Saturday, September 25, 2010
A Year as a "pageant queen?" No, a Year of Incredible Experiences and Unprecedented Opportunities!
I have a confession: After winning this title in June, I honestly thought that my year would be filled with "all things pageantry." Boy, was I wrong! I never would have anticipated the opportunities that would stem from this, however directly or indirectly related. Only a few months in, I am truly realizing that this year is shaping and changing my life in so many indescribable ways. Thinking back, I really think this year has been the most eventful to date, and it's only been four months! While the bull accident at the fair and the discovery of a seventh sibling easily take the cake for "most crazy stories," there are many more that have been incredible learning and growing experiences.
About two weeks ago, my mom got sick with what seemed like a cold. As the days passed, she progressively got worse, became bed-ridden a few days in, and was brought to the hospital after a week. Hardly able to breathe, not able to talk, and constantly overcome with coughing fits, she stayed in the hospital for days, until treatments and medication started to calm the symptoms of what turned out to be a virus that she simply had to wait out. Thankfully, it was nothing too serious, and two weeks later, she's home again, almost fully recovered. We are all so blessed to have a God who protects and heals according to His plan. My mom has had several illnesses and problems, and it seems as time goes on, they continue to accumulate, yet she is doing what she can to take care of herself, and it is obvious God has a plan for this time in her life, even if we don't know what it is yet. I know one purpose of it though, and that has been to help me grow. (I admit, sometimes it can feel a little more like forcing than helping, but either way, it's accomplishing its purpose!)
Having to take over the "mom" position at home, I am slowly recognizing not only the incredible work my mom does, the amazing patience she possesses, and the many minute things she does that I rarely noticed, but also my own needs and weaknesses. A self-described "very independent person," I'm finally learning to accept the fact that everyone has a certain degree of interdependence, and that isn't a bad thing! (I know, you already knew this, but hey, I can be a little slow at recognizing obvious things sometimes!) Not only does this make me appreciate everyone in my life, but it has also helped me realize that I am forever indebted to each and every person, and that I will never be able to repay anyone for the way they have impacted my life. My only hope is that I will, in some small way, bless you the way you have blessed me. I can't do this alone, and I depend on your love, support, and prayers that you faithfully provide. I simply cannot say it enough: Thank you!
My mom, myself, and my sisters Angela and Christine, had been set to attend the Women of Faith conference in Denver, CO. Well, life intervened, and the unexpected hospital stay for my mom meant she couldn't go. With her home recovering, the rest of us went ahead, and let me tell you, what an incredible weekend this has been! For the past two full days, the Pepsi Center in Denver has been filled with 10,000 women, singing, crying, laughing, listening, and talking. God knew just what I needed for inspiration, encouragement, and motivation, and the speakers and musicians there were exactly what He prescribed. There's so much running through my head and heart right now, I can't express it all in words, but I certainly hope I can live it out through the coming months
The Women of Faith convention is just one of the things I have been up to that may not be directly pageant-related at first glimpse, but truly impacts it in every way. Another one of these things is the United Way Special Events Committee that I recently re-joined, and am so enjoying being a part of!
Last weekend, we held our annual "United Way Rubber Duck Dash," and despite the chilly weather, had an astounding turnout, as well as record sales! (As a volunteer, I call these community service projects "under-cover events"... thus, the lack of crown and sash in the picture!) This fundraiser for United Way of Western Nebraska provides the opportunity for them to support 17 non-profit organizations in Western Nebraska. That's only a small piece of the United Way family...think about what United Way is doing across the country! If you know of a local United Way organization near you, I would encourage you to be a part of it in any way possible: donate, volunteer, or join a committee; the rewards are endless!
Another opportunity I am enjoying this year is being a part of "Leadership Scottsbluff." Leadership Scotts Bluff is a comprehensive program for current and emerging leaders to analyze characteristics associated with leadership, develop individual skills, and gather an awareness of trends, challenges and issues that face Scotts Bluff County. After hearing about this program, I HAD to apply! After attending my first session, I've learned so much and can't wait to go back.
Because of Leadership Scottsbluff, I also recently began going to "Common Pursuit" in Scottsbluff. Common Pursuit is an interdenominational group of men and women who exist to be a catalyst for transforming lives and culture in our community through discovering and implementing biblical principles in the workplace. This is a time of personal and professional training as well as a great networking opportunity. Obviously, after hearing about this, I HAD to join! (Hmm...are we seeing a trend here?) I went to my first breakfast a couple weeks ago, and can't wait for the next one...I've already learned so much and met some great people!
Like I said, this year is turning out to be so much more than "pageant" experiences; I am continually learning about...well, life! I know there's so much more to learn, and I am simply estatic to be able to continue to stretch my limits, extend my horizons, and take baby steps toward becoming the person God is molding me to be. Of course, this includes many great experiences that are directly pageant-related as well! Just recently, I found out I was featured in a Croatian magazine! Now, you may think that is a very unlikely media source, until you know that I am 1/2 Croatian, as my maternal grandparents were both born and raised on a small island in Croatia called Ilovik. They return several times a year, and I had the chance to visit several years ago as well, as many of our relatives still live there. It is so humbling to see that they are proud of me, even from thousands of miles away.
I had the chance to meet up with my dad and Scott and Lisa Jeffers a couple days ago in Ogallala to chat over dinner. My dad makes a monthly trip to Ogallala to see patients, so it worked well, and we had a great time talking about the exciting things to come! The Jeffers family is so truly incredible, and these two are such a blessing and encouragement to me!
Also, the "Miss America lottery" was held a few days ago! This is when all of the Miss America 2011 contestants log on to a site where the computer randomly generates the order of the girls who get the chance to choose their spot in the Miss America line-up. I was so lucky to come up pretty early in the process, so I got my first choice: number 10 in the MU group. That means I will have my interview Monday morning, answer the on-stage question on Tuesday night, model swimsuit and evening gown on Wednesday night, and perform talent on Thursday night. It is all becoming so real so quickly!
Coming into this position, I thought I would be helping others, influencing others, and giving. That is certainly my goal, yet as each day goes by, I am finding that it is ME who is being influenced, changed, and given to. I am being powerfully shaped and molded by each event that transpires, and through this I am finally recognizing that God's perfect plan may not always be in line with mine, (remember, I'm a little slow at realizing these things) but I'm giving my story to Him to write, because I know He has in store for me far more than I could every possibly hope or imagine.
In His Will and at Your Service,