STEPHANIE HODGINS

My Name is Stephanie Hodgins, I am married to James Hodgins whom I met at San Jose State University, in California. We got married at 18/19 years old, and had our first son, Isaiah, in College two years later. James was a rookie free agent who went to play for the St.Louis Rams in 1999, when our next son, Isaac was born, exactly a year after Isaiah. We spent the 1999 Super year with the St.Louis Rams, and stayed there for 4 seasons. He was then released and picked up by the Arizona Cardinals where he played the next 3 seasons. Our last and final stop was with the New York Jets in 2006/2007. We currently have three wonderful children, Isaiah 19, Isaac 18, Imoni 10, and reside in Northern, Bay Area, California.

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Life after football was a roller coaster, to say the least. My husband left the game with a painkiller addiction, alcohol addiction, and marital affairs. A year after he retired, the addictions became so exhausting to be around, that I forced him to go to rehab. Needless to say, when you "FORCE" someone it never works. While he was figuring out his addictions, I was making plans to live on my own with our kids, both of us still residing in Arizona. We ended up being separated for a year and shared our children. I watched James spiral with the addictions, and it was painful to be around someone I knew since college, who introduced me to the Lord and I knew was being drug around by the enemy and all his schemes. Money was squandered, and in a sense, he was still trying to live that NFL life, with no job, and living WILD. We sold our home in Arizona, and I rented a home down the street while James rented a condo. Our boys were 7,8, and we had just adopted our baby girl Imoni, who was a year old. I would sit and think, Lord this is your "BEST" for me? After a year of being separated, and saw NO change in James and his lifestyle, just it getting worse, I started filing for divorce. During this time, I was attending an amazing Church in Arizona, and I prayed for him to get healthy and go to rehab. Literally, a year later from me praying, I got a phone call from James that he wanted my help to go to rehab!! God heard my prayers, we got him on a plane back to California, God worked out details to help pay for his rehab and we never looked back.

During those first few years after football, life was very dark with many unknowns. Where would James work, I needed to find a career, what about our children, and what about our MARRIAGE? Well, I am happy to say today, James and I will be married for 22 years this year, God spoke to me 8 years ago and told me NOT to turn those divorce papers in that were signed and ready. Our children have WITNESSED first hand the power of GOD and restoration.

Today, James is the Head Coach of a high school football team where God has placed him for the last 5 years to minister to young men. He also shares his story of Gods redemption and grace to local high schools through The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

God has been my ROCK through all of this. Many times, I would cry out to God, and ask WHY? WHY me? WHY us? WHY all this craziness! Now, at 41, having walked with the Lord since 18, I have learned a lot about GOD, myself, his timing, grace, forgiveness, and RESTORATION.

I clung to a few verses in the Book of Isaiah and now share them with other women, Isaiah 43:1-3- "Do Not Fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep you over. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your GOD, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Once James was sober and I knew I had made the CHOICE to support him and restore our family, I knew there was no looking back. It has been hard at times, but with endless prayer and marriage counseling throughout the years, we have repaired much of the broken pieces.

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As a woman, I can finally say, I am comfortable in my own skin. I am confident in who I am in Christ. I am still learning how to be a respectful, loving wife  (I have come a long way in that area) and I continually grow as a mother of two college football players who have goals to play in the NFL, and a young daughter. I currently work as a Hospice consultant in the medical field and have for the last 9 years, which I LOVE!!

James and I currently, host a marriage small group Bible study at home, we desire to encourage other married couples to FIGHT for and restore their marriages. We share our story with many to provide HOPE who might feel lost in their marriage. James and I take daily walks together and call them our "prayer walks" where we pray, while we spend time together.

While God has truly restored us financially, our life is very simple these days. I go to work, James gives 100% of his time and effort to his HS football team, and I rally behind him. We raise our young daughter to love God and others and I love watching her grow. We go to Oregon State quite often and love traveling around to watch both our boys who play together on the Oregon State Football team.

My middle son, Isaac said it best, when he heard of some friends that were contemplating divorce. He said, MOM, if you and dad can make it, ANYONE CAN!!! I believe that to be true, James and I have had every ODD against us and very messy trials, BUT GOD!!!!! God gets the glory in our story because it is truly GODS story, not ours. We just need to be OBEDIENT and share it with the WORLD!!

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I have also started a BLOG in hope to reach Hurting and hopeless WOMEN. My husband encourages me with everything I write and enjoys helping me give hope to others. You can check out Stephanie's blog here ---> www.readbeforeyouleave.com

My advice to women transitioning is, if you have God in your life, cling to him, if not FIND HIM. Stay grounded and real, surround yourself with women whom you can share your struggles with and they will pray and lift you up. FIND WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST!! When I mentor young women, I want them to know who they are in CHRIST, so they will truly know their WORTH!!

GO on date nights or days with your spouse, keep it simple - sometimes for us its literally, 10 minutes together, just talking and sitting together. PRAY together, this has been the KEY TO OUR marriage - hearing each other's heart for each other, our family, and others. Laugh together - find those moments of laughter and create new memories together. One thing we discuss is, what is one dream of ours individually, find out what your spouse desires to do when time is of the essence. Find out each other's love language!! FIND positive things you love to do, that inspire, encourage, lift you up, and that you enjoy!! Lastly, I have recently realized, how much my husband needs encouragement, just as I encourage my college boys. OUR new thing, well, My new thing, James has done this for years for me, is leaving each other LOVE NOTES!! Write out a "Love NOTE" keep it simple, (it doesn't have to be paragraphs), telling him how much you love him, stand behind him, or whatever God places on your heart and place it where you know he will find it! MAKE LIFE FUN and EXCITING together!

My name is Stephanie and I am a Victor's Voice!