Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jayden's Advice on How to Be Strong

Hi Friends,

As I've been recovering from my big surgery these last few months, I've been thinking about what it means to get stronger, to be able to use muscles I haven't used well in years, for the core of who I am to be strong and solid and working as it should.

I notice as I grow strong that I also get sore.  I do too much; sometimes I fail and fall.  But I'm getting stronger every day, and that makes everything more fun. Riding my horse is a even more of a joy - I'm strong as I sit on her back. Working in the barn is invigorating as I can use the muscles that weren't working before to shovel and scoop and grab saddles from the top rack. I can lift heavier objects; I stay solid in shaky circumstances.

I want that strength not only in my physical core, but also my spiritual one - the true core of my being! That's what I want for all of my life! And so I've been thinking of Jayden when he was a baby and just learning to stand.  He was getting strong too. He struggled, he got sore, he fell, and he kept on getting stronger until he could run around with joy.

So, I wanted to share his story today to encourage you as it's been encouraging me.  Here's what it's like to learn to stand, to strength our true core until we can stand, run, ride, and scoop poop (literal and figurative) like never before …

JAYDEN'S STORY
I held my breath and watched as Jayden struggled to pull himself up using the planter in my office.  At eight months old, he was determined to master the art of standing. 
For him, it didn’t matter that just that morning he’d fallen twice, hit his face on the floor both times, and given himself a red nose and forehead. He’d cried loud and hard each time, but after a few moments, he was back at it again. Working, stretching, striving to do more, to stand longer, to see beyond what could be seen from all fours.  He was indomitable in his desire to see his world from new heights.
            So, he pulled, he grunted, he wobbled, he swayed.  And finally, he did it.  He stood tall and straight with his hands grasping the edge of the planter.  Then, he turned and grinned at me before plopping back to the floor.  I clapped and leaned back as he crawled to the bookcase, grabbed the bottom shelf, and strained to stand again.  And again.  And again.
            For an hour he puttered around my office, working to pull himself up on everything he could reach.  Meanwhile, I sat at my desk and worked too.  Except I was working to pull out the right words to answer emails from a few difficult people in my life.  He strained, I strained.  He groaned, I groaned.  I almost gave up.  He never did. 
I stared at my computer screen, not wanting to reach out again, try again, love again. But Jayden showed me I was wrong.
I rested my fingers on the keyboard and glanced back as he balanced against the trash can.  Just the week before, he’d been happy swinging in his baby swing or jumping in his bouncer.  But now those things weren’t enough.  Instead, he wanted to grunt and grin, struggle and stand.  And next, he turned to tackle the stairs. 
As I watched him, I learned something important about myself and about God.  Jayden wanted to go more places, do more things, explore and stretch his newfound abilities. Even when it hurt, even when he failed, even when he wobbled and fell.  He didn’t care, because when he stood, he could see things, touch things, feel things that he never could experience if he stayed on the ground.  At eight months old, he knew that pain and failure shouldn’t stop him. 
By watching him, I realized that it shouldn’t stop me either.  Just because I’ve loved and been hurt, doesn’t mean I should be reluctant to love again.  Just because I’d reached out and failed, shouldn’t mean I don’t reach out again.  God wants me to keep trying, keep reaching, keep struggling to do what’s right.  Yet, too often, I let past pain hold me back from trying more, stretching, and pushing the limits of my faith.  I worry about being hurt again and forgot the wonder of finding new freedom in being like Christ.  
2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV) says,For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”  In the verse before, Paul urges Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” – not to shrink back, but to push forward to allow the fire to grow within him. 
So, as Jayden stretched his arms to the second step and bent his knee to climb one more stair, he reminded me that I, too, want to be persistent in my walk with God. I want to be stretching, growing, trying to be more like Him every day.  And that means choosing to love, choosing to reach out, choosing to give.  And when I get a red nose and forehead, I ought to just have a good cry, then keep on pushing forward in the things that God would have me do.  Only when I love like Him, even after being hurt, can I see new things, touch new horizons, reach the new heights He has planned for me.
Today, as I remember Jayden just starting to let go of the planter and take a few steps on his own, I find his relentless desire for growth still challenges me to forget past hurt and press on to follow God more fully, no matter how many owies I might get in the process.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

When Everything Goes Wrong

Hi Friends,


I wanted to share some encouragement from Wrestling with Wonder for those who are going through something difficult … and God won't take it away.  You are not alone. Mary was in that place too.

Here's a bit that talks about how she had to watch her son die a criminal's death, even though she prayed, even though he didn't deserve it, even though she never wanted anything like this:

Excerpt from Chapter 11:
There was no other way.
            Of course, Mary didn’t know that. But God did. And so do we.
            We know that the Messiah had to die a sinner’s death in our place that we might be free. From Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, we know that if there were an easier path, God would have chosen it.
            In Matthew 26, Jesus prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”
            And the soldiers, crowds, and Jewish leaders came and arrested him. They bound him. They beat him. They crucified him. And it was the will of God.
            There was no other way.
            The Messiah did not ascend to an earthly throne. The religious leaders did not recognize him. He was rejected, a crown not of gold but of thorns pressed upon his head, anointed not with kingly oil but with his own blood.
            There was no other way.
            He was sinless, and condemned. He was lied about, and the truth didn’t prevail. He was accused, and said nothing. He was scourged, and not rescued. And then he died on a criminal’s cross.
            There was no other way.
            Because “it was the Lord’s will to crush him,” says Isaiah 53:10. There was no other way for Jesus to satisfy his Messiahship. No other way for the prophecies to be fulfilled. No other way for the promises to come true.
            No easier way for Mary to become who she was always meant to be—not just the mother of the Messiah, but the mother of the Savior.
            “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way,” says C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain.
            The God who called Mary to face her worst fears is the same God who calls us. He calls in those times when the worst happens, when what we feared might happen does happen. When it seems like life has gone from bad to worse and every time we pray something even more awful happens, that is when God is saying to us:
            There is no other way.
            No other way for him to accomplish his will in your life, to make you the person you were meant to be. If this cup could pass, it would.
            But it doesn’t.

            Because this is the way. And sometimes we must walk in it, with faith, with trust, with one foot in front of the other, even when all our fears come true.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In the Face of a Fat Lip...

Hi Friends,

Bryan just returned home after 5 days away at a conference for work (in Texas). As I was single-parenting for all those days, doing my best, failing, keeping on, and dealing with the mini-disasters that always crop up when there are six kids in the mix, I remembered this story from a few years ago when Bryan was doing the single-parent thing and I was away at a conference.  This story helped me keep on keeping on, stay faithful, and not despair despite the little disasters.

So, for any of you who need a little encouragement, even when things go awry, READ ON ...


FIFTEEN MINUTES TO A FAT LIP


Life isn’t easy.  I know that.  But what I often forget is that it’s not supposed to be.  But God calls us to persevere even, especially, when life goes awry.
I loaded my bags into the trunk of my car and turned to wave goodbye to my husband and six kids who stood on the porch.  
“Have fun, Mom!” they yelled.  
“I’ll be back in a couple days.”  I blew them kisses then opened the passenger side door and climbed in.  My friend, Patti, waited in the driver’s seat.
She glanced at me.  “Is your husband ready for this?”
I smiled.  “No problem.  He’s great.”
“Three days is a long time.”
My smile faded.  “It’ll be a piece of cake.”  Wouldn’t it?
She cleared her throat, gripped the steering wheel with one hand, and started the car.  
As we pulled out of the driveway, I turned and watched Bryan and the kids shuffle into the house.
Three days wasn’t that long . . .
Fifteen minutes later, my phone buzzed.  I glanced at Patti in the driver’s seat.  “Uh oh.”
“Who’s texting you?”
“Bryan.”
She snickered.  “So much for three days.”
I slid open my phone and glanced at the text.  A picture.  No words.  Just a single photo of our three-year-old boy.
Little Jayden had a crooked smile and tears glistening in his eyes.  The right side of his upper lip was three times its normal size.
I texted back.  “Is he OK?”
A few moments later, the phone buzzed again with a single word response:  “Yes.”
I sighed.  Fifteen minutes to a fat lip.  What a start to a three day sojourn into single parenting.  
Patti raised her eyebrows.  “Well?”
I grimaced.  “Jayden smashed his lip.”
“Already?”
“I guess these three days won’t be a piece of cake after all.”
She laughed.  “Did he fall off that chair again?”
“Probably.”  Last time, the kid had perched precariously off a tall dining room chair and leapt off, thinking he could fly.  He was like that.  We did our best.  We taught, we warned, we put down cushions.  But sometimes hurt still happened.  I’d been there too, watching helplessly as Jayden tumbled down the stairs, hollering for him to slow down right before he fell and skinned his knee on the pavement, and of course, grasping for the tottering chair just milliseconds too late.
I stared at the picture for another thirty seconds, then sent a final text:  “No worries.  Don’t give up.  Three days will be over before you know it.”  
Buzz.  “Promise?”
“Promise.”
Life isn’t easy.  Parenting isn’t easy.  But God doesn’t call us to easy, in parenting, in marriage, or in life.  We do what’s right.  We do our best.  We rely on God.  
And sometimes we get a fat lip anyway.
Because sometimes things go wrong.  We fall.  We get hurt.  Our lips split and swell.  God knows that.  So, he sends us a text: “Let us not become weary in doing good,” Paul says in Galatians 6:9 (NIV), “for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Don’t give up.  Even when life goes awry fifteen minutes into a three day journey.  Paul said that because he knew life wasn’t going to be easy.  He knew there would be times when we do our best and bad things still happen.  He knew we’d want to give up, throw up our hands, and say, “What’s the use?”  So he tells us to hang in there, don’t quit, we’ll make it if we just persevere.  He tells us to keep doing the right thing, even in face of fat lips and teary eyes.
By the time I got home three days later, Jayden’s lip had healed.  His smile wasn’t crooked anymore, and his tears had long dried.  In the meantime, Bryan had put helmets on kids and wiped runny noses.  He’d cleaned up dishes and folded piles of laundry.  He’d prayed and laughed and read books and Bible stories.  He’d also put on bandages and kissed boo-boos.  He’d done good.
He did what we all are called to do:  Keep on doing good even when it doesn’t seem to be doing any good.  We do what’s right, and we trust that healing will come.  Even when our lips swell and we have to smile through our tears.  Even when we fall fifteen minutes after the car pulls away.  Even when it seems that nothing will be right again.  

Don’t give up!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hope When You're in the Waiting Place

Hi Friends,

As I think about the story of Sarah, Abraham's wife, and wonder of waiting, I realize that this week has been a waiting week for me too.  A hard week.  And a little bit scary.  Joelle's new horse developed a lump on her chest that seemed like it could be pigeon fever. So we watched, we waiting (and I worried!). It grew huge. I called the vet, I waited (and I worried).  And I thought about what a hard thing it is to wait, and not know, and try not to worry. (Turns out the lump was just a big, huge blister which the vet lanced and now we'll doctor it and drain it for a week and … WAIT for it to hopefully get well.)

So, as I think about the waiting, I wanted to share with you a small excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder where I talked a bit about the wonder of waiting.  Also, just a heads-up, Zondervan (my publisher) was able to secure a BookBub advertising spot for my book which will make the ebook version only $0.99 for one day next week (on March 10, Tuesday) on Amazon/Kindle, B&N/Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc.  So, if you haven't gotten your e-copy yet, mark your calendar and spread the word!  And if you did get the e-version for the regular $7.99 price, THANK YOU - those sales will make a very big difference when I propose my next book on Sarah.

Meanwhile, here are some encouraging words on Waiting from Wrestling with Wonder, Chapter 9...


Excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder:

What does wonder look like in the land of waiting? What if you go months, years, decades, believing in God’s power and promises, but not seeing that power revealed in your circumstances? Mary has been there, in the waiting place. She believed the angel’s words in Luke 1, she sang of what God would do in her Magnificat, but now decades have passed. Jesus has not stepped forward in power, has not revealed his majesty, has not conquered Rome. Then, tucked away at a wedding in Galilee, she hears those words again: “My hour has not yet come.”
            Yet, a transformation is about to take place. Not only of water into wine, but of Mary herself. From mother to follower. From parent to disciple.
            So, as we wrestle with a God who asks us to wait, God is beckoning us to come to a wedding at Cana. As we struggle to understand a God who sometimes does not come through with the power we are looking for in the timeline we want, he is inviting us to come alongside Mary. As we question a God who sees the need and still says “not yet,” he calls us to watch Mary touching the sleeve of her son. To hear her words: “They have no wine.”

            Let us wait with her. Because transformation will come. Of water. Of stone jars. Of need. Of worry. Of the waiting itself. Because we too will be transformed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Survey Says … ???

Hi Friends,

Good news - I'm working on my next book idea!  And more good news … I'd love to have your opinion! Below is some info on what I'm thinking about.  This would be a book similar in format to Wrestling with Wonder (except about Sarah instead of Mary). So, can you let me know if you think this book would be one that would speak to the deep places in your life and encourage you in your own journey?

Okay, here's what I have so far for a description and concept … let me know if you like it!

WAITING for WONDER
A Transformational Journey through the Life of Sarah

WHAT IS IT?: 
A unique, contemplative journey through the life of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, to reveal the wonder of a God who does not work according to our timetable.

CONCEPT:
After 20 years of infertility, Marlo often says she should have a PhD in the art of waiting. Now, she brings her experience to the story of the Bible's Sarah in order to explore the wonder of waiting for those who find themselves on a long journey toward the promised land.

Because God’s timing is so rarely our own...

It’s easy to believe God when a promise is new, fresh, bubbling with life.  It’s hard when the years pass and nothing changes.  It’s hard to keep praying, keep hoping, keep believing.  It’s hard when those you love betray you, when desperation strikes, when your own plans backfire, and still God does not fill the emptiness.  But God is calling us to more.  He is calling us, as He called Sarah, to wonder ... to laughter in the face of the impossible. 

Because we lose the wonder in the waiting of life ... 

Who is this God who makes impossible promises, and then asks us to wait?  Who is He who shows us the stars in the sky while there is no baby in the bedroom? Who is He when months turn to years and stretch to decades and still the promise remains unfulfilled? Who is this God of long intervals, painful delays, and yet-unanswered prayer?

He is the God of the waiting room. He is the God of the stars when we don’t see even a glimmer of light. He is the God of a million beaches when we can’t even hold a single grain of sand. He is the God who calls us to trust Him in the in-between places.  He calls us to the wonder of waiting. 

Because Sarah shows us God -- Determined, breath-taking, and beyond all our plans...

Who is this God?  For us, like Sarah, following God’s call isn’t about a life of ease, of every-prayer-answered when we want, or easy faith.  It’s about His tireless commitment to “bless the whole world” through us.  It’s about being a part of God’s-Promise-Come-True when it seems like all hope is long dead and gone.  It’s about discovering a God who asks “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” and always has the last laugh.

Sarah’s story illuminates all of our stories because it shows us the depth and purposes of a God who does not act in our timing but in His own.  By traveling with her through the pages of this book, readers will find their perspective transformed from discouragement to hope, from frustration to deep joy.  By Waiting for Wonder, they will find a God who takes their breath away ... even, and especially, in those moments when He seems to be taking too long.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Have You Read Veil of Fire? Here's Your Chance!

Hi Friends,

Do you ever feel like you've been burned by life? Do you feel hurt, scarred, and sometimes just want to hide? Do you long for the hope of Jesus' aletheia (unhidden truth)?  If so...

Here's some great news -- my publisher will be offering Veil of Fire FREE for two days as an ebook, starting THURSDAY Feb 19 thru FRIDAY Feb 20. Afterward, it will be for sale at the greatly-reduced price of $2.99 until March 21.  After that, it goes back to the regular ebook price of $9.99.  So, if you missed this ACFW Book of the Year winner, and want a compelling, hope-and-wonder filled read full of mystery and an unexpected twist … now's your chance to snatch up a copy.  (Remember, sale starts Thursday!)

Here are a few links:


And here's a bit about it:
A Raging Firestorm . . .
A Light in the Hills . . .
And a Mystery Rises from the Ash.

In 1894, the worst firestorm in Minnesota history descends on the town of Hinckley.  Heat, flame, and darkness sweep through the town, devouring lives, destroying hope.  In the aftermath, the town rises from the ashes, its people determined to rebuild their lives. 

But in the shadows, someone is watching.  Someone is waiting.  Someone who knows the secrets that can free them all.  A rumor begins of a hermit in the hills - a person severely burned, disfigured beyond recognition.  Doubts rise.  Fear whispers.  Is the hermit a monster or a memory?  An enemy or a love once-lost? 

Based on historical events, Veil of Fire beckons to a time when hope rose from the smoke of sacrifice, when trust hid behind a veil of fear, when dreams were robed in a mantle of fire . . .

And here's the opening:
Sometimes, when the wind blows just right over the fields, I can still smell the spice of her perfume. Sometimes, when the dandelion seeds dip and twirl across the sky, I see the way the silk slipped through her fingers, how the needle flashed in her hands. In and out. In and out. The seam straight, perfect. I pause to listen to the warble of a common loon, and in it hear the soft echo of her laughter. Lilting. Faint. Fading.

Then the sky turns dark. The wind stills. The bird is silenced. And in that moment, I am returned to the day my world burned. The day that changed everything I am, everything I was.

Listen, the silence whispers.
See, the darkness beckons.
So I wait. I remember. And in that quiet, in-between place, she lives again.


If you still aren't convinced...
What Others are Saying about Veil of Fire:
Reading Veil of Fire is like feasting on a banquet of rich words and vivid images.
─Tricia Goyer, award-winning author of five novels, including A Valley of Betrayal

Moving. Heartbreaking. Compelling. This beautiful, sensitive story of pain, loss, and, ultimately, healing touched the deepest parts of my heart. 
 ─Laura Jensen Walker, author of Miss Invisible and Reconstructing Natalie

A truly gifted storyteller, Marlo Schalesky has woven a beautiful tale that confronts readers with truth and the character of God. Her lyrical style and deep characterization will transport you into a story populated with unforgettable characters.
─Judith Miller, author of the Bells of Lowell, Lights of Lowell, and Freedom’s Path series

Veil of Fire is a lovely, well-crafted story of love and loss, redemption and restoration. Marlo Schalesky has written an original, unpredictable story that will stay with me for a long, long time.
─Annette Smith, author of A Bigger Life