Today is the last day of 2016! Can you believe it? In some ways it feels like this year has lasted forever, and in some ways, it feels like only yesterday that I was sitting down to dream about what this year could possibly hold.
I bet I’m not the only one feeling that way!
It’s amazing how the days can be so long sometimes, but a year can also be so short. So — in the few quiet minutes before everyone wakes up, and by the glow of the fireplace and the Christmas tree (which I vote should be left up until April!) I wanted to look back at my 10 favorite moments of 2016, and I would love to share them with you!
So without further ado, and in no particular order…
My 10 Favorite Moments of 2016:
1. Getting back into a daily routine with God
When I first became a Christian, and for years after, daily quiet times were my favorite touch-point with God. Each morning we’d curl up together, and we’d talk through all of the things on my mind, we’d talk them over together, and through His word and through the Holy Spirit, He’d guide me and teach me and grow me and lead me.
It was my favorite part of the day, and something I relied on in order to keep grounded, to really feel like I was close to God, and honestly — to keep my head on straight.
But — like with every part of life, things rise and fall. And after several years of just loving this spiritual practice, it started to get a little bit dry. My life changed, my schedule changed, and all of a sudden it felt almost impossible to get up early and spend that time with Him. For awhile I tried to pretend it didn’t matter, for awhile I tried to convince myself I was getting just as much good time with Him throughout the day, and I was. But it just was never quite the same.
It took awhile — a change of some circumstances, and some serious discipline, but I’m back to spending time with God again each morning. And I have to tell you, I love it.
It’s my favorite way of connecting with Him, it’s my favorite time to snuggle up with Him and learn from Him, and in so many ways, having this time carved out and a part of my life again has felt like coming home.
2. Being married to Carl
Writing about our marriage is always so hard for me, because it’s the one area in my life where it feels like no matter what words I string together, I can never fully capture it.
Being married to Carl has been the highlight of 2016, and the years leading up to it as well. Marrying him is the best decision I’ve ever made, and having him in my life feels like unwrapping the world’s best Christmas present every single day.
Getting to go through every day with Carl by my side feels like a constant repeat of that moment when your parents tell you that you can bring your best friend on your family vacation. Your favorite best friend by your side on this adventure — there’s simply nothing better.
Carl is my perfect match in so many ways. He makes me a better person, creates space for me to keep growing into the woman God created me to be, encourages things in me that I didn’t even know were inside of me, and provides this solid foundation of unconditional love that has me convinced I can actually do anything.
I’m surprised every single day by the fact that I wake up and love him even more. I keep thinking I’ve hit the ceiling, or the bottom of the well. I can’t possibly love him more than I do today. But the next day, I do. I love him more. It’s amazing to watch our love deepen and unfold.
And, I’m convinced that there’s no better feeling in the world than being loved by him. It’s like being cozied up in front of a fire, warm and safe, as the most beautiful, cherished, special woman in the world. That’s how I feel when I’m with him.
Oh — and did I mention how much he makes me laugh? He’s like that kid in your class growing up — charming, and witty — the smartest, funniest, cutest guy in the room. I’m just totally smitten.
Marriage gets all kinds of reputations in our world these days, and for some reason I hear married people talk about all the reasons it’s hard far more than the reasons it’s wonderful. But this last year — through the hard that life has thrown our world, and our country, and our lives this year, being married to Carl has been the most fun and warm and happy part for me.
3. Learning to love Nashville
I remember exactly where I was when I made this decision. I was sitting in a pew in my favorite church in Boulder, Colorado. I was home for a speaking event, and snuck off for awhile to pray. That sanctuary is such a thin place for me — a place where God feels extra close, extra present.
We were sitting up in a balcony pew when I told Him for the thousandth time that I wanted to move home to Colorado. It’s where my family is, where my best friends are, and I’d tried everything to get back there. Yet for some reason, He wasn’t budging.
I felt like a visitor in Nashville — still — after almost 2 years. I was doing everything I could not to invest, to hold it away from myself with two fingers and my head turned away — like it was a dirty diaper.
I didn’t want to love the city because loving the city meant keeping the city — it felt like loving one meant I couldn’t love the other, and investing in one meant I’d be stuck there forever.
And I wasn’t ready to commit to Nashville forever. I just wanted to go home.
But up there in that pew that day, something in my heart shifted. It was like I suddenly remembered that God had never steered me wrong. And it’s true. He hasn’t. At every turn in my life, even the hard ones, He’s had something wonderful up His sleeve for me — a twist in the story that I never could have asked for or imagined.
And I realized that if God was keeping us in Nashville (Which He was. Trust me, I tried to leave!), there must be a reason, and a wonderful one at that.
I also realized that I want to be the kind of person who lives with faith — someone who trusts God even when she can’t see what’s around the next corner. And I realized I hadn’t been living that way. I realized that if God had decided to call us home to Denver, I would have so many regrets for the way I squandered and whined away my time living in Tennessee.
And so in that moment, I decided to make a change. I decided I wanted to fall in love with Nashville, to really invest, to give it everything I had — to really trust that God is good and He knows us, and He knows what’s truly best.
And I have!
I’ve made wonderful new friends in Nashville this year, I’ve really invested in old ones. I led a small group in Nashville, this year. I explored the city more. I made it more my own — feeling proud to live here and excited about the lives we’re building together in this great town.
I still miss Denver and my people there every single day — but I also know that I’m right where I need to be right now. I actually feel at home in Nashville now, and for that I’m deeply, deeply grateful!
4. The Love Your Single Life Course
At the beginning of 2016, I hid away for several months creating something I’m still so excited about: My course: Make The Most Of Your Single Life.
Being single felt brutal at times for me over the years— watching everyone else find their person, wondering when mine would come along, going though heartache after heartache — it wasn’t easy. But at some point I decided that I could spend this season (however long it lasted) feeling sad, and alone, and like I was waiting for my life to begin, OR, I could live my life to the full. And so I did!
Those years of being single in my 20’s were some of my favorite of my whole entire life. They’re the years that made me me, when I got to know God and go deep in my relationship with Him, when I got to travel the world, when I got to make life-long friends, when I got to heal from some of my own baggage so I could connect more deeply and more fully with someone in the future.
Those years of being single transformed me, my life, and my marriage — they’re the reason I was able to meet Carl and the reason our marriage has been so wonderful so far.
It was a TON of work putting the course together, and it was super scary to release it out into the world. But the response has been amazing.
We’ve had 500 women join us for the course so far, and it has been such a gift to watch them make that transformation in their own lives as well.
Oh — and a little side note on that: I’m going to be opening the doors again in February!! Click here to check it out and to put your name on the waiting list! Doors will only be open for 5 days when they open, and I’d hate for you to miss out!!
5. My mastermind retreat
I think we have this idea that friendships are supposed to all happen in college — that by the time we’re graduating, we should have a best group of girlfriends all assembled — our people for life.
I do have amazing friends that I met when I was 8 and 13 and 20 and 22. But, one of the greatest gifts of the last several years has been the fact that best friendship didn’t end then.
I’ve made wonderful friends in my mid and late 20’s, and three of those amazing friends are the women in my Mastermind group.
If you’re not familiar with a Mastermind group, it’s kind of like a business small group. It’s a group of women you meet with regularly to help each other along the way with your businesses. The hope is that they become trusted confidents, advisors, cheerleaders, and helpers. And that’s exactly what mine has become.
We’ve been meeting together every other week for about 18 months now, and a few weeks ago, we went on our very first retreat.
The week after Thanksgiving the four of us met in Cancun, and it was one of my favorite weeks of the year, hands down.
The resort was stunning, the food was amazing, and the ocean was the most perfect aqua color. I couldn’t stop staring! We spent our days bopping from the pool to the beach into the ocean and back again. At night we’d head to dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants, and stay at the table long after we should, ordering everything on the menu (because it was all inclusive and why WOULDN’T we??) talking about everything from God, to work, to creativity, to boys, to the Bachelor, and back to God again.
That week revived me in so many ways. It felt so much like my time in Spain in The Lipstick Gospel. It reminded me of some beautiful core truths about God. It was an amazing time of rest and rejuvenation, and it was just so ridiculously fun.
Having these women in my life has been one of the greatest gifts of the last year, and getting to spend that time with them in person was an absolute highlight.
6. My girlfriends
While we’re on the subject of friends, I have to mention my best friends as one of my highlights of 2016. I truly do have the greatest girlfriends in the world — both the ones I’ve known for 20 years, and the ones I’ve known for one year (if you don’t feel like you have your group of best friends — that ship has not sailed, I promise! Also — if you’d love to make more friends, or go deeper with the ones you have, check out this free eBook!)
But truly, I have just loved friendship this last year.
The year started with a super fun week in Boulder over New Years where I got to watch my best friend marry her new best friend Alan, who could not be more perfect for her.
This year was full of best friend time in Nashville, investing in friendships there and watching them grow in beautiful, deep ways. I went home to Denver no less than 5 times this year, getting good face-to-face time with my oldest, and most constant girlfriends.
I got to meet new friends that I can’t wait to get to know better.
We had so many friends in and out of our house this year — gathering for dinner, staying for a few days, making our house feel even more like a home with each new memory and conversation.
I even got to watch my best friend Kelsey become a mom this year — bringing my newest and tiniest best friend into my life — Bodie.
I think as we get older and as our lives become more complicated and full, friendship is one of those things that can easily fall by the wayside, but that hasn’t been the case for me this year. I haven’t LET it be the case for me this year.
My friendships have deepened and also widened this year, and it’s absolutely been one of my favorite parts of 2016!
7. Our summer at camp
This summer was totally crazy for Carl and I, and it’s absolutely one of my favorite parts of 2016.
On July 1st, we drove up to Indianapolis to spend the 4th with his amazing family, and then to celebrate our anniversary which is the 5th. We were in Indy for a few days before we packed up all of our things and headed to Wisconsin to help out at the summer camp I spoke at last year — a camp that’s run by another dear friend of ours.
That week we were in charge of pouring into an amazing group of high school seniors and college students — leading their devotional time.
My favorite part about that week though, was watching how God was using Carl.
Watching Carl speak, and preach, and love those kids — watching the way God was using him in their lives, and the way God was so evident through Carl — I just cried as I watched him in action, because I was so proud to be his wife.
God is using him in amazing ways, and it was one of the best gifts of my year to get to have a front-row seat and watch.
The second camp was over however, we hopped on a plane to Boston and then drove to New Hampshire where my extended family takes a vacation together each year. We spent a week there, flew back to Indy, drove back to Nashville, were home for two days — two days in which one of my best friends and her boyfriend happened to be in town and stayed with us — and then we hopped back in the car and drove down to Florida where I was the speaker at a different camp for two weeks!
It was a full month and a half before we were back home, and we’d pretty much spent the whole time cannon-balling into lakes, and eating Sloppy Joes, and slurping ice cream. It was an amazing adventure to have together, we got to see God do the coolest things both in us and through us, and it was so refreshing to unplug for awhile and to really feel like a kid again.
Our summer at camp was definitely a highlight for me!
8. Getting out of debt
This may seem like an intimate one to include on the list, but I really wanted to because I know I’m not the only one who has found herself here.
When Carl and I got married, I had a little bit of school debt that I still needed to pay off, and throughout the process of us getting married, and moving to a new state, and buying a new house, and starting two new businesses — we totally accidentally racked up a bit of credit card debt. (I know — I never ever, ever thought I would be the person to say that!)
But — a huge goal and dream of mine for 2016 was for us to pay off that debt, and in May, we actually did! It’s all gone and I could not be more proud or happy about it.
That was a major highlight for me of 2016.
9. Losing both of my grandparents
Okay — this was NOT a highlight of 2016, but it is something that happened this year — something I haven’t talked about much.
When 2016 started, I had these grand plans of hitting the ground running. I couldn’t wait for the year to get started, I had so many dreams and goals I couldn’t wait to run after. But, right before the start of the New Year, I got word that my grandpa was sick.
Throughout January he continued to get sicker, and I found myself in a haze of grief that I just couldn’t shake.
I watched so many episodes of Friends that month, and I made vats of rice pudding and loaf upon loaf of banana bread (why rice pudding? I have no idea!) Most everything else got put on the back burner and I just checked out for the month. He passed away at the end of January — something I just totally didn’t see happening in 2016.
And then, in July, something happened that I’ve been afraid of and dreading for years.
You see — my Gramie was our 5th family member. There was me, and my parents, and my sister, but our 5th was always Gramie. She lived in Washington, D.C. so, not down the block or anything. But she was there for everything. She was at every graduation, every Christmas, visiting just because she missed us and wanted to hang out. She was the star of our wedding — the life of the party in the middle of the dance floor. She was my person, my mentor, my buddy, a woman I want to emulate in so many ways in my life.
And in July she had a stroke.
It happened during our summer at camp. And in the middle of the two weeks where I was speaking in Florida, I hopped on a plane and flew to Washington to say goodbye to her — leaving for the airport straight from my place on the stage, and returning 30 minutes before I had to speak again.
It was brutal — absolutely the saddest thing that’s ever happened in my life — and I miss her every single day.
Losing my grandparents was the last thing I wanted to happen this year, and so it definitely wasn’t a highlight. But — in it, my family got to spend so much time together, God felt so present and so close, and Carl was a rock for me in a way that I’ll start crying if I try to fully explain.
It was a really hard year because of these losses. Definitely not a highlight. But something I’ll always remember about 2016.
10. Speaking at the Annex
There are few things I love more than a great story, and I love when God brings our stories full-circle. I love how moments like that give us tangible reminders, a side-by-side before-and-after to see just how much we’ve changed and grown, just how much He’s done in our lives.
I got that chance this spring when I got to speak at my favorite college ministry, The Annex. It’s the college ministry that helped me really get to know God my senior year of college, and it’s the place I worked (and led the Sorority Bible Study that inspired this blog!) the year after I graduated.
That’s the sanctuary where I had the conversation with God about Nashville, and it just feels like my spiritual home in so many ways.
So I was just over-the-moon this year when they invited me to come speak. I got to speak at 3 events over the course of two weeks. I got to host a girls night, got to speak at a gorgeous fundraising dinner for a missions program that sent me to Ghana for 10 weeks after I graduated from college, and I got to speak at the church gathering on a Tuesday night. It was so wonderful and so surreal. Having my family and best friends in the audience made it even better!
I’ve sat in those pews more times than I can count, I’ve heard so many people speak from that stage, I’ve learned so much from them, God has changed me so much in that room and through that place — speaking there was just a gift I never could have even imagined.
Okay — I know this is an 11th item, but I’m adding it anyway.
I am so grateful for you, sweet friend. This wonderful community here has grown so much over the last year, and not a day goes by where I’m not deeply grateful for the fact that I get to know you, and that we get to have this space to share together.
Thank you so much for being here, for reading my stories and for sharing yours with me. The emails I’ve gotten from my sweet readers this year should have their own place on the list because they mean so much to me!
Our little corner of the internet, this space we’ve created together, is one of the greatest gifts of my whole life — not just this year. But I’m so deeply grateful for you. So thank you so much for being here!
What are some of your highlights from 2016? If you have a second, pop them in the comments below! I’d love to hear!!