Don't let the title fool you...I have never been Miss American anything! Today, I am honored to welcome my good friend Casey Gibbons of Realife Casey.
I first met Casey more than 15 years ago when she began attending the youth ministry where I volunteered. As I got to know Casey over the next few years, a great friendship blossomed and grew. We have spent hours talking about ministry and writing, sharing motherhood woes and triumphs, and walking through personal and physical challenges together. Now, we have the privilege of watching our children grow in friendship (a blessing to this Mama, for sure!).
As a wife, mom to 6, writer, ministry leader, and blogger, Casey is one of those "how does she do it all?" women. But she's the first to tell you she relies heavily on grace (and admit sometimes it doesn't all get done!) She remains as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and she has graciously allowed me to share this post (from June 2013) about her experience as Miss American Teen. Please welcome, my friend Casey Gibbons:
As a former pageant girl, you can imagine my excitement when I turned on the TV last night to check the weather only to find that the Miss USA competition was just begininng! It was perfect timing. My husband was already in bed so I didn't have to turn it off due to immodesty and my five little girls were in bed so I didn't have to have a two hour training session on finding confidence aside from how a person looks. It was just me and the tv.
Although pageants are much different than when I participated, a flash of memory lane rushed through my body. It was 15 years ago that I was crowned Miss American Teen 1998 in Orlando, FL. It was a dream come true for my 18 yr old world. After months of hard work preparation and competition, God allowed me to win the national title. Yes, I cried. My family cheered. My hometown celebrated. My school friends went fan crazy. And I spent the next year going all over the country speaking, helping causes, serving communities, and living it up best I could.
Without boring most of you, all I can say about my pageant experiences was that I had the time of my life. My whole family participated with all the excitement. For us, it was making memories and doing something together. And I learned how to handle myself in public speaking and formal settings. I was challenged in my ability to lead in the community and in my school with grades and participation. My body was held accountable and my mind was sharpened during those days. In addition, I made a ton of friends and was able to share Christ to hundreds of girls.
Fast forward to now. As my eyes are glazed over thinking about my time "conquering the world" with a young in-shape body, glamorous clothes, fancy food, high-rise hotels, personal makeup and hair artists, talent shows and fame, I am keenly aware of my current state of being.
My body has given birth to five children, my clothes are worn out Pj's, my food tonight is animal crackers and yogurt served in a Veggie Tales bowl, my housing arrangement is a low-rise that smells like rotten eggs from the soaking pan days old, my hair hasn't been washed in four days, I haven't worn an ounce of makeup for over two weeks, my talent consists of rocking my coughing toddler back to sleep, and I am now famous among needy EGR (extra grace required) teenage girls who are texting me even though we just got home from being together for a week.
Yes, life is different now. But I am writing today with good news! There is a verse Paul wrote in Philippians 4 that challenges me.
I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I am just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Philippians 4:11-13, The Message)
There is such a strength in being content in all circumstances. Although I had wonderful memories from my pageant days, I can be content in the current stage of life! My joy and satisfaction comes from the Lord, not in how outward things are going for me. As I sit here looking and feeling completely different than 15 years ago, I am still full of joy at the place God has me. This doesn't make sense in natural thinking but it's true! As long as you are where God wants you to be doing what He wants you to do then you will be okay!
Don't fret friends! Don't look to your past accomplishments and wishful thinking for the "old days". God has a plan for you TODAY in the workplace, the home, the school, the church, the store, on vacation, and anywhere else you find yourself! You may be have different circumstances but God is with you! Because of the joy that can only come by God's grace, I am loving my life and you can too! There is no need to wait for things to "be like they used to be" so we can be happy again. Life changes. Things happen. We have a promise from the Lord that He is with us and will give us all we need to face life as it is, today!
So, I don't know about you but I am embracing my place in the world I now live in. I am not 18 and I am not a pageant girl. But what I am is a woman who is content is all cirmcumstances at all times as the Lord gives me strength.
I praise Him for the past, lean on Him in the present and look with anticipation for the future! And my prayer is that you will too.
Casey is author of A Girl's Life with God and well-known speaker to girls of all ages. She has been married to her best friend, Scotty, for 14 years. They have five daughters, ages 12, 10, 9, 7, and 4, and they welcomed their first son this summer! Casey blogs about motherhood, ministry, home education, and life in general at Realife Casey!