2016 was my first full year living in New York City. An election. And when I turned a quarter of a century.
Nobody could’ve predicted 2016.
And as I look back, like my Pastor Carl Lentz, I choose to see Jesus in the rearview mirror. For me, it’s been an incredible year, but I know for many it was a difficult year full of challenges and tragedies. As Pastor John Gray put it in our last church service of the year, this was an opportunity for individuals and the church to see who’s real and what’s authentic – for God to shine His light in all its glory and let the religiosity and fraud fall by the wayside.
I wrote out my 2016 goals in this post, which I plan to do again, but for now, I’m just taking a break to look at some highlights.
1. NYE in NYC & WRSHP in ATL
I started 2016 in Times Square along with thousands of my closest friends and Carrie Underwood. She was as kind as the All-American girl I dreamt she would be. I followed her from American Idol and “Jesus Take the Wheel” to “Something in the Water” — definitely a larger-than-life way to start 2016.
The next day, I flew to Atlanta to join in on Passion Conference with 20,000 college students, praising God and learning from some of the best pastors and teachers of our generation. Another great highlight to start the year.
2. Conservatives Invade Portland
I got to got to an event with Todd Starnes, Michelle Malkin, and Dinesh D’Souza — some conservative rockstars embedded in a liberal city. I snapped a selfie with Michelle Malkin, and my friend Brennan gave me an Instagram-worthy tour of Portland.
3. The Holy Land with Israel Collective
I was invited by Israel Collective, a group that takes young professional influencers to the Holy Land in an effort to bring peace to the region. It was my second trip to Israel, but it was so unique and fun that it felt like my first time there. I made several lifelong friends in such a short time, and I can’t wait to go back!
I got to do my first man-on-street interview for FoxNews.com to see if New Yorkers were complying with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for a boycott. Story here.
It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid. Alaska was everything I thought it would be and more – but now I can’t wait to go back and explore even more!
I got to visit my sister and tour southern Spain, staying in airbnb’s, hitting up beaches and cathedrals. It was at the conclusion of her year teaching English in Madrid. Thankfully, she was practically fluent.
7. Together 2016 in DC
Definitely a highlight of my year, worshipping with fellow Christians from all across the nation – not to mention some of my favorite pastors and singers.
8. Fourth of July in Findlay
I got to go home for Independence Day to celebrate. Bonus: it was Yuyu’s first Fourth in America. She was a foreign exchange student staying with us from Japan. Definitely a special time!
10. Hillsong Conference NYC
Seeing Jesus’ Name lifted high in Madison Square Garden was amazing, but the best part was seeing so many people getting saved. It was worth every moment volunteering with my incredible Hillsong family!
9. Saturday Pickup Soccer Games
I started playing soccer with friends from Hillsong NYC at Pier 41 — it was great to play again and make friends doing it!
And I got brand new cleats!
10. Trip to LA
I got to go to Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, as well as see Ronald Reagan, and then-candidate Donald Trump’s Hollywood Boulevard stars on the Walk of Fame. It was pretty cool, but something happened that you can read about here.
11. Marching to End Sex Trafficking
It was an honor to march with a lot of my friends to end modern-day slavery. For a lot of people, it was an eye-opening experience, and I found out a lot of the general public doesn’t even know it still exists.
This year two of my friends married other friends of mine — I hope that doesn’t sound confusing. I knew both the bride and groom. And they were both incredibly beautiful!
13. Election Day
All of 2016 seemed to lead up to Election Day, but didn’t stop there. It was an historic night, and I was blessed to vote and be able to watch it all unfold at Fox News’ headquarters in NYC. I’ll never forget it!
14. The Todd Starnes Fall Retreat
There’s something special about gathering together, especially at the Billy Graham Training Center. It was a time of fellowship, fun, and a little education, even listening to Billy Graham’s pastor!
15. Home for Thanksgiving and Christmas
For Thanksgiving we all said what we were thankful for and had some of my mom’s famous pecan pie. (I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.) And on Saturday we watched the OSU win in one of most exciting Ohio State-Michigan rivalry games in the history of the rivalry — and that’s pretty much all I need to remember from the season after the New Year’s Eve shutout.
It doesn’t get any better. All my family was home for Christmas…and we played a lot of Risk.
16. New Year’s Eve at Church
My first friend I made in NYC was Patrick, and, although I planned on ringing in the New Year quietly and alone in my room, he convinced me to go to the Brooklyn Tabernacle for their service — and it was well worth it! My first time there, it was full or worship, praise, and a good message — I can’t think of a better way to start 2017!
Looking back, 2016 was an incredible year of travel, time spent with family and friends, and one I will never forget.