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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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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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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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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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Identity Crisis

I remember growing up and hearing this phrase, “identity crisis’. It didn’t quite have the same connotation in the 80s and 90s as it does today. As I look around, interact with, and watch people on television, etc. it is clear to me that many people are truly in an identity crisis. Some define “identity crisis” as a time of uncertainty, confusion, and insecurity related to changes in expected aims or roles in society.

Nerd note: Erik Erikson was the developmental psychologist credited with coming up with identity crisis terms, etc. Another psychologist, James Marcia came up with four stages or statuses of identity:

1-Identity Achieved: People who are committed to who they are and are continuing to explore.

2-Identity diffused: People who are are committed or exploring.

3-Moratorium: People who are on “hold” about making life decisions of who they are.

4-Foreclosed: People who are closed off to contemplated what they want out of life.

Marcia suggested the ideal status is Identity Achieved.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201203/are-you-having-identity-crisis

So what does a Christian believe about identity? What does the Bible say?

In Isaiah 6, God essentially tells Isaiah to go and tell the people that because they have continued to rebel against Him and sought after their own sinful and selfish desires they will, “…Keep on hearing, but won’t understand; keep on seeing, but won’t perceive…”

Paul says, in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

1 Peter 2:9, ” But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

 

The Bible, God’s word suggests that we were created by Him and to truly understand who we are and to do what we were created to do, we must follow Him and die to ourselves. I’ve also heard a wise biblical teacher once say, “If you don’t find your identity in Christ, God will take it away.”

I believe the path to true identity and fulfillment is to follow God’s plans for your life. This involves obeying His commands, following His word, serving others, loving others, sharing the gospel, etc.  Anything outside of this will lead to an unfulfilled life.

The world including popular culture will tell you that identity is based in everything from sexuality, career, marital status, financial status, etc. where God’s view is totally contrary to these which often lead to destruction, pain, and loneliness. God’s call is to follow Him and to be like him. I dare you to try it God’s way.

Be encouraged today,

Dr. Atwell

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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