Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When Life is a Mixed Bag...

Hi Friends,

Well, among all the crazy continuing kidney stone drama this week, something fun happened:  I received my first copy of Wrestling with Wonder, hot off the press!  It reminded me that there is joy and beauty even in the most difficult and painful times. 

So, I thought it would be fun this week to share a couple interview questions that I’ve been asked about the book and to remember that, like Mary, we are all on a journey … and on this journey, life usually doesn’t go as we expect, prayers are usually not answered in the way we anticipate, and there is no trial or circumstance that cannot be redeemed by the One who walks with us on this strange and amazing journey.

So, here are some questions and answers:

Q:  What is Wrestling with Wonder anyway?

A:  It’s the story of Mary.  It’s the story of you.  It’s the story of me.
It is the real story of a surrendered soul…
It’s a journey through a life that will look surprisingly like your own…
It’s an adventure of discovering God where you didn’t expect Him to be …
You’ve never seen Mary, or her God, like this!

Q: Since Wrestling with Wonder is called a “transformational journey” how were you changed or transformed through the writing of this book?

A: This book changed me, transformed me, at the deepest levels. And it wasn’t because I saw Mary more clearly, I was because I saw God – vivid, beautiful, perplexing … and so unlike the bland prayer-answerer-santa-in-the-sky that we often believe him to be.  Through wrestling with Mary’s story, and my own in the context of hers, I encountered a God who blew away my expectations.  I found him in my own heartaches, in the life’s-gone-awry moments of those close to me, in tears of a woman who lived thousands of years before me. 

When I sat with her in a dirty, stinky stable, when I raced back to Jerusalem, panting with fear over a lost son, when I stood at a crowded doorway and heard him say, “Who are my mother and my brothers?,” when I knelt with her at the foot of a cross and listened to his breath stop as the sky turned black as pitch … I found God in the dirty, stinky, fearful, hurting, black-as-pitch places in my life too.  And I hope, I pray, that readers will take this journey with Mary and I and discover God in those places too, those places in their own lives where they never expected him to be.

Q: Do you always write about wonder?

A: I’ve written about many themes, but the thread that runs through all my work is discovering the wonder of God in everyday life.  This is what I say on my website, which I think captures the theme and the dream for my writing:

Pause for a moment and remember back to when you were a kid. Do you remember running through the sprinklers, arms outstretched? Blowing bubbles that caught every shade of light? Catching your breath at the sight of a dragonfly? Do you remember the laughter, the joy … the WONDER? Now glance around you. Has your life turned out just as you expected it to be?

If you answered yes, you’re in the wrong place. But if, like so many of us, your life hasn’t turned out just as you dreamed it, well then, you’ve found a place to call home. For thirsty souls yearning for a VIVID God, for the hurting, the disillusioned, the struggling, the weak, and those longing for more of God, come, journey with me into WONDER . . . You’re welcome here.

So, there you go, friends!  I’m remembering that even when throws me a curve,
when things don’t go as hoped, to look for the wonder, to find the beauty of my Vivid God …
yes, even this week!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kidney Stones & Simeon's Sword

Hi Friends,

Well, it’s been quite an adventure since my last blog post! That CT scan I mentioned showed two 7mm stones stuck in both my ureters.  I had my scan last Tuesday, they called me in to the office on Wednesday, and I was in surgery last Thursday morning.  Just that quick.  Doc broke up 6 kidney stones altogether.  Then I spent a week with stents in – arrrrgggghhhhh (worse than the stones!!), followed by another X-ray which showed that I still had blockage in my right ureter tube.  Nooooo…  But, in good news, they took out the stents anyway.  That night I passed 16 (yes, 16 – crazy, huh?!!?) smaller stone fragments, which I’m hoping was the blockage they saw earlier that day on the X-ray.  I’m still having some pain on my right side, though, which is a bummer.  Next Friday I’ll have another X-ray and an appointment to evaluate what’s what and decide what to do next.  If I’m stone-free, I can go on my merry way.  But if there’s still blockage, I’ll probably have to have yet another surgery. 

So, since I’ve been dealing with loads of pain, I thought it would be appropriate to share a little excerpt from WRESTLING WITH WONDER, which is due to release in just a few weeks (and is available for preorder on Amazon right now!!). 

This is from Chapter 6, The Soul-Piercing Sword (you can see why I was drawn to this chapter this week!), which discusses Simeon’s Song in Luke 2:22-35:


            A haunting question. A frightening one. Are we supposed to suffer? Is pain a part of our blessing from God? We don’t think so. We approach it as if it’s something strange, something foreign that sneaks past God’s protection. We behave as if we think that if we just do what’s right, God will reward us with a life of ease. Then we act as if hurt and difficulty and struggle proves either our sin or that God has turned away. We cry out:

            What have I done to deserve this?
            Why is God punishing me?
            Why can’t I just learn whatever it is he’s trying to teach me, so I can move on?
Or we say:

            Has God forgotten me?
            If God is good, why is life so hard?
            Maybe God doesn’t love me after all ...

            But then, in the midst of the cries and queries, comes Simeon’s song to Mary. As we approach the temple with soaring hopes, crashing doubts, and questions that will not be answered, we see a woman who is declared favored, a girl called most-blessed. And we hear an old man’s song. A song that sings in harmony, yet in counterpoint, to Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55):

            Mary sings: “He has helped his servant Israel … just as He promised our ancestors" (1:54-55).
            And Simeon sings: Yes, there will be glory for Israel, but first the Messiah will be a light to the Gentiles. The first will be last, the last will be first (2:32).

            Mary sings: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (1:52).
            And Simeon sings: Yes, he will cause the rising and falling of many. Many in Israel. He will be opposed. Oh Mary, it won’t look anything like you expect (2:34).

            Mary sings: “He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts" (1:51).
            And Simeon sings: “So the thoughts of many will be revealed” (2:35b). Not only the proud will be scattered. Not only the mighty will fall. He has come to reveal the hearts of all of us.
            Mary sings: "From now on all generations will call me blessed” (1:48b).
            And Simeon sings: And that blessedness will be through the soul-piercing sword (2:35a).

            And as I listen to the song of Mary and Simeon, woven together in harmony, I find my world shaken, my suppositions exposed.
            Maybe I’m wrong when I think the blessed life is the easy life.
            Maybe I’m mistaken when I believe favor is when everything goes right.
            Maybe God intends for my very soul to be pierced.
            A startling concept. A scary peek into the intentions of the Spirit himself. Maybe pain is part of the plan.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Afraid? Exhausted? Grumpy? Here's Hope!

Hi Friends,

Well, another crazy week here.  My kidney stones seem to have passed (no pain right now) but the X-rays were inconclusive and the doc says he's "very concerned" about me, so I'm off to get a CT scan on Tuesday, and will get the results the following Monday.  Doc wants to be sure there are no stones blocking anything and damaging my kidneys and the X-rays aren't precise enough to know that.  That with Bryan's back getting hurt, meetings every single night this week, and the regular crazy has made me, well, just a little grumpy. ;-/

Then, I happened upon this poem I wrote long ago and in it I found hope today.  I found a moment to pause, to hear Him, to remember the One who loves me and calls me to His side, calls me to be His bride.

I needed that moment.

So, if you're struggling with fear, with exhaustion, with disappointment, doubt, or just got the grumpies because life's a little too much right now, I hope you'll take a moment too, take a deep breath, read, and soak for a time in God's call to you … his beckoning, his whisper, his invitation … to be free in Him.

My King calls out to me,
His voice filled with light,
With joy undimmed by others' sin,
Shining through my night.
My burdens fall at my feet
As I follow Him
Who makes my heart beat fast and firm,
All else grows far and dim.
Freed from all but Him I love,
Freed from fears so grim,
Free to laugh and dance and play,
Free to be free in Him.
His eyes, warm and gentle,
Draw me to His side.
"Come, live and love with me.

Come, be my bride!"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What to Do When Life Goes CRAZY

Hi Friends,

What a week here!  We started with 9 hours at the barn with the equine dentist, followed by a trip up to the chinchilla rescue to adopt 3 chinchillas, followed by a bout of kidney stones (for me - ugh, again), all day at the doctor, various sores and sicknesses, first day of Kindergarten for Jayden and first day of school for 3 of the others, first full week of high school for Bethany, and I flooded the bathroom this morning in a fluke accident, and … oh there's so much more!

All that to say … we need your prayers!

Because sometimes life just gets a little crazy.  Sometimes things don't go as planned.  Sometimes you turn on the shower, get a bloody nose, run to deal with that, the nozzle turns, and the whole bathroom floods and there are new waterspots on the ceiling in the basement.  Sometimes you're mopping up a mess instead of having a refreshing shower.

And sometimes you're in such pain you don't know up from down … and then it passes.  Sometimes it's a new day, with new challenges, and new opportunities.  Sometimes you don't know whether you should laugh or cry or just shake your head.

Because often life is nothing like you expect.  And that's when God is working.  That's when He's doing something deep.

So, I watch for these times … times like this week when everything is, well, just weird.  When I don't understand, wasn't prepared, and life threw me a curveball (actually, several of them).

Maybe you've had these times too.  Maybe there are times when things seem to "pile on" and every time you turn there's some new challenge, something else that seems to be going wrong, something you didn't want and didn't expect and don't have a contingency plan for.

Don't despair.  God has your back.  He has not forgotten you, has not abandoned you, has not looked away.  He is there.  He is with you.  And He is working.  Hang in there, friends!

And pray … for me, for each other, for God to be doing a deep work in us all … especially in weeks like this one.  Have hope, keep on, and trust Him … always, especially now.

Finally, a poem to ponder:

May I live a living life,
Not a living death,
A life that sees beyond today,
Beyond the clouds of trouble,
Past the darkness of doubt,
A life that knows the reality
Of promises yet to come true,
Of hope on new horizons,
Of prayer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wars, Persecution, Suicide … What Do We Do With This Darkness?

Hi Friends,

What a disturbing time it is in the world.  Just this week, wars and rumors of wars.  Children beheaded and cut in two (I can barely imagine it).  Families chased from their homes, running for their lives because they won't renounce Jesus.  Nursing moms on the run, not even able to take diapers for their babies.  Robin Williams, who brought laughter to so many, takes his own life … and the laughter is silenced.

What kind of world do we live in?  I shake my head and feel my heart break.

We live in a broken world.  A world groaning for the return of its Savior.  A world that inflicts pain and hurt and hopelessness.  A world that is not what it was intended to be.

And yet . . .

It is a world that God loves, that He died to redeem, that He commissioned us to go into and make disciples, tell the good news of Him, bring hope.

But so often, I don't know how.  I find that I'm discouraged, that I'm the one fighting despair, that the darkness around me seems impenetrable.  

Sometimes I can't see how to move forward.  I cannot see at all.  So what do I do?  What can I do in this broken world, with my broken heart, with an aching soul?  

What do I do with this darkness … both within and without?  Lord, where do I go from here?

          Where Do I Go From Here?
Where do I go from here?
I often pray
For the path seems dark
And I cannot see.
Before me is fog and confusion.
Where do I go from here?
But then I take a step,
And that one step is illuminated.
Then another.
More light.
And another.
Until the path is lit,
One step at a time.

And He whispers to me, "When you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21).  Walk. Just walk.  One step at a time, forward.  Wrestling with the impenetrable. A little light at a time.  Make a difference.  Find hope.  Beat back the darkness.  Conquer despair … just one little bit at a time, one step, one inch, one foot … it is enough.
Will you take one single step today to bring light and hope?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Five Unusual Lessons Learned from TEC

Hi Friends,

I spent last weekend with a bunch of amazing teens learning about Jesus and His love at TEC (Teens Encounter Christ).  It was a great time (though I still haven’t caught up on my sleep!). 

Meanwhile, I’ve been pondering a few less-than-obvious things I learned during the fun-crazy-deep-moving-exhausting-energizing-incredible weekend.  Here they are:

1)  There is great value in Kickin’ with Christ.  (Which was not only the name of our soccer-themed table, but also our philosophy.)  All things – recreation, fun, laughter, enjoyment, spending time with friends – should be done with Christ so they’ll be the best times they can be! 

2)  Don’t eat bad eggs.  When you smell something funny, and then you’re told not to indulge – listen and  don’t eat those eggs.  This also works well for sin.  When something doesn’t smell right and God says “No!” listen up.  The eggs are bad.  Don’t even take a bite!  (It ‘s a shame Adam and Eve didn’t follow this philosophy.)

3)  Enjoy everything – ESPECIALLY the unexpected and when things are opposite of what you planned … that’s when God is doing deep and wonderful things! 

4)  God can even use a nudist camp skit to bring joy… find His joy even the most unlikely places!  And laugh.

5)  Let a teen teach you to dance (thank you, Hannah).  Sometimes even those of us who seem confident need a friendly hand to bring them into the fun and show them how to dance … this is true for actual dancing and also in the dance of life with God!

Thanks to everyone who made it a wonderful weekend full of God-moments, laughter, and much joy!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Do You Do With Loss?

Hi Friends,

Jayden lost his very first baby tooth this week (it needed just a little help from Dad), and Joelle had to have a baby tooth pulled by the dentist because it was stuck and wouldn't come out.

And that got me thinking about loss and maturity.

Growing into maturity in Christ can be a lot like losing baby teeth.  It hurts, there can be some blood, and it's a little scary.  But those baby teeth that served us well when we were little must come out so that the adult teeth can grow in straight and healthy.  We must lose the things of our infancy to gain the things of maturity.  And sometimes we need help from our Father.  Sometimes we need help from a professional.

Loss is a part of growing up, becoming the grown-ups in Christ that we are meant to be.

What kind of loss have you suffered lately?  Could it be that God is making a space for something new, something mature, something bigger and better?

So, mourn your losses, but also look forward to God growing something new, straighter, stronger, and more mature in the empty space created by loss.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” --Philippians 3:8