The Practicals of Recovery

The Lord uses His children and His creation to accomplish His purposes. Whether that’s the little pebble in David’s sling or the Jordan river that God used to cleanse Naaman of leprosy, He uses the natural! So it makes sense that in the midst of eating disorder recovery, He used His children and His creation to bring me healing and teach me how to have a normal relationship with food. I thought I could share some of the tried and true practical advice I got from my nutritionist, therapist, and cadre of professional supporters.

Body image. You’ve gotta start here. This was a HUGE turning point for me! My incredible therapist told me once: “It’s a lot harder to change your body than it is to change the way you think about your body.” I literally remember standing in front of the mirror as a junior in college, not fitting in most of my clothes, and realizing: she’s right (which makes sense, considering she does this whole counseling thing for a living :)).

Freaking out about my size made me, well, freaked out. It made me obsessive and anxious and angry. I’d CLUNG to comments from people like “wow you look so good!” before the weight gain began, but turns out compliments like these and a dollar will get you a crappy cup of coffee. Is it worth it? Is fleeting attention worth my slavery to food? Is the knowledge that I lost a full half pound (probably a half pound of pee or something, let’s be honest) worth letting my social life, grades, emotions and body become a tragic mess?

In writing my senior thesis (coming soon to a dusty shelf in the Plan II office near you) on weight loss and dieting I learned the importance creating intrinsic value for the lifestyle changes you want to make. Why would changing your view of your body be valuable? Maybe it would help to write down reasons to change your attitude about your body and tape it somewhere you’ll see it – like your mirror! Write down why you want to be free from slavery to food and fat and include these on your list. Then every morning, every time you look at yourself in the mirror and are tempted to analyze your body composition, you can see the compelling reasons to instead accept the way your body looks now and appreciate all that it can do. A body of any size can glorify God, can engage in fun exercise, can play sports with friends. Recovery starts moving when we FINALLY let go of our obsession with self and size!

Also THROW AWAY YOUR SCALE. This is huge! The scale perpetuates our ability to reduce our worth to a silly number that can somehow ruin or make our day in a matter of seconds. This number means between nothing and absolutely nothing. I’ve never been on a date with a guy who asked me how much I weighed. I’ve never listed my weight on any sort of application. No one has ever asked. The only one who cares is me – and I can choose whether or not I care 🙂 Throw that thing in the garbage and live in freedom!

 

Celebrate the little victories! My Godly brother struggled with an addiction to pornography, about which he was very open and rapped about in his song “Eyeblight” that you can find on Spotify by Broitry 🙂 Subtle plug – the song is really good! I remember calling him and crying, angry that I couldn’t go a few days without succumbing to a bout of bingeing. And he told me something that helped him recover: Callie, rejoice in the victories. Don’t focus on how many days you can go without engaging in harmful eating behavior, but rather praise God for the days when you can have a somewhat normal relationship with food. Praise Him for the normal meals you eat with enough carbohydrates to fuel your body! Praise the Lord when you feel the urge to binge, or the urge to not eat, but instead of engaging with that desire you practice food behaviors that lead to a life of freedom and not of slavery!

Share these victories too! I would call my mom or my brother or my best friend when I had a normal eating day! Call those true friends who will be genuinely excited for you! Or literally call me – I’m not kidding. Callie Harakal – I’m the only one with my name in Texas 🙂 You can message me and I will totally give you my number and freak out with you if you call!

 

Do the next right thing. I STILL use this truism! My therapist told me this as a way to handle days when I made unhealthy food decisions. I would be so mad and just feel like the rest of my day was a waste. But that’s not true! I could choose to put whatever happened behind me. I could choose to draw a line in the sand, accept what had happened and then do the next right thing! Maybe the next right thing was eating a normal meal! Maybe the next right thing was to eat that cookie I was afraid to eat and enjoy that fact that God gave us taste buds and sugar to enjoy in sweet moderation 🙂 Maybe the next right thing was to get out of my bed, stop wallowing in depression and simply take a shower 🙂

 

Find a psychiatrist. Once I found a medication regimen that worked for me, it was so helpful. I was hesitant to use medicine, because I didn’t want a “cop out” – I wanted to beat this thing on my own. But sometimes we need help. My nutritionist described medicine as a pillow for my brain. She said my brain was whirling a million miles an hour freaking out and doing weird things about food and that medicine would allow my brain to rest and let me make decisions. When unhealthy food desires came into my head, they stayed there and wouldn’t leave – a part of what I later learned to be OCD thought tendencies. This made it REALLY hard to fend off urges to binge. But medicine allowed me to think like me – it allowed the unnatural thought processes to let up just enough to let me make my own decisions. For me it was Fluoxetine that finally worked – be consistent with it! It won’t work overnight, so give it about six weeks! And if it’s not working, talk to your psychiatrist and try something else! So many people prayed so fervently for my recovery and God answered those prayers, in part, by providing me with a manmade substance called Fluoxetine!

 

Thoughts are clouds – let ‘em go. We learned this in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – the group therapy class I went to once a week that actually produced some helpful stuff! Turns out emotions happen and some of us are “highly sensitive” – this may shock you, but yours truly, who cries all the time over pretty much nothing, is highly sensitive (my boyfriend can confirm). So we ride this roller coaster of emotion all the time and then sometimes the roller coaster takes us right into crazy eating land where we’re stressed or anxious or angry or just plain bored and then suddenly we need to eat everything in sight or nothing in sight. But those thoughts – those food thoughts that tell us we HAVE to engage in unhealthy food behaviors – they have about as much power as if a potted plant said that. Our thoughts can’t make us do anything.

So imagine those thoughts are like clouds. We recognize that they’re there, and then watch them float by. This sounds silly, but was really helpful for me. Every time I was plagued by food thoughts, I would latch on to them and then freak out trying to figure out what I would do about them. But turns out I didn’t have to latch on. I could just acknowledge that they were there, smile and wave, and then let them keep floating. I know this is easier said than done, but there will be moments of victory! Moments where you see the desire to binge or restrict and you recognize that for what it is – just a thought! Let it keep floating 🙂

 

Biblical counseling. My therapist loves Jesus and has a deep understanding of the psychological underpinnings behind disordered eating. I cried a lot in her office. She told me that my brain was creating neurological pathways that led from anxiety and emotion directly to food and that I needed to repave those pathways. She told me to imagine that my brain was operating in secret and didn’t want me to see what it was doing for fear that I would make it change. But with therapy, I was able to learn what it was doing, to crack open the door and peer into the crazy mechanisms it was using to protect itself. This was so helpful in understanding what was going wrong so I could start to make it go right 🙂

 

Go to a nutritionist at least once 🙂 A healthy relationship with food is one of the most important pieces of recovery. Talking with someone who has an advanced degree in food and metabolism helped me understand my body’s dietary needs. I need carbohydrates! And fat! And by depriving my body of these, I’m suppressing my metabolism and making myself food-obsessed! She directed me to something called the Ancel Keys starvation experiment that I ended up using in my thesis. He wanted to discover the impact of prolonged starvation in an effort to create effective treatment for POWs who had undergone starvation. Interestingly, how much do you think he fed the experiment participants each day? Between 1200 and 1400 calories. That was what I was trying to eat! However, in these men, after a few weeks, they were obsessed with food, with cigarettes, with gum, anything to keep their mouths occupied. They were irritable and, well, hungry. You can find a brief description of it here in one of my favorite and most credible sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Starvation_Experiment. Okay credible is a stretch but this article is legit 🙂 Our bodies were not designed to operate with that little food! My nutritionist taught me about serving sizes and how breakfast should have a protein, a carbohydrate, a fat and a fruit or vegetable. She taught me to eat snacks in between meals if I was hungry – to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. She taught me to listen to my body! She taught me to have two protein servings, two carb servings, two fat servings and a fruit or vegetable for lunch. Different bodies have different caloric needs, so meeting with a nutritionist is super helpful to determine what your body needs!

She taught me that food is food. That the sugar in an apple is the same as the sugar in M&Ms, but the apple is way bigger because it has more water in it and will fuel my body a little better because it has some fiber and vitamins and minerals in it. Now that I’ve just completed my metabolism module in medical school, I can confirm that she’s right! Glucose is glucose – and guess what? Our body NEEDS it. If our body were supposed to be in constant ketogenesis, then we could be in constant ketogenesis. But it’s not! This is not normal! Our brain needs sugar and our red blood cells can ONLY metabolize glucose! And when we don’t eat enough, our body goes into starvation mode and our brain does whatever it can to make us eat!

 

Walk in freedom. This is maybe the health principle I am most passionate about. Galatians 5:1 tells us that it is for FREEDOM we have been set FREE! So do not submit again to a yolk of slavery! As a Mama Ruth at Pine Cove, I had a group of eight girls for five weeks. They kept asking me if they could go to the bathroom and I kept telling them they didn’t have to ask! But we’ve all been raised with this kind of implicit idea that in class, we have to ask to go potty. Therefore, it would make sense to ask an authority before journeying to tinkle time palace. So one day I made a potty pass out of a big red tray and insisted that they take this massive plastic thing that said to the world “I’M GOING TO THE BATHROOM” with them if they had to go. Eventually, I sat them down and read to them Galatians 5:1. I then threw away the potty pass J I told them that I’d given them freedom to go potty, but they weren’t walking in it! Isn’t that silly? To keep asking to go to the bathroom, even when you don’t have to! Because they kept asking, they brought the ridiculous potty pass on themselves!

Do we not do the same thing? We have been given freedom – a freedom that inspired the writers of Hebrews and Galatians to harp on the fact that we have been set FREE from legalism. It is through the grace of God that He allows us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we’ve been called (Ephesians 4:1). As a RESULT of this grace, we get to follow the moral principles set out for us in the scriptures.

So why do we fall back into the yolk of slavery in regards to food? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that whether we eat or drink, we should do so for the glory of God. He tells us in 1 Timothy 4 to be wary of religious dogma that requires abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving.

For me, it was hugely valuable to take a few weeks to intentionally eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I realize this is terrifying to someone who for years has had a rule-infused food relationship – someone like who I used to be. My therapist told me she had a client with disordered eating who was OBSESSED with M&Ms and so she told the client to carry M&Ms everywhere. To eat them all the time. Eventually, she was sick of them. The M&Ms lost that magical appeal, that “forbidden fruit” quality that made her crave them all the time.

So I tried it! I ate ice cream whenever I wanted. I had cookies and cake whenever I wanted – I just ate anything and everything all the time, whenever I wanted! And guess what? After a couple weeks, these foods I obsessed over for so long lost their power over me. They were no longer an off-limits thing I craved, but rather something that I could eat whenever I wanted.

I am free to eat and free not to eat. During this phase of uninhibited eating, I realized that to walk in my freedom, I didn’t have to eat junk food. My nutritionist used to tell me to eat for how I wanted to feel. Sure, an oatmeal cream pie and a pint of ice cream might sound delicious, and I could totally eat them for lunch! But how would I feel after? Not so great L It was this freedom and way of thinking that taught me to exercise my freedom by freely eating a sandwich and carrots for lunch, because I knew I would feel better! But I had to maintain the mindset of freedom – that I could have had the ice cream if I wanted, no big deal! I just was choosing to eat something that might fuel my body a little better! And sometimes, I can choose to eat ice cream and it’s totally fine!

 

And now, as a first year medical student who by the grace of God has seen disordered eating become a part of a testimony of the victory of Jesus Christ, I have ice cream in my freezer at all times. I love it! But I know if I eat a ton of it, I will probably get a tummy ache! I know that I am in a high-stress environment and in order to keep myself sane, it’s important to make healthy decisions about food and exercise. I try to follow the 80/20 rule – the idea that 80% of the time it would probably be wise to eat healthier foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and protein. And about 20% of the time I eat foods that might not be quite as healthy – like the ice cream I eat almost every day! However, I use a mug to put my ice cream in! That way, I make sure I’m not eating an exorbitant amount of ice cream for a serving! And if I eat my ice cream and want more, I get more ice cream! Because I walk in freedom! But usually the second serving makes my tummy hurt, so I tend to stick to just one 🙂

I carry a baggie of almonds and chocolate chips in my back pack for when I get hungry and have a bag of hershey’s kisses in my pantry for when I want chocolate! The Lord taught me to walk in freedom, and allow myself the joy He intended food to be! To eat ice cream and cookies with my friends! To look forward to a piece of cake leftover from my birthday party! Start by letting yourself walk in freedom and then eventually you can start to discover what it looks like to express that freedom in choosing to eat foods that will make your body feel better! And for the record, once the Lord taught me to be free from food and body image slavery, a few years later I fit in all my clothes again 🙂 I am a normal, healthy size! I didn’t diet, I didn’t weigh myself, I just walked in freedom. I’m not supermodel skinny, because I know God didn’t create me to look that way! I just let go of my obsession with body image and ate in freedom and tried to eat in moderation and let the Lord take my body where He wanted it to go.

It wasn’t a perfectly upward trajectory to recovery. Some days were terrible and some days were better and my therapist assured me this was normal. So don’t expect to get better right away 😦 But do expect that there will be moments of victory, no matter how small! And know that healing IS possible, no matter how impossible it seems! And if God is for us, who can be against? Not even food is greater than the Lord our God 🙂

14 Things I’ve Done and Learned in a Semester of Jubilee

I need to be honest – I googled the year of Jubilee to find where it was in the Scriptures. Last summer when I was talking with one of our full-time staff about what to do with a year off, she mentioned that I could use my gap year as like a year of Jubilee! We both had this idea from scripture – and Wikipedia informed me that it’s in Leviticus 25 (don’t judge me for not knowing where it was. You didn’t know either amirite??). Every seven times seven years (that’s forty nine – I’mma help you out) the fiftieth year was this year of jubilee where the land rested and no one farmed and everyone was set free and it was awesome.

After I quit my residency in January, through with God taught me about four hundred important things, I had this semester of Jubilee where my sweet parents were like – look, we love you. We know med school will try to kill you. We’ll pay for everything you need and let you rest and use your semester however you want. God bless you Dave and Suz Harakal (whom I call Mom and Dad, but who are also famous among my friends for hosting anything and everything and therefore “Mr. and Mrs. Harakal” just became too many words for household names).

But my boss from my 2014 summer as a Pine Cove Camp in the City senior counsellor told me once: Callie, you weren’t created to derp. So no, I didn’t spend my semester honing my derping skills, I promise J I mean there was some derpage here and there (naturally), but it’s been the bomb. So here are some things I, by the grace of God, got to do and discover.

  1. I did a Goer Missional Community (GMC). This is Austin Stone Community Church lingo for a group of people who are passionate about obeying Jesus’s commands to make disciples. So you could call us like a disciple-making team J It has been the most influential experience! We read “Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World” by Bob McNabb and it was a game changer. Everyone order it on Amazon right now. I’ll wait. Seriously go order it. http://www.amazon.com/Study-Guide-Spiritual-Multiplication-Missional/dp/1942374011/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461267897&sr=1-1&keywords=spiritual+multiplication+in+the+real+world
    1. Jesus taught by example, so we are to follow suit. He had a huge group of followers, found the faithful few, and then literally did everything with them and taught them how to do ministry by making them do it! In our GMC, our leaders showed us how to have prayer meetings, read the scriptures, share the gospel and meet internationals – then we followed 🙂
    2. Making disciples isn’t optional. 2 Timothy 2:2 says that we are to share what we’ve been entrusted with faithful men (or women, ya know). Knowledge of God isn’t to puff us up – it’s to share! Each week we would read the scriptures and then talk about who we would share it with!
    3. There are over a thousand verses about God’s heart for the nations in scripture. We have to be a part of God’s desire to see every tongue tribe and nation gather around His throne. We can go, mobilize, send, pray! I ordered a $9 shower curtain with a map of the world and get to remember everyday to pray for the unreached! Also I’ve learned some startling geographical facts – who knew how big Kazakhstan was? Or where Iran and Iraq were? Or how massive Greenland is? And you eat out all the time – I have been hitting up Middle Eastern restaurants and trying (not successful yet) to make friends with the natives who work there! So easy! We can also give money to missionaries – the best!
    4. How can they know if no one tells them? God chose us as His means of sharing the gospel. So we gotta do it! I am about as awkward as it gets trying to share the gospel, but it gets easier with practice! If you are in Austin, you can try Model Zones! You get paired up with someone who has a lot of practice knocking on doors, looking for people open to Jesus and sharing stories about Him. https://docs.google.com/a/utexas.edu/forms/d/1zaRBWkrvTFtlmQJGt1q0KtclGw413h1VimP-L2txc8E/viewform?c=0&w=1 Sign up – you won’t regret it J Seriously do it!!
    5. Community with purpose balls so hard. I’ve been dishearted by inward-focused small groups, but didn’t really know how to make them more missional. Well now I know! Have a purpose and make plans to fulfil that purpose J Every week we scheduled times to go out and share about Jesus. When we met, we wrote down the names of people we’d met who were open to reading the bible. We practiced tools for sharing the gospel. We met on Thursday mornings to pray for them by name and pray for the nations. The girls in my GMC are some of the most incredible women I’ve ever met and I have super relationships with so many of them whereas I never really made close friends in a small group through church L We had a profound connection in that we wanted to make disciples! Some of them met with me at 5 a.m. at coffee shops to pray. They got me connected with Muslim ministries. A bunch of us are taking a “Bridges” class on Muslim ministry at my house watching a laptop we set on top of a laundry basket. We have great relationships and obedience because we met through a group with the purpose of making disciples and a common heart for the nations! They have totally spurred me on to love and good works – ugh bless them all
  2. I promise the rest will be shorter – my GMC was just so wonderful I could go on for like too many pages. I finished Men’s and Women’s Development Program at the Austin Stone! I recommend it to EVERYONE. Literally I don’t even think you have to go to church there to do it! For eight months we had weekly teaching and readings on theology – from the character of God to infallibility of scripture to order of salvation to heaven! We memorized scripture each week and y’all it’s the bomb. I would write them on notecards and literally just read them at traffic lights. So easy to take little tiny time chunks to memorize truth! You’re giving the Holy Spirit this huge arsenal for speaking truth to you all the time!
    1. Memorizing scripture is so important I cannot even
    2. Study the scriptures. Observe first: who wrote this? What is the context? Why did they write? Do I need to know anything about the culture at the time? Then interpret: What does this mean? What can I learn about man? About God? Then a hugely important step: APPLY!! We did “I will” statements with my GMC – we would come up with a practical, measurable way to practice what we read during the week. This is how we let scripture change our hearts: we inform our theology in order to bleed into our behaviour 🙂
    3. I have the attention span of a really small fish who all the other fish couldn’t handle because he couldn’t focus on basic fish stuff. Lectures were hard. But awesome. I pinterested some during them. And listened too. Mainly listened. And pinterested. Whatever.
  3. I worked! I babysat for so many families I don’t even think I could list them all! I also tutored and played some piano 🙂 One of my besties claims I am Mary Poppins. Accurate.
    1. Stay at home moms are heroes. It is harder to stay at home with kids than to be a rocket scientist or dive with sharks or be a doctor or do a whole marathon in heels backwards. Bless you all.
    2. Babies sometimes need to cry themselves to sleep. Sometimes I feel like a terrible babysitter, but the little teenies don’t know what’s up and cry because they’re tired and don’t want to be alone, but it won’t get better for them until they rest 😦
    3. Play tag with them. As much as it wears me out, sometimes kids just like chasing you. Like they love it. Worth it because they laugh so hard J And it blesses moms so that they don’t have to run around with their energetic kiddos 🙂
    4. Sometimes you are worth $$. I got really awkward charging for tutoring since you make so much per hour, but I finally had to realize that people were willing to pay that much! Like I’m worth it to them! Had to find a balance between humility and a worker being worth his/her wage ya know?
  4. I am still learning Spanish. It’s a long and arduous process but worth it! I am improving a teeny bit each day! I’ve gotten to translate during Model Zones (I say “translate” in the broadest sense of the word because like lol who knows what I said. Or what they said. I got ideas across. I think?) and I almost cried I was so overwhelmed at the way God was using all my hard work! I use DuoLingo, Rosetta Stone, a Netflix show called “Rebelde” with Spanish subtitles, Notes in Spanish Intermediate and Advanced Podcasts, and Hablemos Español Podcast. And I took a class at Freestyle Language – great things 🙂
    1. The words for fish and sin are very similar in Spanish. Do not share the fish gospel. We all have fish, Jesus saves us from our fish, etc.
    2. Learn all the Spanish curse words to avoid saying them.
    3. Make the google translate app your best friend
    4. Talk to yourself in Spanish. I mean ideally, talk to a Spanish-speaker in Spanish, but like I am always there for me ya know? Spanish speakers can be hard to come by.
  5. I made progress on my ever growing list of classic movies I want to see. I’ve drawn from friends, IMDB top 250, pop culture references and academy award nominees to make a list in my planner of hundreds of movies to watch. I’ve been making gains slowly but surely 🙂
    1. Citizen Kane was a cinematic game changer because of its filming and storyline but honestly the movie sucks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
    2. Mad Max: Fury Road became one of my top 5.
    3. Finally watched the Fast and the Furious and want an opportunity to yell “Monicaaaaaaaaa!” when someone walks away because I didn’t win.
    4. Check your Jurassic Park rental closely. Could not figure out why there were so many plot holes. Eventually realized I was Jurassic Park III. Problem solved.
    5. The Usual Suspects was fantastic
    6. The Godfather was three hours of my life I’ll never get back, but worth it to talk in that weird voice about making offers you can’t refuse
    7. All of the Academy Award Nominees for this year that I’ve seen were incredible. Minus the Danish Girl. Treston made me turn it off because too weird. Understandable.
    8. The Graduate? Profound. Kinky. Jury’s out on that one.
    9. Blade Runner – always raining. Makes you think. Might have been some nudity – TG Treston was asleep.
  6. I am experimenting with my artistic skill. I suck at watercolor. A third grader in art class and I are on similar levels there. Playing guitar is hard because my fingers hurt, but whatever. Using the “Yousician” app for learning to play my guitar (Benjamin, named after “The Patriot”) and it’s super helpful 🙂 But my keyboard (named Vana. Vana White. Because she was the only white one in the store. Not intended as a racial statement, but like she was my favorite. Independent of whiteness. The more I talk about this the more I dig myself into a hole. I’m done now.) definitely comes with me for worship leading purposes because not quite proficient in guitar. I can do hand lettering pretty well! I can also paint an abstract multi-color background and that’s about it.
  7. Do. CrossFit. Please still love me. I know we’re obnoxious, I get it. I talk about it all the time but hear me out: I talk about it all the time because I am always sore. Always. So it’s always on my mind ya know? Like – oh I’m sitting down now. My hamstrings hurt from dead lifts. Oh I’m waving now – whole arms hurt from throwing that barbell over my head and under my feet and like I don’t even know where else. And it sucks. I told my coach I wanted to try pilates. She laughed at me and said you don’t get sore and strong in pilates like you do in CrossFit. I responded that I want to die every workout. She said everyone wants to die every workout. But y’all there is a dent on my arm between my bicep and that other muscle below it (who didn’t take anatomy in college? This girl). That was not there before! I put weights on the bar! I AM GETTING STRONGER WOOHOO!! It’s exciting!!
    1. Community in CrossFit is so fun because you are all wanting to kill yourselves together – the makings of friendship
    2. You get a ballin workout
    3. There is CrossFit lingo that you learn and then feel super cool saying
    4. You do not have to eat paleo or whole 30 to do CrossFit – don’t let them force you into it. Read my “Callie takes Whole30 2k16” page that I had to change to “Whole30 takes Callie 2016.” Took me five days to realize that I needed ice cream.
    5. You are humbled because you thought you were an athlete. Then you run during a workout and feel like a beached jellyfish. I fall over more than anyone else in CrossFit I swear it.
  8. Sometimes I’m a whitewashed tomb. I look real great on the outside sometimes but inside I am in shambles! Treston is so good about telling me what is good and right and sometimes it’s way harder to change hearts and attitudes than it is to just be nice to people or read your bible. Because no one sees it, ya know? When I am joyful and gentle and selfless, people notice and praise that. But when my heart is bitter and angry and sinful and prideful and judgmental, it’s harder to tell when I let the gospel permeate and erode that. Praise God for accountability and God-fearing boyfriends who encourage me to love when it’s hard and seek freedom from the slavery that is bitterness, selfishness and unforgiveness. Sometimes I have to just journal all my feelings and then let the gospel change them – it takes time to work through all the ew in my heart ya know?
  9. Med school needs your shot record to matriculate. If you wanna be a doctor, make sure you’ve taken your shots. Did not see that one coming, but TG mom made me get vaccinated.
  10. Everyday. Cut out time to pray – it’s so easy, it just takes practice and a little discipline! I’m awful at it, but I find it’s become a teeny bit easier and more natural as I keep carving out more time. Sometimes I’m like – yeah I’ll pray more when I’m in the rhythm of med school. Lol. I’ll be more inclined to cut out time for Jesus when I have ten thousand more things I have to do. Jokes. There’s no “someday” with spiritual disciplines. Someday starts today.
  11. Screenshot funny animal pictures. I’ve found them really valuable for groupme conversations.
  12. Okay I laugh really hard when I send them. I also don’t get a tonnnnn of positive feedback on them. But who are we trying to impress right?? Just make yourself laugh. You’ll love it.
  13. I teach English to an Afghani woman and her cute little son in her apartment once a week! It’s the BOMB because I’ve never gotten to really interact with a Muslim woman from the Middle East! Y’all she is so nice and hospitable and beautiful! Trying to make friends from other cultures has been so fun and eye-opening!
  14. Buy a box of granola bars and keep them in your car. Always worth it.

How I Got In to Medical School (Practical tips. But really it was all Jesus.)

By the grace of God, I get to go to medical school at UT Health Science Center San Antonio starting July 2016! I love getting to talk to high schoolers and college students about how I got in and what advice I have! So I thought I’d type it up for anyone to access 🙂 I think a lot of health careers advising will probably say similar things, but maybe I have a fun spin on what specifically I did!

Step 1: Do you actually want to be a doctor?

Here’s the deal – doctors make good money but not tons. If you want to be loaded, don’t be a doctor – it’s a lot of work and school! The best first step is to shadow doctors. How do you do that? Well, here’s what I did – I contacted anyone and everyone I know who had a parent in the medical field. Literally I facebook messaged friends from high school, called my gynecologist, let my dad connect me with his friends – the works! It’s valuable to have both breadth and depth – to see different specialties and to spend quality time shadowing maybe one doctor! I shadowed lots of different specialties – literally just a couple of mornings a semester I would follow a doctor around. My weakness in my application was definitely that I didn’t have a ton of shadowing experience – only about thirty hours tops. My friend shadowed the same orthopedic surgeon every Friday morning for at least a semester and got in to med school as well 🙂 Ask them a lot of questions! In interviews, a lot of my answers had to do with things I’d seen from doctors I shadowed and things I talked to them about. I asked how they felt about changes in health care like the Affordable Care Act, what advice they had for a pre-med, why they picked their specialty, what they like and dislike, any particularly tough cases, etc.

So make the most of shadowing 🙂 I got a rec letter from a doctor I shadowed and he wrote me a GREAT letter! Be professional – get there on time and look nice even if shadowing surgery (I showed up in shorts and a tee for surgery day and there was a clinical shadowing opportunity that I couldn’t do since I looked hella shambly). And don’t be afraid to engage with patients if the doctor allows – if there is down time in an appointment, ask them about their day, how long they’ve been coming to this clinic, etc. In my rec letter, he noted the way I interacted with patients which I think is a strength of mine and could definitely be a strength of yours too 🙂

Be realistic – do you actually like hard science classes? If general chemistry 301 is kicking your butt, then your butt will for sure be pulverized by the time Biochemistry II takes a whack at it. There are some baller professions out there that are similar to being a doctor – nursing, physician’s assistant, occupational therapist, etc. – that take less schooling and less nitty gritty sciences 🙂 (but can equally if not even more rewarding and a better fit for you specifically!!) Also med school is four years of school plus four or five years of residency – so make sure you really want it before you take a ton of science classes and then realize every time you see blood you throw up 😦

Volunteering in a hospital can be fun, but in my experience I didn’t get a ton of patient interaction. I would definitely recommend shadowing doctors, because the best way to get exposure to doctor life is to see what days look like as a doctor and talk to people who are doing what you want to do 🙂

Step 2 – Make Good Grades

Okay everyone will tell you this. Med schools look at personal statements and qualities and experiences and whatnot, but honestly the bulk of your application is the numbers. If you have low science grades and/or a pretty low MCAT it will be really tough to get interviews 😦 I have something I call the Callie Harakal study method that I used in college and it helped me keep a high GPA! I’m sure it’s what most people are already doing J Here is a brief overview of the method:

  1. Keep up in class. Tbh I slept through like 20% of my classes, but I borrowed notes from a friend in these cases! Turn your phone off in class (or else you will be so bored and just play on it instead of paying attention! I know from experience…) and force yourself to engage with the lecture. The more times you hear the information the better!
  2. Ask questions! Ask them in class! If you don’t understand something, raise your hand! If you have a question, a bunch of other people might have the same one. Don’t be scared if it’s a big class 🙂 Also meet your professor with a legitimate goal – like bring in your homework and see if he/she will help walk you through how they solve problems. Or bring in specific questions – you will need professor rec letters! You don’t want them to just have to write one that’s like – oh yeah she was in my class I think and never did anything weird. I am pretty sure I pulled an A- in a class where I had a solid B because the prof knew and loved my little brother. Or I slayed the final. Honestly I’m pretty sure it’s the first one. Relationships count 🙂
  3. Start studying at least 3-7 days out. You don’t want to pull an all-nighter before the test. Booooo. Sleepy test taker = terrible test taker. Start early! Go find a coffee shop and hole up there. I work well in new places 🙂 Which is part of why I coffee shopped so hard in college. Start by combining EVERYTHING you know about the subject. Read the book, go over notes, lectures, practice tests, everything you can find. And write it down in color coding. It will take forever, but I think it’s worth it! Using different color schemes for different categories of information makes it a little more fun J So for example if you studied the proteasome in excruciating detail in biochem II from a prof who regularly wore Hawaiian shirts and sandals, then you would combine everything you knew about the proteasome from notes, slides, the book and practice tests (ideally all in one color scheme). Write it all down so all the info is in one place 🙂
  4. Here’s the hard part – take the info and play with it. Memorizing facts and a dollar will get you a very small cup of coffee max. Anyone can memorize – profs, especially in science classes, want you to understand the info so that you can use what you know to solve problems. I call this a fluid knowledge of the material – such that you can look at the info from different angles and in different scenarios and still get it. Reorganize it and condense it – find a way to present the material in a new way! New pictures, new order, etc. Make pneumonics and songs – I kid you not. The more you can connect new info to things you already know, the more you will be able to remember it on test day!
  5. Pace around and practice. I would pace my room talking to myself about the material! We know something best when we are able to teach it! So teach yourself! Explain concepts to yourself! Look at your notes and read them aloud a lot so you see your notes in your head 🙂 Then sleep well and eat well for your test! Also make sure to get exercise 🙂 It’s good for you and increases blood flow to your brain! Drink lots of water too! But not right before the test or you will have to pee…I’ve seen it happen, folks.

3 – Do things you actually care about

Every pre-med is ambitious and wants to spend a million hours fluffing their resume and interviewers know that. Med schools want to see that you can handle the rigor of their coursework, that you are dedicated to being a doctor and that you will be a valuable addition to their school! I do not like research – so I didn’t do any! But I love people, so a lot of what I did was working at camps, with kids, etc. Find things you love doing in college and stick with them. An interviewer told me once that they evaluated applicants’ “flight risks” – would they drop out of med school? I had several activities in college that I was super committed to for all four years, held leadership positions in, etc. so I had proven that I was able to commit to things – med schools like to see that 🙂

Don’t worry about joining pre-med organizations unless you want to. A lot of pre-meds join them too, so it doesn’t really stand out. Join organizations that you are passionate about! I did Ignite at UT – which is a retreat for incoming freshmen and I was an exec my junior year and loved it! In interviews I was able to talk about my experiences in Ignite, how much I loved it, and show how much time I committed to it. I was also really involved in music – I did show choir and played piano! Are you super in to softball? Then play! Ref! Do you love film making? Well major in RTF and make films 🙂 They love diversity! I majored in Plan II Honors and History – because they were fun! You’ll have to take about 30 extra hours of science classes, but who doesn’t love a double minor in chem and bio?

Seek new and exciting opportunities. Plan II had a newletter that I usually read and through which I found about neat things! I did the bridging disciplines program at UT for awhile – which is like a 19 credit hour program that includes hands on experiences and classes for like tons of neat concentrations! I ended up majoring in history instead, but through the program I interned for the healthcare division of a think tank, an experience which literally all my interviewers asked about 🙂 I also pass-failed a class in Spanish for Healthcare Professionals which has been super valuable especially since I am going to med school in San Antonio 🙂 Don’t get too tunnel-visioned in science and hospitals. Only volunteer in a hospital if the experience is enjoyable and valuable! I volunteered with my church for four years in the kids ministry and I want to be a pediatrician 🙂 So that was helplful!

Also get involved in academia where you enjoy it. I had some friends who worked for MCAT prep and they really enjoyed that and it looks great on a resume! If you love biochem, see about being a TA for it! See about tutoring or working for a tutoring company – if you can teach the material, then this totally shows that you know it J Also my friend was an RA and apparently that was a really great experience that he wrote about in his personal statement and is now studying an MD/PhD at Baylor College of Medicine.

I’ve heard that med school anatomy covers a semester of college anatomy in like two days. A lot of people were surprised that I never took physiology or anatomy! They’re not pre-reqs for most schools 🙂 Not for any as far as I know! Would it be good to take those classes? I think it certainly wouldn’t hurt! If you have extra room in your schedule, you can definitely pass-fail anatomy and/or physiology – another friend of mine who is also at Baylor did that! If you take it for a grade, you can show medical schools that you can handle the academic challenge which could help make up for some lower grades in science classes or show a knack for the sciences if you major in something besides science! But you can also take classes less explicitly related to medicine if they are interesting to you! Like nutrition through the life cycle to learn about food for all ages, or a human development class or class on family – you can take exercise science classes or ones on health policy 🙂 These will help you be a more well-rounded applicant, give you more experiences to draw from in your interviews, and literally just be fun and educational!

4 – take the MCAT once you have done all the pre-reqs

I have minimal input here since I took the old MCAT and never took a class. I did well enough on the MCAT to get in, but I think if I had put in more effort I could have gotten a better score! You don’t necessarily need to take a class – they cost a poopton! But I would definitely get access to online tests and practice practice practice. I bought a book used online and studied it before I took the MCAT. Honestly I took a practice test cold before I started studying and ended up with the same score the second time I took the MCAT. So obviously my preparation didn’t help a ton. You need to know the information, but you also need to be familiar with the way the test works and asks questions – practice well! Take some full length tests and also spend some time just doing shorter sections and then going over the answers. If you keep practice testing and making the same mistakes, then you’re not really helping yourself 😦 Look for patterns in missed questions, then think – how can I do this better?

Take it sooner than later – this way you have time to retake if you like! Ideally you just take it once and then be done with the thing 🙂 I took my second MCAT in like September of my application cycle so I literally got the last interviews at like three schools because my scores came in so late. Don’t do that 🙂

5 – make a baller application

Work on your personal statement the semester of the year you apply – probably spring of your junior year! May first the applications come out! You want to submit it as soon as possible since a lot of schools do rolling admission. My friend submitted like May (the) fourth (be with you) and had all of his interviews except for one done in like September. It was heinous. So have your ideas ready for your personal statement – maybe even have it done! Look at the application from the previous year – it probably won’t change year to year J Use those prompts to write your essays 🙂

When writing, get creative. I camped out at Mozart’s for like a day and wrote them! Everyone and their mom will try to get health professions staff to look at them, so schedule an appointment with them early if you want them to read it! Like literally in like March or April, using the prompts from last year. I waited to write my essays until May and it was like lol they are booked until 2019. I’m exaggerating but really. Be specific – what experiences do you have that led you to medicine? Apparently a lot of people have been affected by cancer and write about that. Although this is undoubtedly so tragic and compelling, I have heard that med schools are not super impressed by these essays 😦 Be specific if you have this sort of experience – what element of being a doctor was revealed to you during the time of suffering of a loved one? What did you experience as a patient or friend/family of a patient that is unique? Make a good opening line to your essay 🙂 I always try to start with a story – med schools read a crap ton of essays so make yours stand out 😦 Also be specific about why you want to be a doctor. Apparently everyone says they like science and want to help people so this won’t cut it. Try to reference as many specific details and experiences as possible! Use shadowing experiences – what did you like about the day to day of being a doctor? What did you like or not like about physicians you shadowed and how has this motivated you to pursue the profession? Don’t just reiterate your resume – interviewers will see this so you don’t need to repeat it! What did your experiences show you? How did they mold you? What does your resume not say??

And once again have fun! Can you create a theme that opens and closes your essay? Be memorable! You have limited space so don’t get crazy, but if you have a funny story, tell it (if it’s relevant). Essay readers are people too! Don’t be vague or you’ll just blend in with everyone 😦

6 – Shred your interviews

I made like 84 mistakes in interviewing but God is faithful and still let me in.

Do:

  • Wear a business professional suit. Look, if you like pant suits then go for it. I hate them and look like a masculine pear in them so I went with a cute jacket and skirt 🙂 Don’t be afraid to look cute! I had a yellow undershirt that I wore and had a navy suit! You don’t want to be obnoxious, but if you usually dress in bright colors, then maybe include a pop of color! If you love florals, wear a floral shirt with your plain suit 🙂
  • Get there super on time. Southwestern literally called me the morning of my interview because I was late and they were like – lol everyone else is here what are you doing.
  • Research the school! Even if it’s like your bottom choice, look in to the school and why you would specifically want to go there! Sometimes the school will give you their presentation before your interview – if they do, pay attention! Write down things that appeal to you! A lot of interviewers ask what you like about their school
  • Make eye contact 🙂 Your interviewer is a human too 🙂
  • Ask your interviewer questions! Ask them what they like about working at that particular school, what made them choose their specialty, etc. Because your interviewer is a human, too, they will appreciate it if you show them that you care about them too 🙂 Also you can tell when they love where they work which is part of why I liked San Antonio so much!
  • Be honest! Don’t try to give them the answer you think they want! One Southwestern interviewer asked me if I thought it was okay to break a rule and I was like – definitely! I explained why I thought that and she was super impressed with the way I thought about it.
  • Read books. Like in life. One interviewer asked me what I like to read and I read a bunch of books so we had some really great convos 🙂
  • Pretty much every interviewer will ask you why you want to be a doctor. If you say “I want to help people” they will inwardly cringe and write you off. Be specific and use examples! For example, I like that doctors move from patient to patient! When I worked at the think tank, I used my mind a lot but got up to “pee” like every hour just because I needed to walk around. Tell stories! I shadowed a c-section once and came very close to crying because I thought it was so magical.
  • Be prepared to tell them what you think will be difficult about medical school and being a doctor. Also include how you will overcome those things 🙂

 

Don’t:

  • Wear a half khaki half white dress to your first few interviews. You are supposed to wear a suit. Oops.
  • Tell your interviewer you want to be a graphic designer if med school doesn’t work out. Oops.
  • Forget what you wrote about at that think tank. If you have a neat experience in the medical field, maybe even make note of what you learned through it or re read what you wrote in the experience 🙂 That way you don’t look like a space cadet with your interviewer when she asks about what you wrote…

7 – Follow Jesus

Here’s the deal – at the end of the day, God is the one who opens and closes doors. If he wants you to go to Baylor, you will get in. If he wants you not to go to UT Houston, you will not get in there. If he wants you not to be a doctor, He will make it clear. If He lets you in to a school, praise the Lord! If He does not, still praise the Lord! Take a year off and apply again 🙂 How can you improve your application? Explore other alternatives, too! Maybe a career in social work or the non-profit sector would be an even better fit? All in all, whatever you do, do it for the glory of God 🙂

Why I’m Not a Resident at the Austin Stone

Today is my last day as a resident at the Austin Stone. Why is this? Well, I’ll explain with a story. It’s relevant, I promise.

Once upon a time, there was a music major. Her name was Callie (that’s me). She started college at UT as a double major in piano and Plan II – knowing she wanted to go to medical school. But she loved music! She had played piano her whole life and thought to herself “Wow! I will be the most diverse and intriguing med school applicant because I majored in music and liberal arts!”

She loved the idea of being a music major. She loved telling people she was a music major, pre-med. She even liked some of her classes – she got to take an accompanying class which was fantastic (and terrifying because everyone else blew her skills out of the water, but that’s besides the point). And she got credit for being in UT’s show choir Longhorn Singers – which she freaking loved.

Then the classes dragged on. She hauled her 35-lb. (exaggeration, but close) music theory book to class every morning at the crack of dawn, where she was taught things she already knew because as it would turn out, music theory lends itself to pianists and vocalists. She was both. Yowza. It’s like if every athlete had to take a class on soccer basics – all the soccer players would have a huge leg up. All the music majors have to take music theory and I was the soccer player. I lucked out.

Within this magical land of music majors, there are instrument lessons. You get two hours of credit for like six thousand hours of work. There is a mysterious grading scale where half of your grade comes from your lesson times (somehow) and half comes from a twenty-minute jury at the end of the semester where the faculty stares you down from a huge recital hall where you prove your skillz on a big piano signed by Van Cleiburn (he is a big deal in the piano world). My teacher, whom I will refer to as Lord Farquad, was a lovely, artsy man. He liked to talk in sweeping statements. Apparently his lofty language was intended to make me a better pianist but I never had any idea what was going on.

Lord Farquad liked classical-era music. So each week, I would lock myself away in a tower (practice rooms at the music school) and pick through each note of a three-voice Bach piece or Haydn sonata that I hated. Despite Lord Farquad’s general loveliness, I had no idea what to do with my fingers in response to his vague artsy instruction. Bummer.

The day-to-day of studying music got to me. I used to love piano – I loved the way I could play music off the cuff and relieve stress. But in music major land, the piano became my source of stress. Yet I had started as a piano major and I would finish no matter what. Callie does not quit. Not matter how much she dislikes music major land.

Spoiler alert: by March, Callie had fled music major land. She finished the Spring semester and ran into the welcoming arms of international nutrition major land, before an eating disorder forced her to flee yet again, this time to her final destination of an additional history major. Yet most music major land-residents (I will call them munchkins because they are artsy and wonderful and they can sing and dance) belong there. The munchkins love the land because they want to do music forever. It is their home; it was not mine.

So why is this relevant? Well, I think I started working at the Austin Stone for reasons similar to those that compelled me to be a music major. I love the Austin Stone Community Church because I served there for so long and I have grown so much in my relationship with Jesus thanks to the resources and community I have found there. The idea of working for the Austin Stone was so compelling! I wanted to spend my year off growing as a woman of faith, learning and being challenged.

I have realized that the concept of working here is so exciting, but the day to day was less so. My heart beats for medicine, for the intellectual challenge of problem-solving within the body, the constant movement and interaction with broken people. My favorite task so far has been putting together IKEA furniture because I love to create things. Unfortunately, this has like nothing to do with my actual job.

But I started as a resident, and I wanted to finish my year. My sweet therapist who walked me through an eating disorder – we’ll call her Buttercup for the sake of the mystical theme – spoke truth to me when I saw her in November. I told Buttercup I wanted to stick it out, no matter how much I disliked the day-to-day. She said I didn’t need to. Although it was an honorable motivation, the Lord puts us places for seasons. I lit up when she told me I didn’t have to stay – and she told me God gives us passions and feelings for a reason. When our feelings are contrary to truth, we can acknowledge them yet remind ourselves of truth and not allow ourselves to be driven by them. However, sanctification doesn’t have to suck. The Lord wired me a certain way for a reason J I didn’t have to stay just for the sake of staying. Buttercup reminded me to cling to the scriptures to make my decision, but know that both staying at the Austin Stone and leaving were in line with the revealed will of God.

I realized soon after that this decision was not unlike the one I made while slogging through music major land. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I loved saying I was a music major, but while the munchkins and Lord Farquad belonged there and loved it, I didn’t. Same with the Austin Stone – I am so glad to have experienced the growing and learning I did here! But I only have a few months left before I leave May 16th for Europe (EEP SO EXCITED!!!!!). And I want to use them well – also to rest and recover before eight years of uninterrupted schooling and hard work.

While I was praying about the decision at the end of last semester, we had a staff meeting on one of the Austin Stone’s eight core tenets: Equipping the Saints. God creates us differently and gifts us differently and we must use what we’ve been given for His glory. I have an artistic skillset that is so unique, so valuable – I am eager to develop what I have for the kingdom! This semester I will focus on learning guitar – to lead worship overseas, to write music with subtle gospel references and hopefully play at coffee shops! I am also a professional pianist, and I need to keep up my skills if I want to serve employers well in the way I perform. My other goal is to become conversational in Spanish! So many experiences have taught me the value of speaking someone’s native language with them, and the difficulty of developing this skill once I start medical school. So I will dedicate time to learning J

So today is my last day in Austin Stone staff land. I will miss it, but know that God created me for different things! I want to use my time wisely and develop the skills I have for His glory!

31 Things I have Learned that are Valuable in Life (both Holy and Non-Holy)

  1. Try to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. My boyfriend Treston taught me that from his pilate-instructor mom who is so in shape. It’s super helpful – when I make sure I eat good stuff, usually I tend to eat less junk food too! But fear not – I still eat plenty of ice cream and cookies in addition to my fruits and veggies.
  2. Drink tons of water. Like tons. If my pee is colored I’m like – dang, I should drink more water. It’s good for you – “healthy and hydrating” in the words of a man, maybe woman idk, who insisted I chug my water at Starbucks.
  3. Spotify premium is a worthy investment. It’s like $5 a month for students – then use every function available and your musical diversity will sky rocket. The “Discover Weekly” list is made just for you each week with songs in the style of those you normally listen to. It’s flawless. Usually.
  4. Do resistance training. Like lift weights and stuff a couple times a week or find a yoga routine on YouTube – my back and neck used to randomly hurt but it’s gotten way better since I started getting stronger. A strong core helps with literally everything you do
  5. Cry it out, then ask advice. Treston has taught me this one. He holds me when I cry, validates my feelings and listens, then asks what I think Jesus is teaching me through this situation. Ride the wave of emotion, then listen to wise and biblical counsel (usually they see the situation a bit more un-biasedly than we do!)
  6. Apologize first. This one sucks, but it’s so biblical to forgive and to love actively. Getting along with my supervisor has been hard, but when I beg Jesus to change my heart and then apologize (even if I don’t think I did anything wrong, or think he wronged me first), things always end up better.
  7. See your on-campus doctor. These medical services are WAY CHEAPER in college – trust me. It never hurts to make an appointment and take like under an hour of your time to talk to someone about what hurts. It’s way easier to catch things early and prevent them then to go in once your hip finally falls off and ask how to glue it back on (me exaggerating me in February 2014).
  8. If you think something encouraging, tell them. My best friend Emma taught me this one – sometimes I’lll be talking about how great or talented or Godly a person is and then realize what a blessing it would be if I shot them a text or told them next time I saw them! Never hurts
  9. Try running without headphones. This one seemed brutal, but ended up awesome. My church development program talked about silence and solitude a couple weeks ago – exercise is a great time to silence the many voices of the world and remember the joy of setting your mind on Jesus and keeping it there. I try to do shorter runs this way – it’s so restful
  10. Classic rock is called that for a reason – it’s fantastic! Listen to “Barbara O’Reilly” by the Who. Then listen to “Best Song Ever” by One Direction. Shed a tear or two as you recognize that good music began like over forty years ago. Also to clarify – I love One Direction and still listen to “Drag Me Down” on loop. Their new album is on point.
  11. Find good books and read them. I super mega highly recommend anything by Francine Rivers – she is a fiction author who loves Jesus so her books have really neat biblical under/over/all around tones. Also I’m getting real into Elisabeth Elliot – she’s a baller. So is Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
  12. Buy clothes that fit and take your scale and send it to outer space. I learned this one in therapy – remember that God straight up doesn’t make junk and we are like actually literally all bearers of His image. So if you gain weight, lose it, or don’t go anywhere – wear things that make you feel pretty and comfortable 🙂 Also numbers on the scale make you anxious and food-conscious. Booooooooo.
  13. Save money and tithe! Don’t freak out and save every cent – obviously, money needs to be spent on critical things like nail polish and coffee. Get in a rhythm of always giving 10% to Jesus because He gave you 100% of it! And save a little bit here and there so you can be prepared for what God throws at you 🙂 And so you can bless the tar out of people whenever possible. When you make more money, it’s just as hard to give money because our appetites for things grow too. Get in a habit of giving now so one day when you make more, you are eager to continue giving!
  14. Say yes to a first date and no to a first date-like thing that he’s not willing to define. Boys are weird. If they never ask you on a date, it is because (AND I SWEAR IT I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP) God either has freakin’ awesome plans for your singleness or is asking you to be patient while blind and confused boys stumble around trying to figure out where all the Jesus-loving girls are. But if he loves Jesus, say yes even if you’re not sure–I did this with Treston and that turned out well
  15. Study hard! I never looked back on college and was like “dang I wish I would have slept more during finals week.” I was like DANG GINA SO GLAD I WAS UP LATE BECAUSE I GOT AN A IN THAT CLASS. (Or B+ or whateva). Sometimes, it’s worth it to work hard! People are also worth losing sleep for – coffee shop late night study dates were my saving grace
  16. Become a regular somewhere. A coffee shop/study spot where you can get to know people just because you are there all the time! I still love that I know a lot of the baristas at Mozart’s! This is also a great way to be missional – by letting people see your friendliness and generosity and building a relationship to get to know and love them! Then maybe share Jesus if they are open
  17. Erin Condren and May Designs are your best friends – but enemies of your wallet. I find that I use things when they’re cute – so I got a super cute Erin Condren planner and it has helped me be so organized! I got a May Designs budget planner that is also super fun! Good investment for those like me who can’t really focus unless things are colorful and nice-looking
  18. You only college once so don’t major in something you don’t enjoy – take opportunities to shadow and get experience in your field! I got in touch with random friends’ parents who I knew were doctors and shadowed them – it was awesome! Junior or senior year, try a part-time internship somewhere to see what a day in the life of your potential career is actually like. If you hate your classes, it doesn’t hurt at all to take a semester and take some random classes to see if you discover something you love! Online classes are your best friend – knock out core requirements during the summer and winter breaks so you can take really great classes at your university.
  19. Subscribe to the Skimm.. It is my exclusive source for news honestly. They email you every day – a really easy-to-read and funny and young professional woman-centered summary of current events. Flawless. Also free.
  20. Create input goals. I read an article one time about this and actually incorporated the idea into the conclusion of my Plan II senior thesis! Set goals for behavior, not necessarily for outcome. For example, if your overall goal is to get up earlier, set mini-goals of things that will help you get there: going to bed sooner, setting out your clothes the night before, not drinking caffeine after a certain time, etc. I wrote my thesis on weight loss, for which input goals are super important! Setting a goal of losing twenty pounds can be super frustrating if you don’t see fast results; rather, set goals of eating a fruit at every meal, or drinking 64 ounces of water each day! This way, you can tangibly measure success at achieving these mini-goals, which is a great encouragement on the way to achieving larger goals.
  21. See a therapist – it’s worth it. I saw a therapist for months while recovering from an eating disorder. When I was going through a hard time at work, I met with her (she loves Jesus so much!) to talk through what was frustrating. It’s always great to hear a different perspective, especially from someone who has such an advanced knowledge of the way we work! And she gave me so much wisdom which has helped me make big decisions!
  22. Identify things that leave you feeling filled and not drained. A lot of times, I feel drained after being with large groups of people or watching TV shows for too long. But I feel fantastic after going for a run or baking cookies! Take time to figure out what things fill you up – and then do them! For example, it is a lot easier to sit and watch TV for a long time, but I know that I will feel more filled if I do something creative or work on learning new Spanish words!
  23. Turn off the radio for a few minutes. We are constantly barraged by sounds and things that vie for our attention! But in the silence, we get to focus on Jesus. Just like running without headphones, driving without music is a sweet time to focus on prayer. Listening to music is my favorite! But it’s so sweet when I discipline myself enough to cut out even a few minutes a day to reset my mind on things above
  24. Homemade facemasks. They’re the bomb. Way more fun than spending a lot of money on beauty products! I usually look on pinterest or google and then use things that are already in my kitchen – like honey, bananas, cinnamon and lemon! Homemade face masks make your face feel and look great
  25. Put your phone away. This is one of the many things I learned in therapy! When we are constantly on our phones, we teach our minds to be a million different places at once. This makes it super hard to focus when we actually want to! So when you don’t need your phone, keep it out of sight! Maybe even turn it off for a bit while you are reading or working! Even better – I usually leave my phone in the car when going to spend quality time with people. This way I am not tempted to let my mind be elsewhere – instead I can fully engage with them.
  26. Get up and move! I was the healthcare policy intern for a think tank for a semester my junior year of college. I learned quickly that I can never do a desk job. Like every hour I would get up and go to the bathroom. I had to pee maybe 30% of the time; I just needed to move. But studies show that taking a short little walk can do great things for your focus and attitude! Even better – every hour or so take a few minutes to walk outside. This gets your blood flowing and nature is proven to help improve mood (probz because it’s like straight up the creation of the God of the Universe!)
  27. Take advantage of time with neat people. I learned this one as a Baby Ruth at Pine Cove in 2011. We would have dinner with someone or a couple each week and our Mama Ruth would tell us to glean wisdom from them. This has stuck with me – when I talk to doctors, I always ask for advice and insight! We can learn so much from people! Old people have such cool life experience – ask to hear about them! Also this will probably make their day
  28. If you don’t understand something, learn about it! I’ve used this a lot in sports – I have learned a lot about football by asking questions while watching games and then literally googling “football for dummies.” My boyfriend and brother love football, so it’s been super valuable to take the time to improve my knowledge and understanding of the game so I can be a part of their conversations!
  29. If you have a heart for a certain people group, start learning the language now! I will be in San Antonio for med school and several doctors I talked to said they wish they had learned Spanish. I’ve been working on it – using Rosetta Stone, reading a side-by-side Spanish/English bible, putting myself in places where I’ll communicate with native speakers, looking for classes, etc. When I went to South America on mission trips, it meant so much to the kids that I could speak like a really teeny tiny amount of their language and that I would try to use it! Jesus came down and lived among us, walking our lives and speaking our language ya know? It’s really neat to be able to invest time and energy and money into reflecting that element of the Gospel for people who speak other languages.
  30. Refine your skills! If you have a knack for something, use it! Like if you are athletic, it’s so fun to take time to play in an adult league or coach or something! I have an artsy bent and it’s been really neat to find online lettering tutorials and test out my painting skills! I played piano all my life, but always wanted to learn to play guitar! I downloaded the Yousician app and it’s been helpful! But it takes time to get good at things – I learned this with piano. I started when I was five and I’m 23 now – but the first few years were kind of a grind. But it was SO worth it to be able to play so effortlessly now! If you have a bent for something, take the time to develop that skill – it’s such a joy to get to be able to use the things you’re good at
  31. Read those emails your college major/workplace sends out. I found out about some sweet opportunities just by reading them! 🙂

Why I’m a Resident at the Austin Stone

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I am supposed to be in medical school right now. On Sunday mornings, when I am holding babies in the nursery or rolling up to the church before the sun shows up, my friends in med school are studying biochemistry. During the week, I meet with staff teams, answer emails, and edit spreadsheets; up until July, I imaged my October weeks to consist of anatomy labs and clinical skills.

So how did I end up here?

Well, last October, about a year ago now, I made a commitment to Pine Cove Summer Camps. Was it wise to make a commitment for the full summer even though I knew some medical schools started in July? No. Does God consistently use my shambly decisions for His glory and my good? Every time. The director of Pine Cove Woods – one of Pine Cove’s family camps in Tyler – asked if I would be a Mama Ruth the second half of the summer.

Here’s the deal: four years ago, I was a Baby Ruth. In 2011, I was a part of the five-week discipleship program at Pine Cove that God used to change my life. Since then, I wanted to be a Mama Ruth – one of the handful of women selected to lead a group of eight girls who had just graduated high school through some of the toughest weeks of their lives. I was honored and stoked on ice. I started praying consistently for eight nameless, faceless college seniors I would lead the following July.

I also started interviewing for medical school. My friend and I played med school bingo – seeing who could get the most Texas interviews or get the “black out.” Praise the Lord, we both ended up with the very exciting and suuuuper legitimate med school bingo black out. This February, after visiting and interviewing all over the state, I got my bid. Applying to Texas medical schools is like rushing a Greek sorority – at the end of January, I had to rank all the schools where I interviewed, and then they ranked me. And then match day (basically med school bid day). My third choice – UT Health Science Center in San Antonio – was my match and I landed on waitlists at my first two choices, in addition to waitlisting at Baylor, which doesn’t use the Texas public school Greek system.

So there I was, in the middle of June, working at Pine Cove and having no idea where I’d go to med school. I begged God to let me get in to Baylor, but He in His sovereignty said no and humbled me by keeping me from getting in off of any of the other waitlists. UT Med (a shorter nickname for UT Health Science Center San Antonio which is a mouthful but it’s fine) is a fantastic school and was sending emails about classes and orientation, which would start in July.

Oops. Baby Ruths finished August 7th. My b. Naturally, I emailed the Dean and asked if I could start a week and a half late. He diplomatically said “literally no. It’s med school. You are drinking out of a fire hose day one. By day nine, you will die if you start late.” But I could request a deferral. The illustrious, yet elusive deferral. It means that my acceptance gets moved to the next year. Basically, I would get a year off and already be accepted to UT Med and not have any stress of applying, interviewing, or trying to boost my medical credentials.

Most schools do not defer. And if they do, the deferral is hard to come by. Buuuut Sarah’s womb was closed and she still had a son. Mary was a virgin and she had a son, too. A biblical trend seems to be: God accomplishes His will. No matter what.

So I got the deferral. In July. Months after most year-long gap-year programs were long done accepting applicants. I had turned down an Austin Stone residency offer for this year in spring because I didn’t know what the year would hold, but come July and the resident hired for downtown a.m. kids ministry had quit.

So here I am. I jumped on the Austin Stone resident boat months after the rest of the squad. Now I spend a lot of time with my laptop, which I named Walden because of that pond by which Thoreau used to sit and think. Walden sits and thinks a lot. He doesn’t do a ton of work, but it’s fine. I do a lot of administrative things I am not naturally wired to do. I have meetings and expectations that entail punctuality – which is another one of my not-strong suits.

But maybe serving in a children’s ministry is a good place to grow in these weaknesses – before peoples’ lives are in my hands, or their bodies are on an operating table and a mistake could cost more than a do-over or disappointment from my supervisor.

I wasn’t planning to work for a church in a year off before medical school. In my mind, I would be studying my life away right now, or on a European adventure as a nanny or farm worker. But God made it clear that even Jesus waited thirty years before His public ministry, taking time to learn and grow. So it was about time I did the same – take a year off to grow as a woman, a follower of Jesus, an employee and a future doctor.

The Great Physician

“My soul, praise the Lord, and do not forget all His benefits. He forgives all your sin; He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit; He crowns you with faithful love and compassion. He satisfies you with goodness; your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Psalm 103:2-5

Daddy God, the greatest physician, made me whole and delivered me from the bondage of disordered eating. A year ago, I was without hope of healing. A year ago, I was begging my parents to tape the fridge and pantry shut, terrified of being alone with my thoughts lest they overrun me and lead me to indulgence that would quickly become self-inflicted punishment and regret. A year ago, I woke up every day thinking I would be a slave to food for the rest of my life. I had tried everything – books, therapy, medication, group therapy, nutrition therapy, white-knuckled will-power. I begged God to take away the gluttony and body image obsession that consumed my life and the saints joined in prayer for months, years.

God chose not to grab my hand and lift me out of the mire, but invited me to wade through the pain with Him. I was Naaman in 2 Kings 5 – asked to jump in the nasty Jordan River seven times for healing.

And I am healed. Completely. It is a miracle. They told me eating disorders took an average of eleven years for full recovery. Mine was in a matter of months. It wasn’t a gentle upward trajectory of freedom – it was a messy, jumbled mess of moments of victory followed by failure. And it was the most incredible gift God has allowed me to experience.

In every medical school interview, my eating disorder has come up. In every medical school interview, I get the opportunity to glorify God and speak of the myriad sweet things He showed me and developed in me. In several medical school interviews, interviewers have been impressed by the changes wrought in me by God through the experience of bulimia. Every medical school committee has read my personal statement and knows the gift of disaster that hit me in college, and the gift of recovery that came by the grace of God.

He has given me invaluable insight into the stigmatized and painful depths of mental disorders. He has taken my heart of stone and given me a heart of flesh that empathizes with the hurting, the broken and the hopeless. He has given me a level of vulnerability to share with those I lead, and those I follow, that I could never have obtained without such an experience. He has taught me to seek His face and savor His word, because when I was at my lowest, it was all I had.

And at the end of October, after several discussions with hesitant parents, I got to get my first and probably only tattoo. Late on a Wednesday night, three of my dearest friends came with me to a tattoo parlor on Sixth Street where we held hands in the waiting area and begged God for safety and success during the tattooing process so foreign to all of us. Three more friends came by and the six of them crowded into a little booth, taking turns holding my hand while Nick wrote “tune my heart to sing Thy grace” in the most beautiful script on my foot.

God commands us to remember what He has done – He tells us to build Ebeneezers and keep in mind His holiness, His mercy and His grace. I chose this phrase because of a blog I wrote about a year ago, when the Holy Spirit placed this line from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in my heart and kept it there. It is a constant reminder that God, in His mercy, chose not to heal me from an eating disorder, but to guide me through the crazy beautiful adventure of drawing close to Him and realizing so many of my shortcomings.

In the beginning of Matthew 9, Jesus forgives a paralyzed man’s sins and then commands him to walk. He shows the world that physical pain not the root of our problems, but the symptom of sin. My eating disorder wasn’t a sickness to be healed by Prozac or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, but an outward manifestation of a broken heart.

God tuned my heart to sing His grace. A dear friend wrote me the other day and said grace was my anthem, and I realized she was right – God has literally molded me to proclaim His grace in a process completely attributable to His power in me. My name “Callie” means “beautiful” and is short for “Callandra,” which is a bird with a beautiful voice. And God gave me a voice to sing His grace. He has even brought incredible healing to the vocal nodes that have plagued my voice since sophomore year of high school. How sweet that before I was even a twinkle in my momma’s eye, God had predestined me to sing His beautiful anthem of grace. I am an instrument in His hands – anything good or successful in me is exclusively a reflection of His goodness and success on the cross.

So have hope. I have been hopeless and hurting. I have been broken, weeping in the fetal position on the floor, screaming at those who love me. God is the great physician, the perfect father, who holds our hand and walks with us through the Jordan River, tuning our hearts to sing His grace and His goodness.