Friday, August 29, 2014

My Prayer to God about Mars Hill

I have only been at Mars Hill for a year. I haven't buried my head in the sand but I sure don't have all the facts either. But as message after blogpost after news story continues to post the next big sin and the latest horror of horrors at MH my heart begs for one thing from God...

...that the world can see us love each other.


There has been so much turmoil and division among Mars Hill it saddens me. Not because of the sin being discovered and not because of the questions being asked. But because of the division that is happening in the church – division that the world is seeing. But LORD this is nothing new to you, this situation has not surprised you in the least bit. 

I come to you God asking that you let your love shine brightly in this situation. Whether all, none, or some of the accusations against Pastor Mark are true let us as a big national and international Church band together. Let this situation be used to show the world how we can deal with sin in a healthy way, how we can take sin and let truth and light shine in and heal. God use this situation to show the world that yes we are Christians are still human, we still sin, fall, and fail. But that we have you, a Savior that we daily and desperately need. Reading through 1 John I am reminded how much we need your love, how imperative it is that to survive as a church we need to not only receive your love but to show your love to other believers. As the internet world, news media, and social media rips apart Pastor Mark and MH let our love for him, his family, and other members of the church show through. As we disagree, investigate, and learn the truth – God use us as your children, as people who claim to follow and love you – show the world how to handle sin in a loving way. 

As the world loves to hate lets show the world - as a people who call ourselves little Christ’s - how much we love to love. This doesn’t mean letting sin go unnoticed or not dealing with wrong doings, but this does mean covering people in prayer, seeking reconciliation, and complete forgiveness. True love is not rejoicing in the sin of others. I Corinthians 13 rings loud in my heart this week. Are we as Christians being patient, kind, gentle, and not rejoice in the wrong doings of Pastor Mark? Are we enduring this circumstance and not seeking to revenge the injustices he may or may not have done? Are we be slow to anger and quick to listen?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.                   *I Corinthians 13:4-7*

This is my prayer God. That in a time where Satan is trying his hardest to make this situation turn people from following and believing you, I pray that the Holy Spirit convicts us as Christians to stand up and show the world how desperately you love us, how concretely you change us, and how deeply you forgive us. Please LORD use this situation for good when men have meant it for evil!

Thank you and I love you so much Daddy!

 ceconner© 8.29.2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

Good Girl Grows Up

So why when it came to Christianity did I struggle with an inner wrestling match to not get frustrated when others held me biblical standards? I mean, as a person claiming to be a Christ follower my head 100% agreed with these biblical standards but my heart... 


My heart struggled with the fact that my do's & dont's came from a piece of paper, another rule or guideline to follow - a person had the power to tell me what was right and wrong. Sounds absurd right? That is our society - we have laws that people follow, written by people, and when those people don't follow said laws they get punished (I have a recent speeding ticket to prove it). So why when it came to Christianity did I struggle with an inner wrestling match to not get frustrated when others held me biblical standards? I mean, as a person claiming to be a Christ follower my head 100% agreed with these biblical standards.

The reason was I felt like there was no freedom to mess up, to make a mistake, yes even to sin. Maybe I am just the slow learner and ya'll are ahead of me on this track and don't need that freedom. But my whole life I have craved that freedom to make my mistakes without wondering who was going to be sitting waiting to see me fall (reality check no one probably was, but then again...). Freedom without wondering who I was going to disappoint, lead astray, or become a bad example to. So I started hiding my sin, you know those private sins that we like to keep in the closet, yeah mine were there pretty tight. And here is the thing - the big clincher - looking back most of them weren't biblical sins, but man made ones. 

Dancing on the weekends with friends, going to parties where drinking was going one, playing beer pong/flip cup, staying out until 3/4am with friends. Ready for the big one: Going on dates with non-christians - Gasp (before  you throw the unequally yoked card at me - keep reading). These weren't just one time events that I didn't enjoy. What can I say I like hanging out with the drunkards and so called prostitutes; who knows maybe even some tax collectors?

Interrupting Thought:To be fair I did have a few hidden sins to, that were actual sins but this is not the place or forum to put them out there. All you need to know is they were caused by deep wounds that had not healed. With the help of some very supportive friends, lots of prayer, and time those specific sins that I used to struggle with have found freedom through grace.
Not many people knew that I did those things and I went to a different town than I lived in to do them. Why? I was afraid that people would find out. Now some of you may automatically think that I was guilty if I was trying to hid it and in my mind I thought I was. Looking back now though I pose the question - guilty of what? Of hanging out with the same people that Jesus did, building relationship with those that never would step in a church, and having fun while building those relationships? (Right I forgot, you can't have fun with someone until you evangelize them).  

Let me give you a real life example that might help bring clarity to what I am trying to say. Ever since my late teens I always wanted to go dancing, you know a night on the town with friends, hitting up different night clubs. But was always met with negative comments towards it. So I started hiding it, saying I was going to a friends house because I didn't want people to think I was going off the deep end. All I wanted to do was dance...

Then I moved to Seattle and literally everything changed. I entered yet another bubble. A singular bubble. One that was just God and me. The support system that I had for years was only a phone call or Skype session away yes, but they weren't in my daily life anymore. I no longer felt like I had someone saying "look at that good little Christian girl", no longer felt that if I made a mistake my whole character would be judged and by that one bad mistake someone would judge my whole life. It was lonely and freeing at the same time.

...I met a friend Ana at my ballet class and we started going clubbing. It was fun wholesome dancing, trying out different hot spots. My friends encouraged me to go - no negative thoughts of going off the deep end, no worries of the state that I would come home in. For the first time it hit me, I never should have felt guilty for going dancing it was completely innocent and a great way to meet new friends...

With no support system, no one looking for me to make a mistake, no one judging me I set sail and did my own thing. I would have a martini when out at dinner, went clubbing with some friends, started taking a dance class, found a bible believing church, got plugged in a small group, started blogging more, reading more, and spent my free time wandering the city streets people watching. Lastly I prayed a lot - prayed that God would make me want Him, not just have the motions of being a little Christ follower, but actually desiring to follow Him whole heartily again.

The best part: there was no guilt or shame in what I was doing. But as my brother reminded me when discussing this topic there has to be a balance and he is right. Life is not a free for all, that is not what I am saying, I couldn't just go off the deep end and do whatever I liked. The difference: I was free from self made - man made guilt. I started really seeking what God and the Bible said, finding a balance in getting advise from people verses seeking my worth in what they said or thought. Freedom really does taste oh so sweet.

To some of you, you're "like yeah so - no big deal?" Others of you are wondering where the sweet innocent girl went.

She grew up. And not in the "I am so mature, can do whatever I want, don't judge me" type of way. But I went from drinking milk to eating steak. I was a child now I am an adult. I was CRAZY insecure with who I was as a person and who I was in Christ. Now I am more confident in who I am as a person and who I am in Christ (not complacent - confident) then I have ever been. God knew I need it, so he gave me the freedom I needed. The freedom to make mistakes, to see my sin, to learn the difference between what man calls sin and what God calls sin (can we call this pharisee syndrome).
...This realization also brought a healthier fear into my heart. What does God call sin? Hatred, Self-Righteousness, Coveting, Jealousy. All heart issues, things that go way past the surface, things that I don't struggle with on a once a month basis but on a once a minute basis. I also learned a little more how much God loves me! How deeply He longs to keep me from bad situations, from pain, and yes sickness (even something as simple as  hangover). Look at His do's and don'ts - see a pattern in them? They are keeping us from physical/emotional harm.
This is my journey and my story, everyone of us is different. Here is God's challenge to me and my challenge to all the Christian bubbles out there: Stop looking at those around us and start walking along side of them. Before you make the judgement about that person having one drink at the bar stool (come on we all have assumed at least once when someone says they are going to a bar they are getting drunk) take a minute and think "why are they there?" If you can't figure out why go with them and find out. Physically walking along side of them. A friend wants to go play pool - go with them. A co-worker wants to grab a drink after work - go with him. A gal wants to go clubbing - go dance your heart out with her.

Don't judge the outward until you know the inward.

ceconner© 5.23.2014


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Good Christian Girl

I love this blog, I love you the readers, and my friends. 

But I have been silent for a while. Mainly because I feel God calling to me to write more specifically about where I am at now in life, so I started a new blog West Seattle Nanny. At this point it mainly shares my story of how I have come to be a nanny and hopefully helpful tips for others in the field.

Year 25 has been an interesting transition year. It was not at all what I had planned and expected, and yet it was so much more than anything I could have foreseen. And not just because I moved across country into a brand new job and essentially life. It is so much more than that and so much harder to put into words. But for those that want know and are willing to hang in there with me I am going to try (you might want to hold on tight it is going to be a bumpy ride).

My whole life I have lived in a Christian bubble of one form or another, and by bubble I mean not just a close knit community of friends and family, but a looking glass where people who knew me even from a distance felt the right to judge me (this was my view for the last 25 years, whether there is truth to if people were really judging me...well only they and God know, but that is how I felt). And by judge I mean make an opinion of me based on an action they either saw half of, heard half a story, or didn't know the full motive behind what they witnessed. Before this gets negative, I will tell you most of those judgement's came in the form of "such a good Christian girl". From what I can tell and have heard, with the exception a few burned bridges, most of the thoughts towards me were of innocents, Christian standards, and "wish she would marry my son".

I am SO grateful for my life, for how I was raised, where I grew up, my family, my church family, and my jobs in Christian ministries. I shudder to think where I would be without all of these, because in truth, I am a sinner, saved by grace and grace alone. Let me clarify before going on, I am to blame - not the people that loved me and looked favorable on me. I am (was) the one with a heart issue As a teen/early twenties let me tell you my thought life, my desires, and the yearnings of my heart were anything but good Christian girl.

Due to certain family dynamics I saw first hand what rebellion and out right discord did to a person and to a family. I never wanted to disappoint and lose the trust of my parents. For many years I didn't go to parties, drink beer, or who knows what else for fear of my mother (I love you mom) instead of the fear of God. He used her so much in my life to keep me from a destructive path. He knew I needed a strict mom who loved me so much she didn't care what I thought about her.

But through my college years our relationship started to weaken, I no longer told her things. I had my freedom, a car, a job, an education, and my own money. Yes I lived with her but she couldn't tell me what to do (that was my thought process back then). Never did I see myself as rebellious, but more independent. I never wanted to be vindictive or disobey, but wanted to prove that I was capable of taking care of myself, that I could succeed in life with out help (call it youngest child syndrome).

Then I moved away from home for the first time and started to experience freedom. Only to realize I was in another bubble, a bigger one, a very different and strange one. One that I love to this day and one that is still so close to my heart. God moved me to a small town to work at an incredible radio station, and in the 4 years I lived/worked there he did some incredible healing in my life. Using all those around me to impact that healing.

Still I struggled with the fact that my does & dont's came from a piece or paper, another rule or guideline to follow - a person had the power to tell me what was right and wrong. Sound absurd right? That is our society - we have laws that people follow, written by people, and when those people don't follow said laws they get punished (I have a recent speeding ticket to prove it). So why when it came to Christianity did I struggle with an inner wrestling match to not get frustrated when others held me biblical standards? I mean, as a person claiming to be a Christ follower my head 100% agreed to with these biblical standards but my heart...

Stay tuned to find out what became of this inner frustration and what my heart thought.

ceconner© 5.21.2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

What I Have Learned About Marriage While Being Single

If you have been following this blog for a while you know a key thing about me - relationships intrigue me. Ever since I was a little girl, watching how marriages and couples work has been an interest. Married couples have come in and out of my life, couples that I looked up to and want to emulate someday. And oppositely couples that I would wonder how in the world they ended up together and how long their marriage would last.

Growing up my parents and I always had a somewhat unique relationship, there was really no conversation off boundaries and no topic we couldn't at least begin to discuss. Mix that with watching my parents marriage closely; I learned a few things about making a relationship work, things I wanted to emulate and things that I didn't. My parents are going to 32 years of marriage.

7 years ago my brother Brian married Sharon, my spunky sister in-law. Brian and I have always been close and literally any topic was fair game (you will see this as a reoccurring theme). Sharon and Brian both allowed me to ask questions and view their marriage in a way not many people do, unless you are in one.

3 years ago Elizabeth and Mike let me step into their kitchen and cook dinner, thus starting a really deep friendship between the three of us. Often times we joke that I started more fights in their marriage because of our open conversations. They graciously and candidly answered questions, discussed personal topics, shared funny stories, and gave me a healthy look into the heart of their marriage. Mike and Elizabeth have been married for 5 years now.

6 months ago N (my cousin) and A (his wife) invited me to live with them and nanny their 2 sons. Being family has made our living together, easier - not that it has ever been hard - and we have a pretty open relationship. I am more of an observer in this situation, and often what I see is incredible, something to respect, something that causes laughter, and a great friendship between the two of them. N and A are going on 13 years of marriage.

Photo Credit to Tim Chen
These four couples have all opened doors for me to see things from an insiders view while having an outsiders perspective. I have seen these couples fight clean, fight dirty, laugh together, flirt together, be mad at each other, and have some pretty serious discussions together. In the end all of these couples are still in love with each other, though they will all agree at times they haven't liked each other very much.

With this in mind, I have learned a few things about marriage while still being single, and well I want to pass this knowledge on to you.

1. Marriage is a Long-Term Commitment, Not a Short-Term Feeling: In a culture where breaking a commitment has become as simple as breathing this is a fundamental point.
"Commit: to bind or obligate, as by pledge or assurance"
When these couples said "I Do" at the altar they meant their vows, "For Richer and Poorer, Sickness and Health, Better or Worse." More often than not I see couples breaking their vows during the worse part of their marriage. Ask anyone who has been married for more than 2 months, they will tell you things can get bad. Sometimes REALLY bad. What relationship doesn't? Most of your teenage years you probably couldn't stand your little sibling, bet they are one of your closest friends now? Every relationship has seasons, that is why couples make a vow to each other. A vow asks a person to look long-term, down the road. When feelings of dis-like, dis-respect, contempt, anger, and bitterness come you need to keep pushing through. Because love can be a feeling that changes as quickly as the wind, emotional high one minute and rolling on the ground the next. Saying I do and signing a marriage licenses binds you to the person you marry. The two have now become one.

2. At One Point in Your Marriage You Will NOT Like Your Spouse: Just know this, be prepared for it, don't let it take you by surprise. You are human and so is your spouse; you will both do things that the other person does not like. One of you leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor while the other is a little OCD about having the kitchen sink cleaned out. It will happen. And it's okay. 

Photo Credit Goes to Tim Chen
Brian and I are friends, I would consider him one of my top five confidants.As kids growing up we were pretty close siblings, we played Lego's for hours during the day and would sit at opposite ends of the couch at night staying up till 3am glued to our books. Overall we had a good friendship. But I will never forget one crazy afternoon in our kitchen, who knows what we were fighting about, but I was emotional and really angry so I pulled a butter knife out and threatened Brian. After his shock, I think he laughed realizing a butter knife and his little sister were not going to do much damage. Besides admitting I was a nutty child at times, my point is every friendship and relationship has seasons were you just downright don't like the other person. You will rub each other the wrong way. Recognize it and deal with it. Don't stuff it down. Which leads me to...

3. Communication is Key: If I had a penny for every time I heard/read this I would literally be a millionaire. The reason? IT'S TRUE! As a couple you need to communicate. It is essential to your marriage, without it marriages die. Humans die without air, marriages die without communication.  Just last night A said something to me that totally dawned a metaphorical light on. "I don't want to be 86 sitting on my front porch rocker finally telling N I didn't like his pasta". Granted in truth she LOVES his pasta, but the point was clearly expressed. If you are in marriage for long-term commitment, why would you not be honest and open with your partner. If you are both committed to your marriage there is nothing you have to hide from each other. I promise that all of these couples have gone through some tough stuff (some worse than others) but they all kept communication open. 
Open example of this: A few years back Mike and Elizabeth were working at a youth camp for two weeks, where they worked ridiculous hours, had little time to talk, and several moments of frustration grew. By the end of the two weeks, they had barely communicated and anger was flaring. Finally on their long ride home they talked, shared their frustrations and cleared the air. That night I sat on their kitchen floor amazed, they were so "in like"  with each other, more than just love. All night Mike kept saying "I like you so much" and Elizabeth kept smiling and both their eyes were glowing. They communicated, got things in the open and in the end their relationship and love was stronger. Needless to say I got kicked out early that evening.
Another question A posed to me was what is lack of communication and keeping secrets in a marriage teaching your children? When communication is not open and available in your marriage how are your children going to learn what healthy communication is? And when you keep things from your spouse you are only teaching your children to keep things from you. This last point got my wheels turning even more, what you do (or don't do) in a marriage teaches your children what to do (or not do). 

Photo Credit to Kasia Kruz
 4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, It's All About Your Attitude: This may have been the biggest lesson for me: it is not always about what you say, but it is always about how you say it! Simple phrases like "the dishes need to be cleaned" or "the laundry needs to get folded" can be expressed in two very different ways. One a simple reminder or statement, the other a begrudging comment about the fact your spouse STILL hasn't done a job you asked them to do 5, 10, 50 minutes ago. Truth? This is something that I have observed the wives (and not just in these four examples) struggle with more than the husbands. As women (this is a generalization) it is easier for us to multitask, expect the dishes, laundry, or cleaning to be done a certain way and in a certain time frame. But this is something that I have seen go both ways, one question is asked in the wrong manor and then it escalates from there.

 Lack of Respect begets Lack of Respect!

Photo Credit to Nancy Tozer-Sieling
There are so many examples I could use here but out of the respect for the marriages and couples that I so dearly love, I honestly don't need or want to put one in. Every single one of you know what I am talking about, when you blurt something out before taking a minute to catch your breath, your anger/frustration, or attitude. The other thing I have learned is that lack of respect is an outward expression of inward expectation and entitlement, most often an unexpressed expectation. How do you avoid this lack of respect in marriage? The biggest thing I have heard: it is all about putting the other person first, their needs above your needs. He needs the lawn mowed, she needs the dishes done, they both put each others needs above their own and incredible things can happen. :-) Team work!

Final Note: If there is one thing I would recommend to any single person, find a couple of marriages and get inside! If you have to bribe with free meals, babysitting, or lawn care get in! Find some marriages that are in no way perfect but great and learn all you can. It has been one of the most changing experiences of my life; teaching me what love really is - what marriage really is. For you married couples out there, invite a few single people into your marriage, let them see past the happy faces and into your fights, your hard stuff. Let them see you struggle and let them see how you work out conflict. It will be just as rewarding for you as it is for them!

There it is ladies and gentlemen, 4 things I have learned about marriage by being a single.

CECONNER © 3.17.2014