My name is Shaneen, and I run The Hoot & Howl blog from my home in Canada. I grew up in a wonderful Christian family, and I didn’t ever really have a time “before Jesus”. I always had a strong belief in God and His love for me. I asked Jesus into my heart one night at bedtime when I was four years old. My grandfather had just passed away, and I wanted to be with him in heaven.
After that, I was a pretty good Christian girl. I was a-okay with following the rules and going to church and doing all the things that I was supposed to. My faith was strong and I was eager to follow Jesus with my whole life. I was baptized when I was seven. I had many moments of growth and learning throughout my teen years. I never had any crisis moments in my faith or had to decide if this was really real. It was always real to me.
But then, in my young adult years, a boy came along. As I was growing up, I hadn’t been allowed to date, which wasn’t a problem because no one ever asked me.
So when I was an adult and a boy finally showed interest in me, I fell and I fell hard. And what a dangerous relationship I fell into. He was a Christian, so I thought nothing could be wrong with dating this guy. But (for reasons I won’t get into) we had to hide our relationship (which really should have translated into just not dating, but we were dumb). We had to hide our relationship from our friends, and I had to lie to my family. And, boy, do I wish that’s where the disobedience ended. That relationship also made me start to question my convictions about sex, and I was eventually worn down and gave in.
That led to two years of actively running from God. I still went to church and read my Bible and prayed and tried to be a good Christian, except for in this area (which kind of negates the “good Christian” thing).
I refused to listen to God about anything He had to say about that relationship. I tried so hard to justify and rationalize my actions. I knew without a doubt that what I was doing was wrong and I was so miserable. But I thought I was still having a good time, and that it was worth it to turn from God if I could have this relationship.
That one initial act of disobedience had led me into a spiral of a very sinful life. I was going to do my own thing, and I didn’t care. I still knew it was wrong, but I was growing to numb to it.
But God never once stopped pursuing and drawing me back. He called me to attend a Discipleship Training School with YWAM in Thailand, a 5 month school to learn more about God and missions, grow in my faith, and participate in outreach. While in such a spiritually saturated environment, surrounded by supportive mentors and friends, God finally broke through.
I had an amazing time of confession and prayer with an amazing mentor. She spoke so much truth over me. I knew that God had forgiven me, but I still wouldn’t forgive myself and allow myself to come back to God. But during that time I was given an image of God calling me back, washing me clean, and asking me to just be with Him again. It was the homecoming of the prodigal daughter. This is a moment that I cling to and always come back to when I start to stray or forget.
When I got home, things were not suddenly perfect. I still stumbled into my old ways and struggled to keep on track. I often felt like a failure, and like I was really letting God down. I thought He could only forgive me so many times, when I kept doing the same thing wrong. But God is so good, and He always drew me back.
I definitely do not deserve the incredible love and forgiveness God has extended to me, but I am so thankful for the freedom and joy He has given me.
God has blessed me so abundantly – every good thing I have comes from Him. I can see His hand at work in my life in both small and huge ways, from answering my prayers to get a good parking stall at the store to bringing my wonderful husband into my life. Now, because of all that He has done for me, I long to bring glory to Him in everything I do, whether that’s through my writing, or however else He would choose to use me.
I feel free to walk in my calling – to write and share all I can about God’s love and freedom, and to show God’s love to everyone I come into contact with. Because of what happened in my past, I am able to know and share the message that God can redeem and restore anyone in any situation, and He longs to love us and be with us. All we have to do is come.