Why I’m Not in Guatemala

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Remember when I first wrote about my Summer of Travel and announced that this summer I’ll visit Europe, California and Guatemala?

Well, change of plans: my trip to Guatemala is cancelled.

For many reasons, mostly due to bad timing, the church rescheduled the trip for November, which I won’t go on because I’ll be in school.

When I found out I had two very different reactions. My first reaction, as much as I hate to admit it, was relief.

After five weeks of non-stop travel in Europe, only six days of rest and then another two weeks in California, my body, soul and mind are just done.

I knew that another trip would leave me even more exhausted and not at all ready for the quickly approaching fall semester.

And I know this is my favorite topic lately, but I need time to process all that has happened this summer. My head is still spinning from events that took place in May! I need time to ponder, evaluate and unpack all that all that I’ve learned.

How did this experience change me? What does that change mean, and what does it practically look like to incorporate it into my daily life?

We have to process through experiences and feelings in order to make them more than mere sightseeing excursions. 

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Traveling is about more than seeing pretty places. It’s a beautiful way to learn and widen our view of the world, and when we aren’t treating it like an edifying journey, we cheapen our experience and waste frequent flyer miles.

When we give ourselves time to process everything we’ve seen and learnt, we can discover new truths about our beliefs and ourselves. Then, we can pack those truths into a metaphorical daypack (go with me) to carry around on the rest of our journey.

Our journey, whether it looks like traveling to distant lands or navigating daily life, can become connected. We don’t have to leave our incredible experiences in the past; longing for the day we can hop on another plane and set off on another incredible adventure.

You can continue your adventure right where you are by processing the experience and applying what you learned.

Don’t leave truths in the exotic places where you discovered them. Take them with you, and then, instead of constantly reminiscing and longing for your past adventures, you can live a thankful, present-minded life.

So friends, give yourself time to process your adventures. Look for lessons and find the hidden truths.

As much as I was looking forward to my trip to Guatemala, I’m thankful for the time to process and write through the most incredible summer of my life.

How do you process? What truths have you learned through your travels?

On Thursday I’ll talk about my second reaction to the cancelled trip: what to do when you lose an adventure. 

Photo Credit: Guatemalan volcanos from Anna Eaton; Florence, Italy by Haylee Robinson. 

What Does it Mean to Feel Alive?

Warning: I’m a wee bit more spiritual with this piece that usual. Whatever your background, I appreciate you taking the time to read this post with an open mind.

Last month on a plane taking me from Texas to Tennessee, I read an article in Marie Claire about actress Shailene Woodley, and at the end of the article she told journalist Gaby Wood:

“I feel very alive right now. More alive than I’ve ever felt.”

And I wonder, what does it mean to feel alive? And how do we feel more alive in some seasons of life than others?

Were we dead before? Or not living fully?

For Shailene, feeling alive came after she took a break from working. Do we feel more alive when we are striving less?

From a Christian perspective, this is my conclusion:

I think it has to do with joy.

When we feel joy.
When we have joy.
When we know joy.
That’s when we feel alive.

For some context, you can read about my take on joy and why I’m so passionate about finding adventure in everyday life here.

Joy, when we let it, can be like a loyal friend that we travel through life with. The friendship isn’t based on circumstances, success or even “having it all together.” Joy, once we learn to value it, will always stick around.

And when we have joy, we come alive. We come alive not because our work, social or spiritual life is flourishing. We come alive because in whatever we do, we have joy.

Having joy looks different for different people, and in different situations. Sometimes it’s simple: you love where you are and who you are, so you are naturally joyful.

Other times it isn’t so easy. You are less than passionate about your current situation, so instead of it coming naturally, you have to find joy. You have to pursue it.

If this is you, I challenge you to do one thing: pursue joy. Choose to find it and keep it.

For a Christian, pursuing joy means pursuing the Lord, the giver of our hope and joy.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

There was a time in my life that happiness wasn’t present. I was lost and didn’t know who I was, but because the Lord was still with me, holding onto me even in my desperation, there was joy.

Happiness is fleeting and dependent on circumstances. Joy is an eternal journey.

Keeping joy, once you’ve found it, is easier than you’d think. It’s like maintaining a relationship with your closest friend: it’s natural and almost second nature. You must simply choose it.

Wherever you are, find joy. You may love your current city, job, friend group and self right now, or you may not. Pursue joy anyway, and you will feel alive.

You will be thankful, passionate and loving with joy by your side.

With joy, you can rest. You can strive less and let go of perfectionism. And I think that’s what Shailene Woodley found. Her spiritual life is different from mine, and I don’t know if she pursued the Lord to find her rest, but it was still rest that made her feel more alive than she’s ever felt.

For Christians, finding rest happens when we let the down our walls, let go of the need to perform and let the Lord love us fully. That’s where true joy lies. That’s where we are completely alive.
Photo credit: Fashion Scans Remastered. 
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You’re Never Too Old for an Adventure with Your Dad

Father’s Day just passed, but unfortunately I couldn’t be with my dad to celebrate because I’m in Europe (being in Europe is not unfortunate, but I still miss my dad).

Even though we weren’t together, throughout the day I thought about the adventures that my dad and I have been on, and I was once again thankful for the thrill-seeking, adventurous spirit that he passed on to me.

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Colorado, 2012

My dad loves discovering new things, going to new places and challenging himself. I like to think that most of my thirst for memory-making experiences comes from him.

Over the last few years we’ve travelled the country together from behind the steering wheel of my truck. We’ve explored Texas hill country together, road tripped to Colorado (where we almost died at the Black Canyon) and spent close to 100 hours on I-10 driving from Texas to Tennessee and back, talking about life and listening to Elvis Presley.

As I was thinking about my dad yesterday I realized that most of my solo adventures with him happened after I went to college.

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The family, missing two brothers, one sister-in-law, one dog and two cats.

Sure, we had tons of great times before then, but it wasn’t until I moved 900 miles away that I realized how much I appreciate these adventures with my dad. Each new experience lets me get to know him better and simply spend some much needed time with him.

You’re never too old for an adventure with your dad.

At least I never will be. The man rode my first roller coaster with me, taught me how to drive, instilled me with faith and sings “Sweet Caroline” to me every chance he gets. I will always seek out adventures with my dad, and I can bet that he’ll always be on board.

It may be the day after Father’s Day, but there’s no time like the present to go on an adventure with your good ole dad. How do you make memories with your dad? 
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Why I’m Passionate About Finding Adventure in Everyday Life

I wrote this piece in May at my writer’s weekend with Stephanie May of The Lipstick Gospel. 

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This weekend I’m at the Living Room Writer’s Weekend in Atlanta, hosted by The Lipstick Gospel. Stephanie invited women bloggers in all stages of blogging life to join her for a weekend of authenticity, fellowship and blog talk (and lots of starburst).

I’ve learned plenty of tips and tricks for blogging success, but most of all I’ve learned that my story matters, and it deserves to be shared. This blog typically focuses on guides for living adventurously, but today I want to tell you why I’m so passionate about finding adventure in everyday life in the first place.

Here goes:

For me, finding adventure in everyday life is all about joy.

There was a time in my life when everything sucked. I was 16, and like plenty of other dramatic 16-year-olds, I had no clue who I was. I abandoned all of my friends for my absolute-gonna-have-a-double-wedding-and-live-in-a-nursing-home-together best friend, and for many reasons, that friendship didn’t last.

When our friendship “broke up,” I was devastated and had no clue where or who to turn to.

The year before I gave up on my lifelong dream of becoming a professional ballerina and left the pre-professional dance company that I had given my life too.

circa 2009. Obviously I wasn’t the only one in the family going through an identity crisis.

So at 16, friendless and lacking all passion, I had no clue who I was.

There was no happiness in my life. Just bitter and pitiful loneliness.That’s when Joy (yes, with a capital J) stepped in. The Lord took me by surprise that year and gave me a boundless sense of joy that, even when everything in my life was going to hell, let me see the bright side of every situation.

Simply put: I started delighting in the Lord despite the crap in my life, and he filled me with joy.

I found myself smiling without reason, loving myself more and even dreaming about the future, something I had given up on. By the time I turned 17 nothing could stop me.

Having no friends just gave me an opportunity to make new ones, and having no passions meant I could try anything I wanted.

{I quickly found out that basketball isn’t for me, but I did find a new passion when I picked up the guitar!}

Even though pains from the past were still there, I had an insatiable sense of joy.

Now I honestly believe that joy can be found in any situation. What I went through is definitely not the most heartbreaking or desperate situation anyone has ever walked through, but the Lord still promised me joy, and He hasn’t let me down.

There is always joy in the Lord, and where there is joy, there is adventure.

I really do believe that when you’re looking through the lens of joy, adventure can be found anywhere. That’s what The College Cosmopolitan is about.

The College Cosmopolitan is not about trying to make your life more exciting or your Instagram pictures more envy-eliciting. It’s about joy.

Do you relate to my story? How do you find joy?

Photo Credit: Haylee Robinson and Opal Massey
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How to Stay Connected to Home When You Move Far Away

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I wrote this piece when I was home in Texas last month.

I’m currently sitting on my parents’ large, brown leather sofa while a small fluffy dog sleeps next to me. I’m home.

I love this place.

I love spending quality time with my family and reconnecting with the sweet hometown that raised me.

I moved 900 miles away from this place for college three years ago, and while I will never regret that decision, I often find myself longing for home.

I miss the people from home who made my life so full. I miss the smell of Carolina Jasmines in my backyard. I miss the tree-canopied streets that I first learned to drive on. I miss everything about home.

But I also love my new home. I love the community I’ve found in college. I love my little house and the independence it gives me. I love finding my way in this world and making a place that is completely mine.

It’s a strange line to walk: loving where you came from and where you are. How do you stay connected to your roots and still dive headfirst into your new life?

Here are my tips:

Daily reminders

The best reminder I have of home is my thirteen-year-old truck that belonged to my grandpa before he passed away. It was the first car that was ever completely mine – it took me to school, football games, church and eventually, Tennessee.

My truck reminds me both of Texas and the wonderful grandfather that I lost too early. It’s my favorite earthly possession.

Daily reminders could look different for everyone. Maybe it’s the coffee mug you drink from everyday, or the home state drivers license that still sits in your wallet. Whatever it is, use those daily reminders to produce remembrance and thankfulness.

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Work for the relationships you want to keep

When you move far away, some relationships will naturally fade like the traveled road in your rear view mirror. But it’s okay.

Some relationships are meant for certain seasons, and if they aren’t fitting into your new life, don’t try to make them. I’m not telling you to drop all of your childhood friends; however, forcing old relationships to fit into a new mold leaves them strained and disconnected.

There are also some relationships that transcend distance. No matter how far away you are from each other, you will always share a close bond. Instead of spreading yourself too thin trying to maintain every single relationship, identify the ones that transcend the distance, and work to maintain those.

Invest into those people at least weekly, and see them in person whenever you can.

You should also fearlessly pursue new relationships in college. By the end of your four years you will have a full community of lifelong connections.

Cherish every visit home

When you move far away from school, weekend visits home aren’t possible. Instead, we live for the weeklong school breaks and Christmas spent at home.

Cherish these visits.

Use them to rest and reconnect. Spend time with your family, see old friends and hit up your old favorite restaurants. Netflix bingeing and sleeping the day away has it’s place, but you also want to use this time to soak up as much home as you can before school starts again. When you head back, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to jump into college life.

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My sweet friend Deborah visited me in Tennessee. We’ve been friends since 4th grade!

Bring your two worlds together

Last week one of my best friends since fourth grade visited me at school, and it was almost a euphoric experience watching her meet my friends and see my new world for the first time.

I used to think that my two homes would always be separated, but in the past three years I’ve taken roommates and friends home to Texas with me, and had family visit in Tennessee.

When these opportunities present themselves, jump. There’s no experience like introducing the people from your childhood to the new world that you have made for yourself, or showing people from your new home the world that made you who you are.


Moving far from home for college isn’t always easy, but it’s also nothing to be scared of. When done with careful effort, it’s possible to stay connected to home and make a place for yourself in college at the same time.

How do you stay connected to home? Let me know in the comments. 
Photos by Haylee Robinson and my iPhone. 

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How to Prepare for Your Next Great Adventure

Have you participated in #MySummerAdventure yet? Check it out here!

By the time you read this I’ll be jet-lagged somewhere in Rome, aimlessly snapping pictures of everything I see.

next adventureRight this minute, I’m on the greatest adventure of my life thus far: backpacking Europe. This week I’m in Italy. Next week I’ll be in Greece. The weeks following will see me in France, England and Ireland.

Not only is this the greatest adventure of my life so far, but it’s also one of the craziest, and it took a lot of preparation. I’m not just talking about getting a passport, calling my credit card provider or neatly fitting clothes for five weeks into one suitcase.

An adventure like this takes preparation on deeper levels. Here’s what I did to prepare myself mentally, physically, financially and spiritually.

Mentally:

I thought about this trip a lot. That sounds dumb, but in the last few months, Europe has weighed heavily on my mind. When I think about the places I will see, people I will meet and crazy backpacking experiences I will have, I still can’t grasp it all.

I’ve finally decided that thinking about it all the time won’t actually prepare be for being there, and in many aspects, I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Now I am mentally open and ready to embrace that whatever happens on this trip, despite my own plans, just happens.

Physically:

I did the Whole30 as a way to “reset” my body and gain healthy habits. I’ll definitely think of these habits while I’m in Europe, but I also know that I’ll need to be flexible and experience the culture (nice to meet you, gelato).

I also started doing Pilates, Yoga and Zumba to prepare my body for the physical demands of backpacking.

My roommate and I started doing Zumba videos in our living room, and make fun of us all you want, but it’s a killer workout! In February I did 28 Days of Pilates with Robin Long from The Balanced Life. I’ve kept up with her videos since then too, and I love them. Pilates is definitely my new favorite way to work out, and I love Robin’s balanced perspective on fitness.

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Financially:

I’ll be honest with you on this one, I didn’t do much in the way of saving money. But that’s mostly because I’m not a huge spender as it is. I rarely buy more than food and gas, with a splurge every once in a while. I worked an on campus job this semester, but yet, with my unpaid internship 30 miles away, rent and groceries, expenses got a little high.

Thankfully my trip to Europe is covered; however, my trip to Guatemala in July is not. If you’d like to support that trip financially, you can do so here. No pressure though – that’s definitely not my reason for sharing this with you! If anything, I learned to live on the most realistic budget I can, and trust that the rest will be provided for in time.

Spiritually:

I’ve heard so many stories from friends about going to Europe and coming home with new revelations, insights and closer relationships with the Lord. I’m praying that I’ll have a similar experience, but I also don’t want my experience to look like anyone else’s, so I’m praying for openness.

I want to have an open heart, eyes and mind to all the things the Lord wants to reveal to me on this trip.

Throughout the semester I also tried to maintain an attitude of thankfulness. I’ll be brutally honest and tell you that my spiritual life was a little rocky this past spring. There were times when I felt the Lord was closer than a brother, and other times when he felt more like a distant relative. But despite that struggle, I still know that I have so much to be thankful for.

He is making some of my wildest dreams come true this summer, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this incredible gift. I can’t wait to see how our relationship develops throughout this European adventure.


So now, after months of anticipation, I’m just ready to go. Who knows how prepared I can really be, but I’m ready to begin.

See you soon, Europe!

Are you embarking on a great adventure soon? I challenge you to think of ways to prepare yourself in these four categories. While you’re at it, share your thoughts and methods with me in the comments!
Photo by Haylee Robinson
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How to Survive Long Distance

Remember how I told you I’m going to get more personal? Well, this is the beginning.

Today I’m going to introduce you to a guy. This guy.

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Fall 2013.

Marshall and I have been dating for a year and a half, and it’s been the best time of my life. This past semester, however, he was studying abroad in England. So for three months our relationship was long distance.

Really long distance.

The experience was of course hard, but it was also transformational and beneficial for our relationship. I learned so much about myself, and I got to cheer Marshall on as he changed and grew during his time traipsing across Europe.

So now, since it’s been a month since he’s been home, I’m ready to share some wisdom with you about making it through long distance dating and coming out stronger than ever.

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Sending him off in January.

The most important piece of advice I can give is this: don’t wish the days away.

It’s sounds really unromantic, but if you’re going through long distance, I don’t think you should keep a countdown until the day your significant other returns, make playlists that remind you of him/her or fall asleep FaceTiming every night.

I think you should live your life.

This semester was a transformative one for me because of the people I met, new experiences I had and places I traveled to. I had an internship at a magazine in downtown Chattanooga and took a job as an editor at my campus newspaper.

I went on adventures. Like this onethis one and this one.

I’m not saying that I couldn’t have done those things with Marshall here, or that I didn’t miss him, but at the beginning of the semester I knew that I had two options: I could sit around and cry because I wasn’t with him, or I could live my life with the same zeal as any other season.

So I chose to live, and I think you should too.

My friend Deborah went through a similar period of distance last year and described it really well. She said it’s beneficial because you learn to develop independence under the umbrella of a committed relationship.

I love that.

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NYC Spring break. Photo by Shane Tretheway.

People have trepidations about entering a relationship because they think they have to kiss their independence goodbye as soon as they kiss their new significant other hello.

Take it from a girl who prides herself on her independence: it’s not true.

Yes, there is a level of independence that you lose when you give up singleness, but there is also a level that you can keep. There’s a balance between commitment and independence while you’re dating, and when it’s found, it produces a beautiful, healthy connection with another person and your own self.

You can be in a relationship and be your own person.

Your partner could be on the other side of the world, and even though you’ll miss him/her, it’s okay if you’re fine. It’s okay to live your life, take advantage of every adventure, make new friends or maybe invest more in existing ones.

This semester my roommate Haylee and I got way closer because we spent a lot of time together. We went on a hike together, did zumba together, started blogs together and just got to know each other better. If I had spent the whole time whining about missing my boyfriend, she would’ve gotten tired of me.

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I’m beyond grateful for this crazy friendship.

When you’re going through long distance, don’t spend all of your time in the past reminiscing about the good times with your significant other, and don’t dwell on the future, counting down the days until you’ll be together again.

L i v e  i n  t h e  p r e s e n t .

Live your life, and share it with your significant other from a distance. Realize that your relationship will look differently in this season, but with strong communication and a little grace, you can still come out more connected than you were before.

Don’t get me wrong: distance is hard, time differences suck and missing each other can seem unbearable. But it also shows you that if you were an independent, committed person before your significant other left, you’ll be an independent and committed person when they’re gone. Likewise, if you were an overly-dependent person before they left, you’ll be an overly-dependent and miserable person when they’re gone.

It’s only for a season, and once you’re on the other side, you don’t want to look back on that season and only see misery.

Don’t wish the days away.

You can have fun. You can grow, change and develop as a person.

And when the distance ends, after a better-than-you-even-imagined reunion, you can share your new self and adventures with your significant other. You can reconnect like you were never separated and get to know the new people you have become at the same time.

And that’s romantic.

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Our first (blurry) picture back together in April.

Have you ever dated long distance? Tell me about your experience! 
You can also read about Marshall and my egalitarian approach to dating on his blog, The Train of His Robe, here. 
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Travel Adventures: My Weekend with The Lipstick Gospel

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This past weekend I spent two absolutely lovely days with Stephanie May of the Lipstick Gospel and ten other women with a desire to discover the value of their story and how to share it with others.

Stephanie’s blog is one of my favorites, and out of all of the bloggers I started following this year (which is a LOT), she definitely inspires me the most with the way she vulnerably shares stories of faith, life and love.

She doesn’t write simply for herself – she writes to use what she’s experienced and learned over her lifetime to help others. I love that. 

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When she shared about a potential writers weekend in Atlanta, I was immediately on board. Nothing sounded more perfect than a weekend learning from both her wisdom as a Christian writer with influence and her experience as a blogger.

I was worried about spending the money for a weekend like this, but eventually I decided that what I gained would be worth it, so I just went for it!

I’m so glad I did.

The weekend was so much more than I was even expecting. In a warmly decorated suite on the 15th floor of the Georgian Hotel, eleven women from diverse corners of the US came together for the sake of storytelling.

LGStephanie overwhelmed us (in a good way) with her insight while her fiance Carl cooked us gourmet meals that we shared over laughter, authentic conversation and book recommendations. We skipped straight past small talk and went for each other’s hearts. It was perfect.

Not only did I learn from Stephanie’s story, but I reflected on my own life and learned how to better use my writing to spread authenticity, vulnerability and hopefully a little joy into the world through my stories.

Along with the sessions about storytelling, we also talked nitty-gritty blog basics. Maybe I’m a nerd, but I love blog talk. It’s just so much fun!

I am so grateful for the connection I made with Stephanie and the ten other lovely writers – we created a beautiful community of storytellers that vowed to stay connected and support each other through each of our journeys as writers.

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How lucky am I to have those beautiful women on my team?

So, stay tuned for some collaborations (hint: a giveaway!) and more personal stories from my own life about adventure, joy and faith.

I have a story, and this weekend, in the prettiest, coziest living room imaginable, Stephanie May told me that it matters. So I’m choosing to believe her.

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All photos by the lovely Lottie Brooke.

Cookie dough is Never an Acceptable Breakfast, and Other Things I Learned on the Whole30

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D A Y  T H I R T Y. I did it! (almost)

For those of you who read my article for the Lee Clarion about my experience on the Whole 30, you know that today is a big day.

For Whole30 specifics, you can read about the program here. It explains the program better than I could, and I’d rather focus on my journey over the past 30 days.

But here’s a super brief description of the program anyway: 30 days of no grains, dairy, alcohol, legumes, soy, sugar & dairy. So…all the good, processed stuff we love. Gone. The program is meant to act as a “reset button” for your body, cleansing it of toxins and changing your overall lifestyle and relationship with food.

Why did I do it? Honestly…I don’t know. I read all about Anna’s experience on her blog, Dear Friend, and I just wanted to try it! Her post was extremely convincing, and like I’ve said before, well placed words are my weakness. I knew it would be good for me, and I was up for a challenge. I know that’s not as good of a reason as most participants have who do the program to actually lose weight, figure out their food intolerances or get over allergies, but it is what it is. I wanted to be healthier, and I knew this would be a great step to get me there.

Turns out it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

So, what did I learn? A lot.

photo 51. Cookie dough really never is an acceptable breakfast.
Neither is skipping breakfast, having a grilled cheese for lunch and pasta for dinner. Even on days where I ate “healthy,” my proportions where way off when it comes to eating all of the food groups. On the Whole30, I learned that the good stuff doesn’t only consist of bread and dairy. Now, the good stuff is chipotle chicken sweet potatoes*, sweet potato and turkey hash, artichoke pesto chicken and spaghetti squash, tilapia with a guacamole pesto and asparagus and tons of other foods I tried and loved this month. Which is another thing: when you focus on eating from all the food groups (minus the ones you can’t have on the Whole30, obviously), you try new things all the time. I now use coconut oil all. the. time. And I’m obsessed with sweet potatoes and making my own vinaigrette. It’s so easy to be creative with this program!

*This recipe needs to be adjusted to become Whole30 complaint, but it’s still so stinkin’ good. 

2. Good health is contagious. 
After I read Anna’s blog I sent the program to my friend Caleb, who recently went on a health kick. I wasn’t expecting him to be so willing to try it, but he was on board almost immediately. That same day I told my roommate about it, and she jumped on board too, so just like that we had a little Whole30 support team. Other friends started a week or so after us, and I’ve had tons of people ask questions about the program and even schedule to do their own this summer. My other roommate, Haylee, isn’t on the Whole30, but she recently started buying much healthier foods and meal planning with me. I’d like to think that watching our Whole30 had something to do with that. Simply put: watching others make healthy choices will motivate you to evaluate your own choices and make some healthy adjustments.

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Roomie love takes on whole new meaning on the Whole30

3. Meal planning is a beautiful thing. 
Meal planning is one of my favorite things I’ve acquired from this experience, and I DEFINITELY plan to continue doing it longterm. Before Whole30 I always wanted to try it, but found myself really intimidated. How do you shop for that much at once? How will I know on Sunday what I’ll want to eat on Thursday? Turns out it’s way easier than I thought, and setting aside my sunday evenings to prepare food for the next week is now one of my favorite things to do. If you’re already making one turkey patty, why not make 4 and store the rest for the week? Why not roast a bunch of vegetables, make a dozen egg muffins or cut up a bunch of fruit just to have on hand? It seriously makes the week so  much easier, and prevents you from encountering what the program calls the “empty pantry syndrome,” when you have no food and are likely to quit. This is going to sound obvious, but when you have healthy food already made, you’re going to eat healthy food. You took the time and effort to set yourself up for success, so why would you let yourself down?

4. My meals are fuller, more satisfying and fancier. 
Like I said before, prior to Whole30 I would get by on grilled cheese, cookie dough and Taco Bell. I thought I would miss those comfort foods way more than I do, but honestly, the meals I eat now are just better. They include rich vegetables, refreshing fruit and satisfying protein. And they make me feel so good. The meals I make now are more complicated than they use to be, but even that isn’t that hard, and the tradeoff for better, more fulfilling food is definitely worth it. I will never again credit bad eating habits to being in college (you don’t have to eat ramen every day, guys), not having enough time or not wanting to spend the money. The flexibility of this program means you can put in a lot of time to make fancy meals like the artichoke pesto chicken, or keep it simple and make a chicken breasts with steamed vegetables.

5. Cravings don’t have to own you. 
There’s a phase in the middle of the program where you’re suppose to be overcome with cravings and even dream about the foods you miss. I honestly never dealt with this too severely. Yes, there were foods I missed, but I was so satisfied with what I was eating and how it was making me feel that I never wanted to abandon the program for the momentary pleasure that long lost food love would bring me. I also realized something about myself: I am not an independent craver. I am rarely struck with a desire to have a milkshake when I am sitting at home doing homework. Instead, I crave things in social settings. I may not drive myself to McDonald’s by myself just for a milkshake, but if I’m out to eat and everyone else is having a breadstick, I’m going to have a breadstick too. If other people are ordering dessert, I’ll probably order one too. I’m not sure how I got this way, but I’m thankful that the Whole30 caused me to realize this disposition and conquer it. In the past 30 days I’ve sat at restaurant’s with friends and watched them order burgers and fries, or enjoy endless supplies of chips and salsa and not cared at all. For once, I didn’t need it. I was completely satisfied with the meal I made myself before going out, and the sight, smell and overall presence of my friend’s delicious food didn’t affect me. This is probably one of my favorite achievements.

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yaaaas berry water

Now, not everyone is this way. Other friends on the program seriously struggled through the cravings phase, and they had completely different demons to overcome than I did. But that’s another thing about the Whole30: it tailors itself to your needs perfectly.

6. It really isn’t that hard. 
Once you make a lifestyle change, or simply form a new habit, it becomes second nature. Meal planning is natural to me now, and using vinegar and olive oil instead of salad dressing is no longer a sacrifice. Reading labels and constantly googling whether or not I can have almond milk can be tedious, but it’s just for 30 days! Once you adapt to the program, it can actually be fun. The results also make everything worth it (keep reading, I promise I’m getting there). I honestly think that anyone could complete this program – it’s not as hard as it looks.

So, what about the rewards of the program? Their website makes some big promises: weight loss, bursting energy, no sinuses, clear skin, better sleep, no cravings and more. Here’s my rundown:

Weight loss
The program prohibits you from weighing yourself at any time during your 30 days because the focus isn’t meant to be on weight loss. Obviously it can happen, but there’s much more to the program than that. I didn’t weigh myself before I started the program either because I’m not too concerned with that, but I am liking the way my clothes currently fit and the new definition I see in my body, so I’m definitely happy.

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Photo by Haylee Robinson Photography!

Bursting energy 
It takes about two weeks, but once you’re past the adjustment period you are suppose to be absolutely bursting with energy. And it’s true! Instead of coming home and using my downtime to watch episode after episode of “Friends,” I used it to cook for the whole week, work ahead on assignments, BLOG, catch up with friends, exercise, run errands, etc. See ya, lethargic Caroline! This girl has gotta move. And I do: my workouts have drastically increased in the last 30 days (Zumba with Haylee FTW), and I love it!

Sinuses
TBD. I don’t have huge sinus issues, but I’m not immune to pollen. We’ll see how I’m affected this year as the allergy season picks up.

Clear skin
Sure! I can’t say I notice a huge difference here either, but I didn’t have horrible acne this month, so I’m definitely happy about that.

Better sleep
This was one of the main reasons I wanted to do Whole30. All semester I’ve been struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep all the way through the night, and I’ve seen a huge improvement here. I’m still not an “out like a light” sleeper, but it definitely takes me a lot less time to fall asleep, and I sleep so heavily now. It’s wonderful…till I have to wake up.

No Cravings
Like I said before, I discovered that I crave things socially more than independently, and these cravings have definitely been curbed. I’m confident now that I could order a healthy meal or turn down dessert regardless of what everyone else is having. Cravings, consider yourself beat.

So. There it is. Every last detail of my first Whole30 experience. What comes next? I’ve been pondering that very question for the last week as this day has been drawing closer and closer. Do I revert back to how I was eating before and waste all of this effort? Heck no. But do I keep eating like this, following all of the rules and never splurging again? Eh…not exactly.

I won’t lie to you – my roommate and I are already planning to break out some celebratory chocolate once the clock strikes midnight. We’ve just gotta do it.

photo 1After that I plan to adopt an 80% paleo diet. What I buy and cook for myself will pretty much stay the same. I’m not opposed to throwing a few grains or dairy products into the mix, but I’ll be cautious about it. I really don’t want to waste the efforts of these past 30 days, and I definitely don’t want to lose all of this energy. So, 80% of the time I will continue this diet, and 20% of the time I will splurge. A girl’s gotta live a little, and like Amy Kubal puts it, “it doesn’t matter how hardcore you are – you are going to die too and sadly, you may never again taste ice cream.”

I’m excited for this next phase… I have plenty of healthy but not quite Whole30 recipes I’ve been pinning and waiting to try, like green tea frozen yogurt, zucchini parmesan crisps and quinoa fried rice. As much as I loved it before, I don’t see myself returning to Taco Bell. There will be some exceptions, however, like when I go to Italy this summer. Helloooo pasta and gelato! Yes please.

We’ll see what happens, but for now I am extremely happy with my journey and results from these past 30 days. It was a different kind of adventure, but an adventure none-the-less. I’ve definitely picked up some great new habits that I will continue to implement in my life, even if I do have a little chocolate now and then.

If you made it this far: CONGRATS! I just wanted to do this life-changing experience justice. Have you ever altered your lifestyle in this kind of drastic way? Are you considering a Whole30? I’d love to answer any questions you may have.

Happy healthy living!

Long distance with God

Long distance relationships are hard. I should know: I’m currently in a long distance relationship with this six pound source of love and sass.

Laci Collage

I miss her so much.

And on a serious note, I’m about to be in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend for three months. I’m not a huge fan of England right now.

But the hardest long distance relationship I’m currently in is the one I feel between myself and God. Let me be clear: I love the Lord, I’ve been a Christian for my whole life and I’m definitely not walking away from my faith. But lately I’ve been slacking on my Christian “duties.” I haven’t spent time with the Lord like I should, or like I usually want to. I still talk about God, think about God and worship Him in a corporate setting, but my own personal time with Him in my daily life has gone missing.

It started around finals time last semester. I told myself I would work on it over Christmas break, but, well…I didn’t. I just wasn’t up to it. And now, as I continue to put more and more time between myself and my last real personal encounter with the Lord, I can feel the distance between us growing. It’s my fault. He doesn’t want the distance to be there. I don’t want it to be either, but for some reason I put it there.

So how do I remove the distance? Do I jump back into my relationship with the Lord like nothing happened, or do I apologetically crawl back to Him with my head bowed to the ground? Do I find new resources that will make my previously stagnant quiet times (which is probably why I gave up on them) go deeper, or do I go straight to the Word?

I found comfort and inspiration in my friend, and former editor, Jessilyn’s post: It’s not up to me. What she’s going through is a little different from me, but I thought her revelation that a relationship with God isn’t a one way street can also apply to me. You see, I feel distant to God because I haven’t done anything lately that would make us close. But I’m not the only one is this relationship with the power to bring us closer. Instead of putting further distance between us because I feel guilty for not putting in the work, I could slow down, let go of the shame and start to recognize the sound of God knocking on the door of my heart. He loved me first, and instead of focusing on the work that it takes to maintain our relationship, I can just let Him love me.

I’m not saying that quiet times, reading scripture and sacrificing time to be with the Lord aren’t important (quite the opposite, actually), but when you’re doing those good works to fulfill your Christian duties, your desire for a relationship will run dry (and in my case, time spent with Him will become selfish and stagnant). An authentic relationship involves two people. It’s okay to relax and let ourselves experience how much God loves us. His love will prompt us to love Him back and desire to spend time with Him. His love will take us into a deeper relationship with Him. His love will transform us to become more like Him.

I don’t think we can do that on our own. We definitely can’t do it by our works.

So anyway, this is what I need to work on right now. I need to free myself from the idea that my works will bring me closer to God, and instead walk in the knowledge that He loves me, and I want to spend time with Him because of the love we share for each other. I also need to free myself from the guilt of this past month of silence, and just accept His love for me. His love is healing, gracious and understanding. Practical ways I want to do this are to use my 35 minute commute to my internship to just have a conversation with God – a two-way conversation. I also want to increase spiritual accountability in my life. And while I do want to work on reading more scripture and spending more time with the Lord, I want to do it from a new perspective.

Our relationship isn’t about duties or checklists. Our relationship is about love.