Thursday, January 22, 2015

What are your Intentions for 2015?

I have a friend who decided that creating New Year's Resolutions simply sets us up for failure. It doesn’t allow for mistakes or grace, so she decided to make some New Year’s Intentions. I really liked that. While some may say it is not a strong enough word, intentions allow someone the chance to mess up and come back the next day not filled with shame and guilt. Recently I attended a Brene Brown-Daring Way conference and was reminded how much shame could paralyze us. I think we have enough shame to go around, don’t you? Let’s maybe have some good intentions this year instead.

When we shared intentions at our staff meeting, it was clear many of us desired not more clients, more money or more volunteers, but more meaningful interactions with those we come across. There seemed to be a universal desire to be more connected and more ‘authentically present’ in other peoples’ lives. We are all feeling a sense of being rushed and a longing to slow down. We want to matter and we want others to know they matter. While it is OK to want to get healthy, lose weight, go back to church, join a bible study, or other similar goal, we are beginning to sense the urgent need to enjoy the journey and not focus so much on the destination. 

For me,  the biggest takeaway  from the conference was the concept of being kind to myself (sometimes called self-compassion). If I cannot be kind to myself, I cannot be kind to someone else. It starts by really listening to the way I speak to myself. Is that how I would talk to a friend? It is about checking in with my body. Do I need rest? Food? A walk around the building? Laughter? Fun? Quiet time with God? If I don’t know what I need, how can I best meet the needs of others? I know some of you reading this may think this sounds selfish, but I am speaking to the person who is burning the candle at both ends, or the person who gives and gives and gives. The person who is flat out exhausted, angry, hurt, sad, and dissatisfied. I encourage that person to take a personal inventory of how well you are taking care of yourself. I promise, the more you are kind to yourself, the more capacity you have to be kind to others, not less. So while you are considering (or already reconsidering) your intentions for 2015, I pray it includes ‘being kind to myself’. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

#ScriptureSunday Ephesians 4:17-32

Living as Children of Light

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

#ScriptureSunday Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
 You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
 For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian.
 For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Monday, December 8, 2014

When a Pregnancy is Unplanned

When thinking about Christmas, you can't help but think of the most unplanned pregnancy of all. Mary and Joseph probably felt a lot of the same emotions that our clients feel as they walk in our doors. Until you work directly in the industry, you may have a lot of preconceived opinions about the topic of unplanned pregnancies and questions about those who find themselves in that position. How often does it happen? Are they all young teenagers? Is it only one ethnic group? Only rural areas?  Lower income? Churched or unchurched?  Hopefully, this will shed some light on the topic.

Over 50% of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. That is larger than any peer country.  The most common ages are 18-24. In fact, 75% of all teen pregnancies are 18 and 19 year olds. She is equally churched and unchurched. She crosses all socio-economic backgrounds.  In fact, by the time women end their child- bearing years, one in three women will also have an abortion (as reported by the CDC).  Unplanned pregnancies do not discriminate and can happen in any home from the most broken of homes to the most well-adjusted and fully intact homes. 

Why is it happening so much you might wonder? We know young people are physically maturing more quickly, but emotionally maturing less quickly so their bodies and ‘sexual urges’ are moving faster than their brains are able to make good decisions. Less people are married these days at an age when sexual activity typically begins. More people are getting divorced. Sexual activity outside of committed relationships is more commonly accepted.  And in the age of texting, twitter and other forms of social media, we are raising a generation who is more prone to sexual activity, but not equipped to have authentic relationships with good communications skills that would lead to good decision making. 

Is there hope? Yes! The country may be divided down the line about abortion, but I think most of us agree we first need to prevent more unplanned pregnancies. We also need to step in and help the women and men facing an unplanned pregnancy with a clear plan that not only gets them through their immediate crisis, but sets them up for success for their future. 

At Hope Clinic for Women our prevention material is called Beyond Abstinence. We try to address matters of the heart and the head first knowing that focusing on just sexual activity is not as successful. We have a four-week presentation model that works best when the boys/girls are split up for most of it, and it is taught in small groups where dialogue is possible. We have a track just for parents that has been an eye-opening experience for them. We also provide professional counseling for women and men who are struggling in this area dealing with childhood trauma, sexual abuse, pornography and other issues impeding their chance for success.

We also have the most amazing and thorough program for women and men in unplanned pregnancies. We provide medical help, practical education classes, spiritual mentorship, professional counseling (for her, her partner, the couple, and the family). Along with participation in our program, they receive practical support for them and their children (clothes, diapers, wipes, car seats, strollers, etc.). In a recent article online, 50% of pro-choice women said they had their abortion because they had no support system. Hope Clinic can be that support system. If you or anyone you know needs help in an unplanned pregnancy or would like to discuss how we can bring our prevention program to your church, school, or community, please contact us at 615.321.0005 or visit us at

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Living Life with a Thankful Heart

I am not writing this because I have mastered this concept. It is my aim to live like this more and more every day. But I do know people who have mastered this spirit. They are not the wealthiest people I know. They do not have the skinniest bodies. They have lines and wrinkles. They probably did not win a place on the Homecoming court. And they don’t get on Facebook for three weeks in November quoting something they are thankful for every day (not that there is anything wrong with that). They simply LIVE every day, every moment, and every breath with a thankful heart. They have a thankful spirit that is present in the most amazing experiences and through the worst of trials. They are not just thankful for the good things/people in their lives, but they know how to be thankful for the things/people they don’t have in their lives.

How can we move to living a life with a thankful heart? A group of my peers talked about the value of a gratitude journal. Something you keep by your bed so you can record all the things you are grateful for to remind yourself in the seasons you don’t feel grateful for anything. That seems very practical for my brain and I do this, but not consistently, so I am not so sure how well it’s working for me. But maybe that will work for you?

I have added one thing in my life that has really made a difference. I meet with a friend every single Monday morning to go on a hike. The hike takes us 90 minutes and in that time we share about life. It’s a way to start the week with a forced focus on mental/physical/spiritual health. When we talk, we allow the other to speak into our life from the perspective of what God’s Word promises us. We try not to play therapist to each other (although we slip into it at times), but we simply try to remind each other who God says we are, what He has done for us and what He can do. Because we have an established relationship, we are completely allowed to be authentic and honest about our ‘wrestle time with God’, and we are able receive these reminders more like manna from heaven than judgment or lame platitudes.

It's like the difference between joy and happiness. One is an internal attitude and one is dependent on the moment at hand. A thankful heart goes to the source that does not go dry. I encourage you this season to focus back on God. Sit in His presence. Read His Word. Get to know the sound of His voice. Create a space for Him in your heart. It doesn’t matter if it takes a journal, a hike, a bible study, or a Christian therapist to help you do this. Just find the one that works for you.

Be thankful with me this season. Not for what we have or don’t have, but for whom God has called us to be. Be thankful that He did not mess up creating us (no matter how much WE mess up) and that His outstretched hand is never too far away. 

Renée Rizzo

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Finding Hope After a Loss

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  Psalms 139:13-16

Discovering you're pregnant can be a bit shocking depending on whether it was planned or unplanned and how many other children you have. You may experience contradicting feelings at the same time such as happiness, fear, stress, ______ (fill in the blank). Your brain is working overtime. "Is this really a good time for me to be pregnant?" "How long should I wait to tell everyone?" "Should I tell anyone?" "I thought I was finished having babies." "Can we afford to have another one? We JUST finished paying the hospital bills for the last kid!" (That was my first thought!) After a few weeks of knowing and accepting this truth that you are indeed carrying a baby, you may become happier or more nervous, depending on your family history. Either way, you have 9 months to prepare and figure out how you're going to handle this, right?

I was in this situation a few years ago. I already had one child and found myself pregnant a few years later. It wasn't planned, but I was excited nonetheless and told my family immediately. I had a few close friends who had experienced a miscarriage recently, so it was on the back of my mind, but I honestly didn't think it would happen to me since I never had any problems getting pregnant or during my first pregnancy. 

Around 11 weeks, I started telling more people, since I was almost out of the first trimester and into the "safe zone". I remember I had my 12 week ultrasound scheduled on a Monday morning. The Sunday night before my ultrasound, I had extreme abdominal pain and ran to the bathroom only to see a massive amount of blood in the toilet. My first and only thought was, this is it, I'm having a miscarriage right now. There was no doubt in my mind. I called my close friend sobbing to her and barely getting the words out, but she knew exactly what to say. She told me to go straight to the ER. My husband called my parents, and they came over to watch our son while we went to the hospital. In the ER, I kept losing such an obscene amount of blood that I ended up having 2 blood transfusions, plus the D & C surgery along with numerous ultrasounds to make sure they got everything out. To put it simply, it was a horrendous and traumatic experience that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

There were some women from my church who lifted me up in prayer and sent me encouraging emails, even though they had never met me. That meant so much to me that they would take time out of their busy lives to support me in my grief. They had also experienced this pain, and wanted to let me know that I wasn't alone. Some of those words from strangers meant more to me than even words from my close friends and family. I'll always remember one lady who wrote: "God loved your little angel so much that He wanted them to go straight to Heaven with Him so they would never feel death, sorrow, crying, or pain." While this brought me great comfort, I am aware that someone else hearing these words may be offended or hurt worse. Sometimes the best thing we can do is be present and not try to come up with the "perfect response" since we never know how people will react. God knew exactly who and what would comfort me at that time.

Miscarriage doesn't discriminate - 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. I didn't know this statistic before I had one. Before I had my miscarriage, I thought it was a very sad thing and I felt bad for everyone I knew that had one. After I had my miscarriage, I still think it a very sad thing, but now I not only feel bad for people who have one, I can actually know the pain they are feeling. Before my miscarriage, I never knew the right words to say to encourage or support women who had one. After my miscarriage, I now just sit and cry with women who had one.

So even though 1 in 4 women have this in common, I know I felt extremely alone after it happened to me. My friend who talked me through it on the phone lived out of state and had 3 kids, so I didn't want to bother her. My other friend who experienced miscarriage was also dealing with postpartum depression. If I felt lonely (and I have a decent amount of friends), I'm pretty sure there are other women out there who feel just as alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

I didn't talk to anyone professionally about my loss, and I really wish that I had. Now that I work for Hope Clinic, I have the privilege of knowing these amazing women and men who counsel our clients daily and if I could go back in time and talk with them right after my miscarriage, I would. Their kindness and patience allows them to be such good listeners and they make you feel comfortable talking to them about anything. I encourage anyone reading this who has gone through this pregnancy loss, even if it was completely different than mine, to reach out to someone who can walk through this with you. If you don't know anyone close by, please give Hope Clinic a call at 615.321.0005. It seriously will be the best call you can make for healing through your grief.

I became pregnant about 6 months later and now have two sweet boys, but I'll always remember my angel baby. I found this poem online and it spoke to exactly how I was feeling. I hope it brings you comfort as well.

A Lament for My Baby

I never got to hear you laugh, you never saw me cry.
Didn't get a chance to say "Hello", you never said "Goodbye".
I didn't think that I could feel so sad, lost and forlorn.
I never knew God chose his Angels before some of them were born.
Your life was short yet special; I shared it all exclusively.
I felt you breathe, I felt you kick. You were alive inside of me.
Every baby is an Angel and every angel is divine.
God needed one in heaven; He came down and took mine.
And although we are not together, we're not really apart
for you'll always occupy a space deep within my heart.
Time has begun to ease my pain, It's only some days now I cry.
When I wish I could have said "Hello" and heard you say "Goodbye".
~Author Unknown

Sara Chang has served as the Communications Coordinator at Hope Clinic for Women since August 2013. She manages the website, printed materials, and social media. She received her bachelor's degree in Spanish from MTSU. After living in NYC for seven years, she moved back home in 2008 and lives in Nashville with her husband and two sons.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reaching the Light at the End of the Tunnel

I left work early one day and hurried to my daughter’s house to visit with my 1st grandchild who was only 3 weeks old.  As I pulled into the driveway, I was so excited to see my daughter sitting on the back porch.  Although we have always been close, we had not spent much time together recently, so I guess I was also looking forward to visiting with her as well as my grandson.  As I got out of my car and walked up the gravel path, I got a better view of my daughter. My heart sank.  She was sitting in a plastic deck chair holding her head in her hands.  She was wearing a blue and white checkered gown (one I had actually given her several years ago, so the blue was somewhat blue-gray-faded and the white was a bit yellowed.)  Her long brown hair (usually beautiful and shiny) looked dull and matted.  It was piled half-way upon her head, barely clasped with a spring clip on the top.  On one side of her face, strands of her hair that had missed the clasp hung down covering part of her face.  When she heard me walk up, she lifted her head from her hands, looked at me and started bawling.  She cried for a full 4 minutes without stopping.  She said, “I can’t do this.  Mama, I can’t do this.  I don’t know how to take care of a baby.  I don’t know what to do when he cries and won’t stop. I haven’t had a shower in 3 days.  He is up all night and all day.  I’m trying to nurse but it isn’t working.  I don’t know how to do that.  I think he’s hungry and I can’t satisfy him.  Ben (her husband) is working all day, then comes in, changes clothes, and goes back out to deliver pizzas till midnight, just to be able to buy diapers.  Mama, they are so expensive.  I feel like a failure as a mother.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t keep going like this.  What am I going to do?”

My heart was breaking...I knew my daughter was a loving, caring, smart, all-together type of person.  How could she be suffering from Postpartum Depression? This did not seem like her at all.  But what could I do? I simply loved her through it. First, I took care of my grandson while she took a shower and a nap.  I then encouraged her to get out and get physically active, and also to specifically schedule time with friends.  After all, she had the perfect babysitter…me!  The next few months were pretty tough, but with help she soon became her “old self.”

Sometimes, the experience of being a new mom can be a bit overwhelming.  You are not alone.  In fact, over 50% of ALL moms experience “baby blues” symptoms. And over 12% of all postpartum women experience some of the symptoms of postpartum depression, including feeling sad, intensely anxious, worthless or incompetent, and feeling inadequate to cope with an infant.

When these “overwhelming feelings” get out of control, please know there IS help.  You may feel like you are in a dark tunnel headed to a horrible end, but be encouraged….there IS a light at the end of the tunnel!  And the tunnel is not as long as you think!  In the meantime, you can help yourself by being physically active, spending fun time with friends, eating healthy foods, and being intentional about relaxing.  Hope Clinic for Women can also help.  We provide postpartum counseling on a sliding scale making this affordable for anyone. Please consider seeing one of our professional counselors who can provide an assessment and counseling through this difficult time. If needed, our Nurse Practitioner can prescribe medication to help as well.

Postpartum Depression does not have to keep you down. With the right help, you too can make it through the tunnel where there is light abundant at the end!

Marie Gilland, LMSW is the Client Program Director at Hope Clinic for Women. She has 7 years of experience in Counseling. Marie received her master's degree in social work from the University of Tennessee and her undergraduate degree in psychology from Tennessee State University. She previously worked as the Child Welfare Program Coordinator at Catholic Charities in Nashville, TN. Marie has lived in the Nashville area for 37 years and has 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild.