“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” -Meg Cabot

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”- Anais Nin

“Courage is the first of the human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all the others.”- Winston Churchill

I believe courage can be defined as following difficult instruction in the face of danger and doing what is right without turning back.

I don’t think anyone can live a FULFILLED life without having and demonstrating COURAGE. I believe most of the time true courage is defined as, “STANDING EVEN IF YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE STANDING”. It is painted on a board in my study, behind the chair I have come to call my “God chair”, the place of my most fervent quiet time of prayer, reading, writing and, more importantly, listening.

I feel there are tons of stories that exist today on courage, but I choose to go to the Bible to really understand courage and how God develops courage in us. Now at 51, looking back at the “FRONT 9” of my life, I realize God developed courage in my own life through experiences that I had to personally live through to develop the “COURAGE MUSCLE.” Some of the experiences were painful with a great ending, but it took time for the “great ending” and, in the process of time, courage grew and developed. I can only speak from personal experience on how God nurtured, fertilized and watered to develop courage in me and is STILL DOING SO. I would like to share a personal event of “GROWING MY COURAGE MUSCLE.” Let me stop and say here, I will probably write many journals on COURAGE, both from my experience and my family’s, because I think it is a KEY COMPONENT TO LIVING A LIFE SOLD OUT TO CHRIST!

After being crowned Miss South Carolina, I immediately started making public appearances. The calls started coming in and my schedule started filling up with speaking engagements at schools, churches, Christian organizations and the Southern Baptist Convention. I was asked to film Michelin Tire Corporate Videos, make milk commercials, and attend ribbon cutting ceremonies at store and mall openings. I can remember packing my bags and preparing to go to an event in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was a quick plane flight for an overnight event at a “journalist conference”. I was asked to be on a panel to be interviewed by aspiring journalists. The Miss SC Pageant Board saw this as an opportunity for me to hone my skills for the judge interview for the “Miss America Pageant”. At that point the pageant was only 5 weeks away and the mission was accomplished through EXTREME PAIN, HURT, ATTACKS AND GOD’S PROVISION. I was a “sheep” on my way to the slaughter and I had NO IDEA.

To say that these aspiring journalists were ZEALOUS is an understatement. They were ready for me, but I was not ready for them. I did grow up very sheltered, and I was really not prepared for what was coming. Yes, I was an outspoken, unashamed Christian, and the reporters knew that. So the first question that was fired at me as I was handed the microphone was, “Miss Thrift, what are your thoughts on abortion?” I calmly and happily replied that I didn’t personally believe in abortion and that I thought it was wrong. Let me just say from that moment on I felt like a bloody piece of meat thrown in the middle of a pool of sharks that hadn’t been fed in days. The onslaught started and all questions were fired at me for the next 45 minutes. It was an “electric chair” time with a steady stream of electric current that wouldn’t kill you but had such a charge and stabbing effect that I felt as if I were losing my breath. I was sweating and feeling burned in every part of my body. There is a huge blur from the ending of the panel questioning to the ride in the cab to the airport, to my seat on the plane……….In my opinion, this is where the story gets really good.

I sat down by a large, very large man. He was wearing Levi jeans, cowboy boots, and a large, no, gigantic cowboy hat and had an alligator briefcase in his lap. He stood up to let me scoot into the window seat next to him. It was a tight squeeze to say the least. I remember his BIG HAND handing me a white handkerchief. A God thing for sure. It reminded me of my dad who, to this day, doesn’t use tissues. He uses a handkerchief (don’t think my kids know what that is! haha). I took it and the tears just kept coming. My nose was running and the offering of the “hanky,” which reminded me of my dad and the wish that he was there, just made me sob. After the plane took off and I got somewhat composed, the “cowboy man” said, “Little darlin’, would you like to tell me what has made that pretty face so sad?” I looked up to see this smiling face and through the tears, but not sobs, I proceeded to tell this stranger of the “media attack!” He listened so intently and at times patted my knee in a fatherly way. He asked me if he could share and I said yes. He proceeded to open his worn briefcase and pull out a “worn black Bible”.

He told me that he was a college football coach and was leaving South Carolina after visiting a recruit and was headed back to Texas. I had no earthly idea who he was!!!! He proceeded to tell me he felt “identically as I did on the abortion question!” He then told me that courage was “to stand when no on else was standing”. And even though people did not agree with me, that the only one that mattered was God. He applauded my COURAGE, gave me some great tips on handling the media and told me personal stories from his own experience. He then opened his Bible to the story of David and Goliath. He pointed to David’s obvious courage and his unlikely physical appearance to fight off the giant. He pointed out that David’s courage came from seeing God’s hand in his life previously from fighting and defeating the lion and the bear. 1Samuel 17:34-36, “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.'”

David had the courage from past experience to fight a BIGGER, more important battle. This coach/cowboy continued to point out that God was in fact preparing me for a bigger battle that lay ahead, competing for Miss America, a lifelong dream. He grabbed my hand at that point and prayed and thanked God for His provision in helping prepare me to handle the press when I won Miss America. He advised me to go home and ask God and seek wisdom on how to “defend what I believed”. To know Why I believed what I believed to a deeper level and never be ashamed of my “beliefs,” even if I was in the minority. He hugged me and we departed.

I realized that if he had told me his name, I didn’t remember it because of the emotional wreck I was when we first started talking. I ran after him and said, “Could you please tell me your name?” He took off his cowboy hat, extended his hand, and said, “I am Grant Teaff, head coach for the Baylor Bears. But to my friends and players I am called, Papa Bear. Please, Miss Thrift, call me Papa Bear.” He handed me his card and hugged me once again.

I hope you see God’s Hand here and His DIVINE appointment for me and Grant Teaff. I wholeheartedly believe that God is sovereign, I have lived it, even though I have had to believe it without always seeing it. God knew what was coming and I didn’t. He allowed a very PAINFUL EXPERIENCE, which HE USED FOR MY GREATER GOOD, and HE (GOD) also provided someone to clean and bandage my wounds, like the “GOOD SAMARITAN” in the Bible. Grant Taeff, a Papa Bear, (A Christian and a head coach at Baylor for 22 years. In looking at his career, 6 times he was voted Southwest Coach of the Year and was named as National Coach of the year. He became Executive Director for the American Football Coaches Association.) was handpicked by God, to the point he shares the same birthday as my earthly father, which is November 12. He also is the father of all girls.

I have used this story countless times to encourage my kids to fight with courage the battles of life. They will come and God will provide! Many times life battles are fought to prepare us for things down the road. God can see the whole picture. I tell my kids that God has the “HELICOPTER VIEW”.


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