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“This my dear is bliss…”

*This is what came of my time with Jesus this morning. I pray you will be encouraged or at least feel inspired to steal away with Him before you rush off to your next thing.*

My husband always jokes that giving birth makes a woman more holy. (Is there scripture to back this up- I can’t remember?) I never found his statement amusing until today, because I did feel kind of holy.  🙂 After dropping him off at work this morning, it was my turn to do the school drop off with the kids. It was a typical morning, Nyomi had some diva demands that I just couldn’t seem to satisfy. Kaiden asked the same question a million different ways and I patiently answered it, even trying to use a different tone to keep things a little interesting.  After the drop off, I had planned to just go ahead into work and get started on some projects before my only meeting of the day.  That’s when I felt the beckoning of the Holy Spirit say to my heart, “come away with me…” My heart melted when I realized that Jesus wanted to spend some time alone with me before I rushed off. I love moments like this.

I said, “wait, let me grab my bible and journal from the house…” He replies, “no, you brought your laptop that’s all you need.”  Where should we go? I drive in silence for a few moments when I hear the word…”bliss…” Well, the only place I know with bliss in the name is Aroma’s. He even had the nerve to tell me the exact location, “downtown.”  #relationshipgoals  #comeonJesus 

So, here I am with my almond milk iced chai tea and vegan lemon donut with hibiscus glaze waiting for what’s to come. 

“Let’s get real,” He says. You have had some heartbreaking moments over the past year- losing a child, trying to raise a child who did not come from your body, trying to understand your strong-willed daughter, while also being a great wife and leader in your work and neighborhood. I’m so sorry that this pregnancy has been difficult- many sleepless nights, constant daily pain, medicines that you weren’t prepared to take, anemia. You have handled it well my daughter- I am very proud of you. No one can really see the depth of pain that you are enduring every day, but I appreciate that you have found moments of joy and gratitude during this time.  Thank you for being obedient to slow down when I asked you to. I know it was hard for you, your Dad is right, you are a woman on the move, a road-runner! Trust me, there will be a time when you get back to moving at that pace and even faster. I have not forgotten the glimpses of dreams that I have shown you through the years. Trust me, my timing is perfect.

Now, back to being real. I need you to continue on the track that you are on with tending to your heart. You have wounds from people that are close to you that have never healed. Partly because you keep letting them open up again. I am your ultimate healer and although you wish for a sincere apology and closure from the one who hurt you, you might never receive this from them. I apologize to you on their behalf. I am sorry that they hurt you and continue to try and hurt you. I am fully aware of their motives even before they attack. Daughter, I need you to be strong and courageous because your response to them is your weapon, your protection, your line of defense. I am not saying you will never be hurt again, but I have given you the tools that you need to not only survive the hits but THRIVE! You are no longer an “easy target”. You no longer have to live in their hurt.  Don’t change who you are because of how they are.  I need my Spirit to shine through you because there are people I have called you to. The way you live is going to help others come to me.  Daughter I see you as a flower constantly blooming in every season. Your soil is good, but you have to keep tilling the ground and cutting away what is dead. For far too long, weeds have tried to overrun your garden, but no more. I see in this year a woman who is stronger than ever, rising up in her rightful position. Change the narrative that you are telling yourself. Be in expectation of some sweet surprises this year with your family, your husband and your calling. I have not forgotten you. I know exactly what I’m doing and where I am taking you. Trust me! The next time that this person tries to hurt you, I want you to LOVE….love even when you feel uncomfortable or like they don’t deserve it. Love anyway, because you are not perfect. You also have your flaws. You too have hurt people whether you realize it or not. LOVE because you know it’s what I would do.  LOVE is what will change their hearts, and guess what, you still may never hear that apology. That is not why you’re doing this. You are loving because it pushes out fear and drives out darkness. There is much darkness surrounding them. So LOVE, everyday, every person and be on guard with your heart. Stop reliving your past in your head and focus more in the present and taking those next steps towards the glimpses I have shown you. I am creating a legacy of brave women that you will help to raise up. Will you join me in this? I want you to be a part of it because you are so unique. People don’t really know the depth of who you are, you don’t even know yet, but when you do, oh goodness daughter, it will be explosive!

Thank you for spending time with me this morning, thank you for being obedient. I love you and I love who you are and where you’re at in this season. Remember to take it easy, enjoy this pace, and enjoy being taken care of.  This my dear is bliss…

 

Brave and Free,

Candy Z.

 

Guest Post: Tamara McMillan 

Scars are such interesting things, and oftentimes the scars that we have tell a story…

I remember when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter…

I was using the restroom at my mom’s house when I suddenly began to feel dizzy. In hindsight, I see that I should have just sat there and waited until the dizziness passed. I could have even yelled my mom’s name to let her know that I was feeling dizzy. But instead, I decided that it was a better idea to get up by myself try and go lay down on the couch. On the way to the living room, I passed out and hit my head on my little sister’s doorframe. The scar that was left behind reminds of that day…

Sometimes, however, the scars that we carry are not as visible as the scar that I have on my forehead. Yet despite their inability to be seen by the naked eye, these scars can still tell a tale, or shift our minds back to a previous moment in time…

October is domestic violence awareness month….

As I’ve been reflecting on the emotions that are connected to that period in my life, I realize that, though I have physical scars on my body that serve as a reminder of the night that I was stabbed multiple times, it’s not my physical scars that remind me of the hell that I went through…

They say that hindsight is 20/20….

And I can clearly see that we were simply two unhealthy people, with unhealthy boundaries who were tied together by this by this unhealthy version of what we called…love….

Love…

What started off as something so exciting and new….

Became a compromise here and a compromise there….

I was compromising my peace of mind while clinging on to the unfulfilled promise of “it won’t happen again”

The wounds would heal and the physical pain would fade away…

But for a while the remnant of things spoken rode around on my train of thought…

And if I could have just done “this” and “that” differently, none of this would have happened…

Somehow I had triggered you and oftentimes I felt “trigger happy” because it seemed as if my mere existence triggered your anger and, at the very least, your hateful words…

What started off as something so exciting and new….

Became a compromise here and a compromise there…

Onlookers are generally quick to say “why don’t you just leave?” Yet they fail to realize that what started off as the whispering of “sweet nothings”…slowly shifted to screams that I “meant nothing” and you wanted “nothing” to do with me…

Yet like a dangling worm I had already been hooked and was tied to you by this unhealthy version of what he called love…

And I was clinging on to the unfulfilled promise of “it won’t happen again”…

I didn’t leave until I had reached my breaking point; once I had reached the point where I had broken free from the idea that things would be any different from the way that they were.

Once removed from the situation, I went to a domestic violence shelter and one of the residents told me something that really stuck with me. She told me “the way that he treated you was not okay”.

I eventually went to counseling and am very intentional about maintaining healthy boundaries in all of my relationships; but those nine words that she spoke to me, changed my entire perspective and ensured that I would never again enter into another abusive relationship…


Meet Tamara

I’m a pretty deep thinker and also very random. I am a storyteller and I love to draw you in so that you feel like you actually experienced it. Sometimes I rehash things from a comedic point of view, but I also like to give you a deep truth to meditate on. I am very passionate about making sure that people understand that they are loved and know their worth; I really dislike seeing people being mistreated or treated unfairly. I also strongly dislike when people are viewed solely through the lens of a label or stereotype. I am a lover of Jesus, people, random adventures, and laughter.

You can find more of Tamara’s work on her blog LadyTButterfly!

Say What You Need to Say

Fear is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s rational. Like if there is a bear standing in front of you in the wilderness, fear would be pretty appropriate. But more often than not, fear is irrational, and irrational fear keeps from doing a lot of rational things. One of the rational things that irrational fear deters us from doing is saying what we need to say. Why is it so scary to be honest? Well, in relationships, we are usually afraid of how someone might react. We go through all the scenarios in our head and try to figure out if that person will be angry, sad, annoyed, emotional, confused.

I get it. Confrontation is not pleasant. It can be hard and sometimes painful. But it’s worse to let things go on how they are and push your thoughts and feelings under the rug. I’m all too familiar with this process. I don’t want to deal with stuff so I’ll just pretend it’s not there and usually distract myself with the busyness of life. Spoiler alert: It shoves its way out from under the rug eventually and I WILL have to deal with it. UGH! So annoying, but so true. In a relationship, it will surface again if you don’t deal with it now.

Every stage of dating comes with a decision to be completely honest and up-front, or to alter your behavior and dialogue to keep someone interested. From the first date forward, you either decide to be yourself or who someone else wants you to be. It’s so easy to do this when you like the person sitting across from you. But the problem is that neither of you will know if you’re actually a good fit unless you say what you think. I have struggled with this time and time again. My dating experiences have historically been full of trying to impress a guy instead of being the woman God created me to be and being OK with it. Not everyone is going to want what you have to offer, but that’s a good thing.

Know what you stand for, speak up for what you want, and if your S.O. breaks up with you because of it, they weren’t right for you in the first place. Do what is right for you, and the right person will love you even more for it. Be brave, ladies! Stop letting fear of a negative reaction deter you from saying what you need to say.

What if we were real?

We all love to share stories of our good news. We tweet, snapchat, and update our statuses with good news everyday. This is especially true for pregnancy announcements. We search on Pinterest for the best way to share the good news- Prego bottles, ultrasound pics, family photo (that’s what I did). On the flip side, bad news is not always easy or fun to share. I didn’t search Pinterest to figure out the best DIY craft to announce our miscarriage. In fact, I was too ashamed to go back and tell everyone after posting our good news. But, what if we were real?

I remember lying on the exam table waiting expectantly while the ultrasound tech prepared to show us our next little Zollicoffer. I was so excited to have another baby and it appeared to be the perfect timing. We decided after our daughter was born that waiting two years would be ideal for our next child. My husband and I watched the screen as the tech moved the tool all over my growing belly. “Let’s try another way.” She prepared the other option to view our baby and then silence….”I’m sorry but I think you may have miscarried.” My heart sank. I didn’t prepare to hear bad news. Her words remained with me for the next four days after I was told to come back the following week to check again, maybe it was too early to tell. Needless to say that was the longest week of my life. The firefighter term ” hurry up and wait” fit perfectly with what I was experiencing.

Have you ever been excited about something and then told you have to wait for it? It’s like when your friend tells you, “Ooo remind me to tell you something later.” You’re just left thinking, okay why did you even bring it up?? [GUILTY]

The next four days were difficult. I cried a lot but remained hopeful that everything was okay. When I woke up the day before our scheduled appointment, I immediately noticed that I wasn’t nauseous and the sharp cramping was no longer there. At that moment, I knew that Baby Zollicoffer would not be joining us in December. I heard the Lord whisper “restore” and that was it. I woke up my husband and cried the rest of the day.

We often tell God what we’re going to do with our lives. We create our vision boards, and write our goals for the year, which are all good things and have their purpose. In our planning, I believe we forget that the process to obtain what we desire is not always as easy and exciting as it looks in the picture or the words we write down. Yet, the wonderful thing about process is that God prepares us for it. Oftentimes we don’t recognize His preparation until after it happens. On May 23rd, my doctor told us that we officially miscarried. On the same day, a former mentor shared a Facebook memory about her first child who was born on May 23rd. She had an eptopic pregnancy. This year her son would have been in the 6th grade! To date, she’s had eight pregnancies total with three of those children still living. I gained so much hope and strength from her story as I endured 11 hours of intense labor pains to deliver my baby at home.

I am no expert when it comes to loss but I have learned a few things with this experience that I hope will encourage you.

1. Lean into the pain.

“Pain is a growth opportunity. Lean into pain, that’s where bravery lies.” Navy Seal Denver Rourke.

At LeaderCast 2015 Denver shared the inspiring story of his wife delivering their baby. She wanted to delivery naturally without pain medication. As you can imagine this was very painful, but it’s what she wanted. In order to see that precious baby she had to lean into the pain.  We often set up our lives to avoid pain, but pain is absolutely necessary for growth.
2. Seek out support. 

“I am on your team, be on mine.” Emily Lanphier, Lanphiers Remember

We have to remember that women are powerful when we come together. We need each other . When I started sharing with other women, I discovered that so many women in my circle had experienced loss during their pregnancies and wanted to support me. It helped a great deal to know that I wasn’t alone in this. I had a team.

3. Let go and embrace hope. The word “quah” is Hebrew for hope and means “To look eagerly for, to lie in wait for.” Oftentimes when disappointment shows up, my first response is to figure out why it happened. Sometimes God’s answers come swiftly, and other times I’m wondering did He even hear me. Trust me-He hears us and in time He will reveal what we need to know. In order to embrace hope we have to eagerly apply patience.

4. Choose JOY! Laughter was sooo good for me this week! It allowed me to be present and reminded me that God is present with me. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says “So be truly glad.[a] There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

So, what if we were real?? What if we stopped hiding our pain and invited each other in?  We truly have nothing to lose and so much to gain when we let go. Where do you need to release the power of shame in your life? Find someone you can connect with this week. I believe our stories of brokenness will be used just as powerfully as our stories of joy.

Don’t Settle for Pigs

Dating is hard. If you’re single, you know what I’m talking about, and if you’re not, you still have experienced some rocky times on the road to a relationship. Bad dates, awkward encounters, the list goes on and on. Why does it feel so hard to find that special someone? I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest issues is having patience. Ugh–that word. It’s not too sexy. Patience seems blah and boring. It sounds like the opposite of taking charge and being “brave” according to the common perception of the word. Most associate the word brave with “YES.” Saying yes to an opportunity or yes to taking a chance.

My dating experiences have taught me that often the bravest thing you can do is not to say “yes,” but to say “no.” Saying “no” to going farther than you’re comfortable in physical terms takes bravery too, but for this post, I’m talking specifically about saying “no” to a relationship that’s not what you want. I have known dating couples who aren’t truly happy in a relationship, yet they continue to put up with their partner for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons is that they are afraid they won’t find anyone else. I’ve certainly felt this way and it’s contributed to my staying in relationships longer than I should have.

This idea that you won’t find anyone else to love you is a straight up lie. It’s a big fat lie that breeds fear and insecurity.

If you’re with someone who is not treating you how you want to be treated or something just feels “off,” it’s time to say buh-bye.

Realizing this does not mean you’re high maintenance or your expectations are too high. It is being confident enough to know you can have what you want. Maybe not this second, but it’s out there. The saying “there are other fish in the sea” is 100% true. If you caught the wrong fish, say no. Say no to that “off” feeling inside.

Don’t settle for pigs when you deserve pearls.

Be brave enough to realize what you want, be okay with it, and do not settle for less. It might feel like a gamble. But staying with someone you aren’t compatible with is even more of a gamble. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a bet I’m willing to make. Stop believing the lie that no one else will love you. You ARE lovable, and you deserve pearls. God says so, and that’s not a gamble.

 

Receiving Grace

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. The alarm clock went off and I fumbled to quickly silence and get those last few seconds of peace before another hectic day begins. As I started to wake up, I soon realized that this was my backup alarm and I missed my workout, the second time in the past week. Now, if you’re any normal person, this is not a big deal, you dust yourself off and go on with the day. For me that morning, however, it was a bit of a meltdown. I couldn’t believe how I had failed yet again and that this was totally NOT living the hard way (like I had committed to do here), and how was I ever going to reap those long term rewards if I couldn’t even get up for a simple workout. As I ruminated on this, the stress of other events came into my mind and I connected my failure in waking up late to having a negative effect on the rest of my life as well, like my studies, work, relationship, and overall wellbeing.

Stress can do this odd thing to people, where it makes them crazy and overreact to everything. I did it to myself. I was getting too stressed that I forgot that I was blessed. I had tried too hard to lean on my own understanding and my own power, that when I failed, I had no where to go except to beat up myself and “try harder next time.” My closest friends and family told me I was being too hard on myself, and I excused it away in the name of being “disciplined.”

I couldn’t accept the grace that was extended to me, because I couldn’t even give myself grace. It was like I was unworthy of grace and kindness because I had failed. The grace that God offered, and the grace that his children were offering me was undeserved. But that’s kind of the point.

Sometimes you have to be brave enough to humble yourself and receive. Receive the grace that others have to offer, even when you can’t give it to yourself. Receive the service of others, because sometimes you have to be served instead of constantly serving. Receive the love and joy that comes from the forgiveness and kindness of others, especially when it is undeserved.

Receive the grace… even when you can’t give it to yourself.

When I could finally accept that God and others could have grace for me, I was able to have a little more grace for myself. Life is hard and gets stressful sometimes. However, that we can still accept the grace that is extended us to live out this brave journey we are on.

This journey is not meant to be lived alone and most definitely not within your own power. The grace of God and others can bring such joy and depth! Accept the grace today. You don’t have to have it all together.

Ending the FOMO

I’ve had several opportunities to be brave in my life. We all have, haven’t we? Speaking your mind, taking chances, and even talking to a stranger can be exercises in bravery. Recently, my biggest opportunity to be brave involved my post-graduation plans. After studying abroad and interning in New York within a year, all I wanted to be was home. New York was stressful and scary and hectic—and it terrified me. I wanted to spend time with friends and family, and be in a cozy little apartment where I had full control of my life and my environment.

After a summer off, my priority was finding a job. Unfortunately, opportunities seemed plentiful in the place from which I had come RUNNING back to Texas at the end of my internship—New York City. I decided to do one of the things that scared me most and move back. I had some contacts and went in hopes of getting a job within a month or so. The interviews were intimidating. Walking into the corporate offices of companies like Ralph Lauren and Estee Lauder was unnerving to me, but I went anyway. Believe it or not, I was even making my peace with the city. Six weeks and a dozen interviews later, nothing was working out.

Frustrated with the NYC job market, I began to toy with searching in Dallas. Going home might seem like a no-brainer, but I worried what people would think. I didn’t want to be that girl who went to New York with a big dream only to give up. I was embarrassed. I was also afraid of missing an opportunity. In millennial terms, the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) was real.

The flaw in my thought process? FOMO is irrational. No matter where we are, we’re always “missing out” on something else. We can’t be everywhere at once, and that’s okay. It was time to let it go and be honest with myself about my real goal: to find a job. As soon as I deemed FOMO for what it is—(silly)—God opened a door. Within a week of applying for jobs in Texas, I got something.

Stop being crippled by the fear of missing out. Fear-based mentalities won’t help you achieve your goals. (Tweet it!) Instead, channel bravery in your everyday life. You will find the possibilities are endless!”

You can follow Rachel’s adventures

If you would like to share a brave story along your journey, fill out a contact form here!

The Year of “This Is Me”

this is me

This is breakout year!  2015 had uncovered some untruths about my personal value. Hidden in a small shadowed place was the belief that I was only valuable to people for what I could do for them rather than for who I am. Unwittingly, I’ve managed to carry this idea around and view life from its lens for many years. This deep hurt came from past experiences growing up in the confusion of divorce and other factors that I hadn’t fully acknowledged. It’s caused me to shy away and sometimes hide the best parts of me.

My freedom came in the form of telling God that I wanted my self-perception to match His perception of me. In 2016, I am still making that request to God. It’s painful to admit, but I need to find out why certain things bother me so much. When God searches your heart, He leaves no stone unturned. Thankfully our amazing Father knows how to transform us by taking us through different seasons.

This year, or season, is about my identity. It’s not so much about knowing who I am, but rather, understanding what that means. It’s about fully embracing how I’ve been created without apology. It’s about the phrase “I’m too much” no longer leaving my lips. 2016 is a picture of me raising my hands, laughing without embarrassment, pursuing without comparison, and slapping fear with truth.

What would happen if I owned up to everything that makes me who I am and no longer held back? What would my life look like if I valued my voice and shared my thoughts in the workplace? How much more would my business accelerate if I didn’t shy away from opportunities because of a fear of rejection? The exceptional life I want is possible. I want to see it. I want to know it.  I want to live it.

I am finally in a place where I see my value. Now, it’s time to lay it all out there because I am created with purpose. What I have is needed whether I realize it or not. Where have you held back due to a lack of self-value? What stifling lies have you believed about what you’re capable of? Knowing yourself the way God knows you will radically change your life and those who have the fortune of being around you. Choose with me to break out of the mediocrity that fear creates and pursue the real you. The world deserves someone just like you.

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The Hard Way

Remember the hard things you’ve done in the last season to enable you to do the hard things in this season.

As we began our year of 2016, we each chose a theme. After starting to read the book The Entitlement Cure, I chose “The Hard Way” as my theme, and have realized more and more just how fitting it really is and will be for this year.

This past season, I had to make several hard decisions, all of which required hours of prayer, seeking wise counsel and advice from mentors and friends, and the sheer power of the Holy Spirit.

At the onset of this new year, as I chose my theme of “the Hard Way” for 2016, I grew worried of all of the hard decisions I would have to make and how tired and worn out I would be from doing things the hard way. It was like I was mentally preparing myself for a miserable year in lieu of all that had happened the previous year. I was trying to hold myself to an impossible standard of perfection, when all I had actually committed to was a decision making process that produces growth.

Thankfully, as I was nearly in tears on several occasions, I had several of those same mentors and friends who had been through it all with me, remind me of the hard decisions I had already made. I had already started to choose the hard way, braving the unknown over 8 months ago! I simply needed to be reminded of what had already happened and of what I was already capable. Instantly, I felt more secure and able to take on the challenges that I knew lay ahead.

Instead of worrying at the thought of whether I might mess up again, I now remind myself of the hard decisions I knew I had to make and the beneficial and freeing results that have followed.

I am not choosing the hard way because I like it, I am choosing the hard way because I like what it produces. And it produces peace, patience, discipline, security, joy, and so much more that I have yet to discover.

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You too can choose the hard way with me this year. The hard way is

“the habit of doing what is best rather than what is comfortable, to achieve a worthwhile outcome.”

What do you foresee as some hard decisions you will need to make this year?

How can you step forward in bravery to choose the hard way today?

Click over to our Facebook or Twitter and let us know your plans for 2016!

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