“Please don’t leave me,” were the words Jennifer pleaded to her husband Tate as he lay unconscious with pouring rain, crashing thunder and intense lightening surrounding them. September 12, 2008 would forever change the direction of her life. Hurricane Ike would make landfall that evening. The storm had not yet impacted their immediate area except for an occasional gust of wind and some isolated rain. Around midnight the couple went outside to check in on a neighbor. Suddenly a huge gust of wind roared, and Jennifer turned to run back towards their home with Tate close behind. Only a few steps from safety, a deafening crack rang out as a massive pecan tree crashed to the ground.
The earth shook violently with a force that literally hurled Jennifer toward the front door. Turning to embrace her husband, he was not to be found. A moment of relief turned to sheer panic. A frantic search revealed Tate buried under the debris having been struck on the head leaving him immobile and nearly dead. In fact, he was revived back to life, but the impact of the tree would leave him paralyzed from the waist down, covered with lacerations and numerous broken ribs.
The journey to healing would be a long process both physically and emotionally. Jennifer took on many new roles and only her faith and God’s grace carried her forward. It was her plan to take this marriage of 11 years and create a new dimension and example for others to follow. This proved difficult over the next 10 years as isolation, depression, and pharmaceutical drugs took a savage toll on her previously vibrant and charismatic man. After counseling and many attempts to engage in family life were depleted, the marriage ended in a divorce.
With two young daughters to support and depleted savings, Jennifer seemingly faced the realities of single motherhood alone. It had been many years since she had been in the workforce as an elementary school teacher, and she felt the pressure to quickly reinvent herself. Jennifer turned to another single mom who owned an interior design and lighting studio to apply for a job that she could manage while still being present for their two girls living at home.
This work experience proved to be a great catalyst for learning how to navigate markets and working within the design world. She then went on to take a management position at a local boutique. Again, more markets and a chance to work within the fashion realm and get to know client’s wants and needs.
This is where the vision for Barlow & Browning began. The plan is not to just have a business, but to create a community that inspires, gives back, fosters love, promotes courage, and celebrates strength. We all have significant storms in our lives, but the point she learned is that we shouldn’t get stuck in the storm. It’s all about pulling yourself out. Look for the light, soak it up and then share it with others.
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Tracy Mulady said:
I love your story! I watch your reels every night on Instagram! I am a 6th grade teacher and have dreamed of opening my own boutique for as long as I can remember. So many of my friends say it will never work… I hate that my fear of failing or bringing financial hardship on my family keeps me from doing this! I admire your story!
What a testimony! So honored to know you and see what God is doing through you!