First and foremost, I have to apologize for my recent blogging absence! I have not forgotten about you all!! From now on, I will be back on schedule with some great posts that are all ready to go!! To say I got a little overwhelmed with all the recent events going on all at once is a major understatement!
So, let me try to catch you up a little bit with the “Cliff’s Notes” edition. 😉
Ashlynn: Baby girl has met some major milestones! She sat up for the first time, unassisted!! (Mommy cried happy tears for like three days) AND she rolled over!! Even MORE happy mommy tears!!!
These accomplishments are HUGE and were exactly what we needed for a little bit of an energy boost. It really gave us something amazing to celebrate and fuel our fire. Also, thank you so much to the family and friends who have been supporting, encouraging, and praying for our princess. We have a long road ahead of us, but to those who are following our journey, HER victories are YOUR victories! Deciding to be so public about something traditionally viewed as “private” was a big decision for us. We are so unbelievably proud of our Ashlynn and we hope that by sharing our story, we can be a part of yours as well. There is strength in community. We are not afraid to speak our truth and show it is absolutely OK to have a different kind of perfect. I can honestly say we are stronger because of you all. Also… can you believe we are planning her first birthday party…NEXT MONTH??! WHAT?!
Next up, Cristiano. Well, Chris has gone ahead and introduced him to scary ghost stories (insert blank stare). Yes. Our three year old is now obsessed with scary YouTube stories. “Thanks, Daddy!!” In all seriousness, he’s really turned a corner in the “amazing big brother” department. This is such a fun age and we’re getting him all set up to start school in September! You know I’ll be a mess when that day comes. He’s been my little sidekick for the last three years and the time is coming to allow him to move into that next more-independent phase. More on that later. Also, he will also be starting outdoor fall soccer! YAY! With a name like Cristiano, how could we NOT give soccer a try!? Aaand we’re also planning his 4th birthday for the end of September! Time is flying right before our eyes at warp speed!
In addition to our family news, I decided to break out the pageant heels one more time. A really great opportunity came up out of nowhere and, after talking with my husband and soul sister, I decided to go for it! Although I partially felt crazy to commit on such short notice! I usually give myself months to prep for something like this, but this time I had only 5 weeks! Hey, no better post-baby fitness plan than having to be in a swimsuit in a matter of weeks…on a stage!! LOL. It was not easy, but it was absolutely worth it. I am so honored to have been chosen as Mrs. USA Universe 2018!! I still have to literally pinch myself. The last two weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of events… with even more “crazy” coming up in the next few weeks. To be completely honest, I welcome it all with open arms.
So, I have been a little busy… but, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a specific experience with you. Not so much about the pageant, even though that was great, but about something much more miraculous that happened to me that week. Let me explain…
One of the areas of this pageant was a 5-minute forum presentation. You basically have 5 minutes to share who you are, your platform work, and your goals for the year. Your audience includes the 5 judges and all the other contestants. Five minutes goes by VERY fast by the way! So, it’s important to have this presentation down to an exact science.
The minute I decided to participate in this pageant, I immediately sat down and began to plan my presentation. I’m usually really great at these things, but for some reason this was like pulling teeth! Nothing flowed, nothing felt right. I had been doing work for my kindness platform for the last 4 years and spoke numerous times about it… why was this so hard now??! After wasting two of my 5 weeks on trying to make it work, I began to reflect and realized what was going on. As my life had drastically changed in the last year, so had my outlook and my heart. My “platform” was evolving. What I had devoted the last 4 years of my life to was no longer my “whole” truth… I was leaving a huge part out.
If I wanted to be successful, l I HAD to speak from my heart. I had to be transparent. And, that meant talking about what we had experienced with Ashlynn. From that realization, I knew what this all meant and why I was brought to this opportunity in the first place. I had been praying for quite some time – for direction – for God to show me what my purpose was in everything that had been taking place in our lives. I had been praying for the path that I was supposed to take. It was finally all clear to me, and I knew what I had to do. And let me tell you, I fought it for weeks. Why? Because I knew it would hurt… and I was absolutely right.
Here I was, given an opportunity for major personal growth and maybe some healing. Sure, I had written about our journey in my blogs before, but I had yet to speak about any of this formally… out loud… to the public… let alone to a room filled with strangers for a judged score?! Was I nuts??! I began to see this wasn’t so much about winning a pageant as it was about me learning how to speak my truth. After all, if God was going to use me in some way, I had to get comfortable talking about the things that make me uncomfortable. More so, I had to trust the path He was leading me on.
I sincerely believe speaking your truth comes from listening to your heart and your God-given intuition. As my good friend Suzy Bootz would say, “Listen to your God Whispers.” Everyone can hear that little voice, but it requires focus. If we allow self-imposed limitations or fears about what others may think to cloud our hearts/ minds, that voice can be muffled. God has a unique plan and purpose for each of us. He has placed words on our hearts and wants us to use OUR voice to share our unique message and make a positive impact on the world. But, this requires leaving behind the urge to seek the approval of others. It’s about stepping over those lies we are told, by others AND ourselves. “You’re not good enough for this.” “Who does she think she is?” “You shouldn’t be talking about stuff like that.”
People who are light bringers, earth shakers, world changers don’t stop to think “Hmmm I wonder if they will like me and my message?” Why? Because it is their real truth. And the truth does in fact set you free. I can whole heartedly say there is nothing more empowering than speaking from your heart. It’s not easy that’s for sure. I practiced for DAYS saying one sentence for my interview, “My name is Nicole Zwiercan and I am proudly the parent of a child with different needs…” Sometimes I would break down and cry, other times, I sounded like a robot… My point is, speaking your truth takes practice. And it takes time to accept our truth and be vulnerable. I still sometimes trip on the sentence “My daughter has Cerebral Palsy.” I actually just did last week in an interview I gave, but I think that is to be expected so early on in our journey. Who knows, maybe that never goes away… but, I do know one thing- the more I say it, the more proud I am… Of my daughter, of my family. We are fighters. SHE is a fighter- and speaking our truth will help so many others that are just like us.
So I guess I should tell you how my presentation actually went. I wish I could tell you I nailed it, but that’s not exactly the case. I didn’t get more than two sentences in before my voice began to shake and my eyes began to water. I started to lose it a couple times…but, I tell you what, I wasn’t the only one. I didn’t give the homerun performance that I had envisioned, but I did for the first time, speak my new truth. And it felt great. I sat back down after it was all done with the biggest sense of relief I’ve felt in a very long time. I knew this was just the beginning to fulfilling my purpose. I know my voice will get stronger and stronger the more I speak, and as I get closer and closer to what I am called to do. It’s all a process and often taking that first step is the hardest part.
If you haven’t already, I want to encourage you to try it. Try speaking from your heart about your truth. I’m not saying you need to sign up for a pageant or even be public with it, but more so, begin exploring your deeper purpose- what’s YOUR story, what’s on your heart?
I leave you with this to think about… If you had to give a 5- minute presentation about who you are, your passions, and what you want to accomplish for your future – what would you say? Go ahead… I can wait!
Then ask yourself, is this your whole truth?