Check back here monthly for updates!! Remember you can find me mostly via Instagram and Facebook @SejanaShines if you use social media. Of course, you can always reach out to me directly via email or by leaving a comment to let me know what is helpful for you and which topics have encouraged you in your season of life with God. Thank you for your prayers. Sincerely, Sejana…
Well, it’s already December 23rd and here I am writing my December update! It’s been that kind of year, hasn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me. Well this monthly update will cover what’s happened since my last update- so November and December.I need to go back and look at my calendar to see what all happened, it feels like such a blur.
- Attended the Evangelical Homiletics Society (EHS) Annual Conference called “Preaching Hope and Lament.” I didn’t know what to expect but I’m glad I checked it out. They were only hosting it at Baylor because it was too difficult to hold it in Canada as they planned for this year. I got a few things from attending- I began to think about what I could do if I had doctorate level training. I realized how much the non-majority voice was welcomed in different spaces, especially academic spaces. However, who is willing to do the work and speak up? Also, I realized that while there were a few types of preaching presented, I resonated with the preachers that took time to acknowledge lament through specific examples before sharing about hope verses the ones that didn’t mention specific issues or any issues at all.
- I gave a devotional talk for Truett Women In Ministry (TWIM) on Veteran’s day on hospitality. The conversation afterwards was great even though I felt my introduction and talk was all over the place. Video here. TWIM hosted an end of semester social and the game Guesstures was a hit!! It was the best way to see everyone’s personality shine. Highlight here.
- I’m proud that one of the five churches I have been working to build strong relationships with in preaching for pulpit supply (by being dependable and prepared with quality content when I’m asked to preach) reached out to me directly one Wednesday night to preach that Sunday- and I did! I was glad they thought to ask me and that I was able to help fill in. I don’t share all my sermons individually to others (although I am uploading it all online here). But, I DID share with a lot of people this particular sermon here that I preached for my ‘home church’ because I felt seen and validated by being asked directly to preach at Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple, Texas. It is such a blessing to be given opportunities to preach (or to do whatever it is you are trying to gain experience in doing) and be publicly supported by your home church in your studies and work. I hope more churches will support and mentor the ministers in their midst! We are better together; we cannot do this work alone!
- Attended the “Shared Spaces & Shifting Contexts: A Conference on the Study of Spirituality and Spiritual Formation” at the Oblate School of Theology November 18-19 in San Antonio. There was a lot of great information presented but what made it really special to me was hanging out with the doctoral students from various countries in Africa while I was there. I also got to ask the young Catholic priests a few questions about their faith and witness how everyone celebrated together. I realized that my background in church had me hanging onto differences instead of focusing on our similarities in our faith. I took advantage of the opportunity to connect and share dialogue with others different than me about their faith in God and Jesus.
- Was roasted by my previous professor during the Truett Christmas Dinner held at George W Truett Theological Seminary. I love how staff and students can come together and just laugh like crazy as we got started with finals for the Winter Semester. Video uploaded here starting at 26:15. Totally unexpected!!
- Supported and celebrated another Sister-in-Christ, Sasha, as she completed her first season of hosting Zumba for free at Fort Hood as a ministry to women. Click here. Also I attended and supported two sister’s in Seminary as they preached their first gigs- one for a packed women’s conference and the other for a Wednesday night Advent service at their church! We can encourage others with our presence and prayers!
- Attended the church plant, Mosaic Waco, to both see what does an intentionally diverse church look and feel like? Also, I heard the sermon given by guest preacher, Jemar Tisby, on “A new wineskins church.” It was a GREAT message that helped to give me language and a framework for verbalizing some of what I’ve been experiencing and feeling with the traditional church. You can hear the sermon here.
- Finally, I was honored (and challenged) to create a video on “Joy” for Advent for Texas Baptist Women in Ministry (TXBWIM). I was grateful for the opportunity to participate! Watch it here: https://www.txbwim.org/post/2021-advent-reflections-ministry-highlights-week-3-joy
- Oh yeah, let’s not forget- I PASSED this semester’s 6 GRADUATE LEVEL courses! 14 credits added- now 30 credits done! I’m officially a Year 2 student for my Masters in Divinity degree! Many thanks to my husband, my friends – old and new, and the Lord for stamina and strength and a right mind all throughout. It was a lot of work y’all but I learned so much. Seminary update here.
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I’m pretty sure I need to update how I send out these monthly updates! I’ll work on that in December, once this semester of courses are over!!! Here are all the major things I was able to do in October that I really want to remember:
- Trained for Public Deliberation Initiative and facilitated my first community discussion! IG post here. I still can’t believe my husband spent a precious Saturday with me all day at this event!
- Preached 3 October for pulpit supply. All preaching events are listed here.
- Book club with Baptist Women In Ministry (BWIM): “In my grandmother’s house” by Dr. Yolanda Pierce. Excellent book and discussion! I hope to write a book review on it and share it with others!
- I took the leap and joined Hope Writers and a Hope Circle. It’s been what I needed regarded expanding networking and friendships with other creatives and those who are also wanting to inspire others in various ways.
- Attended Texas Baptists Women in Ministry (TXBWIM) Minister’s Retreat in San Antonio, TX with Rev Dr Angela Gorrell, author of the Gravity of Joy! I want to start a book club on this book…. this time was so inspiring in many ways. I bought 6 books and had them signed and am thinking I want to get a few more…
- I’m pretty sure I want to be a Spiritual Director…more to follow because I’ll be looking for people to practice my skills with!
- Being around my husband’s co-workers here reminded me of my desire to go back into the US Army, as a Chaplain! I was honored to be invited to join a few female chaplains stationed at Fort Hood for an informal gathering.
- Visited a few friends from previous military duty stations… it was good to see familiar faces and start up right where we left off!
- My neighbor blew me away with her hospitality on Halloween. I wrote about it here.
- Discovered that even though my husband and I don’t share the same faith, he was still able to help me with sorting out ministry leadership struggles that I didn’t feel comfortable expressing with anyone else. IG post here.
When I list out all these things, it’s a HUGE reminder that the Lord is at work here. I thank God for my family and for the opportunity to be in seminary. I appreciate my life so much. I hope I am able to continue to do the things I am able to do. I pray I will be able to encourage others as they move forward in faith as well.
I realized a few things getting going full speed in my first full month of this fall semester and full load of classes (14 credits!!!!) :
- Learning all about God is not the same as BEING with God. I was getting dry fast because in all of my busy-ness, I pushed out including those things that helped me to slow down and re-connect with my Maker. It took a minute, but I realized I HAD to include these parts in my life for my sanity, and for my personal worship and time with God. I posted about that on IG here and I am working on my art for #inktober2021 and posting it here.
- Use your platform to prayerfully draw attention to the things of God that need to be made right. I saw several different examples of bold preaching in September. It started with Beth Moore coming to our campus to preach for Tuesday’s Truett Seminary Chapel service September 7th . She spoke on “Taking the Low Road” and the whole hour can be seen here. Afterwards, our Truett Women in Ministry (TWIM) team was invited to have a private lunch with Beth during which we each shared with her what brought us here to Truett Seminary and what we hoped to do in the future. What most struck me about Beth was her humility and the fact that she was still here. I have done several of her Bible studies and have seen her live teaching through Living Proof ministries, but I saw her tell the truth about God despite the criticism she knew she would get (and did) for those who thought she was out of (denominational) line. It is so sad really but she is one courageous Jesus loving woman of God and I am thankful for examples like her who are in this for the ultimate glory of God, and not self, today. ALSO, I saw SEVERAL new-to-me pastors preach at the African American Preaching Conference (AAPC) hosted at Truett. So many different styles of #blackpreaching and it was beautiful to witness over this 3 day conference. The opening speaker for this conference preached for the Tuesday’s Truett Seminary Chapel service on September 28th. Reverend Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III‘s closing example really summed up for me WHY we ministers continue to do the work that we do. You can watch that full chapel service here. I also mentioned my initial thought about the AAPC on IG here.
- Shining light on others as they use their God-given gifts, talents, & experiences to bring hope, healing, and Jesus comes naturally to me. I love to draw attention to these things so that others can see God at work. In September a friend started a new ministry in Fort Hood- ZUMBA! I call it a ‘ministry’ because I was there when she brought Zumba to Fort Lee, VA, pairing it with her other love- PWOC. It brought together so many women who came for different reasons, they found a community and a home through Sasha and her friends! When the Army moved them to Fort Hood, TX, she got to work and brought this same ministry idea here, this time pairing it with the Religious Support Office. Kick off was Sep 7th and over 45 ladies came out! I’ve enjoyed supporting her through prayer and in my posts online thanking God for the work that she does- and for free- for the women here. Also, I try to be intentional with drawing attention to the things that the TWIM affiliated students do in our private group by snapping photos of them in action and mentioning it in our group. I believe these experiences are important, impacting others we may not even know, and will serve as building blocks for continued services in ministry over the years. I want to celebrate and remember these milestones! One of them was the ordination of one of our TWIM team leaders by her church. It was my first time witnessing a female get ordained and I wrote about that a little here. I hope that others will catch on and begin supporting others as we see them faithfully serve in various ways for God. Finally, I shared what happened to me as I did the (little) things I felt prompted to do- sharing these posts online about my gardening experiences and how God was teaching me in them. I blogged about the fruit that came out of that- a woman I didn’t know that resonated with my posts and took action! You can check that out here in my blog called, “The Power of Sharing Digitally.”
Thank you for your prayers and support!
In August, I completed 6 more credits for my MDiv! My Semester 2 Summary (with short video) is captured here. I hosted #IFLead2021, put on by the non-profit Christian organization called “If:Gathering” in my home the first weekend in August. Three ladies joined me here, 2 for the very first time. In that time I realized my season of life could be called ‘being in the wilderness.’ It’s been good to name it because after that I’ve been able to accept this season and have peace instead of trying to change the situation I’m in by trying to make things happen that I have no control over and feeling unsettled because nothing I’m trying is working out. (Remember the people complaining in the wilderness Exodus 15, Numbers 11-14…?) I remember struggling with this feeling of wanting to get to my destination NOW for a while but writing this today I realize I haven’t felt this unsettledness lately! I think it’s because I finally recognized what was happening- this is my wilderness. (I don’t have a church home and I don’t have a specific ministry role in my local church.) I know and remember that the people were always WITH GOD in the wilderness, they were protected and safe. They just didn’t want to be where they were, they wanted to get to where they were supposed to go! Now! But in that journey of wandering through the wilderness, they learned a whole lot about God. I guess that’s not a bad place to be, once I look at this season I am in with this new perspective – this is my season of wilderness.
Also in August, I went on a 2 day trip to Austin with my husband. It was nice! We rode one of those scooters at night and I had fun (even though I was holding the brakes as we were going down the hills). It was good to make that time to be together and invest in our marriage during my school break. Remember that book club I posted about at the start of summer here? Well, 3 ladies responded – 1 in South Korea, 1 in Hawaii, and 1 in Virginia- and together we met weekly over the summer to discuss the chapters of the book, “The Making of Biblical Womanhood” by Beth Barr. It was an insightful time together to have important conversations about the Bible and the topics brought up in this book along with our understanding of Scripture and our unique backgrounds in the church. I hope we can have more respectful and thoughtful conversations like this in our local contexts all year long!
The Fall Semester officially started for everyone and my 6 courses are all going well so far. There was a very stressful period of 2 days where several things were not going right (including at home) and I just needed to get away. When that happened, walking was helpful. Praying to God (often) was helpful. Sitting in silence was helpful. And seeing the sunrise- yet again- was another timely and awesome reminder of the hope of the Lord. Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy upon me and this family you gave me. (IG post is here.) Finally, I am thankful I was able to preach twice last month (see pulpit supply post here). I think I am getting better, but have a listen and feel free to comment on YouTube or send me a message if you like with your thoughts, observations, or questions. I know I enjoy seeking the Lord and preparing messages with the people in mind that they would hear a word from the Lord. I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out.
July was a busy month for me. I felt like I was everywhere and never at home all month long! I got to spend time with my family and a few friends all of which I haven’t seen in YEARS. Some I didn’t even talk to that often (I’m not great with staying connected regularly unless it’s planned and on my calendar!) but yet, we were able to jump right back in just like it was only yesterday that I last seen them. I love that.
But not all reunions are so great.
Thankfully, I had only good experiences but I know it was because I did a lot of of LISTENING. I saw many people I cared for, I saw bits of their life, and I heard their heart for many concerns in the country as well as in their own personal family life and I am grateful to the Lord. I’m grateful because even though we are all so very different in our views, we can still be with one another as people who care for one another. Thank you Lord. Even during all the travels, I found starting my day by reading thoughtfully through the “Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals” app and sometimes the “Pray As You Go” app helpful in focusing my thoughts and re-connecting to God.
Highlights are spending time with dear friends and family, attending my first ever preaching conference, and seriously considering opportunities for formal ministry that came my way. As of this moment, I’m still praying about and looking for our new church home but I’m learning to relax because really all of these things that have happened in this past year were not even of my idea and design. The Lord has a plan for my life and I’m trying to take things one day at a time and not go too crazy trying to make things happen and looking too far ahead with planning.
My children start school soon and my full-time in person school schedule at Seminary ramps back up in full swing in only 3 weeks. I’m excited about what I will learn and who I will meet this school year. I’ve learned to start narrowing down what my interests are (and set of God-given and honed skills) in my pursuit of formal ministry and they involve spiritual formations/discipleship and creatively encouraging other leaders that they may continue in the good work that they do.
Thank you for your prayers and support for my family and I.
I know I need to work on being more concise and summarizing the most important things. But since I haven’t written a summary monthly post in a while, this one will have a lot of content trying to catch you up on what’s been happening for me as God continues to shape and prepare me for living life on Mission with Him! I really want to know what’s happening with YOU so I can better shape the purpose of this blog. But for now, I’m continuing to use it as a repository of points to remember and to encourage others in their journey with God.
I am in seminary now (watch or read my first semester summary here for all the details). I have also completed my first class for the Summer 1 semester. I am still waiting on that final grade to post. My next Summer class begins this Friday and I’m so glad we had an online option so that I can be home with my teen children, travel, and participate in other opportunities as well during the summer.
A few highlights from May & June include:
- 9 May 2021 (Mother’s Day) first preaching experience (Baptist church) (audio here)
- 10 May – started weekly online book club for Beth Allison Barr’s “The Making of Biblical Womanhood” (post here)
- 11 May – lead praise & worship for PWOC Fort Hood 2020-2021 closing ceremony & installation (video here)
- 19 May – attended Exponential Reset Summit
- Family vacation to Florida and Louisiana
- May – 14 year marriage anniversary (post here)
- 13 June 2021 – second preaching experience (Presbyterian church)
- 25-26 June – African American Fellowship Conference 2.0 Rebuild – BLOG POST IN PROGRESS!
- June – accepted Truett Women in Ministry (TWIM) Team Leader position starting this Fall
- 30 June – attended Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) Annual Conference (also helped with worship via reading of scripture)
- 2 July – final day of Summer I seminary course. Uploaded video projects include: Sermon 1, Sermon 2, Sermon 3, and digital illustration video.
Future engagements in July include:
- EKBailey Preaching Conference 6-7 July
- Baptist World Congress 7-10 July
- BWIM Mentoring Cohort kickoff 19-21 July
- My birthday!!!!
- Visiting family and friends
Please know my personal prayers for July includes:
- Formal ministry opportunity as listed here https://sejanashines.com/help-me-continue-the-work-im-doing/.
- Renewed and deepened connection with family and friends
- A church home and friends for my children.
Thank you for your interest and support with how God is working in my life and family. Please share with me how you are doing and which topics are most helpful for you in your journey with God. May we encourage, sharpen and support one another until the Day comes! (Hebrews 10:23-25)