Click For Hope

clickforhope

Searching for myself

Clickforhope, Divorce, Single Parents, Single MomJasmine LopezComment
give back chicago click for hope.jpg

Please share your story:

I’m an author, artist, dancer, cellist and mother. But I couldn’t say that so concisely eleven years ago…I only found and redefined myself in 2014. Before that, I was Octavia, the cellist, the French major, the world-traveler, Miss Michigan.
After college, I competed for Miss America and when I came home without the crown, I married my love and we moved to Chicago to begin our life together. We were surprised to become parents within our first year of marriage and panicked, suddenly desperate to do everything “right.” The shoulds we were both raised with were that good wholesome Christian families were homeowners in the suburbs with a dog and van. Check, check, check and check.
As we began to complete our American Dream checklist, I realized the more we checked-off, the bigger the void in my heart grew. My husband felt a strong calling to become a pastor of a small urban ministry center and I supported it wholeheartedly. I felt a strong calling too – whether corporate or academic, I felt I had so much more to give than birthing children, although that had become my life.
I went to graduate school. I dropped out of graduate school. I started a full-time job. We had another child. I quit the full-time job to be a full-time mom. But something was wrong. I wasn’t like those moms that are fulfilled being moms. They were so happy with their children, nestling securely in their roles as homemakers. Content. Placid. They LOVED being moms. I loved being a mom, too, but that wasn’t all. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I was far from content. I was lonely and isolated. So I made up some friends; I started writing books.
While writing was my creative outlet, my scientific side was also understimulated and I wanted to have a career that provided more paycheck than risk. I felt called to healthcare and began my post-bac pre-med coursework. I was desperately searching for myself. I was depressed. I was hopeless. I was bored and unsatisfied. I wanted more than my suburban prison with really cute cell mates. I wanted friends. I needed a bigger purpose. I needed to contribute to the world outside of my home. I had drive. I had zeal. I had a full tank of gas but no GPS.
I was pregnant again. I started designing nonprofit youth programs and writing grants to fund them. I lost my third child. I was still taking my classes, teaching private cello lessons, working part-time coordinating a STEM grant at a community college, working part-time at the ministry center, running the grant programs I designed and wrote to fund, and then, yes: enter child number four.
We had our fourth child.

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I finally got into the medical program for which I had been applying for years. And my husband and I came to a crossroads. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t fulfilled making our home my career. We went to counseling. We tried going on dates. We tried getting to know each other again. And we realized the very hard and sad truth: I would never be the wife he wanted. He would never be the husband I wanted. He would never be satisfied with me being myself. I would never be satisfied with him being himself. So, now what do we do?
We got a divorce. I wonder if divorce is harder when neither one of you is the Bad Guy. I dropped out of school and feverishly took to finding my footing in a way that I could live in the city, near friends, and finally realize my larger-than-life dreams of serving others, writing books that are more paycheck than risk, and still being a creative and nerdy mom.
As my circle began to learn about my divorce I realized I was part of a secret sisterhood of silently suffering beauties – wives, unfulfilled by their relationships, and suffocated by the shoulds of motherhood. I began blogging to help myself and others navigate the treacherous and uncharted trails of unexpected emotional trauma. I called the blog Road to Relovery (roadtorelovery.com) and continue to write from my experience of being a single mom of three, trying to honor God and myself and my children with every decision I make.
Finally, here I am, three and a half years post-divorce, successfully co-parenting with my once-husband, successfully working in a career that is more paycheck than risk and uses both my writing skills and healthcare passions to serve one of the country’s leading children’s hospitals; and I’m about to release the first episode in my sci-fi fantasy series, The Hibouleans, with nine more episodes already written – and I’m working on my next biblical fiction novel, Hem. I’m proud of my journey, not only because I am being more true to myself, which helps me be a better mother to my boys, but also because I didn’t have to choose between God’s calling for me and the weight of the shoulds.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

I am a better me -- author, artist, dancer, cellist and mother. My dreams are coming to life. I am flourishing. My children are thriving. And I feel like I've only taken the first step.
www.octaviareese.com

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I have had a colorful reset to the adulthood chapters of my life and I know there are other mom's out there that can benefit from knowing they are not alone.

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

Marriage: it is scary; it is NOT what anyone says. It takes work, no matter what. Your relationship does not define you; you define it and your partnership should serve BOTH of you, not one more than the other. Neither of you should need either other; rather you should want to be with each other and make the decision daily to honor each other and make your relationship work. And finally, whatever blessings and scars you each bring to your partnership from your childhoods, remember that you define your own culture for your family. You determine your traditions, your norms, and your boundaries.

Parenting: there is no manual to parenting, but you can't parent well when you aren't well yourself. If your goals, career, or relationship is detracting from your ability to be your best parent to your children, then that factor needs a reset and an adjustment. You can only be your best parent to your children when you are your best self. Take care of your kids by serving yourself, setting boundaries for yourself and your children, and by carving time for your own spiritual-mental-emotional health BEFORE you burn out! Be gentle with yourself and your children. Always lead with love and be the parent you wish you had when you were a child.

Dreams: a dream deferred isn't a dream denied (Langston Hughes), but don't martyr yourself in the name of fulfilling everyone elses expectations of you. It's OK if you're that mom or dad that isn't fulfilled by being a parent. I wasn’t. And it’s OK. When a tree grows a new branch, it doesn't cut the others off. Parenting is just one branch of the tree that is you, and all branches need nourishment and sunlight in order to bear beautiful fruit. You are a better parent when you are your best self and if your best self finds fulfillment outside the home, don't deprive yourself of that light -- and don't let anyone else tell you you're wrong.

Spreading God's Love To My Kids

Good Good Fathers, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment
photo provided by dad

photo provided by dad

What does fatherhood mean to you?

Well, not to make it sound too cliche but there is the part of me that connects with God and recognizes that as a man, it's an honor, privilege, and obedience to what God expects from us. To be able to honor His glory for generations to come, in making sure that I do my best in spreading God's love to my kids so that they can continue doing the same. So I just appreciate that God has allowed and entrusted me to have such a thing to steward. And then there is the other part of me that appreciates the journey of life I have been through, from the start to present. I've begun putting it all into perspective. I recently found out that my dad was fatherless his whole life and am now understanding and making sense of the upbringing I had. I went from telling myself what I would do differently to basically now becoming as supportive as I can of my own father, and ensuring that even though he never had a father, he has done his best, and as a byproduct, I will continue to at least be the best son he can ask for. But through that journey, God has allowed me to see a perspective of fatherless children growing up into broken homes to also being in conflicts of war. While I served my tour in Iraq, I never expected to see the sadness war brings because I was trained and ready to see only the very bad of war, but it allowed me to put more value into the life God has given me daily. While out there, I always viewed fatherhood as the ultimate blessing that I never knew if one day I would get to be, but always wished desired and prayed I one day would, not knowing if my life would end the next day.

Who or what inspired you to be the dad you are today?

With my dad being fatherless all his life and learning that later in life, it just sparked something in me to ensure that if God ever allowed me the blessing of being a dad one day, I will always make the best of it, so that my children would not be affected by it. I firmly believe that if God allows me to have something, I will honor it the best I can by being the best steward over it. But there is one person who actually has really been a great inspiration for me from afar. When I was in high school I had a close older friend that I would often hang out with that wasn't always the greatest influence but I enjoyed being around him. Our friendship eventually grew apart as I left for the Marines, and he then soon became a father himself. I watched from afar his relationship with his daughter and never would I have thought that he would be probably one of the greatest dads I have ever known to his daughter. He has always gone above and beyond for his daughter, constantly takes her on vacations and constantly showers her with love in many ways. He always seems to put her first in everything he does and if he doesn't he always seems to make time for her and makes sure she knows she is his priority. He is showing her what it is to be loved the right way as he slowly grooms her to one day be on her own. I still admire the way he is with her till this day and by far I have always told myself that I could only hope that I can be as great of a father as he is.

Fatherhood, embodies love and responsibility

Good Good Fathers, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

What does fatherhood mean to you?

I approach fatherhood as one of the most important things that I'll ever do in life. Fatherhood, embodies love and responsibility, teaching and care. I love my son more than anything, next to my wife. I have a responsibility to provide for him and protect him. While he's growing from a baby to a man, I have to act as his sword and shield. But being a provider doesn't lessen my responsibility to be a loving dad. I want to teach him what I've learned and the mistakes that I've made, while never passing up on an opportunity to show him how much I care. I don't want to just be someone he runs to for answers, I want to be someone he leans on for strength.

What/Who inspired you to be the dad you are today?

Life is what inspired me. Life is difficult enough in the best situations; it can be even more challenging if the people you count on the most are the very same people who let you down. The father I am today is fueled by my desire to make sure that the values, wisdom, and love that his mom wanted to teach him is passed on. I want him to know that he is raised by two parents, always. I want him to know that I'm doing my best, and through any difficult situation or circumstance, I will never let him down.

The fear of Cancer....

Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine Lopez3 Comments

Please share your story: : In March 2016 I went for my yearly gynecology visit. I was handed a mammogram script and told not to go until I turned 40 (which was going to be in a month and half) otherwise insurance would not pay for it. On April 7th I found a lump in my right breast and called my gynecologist the next day (I still do not know what made me feel my breast that day). I made an appointment at the breast center and everything from there happened so quickly. Mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy the next day. The following week I received the call on my cell phone at work that I had cancer. As they explained things over the phone and made appointments on my behalf I cried so hard I couldn't speak. I immediately left work and text my husband the news. We met with the team of doctors on April 29th, same day was my MRI and were told at that time it was stage 2 triple negative, 95% aggressive and I would have to get a port put in and start chemo right away. Genetic testing also showed that I carry the RAD51C gene mutation which is related to ovarian cancer. (I lost my mom to a 5.5 year battle with ovarian cancer 2.5 years ago). The gynecologist oncologist recommended I receive a hysterectomy, which I will be having once I recover from the breast cancer. My Port was placed May 11th, first AC treatment May 16th (4 of these every other week). AC was rough and I ended up in the hospital with a fever due to my white count being too high from the nuelasta shot. Im currently on weekly Taxol for 12 weeks with 7 left. Recent MRI showed both tumors have responded well to chemo. I will meet with the surgeon October 11th to discuss my options. I am not certain I agree with the initial suggested lumpectomy but I fear the pain and recovery of the double mastectomy. This is a very serious and difficult decision I will have to make.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: The fear is real! Whether newly diagnosed or receiving your last chemo or 2 years in remission, the fear never goes away for some of us. I watched my mother fight so hard with countless surgeries and non stop chemo treatments and side effects and hospital stays that I feared the worst when starting my treatment. Every day cancer is what I wake up to and fall asleep with and there is no escaping it. The fear of the cancer coming back after all this is over will always be inside me. I wonder if I will ever be able to escape cancer or this fear and live life happily and normal again. PTSD affects a lot of cancer patients and it has affected me. Cancer changed my mind and my body in so many ways.

What compelled you to share your story?: I want to let other women know they are not alone with their fears, it is real and it is normal to feel this way. Our spouses and loved ones will not understand what we are truly going through. Finding my support group for triple negative breast cancer has been such a blessing and has helped me so much.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Fill in your eyebrows, put on a little blush, accent your eyes, don't worry about your missing hair. Enjoy the days or even hours that you feel good and always rest when you need it! Don't feel guilty about putting yourself and your needs first.

Forgiving my dad...

Divorce, Single Mom, Forgiveness, Single Parents, Clickforhope, My StoryJasmine LopezComment

I was born into the world rejected by my father, who made a new life with a new family. So all I knew was our little family: my mom, my older brother and me. I don't have many memories of my childhood. If I'm honest, I've suppressed so much of it, that I can only recall a memory here and there, and they aren't all good.

I do remember my mom doing her best trying to juggle it all. She was determined to figure out how to make it work with no assistance from anyone including the government.  A few of my fondest memories together was having a sock fight and making cheesecake for bake sales at church because I always got to lick the spoon with that delicious cream cheese filling. Other than that I don't remember much.

As a teenager, I was very cold, angry, bitter and didn't really know what I believed about "love". In fact "love" was distorted to me. I hadn't seen a positive example of it as well as marriage because all I was surrounded by was divorce. I don't think I realized it then nor could I even communicate that I had daddy issues. I just knew that when he'd come to pick us up I'd find an excuse to not go to his house. I wanted nothing to do with him. I didn't care if he ever got to be a part of my life again. I felt he had lost his chance.

Summer of junior year I was reacquainted with a childhood friend. It was through her a series of events happened where I found myself going to a youth retreat. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, and my motives in going were totally wrong too! But God had a different plan for me. After a fun day full of competitive games and teaching, there was a worship experience that I will never forget. It changed my life forever!

I remember being in a room full of other high school and college aged kids, but somehow the room felt empty with just me and God. I was sitting on the floor in a fetal position and I heard a voice say, "I've missed you!" Tears began to stream down my face, as a LOVE no words could describe consumed my broken heart, and filled the room. I wanted this LOVE. It felt so warm, inviting and perfect.....and all I could say was, "I've missed you too!" As more tears streamed down my face I heard a voice tell me, "If you're going to follow me you're going to have to forgive your father." A simple nod was my response.

That Labor Day weekend was the weekend I decided to surrender my life and follow Jesus. What I didn't know how to do was forgive. My mom worked nights so we had opposite schedules and my brother was off at college, so I began having beautiful moments with Jesus as I studied and read the Word every night on my bed. I was intrigued by the simplicity but yet complexity of who Jesus was. The miracles He performed was something I wanted to see one day. The stories of Paul and how he was redeemed and used to do a amazing things was only evidence for me in how I could have a similar story.

Three months later, my mom called my dad and told him to call me. A part of me felt so betrayed, but knew deep downside she only did what I didn't have the courage to do. Over the phone I began sharing my Jesus story with him, and said, "Dad, I just want to let you know that I forgive you!"

I cried. He cried.

I can't say that instantly we began a relationship and everything was just peachy, but what I can say is that when I said those words, I literally felt bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness and so much more lift off my shoulders. I was instantly a different person. I began to learn what love was according to 1 Corinthians 13. I began to let the walls down that I built up towards my dad, and in turn, other people.

It's now been 16 years since that beautiful exchange took place. My dad has been in my life for as long as he was out of it. To me it was worth walking down the path of forgiveness, not just for our relationship, but for me to become the person I am today. My dad and I have a fully restored relationship. He walked me down the aisle when I got married 10 years ago, he's been at the hospital for the birth of each of my daughters. My girls know their grandpa and love him very much. We talk on the phone about marriage, faith, and life. When I look at my dad, I don't see him as the man that abandoned me... I see him as forgiven. All those feelings of hatred no longer reside in my mind or heart. I live my life free, knowing I'm forgiven and loved by my Heavenly Father.

So I end with this! If there is someone in your life that you need to forgive, my hope is that you would begin to walk down that path. It's not easy, and everyone's forgiveness story is different. What I do know is, when we choose to forgive it frees us up to love. It humanizes your pain. It allows you to feel verses numbing it all away. I pray that you would open your heart! Please feel free to email me at clickforhope@jaziphoto.com if you'd like more information on how I walked through that journey or if you are looking for help/advice on how to forgive someone who hurt or abandoned you.

 

 

 

My Dream

Mobile Studio, Clickforhope, My StoryJasmine LopezComment
“As I’m in transition to do #Clickforhope full time, I’ve caved into the overwhelming emotions of will this, can this really happen?!?”
— Jazi

I've always dreamed of traveling the world and photographing inspiring stories.

I've always dreamed of encouraging others to share their stories.

I've always dreamed of having a mobile studio.

I've always dreamed of doing something greater than myself.

I've always dreamed of giving back and making an impact in the lives of others.

I'm learning that dreams do come true!!!

Can I be honest though?!?

The pretty pictures could convey how easy it was to accomplish this dream, but the journey has been HARD. Getting to where I'm at today has been full of challenges and still is; from the renovations to titling to finding the proper insurances to now finding out what the permitting and licensing regulations are. It's been filled with delay after delay. I've been battling the feelings of failure, scarcity telling me you won't have enough time, money or resources and struggles with comparison just to name a few. As I'm in transition to do #Clickforhope full time, I've caved into the overwhelming emotions of will this, can this really happen?!?

Fear has told me I'm crazy, and that my ideas are crazy. It's told me that there's no way this can work. That I can't give back to this capacity, and share all these stories complimentary.

I may not have all the answers, but I can stand here and say that fear has lost. I've pushed through. I am finding the answers. I am trusting in the sovereignty of God to help provide me with all that I need to sustain and help #Clickforhope continue to do BIG things in my community, in my nation and one day around the world!

So I speak to you my friend. What is that dream that you once dreamt of? I encourage you to press in and cling onto that dream. Make it a reality. It's never to late!!!

Photos by: http://www.jennycrugerphotography.com/

Makeup by: http://www.jacquelinegamache.com/

Love Perseveres

Clickforhope, Tragic Accident, Broken HipJasmine LopezComment
“I believe my story shows that it is possible to be who we are and ask for what we want in life while being supported and loved.”
— Radhika

Please share your story:

When I was seven years old, my dad became sick. He’s been tested for countless diseases since then, but every test has come back negative. Because there has been no diagnosis, there is no cure for his inability to walk without shaking or losing his balance and chronic weakness. When he’s really bad, the shaking robs his ability to speak. He spent the next five years of my childhood bedridden. As a young child, I noticed two things:

1) If he became upset by something, he would get worse

2) He became the most upset if I was unhappy or not doing well

That was the beginning of my life as a caretaker. I wanted to be the happy, successful child--one that my overworked, scared, and exhausted immigrant mother would not have to worry about while trying to find work to support her family.  My mother came to America from India, leaving her parents and siblings behind, and remains the strongest person I know. If I was sad, scared, or felt alone, I let those feelings out in the bathroom after school or under my covers at night. Until then, I was the one getting good grades, helping to clean and cook, tucking in my parents and brother and locking the doors before bed.

My parents are wonderful people who spent years encouraging me to worry less about them and start living my own life. It took me a long time to even imagine the concept, having been the girl who took the three hour bus ride to and from home every weekend in college so she could be there for her parents. Even in law school, I arranged my schedule so that I could drive home at least three times a month. Needless to say, things like dating weren’t on my radar. When the time finally came, I was twenty seven and living in Chicago.

The thing about being in a relationship is that you have to learn how to feel safe relying on someone else. I had no idea how to do that. I spent so much of my life being the person others needed me to be for their happiness that I couldn’t figure out what I wanted, let alone how to ask for it. I only knew how to give, not to ask or receive.

In July of last year, I was on vacation with my boyfriend, Ryan. While white water rafting, I got caught in the current and my body smashed into a boulder. After I was rescued, I found myself unable to stand or walk. The pain was unbearable, but what was even scarier was that I couldn’t do anything on my own. I needed to be carried to the car and Ryan drove me to two hospitals, then the fourteen hours back home. I was shocked that the person I was with was so willing to not just get me back to safety, but to carry me into rest stops and wipe off toilets so I could use the facilities.

When we got back to the States, I found out that I had broken my hip in four places, and needed to remain in bed for the foreseeable future. I didn’t know what to do, only that I could not let my parents see me in that condition.

Without me having to ask, and without complaint, Ryan helped me shower, made me meals, cleaned, took me to all of my doctor’s appointments, and held me while I cried out in pain. I kept waiting for him to throw up his hands and leave because I couldn’t take care of him, but he did the opposite. In January, he asked me to marry him.

On the day of our engagement party, I started to notice my recovery stall, and soon I was back to being stuck in bed. A doctor’s visit and an MRI later, I learned that I would need surgery, a process that would require six weeks in a brace and months of therapy to re-adjust myself to normal life. Again, I was terrified of how limited I would become after surgery, and how much help I would need. The brace meant that for six weeks, I would need even more help than before. Things had gotten to the point where I knew I had to face my fear of showing my parents that I was struggling, hurting, and needing of help.

My parents, being the amazing people that they are, didn’t hesitate for a second when I reached out. I moved in with them and they gave up their bedroom so I would be more comfortable. In some ways, I felt like I had become my mother and father’s baby again. I could no longer shower, sit up, or get dressed on my own. My meals needed to be brought to me.  I had to re-learn to walk, and needed assistance getting around the house or around the block. Ryan came to stay with my parents’ as well, even though it meant that his commute grew to over three hours a day.

Whenever I try to thank my parents, my mom says, “You are my daughter. I don’t need a thank you. This is my pleasure!” My dad just smiles and tells me that I am “his joy,” and then charge me for his services with a minimum of two hugs. I am so incredibly blessed to have them- my twin pillars of strength and love.

Throughout this process, I have worried that I may never be the same after having faced so many setbacks. I worried that if I married Ryan, he would be stuck taking care of me forever. I tell him this, but he says he doesn’t care. When I ask him why, he simply says, “Because I love you.”

I was a fiercely independent woman, and I lost that over the past year. It was not easy to readjust, but the process has taught me so much. I was someone who hated asking for help and relying on others, but I have now learned that there is strength in asking for help. I never thought that doing so would actually benefit the people I love but it does- they are the ones who hurt the most when they see me struggling or in pain.

Even on my toughest days, I am so grateful that I am surrounded by people who love and support me. I am grateful that God gave me the opportunity to learn that it is okay to be vulnerable and imperfect.

I am on my path to recovery now, working and going to physical therapy. Ryan not only has been there every step of the way, but he has gone above and beyond to make sure that I keep smiling and have something to look forward to. This August he’s taking me to California so that I can fulfill my childhood dream of seeing the Redwoods. Come October, I get to marry the man who works endlessly to make all of my dreams to come true.

When I was a little girl, I used to pray to God that I would find someone who would say,

“You take care of everyone else. Let me take care of you.”

I am so blessed to have my prayers come true, and thank God every day for the life he has given me.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

When you are afraid to ask for things, you are afraid to speak your truth and ultimately, face who you are. By learning that it is okay to lean on others and ask for help when I need it, I am less afraid to be the person that I am, rather than the person who I think the world wants me to be.

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

I think in our society, women are often taught to be the one to give up their needs, desires, and wants. We so easily shift into caretaker mode, particularly when we become mothers, and forget that we are human beings who need to be cared for as well. I believe my story shows that it is possible to be who we are and ask for what we want in life while being supported and loved.

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

I would tell them that in life, there are two primary emotions: love and fear. We often choose fear- fear to ask for what we want, fear of being alone, fear of rejection. It is much more difficult to choose love. We must learn to love ourselves enough to stand up for what want, need, and desire, just as we would for the people in our lives. It is a lesson that has forever changed me, and made so much stronger.

Forte Wayne | Alexandria's Story

Clickforhope, Divorce, AbuseJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story: : I am a single mom of the most loving & free spirited (almost) 8 year old, Everest. When I discovered I was pregnant at 22 I was in shock and not ready. I chose to plan an adoption and his birth dad agreed, since we were young and unmarried. At 7 months pregnant I broke down... I couldn't possibly go through with this. I sought God and clearly heard him remind me He has never and will never leave me alone. He said I can and will do this. I chose to raise my son & his birth dad chose to walk away. 

Over the next year I met a man who would soon after become my husband and adopt Everest. I thought I finally had all I wanted. A family, stability, marriage. Soon after we were married I realized I didn't truly know the man I was married to & the relationship became abusive. After 4 years of abuse, 1 separation, many sleepless night crying out to God... he left with a text & filed for divorce that week.

It's been 3 years since then & I am thankful to God for keeping his promise of never leaving us and always giving me strength to get through the days. Some days I still worry I may have messed up the first years of my sons life but then remember God is not only writing my story but he is writing my sons as well. My son is just as much a child of God as I am & God is a faithful God who redeems.

Last year I started a company Foreveresta in dedication to my son & being a light in the world which can be so dark. It is a mobile retail boutique with a mission of educating guests through global artisans and brands, retail partnerships, and mission-driven organizations while supporting emerging entrepreneurs in the developing world through economic development of underserved communities. 
My hope is that everyone who has a chance to walk in our doors can experience a glimmer of hope and leave encouraged. I hope through this my son will grow to see he is valuable and can achieve anything he dreams with God on his side.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: Being a mother has taught me of God's deep unconditional always forgiving love for us. How at times we walk away, mess up, think we know better whats best for us yet he never once changes. He is always right there ready to redirect and help us back up. I have learned to be still with God & trust what HE says is good, right, and purposed for us... even when I can't understand it. Just because something seems to be everything you want and seems to be "good" doesn't mean its ultimately what IS good for you. God's ways are unlike ours but HE IS reliable & trustworthy. I have learned true joy, contentment, and peace come only from our heavenly Father. Nothing of this world will ultimately satisfy, so I continue learning to abide in Him first.

Why should your story be selected to be featured on our blog?: I have a passion for sharing honest stories from my life with others in hopes they can be encouraged and say "me too!" There is something comforting in those words. When we don't feel as alone in our circumstance and can stand along side one another in love. I know my "story" is still being written but God has given me a voice and these stories to share with other women who can relate.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Lean not on your own understanding but TRUST GOD in ALL you do, he will surely direct your paths. 
Take one day at a time and don't be to hard on yourself. Give yourself and your kiddos lots of grace in love, stay humble, and laugh as much as you can. Laughter is good medicine for the soul :) You are always enough and you are never alone!

He gives Beauty for Ashes

Loss, Widow, Single Parents, Single Mom, Clickforhope, Placental AbruptionJasmine Lopez3 Comments
"I have absolute trust in His sovereignty, wisdom and goodness. I've learned that the most epic adventures await where your feet no longer touch the bottom of the ocean floor." -Brandy

Please share your story:

I was raised in a Christian home, and have been around/involved in ministry my whole life. I thought I had things pretty well figured out as far as God and life were concerned, and felt like all of my service had somehow earned me a "Hardship Pass". Not that my earlier days were easy breezy (they involved family issues and divorce, lots of moving around, difficulty making friends, etc.), but I knew a lot of people that had it way worse than me.

In 2006, after 4 years of dating, I married my college sweetheart, Jonathan, or "JoNate". I was a new Labor & Delivery Nurse and he was in full-time ministry at a fairly large church. Within 3 months of being married, he was diagnosed (not to my full knowledge) with some pretty significant health issues. 2 years later, we moved away from family, friends, and secure jobs in TN, to follow the Lord's lead to Gainesville, FL. We were getting a fresh start, and it did wonders for our marriage! 6 weeks after we moved, I got pregnant with our first child (after trying for over a year!). At 20 wks I had a placental abruption and we lost our sweet baby girl.

To give a very brief overview of that year, in Feb 2009 we lost our baby, March had a lease purchase agreement fall through on one of our houses in TN and we had to deed back a lot we had purchased to build on in TN as well, April my husband was "demoted" due to changes in his new employer's plans...and totaled our second vehicle (which we’d had for 6 months:-I), July a week after paying off the last of $1000's in medical bills from my pregnancy complications, I got a kidney stone...incurring more medical bills. Then, in October, my husband's little sister, Jessica, was killed in a car accident-leaving behind her 21 y/o husband of six months, 2 y/o daughter and 3 wk old son.

During this "eventful" year, our marriage and ministry were thriving. We were leading a church "small group" with 25-35 people in our (apartment!) home each week...it was incredible! Each trial served to drive us closer to each other and to God. We were fasting together, praying together more frequently, seeking after the Lord...we were desperate! Shortly after Jessica died, I got pregnant again. This pregnancy was completely different and I delivered our healthy, beautiful baby girl, Madison, at 39 weeks! We were so in love! On Sunday, Aug 29th I posted on fb about how happy I was to finally be able to take Madison to church, and how good it was to hear my husband leading worship again..."I couldn't imagine life getting any better than this."

Six days later, Labor Day weekend, I woke up to find my husband unresponsive. He had passed away sometime early in the morning from what we later found out was a genetic heart condition. I was scheduled to return to work from maternity leave in another week, and instead found myself in a whirlwind of funeral arrangements and flooded with friends, family and phone calls.

The phone calls included one to the HR Dept at my job to find out how to activate the new life insurance policy that we had just placed 3 wks prior, after our daughter was born. I was so relieved that we had acted quickly on that. However, my relief very quickly turned into shock and panic when I found out that the insurance company's system had a glitch, and our policy increase was never fully processed...which left it at $5k...and covered 1/3 of the funeral costs. And here I was left with student loans, 2 mortgages on our rental properties in TN (which weren't bringing any profit), a hefty car payment on our 4 yr old car, rent, ridiculous Florida utilities and other monthly bills...with a newborn! My husband had handled 100% of our finances from day one, and I didn't know usernames and passwords for a single account. It took three months of sifting through statements and making phone calls to figure it all out.

I have so many stories of things that happened with the houses...from sitting empty for up to 9 months at a time, to trees falling on the roof, getting destroyed by tenants and having to be renovated-despite having a property manager that was supposed to be helping take care of them, the legal processes necessary because we didn't have a will, getting dropped from 2 insurance companies in 3 months while waiting on the legal process to be finalized, facing foreclosure a couple times for different reasons and the possibility of bankruptcy...so many crazy stories to tell! But each one is a crazy testament of God's faithfulness and provision!

Today, outside of the one remaining rental property, I stand debt-free, with great credit and I am scheduled to close on our beautiful new (to us:) home in Franklin, TN in August. This process started out of the blue and a full year sooner than I had hoped and planned...this is nothing short of miraculous!

It’s invigorating to accomplish feats with hard work and putting in all of your effort. But it’s all the more exciting, and humbling, to know that you had little to do with getting where you are! For every battle or trial I've faced, (and there have been many) I have been incredibly delivered and I am living proof that, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

 

How has your story help shape you into who you are today?:

I've realized just how powerful God's strength and joy are in my utter lack of qualification and in my greatest weakness. I've discovered the safety that accompanies submission to God's plans for my life, even when I am so far beyond understanding. I have absolute trust in His sovereignty, wisdom and goodness. I've learned that the most epic adventures await where your feet no longer touch the bottom of the ocean floor.

What compelled you to share your story on our blog:

I have such a heart to encourage people facing loss, or going through seemingly impossible situations. I've watched the Lord do absolutely unbelievable things in my life, and I know that He's able to do it for others too! I just want to spread hope!!

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

Never give up...no matter how hopeless your situation seems. As long as there is breath in your lungs, God is willing and able to heal, redeem and restore. He delights in those who place their trust in Him. He gives beauty for ashes....

Photos by: Jazi Photo

Makeup by: Jacqueline Gamache