Categories
christian counseling

Does it really make a difference?

Sometimes, when I consider the vast brokenness of the world in comparison to the seemingly small things I try in order to make a difference, I am overwhelmed. Sure, I’ve asked many times, does it really make a difference? Have you ever asked this question before?

Maybe you have contemplated, does my vote count? Does one dollar make a dent in the cost of this object? If I can’t stop the war, why try to win a small battle? Would it even matter if I forgive the person? Does this small act of kindness matter? Will counseling or talking about my problems actually help?

Sure at times we may say, yes I believe it matters, but often we simply don’t act because we don’t believe it truly does. Actions always speak louder than words.

Recently, my youngest son and I went to be a part of Christmas camps with Ukrainian refugees. We visited four different orphanages that had evacuated from their homes and took refuge in other countries during a war in their home nation. Did we stop the war? No. We we able to provide a loving set of parents to each child? No. BUT we were able to share the love of God with people who’ve essentially lost everything. We were able to spread the joy of Christmas with children. I was able to listen and care for adults who had to leave their homes and families at times to take care of orphans. These individuals and this experience showed us that yes every small thing matters. Simply listening to those who are hurting does help. Giving hope in any way matters!

So today if you are considering whether or not to go an extra step, do a small deed, donate a small amount, leave a kind word, etc. DO it. Let God do a mighty work with your simple act of obedience because as the song goes I grew up singing “Little is much when God is in it…”

Dr. Atwell

Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much: and he that is unrighteous in a very little is unrighteous also in much.

Categories
christian counseling

Giving and Mental Health

Did you know that giving can actually help you mentally? Personally, I believe God designed us this way. He created us and our brains to feel the rewards and joy of giving.

Here are a few things even secular sources have shown.

1-Giving can make you feel happy by stimulating the pleasure circuits in your brain! It can give you a dose of endorphins and promote feelings of peace and tranquility.

2-Giving has been shown to decrease your blood pressure and reduce stress!

3-Giving is a great way to show you believe in reaping what you sow.

4-Giving inspires others to also do good things.

So, take advantage of today, “Giving Tuesday”. There are many places in which you can give, but if you’d like to help my youngest son and me take Christmas joy to Ukrainian orphans, please donate at PayPal at counselorthreads@gmail.com. We are trying to raise $100 per child and caregiver.

We will be visiting two displaced orphanages currently located in Germany and Austria and we play to have Christmas camps with them where we make/decorate cookies, play games, sing songs, and give gifts!

So consider giving today at the very least to increase your own mental health!

Happy giving Tuesday!

Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

Proverbs 22:16 Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

etc…..

Dr. Atwell

Categories
christian counseling

Will you add a Ukrainian orphan to your Christmas list?

I know it may seem early to start preparing for the holidays, BUT my youngest son and I must start now. I’m not referring to putting up decorations and watching Christmas vacation, although I love those things!

This year, we have a chance to help orphans and their caregivers who had to flee their homes from the war. Our plan is to join Glow Mission and Legacy Refuge as we host Christmas camps for refugees throughout Europe!

If you like to help us by sponsoring an orphan, we would be thrilled. The cost is $100 per orphan and we are hoping to raise enough to cover 700 children. If you’d like to donate, please go to Paypal and give to counselorthreads@gmail.com.

Counselor Threads is my new clothing brand I’ve started to help raise money for these and other efforts, but you do not have to buy anything, you can simply donate at Paypal via the email address counselorthreads@gmail.com. I will make sure you get credit for your donation.

You may also send a check to Natalie Atwell, memo: Ukraine orphans and mail it to 170 Davidson Hwy Suite 201, Concord, NC 28027

Watch the video below for more info.

Thank you in advance!

Dr. Atwell and youngest son!

Categories
christian counseling

Transitioning…

This is a hot topic and also a controversial one, but for now, I’m not going to talk about what most think this term refers to in certain settings today. I’m simply going to talk about some of the transitioning we all need to do at times. Maybe you need to transition from skinny jeans to flair leg, OR from soda to water. Just kidding, maybe…

Instead of talking about the transitioning that happens in times of major life events such as a wedding, starting college, becoming a parent, becoming an empty nester, or losing a loved one, let’s contemplate the transitioning of mindsets and attitudes. This is the point in reading, or for me writing, where our minds often think of who could benefit from reading this…Let me challenge you to instead focus on yourself. What mindsets, attitudes, or maybe even relationships do you need to change or let go of?

Our mental health is actually brain health. It impacts our entire body. If we have negative mindsets, attitudes, or hurtful relationships, our entire lives, bodies included, are impacted. You may be thinking, what do you mean?

Here are some examples of negative mindsets:

1-I have NO control over my situation.

2-Life is so unfair.

3-I have zero power to change ___________.

4-I deserve this _________________.

5-______________ (ailment, weakness, mental health struggle) defines me.

What about negative attitudes?

Can you be inattentive, inflexible, jealous, impatient, insincere, irresponsible, indifferent, or heartless?

Finally, review your closest relationships.

Are these people understanding, available, kind, supportive, responsive, reciprocal, and friendly, OR are those you surround yourself with negative, competitive, nasty, gossipy, expect you to be there but they can’t reciprocate?

Now when it comes to transitioning negative mindsets, attitudes, and relationships, the first step is to do what you hopefully just did–identify them.

Once you’ve identified your negative mindsets, attitudes, and relationships, next consider how to transition!

Here are a few positive mindsets to try instead of the ones above:

1-I may not be in control of all things, but I AM in control of some aspects. I can control my reactions and responses to people 2 Timothy 1:7).

2-Fair is not always equal. While I may feel I’m experiencing inequality in one area or another, I will choose to be thankful for the good things in my life. I will also choose to treat others HOW I want to be treated even if I’m not being treated the way I’d like (Matthew 7: 12).

3-I have the power to change __________. I may not be able to fully change things today in the direction I would like, but I can change __________ aspect (Philippians 4:13).

4-I am thankful for the blessing in my life. I choose to be humble and not have an entitled mindset (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

5-I am not defined by my struggle or weakness. I can find strength in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Attitudes:

Today I will be attentive, flexible, excited for others, patient, kind, sincere, gentle, loving, responsible, and selfless in my attitude and subsequent actions.

Relationships:

Today and in the future, I will choose to surround myself with positive people who speak truth in love, who are friendly, kind, supportive, understanding, positive, and who are there for me as I’m there for them.

I also choose to let go of friendships or other relationships that are pulling me down and influencing me negatively. I pray for family members who I may need to set boundaries with and will consider seeking counseling to learn how and when to do so.

I realize transitioning mindsets, attitudes and relationships are not easy, but it can be as simple as what I have stated. My promise is that if you make these transitions, it will be worth it!

Have a great rest of your week,

Dr. Atwell

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

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

I Go Back, how homes make us and how we can use our resources for good.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1378717/8102812

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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
encouragement Uncategorized

Putting Courage In others…

This is the definition of encouragement. Are you putting courage in others?

Recently, I had a friend talk to me about trying to find a new mattress. She and her husband went to 6 or 7 mattress stores. Some were in the same chain…This of course made me wonder why there are so many Mattress stores, which sparked my most recent internet search. Yes, I was the kid who actually love going and pulling the encyclopedias off the shelf to look up things..

An article in the Chicago Tribune stated, “In its best markets, Houston-based Mattress Firm aims to have a store for about every 50,000 people. ‘If you think about how mattresses have been marketed, it’s all about health issues. If you read the ads, mattresses cure everything but balding,'”. This article also said it was an easy purchase during the recession and an increase in infestation of bed buds also promoted sells in recent years.

My friend needed some encouragement to make a needed purchase after 16 years of marriage and one mattress. I put courage in her by recommending a locally owned smaller mattress place and they finally made a purchase!!

I realize this is a silly store to talk about encouragement, but small things are important to God too. He wants you to rest in Him ultimately and help others to find his rest and peace. Encouraging others in big and small things in life can help them to find God’s peace.

Put courage in someone today. Strangers, family, friends, co-workers everyone in your path. Sometimes all it takes is a smile.

Have a great week!

Natalie

I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up..”