What I learned from my mom...

what i learned from my mom

We all have "mom sayings" that pop into our head at certain times like, "Eat your vegetables" and "Did you remember to wash behind your ears?" and "If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you too?" Sometimes we would heed her advice, and other times we would pretend we didn't hear her. But there are few lessons that actually stuck with us through the years and were even taught to our own children.

We asked our staff at Hope Clinic to think of the most important thing they learned from their mom and here's what they said:

"Show respect to your elders regardless if they are right or wrong, and anything can be paid off with food!"
Renée Rizzo

"Let go and trust God!" I called her wondering how I was to protect my son from his own crazy antics.  My mother laughed saying I taught her very early on that God was going to have to watch over and protect us.  It was humanly impossible for her to even try to keep my siblings and I safe (we were an adventures group of kids).   I learned to let go and give my son the opportunity to stretch his wing (after explaining he can’t really fly).
Desirée O'Neill

"Always be kind to others, especially those that feel left out."
Cindi Barrett

"How to garden (Connect with nature), How to clean a house spotlessly (Have high standards), and The homemade version of most things is always better (You have the talent and power to do many things yourself)."
Emmely Duncan

"How to serve sacrificially and always be there for people in need."
Stasi Egli

"Mind over matter." She always told me that I could do anything I put my mind to and not to let circumstances or the task/matter at hand overwhelm me.
Mallori Cain

"Selflessness, long suffering, unrelenting faith, confidence in the Lord and self confidence."
Karen Hyden

"Showing kindness and compassion to others."  She has always lived this out in her daily life—acting and speaking in kindness to friends, family, strangers no matter the situation. 
Brandiann Rellinger

"Be patient with women. Some women more than others need time to process. Guys need to be patient, let it breathe, and never leave a fight even it’s really uncomfortable."
Josh Blackburn

"Unconditional love, how to receive it and how to give it."
Marie Gilland

"People Matter Most." I’m not sure if this is something my mother ever said aloud, but it’s something she’s taught me every day simply by the way she lives her life. I’ve spent most of my life watching her serve other people – our family, her friends, the church, and random people she meets on the street (or in elevators or the grocery store or anywhere else!). She is committed to being fully present in the little things – interrupting what she’s doing for a phone call from a friend, making a homemade dinner every night, or sending cards to celebrate everyone’s everything.  She’s equally committed to big things. One of my favorite mom-isms is “You have to show up for the big things” meaning weddings, funerals, celebrations or really anything that matters to the person in question. I’ve seen her cook thousands of meals for people who are hurting and rearrange her schedule a million times just so she can be there in the audience cheering someone on. She brightens everyone’s day and so intentionally makes the people she meets feel valued. To her, everyone matters, and everyone is important. By watching her I’ve learned the most important question you can ask yourself at the end of your day is, “did I love people well today?” because really, in the end, that’s the only thing that matters. 
Angie Stapleton

"If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."
Terry Cheatham

"Be responsible with your money and take care of your belongings."
Jared Larry

"Always be grateful and thankful. Show gratitude. Say please and thank you. Always write thank-you cards!"
Sara Chang

Safer Campuses. Brighter Futures. Prevent Sexual Violence.

prevent sexual violence

Anyone who has spent time on a college campus recently knows they are much different now than even 10 years ago. Social media has changed everything. Students put their entire lives online. At Belmont, I have the privilege of working with our college athletes. Like all students, they face enormous social pressure to showcase “risky behaviors” through social media. However, if they choose to participate and post such things – especially given their athlete status – they are making decisions with ramifications that could impact the rest of their lives.

Two things recently led us to take up the issue of sexual violence with our student athletes. The first was the highly-publicized recent events at another local university. The second was recent changes in Title IX. We are now required to report any suspicion of harassment or abuse. While this is wonderful in theory, administrators have had many discussions on whether this allows students to feel safe or shuts people down, knowing anything they insinuate must be reported and they may face social backlash.

Around the same time this was implemented, Hope Clinic’s therapist, Terry Cheatham, spoke at my church, and I was introduced to the clinic and their prevention program. Soon after, we welcomed Terry and the clinic’s CEO Renée Rizzo to speak to our athletes. We could not have asked for two more perfect people to lead these trainings. Terry is extremely passionate and educated, and Renée instantly connected with the females given her history as a student athlete.

belmont student athletes

They divided the students into two groups. With the females, it was important for us to help give them a voice, teach them to protect themselves, and emphasize that if they are a victim, it is not their fault and they should not be ashamed. The females said they were shocked by the statistics Renée shared. It was especially powerful when she split them into groups. One in four women will be assaulted on a college campus, and it hit home that it could be any one of the people in their group – a friend or even themselves.
  
For the males, they took a different approach by dealing with the over-sexualization of young men and women, learning to be positive bystanders, making healthy choices with alcohol and pornography, and addressing rape culture. We’ve hosted similar seminars with other organizations, but the males said Terry was able to keep their attention and they felt comfortable talking about these sensitive subjects. 

Afterwards, Renée and Terry gave feedback and suggestions for practical improvements directly from the students – places on campus in need of additional lighting, information on the location of campus security cameras, protecting students in parking lots, and more. We’re grateful students had a venue to ask for things they need to feel safe on campus – which is, of course, a top priority for the university.

Since our session, we know students have sought counseling individually. While we offer counseling on campus, not everyone feels comfortable walking through those doors, so we’re glad this provided an alternative for someone to get the help they need in a place where they feel safe and anonymous.

prevent sexual assault

In this day and age, our students constantly face ethical and moral decisions. Unfortunately, risky behaviors have simply become the social norm. We’re grateful to partner with an organization that gives our students the tools and confidence to make healthy, responsible choices in a culture that continually asks them to do the opposite.


- Heather Copeland, Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance, Belmont University 

The Waiting Season of Easter

I have a lot of family memories and traditions edged in my brain surrounding Easter. It started with Lent and some ashes. It included making a lot of Easter bread, meat pies and ‘Pastiera di Grano’ (a breakfast version of Italian cheesecake with wheat grain). It also included wearing a spring dress and hat complete with white lace socks and black patent leather shoes as we visited our Godparents and other Italian relatives.

Over the years, I have a better understanding of this ‘pre-Easter’ season than I did as a youth. In my head Lent was about ‘giving up stuff’ – like chocolate or popcorn or whatever my vice at the time was. If I was honest, my motivation was purely to lose 10 pounds before the Easter feast. Today I see this time as much more about digging even deeper in my faith by reading one of the gospels and reconnecting with who Jesus was and is and what His sacrifice meant and means today. You don’t need to get ashes to do this, but some people like a visual marker to begin this season.

Of course the finale of the Easter Season isn’t just Easter Day. It begins with Palm Sunday (yes I still remember dad soaking those palm leaves to make special crosses) and includes Holy Thursday (complete with the Last Supper and the washing of the feet), finally reaching the solemnness of Good Friday before the celebration of the Resurrection Sunday (or Easter). I was always sad for people who only showed up on Easter. I wondered…did they really understand the cost of the Cross? And if not, how does Easter seem so exciting?

I think for many people the cost of the Cross became abundantly clear with the viewing of The Passion of Christ. After watching that there is no denying the emotional and physical cost that Jesus went through that day. The cleaned up version of Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount or the one in a white robe on Easter is much easier to think of. But sitting in the tension of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the dreaded Saturday…the waiting season.

And 2,000 years later, Saturday is still the hardest day for me. I know more every day the cost of my sin and am grateful more and more for the price Jesus paid on my behalf for my salvation, so each new Good Friday draws me closer to Him. I like celebrating the victory on Easter Sunday and I look forward to celebrating that for eternity on the other side of Heaven. But Saturday is a rough day. It represents the seasons and times where God seems silent…where Hope seems gone, where the Enemy seems to be winning, and when doubt creeps in. Especially if it’s something I have been waiting for God’s redemption or answer on for weeks or months or even years. It is in those moments I hang on more quietly but more fiercely to God. So in this Easter season if Saturday is seeming like a long day (week, month or year), be encouraged that I am praying for you. And Sunday WILL come. He has not forgotten us. He is Risen! 

Renée Rizzo, CEO/President


Women's History Month and the Warrior Women we Serve

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. 

RenéRizzo, CEO/President

here's to strong women



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.

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.

#ScriptureSunday Ephesians 4:17-32

Living as Children of Light

be kind and compassionate

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.

do not let the sun go down

"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.

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 www.hopeclinicforwomen.org.

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
President/CEO

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.

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.   

Parenting: The Greatest (and Hardest) Job in the World

After 24 years of working with families, you would think I would have all the answers.  The reality is that I don’t.  People ask me all the time, “How do you talk with your children about certain subjects?”  I then ask them to specify what they are talking about.  The answer is often about sex, drugs, alcohol, dating and other subjects.  I think to myself, “Why are you asking me?”  Then I stop and think about how nervous and afraid I was when doing this with my own children.  The world can be overwhelming to parents on a daily basis. 

In the United States you have to have a license to drive, hunt, fish, and work in many different fields such as medicine, law and therapy.  We study for these exams and read books and listen to teachers who have years of experience.  For parenting, there are no classes or exams that you have to take, and you can't really count on the information that's out there.  It is all about life experience. 

I have found over the years that the best way to talk about these subjects with your children it to be totally honest with them.  Is it scary? Sure it is!  Children and teens are very inquisitive and want to know what you think about things.  They may not come out and say it, but they want and need your input.   Hear me on this: THEY WANT YOU TO TALK WITH THEM ABOUT THESE SUBJECTS.  

Let me give you a few tips I have used in the past and it turned out pretty well for me.  First, communicate openly with your children.  If they ask a question, no matter how young they are, answer it.  If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out and get back to them.  Remember, the reason they asked the question is because they have heard about it at school or from a friend.  I believe you would rather have the answer come from you than from a friend who has no clue what they are talking about.  Secondly, hear what your children are saying.  We all listen to our children but are we really hearing what they are saying?  There is a big difference.  And lastly, make these conversations a daily thing.  Talking with your children about sex, drugs, and other tough subjects is not a one-time gig.  It should occur every day.   Be open, honest and transparent with your children.  They may act like they “already know all this”, but in the end, your children will respect you more than ever before.  It shows that you have an undying love and concern for your child.  Don’t be afraid;  you can do this!

If you need help in any way, Hope Clinic for Women can help.  We offer a parenting program that will teach you how to talk to your children about all these subjects and many more.  Just remember, it does not show weakness to ask for help when you need it.

 

Terry Cheatham has worked with teens and their parents for more than 20 years.  He currently serves as a counselor at Hope Clinic for Women, where he specializes in male and couples counseling, parental issues, and prevention education. In addition, he serves as an adjunct professor of psychology at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Terry received his bachelor’s degree in law from Abilene Christian University and his master’s degree in counseling from Trevecca Nazarene University.  Terry and his wife, Karise, have three children.

Let Freedom Ring!

July is all about the 4th. It is honored with fireworks, food and friends. It is a time to celebrate our freedom from Great Britain and the Declaration of Independence. Over the years, we have challenged what that document means for us today. (Just consider the fact that in the 220-plus years since ratification of the Constitution, more than 11,000 amendments have been proposed, but only 27 have been enacted.) 

Today there is nothing we seem to fight more strongly about than our right to ‘bear arms’ and the right for women to ‘choose’. I don’t see either of these debates ending quickly, but what I love is that Hope Clinic for Women is tackling one of these issues practically with enormous compassion and grace. Just over 10 years ago, I didn’t know a place like this even existed. Today I am so proud of the women and men who work (paid and unpaid) directly with our clients and those who financially keep our doors open. If the rest of the world could step into our doors for just one day, they just might stop fighting so much because we are a safe place in this midst of this tough issue and every day our client already wins.

At Hope Clinic, women and men CHOOSE to call us and ask us questions. They choose to walk in the door. They are not shamed or guilted into coming here. They are simply invited. They choose to receive the care we have to offer. They choose to hear about all of the options in front of them if they are pregnant. They choose to continue care with us or walk out the door. They choose to come back to us for counseling if they have an abortion and find it did not just ‘go away’, and they never hear: ‘I told you so’. They choose to talk about God. They choose to enter our Bridge Program which includes access to spiritual mentorship, professional counseling, education classes and practical support. They choose to meet with someone if they are dealing with an STD, related women’s issues, other pregnancy loss, or postpartum depression.

Recently, we have dealt with a spike in our pregnant women suffering from a miscarriage. Something that happens in 25% of all pregnancies. It has been a burden for them and the staff. How do you handle that? But we are thankful clients choose to process that grief with us. They choose how long they grieve and how they grieve. And they choose to let us hold their hand.

Mostly I celebrate that our clients choose life. Life for their baby. Life for themselves. Life in general. And they do that because at some point they choose HOPE. When they are faced with their crisis, they choose to let this be an opportunity to change vs. the choice to give up.

This month you celebrate your freedom, which includes your freedom to make a whole lot of choices: what you eat for the day, whether you exercise, go to work, go to church, serve your community, be nice to the cranky but possibly exhausted person behind the register at Walgreens, show grace and forgiveness or hold a grudge, speak well of someone or gossip…..you get the idea. I just ask you take a moment to celebrate that people of Middle Tennessee have the freedom to choose Hope Clinic for Women. And that’s a good choice!


Have a blessed and happy 4th of July!

Renée Rizzo
President/CEO

Living in the 'in between time'

How do we live in the ‘in between time’?

Some of my fondest memories growing up were Easter Sundays.  In an Italian home, it was all about the sweet Easter bread that my mom spent hours kneading, breading, and baking.  Then, there was the pizé gran pie (you haven’t lived until you have tasted this decadent grain pie that is basically a breakfast version of cheesecake). But, of course I loved the floral Easter dresses, bonnets, black patent shoes and white lace gloves. New Life abounded everywhere from Church to the homes we visited. Even though I went to services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the reality of those days didn’t really sink in until frankly The Passion of the Christ. Then it became more than I could bear.

Recently though, I have been meditating on the in between time. Those endless hours between Jesus’ death on the Cross and the realization of His resurrection. Even though Jesus told his disciples that he would return, they obviously were not fully aware what He meant since they were all holed up in the upper room versus waiting right outside His grave for His grand re-entrance. On one hand, I simply cannot imagine what that kind of waiting must have felt like. The hopelessness. The despair. The ‘sick to your stomach’ pain.

But then again, we do know what that waiting feels like, don’t we? The waiting for your child to return home after years of addiction and prayers that seem to go unanswered. The Godly spouse you have prayed decades for. The womb you have prayed would not remain barren. The job you desperately need while bills are mounting. The child who has died who you cannot wait to be reunited with in Heaven.  So many of these seasons of our life can overwhelm us as we wait in the ‘in between time’.

If you have lived long enough, you have lived in this season. You know what it feels like. And you wish the ‘future you’ would show up to tell you just how much longer you have to wait before God reveals Himself. My guess is as long as we cling to His promises deep in our heart, God can handle all the crying, the doubts, the questions, the accusations we can hurl at Him. Because God does His best work in this darkness. He brings the dead to life.

My prayer this Easter is that you reflect on all the seasons of darkness in your life. Jot them down, but also write down when God did finally show up. Write of those blessings. Have those nearby so when a new season of waiting is upon you, you can look at it with eyes filled of hope. Hope that will never fail us no matter how long we wait.

My prayer is that you are reminded how much He has already given you, how much He loves you, how much He desires to truly connect with you, and How much He delights in you. 

 

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new lifeRomans 6:4

Healthy Relationships

You cannot help but notice that Valentine’s Day is upon us.  A quick errand at any grocery store or pharmacy quickly reminds you with all the pink, red, heart-shaped candy, and teddy bears that February 14th is coming.   Some of you love this holiday; others dread it and sarcastically call it “Single Awareness Day.”  Regardless, if you are married or dating someone, you are in a relationship.  Actually you are in many relationships (parent/ child, sibling(s), coworkers, friends, church family, etc.).  At Hope Clinic, we hope you choose and maintain healthy relationships.  

You do not get into a relationship hoping it will be unhealthy, but you may not be intentional enough to work for a healthy relationship.  Healthy relationships rarely happen without having certain goals and mutually agreed upon standards for the relationship.  Healthy relationships need people with healthy identities, who want certain characteristics of their relationship, and who will agree upon and maintain boundaries. 

Healthy vs Unhealthy Identity

You get many messages from society regarding what you should value and what you should be like.  Choosing which messages to believe and internalize affects your identity.  Women hear that their appearance is what really matters (skinny, sexy, beautiful), that they need a man to be happy, that men are basically dogs that need to be tamed, and as a woman you better have your act together.  Men hear that they need to be tough, athletic, that boys will be boys when it comes to sex, and money is what really matters.  Internalizing these messages leads to an unhealthy identity. 

A healthy identity is based on God’s message to you.  You are created in the image of God to have a relationship with God and to care for the world and others as God’s representative.   Through God’s son, Jesus, you are given access to a relationship with God and the responsibility to be God’s representative.  Therefore, you can have mutually respectful relationships, reach for positive goals, use your powers to help others, and enjoy life without having to use alcohol or have a lot of money.  What are you basing your image on, the world’s message or God’s?      

Characteristics of Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy relationships are characterized by self-centeredness, abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and withholding of care), lack of trust, lack of respect, secrecy, poor communication, an unforgiving spirit, and poor boundaries.  Healthy relationships are characterized interdependence, trust, respect, open communication, honesty, healthy intimacy, forgiveness, and mutually agreed upon boundaries.   Reviewing the list, you will unlikely find any of your relationships perfectly meeting the list of healthy characteristics.  Perfection is not the goal, but progress.  Are you and the other person willing to progress towards a healthy relationship?  Are there more characteristics of the relationship being healthy than unhealthy?  Are you settling on a partner because you think you don’t deserve better or cannot find another?   What would God want for your relationship, for it to be improved, continued, or stopped? 

Boundaries

Healthy relationships have positive mutually agreed upon boundaries.  A boundary is like a fence in a yard.  A fence protects what is valuable (keeps people out and valuables in like a child or pet), shows others where your property starts and stops, and they are not easily moved.  Personal boundaries are designed to protect and honor important parts of our lives.  They are created to clarify what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors from others.  If your goal is for sexual purity, then set boundaries.  If you are single and on a date, mutually agree to not be alone in an apartment or bedroom together.  If you’re married, your boundary could be to never be alone with the opposite sex unless you are related.  Boundaries only help if you set them in advance and communicate them with others.       

Hope Clinic’s prevention team aims to counsel and educate clients and the public about healthy relationships.  While this article was not exhaustive on choosing and maintaining healthy relationships, we want you to know that we are here for you.  We provide confidential consultation, individual counseling, relationship accountability, off-site group discussions, and other services.  If you would like us to help you in one or more of your relationship(s), please contact us.   

 

Blessings,

 

Patrick Hamilton, M.Div.

Male Prevention Coordinator