On 21st January 2024, The Fruitful Hollow turned 3! If you’d like to read about how this ministry came about, click here to read our first anniversary blog post in 2022, and if you’d like to hear last year’s update then click here for our second anniversary blog post in 2023. Our core team has grown this year so that we can better serve this community. In this blog post you’ll hear each team member share a bit about what 2023 was like for them both in their personal life and in their work with The Fruitful Hollow. But our beloved ministry wouldn’t be what it is without YOU! Whether you’ve been part of this community since its beginning or you found us more recently, we’d love for you to help us celebrate this third anniversary so please reach out to us over on Instagram (you can comment publicly or message us privately) to let us know what you have found fruitful! We always value feedback from our readers so that we can grow and move in the direction where you need us most.
Lauren Allen (Director)
Reflecting on this year is a true whirlwind. So much has changed in these 365 days. We entered 2023 as second-time "active" hopeful-adoptive parents and matched much quicker than we had imagined. Our son Mitchell was born in March and we were able to be in the room for his birth. Watching his entrance to the world was truly life changing and healing in ways I didn't expect. There are truly no words to explain the magnitude of the gratitude we feel to be chosen to be his parents. You may remember that we adopted our oldest son, Peyton, in 2022 and he was 5. We now have a 6 year-old and a 10-month old and are enjoying life as a family of four. This year we also unexpectedly became foster parents. We had an amazing 6 months with her before she moved to be with close family. I have a newfound respect for foster parents; it's a true calling. I'm grieving the loss of her in ways I didn't expect; it's been hard. I also had a career change this year! I went from being a junior high school choir director to an elementary (Kinder-5th grade) music teacher! I'm having a blast sharing my joy of music with the littles. I don't know what 2024 will bring, but I'm so grateful for His grace, love and healing.
Lauren’s 2023 Fruitful Hollow highlights
My mind is filled with wonder and awe; how has it already been 3 years since the start of The Fruitful Hollow? When we first started out, we had conversations as a team where we shared concerns about having enough content to publish a blog post every week... and here we are 3 years later and we still feel like there is so much more to cover and explore! We have now published 146 blog posts, released 14 resources, and have continued meeting and mentoring women through the incredible Sisters of Hannah mentorship program. We started 2023 with the "Behold, your mother" and "Letters of encouragement" series and found so much fruit through the blogs our writers submitted. We have thoroughly enjoyed building relationships with you through monthly rosaries and social media interactions. The top 10 countries that have viewed our website in 2023 were USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, India, Philippines, Mexico, Ireland and Germany! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for connecting with us. While infertility is a club none of us wants to be in, we are grateful to be in the midst of it with you.
Katie S. (Managing Editor and former Social Media Coordinator)
This past year has been one of enormous ups and downs for my family, with good news, devastating news, a stressful house move and a long-awaited reunion with close family post-pandemic. In last year's edition of this blog post, I wrote about a song that had been a theme for our family in the hard times that 2022 brought. This year brought a new song that I related to (and perhaps you will too), about throwing yourself into a creative hobby, as a way to have some control and make something beautiful while experiencing infertility.
Early in 2023, we learnt I was pregnant for the first time after over 6 years of infertility. While our miracle baby was still a big secret, my husband and I went to see the Great British Bake-Off musical in London for my birthday and we were both surprised to find that, amongst all the frivolity and silliness, an infertility story was woven into the plot. The infertile character's main song was called "Grow", and it was surprisingly beautiful, touching and relatable. We squeezed each other's hands and I had tears in my eyes as I thought about our tiny little "bun in the oven", willing him to keep on growing. Later in the spring, we lost our precious son. The song has remained a special reminder of that sweet bubble of bliss we enjoyed. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
After a seemingly never-ending recovery and our 7th wedding anniversary, we were shocked to be blessed with another pregnancy, which has been a rollercoaster so far. We are holding grief and joy in balance as we head into 2024, when - God willing - we will welcome our long-awaited child into our arms.
Katie’s 2023 Fruitful Hollow highlights
In August, my husband and I stayed with Ellen H. (our talented Resource Coordinator) and her husband for a few days in Canada. It was so lovely to meet this dear friend in person at last and finally get to hug each other! In November, I got to spend a day in London with C. Janae Parke (our new Secretary and one of our Fruitful Writers) who was visiting the UK. Instead of sending long voice notes back and forth, we got to lose track of time nattering face-to-face for hours in a restaurant after a show! As the birth of my little one approaches, I am scaling back my Fruitful Hollow role: I will continue as Managing Editor but have handed over the Social Media Coordinator and Secretary aspects of my role to two new team members.
Some of my favorite pieces on the blog this year include:
the Letters of Encouragement series (I found these letters offered sweet companionship on what can often be a discouraging path.)
When your child experiences infertility: your story (It was touching to hear the voices of those affected indirectly by infertility in the family.)
Is it getting hot in here? Let's talk about sex! (The honesty and vulnerability of all the ladies who contributed to this piece made a lot of people feel less alone on their journey, and displayed such a broad range of experiences.)
Chelsea Voboril (Theological Editor)
For me, 2023 was a year of deep-seated resentment and frustration that needed to be addressed. I realized early in the year that my heart was so so calloused; not quite a stony heart but certainly rough, and also tender and vulnerable to being wounded, and that that breaking open was going to hurt. Hurt it did, but as the year has come to a close, I find myself at least open to hope and promise again; compared to a year ago, that is quite a movement forward.
Chelsea’s 2023 Fruitful Hollow highlights
This past year in The Fruitful Hollow was one of many series: “Behold, your mother”, “Letters of encouragement” and the continuation of our wonderful resources. The consistency and encouragement was often a welcome balm. A few posts that particularly struck me included:
Ellen H. (Resource Coordinator)
This past year was a full year stepping away from NaPro, which was both wonderful and challenging. While I relished no longer being consumed by NaPro, the step away began a new season of grieving and allowed for significant processing as I began to realize the full extent of the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual toll it had taken on me and my husband over the past 7 years, and all of the healing that now needed to begin. In addition, hubby and I find ourselves giving thanks for our new home, while learning God's lessons of the beautiful things that can be done with small steps, using only the small amount of "loaves and fishes" He has gifted us with for today. This year, I experienced the joyful fruit of following God's prompting to start a women's small group, and I am looking forward to our second year. One of my favorite blessings this past year was experiencing a wonderful in-person visit from Fruitful Hollow Managing Editor Katie S. and her husband over the summer, and meeting in person for the very first time. Never could we have imagined this beautiful friendship and ministry 3 years ago!
Ellen’s 2023 Fruitful Hollow highlights
This was a quieter year for me at The Fruitful Hollow, but I really enjoyed creating and sharing three brand new resources with our readers, as well as one blog post. The resource Discerning the next best step was born out of my own lived experience of realizing God was helping us discern not through large billboards but through our daily circumstances and the gift of reason He had bestowed on us. I hope it helps our readers to pause, pray and ACT in the year ahead. My inspiration for the resource Levels of self-care came from a personal period of overwhelm, and I hope it can help our readers take healthy preventative steps to avoid emotional and mental burn out, as well as to make constructive plans if they find themselves frozen in a period of stress, anxiety, or sadness. The resource for Communicating and sharing the mental load is a great opportunity for creating dialogue with your loved ones when you are needing extra support and/or understanding. My blog post Spring comes slowly: grieving, healing and growing new dreams had been a year in the making, and strives to encourage readers to give themselves lots of time and grace when life doesn't work out as they hoped.
We've recently added some new team members at The Fruitful Hollow and it is exciting to see all of the beautiful gifts God has bestowed upon each addition to our team. It feels like we are embarking on a bright new season with new possibilities and I'm really looking forward to it.
Kristin Dievendorf (Sisters of Hannah Coordinator)
Whew, 2023 was a very interesting and challenging year for me personally. I turned 40 in February and kind of entered a new stage of life. I set out to lose some weight and get healthier in mind, body, and spirit, and I managed to lose 80lbs and feel better than I have in my entire adult life. Meanwhile, my family faced some of the most painful and difficult experiences of our lives. I had an incredibly illuminating experience on retreat with Christopher West at the Theology of the Body Institute, and God reminded me that His graces are as plentiful as the acorns and leaves among an oaky forest. Our beloved redeemer simply asks, “like the squirrel burrowing beneath the leaves with nuts scattered everywhere, what are you truly looking for?”
Kristin’s 2023 Fruitful Hollow highlights
In October 2023, I had to reconsider my priorities. That meant the painful decision of stepping back from the coordinator role of the Sisters of Hannah so that I could focus on my family and their needs. This was an incredibly difficult decision because the Sisters of Hannah and The Fruitful Hollow in general has been the greatest ministry I have ever been a part of. The Holy Spirit truly moves, heals and restores through this community. I believe so passionately in the mission of The Fruitful Hollow and the Sisters of Hannah team specifically. However, from the outset of my involvement, I always felt a need to be centered in God’s will and continuously discerning his vision without sacrificing my family’s wellbeing. I felt that the time away was necessary for me to let God love me and allow Him to prune and shed layers that were in need of renewal. If I am to lead and accompany others through their calvary, then I needed to heed Jesus’ invitation to surrender and simplify. I am still working through the spiritual and emotional work of the past few months but I feel more confident and assured of God’s handiwork through it all. I am still amazed at how quickly the Sisters of Hannah team jumped in when I stepped back. Kudos to Gillyan and the rest of the mentors for keeping things rolling and giving so much of themselves to this ministry. Their care and compassion are incredible and I am so honored and moved by their love for the Lord and each and every one of our mentees. While the following speaks to my personal journey, I also feel it is true of the Fruitful Hollow and Sisters of Hannah teams: to trust and surrender to The One True Thing only fills our hearts with more. I am reminded of His gentle voice whispering to me, “you and your family will go through hardships, but I am holding you each in the palm of my hand.” God bless you all!
Gillyan McCabe (Acting Sisters of Hannah Coordinator)
2023 was a year without major change for us - an unheard of occurrence in our marriage and family! We spent the entire year living in one home, in one state, in one timezone. If you happen to be one of the mentees who has spoken to me, you know what an accomplishment this is for us. Despite the lack of upheaval, we did have an accomplishment: my husband was commissioned an officer in the Missouri National Guard, graduating first in his class, and I’m incredibly proud of him. We also had the opportunity to visit our daughter’s birth mother and meet her extended family - a fruit of infertility we could have never expected and couldn’t be more thankful for. We do not anticipate 2024 being nearly as calm, but one thing we’ve learned on this journey is that we can handle anything life throws at us with God and with each other.
Gillyan’s 2023 Fruitful Hollow highlights
In 2023, I was blessed to meet with 16 mentees through the Sisters of Hannah program. At the end of every meeting, I thank the mentees for their courage in sharing their stories and for the wisdom and insight that I’m able to take away from speaking with them. I truly mean these words - each woman (or sometimes couple!) that I have spoken with these past three years has taught me something valuable about my own infertility journey and spiritual life. I am amazed at the strength and resilience of others in the face of their infertility cross. At the end of 2023, I was also able to assist with the coordination of the Sisters of Hannah behind the scenes. I feel thankful for the opportunity to continue this ministry in 2024 and the years to come.
C. Janae Parke (NEW Secretary)
My journey with infertility and The Fruitful Hollow really started when I was born with Turner Syndrome, a chromosomal condition that left me with deformed ovaries and no eggs at birth. Flash forward to college and even grad school, it seemed like so few people (especially within the faith) seemed to acknowledge that infertility was real, besides some hushed whispers. I felt so ostracized. As a single Catholic woman, it was the loneliest time of my life. Then, in 2022, I found The Fruitful Hollow on Instagram and immediately broke down crying after reading some blog posts. For the first time in my life, I felt truly seen by other women of faith, even if our infertility journeys all looked different. After a few months of reading their posts and engaging with their social media, I asked if I could write a piece about knowing you’re infertile before marriage, and since then I have contributed a couple other pieces as well. The Fruitful Hollow really was such a support and a much needed community for a part of my heart and soul that had been so frail and untended for far too long. As The Fruitful Hollow began to grow, so did my journey with infertility, and I was grateful to have their resources to lean on when I needed reminders of God’s plan and love.
This past year was probably the biggest year of growth both personally and within my
work with the Fruitful Hollow. I started dating a wonderful Catholic man who had the most refreshingly reassuring reaction when I shared about my infertility/Turner Syndrome. And then, toward the end of the year, when there was a Secretary position open on The Fruitful Hollow team, I applied and thankfully got the role! Getting to know this team of amazing women and their stories more personally has been such a blessing and full circle moment. And now that I am part of the team, I look forward to engaging with more of you as our readers and writers in this new year of 2024! Know of my thoughts and prayers as we start this new year.
Rachel Walters (NEW Social Media Coordinator)
My husband and I had been carrying the cross of primary infertility for about five years when St. Anne brought me to the Catholic Church. My heart was finally healed from bitterness and I learned about redemptive suffering. My life started to feel fruitful for the first time, and I felt God calling me to do more. I started pursuing spiritual motherhood and, after months of discernment, God led me to The Fruitful Hollow. It was a blessing to end the year joining the wonderful ladies of The Fruitful Hollow. "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever." I am praying and looking forward to another fruitful year!
Serenity Quesnelle (Team member)
This past year was such a year of surrender for me. It was a year where I felt I didn’t really do a lot, but perhaps I did. A year where I feel like I was in survival mode more often than not. We had a large family trip to Jamaica, a kitchen flood causing a complete kitchen renovation, a few health issues and ending the year - much to our surprise - expecting baby number two! My prayer life has changed so much in the last few years, more quick prayers of “Mary, be a mother to be now” and “Jesus, I trust in you”, or praying a decade of the rosary when the whole thing seems impossible. I’ve been reminded that the Lord meets us right where we are, with what we have - in those moments of joy and sorrow.