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christian counseling

Overcomer!

Season 2, Episode 1 is here! Check out this amazing message on how to overcome along with an interview from a friend who survived a shark attack…

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1378717/7604758

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christian counseling

Practical ways to seek unity with others

Terms like reconciliation and unity have seemingly been a part of the vocabulary and conversations of many over the past several months. During this time, we’ve all likely experienced a variety of emotions including anger, hurt, confusion, excitement for change, etc. Recently, I’ve been challenged to consider what “walking in unity” means as I read Psalm 133: 1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”

First of all, walking is a verb as dwell is a verb. Therefore, the question we should ask ourselves is, how are we walking or dwelling in unity with others? Are we seeking relationship with those who are different from us? Are we actively taking steps to learn about people who are different from us? Are we stepping out of our comfort zone to meet new people and befriend others?

Over the years as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor who is also a board certified professional christian counselor, I have counseled many who have been hurt by people who are different from them. These differences span from racial differences, cultural differences, family differences, differences in opinion, religious differences, differences within one’s own church, political differences, and a new one this year differences in responding to the COVID-19 (or the CORID as my mom calls it). Differences in the past that have led to behaviors that have cause hurt often lead people to shy away from getting to know others in a new setting.

Therefore, I want to recommend some tips for how we can seek unity and dwell in unity in ways that can help overcome hurt.

1-Get out of your comfort zone and initiate a conversation with someone different.

2-Invite your neighbor, co-worker, or family member, etc. who is different from you (race, religion, political beliefs, career/job, etc) out to lunch and get to know the person. Ask what they believe and why.

3-Change up your routines. Don’t sit in a same spot all the time. Don’t sit in the same section at church all of the time. Don’t just speak to the same people each week. Send a card to someone new or to an old friend. Walk down a different hallway at church. Take a different route on a daily walk.

4-Attend church or another cultural event with someone different from you and invite that person with you as well.

5-Volunteer with a local non-profit or even the local police or fire department to learn more about the people serving out community.

Finally consider memorizing 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 where Paul instructs us how our love for others should look as we seek unity.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If we have this loving attitude and perspective, others will be drawn to the unity we have with God.

Have a great week,

Dr. Atwell

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Happy, Happy, Happy!

No, this blog has nothing to do with Duck Dynasty but I do love the catch phrase…. Lately, I’ve been encouraged to pray for and seek wisdom. My word of wisdom this week has been how to be happy. I’m generally a happy, silly person, but life is hard and I see so many people seeking after happiness the wrong way. You see I love school supplies and my recent purchase of erasable colored pencils are currently making me happy, but this happiness won’t last b/c I will settle into my Statistics book and the colored pencils I’m sure will not keep my happiness going to page 1000!

First of all, I believe happiness is attainable. Second of all, I do not believe you will be happy if happiness in and of itself is your goal. Third, I think most people are ultimately living to achieve it.

I’ll start with my third thought…the world is full of people trying to find a mate, a career, a calling, etc.. all to be what? Mostly likely, they are looking for happiness. Second, I believe what the bible says about happiness… Consider this:

Matthew 5: 1-12 (my paraphrase and the Message too)

1-The person who stops seeking after selfish things, but wants more of God is blessed/happy.

2-You are happy when you can truly allow yourself to be embraced by God which can be when you’ve lost what is most dear to you.

3-You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (the message)

4-You are happy when you want God more than anything you could ever want to eat or drink.

5-You are happy when you truly care about others.

6-You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (the message)

7-You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.(the message)

8-You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom…Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You are happy when you speak truth in love. (the message and me)

You see I’m learning that happiness is a byproduct of doing these things. If you try to do these things with God’s help and focus on these things, happiness will result. If you seek only happiness, you won’t get anything but dissatisfaction. So, get busy caring for others, seeking to be right with God, teaching people to cooperate, being content, choosing God above all else no matter what anyone thinks, and you’ll find true happiness.

“Shoot for heaven and you’ll at least get the world, try for just the world and you’ll likely get nothing” (Tim Keller).

Have a happy, happy, happy week!

Love,

Natalie

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What superpower would you like to have?

Counselors often ask weird questions like, “if you could have a superpower, what would it be?” A woman whose suspects her husband of cheating might like to have the power of being invisible so she could spy. A traveling businessman may like to fly so he didn’t have to wait at the airport. Having boys, I have been asked this question too. As a matter of fact, one of my boys asked me which superhero was my favorite and I said “Captain America” (honestly because he’s the cutest) and my son being the wonderful judge of character he is, said, “why because you want to kiss him?”, No I said…”because I’m patriotic and love my country;  besides, I can only kiss your daddy like that ;).” Kids…

Here’s a thought on what I consider to be a true superpower, LOVE. We see images of love all around, we see things in then media that look like love according to some, we hear songs about love all over the radio, etc. Let’s look at love as a superpower and maybe it’ll help you through a Thanksgiving dinner or other fun and challenging moments in life.

1 Corinthians 12: 3-14 gives a completely different definition of love than what were are often exposed to in this crazy world. It introduces the definition in verses 3-7 by saying “If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Do you have this superpower? Love has the power to transform lives, free people from pain, heal, and much more. This is much more effective than being invisible or flying. We long and need to experience this superpower. ry this definition of love and see what happens!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankful for the love of Christ who showed this definition of love by laying his life down for me,

Natalie 🙂

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Weeping can be a good thing.

I’m not sure if anyone thinks they are a pretty crier or not, but most people look like they are in pain in their face when they are crying. Personally if I’ve cried a bucket full, my eyes swell, nose is puffy and my top lip swells…Not a pretty sight.

However, crying and weeping can be a good thing…I know of some parents who had to discipline their son not so long ago for lying and being lazy. He told his after school care taker that he didn’t have any homework and he told his parents that he was fine in school. However, the truth awaited in his agenda and homework folder. When asked, he came up with an excuse as most kids do. His parents decided that he would lose his technology and TV privileges for two days as a result and he would have to apologize to his after school worker for lying. The boy was so upset over losing privileges for sure, but also he realized that what he did was wrong. He wept so long that he cried himself to sleep. He said he was sorry for disappointing his parents and for making poor choices. The parents hugged him and loved him as he wept but didn’t try to stop him from crying because they felt in this instance the crying was good. Remorse is a good thing.

We can learn so much from this little boy…when is the last time you wept over your sin (bad choices)? Do you really care about how you treat others? Do you really care if you spend all of your money frivolously? Do you really care enough to pray for others who you may not know that are fleeing their homeland because of terrorism? Is a little flirting really harming your marriage? Or do you like most of us make excuses for all of your choices? Do you really believe you are good enough to get to heaven on your own? The Bible says that no man is righteous on his own which is why we need a savior, which I believe is Jesus. We need to confess. We need to realize that some of our choices are hurting us, others or God. We need to weep again and truly see a need for change so that we ask God to help us make a change.  Weeping that leads to confession or change is a great thing. Counseling can be a place of confession, church can be, etc.. but don’t get so calloused or cold-hearted or simply too busy not to wrestle with the condition of your heart and soul. Little issues left alone can become big problems in the long run.

God Bless you today,

Natalie

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Sometimes you have to act your way into a feeling…

What in the world does that mean, you may be thinking… Well let me explain. This morning I had a conversation with a lovely, beautiful lady inside and out who encouraged me to write something based off of our conversation (probably joking, but at any rate here we are). We were discussing working out being a part of my weekly routine, eating healthy…not so much. I love healthy food, however, I also love sweets! No your muffin top does not make you a cute cupcake in case you were wondering. As a counselor, I know how to make change, but putting it into practice is a whole other thing.

I find that often times what keeps people from changing is that they are waiting on something to happen (New Year’s Day, a wedding to plan for, or a variety of other things). Mostly, I believe people are waiting until they feel like changing to change. Well, good luck with that plan. Feelings are misleading. They should not be dictators of your actions. If so, I’d be on an episode of my 400 lb life. Let’s face it, salads are great, but nothing warms your mind and belly like a chocolate chip cookie. So, sometimes I believe we need to act our way into a feeling. Make a choice to change, then take actions, and hopefully the feelings will come. This is applicable to lots of situations if you think about it. For example:

-Act like a good spouse, and maybe you’ll start feeling something again

-Fill out your application to go back to school, go to class, and then you’ll have a degree which feels good.

-Act like a good parent (discipline your kids, spend time with them, love them) and you may experience a good feeling one day.

-Make an appointment with a counselor and deal with your stuff, after the hard work, you will start to see positive results.

However, remember these important tips too:

-Things that are worth it are never easy.

-Results are not immediate. You didn’t get here over night nor will you likely change in a night.

Praying for you to make a positive change,

Natalie 🙂

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In the world of “friends” and “likes”, what truly makes a good friend?

My heart truly goes out to the youth of today (this makes me sound so old…). They are bombarded with social challenges because of social media. They are constantly faced with identity issues, comparing and being compared to others, and achieving a status based on how many people “like” their posts or lives. Personally, I want to take the pressure off of everyone and say, just be ________________ (fill in the blank with your name).

This past weekend a friend of 20+ years (again…wow I’m feeling old) asked me to come and do a “talk” with a group of middle/high school girls that she works with in her job. My friend, Candice and I met at an 8th grade dance when I was invited by a friend to a different school’s dance. She taught me her cool dance moves and then got upset when I danced with a guy the girls liked at that school. Isn’t this just like us girls, to like each other one minute and the next to get upset? Since then though, God has used her in my life as a true friend. We have laughed mostly, cried, danced, gotten in trouble together, been in each others weddings, at each others baby showers, and much more. Here are a few things we discussed at the talk:

  • Consider this…Do people describe you as a friend? Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Do you love the people in your life at all times? Can you be happy for them when they succeed and you don’t? Can you mourn with them when they are struggling? Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who are rejoicing, mourn with those who are mourning.
  • Psalm 139:14 “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. Be who God wants you to be, not anyone else; find friends who love you for you (silly, goofy, strange, moody, …YOU), have many friends not just one, don’t qualify them by calling one a “best”…etc. On a side note, I learned teens call their group of friends their “squad or fam” now..Interesting.
  • As a friend, don’t judge your friends. If they make a wrong choice, love them, forgive them. Luke 6:37 Judge not, condemn not; forgive and you’ll be forgiven. 
  • Good friends communicate, but don’t HAVE to daily, they don’t HAVE to “like” every one of your posts. They also speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15. speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15 Accept when your friend tries to confront you, help you, speak truth to you in love.
  • Accept and embrace this truth… friends will come and friends will go. Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 talks about a time for everything…verse 5 says, there is a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. Some friends are short term and some are long term. Don’t force friendships and if a friendship needs to come to an end or just simply just end, let it go. Be thankful for having a friendship with that person at a specific time in your life, but don’t feel like you have to hang on to someone who is negative in your life.
  • Lastly, be thankful for the gift of friendship. Be thankful for your friends. Let them know you appreciate them. Praise God the giver of all good things for friendship! James 1:7 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

I hope this information makes you think today about friendship. In conclusion, I’ll share one of my favorite memories with Candice. We were in the marching band together on the band front. Which regardless how nerdy my husband says that is, it was cool at our high school. We had a large band of over 300 kids. Candice was a majorette and I was a flag girl. We were practicing in the hallway during class and she had to take the end of her baton off so I was helping her and as I pulled it off, I fell back and knocked over the custodian whom I didn’t see. She rolled on the ground like a rollie pollie and complained of her arm hurting as Candice and I couldn’t stop from laughing so we got chewed out by our captains for laughing…Oh well. I tell you about the time I dented a tuba with my flag later…

Have a great week!

NatalieIMG_3608

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I’m part Brazillian: finding joy in similarities and differences

A precious baby in a village.
A precious baby in a village.

Kristin and a village leader. Kristin is the one who was supposed to push me down..
Kristin and a village leader. Kristin is the one who was supposed to push me down..

My roommates:)
My roommates:)

Too often these days, we (I’m referring to most people from the US) focus on one another’s differences too often in a negative way and lack the joy of looking at the similarities we have. Maybe if we start with where we are alike and appreciate one another’s differences, we can find ways to love one another.

Here are some insights I gained from a mission trip to a third world country recently where they do things differently:

-Contentment is a gift: accept your circumstances and focus on the good. Some places won’t allow you to throw your poop paper in the toilet, so if you can… appreciate a good flush! I dare you to count your blessings for one day instead of focusing on the things you think are wrong in your life. If you try this, let me know how it went in a comment.

-Being affectionate is something you can learn to appreciate: Hugs can affect your mood in a positive way. I watched  people over the past week hug people they didn’t even know from a foreign country..why can’t we do that with people who live right next to us, work with us, eat dinner with us, or sit next to us in church?

-Flexibility and your attitude make life much easier. If a flight gets cancelled or your day doesn’t go according to your plan, turn it into a fun experience. My husband said I could kiss an airline supervisor guy b/c he was so nice to me:) see picture. I was still getting home a day later than planned but it wasn’t quite as bad as if I would have decided to stay ticked off for things out of my control. You can have fun in any place or circumstance.

-Don’t sweat the small stuff: a frog can be a weird thing in your room. My roommates and I in Brazil also roomed with a frog. Our leader told us to leave the frog because he would eat the mosquitoes. We did and even though it woke one of us up in the middle of the night by jumping on a neck, it wasn’t the end of the world. Sometimes, we need eo realize what things are small, and in the scope of life…most things are small.

-Perspective is everything: how can you change your perspective. Whatever it takes for you to change the lens from which you are viewing the world, do it from time to time. It’s worth it. Go on a trip, try to make a new friend, have a discussion with someone you dislike, watch a show with your kid, etc.

-Racism vs classism: they both suck, being judgmental only hurts you. In the US, we suffer from racism unfortunately. In Brazil, they suffer from classism. They don’t really have that many races but they do have a class system that hurts them as a country just like racism hurts the US. We went to work with the most poor and looked down on people in Brazil. It was a blessing, but it made me think about how we are all God’s creation and He loves us all. I believe we all came from the same two individuals, Adam and Eve so we are from the same family. I sure wish this view could break down the barriers and painful ways we judge one another. I believe with God all things are possible though…

-College students are cool: give people a chance. I had to room with a kid in college. Actually she’s a young lady, but when you realize you could have been her parent, it feels appropriate to call her a kid. We don’t have much in common as far as life circumstances at the moment. I’m married, she’s dating. I’m a mother, she’s not. I’m a career person, she’s studying. However, after a week of rooming together, I’ve gained a new friend. Give people a chance, even young ones. You just might gain a new friend!

-Most of your fears don’t come true: being eaten by an anaconda. One of the girls on the trip was told by her best friend to push me down if she saw an anaconda and run so the snake would eat me first. I understand the love of a best friend, but was only slightly amused by the comment especially after one night when the power was out and she and I were outside walking, the fear seemed like it could be a real occurrence. However, I’m glad I faced the fear and went to Brazil and wasn’t eaten by an anaconda.

-My Brazilian roommate and translator told me “I’ve never met an American like you, you are crazy. I like it because you are like a Brazillian.) Apparently, I fit in:) I’ve also been told by one of my favorite people in the world that I have “sister hips”, which I also love. Therefore, I’m part Brazilian, part “African American”, and I’m sure much more! You see, we really do have a lot more similarities than we think even if our skin looks different or we don’t speak the same language.

God Bless you today!

Love,

Natalie

Romans 14: 1-23

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. …

Colossians 1: 16-17:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Revelation 7:9
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands… (I love this verse, how beautiful heaven will be)!

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I stabbed my husband with a butter knife

I realize that those of you who do not know me personally think I am completely nuts simply for reading the title of today’s blog. Well, you have made a good judgment. 🙂 I am not perfect and so thankful for God’s grace which the only way my husband can deal with me.

Speaking of nuts, I was making a peanut butter sandwich for my son one afternoon and was also tired from a long 6 mile run that morning when my husband decided to come up behind me and grab my calf in an attempt to scare me. First of all, men beware of a women with any type of kitchen utensil in her hand. My calf was sore and my reflexes were highly functioning so I jerked back and accidentally stabbed my husband in the arm with a butter knife. He actually still has the scar over a year later. Personally, I think he should have it tattooed on so he will be reminded to be treat me with caution. Amazingly enough, we are still married.

I started with this funny, true, story but unfortunately many spouses and family members are victims of real abuse everyday. Home should be your place of comfort, rest, enjoyment, and quality time with family. However, this isn’t the case for many families. Safehorizon.org reports that 60% of domestic violence incidents happen within the home.

If you are being abused:

-Get help by contacting a local shelter or at least by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1−800−799−7233 or visiting the website at http://www.thehotline.org

-Let others help you instead of thinking you are alone.

-Remember you are worthy of true love and respect which never includes violence from a partner.

Many of us also may not be victims, but we have friends or family members who are suffering and we want to help. Here are some tips:

-Be a friend and ask how you can help.

-Don’t offer to be everything to him or her, the person needs to decide to get help of his or her own. He or she may simply need a listening ear until they decide they are ready to leave or get outside help from authorities.

-Don’t be afraid to contact the authorities and let them handle situations instead of you trying to be in the middle which may result in you getting hurt too.

-You can find more specific tips online and are advised to do so.

God Bless,

Natalie

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Happy Not so New Year!

That doesn’t sound like a very exciting title I know…However, I hope you’ll be encouraged by this blog as I explain…So many people set resolutions and set out to change themselves, their surroundings, etc. in a New Year. The idea of starting fresh, starting new, starting over is very appealing.

According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40 to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year.

Top new year’s resolutions: By far, the top 3 new year’s resolutions are:
– weight loss,
– exercise program,
– stop smoking.
Also popular are resolutions dealing with better money management & debt reduction.

The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
– past the first week: 75%
– past 2 weeks: 71%
– after one month: 64%
– after 6 months: 46%

While a lot of people who make new years resolutions do break them, research shows that making resolutions is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions:

I am definitely an advocate for setting goals and use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques weekly to help clients set goals. However, today and in 2015 I want you to focus on and think of one thing that you do not want to change… What do you like about yourself? What are you excited about accomplishing in the past? We are all a work in progress and it is important sometimes to appreciate your past successes and even your failures if you’ve learned from them. At the very least appreciate the marvelous creation you are:)

Happy New Year!

Natalie Atwell