Special thank you to Indie Atlantic Films who produced our first story video through the generosity of their Giving Back Program. This film gives an inside look into the mission of Top Buttons. It truly does take a "Village" to guide our teens down the right path, and we love, love, love working with the girls who have been nominated to participate in our program. Right now we have a waiting list of organizations for at risk girls who would like to be a part of our Top Buttons Wearing Confidence Program. We provide our educational and clothing resources to over 200 very deserving girls a semester. Not only do we work with at risk girls, but girls from all backgrounds are a part of Top Buttons. They are models, stylists, writers, photographers, they help with creative development, steam, sort, and tag clothing, and much more! We love being able to provide opportunities for young women to do what they love, while supporting a great cause and getting attention for all the right reasons. Anyone who watches this video and wants to support the work we are doing, please consider giving $10 now by texting "buttons" to "50155". Every little bit counts! As a non-profit, we are able to continue the work we are doing through the financial donations of our supporters. And there are more ways to be a part of what we are doing. Check out our Top Buttons Boutique Page for info on clothing donations, public shopping days, and volunteer opportunities. We truly appreciate the encouragement, the donated time and clothing, and financial resources! https://youtu.be/ngFRlT-TqO4
If you aren't in the mood for some mushy, gushy, faith-based romance, READ ON ANYWAY! We find this young lady to be refreshing and strong in a way that all women can benefit from. We live in a world were girls get major media attention for being controversial, provocative, and down right disrespectful. (Clearing throat… cough… Huffington Post) At Top Buttons, our philosophy is to promote those who are trying to do right and love others as they also love themselves. We feel you will enjoy hearing many of the fun details which make this girl tick. Grab a cup of coffee and have a seat in a comfy chair. This is a must read for some Valentine's Inspiration. - Intro by Sarah Powers Christina Gard -- currently a professor in the Psych department at SEU -- is the perfect example of what it means to have beauty AND brains. Mrs. Gard is a great role model to girls globally because she is living proof that when you pursue your dreams and live for God, He'll take care of the rest -- including getting you the right man. From gutting fish, to winning Miss Alaska, to being a pastor, professor, and so much more, Christina Gard has done it all.
So Christina, tell us a little about yourself -- about your backstory and any formative experiences along the way. I was born and raised in Alaska. My Dad was a pastor, and summer camp was the highlight of every year. Every summer we spent a few weeks at Little Beaver Lake kids camp in Alaska. That’s where I found a lot of really consistent friends and really fell in love and found the relationship I had with Jesus.
What are some significant qualities/ facts about growing up in Alaska that affected your perception on life?
- I spent Friday nights at home with my family. My parents would give us a topic, and we would have debates.
- We did a lot of hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, but it was all free. That is the life we lived in Alaska.
- When I was 5, I flew from Alaska to NJ. It opened up the world to me. I saw a mall and got to see a movie. It was a big contrast from having no running water.
- I was homeschooled for much of my upbringing, and my two sisters were my best friends.
- I had the opportunity to do some private school, but I knew how to cut filet salmon before I ever learned how to put on make-up.
- We would go to the food bank for food, but my parents always saved, saved, saved for travel experiences. My mom was concerned about me knowing what was in the outside world.
- I was the youngest bank teller hired at the National Bank of Alaska, which really taught me a lot and forced me to grow up.
What was your college experience like? I visited Northwest and saw for the first time college students having fun and it didn’t involve drugs or alcohol and so I decided to go there. I just loved it, I started debate and had great friends. I ended up transferring a lot. When I moved to England, I fell in love with tea and my view of the world was changed. I was kind of the lone Christian. England was pretty spiritually dead in my opinion. People questioned everything. I studied theology and was taught that the Bible was a book. I realized my faith was not my parents. I had to develop & cultivate a relationship with the Lord on my own.
I transferred again and I went to AU and I fell in love with the city of DC.
I also spent a summer in Cambodia. That really showed me the power of missions and at that point I decided I would eventually make missions a part of my life.
For my last semester of undergrad, I went back to Northwest.
You moved around a lot! When did Andrew come into the picture? Five weeks before graduation, I met Andrew. At this point, I was really strong and really independent. My father had always told me, “You will marry the one man that isn’t intimidated by you,” and on our first date Andrew said, “You don’t intimidate me.” It freaked me out. When I got home, I literally went right into my room and called my dad and told him.
Since you come from a close family, what was it like when you started dating Andrew? We dated all the way through graduation, which is when my family met him. Everyone flew in because I was speaking at the commencement. I handed Andrew an itinerary for the weekend, and he kept up. That weekend, he surprised me with Yankee tickets. I realized at that moment that he was a true leader. He knew what I needed even when I didn’t.
[blockquote]He’s the first man I ever dated. I dated a lot of boys, but he was the first man.[/blockquote]
Did Andrew pursue you? How did he treat you while you were dating? First date: He called me and asked me out. I remember how strong, confident, and sincere he was on the phone.
[blockquote]We went to Starbucks. I asked him about his relationship with God. A Starbucks date can be 5 minutes or 5 hours; ours was 5 hours.[/blockquote]
Day After First Date: Generally, the rule was not to call the next day. He called me that morning. This was when cell-phones first came out and I had a voice mail of him asking me to hang out again….And we hung out every day.
Second date: He took me to Coldstone and then opened the basketball gym for me and we played HORSE. While we were at Coldstone I quizzed him about the world. I was blown away at how smart he was.
During the relationship: He didn’t kiss me and there was no physical interaction until after we were engaged.
[blockquote]I’m the 4th generation in a line of pastors and I never met someone who loved God like Andrew did.[/blockquote]
Since you guys started dating so close to graduation, what happened after you graduated? We were together for 2 months, and then I moved back to Alaska and it was long distance from there. We were dating and engaged for 17 months total.
What did you do in the meantime? At that point my options were to apply for the Peace Corps, work with White Siberian tigers, travel with Holland America cruise lines, or compete for Miss America. I graduated in May 2004 and it was in June that I won Miss Alaska 2004.
How did competing and winning Miss Alaska affect your self-image? I had always struggled with insecurity. The thing I appreciated about the experience was how confident the women were. Every single one of them were pursuing a degree. Miss America is a Scholarship Organization, not just a pageant.
[blockquote]I remember walking in and looking around the room and thinking “Wow. Women can do anything.”[/blockquote]
For me, it helped pay my way through college and helped me develop confidence in a new way. Differences were celebrated. Everyone was beautiful in their own way. I didn’t have to look like Barbie. I just had to look like me.
So what happened with you and Andrew after winning Miss Alaska? Well, I love that he was with me before I made Miss Alaska. I remember, I called him and told him I didn’t win and he said “I don’t believe you.”
When did you get married? On June 24, 2005 we got married in Jamaica. We had a destination wedding. I flew from Alaska to Miami and Andrew flew from Seattle to Miami and then we flew to Jamaica together. So hugging him in the airport was awkward having been apart for awhile. We met up with our families in Jamaica. We went kayaking & hiking and it was so much fun. Then, we honeymooned there for the next couple weeks.
After being apart for so long, how was married life? When we got to our new home, he had me close my eyes and he picked me up and he carried me across the threshold of our new town home in DC. We didn’t have a dinner table. We ate our first meal sitting on the dining room floor. I realized no matter where I was or what I was doing, if I had him, I would be okay.
He was a pastor and I was working as a Crisis Intervention Specialist. I was on call 24-7. My clients had to get better or they were going to jail. After a while, he felt like we were suppose to move to Seattle and I remember resisting it. We moved from there to Puyallup, Washington. I remember I saying, “Life will never be better than it was in DC.” I even said the same thing when I moved from Washington to Florida, and now I think the same thing.
Being that you're very accomplished and goal-oriented, what have been all your different jobs throughout the years? 1. At, 12 years old, my first job at Espresso Moes as a barista. 2. Sandwich shop 3. Bank Teller for National Bank of Alaska 4. Legal Clerk for Trudell Bowen Lingenbrink Law Firm 5. Nanny for Mr. Lingenbrink (on weekends) 6. Department of Health as a Legislative Analyst 7. Cannery on the slime line gutting fish 8. Crisis Intervention Specialist for Institute … 9. Childrens pastor at Puyallup Foursquare Church 10. Miss Alaska with the Miss America organization 11. Professor –Northwest University 12. Children/ Family Therapist at Good Samaritan Behavioral Health 13. Director of Student Mentoring in Student Development at SEU 14. Professor 15. (Currently training to be a fitness instructor at LA Fitness, just for fun.)
What qualities does Andrew have that you think are really important to look for in a man? Love for Jesus; Intellect; Respect for others; Passion; Integrity and character above all; Respect for me and how he handled me when no one else was around; He didn’t put me in compromising situations; Common interests; Attraction; Such a great sense of humor.
What are the top 3 things you two value in your marriage? 1. Our non-negotable is time with one another; nothing gets scheduled without us consulting the other. That requires honest communication. 2. Fun. -- We love having fun together. We love laughing. 3. Private time with the Lord and with one another. Praying together. Theres nothing more incredible than hearing what Andrew asks God for, for me. It’s just amazing.
What's the key to having an interesting relationship? In order to have an interesting marriage. You have to be interesting people. We both love time together, but we both love our time apart. Andrew loves golf. I love Pilates. We love having things we’re pursuing on our own. He loves that I don’t stop at any point in life.
What is one piece of advice you would give to young girls? (Something that you know now but you wish you knew then.) Put God above all else. Enjoy your time with your family first. You’ll never get those moments back with your parents and siblings when its just you guys. Enjoy that, treasure that. I don’t regret spending Friday nights with my family. Worry little about who likes you. More than likely you are not going to marry your 8th grade love.
Since Valentine's Day is coming up, how do you keep your marriage alive, and do you have Valentines Day plans? We always go out. Our favorite spot is the Melting Pot. We’re more into experiences than gifts. We’ve gone to Paris & rome, Mexico, Jamaica, Disney world. We love quality time, with a great meal and great conversation. We’re also really big on cards. We always give each other handwritten deep thoughtful notes. That’s really important to us.
Deep breath. Process. Maybe your pics won't look as adorable as these two, but you can rest assured that God will give you the desires of your heart too as they line up with His will!
There you have it: life behind the scenes with Christina Gard -- a woman who even faced some very challenging life experiences. (Which, believe it or not, were not mentioned in our long but super fun interview with Christina.) She ultimately pursued God and her dreams, and along the way God gave her a great love relationship that enables her to continue doing that. She supports him, he supports her, they support each other.
If you haven't had enough, check out last year's #couplecrush
Photo credit: Rachel Tackett
On a recent Instagram post the Top Buttons community of followers got a sneak peek on Alexis' involvement with something called Fit For A Princess. Here's the scoop:
This movement to create 'princess moments' has now been adopted by Florida Southern as well. Because two universities have now teamed up to make this event possible, Kelly expects to collect double the amount of dresses and even provide dresses for double the amount of girls by opening up their event to the students of Lakeland Senior High School as well as maintaining their involvement with Kathleen High School. To ensure that this vision is possible, Top Buttons is also supporting FFAP's endeavors and will be assisting in collecting dresses as well.
On February 22, 2014, Top Buttons will be teaming up with the FFAP team to transform Southeastern University's Sportsplex into a fancy boutique full of dresses, where high school students are invited to shop the dress selection completely free of charge with the opportunity to become a princess. On the day of the event, Top Buttons stylists and FFAP volunteers will be dressed as personal fashion consultants to create a dream come true.
More information regarding donations or volunteering can be found by emailing Alexis Gauthier at Alexis@topbuttons.org, or by contacting the founder herself -- Rachel Kelly -- at FitForAPrincess1@yahoo.com or visiting their Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/fitforaprincess1