Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Miss America is Here: Why Am I Competing?

It's finally here! Can you believe it? Tomorrow I will be heading to Denver, from which I will fly out to Las Vegas and begin the ten-day journey to the final Miss America Pageant, culminating in one lucky girl being crowned the new Miss America on Saturday, January 15th. ...Or is it luck?

When I began competing in the pageant system at 13 years old, I really only did it because my older sister Sarah had competed in her first pageant two years prior. So of course, when I turned 13 I just HAD to compete in the same pageant, and the pressure was on to win as she had. I did win that first County Fair pageant in Scottsbluff, but I also had so much fun that I didn't want to stop there; I was hooked. I soon found out about the Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen system, and began competing in locals, and once at the state level, throughout the next four years.

Over the years, my parents have had two main reasons they supported my involvement in this organization. One was of course, the scholarship money. The Miss America Organization is the largest provider of scholarships for women in the world, and because I'm planning on attending law school, we're looking at seven years of college; so scholarships are very important! The second had to do with the rules of the competition. In order to compete in the Miss America system, you must be between the ages of 17 and 24... and you cannot be married. When they saw that I had my heart set on competing as long as I could, possibly until age 24, they found that as their security that I would not get married until I was at least 25. I guess I ruined that plan by winning at 17. Oops!

As I continued my involvement in pageants however, I found my own reasons for competing. For years, I had been searching for a place where I excelled; a place where I felt I belonged or was meant to be. As a dancer, singer, pianist, guitarist, gymnast, speaker, and actress, I found that although I did well in each area, I wasn't willing to completely dedicate myself to any one area as many others were. When I found pageantry, I realized that God had prepared me for this competition by creating me to love diversity, and here was the place I could use the talents He had given me.

During Miss Nebraska week in North Platte, I began a journal in which I recorded not only the events of each day, but also a passage of Scripture and my thoughts and prayers. At the end of the week, on June 5th, 2010, just hours before the final competition, I was reading 2 Timothy and chose chapter 2, verse 15 as particularly applicable to me. It reads: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." As I thought about that verse and how it applied to me, I wrote the following prayer:

Dear God, please help me to be a diligent servant not only today but from here on out. Give me the strength and wisdom to accurately handle your word of truth and the diligence and perseverance necessary to be a worker who is not ashamed. I wish to be a shining light for you, a glowing example of who you are, and a grain of salt in a tasteless world. Whether or not this is achieved through a position, crown, title, or job, please place me exactly where you need me to be an effective ambassador for you. I am clay in your hands, your humble servant, willing to do whatever you wish for me in your perfect plan. I love you so much and thank you for blessing me so tremendously and bestowing such outstanding opportunity on me. My greatest wish is to exemplify your love through my words and actions in order to bring others to you.
Your Loving Daughter, Teresa

That night I won the title of Miss Nebraska. From that, I know that this is exactly where God wants me to be, and He has a plan for each and every day of my life, not only this year, but every year. That was my prayer then; it has been my prayer these six months; it will be my prayer these next weeks at Miss America; and it will continue to be my prayer for the rest of my life. If I win the title of Miss America, I will know it is His will. If I do not win, and continue the next six months as Miss Nebraska, I will know it is His will. How incredibly calming it is to know that my life is in His hands!

No matter what happens, my prayer continues to be simply that I will fulfill His purpose in everything that I do. If you had not previously known my reasons and purpose behind why I do what I do, I hope you now understand what I believe my calling to be. Why am I competing in the Miss America competition over the next ten days? Because God has placed me in this position to show His love. Please pray that I might be able to accomplish this, and as always, please feel free to share your thoughts and comments as to how I might better achieve these things.

Well, I will not be posting until I return from Vegas, but stay tuned for all the details when I get back! Once again, thank you for your incredible support and encouragement; I wouldn't be here without you!

To God Be The Glory,


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The End of an Incredible Year... The Beginning of Another Beautiful Adventure

It's quite amazing to realize that in a matter of hours, 2010 will be over, and a new year will have begun. Around this time, many people make hundreds of resolutions that they don't entirely intend to keep, and end up forgetting about them in a matter of days, weeks, or months. For the first time, I can honestly say I don't have even one New Year's Resolution. This is not at all because I am perfect by any means, but simply because I've been making "resolutions" all year; I've been working towards goals and changing habits each and every day, and I fully intend to continue doing that throughout the year of 2011.

The year of 2010 was a roller-coaster; so many things happened, and it was simply indescribable. I turned 17; graduated from high school; applied to my dream college; won Miss Nebraska; deferred enrollment to said college; almost got charged by a bull; found out about and met my eldest brother for the first time; met my idol: the composer of my piano piece; went trick-or-treating for the first time; traveled to Houston, Tampa, and Orlando; watched my first Husker game; put 30,000 miles on the Miss Nebraska car; tried sushi for the first time; and so much more! And those, of course, are experiences outside of my "regular" Miss Nebraska duties! If anything can top this past year, I know it will be 2011. In a week, I'll be headed to Las Vegas to compete for Miss America, which will be an outstanding experience all in its own. The next six months will be crazy busy whether I win Miss America or continue my work as Miss Nebraska, so either way, I know this next year will be nothing short of amazing.

As I'm sure it was for everyone, this past month was a hectic one in the Scanlan household! My older sister, Sarah, returned from college for winter break, and my eldest sister, Angela, moved back in temporarily as well; the house was quite suddenly five times louder. Of course Christmas-time was filled with all sorts of Holiday activities, Christmas parties, decorating, baking, and more. I decked out the Official Miss Nebraska Car with holiday spirit, complete with greenery, poinsettias, Santa hats, and a nativity. My younger brothers "helped" me decorate a gingerbread house village, and my sisters and I hosted a Christmas party at my house so I could spend time with my friends one last time. (Who knew over forty teenagers could fit in our living room?)

I had the opportunity to speak to and perform for the Gering Business Club at their last monthly meeting at the Gering Civic Center, and had a wonderful time! All of the members were so much fun and an outstanding encouragement to me as well.

Yesterday I was able to appear on Channel 8 ABC News in Lincoln with Brittany Jeffers to chat about the upcoming Miss America competition. It was great seeing her again, and pretty neat to have last year's Miss Nebraska interviewing the current!

This week has been spent in the eastern part of the state, as I finish up preparations for Miss America. My wardrobe received its final alterations, I had my final appointment at The Strand salon, I met with Michele Strom, who will be going to Miss America with me as my makeup artist, and completed lots more "errands" as well. Of course, I came down with a nasty cold right about Christmas Eve, so my focus has been kicking that, which is almost gone now. My goal is to stay healthy and energized throughout the time I'm in Vegas, so health is definitely a priority right now! Tonight, I have a modeling job for "Into the Wild" New Year's Eve 2011 at Nomad Lounge in Omaha, so I'm super excited for another "first" for me! Should be a fun way to spend New Year's Eve, and if the weather cooperates, I'll be headed home on the first day 0f 2011!

Well, here's to a year well-spent, and looking forward to another year of trying new things, taking chances, giving it everything, and staying optimistic! As always, thank you so much for your incredible support and constant encouragement these past six months, and I look forward to serving you and working together in the next six months.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Story of the Dragonfly

I recently heard a wonderful story that a group of ladies in North Platte shared with another who had lost several loved ones this past year. I thought it was a beautiful metaphor that really puts things in perspective, so I thought I'd pass it along as well. Please share with those you know who may be hurting from loss this holiday season.

The Story of the Dragonfly

In a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads, there lived a little water beetle in a community of water beetles. They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond. Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again. They knew that when this happened their friend was dead, gone forever. One day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb up that stem. However, he was determined that he would not leave forever. He would come back and tell his friends what he had found at the top. When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, he was so tired, and the sun felt so warm, that he decided to take a nap. As he slept, his body changed. When he woke up, he had turned into a beautiful dragonfly. As he soared he saw the beauty of a whole new world and a far superior way of life than what he had ever known existed. He found he could fly and in his flight he discovered his world was brighter than anything he had ever imagined and the beauty was breathtaking.

Then he remembered his beetle friends and how they were thinking by now he was dead. He remembered his pact with the others below and started down to the water. He tried and tried to break through the surface to reach his friends, but couldn’t.
He wanted to go back to tell them what he had found, and explain to them that he was now more alive than he had ever been before. His life had been fulfilled rather than ended. He could not get back to tell his friends the good news. Then he understood that their time would come, when they too would know what he now knew. That one day we too will break out of the murky water and join the others we love in the bright light of heaven.

So he raised his wings and flew off into his joyous new life!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Getting Closer...

As I count down the days to Miss America, it's finally beginning to feel so near, so real. Everything has come together and been prepared, down to the minute details. Last week, the Miss Nebraska Organization held a send-off party for me in North Platte. Hosted by Miss Nebraska 2009 Brittany Jeffers, I got to model my wardrobe and perform my talent for those in attendance. Once again, it was wonderful to feel the support and encouragement from so many across the state. With approximately three weeks until the competition in Las Vegas, I'm feeling the excitement build more and more each day! Who knows what January 15th will bring? I'm not worried about the outcome, but the journey. And let me tell you, this journey has been incredible.

After the send-off on Saturday, I headed over to Mccook to sign autographs and take pictures with kids who came into the Viaero Wireless store there. We had a lot of fun! That night I also watched the Big 12 Championship with some Miss NE ladies; although a big disappointing, we had a great time. It was the first Husker game I've ever watched, in real life or on tv! (I don't think I'm supposed to tell people that, so shhh!) Over the weekend I also did some mock interviews and other prep work, and got to go visit Scout's Rest Ranch as well. The ranch is the home of "Buffalo Bill" Cody, and is absolutely beautiful! Various individuals and groups throughout the area decorate the rooms in the house for Christmas, so it was incredible to see the gorgeous decorations throughout. Beginning the 17th, they have tours, pictures with Santa, hayrack rides, apple cider, roasted chestnuts, and lots of fun, so if you're in the area, be sure to make it over!

On Tuesday I headed across the state to meet with Governor Heineman in Lincoln. We had a great talk about politics and various issues; he is a fantastic person, and a very strong leader. The following day I had the opportunity to present before the Nebraska Board of Education on my proposal to implement NEDA's Educator Toolkits into teacher training programs, as well as recognizing National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in the schools this year. Our time went very well, and the board members were very receptive and supportive of my presentation.

Yesterday was another Leadership Scottsbluff session, focusing on public speaking and communication. We had some fantastic speakers and presentations that of course apply very directly to my job every day. We also visited the Veteran's Home in Scottsbluff; I got to play cards with a Navy Air Corps veteran named Harry, and also played my talent piece for all the veterans. Every one of them has such an incredible story, and it was so amazing to see their appreciation for our time. Just playing games with them and chatting makes such a difference; as one veteran there told us, the best way to honor them is simply to tell them "I'm proud of you."

As travels slow a bit, I'll be able to spend some time with my family over the holidays, as well as get to work on some events that are in the works for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 20th-26th 2011. Be sure to mark your calendars to remember this week, wear purple for eating disorders awareness, and stay tuned for upcoming events across the state!

Of course, as the weather gets colder, remember to take some time to relax and enjoy the season. For a moving story about dedication and true character, find a copy of "Promises I Made My Mother" by Sam Haskell. This book is also a great gift for mothers or sons, as it presents an inspiring message about this powerful relationship.

Embrace the Season!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Curled up here with Christmas carols playing, cinnamon candles burning, and my newly-decorated mini eating disorders awareness Christmas tree beside me, I'm feeling quite ready for Christmas! If you have yet to decorate your Christmas tree this year, consider using a purple decor for eating disorders awareness, hanging purple ornaments and awareness ribbons, and making a big purple ribbon for the top!

The day after Thanksgiving, my family always jumps into preparing for Christmas, so on Black Friday, we're gathered at home amidst piles of boxes, covering the house with decorations. For us, there's quite a few traditions that have accumulated over the years: the first present under the tree is a gold box that contains the Christmas story - also the first present we take out on Christmas; the strange brown banner, from which no one knows where it came, is always hung at the landing of the stairs; the same figurines are always placed on the fireplace mantle; the wreath that we've had for as long as I can remember is hung on the front door; and the old "Holiday Mail" bag is hung on the door handle, waiting for this year's holiday mail to join letters and cards from many years past. While many of our family traditions are preserved, we also did some new things this year: my dad finally caved and bought a new tree skirt to replace the fuzzy white one with ten years of tinsel and pine needles embedded into it; having bought a new Christmas tree last year, we decorated two trees this year, I set up one in the living room with white and gold decor, and my younger brothers took over the one in the den, covering it in colorful ornaments and candy canes; never having been a "hang up the stockings" kind of family, I decided to pull out our stockings to hang above the fireplace this year, only to find seven beautiful red stockings with each name painted on the trim...and one plain white stocking with "Teesh" (my nickname) scribbled, crossed out, and then written again, in black permanent marker. I guess I missed that decorating day! Oh well, I hung them all nonetheless.

I also got to kick off the Christmas season in Gering with the annual Christmas parade on Friday, and then in Scottsbluff on Saturday! After forgetting gloves for the first one, I quickly learned my lesson and stayed nice and warm the second evening. On Sunday I headed to North Platte after church for the 2nd Annual Festival of Trees. If you're in the North Platte area and have not attended, be sure to make it next year! Various area businesses decorate and donate a Christmas tree to be auctioned off on Sunday afternoon. The trees were absolutely beautiful, and all 18 were so creative! I definitely got some good ideas for our trees next year, and had a great time auctioning the trees to raise money for Children's Miracle Network.

It was a great weekend to start the holidays, and there will be much more to come over the next month!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life itself is worth being thankful for; but how much more then, do we have to give thanks for? The lives we lead are truly incredible, and we have an unending list of things which we should always give thanks for. While I have always recognized this, this year Thanksgiving hit me especially hard as I realized how outstandingly blessed I am. If you're reading this right now, I am extremely thankful for YOU! Every day, I thank God for the people like you, who believe in me and support me in all that I do; I truly would not be here today without you.

My mom's birthday was on Thanksgiving this year, so we held a surprise birthday party for her on Wednesday. We held it at a fun pottery-painting place in Scottsbluff called Create Away. I painted an awareness ribbon shape purple and wrote "Accept Yourself...Accept Others" on it; I'll hang it in my office when it's done. My mom was completely surprised by the party and we had a great time with some of her close friends!

On Thanksgiving day, my whole family went to help with Thanksgiving in the Valley: a free Thanksgiving dinner for the needy in the valley. My younger sister Christine and I delivered meals to the homebound throughout Scottsbluff, and although it was very cold, the elderly people we delivered too were so appreciative of their Thanksgiving meal. Afterward, I headed home to start cooking up our meal! We had another family over, ate a great Thanksgiving dinner, (if I do say so myself - it was my first time doing it myself!) and played lots of games together throughout the evening. Just relaxing with friends and family not only reminded me of the most important things in life, but also why what I do is so important; I was reminded of the people who came to Thanksgiving in the Valley for food, the elderly who didn't have family around anymore, and the many youth across our state who do not have a loving family to take care of them. That's why I love what I do - I hope that through each small thing, I can make a difference in the lives of these people, and give them hope. I pray that throughout not only this year, but every year for the rest of my life, I will be striving to reach out to others and help them when they need it. I have been blessed in so many ways, and have so much to be thankful for! I don't know why this is, and I certainly don't deserve it; I only hope that I can make the most of the life I've been given and use it always to the glory of God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Miss Lincoln/Miss Star City!

Congratulations to Jessica States, our new Miss Lincoln, and Rachel Foehlinger, our new Miss Star City! Also a big congratulations to Meghan Thalken, our new Miss Lincoln Outstanding Teen!

I had the chance to co-emcee this pageant in Lincoln this weekend, and it was a fabulous show! There were so many incredible young ladies, and the competition was tough. This is the last local for the calendar year, but I hope to see many of these ladies competing in more locals in 2011! We're quickly gathering some amazing titleholders to compete at Miss Nebraska next year, so be sure to mark June 11th on your calendars, and come watch the competition in North Platte!