Sunday, July 9, 2017

Even At My Worst

Nursing school has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life, and I feel as if every nursing student would agree. I believe that it has been so challenging to me in particular, because I have watched myself change over the past year. In some ways I believe nursing school has hardened my heart, and has calloused me.

Before I started nursing school, if I was asked to describe myself I would have said joyful. However, over the past year I have struggled to continue to find my joy and choose to be joyful despite my circumstances. As I look in the mirror every morning, it is almost as if I can see how this year has changed me.

When your patient dies alone without any family member to notify, you become hardened. When you watch as a married couple miscarries for the fifth time, you mourn with them. When a child fights a battle with cancer, and eventually the disease wins, it's hard to find joy.

I say all of this because throughout the past year I have noticeable changes in my character and who I am. I believe I have become much more a realist, and a lot more skeptical. It is harder for me to assume the best and always have an optimistic attitude, because the things I see and learn about on a day-to-day basis make it difficult. So, as a woman who used to take pride in a joyful attitude in all things, imagine the distress of feeling as if everything I was has changed. I wake up and who am I anymore if I struggle to find the same joy that used to come so easily?

I also would venture to say that Satan has used my vulnerability in this way to convince me on some days that if I can't be happy and joyful 24/7, am I even the same good person I was before starting nursing school? Has the profession that I have chosen to pursue changed me so that I no longer have a platform to minister from? Has my resting face gone from a smile to a permanent scowl as my mind at any moment can flashback to the horrors and hardships I see every time I enter a hospital? It has been a constant STRUGGLE.

A few weeks ago I would say everything hit its climax and what is true in my dramatic fashion accumulated into a breakdown. I called my sister in tears just to ask her if she thought I was a good person. I told her that this past year has made me feel like I am living at the worst version of myself. My sister has the kindest and most pure soul of anyone that I have ever met. Her response was beautiful and perfect all at the same time.

*paraphrased* "Katelyn, while you may say blunt things that come as mean sometimes, that doesn't mean you aren't a good person. What I think is evident that Satan is really attacking you, making you to believe that you are some person that you aren't."

My baby sister is wise beyond her years, that's for sure. Since that conversation, I have spent a lot of time in prayer. I have changed in the past year, and I imagine everyone reading this will testify that our circumstances not only mold us into the people we are, but they also can harden us. However, I don't have to view this change as a negative thing. Yes, I have to fight a little harder every day to choose joy and to make sure my face isn't constantly in a scowl, but that doesn't mean that I have become a terrible person that I can't recognize in the mirror.

What has been even more enlightening is the way that God seems to take my vulnerabilities, and make me use them. Even when I feel as if I am at my worst, God still calls me to disciple and in the strangest of ways. This past weekend I had the opportunity to do just that, to use my worst to help two girls. I wasn't planning on going to camp this session because I have two tests tomorrow morning that are 50% of my class grade (no pressure). I needed to study, but the Lord had a different plan for me. A camper camping at camp this weekend mentioned that she really needed me to visit to talk to me. Some of the current staff members made the same plea as well "she really needs you to come visit." So as any former camp counselor that deeply misses their job would do, I loaded up  my car and dog and made the 6-hour trek home. I met with the camper and had the most painful, but encouraging conversation that was so worth the drive. Better yet, I had another conversation with a camper who is having the same struggles as me right now.

Those two conversations alone brought me to tears, because even when I feel at my worst, God still manages to make me feel loved and useful. In my struggle, he provided me the opportunity to minister to two girls who were struggling in a similar fashion. And if that means I fail my tests tomorrow it will be worth it all.

Change isn't always a bad thing. My takeaway for tonight though is the way that God can use us at our "worst". He showed me this weekend to use my hardships and struggles to be honest with two campers. Even at my "worst" he still loves me and uses me to bring about his glory. Each day I get to make the choice, I get to fight for my joy.





Sunday, March 5, 2017

It's Worth the Wait

This entry will be a lot different than what I usually take the time to share, but as much as this may be out of my comfort zone, I feel as I need to share what keeps popping up in my life recently.

I've been a camp counselor for five years. Over the course of five summers I have counseled many girls of all ages. I've walked with them, played with them, taught them the Bible, held hands and prayed with them, and so much more. Throughout my years of college, I have found myself in many positions where I have been a counselor or mentor to young girls. Whether it is concerns or hardships, I have been fortunate enough to be someone they trust and come to for advice. Over the past three weeks, I've been approached by old campers, friends, and even some strangers about dating. When it first came up, I laughed. Who am I to give dating advice? But, seeing as a very similar conversation has come up, not once or twice, but multiple times with friends, campers, and strangers alike, I feel as if I should go ahead and share my insight.

Like I said, this is very much out of my comfort zone. I don't have a lot of dating experience, and I am certainly the first to say that I am not perfect in any relationship I have ever been in. (Ask my current boyfriend, he can testify) Yet, what I do know is that dating shouldn't be a game, and there are right and wrong ways to go about it. So here goes nothing.

He is worth waiting for. The man that you will eventually date and marry, is worth waiting for. Throughout college I remember going through what felt like a constant cycle of emotions. Sometimes I wasn't phased by my lack of relationship and was perfectly content to be single, surrounded by friends, and growing in my relationship with God. There were other times where I was down in the dumps, questioning God as to why I was single and alone. Looking back on my four years of college, I wish I could go back and tell my self not to grow discouraged. That those nights I spent crying in my room because I hadn't been on a date in two years, would be well worth the wait.

I didn't date a lot in college. I had one relationship for about three months, and that was it. I did have several guys I was interested in at several different points throughout my time at A&M. Whether these were crushes or periods of time where we were "talking" (whatever that means), I wish I could go back and tell myself to TRUST YOUR GUT.

By this I mean, I knew. I knew with my only relationship, I knew with the guys I would casually text or "talk" to, that these weren't men I was going to end up with. I really have no way of describing it other than it didn't feel right. Yet, instead of simply being content single and alone, I held on to some of these guys for way too long, because at the end of the day it was better to be texting someone than to go to bed knowing the only people you had talked to that day were your mom and roommates. (No offense Pam Pam or friends I've lived with)

I've seen this problem a lot recently. Several girls have come to be asking, or sharing their relationship problems with me. Now my first question for them isn't what does your heart say, but what is your gut telling you? A conversation goes like this. (I'm not making this up people, this is a REAL conversation I had)

Me: "What is your gut saying?"

Friend: "My gut tells me it's not right. That he's not in a good place with the Lord, but I'm too far in. Plus, I think I'd rather stay where I'm at than be alone. I can help him come to know Jesus right?"

This conversation hurt my heart. Why? Because that was me. That was me not four years ago, but even a year and a half ago. So afraid of graduating single and alone that I could justify almost anything that was wrong with a guy. So when I'm approached like this, with questions like these, my heart hurts. I personally feel an obligation to share with these girls that waiting, being single and waiting for a good guy, a guy that you know in your gut is good, is worth it.

Waiting is worth it. I would tell myself over and over, and I will tell every girl that comes to me to wait. To stop dating guys that are wrong, or that you are having to justify, or even convince yourself to like (my best friends and I have done this!!). Just stop and wait. Singleness is not the end of the world. I'm not going to try and paint it as a beautiful picture for you, because it can be so difficult. I believe every young woman wants to be loved and wants to love. I know I did. But I wish I had done a better job about waiting. I wish I hadn't been so eager to not be single that I would jump at any opportunity to crush on a new guy.

I say that because the man I am with now was so worth the wait. The nights you spend single and alone, or going 22 years without a Valentine's Date, or even waiting to go on a first date until college, these times are worth waiting when the right guy comes along.

You'll know in your gut that he is good, because you won't have to convince yourself. He will be a man of God who gives you a glimpse of the love the Father has for you. He'll hold you when you cry about stupid guys who have hurt you or trampled your heart in the past. He'll send flowers to an empty apartment when you are moving six hours away alone. He'll surprise you with Chick-fil-A after you've worked a 12 hour shift. He'd be willing to drive 2.5 hours in the middle of the night, because you were so sick and couldn't get off the couch. He will call you when he says he will, and he'll pray with you every night. He'll be first to say sorry, but will also not be afraid to confront you when you're in the wrong. He'll hold your hand as you walk into church, and will be right there beside you worshiping the God you both love.

Suddenly you'll have a man like this and you'll know that those nights you spent alone, maybe crying and eating chocolate because you hadn't been on a date in two years, those nights were worth it. Because if you ask me, I would do all of the hard, the lonely, and sometimes downright pathetic times of singleness again if I had only known this type of love was coming.

So girls, wait. Stop justifying or making excuses for the man who are dating or have a crush on. Be patient, be prayerful and wait.


Monday, January 2, 2017

2016

2016 was arguably one of the best, but most challenging years of my life. As 2016 came to a close, I was surrounded by my closest friends and family. Welcoming 2017 means welcoming a lot of challenges and stresses, but I know that God is going to guide me through this year just as He did 2016. 

I welcomed 2016 on a rooftop in Honduras, which I believe just set the year apart. Beginning the year in Honduras and running camp in Honduras was such a wonderful experience that I wish I could relive over and over. As the months progressed, I navigated through my last semester at A&M. I took ten hours with my best friend and roommate. For Spring Break we had StayCation in which two of my best friends from out of town came to College Station and we made several fun day trips. Looking back, it was definitely my favorite Spring Break of all my college years. I applied to four nursing schools, and got accepted to each of them. I was left to decide if I would further my education in Tennessee or in Galveston, and obviously I chose the latter. I watched my little sister get her Aggie Ring, as a sophomore I might add! I watched several of my friends get married or engaged which was lots of fun. I spent a lot of time laughing and fishing with my family, the greatest blessing of all. I graduated from Texas A&M University, Cum Laude. Whoop! I took the best vacation with my closest friends to Destin right after graduation, which is a trip I will never forget. I got a new vehicle, and put lots of miles driving to Little Rock, TN, College Station, Galveston and home. I spent my final summer working at Camp Deer Run as the Head Women's Counselor. After the summer I moved to Galveston, which is one of the hardest things I've ever done. I was diagnosed with chronic tonsillitis and I survived nearly 4 months before my surgery! I had surgery, and I would not recommend anyone over the age of 20 getting their tonsils or adenoids out unless it is an absolute necessity, because ouch! 

Above all, one of my greatest blessings during 2016 was that I began dating a guy that I had always considered a good friend. On New Year's Day we celebrated our six month anniversary as I was confined to a bed with an ice pack on my throat because of my surgery and as he left to go to Honduras. I'm very thankful for Ryan and for how he has encouraged me throughout the difficult transition to nursing school. 

2017 is going to be a challenging year as I finish nursing school. This year, though challenging, is full of exciting things as well. I'll graduate from nursing school, and get my first big girl job, I'll be Katelyn Gambrel-RN, which is so exciting. I am excited to see how God uses my 12 months in Galveston for his glory. I'll get to watch my best friend marry the boy I grew up with, which is something I am definitely looking forward to. 

Through it all, my hope for the year is to remember that Jesus is my joy. I spent the last few months of my year distressed and unhappy. So it is my hope to make the most of this year in Galveston. God is going to do great things this year, and I pray he blesses us all.