Categories
christian counseling

Changing seasons: Preparing for and embracing change

Recently where I live, we’ve had a “cold” front come through (it was 68 degrees earlier this morning compared to 98 a week ago…). As the seasons change, I love to focus on the positives such as wearing boots in fall/winter! There are some places in the world where the seasons don’t change, which always fascinates me considering I’ve always lived in a place that has four seasons. Most of these people actually want to experience changing seasons. They’d love to see the trees change colors and experience wearing different types of shoes (I love shoes…) :).

When it comes to changing seasons in life, we often fight the changes instead of embracing the positives that come with the change. During this time of year, some people are preparing to go back to school, to go back into the classroom to teach, to go off to college, starting a new sport, getting their families ready to do the things already mentioned, or possibly starting a new job. The list could go on. The reality that you or someone near you is currently going through a transitions during this time of year is highly likely.

So why not embrace these transitions or help someone do so in positive ways? Don’t be the one who hates “back to school”, cries for weeks when your kid goes to college, complains about getting up early or staying up late for a ballgame, or fusses that you don’t get to see your grandkids enough….

Here are some things to try to take control of my mind and stay positive while embracing the new season whatever it may be.

1-Make the first day back to school fun. I always play the clip from the movie Billy Madison with Adam Sandler singing “back to school…” followed by the Saturday Night Live skit/clip with Chris Farley and Adam Sandler “Lunch Lady land”. They are easy to find on YouTube.com and now my kids have both memorized!

2-Send care packages to your loved ones or friends who have gone off to college. Send fun things, weird but funny advice (Don’t eat yellow snow for example).

3-Send you grandkids handwritten notes. Volunteer in your community. Stay busy helping others instead of focused on negative things. Support your loved ones in the ways they need not the ways you want.

4-Cry briefly if you must, then call the friend who will make you laugh or take you out if you are struggling with your kid starting a new school or moving away and praise God your kid is moving to the next level or that you have kids!

5-Do something each morning that you look forward to. I look forward to my coffee and time with Jesus every morning in my prayer closet. I meditate, pray, journal, sometimes cry, laugh, and try to get my mind right for the day.

6-Try learning something new. Personally, I’d like to try playing pickle ball.

The list could go on, but you get the point. Life is truly what you make it wherever you are and in whatever season. Don’t look back wishing your past were still the present. Looking back may cause you to become a pillar of salt, (Genesis 19:26)– stuck where you are. Appreciate where you are now just as much as being thankful for where you have been. Choose to be the fun old lady, the sweet neighbor, the one who keeps serving and making a difference in her community.

Just like some would love to be experience the seasons changing where they live, enjoy the changes you are going through because many wish they were able to experience the changes you are undergoing. Finally remember that God has great plans for you in every season of life (Jeremiah 29:11).

Be blessed,

Dr. Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

How I believe Pastors and Churches of the SBC should respond to news of the sexual abuse cover up…

This week the Southern Baptist Convention has been ALL over the news sadly for terrible news. As someone who deals with spiritual abuse, sexual abuse in the church, and other atrocities within religious circles, I wanted to offer some professional insight for churches and pastors. SO, if you read this and go to church, please share it with your pastor and church leaders.

First of all let me say that I grew up Southern Baptist (SB) and have a lot of respect for the foundation by which I was raised. As of now, I consider myself someone on the spectrum between a SB and a charismatic. Ultimately, for me this means I am a lover of God’s word and stand on it as absolute truth and I trust the Holy Spirit to guide me daily to adhere to the Word. Secondly, I like to say that I have many SB pastor friends and family members who are amazing, godly men who have never harmed a women sexually. However, thirdly, I strongly believe every church needs to respond to the tragic news of the week…Even if you are in the SBC.

Here’s how I propose to handle it.

1-Do not shy away from the subject. Every pastor and every church should acknowledge the failures of the SBC regardless if something has happened in your church or not. By “acknowledge it,” I mean just that, you may simply only need to mention it to your congregation as a first step. HOWEVER, DO NOT act like it didn’t happen this week in the news. I promise you will lose a lot of respect if you don’t at least mention it THIS Sunday.

2-Have a policy for your congregation for how to address issues should they ever arise related to sexual abuse. This may mean you start with the basics and learn the definition of sexual abuse. Don’t assume you know…

3-Pray for the victims, the pastors, the congregations and everyone involved. Pray for healing, confession, and redemption. Also whether you are a complimentarian, equalitarian, etc. treat women with the respect they are due. They are daughters of the King of Kings.

4-Teach on the subject matter (not just once). God outlines how to treat others in Scripture. We are taught in Ephesians 5 that men are to honor their wives as their own bodies… 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-6 states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.” We are taught to love one another period. Just like I teach my kids about what is and is not appropriate regarding sexual matters and touch, pastors should be preaching on how to treat others and how to help victims.

5-Offer support for victims. Find counselors and others who can help victims you come into contact with. Do not shame victims. Lovingly come alongside victims. Give victims a safe space to be vocal about concerns.

6-Offer support for REPENTANT perpetrators. God is in the redemption business. Often we kick people out instead of lovingly admonishing one another. Find counselors and teachers for perpetrators too.

7-As a pastor or leader, guard your heart, be humble, and surround yourself with those who you allow to call you out and hold you accountable. Beyond sexual abuse in the church from leaders, the main problem I see is narcissistic leaders. I have heard over an over of pastors who cannot take criticism, who are mean-spirited, hot-tempered, etc. As a pastor or leader, you should be SCARED to DEATH of not allowing godly brothers and sisters in Christ hold you accountable and help you stay on guard from yourself, temptations, and the enemy. You are not GOD, you are a minister of the Word and you are held more accountable for being in the position you are in by God. You should walk this out with fear and trembling.

8-Be aware of spiritual warfare and teach on this topic as well. We need to remember who our true adversary is. 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour: Be sober – serious about the fact that you have an enemy who wants to devour you and that is nothing to be nonchalant about! Be vigilant – That means to be on guard. Remind yourself and put your armor on daily. Also teach your congregation how to be on guard and prepare about who the battle is truly against (Ephesians 6).

I truly hope and pray and honestly beg you to respect my thoughts as you seek to push back the darkness in Jesus name,

Dr. Natalie Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

Concerns about the Enneagram

As a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and university professor, I’ve been aware of the enneagram for many years, likely longer than most. However, over the past several years, I have been amazed at how the popularity of this test has increased dramatically especially within Christian circles. I’m often asked what my thoughts are about the Enneagram, so I will share below…

First of all when evaluating assessments and tests seeking to understand yourself, you should find out where the test originated, who created it, the validity, reliability, etc. Second, if you are a Christian, you should find out how it relates to truth as defined in the Bible. Third, ask yourself why you need this assessment or the information it is claiming to provide. Then as always, proceed with caution with anything that seeks to define you outside of God.

My concerns with the Enneagram as someone who has a doctorate in the field of counseling is related to a few things.

1-The “test” isn’t a psychological assessment that has undergone specific design and professional strategies to prove or attempt to suggest reliability or validity internally or externally.

2-The test has similarities and roots pointing to New Age (occult) practices and teachings.

3-This test attempts to put people into categories or boxes (similar to the concerns about critical race theory at times) in a way whereas God’s word never does this and suggests we are all created uniquely and wonderfully different.

3-If we believe the Enneagram is true, then we may latch on to and start filtering everything through the lens of the Enneagram. Similar to astrology or other efforts to explain humans, people have a tendency to latch on to things and begin believing everything a specific belief suggests simply because parts of it make sense. As believers in Christ, we should filter everything through the lens of scripture as it alone provides absolute truth.

4-Do not be easily deceived by things that seemingly “make sense”. This is often how deception occurs.

5-Be cautious about anything that focuses solely on your “self”. Focusing life and truth solely on your experiences is very dangerous and also what New Age teaches not what the Bible teaches. If you experience it, then it is true…This is a very dangerous idea.

6-Finally, remember as christians, we should be going through a sanctification process as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us each day. Therefore, just because at times for example we may struggle with perfectionism doesn’t mean God isn’t working in us to overcome this. Just like we should never say as believers in Christ, “I just struggle with anger, it is who I am.” Rather we should say, I am a new creation in Christ, I will die to my flesh daily. We may not change in an instant but we shouldn’t struggle as much today as we did the day we decided to follow Jesus.

For more information, I urge you to read the following article by: Marcia Montenegro.

https://ses.edu/what-about-the-enneagram/

More articles below:

http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles.html

Be blessed,

Dr. Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

Understanding Transitions

Change is inevitable. We will all go through multiple transitions in life. During the fall season, the leaves in many places change colors on the trees. Some have children going off to college. Some are the ones going off to college and parents of new teens are freaking out of bodily changes… Others are beginning new jobs, trying new activities, etc.

As we have all settled in for the fall in one way or another, it may be important to understand the phases of transition that most people will experience. Transition generally follows this pattern: denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment.

1-Denial: In this phase, you begin to question the change. Was it the right move for us? We begin to feel disbelief that we have decided to make a change of this nature. We may also withdrawal from certain things, activities, etc.

2-Resistance: In the next phase you begin to resist as you become negative about the change. You being to focus on your emotions and personal impact or feelings associated with the change. You may even become less productive or make up excuses for being absent.

3-Exploration: Once you reach this phase, you begin to try new things, experiment with new people/places and possibly take new risks in your new setting. You may also seek answers to your questions during this phase about your transition, etc. This phase will bring about a new excitement and comfort for the change.

4-Commitment: In the final stage of transition or change. You begin to feel more comfortable with where you are and are now able to focus on the future without looking back. In the final phase you accept your new role and set new goals.

As you go through change in life or as you help another go through a transition, remember these stages. People go through these at different rates of time but it is important to know that the feeling, emotions, questions, etc. you have during the phases are normal. Change is a natural and healthy part of life but that doesn’t mean it is always comfortable. However, we will never grow as we can and should if we stay within our comfort zone and never embrace change.

From a faith perspective, we can know that God is the person who never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and will be tomorrow. We can hold fast to his word and person as we deal with the transitions of life.

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Don’t fear change,

Dr. Atwell

Categories
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

Categories
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

Categories
Uncategorized

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

Categories
christian counseling positive thinking Uncategorized

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 🙂

Categories
Uncategorized

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

Categories
Uncategorized

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 🙂