How to respond to evil…

My husband and I recently discovered the Amazon Prime series, “The Man in the High Castle”, which explore what life would be like if Japan and Germany had won WWII. It is a sober, thought-provoking, cliff hanger at the end of every show type of series. I love it but I’ll tell you it make you think and makes you thankful. For example, I would have been exterminated if I was in the Eastern Reich of the States because I was born clubfooted so I’m thankful that I live in a nation where birth defects don’t make you a mistake. However, recently I’ve been thinking even more about making my life matter and doing more for those in need. I was convicted that Americans today are somewhat like the Germans at times by thinking we are better than the rest of the world, happy to live in our nice homes, driving luxury cars, and giving pennies to those in need. It is a sobering yet true thought…

As this thought has been on my heart and I’m praying about what this means for me, I wake up and see the news of Las Vegas… I was reminded of the Bible verse in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome with evil, overcome evil with good.” This is the right way to respond to tragedy. Do good.

It was very sad to see that so many died at a concert last night, but it is also sad that thousands die all over the world of starvation. We cannot be so consumed with ourselves that we miss out on using our blessings as Americans for good.

Here are some ways you can specifically overcome the evil in the world.

Donate to Compassion International. http://www.compassion.com They give food, education and hope to children in extreme poverty.

Pray for the victims and victims’ families from the Las Vegas tragedy.

Pray for the mentally ill in our community and world. Pray for those who work with this population.

Be thankful.

Be kind to a stranger.

Volunteer at a homeless shelter.

Go to a great church and be a part of a family of believers that are working to overcoming evil with good. If you haven’t find one yet, keep searching.

Teach your children to do good and be great people not just great at a sport or activity.

Be encouraged today and overcome this crazy evil world with the good news of Christ today,

Natalie

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I said, “Give me the dang iPad…”

Most of my friends feel the same way I do at this point in the summer, which is that we are ready for the wonderful children that God has blessed us with to return to school. Routine, structure and order are great things. God is a god of order. The sun comes up and the sun goes day each day. There are seasons and things function mostly along with a natural order. Summer is a nice time to relax and try new things with your family and friends if you are a parent, but it can also be challenging.

One of the challenges I am having is to cut out technology with my children. I limit their time better during the school year, I’ll admit. I try during the summer and I’ve had days where we’ve had zero tech time, but my kids sure fight me on it. Why is this, one may ask?

Well, it has been argued by many researchers that screen time creates notable changes in brain chemistry, mostly in the area of dopamine release. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical and is highly related to addiction. People want to feel pleasure and if screen time increase pleasure then of course, one wants more and more. Dopamine also plays a role in sugar and cocaine addictions to name a couple. In May 2013, “internet use disorder” (IUD) will be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. So what is the harm, well first of all, you do not want to allow your child to become predisposed to any type of addiction.

Harmful effects of too much screen time in children:

  • Harm to the ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary
  • Weakening of cognitive muscles (which may not be reversed)
  • lack of the ability to develop critical thinking skills.
  • Loss or harm of empathetic abilities—the near-instinctive way you and I can read situations and get a feel for other people—will be dulled, possibly for good.
  • Difficulty in friendships or other relationships. Screen time can become preferred over real-world interactions due to the pleasure associated.
  • Agression, losing touch with reality.
  • Anxiety: being overstimulated constantly can increase anxiety
  • Increased risks of pornography exposure
  • Increased risks of other types of exposure that you are ready for your child to have.

These effects  and others have been known for years. (Psychologytoday.com) However, sadly the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that the average child spends seven hours of their day looking at a screen, be it a video game, computer, cell phone, or television.

Suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org)

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

Here is a helpful tool: HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan.

My recommendations:

-Teach your kids how to limit and the value of limiting screen time. Make them want to spend time with you doing things outside of using technology.

-Model limiting screen time for them. Don’t be an absent parent b/c you are too busy looking at social media.

-Learn how to turn off all technology and go to bed on time. No one needs to be on all of the time. Those who need should not need you 24/7. At some point, they need to figure out what to do without you. Your kids should know how to get help if you aren’t available.

Have dinner together. Don’t allow technology at dinner time or at restaurants. Why do people go out to eat and stay on technology? Can’t they at least just order take out and go home to ignore one another?

Enjoy God’s beautiful creation, go outside, enjoy his creation of actual humans and interactions with them not just interactions online.

Setting new limits as we speak for my family,

Natalie

A lot of wasted toilet paper: Anger and Love

Growing up in a small town if you didn’t want to drink and party on the weekends at a friend’s house, you had to find something else stupid to do, so we ‘rolled houses’ (aka throwing toilet paper in trees) all the time. At some point it became so much fun to roll the ‘Roper girls’ house that my dad would sit and wait in his car (a very scary 1980 something red Nissan Sentra) laid back in his seat ready to scare some teenagers. It became quite comical and was really a ton of fun. Teens will be teens, right? I’m thankful that my parents let us have fun and didn’t make a big deal out of it as long as we cleaned it up…Parents often get very frustrated parenting teens and teens often get frustrated with parents. As kids, many will go through a phase of saying, “I hate you.” which can truly hurt a parent’s feelings. So how do we deal with angry kids? How do we deal with anger?

Truly, there is a fine line between love and hate. People get angry at the people they love and about the things they love. Anger in and of itself isn’t bad. God may allow anger in us to motivate us to correct evil such as child abuse or poverty or to help us set others things right. Hopefully as adults we’ve learned to manage our anger effectively, but let’s be honest, most of us are still learning in this area. At the same time, for those of us raising children, we need to help them learn how to manage their anger effectively also.

Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell in the book, “The Five Love Languages in Children” state, “The primary lifetime threat to your child is his or her anger.” It’s not pornography, sex trafficking, being kidnapped, drugs, etc. I tend to agree with their further statement, “The mishandling of anger is related to every present and future problem your child may have,–from poor grades to damaged relationships to possible suicide.” Teenagers are often the most difficult to deal with because parents often think, “We’ve tried everything and nothing works.” Teens are often being passive-aggressive, which is a subconscious determination to do the opposite of what the authority figure (parents in this case) wants.  Sometimes, passive-aggressive behavior in teens can be drugs, violence, sexual activity resulting in disease or unplanned pregnancy, school failure or even suicide. The good news is we can learn to manage anger and teach others how to positive manage anger as well.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all anger is wrong and needs to be disciplined in children. Teach them how to manage it. Here are some tips:

-Give them choices. Ask them, “What is/was a better way of handling this situation?”

-Let small things go while parenting teens such as messy rooms or toilet-papering trees! Proverbs 19:11, Overlook offenses at times.

-Encourage physical activities such as mountain climbing, ropes courses, white-water rafting, sport, biking, etc that can help teens to satisfy their desire for excitement and danger.

-Model how to deal maturely with anger. Apologize to you kids when you haven’t done this so well.

-Allow them to tell you they are angry at you. When my kids starting saying, “I hate you or ____ person”. I  encouraged them to say, “I had what you did or I hate what this person did” instead of “I hate you”. Let your kids verbally express anger, which can be better than behaviorally expressing it at times. Let them get verbal at home when you are there to help them so they hopefully won’t do it at school. Allowing this isn’t permissive parenting, it is an opportunity to teach them. Proverbs: 15:1 A gentle angers turns away wrath, but a harsh words stirs up anger. This take time and practice!

-Give behavioral alternatives such as a punching bag. My kids will go punch their pillows. Some kids will hit themselves and I tell them they don’t have the right to harm a body that belongs to God, but they can punch the stuffing out of their pillows!

-Take time to listen to your kids, love them unconditionally and spend quality time with them. Explain your reasoning behind decisions to your kids. Most angry adults felt unloved by their parents. It is a sad but often true reality.

-If you need help, contact a family counselor who can help. Never let pride stand in the way of seeking good counsel. Proverbs 12:15 Wise people realize they don’t know it all and seek wise counsel!

God Bless you all for reading and use anger for good!

Natalie

p.s. A great toilet papering trick: My friend, Jill’s dad was one of the local assistant fire chiefs and he told us to light a match at the end of the toilet paper and it would burn right out of the tree without burning a tree! It worked for us! Just don’t try alone..lol

 

 

My mom and Jane Fonda…

I’m sorry I’ve been gone from the blog scene for a while, life is too busy at times I guess. I do love to write and encourage you all (my two faithful readers).

Since Mother’s Day is this weekend (hint to all those who still need to get something to show their appreciation for the mothers in their lives), I figured I’d write about my mom.

My mom truly is one of my heroes. I really think she can do just about anything. I grew up watching her at home keep an immaculate house. The times we talked were typically on Saturdays as we cleaned the house together with my sisters, and listened to the “oldies music” of the 50-70s. Somehow my oldest sister convinced me that the toilets were my job! Although sometimes her borderline OCD cleaning tendencies drove me nuts, one thing I learned that she kept things nice because it made them last longer. Our house was small, but it was so nicely kept we though it was as nice as anyone else’s. Now, I try to keep my house clean too, but not quite like her. I think my husband married me because he loved how clean my mom was, lol.

Dressed to the nines is definitely a term used to describe her at work. Her work ethic was solid from the tasks she completed, the reputation she acquired, to the clothes she had on. She wasn’t a mom who tried to dress like a teenager, thankfully, but was always dressed professionally no matter what job she did from working in insurance to being a school secretary. She always looked like she could be working in Manhattan. She takes her job seriously and all of her daughters have a strong work ethic as a result. We also like to dress nicely too :).

However, my mom dressed completely different while mowing the lawn and weed-eating. Basically, she looks like Jane Fonda from the old work out VHS days. She wears a headband, truly a sweatband. Somehow she was always outside with that headband on when dates came to pick me up. She had nice arms from weed-eating she says. She is very strong physically and was a great softball player yet the ultimate portrait of a business woman during the week. I think I’m tough anytime I pick up our week-eater!

Lastly, she was faithful and supportive as a wife although it was not always easy. She always taught us to “never say never” and be careful not to judge others because you never know what types of situations you will find yourself in one day. My mom supported my dad while he was in the military and as he serves in other ways today. She is not easy on him though and expects him to bring her coffee every morning! “He brews” is a book of the Bible by the way…:)

Raising three girls wasn’t easy I’m sure, but we weren’t allowed to get too dramatic so as difficult as having a home with three girls may sound, she just didn’t tolerate our crap… We thought she was mean, but now I’m so thankful for the way she raised us and the example she showed us. The lessons are truly unending but Proverbs 31 probably sums it up minus the Jane Fonda headband.

So thankful for my mom who still doesn’t put up with my crap,

Natalie

My Grandma taught me about the “bird and bees”.

I think I was in the 6th grade and stayed with her sometimes after school and I’m not sure how it came up but it was something like…”A girl has a garage and a boy has a car, don’t let a boy put his car in your garage until you are married…” No, my wonderful, amazing parents did not have this talk with me, but good ole’ Granny did…:)

I’ve been studying effective communication between parents and children. One startling statistic I read from http://www.fivethirtyeight.com this week is that on average parents spend about 3 minutes a day in meaningful dialogue with their children. We wonder why they don’t listen…maybe it’s because we don’t.

I also read in an article from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships called, “Parental behaviors related to adolescents’ self-disclosure: Adolescents’ views” by Ana Tokic ́ Ninoslava Pec ́nik,

that the following are reasons according to one study why adolescents’ don’t talk to their parents:

-Parents are distracted, unavailable, show mistrust, interrupt, lack understanding, break confidentiality (I just told grandma…), argue/yell, lecture, show disapproval or disappointment only and give the silent treatment.

Adolescents stated in the same study that parents who do the following make them want to talk to their parents:

-They are positive, creating opportunities for disclosure, ask open-ended questions, recognize their mental status, invite unconditional disclosure, wait for them to talk, provide support, self-disclose, are empathetic, appreciate adolescent disclosure, trust them to keep secrets, give constructive feedback, and approve requests.

So when should this start, if you are a parent, now…even if you have young children…If mine are in trouble and beating themselves up about it, I may share one of the many stories of when I got in trouble like the time I tried to do pull-ups on the towel rack and the sheet rock came down with the rack…Children learn to overcome mistakes and failures by learning from you sharing yours.

Make time for your kids today. They are worth it!

Have a great week!

Natalie

 

 

 

“Make Christmas Great Again, skip church”, says the atheist billboard…

It has been a tough year to listen to the news for many reasons, but at least once a week I try to listen, read, or watch some sort of news outlet to get an idea of what is happening in the world. I am so thankful that I heard about this billboard campaign sponsored by the American Atheists group because if you are one of my two faithful readers…you’ll know I have blogged in a while and this news made me eager to blog!

It is very interesting on so many levels and I am simply going to ask a few rhetorical questions in response to this to get you thinking today.

1-They say, “Make Christmas Great Again…”  which implies that once it was great. How was it great for the atheist I ask in the past?

2-Do we truly know the meaning of Christmas? Yes, this is a question for even the Christians…

3-Will Christmas be great if we simply “skip church”?

4-Are you fulfilled by the materialistic, hurried, people-pleasing through gift-giving, expectant hope of the perfect gift and perfect mate to come thoughts of Christmas for those who celebrate Christmas without believing in the true meaning?

5-Wouldn’t it be more politically correct or accurate rather to say, “Make December Great, skip Christmas?” if you are an atheist?

6-Is it interesting that those who don’t believe in Christianity expect Christians to be tolerate of everything, yet those individuals are extremely intolerant of Christians and their beliefs?

Please think about these questions this season..

Here are my final thoughts… I read this on the pathos.com site, “It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don’t believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. At first glance of this quote, I sarcastically think, “Oh yeah, let’s go around telling everyone what we believe about them and that is the best gift we can give. For example maybe you think about a drug addict, ‘I think you are a horrible person with no future.’ ” Wow what a gift to give them..your beliefs..

However, then I thought you know this atheist is one to something. First of all, he is exactly right, Christianity has nothing to do with being a good person. It is about Jesus being that good person in our place. Our desire to be a good person after we accept Jesus in our place is because of the realization of how much we are loved and that love overflows to those around us. Maybe all the other religions are about being a good person, but not Christianity! The God of Christianity is truly the only God of grace (unmerited favor-meaning nothing we do would ever be good enough for God, but he loves us anyways and sent his son to pay our debt of being good.) Also, The best gift I can truly give someone as a believer in CHRISTmas is to share my beliefs and be open and honest about those beliefs. The loving thing for me to do is to share Christ and the hope he provides for me! Great thoughts Mr.Atheist!

The sad thing is that many of us will be silent and not share the love we have with others this season. Let’s change that and let others see the greatness of Christmas by sharing with everyone we know the true meaning of Christmas…which is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. What does the simple birth of a baby 2000+ years ago in a cattle trough really mean? Well for Christians, Jesus is the son of God who came to live a perfect life we can’t and to die a death we owe to pay for all of the bad within us. The Jews at the time were expecting a reigning king to come but if God had come in any other form but a lowly human, we couldn’t have handled his wrath and judgment. Instead he came to suffer for us and pay our price for sin (all wrong choices, thoughts, etc.) Christ represents the hope of our future, the peace in our present, and the redemption of our past. This is a truly beautiful thing to share. By the way, you don’t have to go to church or invite someone to church to share the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas,

Natalie

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A positive word on politics

Tis the season for Americans political candidates to show the worst in themselves via ads. I truly despise negative ads. There is enough negativity around us to bring us down in this country in spite of all we have to be thankful for…

When I studied abroad as a college senior in Ecuador, I had the opportunity to tour a hospital with a group of medical students. Most of the hospital had no power because the bills hadn’t been paid and there weren’t many nurses around because they were on strike for not being paid for six months. Recently, a friend who returned from a trip to Brazil told me that the teachers in the area he was working in hadn’t been paid in four months and there was a major water issue that likely wouldn’t be resolved until after a new person was elected and in office, which likely would be in about six months.

I don’t know about you but in my town, teachers are being paid (maybe not as much as they should be), but they are being paid. I also had clean water to drink this morning. Americans take for granted the freedoms we have great and small. This election year may be different from the past, but we still have so much to be thankful for. We should exercise  our right to vote, but first find out who and what you are voting for. Go to the party websites, read the small print of what the candidates truly believe and are promoting, and finally vote your convictions. You won’t find a human that is perfect and whom will be a perfect leader. God is the only perfect being period. Pray for whoever is elected so that they may let God lead them to help our country to be successful.

Finally, make positive changes in your home, workplace, church, and neighborhood by refusing to let negative talk define you. Ephesians 4:29 says, “When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. ” Let your kids hear you praying for our country and leaders, their teachers, and community leaders. Be thankful aloud to those around you for the small blessing you have such as clean water. You’ll be amazed how these changes will positively influence your own mind, thoughts and behaviors and in turn influence those around you in a great way.

Proud to be an American,

Natalie Atwell