastor Port Wilburn who, from his own recovery bed told me to come over to his home and he would give me some ideas as far as resources and places that we could take her. On our way to his house, I was faced with a serious demon from my past. My loved one pulled a ball of white mess wrapped up in plastic out of her bra. I knew exactly what that was! It was meth! “I should probably get rid of this since were going to a shelter right?” She asked. “WHAT? Get that out of my car!” I screamed. She quickly threw it out the window, then pull the pipe out of her bra as well and said, “I should probably get rid of this too then right?” “Of course! I can’t believe you brought that with you!” I yelled! She then threw it out the window as well.

We arrived at Pastor Port’s house, and he was recovering from a serious surgery. Out of the kindness of his heart, despite his own trials, he gave me information regarding a couple of shelters in Richmond that could possibly help my her out. The first shelter, was packed and couldn’t take her. The second shelter, was the Bay Area Rescue Mission. By the grace of God despite the fact that she had already burned her bridges with them, they let her stay the evening. The problem is, the next day I found out that there was a paperwork process that she had to go through in order to get into the program at Teen Challenge. The delay lead to her getting antsy, and she headed back out to the streets to do her dirt. I was angry and quickly cut contact with her.

• Quick sidenote, the order of events with this gets really jumbled in my head because of the PTSD that I still suffer from due to these events. So, please bear with me.

About a week and a half later my mother called me to inform me that Teen Challenge was ready to start the process! Having a bad attitude at first, I grumbled my way through it. The next day we headed to Bakersfield. More than halfway there… OK by now it’s obvious that my troubled loved one is my sister, so I’m going to be real here! My sister began to freak out, we had to call the highway patrol to help us get her under control and we were forced to turn right back around and go all the way home. My heart grew cold, and I told her I would not help her until she was absolutely serious again.

Soon, with stresses that built up over time, I was completely unable focus on school, and dropped my classes… Pressure came in, with body in pain and the nanny job (which required a lot of driving) while still barely making ends meet…. I started driving, selfishly into training. It was no longer for the Kingdom nor as an example of a transformed life. It was a place of refuge when, instead, I should have sought God first to be my refuge.

Then, A glimmer of what I thought was hope appeared! The kitty lady and I talked about the possibility of my becoming a personal trainer, and I agreed to clean the mold out of the walls of her bathroom, in exchange for her paying for my training course… Seeing that I found a gym that would agree to hire me. 24 hour fitness interviewed and agreed to hire me, and I was quickly signed up for the “training is fun” course. Meanwhile, the kitty lady was preparing to have her bathroom remodeled thus causing me to have to leave and stay with my mom off and on throughout the rest my time living there. I literally ran around looking like a hot mess from all the pressure I was under. Within one week of receiving my course packet, I was off to Fairfield to take my test which, thankfully, I passed with flying colors!

Training,  going back-and-forth from the kitty house to my moms house, taking a crash course in personal training, and starting a new job where I worked early mornings and had the stress of trying to gain new clients, plus getting ready to leave my nanny job, stressed with the worries of my sister, and…. Then…. I get the call. As I was finishing a training run with my friend Katrina, I received a phone call from my grandmother. My grandfather’s condition had worsened, and the cancer spread to his brain. Was this whirlwind going to end? Within a few days my mom and I packed up a few things and headed out to see my grandfather. Wow… With a quickness, he went from rosey-cheeked & smiling at the sight of me to, lying in bed shriveled up and almost lifeless. I wept and wept and wept! nooooo… After all these years! Why? I prayed and begged God to do a miracle!

Right in the middle of this, I started having to see a chiropractor for the first time in my life. Pain… every area of my life was just. so. painful!!! So much all at once!

I worked one of my final days as a nanny the following day, mom and I had to leave. Then, just after work the next day… My grandmother called, crying. Grandpa had passed. So, as I continued to train, in the back of my mind I kept thinking “I’ll do this for you grandpa! I’ll do this for you!” And the whirlwind kept going… Like they say “first comes the promise, then comes the hurricane! ” I continued to press on! I was emotional, broken, still going back-and-forth between the kitty house and my mom’s house, dealing with the stress of not getting clients at work, I felt like a failure. I decided to add more onto my plate and joined the church choir at Hilltop. Niiiice!!! It was as if I was trying to earn some merit or trying to get someone’s approval. Why all the stressing and striving to do all these things? When really, all God told me to do in the first place, was to love him, and to run the race physically and spiritually for Him. ?! I had lost my site. I was so self consumed and so busy trying to please the world around me that I had fallen out of the Word of God. My foundation was crumbling,  and so was my life!

Clock ticked down to race day, and I finished my final long run for California international Marathon. I completed it surprisingly fast. To my surprise, Sharlet (my Godmother) and Johnny (my Godfather) ware there!!!!! We were all exhilarated!  We actually thought there was a possibility I could qualify for the trials!

As the clock ticked down even further….  More back-and-forth between home, my moms house, and choir. The night before it was time to leave for the event, While staying in my mom’s apartment, my entire body was in pain. All through training for this marathon, I was fighting an internal battle with under eating. A few times my mom had actually prayed privately because of how skeletal I looked… The self-hatred, the stress, pushing through just to prove to who? I lost sight of God, I lost sight of the only  reason I even take a single step let alone a single breath!

Finally, the event came. We stayed it in a hotel (Complements of the kitty lady) I Met up with someone who gave me confirmation of what I believe (yes even today) to be what God has called me to do… run ultramarathons. I then went and ate my prerace dinner, and we headed to sleep so I could be up and ready to race. As I showed up at the start line… I was completely unprepared for how cold it was! I felt like I was swimming in a pool of freezing water my muscles couldn’t move!

As I push through my body hurt… I crossed the finish line limping, to see Sharlet and the family and Bob McNair (Brother in the Lord who helped me get the job at the restaurant and supported me through many dark times) waiting to congratulate me for at least finishing… Yeah… I didn’t even qualify for Boston at this one. I was SO focused on my failure that I missed the blessing of the very people that were there for me! Shortly after meeting them I was off to the medical tent, where I received ice, and talked to Bob on the phone about seeing another doctor (cue the amazing Dr. Runco). Then, ahhhh mom to the rescue with a huge glass of White chocolate nonfat milk from Starbucks!!!! Recovery! Aunt Cheri came along with her and we all walked through Sacramento  on a mission to find a steak house! Not finding anything by foot, we opted to get into the car and found a red lobster.

As we ate, Cheri looked at me with deep concern. My dear Aunt,  My main running inspiration. She asked me what was going on. Reluctantly, I let her know. Between her and my aunt Wendy…. All I can say, is I’m blessed to have such amazing aunts! We headed back to the parking lot of the hotel and soon parted ways… Then, it was back home to face the stress of a sinking job and again uncertainty in my living space. How could I go back home? I felt like such a fool telling everyone that I was trying to qualify for the Olympic trials only to come home broken and empty-handed.

As the end of the year came, my heart grew more and more cold. Stress at home, stress at work, trying to regain my health… Meanwhile, I kept hearing God in the back of my mind. He kept calling me to pick that project up that I left a year before. The fundraiser race I had held with Katrina while everything was originally shaking down. It was inspired by the events that transpired with my sister. I tucked in the back my mind again and just drudged through life.

As things continued to go downhill at 24 hour I met a friend, who originally asked me out for a coffee date, however I had declined being that he was not a believer. This began an awkwardly platonic  friendship. My neediness for friendship at that point, Left me wandering to an older man without faith base that would have been wise me to stay away from. Though he and his family were incredibly Kind to me, I was still trying to fill that daddy void with a friend (seriously, friendship was as far as it went).

In the midst of this I began getting into new age using the excuse that I was a “spiritual” Christian with an “open mind”…uhhh… I needed to open it back up to Jesus! Needing to find some financial stability, I applied to work for a local coffeehouse and got the job. At this point I was completely unwilling to spend all day working at 24 hour fitness and work at the coffee house all while taking care of day to day tasks for the kitty lady, so, Another change of job. The coffee house it was!

As things continue to go on, a friend of mine offered to pay for the race fee for my next marathon, the San Francisco Marathon. Training began again in my will and my time.

Shortly after this I received a phone call from my grandmother… “Jamie,” She said…”You’ll never believe who called…”The only answer that came to mind, was…. “MY DAD!!!!!!!” “Yes,” she said… I’d been waiting for so long, prayed so many nights, just wanting to forget the past and have an opportunity to get to know my dad! Wow! Believe in miracles!

Despite an undertone of warning in her voice I asked for his number, and I made the call. Ring…. Ring…. Ring… “hello?” “hi! Is this (I’ll call him Maui for the sake of keeping his name private)” “Yes…. Who’s this?” “This is Jamie Barnhart, but you would have known me as Raven Frost (my birth name). I’m your daughter!” A sudden pause… “Hello?” I said. “yeah…” He said with a cracked voice…”I’m here” that night, we talked about where he’d been living and how he was so happy I’d called! wow! My dad, after all this time… What a blessing, or so I thought!

Believe it or not, this was just the beginning of many Trumatic events. Again, I am going to have to leave it here for now. I hope that my story is not boring you all in anyway but that it’s encouraging you to face your battles with courage! Know that God is with you. No matter where you are in life, whether things are good or bad, God is there and calling you by name! Until next time, God bless and keep pressing on!

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Pursuing Dreams in the Midst of Tragedy: Part 6 of My Journey

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Hey all I’m back again and I’m just going to dive right in where I last left off. As I mentioned in my last post, I really don’t want to discuss the goings-on in my current life because in all honestly this has become very dark season for me and I really want to focus on God and what He can do instead of venting and talking about my problems to you all.

Anyhow, I left off in my last post at the point where my world seemed to be falling apart. I was just informed that I had to leave the mobile home I was staying in and there was a possibility of eviction for my mom in the home that she was in on the same property. At the same time, I was preparing to host a race to raise funds for Teen Challeng for their human trafficking division, my finances went from being abundant to next to nothing and having to borrow money, and I also had been cast as one of the leads in a show called “Rivets” which is a show I had been wanting to perform in since the moment I saw it. On top of everything else, my health was beginning to go downhill. I had a nagging injury that caused me to limp a lot, and I began to struggle with post marathon depression and an eating disorder.

There were also elements that I did not bring up in my last post. You see, just prior to the marathon I was informed that my grandfather that I had just been reunited with had been diagnosed with cancer. Shortly after his diagnosis, I had to borrow money from him which was the LAST thing I ever wanted to do. This was a total nightmare!!

Meanwhile, in the middle of preparing for the fundraiser race, my computer totally crashed! It literally felt like all hell had broke loose in my life!

The second week of June 2011, I completely packed my things and moved in with a friend and her daughter. This was supposed to be for a very limited amount of time. While I was there, she was trying to help me find a new job because the restaurant wasn’t giving me enough hours. She wanted me to drop the show, quit running and forget about hosting the race. She said that I needed to get my things in line first before I try to pursue those areas. The problem with that was, I was already committed to the show, hosting the race, and to training for another marathon in an attempt to qualify for the Olympic trials. For me to drop those commitments during a very devastating point in my life would not have been psychologically healthy for me. I felt that I needed to continue to work at the restaurant and look for a different job that would allow me to be off in time to go rehearsals and provide a way for me to save up money. While this woman was most definitely wanting the best for me, I couldn’t mentally handle losing anything more at that time. Mornings I continued to put in my two- plus hour training runs, I spent the afternoons rehearsing alone, preparing for the fundraiser and looking for work. In the evenings, I went to rehearsals with my dear friend Irena who soon became like a sister to me.

June 25th, The day of the fundraiser came. Hardly anyone showed up. Thankfully, some of my dearest friends (including Irena and the amazing woman that would later be called my godmother) came and supported the event, otherwise it would’ve been a total flop. Katrina and I raised about $400, which was a TOTAL blessing, however I was so disappointed in myself for not doing better. I wanted so badly to do much more for Teen Challenge because I felt that this was my way of indirectly reaching out to my troubled loved one. That day also marked the day when the pain in my leg started to increase…. I had no idea how bad this would eventually get.

After the event, I did my best to shrug off what I felt was failure and focused on my next tasks which were the show and finding work/ a new place to live. July 13, opening night of the show came… that morning, I was informed that I was to find a new place to live that weekend. Also, just as I was about to start getting ready, I received news that my mom had been evicted from her home and was living in her car with my troubled loved one. I was shattered…. Devastated. I had no idea where I was going to go, I was worried sick about my mother, I was so angry and bitter at my troubled loved one for letting things go as far as they did and for not cleaning up. At the same time, I hated the drug that held her captive. Also, my weight had plummeted and I didn’t see myself as too thin. Anorexia athletica had set in.

I remember standing in front of the mirror and professor McKarthy came in to try to get everybody ready. She sensed something was off with me. I just broke and told her everything that had been happening. She stood and looked at me in utter shock, gave me a hug and not knowing exactly how else to respond… told me it was ok to pull myself together and to go ahead and just get on out there. Curtain came up, the show went on, and I have to say that was the best decision I ever made. Never have I felt more alive and more like myself then when I’m performing. My love for the stage, for performing arts… that was it… I was doing exactly what I felt (and still feel) that was created to do!

The following day, professor David came in and said that he felt that I needed some cheer. What a sweetheart! He handed me a brand new pallet of eyeshadow so I could do my makeup properly! Perfect timing too, because I didn’t have proper make up the night before. I felt my mind slowly slipping as I waited backstage to go on. I began to sing “In my own little corner, in my own special chair, I can be anything I want to be.“ From a movie remake of Cinderella. PTSD was beginning to take its toll. I had no idea what that was or that I ever suffered from it until recently.

Closing night came, and my mom informed me that after finding drug paraphernalia in her car, she had had it. She finally left my troubled loved one at a neighbor’s house and decided it was time to let her take care of herself since she was not ready to let go of the addiction. She and I spoke about what we would do the next day. She had nowhere to go, and as of the following day I didn’t have anywhere to go either. I was set up for an interview at a salon in Lafayette, so we decided to head out there in the morning and discuss living situations that afternoon.

The following morning, I packed up my things in my moms car, we went for a training run at my favorite local park, and I prepared for my interview. I was such a wreck when I showed up to the interview that the lady totally turned me down. I don’t blame her either. Shortly after that, I received a phone call from my professor who reached out and really tried to help us. She gave me some information in regards to some shelters and told me to call if I needed anything. Her kindness and her heart was more than I could’ve asked for during that time.

Just after her phone call I received an email from the woman I had been staying with saying that there was a woman in the church that I used to attend that was looking for a live-in house sitter. She needed someone to live in her home and take care of her four cats and home while she was away on business during the week. She would be home on weekends and the person would remain in the home. This job was a temporary assignment while she worked out of town, however, it was a job and place to stay. She gave me her email and I contacted the woman right away. I exchanged emails back-and-forth with back and forth with the woman I’ll just call “the kitty lady.” We arranged a time that day to meet and discuss the possibility of my taking the job. Upon meeting her, it appeared that I had received the job. However, it wasn’t to start until the following day. That evening, mom and I headed out to my grandparents in Cameron Park to spend the night and figure out what we were going to do.

The following day, we returned it to the Bay Area. After some prayer and consideration, I told my mom to let me call her employer and offered to talk to the company that she cleans apartment buildings for to see if they might allow her to work as a property manager in exchange for part of the rent and she could pay the rest. At first she resisted, but I told her that I was willing to speak and that she didn’t have to say anything. During the phone call, they told me to go into the office and they would see what they could do. We pulled up, I walked in, and shaking I asked to speak with the manager of the office. After I explaining to him what was going on, he took compassion on my mother and gave her an incredible deal allowing her to stay in an apartment they were just about to remodel on a temporary basis. Yes, both living situations were temporary, but they were just in the nick of time!

We then raced off to meet the kitty lady where she officially invited me to take the job. I then went and retrieved the rest of my belongings and I headed off to my new home in Pinole. Finally… some hope! Or so it seemed.

Now, I’ll have to stop here for now. As I’ve said many times, thank you all for joining me as I share my story. I hope that you all have a blessed weekend and I hope you continue to join me as I share many ups and downs that God has brought me through. Until next time, God bless!

This was one of the blessings in the middle of the storm! One of the cast members of Rivets happens to be related to MC Hammer! He came and saw the performance, and the cast got to meet him!

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!

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!

Crossing the Jordan

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Back again after a looong pause! Hope ya’ll have had an amazing month! I, well… Have been in turbo mode! Praising all the way! From church to classes to homework and quizzes to rehearsals for “All In The Timing” to Doctor’s appointments, physical therapy appointments, and various counselor appointments all while praying for provision and working around bus schedules and asking friends for rides… all I can say is, the Lord told me to cross over, but He didn’t say it would be easy! In the midst of it all, there’s just been an amazing peace. While the pressures of school work, family, finances, a recent cold/flu bug that I just got over and rehabbing from this “irritation” as I like to call it have brought on all new levels of stress… the Lord has been with me every step of the way. I wake up every morning, praising God for another day, thanking Him for all He has done and continues to do. Also, I’ve learned to quit asking Him to deliver me from this mess and start asking Him to guide me through it. To give me strength to press on even at times when things have seemed to be almost unbearable. I’m learning to grow where I’ve been planted, and maaaannnn have I grown! Praise GOD! SO, I’ll close today with no recipe or workout, just a simple word of encouragement… whatever you’re facing… our GOD is MUCH bigger than anything we could every face! Trust in Him to lead and guide you and remember…

“Oh love the Lord all you saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person. Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. All you who hope in the Lord.”

Psalm 31:23-24

Merry Christmas! With Peppermint Mocha!

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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!