Winning Miss Kansas was a dream for me...but I want to be more transparent about my year as Miss Kansas and the years that led up to it as well.
Two years ago I started struggling. I was a sophomore in college who couldn't feel happy. I tried so hard to care and put on a very brave face, yet it left me broken and feeling worthless. I pushed my energy into schoolwork and my vocal scholarship and it wasn't enough. I became very angry and broken. To be honest, I think I made tons of enemies...but nobody knew just how much I hated myself. My head filled with struggles from my past, and the devil really twisted the way I saw life and things around me. I was carrying tons of shame in my heart and most days, felt like I couldn't breathe.
In the spring of 2016, things started to get worse and I just wanted to crawl under my bed and stay there. During this time, I was preparing to compete for Miss Kansas 2017. My local team and the prep process were honesty healing and beneficial in more ways than one. Still, I doubted myself a ton.
For those of you who watched my journey competing for Miss Kansas, you might not have noticed. This post might be a little shocking, and some of you might think "well she looked happy in her posts"..... Depression doesn't mean sad all the time. It doesn't mean I didn't have good days, and it doesn't mean I was distant from God. Depression is a chemical imbalance with my brain, a personal battle. I didn't want to tell anyone because I didn't want people to think I was making excuses or too "weak" to be Miss Kansas.
It wasn't until another year before I finally went to a doctor and was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and OCD. I didn't want to hear it or have to deal with it, but I knew something had to change. Last year God did incredible things in my heart. Filling me with peace and joy, and of course, giving me that Miss Kansas crown. I've shared my Miss Kansas testimony before and won't get into it again, but you can look it up later :)
The reason for this post, is to show others who might be struggling with the same thing...that life can go on. The reality is, although many amazing things happened during Miss Kansas week last year, I was still taking my medication at 9pm each night. I still had to be brave enough to ask a host mom to set an alarm so I wouldn't forget. I had to tell my new state board the morning after I won what I would need for my mental health. I had to ask for breaks during preparation, and make sure I had enough medicine for Miss America. This isn't to ask people to feel bad for me at all, I'm okay. But we have to start talking about mental illnesses and allowing others to see that they are not alone. The reality is, 30 minutes before I was crowned Miss Kansas, I had to run back to my dressing room and take my medication. On one of the happiest nights of my life, I still had to take time to take care of myself.
I decided to write this post because I gave the current Miss Kansas contestants my packing list from last year. After I posted it, I realized my medication was still listed and I immediately began to worry. I was scared that now they would know, or might look at me differently. But then I realized that maybe some of them need to know. Maybe some of them are going through the same thing. Maybe we can encourage each other.
Last year I wondered if I really could be Miss Kansas, or even do a good job considering my circumstance. As I look back, I don't regret a thing. I'm proud of what I have done, I'm proud of both my strengths and weaknesses, and I'm content with sharing my story. You can have struggles and still do incredible things.
I've met thousands of people this year, and hugged many young girls who struggle with depression or anxiety. What I have to say to you is... I'm here. I know, I understand.
You are still unstoppable.
Anyone who knows me knows I can be quite sarcastic. I love dry humor and making my youth group kids sliiiightly uncomfortable by staring them down until I crack a smile. In some respects, its my thing. The kids know I will mess with them. But something hit me this past weekend that really changed my perspective.
This past weekend I attended Focus Conference with my youth group. It was seriously so fun, I have some wonderful scars and bruises to prove it. I loved getting away from everything with my group and really spending time in The Word and with each other. We needed that. There were many sarcastic jokes made, and a very aggressive fame of basketball (Jamie) but it was good for us.
Today on my drive to Iola, KS (woo hoo!) a phrase popped into my head and shook me up a bit. "What would I do without your sarcasm". It's probably a phrase I've heard from many people before. I'll say something witty and that's what people reply with. But today when it popped into my head it didn't feel right. Is that a phrase I want to hear as often as I do?
While sarcasm can be fun, it can also stop us from creating real, meaningful relationships. I would much rather hear "what would I do without your friendship" than "What would I do without your sarcasm". What value am I adding to someone's life through my friendship? Do my witty comments stop people from coming to me in a time of need? Is there a fear I might make a joke instead of listening?
I assure you my heart is to love people. I most definitely want to be someone others can turn to and feel valued by. But have I shown that?
I think if we aren't careful, sarcasm can become dangerous. For some, sarcasm is a defense mechanism used to deter away from conversations that might be uncomfortable or letting others in. Sarcasm is used quickly among teens (and all) as a way to show that they are "tough" or can "hang with the crowd". But what if we chose to be genuine instead?
I listened to a sweet teenage girl say that sarcasm is the reason she believes people don't return to her church youth group after they visit. She knows that with the amount of sarcastic comments made between each other, visitors might not see the church as warm and welcoming....that's a problem. When did we trade authentic relationships for quick, witty remarks at the expense of each other or ourselves? When did we jump on each others weaknesses and use them "for fun"?
The bible talks many times about loving one another, building each other up, and encouraging each other in their faith. Yes, sarcasm happens in our culture... I'm the first to admit I use it a lot. But I'd also like to be more intentional about my words.
Our churches have to become a place where there is more building than destruction...and it just might start with toning down the sarcasm.
"I'm so scared" I sobbed into Logan's arms. "I'm losing everything in four months".
In a way, that's true. In four months I'll lose my job, car, host home, and title. I won't be Miss Kansas anymore, and I don't know what comes next. It's not that I don't have opportunities, but there are still many things to figure out.
In a way, this is a very exciting time for me. A time where all my hard work can pay off and big doors are opening around me. But any change can feel scary sometimes...and that's how I feel. Fear is a very real thing. It can keep us up at night, stop us from trying things or even talking to that guy. Fear tells you not to do things, or to always play it safe. Fear tells you that you won't be able to succeed, that you aren't good enough, and you never will be. Fear likes to destroy things. Fear is not God.
Because I drive for hours at a time, I have started listening to books on the road to make the drive a little more pleasant. I was so excited the day Sadie Robertson's book released ( I totally pre ordered it because I'm a fan). I finished the book in two days, there was a lot of driving. But I was so inspired by her words and trust in God. It didn't come easy, and she has had her struggles...but I am so impressed by the woman she has become. I guess I knew in my heart that fear was playing a big part of my life, but I didn't realize it was controlling many parts of my life. Not until last night, that is.
Nothing traumatic happened last night. In fact, Logan had just taken me to see a movie and we were having so much fun together. But on the drive home, something hit me hard. Out of nowhere, I started thinking of all the things I have to figure out before my year as Miss Kansas is over. Before I knew it, tears were running down my cheeks and I was doing everything I could not to look at him as we continued on. I didn't want him to think it was his fault.
In that moment, I saw just how much I had let fear take over my life. As someone who desires to make others feel loved and appreciated, I often forget to take care of myself. This job is hard, and you pour every part of yourself into others. "What if there is nothing left after this?" "What if I don't get things planned out?" "What will that look like for this organization if their Miss Kansas doesn't succeed after her year?" "This was supposed to be a launching pad, yet here I am unready to launch".
Obviously the thoughts were a bit dramatic...but real. Tonight as I sat down to do devotions I couldn't decided what I should read. I just couldn't stop moving through pages. Finally, I asked Logan what he was reading. We started talking about Peter and John's boldness in Acts 4. We both agreed that we wished we were THAT bold. When I opened my journal afterwards to reflect and pray, I was shocked by the verse and quote that happened to be on the next available page.
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear" - 1 John 4:18
Y'all, God is love. Not only that, he is perfect love. Which means the fear in my heart is completely driven out. Fear has no place in my life. Tonight it truly hit me that I have the power to tell fear to hit the road. I can choose to be comforted and protected by God's love instead. And while life keeps rolling and I probably should find a place to live after this year...there are much bigger things I am called to do through Christ.
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! - Luke 12:24
I think I know what God is calling me to do, it's been on my heart for weeks, but that is for a different post. For now, I just want to encourage you by saying this:
Fear does not have to run your life. You are enough because Christ is enough. You do not have to be fearful about what is to come because He has already taken care of that.
This is a journey, and I know better than to think that I will wake up tomorrow and everything will be perfect and I will never be fearful again. (But, if you wanted to make that happen God, I totally wouldn't mind). My first part in my journey is simply telling fear that it does not get to live in my heart anymore. And what's really awesome, is that I have a perfect God that's going to help make that come true.
So much love for all of you,
I'm not even sure that I will be able to explain just how wonderful workshop was yesterday. So much laughter, a few tears, and even bigger smiles.
I walked into our venue with so much excitement yesterday. Ready to hug some girls, share advice, and watch as these beautiful women begin to show us why they could be the next Miss Kansas. For weeks, I've been writing notes all over my planner, notepads, and random post it notes in my car. There are so many things I want to share with these girls. Things I'm glad I did, things I wish I would have done. But I have to admit, it was a bit odd looking at all these women walk in to the room and realizing I don't get to compete with them this year.
Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about my platform. After I spoke to the girls, I got to sing a song that truly shows what my platform was all about. I truly thought I could sing it without crying...I was wrong.
As I sang my song, I was overwhelmed with flashbacks and sweet memories. Nobody else could see what was in my head...but I think they heard my heart. I immediately began seeing faces of people I've hugged, saw moments I'll remember forever, and thought about the hundreds of messages I've received. It was almost like I could see every life I've been able to touch, altogether as I sang the final words... "If the world only knew what I could do, maybe they would see.... I am just what I'm supposed to be"
It was in this moment that I realized that I am the Miss Kansas I have always wanted to be. I am advocating, loving, and serving my community. I am telling thousands of individuals that they are unstoppable, and are not defined by differences.
As I hit my last note, I watched an entire room stand and applaud and I was immediately taken back. I am so so thankful for the opportunities I have had to do what I love. I am especially grateful to the people who understand my heart for those with disabilities and support me in that. Thank you contestants, directors, and volunteers for making me feel so very special and loved Saturday. It will be one of my favorite memories of the year.
I believe in Miss America.
I believe in my local directors who loved me and supported me from the very beginning.
I believe in my state team who has empowered me to do things I never imagined.
I believe in the first Miss America I watched crowned. Mallory Hagan.
I believe in my sisters, from the local, state, and national level.
I believe in the millions of children served by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and the millions of dollars Miss America contestants have raised on their behalf.
I believe in the incredible things I see contestants doing all across the country.
I believe in the four points of the crown. Style, Success, Scholarship, and Service.
All four are important, but today I especially believe in Style.
Some think style is referring to the beautiful evening gowns, the sassy cocktail dresses, and the trendy looks Miss America wears on the red carpet. But style is so much more.
Style is the class held by our Miss Americas, and many contestants across the nation in the wake of the recent news. Style is watching my Miss America, Cara Mund step into the spotlight with such dignity and strength. Style is watching former Miss Americas continue to encourage women to join the organization and not let the acts of some in leadership roles define us.
Miss America is so much more than inappropriate emails and opinions communicated by MAO leadership. I believe in this organization because of the woman I am today. I believe in this organization because of the sisterhood it has given me. I am so fortunate to be a part of the Miss Kansas legacy. A legacy full of empowered women, empowering others. We are Miss America, and we will not let leadership, words, or misfortunes define us. We are women capable of many things, and the world caught a glimpse of that today.
Today, we taught women all over America just how valuable they are. We taught them that they deserve more, and that degrading women is not something the Miss America Organization stands for. We taught women that their voices can be heard, and will be heard. We taught women that they have the power to empower others and overcome trials with class.
I believe in the Miss America Organization, nothing changes that.
I remember the first time I was told I couldn't sit at the lunch table with the "cool girls". And the first time I heard that one of the girls in choir "hated" me. I remember being called the "weird Jesus girl", the "homeschooled freak", the loser. I remember the first time I saw my picture in a group chat...
"she's so stupid."
"look at her, she's ugly"
"who does she think she is"
I remember the first time someone who claimed they loved me, told me what a naïve, stupid girl I was, and continued to tell me everything wrong with me.
"she only got that solo so she won't make a big deal about it".
"She shouldn't be Miss Kansas"
"Nobody likes her. I heard they won't book her for events"
"She shouldn't have won the fitness prelim, look at her"
"She looks fat in that dress"
"Ugh. Looks awful in this picture"
The list goes on...So what's the point?
I want you to know that everyone struggles. We have all felt unloved, unwanted, ugly, stupid, weird. At some point in our lives we won't get to sit at the "Cool table". We might not get the job we want. People won't always like us... but the good news is that doesn't change our worth.
Your worth, comes from something much bigger than the opinions of others. Your worth comes in who you are, not what you do. Your worth was established before you were knit together in your mothers womb. Your worth, is "worth it". Worth dying for, worth forgiveness, worth the trials, worth the pain...you have worth. Maybe you don't feel like it, and trust me I have been there. Because some of the quotes written in this blog are recent.... so I can't tell you it goes away. Not when you graduate high school, or college, or get the role of Miss Kansas.
There will be pain, there will be hard times....but through it all, you will be worth it. That is all that really matters. So keep your head up, because you can overcomes this too.
you are unstoppable.
Share with someone who needs to hear this today.
Tis the season...for shopping! With black Friday and Christmas sales coming up, I have compiled a list of 5 places you should shop! Because this week is global Entrepreneurship Week, I have teamed up with www.discoveryourawesome.org to celebrate entrepreneurs with disabilities! These stores are owned by individuals with disabilities, which is obviously super cool. Check out this list, do a little shopping, and let me know who should be added!
P.S. - To purchase items and support this campaign, click the mug!
1. Poppin' Joes Popcorn
This popcorn place is actually based in Kansas! You can find Joes popcorn in many Walmart's across Kansas and Missouri, and as someone who LOVES kettle corn, you bet I will be ordering some!
2. Gracies Doggie Treats
For those of you who consider your dog a member of the family, why not spoil them this season as well! Gracie is a dog lover who took her passion and created her own business! Gracies treats are healthy, certified, and ready to be shipped to your beloved canine!
3. Da Bombs by Megan
A girl after my own heart...Megan makes all kinds of bath bombs, salts, and shower discs from natural oils. These bath items have amazing health benefits and could help your loved one stay healthy and happy this season! You can even order a Down Syndrome Awareness bath bomb! HOW COOL.
4. John's Crazy Socks
John loves socks and he's got the best! Keep your families feet warm this winter by purchasing some crazy socks! With hundreds of styles to choose, you are guaranteed to find a pair for everyone you know.
Sean is probably my favorite cast member from "Born this Way". He's hilarious, just like his new merchandise! This is a perfect place to shop for someone just as ornery as Sean is. PLUS, he just launched a wonderful holiday collection!
I realize I waited a while before posting any kind of reflection on my time at Miss America. In a way, some of my experiences are personal. I think there's many things you would simply have to experience to understand. It's special, something only the next Miss America classes will understand. However, I thought I would share answers to the most common questions I receive. In no particular order, here we go........
1. Was it fun?
Of course! The whole two weeks are full of exciting events, meeting incredible people. and constantly remembering you are at MISS AMERICA. There are so many crazy memories from those two weeks its hard to put them into words. But yes, so much fun.
2. Are the girls nice?
Ya'll...YES. I think it's so funny when somebody says "its okay, you can tell me". I'm not lying! I absolutely loved the girls who competed this year. Remember, these are the cream of the crop, the most driven and successful women across the country!!! We had so much fun together. Is it a competition? Yes. But there's also nobody else who quite understands what this is like except the girls beside you. We hold each other up, we celebrate each others victories, and we encourage each other when we start to feel tired or worn down. I am so so lucky to have met these beautiful girls. I love them to pieces.
3. How did it feel when you didn't make finals?
It hurt. I thought of all the people back home who were probably watching. I wondered what it was that didn't help me make the cut....and then I watched some of my best friends compete. I screamed and hollered as my friends continued to move on, and I FLIPPED OUT when Cara won Miss America. Sure, I wanted my shot...but I got it already. I was standing on the Miss America stage. Out of all the women in Kansas, I was the representative. So there's really no place to be upset. I received the opportunity of a lifetime and I am forever grateful for that. Plus, I can say I know Miss America ;)
4. What was your favorite part about competing?
Talent. Which probably shocks nobody. I've been dreaming about singing on the Miss America stage for years, but it really didn't hit me until after I did it. Oddly enough I felt extremely calm during competition. There were no nerves, just peace. So when I walked on to the stage, I was ready and focused. My brain was on autopilot and it was time to sing. Let me tell you, I was LIVING on that stage. Ugh, it was so much fun. But it was right after I hit my last pose, heard the crowd scream, and turned around that I truly realized what had just happened. As I turned around I saw "Miss America" across the screens....and I immediately started crying. I just sang on the Miss America stage...something I will remember forever.
5. So is Miss Pennsylvania just amazing?!?!
Funny enough Katie May, all the girls in KS are obsessed with you! Which makes sense because same. Yes, my roomie is amazing. Yes. she truly is that funny. Yes, it was really fun watching her advance on finals night. Yes, she is "bringing saxy back". Yes, we ate a lot of food in our hotel room. Yes, she's that happy all the time. Yes, I miss her a lot.
Are their questions I didn't answer but you're dying to know?? Comment below or tweet me with hashtag #AskMissKS
Be Unstoppable Darlings,
I often like to make it clear that my faith is very important to me. I believe my identity rests in the fact that I am the daughter of The King, forgiven and saved. My identity can't just be Miss Kansas, it can't be youth leader, it can't be singer. It can't be any earthly thing I accomplish because my eyes are on eternal wealth.
A few days ago I was studying Romans 12:9- 13, "The Marks of the True Christian". The Apostle Paul wrote this part of Romans teaching us that there should be characteristics that set us apart as Christians. We should be living a lifestyle in which non believers can identify our faith through our actions. We are not called to be perfect, it is impossible for us. But we are called to model our lives according to Christ and what is instructed in the bible.
As I began reading this and studying what I am called to be, I quickly realized how similar this description is to what is expected of me as Miss Kansas.
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of saints and seek to show hospitality" Roman 12:9-13
There are many expectations set upon me as Miss Kansas but in the larger scope, it all seems simple and quite similar to this passage.
I understand now why God called me to not think about the Miss Kansas crown in May, but instead focusing on loving the Lord. I get it. I understand why there were times God turned me to the bible instead of the gym. Little did I know I was constantly preparing for this job.
How wonderful it is to know that the world is already attracted to what true Christians should look like. The world desires loving, genuine, kind people who serve others before themselves. The world wants to see hope and goodness. I believe our hearts are created to search for these things in other people. That's why Miss America continues to stay relevant. It has nothing to do with the swimsuits or evening gowns. It has nothing to do with talents or well spoken answers....it's about the person. One woman rises to the top and the country watches as kindness, goodness, and a servants heart prevails.
I say true Christian, because I am well aware that there are many that call themselves Christians and do not act with love. To that, I take heart in the fact that God will have the final judgement. It is not for us to judge, we are to continue to love and show these attributes regardless of what our neighbors are doing.
We want to see hope, love, goodness, and kindness win.
Because in the midst of confusion, trials, controversy and hate, the world is still attracted to the marks of a true Christian.
Today I went on my first school tour of the season. I am extremely excited to visit schools all over Kansas to spread my message and encourage our youth this year, and this was a wonderful way to start. My first school of the year was Valley Center Intermediate School and I just have to brag on them for many reasons.
First the school seemed wonderfully relaxed inside. Students all seemed so happy, calm, and kind. They were on a break when I was there, and there wasn't a single behavior issue that I saw. Sadly, this can be rare in schools as middle school seems to be a harsh time for some.
Beyond that, I was introduced to the principal who took me to the auditorium to get set up. He told me he wanted to get me to visit a classroom before the assembly began and we quickly made our way down the hall. The principal kept bragging on this class, saying these were wonderful students and he was so excited for me to meet them. He then explained that this was the special education classroom I was about to walk in to. Obviously I started BEAMING WITH JOY. I walked in and the screaming began as students were so excited to see us. I say us....because although they were excited to see "the princess", they were just as excited to see the principal. This made my heart leap for joy. He ran in and started giving fist bumps, high fives, and hugs to every student. They were so happy to welcome us into their classroom and I absolutely loved it. I don't think I've ever met a principal so in love with these individuals quite like this guy.
As we began the assembly, as if I needed any more proof that this school was incredible, the entire school sang the national anthem. Not only did they sing it, they sang it well and with full attention and respect to the flag carried in by another student.
BUT THEN, (guys this was so cool)
The principal welcomed the students to the assembly, congratulated them on a wonderful performance of the national anthem, and then said a few simple words that took my breath away.
"Remember that we snap our fingers or wave our hands instead of applause to help our friends with sensory issues, ok? Thank you!"
Guys its that simple. That one piece of instruction makes an all school activity truly and ALL SCHOOL activity. This one difference in the way students handle an assembly allows every student to be a part of the experience. The students were respectful, they were kind, and they were creating an inclusive community whether they knew it or not.
The disability community does not ask for huge things, they ask for minor details that can make all the difference. Minimizing the sensory stimulation in the room helped the entire special education classroom stay for the entire presentation without a single student not being able to handle the noise. It was simple. It did not hold a single "regular" education student back. In fact, it moved every child forward. These students are growing up learning how to take little details into account to make all people feel welcome. That is what it is all about.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU Valley Center Intermediate.