Over the weekend of my very favorite holiday July 4th, I walked within the beautiful dreams of people I love. Kelsey Pack with buttons all down her back married Tripp Purks, who, in a dashing slate gray vowed to cherish her forever, against the gorgeous expanse of a wheat field and the boughs of a weeping willow tree. The very next day, my sweet little sister by adopted love Kylie Gorki turned 16! Together our teeth turned green and blue from Funfetti cupcakes and I did a happy dance when I got the “ passed my permit“ text from her. Then, love swelled in my heart as I held my precious niece Eva, born on June 29th to my amazing big sister Cassia Maguire and her “perfectly made for her” husband, Mike. It was a medley of the biggest moments that will ever happen in a woman’s life, all happening around me, all to other people. Brilliant displays of Gods love and plans for them exploding into the night skies precisely like the very fireworks I watch every summer, and I was just as mesmerized and happy to watch those moments happen for them. I’ve already passed through the sweetness of a 16th, and have yet to cross in to the world of wedding bells and babies. I’m standing on this fabulous middle ground; independently sojourning, in a life dependent on God.
Since I was 18 I have prayed that the Lord would either grant the desires of my heart, or He would change them. Change them He has, and Christ has shown me that His will is perfect and that within His will is where I am safest, and most at peace. He designed me with a purpose, and I must allow His purposes to be my pursuit, not my own. Out of the desires of my heart come my hopes and dreams and I collect a few of those on lists. It has been so fulfilling, crossing things off of my current list and of course blogging what I can of the experiences. I was thrilled to cross off “Compete in Miss Tennessee” this June. My personal goal outside of being Miss Tennessee and then Miss America was to be in the Tennessee Top Ten, and I completed my Miss Tennessee journey in the Top Ten. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams; and it was an incredible, beautiful, feeling to see one of my dreams come to fruition after four years of persevering towards that exact outcome. Ever since the closure of that dream I have been asked by so many people what all my future plans are. “So, what’s next?” is now the question of the hour, and I stopped counting how many times those precise words have been posed to me. So, what’s next?
The beautiful and terrifying answer to that question is…….I have no idea.
At ten years old I would practice my Oscar acceptance speech in the mirror, convinced I would be the Audrey Hepburn of my generation. At 15, as I would sing The National Anthem at my high school sporting events, knees knocking and heart pounding, I was sure that one day the lights of the soccer field would transform in to the lights of Superbowl 41. At 18, the dreams were a little bit more realistic.…ok, maybe they were still grandiose; see I was certain I would graduate from SAE, a film school in Australia and I would go on to master the arts of screenwriting, directing and cinematography. I had already penned my cover letters to Walden Media and Focus Features and yes, that Oscar acceptance speech still lingered in the back of my mind (though it now possessed more copious and elaborate vocabulary). I was 18 when I wrote my first bucket list, though I have no idea now what it said. I know though, what it didn’t say, it did not say things to the effect of: move below the Mason Dixon line, take Greek and Hebrew classes, graduate from Bible College, travel across the country to summer camps presenting the Gospel, get a job in the healthcare industry and walk the northern beaches of Denmark. Yet, that is precisely what happened in my life, and that is exactly what the Lord intended to happen so I would be the woman I am right now, living in the moments I am right now. He gave me the love of words and oratory so that I would find myself motivating a gymnasium full of middle school kids instead of the stage of The Kodak Theater. He gave me a love of singing not for the Superbowl Stadium but for the joy of singing Amazing Grace to my niece, or just the simple outpouring of my heart in worship every morning. And worship I shall, even though I have no idea what’s next in my career, my education, my life, and my walk of faith. I guess I’ll start with that little “List of Things To Do before I turn 26”. I plan on designing and sowing my own dress, seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert, making a pumpkin pie from the actual pumpkin, volunteering at East TN Children’s Hospital, memorizing Ephesians, planting a tree for Earth Day and a bunch of other fun things that I won’t disclose in order to keep you coming back to read about them! The little ones are easy though, I just have to plan them and then circle the date on the calendar with a hot pink sharpie. The more daunting ones include: Publish a novel and a children’s book series, go on an overseas missions trip, travel to Australia and New Zealand, swim with sea turtles and watch the sunrise spill over the Grand Canyon. It’s the big dreams that are harder to hold onto, more difficult to persevere towards. The larger the glass ball, the more delicate it is to carry, one misstep and it shatters. Yet are they missteps? When dreams aren’t realized and they fade into the mist and remain just ink marks on a worn piece of paper, when hopes are deferred to a locked box beneath your bed, have you failed? I know this to be true: Man makes his plans, but the Lord determines his steps. I think to never try something is to fail, to have plans foiled and give up is to fail, but when something doesn’t come to fruition simply because it wasn’t Gods will for you it is only because He has something better, something even more beautiful, because He knows you more intimately than you know yourself. From where I stand right now, in this fabulous middle ground, I look behind me to the rocks I have traversed over and the sovereignty and grace of the Lord, and I look ahead to the stunning expanse of possibilities and the abundant life my Father has promised me. I know there will be joy and there will be pain, but the King of my mountains will also be the Lord of my valleys and whatever is in front of me, "I’ll choose to sing Hallelujah". Of this I am certain, I will seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and whatever He decides to add unto me; well, that, that is exactly what’s next.