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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

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Somebody’s watching you

Listen, learn, and share this episode with everyone you know! There is a message in it for everyone regarding human trafficking. It is not scary, but encourages us all to make positive steps to make a difference in our communities.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1378717/7945252

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Podcast Season 1 Finale

Praying my dad still talks to me after this one…

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1378717/6518035

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Don’t go chasing Waterfalls

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1378717/6196429

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Podcast Episode 3: How you start isn’t always how you finish

Don’t miss our funny and encouraging stories along with an interview with former child actress from One Tree Hill, Grace Holcomb! Review and subscribe today. Share you thoughts!

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1378717/5798839

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Masks and hope

Considering I’m a super nerd (self-described), I looked up the history of masks since the debate is a heated one these days in the great United States of America. According to Christos Lynteris, an expert in medical mask history at the University of St. Andrews (can you imagine growing up to become a mask historian~interesting), we can find clues about the history of masks in paintings as old at 1720 of the bubonic plague. The “masks” here were thought to protect against illness but in reality they likely only helped people deal with the smells of illness. Over time, masks developed as people learned more about sickness, viruses, and disease. Masks were used by surgeons in the late 1800s as a means to prevent droplets when/if a surgeon coughed or sneezed.

Growing up in the 80s, I remember my dad having a handkerchief in church that he carried in his suit pocket. He used it to cover his mouth, how appropriate. I carry tissues in my car/purse for the same purpose. Sure cough and sneeze droplets are gross, but mostly I’ve always believed it was just respectful to use a tissue or hanky.

Today, however, wow masks are a huge sign of many different things. They are signs of the time for sure: COVID-19, politics, fear, respect, stupidity (I do think it is silly to wear one in your car or home all alone), common sense, homemade projects, medical professionals, not something kids can handle, and the list goes on depending on who you ask.

Regardless, today my message is to encourage you to consider what you are putting your hope in today. I’ve read and heard numerous local and national leaders state that if everyone wore masks all the time, the virus could be gone in no time. Therefore, I think many people have a lot of hope in wearing masks. I am not here to tell you my stance, advise you one way or another about mask wearing, etc. However, I am here today to encourage you NOT to put your hope in anything other than God.

Psalm 118:8-9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humanity (or the products of humanity, such as masks).

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in nobles (or leaders/politicians).

Because…

If you put your hope in money, you could still find yourself struggling with relationships.

If you put your hope in a sports team, you will be extremely let down if they have a losing year or can’t play (this year!).

If you put your hope in a politician, you will find that he/she can’t keep all of their promises and are the savior of our nation. Many focus on the president but neglect to research the power and impact of their own local leaders none of which are perfect.

If you put your hope in a celebrity (seriously why do people care what celebrities think?..ok I’ll try not to be judgmental and of course yes I’ll read a random article once in a while about one), you will be let down when they go off the deep end or divorce (like Nicky Lacey and Jessica Simpson..I’ll get over it one day, j/k).

If you put your hope in humanity, you will be let down as soon as someone pulls out in front of you or posts something stupid online.

Finally, if you put your hope in a mask, you will be let down when you see someone not wearing one or worse if you wear one and still get sick, you will be let down.

Therefore, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). Place your hope in God. He is the Great Physician, the Healer, the Savior, one whom we can have an amazing relationship with who will never leave us, is so famous he is timeless, is the giver and taker of wealth and all things, etc.

Set your mind on things above by:

-Waking up and saying every morning: This is the day the Lord has made, I will be glad and rejoice in it. (It’s my mantra, find one for yourself!)

-Spend time in prayer/meditation, and Bible study each morning (coffee is a major part of this for me, let’s call it  a part of the devotion trinity: prayer journal, bible, coffee).

-Surround myself with Godly, positive, encouraging people who hold me accountable and challenge me. Church is a great place to start (even though they are filled with imperfect people).

-Laugh every day. Life is too short.

-Ask God to show you when you are putting your hope in something other than God.

-Break your addiction to comfort. Growth happens outside of your comfort zone (which is often the thing you are putting your hope in more than God).

He alone is our Hope. Our hope for the redemption of the past, hope for the present day to be great or to survive it, and hope the future of Earth when he makes it new one day!

Praying you place your hope in Jesus today,

Dr. Atwell

PS: I had to sit at a local tire shop recently because my tires were completely worn to the point that my indicators were continually showing low air after I filled them…(Maybe I was putting too much hope in worn down tires)…and I noticed this older lady (without a mask) sitting in the lobby (socially distant) with a shirt on that said HOPE and was an acronym. The funny thing is she cursed like a sailor, it was the weirdest scene. I couldn’t help but think we may look like that to God when we look like to everyone else that we are putting our hope in Him meanwhile cursing Him like a sailor as we put our hope in things that will pass away…

 

 

 

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Did you know that the word ‘listen’ and the word ‘silent’ have the same letters?

The question of course is more rhetorical, but as 2020 has created a situation in which many people in the world are using technology more than ever before to connect with one another, work, be educated, vent frustrations, be entertained, etc, I’m afraid we aren’t getting better at truly listening during these times. Many are simply putting their opinions out there (because it is easy to post opinions) and not listening to others. As I sit in my office and do Telehealth or in-person sessions and listen to people discuss the stress of the times, I’ve learned we simply don’t value the opportunity to listen as much as we should. Honestly, it is probably the most important skill in the field of counseling. It is arguably one of the most important skills in life.

Are you good at it? What do others think about your listening skills? Are you listening to understand or simply to reply? Do you want people to hear your point of view more than you want to listen to and understand theirs?

People have been asking a lot of questions lately such as:

-Does it truly help to wear a mask?

-Why are we still dealing with racism?

-Why are some police officers allowed to get away with crimes?

-What can we do to reform police departments, government, etc?

-What is the point of the protest?

-Are we going have to homeschool or virtual school our kids next year?

-Why can’t gyms open?

-Why are some churches comfortable opening and others aren’t?

-Why do teens love Tik Tok?

As I consider some of these questions, I can hear my own answers to them almost automatically in my head…(which are based on my own experiences, beliefs, values, etc.)  As a therapist, I have to listen to and help others who often don’t believe what I believe spiritually, politically, economically, etc. and I have to be objective because it is my job. It is not easy and requires me to do a lot of reflection and at times has required my own counseling with another therapist, but the things I’ve learned from listening to those who are different from me are priceless. As a trained therapist, I do much more than listen, but listening is invaluable in my field.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a trained therapist to be a good listener.

The challenge I present you with today is to try and listen and not quickly go to the response in your own head. Really seek to hear someone today. Seek to understand the other person’s point of view, position, experience, etc. Ask someone, maybe who you don’t like, or who you know has a different political view than yours, someone of another race, etc. something today. However, don’t respond, just listen and try to understand. Practice helps in the area of listen. Trust me, I’m still working on this too!

Want to make a difference in the world today? Try listening to others more than you speak, and see what happens…

Show you care for others by listening this week and be blessed,

Dr. Atwell

Here is some biblical encouragement for listening…

James 1:19 “..Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”

Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 2:2 “Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.”

Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

 

Matthew 11:14, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

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A rare form of generosity…

I love the quote by Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest form of generosity.” Personally, I believe her quote rings true today more than ever. At a time where people can physically,  be it at times technologically, connected, people often seem more disconnected to true genuine conversation and ultimately relationships than ever before. So you may ask what was going on in the world and personally for Simone Weil to make this statement in the early 1900s.

Simone Weil who lived during a tough time in culture 1909-1943, including both World Wars. According to some, she was a philosopher and political activist who eventually turned to religion. We can learn some about her through her essays and writings, but to me she seems like a person who was seeking truth and looking for ways to overcome the evil in the world. Some say she became a Christian and emphasized martyrdom and sacrifice as you sought to share her beliefs and give attention to the hurt of others, which led to her dying an early death at age 34. Simone wrote “Attention is the rarest form of generosity” in a letter to a poet friend ins 1942. It is likely she make this statement out of personal experience. Maybe she felt as if no one was truly giving attention to people (the part of creation made in God’s image). It was after all a time of world war, mass killings of Jews, development of nuclear reactor (which became a part of the first  nuclear bomb), families being torn apart by war, etc. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but wonder if it was stated out of the feeling that no one was giving attention to hurting people in the world, likely including herself.

Maybe Simon believed that if people would show true care and concern for one another by giving them attention that people would respond with love and not fear which often leads to terrible behaviors. Consider the pharaoh in Egypt who thought the Jews were becoming too numerous so he treated them like slaves. What if he would have paid attention to them, learned more about them, listened to their stories about their God? Could this have caused him to love them and in turn not lose his first born son? (Exodus) What if Hitler would have given attention to the Jews in his country, learned from them, and given them a chance to be a part of the country he ruled? Could Germany have been a great nation still today instead of millions dying,  including Hitler, for a terrible ideal?

What if you paid attention to those around you? Would it improve your marriage? Would it impact your kids’ behavior? Would it allow for you to make a new friend? Would it change the trajectory of someone’s life? It certainly could! Finally, what if people paid attention to you? Consider how it could change your life.

While we can’t necessarily make people pay attention to us, we can be people who give attention to others.  So, if you want to be a generous person give your attention to someone today. Here are some a tips for when you try:

-Be aware of the messages sent from your body language (make eye contact, think about your facial expressions). Put your phone down!

-Ask open ended questions and/or specific about the person and his/her situation? Demonstrate concern.

-Paraphrase to show you want to understand when engaging in conversation.

-Don’t interrupt or insert your own personal stuff while you are listening to someone.

-Verbally affirm others.

-Notice the person in the corner or notice the person who no one else is noticing and be friendly. Get to know your neighbors. Make a new friend at work.

-Spend quality time with others without technology and give undivided attention. (Don’t act like you are in a hurry).

I am a firm believer that most of the hurts in the world come from relationships, but so does our healing. My faith leads me to believe that ultimate relationship is with God alone. I believe He alone fills the void in our lives, but also uses others to spread His love and attention. Simone Weil also said, “At the centre of the human heart is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world,” which makes me think she came to the same conclusion and belief I have in God.

I hope someone give you attention today!

Dr. Natalie Atwell

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If mirrors could talk…

When I thought about making a New Year’s/January post, I wanted to mention the statistic I heard recently that only 45% of Americans have made a new friend in the past 5 years (www.studyfinds.com). This is sad, right?

As I listened to many this week discuss goals, resolutions, diets, fasts, etc.  the only ones who mentioned relationships in those lists were mostly the ones looking for a mate. (Humor me with a detour for a moment)…The natural progression of the conversation of wanting to meet a mate goes to where does one find someone to date. These days around 40% of people first meet online. This stat may even be higher if you consider how others meet on social media by having “mutual” friends/contacts. With the increase of people meeting online, there has also been an increase in people sending “selfies”. As you can imagine these selfies come in all shapes and sizes with or without clothing from what I hear. So let me report this study I read recently in Psychology Today (Dec ’19 issue), “senders (of unsolicited photos of their genitals) scored significantly higher on measures of sexism and narcissism…” Basically, if you are sending these types of pics, it is likely you could be a sexist or narcissist. Also, “the flurry of emotions by those who received unsolicited images include anger, objectification and shame”. Therefore, if you are sending these, you should stop unless you want people to think or know you are sexist and a narcissist. In addition, if you are receiving these by a potential suitor, changes are he is not the one for you! Furthermore, what would your mirror say, “Really no one wants to see that. Some things should be sacred. Also, stop looking at yourself. Appreciate things besides your looks. Ok, I understand the need to check for things in your nose or teeth, but otherwise, go outside and enjoy God’s creation.”

Back on the main road…I wish you all a Happy New Year! I didn’t think about 2020 being a new decade until it has been mentioned by many this week, but wow ok a new decade to focus on doing amazing things for others!  Let me challenge EVERYONE to set a goal of making a new friend in 2020. As Christians, it should be a goal every year to make new friends and meet new people as we share the gospel and make disciples. This was a command by the way…Matthew 28: 19-20 ” 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I pray each one of your mirrors at the end of the year 2020 says, “I’m proud of you, I didn’t see you much this year!

Go out and make a positive difference today, make a new friend,

Dr. Atwell

PS: Michael Jackson’s “Man in the mirror” song wouldn’t work for nasty selfies people send to others…but we can all learn from that song in some aspects.