Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Goals for 2017" by Kelly Brown



According to statistics, 95% of people that come into the new year with a resolution have already broken it by now. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. Nowadays, most people have a lack of interest to even create resolutions because year after year after year, they've told themselves that they know it will not work out in the long-run. I, myself, have also personally experienced this lack of interest and self-doubt. This year I have decided to can all of that in order to better myself so that I have more to give to others. My 2017 goals are in relation to my finances, my self-development, and my health.



I am determined to have enough finances to support myself and buy all of my own groceries, clothes, pay my own bills, as well as for any miscellaneous items. I have already begun working after months of unemployment to get a start on this extra cash-flow. I hope to be able to help out any friends and family, as well and give more treats and night-outs, on me! Time spent with those who mean the most, means the most to me.

 

This year I would like to build an instagram based on fitness and wellness by sharing my workout routines as well as diet plans. I want to reach out to people by being responsive and helping them with their fitness goals as well. I have started this in 2016, but it kind of fell off when I got distracted by smaller things. This year I plan on being more attentive to any potential audience that it may bring.




As for my health, I want to get back into meditating. I used to meditate for 10-20 minutes almost everyday, but completely stopped when school became busy. I know how beneficial it is to the mind, and everyday I want to get back into that routine and hopefully start doing it for 30 minutes! I also want to incorporate more cardio into my workouts so that I can have a healthier heart and a happier life!


Goals propel you forward, so this year, make a few! By making a list everyday and crossing things off, it's psychologically proven that it helps us as people feel better about ourselves and where we are going! 2017 will be another challenging, but great year!​

Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown
 

Friday, January 20, 2017

"To a year of intense growth," By Kelly Brown


 

Thank you for the countless memories and endless changes that forced me to climb this ladder in life. This was a year full of surprises, to say the least. From winning my first pageant to attending my top university, 2016 challenged my beliefs, my consistency, and my strengths and weaknesses. This wild year proved that growth occurs when one gets out of their comfort zone.


Winning Miss Teen Minnesota International was a turning-point in my life. I grew up as a shy child, one who hid behind her mother’s leg when she was talking to a friend. I slowly built up more confidence in myself as I got older. High School, in my opinion, were some of the most difficult years for self-confidence. I was comfortable in my own skin at this point, but I wanted something that would push me further. Not only has competing fueled my realization of pushing myself, winning this title has also given back to others, too.



Along with winning my 2016 title, I also got accepted into the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, which was my top college choice! My life changed when I arrived here in August of 2016. Here I had my own place, my very own laundry and kitchen (yes, mom, I now am forced to do all my own chores-go me for growing up!) Here I learned a great sense of independence. I love the atmosphere as well as the great academics, basically all it has to offer.





The greatest highlight of my year was competing at nationals for the International system. Life-long friends were made here and in all honesty, I have never felt so much nerve in my life. That being said, I persevered and learned a ton about presenting myself comfortably. If I could go back, I would in a heartbeat.

 Thank you, 2016, for the ups and the downs, the blessings and the lessons, and of course, to the international system for letting me represent them. Let’s conquer another year! Cheers to 2017

Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown

Thursday, January 12, 2017

" A town called Hoyt Lakes" by Sabrina Astar


Just a few short days before heading to Miss International I had the amazing opportunity to travel 3 and half hours north of the Twin Cities to a town called Hoyt Lakes. The town was celebrating their annual pageant for elementary age girls and high school girls to become Miss Hoyt Lakes for the upcoming school year. I have to give a huge shout out to my father for driving me to this appearance and for cheering on the young ladies while they were strutting their stuff on stage.

 

This appearance is one that the Miss Minnesota International pageant system partakes in each year so, as you can image, it was such an honor to be the one who continued the tradition. The entire town was just so kind to my father and I, they even offered us each one of the many steaks they had prepared for the festivities. Their hospitality and genuine kindness towards us is something that I will absolutely never forget.



While in Hoyt Lakes I was asked to emcee both of the pageants and announce the winner for each division. It was so unique to be able to talk with each of the girls before they went on stage and to give them just a few tips for how to make the most of the experience. Each and everyone of the young ladies was excited to be there and were truly happy with whatever the result was at the end of the day.

 

I just want to thank the entire community of Hoyt Lakes for so a fun experience and for letting me be a small part of their annual tradition. I cannot wait for next years winners to have the same opportunity.

 

WIth many blessings,


Your Miss Minnesota International 2016 Sabrina Astar

Monday, January 9, 2017

"My favorite Bible verse is Esther 4:14 "" by Sabrina Astar


 
There are 31,102 verses in the Bible. 23,145 in the Old Testament and 7,957 in the New Testament. So how can someone pick just one to be their absolute favorite? There are many factors that go into why you enjoy a verse so much. Maybe the content is highly prevalent in your life right now, maybe it's the verse that makes the most sense to you, or maybe you just pick the verse that you've heard most often. That is the beauty in picking your favorite verse, it is completely personal. 

 

I love asking people this question because there is always a story. The stories aren't always  extravagant and complex, but they are always real. Since this is one of my favorite questions to ask people I meet I thought I would share my own answer to hopefully inspire others to do the same. 


My favorite Bible verse is Esther 4:14 "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" This is the moment in the book of Esther that she realizes what her purpose  in life is to save the Jews. 

 

I just love this verse because it gives me that extra drive to try out things that kind of make me a little nervous because we truly don't know our purpose in life. This verse is such a beautiful reminder to always stay true to God and his plan, not our own. While we will make decisions for ourselves that stir us wrong, God is always pushing us towards our true purpose. 

Trust in His plan for you because that will be your most amazing adventure

Sabrina Astar
Miss Minnesota 2016
 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

" we don't just do it for the crown." by Sabrina Astar


“And your 2016 Miss Minnesota International is… Miss Hastings, Sabrina Astar!”



At the time I didn’t fully understand the impact that 20 minutes on stage could have on the next year of my life. The Miss Minnesota International pageant was the first pageant I had ever participated in, which means I literally started from the bottom of the pageant world and was thrown into the heart of it very quickly. For only being in this community for only a brief period I have experienced many judgements and assumptions about pageantry that are just, well, very false. I want to start off by saying that I feel continuously blessed each day to hold my title and am just here to explain what being a “pageant girl” is really like.

No, our mothers don't force us to participate in pageants.

Although some pageant ladies have been in the pageant community ever since they were kids (Toddlers in Tiaras style) many of us are relatively new to pageantry. My state pageant was the first pageant I had ever participated in and Miss MN USA, Bridget Jacobs, had only competed in two pageants before winning her title for example. To be frank, when I told my mother that I was going to compete in a pageant she said to me “ Okay, really?”  Both of my parents fully support me in everything I do, but they never would've thought pageantry was on my radar. Personally, I am happy that I didn’t grow up doing pageants.  I believe that it gave me the ability to show my individuality on stage, but if you were a Toddlers in Tiaras type of kid, go on with your bad self girl!

No, we do not sabotage one another.

I have never actually encountered a “mean pageant girl” in my life. This usually comes as a shock to people because of the way that media and movies represent pageantry as a catty activity full of narcissistic young attractive women. This is just not true. Many of my best friends are actually ladies that I have met through pageants whether that be my fellow competitors or women in other pageant systems. Pageant girls are women who want to see a change in the world for the better of humanity. Yes at times it does seem like we live in the pretend land of happiness, but it is because we are optimists who believe that all things are possible through working hard and continuing dedication to a cause. Really, what more could you want from young women?

No, we do not look amazing everyday.

I get asked all of the time if I have to look good and “done up” every time I go out in public. Really? I would honestly say that I do not dress up anymore than an average person on a daily basis. Yes, we do dress up when we are attending an appearance for our title simply because we have to look professional and presentable when standing in front of audiences. However, in my day-to-day life as a college student, I would say my outfits consist of leggings, a T-shirt, high top converse shoes and possibly, on a fancy day, I will be wearing stud earrings. Sorry about the let down, but you couldn’t pay me enough money to walk around in heels everyday. All pageant queens are real people too, so just remember that we like to have days where we don't wear makeup and walk around town in sweats just like everyone else.

And no, we don't just do it for the crown.

Pageants are all about growing self confidence and becoming a respected member in the community. Although all of us would love to have our name called as being the next title holder, we all have unique reasons for why we compete. Many women compete for fun.  Yes, just for fun. Others compete to gain self-reliance or to make friends. Personally I entered to have a goal to work towards and to be a voice for organizations that need more recognition. No matter the reason, no woman competes simply to win because at the end of the pageant only one woman gets the title and that person just might not be you.

 

Many of the women I have met through pageantry have become friends that will be with me for a lifetime. I think that the stereotype around pageantry is just not accurate in today’s society. I believe many of the women I have met are great role models for young women and I truly believe that being in pageants has helped those women become such impactful and strong women in our community. So basically, let's not judge a girl by her crown.

Sabrina Astar
Miss Minnesota 2016

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"A Year to Remember" By Morgan Bredde



2016 has definitely been a rollercoaster of a year for me and my family. We started off getting ready for the birth of our second son, Blayre. We were overjoyed to meet him and it was so much fun seeing Beau learn what it means to be a big brother and all the fun things and responsibilities that come with it. We were soon preparing full steam ahead for Mrs. Minnesota. With the help of Adam Spiker, I lost 50 pounds before my state pageant and gained so much confidence all the way to a full 70 pounds lost before Mrs. International. I started 2016 at a size 14 and am ending it as a 4/6. What a difference sticking to a goal can make when you have the right support system.

 

After the pageant, and placing 3rd runner up to Mrs. International, I began a new job working for MAC cosmetics at one of their highest-volume stores. I loved being able to transform the faces and lives of everyone I came in contact with. Makeup is a huge passion of mine and I was happy to keep busy with it during my year.

 

Working and making connections to my platform has been such a highlight, I have been able to travel across the country, speak to countless people, and share my heart with those who were willing to hear me. The partnership of Crescent Cove, Ladybug House, George Mark Children’s House, and Children’s Hospice International has meant more to me than the crown this year as I have been able to carry the stories of families who desperately wanted and needed to be heard. For that, I am extremely grateful.

 

My husband and I were looking forward to celebrating our second wedding anniversary Christmas Eve, and after learning he landed a new job in Dallas and that we were expecting again—there was so much to look forward to in 2017. It was a heartbreaking shift in plans after learning my pregnancy was ectopic and that there was not going to be a third little running around our new home this summer. The past few weeks have been debilitating and tough, but I firmly believe that God answers prayers at the right time, so until then, we will enjoy our two answered prayers that call us “Momma and P”.

 

I am very grateful for the trials and lessons that 2016 has brought us. From old friendships ending, to new ones beginning and blessings in abundance along the way—we certainly have a lot to reflect on this year. I hope your new year brings in prosperity and joy, but also trials and lessons to learn and grow from. I can say that though this has been a tough few months, we have grown in ways that cannot be measured—so I choose to say thank you 2016, but bring on 2017! We are ready for you!

 

 

Making the minutes count,

Morgan 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"1 in 50." by Morgan Bredde


 

 

A few weeks ago, I had just landed in Minneapolis after returning home from Fantasy Flight. After a particulary exhausting week, I was wondering if my fatigue could possibly stem from something else. As I have always known “something was up” in each of my pregnancies, this time was no different. It’s always such a surreal feeling seeing a pregnancy test come up positive. You instantly imagine a little life being born, all the possibilities and dreams you have for them, and of course sharing the news with your husband. I knew we were both entering a pretty stressful time as we were awaiting an interview for a dream job for him, so I wanted to wait until we knew what the outcome was for that. It was two weeks later that we got the call that Kim got the job, that I waited one more night for good measure before finally telling him. I was full of joy watching him light up as he read my “Due in August” shirt and I was so excited that the timing seemed to be perfect this time around. There’s a long standing joke between us that our children have their own time zone and stick to it regardless of anyone elses. Because of my history, I was able to get blood draws to monitor the pregnancy’s progression as it put my mind at ease. It wasn’t until a phone call the next morning that completely shattered the dream I had been living in for a few weeks. I had been experiencing quite a bit of pain, but as someone who lives with endometriosis, pain was nothing new for me. When the doctor said that my levels weren’t doubling appropriately and that if I had been having pain—I would need to go to the emergency room immediately. This call came not even 12 hours after I told Kim. Sparing the details of an incredibly heartbreaking and traumatic week, we learned that our baby was ectopic and our pregnancy was not viable.

 

After dreaming of the kind of world our baby would live in, I was thrown into a whole different world where words like “methotrexate”, and “IVF”, and “rupture” are frequently used. Nothing quite prepares you for news like this. Ironically, I lost a friend in college to an ectopic pregnancy, but never in a million years did I think I would have one too. Luckily, I had a few friends who knew of the pregnancy before this devastation who were so key into my sanity before our anniversary and the holidays. The unexpected replies of “I’ve had one too” brought my understanding of this to an entirely new level. In the United States, ectopic pregnancies happen 200,000 times a year. That’s it. While not incredibly common, everyone seems to know someone who has had, or has had an ectopic pregnancy themselves.

 

While these past two weeks have been awful, and I’ve broken down in devastation over every pregnancy announcement, or baby outfit I bought in excitement and stumble upon—I chose to write about this because of all the friends I have that have gone through this in secret. There has to be some recognition that this can happen to anyone at any time.  It’s sad, and uncomfortable, and sometimes I even feel embarrassed when I have to tell people that we’re no longer expecting. But I have to believe that though I prayed until my knuckles were white and cried myself dizzy, this was just not meant to be for my family at this time. This, something completely out of my control, was going to be a trial that would impact my life and every Christmas, anniversary, and pregnancy thereafter. I have to believe that I am going to be a stronger person on the other side of this. I just wish that someone reading this perhaps experiencing a broken heart for the first time, or yet again, understands that they are not alone. So many women are affected by this and it is still a loss, no matter how or when it occurred. Though I was so looking forward to holding them in my arms, I look even more forward to meeting them and spending the rest of time with them—and that has to be the blessing in this curse. Until then, how lucky I am to have two perfect little ones to spend my days with, I am so thankful for them more than ever. Though it’s incomparable, I think of my hospice families and how they must be feeling after losing their child. I can only imagine my pain multiplied on such an extreme scale. I think of them now, more than ever, and hold their pain in my heart—even if it’s just fractional.

 

Thank you for hearing my heart in this blog, I truly felt it needed to be read as much as I needed to write it for myself.

 

Making the minutes count,

Morgan

Friday, December 30, 2016

"Let Your Fears Take Flight" by Morgan Bredde


As the ambassador for Children’s Hospice International, I have been blessed to be a part of an organization that celebrates and uplifts children in all stages of life despite diagnosis or prognosis. In early December, I conquered a deep-rooted fear of mine and boarded a plane by myself and headed to Washington DC to participate in Fantasy Flight. Taking place at Dulles Airport, Fantasy Flight is an annual event hosted in partnership with United Airlines. While 13 airports now host Fantasy Flight annually for different causes, Dulles Airport always saves their event for children with terminal conditions. They set up bright and early and check in families and assign them their airplane tickets to take them to their anticipated destination—the North Pole. Now if you know me, you know I am terrified of flying. I like to be in 1000% control of my life, and apparently, I have to have a pilot’s license to fly a plane. SO silly. You can imagine my sigh of relief when I found out we wouldn’t really be flying, but that we would be using reindeer magic to fly supersonically fast to the North Pole. Perfect. I met so many people while waiting at the gate. Parents with huge tears in their eyes as their little ones got glittery tattoos and watched Ronald McDonald perform magic tricks. Some explained to me that they wait for this every year, as it is their Christmas. No hospital, no beige walls, no restrictions. Just pure joy. It wasn’t until I boarded the jumbo jet that the head flight attendant told me a heartbreaking truth that I wasn’t even thinking of- some of these children seated on this plane will not make it to Christmas. Our job is to make sure that this day is the best day of their lives.



 
After everyone had boarded and the doors were shut, we proceeded to the runway for “takeoff”. Flight attendants checked our seatbelts and passed out stickers and maps, and with that, we were speeding down the runway for liftoff. I was amazed by the lengths they went to to simulate this flight. Complete with exhilarating hydraulics and turbulence! After hitting a rather rough spot of fake turbulence, my gut told me to look out the window (the blinds were shut so that the reindeer could do their job…). I ever so slightly peeked out of the window and my stomach hit the ground. CLOUDS. Nothing but clouds. We were really flying! As Casper-White as I must’ve turned, I pledged to live a year without fear during my reign and honestly, I would do it one thousand times over again just to hear the squeals of delight from the children. Most of whom had never been on a plane. When we finally landed (Praise God!), we were greeted with the greatest cheer and holiday joy. The normal drab tunnel leading to the airport was filled with tinsel, songs, and chatter. Upon exiting the tunnel, absolutely nothing prepared me for the thunderous celebration awaiting every child and family. Dancing characters, waving princesses, singing elves, and cheering attendants welcomed each of us to the North Pole. I was instantly brought to a place of wonderment as I had no idea how overwhelming this must be for the children in awe of the North Pole, and the sobbing parents in gratitude for the love of strangers.




 

I was elated to finally meet Ann Armstrong-Daley and C.K. Steele in person, as they run every detail and facet of CHI, and granted me this incredible opportunity.





Now when I say this place was magical, you might understand HOW magical when I tell you there were tables and tables of CHICKEN BISCUITS from CHICK Fil A, and cupcakes and every other food my childhood self would have flipped for. I grabbed a cupcake and hid behind a Christmas tree to quickly eat it before meeting with the families who were still pouring off of the plane. But when I got tapped on the shoulder by a volunteer who was hysterically laughing as she foiled my plan of secrecy, I laughed with her and ate my cupcake and cheered on the children walking in. The most amazing part was seeing the sacks of toys brought by Santa for each and every child. Watching him spend so much time and taking so much care for every child was indescribable. I could write forever about the littles I met, the moms I hugged, the staff that I was able to educate and inspire with my words and knowledge of pediatric palliative and hospice care, but these moments I will forever hold in my heart and thank God that I was trusted with them.




As I headed back to catch my flight home after Fantasy Flight, I couldn’t stop taking deep breaths. Even now as I write this, my heart shatters for the beautiful faces that won’t light up opening Christmas presents this year. For the families gathered around a hospital bed watching a sleeping child rest. We are so fortunate. One of my greatest fears is flying but that is nothing compared to the immense fear of losing a child. It was undetectable amongst these parents who know that fear is an impending reality. Let that be a lesson for you as much as it has been for me. Fear is what you make it. Let it control you, or let it motivate you. Whether that fear is flying, competing, or so much more—let it be known that when faced with the greatest fear of all, these families were able to celebrate with grateful hearts. This Christmas, I hope you do the same.

 

 

Making the minutes count,

 

Morgan

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

" My motto is Don’t Shop—ADOPT " by Ava Ernst


Sam joins Toots as the second basset hound member of our family!
 
I’d like you to officially “meet” Sam, the newest addition to our family!  He is a handsome, sweet, 7-year-old basset hound who we found through the Animal Humane Society.  Since Bear passed away back in June, we had been keeping our eyes out for another “senior” dog, but first we had to figure out a way to get my dad on board (when my mom adopted Bear, my dad was on a fishing trip—my mom said she couldn’t pull that off a second time, LOL). It was my mom’s birthday last week and we were out for dinner.  I was playing around on my phone and for some reason, I decided to do a search on the Animal Humane Society website and came across Sam.  The next day, my dad had to go to Chicago for a trade show, so my mom and I went up to AHS in Coon Rapids to meet Sam to see if he might be a good fit.  However, when we arrived we were unable to spend one-on-one time with Sam because someone else had put a deposit on him (which meant that they had until 7:30 the next day to come and adopt him).  We were still able to meet him back in the “jail” area (where the cages are—but I call it “jail”) but unable to actually pet him and spend time with him.  When we walked up to him, he was barking away and “telling” us all about his time there.  Bassets are very vocal and he was no exception, LOL!  But his tail was wagging the entire time.  Anyone who knows our current basset hound Toots knows how much they “talk.”  And then when we started walking away, he started moaning and whining.  I was sad to leave him but my mom said that we should be happy that he got adopted and that we had to get Dad on board anyway.  She said if it was meant to be, that he would find his way to us and things would all work out. 

Giving Sam some much needed snuggle time after spending all that time in the shelter


Well, the people at AHS said that if the people didn’t follow through, then Sam would be put back up for adoption and back on the website by 8:00 the next day.  I was thinking about him all day.  That evening, I kept refreshing the website to see if he had gotten adopted or not.  By 8:02, I found him—he was available after all!  I couldn’t believe it!  So my mom and I had to figure out a plan to get my dad up to the Coon Rapids Animal Humane Society to meet Sam.

Sam's new bed is his favorite place in the house

My dad got home from his Chicago trip on Friday afternoon, so my mom and I told him that we were going to go to a surprise restaurant for dinner.  He fell for it and off we went.  As we started driving to Coon Rapids, he could NOT figure out where we were going (AHS is about 30 min from our house).  He finally saw the sign and said, “OMG you tricksters, I know where we are going!”  Luckily he was laughing about it…and he agreed to go in!  We told the lady at the front desk that we were there to meet Sam.  She was going to bring him out to meet us but my mom said she thought it was important for my dad to see the “jail” (cage) area.  So we walked up to Sam and he was just like the day before—barking/telling us all about his plight.  The AHS lady brought him back to see us and he was so sweet.  Smart too, because he immediately put his paws on my dad and was whining and looking into my dad’s eyes trying to hypnotize him, LOL.  My dad is a big softie and was like, “Well, you had better find out what his story is” and that’s when I knew we had him.  We asked all sorts of questions and learned more about Sam.

 
 
 
Here is Sam snuggled up in front of the fireplace on his first night!
 

We found out that Sam came from a shelter in Oklahoma that lacked the resources to care for him.  I am not sure how long he was at that shelter, but he had been at the Coon Rapids shelter for a month.  He had a dog “sister” (a border collie named Daisy) who was surrendered at the same time as Sam (we found out she had already been adopted).  He was raised with children and it made me sad to think that something really bad must have happened that a family would give up their two dogs.  But I am glad we were there to help give Sam a second chance.

 

We filled out the paperwork, paid the fee, and Sam was officially ours!  I was so excited.  We finally DID take my dad to that “surprise” restaurant, which was Chik-Fil-A!  Ha ha!  I was just so happy that my dad let us get another dog that I would have agree to go to pretty much any restaurant!

Sam and Toots looking spiffy after a trip to the dog groomer

On the first night, Sam met our existing basset hound Toots (who is 8). They look like they could be brother and sister.  Sam walked into our house like he had lived here forever and made himself right at home.  He snuggled up by the fireplace and that is still his favorite spot in the house.  He and Toots are so cute together and I think he is going to be a GREAT fit.  Today my mom took them to the dog groomer (he was pretty stinky after all that time in the shelter but he smells like roses now)!  The dog groomer said he LOVED having a bath and was such a good boy!  I am so proud of him.  He is so cute and loving!

Sam was a model patient during his first trip to our local vet office. So brave!


If you are EVER thinking of getting a dog, please consider a shelter dog first.  There are so many dogs looking for a warm, loving home and you truly have the ability to change their lives.  And I know they will bring so much to yours in return.  My motto is Don’t Shop—ADOPT and I believe that with all my heart and soul.  It is the right thing to do and you will not regret it! 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Take the challenge to put the “civil” back in civilian " by Morgan Bredde


It’s no secret that this past week has brought out a lot of negativity on social media and even in our in-person interactions. After over a year of campaigning, and trash-talking, scandal-unveiling and commercials, Americans are left to a screeching halt as soon as the president-elect is announced. Unfortunately, this year seemed to be the most heated election in recent history. Without getting political, this blog is to shed some light on how one can compassionately interact with someone who has opposing views.



As a titleholder, you are constantly being watched and judged. While this is part of the “job-description”, it can be overwhelming at times to know that you must always make sure that you state your opinion and beliefs in a respectful manner. If only everyone held titles, right? While I choose not to blast who I’m voting for or why, or my stance on certain issues—I am always one to welcome discussion and opinions (as long as they are respectful) because I believe it makes a person well-rounded and empathetic. I will always call my friends and family to hold themselves to a higher standard and remind them that while practicing our civic duties, one should aim to be civil. It’s always interesting that when you take the time to listen, you might realize that you learn something. Whether it’s good information, or information that disturbs you—taking that time to allow another person to express their beliefs is a crucial piece in the pie of humanity.



While listening to someone who has drastically different experiences than you can be enough to make you crawl out of your skin, it can only do you as a person more good than harm. Even if it means making you stronger in your convictions. This past Monday, I was at mock interviews with my coach (keeping your interview skills sharp is a must—even after winning the crown!) and in listening to the views of those around me, I felt obligated to share my experiences. See, it is possible to live in the same country as another person, yet experience completely different realities. As an African-American woman married to a Norwegian immigrant with interracial children, my reality has forced me to think outside of my “box” and consider what others around me know to be true for them. I can’t say I haven’t been disappointed with posts on Facebook from former friends who deny the reality I have lived and experienced, but I have chosen to use these moments as learning opportunities. These moments could have been arguments drenched in hostility, but I choose to share, teach, listen and learn. People who had views that I don’t share all of a sudden made more sense to me that they could hold them, though drastically different than my own. I saw understanding and compassion light up in their eyes as I was able to share my truths as well. Isn’t that how it should be? Shouldn’t we all be able to listen with the intent to learn, rather than just to respond?



In my faith, we are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves—not just the neighbors that agree with us. While there are some things that I truly don’t agree with nor understand, when understanding the heart of the person it’s coming from, I have found respect for them and that I can love them all the same, as long as their heart is in the right place.

 

This week, I challenge you to listen. I also challenge you to speak up, speak your truth, and speak for those whose voices are often squashed into silence. If we are going to work to unite our country, that doesn’t start in the White House, it must start in our homes and in our own hearts.

 

Take the challenge to put the “civil” back in civilian and you’ll be surprised what you might find.

 

 

Making the minutes count,

Morgan