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By Haley Hilton

Happy fourth of July everyone! I hope you’re all soaking up time with loved ones, donning your red white and blue, and thoroughly enjoying the fabulous (potentially illegal) fireworks that are undoubtedly going off wherever you are right now. Man, life is just too awesome sometimes.

Next to Christmas, (and your birthday of course because you are a queen) I think Independence Day might be the happiest day of the year. At least it always has been in our family. We spend the day at our cabin riding horses, barbecuing, and partying with our favorite people on the planet. We’re really into the whole family thing.

For a long time (on my mom’s side of the family at least) I was the youngest grandchild, and my two best friends in the world were my cousins Lizzie and Ashlee. Together, we were “The Three Little Girls,” and let me tell you—we knew how to have a good time over the Fourth of July. Once we tried to smoosh three of us onto a horse at once (it was all fun and games until we got bucked off two steps into the ride—that horse was no fool). We spent a lot of time showing off how impressively domestic we were by playing very serious games of “house” (we really understood the impact a crying baby doll and some dramatic dialogue had on make-believe plot twists). Oh, and we were excellent helpers. One time we cleaned out the entire fire pit after a particularly sooty night of s’mores. We carried filthy logs around the backyard for the good of the family. We sacrificed our nice clothes and clean faces. No one needed to thank us—we knew how valued our efforts were.


At church around this time each year, my Dad reminds me of a particular line in the song “America the Beautiful.” Usually while the congregation is belting out the show stopping song, he’ll lean over to me and point it out. “It’s tucked away into the middle of the song so a lot of people don’t notice it,” he’ll say. “But it’s there and it’s profound.”

“America! America!

May God thy gold refine,

Till all success be nobleness,

And every gain divine.”

May God thy gold refine,” he emphasizes while pushing his finger firmly into the hymn book. Then he says something along the lines of, “This country has always been, and will always be, a work in progress. The Founding Fathers never claimed it was perfect.”

More perfect than anything anyone had ever known before? Yes. Crucial? Absolutely. Unprecedented? Of course. Essential? Without a doubt! But never perfect.

The freedom to evolve is written into the very essence of our Nation. Isn’t that wonderful? Through every mistake that has ever been and will ever be made in this beautifully diverse country, society has the chance to make it right and do better. If this symbol of hope is allowed to fail and recover, shouldn’t we, the individuals who make up this country have the chance to do the same? Because Jesus Christ died for our sins, the answer to that question is a resounding YES. We have the chance to become new. And boy, am I grateful for that because I sure need it.

Case in point: As awesome as our afore referenced girl group was, the three of us could fight like there’s no tomorrow. With three passionate kiddos, there was bound to be some hurt feelings and alligator tears. Thankfully, each time a fight broke out, we were given the freedom to apologize and become better.

Like the one time, I forgot to wake my cousins for a morning horseback ride (that’s a lie, I didn’t forget. They were just so gosh darn hard to wake up I left without even trying), or the millions of times we fought over who got to play “the Mom” during our game of house, or who got to choose the dance moves for our Destiny’s Child reenactment. We spent a lot of time fiercely angry with one another, and then quickly apologizing and learning. Like the country we love so much, we were given the freedom to improve. THANK GOODNESS!

In the evening on Independence Day, our family has always gone to what can only be described as the greatest rodeo in all of America (at least that’s what they tell you when you’re there, and they don’t seem like the lying type). Our three little bums used to sit perched on cold metal bleachers, cushioned only by one of our cabin’s old blankets. Our Grandma would pass licorice down the row for us to snarf while our parents gave us sharp looks. To this day we hold our breath while the barrel racers weave their way to victory (barrel racers are our favorite because they’re girls and that makes them automatically awesome), and cover our eyes during the scary bucking bulls. The Star Spangled Banner always plays and the announcer takes the time to remind us of the men and women who died for our freedoms. All evening long we feel nothing but American Pride.

Finally, at the end of the third best day of the year, we turn to face the spectacular firework show above the arena while a range of USA themed songs boom through the loud speakers. The swell of the music and the brightly colored sky makes my eyes fill with tears. I am overcome with gratitude for this country. The whole thing is flat-out patriotic.

I’m grateful for America. I’m grateful for the freedom to exercise my faith in God. I’m grateful for the freedom to choose. I’m grateful for those who’ve died so I can live. But this year, more than anything, I’m grateful I live in a country that has made mistakes and has a process for making things right again.

God bless America. May God Thy Gold Refine.

1 Comment

  1. So beautifully written! It is so fitting that you would be the one to write out those memories. They are still so vivid and on going!! The greatest memories on the 3rd greatest day of the year. Yay for America! Yay for family! Yay for the freedom to be patriotic! Yay for being refined. And yay for the freedom to play all day long no matter how old you are. I’d love to say we’ve grown out of those alligator tears but….

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