When All Else Fails: a Year of Surrender

It’s been over a year since I published my last blog post.  I’m well aware of how such a long lapse violates every best practice in the world of blogging.  But I don’t really care…. In our world of constant (digital) connection, sometimes you need to retreat and make space to reflect, feel what you need to feel, and heal.  Disengage from the triggers of Facebook.  Engage in authentic human connection with those who matter most to you, those who accept and love you no matter what.   Write for no other audience than yourself.  Prioritize self-care.  Give yourself permission to FEEL and, eventually, to HEAL.

And that’s exactly what I needed to do in my own time and space, while trusting that I’d know when I was ready to share my heart and soul online.  Over the last year, I’ve been mentally crafting this post about my lessons in surrendering, appropriately titled “When All Else Fails.”  I’ve held off from publishing for a couple reasons.  Firstly, I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of the details, especially those related to my loved ones, so I’ve been experimenting with ways to share without oversharing.   Secondly, I haven’t felt up to the vulnerability hangover I experience with every post, yet I know how much freer I feel when I share and how connected I feel when I discover that I’m not alone.

So bear with me as I delicately dance around certain details from this year of surrender…..

Over a year ago, towards the end of 2015, life dealt us a few unexpected blows in a row.  There’s a saying that “bad things happen in three’s,” which is exactly how it all went down.  First, my husband’s company decided to end their Alaska ventures, effectively ending my husband’s and all of his co-workers’ assignments in Alaska.  We immediately knew this meant we’d be relocating much sooner than we originally anticipated, but we wouldn’t know for a couple months where or when we’d move.  Not long after this announcement, a few of our loved ones shared saddening news with us, which weighed heavily on our hearts.  And then, as the final sucker punch, we miscarried a perfectly healthy baby.  This was our 3rd loss, and last attempt at giving our son a sibling.

To say that I was an emotional mess would be an understatement.  Even now- a year later- I’m still grieving and trying to process what happened at the end of 2015.  At the time, I distracted myself with the day-to-day activities of caring for my then 3 year old, and preparing for our rather abrupt move to Houston.  I couldn’t bear to look at his baby clothes and gear, so, as part of our move prep, I gave most of it away, which was the emotional equivalent of throwing kerosene onto my open wounds and then lighting a match (=white-hot-searing-pain).  Our relocation, combined with the overlapping holiday season, forced me to fake my way through daily life and pretend like I was taking it all in stride.  Looking back at myself, I honestly don’t know how I managed to keep it together as much as I did.  But truth is that I was overwhelmed by intense emotional pain, covering me in a heavy blanket of grief laced with disappointment, anger, and deep–seeded shame.

With 2015 ending so painfully, I realized that my only option was to surrender….to completely let go and trust God’s plan for our lives.  As go-getter who has white-knuckled my way through life, I couldn’t imagine a greater challenge than handing the keys to my life over to God, climbing into the back seat and staring out the window at life’s passing scenery.  At first, surrendering felt like I was giving up… like I was stepping out of the driver’s seat of my car, waving my pathetic little flag, and then lying down in the middle of the road to allow car after car to drive over me.  I felt like a quitter:  beaten down, discouraged, and flattened.  A total f’ing failure.  Being someone who doesn’t give up easily, this isn’t how I imagined my story ending.

Until my coach, Cassi, sent me a short piece written by Liz Gilbert, I struggled to differentiate between quitting and surrendering.  I just didn’t get it until I read this piece and then the proverbial light bulb switched on.  Here’s an excerpt of what Liz wrote about surrender:

“Surrender is what happens when you come to the end of your power. Surrender is what happens when you have searched to the bottom of your soul and found out this truth — which is that you really can’t do this thing anymore. Surrender is what happens when you don’t have any more ideas for how to fix everything. Surrender is what happens when none of your survival strategies work anymore — and your playbook is out of pages. Surrender is what happens when you turn it all over to God. You release your grip on the thing. You stop white-knuckling it. You stop pretending things are great when things are actually horrible. You stop putting on a fake face, or glossing over the problem, or lying. You face the truth that you are not the most powerful force in the universe. You turn it over to fate. You exhale, and let go.

There is always grace in surrender. There is always truth in surrender. There is always a great deal of human dignity in surrender. And what happens next is often very beautiful. You crack open because you have stopped fighting and pretending, and once you do that…anything whatsoever can now occur. Sometimes your true fate can only find you after you have surrendered. As Richard from Texas taught me about cracking yourself open in surrender…well, that where God can rush in. The universe can sometimes only work through you once you have surrendered.”

 

Suddenly, after years of believing that surrendering was just a fancy word for quitting, I experienced my AHA! moment.  This mental shift enabled me to practice true surrender at a time when I had come to the end of my power, when I had run out of options, when ALL ELSE HAD FAILED.  I surrendered to this devastatingly dark place… to my broken, grieving heart… to the uncertainties of our future….to my powerlessness.  I chose SURRENDER as my theme for 2016, and decided to practice the art of surrender whenever possible, trusting everything would work out according to God’s plan.

As the saying goes, “life is a roller coaster,” and 2016 has been no exception.  At the end of 2015, I felt like my ‘coaster went off the rails and bottomed out in the pitch black.  My only option was to surrender to this darkness and trust that I’d eventually find my way back to the light.  As I’ve roller-coastered through 2016, I practiced surrendering to all of unknowns in my life, regularly repeating my mantra of “trust and let go, trust and let go, trust and let go.”  Of course, life continuously tested my ability to trust and let go…from moving to a new city without having a place to live or knowing how long we’d stay… to finding a new home/school/gym/church/social circle/etc… to setting boundaries with family members… to an ongoing dental drama (read: no front teeth!)….. to countless doctor’s appointments and multiple surgeries… to anxiously awaiting results from cancer screenings… to the unexpected ending of a friendship I hold dear… to touring over 70 homes before making an offer only to lose out to another buyer….to having this same house fall back into our laps 10 days later when the first buyer walked away without reason… to the disappointing election results… to planning yet another move over the year-end holidays.. my “surrender” list could go on and on!

Despite the abundant opportunities to practice, I’m still haven’t mastered the art of surrender.  I am–and will always be–a humble student in the “School of Surrender.”  But what I will say is this: There are moments– like the one captured in this photo taken on Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain roller coaster earlier this year– where I am riding in complete darkness and I am fully present, where I am energized and open, where I am free and one with God, where I have complete faith that my ride will bring me safely back to the light. These moments are fleeting–few and far between–but I have experienced them, so I know they are within my reach when I simply let go and enjoy the ride.

Space Mountain, Disneyland Paris, May 2016

PS: I also surrendered to my inner poet, a voice I’ve silenced for many years but desperately wants to express herself.  So here goes…

The Arms of Surrender

She admitted,

without pause,

to be one of THOSE types

who clung to life like a tick to skin

She was known as

a control freak

a white-knuckler

a perfectionista

(and a micro-manager, according to some)

She was both adored and abhorred

for her attention to detail

for her ability to deliver

for her “dedication”

She clung so tightly because

she knew no different

As a girl, this is how she learned to survive

Her persistence even earned her praise

Until one day, she found herself hanging onto the very end of life’s rope

She had tried everything

And nothing had worked

She didn’t know what else to do

But to let go

While she wiped the sweat from her brow, she loosened her grip, just a bit

Lingering here for a moment

Relishing in the tension

Between doing and being

Then she let go

Completely

And as she fell

She released all of the beliefs

which had held her back

which had kept her clinging

to that tangled, knotted rope

She stopped trying so hard to please, to be perfect, to maintain control

She stopped forcing herself to be anything she wasn’t meant to be

She stopped blaming and shaming herself

She stopped feeling like she was damaged goods, broken and irreparable

She stopped believing she was unworthy, undesirable, unlovable

She fell freely,

evenly,

gracefully

through baby blue skies and bruise-colored clouds

through the sun’s strong rays and the moon’s chalky glow

through the Milky Way and the galaxies far far away

And when she landed,

she found herself

lovingly embraced by

the Arms of Surrender

— Christina Zini, June 2016

 


Want to know more about Surrendering?

Surrendering, as I’m learning, is a constant practice…. Like a daily (or even minute-by-minute) practice of letting go of my thoughts, emotions,  desires, anything and everything I’ve got a firm grip on.  It begins with truly experiencing my emotions, not avoiding them or disassociating myself from them, not telling myself that I shouldn’t feel anger/fear/grief/jealousy/etc..  I’ve learned a lot from reading Michael Singer’s books “The Surrender Experiment” and “Untethered Soul.”  I also enjoyed reading John Ortberg’s “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.”  I’ve found practices like prayer, meditation, visualizations helpful. My nightly ritual of writing a “Love/Leave” list in my journal has helped me to capture whatever I appreciated or loved about the day and whatever I want to leave behind or let go of.  Thankfully, my “love” list is always longer than my “leave” list.  I’ve also found yoga, spinning and walking/running to help me release whatever is festering.  I’m also a HUGE believer in and consumer of therapy, acupuncture, and energy work.. but I wouldn’t have come this far in my surrender journey without the support and guidance of my fabulous coach, Cassi Christiansen!

 

Save

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.”

LEAP! with Cassi Christiansen

leap collage 2

(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Howdee Leapers! Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends and happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans! Hope this latest post finds you in the midst of a beautiful summer (or winter depending on your hemisphere.)  Last month, we leaped with Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith as she shared her story of  transitioning from allopathic medicine to functional medicine and the start of her own practice. This month, I’m thrilled to showcase another one of my favorite women of the world:  my mentor coach extraordinaire, Cassi Christiansen of Ulumination!

In late 2011, I discovered Cassi when I was searching for a mentor coach as part of my training with CoachU.  I reviewed a long list of mentor coaches and read Cassi’s short bio, instantly knowing she meant to be my mentor coach. Not only do we share similar values and ways of being, we both left behind lucrative corporate careers to start our own coaching practices AND we both worked very hard to become mamas to our boys.  Not only did Cassi mentor me as I completed my CoachU training, achieved my ICF coaching accreditation, and set up my business, she simultaneously supported me through my pregnancy with Toots, transition to motherhood, and ongoing fertility journey.  Fast forward 3.5 years later, our coaching relationship is still going strong despite having never met in person (we’re working to fix that!).  She’s a woman whom I deeply admire and respect, and I feel incredibly blessed to call her as my mentor coach and profile her in my LEAP! Interview series.

With Cassi being the one who is usually asking the questions, I couldn’t wait to turn the tables and ask her a few deep questions during our recent interview.   Although I already know a lot about Cassi given that we’ve been working together for a few years, I discovered even more similarities as she shared her story of leaving behind her HR VP job to become a coach.  When Cassi shared how she used to feel physically sick every Sunday evening, I remembered my own struggles with anxiety attacks and stress-induced illnesses when I worked as a management consultant and HR professional.  Like Cassi, I was forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t meant to be and secretly suffered as a result of my efforts to succeed at any cost.  As you will hear in Cassi’s interview, she finally took her big leap into coaching after letting go of her fears about money and status and listening to her inner voice which told her to TRUST.   For me, I made my big leap after my mother died when I realized that I simply couldn’t wear the mask any longer.  My inner voice told me to follow my passion for empowering women and realize my own dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and a mother.  What I love about our similar stories is that our leaps were so FAITH-based… we finally listened to our inner wisdom, trusted it to guide us, and became the women we were always meant to be.  What could be more POWERFUL than that????

So, without further ado, I hope you will take 30 minutes out of your day to listen to Cassi’s big LEAP! and read the interview highlights below.   I guarantee she will inspire and motivate you to listen to your own heart and make your next big LEAP!

XOXO

Christina


“When it comes to LEAPING, I would say all leaps must come from the heart so listen to what your heart is wanting you to hear.  And trust it.  Always ask for signs and guidance and once you receive it, take a little leap.  If it’s meant to be, the little leap will lead to another leap and you keep following the little leaps until you finally ready to fly.”

-Cassi Christiansen

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Climbing the Ladder

“I’m a true blooded Oregonian.  I lived in Portland for the first 40+ years of my life in Portland and, then 4 years ago, we made a leap and moved to Bend, Oregon. We moved here just because we wanted to be here and raise our son here.  My career started with my degree in psychology and, when I graduated, there was absolutely nothing I could do with that degree.  I took an entry-level position answering the phones and, after a couple of months, I was then promoted to an entry level HR position. My first task was filing employee paperwork and files, so I literally started out as a file clerk. I then spent the next 14 years moving up from an entry level position to the Vice President (VP) level. I got to a point in my career where I had reached my goals- I was the first female VP and the first female on the Senior Management Team- and thought ‘Now what I am going to do?’  That’s what led me to coaching.  I hired a coach to help me and thought, ‘She has the coolest job ever, I want to do what she does.’ So, I went back to school to become a coach.  Since I was VP of HR, I started an internal coaching program so I could use my gifts and passions within my current role as I had never imagined owning my own business.  However, it didn’t take long to determine that, if I really was going to do the work I was meant to do, I’d have to leave corporate. This was the scariest decision of my entire life.  It took me two years to make my decision because it was so scary to me.  That was about 13 years ago and I have been coaching ever since.  I have built my whole practice around working with leaders who want to share their gifts with the world and make our world a better place.”

Being Pushed to LEAP!

“Leading up to my leap, I had reached most of my goals and climbed the corporate ladder more than I ever imagined was possible for me.  From the outside, it looked like I reached a pinnacle of success, but, on the inside, I was absolutely miserable.  Looking back, I can now see what was going on.  I had set goals which would make me look successful, like ‘I want to be the first female to do these things.’  What I really didn’t think about was who I would need to be to make them happen.  I worked in a good ol’ boy, patriarchal environment, and, to get to a VP level, I really had to be someone that I wasn’t. When we go against who we are, especially for an extended amount of time, it takes a toll on our soul.  That’s what happened to me- I was absolutely miserable.  On Sunday nights, I would literally get sick and vomit just thinking about going back to that environment.  At the time, I would blame the environment I worked in, but now I can look back and see that I was getting sick because I was being someone that I wasn’t.  My body was responding from a physical place by saying ‘This isn’t okay. You’re not being who you were meant to be in this world, and we’re going to give you every sign possible.’  At this same time, I was trying to get pregnant and I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility, which meant that the doctors couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to conceive.  So, I was convinced that my stressful work environment and being someone that I wasn’t were the underlying causes of my infertility.  Being miserable and trying to get pregnant really initiated my leap.  It literally felt like my soul was dying on the vine and that I was being pushed to do something different. I HAD to do something different.”

Getting Over Fears

“Once I found coaching, both for myself personally and then by becoming a coach, I knew that is what I was meant to do, but I was TERRIFIED to make the leap.  I never wanted to own my business because my dad had owned his own biz while I was growing up and it was a nightmare.  I always swore I’d get a steady, secure job with an every other week paycheck and benefits.  As an HR VP, I was making more money than I had ever imagined I could and had my corner office and parking spot.  I had worked for 14 years to reach this level, so I was terrified to give it all up with not knowing what was on the other side.  The other aspect was my ego.  I felt proud to say I was a VP and there was instant credibility in being someone who had ‘made it.’  Plus, I started coaching over 15 years ago when it was still very new.  When I said I was a coach, people would ask me, ‘which sport?’  So going from a VP to a something that no one knew about wasn’t easy on my ego. “

Trusting my Inner Voice

“Once I started coaching people, I knew I couldn’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself as coaching is all about moving through our fears and doing it anyway.  I knew I wouldn’t be as strong of a coach if I didn’t ‘walk my talk.’  I would not be where I am today without the self-development work I did with my coach.  We did the same work that I do with my clients now, focusing on questions like ‘What are my greatest fears? What’s the worst case scenario? Who have I been created to be and what have I been put on this earth to do? Why haven’t I given myself permission to be that person?’  During the two years leading up to my leap, I prayed daily and ask for guidance.  My inner voice kept saying, ‘If you have the courage to do this, you will be taken care of. I heard that same message for two years before I had the courage to believe it, trust it, and then leap.  Without my spiritual beliefs, I would have NEVER had the courage to LEAP.  People always ask me what I would have done differently, and I tell them that I wish I would have listened to my inner voice and paid attention to my body sooner.  This experience taught me to listen and trust myself, so now it doesn’t take me two years to make a decision.“

Co-Creating with Spirit

“I have a constant dialogue with my spirit.  My belief is that we co-create with the bigger Spirit, so it’s not just what I want, but what Spirit wants for me.  I often tap into this when I wake up and say my gratitude prayers for the morning and then I ask Spirit to show me the way, guide me towards what I am supposed to see, and trust what shows up.  I walk a lot outside in nature.  When I’m stuck with a question, I’ll go out for a walk, asking Spirit to show me the way and give me an answer by the time I finish my walk.  It’s hard for me to sit and meditate, so I like walking meditation better.   I also love yoga as it enhances my body’s ability to hear and sense Spirit.  Sometimes, I write in my journal if I need to work through something in a linear fashion.”

Finding support and encouragement

“First and foremost, my biggest supporter was my husband, Jeff.  He married me as a HR VP and enjoyed all the perks that came with a big paycheck and great benefits.  However, within a few years of our marriage, he saw how miserable I was- he would watch me cry and throw up on Sunday nights and remind me that no job was worth that.  He encouraged me follow my dreams even if it meant a huge lifestyle change for us.  Second was my mentor coach, Pam Richarde.  Without her and the work we did together, I would have never leaped.  Thirdly, I worked with a self-employed consultant, Catherine Meeks, at my former company, and she was the first woman whom I truly admired for what she had built on her own.  Because this was the late 90’s, I never had a role model of a female business owner before her.  She believed in me more than I did myself and would always ask me, ‘What the hell are you doing here? Why are you putting up with this?’  Besides these three people, most of the people around me did not support me.  They thought I was crazy for giving it all up and told me that I would regret doing it.  But I think this was important because it made me trust my inner voice and Spirit even more.

Spirit, Lead Me…

“I’ve been coaching now for over 15 years and I still absolutely love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.  My practice has evolved and changed over those 15 years as I used to only focus on working with women leaders but now I work with men and love them just as much.  My work has become much more spiritual as I truly believe coaching is about creating the space for Spirit to work through us.  I’ve been doing more corporate retreats which I love and would love to branch off and start offering more personal retreats that include nature, yoga, and connecting with Spirit.”

Parting Wisdom

“Pay attention to your spirit, your intuition. Listen to that still, small voice which is calling out to get your attention.  Even if you don’t know exactly what it’s saying, take a little bit of action based on what you’re hearing.  Very rarely does anyone go and take a big leap overnight. It’s really just a combination of little leaps that lead you to the big leap.  The world is waiting for you to take those little leaps, and, before you know it, you can take that next big leap.  Don’t lose sight of how important little leaps are, because they help you gain momentum you need to take that big leap.  Even if you’re scared and unsure, please take that little leap and trust that it will take you in the right direction.”

“I believe that we all have been given a special gift and it’s our reason for being on this planet… is to share it and if we don’t share it, we will never live out our full potential and shine as brightly as possible.  So Leap, Shine & Love Yourself through the Journey and know your journey was meant just for you.”

Cassi Christiansen

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Want to connect with Cassi or hire her as your coach?

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.