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Techniques given most often in 2020 should be repeated in 2021.

As I reflect back on 2020, and more people seemingly needed counseling than ever before in my entire career, I thought it may be useful for you to know some of the techniques given most often in 2020.

1-Turn off the news. The main goal of the modern day news is ultimately to obtain viewers. Journalism today often uses sensationalism, defined as the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement. Therefore, it is not helpful. If you want to be informed as I do, try something such as a positive news podcast I found a year or so ago called, The World and Everything in it. Or try getting headlines only sent to your email once a day. Do not endlessly watch Fox News, CNN, etc. Try turning it off for a week, and let me know how you feel…

2-Focus on what you can control. 2020 tried to teach us that we are not in control, however, most people in living this out tried even harder to control which frequently resulted in more stress and anxiety. You can’t always control getting a virus (masks, gloves, hazmats, etc included). However, you can be intentional with your family and friends (i.e. play games together, call one another, send care packages, etc). You can help others (volunteer for a local food bank, organize a food drive). You can try to be healthy by eating healthy and exercising. You can turn off the news. You can seek God by reading his word daily and spending time with him, the one who actually is in control….

3-Practice deep breathing. Take many deep breaths daily. Use breathing apps or exercises if needed. Just try not to breath in the Covid…

4-When you feel in a panic, slow down your racing thoughts by focusing on your five senses. What do you see right now? What do you smell? feel? taste? hear? Don’t call the person who will get you even more hyped up than you are….

5-When changes happen in our world, find a new routine to help you find order in the chaos. If you work from home now, create a schedule for your work day that includes a lunch break, stretch breaks, and a stop time.

6-Don’t judge others who aren’t reacting the way you are to the changes. Be respectful and kind and follow your convictions without judging others. Judging is God’s job and when we try to do it we feel horrible. So stop.

7-Be social however you can be during a pandemic. If you feel comfortable being with family and friends, spend time in person with them. If you can’t, drive by their homes and spend time 6 feet apart, have zoom or FaceTime parties, etc. We need people no matter how much they get on our nerves at times.

8-Realize grow happens out of your comfort zone and practice doing things that are always comfortable. Try a new hobby. Talk to that neighbor you’ve never met. Pray for your enemy. Exercise. Become friends with someone who doesn’t look like you. Stop making excuses for why you can’t or won’t do something.

9-Make the best of all situations by fostering an attitude of gratitude. List five things you are grateful for each day. Consider the benefits of online learning. Remember the times you wished you worked from home. When you go back to the office, be thankful that you don’t also have to do laundry during your lunch break!

10-Pray, in all things at all times. Make prayer a part of your daily routine, not just once a day or at meals. Talk to God about everything. Ask him what you should be learning during this time. Inquire about why you were created to live during this specific time in history.

Praying you use the hindsight 20/20 view of 2020 for good this year. Make it a happy new year!

God bless,

Dr. Atwell

PS.. I’m praying you all cultivate God’s earth with love and grace as you realize you are made in his image to reflect his goodness! Genesis 1…

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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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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 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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Roger and the value of every life.

Recently, my son brought home a worm that he was supposed to nurture and care for that would turn into a beetle. I confess that I am not fond of bugs. I appreciate their place in God’s creation, but I don’t want them in my home. My son was excited about this insect he named, Roger. He fed him, made sure he had air and talked to him daily. However, when we went on vacation after three weeks of nurturing, I didn’t think Roger was ready to travel and I didn’t want him left home to possibly turn into the beetle and be in our home roaming freely, so I relocated his plastic cup home to the trash and figured he could survive in a landfill if God wills it at this time.

Being the amazing mother I am who always wants to teach a lesson to my children, I decided that if my son was ready to be a father, he would have come up with a plan to care for Roger on our vacation and since he didn’t, I had to do what I had to do with Roger. Hopefully, you see the sarcasm in “amazing mother” and that at this point you will  continue reading although some of you may think I’m heartless. My son is definitely not ready to be father as he didn’t even ask about Roger’s whereabouts for a week and thankfully he isn’t physically able to become a father also at this time.

When he asked about Roger, I told him the truth and he cried and was very upset for a while. We talked about Roger having a future in the landfill and that he was a part of nature and not a human life with a soul, etc. He has since moved on, but our discussions about the value of human life have continued. Kids often understand God’s plans more often by simply believing and not adding worldly spins on matters of human life as adults do. Ask most children about killing a baby in the womb at any point and they will most likely think you are crazy for even considering it. My son didn’t question that “Roger” was a living thing as a tiny worm even before he became a beetle… How then do we as adults question a baby from the point of conception as anything other than a living being?

Again, some may want to stop reading at this point, but hear me out. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t value all life. I believe there is a purpose for all human beings no matter how they enter the world. The God I serve is able to make beauty from ashes. I’ve met amazing clients who were born from incest or rape. I’ve had clients who gave birth to a child from rape and incest situations. In addition, I’ve had clients who’ve had abortions. In my experience, the ones with regrets are the ones who’ve had abortions not children. Let me also state that there is a beautiful way to deal with hurt and unwanted pregnancies such as adoption. In some ways, abortion is really an issue of faith in God. If I have faith in God, shouldn’t I believe he can allow things in my life that don’t come according to my plan to turn into beautiful things.

Finally, as we value all human life, we must also value those who disagree with our beliefs by loving them, showing compassion, forgiving, and praying for them as we want them to do for us. In addition, if you or someone you know has had an abortion and wish you hadn’t, I want you to know that God still loves you and can make beauty from the pain you main feel about this decision. God never wastes our pain. I truly hope my son will forgive me for putting Roger in the trash, and I hope we both learn what we should from this experience.

Praying you value every human life today,

Dr. Atwell

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

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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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Is it ok to be angry?

This week I was given the honor of leading the devotion for Hendrick Motorsports at the weekly devotion lunch. It is such a blessing to join a company who values the word of God and its people enough to take time out of a busy week to focus on encouraging employees. The topic I was given to present to a group of about 90% men who work in a competitive sporting industry was “anger”. It seemed as if the topic was of value, so I thought I’d share with my faithful blog readers.

What is anger?

A feeling of frustration at someone; an expression of letting someone know that you are not happy with the way things are going between you; a possible desire to make things better between two people.

Regardless anger is an expression of frustration that often is masking other emotions such anxiety, sadness, guilt, hurt, shame, insecurity, and/or fear.

Example of how anger masks fear?

The anger a wife may have towards her husband for talking to his friends or texting them more than she perceives he talks or texts her, may MASK a fear that she has of him not enjoying talking to her as much as he does his friends.

OR

Someone is angry at God because a loved one was hurt may MASK a fear that He isn’t completely trustworthy to heal the hurt.

Does God get angry?

Yes, God gets angry: 2 King 17:18 God gets angry, BUT Psalm 7:11 says God is a righteous judge! It’s ok for God to judge it helps us know that He will get vengeance on those who’ve hurt us. Seeing loved ones go thru terrible things, you can only live by knowing God will judge one day and right all wrongs.

Jesus got angry: Matthew 21:12-13:Jesus overturned the tables (it was a den of robbers instead of a house of prayer) BUT in the next verse, V14- The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. He didn’t lose his compassionate nature even in the midst of frustration/anger.

The Holy Spirit gets angryThe Holy Spirit is grieved (can be explained as anger), but gives us instruction on how we can righteously respond and not grieve Him (Ephesians 4).

The difference is God’s anger is righteous and our often is unrighteous? JD Greear says, “Unrighteous anger is often loving the wrong thing or loving the right thing out of proportion. One way to tell is to ask yourself ‘What is my anger defending?’ Is it control, convenience, comfort, or hurt?” God’s anger is slow, controlled, loving, and redemptive!

How can we handle anger properly?

A: ASK for help.We need God’s help through the power of the Holy Spirit to respond righteously. We are called to PUT on the new man which is characterized by patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Asking for help may also include seeking counseling, talking to family ad  friends, reading and meditating on God’s word and other helpful books.

N: Negotiate boundaries by turning the other cheek. Matthew 5:38-40 suggests, turning the other cheek (face is synonymous with ‘relationship’ in Jewish culture). It doesn’t mean not confronting the issues (turning requires effort), This scripture actually speaks of: confronting the issue, setting boundaries which may require change (turning) and then re-offering the relationship (other cheek) when possible.

G: Give grace; Don’t carry the burden of righting wrongs. It is God’s job. He is in control of the sun, moon, and stars, so let him handle it. Romans 12: Repay no one evil for evil. He is a righteous judge. Ephesians 4: 26-31 Don’t sin from anger, don’t let the sun go down on wrath, don’t steal, encourage one another, listen…Get rid of it… Proverbs 19:11 Overlook offenses… Proverbs 15:1 have gentle words… not hard ones. Giving grace is a way of controlling anger.

“Anger doesn’t produce change, GRACE does!” JD Greear.

E: Engage with God through prayer; Pray without ceasing so you can encourage one another! Our speech should be: only for building one another up, confront issues in love and praising god. 

Be angry and sin not!

Natalie 🙂

PS. Rick Hendrick has the best man cave I’ve ever seen! Wow…cars, sporting collectibles, and musical gems! However, as I left I remembered that nothing compares to the love and grace of God 🙂 and we have the chance to share this with others as we give grace and disallow anger to cause us to sin.

PSS. I had to control my anger as I saw that my alma mater, Liberty is a sponsor of one of the drivers who is also a student because I sure could use a sponsor to pay for my doctorate! 🙂 jk-kinda…

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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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Don’t stop believing!

It breaks my heart that as adults we often stop believing we can do anything. This past weekend, I ran more than I ever thought I could (20 miles). On January 1, I had a moment of insanity (you may think) and registered for a marathon (bucket list goal). My friend and brother asked me to do the Idiot run to prepare, so I said yes and that was the 20 mile race. Why you may ask, didn’t I think I could do this? Well, I was born with club feet and have had four surgeries and am basically circus freak with two different sized feet (a 6 and an 8 if you were wondering). I also have asthma. So what makes me set outrageous goals and seek to meet them?

Honestly, the grace of God, amazing parents, a supportive husband, and a very strong will. Don’t hate the strong willed child, parents! God will use them if they are molded properly. My parents also still believe I can do anything I set my mind to do and ask God to help me with. Kids are so amazing in the belief that they can do anything. Why do we allow them to become beat down by the world and stop believing? So, how can we change this negative mindset that overwhelms so many?

1-Encourage those around you.

2-See the good in those in your life and push them to be the best and who God created them to be.

3-If your friend or child, etc. wants to set a lofty goal, support him/her by doing it with him/her, praying for him/her, and help in any way.

Go set some goals and find some supportive people to surround yourself with today!

Natalie