Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Need Joy? Try this..

Hi Friends,

We've had a couple hot days here this week, so one evening Jayden got on his swimsuit and spent over an hour running through the sprinklers. Of course his diabetes equipment got all wet (and his Dex was wiggy) and later that night his blood sugar went low from all the fun … but it WAS fun. He had a great time.


And the running-through-the-sprinklers laughter and joy reminded me of a story from a couple summers ago, a story I needed to hear again.

I want to be the type of person who runs through the sprinklers of God's grace, a person who laughs (even when my stuff is getting wet and my health goes low) and knows how to soak up God's love and joy. I want to be the kid He made me to be.

Maybe you want that too.

If so, here's the story that's helping me this week:

Running through the Sprinklers of Grace
I sat back in my lawn chair, closed my eyes, and listened to the steady chit-chit-chit of the sprinklers.  Ice melted in the glass beside me.  The sun warmed my face.  Tension oozed from my shoulders, and I sighed.  All was peaceful, calm, and ...
Then came a shriek.
A scream.
A shout.
A giggle.
A laugh.
A squeal of delight.  
I opened my eyes.  There on the lawn before me twirled six little swimsuit-clad bodies, their arms waving, their cheeks sprinkled with water.  
They stopped.  Chit-chit-chit went the sprinkler.  They positioned themselves. Three more chits, then they ran through the falling drops with their chins raised and their voices once more loud with joy. Sunlight glinted off the water in a rainbow of color.  Again they paused, again they ran, again they laughed and danced.
On the first pass, the water made a few dark spots on their suits and hair.  By the fifth run, they were completely soaked.
“Come on, Mom, join us.  It’s fun!”  Joelle raced on tiptoe through the falling drops, until her long hair streamed with water.
I watched her and smiled.  “I’m not wearing my swimsuit.  I’m fine where I am.  You guys play.”  I motioned with my hand and settled deeper into my chair.
The baby raised her hands and toddled through the spray of water.  The older ones followed, each laughing and squealing and shouting with joy.
Wetter and wetter they got.
Happier and happier they became.
Until I realized that I had chosen poorly.  Here I sat, comfortably on my chair, outside of the spray of fun and joy.  I sat.  They ran.  I sighed.  They laughed.
When did I get so dull and boring?  
I stood up and put my hands on my hips.  Was I like this with God, too?  Did I sit on the sidelines, in my comfortable chair, while God was sprinkling his grace and love with abandon just a few feet away?  Was I too comfortable, too tired, or even too lazy to run through the sprinklers of his grace until I was soaked through and through?
If so, I wanted to change.  If God’s grace was raining down, I wanted to be a part of it.  And not just a few dribbles, I wanted to be soaked through and through.  
Joelle’s voice rang out again.  “Come on, Mom, get on your suit!”
I grinned and turned toward the house.  “I’ll be right there.”  Moments later, I was dressed in my physical swimsuit, but what about my spiritual one?  What kind of “suit” would prepare me for running through the sprinklers of God’s grace?
As I thought about the question, Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV) came to mind: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  I pondered the last part of the verse until I began to glimpse the truth.  God had called me to be overflowing with thankfulness.  That was the “suit” I needed.  When thankfulness covers me, clothes me, I’m ready to receive the droplets of his grace, the pouring out of his love.  A thankful spirit is the suit that’s made especially for running through the water with joy.  
I jogged down the front steps and out onto the lawn.  Then, I raised my face, listened to the steady chit-chit-chit, and ran.  I squealed, I giggled, I laughed.  My kids laughed with me.  And that’s when I knew that I didn’t want to miss the fun anymore, not on the front lawn and not in life with God.  I needed to keep on my suit of thankfulness and see where God was sprinkling his grace -- in church, in books, in serving others, in reading my Bible, in quiet walks, in times with good friends -- so I could put myself in a position for the water to fall on me.  
       If I do that, then I can run with abandon.  I can shriek and scream, laugh and squeal. I can dance through the sprinklers of his grace again and again until I’m soaked with the wonder of his love.  That’s the way I want to live, everyday!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Waiting Place

Hi Friends,

I wanted to share a little except from my book, WAITING FOR WONDER, that's coming out in November (hopefully). So, for anyone who's waiting…

EXCERPT (note: the test I talk about ended up being negative - whew)

Waiting. I’ve never been a fan. But it seems I have a PhD in the art. Waiting for the results of infertility treatments, waiting for an answer for a job, waiting for a change in a relationship, waiting for a change in life.
            And recently, waiting for test results that could mean cancer, or could mean nothing. Once again, I was in the waiting place. I was stuck in Haran. And while there, I wrote this:
            I find myself here again, in this waiting place. The place where I know God is sovereign. I know He holds my life in His hands. I know He is there. I know He cares. I know the very hairs on my head are numbered...as are my days.
            And yet there is a knot in my stomach and my eyes flicker to the phone.        Again. And again. It does not ring. Not yet. Of course not yet.
            But I watch anyway. I swallow. And remind myself of all the things I already know.
            -Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? (Mt 6:27/Lk 12:25)
         -Therefore stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. (Mt 6:34)
            -Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life... (Lk 12:22)
            -Don’t be anxious about anything... (Phil 4:6)
            And my glance skitters to the phone again.
            Today, I had my yearly mammogram and screening. Today, they found something on my right side. Today could be the first day of a very painful journey.
            But I don’t know yet. I am stuck here, in-between.
            It’s the not knowing that twists like a dagger through my soul. It’s the not being able to move forward. Not being able to move back. Trust is harder in the waiting place.
            So I watch the phone, even though I know the radiologist probably hasn’t even looked at the scans. Even though I know it is too soon. Even though, if she calls, it will only be to bring me in for more tests.
            I hate waiting.
            But it’s not a choice.
            It’s something that’s thrust upon you.
            And still I wait... I drown in the waiting.
            God, you were with me in the past. You will be with me no matter the future.

            Are you here, too, in the waiting place?
And I discovered, YES, God is in the waiting! I hope this excerpt encourages you as it encouraged me today.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Death is Not the End - The Wonder of Easter

Hi Friends,

Today I read an essay written by my daughter, Joelle, about her life. I read about the death of her precious pony Pippin, and her rat Paris, and further back the death of her first pony, Oreo. What I read made me weep. But not simply from sorrow. Carefully, this not-yet-thirteen year old girl wove her story to show how death wasn't the end, but a tool in the hands of a loving God to transform her, to transform us.


Death is not the end.

Easter teaches us that.

And as I pondered her words, I remembered an excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder about the death of Christ. It went like this…

EXCERPT:

            Death.
            I tremble as I type the word.
            Death.
            We’ve all tasted its bitter fruit. Death of a loved one, death of a dream, death of a relationship ... the death of our hopes and the promises of a bright future.
            With Mary, we’ve all knelt in the darkness at the foot of a cross. We’ve all wept and shuddered, knowing death has come near.
            And then it arrives. Death.
            It is finished.
            And yet, God has only just begun to change the world, our world. He has only begun to change us. And we discover that death is not the end we once believed. It is but a doorway to the transformation of our souls.
            Mary could not have seen it from where she knelt on Golgotha. She could not have known as she looked up at her dead son, as she experienced the worst moment of her life, that this very moment would change everything. It was the moment of inexplicable glory.
            When all was lost ... all was saved. You were saved, I was saved, Mary herself was saved from all her sins. This was the moment God broke through and accomplished the most amazing, wondrous, incredible, beautiful thing of all time.
            Her worst moment.
            His death.

            The moment of amazing wonder.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kidney Stones and Gratefulness

Hi Friends,


Well, today I got a call from the kidney stone specialist who had finally received all my test results. Good news - he thinks we've finally gotten my regime down to prevent further stones (we'll see!). So, as I thought about my long journey through stones (that picture is right before my last surgery!), I remembered that God taught me to be thankful not for the pain but in the pain. It is a strange sort thankfulness …

Here's how it happened:

I hate kidney stones. In “Marlo’s Perfect World,” there would be no such thing as a kidney stone. But clearly this is not my perfect world.
            I sat in the doctor’s waiting room trying not to scream, or faint, or moan like a tortured spirit and frighten the other patients. Instead, I squirmed, I wiggled, I pressed my fist into my back to try to relieve the pain.
            The door opened. A nurse called a patient who was not me. The door closed.
            The pattern repeated while minutes fell like the drops from water torture, and pain stabbed through me, sending waves of nausea rippling through my gut.
            I didn’t shout.
            I didn’t cry.
            I didn’t fall on the floor and kick my feet like a toddler throwing a fit about a green shirt.
            I didn’t. But I wanted to.
            And then, the pain vanished. No more stabbing agony. No more nausea. Nothing.
            The door opened. The nurse called my name, at last.
            I strode into the exam room, waited a few moments, and then the doctor walked in. “How are you doing?”
            I shrugged. “I’m fine. I think the kidney stone passed while I was in the waiting room.”
            “Well, let’s see. Go get an X-ray and come back this afternoon.”
            I left, got the x-ray, and returned as ordered. This time, I only had to wait a few moments to see the doctor. He walked in the room and asked me the same question as before. “How are you doing?”
            I gave the same answer. “I’m fine.”
            “I looked at your X-rays.”
            A little doubt seeped past my confidence. “And?”
            He sighed. “Inconclusive.”
            “But there aren’t any stones, right? I feel okay.”
            He pulled a chair close to mine, sat down, and looked me in the face. “Truth is, I can’t say for sure from your X-rays. I can’t see stones, but something just isn’t right.”
            I swallowed and didn’t say a word.
            He leaned forward. “Marlo, I’m very worried about you. I want you to have a PET scan.”
            My shoulders slumped. “Okay. I guess.”
            I had the scan on Tuesday. Wednesday morning the doctor’s office called me in. I had two large stones in both ureters, along with four other big stones in my kidneys.
            I was in emergency surgery the next morning. Just in time, the doctor was able to break up the stones before they caused any permanent damage.
            I still hate kidney stones. But these six big boulders taught me something important. They taught me a strange sort of thankfulness.
            I learned to be thankful in pain, not for the pain, but for the process by which hidden, harmful things in our lives are exposed and broken up by God. Pain alerted me to something gone wrong. But then, when it vanished, I thought the problem was passed. It wasn’t.
            The same can happen in our souls. We may not realize that old hurts or hangups are causing damage inside us; we may think that a painful thing has “passed.” But God sees deep within us, and in his love, brings things to the surface to be truly taken care of, even when it hurts.
            Jesus tells us in Mark 4:22 (NIV), “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” And Daniel says about God in Daniel 2:22 (NIV), “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”
            I’m grateful for a doctor who didn’t just look on the surface and declare everything okay. He didn’t settle for “good enough.” I’m also grateful for a God who knows the condition of my soul, exposes the stones he finds there, and works to make me whole. He also will never settle for “good enough.”
            So, when God presses the sore places that we think are all better, it could be that there are stones there, hard places that need to broken up so that we can truly heal.
            Kidney stones have taught me that God is not interested in “Marlo’s Perfect World,” but he is interested in perfecting Marlo’s heart, even if that means pain, and surgery, and digging around in places that I thought were just fine.
           And for that, I am thankful, not for the pain, but in the pain, because God is a surgeon I trust.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Are You Wearing Your Wildflower Crown?

Hi Friends,

We're enjoying a February warm spell and our property is abloom with wildflowers (mostly yellow ones). As I was out walking to the barn today, seeing all the flowers (the picture is of the flowers right outside my door!), I remembered how my kids had made wildflower crowns not too long ago. And I realized that I have not been wearing the wildflower-crown that God has made for me in life. I've been too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed.

I want to start wearing my crown again. Maybe you do too.

Here's the story that inspired me…

WILDFLOWER CROWNS

They came in giggling.  All six of them with dirt smudges on their noses, grass stains on their knees.  Laughing and dancing and flopping on the floor in a bundle of bubbling sibling delight.
“Don’t make a mess!”  I gripped the dishtowel in one hand and peered out the kitchen.  “No dirty shoes on the rug!”
“Don’t worry,” Joelle called.  “We won’t.”
“Did you clean up the basement for community group?”  I went back to drying the dishes.
No one answered.
“We’ve got a lot to do.”  
Only another burst of giggles answered me.
I put my fists on my hips and stomped around the corner.  “Hey, you --”  The words caught.
My three-year-old skipped toward me, one  hand on her head.  “Look, Mommy, look what I’ve got.  I’m wondrous beauty!”  She pulled a crown of wildflowers from her hair.  “See?”
I did see.  I saw them all, with flowers adorning every head, with crowns woven of daisies and dandelions and little purple wildflowers. They were beautiful.  Wondrous.
“Jayden made me a crown.  Purple, your favorite color.”
I bent over and squeezed her tight.  “You are a beautiful princess.”  I stood up.  “All of you.”
“Not me!”  Jayden took the crown from his head and tossed it in the air.  “Boys aren’t princesses.”
His sisters laughed.  “You make the best crowns, though.”
He made a face and brushed sand from his hair and onto the rug.
Bethany, the eldest, stood.  “Come on, let’s go make some more.  Let’s make one for Dad!”
They jumped to their feet and raced out the door.  
I shook my head and dried my hands on the towel as the door slammed shut and they scurried out onto the lawn.  I paused by the window, watching.  Legs scampered across the grass, hair glistened in the sun, small bodies flung themselves toward the patch of flowers growing near the driveway.  Sunshine and color and beauty and hope, adorned with wildflowers.
A moment later, they were sitting in a tight circle.  Fingers flashed as they wove stems into head-sized circlets.  Joelle placed a crown on Jayna, Bethany put one on Bria, while the littlest one worked hard to weave one that I knew would be for big brother, who would wear it even though he was NOT a princess.
With crowns complete, they stood and began singing at the top of their lungs.  They danced in circles.  They ran; they leapt; they rolled on the grass.  And I was reminded of Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV), “The Lord your God is with you... He will take great delight in you; in his love he will...rejoice over you with singing.”  
This is what rejoicing looked like.  This wildness, and joy, and dancing, and running, and tumbling.  And singing that was more like a shout than a song.  This was the kind of joy God offered me in Zephaniah 3:17.  
He offered me a crown of wildflowers.
I looked down at the dishtowel, still in my hands.  There was work to be done, dusting and laundry and dishes and food preparation for our group.  I had a to-do list a mile long.  How would I get it all done?
Then, came a whisper in my soul:  “Do not worry about tomorrow... (Mt. 6:34)... I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these ... (Mt. 6:29)”
Not even Solomon was dressed like one of these children, with their dirt-smudged noses, their grass-mussed knees, their flower-crowned heads.  God had adorned them with beauty, not because of their work but because of his love. They were princesses (well, except for Jayden), with crowns to match.  They were daughters of the King.
And so was I.
I dropped the dishtowel and called out the window.  “Hey, who’s going to make a crown for Mom?”

Then, I danced toward the door.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Best Valentine's Gift

Hi Friends,

Well, it's almost Valentine's day, so here are some thoughts on the best gift ever…

THE BEST GIFT
"Happy Valentine's Day, Honey," my husband murmured, then scooted out the door with his usual quick kiss and bear hug.  "See ya later."  Bryan winked and was gone.
That’s it? I thought.  No candy, no flowers, no delicate chocolates in the traditional bright red heart-shaped box!  Just a hug, kiss, and out the door?  This was supposed to be a day of passion, of romance, of chocolates!  A frown tugged at the corners of my mouth and deepened into ugly grooves.
Bryan never was much of a romantic anyway, I complained.  He just doesn't understand women.  Days like today are supposed to be special.
I sighed and drew my brows together in a deeper scowl as I proceeded to review again all the faults I imagined in my poor, unwary spouse.  By the time I was finished, I was thoroughly dissatisfied.  Valentine's Day was ruined.  And it was all his fault! 
I threw my body crosswise on the couch and swung my legs across the cushions.  Reluctantly, I picked up the Bible for my daily devotion.  I wasn't in the mood.  My eyes fell on the day's scripture, "Serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13).  Love.  There was that word.  Today was supposed to be the day of love.  I wasn't feeling much love at all.  And it was all Bryan's fault! ... Or was it?  The scripture didn't say to expect to be loved.  It especially didn't say to expect chocolates just because it was Valentine's Day.
Slowly, my temper quelled and I began to examine my reactions.  Bryan had done no more or less than any other day.  He had given me the hug and kiss that I usually counted as a treasure.  So why the difference this morning?  Was it because today I had expected more?  Had I succumbed to the dreaded "E" word - Expectation? 
I began to realize that the problem with my expectations is that I can never win with them.  As soon as I expected Bryan to act a certain way, I set myself up for disappointment.  When he didn't meet my expectations, I was upset.  If he had acted as I expected, then I would have been satisfied.  But how could I have been pleasantly surprised and appreciate his kindness if I had been expecting it all along?
February, they say, is a month for love.  And Jesus showed us what real love is all about -- Not candies, nor flowers, nor sweet chocolates wrapped in a fancy box.  No, love is about laying down our lives for one another, about serving one another in love.
So, this year for Valentine's Day, I'm not going to worry about gifts of tantalizing chocolates.  I'm not going to cling to expectations of what my husband is supposed to do for me.  Rather, I plan to give my husband one of the greatest gifts of all in a marriage -- I'm going to exchange my expectations for joy and thanksgiving -- the best Valentine's gift of all!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

When Life is Like Riding a Bike with Only One Pedal

Hi Friends,


I've been contemplating this story from my college days this week. So for anyone who feels like they've veered off track, here's some encouragement:

Pedal Problems
It was my first new bike ever.  A beautiful apple-red mountain bike, with a shiny black seat and real, honest-to-goodness gears.  Not many gears, but gears all the same.  Unfortunately, it was also the cheapest new bike I could find.  In the weeks before heading off to college, I had scoured the newspaper ads to find the very lowest price for a new bike.  Eventually, I found it. 
I didn’t realize my mistake until a few months later when I was late to Chemistry class.  I pedaled hard up the last hill.  Gears crunched, wheels turned, my backpack slipped sideways on my shoulder.  Then, it happened.  With a sharp crack, followed by a loud clunk, the left pedal broke and fell off my bike.  I swerved off the path, brushed against a tall pine, and finally crunched into an old wooden bench.  I looked down at the spot where the pedal should have been and at the fresh smear of grease on my pantleg. 
Then, I propped the bike against the bench and went back to retrieve the pedal.  Surely I could just stick it back on, or screw it in, or do something to make it stay put.  But it wasn’t that easy.  With the right tool, and a couple small parts, the pedal could be fixed.  But that didn’t help me now, on the side of the bike path, five minutes late to Chemistry 101.
So, I popped the pedal into a pouch in my backpack, climbed back on the shiny black seat, pointed the bike in the right direction, and pushed my foot against the one pedal that was left.  After two wobbly revolutions of the wheels, I quit.  Trying to ride a bike with only one pedal was not only impractical, it was impossible.  The bike was still apple red, the seat still shiny, the gears still working as they should.  Everything was just right, except for the one missing pedal.  But that’s all it took for the whole bike to be useless for its purpose.  So, there I was, with a perfectly good bike, minus one pedal, walking to class and pushing the bike beside me.
               I learned two valuable lessons that day:  First, cheapest is not always best.  And second, more importantly, both pedals need to be attached for a bike to go. 
The second lesson has come back to me often over the years since college.  I don’t ride a bike much anymore, but there still have been plenty of times when my daily life seemed to be veering off the path and heading toward the pines.  When, no matter how hard I was trying to pedal uphill, I just couldn’t get things to work.  And in those times, most of my life still looked right – the shiny parts were still shiny, the gears still worked as they should.  But something had gotten lost or loosened along the way.  Something had to be fixed before my life could pedal up the straight path again. 
Sometimes that something was a relationship that needed mending, or a habit that had to be changed.  Sometimes it was fear replacing faith, or a hidden anger that things hadn’t gone as I’d hoped.  Most often, something had gone awry spiritually.  I was too busy to take the time needed to maintain an intimate relationship with God.  So, the pedal of trust grew loose and my life wobbled into the trees.  When that happens, I’ve found that I need to stop trying to push forward, get off the bike for a moment, and see what’s wrong.  Then, it’s time to ask God to repair my broken parts and make me whole. 
In those times, I often pray the words of Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV):  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” 
And God is more than willing to replace my pedals and help me back onto the path He’s chosen for me.