Wednesday, February 27, 2013

For Such A Time...

Heather French Henry sat directly to my right, our knees almost touching; the way schoolgirl friends sit and share secrets together on the school bus. The murmur of the room was very much like that of students cajoling with one another on the first day back from summer vacation, friends who haven’t seen friends since this adventure or that mishap and retell the tales each longs to hear of the other. These here, in the Miss America Suite, are adventurers and warriors dismissing distances and reuniting with their sisters; all beneath the glamorous lights that have bonded them together since 1921. They speak of the future and of their history, of how the Miss America crown has evolved and changed from the Lady Liberty type headdress to the glittering icon I was able to wear on my very head. I was still, a silent observer among the legends, drinking in the experience like a beautifully aged glass of Cabernet, breathing in the moments slowly in hopes that it might never pass away.  Lee Meriwether stood to my immediate right, a glass of wine in hand, exuding elegance in her bare feet, speaking of her Habitat for Humanity endeavor earlier that day. Jackie Meyer worked diligently in the windowsill overlooking Las Vegas Blvd. compiling the paperwork for this years Quality of Life recipients. She celebrated her 50th anniversary of being Miss America that week, and shared on stage her powerful life story of teaching herself to speak again after a devastating stroke; letters becoming words and words into sentences again. All week long I was given moments of interaction with these Miss Americas; Lauren Nelson and Jennifer Berry hugged me as though I was one of their own, and though I held my composure when I met Heather Whitestone, the only Miss America who is Deaf, upon exiting the Miss America suite I cried tears of joy and admiration. During the Miss America Luncheon I was seated next to the inspiring Donna Axum Whitworth and we discussed her work with The Womens Auxiliary of Texas, and as the Miss Americas were introduced, they highlighted one sisters triumph that year: defeating brain cancer.  Yes, once Miss America, always Miss America. These women do not relinquish the strength that brought them to the crown once they place it on another’s head. These women continue life long legacies of changing the world, and overcoming obstacles. They singularly represent, in their daily lives, a collective commitment to perseverance, strength, “world peace”; and undying and unwavering support of scholarship, style, success, and service. The four points of the crown are more the beating of their very hearts than the delicate Miss America pin worn directly above it.

My temperament is disquieted to know that some would see a woman wearing a crown or hear the title of beauty queen and instantly resign and dilute her to their own understanding; found in poorly given stage answers, scandalous controversies and the go-go juice of Honey Boo Boo. Not to dismiss the existence of the latter, for it is an apparent reality, but to declare that to be a woman who truly represents what Miss America is all about, is to promote awareness for Autism, Alzheimers, Heart Disease and Childhood Cancer. It means packing 45,000 backpacks to do your part in ending childhood hunger or creating an animal program for special needs children and wounded veterans. It means taking your glittering sparkling crown off of your own head and placing it on the bald head of a little girl; her body riddled by chemo treatments but her heart now elated by how you have made her feel beautiful, maybe even invincible. Our current Miss America, Mallory Hagan is herself a champion for the disavowed, broken and abused in her cause to End Child Sexual Abuse, on top of which she is the Ambassador of the Childrens Miracle Network, she promotes women involvement in STEM programs and represents Joseph Ribkhoff and Artistry Beauty.


Such are the descriptors of America’s queens.

For a brief moment in my timeline, in one of the most precious adventures of my lifetime; The Miss America Organization gave me the incredible honor of feeling exactly like I had become Americas queen. I presented at The Neiman Marcus Luncheon to Miss Americas and members of the Board of Directors, and again on Thursday evening I spoke on the Miss America stage in the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. When I concluded my words, the audience rose to their feet. I was awestruck, starstruck, shocked, and humbled. As tradition goes, you only stand, for Miss America herself. Joy flooded me, gratitude overwhelmed me- What could I do? But say an inaudible thank you to the masses- raise my hand in love into the lights.

Afterwards pockets of people would tell me that the very first to leave their seat, was Katie Stam Irk, seated in front at the celebrity judges table. An honor given by the honored. I watched Katie Stam sing Via Del A Rosa and win Miss America 2009 sitting in my living room, by myself, cheering for her as loud as I could for no one to hear. And here she, a woman I so admired for so long for her grace and faith, had cheered for me. What kindness of the Lord to show me such favor! I returned to my seat, breathless and slightly stunned, I looked about the audience around me, thinking…there wasn’t a single father there who wouldn’t have given everything to make their daughters dream come true, to become Miss America, and my Father did that for me, in His own way and His own timing, for His own glory. He said, yes My princess, I will fulfill the desires of your heart, and you will bring honor to My name.

If you stripped my Las Vegas experience of everything; the beautiful Bellagio, the candlelit dinner at Top of The World, if you had to take away breakfast in the Paris Casino and the dresses and the royal treatment, the little girls asking for photographs and autographs, the Directors of this and that asking me to speak and speak again; if you took it all away except one moment, I would still be as overjoyed and enamored and thankful for this experience.  This one moment occurred during my Thursday Night speech, well aware of all that was happening outside of the confines of our stadium of dream makers and dream believers, one of my lines in my speech was as follows:

“And all of those tomorrows have led me to right here, and right now. Where I will testify that I would not be the women standing before you tonight, if not for the Gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ.”

The crowd erupted in cheers.

I was startled for a moment, it was a reaction I hadn’t expected or planned for in my calculated pauses of speech practice. But oh, what a reaction to receive! YES! My heart thought! Yes! This is why I came- this is what I stand for and why I have been given something to say- Thank Him for what He has done! Honor Him with thunderous applause. I am so humbled, thankful and in awe that God would take a broken vessel and redeem her, for such a time as this; that in the heart of “Sin City”; the name of Christ would be praised.

I rested my head against the window as my limo headed to the airport at the end of my adventure, weaving through the streets where vagabonds and kings nightly meet, where people walk till the morning gold spills about their feet. “Are you Miss USA or something?” my driver asks through the open windowed partition pulling me out of my quiet thoughts “No no I’m just a regular girl” I replied. “Well okay, then why all this?” he motions his hand around the large vehicle. I explain to him how the Miss America Organization provided this amazing experience for me as their guest and how I was able to speak and share my faith on their stage. “Your faith?…what’s your faith?” he asked.

I moved forward to the front of the seats to be closer.
Because, I have something to say about faith, and why was I sent, if not for a moment such, as this.