From Miss America to Motherhood

“They lay their crowns before the throne and say, ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.’ “

Revelation 4:10,11

Tonight is the 95th Miss America Pageant and I can’t wait to watch! I competed as Miss Mississippi for the 2004 crown. Though I did not win, I made lifelong friends. Now, I know, that sentiment is often spoken with a smile in the grace of a beauty queen to her fans, but I really mean it.

The Misses from Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Maryland, New York, Mississippi, Georgia, and Michigan could always be found together at Boardwalk Hall laughing and dreaming during rehearsals. The night of the pageant, several of us were tearfully eating pizza backstage after not being named finalists.

Upon returning to our states, we set up an email group to keep in touch. Our correspondence began with discussing our adventures as state title holders, who we were dating, and later marrying. Marriage gave way to babies- and miscarriages, and infertility, and cancer among us.

Life became more real and so did our bond.

I write this today to emphasize the power of having other mothers in your life with whom you can be raw and real on this motherhood journey.

The irony of our pageant sisterhood is that we had to shed the perfection to grow into mothers and have been able to do so together. We had to lay down our crowns and allow the Lord to do His work in us and in our families.

We have grieved the losses of miscarried babies, believed through years of infertility, and celebrated the births of 22- you read that right- TWENTY TWO children among us.

When Miss Maryland’s daughter fought and WON against cancer last year, we rejoiced in our God’s healing power and hugged our healthy babies a bit tighter.

We email about breast-feeding, teething, potty-training, and losing the baby weight, (as you can imagine 8 former state swimsuit winners might). More importantly, we pray for and encourage each other. We go months without contact due to our busy lives and then pick right back up again with 30 excited text messages the morning of the 2016 Miss America Pageant.

As we transition from the more glamorous to perhaps the grittier seasons of life, it is such a blessing to do so with others. As our group has found, there is more beauty in our lives now than was on that stage in Atlantic City over a decade ago.

Motherhood is a former of bonds and the great equalizer. It makes mentors and students of us. It allows us to speak with those we might not otherwise, and learn from those we admired from afar.

When I moved to Los Angeles and was pregnant with my first child, Miss Mississippi 1977 Mary Haskell and her family threw a baby shower for my husband and me and were the first to visit us at the hospital while our family flew across the nation.

When I performed at the Miss Mississippi Pageant in 2012 pregnant with my third child, I spent hours chatting backstage with Miss Mississippi 1962 Chalie Ray about being moms and the Lord’s provision.

Tonight I will watch the Miss America Pageant on ABC, (just a shameless plug there!), nursing, wearing pajamas, and eating ice cream while I cheer for Miss Mississippi Hannah Roberts.

For me, the gowns and the jewels are sweet memories now.  Many of the dreams of my youth were not realized while others have fulfilled me beyond what I could have imagined. I’ve learned that we must walk the path the Lord has set for us without our own notions of the destination.

My time in Atlantic City resulted in amazing opportunities to perform and train through scholarships and experiences, but more importantly, it brought me into a sisterhood of women who help me to strive to become a woman of noble character.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise”

Proverbs 31: 25-31

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