Daily Walking with God

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Plant City's First Baptist Church

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Daily Archives: February 27, 2016

Thanks to God, our gathering place did become quite quaint.

Thanks to God, our gathering place did become quite quaint.

Talladega, Alabama may be famous for their Superspeedway, but it is also the birthplace of royalty. Miss Haley Grace Riley, the Florida Strawberry Festival’s 2016 queen, was born in Talladega just seventeen years ago.

Much like the velocity of the race cars that vie for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy in Talladega, Haley’s life is now in full acceleration. Ever since she was crowned as the royal ambassador for Florida Strawberry Festival, Haley has been continually promoting our hometown’s event that honors our favorite fruit. Yet, as the festival is preparing to open its gates on Thursday, March 3rd, for the annual eleven day event, Haley is definitely staying grounded and focused on the main thing in her life…Christ.

When God first put it on my heart to interview Haley, I was hoping to meet and chat with her at her “happy place”. I knew that her days and nights have been long, so I was hoping for a quaint place to converse with her about her faith. Well, since scheduling a time to meet with Haley is like attempting to schedule an interview with the queen of England, we had to settle for a commercialized coffee house directly off the interstate, with the noise of the traffic serenading us. When I arrived early to our location, my first thought was, “This is not quaint.” God had to come to my rescue and remind me that He has a reason for the place and time, and that I just need to leave it all with Him. So, okay, God knows best.

I’m so grateful that God had this, because as soon as we began chatting like old girlfriends, the setting became intimate. The serenading of the vehicles was no longer in tune. It was replaced with a gracious exchange of words about the festival, family, and most of all faith.

Since this was not the “happy place” where I had thought we would meet, I shared the story with Haley and simply asked her, “Where is your ‘happy place’?” All you boys out there, get ready, because this adorable queen’s “happy place” is hunting in Alabama. She says, “When I’m hunting it’s quiet and I can think.” Yes siree, this lovely young lady likes to hunt.

This precious girl who enjoys hunting admitted that she is shy, enjoys her alone time, and hasn’t always been so confident. Let me just tell you…the first time I saw Haley take the stage at the queen’s pageant, for me her confidence and amazing smile delineated the stage. You could have put the crown on her head at that very moment.

When you ask her where does her confidence come from, it’s simple…God.

When I asked Haley, “How did you rely on your faith throughout the pageant process?” She said, “This whole process was for Him. I was not doing this pageant for me, but for God.” There were times when she was overwhelmed throughout the preparations, and that’s when she felt God nudge her and encourage her to be still in Him. She did. She relied on, found peace in, and gained strength through Christ.

Let’s go back a few years to see where Haley began her walk with God.  She grew up in church. Hearing and talking about Jesus wasn’t anything out of the norm for Haley and her family. When she was six-years-old her dad was about to be deployed. Her dad felt he needed to go down to the front of the church at the invitation time and dedicate his life to the Lord. Haley wanted to go down too. She and her dad were baptized together on the same Sunday before his deployment. You can tell by the sparkle in her eyes and pleasant smile on her face that this moment is etched in her mind forever.

In Hebrews 11  we read about a list of people who were able to conquer great tasks due to their faith. I posed the question, “What would the bible say about you and what’s the example of how you used your faith?” Haley immediately stated, “My life’s long journey with my dad in the military.” She shared details of his multiple deployments and how she, her mom, and her siblings would have to totally reply on God to protect him and them, and bond together even more. The longest he was deployed was for sixteen months. Haley’s faith was made strong through it all, and relied on God to see her daddy and family through it all.

We continued our conversation on faith. Haley expressed to me who she looked up to as a “hero in faith”. She easily gave me an example of one from the bible and one in our present time. From the bible her hero in faith is Esther. Haley is captivated by Esther’s sacrifice for herself and her family, and how she prepared for a year for her position God gave her.

Her Mawmaw, her dad’s mom, is Haley’s present time hero of faith. Mawmaw has lost two sons and a husband, and her faith is invincible. In a sense, much like Esther, she sacrificed family as well. Haley and her mawmaw talk often, and share bible verses with one another. (More on mawmaw another time. I had a precious phone conversation with her. What an inspiration!)

We recognized an underlying theme between her two heroes. They were the words sacrifice and family. Haley said, “It must be the military in me.”

I posed the question to Haley, “Now that you have been given this opportunity to have a position of esteem for our community, have you thought about how you can and will be used by God to bring glory and honor to Him?” She mentioned that before she had even left the stage the night she was crowned, she mentioned in the very first interview that she would first like to thank God, her church, and her family. Also, one thing that the girls (Haley’s four court members and their two “queen moms”) do before anything, not just before they eat, is gather in a circle, hold hands, and pray. They pray with and for any purpose. Haley hopes that people at the festival will see them praying as a testimony to God.

Haley has two favorite bible verses. She recently shared Isaiah 41:13 with a dear friend who is going through a tough time right now. It says, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’” Haley has leaned on this verse often in her life. Through competitions in the Future Farmers of America (Go, FFA!), various pageants, and the life of a military child, she has had to squeeze God’s hand tight and have Him remind her to not be afraid.

Her second favorite verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” This bundle of intelligence, beauty, and determination realizes that she can do nothing without Jesus Christ.

Throughout this whirlwind of a life over the past month, this is what Haley has discovered about herself: Haley knew that she was a shy girl who often kept to herself, but she never realized how introverted she really was. This girl who can speak with confidence to a large crowd, and even compete in public speaking, had to learn to mingle. Haley said that all the events that she and her court have participated in have made her come out of her shell. She said that God often makes us uncomfortable so we can reply on Him, and she emphatically agreed that God is doing this to her. She said, “God will see you through it. You just have to stay focused on Him.”

Confidence in God, relying on Him in all situations, and staying grounded in her faith has and will continue to keep this royal young lady remembering that her true royalty is in being a child of God.

Stay tuned for more insight and inspiration from mawmaw, and Haley and the sisterhood that she has found in her four court members.

Happy National Strawberry Day! I hope to see you ALL this coming week at the Florida Strawberry Festival.

I pray that you will enjoy soaking up The Son every moment of each day. –Stephanie

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Click here to read a fun fact about Queen Haley.