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Shaneen T.

Today, Shaneen shares with us thoughts on how spiritual warfare affects all that we do, a resource that will help you dig deeper into studying scripture, and the (ironic) ways God has spoken to her recently, all explained with great humor and wit.

Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:16-17

As I started my blog this year, this verse has kind of been my motto. Spending time in God’s Word is hugely important to growing in knowledge and faith. And I need to be spending a lot of time with God in His word if I want to be able to share His love with others. You can’t share God if you don’t know God, and you can’t know God if you don’t spend time with Him! I want all that I do to flow out of Jesus, so that means my relationship with him has to come first.

Spiritual growth focus at the moment: Prayer. There was a time where I was constantly in prayer – it was just like second nature to me. Somewhere along the line, I started to get a little slack in my prayer life, so I’m aiming to get back to where I was, and continue growing beyond that. Lately, I’ve been realizing more just how spiritual all aspects of life are, and how spiritual warfare affects everything. I want to be a stronger prayer warrior in my life, my marriage, my family and friendships, my work, and for others. Prayer is so powerful to fight against the enemy, change situations, change our thoughts, and change our hearts. (Also, a really cool God-thing happened! When I decided I wanted to focus more on prayer, littlefaithblog.com released a month long Bible plan with a prayer point to go along with the reading every day. The prompts have been so helpful and encouraging as I try to grow in that area.)

“I’ve been realizing more just how spiritual all aspects of life are, and how spiritual warfare affects everything.”

Profession: I’m a respite worker – a nanny for children with special needs. I work with a family that has three children, two of them with special needs. I help take care of the children, make sure they get to and from school, help with some tutoring, and do some cooking and cleaning and whatever else they need help with. I’ve been working with special needs children since I was in grade 7; it’s been a big part of my life since then. Some days are very hard, but I do enjoy hanging out with those little guys.

I also run The Hoot & Howl blog, which is a blog for Christian youth and young adults to grow in their faith and celebrate their nerdiness! I am excited to grow The Hoot & Howl and see where it takes me.

A one sentence bio of yourself: A quiet, geeky, Jesus-loving girl who loves to adventure or just chill out, as long as it’s with people she loves.

When did you first encounter God? I grew up in a Christian family, going to church every Sunday, and talking about Jesus at home. I became a Christian when I was four and was baptized when I was seven, so my life has been centered around God from the very beginning. Probably one of the first big seasons of my life where I really started to grow in my faith was in my teenage years. A new youth pastor came to our church to lead our youth ministry and he and I clicked pretty much immediately. He made a huge impact on me, challenging and stretching me in my faith. He taught me the importance of worship and also challenged me to spend time with God in ways that I had never done before. He led us in monthly youth worship services where we could sing, dance, write, draw… however, we wanted to worship. But he encouraged us to listen to how God was calling us to worship, and not just stick with what we were comfortable with. One month he gave us a challenge to spend daily time with God. He gave us a specific amount of time for each thing he challenged us to do (which I can’t remember), but I do know that one of the things was to spend some time just being quiet before God and listening to Him. That was something I had never really done before. My youth pastor was a big part of me learning how to really seek God, spend time with Him, and listen to Him.

What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Worship music has been a big part of my life and walk with God in this season. Even when I haven’t been doing a great job of having consistent quiet times and really digging into God’s word, I still try to listen to music and worship as often as I can. I play it as I get ready in the morning and have it on in the background while I work and write. Worshipping at church and throughout the week helps me refocus my gaze on God. I like to pick songs with really powerful lyrics that speak truth about God and help me get my mind and heart in the right place. One song in particular that I’m really enjoying right now is Here As In Heaven by Elevation Worship. It reminds me that my one true desire should be Jesus and all I need is him.

Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I just finished Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson. This sweet girl is such an inspiration! Sadie shares such a wealth of spiritual knowledge and encouragement in this book. Before I read it, I thought the book was mainly geared towards those struggling with fear, but it is for anyone who wants to have a stronger relationship with God and learn to trust Him more. This book reaffirmed the importance of seeking God in everyday life and what a difference it can make in our hearts and minds.

Top three essentials: My Bible – The Word of God is so powerful and meaningful in my life. But even beyond that, I’ve had this particular Bible for over four years now, and many of the pages are filled with underlined verses and notes. It almost feels weird to read a Bible that doesn’t have any of those extra marks in it. I love seeing what has stood out to me in different seasons of my life and the revelations that I have received. My Bible has been with me through a lot in those years, and I love being able to turn to the wisdom and comfort in its pages.

My phone – I am honestly trying to make this non-essential, but it is difficult in the world we live in. I obviously use it to keep in touch with family and friends, but I also use it for social media and blogging. It’s also my radio, camera, map, and a library of comic books. I’m trying to waste less time on my phone, but I think aspects of it will always be essential. (And here is the funny story to go along with that: A day after I wrote the answer to this question, my phone broke. It is almost brand new, and the problem was very strange, so we couldn’t figure out what happened to it. But because it broke, I was without a phone for a couple days. I know that is not really a long period of time to be without a phone, but that initial stress of having to figure out my life without my phone made me realize just how overly dependent on it I am. And I also realized how absolutely freeing it is to leave the house without a phone. I wasn’t worried about checking my phone every five minutes because I couldn’t. I was so able to enjoying time with my friends and family without having a screen in front of my face, and I was so much more focussed at work. So now I really am going to be cutting down on my phone time, and not even keep it with me all the time.)

A friend – I’m not too picky about what we’re doing, as long as I have a friend with me.

How did God speak to you recently? Well, there’s the cell phone thing I just mentioned. But other than that, I recently wrote a blog post about feeling unqualified even when God has called you to a particular task. Even when we know God has asked us to do something, it’s so easy to think you’re not the right person for the job. Of course, about a week after I wrote that, I had to eat my own words. There was a family at my church going through a difficult time. Even though I didn’t know them, I felt God wanted me to write a note of encouragement to them. In the middle of our church service, I had a long conversation with God, telling Him I might not be the best person to do this. But He reminded of my own words: that if He asked me to do it, I was the right person. God also reminded me that I wanted Him to use my gift of writing to reach people, and He could do that through more ways than just on my blog, and with more people than just an internet audience.

“He reminded of my own words: that if He asked me to do it, I was the right person.”

Hobby: Reading. I have devoured books since before I could read, making up a story to go with the pictures or reciting what I could remember. I begged to be taught to read at a very young age and haven’t stopped since. As a preteen and teenager, I could often be found halfway through up to five books at a time. This was only confusing once when I tried to read two books from the same series at the same time. I still try to read as much as possible, and I’m currently trying to get through Tolkien’s Silmarillion. I love traveling to different worlds and experiencing all sorts of adventures through the stories I read.

Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: Study the Bible – This is probably the biggest no brainer, but I think it is literally the most important thing. God’s Word is so powerful, and it is at our disposal to learn about God and life following Him. Reading it is good, but it’s so much more than that – we have to dig and study it. Just a cursory read won’t tell us the history of the story, the depth of the meaning, or what it means for us. Digging deep into the word is how it will change our hearts and lives. When I’m studying a particular passage, one of my favourite resources is blueletterbible.org. I use the online commentaries to understand the greater context and meaning, and read different thoughts about the passage. I also like to use the dictionaries to see what different words in the verse meant in the original language, and gain a deeper meaning from that. Studying the Bible is necessary for growing spiritually.

Get a mentor – Having input in your life from a strong Christian with more experience is so valuable. They can share wisdom and advice from a godly perspective, encourage your growth, and pray for you. I have a couple women at my church that I trust and am able to share with them. I know that they love and care for me. They have a strong relationship with God, so I know they will speak His love and wisdom into my life. And I know they are praying for me, and prayer makes such a difference.

Worship – Several years ago, when I was learning about spiritual warfare and worship, we looked at how the Israelites went into battle – the worshippers always went first. Worship breaks down barriers and is how we should go into every situation. When our problems seem too big, worship keeps our gaze fixed on how much bigger God is.

“Digging deep into the word is how it will change our hearts and lives.”

Favorite person in scripture? This is such a difficult question, but I would have to say John, Jesus’ disciple. He was one of Jesus’ best friends and refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. This is a mindset I think we should all aspire to – to be able to rest confidently in our identity in Christ, having absolutely no doubt that we are beloved by him.

What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? When people look at me, I’d like them to see the absolute freedom that comes in a relationship with Christ. All my past and all my mistakes and all my brokenness have been traded for joy, peace, and confidence. And a God who would take all my bad and offer me only good in return is an amazing, loving God that is worth knowing.

“And a God who would take all my bad and offer me only good in return is an amazing, loving God that is worth knowing.”

Favorite season? Summer, hands down! I get cold so easily, so surviving through Canadian winters is a struggle! I just love being able to be outside without crying and being in pain. And I also enjoy waking up to sunshine – the longer days of sun are lovely.

Favorite holiday? I love Christmas. The songs, the decorating, the baking, the preparation, the food. I grew up with so many traditions surrounding this holiday. To this day, we still have a sugar cookie decorating day. I get a new Christmas ornament every year, so decorating the tree is a fun time of looking at all the ornaments I’ve gotten over the years.

A dream you have? I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’ve loved writing as long as I’ve loved reading. I would dictate stories to my mom to write down before I could write myself. I’ve made several attempts at writing a book, but I’ve never been able to finish one. I always thought I would write fiction, but lately I’ve been pondering non-fiction topics – something that would share my experience with God and hopefully some wisdom. I don’t think I’ll be writing a book soon, but one day, when God says it’s time, I’ll write it.

A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: I have a lot of holiday traditions with my parents and brother, but as newlyweds, my husband and I have started to figure out some of our own traditions. My favourite tradition that we’ve started is our Saturday morning routine: my husband cooks breakfast while I read a chapter or two out of a book that we’re reading together (we’re working our way through The Chronicles of Narnia right now). Then we eat and just have a generally lazy morning together. The perfect start to the weekend.

Question you will ask when you get to heaven? This is one of those questions that gets asked a lot, but I never have an answer to. I know that there’s so much I don’t know – I don’t even know how much there is that I don’t know. Where would I start? I think it would be so amazing to just be able to sit and listen to what God would tell me, because He would definitely tell me what I need to hear. But also just the stories He could tell! Learning more of the details of the lives of Bible characters would be so cool (and I bet He’s got some funny stories to tell, too!). I’d also like to ask the reason for the heartbreaks I had throughout life – lost loved ones and broken relationships. Mostly, I would just want Him to tell me what I need to hear.

Thing you want to raise awareness about: I don’t necessarily have a “cause” that I want to bring to people’s attention, but I think as Christians, there are some things that we are not as aware of as we should be. I think we forget how spiritual our whole life is. Our life is all about a spiritual battle, and that adds so much more purpose to our daily life. When we are aware that we are in a constant battle, we become more kingdom-minded and that changes our view on everything we experience. We can see attacks of the enemy for what they are. We can understand how important it is to share God’s love with everyone we come into contact with. We can see what is truly important in life, and what really doesn’t matter. We can go into our days ready to fight, and knowing we win.

“We can see what is truly important in life, and what really doesn’t matter.”

What do you usually do before 9 a.m.? During the week, I start work at 7:00am, so I don’t really have an inspiring morning routine. I drag myself out of bed at around 5:40 after a few alarms, hurriedly get ready, and go to work. By 9, I’ll have gotten the kids ready for school, tidied the uproar of a kitchen and done some more cleaning of some kind. Weekend mornings are much lazier, and don’t really consist of anything in particular.

What is on your nightstand? Books, books, books. My Bible, devotional, and prayer journal always. Whatever I happen to be reading at the time (currently, The Silmarillion, and Prince Caspian, which I’m reading with my husband), and a book or two lined up for when I finish (which currently consists of Anne of Green Gables and The Call by Os Guinness).

Define Christianity in a sentence: Absolute freedom from sin and brokenness because of God’s amazing love and Jesus’ amazing sacrifice, and the privilege and duty to share that love with everyone I come into contact with.

For more Shaneen:

Website: www.thehootandhowl.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hootandhowltales/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hootandhowltales/

Until next time, keep witnessing!

XOXO

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