It was Rachmaninoff, and I cried…

miss america crown

I often get asked what my perspective on pageants are, now that it’s been almost 7 years since I held a title…

SUCH a loaded question.

Looking back, I see my pageantry path as one of Divine Tutoring.  Really.  It held amazing value in learning about beauty, articulation, carriage and refinement.  I have been able to meet incredible women of all ages whom I’ve had the opportunity to coach and mentor, “judge” and direct – women who have taught me priceless lessons about Life and myself.  Hard lessons.

Pageants taught me that all women have an innate need – not just desire, but need – to have our beauty and voices honored and celebrated.

It also taught me that we should not judge anyone else’s journey to wholeness.  If I had a dollar for every raised-eyebrowed woman who nonverbally communicated her disapproval of my choice to compete in pageants – displacing the upstanding Christian wife and mother they once believed me to be – I could probably retire.

I learned that when you get the go-ahead from God, that is all that matters.  The voices of others simply must be drowned out when you embark on the True Path He has placed before you.

Even if that “True Path” involves throwing on a swimsuit and a pair of heels and marching out on stage.   Such CAN be a spiritual journey for a woman of Christ…

Would I do it again?  No point.  As a 30-something, it was my divinely orchestrated course.  As a 40-something, it’s not.  I continue to do pageant coaching, but ONLY for those ladies who have gotten that go-ahead from the Heavens…and are doing it for the right reasons.

That worldly crown, I have discovered, is a total illusion

Too often I have seen beautiful and spiritually regal women walk away from a pageant competition feeling less-than, lacking and falling short…simply because they didn’t bring home some manmade, rhinestone-clustered $50 tiara.  I see others searching for a worldly crown to somehow validate their worth.  Or to garner the attention from those they can’t seem to get it from.  Tragic.

My feeling is that God would have all of His daughters discern the priceless, eternal, invisible crowns that adorn our war-torn heads.  By continuing to just look up.

All hell and a tornado broke loose the year I had the crown – it definitely wasn’t stacked with roses and parades.  My husband lost his job, my son was diagnosed with Aspergers, my sister entered a rehab while I cared for two of her children, and then…that same sister took her life 3 weeks before I passed on my crown.  So yes, the earthly crown is an illusion.

We all have spiritual titles that will never get validated through earthly competitions.

My almost 12-year-old daughter Savannah just started taking piano lessons from 2009’s Miss Utah, Whitney Merrifield.  Whitney did a living room concert for Savannah and I – in an attempt, I think, to give my Savannie a glimpse of what is possible.  It was the piece she played at Miss America – the Miss America Pageant she “lost.”

It was Rachmaninoff, and I cried.

I cried because my sister loved Rachmaninoff when she was alive and I cried because my daughter was sitting next to me with wide-open eyes and a wide-open future and I cried because I love music and I love beauty…and I am moved beyond words by seeing both displayed through the willing hands of a gifted and lovely daughter of God.

Last Monday afternoon, Whitney was our Miss America.

The take-home gift I received from my time as Mrs. Utah is best described in an excerpt from “My Kingdom” by Louisa May Alcott.

I do not ask for any crown But that which all may win Nor seek to conquer any world Except the one within.

Be thou my guide until I find, Led by a tender hand, Thy happy kingdom in myself And dare to take command.

Every Woman’s Pain

Ok, so it’s been over a MONTH since I’ve posted.  So sorry…have detached from writing to heed other calls.  Pleasantly surprised to note that there were almost 500 reads on my last post, “Those Who Hunger.” 🙂  Please keep reading, friends!

Yesterday – Saturday – was one of the most powerful and rewarding days of my “life mission” work ever…   I have been in Arizona all weekend, teaching at my friend Sarah’s home in Gilbert.  I conducted an essential oils and “self nurturing/empowerment for women” workshop on Fri night and offered coaching sessions to anyone who was interested that next day, since I knew I had it open before the workshop would resume that evening.  Little did I know what Saturday (yesterday) would yield.

From 7:30 am to 6:30 pm, I planted myself on a couch, stuck a Kleenex box on the coffee table, and had a series of one hour coaching sessions with about 10 different women.  Here is a sampling of the struggles that these brave and amazing females shared with me (BTW, we fully utilized the Kleenex):

  • “Emma’s” twin baby boys died shortly after birth.  She had a 2 year-old boy at the time, and has since had another baby boy.  She’s trying to be an emotionally brave and engaging mother to the two boys still living, afraid to let the grief surface for the two she has lost.
  • “Kelly” – about 35 years old – struggles with panic and anxiety, wanting to give everything and all that is in her to her children.  Fear of not being enough, of messing them up.  Her 4 year-old daughter is so stricken with anxiety that she will use the bathroom up to 100 times per day.  Another young daughter also suffering with crippling anxiety.
  • “Jane’s” son, who is in his 30’s and lives in her home, writhes in mental/emotional torment, has drug dependency issues and cannot hold a job.  Her heart breaks for his choices, his emotional “hell”…feels responsible for his issues, feels her “inadequate” mothering in his younger years must have created his current reality.
  • “Suzy” – a 30 year-old mother of 3 young children, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, persistent self-defeating thoughts.
  • “Carly”, in recovery for prescription drug dependence…3 children, about the ages of mine.  At one of her low points, consumed a gallon of vodka a day, while simultaneously serving in a high Church position.  Beautiful, vibrant lady…recently relapsed, still plugging along with 4+ recovery meetings a week.  Is resolved to endure to the end and see this addiction through.
  • “Gina” feels resentment, even contempt, for her husband of 20 years as he ignores, rejects, insults with his silence.  Weight is slowly layering itself on her body as she insulates herself against the pain.
  • “Laura” is searching for expression of her feminine gifts (beauty, passion, mission) in the midst of homeschooling 10 children.  Looking for expansion of her role as Woman outside her role as Mother.
  • “Amanda” is a put together 30-something with 2 children and joints that are falling apart.  Arthritis forming.  Trying to detach from her mother that she recently discovered has a toxic influence on her.  Is on a journey of physical/emotional healing and self-exploration.

I saw myself -at various stages of my life – in every one of them.  After those 11 hours, I taught a 3 hour workshop, then stayed up talking to my friend Jen (whom I’d brought with me from Utah to sing and share) until 2 am.  Jen, I might mention, has alcoholic parents, a sister who is homosexual, a sister who is a drug addict and a brother on death row.

How INSPIRED I am by all of the women who live with pain, disease, trauma, rejection…and wholeheartedly desire to create a higher state of being and becoming in the midst of it.  Every woman of Truth holds immense pain in parts of her body.  But IN that Truth, she opens her soul to incredible Sources of strength and resiliency.  She stares adversity down and keeps hope alive in her heart.  Our points of pain are our points of power.  Breakdowns can be deep and meaningful spiritual awakenings.

It was back-to-back, non-stop looking into the eyes of beautiful, struggling souls for 19 hours straight.  I have never had a day like yesterday.  I was immersed – suspended – in a total state of love and awe and inspiration and Truth.  There was no room for fatigue, though I expected it to hit any moment.  I was fueled and fed on so many levels.

And then on the plane this morning, feeling exhausted, worn out in a good way, and still marveling at my yesterday…  I get wedged between 2 huge college football players.   I’m feeling protective and intimidated and who knows what, but then a little voice inside me says, “Your weekend ministry’s not finished.”  There are no accidents in where we are placed – and with whom – when we resolve to be one of His disciples.

I listened to one of these guys talk about his grandmother who’d died 3 days previous, saw the pain in his eyes, and discerned God was far from his heart.  His friend to my right, likewise.  I think if I hadn’t had such a beatuiful yesterday – a rare Earth day that was consumed in Light and Truth – I wouldn’t have been as energized to release the fear and go to the “love” with such intimidating-looking creatures.  All I could see were wounded little boys in big ol’ bumbling bodies.

I am today – nothing short of exhausted.  Glad to be back home, back to a sweet husband who kept the house clean and children whom I believe were watched over by an extra team of angels so I could be about my Father’s business.  I think what I hold in my heart tonight is relief that I am not alone in my pain and my grief and my inadequacy and my regrets. Every person walking this lonely planet holds all of the above.

And the relief is not just about my not being the only one who feels those burdens…my relief is that I do not have to carry them.  I hope that I was able to communicate to each of those women, and in some small way to those two young men, that there is One who waits to take their burdens on Himself.  Showing up to communicate this to them has gracefully reaffirmed it to my own soul…

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.   For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

-Matt 11:28-30