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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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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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A great recommendation from a teenager

Teenagers these days often are described as being self-centered, lazy, unmotivated, and addicted to social media instead of living life without posting about it or considering using a filter for pictures they post.

I was encouraged this summer as I met a very amazing teenage boy at the beach who was so kind to my not quite teenage boys. He took them riding in a boat, helped them learn to kayak, and never acted like they were bothering him. He and his brother were very respectful and truly a joy to be around. One day, the teenage boy told me he was reading the book “Make Your Bed: Little things that can change your life…and maybe the world” by Admiral William McCraven. He also told me he wants to be a navy seal one day.  I have no doubt that he will achieve his goal and will be a great leader one day.

After I met him and talked to his mother about how she is raising two amazing boys, I saw a book at the library that caught my eye, “Sea Stories: My life in special operations” By Admiral William McCraven. Since this man obviously caught the attention of a neat teenager, I thought maybe I’d enjoy a book written by the same man. The book did not disappoint. I found someone who is very successful to also be humble and gracious.

Here are some things I learned from the book:

-Turn hardships into laughter, self-deprecating, unforgettable, and unforgettable stories.. it’s all in how you remember it!

-Don’t lie to your parents, they know. Give your kids a chance to tell the truth.

-Don’t underestimate the power of one act of kindness. Call a kid, encourage someone today it may make all the difference in the world.

-Take it one evolution at a time. Don’t quit, it’s not the smartest, fastest or strongest who are always successful. It’s the ones who stumble, fall, falter, persevere, who get up and keep moving.

-Sacrifice is worth the reward. God is always working. His hand is in everything . When it’s your time to go, it’s your time.

-People are always listening:). 

-There are angels and spirits among us. Be aware.

-War gives your life meaning. Everyone longs for an honorable fight, a battle of convictions.

-Don’t be a bench sitter

-People deserve a second chance

-Be kind to people who are going thru tough times. Continue to fight regardless of your injury! Lose the paperwork…

-Bombs can be carried in shoes… Your decisions effect others sometimes long after you intended them to.

-Overcome evil with good

-Have hope that God can turn brokenness into something beautiful. 

-Leaders must be prepared to trust who are fighting for them and to make tough decisions.

-Sometimes rough men have to protect the innocent. 

-The sacrifices of the men and women in the armed forces help to save those who may be the best great scientists, doctors , pastors, etc.

-Millennials ask why, sacrifice and say they will be just fine, they are more inclusive, more engaged, not always unmotivated.

-It feels great when justice is served

-Practice the tough plans and drills, go over them and over so you are prepared.

-Tomorrow has stories too.

 

Be blessed today. Keep going, don’t quit, If it isn’t over yet, it is not the end…A brighter day is ahead.

Dr. Atwell

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I really shouldn’t…

read the news before I go to bed…I discourage this for my clients all the time, but for some reason, this week I’ve read my “news briefing” (which makes me feel important like they are specifically ‘briefing me’ :)) before I go to sleep. The news is …ugh… most of the time, I can’t watch it, but need and want to stay somewhat informed whether it is fake, real or somewhat in the middle, so I typically go to the ‘NEWS’ app and scan the titles. HOWEVER, last night I dug a little dipper into a couple of horrible stories including the evilness of the California family (a blog for another day) and the Nassar doctor (I just can’t put the Dr. before his name right now) story surrounding 100s of young athletes over the years which led to me not sleeping well and getting up at 5:15 feeling the need to blog…

The funny thing is or actually I believe the spiritual thing is, I have thought about/felt God prompting me to write this post for the past couple of weeks. I was going to title it, “SPEAK UP” or “How to teach your children to SPEAK UP”.

In my profession, I have the bittersweet task often of being the first one to hear people disclose terrible things that have happened to them sometimes 40 years prior or 4 months… It has been a true humbling and honorable experience to be someone God uses to help people heal from true evil that has been done to them. People often think if they don’t talk about it or deal with it that it doesn’t affect them. I explain that it is similar to having a house that hasn’t been dusted in many years. It may look like everything is in place but you still sneeze and are affected by the dust and may not realize that just keeping things neat and orderly isn’t enough. Yes, once you start dusting, it may feel worse at first and your sneezing may increase momentarily, but when it is all clean out and up, you feel so much better and free.

My approach to teaching parents and encouraging victims always includes:

SPEAKING UP! Preferably sooner than later! Whether a boss or co-worker is saying inappropriate things to you, a dirty old man at church (unfortunately church is full of imperfect people) makes comments to you, a classmate smacks your bottom, or a family member/neighbor/stranger or ANYONE says or does anything (even if the person touches your shoulder and you feel weird) SPEAK UP, tell someone you trust and if you don’t have someone you trust, keep searching until you find someone who hears you!

The good news about SPEAKING UP!

Speaking up helps people learn: If you inform an adult that your 8th grade classmate smacked your bottom and he gets in trouble. You are actually helping him to learn that you DO NOT touch a woman inappropriately and without her permission. He hopefully will learn early on NOT to do that again. Boys this applies to you as well. If a girl says something that makes you feel uncomfortable or touches you, when you SPEAK UP and call her out, you are helping her to learn.

-Speaking up helps individuals stay out of trouble: I have boys and they are silly, which is normal. However, they at one period thought they could give me a love tap on the bottom like their dad did while flirting with me. It is my job as a mother to inform them that is it NOT appropriate to touch a woman like that unless you are married and know one another is joking. Basically, my husband had to stop doing that because they needed to see it modeled. Maybe you think this is extreme, but if it helps my kids learn, then it was worth it! Of course, there are times when the kids aren’t in the room ;).

Speaking up breaks the cycle: I’m that weird mom who stands in the doorway of men’s restrooms talking to her boys the entire time they are in there. Yes, they’ve had karate, Yes, they are getting older, BUT… I WILL CUT YOU  if you touch my kids inappropriately. My boys think I’m nuts and hate it, but I’m not their mom to be cool or friendly. Part of my job is protecting and preparing them. Things happen in public restrooms and other places. Teach your kids this…Yes it is an ugly truth but knowing it will hopefully help them. If enough crazy moms stand up, maybe we can begin to break the cycle for some.

Speaking up shows love: This one is very personal to me…You see I firmly believe that children must be taught to speak up against anyone. My neighbor and I are like family, but we’ve even had the conversations with our children that even if one of us tries something, they should speak up! They should learn that even those that are closest to them can and should be held accountable. One way to teach this to your children is to create an environment where your children feel safe telling you anything. My parents are not perfect, but they got this one right at a very crucial time for my older sister and me…A family member once tried to “show himself” to us “and have us touch him” as little girls and my very brave (sometimes she doesn’t realize how brave she really is, although she can’t even give someone the stink eye she looks and is SO sweet…) SPOKE UP. My sister told that person to stop and we got out of the bathroom and when our parents came, she told them what happened. She felt safe telling them and they responded by protecting us. Part of your children feeling safe is knowing you’ll listen and respond (this is love)!  I want go into long details except to say, our dad confronted the person (mom couldn’t go or trust me she’d be in jail to this day, which is basically what she told our dad…You go or I will…) and eventually we were NEVER around that person EVER AGAIN until his funeral. I truly believe I would not be who I am today without my parents allowing us to speak up and then responding appropriately. It wasn’t easy and it tore a family apart, but it was worth it! If you have to tear a family apart, turn a neighborhood upside down, or take on a corporate executive, DO IT!

Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (By the ways, this proverb was based on what a mom taught her son).

God love you and He didn’t intend for us to ever even taste evil, but because of Adam and Eve chooses to think they knew better, we live in a very broken world. The good news though is that Jesus came to make all things new…He is doing that now and will wipe away all evil one day. This is what I have hope and faith in that keeps me going. I hope you will consider this hope too.

With love,

Natalie

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Wolf dad

Recently, I’ve been reading a book titled, Six ways to keep the ‘good’ in your boy, by Dannah Gresh because I’m raising boys, interact with others doing to same, and have realized it is not a task for the faint at heart to say the least. Just yesterday morning, my son came in after taking our puppy out and explained that he had to grab poop out of her butt…(stay tuned for the rest of this story…)

It is a great book with some practical advice on raising boys. By the way, she has one written for ‘good’ girls too. She starts out addressing the fears of mothers, transitions into the importance of connecting with your children and then explains her six ways. Some of the ways aren’t surprising such as encouraging boys to go outside, hosting fantasy football parties, giving them a book to read, etc. However, one story in particular has really challenged me..

She discussed reading a book herself called, The Man who lives with wolves, about a true story of a man named Shaun Ellis who studied wolf behavior to the point that he was accepted into a pack. Wolves apparently are very family oriented and cubs are raised in two distinct stages.

In stage one (the first 5-6 weeks of the cubs lives), the pups are sheltered and nurtured by their mothers. During this time, the mothers teach them to be intimate by cuddling them and bathing them. She also keeps them safe during this time and teaches them to bathe, eat and rest. The cubs are rarely seen by the rest of the pack also during this time.

In stage two, the cubs start to come out of the den and learn about risk and purpose with their dads. The wolf dads begin by teaching them through games similar to a relay game. As the weeks progress, the dads lead the cubs further away from security and their den. The intent of the relay type game they are taught is to teach them to hunt which is how wolves survive. Dads teach the cubs their purpose in hunting and then they come back to the den where moms continue instilling the value of community. The moms and dad work together to teach their cubs needed values for survival.

Ok, you say, that is nice and we can learn from that but it’s nothing shocking, maybe not but this next aspect of “wolf dad” is. Shaun, the guy studying the wolves, was actually accepted into a pack of wolves. However, one day when Shaun and another male wolf was left behind during a hunting adventure to guard the den full of younger cubs, Shaun got thirsty and left the den to only to be found and pinned against a tree for several hours by the wolf dad. I can’t imagine how intimidated and scared Shaun must have felt. Eventually, the wolf let Shaun go and Shaun realized that evening walking along the stream where he was trying to find water to alleviate his thirst, that a grizzly bear had been where he was and the wolf dad knew this from experience. The wolf dad pinning him against a tree for several hours potentially saved him from being ripped apart by a grizzly bear. Wolf dads teach their cubs to play, take risks and eventually hunt for survival. They know when to push their boys and when to punish or discipline them. The mothers also know to stay back and let the dads do this at the needed time.

As human mothers, somehow we tend to want to stay in stage one way too long. We want to secure and nurture our baby boys and often get in the way of their fathers teaching them to take risks, push them to work hard and accept challenges which includes loving discipline at times. It is hard as a mother to see your husband parent differently at times than you do or feel is right. We may think they are “being too hard on them, etc”. However, I do not know what it is like to be a man in this world. My husband has experiences, gifts, talents and abilities according to his design by God as a man that I simply don’t have and vice versa. I have seen my boys grow as I have stepped back at times and not tried to nag the manhood out of the men in my house.

For example, the story about my oldest from the beginning is that he took the puppy out to pee and poop before school and noticed that our dog couldn’t get the last bit (turd-sorry but that is the best way to describe it) out by herself so our son grabbed a paper towel and helped the dog to get it out and cleaned her up. At times, I may have felt my husband was being tough on our son when it came to taking care of the dog. However, hearing that my son who is in still in elementary school saw a problem, figured out a solution and took care of someone else without coming in to ask me for help or wine about it…made me realize that I need to sit back at times and allow my husband to push my son to be the man God created him to be.

Again, I realize that there are single moms in this world and parents who abuse their children and this is not at all what I mean by loving discipline. I encourage single moms to find a good man to mentor their boys. The beauty of the family of God is that we are supposed to look at one another as family and help one another. Families need to be available and willing to help single moms also. I encourage fathers to lovingly push their boys to reach their greatest potential. Finally, I encourage mothers to nurture and teach intimacy but also allow dads to teach the other needed skills for their boys to survive and flourish in this world!

Proverbs 29:11, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.”

TGIF,

Natalie

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My mom and Jane Fonda…

I’m sorry I’ve been gone from the blog scene for a while, life is too busy at times I guess. I do love to write and encourage you all (my two faithful readers).

Since Mother’s Day is this weekend (hint to all those who still need to get something to show their appreciation for the mothers in their lives), I figured I’d write about my mom.

My mom truly is one of my heroes. I really think she can do just about anything. I grew up watching her at home keep an immaculate house. The times we talked were typically on Saturdays as we cleaned the house together with my sisters, and listened to the “oldies music” of the 50-70s. Somehow my oldest sister convinced me that the toilets were my job! Although sometimes her borderline OCD cleaning tendencies drove me nuts, one thing I learned that she kept things nice because it made them last longer. Our house was small, but it was so nicely kept we though it was as nice as anyone else’s. Now, I try to keep my house clean too, but not quite like her. I think my husband married me because he loved how clean my mom was, lol.

Dressed to the nines is definitely a term used to describe her at work. Her work ethic was solid from the tasks she completed, the reputation she acquired, to the clothes she had on. She wasn’t a mom who tried to dress like a teenager, thankfully, but was always dressed professionally no matter what job she did from working in insurance to being a school secretary. She always looked like she could be working in Manhattan. She takes her job seriously and all of her daughters have a strong work ethic as a result. We also like to dress nicely too :).

However, my mom dressed completely different while mowing the lawn and weed-eating. Basically, she looks like Jane Fonda from the old work out VHS days. She wears a headband, truly a sweatband. Somehow she was always outside with that headband on when dates came to pick me up. She had nice arms from weed-eating she says. She is very strong physically and was a great softball player yet the ultimate portrait of a business woman during the week. I think I’m tough anytime I pick up our week-eater!

Lastly, she was faithful and supportive as a wife although it was not always easy. She always taught us to “never say never” and be careful not to judge others because you never know what types of situations you will find yourself in one day. My mom supported my dad while he was in the military and as he serves in other ways today. She is not easy on him though and expects him to bring her coffee every morning! “He brews” is a book of the Bible by the way…:)

Raising three girls wasn’t easy I’m sure, but we weren’t allowed to get too dramatic so as difficult as having a home with three girls may sound, she just didn’t tolerate our crap… We thought she was mean, but now I’m so thankful for the way she raised us and the example she showed us. The lessons are truly unending but Proverbs 31 probably sums it up minus the Jane Fonda headband.

So thankful for my mom who still doesn’t put up with my crap,

Natalie