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Zeenat G.

Today, Zeenat speaks to us about true forgiveness, a broken relationship that changed the course of her journey and her passion for worship.

Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I was born to parents in the midst of divorce. My dad was abusive. My mom has quite a testimony. From the moment I was born, my parents pretty much had dual custody of me. Well, my mom had my sister and I throughout the week and every other weekend. Our dad had us all the other weekends and half of summer.

Prior to their divorce, my dad had beaten my mom multiple times and attempted to kill her on one account. By the grace of God and His sovereign hand over her, she was able to escape that relationship. But we, we still had to visit him as governed by the court. Visiting my dad meant trying to beat him before waking up and or arriving home. My sister and I would wake up early and ask our grandpa to take us out so that we wouldn’t be home when my dad awoke to go to work and if he was up before us, we’d pretend to still be asleep. This was also something very common for us to do during bedtime. We’d pretend we’d be asleep by the time he got home.

Multiple times he’d hit my sister for no reason, not understanding why she would do certain things. Multiple times, I took the hit for her and would not allow for myself to cry, I didn’t want him to feel satisfied in his doing. Eventually, when he would come to pick me up from my mom’s I would hide under the table, and if I knew he was going to pick me up from school, I would go to the nurse’s office and have them call my mom so she could pick me up because “I was sick”.

When I was 3 years old, my mom met my stepdad, and they married when I was five. The moment I met him, I felt secure; I felt safe. We finally had somebody to protect us, to go to court with my mom, to support her, and to stand up for us against my dad. In a way I felt he was our hero. My two brothers were born soon after. Our family was good; we were tight-knit. We loved sitting around the table, joking during delicious meals my parents had prepared, and just spending time with each other cheering on my brothers on the soccer field. Then, all of sudden, just as soon as he rescued us, our family started to struggle. My parents went through a very difficult time in their marriage. I became the shoulder to lean on, my childhood was taken back from [me] yet another time. I played the role of the mediator between them.

Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: There are so many biblical passages that are inspiring, and I’d say I go through different phases clinging to different ones. Currently, Psalm 46 is where it’s at for me. For me, it’s a big ol’ promise of security and comfort that can only be found in the Lord. There is literally nothing for us to do but be still, that’s all we are asked to do and in return we receive this Mighty God who reminds us He is in control of it all.

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Spiritual growth focus at the moment: Again, there are so many areas I feel He is stretching me in, during this time. One area that sticks out most is letting go of hurt; choosing to release the grip on over-sensitivity. We can say we forgive and still hold up our walls. But what good does that really do? We must remember that the enemy loves to cause division and a wall is just that exactly; a divider. On the other hand, God tells us in His Word that love covers a multitude of sins and that if we are truly His disciples it’ll be demonstrated by the way that we love one another.

The spiritual area of growth He is calling me to is, to let go and love. To overwhelm others with His love instead of choosing to stay stuck in the realm of over-sensitivity and hurt. It gets so easy to point fingers and say, “They hurt me! AND they’re supposed to be believers!” It is a lot more difficult to humble yourself and demonstrate the love of the Father. But the reality is— that is the exact same love He’s demonstrated for each of us. Choosing to love us before we ever loved Him, choosing to love us knowing full well that we would reject Him. I hear His voice through His Word telling me, “Zeenat just love them. Just love them. The same way that you are a human and you fail is the same way that they do. People will hurt you. It is going to happen because they are flawed just like you. You get to choose how you respond. Will you respond with hurt? Will you close up? Will you build those walls, higher, and stronger? Or will you tear them down? Will you break the barriers that divide you all? Overwhelm them with MY love. OVERWHELM them with MY love until there is no other place to go, there is no other way out, but to be immersed in MY love.”

Profession: I am Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). I have the immensely great privilege of working with kiddos and individuals with disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorders and Down Syndrome, as a Clinical Supervisor. I oversee a caseload of various clients, their families, registered behavior technicians, and mid-leveled supervisors making sure they implement and adhere to the Board of Certified Behavior Analysts by providing guidance and consultation on strategies based in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

In short, we are a behavioral science that focuses on implementing positive reinforcement to increase socially appropriate behaviors and decrease socially impeding ones as well as teaching new necessary behaviors that are essential to everyday life (living, communication, social and play skills just to name a few).

If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? His Beloved; Breathing to Worship Him

When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I don’t know how to shorten this so here it goes: My mom would read us the Adventure Bible nightly, as kids. I can remember believing from that moment on that God was real, and that His Son, Jesus came to earth and took on our sins and died in our place so that we may have eternal life through Him. I believed with all my heart that a little Jesus shining brightly lived in my heart but I didn’t live like it.

I love reading and learning, so I had read the Bible in its entirety early on, like I would’ve read any other book. I believed deep down that His Word was true but. It wasn’t until high-school when a true change occurred in my life, and I developed a relationship with God. This is when I truly began living in freedom, freedom from sin and the weight that held me down for so long.

See, when high school started for me, I had daddy issues times two. My biological dad had been abusive, I pretty much escaped visiting him. My second dad (stepdad) had good intentions but couldn’t fill that emptiness in my heart, and I did hold some hurting in my heart. Because the very man who had “rescued” also somewhat hurt us.

I decided to find love for myself. Who would love me? Who would tell me I was beautiful, smart, good enough, that I measured up? That I had value and purpose?

The guy in my Spanish class did. Sophomore year. But only temporarily. You see my parents had given their lives to Christ at this point we were going to church. I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend much less an unbeliever. I tried to convince them. I wanted to “change him”. But he “changed” me. And just as fast at it began he dropped me as if I was nothing.

This destroyed me all the more. I couldn’t believe it, I refused to accept it. People told me he was dumb to throw me away, I could get anyone I wanted. But the way I saw it was if I could then why didn’t he want me? What was wrong with me? This is exactly what the enemy wanted. This was his stronghold over me. This was my sin, my darkness, my garbage that I had held on to so tightly regardless of the stench. I so desperately wanted things to work. I struggled for nearly two years with this. I hated myself, because, “why couldn’t I be good enough?!” I didn’t want life anymore, yet I began to fear death.

See on my walks to and from school I would pray, “God make me love you, make me love you, make me love you.” I spoke to Him in honesty, “Make me love you God because right now I don’t and I want to.” He heard my cry for help and he responded. He said, “Daughter, I love you. I want you just as you are. Come to me, let me hold you. I will heal your wounds and mend your heart you longer have to look for love, for I Am Love.”

How has your relationship with Him changed you? It changed EVERYTHING! I am now a new creation in Him. My past has been erased, now I have hope and a future, I get to have eternal life. Above it all I have a RELATIONSHIP with MY CREATOR!

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

John 14:3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

What has been the darkest time in your life, and how did you see God in it? I’d say the darkest time was my life without Christ. I saw that He had always been with me, for me, and all around me. He was always in pursuit of me and my heart.

Psalm 18:16: “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
      he drew me out of deep waters.”

What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Reading, hearing, and singing out the Word. I literally have to live in the Word. I need to be in it day and night; it is my sustenance. I just cannot out without it. Spending time reading His Word, praying, worshipping, and living it out His Word in obedience in every way possible. Taking in the Word through all the senses I possibly can. Bible reading, listening to worship, singing worship, praying, listening to studies via podcasts or YouTube, and in person in church, as well as reading Bible studies or other Christian living books and podcasts.

Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I love reading and learning, so there is always something I’m currently reading. In my personal one-on-one time, I am in the Bible book of Isaiah. I just wrapped up reading the book of John along with an online women’s ministry called, She is Redeemed, led by my friend Jocelynne Rivera.

In the mornings, I like to start with a devotional which I’m reading in, Live Fearlessly: A Study in the Book of Joshua (Fresh Life Series) by Lenya Heitzig & Penny Rose. In the evening, I’m reading the Open Your Bible Study by the She Reads Truth Community led by Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams. Lastly, whenever I can squeeze in enough time, I am reading the She Reads Truth book by Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams.

Top three essentials: People: Jesus, my husband, my family. Items/things: My Bible, my husband’s piano playing, my Omnia water bottle – if I could add a fourth, I’d say Chapstick, I can’t sleep without it.

How did God speak to you recently? Through intentionally and actively seeking His Word. These are a couple of the words He’s been speaking into my life:

Be intentional in overwhelming others with MY love (see question 3)

There is power in MY name, don’t forget it. It is not only shield but also a weapon. You have the authority through the power in MY name to declare for fear, anxiety, vertigo, COVID, the enemy, people, governments and anything else in this world to bow to MY name; they all must surrender and bow before me. Nothing has power over your life but His name alone.

The end is not really the END but the BEGINNING.

“Nothing has power over your life but His name alone.”

Hobby: Singing, reading, drawing, and writing/photography in that order. Truly anything that involves creativity and an aesthetic appeal. What can I say? Pretty things are pretty.

Working out with my brother is another big one. It is such a great outlet, not only physically but mentally, as well. Nothing like releasing through lifting heavy things. All those endorphins! Strength training certainly does help to uplift my mood and clear my mind. I love to blast me some worship music as I lift weights. The worship pumps me for lifting while the lifting pumps me to worship; singing it all out at the top of my lungs! It’s also where some of our deepest conversations have been taken place.

“I love to blast me some worship music as I lift weights.”

Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:

Read your Bible! If you’re not reading His Word how else will you know the voice of your Shepherd?!

John 10:27-28: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

Obedience is how we demonstrate our love for God. Don’t just read and know the Bible but actually live out what it calls for you to do. The more you practice what it says, the stronger you become. No matter how much of a sacrifice it may be, you must exercise the muscle of obedience if you want to be spiritually strong.

John 14:15: “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

1 John 3:24 “Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

John 8:51: “Truly, Truly, I say to you, If anyone keeps my word, He will never see death.”

Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray first! Pray during! Pray after! And Pray some more! Know that He answers prayer through His Word.

Jeremiah 29:12: “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”

Favorite person in scripture? Jesus of course! He died for me. He pursued me. He saved me. He gives me eternal life and He loved me first.

And Rahab- how amazing is it that this prostitute hears of the God of Israel and all the wonders He has done AND chooses in a moment’s second to believe it as truth. She steps out in one act of faith, and He not only saves her but crushes her whole old lifestyle. He not only redeems her, erases her past, but makes her part of Jesus’ lineage.

If I’m not mistaken, back then, the houses were built into the walls of the town. So when Joshua and his army came marching around, the walls of Jericho come down, AND so do the people and their homes. I believe He gave her a fresh start when the walls came down. So that no one would come to her saying, “Hey Rahab! Do you still offer services?!” or “Hey, I know your struggling this month, I’ve got (blank amount of money).” Her whole old lifestyle is crushed. She gets to start over. That’s the kind of God we serve. The God who forgives and forgets the moment we step out in faith. The God that doesn’t hold our sins against us. The God that doesn’t remember us by our sins. The God that gives us new life and a new name. The God of second chances and more.

“That’s the kind of God we serve. The God who forgives and forgets the moment we step out in faith.”

What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? I’d like for them to be unequivocally certain of His existence and His love for them. That my life would be proof of the living God. That they’d come to learn that He is so madly in love with them that there isn’t anything He wouldn’t do for a relationship with them. May they learn to want to love Him back; that there is nothing they wouldn’t do for a relationship with Him.

Favorite holiday? I don’t really know. I thought it was Valentine’s Day. I like the cutesy décor chocolates, and just the whole idea of it. I mean c’mon it’s a holiday dedicated to love. Who doesn’t love, love?! But the more I try to decide on a favorite holiday, I realize that they’re all my favorite (minus Halloween). I just love to celebrate all the little things, victories, and successes. Any chance I get to celebrate, I will.

A goal you have? My goal is to always be student of the Bible so I can in turn always be a teacher of the Bible, AND I’d like to be able to quote Bible verses with the same rapid-fire Ben Courson does.

Question you will ask when you get to heaven? So ever since I was a kid, I’ve been saving up my “can I a touch a cloud?” question and “when did I make you most proud in our relationship together on earth?”

Thing you want to raise awareness about: Jesus and the opportunity for life after death through Him. People need to know that they ha[ve] the option of where they spend eternity, and Jesus has made a way for them to live again.

Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Autism Awareness!

If you’ve met one person with Autism you have literally met ONE person with Autism. It is a spectrum disorder meaning diagnoses range from high to low levels of functioning. You can’t determine Autism by looks; no one looks like they have Autism. Some with Autism can be nonverbal others are very verbal! Seeing the world differently makes them differently abled. Each person with ASD is very different. Many are outstandingly brilliant and have their own areas of expertise. It’s actually one of the most amazing things I have ever seen! Sometimes not picking up on social cues and norms actually allows for them to be advanced and talented in other various forms. In others ASD can be severe and daily life skills are a struggle. There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing them succeed and accomplish goals. I love each and every toddler, kiddo, teen, and young adult with ASD that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with to pieces🧩 they’ve taught me so much and have impacted my life in so many ways. Every single one of them is unforgettable💙

1 in 54 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

1 in 34 boys and 1 in 144 girls

3 core symptoms of Autism: deficits or delays in communication, socialization, and the occurrence of repetitive or restrictive behaviors

Early intervention is key!

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and therapies based on its principles are the most researched and most commonly used behavioral interventions for Autism.

Other therapies that are beneficial are speech and occupational therapy.

What does your morning routine consist of? Prayer with my husband before he heads out for the day; Reading my devotional while I enjoy a cup of honey lemon tea; Taking my vitamins C (the EmergenC: orange, tangerine, raspberry ones, they taste so good!) and D; Eating a bowl of oatmeal made with coconut sugar + strawberries and blueberries; Washing my face and moisturizing with Belif’s The True Cream Aqua Bomb; As I get ready, doing my hair and makeup for work, I’ll pick a Bible study to listen to on YouTube by either Pastors Ben Courson, Jack Hibbs, or Marie Silva; Check my work emails and respond + doing wellness checks with all of the families and staff I work with; Once I’m in my car and on my way to my first client of the day I’ll either listen to worship music or pop on a podcast. Some podcasts I’m currently enjoying are:

-The Honest Pod with Karrie Scott Garcia & Shara House;

-Bought + Beloved with Kirby Minnick;

-The Real Life Podcast with Jeff & Alyssa Bethke; and

-Fierce Marriage with Ryan & Selena Frederick.

What is on your nightstand? On my nightstand, you can find a candle with Proverbs 3:5 printed on it, a lamp, my Bible and a highlighter, a stack of 3-4 books, and my phone and apple watch charger.

Define Christianity in a sentence: Victory over death through a true and obedient relationship with Jesus that starts here and now, carrying into eternity.

For more Zeenat:

Instagram: @zee.laurel and @art.zeelaurel

Until next time, keep witnessing!

XX

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