Dear 15-Year-Old Me,

Dear 15-year-old me,

It has been two weeks since you received some of the most exciting news you have ever received. You may think that this means you got into veterinary school, but something along the way changed and you found a new passion.

Before I tell you what that thing is, I could tell you to change some of your notorious actions, but if I were to do that you would never be where you are now. So, what I will mention is it may seem like your world is falling apart right now, but trust me when I say you can do this. Don’t let others opinions rule what you say and do. Smile a little more. Don’t get so caught up in your head. There are days when it feels like the pain won’t end, but I promise you, you will grow positively from it. You will have some pretty bad blowouts with your parents, you will make some stupid choices and you will have some nasty injuries. However, in all of this, there is only one regret I still wish I could change, that is when you hurt so much you will turn to sharp objects to release the pain. Reach out to those around you, they may not feel the same, but they will do everything to try to understand.

Your goal has been veterinary school since second grade, and it will continue to be your goal until freshman year of college. This changes when you will begin a relationship with a very special someone. He will change the way you see everything. You will begin to notice that you are more than what you have previously valued yourself as. He will tell you that you can do more than you ever imagined you could. You will continue to stumble along the way. You will make some more mistakes, but you no longer will have to live with guilt, shame, and feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

You might be wondering what guy could ever make you change your mind like this. You have always been too independent to really give any guy the time of day. However, this one is different. His name is Jesus. You think you know Him now, and in a way you do. He knew you from the moment you were created, and His plan for you has gone beyond the goals that you have set for yourself. He has opened your heart to the geriatric population and, in turn, occupational therapy. You will leave your dream school, Purdue, the school that felt like home for the first time in a long time. Moving back to North Carolina is still the hardest decision you have ever made, but when God says go, you go.

You will end up at ECU, your last choice of schools. You will struggle with feeling alone, you will hate this school with every fiber in your body. You will start to slip back into struggling with fear and doubt. Your family starts becoming a bigger part of your life; you start realizing the hurt that you’ve been feeling for years from the aftermath of the divorce was wrongly projected onto them. Your family will become a pivotal part of you reaching where you are today. Not to mention the friends that you will gain along the way, and the ones that have stayed by your side for years. Just when you thought you had slipped so far away from God, he reminds you that He never left your side with this little piece of news.

At this point, you are probably dying to know what exactly happened two weeks ago that caused this letter. You were accepted into the University of Pittsburgh’s Doctorate of Occupational Therapy Program. That’s right, you, Katie, are going to be a doctor. A doctor, pursuing what may seem like a crazy dream now, but one you will reach with God leading your life. What is that goal? You want to open a long-term care facility that uses animal therapy along with occupational therapy to help heal the residents. A farm setting where instead of waking up to white walls they wake up to something they look forward to and encourage them to keep progressing.

It has been two weeks and you still cry from excitement. You should be very proud of who you are today, and who you will become. I know you have always strived to make Mimi honored to have a great granddaughter named after her, and you will do just that. If you don’t get anything from this, at least take this: God loves you so much that He has created plans greater than you could ever imagine.

Love,

22- year-old me

P.S Next year (16-year-old you) you will visit Pitt’s campus for a wedding. Enjoy!

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Note to self:

Note to self:

Don’t be so hard on yourself; you’re doing the best you can. You should not be your own worst enemy. Love yourself for who you are and stop trying to be what everyone else wants you to be. Stop comparing yourself to others, and doing things because someone else wants you to. Start living for Jesus, not for everyone else.

Let yourself feel beautiful once and a while, it is okay to feel good about yourself, and you can do it without being full of yourself. Start smiling when you look in the mirror, not grimace.

Stop worrying about the small things, or even the big things. Has anything never worked out? God has your back through it all, and His plan is greater than any plan you will ever imagine. Time spent worrying could be time left accomplishing great things. And remember worrying doesn’t add a single hour to your life.

Remember to put your self in the shoes of other people. No matter how overused that it is it still remains true. Pray for others, just pray in general. Give people slack, they are as human as you are. We all have bad days, and on your bad days show love, not anger. Have patience, meet people where they are and not expect what they are not. You don’t like when people expect things out of you that you are not.

Let people in. People want to help you. Don’t be so afraid of the pain people can cause because the joy is so much greater. You’ll get over the pain, but you may never get to experience life to the fullest if you keep pushing people out. You may be good at listening, but you also need to talk about what is going. You can’t hide your emotions forever.

Give everything you have without giving away yourself. You can be selfless without losing who you are in the process. Remember how blessed you are, and that blessing needs to be shared with others. The sharing you learned in kindergarten can be applied today too.

Celebrate the little things, celebrate life. Make more time for the people who love you, and the people you miss. Pick up the phone a little more instead of just texting. Spend time with the people right in front of you, and less with those who don’t care. Do the things you love and cut out the mundane things you keep doing cause you feel you have to. You do not have to do anything. You’ll start to realize you do have more time in your day for things that make you smile.

Always strive to be a better person. Never stop believing in your dreams and aim for the things you don’t think you can reach, but you surely will if you set your mind to it.

And above all look more like love- like Jesus, and less like the world. Love relentlessly. Love your neighbor, and remember that your neighbor isn’t just that person hidden by the fence next door, but the hurting man on the other side of the world. Stop hoping for good in the world, and be more of the good in the world. You can’t change everyone else, but you can create a ripple effect that causes change.

And one more thing, you’re doing great, so don’t ever give up.

 

When the Present Becomes the Past

With my two serving jobs, I have seen so many tables that sit in silence because they are wrapped up in their phones. I’ve seen parents playing candy crush while their children fight, kids with headphones in playing war games and not saying a word to their parent, and Moms who set their unruly kids up with a movie and ignore them the rest of dinner. Each time I see this I become a little depressed for humanity, for what is to come with our actions. I look at the world as a whole right now and all that is going on,  and I think these two things ( the lack of human contact and recents events) have a close relationship.

When we are so wrapped up in the screens in front of us we fail to understand what others are going through. We interact with people in a cyber world in which emotions cannot be conveyed. Instead of feelings of sympathy, I see anger, fear and blame being put on others. In our obsession with reaching things far from us, our constant looking to the future and what is to come, we have forgotten how to interact with the now. Our present has become the past. What if instead of pointing fingers we supported those who were hurting, we stood as one united force against the pain and the hurt,  instead of blaming people for experiencing the ridicule.

What if we were more intentional with the people directly around us? Asking how they feel, what they’ve experienced, what they want to do in the now. What if we put down our phones, stopped reading about what everyone else is doing and feeling, and start loving those around us, being open to what others have to say, recognizing that every person you pass has a story, a struggle, and fears too. In a way we have begun to dehumanize each other, we treat each other like we could care less. I too am guilty of this; the racial slurs that slip out, the blaming of other religions, the bashing of other genders. Yes, the phrase love one another is a little cliché, but I think more now than ever it should be something that we cling on to. I am certain that there is a lot less evil than good in the world, and for some reason, we always focus on the evil, the pain, and the loss. We single out people who think different, act different and look different than we do, all in our fear of everything else going on.

I truly believe that the first step to creating a better world is trying to understand the different. Finding similarities instead of disparities. Putting our phones down when around other people- whether at the table, on the bus, or waiting in line. We seal ourselves into an electronic box that few dare to break into. Stop worrying about what is to come, what is in the future, what you want to do tomorrow, and look at what is now, who is around you at the moment, and what you can do today.

Who Am I?

I had a very unexpected conversation the other night with a guy who started questioning what I believe. When I told him that I was a Christian he came back with “yeah, but that’s only because you grew up as one”. However, I would like to say quite the opposite. Sure, I was around the church growing up, I called myself a Christian, but I did not grow up a Christian. I knew the bare minimum, Jesus died on the cross, Adam and eve started it all, Jonah was in the belly of the whale. I responded back with “No, I didn’t know Christ until I was in college” and this was true. Ask me Jesus’ character and I would have responded with the simple answer of loving and kind and that would be as far as I could go. I didn’t really KNOW Jesus… or God for that matter. Sure, I believed they existed, but that was the extent of it. The next question I got hit with was “Why… why did you decide to follow Jesus” I paused for a minute at this. “Why would I not”, was what I wanted to say, but something else came out of my mouth. “Because it gave me an identity.” He fell silent at this and did not ask anymore. However, at this, the thoughts started racing in my head. Something else had triggered in my brain:

 

“When I lose my way,

And I forget my name,

Remind me who I am.

In the mirror all I see,

Is who I don’t wanna be,

Remind me who I am.

In the loneliest places,

When I can’t remember what grace is.”

 

I had forgotten what it was like to not have an identity in Christ; I had forgotten what a sacrifice it was that Jesus died for our sins just so that I could know Him. This little sentence that I didn’t expect to slip out of my mouth created a landslide of love that I was so desperately hoping for. Why do I look for identities in places where I know it will never be found when my identity is a child of God. I am found, I am not forgotten. It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday, and I find myself trying to be the savior of my own life, only to have small moments like this where I realize I am oh so wrong.

 

Romans 8:16

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children

 

Romans 8:37-39

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

I am so undeserving of God’s love and yet he loves me anyway. No matter how bad I mess up His arms are still open because I am a Child of God. When will I ever learn to just fully trust God and stop trying to do things on my own time? My identity is greater than just Katie, greater than just daughter, sister, friend. So, why do I so easily forget? I keep trying to be perfect in my own identity, but I don’t have to be. Jesus from a very young age knew His calling he never did doubt what God had called him to do. It is so easy to dehumanize Jesus, to think that He was not tempted like we are. He didn’t have to live life like we do, but He did. He was as human as you and I and He lived perfectly, and for that, I am so thankful.

Chains

All through high school, there was one song I played constantly on repeat, Boston by Augustana, and the line that always hit home to me was “You don’t know me, and you don’t wear my chains”. Little did I know that those metaphorical (yet extremely real) chains could be broken.

I’ve struggled heavily with bouts of anxiety and depression. It has reared its ugly head in many ways in my life: self-harm, searching for unsafe outlets, emotional breakdowns, and the worst – the physical manifestations. The symptom I’ve dealt with the longest is the weight that sits on my chest and closes off my airways to the extent that I’ve had to sit out of everyday activities. I can go days feeling like I’m going through a panic attack that I just can’t catch my breath from. Certain things can make it worse, but nothing ever makes it better. And, the most recent symptom the sharp pain under my right ribs that has me doubling over or on the verge of tears in class from the ache that it brings. I went to countless doctors in hopes that they would tell me it was because of something medical, or that this medicine will clear it up, or this exercise will make it better, but nothing. After countless tests, it always came down to them saying, “The only explanation left is anxiety”.

I do not say any of this in hopes of getting sympathy for it; in fact, I am doing quite the opposite. I am hoping to use this to bring God the glory because he deserves just that.

I recently went to a conference where I decided to be baptized; I had been saved at this point for a couple years but never did get baptized. Right before the baptisms I was praying for some sort of breakthrough, I wasn’t quite sure what I was praying for, but I knew I needed to change something in my life. After that night, after the baptism, the sobbing, and the praying I knew something was different. Something in my body felt…well, that was the thing… I couldn’t feel anything at all. Every part of me was quiet, peaceful, halcyon. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like my psyche and my physical body were at war.

As we were driving home I had this overwhelming feeling that God had healed something in me. My instant thought went to my leg, the pain I had feebly been managing for years, maybe that was gone. I started imagining being able to run without the pain that has come with it. But a different chain was still being slowly corroded inside me as God was breaking it down.

It has now been a couple weeks since that conference and I suddenly realized just what chains were broken that weekend, it was the chains of anxiety, of fear, of worry. The tightness in my chest has become far and few between and the excruciating pain in my side has disappeared in its entirety.

What I thought could never be touched because it was something only I wore, only I could understand has been disintegrated. God has shown his mercy and His grace on someone so undeserving of it. I’ve been so set on trusting in my own ways and taking everything onto myself that I hid everything inside of me away from God, and it took a toll. I was convinced that the miracles in the bible don’t happen today. I believed God was all-powerful, but never really understood what I was saying. There is a lot about God that just is unfathomable, and being human often makes it hard to believe and trust the way that God ultimately wants us to. However, we get to serve a God that is everything that we are not. And, the thing that I find most beautiful in all of this is that He knew every flaw that I would commit and yet He still sat upon His throne and said, I want her.

 

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

Psalm 103:8

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.

2 Timothy 1:9

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

The Bluff

Why I did a Social Media Cleanse.

Social media has become the norm today, it has become something that controls every aspect of our life, especially our relationships with people.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to build a relationship without the use of technology, whether that is a friendship or something more intimate. We judge people through a jaded lens that is their camera. We show what we want on our instagrams, say what we think people will want to hear on our twitter, show what we think will cause jealousy on our snapchat, but the reality is all of this is a façade for the pain, anxiety and depression that controls our society. I’m not going to say that I am not a culprit of this. I am.

I have continually caught myself not bothering to talk to someone because I have this calculated vision of who they are (or are not) because of what I’ve seen on their social feed, and yet I haven’t said more than the cordial “Hey, how are you”. This is not what I want to partake in. I want to have a relationship with people that is real, that is what I KNOW from TALKING to them, not through what they want me to know. People are a beautiful and fragile thing, and somewhere this has been lost.

We hide behind technology never talking about what is really happening in our hearts, never letting the guilt, hurt and sadness leave our souls because that would ruin our perfect image that the public sees. What is wrong with hurt, with letdown? We all experience it so why do we try so hard to hide it? We are riddled with pent up emotions because society has defined unrealistic levels of perfection that we are trying endlessly to reach.

I find it heart breaking to hear someone say “I have anxiety” and over half the group chimes in as to how it affects their life too. We no longer push ourselves to better who we are, why should we when everyone thinks we live a perfect life and we have 100 likes on that artsy picture? I want to be a better person in knowing people partaking in genuine, authentic and transparent relationships. I want to ask people what they have been up to without having a polluted view of that answer.

So many opportunities are missed as I spend my time scrolling through pictures of that girl in Europe and that guy who actually went to Chicago, instead of me who perpetually dreams of going. What if I spent less time being jealous of what people have (and I don’t), and more on what I do have and the opportunities that I can take, and are in front of me. I can learn more by reading, explore more of what is 10 miles down the road, work on my body image that I struggle with so much when I see others with what seems to be the perfect body.

A testimony that speaks to our corrupted society, we spend more time worrying about who is and who is not following us, how many likes we have received, what people are doing, instead of looking at what is right in front of us.Why are we offended for being “unfollowed”. Does that make me less of a “friend” if I don’t look at your pictures, but I don’t even bother to look up or talk to you when I walk into a room? I’m not going to accept it as the norm. I want to make a change. I want to be more than my bluff that is social media.

The Plan

I went from elementary school to freshman year of college thinking that veterinary school was going to be my end goal. I thought that I was going to help animals because I didn’t want to help people; I was more frustrated by them and didn’t want anything to do with them. When I got to college I got involved with a wonderful church group and found my identity in Christ. I was born again, and with this, I came to the realization that I have a much greater purpose. At this point, I wasn’t sure what that was. I started to realize that vet school was not the path that God had planned for me; He had much much greater plans for me. Realizing this was one of the hardest things to come to terms with, due to the fact that I had gone all this time with MY plan of becoming a vet. Suddenly everything inside of me was saying that was not where I was supposed to be going. God started to reveal to me that I do in fact care about people. I started to find myself constantly heart broken by the people who were pushed aside by society. That was those who were living with life changing circumstances like autism or spina bifida or just going through the process that is life and being forgotten because they don’t move as fast as they used to and their hair was graying.

After much praying, I was sure of one thing I was to transfer schools and go back home. I finished my freshman year at Purdue University and then transferred to East Carolina University. I hope to one day become an occupational therapist; I’m not sure what population I want to target yet, but I know I want to make a change in the lives of people who are forgotten.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

I’ve struggled heavily with the lies that I can’t make a difference in the lives of people who refuse to believe that there is a God. I continually tell myself that it is hopeless to work with these people when you can’t “fix” them without God. I’ve been so accustomed to the secular view of medicine that everything is for money and you just hand someone pills, give them the most expensive test and move on. While I knew this was not the approach I wanted to take in whatever profession I end up in I was sure that any other way would be near impossible. God, however, has been continually showing me otherwise. When I believed that I can’t make a difference in people who don’t have God I was right in part, I can’t, but HE can.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

We are called to look for those who aren’t always noticed, but at the same time stand out. Jesus never went to those who were “perfect” He went to those who were known sinners, those who many people hated. How can this apply to medicine? I wasn’t sure, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that the people that God has broken my heart for are the people that those in the medical field don’t want to deal with. The “sinners” of the medical world include the mentally ill, the elderly, and the prognosis that calls for just leaving them in a home or sending them to an institution.

What really encouraged me to write about this was a comment made by a pastor, he said: “These people aren’t sick, they are simply experiencing a bigger circumstance than we are.” What a way to look at it. We have become so calloused to the vision that someone with autism is helpless, the elderly are slowly deteriorating, they just aren’t worth the time and effort. But does it have to be that way? Why can’t we see them as if they are like everyone else, treat them like they aren’t sick, like they can get better, like they can do more than we limit them to with the jaded standards and biases we have chained them in.

He doesn’t care how great a person may be, and he pays no more attention to the rich than to the poor. He made them all.
Job 34:19

Something that I love so much about occupational therapy is that it reaches people wherever they are at. It isn’t trying to push them to be somewhere or something they aren’t. It is finding a way for them to accomplish the goals that they aren’t sure is possible. The stroke patient that believes they will never be able to walk again, or the child that no one believes will be able to live on their own, there is a way to accomplish their goals, and it is never impossible.

God still has a lot to teach me, and I still have a while to go, and who knows He might change my path to something other than occupational therapy, but I know one thing for sure that He has changed the way that I view people. Sure, there are still days where I am endlessly frustrated with the let down that comes with humanity. However, God reminds me that He is in control despite my worry and doubts.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9