Friday, August 30, 2013

Father Knows Best

A couple weeks ago, I got my hair cut.  

It was loooooong....  

... and pretty.  :)

I had never intended to let it grow out.  At least not to this length.  

I wish I could say "lack of time" is what has kept me from getting my  hair cut.  But it's not.

I have avoided scheduling my appointment simply because I was afraid of my inability to "keep it together" while sitting in that chair.


This time last year, I spent many evenings walking up and down the road with my neighbor and friend, Elisha.  She had completed her cancer treatments, and was impatiently awaiting the full arrival of her hair.  All the while, she marveled at how long my hair was getting.  With a guilty smile, I told her I wasn't cutting it all off until she and I could go to the salon and get our hair cut together.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you know we never got that opportunity.  Elisha passed away in April... with no hair.


So why now?  What made me ready to chop it all off?

Well, I've learned a lot since last year.  A lot from Elisha.  A lot from her battle, and a lot from her death.

Losing her made me contemplate things I had always taken for granted.  Faith.  God.   Prayer.  Love.

I can't tell you how many nights I laid awake asking the same question over and over again.  Why?

I never got the answer to that question.  I probably never will.  But I have been given insight that has given me peace.  And there is no doubt in my mind that peace comes from God.

I want to share all this with you.


Elisha Skeen was a very loved, very cherished human being.  I have never in my life witnessed such an outpouring of love, as I did when Elisha announced the return of her cancer.  Friends and family gathered around to comfort her, while friends of friends and friends of family came together to support and provide whatever was needed.  Thoughts and prayers came not only from everyone who loved her, but also from complete strangers.  People heard of her battle, and they joined her prayer team, begging God to heal her.

There were literally thousands of people praying for her.  And though she weakened, and the news kept getting worse, we couldn't help but hope that God would grant this request.

However, He chose not to.  And I spent the first few months following her death in total confusion, completely baffled at His decision to take her away from us.  

I continued to pray to Him.  I continued to believe in Him.  I continued to praise Him.  But as the days passed without her here, I became wholly consumed by my lack of understanding...

The Bible says in Matthew 17:20

...for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

This verse fueled my bewilderment and intensified my insomnia.  While everyone else in my house was asleep, I would lie awake... staring at the ceiling...  wondering...  

Surely together with these thousands of people that were praying for Elisha, we had faith the size of a mustard seed.  Why then was she not healed?  

I didn't know what to do, or how to cope.  With Elisha's death.  With my declined request for her healing.  Or with my shaking faith.  So I prayed.  I prayed for enlightenment.  And I prayed for peace.

God gave me both.


I was sitting at the kitchen table, listening to my husband, Keith, provide a Biblical message on prayer.  I was reluctant to listen to his words because the pain was still so close to the surface.  I really just wanted to keep my ears, my heart, and my mind closed.

Keith said, "When you ask God for something, believe He will answer."

These words, full of sarcasm, immediately jumped into my mind.  Well He didn't answer our prayers for Elisha.

You know how people say God speaks to them?  Well, I didn't hear an audible response.  But in my mind, I felt Him speak.  I did answer.  You just didn't like my decision.

And that's when I realized what faith is and what faith is not.  

Faith is not asking for what I want, and expecting God to give it to me.  If that were the case, who would really have all the power in this situation?  Not God, but me.

No, no, no.  That just won't do.

Faith is asking for what you want, and trusting God to decide whether or not you should have it.

Wow.  How humbling is that?

It was a "light-bulb moment" for me.  

And as I sat there, across the table from the two children God has blessed me with, I saw myself in God's eyes.  Like a little kid, wanting my way, and demanding to know why I didn't get it.  

Why God?  Why didn't You heal Elisha?  Why?  Why?  Why?

Responding in the same manner I would to either of my sons if they stood before me acting that way, asking why I said NO, I felt God say,

Because I said so.

And because I am a parent, I know when I use those words with my children, it's because I know best.  And I expect them to trust that I know best.  They don't have to like it.  But they do have to accept it.

We asked God to heal Elisha.  Because He is our Father, we have to trust that He knows best.  He owes us no explanation.  We don't have to like it.  But we do have to accept it.

Romans 8:28 tells us
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Elisha was called to God's purpose.  She touched my life and the lives of so many other people.  I am closer to God because of her.  And I know, now in Heaven, Elisha is pain-free.  She is safe.  She is happy.  

That's what gives me peace.


Seeds of Faith - inspired by Elisha Skeen

So...  long story short...  I did get my hair cut.  My hairdresser cut off more than 10 inches, which I donated to Locks of Love in memory of Elisha Skeen.  

I didn't cry.  Instead, I smiled. 

I Will See You Again, Elisha, with a smile on your face, and a head full of hair.  

Until then, in the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:3, 
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Retreat

My name is Marci.
I am an addict.

I've been scrapbooking for ten years.  It started when my oldest son was just six months old.  I went to a scrapbook party, and made my first page.

This was my very first scrapbook page ever!

I was immediately hooked, and I have never looked back...

Fast forward.  Ten years later.  I have a room fully devoted to my love for scrapbooking.  I'm so spoiled.  Thank you Keith!  I even became a Stampin' Up! demonstrator hoping to earn enough  money to support my habit.  Visit my website.

One of my favorite aspects of this hobby is the scrapbook retreat - a three to four day getaway with fellow addicts gathered together for the sole purpose of cutting and pasting.  We also eat and drink.  We listen to music.  We stay up til all hours of the night, and into early  morning.  Doesn't it sound wonderful?!

It's in those late hours, while designing layouts for our cherished photos, our chatter usually turns serious.  I don't know if we're so delirious from lack of sleep, or if we're overly emotional from looking at pictures of the people we love most.  We end up talking about life, love, marriage, pregnancy, hair, clothes, holidays, our spouses (Only good things, of course!), our children, our neighbors, and even our enemies.

Sometimes we cry.  But mostly we laugh.  It's a truly bonding experience.

I highly recommend it.  :)


The last retreat I went on was in February of this year, in Virginia Beach, with the women in my Sassy Scrappers Stampin' Up! club and some of their friends.  At 12:30 a.m., we found ourselves discussing God, faith, Jesus, and religion..

I don't remember exactly how the conversation got started.  But one of the women openly admitted that she does not believe in God.  Two other women admitted to having a lot of questions about Jesus and Christianity.  And so they talked.

They talked about how certain aspects of salvation do not make sense.   About how Christianity seems unfair.  About how believing in God seems illogical.

It was an eye-opening, faith-shaking, life-changing conversation for me.  Mostly because I didn't say a word.

I sat at my table with my head down, my heart pounding, and my mouth shut.

I was completely unprepared for this discussion.  My daddy always told me to never discuss religion and politics with friends.

The women looked to me for input.




I had nothing to say.




God is so intricately woven into the fibers of my life.  Every aspect of who I am stems from who He is and what He has done for me.  He is the focal point of my marriage, of my parenting, of my homeschooling, of most everything I do.




But I had nothing to say.




Finally one woman asked me, "Are you a Christian?"  I nodded.

She then asked, "So how can you believe?"

The only words I found the courage to say were these...

"How can you NOT believe?"

That's all I said.  How can you NOT believe?

Another woman asked me if I had been raised to believe in God.  Again, I nodded.  She looked at the other woman, and they exchanged that-explains-it looks.  As if to say, "That's why she believes.  Because her parents taught her to believe."

My first thought was, "That's not why I believe."  I mean, I guess that is the reason I believed when I was little, but that's not why I believe now?

It was at that moment, for the first time in my life, I realized that I don't know how to explain why I believe.

All I can say is I look at this world, at my children, at the cycle of life, at everything.  And I just do.  I believe.

I believe the Bible is true.  I believe God created the world.  I believe Jesus is God's Son.  I believe He died for me.  I believe He rose again.  I believe God loves me.  I believe I will live with Him in Heaven some sweet day.

I believe it.  I believe it.  I believe.


Last month, a friend of mine who was also at this retreat, and part of this conversation, confronted me about my lack of participation in the whole discussion.  She reluctantly admitted that she was disappointed, as she has always viewed me as one of her most devout Christian friends.

She had every right to question my motives for not answering.  As a Christian, is it not my obligation to jump at any opportunity to tell someone who doesn't believe in God, why they should believe in God?

That was when I finally said out loud all the thoughts that had been haunting me the last four months.

I didn't know what to say.

I don't know why I believe.  I just do.  And now I realize, that's not good enough.

I know God is real.  I have never doubted that.  I still don't.  I just don't know how to explain why I know He is real.

You could not be more disappointed in me, than I am in myself.


I don't know who was more surprised at my confession, my friend or me.

I cried all the way home.


Seeds of Faith - inspired by Elisha Skeen

It's important to me that you know my belief in God has not faltered.  I still know God is real.  I have never doubted that.

I'm telling all you this because I want you to know why I am all of a sudden looking into who my God is.  I want to be able to explain why I believe.  For those of you who are Christians, you probably understand why I believe, even without me having to explain it.  But how do I explain it to a non-believer?

I've just recently come to the realization that I don't know God as well as I thought I did.  I don't know Him well enough to know how to tell others about Him, or in a way that would make them want to know more.

The Bible says in John 1:1 ~
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

It all started with The Word.  THE WordGod's Word.

If I want to know God better, it seems logical to me that I should spend more time in His Word, seeking His divine answers to all my epiphanic questions.

I just want to know more.

I hope you do too.

I'll keep you updated.  :)


By the way, if you happen to be a scrapbook addict like me, I'd be happy to introduce you to my support group.  :)