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

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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!!!

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Transformation through trials: my journey continues part 11

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Run… just. RUN! Breathe in, breathe out, let the rhythm of the pavement under your feet intermingle with the rhythm of your heart while adding the melodic sounds of all your worries and doubts being stripped away with every blessed step… people used to ask me why I ran so much, and THIS is why: with every step, every mile, every hill repeat or track workout, and with every race I filtered a new worry, shedded a new doubt, pushed myself to levels and limits I never dreamed possible! It made me feel bigger than every person who ever harmed me, lied to me, manipulated me or used me. It’s on the running courses that I truly poured my heart out to God, where I connected with His spirit and felt His presence the most.. I just feel as though I was created to run… my passion… my purpose… just. RUN! Now, hopefully y’all can see and get an idea of why I continued to run and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will race and fly again! I was born for this!

One thing I did not mention in my previous post was the amount of physical pain that I had been through during these times. Yes, I mentioned that I was seeing chiropractors and doing what I could to try to figure out how to alleviate the pain. The problem is, my nerve endings were constantly on fire! I was eating a lot of normal table salt and loaded my oatmeal with sugar. I also ate a lot of other sugar containing foods which became a total breeding ground for inflammation! I would take ibuprofen from time to time, but I really felt that my body just needed to be able to handle the pain on its own. I later found out that I was allergic to ibuprofen, but will get into that, Lord willing, at a later time.

More recently, I have been very quiet about the current details of my life. I will say, however, that I was blessed with yet another opportunity to act in the resurrection production at the church I attend. There I was, delivering the opening monologue as the “healed woman!” In this brief skit, I explained the years of battling with the issue of blood and how one touch of the garment of Jesus healed her, all of her issues were “settled and done!” So much of me related to that monologue! For the first time in my entire time being a performer, I truly connected with the character! Years and years of battling pain, emotionally, physically, etc. Here I am, right now, reaching for the garment of Jesus… begging and pleading for HIS healing touch!!! The thought of finally being delivered from the physical pain I deal with on a day-to-day basis is what really helped me give everything that I am into offering that performance to God and to the audience. I can only hope that this piece touched the heart of those watching as much as it touched mine. I pray that whoever was in the audience that needed a touch from Jesus got their touch that day. Meanwhile, I hope and pray that I too will receive my miracle!

Now, I left off in my last post where my sister and I were becoming friends, she had cleaned up, got into a program, and had brought a little bundle of joy into our lives! So, after a long break from blogging, I’ll continue with my journey.

Part 11 of my journey

Family, there’s no connection like it! The sense of being loved, the sense of knowing that you have people that not only have your back, but share the same blood… this is irreplaceable!

My experience with family hasn’t always been healthy. People didn’t always have my back as you all can see. I didn’t always feel loved. I often felt shoved out and secluded. Yet, with the little bundle of joy that had been brought into our lives, things appeared to change for the better! Life FINALLY seemed to be going well!

Day-to-day life was a bit rough. I was out of a job, so I definitely struggled financially. Then, a bittersweet moment came. The bitter part? I received news a few months prior to my shake down with my dad that the landlord from the first place that I lived at in El Sobrante had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and was fading quickly. This was the man who let me stay in the mobile home when my life was falling apart! He was honestly one of the sweetest people I had ever met! The sweet part? Well, his wife had been caring for him on a daily basis. She needed someone to help take care of him once or twice a week while she went and spent time with her family. She called me about a month prior to the loss of my car and asked if I could care for him in exchange for pay. Honestly, I would’ve done it for free; however, she insisted on paying me and I was really blessed to be given the opportunity to be entrusted with his care. For a short while after the loss of my car I didn’t receive any calls from her to help out.

Just after the birth of my nephew, his health went way downhill and he was bedridden. His wife ended up calling me a bit more. It wasn’t consistent work. She didn’t need me every week, but it was provision during a very dry financial season and the perfect opportunity to try to give back to someone who had given so much to me.

I think one of the most encouraging moments while taking care of him was when he actually let me feed him! Prior to my caring for him, he would not allow anybody other than his wife help him eat. Then, as I was upstairs reading a book, I heard him mumble something about wanting cookies! I quickly went to the cabinet, got his chocolate chip cookies, a cup of milk, and headed down the stairs to the basement where he lay. Here he was… this man that I used to see cleaning up the yard every day, driving around the streets of town, joking with me when I’d run by, a man who chose to enjoy traveling with his wife rather than spending a fortune on sparkling up a home that would only fade away, a man so cheery… now, barely able to move or even talk! My heart just broke for him! I sat next to him, dipped the cookie in some milk so it would be soft enough for him to eat, and he allowed me to feed him! If any of you know what Lou Gehrig’s is like, you’ll understand that when someone is in the final stages of this disease, the simple task of eating can cause them to choke and die. His trusting me to feed him was probably one of the most encouraging moments I’ve ever had in my life! He slowly finished his cookies and I helped him sit up and drink the rest of his milk through a straw. This became something I definitely looked forward to during my times of caring for him!

In my personal life, I continued to run, but I wasn’t really able to race. I did maybe one race during that whole time, but emotionally I was just not with it. The eating disorder had really grabbed a hold of me. I was running to burn calories instead of running to train. This became very obvious at my birthday party at yummygurt in Pinole. I was absolutely exhausted, and way too thin! Looking back, I know now that my God-family could see it, but I was so blind!

I was trying so hard to build the nutrition business with my friend, just trying to survive, going with my mom to work in Berkeley just so I could run on the streets out there and then help her clean buildings, my baby sister was even helping US with food despite having to provide for herself and the baby… I was stressed out, wrung out, and felt guilty, miserable and worthless! Meanwhile, my sister kept going through her program and entered into transitional home! A bit of hope in the midst of chaos! Seeing her press on through her trials encouraged me to start applying for work… for real, stable work. Finally, I received a call from a local grocery store saying they wanted to interview me! I quickly went in and was hired that day for clerk position in the deli/bakery! This was yet another bittersweet moment for me. Having the new job meant that I quite possibly would not have the time to take care of my dear friend.

The day of my orientation, I was caring for him. My mom came to get me, and as I headed out the door, something told me this was the last time I would ever see him again. I looked back at him and said, “goodbye Wally.” It was almost as though I was terrified to even go near him. I’ve carried the guilt of this moment even till today. That evening, just after my orientation, I received a call from his wife that he had passed. I totally fell apart!

Starting work at the grocery store definitely had its challenges! To be honest, I originally applied there because I had a crush on someone that worked there. Upon getting hired, I found out that he had a girlfriend. The way he acted around me did not make it look that way that’s for sure! Though we never went past friendly “hi how are you” conversations, he definitely acted like he was interested. So, I did my best to be as civil as possible. If we were in a room like the break room alone together, I tried to stay as far away from him as possible or leave that room. I kept my conversations with him very quick and simple. With the schedule at my new job, I barely had time for the nutrition business. Honestly, none of the products really, truly suited me. I found myself trying to fit into a mold that just wasn’t for me.

Long hours at the deli with extremely chaotic shifts, the battles of trying to rise above financially, the mental strain of being at work for nine hours and trying to get to and from home, all this became exhausting, all while working around the awkwardness with the guy that worked there… ughh! What a mess!

When I worked in the deli in the evenings, I would go for a run in my area in the mornings. Then, they decided they liked me to work in the bakery and open in the mornings. As one of the few people who was actually able to complete all the opening work by the time the store opened and still have it look neat… they kept me primarily in that position and often had me do switchbacks where I would close, then open. This meant early mornings around 3-4 AM busting my butt to bake bread, donuts, packaged food, etc. I would often be off around noon or 1.

(One of the beautiful cakes that the decorators made 💜💜💜)

The town I live in is far away from any real grocery stores including the one I worked for. Using the bus system would have taken me several hours to get home. So, I would go for a run in the area and do personal Bible studies and church membership homework while I waited for my mom to head back from Berkeley and pick me up on her way home. I found myself often and pain because I had no way to see Dr. Runco in Concord. I then started to see the first chiropractor I’d gone to in El Sobrante who was helpful, but just didn’t seem to be able to get to the root of it. Restrictive eating began to worsen. While I did eat a lot, I was not eating enough calories or the right nutrients for all of the work that I was doing.

Then, devastating news hit! My step grandmother on my mom’s side had been reported missing! Apparently, she had gone to go visit an area in the mountains that was very special to her and my grandpa (who had passed) and never returned. My aunt sent me an article that had been written about it through a DM on my Facebook page. We prayed, waiting, and hoped for several days only to receive the report that she had apparently gotten lost then distracted while driving and ended up trapped in the middle of nowhere in her car. Every day that she was out there she wrote letters about everything that had been going through her mind. The woman who taught me to color in the lines, let me call her “grandma fluffy,” who let me play with her art supplies and create whatever I wanted, who bowled like a maniac and Who always had some quirky new creation to show me when I visited was gone! Grief shook me like an earthquake! links to the news articles that explain her disappearance and final days are below:

Diaries of a missing woman

Grass Valley Resident Missing

I was exhausted! The combination of long, draining hours at work, physical pain, the loss of two people that were dear to me, malnutrition, constant stress of finances all beganto take their toll on me! PTSD hit in ways I would not wish on anybody! During early morning shifts, I would begin to hallucinate and see shadows in the darkened corners of the store. I would shake and twitch at random times, black out, forget random scheduled events, and would have night tremors so bad that I would wake up and feel paralyzed!

Finally, I was in so much physical pain that I went back to Dr. Runco to see if he could help! Slowly, I started feeling a bit better. Still, everything became too much for me! I cried out to God, and He answered in a very odd way. While driving to work one morning, my mom’s car failed on us. It barely made it to the grocery store parking lot! My manager was kind enough to let her stay inside where she made some calls and tried to figure out what to do. I had to open the bakery which is a very high pressure/high stress job while seeing my mom crushed and feeling hopeless. Her job relied on a good working vehicle and the ability to get to her accounts to clean them.

After spending most of the morning there, one of the managers was kind enough to take her home. There we were, in yet another position of not knowing what to do! My poor mom! As if it wasn’t enough that she stressed constantly about finances and life… this had to happen to her too! We were both just trying to get our heads above water! I felt like little tortured kitty drowning in a pond only to be beaten down every time I started to rise and get back up!

I continued trying to work. Fellow church members helped me get to and from work and chiropractic appointments, but all the stress became way too much! My body had had enough!!! I was in horrible pain again, and my chiropractor wrote a form of temporary disability releasing me from my job. With the injury that I was dealing with, all the bending and twisting had become too much. It was one thing for me to walk and run and do balance work which are normal, human functions; however, repeated bending, stooping, twisting, and all at an extremely high-pressure pace… yeahhh not the wisest position for someone to be in if you’re trying to recover from an injury! I took a few days back while trying to continue to gently walk, then was able jog and slowly regain my strength.

I remember laying in bed one night completely exhausted and friend of mine that I had met while working in the deli called me. This woman was honestly one of the greatest blessings in my storm! She encouraged and reminded me that she and I both knew that the deli/ bakery job was temporary. She reminded me of all the ideas that I had as far as ministry goes. Then, something came to mind. While I was working in the deli/bakery, I was constantly encouraging people to live out their dreams to do everything they’ve always wanted to do. There I was, letting life consume me, battling an eating disorder, and watching people that I knew from running and racing come in on Sundays after race events, my spirit longing so desperately to fly!… I would watch the choir sing and perform, the worship team at church singing their hearts out to God, but I had to step back because I was always working and striving to live. I understand that as people we need to work and live. I truly believe that hard work is an essential part of being human. The problem was not the job but the fact that I was shackled. I was chained to self hatred, oppression, guilt, unforgiveness and all these things had to be stripped away. The loss that job was just the beginning of a series of transformations for me, transformations that were more painful than anything I could ever explain, yet at the same time… very necessary and beneficial to my well-being! Just as the Word says:

(Image property of Christian.org)

With that, I’ll leave you all for now. As I’ve said many times before, I pray that the sharing of my journey encourages those of you who are reading to find God, to find His peace in the middle of your storm, and no matter what trial you’re facing, ask him to give you the strength to rise on Eagles wings above that storm! Grab a hold of His garment today and receive your miracle!

The Moment I grew an Emotional Back Bone: Part 10 of My Journey

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Hey all, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks here! Just being real, I’ve been in state of morning for about a week now. Last week on my way out for the day, I received a phone call informing me that someone that was an incredible mentor of mine had passed away about a month ago. Out of respect for his wishes, not many people were informed right away. Also, out of respect for his wishes and his family‘s wishes, I’m choosing to refrain from saying who this is. I will say though that he had a profoundly positive impact on my life. There are many positive avenues I never would have taken had it not been for this man. He stood by me and told me to grab my boot straps and keep pressing on during some of the most devastating seasons in my life. I’ve been so shaken from the news combined with the craziness of my current circumstances that I literally couldn’t think straight for a few days. My eating patterns were out of control, and PTSD hit hard. I’ve done everything I can to continue to nourish myself, so those of you worried that I’m getting back into ED (eating disorder/ anorexia) patterns, know that it’s really not the case. I’ve just become very scattered and messy again. I can’t stand being messy and feeling dirty. Just feels like I’ve been dragged through the mud and back. Again, I’m sparing you all the details right now and continuing to pray and seek God for His wisdom and direction in how to make it through this.

when I left off in my journey last week, I was getting ready to run the San Francisco Marathon. I was so excited that my dad had promised to be there at the finish line! In my minds eye, I saw us having a victory meal with my Godmother. At the same time, I’d gotten injured again, this time at the coffee house. My dad was repeatedly calling me with horrible phone calls about the chaos going on in his home and repeatedly dumping a bunch of his garbage and drama on me like I was his counselor. Yes, as his daughter, I tried to be there and listen as best as I could. The problem is, he never wanted to hear about my life. All he wanted to talk about was himself and all the things he used to have and how horrible his life was at that time. I would listen for hours to him talking bitterly about my family. Every now and then I got the opportunity to share just a little bit about myself, then the conversation got redirected back to him. Now… on to part 10 of my journey.

Part 10 of my Journey

Marathon day! There’s so much energy and excitement around the approach of such an amazing event!

(Me with my beloved god-family)

This event was bittersweet for me. It was sweet because I got to run it with my godmother. Bitter because as the clock ticked down and marathon day came… dad was a no-show. From that point on after that he would Call me when he was stressed out, or come out to see me when he needed to get away and needed me to be there for him. All that kept going through my mind was “what about you being there for me?”… I Started seeing Dr. Runco again, and begged God daily for my health to come back. Meanwhile, still stuffing my head full of new age. I do the meditated on myself and all my dreams like a total narcissist!

My family management Business picked up so much in fact that I was working off and on from 4 AM until almost 10pm on some days. Still training for random races, and constantly on the go.

(Me next to the Honda Fit after a race victory)

I started going back to the doctor in El Cerrito because I felt guilty that Dr. Runco was helping me pro bono at the time (this is no longer the case which makes me feel a lot better). I spent more money on doctor visits and grabbing food to go being that I lived nowhere near where I worked, so the financial struggles raged. And, yet another wave… I received news that my sister was going to have a baby! I completely freaked out! I knew something was up, my mom had been awkwardly silent for over a week. If anyone knows my mom, they know that when she’s holding something in, she’s like a little volcano just waiting to irrupt!

As Thanksgiving drew near, my heart was so cold toward my sister. My mom wanted to spend turkey day with her, however, this meant not getting to have thanksgiving with a very good friend of mine. It’s amazing how God works though! I surrendered my plans, ran the turkey trot that Thanksgiving in Pinole and went back home to help mom prep dinner to bring to Refugio Park being that we still were not to have my sister at our house. As a matter of fact, she didn’t even know where we lived. This began a process of miraculous heart change in me.

As we sat there and ate, I looked across the table, and all I could think is “my baby sister is going to have a baby… Lord, we need a miracle!” After dinner we walked around the park, and for the first time in a long time I enjoyed being in my sister’s company. God was totally melting my heart. As Christmas drew near, I continued to push myself to train, still battled with injury, continued to overwork myself between family management, housesitting and pet sits… All while diving deeper into New Age, meditation, and focusing on being successful. I was a “spiritual” Christian. Sure… I really needed to check myself!

Christmas approached, the decision was made to invite my dad to Christmas dinner. This was to be set up just like Thanksgiving day, being that my sister still was not allowed to know where we lived and my mom requested that my dad never know where we live. Apparently, we didn’t think to check the weather report. It was pouring outside! As he sat in the park in our cars and waited for my dad to show up, I received a call from him asking where we were. Apparently he was right up the street from my house And needed to know exactly which one it was. Ummm what? I had told him we were having dinner in the park. Also, I NEVER told him where we lived. The closest place he’d ever been was the dead fish. I shrugged it off and gave him directions to the park. He pulled up next to me and was seriously angry… again! Completely outraged he drove off saying he needed to go to the bathroom as we sat in the rain and waited.

Yet, another long story cut short he agreed to come back we ate dinner then, agreed to go to a Denny’s so we could dry off and warm-up. We all sat around the table, And I was so excited to finally just have some peace and family time… However, as we were talking he showed me on his iPhone that he had known what I was on numerous occasions. He proceeded to tell me that he’d known where was when I was living in San Diego Long before we’ve ever reunited. My gut sank. This only confirmed what he told me on my birthday.

Late that night we all parted ways. Life went on.. And the new year came. While on a casual fun jog with my friend Katrina, we exchanged belated Christmas gifts. She gave me the book “Quantum Faith” and a book that set my course back on Christ’s track called “shadow boxing.” The Lord quickly showed me that the meditation I was doing in the morning was not from Him. He continued to reveal to me that I was on a spiritual down spiral, and because of that my life was I’m down spiral. I started feeling more and more tension in the air. I received calls on numerous occasions from my dad who was incredibly stressed out from work (helping my Aunt V deliver Mercedes Benz to various customers) and my aunt not paying him. That along with all the things that he was dealing with that home. Apparently, there was a lot of family drama at my grandmother’s house… But what was I supposed to do? I tried to be compassionate and listen, however how could I when he Didn’t even take a second thought to what I might be going through!!! It was always all about him and what he needed and how hard his life was! Then, he kept complaining that he couldn’t pay my cell phone bill and he couldn’t cover car payment. It was a constant Back-and-forth with the car. A constant tug of war. I felt bad for taking the car in the first place especially after finding that he couldn’t afford it. Then, chaos hit in my family management business, and after seeking out spiritual counsel from a leader at my church I was advised to step back from it. Out of faith, I stepped back and not even two weeks, later I received a phone call from my dad. He needed to “borrow” the car so that he could sleep in it because things at home had gotten really bad. Apparently my aunt V had serious drug issues that wreaked havoc on the house hold. I was still working and needed the car to drive from family to family at least until the end of that month. So, I asked him if he could kindly wait at least another week or two to let me finish work. This made him mad, and he insisted that I leave the car at an agreed location with the keys under the floor mat.

After I agreed, he kept changing days for me to leave the car, and I asked him to wait…. Finally, I was finished with work anyway…. I was also fed up with back-and-forth calls about the car. I took the car to the dealership and tried to return it to them. They wouldn’t take the car because I wasn’t the one who bought it. I called him and he asked to talk to them. I put them on speakerphone, and he thought I just handed the phone to the guy. He then told them I was his daughter and I took/ stole his car and wouldn’t give it back! They wouldn’t take it, Drama,drama,drama!!!

At this point I just wanted to be done with it! As a result of the car drama, I ended up calling the police because he was calling and harassing me. During two of the phone calls he had the nerve to say we couldn’t have a relationship because people were accusing him of what he had done to me as a child…. I stopped him right there! I told him he was not going to make me feel bad for what he did to me! it was his choice to hurt me and he was not going to make me feel like it was my fault! I remember being outraged and screaming at him …telling him he had the opportunity have a second chance. I went on to say that I forgave (and still forgive) him however he had to make the choice to forgive himself, and he wasn’t allowed to manipulate me into pretending like it didn’t happen so he could have peace at home. This whole situation sent me into an emotional whirlwind! Apparently he was on speaker phone and my grandma heard all of this! What a mess! I felt as if my entire childhood had happened all over again!!! Here I was… Mentally and emotionally raped…. repeatedly… it was all my fault… my dad was going to make sure my family hated me because of what HE had done! (Deep breath… just. Stop. Just. Breathe)

I made sure I gave him the car just as he requested by leaving it across the street from The Dead Fish restaurant with the keys under the floor-mat. Then, he sent me an email saying how sorry he was and he wanted to give me my car back. I followed the advice given to me by a brother in the Lord who is a law enforcement officer… It was time to stop the harassment, manipulation, stocking, and mental abuse! It was time for me to grow a backbone. It was time to stand up for myself once and for all! I started the process of getting a restraining order and once in place, I was no longer able to call my grandmother being that he lived there. I wept for days. There were even times when I was so mentally distraught that I bashed my own head into the wall repeatedly, crying hysterically. Out of work… Living in Crocket with no vehicle, my family…. my grandma… taken from me. I’d like to say that I got right back up, dusted the dirt off my shoes and acted like I could do anything and just moved forward with courage and the power of God… After all, at this point I was in the word a lot more. I had returned fully to the Lord, and turned my ways from all the New Age and all the meditation…. But I was broken, wounded, devastated! I remember bashing my head against the wall and weeping asking God “WHYYYYY?” however, God showed me that for the first time in my life I had finally stood up to the first person to ever victimized me. I went right into the enemy’s camp and declared “I’m NEVER going to take this from ANYONE again!” Instead of the court system not hearing my testimony, this time I got to stand up and say what had been done. No longer was I going and heard!

Funny, the lyrics to the song “I’m coming home” (my Greyhound benchmark song) go through my mind this time. All my life I wanted to know my dad. As I grew older I kept wanting to heal the wounds….so, like the song says”be careful what you wish for because you just might get it all, and then some you don’t want.” Yeppp! I got just that!

While still in the paperwork/ court process of getting the restraining order, a ray of hope shown… My sister made the decision to get into a program! This was a long process, yet it finally happened! I stood by my word to be there by her side every step of the way. Meanwhile, I was invited by a friend to start selling some healthcare products. New business along with the rebuilding of family. Hmmmm finally some real hope!

My sister and I began to build a relationship… A real relationship… “Delight yourself in The Lord and He will give you the desires of you heart.” Psalm 37:4 . Then, a phone call came late one night. It was my sister, and she was in labor!! My old attitude flared up like i had a right to tell God that it was too late at night to be going to the hospital! Then, I heart checked. This was the moment I’d waited for since my sister was little… the momen I could be there when she needed me the most! I wasn’t going to miss this! Mom and I raced to the hospital in Martinez where my sister was in labor. I tried to catch some z’s in the chair next to her which ended up being only slightly successful. Then, drama… the little guy’s heart beat was struggling, so they had to do a cesarian. May 10, 2013 (just two days before Mother’s Day) My beautiful nephew and light of my life was born!

I’ve never seen my mom so tired yet smiling so big! All of the trials, chasing my sister, trying to rescue her, the prayers, the tears came to this one brilliant moment, in one beautiful baby boy! That  same day, I started the process of getting my nutritional care business started. There’s always blessings in the storm! That baby boy, my little miracle nephew is a God send to our family!

My heart continues to melt like butter for my sister and that precious baby… Boo Bear and Little Dude… I never dreamed this could be possible. Yet, with Christ… You know it goes!… Thus, a new chapter full of hope began to unfold! It seemed as though I was going to have it all, as you all well know, that isn’t always the case.

Right here is another good stopping point. Thankfully, one of the heaviest parts of my journey has now been exposed. Again, I don’t write this for pity. If anything, I want you to see God‘s strength in me! My life is no worse or better than anyone else’s. One thing I will say though is that I don’t think I could’ve made it one single day without the presence of God in my life! For that, I’m eternally grateful! Until next time, God bless, thank you for joining me in this journey, take care, and please do let me know if there’s anyway I can pray for any of you!

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!