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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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Don’t go chasing Waterfalls

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

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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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Overcome evil with good: tips during the COVID-19

As I mentioned in my post last week, many people are freaking out and are feeling very unsure about a lot of things in our world at this time. Here are some ideas/activities to help you shift your focus.

1-Go visit your elderly neighbors. Take some groceries, fresh baked goods, and toilet paper (since this has been a hoarding nightmare).

2-Go for a walk, run, etc. and thank God that you woke up today, be thankful that the sun came up, etc. Be thankful intentionally for at least 10 minutes a day. You’ll be amazed how this will shift your focus.

3-Be creative, think of new things you can do to make an impact in your home, neighborhood or community. Have your kids create a list of things they can do to be more helpful around your home.

4-Take this time to learn something new such as sewing, cooking a new recipe, etc.

5-Turn off the news, and sit for with your family, pet, finish reading a few books, or just enjoy the quiet.

6-Consider how connected we all are in the world and be amazed for a moment. One virus thousands of miles away has impacted the world. What one thing can you do that will impact the world for good? It could be simply offering to pray for others.

7-Donate to a local food bank/pantry. Call churches, shelters, etc and see what you can do to help aid effects of relief, etc.

8-Contact local schools and see if you can help deliver meals to hungry children.

9-Be wise with your money! If you aren’t, sit down and develop a budget.

10-Sit and talk to others (at least 6 ft apart :)). Don’t just sit and scroll on social media.

11-Make someone laugh today.

12-Ask God what you can learn from your circumstances.

13-Consider a positive perspective and solution to problems around you.

14-Call friends who are healthcare workers or send them cards and let them know you are praying for them.

15-Watch educational documentaries with your kids. Talk to them about history. Tell them about your history. Recount God’s faithfulness in your life with them.

16-Take this time to teach your kids life lessons or common sense lessons. For example, how to pump gas, how to manage money, how to wash clothes, how to take the trash out, how to make friends. how to choose a career, how to study the Bible.

17-Go explore the outdoors. Go hiking, etc.

18-Support local small businesses which can be hit hard during these times.

19-Ask someone you love for forgiveness. Reconnect with an old friend. Offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt you. Life is too short. (My older sister and I prayed this morning for this very thing and as we did, I was reminded of the time she threatened someone with a lipstick…well in my mind it was lipstick…If you knew her, you’d know she couldn’t even hurt someone with lipstick).

20-Make up your own tip!

This challenge in our world is a great OPPORTUNITY! Seize the day!

You’ll be amazing once you start doing some of these things how your anxiety will decrease and how you will not have time to be fearful.

Overcome evil with good today!

Dr. Atwell

Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

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What NOT to say?

Have you ever had one of those “stick your foot in your mouth” moments. Well, I’ve had plenty….Recently, while on a trip to Chicago with my famous DJ friend, Candice and other friends, we were able to meet some of the actors and actresses from the Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago PD TV shows (which was pretty cool so I had to mention). We also met a real life Chicago fireman (a real hero is really cool though) at one of the events.

While one of my friends and I were discussing life with the nice fireman, I joked about my son entering the teen years and being fearful of the images girls may try to send him or vice versa on a phone (which he doesn’t have yet). My joke was, “If Chloe the Ho-y” tries to send an in appropriate picture of her body to my son, I may flip out. As I said this, the kind fireman turned to me and said, ….”My daughter’s name is Chloe.” Of course, I was mortified that I had unintentionally used his daughter’s name in my silly comment, and I wanted to put my foot in my mouth at the time. Eventually, I apologized and donated to the charity he was promoting for the Chicago Fire department to show my gratitude.

On a serious note, around this same time back home in the South, one of my best friends was going through a terrible time of grief from losing a baby. We went from preparing showers and picking out pink hair bows for a precious little girl to preparing meals for two grieving parents and picking out thinking of you gifts. As I called, sat with, and walked with my friend trying to listen to her and just be there, I was reminded of the things people say trying to help during difficult times, that actually do the opposite of help. Therefore, I thought I’d encourage you as you read this blog for “What not to say” during difficult times.

1-Time heals all wounds.

Death isn’t something we were ever created to handle. God created us to live forever with him in the garden, but sin screwed this up and the world we live in is now broken and death is a part of the brokenness.  Although, it doesn’t have to for those who believe in Jesus paying their penalty for sin and dying in their place :). This is the good news/gospel!

2-When can you move on or you need to move on?

Some people can’t move on, they just have to go on. The good news is that God won’t waste their pain. He can make beautiful things from ashes.

3-Everything happens for a reason (as if it was a good reason).

Again, this isn’t helpful and sometimes the reasoning stinks. The main reason bad things happen is because we live in a broken world…

4-At least you…fill in the blank.

This doesn’t make anyone feel better during a tough time.

5-Be thankful…

Sometimes people can’t be during a tough time and someone telling them to be thankful makes it worse. 

6-I know how you feel.

No two people are alike, no two people experience things exactly alike. So no, you really don’t know…

7-What can I do for you?

Be more specific. Ask, “Can I bring you dinner on Monday?

8-Call me if you need me.

They won’t call, call them just to check in.

9-God needed her more than you did or God needed another angel.

This is not biblical. God doesn’t need us, he chooses to partner with us in this world to do His work. God doesn’t need babies in heaven either. Also, people don’t become angels. People who are grieving aren’t helped by a statement like this and it’s also not true. Again, the loss of a loved one is a result of a broken world. (period) 

10-Nothing.

Acknowledge that a loss happened, and say something encouraging… See suggestions below.

Bonus: “Whatcha got in there?” Recently, at a family funeral, an old lady from a past church, came up and patted one of my family members on the stomach and asked, “Whatcha got in there?”, to which my family member replied in a very sweet voice, “fat”. Little did the old lady know, this person has had a very difficult few years resulting in a few extra lbs. I told this family member, an appropriate response would have been to pat the old lady on her chest and say, “Whatcha got in there? Probably not a heart!” Actually, I know vengeance is not ours, but God’s…PS. Just because you are an old lady doesn’t give you the right to be rude.

Here are some things to consider saying:

  • I’m so sorry.
  • I’m praying for you. However, don’t just say it, do it!
  • No one should have to go through this.
  • My favorite memory of your loved one is when…
  • I’d love to hear about your loved one.
  • I think about you and your loved one often.
  • Your loved one will be missed.
  • I’m sure you miss him/her so much.
  • Every life matters no matter how short or how long. This life mattered to me and I know to you as well.

Finally, Job’s friends in the Old Testament often get a bad rap for saying all the wrong things when he lost everything-which they did. However, did you know that at first they sat with him in silence for seven days?! Job 2:13, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Sometimes, we just need to go and sit with those who are grieving.

Be blessed this week and let’s all think and pray before we speak to those who are hurting,

Dr. Atwell

PS. If you’d like to donate to the Chicago Fire Department charity, you can do so at http://www.ignitethespirit.org

Donating to a charity or cause is another way to show someone you care about them as they are grieving and to assure them that every life matters. My personal favorite is to donate Gideon bibles (www.gideons.org). This way, life can be made possible for others by sharing the gospel.

Below is a pic from our trip :).

IMG_1905.jpg

 

 

 

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I didn’t know, but I knew…

Have you ever heard someone make this statement? Have you ever heard a story and thought, “Surely, they had to know”? As a counselor, I have the privileges of hearing stories weekly of people in all types of situations and circumstances. It is truly and honor to walk through tough times with people or to help people process painful pasts.  I don’t take it lightly that people trust me to share their deep concerns, thoughts, etc. With that said, there are often times, I say to individuals, “You knew, didn’t you?” and most often they respond with something similar to, “I did, but I didn’t want to know, so I suppressed it”.

At the end of WWII, when American soldiers discovered for the first time one of the concentration camps they had heard about in Ohrdruf, an American general ordered for the major of Ohrdruf and his wife to visit the camp.  After visiting the concentration camp, the major and his wife killed themselves and a letter was found after that said, “We didn’t know, but we knew.” (www.clevelandandjewishnews.com)

Wow, you may say, “Thanks for depressing us today!” Here is the good news, turning this blog around…As a counselor who is also a Christian, I can offer hope to those who want to know. I believe as the Bible states, that the truth of God is written on the heart of all people (Romans 2:14-15 …They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”; Ecclesiastes 3:11: eternity is written on the heart of every man). Some people just suppress the truth, while others embrace it. I believe it is why atheists can’t explain where guilt, conscience, and the desire to worship something comes from. Most who dare to be honest with themselves, suppress the truth of a divine creator because they don’t want to ultimately be accountable for their actions and what they’ve done with their lives.

The good news (the gospel) of Jesus Christ is that while we are accountable for our choices in life, He came to pay our debt. We could never do enough to make ourselves right in the eyes of a perfect God, but the good news is that Christianity isn’t about what we can do, but what was done for us. As we celebrate Easter, embrace what you know deep down, that a good God exists, He created you, although choice led us to go against Him, He provided a way back to a relationship with Him through Jesus who bled and died in our place and defeated death as He rose again so we don’t have to experience death (eternal separation from God and all good things).

As the end of your life, don’t let it be said as the mayor and his wife, “We didn’t know, but we knew.” May it be said about you, “I did know about God and I knew Him through his son Jesus!”

Happy Easter!

Dr. Nat

 

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Life lessons learned from running a marathon

This past weekend. I ran my first and likely my last marathon (26.2 miles). My feet still hurt, but it is a great feeling to accomplish such a physical and mental task. Running has been a part of my mental health routine, friendships, physical health routine, fundraising efforts, and life in general for the past 11 years. Through the years of running, I have experienced those scriptures coming to life about “running the race”.

Here are the lessons I learned along with some scripture and my paraphrasing :).

1-Don’t start out like an idiot. If you do, you’ll burn out and not be able to finish strong if at all. Read Proverbs (all of them) to help with this one. *Tip, I read one a day, there are 31 and typically about 31 days in a month.

2-God gives you different people for different parts of your journey. God blessed me with some friends who helped me train, a supportive family who cheered me on and gave me time to train, friends who ran the day of, new friends along the way, and a friend who ran with me the final leg to push me across the finish line! This reminds me of Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

3-Take advantage of the aid stations. Ask for help and stop for aid when needed. Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

3-Be thankful for the cheerleaders. There were people all along the course with signs, some serious “Run with purpose” and some funny such as “Don’t trust your farts.” Sometimes we need people to encourage us in a serious manner and sometimes we need those who will make us laugh. Appreciate them all :). I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”

4-Enjoy the scenery. Sometimes, we need to look around us to get our minds off the pain of pounding the road. God has given us a beautiful world to enjoy. John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

5-Act your way into a feeling. Keep going, don’t listen to ever ache, pain, mental or physical and just keep going. Feelings are often misleading. If you wait until you feel like doing something, you will likely never do it. Just act!  Psalm 119: 32 “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.”

6-It’s ok to take a bathroom break. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself past the point of no return. After the break, keep going.

7-Some miles in the middle are really hard. Pray your way through. Pray for others and get your mind off of your own stress. Isaiah 40: 31 “..but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

8-Help those around you. It helps to get your mind off of yourself. There was a sweet girl I met who needed me when I needed her with three miles to go and by encouraging her, she encouraged me to keep going also. Encourage those around you. I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”

9-Compete with yourself not others, this is your life/race. Don’t try to look at what others are doing, life the life God created for you. Let Him write His story with your life which is not to be like any other. I Corinthians 9: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;

10-Don’t quit, Keep going. When you want to stop, don’t, keep fighting, finish! 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

11-Be thankful for those who come alongside you in the end to help you finish strong. Thank you to my friend and brother who came to push me at the end! Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Happy running,
Love you all,

Natalie

 

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Have you ever felt awkward at a wake/funeral?

I recently attend a wake for someone that I didn’t have a relationship with, but I went out of respect for someone I love deeply. Sometimes, it is nice to support someone even if you don’t support the people they are related to…

Here’s how I dealt with the awkwardness:

-I looked for humorous things people have in common. I noticed that a local cigarette manufacturer was likely financed by many people in this family. There were oxygen tanks, tracheotomies, and all kinds of smoke related wrinkles at this wake.

-I realized certain types of rebels are worse than others. It’s ok to be a rebel sometimes. Some people think certain hair styles should stay around forever. I guess these people are hair rebels! I’d rather you be this type of rebel than other types..

Joke with your mother about her outfit. If she has a pocket, put a snot rag or other inappropriate object in her pocket for a nice surprise later.

Enjoy the weird funeral home furniture. I have a family member who works in a funeral home now and sometimes this person takes hand-me-down furniture home… couches only not coffins, yet. I still wonder though why a funeral home had a sleeper sofa…?

Giggle at strange conversations. A family member for some reason thought telling my spouse about the joys of pot smoking during this wake was a good idea. While some of you reading this may think pot smoking is ok for recreational or medicinal use, this person would probably not be a poster child for your cause.

Investing in your children is worth it! You can’t change who brought you into the world or who raised you, but you can change from your generation on… Thankfully, my father invested in his children things like unconditional love, grace, work ethic, healthy habits like not smoking, how serving others is a joy, and most importantly the love of God. He can’t change his past but he has made a great family investing in his children. Continue to pray for your crazy family members but give it to God and invest your time in your future, your children.

Relationships are tough sometimes. I have read this quote before I think in the book, The Shack, that “most of our hurts come from relationships but so does our healing”. Some people will hurt you in life, but others will help you to heal. If you haven’t found those who can help you heal, keep searching for a great therapist, good friends, and adopt a family if yours is crazy. I adopt family wherever I go. I have wonderful parents, but I’ve also adopted some extra ones from work and church. They would probably agree that I need a village…

Love you all,

Natalie

 

 

 

 

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Not quite an American Sniper but a just as tough American Aircraft Mechanic!

IMG_2346

This past weekend, my husband and I went to see American Sniper. Scenes from the movie, thoughts about veterans, and mostly memories of my dad being in the military have replayed in my mind over and over the past few days. I don’t want to spoil the movie, but I highly recommend it.

I know I often write about my parents, and it’s honestly because I’m blessed to have some pretty amazing ones. My dad was an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force and Air National Guard for 36 years. He served in Desert Storm and the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq during my childhood, teenage and young adult years. Honestly as a child, at first I hated him being gone because my mom was a drill sergeant when he was gone (as a mother now, I know why…dad was also the one who helped with homework…). The wives though are some of the truly unsung about heroines. Mom always said everything went wrong when dad left from water heaters breaking to snakes showing up on the front porch. I would have hated to see some of those terrorists up against my mom when my dad was gone. I watched her kill a bat with a broom and chop a snake’s head off with a shovel when he was gone one time. When he got home as a child, I wanted to know what treasure he brought me. He was gone sometimes 6+ months at a time. He also helped fight fires and things out west every year it seems. As a teen, I remember having nightmares about him in war. As a young adult, I remember meeting him at the airport once when he came home from a long trip to Afghanistan and I was so honored and so overwhelmed with pride, that I almost wanted to sign up for the Air National Guard so I could be like him. Who cares if he wasn’t a sniper, he and every service man and woman have very important jobs and do so to protect us and our freedoms!

I hope today’s blog encourages you to pray for our country, our leaders, our military, and anyone who fights for the freedoms we take for granted daily. I hope to inspire you to say “thank you” to service men and women you know, encourage the families of those who are here struggling while those in their families are serving or even write a congressman to support bills that fight for the proper treatment of veterans.

Lastly, support efforts to help veterans and their families adjust as they return home. PTSD is very serious and people suffering need our prayers, support and assistance whatever this means for you. Maybe it means volunteering, donating funds to aid in treatment of these individuals, paying for someone’s meal to say thanks, or simply saying thanks.

According to the http://www.ptsd.ne.gov site, An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year. The traumatic events most often associated with PTSD for men are rape, combat exposure, childhood neglect, and childhood physical abuse. About 30 percent of the men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD. An additional 20 to 25 percent have had partial PTSD at some point in their lives. PTSD is only one side effect of service, many lose families, and much more fighting to protect us.

I’ll end with the words of Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘what are you doing for others?'”

Proud to be an American,

Natalie 🙂