Year in Review: 2016

This year has been a whirlwind of milestones – graduation, getting married, moving to a new city, my husband’s new job, getting a kitten, and going vegan to name a few. While these were all joyous moments for me, I had my fair share of stress and suffering. But don’t we all?

Before I go any further with my year in review, I want to say that I am so tired of hearing people say that 2016 has been a terrible year. I’ve been hearing people say they are ready to put this year in the past and never mention it again. Really? While there have been some devastatingly heartbreaking events this year, the year itself is N O T bad. I would encourage you to focus on all of the good that happened in 2016 rather than dwell on the bad. A negative attitude will get you no where and accomplish nothing in life. Don’t be fooled into thinking that things will instantly get better in the new year. Just like losing weight and getting in shape, it takes hard work and dedication to make a change. So let’s learn from the mistakes of 2016 and move forward to a more positive and uplifting 2017.

In order of events, here are some of my highlights from 2016:

  1. Getting to live with my Maw for the first half of the year – Growing up I always thought it would be fun to live with my grandmother. And it just so happened that I needed a place to live while I worked in Lynchburg and my Maw so graciously let me live with her for a year. God really blessed me during that year and I will always treasure the time I had living with Maw.15801304_1291306717575341_47967898_n
  2. Working as Editorial Assistant for Lynchburg Living and Lynchburg Business Magazines – Right at the start of the year I had the opportunity to work part-time as the Editorial Assistant for two local magazines while the Managing Editor was on maternity leave. It was a wonderful two month experience and just the right amount of work while I was also juggling wedding planning.
  3. Furthering my yoga practice – During the course of the year I completed three yoga challenges and even won a prize for the first challenge I did! These challenges helped get me into a routine and encouraged me to do yoga on the daily.
  4. Premarital counseling – Brendan and I did premarital counseling from February-May this year through Thomas Road Baptist Church. I was a little skeptical about it at first and thought it would be a bunch of mushy gushy stuff, but it turned out to be an awesome experience for the both of us. Not only did we lay it all out on the table and learn more about one another, we learned what marriage is really about that it takes a lot of faith and hard work to make a marriage great. So thankful for Pastor Jay and the time he invested into us.
  5. Bridal shower – On April 23 my Aunt Sarah threw me a wonderful Bridal shower and her new house. It was such a sweet time with friends and family and totally helped ease some of the wedding planning stress. 15820778_1291307190908627_387934203_o
  6. Bachelorette Party – My maid of honor Krista planned the sweetest and most thoughtful Bachelorette party for me on May 7. Since I’m not into the party-scene and alcohol drinking, we spent the afternoon at the cutest Irish tea shop where we had tea, finger sandwiches, and desserts. Then we went to do some pottery painting and ended the evening with dinner at Isabella’s Italian restaurant. So thankful to have that time with my girls. 15820555_1291307377575275_2008136560_o
  7. Graduation – I technically graduated from Liberty University in December 2015, but on May 14th this year I was able to attend my commencement ceremony. And the best part? I was able to be with Brendan who was also graduating. Both of our families were there and we were all able to celebrate together. It really made those 4 1/2 years of studying worth it. 15800964_1291307520908594_1669025728_n
  8. My Wedding Day ❤ – On May 21 I got to marry the love of my life and have my dream wedding! Yes there were a couple of hiccups here and there, but I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. Even though it was calling for rain, we had some blue skies and were able to have the ceremony outside in the garden of Oak Ridge Estate, just as I had envisioned. It was a beautiful, God honoring day filled with friends and family to help us celebrate. Truly the best day of my life. 15801169_1291307894241890_1048087388_n
  9. Honeymoon in New York City – Brendan and I spent 5 glorious days in my very favorite city for our honeymoon! I’ve always known that I didn’t want to spend my honeymoon at the beach or on a cruise, and we both love cities so much that New York City just made sense. I couldn’t think of a more romantic place to spend with my love. We were able to go to the top of the Empire State Building, see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, go to the top of the One World Trade Center, spend an afternoon in Central Park, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, etc. The only downside was that I got food poisoning on our last full day in the city and I spend the day in bed. But hey, I’m focusing on the positive here. I survived and Brendan took good care of me. What a wonderful husband. ❤ 15820129_1291307777575235_1810800617_n
  10. Moving to a new city and into our very first apartment together – On June 1st Brendan and I moved to a new city and into our very first apartment together in Roanoke. I got the downtown apartment I had been dreaming about and we had fun exploring the city this summer.15785554_1291308680908478_692262730_o
  11. Birthday Getaway to Richmond – For my birthday this year Brendan took me to Richmond for the weekend on a little getaway. While our time there was short, it was honestly one of the best birthdays I’ve had in years.
  12. Adopting Cheetah – Mom and Dad always have a lot of kittens at their house, and this summer there was a very special little orange tabby that I had my eye on. Brendan and I debated whether we should wait to get a kitten, but once we saw Cheetah I knew that we needed to bring him to live with us. Adopting Cheetah has taken a lot of adjustment, sometimes he’s downright annoying, but we are so thankful to have this little fur ball in our lives.15857231_1291309717575041_748629662_o
  13. Going Vegan – I’ve been vegetarian for 5 years now and have been feeling the pull towards veganism for quite some time now. On November 1st, World Vegan Day, I decided to go vegan for a week to see if I could do it and how my body would react. It’s now the end of December and I’m still vegan. While I’m not perfect, I want to try my very best to stay on a plant based diet and adopt an overall plant based lifestyle. Right now I’m going strong and don’t want to turn back!
  14. Traveling to Georgia – In mid November Brendan and I had the opportunity to travel to Georgia (my first time) to visit our friends Brady and Lora. Brady and Lora got married just a few days after we did and moved to Georgie in May. Brady is now the youth pastor of church in Georgia and we were able to see his ordination when we visited. What a blessing these friends are and I am so proud of everything they are doing for the Lord. 15824602_1291309580908388_645042082_o
  15. First Christmas together – And last but not least, Brendan and I were finally able to be together on Christmas as we celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple with Brendan’s family n Delaware. We had a wonderful few days spent with his family, and we were even able to bring Cheetah along with us! 15820736_1291310160908330_1489587202_o

I know for some 2016 has been a very trying year. I had my ups and down as well, but through it all God has been so good to me and my family. We have had great health and so many blessings to celebrate. My prayer for 2017 is that we would all show love and kindness to one another, treat others as we would want to be treated, and focus on all of the good and positive things in our lives. Don’t fall into a pessimistic attitude where all you can focus on is the bad and the negative in this world. Remember, we live on a fallen planet full of sinners and that’s why we all so desperately need Jesus. He is the Light of the world. Right from the start, I want to place 2017 into God’s hands and have Him strengthen me and guide me.

I will be posting my goals and intentions for the new year on the blog later this week. I would love to hear what some of your New Year’s resolutions are! 🙂

Goodbye 2016, you’ve been grand!

Until next year my lovelies ❤

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Vegan Views Part 2: Animal Equality

When I first started learning about what it meant to be a vegan, I thought that people only became vegan if they were hippie animal lovers. And while it seems that caring for animals plays a big part in why people become vegan, that’s not the only factor. People go vegan for their health, for the environment, AND for the animals.

My main reasons for wanting to go vegan are health related. However, I do care about animals and I hate the way the meat industry treats animals, especially livestock and poultry.

There is one aspect of veganism that many people believe in that I have to disagree with, and that is animal equality.

While I choose not to eat animals, for my health and because I don’t like the thought of an animal being killed just for my pleasure, I don’t think that everyone should have to give up eating meat. I’ve seen and experienced first hand animals that are raised for meat that have a happy, healthy life. Of course, they do get slaughtered in the end, but at least they were treated well during their life, unlike factory farmed animals.

I worked at my college’s campus farm last summer and we had some chickens that were being raised for meat. Unlike the birds that are raised for big meat companies, these chickens were pasture raised, and had access to the fields where they could eat grass and bugs. We also fed them non-GMO feed. I enjoyed taking care of these chickens, watching them grow, and seeing their personalities develop. But I was disturbed by the fact that I knew they were being raised to be slaughtered. And while I was uncomfortable with that, my coworkers all ate meat and it didn’t bother them. I was very grateful that my boss was kind enough to let me stay home from work on the days they slaughtered and processed the chickens. While I don’t want to eat meat and I don’t want to be a part of slaughtering animals, I don’t think that it is wrong to eat animals, as long as the animals have been taken care of and treated with respect during their life.

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The whole idea behind animal equality is that the animals should have the same rights and respect as humans. And while I do agree that the way the meat industry currently treats animals is absolutely cruel and so unnecessary (serious changes need to be happening in the way people raise livestock and poultry), I believe that humans have rule over animals.

As a Christian, I believe that God has blessed us with plants and animals to help us survive, and while humans didn’t eat animal flesh to start with it is clear that God placed man above animals. The Bible says “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’.” – Genesis 1:26 (NIV).

When you look at scripture it is clear that Man and animal are not the same. While we do share similar body parts and characteristics with animals, we were not created equally and we did not evolve from animals. God created man in His image, that is why we are superior to animals. And the reason that humans and animals seem similar in some respects is because we were both created by THE Creator. But just because we are superior to animals does not mean that we should torture them or abuse them. Animals are a gift from God, and should be treated kindly, whether they are your pets or being raised for you to eat.

My heart goes out to the suffering animals, and I really do care about them. But we need to put other human beings first – we need to care about the millions of unborn babies that are aborted every year, the homeless people that are shivering on the streets, and the malnourished children in Africa and other countries, etc.

So whether you eat meat or you’re vegan, remember to treat animals kindly. And more importantly, always put people and their needs above that of animals.

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30 Days of Plant Power

On November 1st I made the decision to give up animal products – dairy, butter, and eggs – for a week. I had gone vegan for a week two years ago, but I had never made the commitment to do it again until this year. Well, here I am at the start of a new month and I’m still eating a vegan diet. What started out as giving up animal products for a week turned into 30 days of plant power.

The first week I missed my coffee creamer, honey in my hot tea, and eating cheese pizza. But as the week came to a close I was no longer feeling strong cravings for junk food, I grew accustomed to almond milk in my coffee, and I learned to drink my hot tea with just lemon and apple cider vinegar. Seriously, those are really the only foods I missed.

I was so thrilled that my body started craving more whole foods, my tummy bloat disappeared, and not once did I have the terrible stomach cramps that I had been dealing with all summer long. I’m also really proud of myself for surviving the in-laws visiting, traveling to Georgia to visit friends, AND Thanksgiving day all while sticking to a vegan diet. To me, those were some of my biggest victories.

I had the most fun learning more about this lifestyle and doing a little research to find out which chain restaurants offer plant based options. I discovered that it’s possible to eat vegan at Papa John’s, Dominos, Taco Bell, and even Olive Garden! Getting in the kitchen and cooking vegan versions of some of my favorite Thanksgiving foods was also an exciting experience.

So now that it’s December I’m wondering if I should continue on as strictly vegan, or if I should try occasionally eating dairy again. I’m kind of curious to see how my body will react to cheese after going a month without it. Regardless of whether I stay 100% vegan or not, I want my main focus to be listening to my body and giving it what it needs to thrive.

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Even though we live in a country that is plagued by the western diet, it IS possible to follow a plant based lifestyle. Being vegan may not always be easy, but it’s worth the fight. I’ve gotten some weird looks and snide comments from some of my friends and family about some of the things I eat, but that’s okay. I like standing out. And really, it’s their loss if they don’t want to take the time and effort to nourish their bodies.

I don’t want to push anyone into this lifestyle, but I will always be here more than willing to share what knowledge I have with others. I want to make a difference in this world by helping to educate people on how to take care of their bodies, because we only get one. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God wants us to take care of His creation. I think it’s high time that we wake up and do something about our health.