Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Women's History Month and the Warrior Women we Serve

As a woman in leadership, you would think I would have a lot to say about this topic...and I do. Yet, as I write this, I worry too about the direction in which these messages can go. I DO love that there are strong women in history who have paved the way so I can actually be a CEO and have this space to write. But as a woman in leadership, I can also say this topic makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I don’t want to be labeled as a strong female leader. I really just want to be seen as a strong leader. Or better yet, a strong person.  As much as I like to be in control, I also like to relinquish control. I like to look pretty some days and I also like my sweats. I like to be on the front page and other days I like to hide at home. I want my life to have purpose and meaning, but I accept the fact that I may never be as well-known as Taylor Swift. Does she deserve the crown? Sure. But guess who else does? No, not me J. I think of the women we serve at Hope Clinic; those coming in with an unplanned pregnancy and those trying to live with the consequences of a pregnancy loss. They are all amazing warriors to me, and some of them may never make the front page or any 'Women of History' list.

The first women that I think of as playing a strong role in history are those who walked beside and helped finance Jesus during his time in ministry. Those who bravely stood at the Cross while He was crucified. Those who first saw His resurrected body. I love that Jesus knew 2,000 years later the strong role women would play in history. And even further back I think of Esther, Ruth, and Rahab…pretty strong and remarkable women who played an important role in history. Sometimes they acted bravely. Sometimes their very presence was an act of bravery.

Fast forward to the last 100 years and the list includes many great women who changed history. I am sure our lists may be different depending on your religious or political views (which I won’t even touch here J). I do think, no matter who is on your list, that as women have made more and more of a mark on society, it has brought about both good things and new roadblocks to face. In our attempt to be stronger, we sometimes come off as not needing any help. I have seen men lose their chivalry and start to question their role as we grow. I think we are still just trying to figure it out.

This brings me to the women we served 30 years ago and those we serve today. What is the same? These women are facing life-altering decisions that impact their life first and foremost…more so than their partners.  The brunt of the decisions and the workload falls on her shoulders. What has changed? On one hand, the world wants to push the man further and further away from her body, her choice, and her decisions. Yet from where I sit, I am not sure that has always been to her benefit. We know full well the cost of young people growing up without a father figure in the home. We know over 90% of those incarcerated have no father. We also know of many women who are actually our clients BECAUSE of a poor father figure in her life. So while we continue to equip and empower these warrior women who walk in our doors, we are also trying to engage their partners in the process. We want them to stand beside her, support her, share in the responsibility and the decision making, and yes, be a part of the parenting process. This is good for her and it is good for the child.  We have male therapists talking to the partner so he better knows how to support her. We also have these male therapists talking to the woman so she knows how to better ask for what she needs and deserves. This is a radical change from the original pregnancy center model and one that many others still hold today. But it is one I think is vital for the real long-term success of the women we serve.

So I think being a strong woman doesn’t have to exclude having strong men in her life; just like there is nothing wrong with a strong woman choosing to stand beside her strong husband and taking the number two spot. I think great women in history have never followed  one prototype. She can be strong AND meek; empowering AND submissive; outspoken AND quiet; making a mark on the whole world AND just in her own home. I thank God for the many women before me who made it possible for me to have a voice, and I look forward to the women of tomorrow who may have opportunities because of some tiny contribution I have possibly made. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How to experience the Beatitudes in our Daily Life

The Beatitudes that begin the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew are one of the most talked about sections of the New Testament. They are seen as blessings with two phrases in each: the condition of the heart and the result tying the Old and New Testament together. Hope Clinic is using the Beatitudes as our theme for this year's Hope for the Future Gala in a special art exhibit through the amazing work of world-renowned photographer Jeremy Cowart and the courage of our clients, volunteers and staff willing to share their story. To say I am excited by this year's approach is an understatement. I know God will use this night in a special way beyond what I have ever seen before.
Of course this meant I needed to refresh my memory of the Beatitudes since I did not have them all memorized J. And here is my truth: while there are some things on that list that seem like real blessings in the present (meek, merciful, pure in heart and peacemakers), the other half is a list where the blessings don’t seem to happen this side of heaven. But the older I get, the more I realize I have experienced all of these ‘blessings’ and in fact, even under persecution, God has this amazing ability to truly allow you to be blessed this side of Heaven if you let Him. To receive or see the blessing in any circumstance takes a real relinquishment of your trust over to the One who created Heaven and Earth.
I think what I like most about the theme of the Beatitudes is the reality that if you live long enough as a believer you WILL in fact experience them all in your life. It may be distressful to hear that (who wants to mourn, be poor, persecuted or thirsty?), but it is also what connects us to each other. It levels the playing field, so to speak. We all have the same chance to receive and live through experiences that bring about blessings that go far beyond joy or sadness. That means it is true for you, me, and every client who walks in our doors. And most times, these moments of ‘blessings’ have a mix of both joy and sadness, not either or. The real blessing is that God is present beyond emotion at a soul level. A place only He can reach you and connect with you. And because of this I know I can walk beside someone who has shared in that same type of blessing, making it possible for me to connect to other people on a soul level. I believe this is the kind of connection God desires for us to have with Him and our neighbor.

Do you want to know more about this and understand how this ties together with our work? Join us March 31st at Houston Station in Nashville. Click here for more information. 

Renée Rizzo


Thursday, February 5, 2015

10 Healthy Ways to Keep Your Marriage/Relationship Moving Forward

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching I am always asked by couples, “How do you keep your marriage/relationship moving in the right direction?”  These are some simple truths I have found that work very well.  I even have to look at these often just to keep my relationship positive.

  1. Successful relationships take work.  They don’t happen in a vacuum.  They occur when the couples in them take the risk of sharing what it is that’s going on in their hearts and heads.
  2. You can only change yourself, not your partner.  If you love someone and think that after a while he/she will alter his/her behaviors you find uncomfortable, think again.  If you want changes, put them out there for your partner to see so your partner knows what you need.
  3. All arguments stem from our own fear or pain.  When upset occurs, check out what’s going on inside of you rather than get angry with your partner.  The truth is that we usually aren’t upset for the reasons we think.
  4. Understand that men and women are very different.  We’re not from Mars or Venus; we’re not even in the same solar system.  Understanding and celebrating our differences will make living together more peaceful, interesting, and fun.
  5. Honor each other in some way every day.  Every morning you have the opportunity to make your relationship sweeter and deeper by recommitting to your mate.  Feeling respected and cherished by the one you love makes life much nicer.
  6. Anger is a waste of time.  It’s a relationship killer, because it makes you self-absorbed and won’t allow you to see the good. Give yourself some time to calm down and then gently discuss what’s going on with you.
  7. Get regular tune-ups.  Go to a couple’s workshop, talk with a therapist, or read a relationship book together at least once a year.  You will pick up ideas, and the process alone will strengthen your connection.
  8. Find a way to become and stay best friends.  For some this sounds unromantic, but for those who live it, most say it’s the best part of their time together.
  9. Be responsible for your own happiness.  No other person can make you happy; it’s something you have to do on your own.  Look within to find out what piece may be missing for you.
  10. Give what you want to get.  Our needs change with time.  If you’d like to feel understood, try being more understanding.  If you want to feel more love, try giving more.  It’s a simple program that really works.  

Most of all, enjoy being with one another.  Love is a gift from God!!

Terry Cheatham is the Male and Parent Counselor at Hope Clinic. He also facilitates Marriage workshops for Marriage Helper as well as counsels couples who attend.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mentor Spotlight - Cindi Parten

Since January was National Mentoring Month, we sat down with Cindi, who has been volunteering at Hope Clinic for over 20 years. She and others like her are the reason most of our clients say they were treated with respect, would return for further services, commit to making healthier life choices, and would recommend Hope Clinic to a friend.
HC: How long have you been a mentor to our clients?
CindiThe exact date of my beginning as a volunteer at Hope Clinic is not a clear memory, but I do know that it was something I decided to do when my youngest child, my daughter Emily, was just over a year old. She is now 21, so it's been approximately 20 years. It was an ad in my church bulletin which prompted me to make the call to volunteer, after having been encouraged by someone already involved with Hope Clinic ( at the time it was Crisis Pregnancy Support Center ). I was trained in a two week evening class by Lucy Freed, the founding director, and Carolyn Hubbard, my first supervisor, who still remains in my heart as one of the most special people I've ever met.
HC: What keeps you coming back to Hope Clinic?
CindiSpeaking of the most special people I've ever met, the folks I interact with while volunteering with Hope Clinic, staff and volunteers are great people to be around. It's a given that they're loving, caring people because they are there!  It's always very comfortable to share my faith in their company and to ask for prayers in times of special need, and to feel the power of their prayers at those times as well.  In my experience, this type of atmosphere is not often found in other workplaces. The work I do at Hope Clinic is something I believe is a really good fit for me. I'm really good at listening, I feel compassion for the clients in their often difficult situations, drawing on the difficulties I've experienced in my own life, and I really tend to genuinely LIKE most of the clients I've seen over these last 20 years, which makes it so easy for me to love them in the way I think God would have me love them for Him. Volunteering with Hope Clinic also gives me an outlet in a much more social way than much of the work I do on a regular basis.
HC: What would you say to someone who is considering being a mentor to our clients?
CindiIf someone is considering becoming a mentor, I would say if you don't have difficulty with listening to other people's problems, and can listen without judging them, and don't mind too much sometimes not knowing whether your efforts have made a clear impact or have just planted a seed which may blossom later, and are comfortable with being there for them for up to two years, AND knowing that the gifts which the clients are given ultimately come from God, then you should jump on it!
HC: What have you learned about yourself through mentoring?
CindiIn volunteering with Hope Clinic I've learned that what I think and do as a mentor is not nearly so important as my relationship with God. The stronger that relationship is, the more the clients appear to be benefitted. I have learned that as much as some situations frightened me in the beginning, that ultimately trusting God to do His work is where peace is found. I have learned that we are all human beings and that all any of us really wants is to be loved, and that it is my place to try to show God's love to our clients. There is so much more I could say about Hope Clinic and its meaning in my life, but I will just say that I am privileged to be a small part of such a wonderful and effective organization.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Omega 3's and preventing Postpartum Depression

Research has shown that omega 3’s are imperative for healthy brain development in babies in utero. If the mom is not taking in extra Omega 3’s during pregnancy than she herself can become depleted. Low omega 3 levels have been linked to symptoms of depression. Research has also been successful in showing that women who consumed at least 200 mg of fish oil per day while pregnant had less risk of developing postpartum depression. I have treated depression naturally with patients for the past 6 years and fish oil is always a must. I have seen marked improvement in the depression symptoms reported by patients when they are taking 500-1000mg or more of fish oil/day. So, if it is imperative for baby’s healthy brain development, and it could prevent postpartum depression, I believe every pregnant woman should be taking omega 3’s. You can also consume Omega 3’s in natural forms such as fish like salmon, sardines, and swordfish. Since mercury levels can be an issue in pregnancy with certain fish sources, I often recommend taking a high quality omega 3 supplement and eating chia and flax seeds.

Some other things to consider if you are dealing with postpartum depression, or have in the past and would like to prevent it, are blood sugar levels.  Eat frequent, small, low sugar, high fiber snacks and meals. Exercise at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity at least 3 times a week. Nap with the baby and rest when you can, and if you are still struggling with fatigue and sluggishness, get your thyroid levels checked. Happy mama, happy baby!


Karen Hyden, WHNP-BC, MSN, MEd is the Medical Director and Nurse Practitioner at Hope Clinic for Women. She believes in educating and motivating clients in making healthy lifestyle changes and collaborating with the counseling and mentoring staff in order to produce the best possible outcomes for patients.

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.