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,