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?!?

MY NAME IS JASMINE AND I'M A LOPEZ

This blog post was originally shared on Click For Hope on Sept. 19, 2016.

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I recently confessed to my small group that I struggle with being Hispanic. And while some may have not fully understood what I meant or how that could be. I must admit that I felt free.....like a caged bird who had just been released. It has been something I've struggled with my entire life.

You see, I'm a 2nd generation Latina American and I don't speak Spanish fluently. I struggled with learning it as a child and often got confused, so I asked my mom for "English only" (which I regret as an adult), but could totally understand why my little heart would ask for that. I grew up not sure where I fit in. My skin was too tan for white girls and I wasn't "authentic" enough for the Latinos. I also dealt with a constant assumption that Puerto Ricans are the same as Mexicans. There became this distinction that being Puerto Rican was in some way better than being Mexican. So there came a point where I was clarifying how WE ARE NOT THE SAME, all the while denying my very own Mexican heritage.

As an adult I've done everything I could by my own power to prove my worth, and break the negative stereotypes that are often thought of consciously or subconsciously towards someone who is Hispanic. Negative stereotypes such as: when you want to hire a landscaper who is cheap, you hire a Mexican, when you need a mechanic for cheap, you hire a Mexican,....see the pattern here?!? When I first became a portrait and wedding photographer, I began seeing this stereotype be applied to me. Now I admit I could have very well written this story for myself, and allowed something that was not truth to become truth. But the feelings it brought me sucked! Comment after comment, I wondered, "Am I being judged by my last name?" To be even more transparent, I stopped writing by last name on my website, business cards, and email signature. I began to question my own worth as a creative entrepreneur.

The industry also very much so, taught me that I must only show what I want to shoot. That this "type of person" is what is wealthy looked like, which was who could afford me. This marketing strategy left me feeling even more lost and unsure of myself as an artist. Is this what I really dreamed of for my brand?  Did I really want to be that exclusive?!? I'm at a place where I'm now asking, how can I create a brand that is inclusive, and where all economic statuses could have an opportunity to be photographed by me and have beautiful photographs of them while valuing my work and time.

As I opened my heart, and began having conversations with others about my struggles, I'm learning to embrace who I am. I'm in a season where I long to be my TRUE self. The person who God created me to be. I'm still journeying through it all, and dismantling the lies I've believed to be true. I recently went to a women's conference and heard a speaker say, "Your culture is not a curse, it's a blessing," she said, "it's time to start having these hard conversations and stop acting like race doesn't matter. It does matter! And ignoring it doesn't change it."

That spoke volumes to me, and I began to allow the Lord to speak and transform my heart. He began to remind me of His word. How I'm His masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made. He knows me by name, and knows the numbers of hair on my head. He is with me and for me.

I began asking myself what's my identity, who is she now at 32yrs old? How does she see herself? And while I'm still very much in the process still of answering all these questions, I do know that I have something to say.

There's only ONE me.

I have a voice.

I was created with a purpose and destiny that only I can fulfill.

Because I HAVE A NAME and it matters!

What have been your cultural and racial struggles? Comment below and share your thoughts with me!!!

Update: 3/21/18

It's so amazing to see all that God has done in a year and a half. He's been healing me big time. Starting Authentic Adventure Co. was a defining moment where it has allowed me to bring my full self to this blog, which is all of who we are as a latino family, in our faith, and through our creativity. :)

CLICK FOR HOPE | MY HEART STILL ACHES

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Please share your story:

All my life I have struggled with issues related to my reproductive system. At age 25, I was diagnosed with infertility due to my overweight interfering with my hormone levels. To make a long story short, I have had 2 miscarriages (one of which was a set of twins), one stillborn at 23 weeks and a premature baby born at 27 weeks. I have gone through 2 sets of IVF treatments, a long period or ignoring my desire to be a mother and 2 natural pregnancies, one which I lost and one that I almost lost despite all efforts.

One thing I have learned during this long 12 year journey is that you cannot help but love your child. Women are scared to shared the wonderful news of a pregnancy before 12 weeks, as if somehow, losing your child before then has no impact. Then, most times women suffer in silence as to not disturb the comfort levels of others. I have learned that having a child doesn't minimize the pain of losing a child, whether at 23 weeks, 11 weeks or 8... as a matter of fact today completes a year since I lost my Alahna Maia... and even though I'm grateful for my Anayah, and her rolling over today, my heart still aches for the one I held for only a brief moment... my heart aches for her and my other 3 angels whom I didn't even get to see...

My Anayah spent 97 days in the hospital and every day was scarier than the first... as the days passed the more attached I became and the more frightening the idea of not being able to bring her home was. Her dad, usually quiet about these matters, even expressed to me, "The more time passes, the scarier it becomes."

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How has your story shaped who you are today?:

A child makes his/her presence known almost immediately after conception. They make you feel sick, tired, emotional and ever so hungry. Then, as they grow, they stretch your body, they move and kick and even respond to your voice or a special song... I know my Alahna did! Just because she did not grow in the outside world, doesn't mean she will not be missed. She certainly left a deep imprint in our lives.

Now, and even more than ever, I am grateful for each new day and the little things that may be a bother sometimes: my baby crying all night, lack of sleep and trying to figure out why she is crying when I have done everything I could possibly do...those are blessings too; I get to hold Anayah and she is alive and expressing her needs... nothing tops that!

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

I want the mothers of little angels to know that contrary to what many may think, they are in fact mothers. I want them to know that there's no need to suffer in silence: someone is willing to listen. I also want to commend you because it takes immense strength to keep on living, smiling and putting on a brave face even when a whole lifetime of dreams came crumbling under you... I also want to share that prayer and worship were my refuge, and my strengthening force... He really is our comforter... seek HIM...

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

Do not lose hope... God answers... He can give you the desires of your heart, and as you wait, he can fill you with peace and joy. In the meantime, do not be afraid to feel. Acknowledge your loss. I can't stress enough that there is no need to go through this alone, nor should you.

CLICK FOR HOPE | WE HAVE BEEN RAISED BY A SINGLE MOM

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For the majority of our lives we have been raised by a single mom. Our father, not being a consistent part in our lives, greatly impacted us, because we were not able to be raised by both parents as many others are. It created emotions that still affect us now. There’s a range of feelings that go on which we do not know how to handle. Our mom has taught us to turn to God to help us with those feelings and we believe that this will make us stronger in life. Our mom, though she has struggled, still manages to keep us in good schools, raise us with good values, and teaches us important life lessons that will help us succeed in the future. She has been a positive and encouraging role model to us and has shown that we can do anything in life. As time goes on it’s become a natural part of our lives to be raised by one parent. We are extremely grateful for all that our mom has done for us and she has done a great job raising us and setting us up to be strong, faithful women. We may not have a father present in our lives but our mom has filled that void and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: We have learned to be strong, independent, faithful and determined young ladies.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?: We want other other kids/teenagers to know that there is nothing wrong with being raised by a single parent.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Being raised by a single parent is not as bad as you think and over time you will learn to appreciate all that he/she has done for you.

MUSIC VIDEO | RECKLESS LOVE

I resonate so deeply with this song, and I had no idea how influential it would be over my healing process this past year. In May 2017, I started going to therapy to process through my childhood. This song became a cornerstone during my healing. I couldn't believe that in the midst of my pain, and the broken pieces of my story, God's love for me is so reckless that he would leave everyone and anyone for me. That he would light up all the dark areas of my past, he would tear down every lie I've believed, and that I AM STILL WANTED. I have wept over this song, as I have allowed it to become a song of truth, in turn allowing it to tear down the lies and mindsets that I've believed over myself for so long.

Music has a way of freeing us. There's such beauty, love and grace in it. I pray that this song blesses you! I hope that you would allow yourself to experience the overwhelming never ending reckless love of God!

Wishing you a very Happy Valentine's Day!

-Jasmine

WE LOVE WATCHING OUR KID'S PERSONALITIES FORM

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When I walked in through the door, Elena greeted me excitedly with a hanging tooth. She just couldn't wait for it to fall off. Mom was still getting ready, so I told her to take a deep breath as she finished getting ready. I played and took photos of the kids up stairs, and Elias said the most sweetest thing to me. He said, "Wow, this is the funnest photo shoot ever!" It made my heart jump, and I just loved the honest feedback. After they each showed me their rooms, we played super hero, chase, and did a little dancing. 

We went back downstairs, to enjoy some scones and Abuelita (Mexican Hot Chocolate). Mom and Dad prepped their coffee, as the kids devoured their snack. We had all these fun random moments of laughter as the awkwardness of "what should we do" began to dissipate. It began to flow, and was super natural.

I wanted to make sure that we photographed lots of the activities they love enjoying doing as a family, which is eating, painting, dancing, and a newly discovered activity: playing video games. My greatest goal while being there was to photograph them with minimal guidance, create authentic photos, and for everyone to have fun. And friends, it happened....

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I asked Karina a few questions about their family and here's how she responded:

What are you loving most about this season of life?

I love seeing our kid's personalities form. It's so interesting to me how the kids can make up games and their own fictional worlds during play time.

What's a current challenge for you guys in this season of life?

It's always a challenge to balance how much we DO (work, school, soccer, violin, ballet, etc.) with how much family time we spend together.

What makes you laugh?!? (mom and dad)

Our kid's can usually make us laugh. It's funny how we can be stressed, but the kids being silly can pull us out of that mindset, if at least for a little bit.

Well friends! Check out my favorites from their session and I hope you love them as much as I do.

-Jasmine