Are you there, God? It’s me, Christina

Images found on Pinterest.  Hand of God by Younsung Kim.

Photo Credits: 1) Paige Locke 2) Hand of God” by Yongsung Kim 3) evangelismcoach.org

I feel compelled to begin this post with a disclaimer: this is a meaty, murky subject of which I have limited experience and knowledge. I’m not a theologian, a philosopher, a clergy member, a spiritual leader, or a devout yogi.  I’ve never checked myself into a monastery, a nunnery, or an ashram to sit in silence and experience nirvana for days on end.  The closest I’ve come is spending a (noisy) week at Bible camp in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, as a kid and then a (less noisy) week at a Six Senses spa in Thailand as an adult.   The only nirvana I’ve experienced is the one that smells like teen spirit.  I’ve always subscribed to the Christian faith, but I’m your typical lay person:  highly flawed with a faith that has waxed and waned over the years.  So now you can decide whether or not to continue reading…

Despite my lack of credentials and spiritual shortcomings, I am a truth-seeker, a contemplator, a self-improvement junkie, and, most importantly, a believer.  Stripped of my ego’s domination, I’m a sensitive soul who wants to be a channel of God’s peace and love in this world.  I yearn to know more about God and feel His* presence in my life.  I strive to be more God-conscious even though I’ve struggled to grasp what it actually means and how to achieve greater consciousness.  My desire to be more God-conscious often feels like an unattainable goal, like trying to run like a Kenyan when my body is built like a Swedish farm girl.  And yet, and yet, and yet…. I hear God whispering that it’s within my reach if I can learn to drown out the noise of our Earthy world and tune into His universal vibrations…the whole notion of “being in this world, but not of this world,” if you know what I mean.

Does hearing His whispers mean that I’m already God-conscious?  I think so. From my limited “earthly” understanding, God resides within us and we can access His presence anytime.  Each of us possesses the power to achieve God-consciousness, also known as a higher consciousness or transcendentalism.  This is a core belief of most faiths, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha’i, etc.   Just like the lesson Dorothy learned in “The Wizard of Oz” when Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy that she had the power all along and only needed to learn it for herself.  Close eyes, click heels, return home… Sounds simple, doesn’t it? So, why does it feel so frickin’ difficult???  I can point to experiences where I’ve felted His strong presence, such as the moment my mom entered eternal life, during a few deeply blissful meditations, and while worshiping to music.  I’ve also witnessed His miracles, and how He has answered prayers in the most unbelievable, inexplicable, mind-blowing ways.  These experiences have stirred my soul enough to CRAVE His presence just like I crave Trader Joe’s mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups… MORE PLEASE!!  Whenever I feel that God-consciousness eludes me, I consider all of the “evidence” of His presence, and remind myself of the ways I can satiate my craving through prayer, meditation, writing, and music.  So, I know it’s possible… yes, it’s possible.

But let’s face it… I don’t live in a constant state of serene meditation and prayer. In fact, my daily life is quite the opposite of serene: it’s chaotic, often unpredictable, and quite MESSY.  I usually wake up at the crack of dawn, after a night of tossing and turning, with a tiny human attached to my back or belly.  My sweet little Toots wakes up between 6-7 a.m. with a list of three year old demands: “Mommy, I need to go potty! Mommy, I want juicey please.  Mommy, watch Dora.  Mommy, I want clothes NOW.  Mommy, I want (fill in the blank).” I stumble out of bed, completely sleep-deprived, with God-consciousness as the FURTHEST thing from my mind.  I move around on auto-pilot, with my talkative ego dominating my mental chatter.  I’m aware that my thoughts are often small—I mean, embarrassingly petty and trivial—and my early morning emotional state is best described as “fragile.”  My day continues at warp speed while I juggle my son’s needs with household chores, meal preparation, errands, exercise, and my part-time coaching business.  Listening to contemporary worship music while driving 65 mph down the highway and sipping herbal tea is about as close to enlightenment as I get. In a blink of the eye, it’s time to give Toots a bath, read him a few stories, and put him to bed.  At the moment, bedtime involves lots of crying and protesting, followed by lying on the floor next to his bed until he falls asleep, and then eventually letting him sleep in our bed when he wakes up screaming.  My time to meditate and pray is reduced to a few minutes as I’m falling asleep and groggily giving thanks for our day, the miracle of Toots’ life, and His many blessings.  Then wake up, and repeat!

No surprise that I don’t feel particularly God-conscious…

So, how do I become more God-conscious while still going about with daily life?  I wouldn’t be much of a wife, mother, friend, or professional if I spend my days sitting in a meditative silence.  God certainly hasn’t called me to monkhood!  The only answer is this:  to slow down enough to listen to those whispers I hear and honor them… to slow down enough to notice all of the ways He speaks to us through nature, the people around us, and experiences…to slow down enough to savor the present moment without agonizing over the past or worrying about the future.  In my last post, LEAP! with your Heart, I referred to this inner voice as my heart, but others may call it their instinct, intuition, or gut feeling.  Regardless of the label we choose to describe this inner wisdom, this is God’s voice speaking to us.  He’s not the voice of shame, fear, anger, disappointment, or worry—gals, that’s your ego talking.  He’s (or She’s) the gentle voice inside us that encourages and empowers us, that loves us just as we are today, fabulously flawed.  When we let His voice flow freely, we experience His divine grace: a love like no other, a peace everlasting.

What I’ve come to understand as I’ve crafted this piece is that tuning into your inner wisdom IS God-consciousness.  We needn’t look outside ourselves to find it—it’s a gift, always accessible without any strings attached.  God wants us to be the uniquely beautiful, talented women that He created us to be.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect and is quick to forgive our shortcomings.  He calls us to slow down enough to listen to our hearts and trust this voice to guide us in every aspect of our lives.  He challenges us to stand in faith…to trust and be patient… to believe…to be grateful…and to dream big.

*Note: I’ve used a male pronoun for God, but I actually don’t believe God is a “she” or “he.”  Some writers use “it,” but that didn’t feel right either.  God is God!

(Keep scrolling down for Discussion Questions/Writing Prompts)

Found on Pinterest

Found on Pinterest


Discussion Questions/Writing Prompts:

What does God-consciousness or Higher Consciousness mean to you? How do you connect with God or your Higher Power?  Think about some examples of when you’ve experienced God-consciousness, enlightenment, or however you wish to describe that awesomely peaceful feeling.

What daily challenges do you face in connecting with God or your Higher Power? What tips can you share with me and other women for listening to God’s voice (aka your heart, your inner wisdom, your intuition)?

As you become more God-conscious, tuning into that voice, what are you being called to do? What’s one action you’d like to take towards that calling?

For my fellow Christians, when I’m in need of shot of God-consciousness, this is one of my favorite You Tube videos to watch of Kim Walker-Smith singing “Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here.”  And when I’m feeling like I’ve totally lost the connection, well then it’s time to watch Worship Mob’s cover of “Say Something I’m Giving Up on You.”

Mrs. Zini’s Final Lesson

 

Bonnie Marie Zini 9/26/1947-4/22/201

Bonnie Marie Zini
9/26/1947-4/22/2010

Five years ago, my beloved mom entered eternal life on April 22, 2010.  In memory of her life on earth, I decided to share her “final lesson,” which I wrote and delivered at her memorial service.  It’s not an eulogy- it’s a reflection of what I thought my mom would want me to share as we celebrated the end of her earthly life and the start of her eternal life.  Five years later and her final lesson still rings true for me… it’s so full of joy, hope, and promise.  Regardless of your faith, I hope this story brightens your day and brings you a little closer to God!

XOXO

Christina


 Mrs. Zini’s Final Lesson

Written by Christina Zini and delivered on 4/27/2010

Let’s begin with a prayer because that’s how my mom would have wanted us to begin…

Heavenly Father, thank You for this day and giving us the opportunity to celebrate my mom’s life together.  Thank You for the gift of Bonnie.  Thank You for her 62 years on earth, especially the miracle of the last 8 years.  Thank You for bringing such an amazing woman into each of our lives- we are so blessed to have known and loved Bonnie, particularly my Dad, Angela and me.  Thank You for bringing her home to You and giving her the gift of eternal life.  Although we miss her so much, we are comforted in knowing that Bonnie is in Heaven with You, free from pain and suffering, and full of infinite joy.  Amen.

Wow, wow, wow… thank you all for being a part of this special celebration of my mom’s life.  I’m deeply touched to see so many of you here today, and I know my mom is smiling down from Heaven upon us.

As you all know, my mom was an incredibly special woman with tremendous courage and enduring faith.  Although my mom had many talents, she was ultimately born to teach.  Not only did she teach a variety of subjects to her elementary school students, but she also shared her knowledge and abilities with her colleagues, friends, and family.  She taught us so many valuable lessons about life simply by being Bonnie– she was loving, kind, thoughtful, considerate, generous, courageous, trust-worthy, self-less, gentle, humble, fun, intelligent, artistic, vibrant, genuine, inspirational…I could go on forever about her attributes as she was one of God’s earthly angels!

Alas I do not intend to stand before you this afternoon and summarize the highlights of my mom’s life or tell you what you already know about this extraordinary woman.  Prior to my mom’s passing, my mom and I talked about what I would say at her memorial service.  This conversation took place less than two weeks ago in a rather unusual setting as we laid next to each other in the back of her car in the medical center’s parking lot.  My dad had his own medical appointment prior to my mom’s final appointment with her oncologist.  So, while we were waiting for him to return, I climbed into the back of the car and laid next to my mom for a brief, yet significant, mother-daughter chat. We rolled down the windows to enjoy the fresh spring breeze and stared up through the sunroof at the perfectly blue sky.  I curled up next to her, holding her hand and stroking her soft cheeks.  I told her that I knew she was going to Heaven soon. I told her that I was going to miss her terribly, but I accepted that God was calling her home.  I then asked her if I could speak here today and what she’d like me to say.  From that brief discussion, I then formed Mrs. Zini’s final—and perhaps most significant—lesson to share with you today.

First and foremost, my mom wants you to know and love our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  One of her favorite Bible versus is John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  If you are blessed to have one of her beautiful hand-made driftwood crosses, you will know that she wrote “John 3:16” on the back-side of each one as a reminder of God’s love for us and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

My mom always encouraged me to talk with Jesus about anything and everything- she’d say, “Just talk to Jesus as you go about your day.  He’s listening and He will guide you.”  Whenever I turned to my mom with a problem, she’d tell me, “Just pray about it, honey.”  I must admit that this answer often exacerbated me, but I know that she was right.  Perhaps even more compelling than simply telling me to pray about my worries was witnessing how she responded to her own challenges in life.

My mom was the ultimate role-model for believing in God, casting her cares upon Him and trusting His plan for her life.  As the cancer spread through her body, her trust in the Lord grew even stronger.  She drew strength from Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” She held steadfast to her faith, and did not fear dying as she believed in God and His promise of eternal life.

Astonishingly, upon reading an essay she wrote after losing her father at the age of sixteen in 1964 and a letter that she wrote to Angela and me in 1974, I discovered that my mom possessed an uncommon life-long faith: she’d been turning to God since she was a young girl.  In her letter written in 1974, she wrote, “You should never fear death. Love life and live it as deeply as possible when it is your time, but think only of death as the birthday of your eternity.”  My mom continued on by writing, “We shall all be together in a bliss which only the blessed with God know.”

Mrs. Zini so very much wants all of us to join her in eternal bliss- she hopes that her unwavering belief in God will inspire all of us to get to know Jesus a little better each day so that we can join her in Heaven someday.

Secondly, beyond knowing and loving Jesus, my mom wants each of us to discover God’s purpose for our lives.  Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Easier said than done!”  But, in essence, discovering God’s purpose for your life is quite simple.  Think about your strengths, talents and knowledge.  Think about how you excelled as a child.  Think about your passions and interests.  Think about what makes you special and unique.  God blessed you with these attributes because He wants you to use them here on earth.  The best way you can serve the Lord is by sharing the gifts that God has given to you with those around you.  When we share our talents, God rejoices—and He opens up even more opportunities for us to shine.

Sometimes, God’s purpose for our life is related to our current circumstances.  He may choose to present us with seemingly insurmountable challenges, such as cancer.  As the expression goes, God never gives you more than He knows you can bear.  So, when you are given a heavy load to carry, that means that God thinks you are capable of confronting this challenge with courage, hope and perseverance.  He’s giving you the opportunity to lean on Him and strengthen your faith.

Again, my mom is a great example of a person who understood God’s purpose for her life.  My mom knew that God wanted her to be a teacher and blessed her with the skills, talents and knowledge to succeed. In turn, she had an uncanny ability to quickly identify her students’ strengths and encourage them to excel. In her Life Inventory, she wrote, “My life has been full of meaning and purpose because I have been able to love and serve my family, my students and my friends through the love of Christ.”

My mom also knew that God wanted her to be His witness here on earth as she bravely battled cancer.  Another one of her favorite versus was Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  She knew that God gave her an incredibly challenging task, and she courageously accepted this mission.

Thankfully, I was able to understand my mom’s interpretation of being diagnosed with a terminal illness. When my mom was first diagnosed with stage III-C ovarian cancer, neither she nor I asked the usual question of “Why?”  We just knew that God wanted my mom to be His witness and an inspiration to those around her.  He trusted her with this critical mission.

In the words of Bonnie’s favorite Psalm, the Lord was her Shepherd and she followed Him accordingly.  My mom served in God’s Army here on earth by following His purpose of her life.  When her mission was fulfilled and God called her home, she fearlessly accepted the death of her earthly life and began her eternal life in Heaven.  My mom hopes that you too will discover God’s purpose for your life, embrace the gifts He’s given to you and bravely face the challenges He may place in your path along the way.

Now Ms. Zini would not be Mrs. Zini if she didn’t spread some joy during this final lesson….  I hear my mom’s voice saying, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice in God’s blessings. God is good!”  As she wrote in her Life Inventory, she wanted her memorial service to be upbeat and spiritually comforting because she is now- and I quote- “sitting at the feet of Jesus, free of Earth’s troubles and beginning my eternal life.” Always so positive and full of light, my mom saw the beauty in everything around her and considered herself exceptionally blessed.  My mom wants all of us to remember how blessed we are—even during toughest of times– and rejoice in God’s grace.

During that precious mother-daughter conversation less than two weeks ago, I asked her how she wanted us to remember her life.  She said, “Tell them I lived a kind, gentle life.”   A kind, gentle life—imagine what the world would be like if we all aspired to live a kind, gentle life?

In closing, I hope that you will always keep my mom’s spirit alive in your heart by remembering the special times you shared with her.  I hope that you will continue to rejoice in the blessing of Bonnie.  I hope you will feel inspired by her life and reflect on her desire for each of us to know Jesus and discover His purpose for our lives.

Let’s end with a prayer because that’s what my mom would want us to do…

Dear Lord, thank You again for blessing our lives with Bonnie- one of Your earthly angels who has taught us so much about You and how to serve You.  Lord, help each us to be more like Bonnie so that we too can know and love you, discover our purpose in life and enter your Heavenly Kingdom.  Help us to count our blessings and rejoice, even during tough times. Guide us in living kinder, gentler lives.  Amen.