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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

Alopecia | Caroline

Alopecia, Bullying, ClickforhopeJasmine Lopez5 Comments
"I learned how to hide my AU. I felt as if people wouldn’t accept me for me so it became my secret and only my family and those I truly trusted, which were not many, knew the real me." -Caroline

Please share your story:

My name is Caroline Alanis. At the age of 4, I lost my hair to Alopecia Universalis (AU). For those unaware of this condition, AU is an advanced form of alopecia areata. Although the exact cause of AU is unknown, it is thought to be an autoimmune condition in which an affected person's immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles.


Growing up bald was not easy. Although I had parents that tried to show me how to be courageous and tried to show me just how beautiful and blessed I was, I still had to endure the everyday pressure of life. There was the pressure of seeing little girls with beautiful hair and wishing every day that I had that. There was pressure of kids being mean and pulling off my bandana and laughing at me because I was bald. There was pressure of name calling and bullying.

My parents finally convinced me to start wearing a wig. It didn’t make things that much easier. I remember walking home from school one day with my brother and a girl decided it would be fun to pull it off and throw it on the ground. At that moment, all I could do was cry and run home. Every day I feared leaving the house, the emotional scar is unimaginable.

I learned how to hide my AU. I felt as if people wouldn’t accept me for me so it became my secret and only my family and those I truly trusted, which were not many, knew the real me. In High School only a few knew about my AU. This made it so easy to try to blend in; I never wanted to stand out, never! The ironic part about it was I would always be the one to be called by teachers to lead a project, to sing solos, participate in plays, fashion shows, and they even nominated me to join homecoming queen and enter a beauty pageant. One thing I realized, my fear never really went away by keeping my AU a secret and the emotional scar was also still a part of my life.

When I started my family, my AU was not only my secret but it had become my husband and my children’s secret. I held my family bound to my alopecia. When they were infants, I wouldn’t carry them in public for fear that they would pull my hair (wig). They were taught never to touch mommy’s hair ever! They could never have friends sleep over because it would be very uncomfortable for me to be me in my own house.

I am now 48 years old; married with 3 beautiful daughters. I joined an International Alopecia Group in July 2015 and that's when I realized my journey with AU has prepared me to be able to help others like me. But my baldness was still a secret. How do I encourage others to accept themselves if I myself could not let people know about my condition. So I started telling my husband's family and friends. I only wanted to tell people, not show people. But of course, God had other plans for me. The oddest thing was I started becoming uncomfortable wearing my wigs. This was strange because I have been wearing them for 40 years. It took a lot for me to take a look at myself bald. How can I tell my children and others that beauty really lies deep within if I myself can't see passed my lack of hair.

My husband helped me with my small steps into seeing myself for who I was, a beautiful woman living with AU. Slowly I found myself no longer wearing my wigs. We would go on drives, take walks on the beach and even take a selfie. I felt free, my secret slowly fading; including the emotional scar.

It started getting cold and I didn't like my hats since it looked terrible without any hair. I was pretty sad, because I really did not want to start wearing my wig again. I just prayed and asked God to lead me in what I am supposed to do. On Sunday October 4, 2015, a lady stopped me and said. "Excuse me, can I ask you a question?" I said "sure." "Do you have alopecia?" I said "yes!" She said "so do I.” Then she asked. "How do you do it?" I knew she meant how am I walking around without my wig? I told her "I don't know?" I said "This is all new to me." I told her "God is giving me the strength to do this. I couldn't have done this on my own." So that day, I officially retired all my wigs. Yes I put them all away for that special occasion.

I was so fortunate enough to meet others just walking around bald. They said “I would have never seen you had you worn your wig." How can I reach others if I am not true to myself? It took a lot to accept myself, with lots of guidance from God. I am finally in a place where I no longer need to wear a wig to feel complete!

How has your story shaped you into who you are today?:

Although growing up with AU wasn’t easy, as I look back, it has made me appreciate everything I have in my life. For the longest time I never realized how bound I was by my secret, my emotional scar and my wig.

Now, I no longer hide behind my wig. I am living with AU and you could say that I’m proud that I can say that and show people that I am still beautiful without hair. Now when I tell my daughters it is just hair, it is not just talk, I actually walk the walk. I used to think my lack of hair was an imperfection; I know now that it is my strength.

I am no longer afraid of not having my wig on. It was my armor but I was meant to stand out not blend in. God has always wanted me to stand out, now I am no longer afraid to stand out. I embrace it. And I am meeting and connecting with others who are just like me.

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

To all the parents who have children with alopecia, I can only imagine how devastating it is for you. But I must admit, I had great parents who never showed me their heartbreak. They only kept reinforcing I was blessed and special. Alopecia children grow up to be strong. Let them shine! For all the ladies and gentlemen, you are not alone. I know it can be difficult to not have hair but I can honestly say now, I wondered why I waited so long to surrender to alopecia! I understand that our struggles are the same but our journeys are different. So whatever makes you feel comfortable to be you, wig or no wig, let it be your choice. We only have one life to live, so live it!

Styled by: CoChicStyling

Photos by: Jazi Photo

Alopecia | Kara

Clickforhope, Alopecia, Depression, AnxietyJasmine Lopez1 Comment
My children think I should walk around without my wig, my husband thinks I'm beautiful just the way I am... I wish I believed them! I look in the mirror and see all my flaws.- Kara

 

Please share your story:

 Hi! My name is Kara. I have had Alopecia for 30 years now. WOW! 30 years! I've never written that down or even thought of that before. I was 13 when I noticed my first patch of missing hair. I thought it was stress/anxiety. It's the prime age for liking boys, worrying about what and how people thought of me and this happens to me? At 13 years of age, I thought all my plans... boyfriends, being beautiful (on the outside), marriage, having a family was gone. I thought the only way someone would look at me now is "Poor Kara, she must be sick." But throughout my life, I've learned that's not the case.

I am a fighter! I am so MUCH more stronger than I ever gave myself credit! Maybe beauty starts from within?
I battle with anxiety and depression (this disease will do that to you) but I've been married now for 17 years to a very handsome bald man and we have 4 children (with full heads of hair!) My husband and children think I'm beautiful and that is all that matters to me.

I have only exposed my head once and that was last summer at the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. I felt free and scared at the same time. The way my family (sister in law & brother in law included) reacted was so different than I thought, so supportive, crying right along side with me and so proud of me.
I think I'm ready for the world to see me... the real me!!

What compelled you to want to share your story?:
I'm a mom, trying to make a difference in the world. My children think I should walk around without my wig, my husband thinks I'm beautiful just the way I am... I wish I believed them! I look in the mirror and see all my flaws. I want to have the flowing hair and beautiful eyes of a model, but doesn't everyone? Almost everyone? Maybe bald can be beautiful too!

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

Not many people are familiar with Alopecia, it has No reason, No cure. No warning!
I thought at 13 my life was over ( I know it sounds over dramatic, but aren't we all at 13),
You can have a "normal" life living with this disease, You CAN enjoy things (like not having to do my hair everyday, shaving, bed head!) There are all kinds of beautiful! I've learned to keep going and thank God I did! Because I have beautiful family and friends that love me for me.

Styled by Co Chic Styling

Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache

Photos: Jazi Photo

Printed purple kimono wrap by: Milk Handmade