Categories
christian counseling

Transitioning…

This is a hot topic and also a controversial one, but for now, I’m not going to talk about what most think this term refers to in certain settings today. I’m simply going to talk about some of the transitioning we all need to do at times. Maybe you need to transition from skinny jeans to flair leg, OR from soda to water. Just kidding, maybe…

Instead of talking about the transitioning that happens in times of major life events such as a wedding, starting college, becoming a parent, becoming an empty nester, or losing a loved one, let’s contemplate the transitioning of mindsets and attitudes. This is the point in reading, or for me writing, where our minds often think of who could benefit from reading this…Let me challenge you to instead focus on yourself. What mindsets, attitudes, or maybe even relationships do you need to change or let go of?

Our mental health is actually brain health. It impacts our entire body. If we have negative mindsets, attitudes, or hurtful relationships, our entire lives, bodies included, are impacted. You may be thinking, what do you mean?

Here are some examples of negative mindsets:

1-I have NO control over my situation.

2-Life is so unfair.

3-I have zero power to change ___________.

4-I deserve this _________________.

5-______________ (ailment, weakness, mental health struggle) defines me.

What about negative attitudes?

Can you be inattentive, inflexible, jealous, impatient, insincere, irresponsible, indifferent, or heartless?

Finally, review your closest relationships.

Are these people understanding, available, kind, supportive, responsive, reciprocal, and friendly, OR are those you surround yourself with negative, competitive, nasty, gossipy, expect you to be there but they can’t reciprocate?

Now when it comes to transitioning negative mindsets, attitudes, and relationships, the first step is to do what you hopefully just did–identify them.

Once you’ve identified your negative mindsets, attitudes, and relationships, next consider how to transition!

Here are a few positive mindsets to try instead of the ones above:

1-I may not be in control of all things, but I AM in control of some aspects. I can control my reactions and responses to people 2 Timothy 1:7).

2-Fair is not always equal. While I may feel I’m experiencing inequality in one area or another, I will choose to be thankful for the good things in my life. I will also choose to treat others HOW I want to be treated even if I’m not being treated the way I’d like (Matthew 7: 12).

3-I have the power to change __________. I may not be able to fully change things today in the direction I would like, but I can change __________ aspect (Philippians 4:13).

4-I am thankful for the blessing in my life. I choose to be humble and not have an entitled mindset (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

5-I am not defined by my struggle or weakness. I can find strength in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Attitudes:

Today I will be attentive, flexible, excited for others, patient, kind, sincere, gentle, loving, responsible, and selfless in my attitude and subsequent actions.

Relationships:

Today and in the future, I will choose to surround myself with positive people who speak truth in love, who are friendly, kind, supportive, understanding, positive, and who are there for me as I’m there for them.

I also choose to let go of friendships or other relationships that are pulling me down and influencing me negatively. I pray for family members who I may need to set boundaries with and will consider seeking counseling to learn how and when to do so.

I realize transitioning mindsets, attitudes and relationships are not easy, but it can be as simple as what I have stated. My promise is that if you make these transitions, it will be worth it!

Have a great rest of your week,

Dr. Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

Changing seasons: Preparing for and embracing change

Recently where I live, we’ve had a “cold” front come through (it was 68 degrees earlier this morning compared to 98 a week ago…). As the seasons change, I love to focus on the positives such as wearing boots in fall/winter! There are some places in the world where the seasons don’t change, which always fascinates me considering I’ve always lived in a place that has four seasons. Most of these people actually want to experience changing seasons. They’d love to see the trees change colors and experience wearing different types of shoes (I love shoes…) :).

When it comes to changing seasons in life, we often fight the changes instead of embracing the positives that come with the change. During this time of year, some people are preparing to go back to school, to go back into the classroom to teach, to go off to college, starting a new sport, getting their families ready to do the things already mentioned, or possibly starting a new job. The list could go on. The reality that you or someone near you is currently going through a transitions during this time of year is highly likely.

So why not embrace these transitions or help someone do so in positive ways? Don’t be the one who hates “back to school”, cries for weeks when your kid goes to college, complains about getting up early or staying up late for a ballgame, or fusses that you don’t get to see your grandkids enough….

Here are some things to try to take control of my mind and stay positive while embracing the new season whatever it may be.

1-Make the first day back to school fun. I always play the clip from the movie Billy Madison with Adam Sandler singing “back to school…” followed by the Saturday Night Live skit/clip with Chris Farley and Adam Sandler “Lunch Lady land”. They are easy to find on YouTube.com and now my kids have both memorized!

2-Send care packages to your loved ones or friends who have gone off to college. Send fun things, weird but funny advice (Don’t eat yellow snow for example).

3-Send you grandkids handwritten notes. Volunteer in your community. Stay busy helping others instead of focused on negative things. Support your loved ones in the ways they need not the ways you want.

4-Cry briefly if you must, then call the friend who will make you laugh or take you out if you are struggling with your kid starting a new school or moving away and praise God your kid is moving to the next level or that you have kids!

5-Do something each morning that you look forward to. I look forward to my coffee and time with Jesus every morning in my prayer closet. I meditate, pray, journal, sometimes cry, laugh, and try to get my mind right for the day.

6-Try learning something new. Personally, I’d like to try playing pickle ball.

The list could go on, but you get the point. Life is truly what you make it wherever you are and in whatever season. Don’t look back wishing your past were still the present. Looking back may cause you to become a pillar of salt, (Genesis 19:26)– stuck where you are. Appreciate where you are now just as much as being thankful for where you have been. Choose to be the fun old lady, the sweet neighbor, the one who keeps serving and making a difference in her community.

Just like some would love to be experience the seasons changing where they live, enjoy the changes you are going through because many wish they were able to experience the changes you are undergoing. Finally remember that God has great plans for you in every season of life (Jeremiah 29:11).

Be blessed,

Dr. Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

How I believe Pastors and Churches of the SBC should respond to news of the sexual abuse cover up…

This week the Southern Baptist Convention has been ALL over the news sadly for terrible news. As someone who deals with spiritual abuse, sexual abuse in the church, and other atrocities within religious circles, I wanted to offer some professional insight for churches and pastors. SO, if you read this and go to church, please share it with your pastor and church leaders.

First of all let me say that I grew up Southern Baptist (SB) and have a lot of respect for the foundation by which I was raised. As of now, I consider myself someone on the spectrum between a SB and a charismatic. Ultimately, for me this means I am a lover of God’s word and stand on it as absolute truth and I trust the Holy Spirit to guide me daily to adhere to the Word. Secondly, I like to say that I have many SB pastor friends and family members who are amazing, godly men who have never harmed a women sexually. However, thirdly, I strongly believe every church needs to respond to the tragic news of the week…Even if you are in the SBC.

Here’s how I propose to handle it.

1-Do not shy away from the subject. Every pastor and every church should acknowledge the failures of the SBC regardless if something has happened in your church or not. By “acknowledge it,” I mean just that, you may simply only need to mention it to your congregation as a first step. HOWEVER, DO NOT act like it didn’t happen this week in the news. I promise you will lose a lot of respect if you don’t at least mention it THIS Sunday.

2-Have a policy for your congregation for how to address issues should they ever arise related to sexual abuse. This may mean you start with the basics and learn the definition of sexual abuse. Don’t assume you know…

3-Pray for the victims, the pastors, the congregations and everyone involved. Pray for healing, confession, and redemption. Also whether you are a complimentarian, equalitarian, etc. treat women with the respect they are due. They are daughters of the King of Kings.

4-Teach on the subject matter (not just once). God outlines how to treat others in Scripture. We are taught in Ephesians 5 that men are to honor their wives as their own bodies… 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-6 states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.” We are taught to love one another period. Just like I teach my kids about what is and is not appropriate regarding sexual matters and touch, pastors should be preaching on how to treat others and how to help victims.

5-Offer support for victims. Find counselors and others who can help victims you come into contact with. Do not shame victims. Lovingly come alongside victims. Give victims a safe space to be vocal about concerns.

6-Offer support for REPENTANT perpetrators. God is in the redemption business. Often we kick people out instead of lovingly admonishing one another. Find counselors and teachers for perpetrators too.

7-As a pastor or leader, guard your heart, be humble, and surround yourself with those who you allow to call you out and hold you accountable. Beyond sexual abuse in the church from leaders, the main problem I see is narcissistic leaders. I have heard over an over of pastors who cannot take criticism, who are mean-spirited, hot-tempered, etc. As a pastor or leader, you should be SCARED to DEATH of not allowing godly brothers and sisters in Christ hold you accountable and help you stay on guard from yourself, temptations, and the enemy. You are not GOD, you are a minister of the Word and you are held more accountable for being in the position you are in by God. You should walk this out with fear and trembling.

8-Be aware of spiritual warfare and teach on this topic as well. We need to remember who our true adversary is. 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour: Be sober – serious about the fact that you have an enemy who wants to devour you and that is nothing to be nonchalant about! Be vigilant – That means to be on guard. Remind yourself and put your armor on daily. Also teach your congregation how to be on guard and prepare about who the battle is truly against (Ephesians 6).

I truly hope and pray and honestly beg you to respect my thoughts as you seek to push back the darkness in Jesus name,

Dr. Natalie Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

Parent Failures: podcast

podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/miss-congeniality-and-the-third-runner-up/id1533556882

Categories
christian counseling

Concerns about the Enneagram

As a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and university professor, I’ve been aware of the enneagram for many years, likely longer than most. However, over the past several years, I have been amazed at how the popularity of this test has increased dramatically especially within Christian circles. I’m often asked what my thoughts are about the Enneagram, so I will share below…

First of all when evaluating assessments and tests seeking to understand yourself, you should find out where the test originated, who created it, the validity, reliability, etc. Second, if you are a Christian, you should find out how it relates to truth as defined in the Bible. Third, ask yourself why you need this assessment or the information it is claiming to provide. Then as always, proceed with caution with anything that seeks to define you outside of God.

My concerns with the Enneagram as someone who has a doctorate in the field of counseling is related to a few things.

1-The “test” isn’t a psychological assessment that has undergone specific design and professional strategies to prove or attempt to suggest reliability or validity internally or externally.

2-The test has similarities and roots pointing to New Age (occult) practices and teachings.

3-This test attempts to put people into categories or boxes (similar to the concerns about critical race theory at times) in a way whereas God’s word never does this and suggests we are all created uniquely and wonderfully different.

3-If we believe the Enneagram is true, then we may latch on to and start filtering everything through the lens of the Enneagram. Similar to astrology or other efforts to explain humans, people have a tendency to latch on to things and begin believing everything a specific belief suggests simply because parts of it make sense. As believers in Christ, we should filter everything through the lens of scripture as it alone provides absolute truth.

4-Do not be easily deceived by things that seemingly “make sense”. This is often how deception occurs.

5-Be cautious about anything that focuses solely on your “self”. Focusing life and truth solely on your experiences is very dangerous and also what New Age teaches not what the Bible teaches. If you experience it, then it is true…This is a very dangerous idea.

6-Finally, remember as christians, we should be going through a sanctification process as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us each day. Therefore, just because at times for example we may struggle with perfectionism doesn’t mean God isn’t working in us to overcome this. Just like we should never say as believers in Christ, “I just struggle with anger, it is who I am.” Rather we should say, I am a new creation in Christ, I will die to my flesh daily. We may not change in an instant but we shouldn’t struggle as much today as we did the day we decided to follow Jesus.

For more information, I urge you to read the following article by: Marcia Montenegro.

https://ses.edu/what-about-the-enneagram/

More articles below:

http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles.html

Be blessed,

Dr. Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

Understanding Transitions

Change is inevitable. We will all go through multiple transitions in life. During the fall season, the leaves in many places change colors on the trees. Some have children going off to college. Some are the ones going off to college and parents of new teens are freaking out of bodily changes… Others are beginning new jobs, trying new activities, etc.

As we have all settled in for the fall in one way or another, it may be important to understand the phases of transition that most people will experience. Transition generally follows this pattern: denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment.

1-Denial: In this phase, you begin to question the change. Was it the right move for us? We begin to feel disbelief that we have decided to make a change of this nature. We may also withdrawal from certain things, activities, etc.

2-Resistance: In the next phase you begin to resist as you become negative about the change. You being to focus on your emotions and personal impact or feelings associated with the change. You may even become less productive or make up excuses for being absent.

3-Exploration: Once you reach this phase, you begin to try new things, experiment with new people/places and possibly take new risks in your new setting. You may also seek answers to your questions during this phase about your transition, etc. This phase will bring about a new excitement and comfort for the change.

4-Commitment: In the final stage of transition or change. You begin to feel more comfortable with where you are and are now able to focus on the future without looking back. In the final phase you accept your new role and set new goals.

As you go through change in life or as you help another go through a transition, remember these stages. People go through these at different rates of time but it is important to know that the feeling, emotions, questions, etc. you have during the phases are normal. Change is a natural and healthy part of life but that doesn’t mean it is always comfortable. However, we will never grow as we can and should if we stay within our comfort zone and never embrace change.

From a faith perspective, we can know that God is the person who never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and will be tomorrow. We can hold fast to his word and person as we deal with the transitions of life.

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Don’t fear change,

Dr. Atwell

Categories
active listening anger management Anxiety atheists back to school supplies beatitudes belonging boundaries change of heart Christian counseling christian counseling counseling COVID 19 tips for helping others dating Depression divine encouragement generosity goals happiness humor identity crisis inspiration inspirational Liberty University marathon marriage masks mental health military mothers day New year new years resolutions Overcome evil with Good parenting positive politics positive thinking Pro Life Proverbs 31 lady ptsd pulling back the shades reading reedeming love running sexual abuse sexual violence snow day snow day tips technology Uncategorized what not to do wolf dad

The joy on a college campus

Last week I had the amazing privilege to go with my sister and brother-in-law to take my niece (and only girl niece I have…) to college at Liberty University. I LOVE Liberty! Yes, I am biased because I teach there but I also went there for my graduate degrees. It is a very special place. While, I was walking around campus last week, I felt the excitement of the young people and the next generation of leaders and world-changers all around.

Arguably, one could feel this on any college campus this fall, especially as in-person learning resumes! It also made me wonder what happens to adults causing them to lose the love of learning, exploring, making a difference in the world, meeting new people, trying new things, moving away for a bit or embracing any type of change.

There are many factors that can come into play in losing some of the joys experienced on a college campus, but we don’t have to lose our joy in the possibilities of the future. We can work to maintain a spirit of faith and belief in something greater.

My belief in God is what gives me joy in the possibility of greatness, change, goodness, possibility, and faith. Jesus came to make all things new by taking on the sin of the world. We often forget that Jesus is making all things new in the midst of so much pain and evil in the world, but I challenge you today to walk onto a college campus or at least shut your eyes and imagine doing so and take a deep breath and dream. But don’t stop with a dream, think of all the possibilities and opportunities God can give you to do good in this crazy world today.

Never stop believing that you can make a difference, that you are called for a great purpose to love others as Christ did. Pray for those who are hurting such as those in Afghanistan or Haiti or down the street. Pray for the educators beginning classes this time of year and for the students. Pray for a new generation to rise up and seek to obey God and overcome evil with good.

Choosing Joy today,

Dr. Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

Find joy in meeting new people

No doubt, I am a social person and meeting others comes natural to me, but it is something anyone can do even if it requires allowing oneself to be uncomfortable for a minute or longer.

This past weekend, I was with a friend exploring the beautiful town of Tryon, NC. We both love to hear others’ stories, which is probably one reason we love being therapists! While we were in an adorable bookstore/toystore/gift shop talking to the sweet owner named, Julia, an older man came in. Immediately he caught our attention because he had long white hair pulled back into a ponytail and a long white beard. He was wearing a tied eye shirt and jeans. I don’t often see white hairs wearing tied eye, like they were still enjoying the 70s, around where I live.

Before we began talking to him, I noticed he came in to pick up a copy of a book he wanted which was the same book my oldest son picked out. There is was, our commonality! Finding something in common with someone is a way into some great conversations! So our conversation began…

Julia introduced my friend and I to J. Alan Peoples, the infamous mayor of Tryon, NC. We finished our conversation with Julia, a lovely lady who will be in a Hallmark Christmas movie coming out this fall that was filmed in Tryon, and walked outside to see Mr. Peoples van.

It was exactly the van you have in mind for a man wearing a tied eye shirt and a white ponytail. It was this old Volkswagen van from the 70s or at least it looked like that (look at the featured image). It looked like so much fun to ride in and drive around. Mr. Peoples told us he bought the van for his beautiful wife who was sitting on the plush orange passenger seat. She loved it and he loved her.

As I talked to Mrs. Peoples and my friend talked to Mr. Peoples, I realized the Mrs. and I weren’t quite finishing our conversations which was totally fine. I can be very ADD at times in conversation, etc. so I wasn’t sure if it was me or her at first. After a while I could tell something was off, but I could also sense her kind heart and loving spirit. Later on after our great conversation with the mayor, his wife, and another local who walked up to say hello, my friend told me that Mr. Peoples said his wife had dementia.

The mayor had told us about his military service, teaching/coaching job, and position as major, but the most important work he does is caring for his wife. He said people asked him why he hadn’t put her somewhere and he said that is not what he wanted to do. He loved her and wanted to take care of her. He still does his jobs, but he takes her with him and the townspeople help him. Mr. Peoples said they all help take care of one another in their small town.

Wow, I loved this town. More importantly, I was reminded that when we stop and take the time to hear the stories of others, we can learn so much and be inspired to live out our stories in a great way by loving others. We were so encouraged by Mr. Peoples and the people in the town simply by taking the time to chat.

So, stop and meet someone new today even if you think what they are wearing or driving is very different from what you are wearing or driving….

Learn something new, be inspired, or be reminded about what really matters. As my friend and author of Sign to Story, Chris Smith says, “Embrace every opportunity God gives you to pour into the person standing in front of you.” As you embrace the chance to love others, you’ll find that you are also being loved!

I can’t wait to hear some of your stories! Message or email me!

Dr. Atwell

natalie@concord-nacounseling.com

Categories
christian counseling

From this moment…

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1378717/8710334

Categories
christian counseling

High heels as weapons

Yesterday, I had a moment where I had to consider taking off my heels and using one of them as a weapon… Yesterday after waiting patiently in line to get gas (here on the East Coast with a shortage, ugh), a lady who I thought was trying to go in front of me to get to a parking spot decided to almost hit my car and pull in front of me at the gas pump I had waited over 30 minutes in line, not to mention the 10 people waiting behind me who were also there before her. As I moved on to the next open spot, I decided to ask the lady kindly to be more considerate of others in the future. I did not curse her and I stayed calm. However, she not so politely told me she was almost of “E” and for me to shut the bleep up. I then quoted scripture to her 🙂 and said, “You reap what you sow”. Trust me, I realized I should have addressed her once and left it alone, b/c I guess the “reap what you sow” which I also said kindly (I’m kind of amazed by this myself…) sent her over the edge.

This girl (not a lady, sorry I just can’t go there right now), asked me if I wanted her to beat my mother bleeping bleep. I didn’t respond at that point and went on about my business. Of course, my fight or flight response kicked in and I was reviewing my options for weapons if she came at me. Option 1: I could go for her weave and run. Option 2: I could take off my high heel and use it to defend my self. I chose Option 3, get in my car and go on my way. However, she then proceeded to follow me out of the gas station, down some side streets, into a bank parking lot, etc.

When it was clear the girl was following me, I started praying that God would protect me and that she would leave me alone. As I was turning my car around to go to the police station, she pulled in behind me at a church. As I pulled into the church, there set a very nice police officer. I’m still puzzled as to why the “girl” pulled in and waited as I talked to the police officer and didn’t simply leave, but she didn’t. So after I told the nice lady police officer what happened and that this crazy person was following me, the police officer drove over to her car and talked to the “girl”. I’m not sure what was said, but I was no longer followed, thankfully. I am so thankful for God’s protection for me.

As I was praying this morning, I asked God if I should have kept my mouth shut and just let her go on disrespecting others. I am so in owe at what God spoke to me… He said, Natalie, I want to you to speak truth in love, but maybe it would have gone over better if you had gone to the girl, offered to pay her gas and then asked her to be more considerate of others in the future… God is such a loving father to me and I’m so thankful for his loving, healthy correction. I hope and pray in the future I will respond more like Jesus which is so demonstrate love for others by speaking truth in love and also showing others how to do so.

Be encouraged today,

Dr. Atwell

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

PS. My husband did give me a lesson on how to throat punch someone just in case when I got home…Next time, I”ll try God’s way first.