I’m thankful for a new beginning

Thanksgiving is a time when we focus on all the blessings in our lives. This year, much like other years, I am thankful for a family who support me, friends who love me, a house to live in and a God who sustains me.

Today, however, I am especially thankful for a new beginning.

If you know me or have been following my blog for very long, you probably know that I graduated in May and that I’ve been looking for a “real job” ever since. I am happy to announce that I will begin my new job as the education reporter for The Salisbury Post on December 11.

This is such an answer to prayer! Over the past six months I’ve really struggled to understand God’s plan and his timing for my life. While Salisbury wasn’t even on my radar as a place I’d want to go, I’m excited for this opportunity to start my career at a strong, daily paper in my beautiful home state. I’m excited to learn from seasoned reporters and editors. I’m excited for this new beginning.

I’m thankful that I have things here in Raleigh that will be hard to leave. I’m going to miss working with Drew and the rest of my Chick-fil-A Cary Towne Center team. Never before have I been so sad to leave a job. I’ve enjoyed working on a fantastic, genuine, cohesive team. I’m going to miss my not-so-small small group on Tuesday nights. I’m going to miss people asking me to bake cupcakes for random events, spur of the moment trips to Walmart and talking for hours after Bible study ends. I’m going to miss going to Christmas at DPAC. I’m going to miss impromptu movie nights with my best friends.

Grown up life is going to be intimidating and challenging, but full of rewards. I’m excited and thankful for this new beginning.

Today, I am thankful

Yesterday I wrote about how I was struggling. Nothing has really changed, except for one conscious decision: I choose to be thankful.

  • I am thankful because I have family and friends (and even friend’s families) who love me and would drop/have dropped everything to help me out. Whether it’s coming to my aid during a crisis, inspecting used cars or inviting me to dinner, these people mean so much to me. Even if these people aren’t my “buddies” (although I DO hang out with some of my friends’ parents), they are precious.
  • I am thankful because I have friends and family that, despite great distance, show me love, hear me out, encourage me and make me laugh.
  • I am thankful for my parents. I am thankful that they are healthy, in love and my rock when things fall apart.
  • I am thankful for the uplifting music playing on my way to and from work today.
  • I am thankful for my job. Yes, I’ve traded my heels for “chicken shoes,” my address doesn’t include a 20002 (or similar) zip code, I’m not sitting behind a computer writing all day and I’m not making as much as I would like to be making as a college graduate; but I am still thankful. I have a boss that exemplifies generosity and graciousness everyday. I have coworkers that are work hard, take care of each other and are genuinely joyful. I get to use my gifts and skills both behind the counter and in building sales for our store.
  • I am thankful for understanding, kind and even jovial tow truck drivers.
  • I am thankful for autumn (including, but not limited to: comfortable days and cool evenings, pumpkin everything, changing leaves and the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas).

“…For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find…”

~Matt Redman, “10,000 Reasons”

Struggle Bus

There’s a phrase circulating popular culture known as the “struggle bus.” It’s used when someone is having a rough day or just can’t get things right.

Struggle Bus [struhg-uhl • buhs] noun – a metaphor for a difficult situation, used when things aren’t going your way

Sentence: Man, I’ve been riding the struggle bus all day long; I haven’t been able to get anything right!

Well, folks, not only am I riding the struggle bus, I am driving it. I have wrecked it (literally) and I have popped it’s tires (literally), yet I just can’t seem to get off.

I don’t know what God’s trying to teach me in this “real job-less, boyfriend-less, kinda lonely, car destroying, soon to no longer be living on my own” phase of life, but I wish He’d just go ahead and teach it to me already.

Tonight, I am just so tired. Of uncertainty. Of waiting. Of unexpected problems. Tonight, I want to know why I can’t get my life together or why I can’t seem to drive a car.

Yes, I know God’s timing and will are best. Yes, I know that He is good and I trust Him. I am far from losing my faith, but I still can’t help being frustrated.

In April, I wrote about how I was broken into pieces. In August, I wrote about how I was rejected. Today, I am struggling.

 

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A roller coaster week

To say this week has been crazy would be such an understatement.

On Friday, I joined the Clounies (my other family), Adam, Sasha and Dima for one last lake day before my best friend Bruce left for his three-month stay in Montana. As always, we had a wonderful time—boating, tubing and laughing.

When Bruce first mapped out his route to Montana, the guys (Bruce, Michael and Adam) talked about turning it into a road trip, but when Michael and Adam bailed, I suggested that I tag along for a while. I could keep him company (and drive some), and he could take me by my parents’ place in Wisconsin, since it was more or less on his way.

I talked to my dad about our plan and it wasn’t hard to get him on board. We agreed to surprise my mom. You see, my mom is the one who is always doing thoughtful things for everyone else; so, it was high time that we did something special for her.

So, lots of planning and a few lies later, Bruce and I set off on a 1,000-mile road trip, while my mom thought I was still at the lake, soaking up the sun.

We left at 5:30 a.m. (ET) on Saturday and drove through North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, to arrive in Appleton around 12:30 a.m. (CT) Sunday. Let me just say, I will be perfectly happy if I NEVER see a cornfield again.

Daddy took Mamma to the latest (and longest) movie showing at the theater to buy us time. When we arrived at their apartment complex, we parked a few units down; then, we opened the garage door with the opener my dad had left in his unlocked car. When they got home and my mom walked inside, I was standing in the hallway in front of the door.

Mamma screamed… like, a blood curdling of scream.

It. Was. Priceless.

Almost as soon as my parents got home, Bruce and I both crashed (he on the couch, me in my bedroom). The next morning, we had breakfast, and then Bruce set off on the rest of his journey to Montana and we headed off to church.

On Wednesday, my mom and I went on a day trip to Chicago. I had never been, so we planned hit the highlights: the Magnificent Mile (particularly the Ghirardelli store), Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), Navy Pier, Giordano’s and, of course, Chick-fil-A (the closest one to my parents’ house is 133 miles away and my mom hasn’t had it in months!).

We were able to get to them all except Navy Pier. Our plan was to do everything we could, then drive over close to Navy Pier (our parking garage closed at 10 p.m.), park and see the fireworks at the pier. However, when we got over to Navy Pier, the only parking we could find was more than $20. We decided that was absolutely ridiculous, so we watched them from our car in a yacht club’s parking lot. That being said, we didn’t make it to Navy Pier, which was disappointing, but I got to do everything else on my to-do list.

I love big cities and Chicago was no exception. There’s just something about being surrounded by tall buildings and bustling sidewalks full of people that I find so invigorating.

We traveled around the city via car, bus and the El.

Traffic was horrible. Whoever said D.C. has the worst traffic, obviously hasn’t driven in downtown Chicago.

We bought all-day fun passes for Chicago’s public transportation, which meant we had unlimited rides on their busses and the El.

I was pretty impressed with their bus system. Each bus stop had a map, was clearly labeled and said which way each bus was heading. I had no problems using Google Maps. Our bus driver was pretty cranky though, but at least it was easy to find the right bus to ride.

Now, the El (Chicago’s subway system) was a completely different story. One of the stations that we went to was up several flights of stairs. While that’s not an issue for my 22-year-old body, it was for my mom, who has arthritis and is recovering from knee surgery. Also, the signage was incredibly unclear about which track went in which direction.

If I could take Chicago’s bus system and combine it with D.C.’s metro system, I’d be a happy camper (errr… rider)!

While we were at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, a guy about my age asked me if I could take a picture of him and his girlfriend. I agreed and he gave me a quick tutorial on how to use his phone’s camera. After I took the first photo, he asked me to take a couple more. As I began to take the second photo, he turned his back to me, got down on one knee and asked his girlfriend to marry him. Seconds seemed like minutes, I (the bystander/photographer) was so surprised and excited that I was shaking! She said yes, they kissed, they hugged, and he put the ring on her finger. It was so cool to be a little part of their special moment!

Tomorrow we’re taking a day trip to Door County. It’s a beautiful Wisconsin peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. Door County is particularly well known for its cherries. As it so happens, tomorrow is the annual Summer Harvest Cherry Fest, so we’re going to picnic, go to the festival and pick some cherries.

With everything that has been going on, this week has been quite an emotional roller coaster. Saying goodbye to Bruce on Sunday was really hard.

Friends like Bruce, the loyal, consistent ones that encourage and challenge you are hard to come by… losing that, even if it is only for a short period of time, is particularly difficult. He’s only going to be gone for three months, which isn’t so bad (except for the lack of cell phone service, and probably Internet as well… and knowing Bruce, I’m not holding my breath for snail mail).

I think the thing that I’m struggling with the most is that it seems like all my friends are on their own big adventures. They have jobs. Their families are close by. They’re busy. And I’m still floundering around without a job… or even a social life.

On the other hand, I’ve had a lot of fun this week. I’ve been really happy. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my family and going on fun adventures. So, as I said… it’s a roller coaster.

Whew! That was a lot… I think that’s enough for one post.

Here, there and yonder

After a particularly sweet Christmas, the Groh family is here, there and yonder. I’m back at Gardner-Webb University and I start classes later today, Mommy’s back in Raleigh taking care of some last minute medical appointments for Granddaddy and Daddy’s back in Appleton bringin’ home the bacon.

We started out Christmas with a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C. Mommy, Daddy and Grandma came up to pick me up from my semester, so we spent a few days exploring our nation’s capitol.

After a fantastic weekend, we drove home, slept and repacked, then drove to Florida the next day. While in Florida, we had lunch with my Great Aunt Ellen, went to Disney world with some sweet friends and explored Cocoa Beach (where I Dream of Jeannie was set).

On the way back home, we stopped in Charleston, SC. I loved the old homes and beautiful architecture (and the seafood wasn’t bad either).

The following day, two friends and I headed up to Roanoke, VA for a semi-surprise visit with Hannah (my old roommate) and her husband. I have missed that girl too stinkin’ much!

We hosted Christmas this year and things were surprisingly peaceful and fun.

After we ate, opened presents, ate some more, and opened even more presents, the “sisters” and their families went to see Les Misérables. OH MY GOODNES! Best movie of my LIFE… no exaggeration, I PROMISE!

I got to catch up with lots of sweet friends that I haven’t seen in a long time, and my family also spent time bonding over Downton Abbey.

All in all, this Christmas was probably the best break of recent years. Unfortunately, it has come to an end. It’s time to get back to reality and to tackle my next to last semester at Gardner-Webb.

I’m excited about all the experiences this semester should bring. I have a new roommate and am living on a new hall—both seem to be good changes (although I most certainly miss the old roommate immensely). I’m meeting with two editors from the Shelby Star next week about writing for them some this semester. I also am planning to continue interning in the University Relations Office on campus. I have some really interesting classes this semester, and I also get to have some professors that I really respect.

The rest of my semester: Internship

ImageThe last time I blogged about my internship experience in Washington, D.C. was less than two weeks into my time at Religion News Service. I came to Washington, D.C. armed with a couple of canned classroom news articles, a handful of public relations stories and a whole lot of encouragement back home. I wasn’t exactly the most qualified person to become a reporter in our nation’s capitol city. Quite frankly, I was worried that I couldn’t do it, that I was unqualified. This semester taught me a lot about who I was and what I could do.

 

At the end of the second week, I attended my first congressional hearing. The topic of the day was Sikhs pushing for more legal protections. They want the government to track hate crimes against them and other minority groups not yet being tracked. It included moving testimony from a survivor of the Oak Creek, Wis. shooting, whose mother was killed.

The following week I covered the story of the anti-Muslim ads in New York’s subway system. While I didn’t feel like this was one of my better stories content wise, it was my most viewed story (from what I can tell) on On Faith. It was shared 152 times on Facebook and 31 times on Twitter.

The next week, I tackled two poll stories.

The first addressed how most Americans don’t believe that Scientology was a real religion. While doing my research, I came to the conclusion that Scientologists remind me of a used car salesmen. They’re slick, and they use deceptive figures that don’t add up. They’re too nice, and they only tell you what they want you to hear. They put on a well-polished act, but in the end, no one would  give me the information that I wanted.

The second story was about a poll that showed that Most Americans don’t mind religious athletes showing their faith on and off the field through religious gestures, prayers and comments. It is because of this story that Tim Tebow’s picture show’s up next to mine when you Google my name (trust me—I’m not complaining about that!).

Week five was a crazy week. It happened to coincide with the Religion Newswriters Association Conference, so Kevin and Lauren were particularly busy trying to get ahead that week.

My big story for the week was an event with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University on Thursday. I spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for the event. I went through pages and pages of data trying to figure out what to write about.

I got lost on my way there, but thanks to my handy iPhone, I made it there (eventually). I listened to the event, and then I had a phone interview with someone from an opposing organization that I had set up earlier. His phone connection was horrible, so it took a really long time to do the interview, because he kept cutting out and having to call me back.

When I finished that interview, I found a coffee shop and tried my best to write my story. I was running really close to deadline by now, and under the pressure, I simply couldn’t figure out what the new information was and what the old information was and how to best present it.

I finished it up and sent it in, and then my phone died (before I could figure out how to get the Religion News Writers Association conference). So, I found the Apple store, bought a charger for my phone and plugged it into my computer. While I was in there, I also looked up bus directions for the place I was supposed to meet Lauren and Kevin. This was only mildly successful (the cord was WAY too short—5 inches), so I couldn’t make calls while it was plugged into my computer.

When I finally got my phone running again, I had several missed calls from Kevin and Lauren. They had some questions, and because they couldn’t get in touch with me, they decided to hold it.

The next week, I rewrote that piece, and rewrote it, and rewrote it. The final draft looked nothing like the first, but Kevin and Lauren decided not to run it, because it was old news.

I spent the majority of this week (that I wasn’t rewriting my Millennial story) updating our address with various publishers throughout the nation.

While this was fairly mundane, I did have one funny incident while making all these phone calls: the previous intern who made the list switched two digits in one of the phone numbers, so I accidentally called Home Depot instead of Harvard University Press. I’m not sure who was more confused, me or the woman who answered the phone!

During week seven, I wrote two stories. The first was about the Family Research Council shooter. He was the first person charged with terrorism charges since the District of Columbia’s 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act. I enjoyed this story because it was straight forward. It made me realize that I might just like cops and crimes reporting.

The second story was a fun one to write, although I had a hard time getting quotes. I wrote about how Muslims and Hindus are the least likely to have sex outside of marriage.

Since the story encompassed developing nations, sex AND religion, it was hard to find experts that could speak to the survey. I called about 20 people, think tanks, universities, etc. in a span of four days. I only got three responses, two of which I used (and the other just didn’t fit in the story).

Hurricane Sandy really threw us for a loop. We were supposed to move the week before, but couldn’t because we weren’t there, we couldn’t move. I spent the majority of my time that week researching for a story that I pitched about deaf churches, as well as getting contacts for a story of Adelle’s.

Week nine was split between researching and writing my “ What won, what lost on 2012 state ballot measures,” moving and interviewing people for my story on Deaf churches.

I even had the opportunity to go to Gallaudet and interview a professor. I also had my first conversation via video relay.

We spent an entire day unpacking our office and getting set up on the tenth floor.

My final full week was spent primarily researching for my story about deaf churches. I made phone calls, did internet research and sent emails.

I also worked on a story that talked about different versions of the Bible and whether or not the order of the books affects the way Christians read it. I contacted a number of Christian universities and interviewed Bible professors.

I also went to a pre-screening of Life of Pi.

On my last day, I wrote the story about Hispanics in America, finished up my article about Bibles and worked on my Life of Pi article. Then we went to lunch at the National Press Club.

Lauren was fantastic. I cannot say enough about her. She was encouraging, and helpful. She would edit my stories with me so I could see what she was changing and why.

Kevin was great, though I had little contact with him for the first half of the semester. He spent a lot of time out of the office because he was having issues getting an au pair for his twins. In addition to giving me many opportunities to write, Kevin tried hard to give me opportunities for experiences. He would send me to press conferences just to learn about topics, even if we weren’t going to run stories on them.

I see RNS’s move as a good thing and a bad thing for future interns. I enjoyed having my own office at the beginning of the semester. I think that having Lauren and Kevin there would have made it that much harder for me to pick up the phone and call sources. However, being in the same room as Lauren made it much easier to ask her questions and it gave the office a much homey feel. I think I would have gotten to know Kevin and Adelle (as well as Lauren) much better if we had been in closer quarters the whole time. I also work better with a steady hum or work going on around me, than I do in solitude and silence. So, being in an office with other people helped me be much more productive.

Perhaps the most valuable lessons learned were lessons about me. I learned strengths, and I learned weaknesses. For example, I am a slow writer and at times, I’m too thorough – I spend too much time researching, and not enough time writing. However, I am dedicated. I will do what it takes to get something done, even if that means that I will spend my entire weekend working on stories for work. I learned that I have a very “can do” attitude and that really counts for something in the work force. Above all, I learned that I can do this.

I am leaving this city armed with far more than what I came with. I am leaving with bylines, stories and confidence.

Home is where the heart is

As I write, I’m sitting at my gate in Ronald Reagan International Airport waiting for my plane to arrive to take me to a new apartment in a new town in a new state.

Even though I’ll be eating off of unfamiliar dishes and sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, I’ll be with my family, and that makes it home enough for me.

#Last33

Today, Keely (my roommate) and I realized that we only have 33 days left in D.C, so we made a pact to do something new every day for the last 33 days. We will be documenting our adventures on Instagram using the hashtag “#last33.”

Today, our “new thing” was Tryst, a local coffee shop/restaurant. It was incredibly crowded, especially for a Monday night. We drank coffee and worked on homework while a live jazz band played.

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Catching up

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written! I’d say it’s time for us to get caught up on life… 

I’m getting ready to start the eighth week of my internship (is that even possible?). Time has really flown by! I’ll try to give you the best rundown that I can.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church

First of all… I’ve been going to Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I LOVE it!!! The services are a bit different than what I’m used to. CHBC services tend to be a little on the long side, but they are packed full of amazing content. The sermons are always Scripturally based and doctrinally sound.

Worship consists of responsive reading, prayer and singing.

The music tends to be a lot more traditional than I’m used to. We sing hymns and use sheet music. No power point. No flashy lights. No electric guitar. Just worship flowing from the hearts of hundreds of people of varying walks of life—politicians, construction workers, students, Hill staffers, journalists… I love that the music that we sing is so rich and encouraging.

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One of my new favorite worship songs is “Behold Our God.”

The prayer in service is probably the most distinct thing about CHBC’s Sunday morning services. Any church can sing traditional songs and read Scripture corporately—but I have never heard a church pray like CHBC prays. Every week, they pray for our nation’s leaders, pastors of other churches and individual members of their church. There is set aside time to pray for forgiveness and time to praise God through prayer.

The other thing that I love about CHBC is their intern Bible Study. Every week, about 10 interns from various organizations meet with several CHBC members. We read the Bible and pray together. They encourage us to live Gospel-centered lives (both by what they say and how they live out their lives).

Before I left for Washington, D.C., I told Kelley that I really hoped that when this semester was all said and done, the thing that I would miss the most would be whatever church that I ended up getting plugged into. Honestly though, I didn’t really think that was possible. While I love my churches at home and school, I don’t know that I can say that I’ve truly felt “at home” in a church in a long time—but now I can. CHBC has been such a blessing. I can honestly say that Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings are my favorite times of the week.

 

Birthday

I’ve had a birthday since I last wrote. I have officially made it to the exciting age of 22—no longer in the carefree era of teenager-dom, the newfound freedoms of being 21 have lost their novelty and I’m not quite a real adult yet.

But despite it not being an incredibly exciting age, I DID have an incredibly exciting birthday. My best friend came up to D.C. for the weekend and we had a blast. 

Kelley got here late Friday night. I had cooked a homemade dinner, and we ate it on the roof of the Dellenback overlooking the city and the Capitol building. We hung out for a while, then we went to bed. We were both really tired and we had a ton of stuff planned for Saturday.

Saturday, we walked to Eastern Market and perused through the vendors’ tents and farmers’ stands. We admired tomatoes, jewelry, art and cowboy boots (I’m still kicking myself for not trying any of them on).

Next, we went to the Library of Congress, so Kelley could get her Library of Congress reader’s card.

After that, we took the metro to Metro Center and walked around the heart of D.C. We saw the F.B.I. building, Warner Theater and the National Press Building (where my internship is). We also stopped in a shop and I fell in love with beautiful, blue dress and I bought it.

We took the metro back to Union Station and had really yummy chicken salad and gelato. We walked around Union Station for a while, then we realized we were going to have to book it to get to our next destination.

We made it to the Barracks Row/D.C. State Fair about an hour before it closed, and it was a bust! Now, I understand that North Carolina has one of the largest ten day agricultural fairs in the nation and that I’m spoiled, but there was neither agriculture nor carnival rides. THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE COTTON CANDY (or caramel apples)!!! To make it worse, it was on Barracks row and there weren’t even any cute marines around! Lame, right? They did have some pretty cool acrobats, but other than that, there wasn’t much to see.

After  the “fair,” we went to Georgetown for cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake. We waited in line for about 30 minutes to get in, but it was worth the wait! I got a chocolate birthday cupcake (appropriate, right?) and Kelley got a coconut cupcake. They were both absolutely delicious (and they had a pink, sparkly Kitchen aid mixer… can you say, “I want!”?)!

When we got back to the Dellenback, Kelley and I got dressed up as quickly as we could (I wore my new, blue, sparkly dress) and headed to the roof for a mocktail party, where we chatted with WJC and ASPers for a bit. When we got tired of socializing, we watched movies until the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday was pretty chill… Kelley left early/mid-afternoon, which was incredibly sad. I’m so glad she got to come. I had so much fun with my forever friend.

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Internship

My internship has been an incredible learning experience. It’s been an opportunity to grow and be stretched. Some days are slow, and other days are packed full of excitement. Some weeks I have 2 or three things published, other weeks, there’s nothing at all. Learning that every day isn’t going to be something to write home about, has probably been the biggest thing for me. My first week was so successful, the lull that hit after was discouraging, but Lauren and Kevin have both been really encouraging.

That being said, I have done some really cool things. I wrote about an article featured in National Geographic exposing religious influence on the illegal ivory trade, I’ve tried (in vain) to get in touch with Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae, and talked to a former pro-baseball player (totally by chance).

I also got my congressional press pass. It’s probably my most prized possession that I’ve acquired this semester. Now, I’m not wanting to sound vain, but I normally take really good ID pictures, but if you look at the picture, you might notice that I look like a hot mess!

Well, I had a 2 o’clock deadline on my story that day, so I rushed down to the Corner Bakery in my building after I finished writing it and rushed to the bus stop. I didn’t get a chance to eat before the bus got there and I knew I wouldn’t be able to take it into the Capitol building, so I decided to scarf it down once I got off the bus. It was extremely windy, and the sky looked like it was about to pour—and pour it did. I barely had enough time to get my umbrella out before the heavens opened up! The wind was so strong that I had to throw away the rest of my lunch because I couldn’t hold my umbrella upright and hold my Panini at the same time.

I made my way towards the Capitol building as quickly as I could through the pouring rain, when a particularly strong gust of wind hit me and brought a wall of water with it and knocked me smack dab in the back. By the time I made it to the Capitol building I was drenched from head to toe, but it made for a good conversation starter though. While I was there, I got to take the subway under the Capitol building and I got to see the press gallery—most importantly though, I got my press pass.

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Wow, it’s getting really late and this post is getting really long. I’m going to call it a night and hopefully get you caught the rest of the way up later this week (perhaps tomorrow?). Stay tuned for a road trip, the North Carolina State Fair (it was a Bumper Crop of Fun), bus day and a slightly rekindled passion (pah!).