Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When Getting What You Want Doesn't Get You What You Want

Hi Friends,


I'm working on the third chapter of my new book, WAITING FOR WONDER, a Transformational Journey through the Life of Sarah (supposed to come out with Abingdon Press in the fall of 2016). This week I'm thinking about how sometimes we "arrive," or we get what we had been praying for, or we finally get "there," and it turns out to be not everything we'd hoped. It isn't the end-all, be-all. Life is still hard, we still struggle, and what we thought would be a place of settling into a better life turns out to just be the beginning of other issues we must face and deal with.

Ever been there? If so, share! I'm hoping this chapter will be a help and encouragement to all of us who find ourselves in this place.

Here's what I have so far for the chapter introduction:

How many times? How many times, Lord, have I thought if only I could get “there,” then all would be well? How many times have I set my hopes on something and believed that all my problems would be solved if only I could achieve that one thing. How many times have I prayed for the thing that I knew would save me, but it has fallen short?
Sometimes arriving isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 
Even the promised land isn’t the answer to all our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our needs. I forget that sometimes. But Sarai reminds me. 
She reminds me to be careful where I place my hope, be careful of where I believe I’ll find my answers. 

She reminds me that the promised land is a poor substitute for the God of Promise.

And here's the thought I'm mulling over for Sarai and for me:
When God gives a promise, the Promise is not a place, it's a Person. It's God Himself.

What do you think? Have you experienced this?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Living with Confidence: Lessons from the First Day of School

Hi Friends,


The kids are back in school (all except Jordyn), and the wonderful staff at Lagunita School has been managing Jayden's diabetes, giving insulin shots, checking blood glucose, and keeping him safe for days! What a blessing they are!

Since Jayden started the first grade, I've been thinking back to his first day of preschool, years ago, and what I learned that day. And as I've been dealing with the hard stuff of life, God has encouraged me by remembering that first day, remembering how to live with confidence when things are new, and scary, and sometimes I'm not so sure.

Jayden taught me how to live with greater joy. Here's his preschool story and how I was changed through it:

Way back when Jayden had his very first day of preschool…

Jayden gripped my hand with small fingers.  He took a deep breath, and I felt him tremble.  He looked up at me.  
I gave him my best smile.  “Are you ready?”  
Together, we turned toward the long hallway to his preschool classroom.  And then, I was the one taking a deep, uncertain breath.  How would he handle this first day of real school? Would he cry?  Would he fuss? Would he fight? Would he wet his pants?
Three-year-old voices splashed out into hall.  “Give me.” “Stop it!” “Mommmmyyyyy!”  “Waaaa...”
Jayden’s fingers tightened.  His shoulders straightened.  “I’m ready.”
I straightened my shoulders too, and we moved toward the triangle of light that fell from the door’s opening.  I’d made this walk many times with his older sisters.  But for him, it was the first time.  The first time he’d squish his hand into the homemade playdough.  The first time he’d sit on the carpet for circle time and hear the story of the big bear. The first time he’d teeter-totter with a classmate, and sip his juice, and hang his sweatshirt on the rack, and obey the teacher when she said to stand on the yellow line.
Was he really ready?
We stepped inside the classroom.  He didn’t cry.  He didn’t fuss.
I wanted to scoop him up and kiss him, but I wouldn’t.  He was a big boy now.  And he was ready.  He truly was.
I let go of his hand and touched his blond hair.  My gaze traveled over his cowboy boots, red t-shirt, and jeans covering his big-boy underwear.  It seemed like just yesterday when he was running around in diapers and onesies.  How had this happened?  How had he grown from a toddler in Pampers to this young man making his way over to the Lego table all by himself?
I thought about it and smiled.  He’d grown day by day, hour by hour, with a lot of instruction, a lot of discipline, and a lot of meals.  And some of it he hadn’t liked one bit.  He wanted to hit his sisters when they took his toys.  We taught him he couldn’t hit.  He wanted to go to church in just a diaper.  We told him he had to keep his pants on.  He didn’t want to eat healthy food.  We gave it to him anyway.  He “no like” going to bed.  We tucked him in and turned out the light all the same.  And he especially didn’t like to use the potty chair.  Going in the diaper was just so much easier.  But we kept at it until he was able to keep his big-boy pants dry all day and all night.
We did it because we knew he couldn’t stay a baby forever.  We knew this day would come, when he’d be going to school where you couldn’t hit, you couldn’t grab, you had to keep your pants on and your underwear dry.  Now, after a lot of work, he was ready.
And he was happy.
As I stood there and watched him play, I wondered if God was using the things I didn’t like in my life to discipline me too, to train me for a new adventure that I didn’t yet know about.  Were the things that didn’t taste so sweet making me strong?  Were the lessons that seemed so hard preparing me for my “first day of preschool” where diapers weren’t allowed?  As Jayden moved to the playdough table, the words of Hebrews 12:5b-6 (NIV) came to mind:  “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves...”
So, even though I prefer the easy life, even though I would rather swallow only things that I enjoy and get my own way, God knows that I have to grow up.  So he trains me, disciplines me, shows me how to grow, so that when I stand in the long, scary hallway leading to a new adventure with him, I can straighten my shoulders, grip his hand in mine, and say with a voice that may tremble just a little, “Yes, I’m ready.”

As I left Jayden’s classroom that morning, I knew that I, too, wanted to be like him.  I wanted to be a “big girl” who could bravely go into new situations and do what’s right.  I wanted to be the type of kid who holds God’s hand, even when I’m shaking, and walks forward.  I want to be ready for every new adventure with God.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The God Who Says NO

Hi Friends,


This week I'm remembering the last thing I said to Bryan before he took Jayden to the doctor, when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It went like this:

Me: I sure hope he doesn't have diabetes.
Bryan: Well, that would be awful.

So, as I ponder that short exchange, I've been thinking about what hope looks like, what faith looks like, what honesty looks like when things don't go well, prayers don't make it better, and the very thing I feared would happen, happens.,

Who is God then? And who am I?

As I ponder (and wrestle), I've been going back to the chapter on Jesus' arrest, besting, and sentencing from my book. And I've been reminded of what faith and hope are when my worst fears come true. I've found this excerpt helpful, and I hope you will too.

So, if you're facing a battle today and God's not making it "go away," read on ...

WRESTLING WITH WONDER excerpt

So who is this God who forces us to face our worst fears and refuses to answer our prayers to take this cup from us? Who is he whose will includes a Messiah’s arrest, beating, and horrific death? Who is he who sends a mother to witness the death of her Son?

            This God is the One who ...

            ... takes us where we don’t want to go

            ... to do what we never dreamed possible.

            He is the God who says “Follow me!” in the midst of the worst times in our lives.
Will we say, “Your will be done ... even if it’s this nightmare” as we pray and sweat and bleed?
            Because we are called by this God to face our fears and love anyway, follow anyway, believe anyway.
            Even when prayers are answered with only a resounding “No!”? Even when we pray and things get worse? Even when it seems like God hasn’t heard us at all?
            Yes.
            After all, a lot of people in the Bible didn’t get their prayers answered the way they wanted. But God’s will was done anyway. Here is just a small sampling:

            —Jonah: In Jonah 4:2, Jonah prays to the Lord and says, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.”
            Jonah wanted his enemies, Israel’s enemies, in the city of Nineveh to be destroyed. He prayed for Israel’s freedom from the horror inflicted on them by the Assyrians (Nineveh was their capital city). Instead, God sent him to preach to them, to warn them what would happen if they didn’t repent. Jonah fled in the opposite direction, toward Tarshish, to avoid the outcome he dreaded—the Ninevites repenting and being saved. But things got worse with a storm at sea, Jonah swallowed by a huge fish, and his being vomited up on land. Jonah went to Nineveh—the last place he ever wanted to go. He preached. They repented. And God did not destroy the city before Jonah’s eyes. His enemies remained. Jonah’s prayers weren’t answered. The worst thing he imagined happened. But God’s will was done.
            —Paul: In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul says, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
            Three times Paul prays, and each time God answers with a resounding, “No!” But God’s will is done. Paul’s character is refined, and God’s power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness.
            —Jesus: In Matthew 26:36-46, we see Jesus praying to his Father. It says, “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane.... Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death....’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ ... He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ ... [He] went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘... Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’”
            Jesus is barely done praying when the answer comes in the form of the arresting party armed with swords and torches. One of Jesus’s closest friends, Judas, is leading them and will betray him with a sign of love, a kiss. Jesus will then be beaten, mocked, and crucified. God, his Father, essentially says to his Son, “No! My will is not for this cup to pass. I will take you where you don’t want to go, and you will accomplish what no one has thought possible.” He would accomplish the salvation of us all. Because God said no, Jesus went where he didn’t want to go, and faced a nightmare death.

            The reason these men’s prayers weren’t answered in the way they’d hoped was not because God abandoned them, or because God didn’t love them, or because they’d used a wrong prayer formula. It wasn’t because they didn’t have enough faith, or had made God mad, or weren’t worthy.
            Instead, it was because God was accomplishing his will not only for them, but for others around them. God was up to something that required more faith, more trust, more submission to his will. God had another plan. Saying “No!” to their prayers was the only way to accomplish that plan, God’s vision, for them and for us.

            Just like Jonah, Paul, and Jesus, God takes us where we don’t want to go because he is doing something that is meant to glorify him through our lives, meant to bless others through us.  . His vision is bigger than our comfort, more glorious than our need for health, happiness, satisfaction, or even earthly life. He is doing something more, something wondrous, something nearly unimaginable.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Seeing God on the Diabetes Road

Hi Friends,

Well, this has certainly been a tough, life-changing week as my six-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an irreversible, unpreventable, and incurable autoimmune disease where his immune system attacks and kills the cells in his pancreas that produce insulin. He now requires careful monitoring of his carb intake, blood sugar (several finger pokes a day), and insulin shots at least 4 times a day. 

And so as I struggle to adjust to this new normal, I’m looking back to the things I believe, to what I so know to be true that I wrote it in Wrestling with Wonder.  At the 2am blood checks when his number drops into the danger zone, when I’m so intent on figuring out his meal that I forget if I’ve eaten mine, when I look to the endless future of insulin and monitoring, when the numbers are too high or the numbers are too low, when I sink in exhaustion and cringe at the whispers of fear, when I look at this path that I never imagined and never would have wanted ...

When God calls me to this journey through my son’s diabetes, I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. And today, this is what has encouraged me, reminded me that I am not alone. 

And for a moment, I see hope again ...

Chapter 3 Excerpt

         Sometimes we have to travel a path we don’t understand to arrive in the place where God wants us to be.
And as I recall my journey, and Mary’s, they teach me that even through hurt and discomfort, maybe especially in hurt and pain, God is leading to a place where I will glimpse his glory anew. He is saying to me that I must travel the path he has placed before me in order to get to the place he has planned for me since the beginning. 
So, when you’ve surrendered to God’s call and are suddenly thrust onto a road you never imagined and never wanted, remember, he knows the path you take. He travels with you, within you, and you will see him as you never could have before if you just keep going, trust, and persevere.
There, you will see the face of the Messiah. You will meet him in a new way. So, place one foot in front of the other, walk through your life day by day, know that this road, as pointless as it seems, is the only way to his will. 
Jesus must be born in Bethlehem. You must travel the difficult road at the worst time in your life to get there. Keep going, have faith, walk ... and you will get to that new place where you will see him in a new way. The place where you will be changed. Don’t give up. Don’t despair. 

This road leads to Bethlehem ... the place where you will Christ face to face.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are you Waiting for Wonder?

Hi Friends,


Are you in a waiting place in life? Perhaps a dry place, a barren place? If so, I wanted to share with you a little snippet from the book I'm working on now, which I'm calling Waiting for Wonder. The book is about Sarah, Abraham's wife.

Will you also pray for this book? I've only written the proposal (which includes the intro and chapter one) and publishers are considering it now.

Meanwhile, here is a little snippet that I hope will encourage you on your journey with God:

Who Is This God?

        This is a God who promises descendants as numerous as the grains of sand, to a barren woman.
This is a God who blesses all the families on earth through a woman with no family at all.
He is a God who reveals his glory through a man born blind, who could not enter the temple, the outcast.
And he reaches an entire town through a woman so ashamed she went to a well in the middle of the day.
This is what God does. God chooses us precisely for the places where nothing seems to change and hope is sparse. He is the God who uncovers the deepest place of our shame and pain, and promises to bless the whole world right from that very place. 
We sit in our barrenness, in our blindness, in our shame ... we may sit for a long time. But we do not sit without hope. Like Sarai, we hold the strange, impossible promises of God.
So, I look at Sarai.  And I know we are all barren. There are empty places in us all. 
       And I ask myself, will I set forth on this journey with her to discover a God who promises to take the places of my deepest shame and pain and transform them to bless the whole world? 
Will I dare step forward, knowing that the darkest places of my soul will be revealed, my pain will have no secrets, and promises may take decades to be fulfilled.
Do I dare embrace the empty places? Do I dare acknowledge my shame? And in doing so, might I embrace the very promises of God? 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

When the Worst Happens...

Hi Friends,

Sometimes the worst happens. Sometimes you hope and pray and what happens is even worse than you feared.  Sometimes a dear friend gets devastating news. Sometimes a young man enters a church and lets bullets fly. People die. Hopes are crushed. And all seems lost.

Mary has been there too. Been there when her son was condemned to die, when the crowds shouted "Crucify him!" and Pilate pronounced the death sentence.  All her hopes, all her prayers, and death came anyway.

I can barely breathe when I think about it, really ponder it. So, this week, I wanted to share with you an excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder that speaks to my heart this week as I try to catch my breath  and catch of glimpse of Who God is when the worst becomes reality.

I hope you, too, will find hope and help in these words …


WRESTLING WITH WONDER Excerpt:


 Jesus had to die on a Roman cross for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God.
            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.
            Isaiah 53:3-6 says:
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
  a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
  he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, 
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, 
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, 
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

            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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lessons from Camping - When Life is Dark and Scary

Hi Friends,


We recently went camping for Joelle's birthday, and I was reminded of something I learned a few years ago when the twins were little. I learned that when it's dark and scary and things are new and different, to remember "Jesus here" and relax into the reality of the God who loves me and is near me.

So, if you're going through a dark, scary time, here's some encouragement:


Mommy's Here

            Darkness closed in around our camper just as the crickets began to sing. It was going to be a long night.  I knew it because there was no familiar crib, no Curious George toy, no door I could close to shut my two-year-old daughter off from the strange and scary noises of the night.
            I zipped up Jayna’s jammies and kissed her forehead.  Then, I set her on the bed in the pop-up camper and pointed to a spot beside the canvas wall.   “Night night time, Jayna. Lay down.”
            Her brow wrinkled.  Her lip trembled.  “Nigh Nigh?”
            “It’s okay.  Lay down.”  I pointed again.  “Close eyes.”
            She looked down at the spot.  Her eyes stayed opened.  Too wide. 
            I cringed.  “No cry.  Go night night.”  I patted the bed.
            She sniffed and scowled some more.  Then, she rubbed her nose and pranced in a circle around the bed, her head barely skimming the canvas above. 
            “No, no, no!”  I snatched her up and plunked her down on the thin mattress.  “Night night.”
            She sprung back up.
            I bit my lip.  I knew this wasn’t going to work.  Jayna was used to her own room, her own crib, her own little Winnie the Pooh bumper to keep her head from hitting the crib’s slats.  This wide camper bed, with plain sheets, wobbly sides, and a big pillow was nothing like where she slept every night.  It was strange, different.  Weird.  I sighed.  “Okay, just wait a minute.”
            I put on my pajamas and quickly brushed my teeth.  Then, I crawled into the bed beside her and pulled up the covers.
       
     She stopped prancing and stood still.  She looked at me.
            I patted the bed beside me.  “Night night.  Lay down by Mommy.”
            She plopped down and rolled on her side, her big eyes fastened on my face.
            I blinked as a swath of moonlight trickled in to illuminate Jayna’s face.
            She smiled at me.
            I smiled back. 
            She inched closer.  Then, she sat up and patted my shoulder.  “Mama hee-a.”  The words came out as an awed whisper.
            “Yes, Mommy’s here.”
            She laid back down and snuggled up next to me.  Then she began to laugh.  “Mama here.  Mama here.  Mama here,” she said between giggles.  She turned to face me.  A huge grin lit her face.  She touched my cheek.  “Mama.  Here.”
            I laughed with her as I held out my arms and gathered her close. 
            She closed her eyes, the smile still evident on her little face.  She was happy, thrilled, comfortable, secure.  Despite the darkness, despite the strangeness, despite the weird sound of a hundred crickets chirping outside in the night.  None of that matter, because Mommy was here.  The joy of Mommy’s presence drove all the fear away.
            As I laid there in the moonlight, with Jayna snoring softly next to me, I marveled that for her “Mama here” was enough.  And if that was so, shouldn’t “Jesus here” be enough for me as well?
            When I enter the dark places in my life, times laced with uncertainty, scattered with strange and unfamiliar sounds, why should I fear?  Jesus is with me.  He said in Matthew 28:20 (NIV), “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Always.  When I’m traveling alone, when I’m in a group of strangers, when I’m trying something new, when I’m in circumstances that are unfamiliar and difficult.  He is with me. 
            When worries chirp outside my camper walls, when I can’t see beyond the end of my bed, when it looks like life is taking a turn to places that make my brows wrinkle and my lips tremble, then God says to me, as it says in Isaiah 41:10 (NIV), “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
            And so maybe, for me too, “Jesus here” will be enough.  Maybe I don’t need to fear because God is with me, wherever I go, wherever I lay down to rest.  Maybe I, too, can just snuggle in and have a little giggle.