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Inspiring Friends | Hope 25

Inspiring Business, Clickforhope, Breast Cancer, Inspiring FriendsJasmine LopezComment

I'm so excited to start a new series on the blog! I'm featuring inspiring creative entrepreneurs that are doing amazing things in Chicago or beyond, either through giving back or using their story as a way to help others. 

Today, I'm introducing you to Melissa of Hope 25! She's been a dear friend of mine, and this last year I got to watch her fight for her life and punch not only fear in the face, but Cancer. She is now cancer-free and started a shop to inspire and encourage other Cancer fighters.  I'm so inspired by her that I want a boxing glove necklace she sells for myself....I mean, who doesn't need to punch fear in the face?!? 

“Whatever you are passionate about, whatever idea you have, you have to let go of the insecurities and just try it.” -Melissa

Who is Melissa Tang? : I am a 20-something year old graphic designer, photographer, breast cancer survivor, and now shop owner.

Love your last name, where does Tang come from?: I was born and raised here in the Chicago-land area, but I am of Puerto Rican descent. My husband is from Venezuela and is half Venezuelan, half Chinese. That's where Tang comes from!

What's your favorite drink? McDonalds Coke all the way.

What makes you laugh?: My three year old niece. She likes to joke around and it's hilarious. It's always been her personality to try and make people laugh.

What does a typical Sunday afternoon look like for you?: Every Sunday is a little different. The best kinds of Sundays are spent going to church and then hanging out with family. Sometimes if my husband is off we'll do something fun like go to the beach in the summer or we'll watch a movie. This year it's sort of different every week. This past Sunday consisted of a buffet brunch with the fam, and then a super long nap with my hubby.

How can we stalk/follow you?: You can stalk me anytime! You can always reach me at Hope25.com. I try and blog at least once a week there. My favorite social media platform is Instagram, but I am also on Facebook as well.
Hope25.com
Instagram.com/shop_hope25
Facebook.com/shophope25

Please share what your shop is all about?: In August of 2015, at 25 years old, I found myself sitting in a doctor's office hearing the words nobody thinks they'll hear:  "You have Breast Cancer." My world was flipped upside down. I sat there as the doctor talked and all I could pick up on were words like chemo, surgery, and radiation. Once I realized that I was going to lose my hair, I started to search for hats and wigs. I realized that a lot of the websites for cancer fighters made me feel old or out of place. The idea of opening up my own shop was born.

It took a little while to get started. I lost my dad during this time as well and the pain of everything I was going through was overwhelming. I can even say that during my darkest hour I cried because I had lost hope. My world went black, but once the dust settled a bit, I put one foot in front of the other. I realized God has a plan for my life and I can't give up.

What inspired you to start your shop?: I realized that I wanted to open up a store that was a little less pink ribbon and a little more punch fear in the face. I wanted to be a source of encouragement for those who face a cancer diagnosis or any other chronic illness.  Thus, Hope25.com was born.

What's your favorite item in your shop?: I sell a boxing glove necklace that comes with a print with my motto on it: Punch Fear in the Face.  It is meant to remind someone going through a hard time that you can do this. You are not alone in the battles you are facing. With the purchase of this necklace one will be donated to someone currently going through treatment for cancer.

How has your faith helped you through the journey of fighting cancer and then wanting to encourage others also fighting cancer?: I couldn't have done this without God. There has been a sense of peace in my life that can only come from Him. I heard a song at a conference and I found myself singing along. I sang, "Break my heart for what breaks yours." I started crying thinking of all the hurting people who are going through dark times because of Cancer. If people could see God's peace in my life through my shop, that would be amazing. I pray that God guides me through this and uses me to help others. I couldn't have gone through the dark storms in life without Him.

What was the scariest part in launching your store? The scariest part was failure. What if I invested all this money and it fails? What if people hate my designs? What if nobody buys anything? At some point you have to just do it. Whatever you are passionate about, whatever idea you have, you have to let go of the insecurities and just try it, because what if you succeed? The hardest part was just getting the energy to do it at first. Chemo left me so tired and weak towards the end, but I continued to plan and just took a leap of faith. I opened up and I haven't looked back. It's been so much fun.

What encouraging words would you tell someone who wants to start a shop with a purpose of inspiring others?: As I said before: JUST DO IT. Whatever is holding you back, let it go. I'm the type of person that if I want something to get done I have to go full force before I change my mind (or let's be honest before I get lazy-haha). My store wasn't 100% how I wanted it to be when I opened up, but I had to start somewhere. So that's my advice. Just start somewhere. Just do it. Don't let insecurities take over. There will be someone that loves your store. If your heart is in giving back or inspiring others, then focus on that.  When you get discouraged because you haven't made any sales, go back to the reason why you started in the first place and begin again.

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/

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

Single Mom | Martha

Single Parents, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

What is your story?

Hello! My name is Martha McGrane and I am a single mother to a beautiful baby boy named Aidan Joseph McGrane who turned 1 on 10/19/2014. I work full-time at a non-profit agency with children who are survivors of abuse and trauma.

What/who is your inspiration?

I am inspired by a close friend of mine, Tara Lattanzi. She gave birth to a baby girl this summer, and is also in the process to adopt her foster child. Her story is a picture of God’s love for us, and how deeply He cares for us, even through struggles.

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

My story has given me a deeper understanding of who God is. He has defined me as a Mother, and daughter of Christ, even through struggles he has blessed me, and given me strength to be the best mother, daughter of Christ, and friend.

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

I would like my story to be selected in your blog as a way to give other mothers a sense of hope and also community. To know that they are not alone and that through dififcult times, God’s love still exists.

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

Don’t give up. Never forget how BEAUTIFULLY and WONDERFULLY you are made. God’s deepest desire for you is to be to best person that God has made you to be.

Alopecia | Destiny

Alopecia, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story:

On Dec 24, 2012 we were on vacation and noticed spots of missing hair on Destiny head.  We made a doctors appointment as soon as we got home, and at first the doctors diagnosed her with all kind of things. We tried all kinds of medicine but her hair just keep falling out. At this point she started wearing hats to cover it up. People would ask questions and and wonder what was going on. The doctors told us she has an autoimmune disease called Alopecia – this is when your immune system fights the hair follicles because they think they are dangerous. We are standing firm in Destiny’s healing and believe that she will be completely restored from this. But while we wait our girl shines in the glory of God and doesn’t let this move her.

On July 22, 2014 Destiny decided that she no longer wanted to wear hats.  She wanted to wear bows just like everyone else.

On July 27 Destiny’s eyebrows and eye lashes started growing back. We have stayed firm in believing God this whole time. We still believe that God will heal destiny and that she will grow a full head of hair someday soon.

A little about Destiny.

Destiny is a happy girl and always has been, she walks around with such joy and confidence. She is truly an inspiration. She never has a bad day and she never walks around embarrassed or sad. She has faith that her hair will come back and has asked us to buy her hair things and brushes. As her parents we buy them standing in faith with our strong beautiful girl.  She is truly one of a kind and hasn’t let this get her down.  She shines through it all and she makes it all look easy.

Every night her father prays this prayer with Destiny, “Jesus, I give you all the praise and I give you all the glory! One day, I’ll tell my story. For those that wait upon The Lord, He will renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings of eagles. They will walk and not grow weary, they will run and not grow faint. In Jesus name we pray…..Amen.”

Destiny loves balloons and we have used them as our hope sign. It’s a symbol of faith, hope and belief that soon her miracle will come.

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.