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  • Writer's pictureSheena East

The last few weeks have been such a volatile time in our nation. I have seen people say and do things I never thought they would say or do. The character of our people is being tested. Our love for one another is being questioned. There is uncertainty, and there is so much fear. I have cried with friends who have been hurt. I have listened to others rage and vent. Emotions are high. I have sat back, closed my eyes, and I have physically ached for my children and the kind of world they are growing up in. It is SO easy to despair and feel hopeless. It is SO easy to throw your hands in the air and give up.

In the middle of this chaos we cannot forget that we have the answer that not only we, but also this world so desperately needs. I have been sick the last several days and there has been something in me that is so much more sensitive and needy and just overall longing for more God connection while I have been stuck in my room alone. I am not fooled for a second that it isn’t because I have been too sick for TV, books, or social media and I am completely free of the responsibility of being a wife and mom to two wild toddlers. There has been a resetting so desperately needed in my spirit, I just couldn’t hear it over the noise I had allowed in my world. If we aren’t careful, the powerful voices in this world will drown out the most powerful voice in the entire world. And friends, we so desperately need His voice. Do you want to know how to love people? Listen to His voice. Do you want to know how to respond to pain? Search out His voice. Make listening for his prompting a daily priority. The bible teaches us that God is standing at the door and knocking. He isn’t hiding from us, sending us on some complicated chase, and yelling “Almost got me!” while running in the opposite direction. He is actively knocking. Waiting on us to open the door. Invite him in every day. Do this with prayer. Do this with a daily devotion and bible reading. Do this by taking time to fast social media or media in general.

I have been singing (as much as someone as tone deaf as me can sing) this old song the last few weeks:

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting He passed, and we follow Him there; O’er us sin no more hath dominion For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you, He promised; Believe Him and all will be well; Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!

How comforting to be reminded that even in the state of absolute pandemonium our world has found itself in, there is nothing quite like His glory and grace.Nothing can compare to His presence and the comforting sound of His voice. And what’s even more exciting is that we weren’t meant to just scrape by! We can have hope, we can have joy, we can have the love of God and we can spread that to everyone who is hurting. Don’t be so distracted by everything that needs fixing in this world that you forget the only one who can truly fix it. Don’t be so disheartened by the state of affairs that you forget you have the answer! Don’t be so blinded by the agenda of the enemy that you forget Mark 12. Love God, and love people. There is NO commandment greater than these.

I think we so often take on the burdens of our life instead of remembering that we are supposed to cast our cares on Him! I know I have carried a mental load the last few weeks. I forgot to let Him carry the heaviest parts, but I am so thankful for His voice these last few days reminding me that I belong to someone so much bigger, more loving, and kinder than this world. I hope you are reminded today to reach out to God and listen to what He has to say.

🖤 Sheena

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  • Writer's pictureSheena East

“I wish I could be any age higher than 6.” I heard that statement exclaimed in such complete frustration by my sweet boy as he sat in our kitchen mulling over his pancakes. It caught me by such surprise. It’s not that I haven’t heard similar statements from my kids before, but for some reason, today it stopped me in my tracks. I guess that’s what happens when we tune our ears to hearing God’s voice regarding a certain subject. Over the last 6 weeks, I have heard Jesus slowly speak to me about discontentment. In a similar fashion to how you never see yellow cars until you buy a yellow car, then suddenly they’re EVERYWHERE. I see this topic everywhere, hear it everywhere, and am learning more about what it really means to be content.

Why would my precious 6-year-old boy with a darling life wish away these amazing early childhood years? Everything is enchanting, every turn is an adventure, every day is a new opportunity to build, run, play and learn. What seems like ungratefulness is actually so clear to me a symptom of the fall of humanity in the garden of Eden. He just can’t help it. There is something about our flesh that wars with contentment. Why would Eve want the one thing she couldn’t have? Why do we feel like we are less-than, don’t have enough, earn enough, look good enough, work out enough? So much of this feeling is directly related to our unrealistic, over-commercialized, desensitized, addictive social media platforms to which I say ENOUGH. Also, speaking of unrealistic and over-commercialized, I bought a cactus today. An actual, harmful prickly-pear cactus that you used to only see in cartoons depicting the desert. We can all thank Joanna Gaines for giving the cactus the same kind of new life that the cauliflower got in 2018. I actually already have a splinter. Winning.

Enter the star of 2020: Covid-19. As we have been forced to stay at home during the weirdest season of all time, it is amazing how much has been revealed to me about my husband’s own character. (He is actually amazing btw. I’m the crazy one.) I have been deeply embarrassed inspired by how well I can handle lack-of-control. Thankfully, as long as I’m alive, He’s still working on me. Side note… what has been REALLY amazing is how many plates of food my 3 kids – especially the two boys (ages 4 & 6) can consume in one day. Where do they put it? What is happening with their metabolism? How can I get some of it? Why are they not 400 pounds? Who decided to have all these kids? What are their names again? I have many questions and no answers.

Back on topic - over the last 6-8 weeks, I have embraced contentment with such rigor and enthusiasm, I daily wonder why it has taken me 35 years to enter a frame of mind like this one. SURELY I’ve never nudged away His whisper towards contentment before now? Nope, not me. Surely, I have NEVER wallowed in self-pity when dreaming of all of the things I didn’t have or couldn’t accomplish. What shameful behavior! Thankfully, in this personal revival of happy, I have allowed myself to feel such liberty and peace with who I am and where He is leading. Self-awareness is everything.

For years I have walked around my spacious 1950’s ranch style home on a corner lot and grumbled about wanting to rip out countertops and refinish floors. Update, renovate, tear out, improve. Not good enough. No contentment. More! Better! Oh, hey quarantine. Guess we’re endlessly stuck in this un-done home. How sad.

Then almost overnight, it just so happened that the frenzied race out the door every morning was swapped for a slow(er) paced morning with 2 cups of not re-heated coffee. Our mornings have evolved into a beautiful space of time on the back porch, brightly lit by the 7 am sunshine. For all of you who have children that sleep past dawn, bless you. For reasons I will never understand, there is a class of us who were gifted with early risers. Wailing and gnashing of teeth by myself and/or my husband over this issue may still occur every now and then.

Suddenly, the non-modern kitchen that I’ve griped about has been a refuge that has churned out 3 meals and 1,000 snacks a day for my healthy family of 5. Hello, contentment. Hello beautiful old backsplash tile. The stunning walls of our home have watched us grow and stretch and cry and laugh. The imperfect original hardwood floors have held tottering first steps, piles of legos, out-of-control tantrums and unforgettable prayer moments with my husband.

This refuge, this sanctuary, this life that I get to live is so much more than I deserve. My home, my husband, my children, my tribe of friends, my church family are all incredible things in my life that I could never merit or earn on my own. He’s just so good. This is what contentment feels like. I’ve never known it so well, by my goodness, it’s the best introduction I’ve made in a long time.

Is my life perfect? No.

Do we have problems? Yes.

Do I still want to remodel my kitchen? Yes.

Is that wrong? No.

There is nothing wrong with goals, drive, ambition, or improvement. Where would we be without the entrepreneurial spirit? We are church planters and entrepreneurs at heart. We love to build vision and execute plans. I love to design a plan and see something come to life with hard work. I’m not saying that we should just be satisfied with our lot in life and not pursue dreams. I have simply decided that I while I have planted seeds into the ground, I will not curse the dirt because I can’t see the sprout. As long as I am continually seeking after what God has called me to, I will remain content and joyful throughout the process. We will not achieve perfection until we are in our glorified bodies and present with Christ. Let us be content to serve Him, trust Him and thank Him in every single thing.

I would love to invite you to join me in embracing contentment. That’s my only option. It’s not something that you can be pushed into. I can’t make you love your life, or your home or your body. You are the only one who can love what God has given you. I can only hope that you will feel the pull to ask Him to speak to your heart, slowly and steadily. He will. He’s just so good.

Juli Martinez and her husband David are church-planters in the beautiful city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where they have lived for the past 8 years. She is the Executive Director of Hope Community Collective, a non-profit organization that serves the southern region of Mississippi. While she is incredibly passionate about gardening and eating carbs, her greatest position in life is that of mama to her three blessings, Luca (6), Louie (4) and Lucía (1).

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  • Writer's pictureSheena East

I am craving simple. Are you? We are inundated with information at rapid speeds. We literally cannot retain it all. There are too many choices for EVERYTHING. From paint colors, coffee drinks, schools, and the list goes on. Emails and texts are constantly interrupting us. We live in a time where you have to be intentional to NOT overstimulate and overschedule your life, and to constantly adjust and set boundaries. I find myself frequently needing space to think, to breathe, to be with God. And having to fight to make time for this.

I was recently at our local grocery store picking up water bottles for an event at our church. The alarms were blaring. I began to look for the employees to see if it was safe to enter because I thought surely they were doing a fire drill. The workers were calm. They were on their phones oblivious to the piercing noise. Shoppers were casually strolling through the store. But I needed the waters so I quickly grabbed a cart and pulled out my list. I started wondering am I the only one who hears this? What is going on? How is everyone acting so chill? The siren lasted for probably 5 more full minutes then finally stopped. I couldn’t help but think, is this how God feels sometimes? He’s blasting sirens in our lives so loud to notice Him, to speak to us, to use us, to love us. And we just keep looking at our phones, running our errands, absorbed with ourselves swept up in the distractions of life. Yet there I was, I had just joined the crowd too. Is that what we do? Are we aware of Him crying out to us yet stay blissfully ignorant in the busyness of our day to day? Dear Jesus, please don’t let that be me.

Simplify everywhere you can. Or maybe arrange your schedule to finally do the thing that you feel God has laid on your heart. Carve out space for your marriage, kids, prayer, family, personal devotions and to just BE with God. Pray about when to say yes and when to say no. Ask God to help you prioritize your life. Sometimes just being present IS being productive. I know that is so much easier said than done. When I was a brand new sleep deprived mom, I was struggling where to fit in devotions but also knew I desperately needed it. So I bought a simple devotional and asked God to help me make time in my new season for Him. I can’t tell you how many times God spoke right to me through that book. He was ready and waiting to love me, speak to me, and encourage my heart each and every time.

1 Thesalonians 4:11-12 says this...​​and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, ​12 ​so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody”

Miriam Webster dictionary defines ambition as “an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power; a desire to achieve a particular end.” This is so ironic because God says to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”. Being ambitious to lead a quiet life is pretty much the exact opposite of being ambitious to achieve fame. He then goes on to say we should mind our own business! Does leading a quiet life and minding our own business sound like 2 things that we do well as a society today? Or hardly at all? They are both counter cultural to say the least.

This is not a blog post of how to simplify your life in 3 easy steps. But rather encourage us to dig deep and think about what we have allowed to take root in our lives that may be interrupting God's best for us. My family is not immune from having obligations that make us busy. However, I strongly believe the need to prove our worth to others is one of the biggest driving forces behind us leading such busy and ultimately distracted lives. There has been a shift in society that makes you feel as if your life should be producing something that is visibly noticed by others. It’s no secret social media fosters envy and comparison. We seek applause and acclaim. When in reality, the majority of our lives are lived behind the scenes in the mundane, ordinary struggles and routines.

He sees us in every moment of every day. He sees the fruit in your life. He sees you on your good days and on your worst. When did this become not enough for us? Isn’t God the one who we are living for anyways? What are we trying to prove?

Perhaps the most convicting portion is the last part where God says “so that our daily life may win the respect of outsiders and you will not be dependent on anybody.” Those who don’t know Jesus can see right through ambitious efforts for fame. He reminds us that people will respect you if they see a more genuine and quiet life. Lastly, he urges us not to be dependent on anybody but Him! We have become dependent on approval from others rather than seeking his approval alone.

I long to live my life with no desire for acclaim and no fear of others' opinion. To be more intentional with my time and efforts. When you are striving to show something for your days to others, you’ll always end up falling short. Whatever it is that is blaring loud in your mind and heart, don’t let it distract you. Our homes and personal relationships with God are worth it. And while it might be hard, our spiritual lives and the future of our families depend on it.

Jesus, help me to dig deep and search in every crevice of my heart and mind for the things I’ve allowed in my life that are loud and distracting me from you. Give me the strength and boldness to make tough choices to simplify my life and to only seek approval from you and you alone. Help me to be more intentional with my time and help all my ambition to lead me to a quiet life that pleases you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Rachel Anderson lives in Chattanooga TN with her husband Drew and their 2 precious boys Clyde & Peter. They recently planted River Hills, a new church in the North Chattanooga area. They also own a small business, Design Build Chattanooga. Her passions are Jesus, her family, and championing other parents to put God first in their homes. She loves reading, the Summer, and hiking!

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