Her Story: Thriving at Center Stage

By Guest Blogger Olivia Shaw

Lights…Camera…Tiara!  Now on to photo shoots, couture gown fittings and public appearances. Ah, such is the life of a teenage pageant queen. Right?

Well, yes and no. Most people, when they hear the word pageant just assume that all I need to do to be successful in this type of event is to be able to dress up and look pretty. With further inspection, however, many people would be surprised to discover that the majority of pageants (at least the ones I choose to participate in) are dedicated to promoting leadership skills, developing and cultivating public speaking skills and promoting volunteer service among young girls and women.

Over the past five years, through my participation in the National American Miss pageant system, I have been able to overcome my fear of standing in front of an audience and sharing my thoughts. In addition to refining my public speaking skills, I have gained life skills that will help me be successful when applying to college, as well as when seeking employment.

When I began participating in National American Miss at age 12,  standing on stage introducing myself to a room full of strangers was the last place I wanted to be. Although I sincerely wanted to give the pageant world a try, I was terrified of speaking in front of people. I also was not looking forward to being  interviewed by a panel of judges – another group of strangers that I had to actually sit down with and carry on a conversation with. Five minutes never seemed so long!

Fast forward five years, and I am now confident and excited to be able to formally and professionally introduce myself onstage to a diverse group of strangers.

You see, about two years into this pageant process, my family and I realized that I needed to have a plan if I truly wanted to be successful. I could not just show up onstage or in the interview room and hope that everything would work out positively for me. I decided how I wanted to represent myself and mapped out a strategy to achieve those goals. That, in and of itself, became another benefit of pageant participation.

I worked on my interview skills and I worked to get more comfortable being onstage, introducing myself and speaking in public.  Also, I began to think about the purpose of having an interview, and I realized that it is a time for the judges to get to know you as an individual – a  time to discover what is important to you and to see if you have the characteristics they are looking for as a queen. I started to view competing for a queen title like applying for a job or college admission. Preparing my resume was also a part of the competition that helped me to become more comfortable with presenting myself in a public forum.

Within two years of changing my strategy, my hard work paid off. In 2016 I was named National American Miss Virginia Junior Teen – a title I currently hold.

Being a queen with National American Miss has also helped me to promote my volunteer service platform, Miracles in Motion Dance Group, on a wider scale. Miracles in Motion is a dance company for special needs children and young adults, and working with them gives me joy.

Due to the experience I gained with public speaking and public presentation with National American Miss, I was able to speak at the Miracles in Motion Annual Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser in 2016 to a crowd of close to 600 people! I also received an opportunity to share my community service platform at the national pageant competition last November, and I placed 2nd Runner Up for Volunteer Service in the Junior Teen age division for the nation. Talk about an opportunity to overcome my fear of public speaking!

I am so grateful for all I have gained through my participation in National American Miss. These are skills that will last me a lifetime. I now can truly “go confidently in the direction of my dreams” and live the life I have imagined.

Olivia Shaw, a 17-year-old resident of metro Richmond, Virginia, is the reigning National American Miss Virginia Jr Teen. She will pass her crown on to her successor in July 2017. She loves volunteering with Miracles in Motion Dance Group and looks forward to many years of sharing her love of dance and music with her fellow dancers. You can stay connected with Olivia’s journey  through the following social media sites:                                        Facebook:@NamVAJrTeen2016                                                                                    Snapchat: @livve_kitty22                                                                                    Instagram:@livve_s23    

 

8 Ways to Love Your Life

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
New day, new week, new chance to refine your goals, walk in purpose, enjoy yourself and be a light.
In the words of several mentors I greatly admire (and in no particular order):
1) Pursue joy. You could sulk, complain, worry, be offended or offend, but why waste the energy? Happiness is elusive; inner joy equals contentment, no matter the circumstance.
2) Review your personal “board of directors” and make sure that everyone with a seat at the table is truly for you. You can’t win if anyone in your inner circle is leaning in the opposite direction of where you aim to go.
3) When people show you who they are, or where you stand with them, don’t get mad; embrace the truth. Love them anyway; then pull out that “long-handled spoon” and bless and release them to go find their joy.
4) Love the face in the mirror. Those eyes staring back at you deserve the best you have to give. When you treat yourself well, the overflow of that love will bless and give hope to others.
5) Keep learning and you’ll keep living with passion and purpose at any age and at every stage. You’re never too old to grow, and there’s always more to know.
6) Say no to good things, so you’ll have space in your life to say yes to great things. Doesn’t mean the good isn’t worthwhile; it’s just your season for something else.
7) Perfect your shrug: You’ll need it when things don’t go your way or happen in your timing. Doesn’t mean all is lost; just means everything beautiful happens in its own time. Go with the flow and enjoy the journey.
8) Simply make it a great day; because your being alive means it is.

Conference Recap: Writing for an Audience of One

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Just wrapped up my third time serving on the faculty of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, a renowned event for aspiring authors located near Santa Cruz, Calif., and it was just as wonderful as the first time. Mount Hermon is a special place that is hard to describe – you have to experience it.

So grateful for the opportunity I had to meet with fellow authors and  mentor aspiring authors from all walks of life and with all kinds of ideas.
My absolute favorite was Beverly, a sweet 83-year-old who was craving encouragement for this “new start.” She is a gifted writer, and her words
flowed easily. I’d love to have that same drive and spark for life when I’m that age.

I also had the honor of sharing the conference’s closing message on Monday evening.  I hope my encouragement to remember that we’re writing for an Audience of One is the fuel that will inspire conference attendees to keep honing their craft.

When we write for our singular God, or with our individual readers in mind, or to birth the idea or the message that has taken root in our hearts, our words become the seeds that sprout hope, forgiveness, joy, peace, freedom and blessings beyond measure.  Wishing a bountiful week of creativity to all writers, near and far.

Why Leading with Love Matters

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Every single action yields a reaction.
Your words of gossip assault your own integrity;
Your tendency to judge others leads to more judgment of you;
Feelings of hatred toward those who differ from you firmly lodge seeds of hate in the spaces of your life that should be filled with positivity and love.
An act of violence against one assaults all humanity.
And it can’t be said enough: Beyond our uniquely different outer layers, at the core of who we are, we are all the same – seekers of love, community, peace and contentment.
Together we all rise; divided we can’t help but sputter along.

Your singular choice in these matters matter.
Who will you be?
Where will you stand?
What tiny shift can you make to render a seismic difference in the people, community and world around you?
Trying is better than the alternative. Our children are watching us to learn who they should becom
e. What lesson is your life teaching?

5+ Ways to See Your Dreams Realized

Welcome to Wednesday. Whatever positive things you long to experience or achieve today…
* See them as real in your mind’s eye: Visualize your new reality – in full color, with specific details.
* Speak those desires into existence: Words and prayers hold power.
* Move deliberately: Resist all doubt.
* Trust the process: Success cannot be birthed without struggle.
* Give thanks in advance: Put your faith into action.
And then…be ready for the blessings that materialize.

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