Part 16 of my journey: The A’s and a little magic. Finding relief in trying times

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Hey all I am back again and I’m going to go ahead and plummet myself right back into my journey. Just a quick update on life… things have been really chaotic lately. The retail company I work for is closing as of December 9, I’ve been searching for a new job, trying to apply for classes for next fall, working on set a bit and really just trying to get my grounding all while still trying to regain my health and my strength. Time and time again I keep getting knocked back down, but I keep praying and believing that God is working.

Now, I left off last post at the end of my visit with my family during which we attended my grandmother’s memorial and returned to the Bay Area to spent the day touring San Francisco. After everything that had gone down over that last year combined with the PTSD episode caused from the stress of wondering if my dad was going to show up at my grandma’s memorial… I was pretty much an emotional wreck when I came back. It was wonderful to see my family, but my body and emotions had totally had enough! I spent a few days resting and trying to regain my strength, and I headed right back into a semester of summer classes. Over the spring semester, my tablet had fallen and broke. This happened just before the end of classes and I had to frantically pull together all my homework that I had emailed to myself to keep as back up so I could turn it in. Going into the summer semester, I spent most my time at the school using their computers because I had no other way to do my schoolwork. Thankfully, I only had library studies, yoga, and swim… yes, (upon approval from my Dr. And Chiropractor) I made another attempt at trying to re-balance myself and keep my cardio up so that I could eventually return to running and racing again.

With the start of my summer semester came a huge blessing! A sister in the Lord who has seen many of the situations I had been through I had been secretly saving for a car for me. When she told her employer a little bit of my story and what she was doing, her employer told her that they had an extra car in their garage that they didn’t use and that they would actually be happy to give it to me! On July 24, 2016… she came out for surprise visit at my home. She kept acting kind of funny and was asking me how I had been getting around. I told her that I was catching rides from my mom, friends, taking the bus, etc. to get to and from places. Mind you, we live in an area that is semi remote. It’s a tiny town that has one convenience store and one gas station. The nearest full sized grocer is about 5 miles away. In order to get to them, you have to either take the bus or drive being that the roads getting to the other cities are freeways and back roads that are really curvy and unsafe for people to walk down. In other words, there were days when I could only afford groceries and was not able to afford bus fare, so I would have to stay home and just wait to see if my mom could take me to the grocery store at another time. Getting to and from places meant that I had to be a burden on other people and their schedules, or that I would end up spending several hours taking buses. I was by no means ungrateful for the transportation that was available to me, however it was definitely draining for me to get to and from places especially battling the bodily pain that I had been battling for so long. She just looked at me and smiled real big, and pretty much informed me of what she and her employer had done AND that husband had spent time fixing up the car as well… I. Just. Fell. APPART!!! There I was, getting ready to start a new semester, and I finally had freedom to get to and from school without being a burden on anyone else!

Fall classes came with quite a big load! I had human physiology, English 1A, English tutoring session, and drama 125 lined up. For the first time in my college career, I had opted out of PE courses in order to get my body in line. At the beginning of the semester, I found that just in walking down to Drama, my sciatic nerve on my right side had become so compacted that a cause severe pain in my calf as I tried to get down to the theater. On top of it, the class took place directly after physiology which was when my professor had open lab and study time available to anyone who needed to finish homework and lab work. This time was incredibly crucial to my success in the class, so, I had to let go of the Drama course and my two stress reliefs were deleted from my schedule. No fitness and no Theatre… my heart sank. Also, the battle for my health had only just begun.

As classes started, I started a new round of bloodwork with my new doctor. In that process, she found that my white blood cell count was extremely low and my kidney enzymes were low as well. On top of it, I tested positive for hepatitis C antibody‘s. Thankfully, there was no presence of actual hepatitis C in my body, the presence of antibodies just showed that my body had contracted it at one point in my life and fought it off. I was furious! I never used needles when I was using drugs, though I was actually active, I did TRY to be careful. As a result, I had to go back and get tested and retested it to make sure that I didn’t have it. By the grace of God, I don’t! I’m healed of it!

As for the low white blood cell count and the low kidney enzymes, well, along with the pressures of classes and going from different chiropractors and physical therapists, working, housesits and volunteer work, I was being screened for cancer and various auto immune diseases. I began to numb myself with school. As someone who has suffered sexual abuse and physical abuse throughout my life, being continuously poked and prodded by doctors with needles along with the chiropractic and physical therapy that was actually making things worse… I was traumatized and I began find refuge in my studies and also refound my ability to draw!

In the midst of all the chaos, God provided some relief! The organization called the Glasslipper foundation that the Lord placed on my heart to help raise money for was going to be out in the Oaland area to attend an A’s game at which Reverend Donnie Moore was having a faith and family night.

During this night night the two teams would play and Donnie Moore and his team would get up in front of the crowd that stayed after with warship and showed everyone superhuman strength! After that, players from both teams began to share their experiences with God. The best part of this night was getting to meet with all of the young woman that the Glasslipper was helping at that time along with several of their volunteers. The head coordinator was such a sweet and amazing woman! I got to hear her story behind why she wanted to help abused and trafficked women and also got to share my story behind why am so passionate about the cause.

At the end of the night, we went about our separate ways and I begin to drive home when something inside me reminded me that I had seen the Oakland Greyhound station on my drive out towards the stadium. I made it a point to MapQuest my way there and stood in front of the station where, at that point, I had stood nearly 10 years prior with my mom, got into her truck and started my new life of freedom from homelessness and drug addiction.

I sat there and began to weep. I asked God why he wouldn’t let me run anymore! I promised him that if he would just let me run again that I would tell the world about how he took drug addict I made her an ultra marathon runner! I drove back to the house at that I was staying at and continued with my homework packed up and went home.

Another moment of relief came in the form of one of my favorite performers. Alex Ramon, the magician who had come just after I originally nearly lost my ability to walk was coming to Hilltop again to perform for the harvest festival! Like a little kid, I was so excited! I volunteered to work the door that year and greet the kids as they came in to give them their bags. I got the blessed with opportunity to meet up with Alex‘s mom and direct her to her seat and even chat with her a bit. What a sweet, sweet woman! Once everyone was seated, I got to sit down and enjoy the show with my little nephew! You see, with all the chaos of classes, work, etc., I was barely able to spend time with my family. This was such a blessed time of enjoying that cute little smile on my nephew space while getting to witness Alex do an underwater escape! On top of it, his magician’s assistant during that time (miss Meghan Doyle) blessed me with huge basket of goodies and a beautiful card that encouraged me to keep going! I was so overwhelmed by their kindness!

Then… it was back home to face reality.

Soon, a woman who is a very precious part of our choir and had been reportedly very ill had died. My heart sank as I remembered the time I held her hand and prayed with her for miracle. I was almost angry at God! Just a few weeks prior to her death, I had made a drawing for her, but wasn’t able to give it to her so I gave it to her caretakers. Through this precious woman‘s death, a gift was given to me. I was given the honor of singing at her funeral and bidding my precious friend farewell. The sacrifices she continuously made right up until she could no longer make them for choir and for the church as a whole have left a legacy in my heart and mind that will last me a lifetime! Alice Romero… you will forever hold a special place my heart!

Back at school and work… Despite my struggle to walk, I continued to press on! Thankfully, the disabled students office helped me get to and from classes when it was too hard for me to walk up to physio from my English course. Also, after multiple trips to the ER due to allergic reactions to medication and severe colds/ flus that I caught throughout the semester, answers begin to come! As it turns out, I’m severely allergic to all NSAIDs, and was tested negative for cancer and autoimmune diseases! Apparently my body had just taken a total beating from the years of malnutrition. By the end of the semester, my white blood cell count had increased just a little bit, but enough to know that my body was moving in a positive direction.

In the mix of it all came possibility of transferring to California East Bay to receive my bachelors degree in their wellness program. Upon talking to a counselor I found out that I was just a few classes shy of receiving two AA degrees and a STEM certificate! Upon completion of my scheduled courses for the spring, I would be graduating with honors and headed to another school! I got right on it, began my paperwork and… was accepted! All the excitement from this gave me so much strength and energy to keep focused!

Finally, this semester drew nearer to an end and I started to see what all my trials had been for! You see, my term paper for physiology was on eating disorders and their effects on the body. Instead of doing one long term paper, my professor actually had us do several short papers throughout the semester and had us do one major presentation that took highlights from each of those papers into our final projects. Throughout the semester, a light started to shine on all that I had done to myself on physiological level through malnourishment. It all really struck a chord with me! Again, while I was trying to eat more (between 1600 and 1800 cal), I still wasn’t eating enough for the weight gain that needed to be done (between 2500 and 3000+ cal), but at least I was gaining a little weight. I was also tackling major food fears (which also helped me recognize which foods I’m actually allergic to sensitive to and which ones I can actually enjoy without a problem). In the presentation I was able to pull out what is done on the psychological and physiological level in someone with an eating disorder, and, I got share my “why” in choosing that topic. The whole class got to see me on a whole new personal level. Most of the class already knew that I was recovering, for some reason I’ve always just been really open about it, however; this gave me the opportunity to explain the devastation that let up to my lack of self-worth. I also got to see a lot of the progress that I had made despite the trials that I have faced. Most of them knew that I always declared that it was by the power of God!

The best part out of the entire final project was getting to see everyone else present theirs! Countless times I was brought to tears seeing so much passion rise in each and everyone of my classmates and seeing whole new side of each of them!

As finals approached, a sense of bittersweetness came over me. I was so glad that classes were going to be over, BUT I was really going to miss Dr. Ellen Coatney (physiology professor), Dr. Eiknerlynch (my English professor), my lab partners, the student aids, my sweet friend Victor that was such an encouragement to me and gave me the opportunity to help him his English course (and I even pointed him the direction of the Theatre arts on campus) and the many, many more people that I came in contact with that fall. While I looked forward to having the pressures of classes taken off and the hopes of being able to regain my strength so I could, Lord willing, walk and run again, I dreaded the idea of the possibility that I could very well end up in bed again.

That year, just before classes ended, I got to sing in the singing Christmas tree, but had to sit off to the side of it because of the severe pressure on my back and legs. This was a nightmare for me, someone who loves to be active, to nearly have the ability to walk being taken away from me… yet it was such a blessing to be part of such a beautiful production!

The semester ended, grades came in, and yes, straight A’s again! I guess to me, this made all the work and the pain worth it! All the hours of studying, being shut away in my room away from my family, The pain I endured as I spent hours sitting down at a computer trying to do my homework and finish writing papers, the struggles of dealing with pain as I tried to walk from class to class, the pain I endured at work while often times being treated improperly by customers, having little to no social life, living in constant pain, yes, those A’s definitely made it worthwhile! Though know we’re not supposed to put our value in our grades or anything else… to know that I was actually seeing results from the sacrifices made somehow seemed to ease the pain.

Looking back on the semester, yes… there were car trouble, yes… there were issues with my health, yes… my chest began hurt at times and scared me that I might end up in the ER again with chest pain, BUT through it all YES!!!! MY GOD WAS THERE FOR ME!

As winter break came, my body had had it once again. No, this time I didn’t end up in bed, but I kept attempting to walk and it was still a struggle. I was so ready to throw in the towel. Despite the pain, I chose to enjoy Christmas with my family along with my mom’s birthday, did the best I could to get more hours at work, and prepared myself to face what I thought would be my final semester at CCC.

Sooo I guess it’s time to leave off here! I was hoping to cover a lot more in this post, but I realize that it would be a bit too lengthy. Thank you all for joining me as I continue to share my story, looks like I’m almost done though! As always, whatever you’re going through, I can’t state it enough… God. Is. There! Keep pressing on!

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

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

My Journey Part 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(I found sooo much joy learning about basic biology)

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

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

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

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

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

From race adventures to Shattered Dreams: Part 13 of my Journey

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Hey all! After a long break from blogging I’m back again! I guess now would be a good time to continue where I left off in my journey! Just a quick refresher, in part 12 of my journey I left off where I just received news that my godfather was slowly fading, I was finishing up a housesit while getting ready for a new one, and chaos at home was out of control! The reason why it’s taken me so long to post this portion is that the season I’m about to discuss is pretty heavy for me, meanwhile I have to be careful how I word everything in order to protect people that I love! That being said… I will continue with part 13 at my story.

My Journey Part 13

There are two places that I feel that I get to be myself the most. The first one is out in nature, running, hiking, training for and running races. I just feel so free! Second, is the one that I’ve known since I was a kid… the performing arts, when I’m acting, singing, dancing… honestly, if I would have a career of my choice it would definitely be as a professional actor! Now this next season that I was entering into was about to throw me full throttle into the race field while watching the very man that I called my God-dad… begin to fade, and soon pass.

During this time, I was also caring for my God Grammy and doing house sits. Weekdays, I would train early mornings and help out with God Grammy in the afternoons. Weekends, I started racing just about every weekend, sometimes multiple times in a weekend with my godmother! I’m going to keep the details here minimal because this time period is a sensitive season for both my God family and me. I need to honor their feelings and learn to be a little more guarded about my own.

While caring for my God Grammy just before my godfather passed, my godmother and I became nearly inseparable. It’s through her and her family that I was able to witness firsthand what a stable family life is like! During the most uncomfortable season of my godfather’s life, he was asked if he wanted me to leave and he responded with, “no, she makes it better!“ This statement was one of the most profoundly healing statements I’ve ever heard in my life! You see, the girl who was always told I wasn’t good enough, that I was an irritation, that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I was fat, that I was loud and annoying, the one that nobody liked, this… girl…. me? My heart will forever cherish the memory of that moment!

Upon the passing of my godfather, my life went even more out of control! While I did care for my God-grmmy from time to time, I wasn’t around her and my Godmother as much. Meanwhile, things with my sister began to go down-hill as well. She was trying so hard to get her life together. She was released to live in transitional home where the county was going to try to help her get back on her feet. The problem is, every time she tried to make a step forward, something got her way and set her back! I could see the hope begin to fade from her eyes! I could also see the presence of substance abuse returned her life. I told my mom what I suspected, she didn’t want to believe it at first, but as time went on it became more and more evident.

I continued to plow myself into training and racing! It was on the race course that I was given the name “scripture girl” Because I never race without one on my shirt! Everywhere I went, when people asked me why I ran, I told them the story of how God delivered me from drug addiction and gave me a new life! Each weekend held new racing adventures for me including my first ultra marathon called the Diablo Hills 50 K, during which I learned so many lessons! For more on the story behind this you can read the blog from that I wrote as a review of that race here: Diablo Hills 50k

Running was my passion, my ministry platform, my outlet… but little did I know… this season was fast fading. You see, with the chaos that surrounded me I became more and more restrictive with my eating patterns and dropped to a very low weight. While I was eating a lot, it wasn’t the right nutrients to keep me properly fueled and I believe it became more and more obvious to people around me. Meanwhile my visits to Dr. Runco became more and more often. I did everything I could to try to hold on to the one last bit of life I felt that I had left.

As my sister’s birthday approached, we went out to visit her and it was obvious that her situation had worsened! After we had eaten, I saw her coming down and passed the couch as my nephew walked up to me wanting to play. He was so exhausted, you could see the stress on his face… As my mom and I got ready to leave, little guy acted like he didn’t want my mom to go! He squeezed her and held onto her for dear life… as we drove away, I looked over at my mom and said “we’ve got to do something! There’s got to be a way to get him safe!“ As my mom and I discussed it we just didn’t know what to do. Soon, we found out that CPS had caught wind of my sister’s situation as it had worsened. In order to protect my sister, I do have to keep the details surrounding these issues quite as well! You see, she’s a very good mother when she’s on drugs. She’s a very good human in general when she’s not on drugs. She’s one of the most beautiful, caring, intelligent, talented and amazing young women I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around! I hate, and I don’t say this lightly… I HATE DRUGS AND WHAT THEY DO TO PEOPLE AND FAMILIES!

Now, in July, we found out that little dude would soon be coming to live with us! What a relief! By the grace of God, He was going to be safe! On July 10, 2014, just as I finished the 10k for the Brazen Racing 100th race anniversary, I saw my mom pushing him up in a stroller! I went and did another 3 mile loop to make sure I had my mileage for the next half marathon that I was doing, and… I felt a tug on the left side and what people have assumed repeatedly to be considered my sciatic nerve area! Whatever it was… I shook it off and did my best to hide it as I hobbled around and celebrated with everyone! I went and took pictures with my nephew and I was so excited to have him there getting to be a part of what I loved to do!

While I felt a part of me died since my sister was no longer clean and sober, I felt a sweet sense of love and admiration for a little boy would soon become a friend during one of the darkest periods of my life. We went off to celebrate, and then went home he enjoyed some family time together! As the tugging got worse, it was more more difficult to train up and down the hills in the area that I live in. Some days I would be able to go outside and run, others, I would attempt to, but my left side would get locked up! However, I chose keep pushing through! The half marathon I was training for came and I pushed through, however, again the tugging worsened! We got home, mom dropped me off that with little guy while she went to work, I went to pick him up and get him out of the high chair and… The tugging got even worse! I soon ended up taking a few weeks back from racing, and had to run back and forth in my apartment in order to be able to train on a flat surface and keep my mileage up for the next event I was hoping to run. During the days, I would stay home and watch little one when my mom went to work!

While home with him, I dealt with issues that I was not really ready to deal with!, You see, because he was flushing the drugs out of his system, he had a lot of temperamental issues. The tantrums were horrendous, and he would wake up, drenched in sweat after his naps. Since picking him up worsened my injury, I had a hard time comforting the poor kid, but through it all I found that we were healing together. Despite the tantrums, we found joy in our time together watching kids movies and playing together.

Right around the same time, my time caring for God Grammy had come to an end and she was transitioning into a new stage of care. She too was beginning to fade… and I had no control!

Finally, my injury seemed to be a bit better and I got the ok to run another event, so… off I went to

the Bear Creak half marathon!

There I was, thinking that all I had to do was one more half marathon after Bear Creek to complete the ultra half series, but little did I know that this would be my last race! Off and on prior to the race, the tugging got worse and my left hip begin to lock up. People kept telling me that I had sciatica, but what people don’t realize is that they aren’t doctors and that sciatica is just a SYMPTOM of a deeper issue, it’s not a proper diagnosis. This was DEFINITELY NOT SCIATICA!! Race day came, I got the medical OK to go ahead with it, and what an adventure!!! Every hill, every twist and turn, every view was just so breathtaking! Toward the end, the tug started again! Then, their came a drop that I didn’t expect! Just as I thought the race was almost over, there was a staircase that took me quickly down then back up and then… to FINISH!!!

I quickly went off to ice my injury and celebrate with the family. I kept quiet the whole time about how bad the issue was… as I was half hobbling around.

When my family returned home, mom went off to work and I was there at home with little guy… again… I went to pick him up, and the tug was horrific this time!

That week, I went to Dr. Runco and he could see that I was pretty bad. I continued to fight while not able run outside without having my left sacral area lock up. I continued to run back-and-forth in my apartment to keep my cardio up. I took baby steps and tried to keep proper form and found myself being able to finally run a few miles here and there outside but it definitely was a battle. I had to cancel race plans knowing my body just wasn’t up for it. Finally, my body had had enough. I went for a 4 mile run at Fernandez park and in the last mile as I headed toward the bridge… my left side locked up again. I took shorter strides and pushed myself through so I could get to the car, ice and stretch in hopes that it would go away. I quickly tried to shut off the worry of the pain that I felt and refocused my mind on the events of the evening at Hilltop Community Church. We were having a harvest day carnival and a very accomplished magician that grew up attending our church was scheduled to perform! I went in and did my volunteer work for the event, then quickly headed off to see the show! In pain, full of uncertainty… this was just what I needed! Afterward, I was blessed to be able to meet and speak with him. I felt like a total idiot! There was, talking to him about running ultramarathons, and little did he know… I could barely walk!

Then… it was off to face reality once more.

The next day, I went to try to walk at Fernandez park and on the way back, my sacral area locked up again. In pain… I panicked! Barely able to walk and it was my fault!! I’d pushed myself to run and race even though I felt my body begin to tell me no. I asked my mom to take me to the ER and they advised me to quit going to Dr. Runco (worst decision ever) and consult my doctor about getting physical therapy. Thankfully, I was just granted medi-cal, so… I started on my new journey to seek help.

There I was… racing dreams shattered, family life a mess, chaos around… it took me every bit of strength to just wake up and face each day… each. And.

Every. Day. I fought! I prayed, I paced back and forth in my apartment, read the word of God, unable to walk around my neighborhood without my left side locking up, taking care of a child that was recovering from his own trials and unable to lift and hold him without being in pain, feeling hopeless and like a trapped rat… thankfully my mom tried to take me out to the grocery store where I would shuffle around the isles frantically counting my steps as if they were something I could hold onto. Then the eating disorder soon got worse. I found refuge in escaping to a peaceful housesit for a few days, then it was back home to the chaos and struggle.

Soon, I received yet another call that I prayed to God I wouldn’t get… God-Grammy had passed! My mom let me use her car to go feed God-grammy’s kitties, and upon my arrival to her house… I fell apart! I shuffled my way up to where the kitties ate, and I wept as I fed them. I went back to the car, turned the key and started crying hysterically! I felt like such a fool for selfishly pursuing my running dreams while my family and I struggled to survive. I was an adult, living off my mom and my EBT food card (I promised myself that I would do everything I could to not ever end up on welfare) barely able to walk, battling the loss of my Godfather to cancer, my God-Grammy just passed, and my sister was back on drugs… I was a total mess! I cried out to God and told him that I didn’t want to take my life, but I needed Him to give me something to hope for! Immediately, I felt prompted to call a counselor and she almost automatically took my case!

Soon, I pressed on through doctor appointments (where my doctor pointed out my low weight), counseling appointments, and my God-grammy’s funeral. Also, after speaking to a neighbor, I began to get myself signed up to take classes at Contra Costa College. It felt like I was actually going in a good direction… hopes of making a better life for my family and dreams of receiving my degrees so I could build a ministry… life was starting to look brighter!

Well, I really need to leave off at this point! I apologize for the incredibly long post! One thing I do want to say before I go is that during my darkest times, when I was stuck in the apartment, alone, or when my nephew was taking a nap, times when I couldn’t hold him because of the pain, when paced back-and-forth in the apartment, I memorized scripture and made declarations of God‘s promises over my life! These are practices that I’ve continued to do even today! You see, I was continuing to try to train for California international Marathon this year to raise funds for an organization that helps women who have been abused and trafficked… however, I’ve hit a speedbump in the healing process which has left me at a point of feeling semi-debilitated again and without the means to get the help that I need. To have my freedom, the ability to walk and run all over the place given to me and then ripped away so quickly has been a nightmare! At the same time, I have to look back at all that God has brought me through. I know that whether or not I pull out of this, God is working, and He has great plans for me! Romans 8:28 is definitely speaking to me:“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28 NKJV

http://bible.com/114/rom.8.28.nkjv So… whatever you’re going through, hold on to God‘s word, and He will help see you through! Darkness can only last for a moment, God will bring forth new light and new hope!

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!

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!

Contents Under Pressure Create SPARKLING EFFECTS!

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(Kids In Photo Are A Fellow Believer and Volunteer’s Children. They Caught Me For A Pre-race Photo)

Romans 5:3-5 NKJV

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Man… does this verse describe what I’ve been going through! From issues with family to financial struggles and battles with my health…. these waives have just kept crashing down on my family and me.! I’ve tried speaking to these mountains, seeking God for direction, looking for employment opportunities, crying out to God only to find Him being silent. As this past week had gone by, all forms of income outside of my food stamps had stopped. On top of it, my God Grammy ended up in the hospital a few weeks ago andI was unable to see her. Days of being at home with the child mom and I have been doing emergency foster care for while my mom was at work. Dealing with the stress of seeing my mom work her butt off to barely make ends meet, troubles with my mom’s car… a minor set back in my health landed me at the Chiropractor’s office, and thankfully…. the friends from church who took me there were willing to take me to visit my God Grammy in the hospital. So much in such a short period of time. With a race that was coming up, I was determined to baby myself in order to make sure I was ok to run. I took the following day (Thurs) off even though I was permitted to jog and went with my mom, God Mom, and little guy on Friday to volunteer to set up for the race event on Saturday. Finally… a break from all the drama of life! A great day full of setting up, talking with some of the ultra runners (got some tips on training), little guy played with the race director’s kids and we all enjoyed a wonderful meal! All day I had a difficult time deciding which distance to run… the 10k or the half marathon. So, I prayed, felt the prompt to go half, got the ok from the chiropractor and… the next race adventure was set to begin!!!!! The next morning, Mom, little guy and I headed off to enjoy race day fun! The fresh air, the excitement, the smiles, also getting to see the work we’d done the day before come to life… what an amazing experience! I met up with my God Family and we all chatted and prepped for our events. However, it felt empty without Grammy there. Especially after the recent loss of my God Dad. As I headed to the start line of the half marathon, I was pleased to see my God Mom come up right beside me… a team, like Elijah an Elisha! The race director gave the course instructions and precautions and .. we were off!!! For some reason, from the get go, my legs and arms felt heavy. However, I pressed on! Just before the first mile marker my sock started slipping into my shoe! Ahhh! I quickly stopped, pulled it up and raced off! The course was amazing! The morning fog lingered for I’d say about the first 3 or 4 miles. Then, it burned away to reveal a beautiful sunny day! For some reason I began to feel incredibly nauseous! The hills started coming right away, each with it’s own challenge! After the first big one, I thought I was toast, but I asked God for His strength and looked ahead and felt assured that somehow, I’d get through it! As the miles went by, the hills increased in difficulty! Right around miles 8& 9, there was a steep climb with tree roots popping out everywhere. Funny thing is… As difficult as the up hills were, the down hills seemed even more treacherous at times! Then, just as I reached the 13 mile mark (legs feeling heavy and I was still feeling nauseous), I thought I was in the clear and started trying to jet off to the finish! Then, I went around a corner and… up a little ways to ANOTHER DROP!!! This one was a steep drop followed by a quick, steep, quick climb both of which were covered in stairs and tree roots. “Chrap!” I exclaimed! Then I tripped, but didn’t fall… “Please forgive me Lord for letting that word slip!” I said as I deliriously pressed on! As I headed down the steps, my legs felt stiff as boards, my body was weary from the journey, and I pressed through the odd feeling of nausea and endorphins and ran as carefully and quickly as I could and STILL tripped twice more! Thankfully, I landed on my feet and headed up the hill and onto the finish! 4th overall, 1st in my age group and how??? Only by the power of God!!! I quickly went to find my family and God Family and refueled and… we all went to get our picture together (as is our tradition) and headed home! Wow… what a glorious day! Yet, still another bitter sweet moment. Now, the Lord revealed something to me the next day as I sat in service. Earlier in the week I was drinking a bottle of orange Arrowhead sparkling water. On the side of it, it said, “caution, contents under pressure.” Then I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “THAT’S what all the pressure is about… I want you to sparkle!” Then I looked back over the past year and realized… I’ve never been closer to God until now. These times of trials have given me a choice, to cave in or to press into God and keep taking steps of faith to run the race for Him. I know what I’ve chosen… I will stand my ground and trust Him. So, I leave you all today by saying… whatever you’re going through, press into Christ. Get in your prayer closet, draw close to Him. He can turn ANY situation around, and in your times of trial you’ll find all the ingredients to make your life SPARKLE for Him! Also, for the first time in my blog, I’m sending out a prayer request. My God Grammy is very ill. She’s been back and forth between the hospital and rehabilitation for the past few weeks. Along with that, my God Mom, still morning her husband has had to take this and many other pressures on her shoulders. Meanwhile… we are all facing financial struggles, and well… Please pray for healing for my God Grammy, for provision and strength for my God Mom, for my God Family to come together and be lead by the Holy Spirit in the choices concerning my God Grammy, and for healing in my body,and provision for my family and me. 3John 1:2-3 states that we are to paper in health and financially as our souls prosper. Phil 4:19 says that God will provide our needs… and prayer (I believe) helps unlock to door for God’s power to release those things!

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Today’s recipe… sparkling OJ. This is a great way to cut sugar and add a little sparkle to your day 😉

SPARKLING OJ

~Ingredients

-1 & 1/2 cups Sparkling orange (or lemon) flavored Arrowhead water

-3 cups minute made oj (I used the one with calcium and vitamin D)

-1/2 Large Orange sliced into thin rings

~ Directions

Mix sparkling water and oj together and place into a clear pitcher. Add orange rings and enjoy!

This is really great for kids who want soda. A healthier alternative! Have a blessed week!