For someone such as myself who has an infatuation with words and would rather read the dictionary than the news, it has been a daunting task to find the words for my Miss Tennessee experience and even harder still to capture the magnitude of my gratitude for the support shown to me on this journey. I know that my thanks will be a feeble offering for the many ways in which I was loved and treasured and encouraged. Strangely enough, though my mother was not in the audience, I am drawn to speak of her as I try to capture this beautiful experience and the Lords amazing grace. I always approach writing anything involving my mother with extreme trepidation. To hold her story in my hands is to cup a beautiful butterfly with a shattered wing. I feel it is my duty to protect her, yet at the same time, in order to share my own story, I expose her. I remember in vivid colors every shard of glass that’s a piece of the stained glass window of my past. One in particular stands out to me tonight; it’s the cold dark piece I tend to push away, to the farthest corner of the mosaic. It was just the second or third time that my mothers illnesses would manifest in the public eye rather than within the barrier walls of our home. I was far removed from her, yet I felt so incredibly attached to the situation. My logical self fought frantically with my imagination to find a balance of facts. My mother, for her actions, had been tased, arrested, and again placed in the psychiatric ward; and though my mind simply imagined the terror, my precious older sister had seen it and felt it to her core. As we spoke on the phone the numbness that passed between us was unmistakable. In this rush of fury, our entire childhoods were falling in to place, we now understood the broken and unbalanced waltz we had danced, yet at the same time tried to grasp at explanations for the dance we were now seated before. I tossed and turned in my bed that night, every tick of the clock was another breath I couldn’t breathe. I kept imagining my mom as a child scared and alone. For some reason I couldn’t help but worry that she wouldn’t have anything to read. I was fearful that someone might hurt her. Finally, I burst out of the dorms and ran until I had dispensed every ounce of anxious energy within me, collapsing like a limp rag doll in a back parking lot. I remember the ice cold cement beneath me, and the wet autumn air around me, I remember the moon stirring, and resting her beams upon my silhouette. I cried, I sobbed for what felt like hours, I let all the aching of my heart reach before the Throne, and begged for my Father to hear me.
My Father heard.
I think right now I’m most aware of one of the darkest moments of my life because I just walked through one of the brightest. We can’t treasure fully the beauty of the light, unless we’ve stepped in to it from the shadows. This past week I competed for the title of Miss Tennessee, I was able to experience the fruition of a dream, the completion of a goal, and the answer to a hope. Throughout the week I was showered with constant encouragement from the Lord. He used so many people to bless and uplift me. From note cards and facebook messages, to thoughtful gifts, to survival kits and stunning bouquets of flowers. I was daily overwhelmed by the unconditional support and love from friends, family, strangers and the Miss Tennessee Community. Not only that, but how gracious of the Lord for me to walk away with more accolades than I could ever have imagined or asked for. On Thursday afternoon I was named a Tennessee Miracle Maker, on Friday night I was one of the preliminary swimsuit winners. On Saturday morning, those amazing girls, my beautiful fellow contestants bestowed upon me the incredible honor of being their Miss Congeniality. Then on Saturday, I placed in the Top Ten! God answered a prayer for just the experience and the chance, and then blessed me tenfold. At the very start of the final night they cut to the top 15. When there were 14 girls at the forefront of the stage and my name had not been called, I was unaffected. I had been so deeply touched by everyone around me, that from where I stood I already felt like Miss America. In my heart I prayed; “ Lord, I am completely at peace if I don’t advance any further, You have already given me so much and I am so grateful.” Then, reminiscent to winning the second to last pageant in my final season of eligibility…..My name, was the last name called in the top 15!
Then I was in the top 12.
What an honor.
Then I was in the top 10.
What a gift.
Though I realize I am not the strongest singer, I know the Lord has given me something to say. For my talent, I sang a song entitled Gold. When I first heard the lyrics to this song, I choked up and couldn’t imagine singing anything else on the Miss Tennessee stage. “You have to live the life you’re given”, it says “just hold on, and stare in to the skies and burn against the cold. For any moment, you might find the gold.” That is a legacy worth leaving behind, to admonish our future generations to burn with passion and dreams and dedication, against all odds and adversities, to leave their lights burning against the night sky and to stand at the ready for the fruits of their labors. The song goes on to say “There were nights, the moon above me stirred and let my life take hold, here in my own two hands, I once held the gold.” The gold, which my hands have held, and the power by which my life has taken hold is the steadfast, tried and true promises of God. The gold that my hands still reach for is not found within the earthly treasures of this world. It is the pure solid streets of gold that make their way through heaven to the feet of my Redeemer. I felt completely at peace and at ease on that stage, not because I felt entitled, or was convinced I deserved to be there, but because when I stepped out on to that stage I was laying a crown before my King, and hoped to be a living testament to the faithfulness of our God. Even through a beauty pageant His provision was felt in my heart, and without ever whispering the sweetest name I know, it was my earnest prayer that His Gospel would be heard.
With many thanks,
Miss Walking Tall
Miss Walking Tall
Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name.
Blessed be Your name, in the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow, blessed be Your name.