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See you at Rooted Chicago!!!

PartnersJasmine LopezComment

April 23rd, 2016 | 8am-5pm | Featuring: Bob Goff, Bianca Juarez Olthoff, Helen Lee and other Chicago Speakers

I'm so excited to share that we will be at Rooted Chicago on April 23rd. We've partnered with them to empower and encourage every lady to share their one word story. We will be bringing our photo booth along, and creating an environment for every lady to share their story. I have to honest, I've never been to a women's conference before outside of my own church community. I'm so excited to hear the speakers, but there's also an unknowing of what to expect.  I'm excited to see a community of women from all types of backgrounds come together, and hunger for our savior. I'm excited to see women choose to be vulnerable, and share their one word stories through the art of photography. I'm excited to see new friendships form, and old friendships strengthen. I'm just excited to see how God is going to move!!! And I hope to see you there.

To purchase your ticket(s) visited Rooted Chicago's website: https://rootedchicago2016.splashthat.com/

 

FAMILY | The G Family

Family, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story:

Family.

It’s such a simple word, yet, it carries so much meaning. It’s a word that has the ability to stir up all kinds of feelings and emotions with just its mention. For some, it brings up a sweet sense of nostalgia full of warm and loving memories.

It’s home. It’s love. It’s safety.

But for others, it’s a painful reminder of all that was lost and broken. Of everything that was not as it should have been.

It stings. It hurts. It disappoints.

In my life, I have experienced both. Once by birth, once by the grace of God.

The family I was born into was broken from the start. My parents were already treading rocky ground by the time I was born and just a few months later, they were  divorced. As a result, I never really knew or understood what true togetherness looked like. I had no idea what it meant to be a family.

My mom, a severe alcoholic at the time, moved to another city soon after the divorce and left me with my father. Although it was the best choice for me, I missed my mom tremendously. There were weekend and summer visits but none of that time spent seemed to satisfy the craving I had for my mother’s love. She was lost in her addiction and incapable of being the mom I needed her to be.

My father, meantime, was married and divorced three more times. His job required him to travel extensively so he was only home a couple of nights a week. I know he was doing his best to provide a good life for me, but what my dad didn’t realize is that I just wanted him.

His time. His attention. His care. His protection. His love.

By the time I was a teenager I was very independent and self-reliant. Not because I wanted to be but because I had to be. With my mom out of the picture and my dad out of town most of the time, I was left to do as I pleased. I went where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go there and I didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. If I didn’t feel like going to school then I didn’t go, and no one was there to make me. I had the freedoms of an adult but I was just a kid. It may seem like a teenager’s dream but trust me, it wasn’t good.

I needed rules. I needed boundaries. I needed a family.

Thankfully, God already knew that and out of His incredible grace He had a plan to provide me with a second family. And I’m not talking about any kind of regular average family. I’m talking about one of the most amazing families I’ve ever known. That’s exactly how our great God works. He always gives us more than we could even think to ask for.

I met the Taylor family through a volunteer opportunity at my church when I was 14-years-old. It wasn’t long before I started babysitting for them and immediately fell in love with their three children. When they realized my dad was gone most of the time, they began inviting me to spend the night at their house. This became a regular occurrence until I eventually moved in. I loved every minute with them!

For the first time, I got to experience what it was like to be in a real family. To sit down and have nightly family dinners. Together. To have someone who cared if I did my homework or not. To know I wasn’t on my own anymore.

I was soaking it all in. Every moment.

I listened as the kids were read stories and tucked in bed at night. I watched as two parents loved their children well and loved each other deeply. And I learned what it meant to be a mom and a wife and a follower of Jesus. It was exactly what I needed and more.

God was good. So so good.

Fast forward to the day I became a mother. I looked into the eyes of my sweet baby girl and felt a love I had never felt before. It was strong and it ran deep. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for this little person. I was hers and she was mine.

But in the midst of my joy, a sadness started to creep in. I wasn’t sure my own mom felt the same way about me. Perhaps she did but alcohol had robbed me of ever knowing it. Regardless, the damage had been done. She had missed so much. And it hurt.

That’s when God began to work.

God showed me how the lack of a relationship with my mom had left me with a gaping hole in my heart, full of sadness. Lots of sadness. I realized I would never get to experience all the things little girls should experience with their moms. There would never be any hair braiding, tea partying, make-up playing, bedtime story reading, boo-boo kissing, or comforting after a scary dream. The opportunity for those seemingly small & mundane parts of the mother/daughter relationship were lost in the past and could never be retrieved. The wound was deep and it ached to my bones.

I knew there was only one who could heal it.

The process was slow and it was painful. Many tears were cried and many prayers were prayed as God lovingly walked me through the broken areas of my heart. Little by little he put the shattered pieces back together. My heart started to become whole again. The walls I had built began to come down and love started flowing in. With its current came the ability to forgive. I began to see my parents through God’s eyes. No longer was there anger, resentment, or sadness. Only love.

But that’s not the end of the story.

God isn’t just our healer, He’s also our redeemer.

My mom started reaching out to me when I was about 21-years-old. She was trying to get her life on track and part of that meant she wanted to salvage our relationship. I cautiously and slowly welcomed my mom back into my life and it was really nice to reconnect with her. A few years later I got married and became pregnant soon after. That’s when I finally gave my mom an ultimatum – Quit drinking or never know your grandchildren.

She went to rehab a few weeks later.

That was nearly 7 years ago. My mom has been sober ever since. Not only is she sober but she also loves Jesus. God has completely changed her life and I couldn’t be more grateful to get a second chance with my mom. She is such a blessing to me and an amazing grandmother to my children.

My dad and I are also very close now and I have such a deep respect for him. He may not have done everything perfectly but he did the best he could do at the time. He is an honest man who has sacrificed so much for me to have the life I have today. For that I am thankful.

Despite the difficulties, I can honestly say I’m very grateful for the life God has given me. I could have never imagined I’d be where I am today with a loving husband and two beautiful children. Now it’s my turn to decide what the word ‘family’ will mean to my kids. I’m certainly not the perfect mom but I’m doing my best. I can only hope the seeds I’m planting in my children today will become their warm and loving memories of tomorrow.

Single Mom | Vanessa

Single Parents, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

Clothing sponsored by: Abby Bella Couture

Please share a bit of your story:

My name is Vanessa, I am 22 years old and a mother of two.  I have a 4yr old daughter as well as a 2yr old.

What/who is your inspiration?

My children are and will always be. They are my hope, strength, inspiration they are my whole reason why.

How has your story defined or not defined who you are today?

Bad decisions as a teen landed me to where I am now. My girls changed me for the better I am forever grateful of the woman I had to become for them.

Why should your story be selected to be featured on our blog?

I am a single mother of two. I have a child with hearing loss and new to this is exhausting. I’d love to share my story and the changes I am facing with this. There is so many things unknown. It’s hard to understand and hard to cope. But I stay strong.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?

Being a single parent is a tough job as it is but our children need us to be there for everything. Keep strong, never give up believe in God and prayer and all things will get better.

Single Mom | Zaiha

Single Parents, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

Please share a bit of your story:
I am a single mother for the last 2 years now. I was married for 10 years and tried to conceive for 7 of those years. After fertility treatments, many disappointments and on IVF try we finally got our miracle.

What/who is your inspiration?
My son. I waited many years for my miracle and every day I get to enjoy my blessing. He pushes me to be better, to have a better attitude and work harder.

How has your story defined or not defined who you are today?
After my divorce, I was forced to return to work after being a stay at home mom with my son for 3 years. I struggled for 3 months looking for a job with no help from his father. This experience showed me I was a lot stronger than I thought.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?
You are so much stronger than you think. When you dig deep and do whatever it takes for you and your child everything will fall into place and you will look back and say how did I do that? Only by the grace of God!

Single Mom | Ugochi

Single Parents, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

Please share a bit of your story:
I’m a teacher and a single mom. This year was a struggle; I wanted to finish my degree program before my son was born and I did. Despite the loads of rejection that I’ve faced from various friends and family I’m confident God will bring a better 2015.

What/who is your inspiration?
My principal. She is also a single mom and aspire to be a principal so I know if she can do it I can too.

How has your story not defined who you are today?
I am still pressing forward with my goal of becoming a principal. A child is not a hindrance to my goals. A child is a blessing to me and my future.

Why should your story be selected to be featured on our blog?
I have not struggled more than anyone. My struggle is just different. I want single moms to be encouraged that they don’t have to give up on owning homes, career goals, finding a mate, or simply enjoying life. I want to be featured so I can encourage.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?
Life isn’t over. It gets easy. You and your child are still loved by God.

Infertility | The R Family

Infertility, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

What is your story?

Matthew and I got married in 2011 and planned on waiting to have children. After a year and a half of being married, we prayed and decided to try to have a baby. For about a whole year we couldn’t get pregnant and even had a miscarriage. We decided to stop trying and made an appointment with a fertility doctor. Around December of 2013 we said we would leave it in God’s hands and we had many people praying for us. My fertility appointment was set for January 31st and I was set to be put on fertility drugs. The morning of my appointment, I decided to take a pregnancy test due to not feeling well the past week. And what do you know, it was POSITIVE! That very instant I called and canceled my apt, God had answered our prayer. Since that day its been a roller coaster of events. The first doctor’s appointment was to confirm the pregnancy. Second, was finding out we were having twins, third having twin girls, and then fourth identical twin girls. When it got closer to my due date around 29 weeks we were told the girls were not gaining the proper weight and I needed steroid shots in case they arrived early. Again we trusted in God and prayer. The girls and I were monitored very careful after that and we expected them to come any day. At 36 weeks and 6 days I had a another doctor’s appointment to see how things were going, and I had my scheduled c-section for that following Monday. I explained to my doctor some symptoms I was having, and she took a test and came back to me saying I would be meeting my girls that very day! My water had broken for one of the girls the previous night without me knowing it. I was shocked and excited. We headed to the hospital and had my girls that night via c-section at 8:04 & 8:05 pm. The trial wasn’t over yet. After having the girls they were sent to the NICU for being prematurely born. Ava was on a feeding tube and Vivi had a breathing episode. Along with that, I was having anemia issues and needed a blood transfusion. I knew I had to be strong for the girls and God gave my husband the strength to get through it as well. They also explained to me that the girls needed to stay in the NICU for a while and maybe one would stay longer than the other. I was in the hospital for a total of 5 days. Ava finally was off the feeding tube and came home with me the day I was discharged, but Vivi had to stay two extra days in the  NICU. I was heartbroken but knew it was for the best. The very next day after we came home I received a call saying that Vivi can come home and we could go pick her up! Both girls are gaining the proper weight now and we are all adjusting well. We all went through a huge trial but came out victorious!

What encouraging words would you tell someone going through a similar story?

It may seem impossible for things to happen but it’s all in God’s time. I’ve learned that it doesn’t come when we want it. I believe there is purpose and a reason for all things. I believe to make us stronger, wiser, patient, and to minister to others going through the same thing. So be patient and don’t give up hope…..because I’m living proof that miracles can and do still happen.

Headpieces: Abby Bella Couture

Wieght Loss Journey | Wendy

Weight Loss JourneyJasmine LopezComment

Please share with us a bit of your story:

I am married to my high school sweetheart, Mark Santoyo, with two beautiful boys ages 12 (Ethan), and 8 (Luke).  I was a teen mom at the age of 18. I was able to finish high school and became pregnant shortly after graduating.  I was very determined not to let my pregnancy let me become another “statistic” so I continued my schooling at Fox College, a two year college.  While attending school, I gave birth to my son on March 7, 2001, and with the help of my mom, taking and picking my son up from daycare I was able to continue my schooling until I finished.  My now husband, we did not live together during this time, so I was basically doing it on my own working and going to school while caring for my son.  After graduating Fox College with my associate’s degree I was able to find a job at a law firm in 2001, which I still currently work at 12 years later.

 Fast forward to the year 2005, this year was a very difficult year.  I was having some bad migraines and the doctor did an MRI and found a brain tumor which I needed surgery have it removed.  The doctor was not sure if the tumor was cancerous or benign.  I had my surgery in January 2005, and thank God the tumor was benign and surgery was successful.  Recovery from surgery was a little difficult physically and emotionally. I think I started to get depressed which is when my weight gain began.  I became pregnant with my second son a month after my surgery, February 2005. I was excited and happy for this blessing but I wasn’t acknowledging my depression and was still recovering from my surgery.  I gave birth to my son on October 20, 2005, and shortly after giving birth I spiraled even deeper in my depression. I was emotionless to my son, I cared for him as I should as a mom but I was checked out. Recovering from surgery, having a baby, and on top of that the doctors discovered I had a thyroid problem, hypothyroidism. I was put on medication and will have to be on medication for the rest of my life for that. One of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is weight gain and I attributed my weight to my baby weight and to the thyroid problem. Losing weight with hypothyroidism is very difficult so I used that as an excuse why I was gaining and couldn’t “lose weight.”

 I’ve always been self-conscious with a low self-esteem. I’ve never really been comfortable in my own skin.  After my surgery, baby, thyroid issue, I didn’t care about myself and let myself go.  I wasn’t exercising and ate whatever I wanted to.  I hated taking pictures because I didn’t like how I looked and I still struggle with that to this day.  My depression got better and was able to work through that on my own.  I wanted to make a change for myself so I got my first gym membership.  I started going to the gym 3 times a week for 30 minutes just doing some quick cardio. Going to the gym while working full-time, kids, husband; it’s hard but I wanted to “lose weight”, I never saw the scale move. I was just the same. The heaviest I’ve ever been was at 174 and I thought I was okay with that, at least I’m not gaining, I’m just maintaining.  My eating habits were the same, eating bad stuff and I thought I’m exercising I should lose weight.  Lol, that’s not the way it works and that’s why I was just maintaining.

 May 2013, my law-firm was having a weight-loss challenge called the Fit26. They would teach us how to eat healthy and lose weight for 26 days and it was $35. Wow, I can’t say it enough those $35 have been the best investment in my life!!!!!! My friend and co-worker, Yanira, and I decided to do this together. We both had family vacation trips in the summer so we wanted to lose weight for our trips. So we signed up and got started on the program which isn’t a “diet” it about eating healthy. We were instructed that we would have a detox period for the first week and that first week was torture. We couldn’t eat any sugar, bread, milk, tortillas, beans, cheese, juice, alcohol, or coffee, encouraging us to eat fresh meat, veggies, and water. It felt like we’d starved and the first week I was sick to my stomach, I had headaches, feeling nauseous I wanted to quit. Yanira was my cheer leader and kept telling me to stick to it, to keep going and after the first week we were smooth sailing. We kept each other accountable for what we ate and would tell each other when we would cheat. We would have weekly weigh-ins and the weight started melting off I was amazed. My starting weight was 174.2 , weigh-in #1 176.4, weigh-in #2 172.4, final weight in-168.8!!!!! After 26 days I had lost 6 pounds. I was pumped and motivated to keep going we’ve both been continuing the Fit 26 healthy eating it’s become our lifestyle now. The weight just melted off, and as expected we did cheat here and there and fell off the wagon but we just would start over.

 Yanira and myself started working out during our lunch hour at our law-firms little gym. We started running and we both could barely do a mile but our endurance increased we started running 2, 3, 4 miles and it kept increasing and the weight kept coming off.  I sometimes work out twice a day if I have the time because I still have my gym membership.  Yanira came to me and told me about the Hot Chocolate 15k race (10 miles)  that would be in November 3, 2013.  She said we should do it to celebrate our weight loss journey.  I thought I could never do it, but then thought why not, so we signed up in October, with a little over a month and we started doing our own little training.  Race day came and we did it!!!!!!!!  And our times were amazing.  I came in at 1 hour and 40 minutes!!!!  That was a great day I was so proud of both of us for taking on such a challenge and doing it. 

 My life has changed soooo much. I am much happier, and a little more confident than I was before.  I still struggle with self-image issues but I’m working on it. My husband and family have been so encouraging and motivating and I am proud to show my kids that if you put your mind to it you can do anything.  Currently, my weight is 136, that is 38 pounds lost. I’ve never ever felt confident in my skin, in grade school and high school I thought I was “fat” and I’m finally at the age of 31 starting to feel comfortable in my skin.  I owe a lot to my wonderful friend Yanira for embarking on this weight loss journey with me because without her I think I would’ve quit when I struggled. I have finally learned how to eat correctly, and make better choices. I do indulge sometimes but I never deprive myself.  I’m never hungry or starving.  Eating healthy and exercising every single day have become a necessity just like breathing.  I never want to go back to feeling unhappy with myself. I need to take care of myself for my family, I have two kids I need to be around for.  Life is WONDERFUL at the moment.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story? *
Being comfortable in your own skin is possible at any age, put yourself first to lose weight. It's going to be hard, but don't give up. The end result is worth it!