Some things in my life…keep on giving to me long after you think the giving would be over. One is Clemson University and the relationships/friendships that I made as a student there and the other is the Miss South Carolina Pageant Organization. With the pageant it wasn’t just the people I competed with, but the volunteers, the production team, the director and staff, the formers (those who have won in the past), the list is endless. I love the fact that the pageant is held in my hometown and now that I don’t travel as much with the kids and their golf, I can plan my schedule around pageant week. I can also take the time to give back to a program that continually gives to me.

Last year I was a judge for the Miss South Carolina Teen. It was the first time in years that I have judged. I can talk about it now since a year has passed. It was some of the hardest work I have ever done. I wanted to be fair…and clear headed because having been there and done that myself. I have vivid memories of the hard work, the nerves, the time, and the money that goes into the preparation…so these girls deserved my best! I was mentally exhausted on the Sunday after the pageant. I don’t think I had focused that long in that amount of compressed time in one week….in a long time…. :o)

I really enjoyed it because I saw myself as an advocate for every contestant. I actually had walked their path. I could look through the same glasses with the same emotions as they did. I can remember working hard to sit up and smile in the interviews so I did my best to help relax them so that they could shine and do their best, plus let us see…really….”Who they were!” instead of their nerves getting the best of them.

This year I have participated in a different way. Just a few months ago I was able to speak to all the contestants and parents at the pageant forum and say some things to encourage them. I especially wanted to encourage them to seize the moment and the opportunity ahead, to work hard and leave no stone unturned in their preparation for the opportunity. Based on my own experience I also was able to encourage them that just being willing to “take a swing,” giving themselves a chance to win, was a great accomplishment…because literally you have to “take a swing in order to have an opportunity to get a hit!”

This week I had the opportunity to speak to all the parents of the contestants sharing how to help their daughter have a great week and support her efforts. Pageant week is definitely not the week to criticize performance or an area of lack of preparation. Like we tell our kids in golf, you don’t find your game at a tournament; you bring it. So if their daughter didn’t prepare like they thought she could have, they needed to lower their expectations.

Being a Former and having three young adult kids that have competed at a high level has taught me so much. I made some mistakes. Fortunately God has taught me from those mistakes and our kids have learned a lot. It is my desire to encourage and advise…based on my experience and my mistakes… order to help those coming behind me.

Point of the post? We all have experiences that we have learned from…in some area of our life. There is always an opportunity to give back…to take the experience…the wisdom …even from our mistakes and reach back and offer help and encouragement to someone coming behind.

For me…not everyone has been a pageant contestant or winner…I have won and lost. I have had kids compete in sports. From my mistakes, and theirs, there is much I can do to help others. We all have something to offer to others. Satan is a deceiver and he can and he will lie and manipulate you to think that you don’t.

I Corinthians 12 describes how we all have different talents/gifts/experiences to offer to others. We each play a part/a role. Verses 17-19 put it this way, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be?” You don’t necessarily need experience in pageants or sports in order to help someone coming behind just a willing heart.

When I spoke at the pageant forum a few months ago, Miss America spoke just before I did. At one point, just before I stood up to speak, Satan whispered in my ear, “What in the world do you have to say to those girls?…when you were not even Miss America…besides….she just said a lot of what you were going to say.” I have learned to recognize the accusing, discouraging voice of the enemy. I knew I was supposed to be there. I knew. Why?

Because I had prayed about it when I was initially asked to speak. I felt in my spirit that this was what God wanted me to do. I had prepared. So at the point all those lies were being whispered, I began to pray. Something I have learned to immediately do when I sense the enemy attacking. God’s voice got louder and He said, “Speak from the perspective of having raised three kids who have competed. The former Miss America who just spoke doesn’t have that experience. You do.”

So I ditched much of what I had prepared to speak about and the Lord just took over. After that day, God has continued to confirm through more than one person that heard me speak that He said through me exactly what needed to be said and heard. God is soooooo faithful.

I encourage you to step out and give back. Don’t let the enemy lie and tell you that you don’t need to give back or that you don’t have anything to give. YOU DO. Learn to listen to God and allow Him to direct and guide you. With a willing heart, the doors will swing open for you to GIVE BACK. Blessings await as well!

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