Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Thoughts ... Part 2

Hi Friends,

As promised, here's the second part of my Christmas interview. Enjoy! And may this Christmas be one of wonder and beauty for you and yours.

Q: It’s Christmas Eve… Describe your day and evening.

A: We’ll get together with my husband’s family – parents, brothers, their wives, exchange gifts, eat soup (it’s always soup!), and enjoy. Hopefully, we’ll get to go our church’s Christmas eve service, then come home for hot cocoa, cookies, and the opening of gifts. I’m really looking forward to it!

But the best part should be the new babies in the group. With baby Jayden, there will be three new little ones enjoying their very first Christmas. What a blessing!

Q: Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

A: Three words: Five. Little. Kids. So, as you can imagine, a trip to the mall spells n-i-g-h-t-m-a-r-e. I shop online as much as possible, or even better, have my hubby shop on line.

Q: It’s Christmas day… what’s for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

A: The most important thing, of course, is the Christmas sugar cookies. That’s the big tradition at our house. Every year, all of us (yes, even the littlest ones), make and decorate Christmas cookies, from scratch. We have cookies cutters in the shape of trees and fat Santas, stars and crosses, bells and gingermen. It’s so fun to see the kids, their tongues sticking from the sides of their mouths as they work on frosting Santa’s tummy.

Other than that, we like ham, bread, glorified rice (Bryan’s mom makes that), corn . . . and more cookies.

Q: What are you plans for this season?

A: Ah, a simple Christmas this year, of enjoying the family, singing Christmas carols, having fun, and trying to get some chapters written for my next book (I’m waaaay behind! Ack!) . . . hmmm, something here doesn’t sound very Christmas-y. Let’s go back to the cookies.

Q: Any final thoughts on Christmas?

A: This year, I find I’m thinking a lot about the memories I’m making now - for my kids, for my hubby, for me. And I’m thinkin’ that I don’t want those memories to be ones of a Mom who’s running around with too much to do and too little time to do it. I don’t want them to be of hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cards, and gifts thrown under the tree. I don’t even want them to be of the microscope sets that my girls will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the Narnia DVD for my oldest, or the new Wall-E for Joelle.

Because toys break, get old, get lost, or they outgrow them. But they don’t outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking – those don’t get old. The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch – those don’t break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we’re together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we’re building together.

So, that’s my goal this Christmas, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that’s the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus’ birth -- Memories that bring a smile to the face of children . . . and to the face of the King.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Latest News & Christmas Thoughts

Hi Friends,

The Latest News:

--Jayden's doing great. He's two weeks old today and eating really well, growing, and filling lots of diapers. :-)

--Friends have been so helpful, bringing dinners, helping around the house, etc. God has really blessed us with some great people. Thanks, God!

--In writing news, one of my articles was chosen as the best for 2008 at TheHighCalling.org. Here's a link for those of you who are intested: http://thehighcalling.org/Library/ViewLibrary.asp?LibraryID=4599

--If you want to give signed copies of any of my books as Christmas gifts, here's a link that's handy for that: http://search.store.yahoo.net/cgi-bin/nsearch?catalog=yhst-69530432343491&query=marlo%20schalesky (or if you live locally, you can just talk to me directly or email me).

And finally, I thought I'd share a bit from a Christmas interview (stay tuned for more next week!):

QUESTIONS:

Q: What's your first Christmas memory?

A: I must have been about four years old. I remember running into the family room and seeing the presents under the tree. Later I unwrapped one for me – a black stuffed poodle that actually barked. It was wonderful. I had never seen anything so magnificent in all my life. Of course, I don’t have that poodle anymore. I don’t even like poodles so much (being more of a boxer person ;-)), but I’ll never forget that little black dog that barked.

Q: Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

A: My favorite Christmas memories (and tradition) from when I was a kid, is of getting up before dawn on Christmas morning, running to fireplace with my brother, getting all the stockings, and racing back to my parents’ bed. My mom was always awake and excited. My dad pretended to be sleepy and complained. Then, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we’d pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one. They were simple things, boring really – M&M’s, a toothbrush, some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short days. And yet, there was something special about being together, being happy, laughing, that makes those times such neat memories for me.

So, now of course, with kids of my own, stockings are a big deal. We open them first thing on Christmas morning, on our bed. And it’s still just as fun as it used to be, even though I’m all grown up!

Q: When do you put up your tree?

A: When I was growing up, a fun tradition was putting together the artificial tree together. But when I got married, my husband’s tradition was going out to cut down a fresh tree from a Christmas tree farm the day after Thanksgiving. We’ve been married for 20 years. And for 19 years we’ve cut down a tree after Thanksgiving, cleaned it, put it up, and spent the remaining weeks trying to keep it watered and cleaning up needles from the floor (oh, that was tons of fun when the twins were one and crawling around!)

But last year, something amazing happened. My hubby said on Thanksgiving day, “Maybe we should get a fake tree this year. They’ve got some really nice looking ones at Costco.” After picking my jaw up off the floor, I smiled and said, “Great idea. Maybe we should.” And we did - the 9 ft. one with matching garland for our log staircase and rails. No watering. No needles . . . I am a happy woman. And it looks fantastic. I also bought a pine-scented candle so the house smells like pine tree. The best of all worlds. Yay!

Q: Describe the decorating at your house.

A: “No, no! Put it ON the tree. ON the tree. That’s not for your mouth. Put it back. Don’t hit your sister over the head with that. Ahhhh! That one’s breakable. Give it to me. No, no, don’t throw it. That’s it. Here, this nice soft one is for you. No, not to eat … ON the tree.”

Explanation: Three-year-old twins, along with 2 older sisters, ages 5 and 8. Decorating pretty much consists of putting all breakable ornaments way up high on the tree, and redecorating the bottom third with the “safe” ornaments about every half hour, as they remove them and hide them in odd places.

As for other decorations – nativities, little trees, old fashioned santas – all breakable ones on the mantle or the high shelf in the kitchen. Stuffed snowmen, dogs, etc., down to play with. Also, a big hit is the Little People Nativity in a Christmas basket. Basket comes out every morning for play, back away every evening for a little bit of order for Mommy’s sanity.

Q: What is your favorite Christmas song or album?

A: I love “We Will Find Him” on Michael Card’s CD “The Promise: A Celebration of Christ’s Birth (1991)”. But then, I’m a big Michael Card fan in general. Other than that, I love to hear Nat King Cole sing the old favorites like O Come All Ye Faithful (my favorite Christmas hymn), O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Holy Night.

Q: Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

A: Oh, I love Christmas! It’s the most wonderful birthday party of all! The birthday of God incarnate, when the infinite God of the universe was born as a tiny baby in a stable. Wow! So, I love Santa Claus, because at Jesus’ birthday we ought to have the best birthday clown ever. And who’s better than a jolly guy in a red suit? I love the decorations, because Jesus’ birthday party ought to have the most fantastic, sparkling, beautiful decorations of all. I love the gift-giving, because what better way to celebrate the greatest gift of all than to be generous with others? I love the warmth, the laughter, the way people are kinder to others, give more, and get together to enjoy the season. That’s just “right” for a celebration of Jesus. So, to me, Christmas means that God loves me, loves us all, enough to do the crazy-impossible . . . to become one of us, to be born a baby, and to someday die on a cross and raise from the dead – all so we can be with him, forever. So, that’s Christmas to me – a celebration of the incredible love of a wondrous, vivid, breath-taking God.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More on New Baby . . .

Hi Friends,

Well, baby Jayden is now a week old! He's doing great. I'm exhausted. :-) He really is a good little guy - he has to be, with 4 big sisters hovering around him all the time.

Anyway, since I'm not contemplating much this week except when the next feeding will be and how to get a few more minutes of sleep, I thought I'd just share a few more pictures and wish y'all a wonder-filled getting-ready-for-Christmas time. May you be awe-struck this season over how much God did for you - being born as a baby boy, helpless and dependent. All to reach you and show you the love of God.

And now, pictures:

Jayden and the twins:




The group of 'em:


Saturday, December 6, 2008

THE BIG NEWS -- BABY'S HERE!!

Hi Friends!

Well, here's the BIG NEWS at last: Little Jayden was born last Wednesday night at 10:30pm. 8 lbs, 2 oz., 20.5 inches long. A what a sweetie he is!

Incredible labor experience. He'd been head down for weeks, then we go in to have him, and they can't feel his head ... get out the ultrasound and he's flipped up -- breech. Ack! But we see he has lots of room in there (probably from the twins stretching things out last time ... Bryan says baby was living in a two bedroom condo in there - ha!). So, my BRILLIANT doctor (really, she is fantastic), Dr. Beck, says we should try to invert him. Inversions aren't done too often, and they only work about 30% of the time when they do try it, but she's up for trying. So, she gets another doc from the practice and in they come. Lots of pressing and me gritting my teeth, but they do it. They get him turned. Bryan says it was an incredible thing to see. You could see baby's outline rising up from my tummy and then rotating (all I saw was the bedrail as I tried not to holler!). None of the nurses (or even the other doctor who helped) had ever seen one done before. Really cool.

So, then we start the pitocin. Hours later, no baby ... and we can't feel the head again. Ultrasound again. But he's only overshot a bit and has his shoulder presenting, his head a bit to the side. Doc pushes him in line again. More pitocin. More hours. They check again. Still a head, but with a little hand too. Doc stuffs the hand back up and in. More time. Check again. Now there's a head (still) plus a foot. Doc shoves the foot back up and in. A bit more time. Then, he drops down. Contractions intensify so bad that I'm dying even with the epidural they gave me. INTENSE PAIN. Thirty minutes later, I've gone from 6 cm (which took most of the day), all the way to 10cm. PUSH! Twenty minutes later, there's baby with the cord wrapped around his neck twice! Slip the cord off (yay - it's not tight!), and he's perfectly fine.

He's nursing great, sleeping okay, and isn't nearly as loud as his sisters - ha! I'm trying to get some sleep and do some healing up. But we are SO THANKFUL for him. What a blessing.

And now, a few more pictures:

Bethany with new baby brother at the hospital:


Joelle with new baby:

Me with my miracle doctor:

Her Captain's Heart by Lyn Cote

Hi Friends,

Hey, here's the new novel I wanted to tell ya about for this week - especially great for those of you who like historical romance. See below for a bit about it, then stay tuned to my blog here for THE BIG NEWS and pictures to match, which I'll be posting soon (I hope).

Okay, here's about the book:

Her Captain's Heart by Lyn Cote
Love Inspired Historical
ISBN 978 0 373 82801 2

Blurb:
Nothing is impossible—as far as idealistic Verity Hardy is concerned. The lovely widow is certain teaching freed slaves in a Virginia town torn apart by the Civil War will help heal bitterness and old wounds. But she's finding that the school's builder, cynical Captain Matt Ritter has little reason to have faith in her—or anything else. ***First in the "Gabriel Sisters" series for Love Inspired Historical:"In the wake of the Civil War, three Quaker sisters fight injustice and find true love."

RT Review-
"Her Captain's Heart is not just a great love story. It shows how people used their faith and determination to end social ills."

Find out more at Lyn's website: http://www.booksbylyncote.com/

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Where Are You This Christmas??

Hi Friends,

Well, tomorrow's the big day for baby-having, so I'm posting a thought early this week. Hopefully my next post will have GOOD NEWS. :-)

Meanwhile, here's a poem I wrote for you to think about for this Christmas season. It's one of my favorite writings:

WHERE WAS I?

Where was I
When the King was born?
Was I at the inn,
Too crowded for Him,
With packages, boxes, and bags?

Where was I
When God became man?
Tending sheep far away,
Lest one go astray,
Blind to even the angels?

Where was I
When Christ first wept?
Was I on the road,
Rushing to and fro,
Too busy to notice the star?

Where am I
This Christmastide?
Am I in the stall,
Forsaking all,
To worship the King of kings?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Update & The Face by Angela Hunt

Hi Friends,

First, baby hasn't arrived yet. Had my doc appointment last Wednesday and baby didn't look like he was going to make an appearance any time soon, and so far he hasn't. If he still hasn't made his move by Wednesday, he'll be getting an eviction notice in the form of pitocin. So, keep us in your heart & prayers on Wednesday!! And I'll keep y'all updated as soon as I can as to any news.

Meanwhile, I've got a new novel by Angela Hunt to tell you about for this week, so here's the scoop on that:

THE FACE by Angela Hunt: Born to parents who died shortly after her birth, twenty-year-old genius Sarah Sims has been hidden all her life in a secure CIA facility. Yet her days of anonymity are limited because her aunt has discovered her existence and is determined to lead Sarah out of exile. But before she can leave the only world she’s ever known, Sarah needs what most people take for granted . . . a functioning face and the skills to use it. Will she remain in her secluded fortress or summon the courage to follow her heart?

The Face, Angela Hunt. Mira, $6.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7783-2727-1

Compelling characterization is the driving force behind this enthralling story of hope . . . Hunt (The Elevator) fuels the completely engrossing story with dual present-tense narration by the two women. Readers are drawn into their lives, sharing their joy and fear as they approach a fulfilling and surprising climax. A touch of suspense adds to the powerful themes of second chances and new beginnings. (Nov.) --Publishers Weekly

Publisher's Weekly Interview with Angela Hunt about THE FACE:
--Sarah Sims, the main character is a victim of Treacher-Collins syndrome, a rare disease that causes severe facial defects. Sarah literally has no discernible face. Her disease is a vehicle for plot development. Did you have any personal connection with this disease or specific reasons for highlighting it in your novel?
Last year I watched a special on the Discovery Channel about a real little girl born with Treacher-Collins. She's still preschool age, but I was so touched by her plight and all she has had to go through to have a functioning face. A novelist naturally asks, "What if?" and so I found myself wondering what might happen if someone like this young girl had the same condition . . . and the story bloomed in my head. I'm also fascinated by the power of beauty, so the story gave me an opportunity to juxtapose the two conditions--beauty and facelessness.

--Like your last novel, The Elevator, The Face is also written in alternating perspectives and in the present tense. Most novels use third person or an omniscient narrator, and this choice is definitely unconventional. How do you feel that adds to the story and/or the reader’s enjoyment of the book?
I like present tense because it adds an immediacy to the story--plus, unlike a past tense narrator who obviously survived to tell the tale, you're never quite sure if the present tense narrator is going to make it through. I struggled a long time with the question of protagonist--was it Sarah's story or Renee's? And then I realized the story belongs to both of them.

--The title, The Face, represents more than just what the main character lacks. Faces are revealed and discovered through the course of the story. Why the significance on faces?
Studies have shown that not only do our facial expressions reveal our emotions, but our emotions can be ignited by our facial expressions. In order to be fully human, Sarah not only had to learn how to communicate through a face, but to feel the emotions her face could convey. On a deeper level, her new face represents an emotional and spiritual rebirth. Because she receives a new face, she receives a new future and a new life.

--Because she has been isolated on an island all her life, and her contact with people has been extremely limited, Sarah has turned to old movies for her understanding of situations and emotions of the real world. Her idea of reality is based on things she has seen on the screen. Why movies and not books, or music?
I like movies, old or new. I knew Sarah would want to know about the world outside her cloistered life, and movies were the most direct way for her to visualize things she could never see. By watching films, Sarah thinks she knows the world. She doesn't realize that movies are only an imitation of life.

--There is a fair amount of research that went into this novel, from CIA protocol to extreme medical procedures, all of which seem a bit fantastic but are ultimately true. How important is it to blend fact into your fiction and what does that do for the overall quality of the story? Is research fun for you?
I cut my teeth writing nonfiction and I suffer from rabid curiosity so yes, research is fun for me. Why make something up if it really exists? So I do as much research as I can and travel whenever possible. I spent a week in the Amazon jungle to research one novel, and I visited the Spanish coast for The Face. When I saw an old monastery on an island off the coast of Spain, I knew I'd found the location for Sarah's fortress.

--What comes first for you, building the characters or building the story? I work with four elements to build a story: plot concept, character, setting, and theme. The plot concept usually shows up first, then the other pieces either fall into line . . . . or I give them a shove.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Giving Thanks from My World of Writing

Hi Friends,

I thought I’d post early this week since we’ll all be busy getting ready for Thanksgiving later in the week (and I have my next doc appt on Wednesday anyway, which is when I normally post).

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a bit about what I’m most thankful for as a writer:

First, I’m thankful for the chance to partner with God in the creative process. Sometimes it feels like I’m listening in on his musings. And I’m finding that there’s a moment in every book when I see something, when I write something, that I never planned, didn’t, and didn’t realize the story had been leading up to. That’s when I feel the touch of God, I sense His pleasure, and it’s like getting a glimpse of heaven. I love those moments . . . those flashes when I know that this is what God has been doing, and the story impacts my heart and life in some new and wondrous way.

Of course, don’t ask me about those other times – when I’m staring at the blank screen, the clock is ticking, and I can’t think of a single thing to write that doesn’t sound like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. There are plenty of those times too.
But I gotta say, those moments when I glimpse God’s vision for a story are worth all the others when I don’t.

I’m also so thankful for the chance to touch readers’ lives and hearts. What a wonderful privilege to have an opportunity to reveal God’s wonder in the written word.

And I’m so thankful to those of you who have written to me to tell me how my stories have impacted you, or how you’ve enjoyed them. Your encouragement and kindness mean so much to me!

So, now, may I wish you Happy Thanksgiving filled with moments of wonder, glimpses of His beauty, and breath-taking whispers of God’s love for you!

(P.S. Hopefully my next post will have some baby news! Check back next week!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Waiting ... and Trusting

Hi Friends!

Well, just a week and a half until baby boy's due date. I just got back from my weekly doc appointment, and so far so good! Baby's head is down and his heartbeat sounds strong. My blood pressure, weight, etc. all look good too. No problems detected. So, now we wait!

So, on the final countdown of days, I've been thinking about God's timing, how often He doesn't tell me what's going to happen when, but asks me just to trust Him. To wait on Him, knowing He's got the plan under control.

It reminds me of this story that happened a few years ago when I was teaching preschool kids at church:

It was just like every other Sunday morning at church. I waited in the preschool classroom with my box of supplies sitting at my side, eager to present the day’s lesson on how Jesus can make us fishers of men. I’d worked especially hard on the lesson, praying and arranging all the parts to fit together in the best way to communicate the message to the kids. Now, everything was ready.

Before me, brightly colored yarn and construction paper peeked over bins of broken crayons. Sticks that would later become fishing poles poked from the box at my side, and my Bible story book rested, open and ready, on the table in front of me. Even the dry erase board shone clean and white, with colored pens lined up in preparation for the day’s teaching. I said a quick prayer that the lesson I’d prepared would impact the hearts and minds of my young students.
In minutes, they arrived – a jumble of small, flowery dresses, clip-on ties, shiny shoes, and children’s Bibles clenched in restless hands. As soon as they sat down, it began – the barrage of “what” questions.

“What story are we reading today?”

“What are those sticks for?”

“What are we going to make with those?”

“What’s in your box?”

“What song are we going to sing?”

“What are you gonna write on the board?”

What, what, what . . .every question they could think of except “What do we need to do to get started?” Of course, I should have been used to it. The questions were nearly the same every Sunday. And just like last Sunday, and the Sunday before that, I answered them all with an assortment of “You’ll see’s,” “You’ll have to wait’s,” and “Trust me’s.”

But, this morning I wished it would have been different. I had hoped the kids would want to experience the lesson one step at a time, discovering each part as an ongoing adventure, rather than needing to know it all, all at once. Maybe it was because I’d prepared the lesson with particular care, and the order of events was essential to what I wanted to teach them. Or perhaps it was because today, especially, I didn’t want the surprise of what would come later to be spoiled by too many questions now. Or perhaps the real reason was because their questions echoed too closely the ones I’d been asking God just last night.

“What are you asking me to do this for?”

“What am I going to do if it doesn’t work out?”

“What is the purpose of these problems in my life?”

“What are you doing to me?”

What, what, what . . . every question I could think of except “What do I need to do to follow your will right now, right away?”

Like my Sunday School kids, I always want to know the end before the beginning, I want to know what everything’s for and how it will all turn out. I’m not content to take God’s well-planned lessons one step at a time, being obedient at the moment without having to know what comes next.

And just like when I’m the teacher, God answers my questions not with explanations, but with “trust me” – trust Him that He has a plan for my life, trust that He knows what He’s doing in the timing and order of it, trust that the lesson is a good one. “’Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,’” He says, “’for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’” (Matthew 5:34 NIV)

He asks that I first learn what He’s teaching me today, right now, before I worry about what’s to come tomorrow. And, just like my Sunday School kids, I have trouble with that, especially when doubts and questions arise, or when the plan seems to be going askew. Yet, even when life is the most confusing, even when I see strange sticks poking from God’s supply box, still, the best answer to all my “what’s” is a simple “trust me…you’ll see.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trusting God, One Bit At a Time

Hi Friends!

Well, it's been quite a week here. I'm now about 2 1/2 weeks from baby's due date, and so far everything seems to be going fine. A new niece was born last Thursday - congratulations to Jill & Christian on the birth of little Audrey! And my husband's Grandma Eileen passed away with congestive heart failure. We'll miss her.

Here's a picture of Gradma Eileen with Bethany & Joelle at Christmas a couple years ago.

Grandma Eileen's passing reminded me that in life we don't often don't get a full map, from beginning to end, telling us where to go, when to turn, what to do. So often, we only know the next thing - what God wants of us today, right now. The rest is a mystery. We don't know when the end will come, we can only know where we're going when it does. And still, God calls us to faithfully follow Him, one step at a time, one turn at a time, one day at a time. That's was faithfulness is. Doing what's right one step, one turn, one day at a time.

Because only He knows the whole path, from beginning to end. All we get are glimpses. Yet God is in those glimpses.

It reminds me of something that happened a few years ago, when I was first introduced to one of those in-car map/direction systems that tell you where to turn and how to get to whatever address you plug in.

It happened like this:

It would’ve been different if it weren’t nearly midnight, if I’d ever been in Baltimore before, or if we didn’t have a two-hour drive before us. But it was, and we hadn’t, and we did. So when my husband, Bryan, and I climbed into our Hertz rent-a-car we knew it wouldn’t be easy to get to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania over 140 miles away.

But when I unfolded the Hertz map, I realized it would be even harder than I’d thought. “This only shows downtown Baltimore and Washington DC.” I turned to Bryan and frowned.

“Well, um.” Bryan cleared his throat. "Looks like we’ll just have to figure it out on our own.” He gave me a sheepish grin, started the car, and pulled from the parking space.

We hadn’t driven ten feet when a strange voice spoke from a box attached to the dash. “What is your destination?”

“What’s that?” I pointed.

“I think it’s an onboard navigator." Bryan motioned toward the keypad. "Punch in where we’re going and see what happens.”

After a minute of pushing buttons, a map appeared on the screen, and a smooth woman’s voice emanated from the box. “Approaching right turn.”

“Look!” I sat up straighter. “It’s showing us where to go.”

Bryan made the right turn and continued to follow the box’s instructions until we reached a freeway and headed north. What a great machine!

After about 45 minutes, I wasn’t so sure. The problem was, the machine only showed us up to the next turn. It didn’t reveal the entire map, and I was starting to have my doubts.

Bryan was too. “Are we sure that box knows where we’re going?”

I squirmed in my seat. “How do we know it’s giving us the right directions?”

“That doesn’t seem like the right turn, does it?”

“Why are we going west when Lewisburg’s supposed to be north?”

Finally, Bryan had enough. “I’m pulling over and getting a map." Soon, he spotted a gas station and pulled off the road. Ten minutes later he returned with map in hand. “This is the right road,” he murmured in a very small voice. “I guess we should trust the voice in the box.”

For the rest of the trip, we decided to “trust the voice,” and sure enough, before long, we pulled up, safe and sound, in front of our hotel in Lewisburg.

Since then, I’ve realized that our Lewisburg trip is much like life. Sometimes I’m tempted to navigate by poor maps of worldly wisdom. Or, I think I can “wing it” by doing what seems easiest at the moment. But those methods will only get me lost. Christ offers me another way. When I gave my life to him, he became my onboard navigator, saying to me “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 31:21)

The problem is trusting. Sometimes it’s hard when God is telling me to be kind to someone who’s hurt me, to forgive, to go the extra mile when there seems to be no benefit for me. But what’s the hardest of all is to trust when I don’t see the whole map in front of me. I want to see all the turns and curves of my life right now. But that’s not how God works. Instead, he asks me to trust him one step at a time. And sometimes I feel like pulling off the road to check if he’s leading me the right way. But, then I tell myself to “trust the voice" – trust the One who knows more than any map I could ever buy. He knows where I am, where I’ve been, where I’m going.

And so I’m learning to believe and obey God for the “now” – to do the right thing, to do what he asks today, in this moment, and trust that He will be with me in the turns and curves to come. I remind myself that I have an onboard navigator; God knows the whole map of my life. All I need to do is trust and obey ... one turn at a time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Redeeming Gabriel by Beth White

Hi Friends,

Here's a new Love Inspired Historical novel by Beth White that I thought looked interesting. Read on to hear more about it!

REDEEMING GABRIEL by Elizabeth White

DIVIDED BY WAR, UNITED BY LOVE...
Spying for the Union army has taken a heavy toll on Gabriel Laniere. With deception a constant in his life, he can't allow himself to get close to anyone - not even God. Yet Camilla Beaumont, daughter of the Confederacy, just might be the exception. Camilla has a dangerous secret that rivals Gabriel's...and the unlikely partnership they forge could be the key Gabriel seeks to a soul-shaking truith larger than any conflict - love.

Romantic Times Bookclub says, "Elizabeth White's Redeeming Gabriel (4 stars) is a sweetly evocative story, with just the right amount of mystery to keep readers engrossed."

Amazon Link:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Financial Crises, New Presidents . . . A Thought on Facing Fear

Hi Friends,

With the financial mess the nation's been facing, and the election of a new President, I've been thinking about how we often allow fear to make decisions for us. We let fear drive us to things that are unwise and unhelpful. And as I thought, I was reminded of this story that happened not too long ago. To me, it was a lesson in facing fear and choosing to trust - choosing to act wisely.

It was such a normal morning. Quiet. Boring, as I walked out to feed our two horses. The air was crisp, the sun just peeking over the pines, the grass still sparkling with dew. A regular morning. Calm, uneventful . . . until I turned a corner and saw the horses’ pens.

I stopped. There, one of the heavy-gauge metal panels lay twisted and on its side. The metal bars were bent and torn. I ran forward.

The horse was gone.

A moment later, I reached the smashed up mess that had been part of the horse pen. Chunks of palomino fur lay on the dirt, the only remnants of the 1,300 pound gelding who had somehow crumbled the thick metal and escaped.

I glanced at our other horse. She stood inside her pen trembling, her nostrils flared with fierce snorts.

“What’s wrong, girl? Where’s Biscuit?” I strove to keep the panic from my voice.

She snorted some more, then raced around her pen and stared up into the hills.
I jogged around the pen to the far side. I looked up into the hills. And saw nothing. I peered into the trees to the left. Nothing. Down the road. Nothing.

Then I looked down.

And understood.

There, clearly pressed in the mud, were two huge paw prints. Cat paws. And next to them were two sets of smaller prints. I shivered. Mountain lions. No wonder the horses were scared.

I bent lower and tracked the prints. The cats, a mama and a couple cubs, had come down the hill and stopped fifteen feet outside the mare’s pen. Then, according to the prints, they turned around and ran back into the brush. They didn’t enter the pens or harm the horses. They just stood there, then ran away.

But that was enough for Biscuit. Enough to drive him wild with fear. To cause him to climb out of his pen and smash up the metal panel as he went. Enough to make him run away from food, from shelter, from the ones who cared for him.

We spent the rest of the day searching for our missing horse (and replacing the broken panel). Hours later, we found Biscuit. In the middle of the night, he had run off in a direction he’d never been before. He’d traveled almost a mile down dangerous two-lane road, crossed it, then found his way to a barbed wire pasture. He could have been hit, gotten cut, or been killed. He hadn’t drunk any water, eaten anything but some snatches of grass, and had long tears where his back legs scraped against the metal fence.

As I led him back to his pen, to water, to food, to shelter, to safety, I thought about what drove him to escape. Fear did that. Simple, primitive, instinctual fear. The mountain lion and her cubs hadn’t endangered him at all. It was the escape that put him in real danger.

And I wondered if fear does the same thing to me. Something scary appears on the horizon of my life. Maybe it doesn’t actually threaten me, or come into my space. I just catch a whiff of it in the air, see a bit of tawny fur on the outskirts of my vision. I see the possibilities, sense what could happen if the lion attacks.

How easy it is in those circumstances to run, to panic, to do things that don’t make sense. Fear is like that. It can tempt me to hurt myself, put myself in danger, leave the place where I am fed and cared for. Instead of trusting God’s care, I, too, want to scrape and scrabble, fend for myself, throw myself into desperate acts to get away from the thing that scares me. And in doing so, I put myself in the worst danger of all.

Maybe that’s why the command to not be afraid appears more than three hundred times in the Bible. Hebrews 13:6 (NIV) tells how to respond when fear comes out of the hills and stares at us with yellow eyes. It says, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’"

So, instead scrambling out of the fences in our lives and running down dangerous roads to unknown pastures, God calls us to stay calm, trust Him, and remain in his will. He calls us not to fear the mountain lions, but to trust in the boundaries he places around us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Me Myself & I AM - Fun New Book

Hi Friends,

Here's a fun new book/journal that's just released. If you're looking for a tool to help you experience more of how God is and has been working in your life, I invite you to check out ME MYSELF & I AM! It's written as a series of questions for you to answer and reflect - perhaps it would make a good addition to your quiet time with God. Here's a bit more about it:

Summary:
A new experience of God comes one question at a time in this fun and provocative journal. Made up entirely of insightful, profound, and occasionally ridiculous questions, Me, Myself, and I AM invites you to open to any page, open yourself to God, and be the author of yourown story.

Questions range from spiritually intriguing—
You overhear God talking about you. What do hear him saying?

to thought-provoking—
You are on a long car trip with a close friend who is not a Christian and the conversation turns to faith. What is your biggest fear about what your friend will ask or say?

to challenging—
Do you believe that all of Jesus’s followers have a responsibility to tell others about him?

to just plain fun—
If your life before you became a Christian were a movie, its title would be:
Animal House
As Good as It Gets
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It’s a Wonderful Life

Me, Myself, and I AM will entertain, inspire, and get you thinking about your spiritual life from brand new angles. Whether you use Me, Myself, and I AM as a reflective tool, a way to start conversations with friends and family, or as a spiritual time capsule to look back on years later, their own words will create a powerful journey of self-discovery.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Me-Myself-AM-Unique-Question/dp/1601421427/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225735864&sr=1-1

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pumpkin Carving & The Cross

Hi Friends!

What do you think of carving pumpkins? Some say jack-o-lanterns invite evil spirits, others believe they're harmless fun. So what should we do? What should we believe? And what does pumpkin carving have to do with the Cross??

This week, I've discovered that my theology of pumpkin carving (bet you never thought you'd read those words together in a sentence! ;-)) reflects much of my theology in the rest of life.

This Monday some friends (and here they are in the pictures -- Bill & Patti Risinger) came over and helped our girls carve pumpkins. What fun!

And I found as we cut and scooped and laughed and enjoyed that I don't care about the pagan history of jack-o-lanterns not because it doesn't matter but because there's nothing I like better than redeeming an activity in God's light. There's something so like our God in the idea of taking what was once meant for evil and turning it into a good and beautiful thing. That's what God specializes in. And that's what I love specializing in too.

After all, it was our God who made a instrument of execution (the cross) into a symbol of redemption, freedom, and love. That's just what God does - he takes what was meant for bad and transforms it. (See I told you pumpkin carving and the cross would have something in common!)

So, for me, there's something extra good about making pumpkin carving a time of fun and enjoyment with friends in the Lord. A time of strengthening friendships and family relationships, a time of laughter and good fun -- the kind of time that delights God and reflects His Kingdom.
The Bible tells us that every good and perfect gift is from above, given to us by God. Every good gift.
So, I've decided to not live life in fear of evil, but to always be looking for ways to redeem situations, events, traditions, etc. for the glory of God. I want to fill life with Godly joy and make all beauty, all fun -- every good thing -- into something that reflects God's glory.

So, when you're thinking about pumpkins, Halloween, and candy corn this week, think about how those things can be part of the wonder of God's love for you!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trivia & the Book of Job

Hi Friends,

I had a fun baby shower this past weekend (thanks to all who came!), and one of the games was titled "Who Knows Mommy Best" - you know, one of those games where you try to guess trivia facts about a person. So, I thought it would be fun to post some of the questions and answers here, and then talk a bit about Job - you'll see why. So, here ya go:

Marlo’s favorite M&M’s: Peanut Butter

Marlo’s favorite color: Purple

Marlo’s favorite actor: Russell Crowe

Name of Marlo’s first book: Cry Freedom

Marlo’s First Car: Toyota Celica

Marlo’s favorite class in seminary: Greek Exegesis

Marlo’s favorite book of the Bible: Job

JOB - ah ha! I don't know anyone else who lists Job as their favorite book in the Bible (see, you knew I was a little crazy ;-)), but well, there you have it. And you know why? Because at its heart, Job is about witnessing the wonder of God. It's like this:

Here's a bit of a summary:

You've got a guy who God’s so pleased with that he brags about his righteousness. Job is the shining example of what a person ought to be. But Satan doesn’t like that one bit, so he wants to test Job, saying Job will curse God if things go wrong.

God believes in Job. And so, Job’s children are killed, his crops fail, he loses everything except his wife who is not at all helpful. Then he gets sores all over his body, sits in an ash heap, and scratches his sores with a broken piece of pottery. Lovely, isn’t it? The ash heap -- a great place to witness the wonder of God.

Then his friends show up. They mourn silently with him for seven days. They should have stayed silent. But they didn’t. Instead, they’re going to tell Job why he deserves all this. Problem is, Job knows he didn’t do any of those things they’re accusing him of. He knows he didn’t do anything to deserve all this.

The friends, of course, aren’t convinced, so you get thirty-some chapters of “Did-too/Did-not” in poetry. (This is where the book of Job gets its bad rap.) And Job crying out to God, “I don’t get it. Why is this happening to me??”

We've all been there, haven't we? That place where life doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem fair, and is just hard. The “good grief, what did I ever do to deserve this??” places.

And then, it happens. After all those chapters. God shows up in the whirlwind. God Himself comes with the answer. Now, we have to assume that God’s answer is an answer, that He’s been listening in all along and knows what’s been going on. And if it’s Job’s answer, it’s also ours …

But what an answer! It's not, "Well, let me explain to you, Job, you see, you’re such a great guy I knew you could do it. You could stand up to Satan. All right, buddy" with a pat on the back. Nope, God doesn’t give a clue as to anything that went on in the heavens in the first two chapters of the book. Job remains forever ignorant of that.

And here's the key:

God doesn’t answer “WHY” at all. He answers “WHO.” And what a WHO! A glimpse of grand and intimate God. A God who made the stars to sing and also let the wild donkey go free. A God who cuts the path for a thunderstorm and is also there when the mountain goat gives birth. A God who holds the constellations together and also feeds the ravens. That is a God of wonder.

The point is: Job shows us that the answer to “Why” is no good to us. It’s what we cry out to know, and yet there’s so little value in it. It doesn’t change anything. We don’t find the God's wonder in the answer to “why.”

But “who” is a whole different thing. Seeing God for who He is, glimpsing Him in new, wondrous ways, having our eyes opened to the reality of HIM. That’s a gift. And that changes everything.

That’s why I don’t think God is being mean in chapters 38-39. He's not saying “you peon you, get out of my way” (besides, we know how highly God values Job from the book’s beginning). Rather, God is coming to Job to say, “My friend, you have no idea … let me give you a glimpse of the wonder you’ve never seen. That’s the gift Job is given in chapter 38-39.

It’s the answer to things like when life isn’t fair, when health is bad, when we grieve, when loss happens, when the life we lead has lost its luster … day to day, day after day, all our lives. The answer is the wonder of God, the reality of who He is.

So, you see, that's why I love Job ... because we glimpse God and find the answer to life's questions is not found in "why" but in "who." And somehow that makes all the difference.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bon Appetit by Sandra Byrd

Hi Friends,

I've got a fun new novel to tell you about for this week -- Bon Appétit by my friend Sandra Byrd. So, here's the info:

In this sequel to Let Them Eat Cake, Byrd again entertains with descriptions of delectable food and, this time, with exquisite details of France as well. Foodies will delight in this novel, and anyone who adores romance will warm to the story. It's easy to identify with Lexi's struggles in life, because they mirror so much of what everyone experiences, no matter what their age.” Romantic Times

Lexi Stuart is risking it all. Saying au revoir to the security of home, her job, and could-be boyfriend Dan, Lexi embarks on a culinary adventure in France to fulfill her life dream of becoming a pastry chef. As she settles into her new home in the village of Presque le Chateau to study and work in a local bakery, her optimism meets resistance in the seemingly crusty nature of the people and culture around her. Determined to gain her footing, she finds a church, meets a new friend, and makes the acquaintance of a child named Celine–as well as Celine’s attractive, widowed father, Philippe. As Lexi lives her dream, the only thing she has to do is choose from the array in life’s patisser ie display window. Lexi discovers that as she leans more on God the choices become a little clearer– and making them, well, c’est la vie!

Bon Appétit is the sequel to this year’s Christy Award finalist, Let Them Eat Cake.

Hungry? Enter to win a gourmet baking basket www.sandrabyrd.com

To purchase book, please visit http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400073286 Merci!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's All About Love . . . Notes from Women's Retreat

Hi Friends,

Well, I'm back from speaking at the SVCC Women's Retreat this past weekend. What a fun, enriching time! My favorite parts were watching women interact and grow deeper through the activities we did for each talk. What a great group of women! Thanks so much to all of you who had been praying for me (I'm happy to report that I did fine, despite being so pregnant!) and for the time at retreat. God was there and moving in lives and hearts. It was sooo neat to see and be a part of all that.

Some main points:
-- You can't unwrap the wonder of God with white-knuckled fists clutching your own dreams and plans.
-- The God who made the stars to sing also let the wild donkey go free . . . Our God is both grand and intimate.
-- That grand and intimate God is the One who loves you enough to give everything for you, to make you His own. God's main focus for everything that happens in your life is to draw you closer to Him.

For part of the third point, I told the following story from Mark 5. I thought I'd include it here for all you wonderful blog readers:

(MARK 5:25)

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was having that time of month. Except for her, it didn’t stop after a week, or two weeks, a month, a year. She’d been bleeding for twelve long years. And where she lived, that bleeding wasn’t only unpleasant and exhausting, it made her dirty, untouchable. She used to have friends, but they’re all married now, with children. She has no husband, no kids. Others have a nice home, family. She’s spent all her money on doctors and treatments that didn’t help. Everything she once hoped for seems impossible now. And she’s so tired from the loss of blood, the loss of hope, the loss of everything.

But then, something happens. She hears about a man who can heal with a touch. It seems crazy. But maybe, just maybe . . . there’s a commotion on the street. A crowd. A name. Jesus. The one from Nazareth. He’s the one she heard about! She sneaks out the door, follows behind the crowd. Far enough back so she won’t touch anyone, won’t make them unclean too.

But she’s got to get to the one called Jesus. Maybe he won’t touch someone dirty like her. But maybe she can touch him. Just a little, on the edge of his cloak. Maybe that’s all it would take. She winds through the crowd, inching forward. Bit by bit. There he is! Closer. Closer. All she wants in the world is to be healed. For the bleeding to stop. For life to have some hope again. If only she could be healed.

She reaches out. Her fingers brush the edge of his cloak. And… it happens. She feels it, senses it, in every part of her. The bleeding stops. The anemia is gone. She’s whole, healthy, clean. She sinks back into the crowd. She has everything she wanted.

But wait.

Jesus stops. Turns. Seeks her out. He looks at her, talks to her, calls her “daughter.”

Why? She already has everything she came for. She’s healed.

--For her, healing is enough.
--But for him, he wants more.

Because for her, and for you, FIXING you isn’t enough. God wants relationship. Connection, interaction…that’s love.

That’s what’s valuable to God (when we see Jesus, we see God … whoever has seen me has seen the Father.)

That’s the lens through which we need to see everything in our lives. What happens in your life isn’t about getting you to do the right thing, choose the right path, get your problems fixed. It’s about God and relationship. It’s about Him wanting to be close to you because He loves you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Retreat Preparations & Kids Sayings About God

Hi Friends,

Well, I'm speaking at the women's retreat this weekend for Salinas Valley Community Church. We're going to be focusing on the renewing our wonder in a breath-taking and vivid God. So, I'll be talking about God's wonder is often hidden and needs to be unwrapped, then about the awe of who God really is, followed by the wonder of His amazing love for each of us. Please pray that God will reveal His wonder to the women there and touch their hearts and lives. And please be praying for my 7.5-month-pregnant self as I share the messages God has shown me. May I not succumb to pregnancy-brain!

Anyway, for one of the talks, I'll be sharing a bit about how kids view God, and I thought it would be fun to share some of those quotes with you here. Some are from my friend, Dandi Daley Mackall's 1995 book "Kids Say the Greatest Things About God," others are from different internet sites. So, here some are for you to enjoy ... and while you do, ask yourself: What did I think of God when I was a kid? What do I think of Him now? And how can I capture more of the wonder of a God who can do anything, be anything, and loves me?

Here ya go:

WHAT GOD IS LIKE:

God is really, really, really old—like 23. But he never looks a day older every time you see him.

God has many kinds of hair, but he keeps them short.

God is as far as numbers go. He’s too old for age.

God watches over us all the time. He has lots of eyes—like spiders.

In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. Now he just does people.

He has a gray beard. He’s at least a hundred years old. That’s why it’s gray. Used to be brown.

He looks a lot like Jesus, but with a mustache.


THINGS KIDS SAY TO GOD:

I didn't think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool. - Eugene

Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident? – Norma

Are you really invisible or is that just a trick? – Lucy

How do You get those leaves to grow back onto the trees? And how do You keep grass growing back, no matter how many times it gets cut off? Now that’s something (David, age 8)

I don’t think anybody could be a better God. Well, I just want you to know but I am not just saying that because you are God. - Charles

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bundle of Joy by Robin Lee Hatcher

Hi Friends,

Here's a fun book for me to be recommending to you for this week (given that I'm pregnant too!). It's BUNDLE OF JOY by Robin Lee Hatcher. Here's a bit about it:


BUNDLE OF JOY
by Robin Lee Hatcher
October, Steeple Hill mass market romance
Alicia Harris says she's happily married and expecting a baby—but only the last part is true. She can't bear to disappoint her grandfather by telling him she's two months away from single motherhood. Then Grandpa Roger, still recovering from a heart attack, drops in unexpectedly to spend the holidays with Alicia and her husband, and to protect her beloved grandfather from unnecessary stress, Alicia needs to find a fill-in—fast. Childhood friend Joe Palmero fits the bill and is willing to play along. Still, the longer they spend playing their parts, the closer Alicia and Joe come to discovering what love, faith and marriage truly mean.
*****************
About Robin:
Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 55 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

For more information about Robin and her books, visit her web site at http://www.robinleehatcher.com/ and her Write Thinking Blog at http://robinlee.typepad.com/. You can find her on Facebook at http://www.new.facebook.com/pages/Robin-Lee-Hatcher/84324290175#/pages/Robin-Lee-Hatcher/84324290175


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

If Marriage were an F150 . . .

Hi Friends!

Today is my 20th anniversary (yay!). So, in honor of my wonderful hubby, I thought I'd share a story from his POV about marriage, wives, trucks, ducks, and wise words for couples everywhere. So, here ya go!

If Marriage Were a F150

by
Bryan Schalesky as told to Marlo Schalesky

I gripped the steering wheel, clenched my teeth, then turned the ignition key in my Ford F150. Sput, sput, vroooom. I smiled as the engine purred like a contented tiger. Who needed those guys at the repair shop? With a little hard work, I could fix anything!

My confidence ebbed as I sauntered into the garage and heard half-stifled sobs coming from inside the house. I hurried in to find my wife sitting on the edge of the tub. A pregnancy test stick lay on the counter. Negative. Again.

I rubbed my hand over the back of my neck. “It’ll work next time.”

My wife didn’t even look at me.

“We just need to try something different.”

Marlo sniffed and glared up at me. “This isn’t like one of your broken down cars. You can’t just turn a wrench and make it work!”

I raked my fingers through my hair. Infertility ought to be like a Ford F150. Just find the right tools, turn the proper bolts, replace the correct parts, and everything would work again, just as it should. But none of my solutions seemed to be what Marlo wanted to hear. They never were.

My frustration followed me into the weekend when I went duck hunting with my friend, Pete.

The air hung wet and cold around us as we trudged to the duck blind, set out our decoys, and settled out of sight.

Soon, the fog bank glowed with the first morning light. But no ducks appeared. We blew our duck calls. Still, no ducks. The precious first moments of the day slipped by. Still, nothing.

Two long hours passed before Pete cleared his throat and broke the silence. “So, how ya doing with that infertility stuff?”

I grunted. “What made you think of that?”

Pete sighed and stared into the sky. “Seems like it’s a lot like duck hunting. Conditions seem right. You set out your decoys and blow your duck calls. But there’s nothing you can do to make the birds come in.”

My scowl deepened. “There’s got to be something I can do.”

“I suppose you’ve been trying to be Mr. Fix-It.” Pete shook his head, and silence descended. A half hour later, he spoke again. “You remember the story of Lazarus?”

“Which one?”

“Where Lazarus dies and his sister Mary cries at Jesus’ feet.”

“John 11?”

“Yep. And you know what Jesus did?”

“Raised Lazarus from the dead.” My chin jutted up. “He fixed it.”

“But what did he do first?”

“I dunno.”

“He wept. Shortest verse in the Bible. ‘Jesus wept.’”

“So?”

“Taught me a lot about how to care for my wife, those two words.”

“I’m not the weeping type.”

“It’s not about crying, it’s about showing you care.”

“Huh?”

“Think about it.” Pete smiled at me then tromped down to another part of the pond.

I settled into the reeds and studied the cloud patterns above me. Jesus wept . . . If it were me, I wouldn’t have taken time to weep. “Don’t cry! I’ll make it better!” I’d have said. Was that so wrong?

I wrapped one arm around my knee and turned my thoughts to duck hunting. Pete was right about one thing - on days like today, when I couldn’t bring the birds in, I didn’t run around trying to fix it. Instead, I waited. I hunched down in the reeds, watched, and listened. Maybe that’s all I needed to do with Marlo too. Maybe it wasn’t about the tears, but about caring enough to share the pain. To watch, wait, and listen.

That night when I returned home, I took my wife in my arms and held her close. I don’t remember exactly what I said to her, but it went something like this, “I’m sorry I can’t fix our infertility problem. But, one thing I do promise. I will be with you through it all. And, I love you more than anything.”

Tears came to her eyes. She leaned her head against my chest, and I could see her smile.

“That’s what I need most,” she murmured.

And somewhere in the distance, I thought I heard the faint call of a mallard duck.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

Hi Friends!

Got a new book to tell you about this week. It's THE SHAPE OF MERCY by Susan Meissner. This one sounds really fascinating. Check it out! Here's more about it:

Susan Meissner’s newest book, The Shape of Mercy, is a blend of contemporary and historical fiction, mystery and romance. Set in present day Santa Barbara and also in colonial America during the Salem Witch Trials, the book follows a young college student as she transcribes the diary of a young woman falsely accused of witchcraft in 1692.

“The story in a nutshell is this,” Susan says. “Lauren Durough is a West Coast English major at the proverbial age of discovery. Sheltered in her growing up years by family wealth, she is just beginning to grasp how people judge other people by what they want to believe about them, and particularly for her, how the poor view the wealthy. When she opts out of her family’s financial support, she takes on a job as a literary assistant to Abigail Boyles, an 83-year-old reclusive East Coast transplant. Abigail tasks Lauren with transcribing the diary of her ancestor, Mercy Hayworth, hanged for witchcraft in 17th-century Massachusetts. The lives of these two very different women converge as they jointly piece together the life — and death — of a third woman, Mercy Hayworth, who lived three hundred years earlier, and who also struggled against undeserved cultural stigmatization, but lost.”

Susan says the title has dual meaning. “Those who testified against the accused in Salem in 1692 often claimed their tormentors “took shape” in their bedrooms and tortured them as they slept. My fictional character Mercy was also accused of taking shape and torturing another young girl of the Village. She was innocent of course, as all those accused were, but in her last act before death, she shows that love has a shape. And its shape is mercy.”

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and offered these insights. "Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth—a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials—whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers—Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren “Lars” Durough, wealthy, earnest and young—become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars together face life's hardest struggles about where true meaning is found, which dreams are worth chasing and which only lead to emptiness, and why faith and hope are essential on life's difficult path. Meissner's prose is exquisite and she is a stunning storyteller.”

Susan says the concept behind The Shape of Mercy stayed with her long after she finished it. “I know I am often guilty of the same weakness my protagonist had to discover - and admit - about herself. She, like me, like so many, judge better than we love. And we let fear dictate how much love we will extend and to whom we will extend it. Not always, not in every circumstance. But it happens often enough to know I might have easily kept my quivering mouth shut had I lived in Salem in 1692. I might've said nothing when the Village marched to Gallows Hill to watch the accused hang. We tend to fear what we can't comprehend. And we tend to understand only what we want to. There is a shimmering ray of hope, however. And it actually permeated all of 1692 Salem, though it hasn't garnered the same spotlight as the delusions of frightened and empowered people. The innocents who were hanged as witches refused to confess an allegiance to the Devil. Refused to the point of death. I find that remarkable and magnificent. It fills me with hope to consider that while we have the capacity to judge when we should show mercy, we also have the capacity to embrace Truth for all we're worth - even if it means we give up everything for it. It wasn't all darkness and deception in 1692 Salem. There was light there, too. It flickered every time the noose was pulled tight on the throat of one who would not give up on God and everything holy and good.”

You can learn more about Susan and her books at http://www.susanmeissner.com/. The book is available at bookstores everywhere and online.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New News! And When God Says No

Hi Friends,

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I really appreciate it. First, I've got contest news to share. Last week ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) held their annual conference in Minneapolis, and I couldn't go being 7 months pregnant now (wow, am I tired!). But Veil of Fire had been named a finalist in ACFW's Book of the Year contest for the Long Historical Category. And guess what - it won first place! Yay! So, here are the official standings:

Long Historical
1. Veil of Fire (Marlo Schalesky) RiverOak, editors Jeff Dunn/Jon Woodhams
Where Willows Grow (Kim Vogel Sawyer) Bethany House, editor Charlene Patterson
2. Fancy Pants (Cathy Marie Hake) & Then Came Hope (Louise Gouge)
3. Courting Trouble (Deeanne Gist)


Also, I wanted to share a link with you for an article that just went live on The High Calling website - a website about the high calling of our everyday work. This is just the type of thing I like to share on my blog, so instead of repeating the info here, I thought I'd just post the link and hope you click on over there, give it a read (it's short!) and leave a comment.

Here's the first couple lines:
"I hate it when God says no. And that day, He said "No" with an exclamation point."

So, if God's said "No" to you lately, or if the topic interests you, check out the article at:

http://thehighcalling.org/Library/ViewLibrary.asp?LibraryID=4724

Thanks!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Encore Effect by Mark Sanborn

Hi Friends,

I wanted to tell you about a nonfiction book, new from my publisher. Sounds interesting. Check it out:

Title: The Encore Effect
Author: Mark Sanborn

Summary: Everyone wants to make a difference in the world, but most have no idea how to maximize their impact. In The Encore Effect, best-selling author and leadership expert Mark Sanborn provides the answer. He leads readers in six practices that will move them beyond excellence to distinction and from mundane to memorable. These principles guide readers to draw on their passion and devote themselves to preparation, practice, presentation, polishing, and finally, avoiding pitfalls. When readers follow these principles they will find that people are attracted to them. More importantly, they’ll find that they now have an influence over others that can impact lives for eternity.

By following the six principles of The Encore Effect, readers can:

Deliver a remarkable performance in everything they do
Elevate the performance of the people they lead and influence
Extend and deepen the impact they have on others—even for eternity.

This special edition, distributed through the CBA, will include unique content such as scripture verses, biblical illustrations, and discussion questions.

Author Bio: Mark Sanborn is the best-selling author of The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader. An internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. Having served as president of two national organizations, he regularly keynotes meetings in the United States and abroad—speaking on leadership, team building, customer service, and mastering change. He and his family live near Denver, Colorado.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NEW COVER -- Check It Out!!

Hi Friends!

The cover came in for IF TOMORROW NEVER COMES, due out in March. Yay! So here it is - whaddaya think?

And here's the Back Cover Copy, to give you a hint on what the story's about:

They say you should reach for your dreams.
This time, they’re wrong…

Childhood sweethearts Kinna and Jimmy Henley had simple dreams—marriage, children, a house by the sea…everything they needed for happily ever after. What they didn’t plan on was years of infertility, stealing those dreams, crushing their hopes.

Now, all that’s left is the memory of young love, and the desperate need for a child to erase the pain. Until…

Kinna rescues an elderly woman from the sea, and the threads of the past, present, and future weave together to reveal the wonder of one final hope. One final chance to follow not their dreams, but God’s.

Can they embrace the redemptive power of love before it’s too late? Or will their love be washed away like the castles they once built upon the sand? The past whispers to the present. And the future shivers. What if tomorrow never comes?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Road to Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam

Hi Friends,

Got a new book to tell you about today. It's THE ROAD TO LOST INNOCENCE by Somaly Mam.

Here's the summary: Born in Cambodia and orphaned at an early age, Somaly Mam, a Buddhist sex trade survivor, grew up never knowing her real name or birthday.

As a teenager, Somaly Mam was sold into prostitution and spent years in the brothels of Cambodia where she witnessed and experienced the full-blown horrors of the human sex trade – rape, torture, and nearly unfathomable abuse. After her eventual escape, she could not forget the young girls (some as young as 5) left behind in the brothels, and so she returned to serve them. Her new book, "The Road of Lost Innocence," is her newest means of advocacy. It tells her personal story, ultimately inviting people of conscious, such as our Christian community, to become involved (or to continue involvement) in this war against an epic evil, a modern battle for "the least of these." Truly, not only is this book worth reading, it's worth sharing.

And here's a link to the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385526210

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Booksigning at B Dalton

Hi Friends!

This past Saturday I had a fun booksigning at B Dalton in Salinas (in the Northridge Mall). (Also check out the link at the bottom of this post!)


I wanted to share some photos of some new reader friends I met there.


So, here they are!
This reader was buying signed copies of books as a Christmas gift. Yay!



This reader already read Beyond the Night and came in for a signed copy.






And here I am with Ruth from B Dalton who set up the signing. Thanks, Ruth!

And finally, The Salinas Californian did a nice article on me that ran on Friday. If you'd like to check it out, click here:

http://www.thecalifornian.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080912/LIFESTYLE/809120307

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Signing, Phantom, & the Greek on Discerning God's Will

Hi Friends,

First, if you're in the Salinas, CA area this weekend, I wanted to let you know I'll be signing copies of Beyond the Night and Veil of Fire at the B Dalton Bookstore in the Northridge Mall on Saturday from 1-3pm. So, if you're around, drop by! I'd love to see you!

Next, last week Bryan and I took a fun trip to Las Vegas with our friends, Bill & Patti Risinger. I was celebrating my birthday (I won't tell ya which ;-)), and they were celebrating their anniversary. LOTS of fun! My favorite part, besides the great company, was seeing THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA production at the Venetian. I'm a huge Phantom fan, so that was especially fun. It's a great production, in a theater designed specially for the Phantom, so if you get to Vegas, I highly recommend seeing the show!


We also did some shopping in various malls. Here's a picture of Bryan and I picking out some fun gifts for our girls at the Fao Schwarz toy store in the Caesar's Palace Mall. (Thank you to Grandma & Grandpa for taking care of the girls while we were away!)

And lastly, Bill introduced me to a neat Greek word that's found in Acts 16:10. Oh, how I love the Greek! In Acts 16, Paul and his group are going around the region of Phrygia and Galatia, while finding some places open to them and others that the Spirit is not allowing them to visit. Basically, Paul is trying to figure out where he should go and what he should do. Sound familiar? Don't we all need to figure out where God wants us to go and what He wants us to do?

Well, in Acts 16:10, it says that Paul "sumbibazontes" (you've got to say that one out loud! :-)) that God had called them to preach the good news in Macedonia. Sumbibazw (that's the simple verb form) doesn't just mean to decide on the one hand, or to "hear and obey" on the other. What it means is to "unite, bring together, hold together" to come to a conclusion.

As I heard that word, I realized that much of life following Jesus involves sumbibazw - it's not about just making your own decisions, but nor is it about waiting for a direct command from God. It's about recognizing the things that God is doing in your life and bringing them together to determine the next step. It's about pulling together God's actions in all the parts of life and seeing how He is guiding you through it all. It's about being wise and discerning. It's about seeing the hand of God not just in prayer or Bible reading or church attendance, but in every aspect of your life.

So, as you go about seeking God's will for you in your everyday life, may you remember to sumbibazw! God is at work ... see Him. And in seeing Him, you'll sumbibazw what to do.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More Thoughts on HOW TO SEE . . .

Hi Friends!

First, I recent wrote an "Author by Night" column for the new Christian Fiction Online Magazine that talks about balancing "other life"and writing. So many have asked "how can you write too?" and this is my partial answer. So, for any who are interested, you can check it out at:



Now, some more thoughts on how to SEE . . .

I was in the seventh grade the first time I looked through a microscope at a drop of pond water. It was a required part of my science class, one that I needed to pass. I still remember my amazement at all that I could see through the microscope – a million little amoeba, paramecium, and specks of who-knew-what. The water teemed with life and activity that had been invisible to my naked eye.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that trust is a lot like that microscope. It, too, is required, and it, too, shows me what I cannot see without it. Without trust, God’s hand in my life, his workings, his glory, are all invisible to me. Instead, feelings take over - today God is good because I feel good, but tomorrow God may be not-so-good if I'm having a bad day. Today I believe He's involved in my life because it makes sense, but tomorrow I may feel He's distant because things don't go as I expect. Trust changes that - knowing that God's character and goals in my life remain constant despite my circumstances or my feelings.

So, even though God is nothing like an amoeba in a petri dish, if I want to truly see what he is up to, if I want to see Him in my life, I must look through the “microscope” of what I know to be true, however I may be feeling. Without it, I see nothing but a drop of murky pond water.

So for me, the key is knowing that God is who He says He is in the Bible, believing that He really is up to something in my life, and trusting that He knows what He's doing through all the ins and outs of what happens to me and around me. That trust that God is determined about His plan to change and perfect me, to make me into the vision He has for me, to form me into a reflection of His Son, helps me to see the beauty in the muddy waters of life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thoughts on True Sight and Blindness

Hi Friends,

As I've been doing interviews and such about my newest novel, Beyond the Night, I've been thinking more about issues of real sight vs. blindness. What does it mean to see? What does it mean not to? And as I've been pondering, I came across this verse:

If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light... (Matthew 6:22)

It reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago. You see, once upon a time, I couldn’t tell a tree from a telephone pole, or a friend from a foe, or a clean room from a dirty one – at least not without my glasses. But a few years ago I had laser eye surgery, and suddenly everything was clear. I could see the intricate beauty of pictures on the wall. I could also see cobwebs gathering in the corner, and the dirt smudges near the light switch.

And I've come to think that the changes God works in me are much like eye surgery. When I’m focused on Him, my vision becomes clear. I can see the intricate details of God’s work in my life and in the world around me. Things I didn’t understand become clear, and I find God is good and loving, even when things don't go as I hoped or planned. But I also see the places in my life that need cleaning, places I may have thought were just fine before.

Good eyes, seeing eyes, allow me to view myself and my world as they really are, the good and the bad. But most importantly, good eyes keep me from being deceived by fear, panic, weariness, wishes, or even politics. With truly seeing eyes, I can tell a friend from a foe, truth from lies, reality from the distractions that spring into my mind. And that’s why I pray that God will keep my eyes on Him and my vision clear. Because true sight isn't about physical vision, it's about discerning what's real. And the only way I can do that is to keep my focus on the author of truth, the only One who sees everything perfectly clearly, from beginning to end, the author of life itself. The clearer I see Him, the clearer I see everything else as well.

God, give us all eyes to see what we need to see!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Giveaway Drawing - Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson

Hi Friends,

I have a new book to tell you about today - this time, nonfiction. AND if you leave a comment here on my blog, you'll be entered in a drawing to win a FREE COPY of this book. Be sure to check back and see if you won, and if you comment as "anonymous" make sure I have a way to get ahold of you to tell you you've won!

Okay, here's a big about the book:

Book: Wild Goose Chase

Author: Mark Batterson

Summary:

Most of us have no idea where we’re going most of the time. Perfect.

“Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something….Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.” --from the introduction

Author Bio:
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger (www.markbatterson.com). He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Clothed in Joy ... Thoughts from Madagascar

Hi Friends,

So I'm doing laundry this morning and my 8-year-old announces she has no pants she wants to wear.

"How 'bout these," I say.

"Those are too tiiiiiiight," she says.

"How about these."

"I don't like those."

"Okay, just put on these Christmas stretch pants until the laundry's done in two hours and you can wear whatever you want."

"But I only like to wear those at Christmas." (waa waa waa).

Me: "Good grief. Put them on. You need a trip to Madagascar where the kids are happy just to have clothes to wear."

(Big, heaving sigh) "Oh, all right."

And so I was reminded this morning of the kids I'd met in Madagascar - kids that taught me real joy - joy not tied to "stuff" or circumstances, ease or comfort. Just the joy found in Jesus.

It happened like this . . .

Bump, rattle, jolt - the land rover hiccuped over the furrowed lane of red earth as we made our way into the village of Morarano on the island of Madagascar. I’d come halfway around the world to help build a new church in this tiny village. Little did I know that God had even bigger plans.

We rumbled through the village of mud huts, topped with thick thatched roofs, while dozens of children raced from their homes. With wide eyes and pointing fingers, they scurried after our trucks as we traveled to the far end of the village.

Even as I stepped from the land rover, the beauty of Madagascar struck me - rolling hills, with rice paddies in every valley, trees dotting the landscape, turquoise blue skies, and red, red dirt like a swatch of crimson beneath the horizon. And there, in the valley below us, a little boy herded geese, just like in the fairy tales.

I smiled, slipped on some gloves, and got ready to work. It was then that I heard it. A tiny giggle, a snicker really. I turned. Behind me, a group of children stood with their hands covering their smiles.

"Vazaha.” Foreigner. I heard them whisper the word.

"Hello.” I took a step toward them.

Instantly, they scattered like dandelion seed in the wind. I shook my head and laughed. Then, my face sobered. Poor kids, I thought, looking at their matted hair, runny noses, and the tattered rags they used for clothes.


All that day, and the next, the kids watched and giggled and pointed as our team worked to lay the stone foundation for the 13.5 by 9 meter sanctuary that would service the 1,400 people in Morarano and surrounding villages.

By the third day, the kids had decided that we were okay, calling out "manao ahoana! manao ahoana!” (hello! hello!) as they ran, pell-mell, to greet us.

“Manao ahoana” we called back, pleased with ourselves for mastering one word of the Malagasy language.

As the days passed and the layers of mud and brick reached ever higher on the new church’s walls, I found the happy greeting of the children had changed. No longer did they just call out "hello.” Now they said "manao ahoana namana,” hello friends.

By the last day, the kids didn’t stand and watch as we worked. Each child, even those so small that they could barely walk, pitched in to help. Now, it was my turn to stare with wonder as these tiny children hauled one, two, and sometimes three bricks and handed them to us on the scaffolding.

All too soon, the sun waned in the afternoon sky. With final calls of "veloma" (goodbye) we left the village, our hearts filled with love for the Malagasy people and their sweet, dirt-splotched children.

As the red-mud huts of the village dropped from view, I thought about how the kids worked with us that day, how they had seen past our "foreigner” exterior and called us "friends.” They had stopped whispering "vazaha,” but had I stopped whispering "poor kids?”

I closed my eyes and allowed a hundred memories to sweep through my mind - little Rosa carrying her brother on her back and three bricks in her arms, a group of boys laughing as they pulled one another on the cart we used for hauling stones, the girls giggling as they pointed to themselves and said names that I couldn’t hope to pronounce. These were the kids I had pitied and thought, how sad. How could I possibly associate that word with those bright, joy-filled children?

What’s wrong with me, God? I prayed. Am I blind to happiness unless it’s wrapped in a pretty package?

As I sat and remembered the happy giggles of the children of Morarano, God broke through my blinders. He taught me to see as He sees, for "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1Samuel 16:7 NIV)

Now, I say, "Rags? What rags?” All I remember are white smiles like the adorning of jewels, glittering robes of laughter, and the unfettered, happy spirits of kids clothed in the joy of Jesus.