Making Room for Peace: Meghan Freeman
If I had to choose one word to describe my friend Meghan Freeman, it would have to be “smile” because that is what she always has on her face! The joy and love that Meghan has for life is contagious and something that I really appreciate about her. Wife, mother of four, and owner of Abundant Life Partner’s, Meghan is one busy woman! I wanted to sit down with her to learn her secrets to having such a positive attitude, energy and how she makes room for peace in her life.
NAME: Meghan Freeman
NICK NAME: My brother called me Megibus but now I’m just Mom, Mommy, Mama…
PROFESSION: Mom and Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Abundant Life Partners
MISSION: We keep it simple in our family – Our mission is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20.)
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? I grew up in Agoura Hills, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE? We live in Williamsburg, VA.
YOU OWN ABUNDANT LIFE PARTNERS, A THERAPY, COUNSELING AND HOLISTIC WELLNESS PRACTICE BASED IN WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS AND WHAT YOU DO?
We are a group of independent mental health professionals who provide individual, group, couples, and family counseling to children, adolescents, and adults in Williamsburg and virtually throughout the state. While we have a variety educations, areas of expertise, and skills, we are unified in our Christian worldview which guides our conduct, values, and relationships. Our clientele is diverse, and we are committed to employing evidence-based practices and serving clients wherever they are on their spiritual journey. Personally I specialize in working with clients struggling with eating disorders and college students, though I enjoy having a diverse caseload. My vision, Lord willing, is to partner with other health and wellness practitioners such as dieticians, prescribers, massage therapists, occupational and physical therapists, etc. in order to provide holistic, wraparound services in a way that is well-coordinated and convenient to clients.
A LOVE THAT YOU TAKE A HOLISTIC LOOK AT YOUR CLIENTS. THAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU DON’T FIND IN A LOT OF PRACTICES.
I think that is the direction healthcare is going, but it is slow-moving, and often falls on the client to find a diverse group of professionals and coordinate care. Establishing relationships and scheduling appointments with multiple practitioners with varied hours, availability, and policies just isn’t feasible for most people so treatment ends up being segmented rather than integrated. It really isn’t the most effective or economical model of care. As a social worker, I was trained to view challenges from a biopsychosocial-spiritual (biological, psychological, sociological, spiritual) so it just makes so much sense to coordinate care with other professionals who have expertise and perspectives that I don’t. Selfishly I’m a people person, and I just love getting to know other members of the community and learning about what they know, do, and love. When I’m networking and bringing people together in support of a greater mission of service, I know I’m in my “sweet spot,” so to speak.
AS SOMEONE WHO HAS STRUGGLED WITH ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION, IT MAKES ME HAPPY TO SEE THAT THERE IS AN INCREASED PUBLIC AWARENESS AND SUPPORT AROUND MENTAL HEALTH. I FEEL ALSO, THAT IT’S SEEN AS MORE “ACCEPTABLE” OR NORMAL TO GO TO COUNSELING THAN IT USED TO BE. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?
I really hope that is the case. Having grown up in the Los Angeles area where discussing mental health and going to therapy were the norm (and that was 20+ years ago… yikes!), I know I have a skewed perspective on how others view my field. I think combatting stigma surrounding mental illness is more complex than it initially seems and requires a multidimensional approach. On one hand, neuroscience research is helping to demonstrate the clear biological, genetic components of mental illness. Biological and genetic factors aside, we are all struggling with what our pastor referred to as “the overwhelming reality of being.” Some research out of Duke suggests that for most people this shared human experience could at various times in life constitute a mental health diagnosis.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THE PERSON WHO IS ON THE FENCE ABOUT GOING TO COUNSELING?
I would ask what the person what is holding them back. Asking people (and myself!) to consider what we would do if we weren’t afraid, prideful, self-centered, etc. is a great way to discern appropriate next steps. Proverbs is full of verses commending the wisdom of seeking counsel (e.g. Proverbs 15:23, 15:21, 11:14, 20:18, 15:22.) I read somewhere that research has found that a significant benefit from the counseling experience comes simply with making the initial call to set up an appointment. This is consistent with the first step of the twelve steps – admitting we have a problem and the Christian idea of confession. There is great healing in the humble act of being authentic with our struggles.
JOURNALING, GOING FOR A WALK, AND SERVING ARE SOME EXERCISES THAT I REGULARLY ENCOURAGE THE MAKING ROOM FOR PEACE COMMUNITY TO PRACTICE IN ORDER TO DE-STRESS. DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO ADD?
Sleep. The importance of sleep is underrated. I haven’t slept through the night in eight years thanks to nursing babies but I do make it a priority to be sleeping whenever all my kids are asleep. Connecting with people is another de-stressor for me. I am an extrovert, so no matter how tired or stressed I am, people are rejuvenating for me. I’ll also echo service. Most of my stress is of my own making so turning to how I can be of service in any situation takes me out of my head and reorients my mind to what is actually important. I know that’s a slippery slope for some who would say service adds to their stress level, but for me there’s a big difference between doing acts of service in order to feel good about myself and “earn” my salvation, praise, accolades, etc. and using service as a means of tangibly taking my eyes off myself, fully aware that God doesn’t need me but allows me to participate in His work despite my many, many shortcomings.
IT’S NO LIE THAT YOU LOVE GOING TO THE GYM. HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU BELIEVE, IS EXERCISE IN RELATION TO HOW WE FEEL?
Exercise is a natural antidepressant, and for me I have found that the routine and structure of moderate, consistent exercise is huge in keeping my neurotransmitters firing effectively. Like anything else, exercise can become an idol, so I am careful to check my intentions with exercise and make sure it is functioning in a way that is supporting my bigger life mission and not serving selfish ambitions. I also love the people at the gym so there’s a social element there too … (theme, much?)
IS EATING HEALTHY ANOTHER IMPORTANT ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE?
As a therapist who works with clients with eating disorders, I have a different view of “healthy” eating than many. For me healthy eating means being at peace with food. I’m blessed not to have any dietary restrictions or allergies, so I eat all foods in moderation and make sure like exercise that food is in its proper place as fuel on my mission rather than an end in itself. I think it’s easy to find our salvation in eating “good” foods. Especially having three daughters, I really try to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” All that said, I try to have a balanced diet and incorporate all the food groups when I can (which can often mean pizza, cut veggies, and fruit…)
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 FAVORITE HEALTHY SNACKS?
I usually have little time and one hand to snack so I make “power balls” out of oats, peanut butter, honey, chia seeds, and dark chocolate chips. We also have a lot of fruit, veggies and hummus, and cheese and crackers.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
During this season of life it’s very rare that our whole family is together, so my perfect day would just be to have my husband home and get to do something with the kids. Then we’d finish the day at my parents’ house because I love spending time with them, and it’s such a peaceful spot. Plus my mom makes dinner, which is always a win.
I HAD THE PLEASURE OF STYLING YOUR OFFICE FOR YOU THIS PAST SPRING – SO MUCH FUN! FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW, WHAT WAS THE LOOK YOU WERE GOING FOR IN YOUR OFFICE?
You did an amazing job! Asking you was one of the best decisions I made, and talk about peace! Outsourcing things you’re not gifted at (which for me includes interior design) was definitely freeing. I’m so inept when it comes to design that I don’t even have the lingo to explain what I wanted, but somehow you still caught the vision! I wanted the office to be peaceful, clean, relaxed, but also have a modern feel that helps clients know that they are somewhere that they are highly valued.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FEATURE OF YOUR NEW SPACE?
I love the campaign desk that you found at Cost Plus World Market. It’s so functional but also feels modern and special. Along with the desk, I love the staging of the floating shelves with the simple blue paintings and greenery.
BETWEEN BEING A WIFE, MAMA, AND BUSINESS OWNER, YOU ARE ONE BUSY WOMAN. WHAT ARE SOME WAYS THAT YOU MAKE ROOM FOR PEACE IN YOUR LIFE?
One of the things I love about you and your work is how mission-focused you are. Having a clear mission is probably the biggest source of my peace. I so appreciate your focus on decluttering our physical space – that’s huge for me too (super imperfectly… four kids… enough said.) I think of being mission-minded as decluttering my mind. There is so much competing for our time, attention, and affections. Clearing the clutter and being laser focused on things that matter in light of eternity brings so much peace. Things that aren’t mission-essential can be dropped. Practically this means consistent prayer, not in the rote action but in the sense of reorienting my thoughts throughout the day to turn away from my selfish ambitions and align my mind with that of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Oh, and then not worrying about if I “feel” at peace. I think we get caught up in peace as being a feeling defined by the absence of negative feelings. This can add more anxiety when we realize we don’t feel at peace and then become upset that we feel upset. I think of my peace or shalom not in the subjective sense but as the objective peace and calm that I have in relationship to God through Jesus Christ.
DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR BIBLE VERSE, MANTRA, OR WORD THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY MEDITATING ON IN THIS SEASON?
The Third Step Prayer from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous has been in my mind immediately upon waking up and throughout the day since high school.
“God, I offer myself to Thee to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy love, and Thy way of life. Amen.”