Monday, November 19, 2012

Confession #31 - Tales of Teenage Beauty Queen…well, sort-of…

Many of us wear labels across our foreheads.  Some are written in washable ink, others are deeply engraved into the skin.  They tell our story.  Some may say, “ABUSED”.  Others say “ABANDONED”.  No matter what our labels say, in our minds they define us and describe who we believe we are…
In the summer of my seventeenth year, I got a letter in the mail.  It went something like this, “Dear Miss Joanne LaSorella, We are happy to inform you that you have nominated you to participate in the Miss Teen Florida Pageant.” I thought, “Me???  Miss Teen Florida?  Is this real?   Maybe some of the jerks at school are playing a cruel “Carrie” joke on me.”  But no, since my town didn’t require a preliminary competition, it was legit.  I never competed in a beauty pageant before.  Even with no experience and little talent I  desperately wanted to participate.  I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college and my grades were only fair, so I needed that scholarship.  But to be completely honest, deep down I felt like I had something to prove to myself, my family, and all of my schoolmates.  I thought if I could just come back with the title that will show them I’m worth something.
Obviously, I was very excited!   I anxiously presented it to my parents who, to my complete shock, agreed to allow me to compete.  All I needed to do is to find two sponsors and have my volunteer hours form signed by a teacher and notarized then I'm off to Tampa.  My mom found a last minute voice coach to help me practice for the talent competition.  I chose “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” from “My Fair Lady”  and I was good to go.
They placed me with four of the nicest girls and we became fast friends.  I was having so much fun and finally felt like I was apart of something worthwhile.  It was a long weekend full of practices and interviews and to my surprise I was doing well.  I really seemed to impress the judges.  I remembered to smile and thank them each time I was on stage.  In the interviews I was well spoken, insightful and intelligent.  I believed that I was close to winning. 
On judging day we were in a luncheon when all of a sudden a sharp pain struck my left abdomen.  I clutched my left side and groaned.  I maintained composure but the pain was increasing in intensity.  Finally I had succumbed to it and left the competition retiring to my room in agony.  My parents hadn’t arrived yet so I they could not call the ambulance.  A few hours had gone by, I missed my last interview and was sure I’d be going home soon.  While praying for a miracle suddenly I felt a pop and the pain and pressure were gone.  I hurried to get ready and quickly and got back downstairs.  The interviews were not yet through so I was able to finish the competition.
That evening in formal attire we were nervously listening in the hallway as they announced the winners.  All four of my roommates placed from 4th runner up to 1st runner up.  And then the announcement came, “This year’s Miss Teen Florida is……………………………………………………….…Angela Tyson.” 
What??? Okay so it’s not me.  Okay so I didn’t place.  I knew I had this.  I knew I was doing so well, how could it be that I didn’t even place?  Although I felt the tears welling up, I maintained my composure.  I was not going to show my disappointment.  I congratulated my roommates and was met by my parents who offered up a, “Hey, well, you tried….”  Yeah, I tried......I tried. That suggestion lingered in my mind when I thought…. 
No!  Wait a minute!  I didn’t just try, I had given it my all.  I sung my very best and in a perfect cockney accent.  I smiled and poised my young little heart out.  I overcome an ovarian cyst, as it turned out, to get back in the game.  I didn’t just try, I excelled beyond anything I ever did before concluding that my best wasn't good enough… 
Hanging my head low I returned home.  I found out after the competition that you could write in for your scores, so I did just that.  Two weeks later I got the letter in the mail.  I had to know.  Ripping through the envelope I grabbed the letter, in talent, poise, and interviews, I had taken first place.  At the bottom my scores had added up to a winner.  I won?  How could I have done so well and not earn the title?  But just below the scores was stamped this word in big bold print; a word that would stay with me for many years, “DISQUALIFIED”.  What??? Why???  I quickly called the pageant office. 
As it turned out the teacher who had completed the volunteer hours form wrote the wrong year on it.  Being that I sent in my papers just in the nick of time, it was too late for pageant officials to notify me.  Instead they allowed me to compete but I was actually disqualified before I even arrived.
It was years before I recovered from that disappointment.  I wanted so desperately to prove that I was worth something and all I managed to prove was I wasn't qualified.  Instead of wearing the banner of Miss Teen Florida, DISQUALIFIED was deeply engraved on my forehead.
I lived with that label for a very long time.  But you know, the thing about this label and others like them is that no matter how deep they run or how much blood was shed to carve them, when we accept Christ they are stamped over.  In Jesus’ precious blood my forehead now says, “SAVED”, “HEALED”, “FORGIVEN”, and “QUALIFIED”.  Jesus did this for all of us so that we can live beyond our labels and be whole again.
The bible reminds us, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5.   
Dear Heavenly Father, although I was never able to label myself a teenage beauty queen, I thank you Lord that no matter what label I’ve had written on my forehead they are all stamped over with the redemptive blood of Jesus.  I thank you for giving me a new chapter in my life and that I can live without feeling Disqualified knowing that in Christ I am equipped and qualified for salvation simply because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  And Dear Father, I pray that my sisters in Christ can look in the mirror and see your stamp written over their discouraging labels and know they are saved.  In Jesus’ precious name I pray.  AMEN.
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