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.

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High Five for Friday: July 5th

Two blogs that I follow (The Lauren Elizabeth and The Small Things Blog) link up every Friday for “High Five for Friday.” It’s a fun way to share the highlights of your week. Since I’ve been struggling to find things to blog about, I thought this would be a great way to get back in the grove. So, here’s my very first High Five for Friday post.

 

1. Ada Louise.

My sweet friend Abby welcomed her beautiful baby girl into this world yesterday! The birth of any baby is a special and happy occasion, but with Ada, it is especially so.

So often I get so frustrated with God’s timing. I have plans, goals and dreams; but they never seem to happen when I want them to happen. Ada’s birth is a reminder of how amazing God’s blessings are when we wait on His timing. You see, I (and others) have been praying for Ada for nearly a year and a half now.

Ada

2. The lake.

I spent last Saturday at the lake. The Clounies were fantastic hosts, and as always, we had a lovely time. The rain that was threatening to spoil our day never made its way over Kerr Lake. The only downside was that my killer sunburn from the week before made it difficult to get comfortable at times (and I had to wear long sleeves for most of the day).

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3. Movie nights with Ally.

My friend Ally and I have known each other for 17 years. We met in kindergarten and went to high school together. The older we get, the sweeter our friendship becomes. She is one of those people that I can really talk to about anything, everything and nothing.

We’ve been having regular movie nights over the last week and it has been marvelous! I’m going to miss her once she goes back to Lynchburg!

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4. Fourth of July.

Ally’s friend Kara came down to visit for the Fourth of July, so the three of us went to Brier Creek for dinner at Chilis, shopped around for a bit, then stayed for the fireworks. I had an awesome time. Kara was a hoot, and combined with Ally’s crazy sense of humor, I was thoroughly entertained all night!

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5. Lemon sugar cookies.

I found this recipe for lemon sugar cookies on Pinterest and decided to make them on a whim the other night. They’re not the best cookies I’ve ever made, but they’re certainly not the worst.

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Linking up with Lauren for H54F today!

Cupcake Wars: Georgetown Cupcake vs. Sprinkles Cupcakes

Two weeks ago, I found myself in Washington, D.C. for the day with my mom. Being the cupcake aficionados that we are, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab some cupcakes while we were there.

We swung by Georgetown Cupcake and after much deliberation, I decided on a Honey Banana and my mom decided on a Milk Chocolate Birthday.

But then, we decided that we should compare Georgetown Cupcake to another legendary bakery, Sprinkles Cupcakes. We got the most comparable cupcakes to our Georgetown picks, so I ended up with a Banana Dark Chocolate and my mom got a Vanilla Milk Chocolate (without the sprinkles).

In 2008, sisters Katherine Berman and Sophie LaMontagne opened their first cupcake shop in the heart of Georgetown. Two years later, TLC’s “DC Cupcakes,” featuring Georgetown Cupcake became an instant hit, making Georgetown Cupcake a destination for locals and tourists alike. There are currently five Georgetown Cupcake Locations.

Sprinkles Cupcakes was founded in 2005 by Candace Nelson in Beverly Hills. They boast of being the world’s first cupcake bakery and first cupcake ATM. There are currently 12 Sprinkles Bakeries throughout the United States.

Taste Test: Bananna Cupcakes

I was expecting to like Sprinkles’ Banana Dark Chocolate more than the Honey Banana, but surprisingly, I preferred Georgetown Cupcake’s Honey Banana. The cupcake itself was more moist and had a better banana flavor. The real surprise was in the icing, though. I love chocolate, but surprisingly, I really preferred the vanilla cream cheese icing at Georgetown Cupcake. I felt like the chocolate icing at Sprinkles was a little too sweet and that it overpowered the taste of the cupcake.

Verdict: Georgetown Cupcake

Taste Test: Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Icing

My mom preferred Sprinkles’ Vanilla Milk Chocolate to Georgetown Cupcake’s Milk Chocolate Birthday. “Georgetown Cupcake’s was just sort of bland,” she said. Sprinkles’ chocolate icing was a richer chocolate, and the cupcake was more flavorful.

Verdict: Sprinkles

Other Facts

We paid $6.05 for two cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake ($2.75 each + tax) and $7.00 ($3.50 each with no tax) at Sprinkles, but the cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake are significantly smaller than the ones at Sprinkles.

We went on a Monday afternoon, so there wasn’t a line at either place, however, when I went on a Saturday evening several weeks before, both bakeries had lines out the door. Sprinkles’ line was several people long, but seemed to move quickly as I watched, however, Georgetown Cupcake’s line was a block long, and took two hours to get through.

Final Verdict

It’s a toss up! You could go to either one and receive excellent service and a delicious cupcake.

Georgetown Cupcake was my first cupcake experience in D.C. (and all of my experiences there have been positive), so I guess I’ll probably always be a little biased toward them–But, if I were cramped for time (and there was a significant line at Georgetown), I would go to Sprinkles in a heartbeat.

georgetown v sprinkles

These are my personal opinions. Neither Georgetown Cupcake nor Sprinkles Cupcakes know who I am.

A graduation post: 5 Things I’d tell my freshman self

While talking to some friends the other day, I realized that the girl who stepped onto Gardner-Webb’s campus in August of 2009 is not the same as the woman who will walk across the stage today in the LYCC.

I’ve learned a lot over the past four years, and not all of it has been in the classroom (okay, most of it probably WASN’T in the classroom). If I could go back in time and give myself a pep talk the night before I left for college, here are the top five things I would say:

5. Get some sleep.

If you looked up the term “night owl” in the dictionary, your (my, our… how DO you address your past self???) photo would be right next to it right next to it. However, resist the urge to stay up all night every night.

Some late nights are unavoidable—sometimes, duty (work, homework or friend crises) calls. Other times, the consequences are worth it (some of your best college memories will be made after 11 p.m.), but weigh the consequences. Is it really worth it? You don’t have to text or Skype with him all night every night. You don’t need to check Twitter one more time. You don’t need to watch that next episode of NCIS. Get some sleep, girl! You’ll thank yourself tomorrow.

4. Choose your friends wisely.

Over all, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders when it comes to friends, but think about these two things: make lots of different friends and cultivate friendships with friends who make you better.

Making friends that are different from you (and that are in different groups) gives you a variety of perspectives. Also, if things go sour in one group (or if everyone graduates) you’re not left friendless and alone (okay, maybe that’s being a little over dramatic).

Cultivating friendships with those who make you better will, well… make you better. Find those people that encourage and support you—the ones that will challenge you and hold you accountable. These are the relationships that will be the sweetest and most worthwhile.

3. TSD: Try Something Different.

You will become very familiar with the phrase “TSD” through the Honors Association at Gardner-Webb, but don’t just apply it to ethnic foods. You have so many opportunities in college that you will never have again. Take advantage of those opportunities. You’ll like some things and you’ll dislike others, and that is perfectly okay.

Listen country music; you might actually like it. Take a writing class; you might be good at it. Go to a foreign country; you might enjoy it. Spend a semester in a new place; you might find a new home.

2. Don’t let people tell you what you can or can’t do or what you are and aren’t good at.

You are incredibly gifted. You may not be able to sing, write a thesis or paint a picture like ________, ________ or ________, but you have gifts that even YOU don’t know about yet! Take the time to discover them during college, and just because someone tells you that you’re not smart enough or gifted enough to do something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You never know, you might just prove them very wrong.

1. Even if things don’t end like you hoped, there are positives.

You’re entering college with lots of big dreams and you will leave college with lots of big dreams. During these next four years, you will achieve some of those dreams, abandon others and create some new ones.

Some of those dreams will come crashing down around you. As much as it hurts and as cliché as it sounds, God is in control and He has a plan for your life. Even when you don’t see His reasoning behind it all, look for the little blessings that came out of your big mistakes.

So when you part ways with that boy you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with, look at the beautiful friendships that you developed because you knew him. When you fail that class, know that it’s a new beginning and that there are opportunities around the corner that you never would have had as an ASL major. When you don’t have a job right after graduation, think about the extra adventures that you’ll get to have that you wouldn’t have had if you were sitting in an office all day (okay, I’m still trying to convince myself of that one).

Have fun. Laugh a lot. Make mistakes. Grow. Make the most of the next four years.

Broken pieces

This semester, I’m taking a photography class. During one of my weekend excursions to Raleigh, I grabbed my friend, Bruce, and drug him to an old (slightly sketchy), abandoned warehouse for a photo shoot. Not to be outdone, he insisted on taking some photos too. We found this smashed mirror on the ground, and got some really good pictures with it.

This is one of my favorite ones that he took of me. Not only is it a decent picture, but it also symbolizes my life right now.

Broken Pieces

Like this mirror, I feel like I’m broken.

I’m tired — no, I’m exhausted. I’m too busy. I’ve had too many late nights with not enough sleep. I have a million things to do, between school, work, my internship, applying for jobs, putting together a portfolio, traveling and (sometimes) attempting to throw sleep in there.

I’m worried and stressed. I graduate in 17 days, and my life doesn’t look at all like I hoped or planned it would two and a half weeks before graduation.

I have no job — I don’t even have prospects on one. Most of my friends have accepted job offers or have their plans for graduate school all lined up, but me? Nope. I’m the lame-o that’s moving home indefinitely after graduation. I have big dreams, and I don’t know if I’m shooting too high for a new college graduate or if I just need to be more patient.

Not only that, but the Christian university mantra of “ring by spring” didn’t work either. No husband. No fiancée. Nope… not even a boyfriend — and, yet again, no prospects. It seems like every time I turn around, so-and-so got engaged and so-and-so is pregnant and so-and-so finally started dating that boy she’s liked for months. While I’m incredibly happy for each and every one of those friends, it’s hard not to accidentally let the big green jealousy monster creep into my heart from time to time.

I feel like a failure: I’ve fallen short of practically all of my goals, I’m an awful person and my pride is broken.

I’ve allowed these failures to cause me to worry. I’ve turned my attention inward and begun focusing on selfish desires. The worst part is, I’ve let all these things choke out my time for Jesus.

Now, any good blogger’s next paragraph would read something like this:

Over the past week, however, I’ve really worked to realign my heart and mind with Christ. It’s a process, but I’m coming along–slowly, but surely. Throughout all this, God has shown up and saved the day. I may not know what lies ahead, but He’s completely turned my attitude around and everything is hunky dory.

However, I’m going to be perfectly honest: I HAVE really worked to realign my heart and mind with Christ, and it IS a process… a very slow and sometimes not so steady. I’m still tired. I’m still worn down. I’m still worried.

Something I have always struggled with is the difference between having a “head knowledge” and a “heart knowledge” of all things God-related. For example, I know He is [fill in the blank with your favorite “God adjective:” sufficent, sovereign, good, etc.], but often times, I don’t feel that way.

I’ve been listening to  Together for the Gospel Live II on repeat for the past few days, and there’s this one verse in “I Hear the Words of Love” that really sticks out to me.

My love is ofttimes low,
My joy still ebbs and flows,
But peace with Him remains the same,
No change my Savior knows.

Even though I change, Jesus doesn’t. So, even though I’m fighting that same inward battle once again, I’ve made the conscious decision to cling to my never-changing Savior with every fiber of my being.

It may not seem like it now, but just like Bruce used the broken mirror to create a creative and beautiful work of art, I know that God will create something beautiful out of my brokenness. Until that happens, I will wait and trust in Him.

Nutella Strawberry Cupcakes

Nutella Strawberry Cupcake

Nutella Strawberry Cupcake

Since Valentines Day is right around the corner, I thought I’d share my signature Nutella Strawberry cupcake recipe.

I made these a few weeks ago and they were a hit.

“The Nutella Strawberry cupcake is a masterpiece of chocolate, cream cheese, and strawberry. Deceptively simply, the Nutella strawberry cupcake achieves a perfect balance between cake and cream, chocolate and strawberry. And they’re pretty.”

~Amy Snyder

Chocolate Nutella Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate cake mix
  • Eggs (as called for on cake mix box)
  • Oil (as called for on cake mix box)
  • Water (as called for on cake mix box)
  • 1 box chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 jar of Nutella

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients

I use Wilton’s recipe, but any cream cheese icing recipe should work.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
  • 2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese softened
  • 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Garnishes

  • 12 strawberries, halved
  • A little bit of the afore mentioned Nutella

Cupcake Instructions

  1. Combine the chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding mix in a bowl.
  2. Add eggs, oil and water as directed on cake mix box.
  3. Mix and bake cupcakes as directed on cake mix box.
  4. Let cupcakes cool.
  5. Core the cupcakes with an apple corer or similar tool.
  6. Put a about half of the Nutella in a microwavable bowl and microwave until liquid-y.
  7. Fill each hole with Nutella.
  8. Let the cupcakes sit for a little while.
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Cored cupcakes filled with Nutella

Icing Instructions

  1.  Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer (or by hand if you’re a poor college student and don’t own one).
  2. Gradually add confectioiners’ sugar and milk.
  3. Beat until smooth.
  4. Add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken, milk to thin.

Decorating Instructions

  1. Pipe icing onto cupcakes.
  2. Poke a small hole with a toothpick in the corner of a Ziplock bag.
  3. Fill bag with the rest of the melted Nutella (or melt more if needed).
  4. Pipe the Nutella out of the bag in back and forth pattern on each cupcake.
  5. Garnish with half a strawberry. (I’ve found that if you wait to add the strawberry until you’re ready to serve it, the cupcake will hold up better.)

Currently Playing Along

I came across an awesome blog post by Jones Design Company today. Emily talks about what’s going on by saying what she’s currently loving, doing, working on, etc. At the end, she encouraged her readers to play along, so here I go.

Loving: This fantastic box of goodies that just came in the mail. I haven’t gotten a chance to dig too deeply in it, but I have found some M&Ms, socks, cake mix, and my Washington Journalism Center grades (FINALLY)!

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Reading: Although one of my goals for the new year is to read more, I’ve not been doing too well. I am reading my Bible, as well as reading a manuscript for a book by Dr. Blevins for my editing class.

Waiting for: Spring Break to get here! I miss my family.

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Excited about: Going to D.C. with my roommate over Easter Break! I can’t wait to get back to the city I love, as well as introduce Stephanie to all my favorite places.

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Trying to: Drink more water. I drink way to much Diet Dr. Pepper and coffee!

Working on: Job applications and news stories. It seems like all I ever do is write, write, write (not that I mind).

Enjoying: Downton Abbey. I can’t get enough of it! Sundays are my favorite day!

Using: iPad. One of my classes is in the experimental pilot program for using iPads on campus. So, we get to use a university owned iPad for the semester. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it, but I have a feeling that I’m going to be fully attached by the end of the semester.

Wearing: Pink scarf from Charming Charlie… definitely one of my favorites.

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Planning: My graduation party with my mom! Thank goodness for Pinterest boards that allow multiple pinners.

Singing: Behold our GodIt’s by far one of my favorite songs right now.

Needing: Consistent income. I start tutoring English next week and begin working at Chick-fil-A again part time the following week, but right now, finances are tight!

Learning: I’m taking 15 hours of classes this semester. My favorite, though, is photography. I’m really excited to learn more about how to take good photos.

Listening to: Ironically enough, I’m listening to my playlist entitled “Friday” on Spotify. It’s a mix of all my country and Worship music. Right now, Keith Urban’s song, “Stupid Boy,” is playing.

Wishing: That I’ll get the White House internship I applied for this summer. That I’ll meet a godly man who will cherish me. That I was at home. That May would hurry up and get here.

Doing: Hanging out in the new study rooms in the Tucker Student Center with Amy. She’s working on homework and I’m blogging, Pinteresting and getting job applications put together.

Dreaming of: Going back to D.C. for good. Having a job there, going to church there, living life there.

13 Goals for 2013

I’m not a huge fan of New Years resolutions. Most of the time I break them before the first week of January is over. So, this year, I decided to set goals instead.

1. Go to D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival

I’m working on this and it looks like it just might be a go! I would love to see the cherry blossoms, attend Capitol Hill Baptist Church (maybe for Easter?) and soak up the city that I miss so much.

2. Dean’s list/honors list both semesters

Ever since I changed my major to communications/public relations, my grades have definitely improved. My goal is to make all As and Bs in my remaining classes on top of maintaining a busy work schedule.

3. Visit Erica (and Matt) at ECU

Several sweet friends attend East Carolina University. I’ve been talking about going to see them for a while now, and I think it’s time that I finally do it. Maybe some time in February?

4. Visit Liberty

I also have friends at Liberty University that I’ve wanted to visit. Seeing as many of them graduate in May, I better get on it!

5. Go to California

This is my big goal of the year! I’ve never been to California, but I have some very dear friends that live there. I’d like to visit San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Potter’s Valley/Mendocino County.

6. See the sun set over the Pacific Ocean

This goes hand in hand with #5, but this has been on my bucket list for forever!

7. Graduate

I’m so excited that this can finally put this on my bucket list for this year! So, good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I will be a college graduate on December 16, 2013!

8. Get a job

A real life, big girl job! I’m not sure where or how, but I do hope I’ll have a job before the end of the year!

9. Hit 50 bylines

In WJC, Terry told us that the entire world looks completely different after 100 bylines. I’m about 1/10 of the way there, and I’d like to be halfway there by the end of the 2013.

10. Read at least halfway through the Bible

I’ve never been able to keep up with a one year reading plan, but I do think that halfway is doable, so that’s my goal. My Bible app on my phone shows me how far I’ve gotten on the plan, so I can track how much I’ve read.

11. Learn to shoot a gun

I’ve wanted to learn to shoot for a while, I just can never convince anyone to take me.

12. Read at least six non-school books

I know some people who read 40+ books a year, the least I could do is read half a dozen.

13. Create at least six signature cupcakes

I LOVE cupcakes! I’ve started creating some of my own cupcake concoctions. Last weekend, I started with a Nutella cupcake. Who knows what else I’ll come up with this year?

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The big stink about the inaugural benediction (and the Gospel)

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, taking in the usual tweets… you know: gun control, Oscar nominations and the White House Chief of Staff replacement (yes, there’s some @HonestToddler and @DepressedDarth there too). But then, a certain news story began taking over my newsfeed, and it went something a little like this:

BOILING SPRINGS, NC (XYZ NEWS SERVICE) – Evangelical pastor, Louis Giglio, withdrew from giving the benediction at the president’s inauguration on Jan. 21, after a liberal group discovered a controversial sermon of his on homosexuality from the mid 1990s.

ThinkProgress, the group that unearthed the sermon, provided several portions of the manuscript on their website in their initial story.  The original recording can be found here.

In the message, Giglio points to multiple passages in the Bible that state that homosexuality is a sin (I Corinthians 6:9-10, for example).

“…Homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle… homosexuality is not just a sexual preference homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin. It is sin in the eyes of God, and it is sin according to the Word of God… It is not ambiguous and unclear. It is very clear.”

Giglio went on to offer hope and the promise healing. “And the only way out of a homosexual lifestyle, the only way out of a relationship that has been engrained over years of time, is through the healing power of Jesus.”

ThinkProgress and many other Americans didn’t like that message. They didn’t like being told that homosexuality is wrong. They certainly didn’t like being told that homosexuals should change.

But maybe, just maybe, they took Giglio’s message a little too personally. Later on, he says, “We’ve got to say the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me… it’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.”

Giglio puts himself, and everyone else sitting in his congregation, in the same plight as those living a homosexual lifestyle—the place of a sinner.

In Romans 3, Paul is very clear about who is affected by sin.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:9-12 (ESV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

You are a sinner. I am a sinner. Louis Giglio is a sinner. Billy Graham is a sinner. Homosexuals are sinners. Adulterers are sinners. Gluttons are sinners. The proud are sinners. Gossips are sinners. Murders are sinners. Every single human being on this earth is a sinner.

As sinners, we are condemned. Judgment. Hell. Eternal separation from God. These are the consequences of sin.

In Romans 6, we see our death sentence pronounced.

“For the wages of sin is death,…”

Romans 6:23a (ESV)

The beauty is that Paul doesn’t stop with death. He finishes the sentence.

“BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23b (ESV) (Emphasis my own)

What exactly is this free gift?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John 3:16-17 (ESV)

The book of John tells us that God sent Jesus, his son—His perfect, spotless son—to our sinful and fallen world. Not to just coexist with the sinners… not to bring judgment on sinners. Jesus came to earth as a substitute for our sins.

HE was condemned. HE was judged. HE suffered through Hell. HE was separated from God. HE took on the consequences of our sins.

He offers us a new life, not one defined by our sin (and consequently, our separation from God), but one defined by His holiness. All we have to do is accept His gift of eternal life.

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-13 (ESV) (Emphasis my own.)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Everyone. That means Louis Giglio, Billy Graham, homosexuals, adulturers, gluttons, the proud, gossips, murders–even you and me.

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.