Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Story: 2003 to 2010

 A Story of Healing: Both Emotionally and Physically

    In the late summer of 2003, I embarked on the journey of moving away from home to attend CSU Sacramento. In order to save money while in college, I moved in with my aunt and uncle for the duration of my freshman year. I was excited, full of life, and ready to be successful as one of the few math majors at Sac State. 
    The school year started off on a positive note. I found a good job, loved all of my classes, and new that this college experience was going to be amazing. Within a few short months, everything changed. My aunt and uncle were unable to have children of their own, so they had made the decision to adopt. Their first adopted child, my cousin, was 3 at the time that I moved in with them.  They had been trying for over a year to adopt another baby, but this is a very long and difficult process. The waiting is excruciating. When adopting, one simply has to wait until a birthmother looks at your portfolio and decides that you are the one that she wants to raise her child. I jumped in to the middle of this painful and difficult process by moving in with my family.
    One evening, as we were finishing up dinner and chatting about the normalcies of life, the phone rang. There was a girl who lived locally that had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl, and she chose the portfolio of my aunt and uncle! With no notice, they were going to be parents for the second time. Life suddenly became a blur. I stayed home with my cousin while they raced to the hospital to meet their daughter. Feelings in this moment were indescribable! When Avery was brought home from the hospital, I was instantly in love with her. She was perfect in every way, and we instantly felt as though she was part of the family. Due to the lack of warning, my aunt and uncle were unprepared. They only had male baby items from when my cousin was little, so we went shopping. My mom and I also planned a baby shower for my aunt to welcome the beautiful baby girl. We had the baby shower when Avery was about three weeks old.
    In the state of California, back in 2003, the law stated that the birthparents have up to 30 days to recant their decision to give their baby up for adoption. When my first cousin was born, the law was 90 days. This creates difficulty in the emotional bonding time in the first few months. My aunt discussed with me how she was hesitant to bond with my cousin for the first three months because she didn’t know if he would be ripped away from her. After the adoption was finalized, she regretted not bonding with him as much as possible. She told me that she was not about to make this same mistake with her new baby girl. We were all very attached and loved that little girl to the deepest part of us. She was family, and we all surrounded her with love, acceptance, and utmost care. This little girl had us all from the moment we laid eyes on her. About four days after the baby shower, when Avery was three and a half weeks old, the phone rang. I will never forget watching my aunt’s face lose all color as she was told over the phone that the birth parents wanted to come over. They informed her that they had made a grave mistake and that they didn’t really want to give up their beautiful baby girl. They wanted to be her parents.
    That night will forever be engraved in my brain and on my heart. I will spare you the details of the rest of that evening in part because it is too personal, and in part because I don’t know that I have the strength to fully revisit that night again. All I can say is that it was one of the most difficult moments in my life. It felt as though Avery had died. There were so many questions that I had in that moment. Why them? Why did my aunt and uncle finally get matched only to have their baby girl ripped away from them just days before the adoption was to be finalized? How cruel can one be to wait that long to come to that realization? We had a house full of new baby items: clothes, diapers, blankets, etc. No baby. She was gone from our lives forever; ripped away from us just as quickly as she had come into our lives, and there was nothing we could do about it.
    Over the next few months, I worked full time, went to school full time, and often took care of my cousin. My aunt had no strength left. She rarely came out of her bedroom. I felt so alone and confused during this time. I didn’t know how to respond to what I was feeling inside, and I think that I allowed anger to enter into my heart for a while. I was exhausted from working and taking a full load of classes. Beyond that, I didn’t know how to help my aunt! I wasn’t even 18 yet! How was I supposed to be responsible for taking care of a little boy when I felt as though my life was barely holding together as it was? I was extremely sad, but suppressed my feelings because I had to be strong for my aunt. I was worried of what she might do. I knew that she was depressed, and heartbroken doesn’t even seem to touch how she felt during those days...months. After a couple of months, I was beginning to wonder if she would ever be able to get her life back on track. All I could do was pray for her, and be support for her when she needed me. I encouraged her as much as possible, but I had no way of knowing how deeply she felt during that time.
    My strength began wearing thin after a few months. My aunt gradually came out of hiding and began to be a more active part in our lives again. By this time, I was slowly slipping away and I didn’t even realize it. I had sunk into a daily routine, going about life mindlessly. I was slipping without even realizing it.
    The months to follow were fairly uneventful, but I was not happy. School felt like an escape from reality for a short time, but other than that I felt emotionless and apathetic. I put on a happy front for those around me. At work, I was promoted and I masked my feelings under a superficial smile. During this time, I virtually had no friends. All of my friends from high school were attending colleges in other states or other cities. I missed the security I had once held. I didn’t live on campus, so meeting people at school was challenging. I worked too many hours to have much of a social life and keep up with my grades; therefore, this once active and very social person became somewhat of a hermit. The more time that passed, the easier it became. I would look at Facebook and see how well and how active all of my old friends were. We started out ambitious and talked all of the time. However, as the months rolled on, I felt as though I was the only one clinging to those relationships. If I didn’t call, no one called me. I was alone. I felt very alone. At times, I feel as though this was my excuse to fall deeper into loneliness. It was almost as if I pitied myself and wallowed in that self pity. I became apathetic and began to “thrive” on being sad, lonely and depressed surrounding the fact that I had no friends (or at least that is the lie I believed at the time).
    I managed to finish my first year of college. I was very excited for the summer because this meant that I would get to see my friends. Most of them didn’t have to work, so they all got to go home for the summer. I couldn’t go home as often as I would have liked, but I lived for the days that I got to spend with my friends. I needed them. I was unhappy and needed some sort of connection to my past that used to be full of joy.  My aunt and uncle were matched again with another baby to adopt. The birthmother was only 14 years old. She ended up spending a lot of her time with us in my last couple of months living with them. This adoption held, and life was going really well for my aunt, uncle and two cousins. My cousin was born about a month before I moved out of their house.
    Before moving in, my aunt and uncle told me that I could live with them for my first two semesters. After that, I would need to find a new place to live. I was not very financially stable at the time, but I began hunting for a place to live. Just two weeks before I had to move, I still had no options that I could afford. I had no friends, which meant that I had no options for a roommate. With one week left, I went to my church office in Sacramento and talked to the receptionist. I broke down in sobs, barely able to tell her that I was about to be homeless and I didn’t know what else to do. She comforted me and told me that the church had apartments across the street that typically housed students for their ministry school. The students were all out for the summer, and I could stay there for one month. This bought me a little more time to search. The month flew by, and I was about to be homeless yet again, when that same wonderful lady informed me that I could move in with them for one month. I could not believe how kind and generous these people were, but I jumped at the chance.
    During this month, school started back up again. I was working really hard and exhausted all of the time. I lacked that joy that typically engulfs every aspect of my being. I hadn’t even realized that it was gone. I just knew that I felt sad and didn’t know how to change my outlook on life. Shortly after I moved in, I got a phone call. My third cousin (whom I was not close with, but enjoyed her company at family functions) was murdered. My head was reeling and I did not know what to think. I went home and spent some time with my family. We ended up going over to the apartment, and I never expected to see what I saw. These images will forever be burned into my brain. Whoever did the clean up did not do a good job. I didn’t know what to think anymore. How could someone be so cruel as to strip a young family away from their mother? Life was not fair. At this point, I fell deeper into the sadness I could not explain. I felt as though there was nothing good that happened in my life. What was the point of it all? The couple that I lived with were very supportive, but they saw that I was having a very difficult time.
    By the end of this month, another pastor at the church and his wife allowed me to rent a room from them. Looking back, I know that God put me into their house. If it wasn’t for them, my life would have been a lot different. Shortly after I moved in with this family, I received another phone call. My aunt (a different one than the one I lived with)was sick. She had been experiencing extreme headaches and vision difficulties for a time, so she decided to go to the eye doctor. What the eye doctor saw prompted him to instruct my aunt to go directly to her regular doctor or the emergency room.  Within 24 hours, my aunt was told that she had a massive tumor on her brain and that they needed to do brain surgery. Shortly after this, we were told that she had a very rare form of brain cancer that was vicious and fast growing. We refused to agree with the doctors, but they gave her at most a few months to live.  This was almost too much for me to bear. I was just 19, living with people that I had just met, and I had no family around me. My aunt and uncle were still in Sacramento, but they couldn’t give me the support that I needed in those moments. I felt myself slipping even further. I didn’t know what to do, but I did not feel in control of my life.
    One late evening, I was talking with the couple where I was currently residing. He could clearly see that I was unhappy and spiraling out of control emotionally. He asked me why I was not attending Simpson University. I informed him that it was simply too expensive and that I did not have the funds to attend there. He convinced me to look into it. When I did, I was pleasantly surprised that I could get scholarships and enough help that the cost was within reach. Within two weeks, I made the decision to move back to Redding. My spirits were lifted just slightly, and I felt a twinge of hope arise deep within me. I moved back after my third semester at Sac State. A small part of me felt as though I had failed because I was not sticking with school away from home, but I had nothing left to give. Emotionally, I was a mess. I didn’t feel strong anymore, and I felt as though life was horrible. I felt as though nothing was going right, and nothing would ever be good again. Looking back, of course I know that these were all lies, but that doesn’t erase the fact that this is how I felt and that I was in a very dark place.
    Moving home was both good and bad. I was around people who loved me and who could surround me in a dark place in my life; however, without realizing it, I allowed myself to sink deeper and deeper with each passing day until I was simply a shell of Rachel Runyan. I was excellent at putting on a front for the outside world. I am a perfectionist and never wanted anyone to see me as anything less than perfect. I was constantly lying to myself, family and friends about how I was really doing. My family knew that there was something off, but I couldn’t admit that to myself. Throughout the rest of college, I felt as though there was nothing good in my life.  I was constantly saying things to my mom like, “life is horrible! Nothing good ever happens. My life for the past four years has been awful.”  She was always baffled by this. She would try to tell me that there were good things that happened too. I just couldn’t believe her. I truly and deeply felt as though nothing good ever happened to me. I hated life and I hated all the years that I went to college. I felt like I was under this darkness that I couldn’t get out of. There was no light in sight! I felt all alone most of the time and like ‘good’ and ‘happiness’ were just not for me.  True, there were some awful things that happened in the first year and a half of college. These events I would not wish for anyone to go through; however, these events did not define who I was or how I was to live my life. For some reason I had been blinded to the fact that I could find joy in God and that He was my comforter and my healer. I believed that my aunt could and would be healed of her brain cancer and live a very long and healthy life; however, I could not find the joy and peace for myself.
    I will never forget riding in the car with my mom one afternoon. I had sunk so low that I could barely look my family in the eyes. As a former chatter box, I rarely spoke to anyone, let alone my family. Days at the house were silent. I would only speak if spoken to, and I really did not like to be in conversation with anyone. I felt as though I was still managing to cover up my feelings to the world by putting on a front; however, I thought I was doing a much better job at this than I really was.  I was a hermit. Anyone could plainly see that.  Back to the car ride. My mom had been trying to talk to me and I, once again, was evading as many of her questions as I could. I know that my family loved me so deeply through this time because they pushed through their own feelings to try to pull me out. I will never forget my mom’s words: “Rachel, I think you might have depression.” What?! ME??? Depression? I am the girl who was unstoppable in my laughter when I was a little girl. I was the one that would make everyone laugh, even if I was laughing at nothing in particular! How could I be depressed or have “depression?” As much as I tried to deny it on a surface level, I knew deep in my heart that she had put her finger on the problem. I had not been able to put words to how I was feeling until that moment. She was right. I was depressed in the deepest darkest way. I had had thoughts of suicide before that moment. I felt as though no one loved me and that I was all alone. These were all lies, but lies that I was believing and had been believing for years. I didn’t know what to do, but I was not ready to admit to the world that I had deep and dark problems.
    After I graduated from college, I was in a pretty dark place.  During the last month of school, I decided that my childhood dream of becoming a junior high math teacher was ridiculous and the very last thing I would ever want to do! I was sick of school and needed to take at least a year off of life. I even went as far as to change my major from “Math for teachers” to “Pure Mathematics.” I wanted no association with teaching. I became a nanny and did that for about a year. I had a blast playing with my little cousin three days a week; however, this job allowed me to step deeper into me dark hole where I spoke to no one and was anti-social. I felt as though I had no friends. I didn’t talk to my friends from high school anymore. This added to my depression because I had convinced myself that I was not worthy of their friendship. Unless I pursued them, we didn’t talk. I felt as though there must be something wrong with me or that I was not a good enough friend who was worth fighting for. I decided that I needed no one. Friends were not everything and I was perfectly fine without them (or so I thought)!
    For most of that year, I am pretty sure I was grumpy and not fun to be around. Looking back, it makes me sad to think about how I treated my family, especially my mom. She only wanted to see me laugh and smile and be happy again. I can’t tell you how many times I rejected her. I didn’t even know that I wanted to be happy. I was convinced that I loved being depressed all the time. I enjoyed wallowing in self pity and feeling unwanted and unloved. I thrived on being unhappy and not smiling. I don’t know that I ever laughed during that year (except maybe at cute things my cousin did while I watched her. She was an escape for me, at times).  The very opposite of who God created me to be was who I was convinced that I was.
    It was during this year that I began to get dizzy once in a while. In high school, I dealt with dizziness; however, I believe that this was mostly due to lack of food. This dizziness was different. I can’t explain it, but I know that it was not fun. The dizzy spells only happened once in a great while.
    The following summer, God threw me in the middle of my destiny without my permission. I thought that I was going to get a teaching internship that I could get my credential while teaching. So, I jumped right in to the credential program with little warning. The internship fell through. Right when I was about to quit, another internship presented itself to me. So, I took another class and kept going. When this internship fell through, I was extremely angry with God. I didn’t understand why now I was fully submerged in graduate school, hating every minute of it, and the sole reason for me to be there was ripped away from me. I battled daily with whether or not to quit the program. My mom deeply encouraged me to stick with it. I was angry for the first seven months of the program. I hated school, and I still hated life. I was even more unhappy than before because this unhappiness was intertwined with anger; not a good combination!
    When I received my placement for student teaching, life began picking up ever so slightly for me. I was excited to finally be teaching rather than just reading a bunch of books that I felt were pointless and writing countless papers that I despised researching and composing. As my student teaching began (in January of 2009), my dizziness had increased to every three to four weeks. The spells were getting worse and much harder to deal with. My coworkers at school were very concerned the first time they saw me on a bad day because I was having a hard time standing and walking. My master teacher took over the lessons for me that day, and told me to go to the doctor. I was uninterested in that option! My biggest fear at that point was getting brain cancer like my  aunt had (Whom, by the way, is thriving! She beat the cancer, God totally healed her, and astonished the doctors. To this day she has a clean bill of health! Yeah God!!!). I felt in the back of my mind that if I were to go to the doctor, I would be told that I have a brain tumor. So, I did what I felt was necessary: avoided the situation.
    As the months passed, the dizziness continued, but I ignored it as much as possible. I tried to tell no one about the problem because I did not want any “helpful” suggestions. I was in denial about my health, but I tried to convince myself that I was ok. I finished my credential program, and began applying for jobs. God came through for me and gave me the perfect job. It was more perfect than I could have even imagined at that moment. He had strategically placed me in exactly the position I needed to be in. I was still in a low place emotionally, but I felt a twinge of happiness once in a while. I was really excited to have my own classroom. I was trying to ignore the dizziness that had been steadily increasing in frequency. By that summer, I was dizzy close to two weeks a month. I had no clue what to do with it, but I was trying to hide it as best as possible.
    On the first day of school, August 17, 2009, I was both terrified and ecstatic! I was about to embark on an adventure. This was what I had been planning for since the sixth grade, and my dream job was finally here! The first day went really well. When I was driving home, I my mind was spinning. I was playing through the day and thinking about anything and everything. Then...darkness. I remember being in the right lane of a four lane road, then waking up with my car stopped in the bike lane against a curb. Upon investigation, my car had crossed into the left lane, hit the median, went into the median that contained trees and big rocks, hit a boulder, ricocheted off the boulder and crossed back over the two lanes before I woke up. I was terrified! I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know what had happened. All I was sure of was what I was thinking about before I blacked out. My car was in bad shape, but miraculously, I was fairly uninjured and I didn’t hit anyone. I was on one of the busiest streets in Redding at 5pm, and I didn’t hit another car! God really had His angels around me that evening!
    I decided not to go to the doctor that evening. The next day, I showed up to work extremely shaken. One of the first people that I saw was the principal. She ended up being a God send for me that year! She saw me and was very excited to chat about how my first day had gone. I looked at her and instantly burst into tears! I told her what happened and she gave me a big hug and then instructed me to go to the doctor. I was terrified. I didn’t know if I had the strength to go to the doctor. What were they going to tell me? Would they be able to find out what was wrong with me? Would it remain a mystery? I felt as though the car accident had everything to do with my dizziness that had gotten much worse of the past year, but I didn’t feel I had the strength in me to find out what was medically wrong. I was still very emotionally unstable, but I knew that the accident was a warning sign of some sort; the last straw. It was time to face my fear and go find out what I had avoided for too long.
    I made an appointment and got right in. The first words out of the doctor’s mouth after listening to all of my symptoms were my worst nightmare: we need to do an MRI to rule out a brain tumor. Why, out of every other possibility, was that the first thing they wanted to check? I instantly lost control. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I tried to be strong, but I just didn’t feel strong. I don’t know why I still felt like I needed to be strong for me and everybody else. I felt as though I still needed to show the world that I was perfect and had everything under control. In reality, my life was spinning out of control, and had been for nearly six years at that point. I needed an army around me, but I was too stubborn to allow people to help. The next year of my life, God taught me a lot about trusting people, allowing people in to help me, and about how life is not meant to be survived on one’s own, but that we need many people surrounding us to help make life bearable, better and more enjoyable.
    From that appointment in August through June of the following year, I entered a season of life that was far from fun. Terrifying, challenging, hopeless at times are all ways that I would describe that time in my life. I went through test after test, doctor after doctor, with no one able to tell me what was wrong. Every test came back normal, and every lead turned up to be another dead end. I cried a lot and felt like I was not strong enough to survive this season in my life. I was in my first year of teaching, trying to be the best teacher I could, but simultaneously feeling like a complete failure. Again, I was believing lies that were whispered to me constantly about how bad I was at this career choice and that I should have never become a teacher. I know without a shadow of a doubt that if my principal wasn’t there, I would not be a teacher to this day. She was the most supportive, encouraging, and honest person during that time for me. She asked me the hard questions and kept me in an upward path.
    Starting around September or October of that year, I was dizzy about 95% of the time. I had good days and bad days. My “good” days were the ones where I was dizzy, but I could stand up and function for the most part. I felt confident in driving, and I could at least process through thoughts and articulate what I was thinking. On my “bad” days, I could barely, if at all, stand up on my own. I had to hold on to things to walk anywhere or crawl if I wanted something. My eyes felt like someone else had a grip on them and was constantly moving them around. I couldn’t concentrate and I truly wanted to die. There were times when I literally laid on my bed crying and pleading with God to take me home. I knew that I couldn’t actually commit suicide, but I no longer had the drive nor the will power to keep going. I was unhappy in a way that I hope I never feel again. I was strong for a very long time, but I didn’t have strength left. I held my phone in my hands several times ready to call my principal to let her know that I could no longer continue teaching. I am very thankful that I never went through with this, but at the time, it felt like the only way. Noise was extremely difficult for me to bear during my bad days (and even oftentimes, my good days as well). The best way I can describe the effects of noise is like this: Imagine you are in a very crowded room. Everyone is talking loudly around you. You have a difficult time focusing on any one particular conversation, so the noise simply begins to swirl around you in a dizzying fashion.
    This is how noise was to me. Now typically, one can evade noisy situations; however, I was unable to do so being that I was an eighth grade math teacher. I had little control of my classroom because I was so sick all the time. I also had a very difficult group of students to begin with. I was unable to walk around the classroom most days because I couldn’t stand up. I would bark at the kids to get their stuff out of the aisles because I easily tripped on things. I had a chair at the front of my room that I taught from the majority of the time. I didn’t have the energy nor the ability to do otherwise, so this became my norm.
    After a few months, I began to live for days of feeling well enough to walk around.  These days became normal for me and it became harder and harder to remember what feeling good and healthy felt like. The doctors were not able to tell me what was wrong, so I decided to begin researching for myself. I started researching about food. I decided to try out the candida’s diet (which was awful...I don’t suggest anyone doing that). My extremely bad days lessened, but I had lost a lot of weight because I was not eating enough. I hadn’t been able to exercise in months and I was becoming too thin. I decided to speak with family friend who is an amazing nutritionist. She began to talk to me about yeast and what it can do to your body if you have too much. I began taking these pills that flushed my system of all bacteria (good and bad), including yeast. I often felt sick during this time, but by the end, I felt as though my symptoms were getting slightly better. I was not constantly feeling as though I was wanting to die, but I felt as though there might be hope for me.
    While taking these pills, I remembered that at one point my doctor had mentioned the possibility of food allergies. So, I began doing research on that topic. I found out that one of the biggest and most intense symptoms of food allergies is dizziness.  Also under the list that I felt affected me were: blacking out (the reason for my car accident), lethargy, digestive problems, foggy brain, cold/flu like symptoms (I always thought I had year round outdoor allergies) and more.  The test she said that I could do was 300 dollars. I had already spent a lot of money on dead ends, so I didn’t want to spend that much more. I began eliminating one food at a time in hopes to discovering what I was allergic to. I wasn’t seeing much change, and I felt as though this was a near impossible feat. So, I finally decided to pay the money and get the test done in the beginning of June 2010. I did not expect what was to come! I was allergic to 25 foods!!! Incredible. I was feeding my body daily with these foods, and I had no idea how much harm I was doing. Within 72 hours of going off of these 25 foods, I felt great. I felt as though I had my life back. The first day my dad saw me when I was feeling good, he said, “Man. This is the first time in months that you have not looked like you are on drugs!” My eyes were always so crazy, darting all around and not allowing me to focus on anything, that apparently I looked like I was on drugs. I was so happy to be feeling good. This in and of itself, boosted my spirits a ton.
    I couldn’t explain it, but I still felt this nagging in my soul. I felt good for the first time in years, but I still wasn’t happy. I still explained to people that the last seven years had been the worst of my life. I still felt like virtually nothing good had happened. I continued to be very negative and didn’t know how to deal with what I was feeling. I liked to think that I was happy, but in all reality, I was still very much depressed. I needed healing in a way that I could not express nor did I know that I even needed to be pulled out of the darkness.
    Then, one of the greatest moments of my life happened. I was having tea with a lady that God had placed in my life in late July 2009. God knew exactly the journey I was about to embark upon, and he knew who I was going to need in my life. We were sitting on her couch, drinking tea and simply chatting about life. I honestly don’t remember what I was sharing with her, but it must have been something about my college years. All of a sudden, mid-sentence, I had a revelation. I knew, in that moment, exactly when my depression started! When I moved in with my aunt and uncle in 2003, there was something in their house. I opened a door and allowed this thing (you may call it a spirit, demon, whatever you like, but it was very real) to attach itself to me. From that point on, I slowly began to listen to the lies that were whispered in my ear and in my heart and soul for the next seven years. I allowed it to lie to me until those lies became my reality and my truth. I honestly felt like my whole world had collapsed and I was all alone. I had been blinded in the worst way to the fact that I had amazing people in my life whom loved me and only ever wanted the very best for me.
    The very moment I had this revelation, I realized that I also had authority over this spirit. In my heart, soul and mind I told this thing to GO and never come back. I can’t explain it any other way than the fact that I felt 60 pounds lighter in that moment and I laughed freely for the first time in seven years! Since that instant, I have been FREE! I felt for the first time since high school that I was back. My joy was back, and I was free to be who God created me to be. Close friends and family recognized right away the difference in my. Since that moment, I have been so happy and realized how much I love being happy. It makes me sad to think that I allowed that thing to be in my life for so long and rob my happiness, but above that I am so thankful that I now know what was going on and that I truly was in a deep depression and blinded to all things good. I love life and am so full of joy that it bubbles over constantly!
    As the next few months went by, I reveled in my reclaimed life. I was happy and full of life. I actually enjoyed teaching for the first time and realized that I truly am a good teacher. I love what I do, and this really was my calling in life! My students even liked me, and I know that being truly happy and feeling good every day was the key. I stuck with my crazy new diet. It was not always easy, but knowing that I had control over how I felt on a daily basis was incredible!
    One day, I was at my brother and sister-in-law’s church. I was on the worship team with them. That Sunday morning, there were communion tables set out. I leaned over and whispered to Christina, while on stage, that I hadn’t taken communion since I was diagnosed with my food allergies (wheat and eggs, just to name two, were on my list). I was terrified of putting anything in my mouth that I was allergic to because within five minutes, I would become severely dizzy again! She responded back to me that maybe taking communion would be a first step toward my healing. I thought about it, but was still very unsure. My parents and I ended up leaving church early because we were headed to San Francisco to see a show. I left before communion was served. Christina texted me later that day and said that she took communion for me and that she felt like I was healed. I kept this text close to my heart, but was still not ready to test anything out. Instead, I decided to start declaring that within three months (that would be sometime in January) I would be fully healed of my allergies. I made sure to declare constantly over myself privately, but I would also mention it publicly at times so that I didn’t have an “out” in case it didn’t happen. It HAD to happen! For a little of two months, I repeatedly said that I was going to be allergy free within a few months. On Christmas day, my entire family was together. At this point, it had been six months since I had sat down and actually ate with my family. I would always eat with them, but I was rarely able to eat what they were having. My diet was so restricted that it was unfair of my to ask or expect others to eat the way that I had to. I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. However, on Christmas day, I wanted so badly to be normal. I wanted, for one day, to eat with my family and not be terrified of the consequences of putting a piece of food in my body that was on my allergy list. We went over to my aunt and uncle’s house for Christmas dinner in Healdsberg. My aunt had prepared an incredible spread of appetizers, and dinner looked and smelled absolutely divine! In that moment, I felt grace and peace enter my body. I felt as though I had been faithful and honest in my declarations over the previous two months, and that this was my moment. I asked my family to pray with me in covering my body, my thoughts, and that God would allow me to eat without fear and without any negative side effects. It was the ultimate “bless this food to my body” prayer. I ate. Waited. Nothing. Ate some more. Nothing still. Over the course of the next few hours, I ate whatever I wanted and never once got dizzy. The next morning, I still felt great, so I decided to eat with my family again. Nothing. No dizziness. Praise the Lord!!! To this day, I am still eating whatever I want with no dizziness! Since December 25, 2010, I am completely healed of all food allergies. I have officially eaten everything on my allergy list (with the exception of eggplant, because I hate eggplant) and I have never once had a negative symptom or reaction due to food.
    I am thankful every single day that I am healthy! I can’t explain how good it is to feel good all of the time. I don’t think a person can truly know unless they are sick 24/7 for eight months and sick often for two years before that. All I know is that feeling healthy is amazing and I will never take that for granted. I am happy consistently, and if I ever feel the slightest bit of attack in that area, I now have the tools to recognize what it is and to win the battle every time. I am officially in control of my life and my happiness and it feels amazing! I love my family, have amazing friends and am so thankful for all of the rocks in my life that helped me through a time that I would not have been able to survive without them. Thank you is not enough, but it is all I can give. I literally wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you, so thank you. And...I love you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Still Waiting...

Life is quite interesting! You know that saying, Be careful what you wish for? Well, I am in the middle of discovering Be careful what you pray for! 

I know that God put it on my heart at a very young age (I think I started praying this when I was about 6 or 7) to pray over my purity and my life's journey through finding my husband. My prayer was always that I would not date anyone unless I knew that that person was my husband. I have never wanted to have a bunch of boyfriends nor have I ever wanted to just waste away my first kiss with someone whom I know is not going to last forever. Any time in my life that I have had feelings for a guy, God has blatantly slammed the door shut in my face. He truly has protected me throughout my life from making mistakes in the realm of dating. Now, I don't think that this path is for everyone. I know that God has instilled this in me from the time I was born, and that he has the perfect plan for my life. My husband is going to be AMAZING and definitely worth the wait.

That, however, is the problem. Waiting. Waiting is so hard when you are 25 and still haven't gone on even a first date! I am more than ready to meet the man of my dreams and settle into a beautiful life with him. I am ready to meet my husband and start our lives together... but I don't know when I will meet him and it is driving me crazy. Being patient and waiting for that perfect moment is one of the most difficult things I have done.

When I was finally asked out for the first time, I was really excited. I felt like I was finally going to be a normal...dating...person. But now I have not even heard from that person in a week and a half, and no date was ever set. I know in my gut and in my heart that he is not my husband. For this reason, I don't even know if I want to go on a date with him anymore. Part of me wants to just go out and have fun, but I don't want to get his hopes up when I know that it won't ever go beyond a first date. I don't want to compromise everything I have worked my entire life for just to "finally" go on my first date. I don't want to "get it over with" because I am anxious. The waiting is hard, but I know that compromising my life's journey because I am impatient would end in regret.

So...I am back to waiting. Still waiting. However, it WILL be worth the wait!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Worth the Wait

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience.”

 

Life is all about timing... the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable... attainable. Have the patience, wait it out It's all about timing.


So...I thought that I would blog about my journey to finding my husband! I am feeling that I am going to meet him very soon (this summer, maybe?!). 

 

Back to the beginning: When I was a little girl, I began to pray that I would only begin dating when I met my husband. From a very young age, God put in my heart a deep sense of purity. I knew that He was going to protect me and keep me pure. I never wanted to be one of those girls who simply dated numerous guys. Beyond dating, I didn't ever want to start a relationship unless I knew that the guy was my future husband. Throughout my life, God has definitely kept His promises to me. The result, at times, was the enemy sneaking in and speaking lies to me. These lies were always in the form of, "You are not good enough," or "No guy is ever going to be or ever has been interested in you," or "There must be something wrong with you."  When I was in a low point emotionally, there were times that I would believe these lies. Most of the time I was strong; however, as I got older, it became harder to not believe that there was something wrong with me. All of my friends, including my sister, dated frequently (or at least semi frequently and guys at the minimum showed interest in them). I felt left out and somehow inferior.  By the time I graduated college, I was at a loss. 

 

Over the last few years, I have been on a journey of getting healthy (both emotionally and physically). I have grown leaps and bounds in who I am and KNOWING who I am. I feel confident in myself, and I feel as though I am, for the first time in my life, READY to get married. I feel ready to meet the man of my dreams...the man that God has been preparing for me. I am ready to settle down and begin the rest of my life with someone beside me to share in the joy and adventure every step of the way. I have led a pure and honorable life, and I know that God has prepared only the best for me! I know that a man who is honorable, loving, sweet, respectful, and nothing short of amazing is waiting and ready for me.


This brings me to...my first date!

First date: At 25, I am going on my first date ever!!! I am SO excited and yet really nervous all at the same time! I feel as though I have waited my whole life to meet someone. Even if this date goes no where beyond friendship, or even just beyond the date, I am excited to start the process of meeting my husband. I know that I am going to meet my husband soon. Whether he will be the guy I am going on my first date with, or someone I have yet to meet, I know it is going to be great! A whole lot of firsts are coming up and that is so new and exciting for me!

 



This song is a song that I wrote about 3 or 4 years ago. I was feeling as though my life was not very interesting and that I didn't have a story to tell others. God began speaking to me, and this song is the result. It is for my future husband, but I sing it as an encouragement that I WILL meet that perfect person for me! (I apologize for the quality of the video...it is not very good because it is only me on the piano and recorded with my Mac).  I would love to sing this at my wedding someday, but there is NO way I could make it through a song like this on my wedding day! Enjoy.


video




So...there you have it. I will continue to post my journey of finding the MAN OF MY DREAMS! I know that he will be amazing, and I am ready whenever God decides it is the perfect time! For now, I will just have fun dating and see where life takes me!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Come Alive

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
  Howard Thurman 
 
       This is the philosophy I have decided to live by. If we do not do things in life that make us come alive, then we are not living life to our fullest potential and those around us do not get the very best of who we are. I come alive when I am teaching, running, singing and playing the piano, and spending time with friends and family. I am happiest when I am doing these things. My world lights up. My goal during this next year is to start writing music again. I have a passion for writing and singing, and I greatly enjoy playing the piano. I want to live passionately and live how God wants me to live. God makes me come alive and has instilled these passions in my heart.  I am thankful for this season that I am in right now. I am happy and feel more alive than I have in years.


       So I challenge you to do what makes you come alive. Go after your dreams and don't be afraid to follow your heart. You deserve to be happy and healthy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Race Day

Mile 16

THE FINISH LINE!!!
Daniel made it...Almost there!

The amazing angel runner that helped me cross the finish line! I could not have finished without him!!!
We rocked that race...finished! So proud!

The Accomplishment of My Life

       In life, there are always obstacles to push through, hurdles to jump over, and challenges that we don't think we can overcome, yet somehow manage. Running a marathon has proven to be one such challenge. From a very young age, I have loved to run. Many would say that I am crazy and that running is boring, exhausting, horrible, and the last thing they would be caught doing. For me, running is exhilarating, relaxing, a stress reliever, and one of my favorite times to talk to God. I love to escape life for a moment and go for a beautiful 6 mile run along the river trail. Running calms my soul and allows me to clear my body and mind of every day life and stress.
        One of my lifelong dreams and goals has been to run a marathon. I absolutely love running, so I have always thought, what better idea than to train and run 26.2 miles. Doesn't that sound thrilling and exciting? Little did I know, training for a marathon turned out not to be an easy task. I began training in July for this marathon. Soon after my official training began, I hurt my back and was unable to run for about three weeks. I was very frustrated because once I set my mind to something, I am going to finish it. I didn't want to give up so quickly. Barely able to walk, I was determined that my back would heal quickly and I would be back on track. I signed up for the Women's Nike half marathon in San Francisco. After a few weeks I was back on track with my training.
       After the half marathon, I kicked my training into high gear. I ran 6 miles about four times per week and ran a long run the weekends. I started my long runs at 10 miles and increased every weekend until I made it to 21 miles. About a week after the longest run, my knee started to hurt excruciatingly. I was not sure if I would be able to continue. I refused to give up! I was advised to stop running for at least a month, but I didn't have a month. Is three days enough? I stopped running for about three days and then was back in the swing of things...pushing through the pain. Whether this was due to my knee injury or something else, about three weeks before the race I hurt my left foot pretty bad (my right knee is the one that was injured). I thought I had a stress fracture in it. I am still not convinced that I don't, but I was determined not to give up. I was going to finish this marathon no matter what! I have been through so much these last few years that I felt as though this marathon was monumental in my life. There was something significant in me crossing the finish line in. I felt as though the finish line to the marathon was the culmination of hard work, perseverence and breakthrough. I have no way to describe the need I had to continue to train and finish this marathon, but I knew that quitting was not an option.
       Over the next few weeks, I took it "easy" on my body. I limited my running to about 3 or 4 times per week, and I significantly reduced the number of miles I was running per week. My foot started to feel better. I was able to walk on it pretty normally by race day. My knee felt nearly perfect, and I was pumped for the race!

                                                            RACE DAY!!!!

       The morning of my race, I was exhilarated! I felt ready, healthy, anxious (in a positive way), and excited to cross the finish line of my very first marathon. I was so thankful that I had a partner to run with...one that I had trained for hours and hours with. We both had injuries, but were both determined to do our very best and cross the finish line. Daniel was an amazing running partner and I greatly enjoyed training with him. He was encouraging, gracious (although I was not always gracious...he would always walk with me if I was having a rough time or in a lot of pain, but I did not always do the same for him! I am so sorry Daniel...so mean of me to leave you behind when you were hurting!!!), and fun to run with. We had a lot of great runs together, and a few not-so-great runs together.
      The drive on the bus to Shasta Dam was beautiful. The weather could not have been more perfect. The temperature was in the 50s the entire run. The race started promptly at 8am. We were off. The first 2.5 miles out of 3.5 miles was downhill. This was a perfect way to start a race. We were running at a great pace, feeling amazing. I was on my game that day. I felt amazing and was not in pain. Around mile five, I realized that I somehow lost Daniel and I could no longer see him. I knew I had two options: slow down and wait for him, or continue on and see him at the end of the race. Yep. You guessed it. I continued on and decided I would see him at the end of the race. I felt really bad, but I wanted to do my very best and I just made the decision to continue on at my current pace. Around mile 11, I was still feeling pretty good. My knee and my foot were both pretty sore, but I knew that I was going to finish the race and accomplish what I had worked so hard toward. Shortly after I hit mile 11, I came to the 4 miles of hills (up and downhill). When I made it to the top of the first hill, I realized that my knee and foot were starting to hurt pretty bad. I had to finish the race, so I made a decision right then that I would walk up all of the hills. I had ran the first 11 miles pretty quickly, so I had plenty of wiggle room in my time to walk up the hills. At the end of the last hill, I was at mile 15. I was hurting pretty bad at this point. The thought of still having to make it through 11 more miles was slightly daunting. I just kept telling myself, this is what I worked so hard for. Don't give up. You aren't dying. You can can do it! Once I hit the river trail, I was in so much pain that I decided to walk for a bit. The next 2 miles were a mixture of walking, running, and crying. When I was 0.5 miles from the diestelhorst bridge, I knew that I had to start running again because my family and friends were awaiting me there with cameras and cheering. I had to look strong (not like I was just going to finish the race crying and walking). I mustered up every bit of energy and willpower I could find and began running again. When I saw my dad and Daniel's dad I perked up a bit. I passed them and was refreshed once again when I saw family and friends cheering me on.
       I was able to continue running for about a mile past that point before I was forced to walk again. At this point, I had about 9 miles left to go. I ran as much as physically possible (oftentimes while crying and praying that I could make it), and then I walked when I simply couldn't handle the pain any longer. When I reached mile 22, I was walking for a bit. This group of 3 runners ran past me and then all three of them stopped and turned around. The older gentleman started immediately encouraging me and said, "This is what you have trained for. You have not come all this way to be walking at this point. You are running with us. We are running 10. 15 miles, so you can definitely keep up pace."
       I began running with them, despite the pain. It just felt good to have people to run with and they were all so nice. For a while, I didn't say much. They kept talking and I just tried to keep up with them. Then, I started walking because I didn't think that I could handle running. I really thought that my only option was to finish the last four miles walking. The man immediately told me that I was not allowed to walk. I started crying and he said that I could cry all I wanted, make noises, and do whatever I needed to do to push through, but I was NOT walking. I had come too far. We only had about three miles left at this point, but I was not feeling like I could make it. He was the sweetest guy. He said that I was his project and that he refused to leave me behind. He was constantly encouraging me...saying things like "you are amazing Rachel! You are doing it. Look at you! You are finishing this race! You are accomplishing something so great! You will finish." For the last four miles of my run, it was constant encouragement and positive comments. He literally would not let me stop and walk.  At one point, I started thinking, are these three angels? Does anyone else see them? No one is really THAT nice and encouraging, are they? Where did these people come from? Am I going to cross the finish line and no one else but me sees that they are there? It felt like a surreal moment. When we were about .75 miles from the finish line, the family of these 3 runners started shouting out, "Good job Rachel! You are amazing! You are almost there. You've got this. Keep going...you are doing great!" The two younger runners had gone ahead of us a bit (because I had tried to walk again and was encouraged/forced to start running again). They told their family to cheer for me. I couldn't believe it! They weren't even cheering for the amazing man I was running with...just me! Who does that? These people were unbelievably kind!
       That last mile was the hardest mile I have ever run. Despite the fact that it was only one mile, I literally did not think I could make it. If my angel runner had not been right there with me, I do not know that I would have had the strength to finish. He ran with me all the way to the finish line. We reached the Sundial Bridge. All I had left was to run across the bridge and I was done. I found every ounce of energy I could muster and ran across the bridge. I was still getting "You got this. We are there. This is it. You have survived!" in my ear to encourage me to continue running across the bridge. When we made it to the finish line, my angel running buddy said, "Ladies first" and had me cross the finish line before him. I did it! I accomplished one of the most difficult things of my life. I never imagined the run to be this difficult. I was amazed, thrilled, exhausted, astonished, nauseous, thankful, relieved, and beaming because I CROSSED THAT FINISH LINE! I accomplished a lifelong goal, and it felt amazing. I had so much support at the finish line: family and friends. I felt incredibly loved by my family of angel running buddies and all those who came to watch me cross that finish line. I have never been so proud to accomplish something in my life. I did it!
       After about 35 minutes, I was able to cheer loudly for Daniel and meet him at the finish line. He finished too! I am so proud of his accomplishments. He was in a tremendous amount of pain due to his ankle and didn't think he was going to be able to finish, but he persevered and finished strong! We both survived and have an amazing story to tell! Thank you Daniel for being so amazing and training with me. I enjoyed every moment and am so excited that we both ran a MARATHON! So huge!

       Will I ever do it again??? You bet! I LOVE to run, and I plan on running many more marathons in my future. I just pray that the next one will be done with no injuries!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Life...So Good...So Full...Loving Every Moment!

These are a few pictures from the family photo shoot we did a couple of weeks ago. I hope you enjoy.
So...I have been a really bad blogger, but I thought that I would try to be better in this new year. We shall see how that goes. Life can simply be so busy that I forget sometimes to take a moment to relax and record all of the amazing things that go on in life. 
Let me start with the MOST amazing thing that has happened as of late. Are you ready for it?! I AM TOTALLY and COMPLETELY healed of food allergies!!! About two months ago, I started thinking that I did not want to accept these food allergies as mine anymore. I started declaring out loud that in 2011 I would be healed completely of all 25 allergies. I didn't put a specific date on it, but I just knew that sometime in 2011 I would not be dealing with this issue anymore. I couldn't deal with this issue anymore. So, in November, I went to see West Side Story in San Francisco on a Sunday. Before we went, I helped lead worship with my brother and sister in law at their church. They were taking communion on that day. It dawned on me that it had been almost a year since I had taken communion because I was too afraid to eat the bread. On stage, I whispered this to Christina...and she said that this might be what would heal me (taking communion in faith). Well, I ended up leaving for San Francisco before taking communion, but a couple of hours later I got a text from Christina stating that she took communion for me and believed that I was healed. I did not have the courage to try any food at that time because I get incredibly sick from even one bite of food that I can't have.  After this moment, I began declaring my healing within two months. I truly believed that I would be healed within that time frame. On Christmas day, there was so much mouth watering food surrounding me, none of which I could eat. I decided to pray over my food and trust God that I would not get sick (the ultimate..."God bless this food to my body" moment). Typically, within 5 minutes of eating "bad" food I get severely dizzy. I ate something with cheese in it first, and milk was one of the worst foods on my list. No reaction. I ate some crackers and something with tomatoes in it. No reaction. I ate mashed potatoes and turkey with seasonings and yams and cheesecake and more. Again, no reaction! At this point, I was so excited, but also wondering if I was truly healed or if God was blessing me with one evening to eat normally with my family. The next day, I decided to be brave once again and ate everything that my family was eating (feeling very included rather than some outcast who always makes those around go out of their way simply so that I can find food that I can eat). No reaction. I am COMPLETELY healed of all allergies. To this day (it has been 15 days), I am allergy free. I am eating like a normal person, and having a blast eating whatever my heart desires! Thank you Jesus!!!
If you know me at all, you know that I like to keep a busy schedule. At times, "busy" may seem an understatement. Over the past 8 months or so, I have decided that I am going to live life differently. I needed to find quietness and stillness in my life. I discovered a love for reading that had been lost for years. I have poured over books and loved entering the fictional lives of some amazing characters. I have found stillness within myself by taking a few moments to be in the quiet and enjoy a good book. I try to read nearly every day to allow my brain to calm itself and take a break from some of the stresses of life. Reading is lovely and I am simply in love with books. I am currently reading the Chronicles of Narnia (I haven't read them since I was a little girl) and having fun adventures with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.
Another passion in life that I have pursued immensely in this season is running. I have been training for a marathon and have loved (nearly) every minute of it. I love running in the early morning with a deep chill in the air and fog over the river. Everything is so quiet and still and breathtaking in those moments. It is as if time is standing still. The longest run to date was about 21 miles. The worst run to date was a 16 mile run that I did without taking any Gu packets with me (I threw up for the first time since I was 3...it was BAD! I thought I was going to black out. The worst I have ever felt from exercise!). I have been training for a few months. I am really excited for the actual marathon in about a week. It is on January 16. I hope that I can achieve my goal of under four hours, but we shall see! I have been training with my friend, Daniel. We have had a lot of fun running together, pushing each other to be better, convincing one another we are not actually dying and that our bodies can go a little further, and allowing the discovery of the absolute limitations of our bodies. Training for a marathon has been challenging, exhilarating, frustrating, injuring, and one of the best things I have ever done!
My brother recorded his first album. Well, it was supposed to be a demo, but the quality is too good for it to be considered a demo. Not sure what to call it, but it is amazing! There are 5 songs on the cd. He wrote them all. Christina sings lead vocals on one song, and Elijah sings the other four. I sing backup on two of the songs, Christina sings backup on another, and Elijah sings alone on the fifth. You can find it on Itunes if you would like to check it out (under Elijah Runyan...One Desire). I am so proud of my brother. I hope to someday record a cd as well, but it is definitely a lot of work and takes a lot of time and money. On my life long to do list. I know it will happen someday.
Teaching is going well! I still absolutely love my job and am so thankful that I chose this profession. I can't imagine doing anything else. This is not to say it is without frustration at times, but I truly love my students and the challenge of helping them to learn every day and discover the wonderful world of mathematics (although most of them still think I am crazy and hate math...what can ya do?). I can't believe that my second year of teaching is half way over already. Life and time is just flying by. For goodness' sake, I am 25, in a career that I love, and so thankful for that fact.
Again...I am 25...still no boy in my life. I am looking forward to the day that a boy sweeps me off my feet and is absolutely in love with me (and me with him). I know that I have an amazing man in my future...I just wish that I knew who that amazing guy was! I have waited 25 years for my first kiss. I would love to have that happen before I am 26, but I am totally willing to wait for God's timing because I know that when it happens it will be amazing and with the man of my dreams. I would never want to settle simply because I have a desire to kiss a boy. I want it to be right and with my future husband. Who knows, but I do think that this year, 2011, is my year. I believe that this is the year I will meet (or discover) who my husband is. No matter what happens in 2011, I am determined to be happy. I am in control of my happiness level, and I will make sure that wherever life takes me, happiness is at the forefront. I love life. I love what I am doing in life. I have an amazing family and amazing friends who care for me and love me for all of who I am! I do not know what 2011 has in store for me, but I know it is going to be great! It has to be great because I am great and I am destined for greatness.
So...here is to 2011. One amazing year. One amazing life. Happiness. Fullness. Love. Mystery. Crazy times. Adventurous times. Peace. Rest. Restoration. My life. 2011