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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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 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

What it is Like When You Expect Perfection in Every Aspect of Your Life

 

  1. When things go wrong it is like the whole world has fallen apart.

    • You had your whole life planned out to a tee and then suddenly you realize that you’ve already made it to 21 years old and you life isn’t where you thought it would be at all. You aren’t in the major you thought you’d be pursuing, the people in your life aren’t the people you expected, and now that you realize it, this means that nothing is going to be in order so a breakdown will surely fix it. But, after you calm yourself down you realize your major is perfect for you and your friends are there for you through everything and you really don’t have that much to worry about.
  2. You don’t take anything, but the best, and when your performance is less than the best you are incredibly hard on yourself.

    • You were expecting a perfect 4.0 on your next report card; A’s across the board, but that one class with that impossible teacher landed you with an A-. How could this happen, you did everything you possibly could. Suddenly you start finding yourself saying in your head that you aren’t good enough, and you then start to think about all the other flaws in your battle to reach perfection. At the end of the day, you realize that you tried everything you could and that being the best can only have so much weight in the grand scheme of it all.
  3. You plan for every little detail throughout the day and expect it to go as such.

    • You have calculated that if you leave at 7:15 exactly you can make it to work on time, but you end up behind a car that is going right at the speed limit and your carefully calculated schedule all goes down the drain. You finally get to work and you are a flustered mess and the rest of the day seems to have become just as bad as the morning. You’re then laying in bed that night and realize that you ruined a perfectly good day simply because a car was going a little slower than you wanted and maybe you do need to let up on the planning somewhat, but there’s also a part of you that just can’t.
  4. You have a thousand things you want to do and never seem to get to them because you’ve expected so much out of yourself.

    • Class is 8am-12pm and then you have your internship 12:30-4:30, bible study at 5-6 and then that meeting you were supposed to go speak at from 6-8 and somewhere in the middle of all this you are trying to balance school work a social life and sleep. You have a bucket list a mile long of all the places and things you want to see, but you have your schedule so slammed with everything else that you know in the back of your mind doing things for you are on the back burner. A whole year goes by and you realize not once were you spontaneous enough to go on an adventure to that state park you always wanted to go to and you honestly can’t remember any of those commitments that seemed so important during the year.
  5. You get frustrated when other people don’t have the same motivation to have everything as perfect as you do.

    • When it comes to coworkers, group projects or just friends or family members you often find yourself holding them to the same standards you do yourself. Why don’t they have everything planned out, why is this task not done like you asked, and God forbid you find that they didn’t organize that area the way you would have. They must just be incompetent why did you even waste your time trusting them to get the task done when you could have done their job plus the other four you’ve already taken upon yourself. Eventually you find yourself with 10 tasks because you start picking up everyone else’s when they aren’t done to your standards and you are now stressing out. Why does everyone expect you to get everything done on your own… wait they don’t you had one task to do and you decided to take on all these new tasks that have made you so stressed.
  6. You take everything to heart when what you do is criticized even if it was the best you could do it wasn’t good enough in someone else’s eyes, so, therefore, it is still not good enough.

    • That paper for your English took you 14 hours to write, you read over it and you were convinced it was your best writing yet, surely this is going to receive nothing less than an A. You turn it in and a week goes by and your grades have been posted. Written in bold is a B-. Surely there was a mistake; this was the best you’ve ever done, how could this not receive the perfect grade it deserved. You confront your professor and she explains that the flow wasn’t quite right, there were some grammar errors and she just didn’t like your topic of choice. Your self-confidence plummets. If your professor doesn’t think that your best work is successful than that must mean everything else in your life must amount to failure as well. Never mind the fact that writing is a subjective art form and grading is based heavily on opinion. Or that test you took last week was on a span of eight long chapters and a handful of the questions were not in the book at all. Then you start to realize you are weighing people’s opinions way too heavily and you may be being just a bit unreasonable.
  7. When people don’t have a plan, are lazy or aren’t on time to things it gives you major anxiety.

    • This kind of goes back to not having the same motivation as you do. You expect everyone to follow the schedule that you have laid out and when people don’t move at the rate you were hoping or decide your trip itinerary is irrelevant you start to twitch a little inside. How do people possibly just “fly by the seat of their pants”, “play it by ear”, or “just wing it”. Maybe you should get a pair of those pants that let you stray away from your planner written in pen.
  8. You can’t just sit around and do nothing; you have to always have a task to be working on.

    • Take a break? You? No. That doesn’t happen. There is ALWAYS something that can be done. Always. In fact, when you think about it you are constantly doing something and yet there still isn’t enough time in the day. This makes you pretty impatient when it comes to waiting. You want things done right away and to see results immediately. You don’t have time for things to take time. However, as time goes on you start to realize that your hard work really does pay off even if you didn’t see the results in the first month, and even if it goes unnoticed, to you it means a lot.
  9. People say they have OCD but it is nothing in comparison to your want for everything to be in order.

    • Sure, some things get a little messy when you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of your carefully planned day, but by the end of the week (if that) everything is back in its place. You have a strict way of how things are put, whether that is the closet organized by color or your alphabetized books. The real OCD plays into things not so visible, though, your life is the thing that you pride for being in order most. You compulsively have to make sure everything is going right and it is following the meticulously planned out pattern of events.
  10. Sometimes you just have to accept that some things do go wrong, and sometimes perfect just isn’t attainable.

    • Sure, this one is easier said than done. I have a hard time accepting that I won’t be perfect. In the reality of it all, though, there is only one perfect person who will ever walk this earth, and that is Jesus Christ. You were not created to be perfect, that is our flesh. We will sin, our plan will change because it is not His plan, and people will let us down. However, there is comfort in knowing that there is a God that has our whole life in His hands if we are only to hand it over to him and stop trying to control it.

 

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

 

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32).

 

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

Do you ever?

Do you ever just look at your life and think, “wow I’m blessed”?

Amongst all the hardship, the struggle, the stress you take a breath just long enough to see everything that you are oh so lucky to have.

Do you ever just look at the person sitting across from you on the bus and smile? They too are going through something. Maybe even something more than you are. That person has a story to tell.

Do you ever just look up to the sky and laugh?

God is watching over you and has already written your story and their story and the story of the husband you haven’t met.

Sometimes life gets hard and overwhelming and scary and I don’t know where to go or if I am even going in the right direction, but then it’s those moments that remind me who I am. On the days where I cant figure out what the purpose of life is, running from God trying to find the answer, He opens my eyes to say “you are my child” and reminds me that He is enough. He fills my soul with life and I once again reminded of who I am, a child of God.

Boxing Him up

I have ventured into the book of James (my bible reading is chronological so sometimes I skip around with books). There is so much in this book that I absolutely loved, but something that really stood out to me was James 1:23-25

23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

I think part of why this stood out to me was the fact that just that morning I looked in the mirror and thought “wow I look good today”, and when I turned away that confidence fell away and I was back to imagining my face as the distorted version that I’m sure most people can relate to. The question I immediately asked myself was, “If I constantly forget what I look like after looking in the mirror, then how often do I read the bible, pray, or go to church, and as soon as I am done, return to the world in thought?”

I think the concept of putting Jesus “in His own box” is something incredibly easy to fall into habit of doing.  Someone recently said to me that we so often pray that Jesus take every part of us. Yes, we pray that He take the key to our minds and our hearts, but what we don’t share is that the key we give Him keeps Him locked out of certain “doors” in our life.

Everyone has that door that they try to keep hidden, for me that’s having control. I like everything in its place at all times, and when things don’t go quite the way I planned it, a breakdown ensues. Every time I lose control, I am doing just as I did in the mirror.

I have a  painting above my bed  that reads “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10. I read that every single day multiple times a day, and the “image” I see in the mirror when I read that, is God has complete control of my life.  But, as soon as I no longer have a hold on the events of the day, I instantly turn around and forget the “image” of God’s control, I am doing just as James 1:23-25 warns about. Something I obviously need to work on in my life. Knowing this, I find a great comfort with trying to fight the sin in my life with the fact that the battle is already won.

I challenge you to find what you are forgetting when you turn away from the mirror.