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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!

What happens when we run towards the danger.

Last night I had the opportunity to hear from national best selling author Donald Miller at the Hope Center for Kids gala. His presentation was a God-wink from Heaven. The term God-wink became popular in 2002 thanks to a book called, “When God Winks.” It is basically what some people would call a coincidence or a moment of certainty.  I knew this was a God-wink because what he was sharing helped me tie together the story I had planned to share on Brave Avenue today.

Donald Miller spoke eloquently on how we have the choice to wake up everyday and write the story that we want to live. He likened our lives to the process of writing a movie. Movie writing is basically a recycled story-line that can be told with four different perspectives.

  1. Victim- this character does not change or evolve, their part is very small and not memorable.
  2. Villain- villains are characters who do not process their pain and as a result they are constantly seeking revenge on the people who hurt them.
  3. Hero- this character is usually broken, filled with self-doubt, and not sure if they can get the job done. They also learn from their pain.
  4. Guide -this is the most important role! This character has already won the challenge and their mission is to help others transition from victim to hero to guide.

As I reflected on Donald’s talk, I thought of my kids favorite character from the movie, “Home.” It is a little alien named OH.  In the movie you get to see how OH was taught to not care for others and to run away from danger. Essentially, he lives like a victim until he meets a brave little girl named, Gratuity Tucci. I have watched this movie a trillion times yet I always cry when OH has an ‘ah ha’ moment about his life and chooses to do something that instantly changes his story.

…..he runs towards the danger.

When you choose to run towards danger (emotional pain, tragedy, uncomfortable situations, etc., you are showing your willingness to confront pain or situations head on. This takes a great deal of risk, but the good waiting on the other side of the pain is worth defending the process. When you look back months, weeks, even years you will see that the pressure from enduring the process was so small in comparison to what you actually received. This is something God continues to show me through the healing process of my miscarriage. I am in awe to still be learning so much from the experience months later. God knew losing my baby would hurt me, but He has been so faithful to me in the process as I intentionally run towards the danger (pain). I know that as I continue running, I will be able to help other women who endure the same pain.

As we go into the last quarter of this year, I encourage you think about the story you are writing for your life. Do you want people to know you as a victim or someone who sees the setup for their pain as a way to help others rise up?  I am choosing to be a guide in my story!

What story are you writing for your life today-are you the victim, the villain, hero or the guide?

 

The Hard Way after 9 Months

I have now decided that I am a firm believer that boundaries can unlock freedom and creativity of the mind and spirit. If we were just handed everything, there would be no innovation, no struggle to find a better way, and no victory! Because people are unsatisfied with the way things were, we have so many great inventions, tools, businesses, technology, websites, and services. They learned the Hard way, and decided that they wanted to create a future that didn’t have to deal with the same hard realities, but would learn and discover new ways to improve and build. Those individuals wanted their ceiling to be our floor, and for countless people, it has been just that. However, while the general population seems to be quick to learn technology tricks and standards from the previous generations, we tend to forget the spiritual, emotional and relational battles that the generations before us have already fought. We find ourselves in the same positions as many who came before us, and often end up worse. Why is this?! 

We don’t let someone’s hard way become our easy way. We have to do it the hard way ourselves. Now some of this is human nature, I get it. We have to try and fail sometimes and eventually we learn what it takes to succeed and are better and stronger because of it. However, what if I actually listened to my mom or observed the way she grew and progressed emotionally and spiritually and set my floor at her ceiling? What if I stood on her shoulders instead of trying to look her in the eye? What if I used the wisdom she gained and applied it to my own life?

We do too much talking, instead of asking questions of our elders and listening! 

I’ve tried to do this more in the past week. Asking and listening. Learning and making wise, but necessary changes. It’s hard! 

While I have had my losses and victories of living the hard way the past 9 months, the question within me is this: how can I live a “hard way” lifestyle and still stay sane? 

I am reminded of the quote that we heard at the global leadership summit, “learn from everyone, live like no one.”

We can all learn from each other in some way, but none of us should try to copy the way another lives! For a while, I tried to live the hard way how someone else knew and described it. Now, I think I am finding my own hard way. What is yours? 

To Be Or Not To Be…You

This year has been about pursuing “This is Me”, my identity. Since I’ve invited God to show me who I am, it’s been a heavy battle of letting go of what I’ve believed about myself in exchange for the truth of who He has already created me to be.

If I’ve always been who He says I am, then the question I have to ask myself is: What has kept me from fully embracing it all this time? I believe that false humility has played a significant role in my denial of who I am. False humility hides behind an incorrect perception of humility. False humility is pride cloaking itself as humility. For example, do you often disagree with people when they pay you a compliment or have some kind of rebuttal? Yep, that’s false humility.

I think there is a constant underlying fear of either being perceived as arrogant or not being good enough. In reality, true humility admits the truth. Pride blinds, distracts, and slows down the process of growth. I’ve said in the past that it’s not the truth that hurts but the removal of pride that leaves a powerful sting.

While reading a book called ‘The Marketplace Paradigm”, I realized that I never gave myself permission to be successful. Some part of me withheld the possibility of actually seeing my visions come to pass. It was a turning point in my thinking. I decided that I’m finished pretending I can’t have it all. I am supposed to dream big and have the audacity to believe it can be done. I’ve had to admit that I’ve placed limits on my God-given potential.

It is never too late to get it. God has been waiting for this moment. He has been waiting for you to align yourself with the truth and allow it to set you free. In this freedom you don’t count yourself out and decide that someone else is more qualified. In this freedom you assume that He has set you up for success.

I finally admit that I am a gifted artist and speaker. I challenge you to no longer ignore the compliments and affirmation that come your way. People notice what you are good at and have a tendency to tell you. Ask a co-worker, friend or family member to tell you what they see in you. There is nothing that you lack in gifts. They point you to who you are.

What visions have God played on repeat all your life? What are you passionate about? Take a moment to wholly accept who you are and give yourself permission to just ‘be’. Don’t let false humility get in the way. It’s time to finally admit how truly incredible you are.

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.

Bittersweet Beginning

Have you ever had one of those moments where you just surprised yourself? You go about your life each day, probably doing the same thing, the same way until one day you make a conscious effort to go off the beaten path and you find an unexpected joy! That is exactly how I felt after completing the first semester of the Fashion Ambassador Program through Kleveland Clothing.

I remember talking with my husband about the class. It was the night after our miscarriage and for some reason I felt like it was time to go off the beaten path. I had allowed fear to make many decisions for me. Often those decisions left me feeling dissatisfied, but not that night. I made a conscious decision that I would no longer hold back when it came to my gifts and talents. In that same breath, bravery replaced fear and I registered for the class. Every weekend I was immersed in a class where I learned how to design, sew, and given the freedom to simply create. It was truly the highlight of my week during a difficult season. Through loss, something else was birthed- the creative being that has been waiting to come out for years.

What about you? Is there a fire kindling slowly in your heart? Maybe it’s time to fan the flame a bit more. You are a creative being with gifts that are waiting to explode and bring joy to those around you. My Brave sister, it’s time- time to give yourself permission to be you, to make mistakes, to try the things you’ve always been interested in. It’s time to give yourself permission to actually BE great! I promise, if the dreams will not stop it’s because they were meant to be. We can never evade them. Let’s dare to go deep and trespass beyond the walls of our fear to find the glorious, unexpected, adventure in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s our Anniversary! 

Brave Avenue was officially established on this day last year!!

I started this blog as a way to start living my Brave adventure inspite of obstacles and deep rooted fear. I wanted my daughter to have an example of a brave woman to learn from and hopefully be proud of one day. This year has been marked by incredible moments as well as challenging (growth) moments. We’ve read and shared stories from beautiful women. We’ve laughed and cried together. Someone once said it is powerful when women get together and I wholeheartedly agree.  New things are coming to close out 2016; thanks for staying with us.

In honor of our anniversary we are hosting a giveaway. Share your bravest moment of 2016 for a chance to win a Brave Avenue gift box!

1. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram.

2. Share your story and tag #braveavenue in your post. 

3. A winner will be chosen next week!

Be BRAVE with your life,

Candy 

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.

(net)WORK IT, girl!

Networking. For the social butterflies among us, it’s like a walk in the park. But for others, it’s quite daunting…more like a walk in the desert. If you identify with the latter, keep reading.

I grew up somewhat socially awkward. I like to think I hid it well. If you ask people who have known me a long time, I bet they’d say I always seemed comfortable and nice. The truth is, I’ve spent most of my life being uncomfortable in social situations, and I don’t think this is very unique. I made a habit of not being myself or failing to speak my mind because I was afraid people wouldn’t like me. I was also deathly afraid of looking stupid or saying the wrong thing.

In short, I cared way too much about what people thought of me, so much so that I found it difficult to make great connections. Meeting people was more of an anxiety-filled experience than a transformative and interesting opportunity. Making connections is a crucial part of personal and professional success, and the fear I was experiencing is extremely detrimental.

The problem with my previous mode of operating in social situations is that it was very inward focused. I put more emphasis on protecting myself from embarrassment instead of the conversation itself. This resulted in a lot of shallow acquaintances and my hardly remembering what was said. Conversing AND analyzing someone’s opinion of you simultaneously is like invisibly texting while they are talking. Which we can all agree is #rude.

 

Speaking to another human being is not the time to multitask. They deserve your brain’s full attention, so put your focus off yourself and onto what they are saying.

Without fear, you don’t have to worry about someone having a negative opinion of you. Imagine meeting someone and having no question in your mind whether or not they will like you. Imagine focusing 100% of your attention on what is being said and having your mind freed up to be fully engaged. Imagine your goal being this: to make that person feel heard, important, and interesting.

Maya Angelou has a great way of describing this: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

So today, decide to stop being afraid of what people think of you. Be brave enough to reach out and boldly approach people you meet, without fear of judgement. Know that your opinions are worth sharing and give up the fearful mentality that gets in the way of powerful networking. No matter your goals, adopt this mentality and (net)work it, girl!

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