Year in Review {Thoughts on 2016}

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

2016 has been a year full of many challenges, but it has also been filled with many beautiful moments and memories. Today I’m reflecting on my year and sharing some of the highlights.

Sweet Friends + Pretty Pictures

2016 started off with a fun birthday weekend with some of my dearest friends. We celebrated my friend Katie’s birthday, laughed a ton, took cute pictures, ate yummy food, and made memories that will last forever! By their friendship, these sweet girls have taught me that it’s not the time or distance that matters, but the love for Jesus that we share and the encouragement we offer one another. I love these girls dearly!

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Worshipping God + Changing the World

Later on in January my family and I traveled up to Waco for a missions conference called World Mandate. It was a refreshing immersion into an authentic group of passionate Jesus lovers, while also gaining an insight into God’s work across the globe. I am excited to be attending this event again in a few weeks! This year there are going to be many different locations across the US, including the option to watch the conference live from the comfort of your home. Three years ago, this conference shifted the course of my life and I promise it will change yours as well.

Blessing Bags + Simple Service

Earlier this year, after seeing the idea online, my family and I began creating Blessing Bags. These are bags filled with non-perishable food and/or toiletry items such as granola bars, trail mix, hand sanitizer and tissues. We keep these bags in our car so when we are in the position to help someone in need, we have a tangible way to do so right there within arm’s reach. Blessing Bags have prepared us for those moments when we see a homeless person at a red light or when someone knocks on our car window asking for help. It may not be much, but most of the time it’s the simplest of acts that make the biggest impact. It’s a way to say, “Hey. I can’t change your situation right now, but I’d really like to bless you because you matter.” Consistently doing this small act of service has strengthened our level of awareness and compassion towards those around us.blessing-bags

Tent Conversations + Amazing Grace

This summer I had the opportunity to engage one of history’s largest humanitarian crises. My dad and I spent two weeks in Athens, Greece with a team of people serving and sharing the Gospel with refugees from the Middle East. It was an honor to be used by God in this vital moment in history. It was a privilege to sit in the tent and hear the story of a family who survived the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean. Most of all, it was utterly remarkable to see the hand of God calmly residing over the entire affair. Though I was a very small part of this massive movement, I beheld the sovereignty of God in His unchanging grace during every moment of our trip. Satan has tried to claim everything holy in this world, but praise God that the enemy will NEVER prevail! Satan attempted to obtain victory through the creation of ISIS, but as a result millions of Muslims fled to Europe and met Jesus. Through fear and manipulation, he sought to blindside and stop the church from meeting needs and making disciples, but despite adversity, the church was there in full force. Through thousands of obedient servants, God moved; and it was amazing.

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Ancient Temples + Totes That Travel

While in Greece, we were blessed with a free day to explore Athens. We didn’t embark on this trip with the expectation or intention to traipse across the city like tourists, but we welcomed the chance to explore the historical city. Athens is famous for being the home of the Acropolis, a collection of ancient temple ruins, the most notable being the Parthenon. It was surreal to walk on the ground that Greek philosophers debated and Apostle Paul preached upon in Acts 17. Following our trip to the Acropolis, we peeked around in some shops, one being a traditional Greek fabric store. Earlier in the year, I had been contacted by Taaluma Totes to find fabric for backpacks that carry a countryIt was an enthralling endeavor to hunt through the fabrics in the tiny shop, and even more exciting when the finished backpacks sold out in less than a day!

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Canal Picnics + Stroopwafels

On either end of our Athens trip, we had a few days in Amsterdam to train and debrief. Our training and debrief times were executed with such intentionality and wisdom; on the debrief side it was a refreshing time of rest and reflection. Although Amsterdam is typically thought of as a dark, dirty city, and parts of it very much fit that description, our few hours of experience were filled with beauty, fun and memory-making. My dad and I shopped around the Waterlooplein Flea Market, stopped at a European grocery store to buy some lunch, and finished off our afternoon with a picnic by the canals. I loved casually exploring and spending time with him! The buildings around Amsterdam were fascinating; I loved the blend of historic and modern architecture. Transportation was also an interesting thing to watch. Everyone commutes on bicycles and the bike traffic is heavier than the car traffic! Stroopwafels, traditional Dutch coffee cookies filled with caramel, quickly became a new favorite treat of ours. {Check them out at World Market!} Amsterdam was one of my favorite places I have ever visited; I would love to go back one day.

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Painting + Lettering

My paint shirt got several more splatters over the course of this year. From creating my own projects to making custom things for others, I did a lot of painting in 2016! It was quite an honor to be trusted with creating things for others; this grew my creativity, strengthened my patience, and allowed me to discover my niche in the art department. In October I had a booth at a church craft fair where I sold handmade greeting cards, notebooks, hand-lettered chalkboards, bible journaling kits, and more! Doing this also led me to creating an Etsy Shop which I hope to build upon throughout 2017. I look forward to continuing to express myself, expand my skills, and see God through art.

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Worldview Camp + A Taste of Heaven

Three years ago everyone at this camp said I was about to have the best week of my life, but I wasn’t so sure. A week of lectures? I wasn’t convinced then, but it didn’t take long for my heart to change. In early October I attended Worldview Academy for my third and final year. Worldview Academy Camp is a week long camp that focused on teaching students philosophy, apologetics, evangelism and student leadership. I never would’ve guessed on my first day there that three years later I would be begging to go back. This year, although it was a bittersweet feeling knowing that I would never return as a camper, I soaked in every glorious moment of fruitful discussion, servant leadership training, intriguing lectures, raw, intentional worship and fruitful relationships among likeminded Christians. The weeks I spent at Worldview Academy were a taste of what I imagine Heaven will be like.
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Birthday Candles + Voting Stickers

I became an adult this year! Crazy, I know. I still can’t believe that eighteen years of my life have flown by. Looking back, my childhood boasts of countless sweet memories, thanks to my incredible parents, who are wonderful at intentionally making space for moments that last. To celebrate my eighteen years on this earth, my family surprised me by borrowing an adorable red camper from some friends. We watched a movie outside, ate birthday cake, and slept in the camper that night. It was a birthday to remember! A little less than a month after I turned eighteen, I had the opportunity to vote for the very first time. This election came with a lot of strife and confusion for our country.  Like all who chose to exercise their right to vote, I had a tough decision between two less-than-ideal candidates. I’m thankful for the challenge that came with having to thoroughly examine my beliefs, question my stance on tough issues, and in the end choose a candidate. I’m praying that eighteen will be a year of continuing to grow, change and learn amidst the challenges of life.

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Silliness + Sisters

From sleepovers to silly pictures, my sisters and I made a lot of memories in 2016, just the three of us. We hammocked, we laughed, we ate plenty of candy, we shopped, we had dance parties, we stayed up late, and most importantly, we built on a relationship that can never be broken. Even though they’ve outgrown me by several inches, I am so thankful for my not-so-little sisters and the memories we share.

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Good Finds + Thrift Shopping

Many of my Saturdays in 2016 were spent perusing through local thrift stores, hunting for a great find. Buffalo exchange, an Austin thrift shop, became a favorite place to peek around at unique and bizarre, clothing pieces. ThredUp, an online thrift retailer, opened my eyes to a plethora of secondhand clothes. Some of my favorite pieces I’ve found at various thrift stores are unique t-shirts {I just got one for 53 cents at a thrift store yesterday!} Nike shorts, an army green utility jacket, Patagonia jackets, and 7 For All Mankind jeans. Thrifting is a great way to build a unique wardrobe, save money, be adventurous, and support local businesses. I have a blast finding treasures for a fraction of the price!

Raindrops + Running Shoes

For the last half of the year, my mom and I trained for the San Antonio Rock & Roll Half Marathon. Growing up, my mom was constantly training for marathons. I remember cheering her on at races and wanting to do one someday. Finally, I did! We ran for Team World Vision and raised money to provide clean water for children in Africa. I had so much fun training with my mom, and pushing my body to run farther than I ever had before. Race day was freezing and pouring rain, which is bizarre weather for Texas, but it made for a fun and memorable day. Crossing the finish line with my mom was so special; it is a moment I will remember forever.

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Lessons Learned + Things That Matter

2016 was filled with many great moments and memories, as I’ve shared, but on the other hand, this year also held a lot of painful, hard things. When I look back on this year down the road, I do want to remember the adventures, the smiles, and the fun, but all of that is for nothing if I don’t hold the lessons I’ve learned just as tight. I want to look back on 2016 and remember that this was the year I discovered what true friendship looks like. That family really, truly matters. That everyone has a story, I just need to slow down and listen. That my path may look a bit different from everyone else’s, and that’s how it is meant to be. That no matter what others may think or say about me, my identity has been marked since before the dawn of creation; I am His. That I can’t divvy up my trust and hope into separate pods of people, it will only ever be safe in the hands of Jesus Christ. These are the things I want to treasure about 2016. These are the moments that are eternally meaningful.

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No matter how perfect or flawed 2016 has been for you, I pray that you step into 2017 with the confident hope that the best is yet to come. It doesn’t matter what pain, heartbreak, or failure happened in the past, but instead, what truly matters is the decision to uproot yourself from that rut of doubt, fear or pity. I’m not writing this message because I do this perfectly by any means, I need to take this truth to heart most of all.

Thinking about the past is an easy habit to get locked into, after all, the past is real, we know what happened, it’s a comfortable space to be. It gets a little crazy in that line of thinking. The “what if’s” haunt us, the re-running of situations is like a treadmill that doesn’t have an off switch, and the regret of what could’ve been is a deep, dark pit. Hope is not found in looking back, we will only find hope when we look forward. Look forward to Jesus, the hope of all mankind. He freed us of all of the things that hold us back when He uttered the final declaration of “It is finished.” Instead of dragging into 2017 the pain of the past year, march into the new year unchained from guilt, wrapped in freedom and powered by hope.

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Happy New Year, friends! The best is yet to come.

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10 thoughts on “Year in Review {Thoughts on 2016}

  1. SHARON NELSON says:

    You are a amazing writer. Enjoyed every moment of reading your thoughts on life. Love you alot and miss you.
    Grandma Sharon

    Like

  2. Grandma Kathy says:

    I loved this so much, Kaytlyn! I loved your memories for life, your zeal for life, and most of all your respect for life! <3. Happy 2017!

    Like

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