HOW TO CREATE A SAFE HOME

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Creating a safe home as been one of our unspoken priorities. It's often said that when you grow up you either perpetuate what you learned, or you do the complete opposite of that. And well friends, Jeremy and I have chosen to be intentional in how we make our home safe for our girls. We long for them to know their voice matters, how they feel matters, and we care enough to talk about it! We are challenged with, "How we do help teach and mold our girls to be confident, and be grounded in their God created-identities?" Now, I'm not talking about being perfect little girls who go to church and follow rules to be loved by God. I'm talking about being ever so rooted in the truth of who they each are created to be, and to know who they are: which is loved, wanted, chosen, accepted and so much more!!! And trust me, we aren't perfect at this by any means. To be honest, it took DK turning 5 years old before we began to fully understand the gravity of our choices, and how we spoke to each other.

So, I wanted to share 5 ways we create safety and boundaries in our home.

1.TEASING IS A NO GO

I was bullied, picked on, and made fun of when I was little, by classmates, and by family members. So I admit, teasing is definitely a trigger for me. I don't like it, whether it's a joke or not. I don't want our girls to be raised in the toxicity of teasing, and for it to be excused as, "Oh, come on....it was a joke." So we have a rule where if we say or do something and one of us doesn't like it, we have the freedom to say, "I didn't like when you said (dot dot dot) or did this." Whoever the offender was, which does include us (mom and dad), apologizes, and asks for forgiveness. We don't excuse it with humor, say it was a joke, or say, "Come on, you need to learn how to take a joke."

Why do we do this?

To build confidence and courage within our girls to have the freedom to say "No, that wasn't okay," or to say, "What you said hurt my feelings, and I didn't like it." Now, I get in the real world, not everyone will apologize, or understand their feelings, but at the very least it's building up the confidence in them to have the courage to as least say it, and be heard, without it affecting their identities.

2.WE DON'T COMPARE, WE CELEBRATE

This one is huge!!! Jeremy and I don't compare our girls to each other, and we don't allow the girls to compare themselves to each other either. Comparing robs the beauty of who God created each of us to be and accomplish in this world. Learning to celebrate well takes real skill and time. So why not start when they are young?!?

Why do we do this?

Sibling rivalry is real, and it doesn't go away when we grew up. I believe it remains deep within ourselves. Instead, we are teaching our girls to celebrate one another. For example, a few years ago, DK had the opportunity to do some modeling. Savi said, "How come I didn't get to do it?" I had 2 options here: Either redirect her comment in a way that celebrates or let her feel and say whatever she wanted. That was a moment for me to teach them, and set a boundary in that we don't compare but rather celebrate. So I told Savi, "Instead, how can we share in the excitement of what DK experienced? Maybe we can say something like, "DK that's so cool that you got to model. Did you have fun?" or "DK, I love that you got to do something so fun like modeling. Tell me all about it."" And then you know what happened?!? A dialog between them opened up, and Savi got to celebrate along side DK in what she experienced. Then a few weeks later, our whole family was casted for a modeling gig, and Savi was the one to be in the spotlight. And now the same situation was reversed, and this time DK had to celebrate Savi, and Savi got to see that when we can truly celebrate someone else purely, an opportunity may just open up for her! I have so many more examples of this, but will have to share more later.

3.WE USE OUR WORDS WISELY

This one is incredibly true, especially with body image. We don't use words like "fat" in our vocabulary when describing ourselves or someone else. We also don't say things like "You look beautiful," or, "Be good."

Why do we do this?

We believe our words have power. It's with our words where we can either build-up or break down one another. What better way to show love, by building each other up. "You look beautiful" and "Be good," is deeply connected into their identities. I learned early on my girls greatest fears, and gained discernment that statements like these and more would greatly harm them. I'll be blogging more about this concept, but here's what I can say for now. Instead of saying, " You look beautiful, I say, "You are beautiful." And instead of saying, "Be good," I say, "Do your best."

4.WE REDIRECT

Now when they miss the mark, we either redirect or walk through "asking for forgiveness" process. What do I mean by that? Well, lets say someone raised their voice out of frustration. I'll say, " I think there's a better say to say/ask that?" And then they have to ask their question in a way that shows love, not yelling, or being disrespectful. After they've been redirected, then are they walked through the asking for forgiveness process that I share more of below.

Why do we do this?

Sometimes our kids just need to be reminded of the boundaries we've set, and how we communicate with people we love. They are kids, so boundaries will get pushed and tested, especially as they get older, and want more of their own independence. My hope is that we've been consistent in how we treat each other, that even when they are older, that they can still be redirected, and understand that how they speak matters.

5.We are QUICK TO ASK FOR FORGIVENESS

I didn't learn how to forgive well when I was younger.  It was a process in which God had to walk me through lots of years ago. I was one who held onto records wrong like nobodies business. Learning to say the words, "I forgive you," was so hard for me. And I knew I wanted this cycle to not be continued in our home. Then 4 years ago at church we learned a great way to practice forgiveness.

The offender: Step 1. I'm sorry for..... Step 2. I was wrong. Step 3. Do/Will you forgive me?

The offended: Yes, I forgive you for..... (saying it's okay, or it's fine, is not an acceptable response for us)

And then I added a step. Step 4. Both the offended and offender have to hug it out. I even say that...."Now, hug it out." :)

Why we do this?

Learning to forgive well takes practice. And I quickly learned we can say we forgive someone but actually haven't. Sometimes our feelings need time to catch up with our words. So by having  the offender and the offended hug it out, it helps the offended to let go of unforgiveness. There's such power with touch, like a hug. And it's in "how" our girls hug it out, where we can tell if they've truly forgiven or are harboring. Now I bet you are wondering, "Well, what if the offense was like really really bad?" Well, the offended, has the freedom and space to say, "I forgive you, I just need some time or space." The offended then can take a few minutes to cool off, meditate, etc. Then they have to go back to the offender, accept their apology, and then hug it out.

Well friends, there's so much more I could add, but I've made myself a promise that I won't write exceptionally long blogs.....haha! Which, I haven't been the best at with our personal blog posts.

I share all this in hopes to encourage and inspire you to create safety in your home. For you, you'll have to figure out your own why, and what matters to your family. For us, creating a safe space to share our full selves matters a ton to us, and our why is tied into our upbringings. Like I've said before, we aren't perfect at this thing called parenting, and boy do we miss the mark. But our kids have the freedom to share their feelings, and to be heard. We learn everyday how we can improve, and use our words to empower each other.

What are some ways you create safety in your home?!?

Until next time....

-Jasmine

 

WHEN CIRCUMSTANCES TRIGGER YOU!

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“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” -Isaiah 26:3

It's been a few weeks since I've blogged. I had to take a break due to Jeremy getting in a head on collision, that thankfully left him some what okay (no broken bones) but our car was totaled. Needless to say these past 2 weeks have been quite challenging, and triggering for all of us, and all for completely different reasons.

I have to admit that I didn't realize that when circumstances came, I'd have feelings about it, but didn't dig deeper to see what the lie was that's tied to the feeling.

Yesterday at therapy we were able to dig deeper, and for me, it all boils down to TRUST.

Trusting that God will provide, that He's really with me, and that He would choose me and so much more.

Everything in my adult self as I'm typing says, "How can that be?!?"

But my inner child is scared, all alone, and thinks everyone will leave her. So she pulls in to avoid feeling, and then my outer child is left acting all wild, and out of my normal character.

But yesterday's session brought such a sense of hope and freedom. Because now that I'm aware of my survival/coping skills, I'm at a place of accepting that I want nothing more than my little girl to find her freedom, to heal, to grow up and become fully developed.

So I want to share what I learned with you guys:

1. When circumstances come, they will bring forth feelings. We have the choice to feel or shut down.

2. Feelings are different than beliefs, and we need to be able to identify the difference. Naming the feeling, will help lead you to discovering what the core belief is. For example, "I'm feeling angry and frustrated because......, (you won't provide, you left me, I'm alone.)" Allow yourself to answer that question.

3. When we identify the belief (which is usually rooted in a lie) is when Jesus can come in.

4. Ask Jesus a question about the belief. Like, "I believe I'm so alone, am I really alone?!?"

5. Jesus begins to heal us. It's in that moment where He will reveal His truth.

For me, He showed me I'm not alone, and that indeed I can trust him. My little girl embraced Him ever so tight, and didn't let go. I felt instant comfort, and peace.

I pray that this helps you to see just how much you are loved by the Father. I hope that when you are feeling something, that you would dig deep, and identify really what's going on.

Thanks friends for reading!!!!

-Jasmine

 

 

 

MY WEEKLY LIFE LESSONS | VOLUME 2

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It's Friday, which means I have another round of lessons I've learned from this week!

My 6 life lessons from this week

1. I feel the most loved when I get to do fun things with my family.

2.  I'm learning to accept love even if it feels uncomfortable, and isn't my preferred love language.

3. Marriage is a commitment, and there will be seasons where it's extremely hard.

4. Going after your dreams is scary, but the more we share them with others, the more we find so many who are cheering us on, and are truly for us!

5. I'm learning to let of of survival patterns, so I can learn what it means to be fully present!

6. Joining a Mastermind was the best idea ever! While I may know no one, I'm excited to journey with other like minded ladies, and for us to help each other out.

Alrighty friends, that's it for this week.

Thanks for following our family adventure!

-Jasmine

MUSIC VIDEO | GREAT ARE YOU LORD

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Friends, I'm excited to share this new cover with you guys! It's a very special song to me. Why?!?

It was a song we sang together during our worship nights with Melissa.....if you don't know who she is, you can read about her here.

Jeremy and I met up with her and the family a few different nights for worship, where we would just sing God's promises together, and pray. This song became our mantra, our declaration, that it's His breath in us, and while we didn't know what the outcome would be, we together with our eyes closed, and our arms lifted high sang.....

"It's your breath, in our lungs, Great are you Lord...."

It's now been 4 months since Melissa passed away, and there's moments where it feels so surreal. Moments where all I want to do is go for coffee dates or tacos, with her. To share our dreams with each other. She had a lot of them by the way. She had this quiet bold determination of accomplishing those things that she set her mind too, and it was so inspiring!!!

She would also name these fears that I didn't understand...her worries about it coming back. About wanting to become a mom, but her body still being out of whack. We'd pray together!!! For anxiety to be replaced with peace.

But I sit in the reality that we can't do that together anymore. I sit in the reality where I see her family oh so broken. I sit in the reality that my friends are grieving, and I don't know what else to do but be. To be with them, to text them, to say, "Hey, I'm thinking of you."

So in the midst of loss and grief, I hold tight onto:

"You restore every heart that is broken, GREAT ARE YOU LORD."

MY WEEKLY LIFE LESSONS

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Welcome to a new weekly blog series where I'll share my weekly life lessons. I'm going to share quick, random, and to the point thoughts that I've learned. 

Why?!?

Well, because I want to be more "aware" of myself, my thoughts, and everything else. I'm going to be literally sharing just about anything, in hopes to inspire, encourage, and just maybe make you smile. :)

So lets get this started....

My 6 life lessons from this week

1. PMS is real....I think it's time to just admit it.

2. When you have a squirrel living in your roof, please take care of it right away.

3. Couples therapy is totally worth the investment.

4. When God gives you a message for someone....just share it! Don't hold back.

5. I did my first IG Live by myself....next time I'll be more prepared.

6. My worth is not tied to that "thing" I'm hoping for.

Alrighty friends, do you get the jest? Now, share something you learned this week?!?

CLICK FOR HOPE | I NEEDED A LIVER TRANSPLANT

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What is your story?

In the late 1990's my twin sister and I were driving home on a summer day, and out of no where a car came across the street, hit us on my side, nearly pushing us across 4 lanes to oncoming traffic. My sister's knee was pinned and we had bruises and concussions. The police and firemen came and we were transported to the hospital. They ran a bunch of tests and x-rays. They found our platelets count to be very low so they referred us to a blood specialist. The blood specialist found we had blood issues and sent us for several different bone marrow biopsies to rule out any cancers. Those tests came out negative. They then told us it was maybe our liver, so we went to another doctor, and found out that our liver was very lumpy and showing signs of Cirrhosis. We never drank or did drugs, so we assumed it was genetic.

I soon got pregnant and it advanced my condition. I was having complications with my pregnancy and at 24 weeks I had an emergency c-section, and as they were taking him out, they noticed my liver was not normal. It was really lumpy. The doctors told me that I was lucky because both of us could've died.

In 2003, my aunt noticed I wasn't looking well and said, "Millie, you are not looking good. The Holy Spirit told me that you need to get checked out by a doctor." I went to Northwestern to see a general doctor and they ran some labs. They had me wait for the results. As we waited, a nurse came to tell me that I needed to be admitted because my bilirubin was very high and was showing liver issues. The doctors came to my room, and told me that I needed a liver transplant.  I was about to enter the end stage of liver failure so they began the testing process for a donor with friends and family but no one matched except my younger sister. She was only a part match and her liver was smaller than mine. My husband was tested and it turned out to be a perfect match.  He agreed and we began the process for surgery.

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March 26, 2003 was our surgery date. After my surgery, the doctor said that as soon as they opened me up, my liver stopped functioning and it was shriveled and green. They also said that if I waited any longer, I would have died. As I was recovering from the surgery, I got a blood infection, so they gave me antibiotics. I began to have pain, and they decided to do an ultrasound on my liver. The results showed I had a huge clot in the hepatic artery leading to the liver. The blood supply was cut off, so the transplanted liver wasn't receiving blood and as a result was dying. I needed to have another surgery, after we got the news. The doctor told me, "Don't give up! I need you to stay strong with me, I will get you through this." My mom and began to cry, but, I heard a voice in my ear that said not to worry, I would be fine.

I was in the hospital for a while due to high fevers from the infection. They decided to release me and send me home with a home healthcare nurse to give me my medicine through an IV. I was also sent home with a pager to notify me when a donor liver was available. I was paged several times, but they weren't a match. Then June 14, 2003, I was paged that another liver came in and it was a match. We went to the hospital and waited with several of my family members in my room before the surgery. When it was time they came and took me for surgery. It took longer then expected and it was on a Saturday. They never do surgeries on the weekend, I knew God was in control of the whole thing. He provided the cadaver donor for me in which I found out later she was Christian and had died in a car accident.

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My mother was very worried because the surgery was taking longer than expected and she noticed the doctors kept coming in and out of the procedure room. The doctor came out and told my mom that my pressure went down and my heart stopped. I was so swollen that they needed to leave me open and wait until the swelling went down to close me up. My mom was so upset that my aunt said that they needed to pray for God to turn it all around. After they prayed, my pressure went up, my heart started again and they were able to close me up.

My recovery was long, hard, and painful but I never gave up hope. I kept reading God's word praying and worshiping Him. It's what got me and my family made through this difficult time. I give God all glory for being our strength during it all. I have been doing well but a few issues have come up, that have the doctors keeping an eye on me. Since I have been on my anti-rejection meds for a really long time, they can affect my kidney function. So they are constantly running blood test to keep a watch on them. I have been living day by day following my doctors instructions. With any signs of pain, bleeding, or bruising I notify my doctors and get my labs done. I take my medicine as instructed. Through it all, I try to live my life as normal as possible. My faith in Jesus has kept me strong. I use my oxygen everyday, and am waiting for my next evaluation from the respiratory therapist. It is helping to make my lung stronger, but I'm hoping they can take me off of the oxygen soon.

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How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It has made a strong person both in character and in faith. I know God saved me from the brink of death more than once. I am so very grateful to Him, my family, friends, and church for their support.

What compelled you to share your story with us?:

I believe people need to know I am a true living Miracle of God, and that miracles do exist in these days. God is REAL!!

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

Keep a positive attitude and hold on strong to whatever your beliefs are. Have faith, believe, and trust it will give you strength.

I USE TO THINK I DIDN'T NEED A DAD

A special note to any single parent reading this: Hey friends, it's Jasmine here. This is an extremely vulnerable post for me, but first I want to speak to every single parent who is reading this, please know that my heart is not to shame, or make you feel like your love is not enough, but rather give you some support in how you can start the conversation with your child(ren) about their feelings. Also know that I'm writing from a place in where my dad left our family before I was born. But this is for any single parent, where the dad, or mom has chosen to leave.

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learning to feel

I've spent the majority of my life dissociated from what's happening around me, in other words, I wasn't fully present enjoying all that life had to bring. I didn't even become aware of this until I had my very first therapy session in May 2017. Let's call my therapist, "Judy." After Judy learned my story, and past history, she said, "Well, there is definitely PTSD, disassociation/depersonalization, and abandonment issues." If I was honest, I was shocked to hear about the abandonment as I had walked through a forgiveness journey with my dad when I was 17. You can learn more about that part of my story here. Needless to say, I thought I was healed from that part of my story.

As the months passed and we continued to meet, I quickly learned that in order to cope with my true feelings, I had disassociated. I coasted through my childhood and teenage years, just waiting to be an adult so I could move on with life, because the only way it would be good was by own means.

I'm now 34, and learning to "feel" has been extremely hard and vulnerable for me. I want to learn how to be connected with myself, so I can live the life I was intended to have. Most importantly, so I can also be the mom I long to be with my kids.

For all of these years, I thought I didn't need a dad, that I was fine, and my mom did an amazing job (which she did). But I've learned that not having my dad for the first half of my life greatly impacted my identity, and my world views. I'm now working on breaking so many mindsets and lies that I've believed to be true about myself. So my hope is to help you open the dialogue and help walk your child(ren) through a healing journey while they are young.

 

Here are 6 ways you can begin to help

your child(ren) HEAL.

 

1. Start Therapy.

There are so many different stigmas when it comes to mental health, whether it be culturally, generational, etc. Or there's a sense of pride, that you got this, you can do this alone. But friend, you have the power to normalize what mental health is, by first recognizing it's not healthy to suppress your feelings. Now just because I'm recommending it doesn't mean you are ready to start therapy and that's okay. There also isn't a one size fits all with therapy. There are so many different types of that you can do, but only begin therapy if you want to for yourself. It has to be your choice and decision.  When you are ready to start going to therapy, it begins to normalize it for your kids. It's so beneficial to begin walking through your own hurt, and feelings first. The more healed you can become, the more you can help your kid(s) walk through a healing journey. Kids are very smart, and they understand the world in a different way that as parents we could never understand. So to bring in an outside perspective in with someone who is a professional could be very helpful in bringing healing to your child's feelings.

 

2. Make your home a safe place.

Now I get this is hard! I don't know what led to you to becoming a single parent. But if it was divorce/seperation, then when the kids are old enough to process what it means to not have a parent living with them, begin to open the dialogue. Help them to connect with themselves. This isn't about who's the better parent. Who is right or wrong. Or even how you sacrificed everything to provide for them. This is about a piece of their identity being confused and missing. Now I'm not saying go into detail about what happened, but rather ask them questions like "How does it feel to not see daddy/mommy as much as you'd like to?" or "How's your heart feeling today?" It will them to be connected and present with their feelings.

 

3. Speak into their identity.

Tell them how much they are loved, wanted, accepted, created with purpose and a destiny. Begin to make it a habit to flood them with truths. Abandonment has a way of changing how the brain processes and thinks. It changes their worldview on life and experiences.

 

4. Don't say things like, "You don't need him/her, you have me."

This is even harder than number 1, but know that their feelings aren't about you. In reality it's about how a piece of them is missing and they are trying to understand what it all means. Instead, validate their feelings, do your best to listen, and not fix. Also comparison is so destructive. So saying things like "But, you have me", won't ever take away the void they may feel. Which is why walking through your own healing journey is so important.

 

5. Spend as much time as you can with your kids.

I get it, you have to work and provide, especially since you live on one income, but try everything you can to not let work consume you to where all you do is work. Because a story will be written: "That everyone I love doesn't really love me." Be intentional in creating time to be fully present with your kids. Whether it be on Saturdays, or in the evenings after school. Just do your best to give them your full undivided attention. Ask them about their day, etc. Play with them, laugh with them. Don't let the need of money take away from having intentional quality time.

 

6. Make time for self-care.

Parents this is so hard, but you need time for yourself. You need some time to reset, focus on your own health/well being. Find something that rejuvenates you. Whether it be exercising, dancing, art, or something that brings you life. Just whatever it is, allow yourself to have fun with it, and be fully present in it. Your to-do list can be put off to the side for a few hours. Because a healthy mommy/daddy makes for a happy home.

CLICK FOR HOPE | They feared I had Spina Bifida.

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What is your story?!?

Hi, my name is Katie and I am 20 years old. I was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida. Spina Bifida is now known to be caused by a folic acid deficiency during pregnancy. There are two main forms of Spina Bifida. One develops in the first four weeks of pregnancy and the other between seventeen and twenty-one weeks. Most doctors do test for this while the mother is pregnant however, my mother's test came back negative. Although, she tells me it would not have changed her mind on having me, she just would have been better prepared. The day my mom went into labor with me she also lost a good friend to complications of Spina Bifida whom was only twenty years old. He spent a lot of time at a children’s hospital in Chicago Illinois. My mom had a very normal and healthy pregnancy and never dreamed she would have nothing less than a healthy child. I was a natural childbirth with no pain medication or anything. My grandma was in the room when I was born by my mom’s side. I am told I was delivered and the doctor allowed my mom to hold me for a brief moment. Then they whisked me away to another room. Being a first-time mom she thought this was totally normal. Shortly, after doctors came in and told our family that I had a mole like tissue on my back and they suspected it was something more. They feared I had Spina Bifida.

They were informed that I would need to be taken to a hospital that specialized in children’s care. Due to my mom’s friends passing, at no fault of the hospitals, she choose to go to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. Three hours from our hometown. So at three days old I arrived at Riley. Doctors did many tests on me including an MRI. To perform the MRI, it was very important that I not move, so I had to be given oral sedation. My grandmother told me my mom was too scared to hold me and said, I was so limp, almost as if I was dead. So, until the doctors where ready to perform the MRI she held me.  The testing confirmed I indeed had Spina Bifida. However, mine was on the unusual side. That little mole they saw was actually a lipoma or fatty skin mass that had grown over the hole in my spine. This was both unusual but a blessing. You see this lipoma had actually stopped spinal fluid from leaking and going to my brain. It also is the reason all the prior testing had came back negative. I spent 256 days my first year in the hospital at Riley. I had my first surgery at 3 months old. It took doctors fourteen hours. The lipoma had grown to the size of a grapefruit, it had in layman’s terms spider-like legs of fatty tissue that came off of it and had grown around the bottom four vertebras, my pelvis, kidneys, and bladder. My pelvis had to be cut and removed in spots and refused back into my body.

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My mom and grandma never left my side. Taking turns going back and forth to the local Ronald McDonald House to get a little sleep or a bite to eat. After surgery, I had to be placed on a board and could only be held completely straight or it could paralyze me. My mom would wrap her arms around me while I laid in the crib, but only my grandmother would hold me because of this fear.

Doctors felt my Spina Bifida was so severe that I probably would never walk. Well, I proved them all wrong. I walked at nine months old with the help of my service dog. He had a harness that I would hold on to and use like a walker. I never crawled like a normal child though. Due to muscle atrophy I was only able to crawl backwards. When I was five years old I wanted to be in a school-related play. This required me to crawl forwards. This was the 1st time I was finally able to do so.

Shortly, after I had returned to Riley for another MRI this one was rather emotional for my mom. Instead of being sedated I could now lay still enough to not need it. The nurse called my name to go back for the procedure and I told my mom, “I was a big girl now” and I could go alone. Now, I fall asleep during them.

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Over the years I have developed other health issues due to my Spina Bifida. I have a neurogenetic bowel and bladder and my kidneys didn’t start growing until I was about eight. At the age of nine, I developed chronic migraines. I now receive Botox injections in my head, temples, and neck every eight weeks to help with this issue. I also tried the Daith piercing for migraines and I didn’t really notice a difference until I had my last surgery in June of 2017 and had to take out my earrings.  My freshman year of high school I developed an infection called Histoplasmosis. I ended up in the hospital for about a month. I had been coughing so badly that my rib cracked. It punctured my lung and it deflated on the left side. Now, I have only a half of a lung on that side. At 15 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

Due to health reasons I switched to being schooled online instead of a classroom setting. I was able to work extremely hard and catch up and graduate on time. I have also suffered from Chronic Sinusitis for a very long time as well as some other issues. I am currently on medical leave from college due to some health issues but dream of someday working with hearing impaired children and those with special needs.

I enjoy reading, music, and crafts. I love to snuggle with my emotional support pets Harley and Chewie. They are both Holland Lop Bunnies. As well as spoiling my dog Baxter and kitty Princess Pepper. I have recently started the hobby of swapping letters with pen-pals and other “spoonies” aka Chronic Ill people. I also have a love for LuLaRoe clothing. To date, I have had a total of 8 spine surgeries and a total of 19 surgeries in all. I am currently in physical therapy after cracking the rod that was placed in my spine last summer.

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How has your story shaped who you are today?:

I know my story has made me who I am. Without it, I don't know what my life would be like. It has helped me become strong in ways others will never understand. It is the reason I want to teach children with special needs. It is why I want to give back to others. My story has made me who I am and will always be.

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

I would tell them that it's going to be hard at times, but you can't give up. You have to keep going because at the end of the day all you will remember is how strong you really are.

CLICK FOR HOPE | A NEW DIAGNOSIS

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Please share your story:

Hi I’m Jamilla Yipp and I have suffered with many forms of chronic illness my entire life. One of my current ones started at the age of 9. I was on a track team. My mom had to take me out due to nightly pains that I had in my legs. Doctors would just say it was growing pains. My mom sent me to many doctors, and blood tests, trying to rule out the issue. The pains are severe, and crippling. To this day, I can’t be under direct cold air as it will trigger the pain. The sad things is I still don’t have an answer for what it is. The closest diagnosis I've received is Fibromyalgia but I didn’t have the trigger points which brings me back to square one of not really knowing what's causing the pain. Fast forward to my teenage years and I began to have crippling menstrual pain, which as a teenager my mom thought they were normal. At the age of 20, I learned they weren’t normal and that I in fact had endometriosis. I choose to have kids early due to knowing the reality of infertility with this, and thankfully the endometriosis would go into remission. However after my 4th child, it came back with a vengeance. Fast forward once again to last year, I have been recently diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia nicknamed the suicide disease. Last year was tough as it took many hospitalizations and tests to get the medication right. I’m currently on epilepsy medication to control it and it works for now, but during the process they thought I had Multiple Sclerosis which turned out to be my high blood pressure triggering small strokes. So here I am, figuring out how to live with a new diagnosis while being a mom to 4, wife, and small business owner.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: It has made me stronger and appreciate the little things more. Each day I’m pain free is a day to cherish.

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO LIVES IN A "NOT SO GOOD" AREA

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It's crazy to think it's almost been 2 years ago when we started entertaining if we could buy a home again. I say again, because we were the "1 in 5 million" that lost their homes during the mortgage crisis, but I'll have to share more on that later.

Just to give some context, if you don't know, the Chicagoland area is very segregated either by race or class, which when you think about it really goes hand in hand. Someone can tell you what neighborhood they live in, and you can have an idea if that neighborhood is, "good or bad" "affluent or low income." I know...crazy right?!? There's so much Chicago history on how it became so divided, and it continues to remain one of the most segregated cities in the US. Feel free to Google it, if you are intrigued and want to learn more.

Our home buying experience was interesting because the more we shared we were looking to buy, the more we got unwarranted advice, suggestions and questions. For example, I had a friend ask me where we were looking.  Now mind you, my husband is the only salaried person in our home. With the home buying process, using the salaried income is the best way to go.  Also, we were very determined to find a space that fit our needs, but didn't want to go beyond what we were currently paying for our apartment....which was no easy task. So to answer her question, I hesitantly mentioned some nearby suburbs (just out of the city), and she quickly responded that I should add in a very commonly known affluent community. It left me in an awkward situation of what to say, because I knew this quaint community existed, it just wasn't within our budget. So, I nodded my head, and changed the conversation. These comments came constantly. After searching for months, we found the perfect home for us in a community called Maywood, which is just outside of Chicago.

Now after we bought our home, more comments came. If you don't know anything about Maywood, it has a reputation of being considered a "bad area" or "up and coming," in which, I'm not a fan of these words. Maywood was a thriving community until the mid 1970's when a major factory closed down causing a huge loss of jobs. The community never really recovered after that. Today, it has a 97% minority population, it's a food desert, there's lots of abandoned homes, and more. The assumptions about Maywood bother me, because the reality is they are mircoagressions towards a certain people group, whether we want to admit it or not, and lets not forget, I am one of "those" people.

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So friends, I want to share 4 things not to say to someone who is looking or just bought a home in what would be considered a "not so great" area.

1. SO....HOW'S MAYWOOD (OR INSERT SAID NEIGHBORHOOD?!?)

You wouldn't believe how many times I've gotten this question. Sometimes I don't really know how to respond. But I say, "Oh we love it!" You guys....we can't always believe what blogs, articles and non-residents have to say about "these" areas. Unless you've lived in that neighborhood, please don't share what might be inaccurate opinions. I have experienced community more here, than anywhere else we've lived. Our neighbors look out for us, helped us when we got stuck in the snow, closed our garage door when we forgot to close it on several occasions and so much more! Our neighbors are genuinely amazing!

Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying homeownership?"

 

2. OH....SO, HOW'S THE SCHOOLS?

This usually is the followup question after the first one. One time, I did have someone just go straight to this question. And my response was...."Ummm, I don't know. We homeschool." We’ve been a homeschooling family for 4 years because we quickly learned our daughter thrives better one on one. However, with a basic internet search I could gather an idea that the schools are considered "underperforming," but I don’t believe we should formulate an opinion without actually walking into each of the schools, meet with the principal, and allowing ourselves to draw our conclusions. Let's not let the internet and hearsay be what determines if a school is good or not.

Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying your child's school?"

 

3. SO HAS ANYTHING BAD HAPPENED TO YOU WHILE LIVING THERE.

I couldn't believe I was actually asked this but I was. I could tell this friend was trying not to dig herself deeper in a hole. I responded quickly with a no, and shared more of my positive experiences with my neighbors, but at this point the subject got so awkward that the subject was changed.

Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying new your neighborhood?" or "Tell me what you are loving most about your new neighborhood?" See a pattern here?!?

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4. YOU SHOULD JUST MOVE TO THE SUBURBS WHERE THERE'S  A WHITE PICKET FENCE AND THE SCHOOLS ARE REALLY GOOD, YOU'LL PAY HIGH TAXES BUT IT'S WORTH IT.

Yup! I've gotten this one too. Now as awesome as that sounds, the reality for us is that our budget couldn't go that high. I had another friend, say, "Well you could live "here" if you just allocated your budget appropriately." I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry.

You guys, we have to remember that just because one might be able to purchase a $500k+ home doesn't mean everyone can. Heck not everyone can qualify for a $200K+ home. We have to remember that we all live on different levels of income, and if we are truly submerging ourselves around those who don't all look and live like us, we have to be aware of how our livelihoods may not be like be our friends. Also, we have to be aware of the words we say, and how they may come from a place of privilege, may be making an assumption about a certain people group, or sharing insight on hearsay that is  founded in stereotypes and prejudice. Now let me clarify, there's no shame in your game if you can purchase a $500k+ home, just don't forget that isn't the story for everyone. We have to be willing to ask ourselves, "Is my circle of friends living a similar lifestyle as me? Does everyone I hang out with look like me?" If they are, then we have to ask ourselves, "Am I truly diversifying myself in a way where I'm doing life with those who don't look and live I do?? Are my actions aligning with my words, and what I say I'm for?"

Instead say: "I love that you are looking to buy a home, what is your dream home?!?" or "I heard you bought a home, how did you know that was your 'Home'? Did you get that tingling feeling inside?"

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All in all, Jeremy and I are challenged to live our lives in a way that honors Jesus, which to us means not living above our means. Remember how I mentioned earlier that we were the "1 in 5 million" that lost our home during the mortgage crisis?!?  Well, we did everything we thought we were supposed to then, to achieve the American Dream. We believed that buying a home beyond what our income could handle and filling it up with lots of brand new beautiful furniture somehow meant that we "arrived." Before we knew it, we lost everything, and in losing it all, it taught us to let go of the American Dream, and begin to go after the God Dream. For us the God dream is living out each of our purposes in whatever way that looks. Now that may mean we won't be super wealthy, but we are okay with that. As long as we can eat, support our kids, and pay our bills, while going after our God dreams, we are more than happy! Now let’s say our income increased significantly…..we still have a huge conviction to stay simple, live on less so we can give more, and help support other’s big God dreams. So to us, where we live doesn't matter. It's about making our home a home filled with love, safety, and togetherness, while our door is open to being a light to those around us.

So....who wants to be our neighbor?!?