Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thoughts on Worship ... And Daisies

Hi Friends,

I've been thinking about true worship and what brings a smile to the face of God. What does He treasure? What brings Him joy? And then I remembered something that happened a couple years ago. It went like this:

It wasn't so much the flower that caught my attention, but the look on Bethany's face behind it -- a look of shy adoration and expectation. As she stepped toward me, a dazzling smile swept across her face, revealing two gaps in the front where teeth had been just days before. I looked down into those clear six-year-old eyes and smiled back. With one hand she brushed back the bangs that were almost touching her eyebrows and ran a knuckle over the mudpie smudge that still stained her cheek. And with the other filthy, dirt-smeared hand, she held out a single bedraggled daisy, its white petals drooping over a stem grown limp from the pressure of her small fist.

"For you," she whispered, grinning up at me again and awaiting my response.

Delicately, I took the daisy, held it in my palm, and watched the joy dance as topaz lights through her brown eyes. Then she was gone, back to her own little world of mudpies and swing-sets. In a few moments, the sound of her laugh drifted through the window as I placed the daisy in a glass of water and coaxed it to stand upright.

As I stood fingering the petals again, I knew what every parent has discovered -- that one bedraggled daisy meant more to me than any professional bouquet ever could. It was precious because it was a token of love from Bethany, given not from duty or obligation, but simply to say "I was thinking about you and wanted to tell you I love you." It was the fact that she had taken time in the middle of her play to remember me. It didn't matter what the flower looked like, or that it could be considered a weed by others. I loved it anyway.

As I watched Bethany pat mud into a variety of flat, round shapes out in the backyard, I wondered -- have I brought God any flowers lately? I am His child. My moments of worship during the day are like the little daisy, picked just to say "I remember you, and I love you." I want to be able to stop my "play" during the day to offer God small tokens of my love and adoration, despite the smudges of daily living on my cheeks. A quick prayer, a simple song, a moment to read about Him in the scriptures, a simple smile and "thanks" ... all can be like my bedraggled daisy, offered to God out of love, rather than obligation. And my moments of worship don't need to be polished or professional. They can be as bedraggled and wilted as I am, yet God will cherish them just the same as I cherish a child's daisy.

And I wonder if, just perhaps, God puts my moments of worship in a glass in Heaven and allows the feeble sight to bring Him joy all through the day ... just like my one bedraggled daisy?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reluctant Smuggler by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Hi Friends,

Got another book to tell you about this week -- Reluctant Smuggler by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. Here's a bit about it:

Looting of archaeological sites is big business in a thriving art and antiquities black market. When a desperate foreign government hires Desiree Jacobs’s security company to stop the hemorrhage, she runs afoul of a deadly art-for-drugs operation. Tony Lucano risks his rising career in the FBI to dive into the international underworld after her. Before either of them can come up for air, they must navigate through a deepening murk of ruthless looters, hair-trigger DEA agents, crooked government agents, and innocent bystanders caught up in an illegal trade beyond their understanding. Even if a miracle delivers Desi and Tony from evil, will their love survive the test?

Complete with a reader’s guide, this third book in the To Catch a Thief series explores the power of hope in the darkest of circumstances.

And here's a bit about Jill:

Jill Elizabeth Nelson graduated with a degree in literature and creative writing from Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota. She served for three years as the senior inspirational reviewer for Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Writers Group, and Christian Authors Network. In 2004, she served as a Christy Award judge in the romance category. Nelson and her husband have four children and live in Madison, Minnesota.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck

Hi Friends,

Hey, I have another neat Christian novel to tell you about today. It's Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck.

Here's a bit about it:

For most of her life, Caroline Sweeney put the needs of others before herself. When her friends went off to college and exotic European cities, she stayed home in Beaufort to look after her Dad and brother, and whoever else needed her help.

At twenty-eight, she’s invited to embark on her own adventure when a friend offers Caroline an amazing job opportunity in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, her home town is calling her to stay. Unexpectedly, Caroline inherits the run-down, money-pit Frogmore Café.

Caroline must choose between a Beaufort treasure, the Frogmore Café, and the unusual Barcelona adventure. If that’s not enough, Caroline finds herself torn between two lovesa very hunky deputy Sheriff and a returning hometown boy, a country music star.
In the midst of her trials, Caroline shares a lot of laughter with her friends and discovers the sweet fragrance of Jesus as He pursues her heart.

Romantic Times Book Club wrote: 4.5 Stars – “Hauck adorable novel contains the multi-layered character readers have come to expect from her books. The enjoyable story and unpredictable ending entertains and offers much to think about.”

Q & A with Rachel:
Q: Where did this story idea come from?

A: The final product is a long way from the original story idea. Several years ago I had a thought, “What if a girl ended up hosting a TV cooking show, but she couldn’t cook?”
I had the title Sweet Caroline and knew I wanted to write a book set in the beautiful South Carolina lowcountry, so I tried to put my cooking show story in Beaufort.
But it didn’t work on a few levels, and I added the element of Caroline working at the Frogmore Café. In the end, I had to cut the cooking show story line to focus on Caroline’s life in Beaufort.
I also wanted to write about a woman who willingly set aside her life for others. Yes, she struggles with esteem and fears, but she is also confident enough to venture out if the right opportunity came along. But she’s content to stay home, meet the needs of others.
At the story opening, Caroline doesn’t know God or that He has a plan for her. Yet she’s spent a lot of time talking to “whoever’s up there, if anyone.”
One evening Jesus introduces Himself to her. While most of us meet Jesus through hearing and watching others, Jesus is able to touch our hearts in many non-traditional ways. I opted to show that with Caroline. It was fun.

Sweet Caroline will be available on February 12, from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Rachel Hauck is a multi-published author living in sunny central Florida with her husband, Tony, a pastor. They have two ornery pets. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and a huge Buckeyes football fan.
Rachel is past President of American Christian Fiction Writers and now serves the organization as an Advisor. Visit her blog and web site at http://www.rachelhauck.com/.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When Life's a Wild Ride

Hi Friends,

Last weekend was one wild ride around here. Nothing went as planned. Bethany had a friend over to ride horses, but when I went out to feed them, I found the fence smashed and one horse missing. We spent the day searching for him. A crane operator was supposed to come and move our storage bin Saturday morning, but the night before somebody named Brian had called him to reschedule. He assumed that it was us and didn’t show up. We finally received a shipment for bunkbeds for our girls, but when we went to put it together we realized we were missing one of the needed boxes. Then a good friend put some coupons she wanted to give me in my car window. When I went to get them, they slide down inside the door, never to be seen again.

In other words, it was just one of those weekends. When life is weird, things go awry, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It reminded me of a time a few years ago when I’d ridden the most incredible roller coaster.

It happened like this:

I stood and looked up at the biggest roller coaster I had ever seen. It was beautiful. It was wonderful. It was terrifying! Three loops, two corkscrews, and a twisting plunge that I was sure would leave my stomach somewhere near Jupiter. A shiver zig-zagged down my spine. The line crept forward in front of me. I hugged myself around my waist and stared up at the red car that now zipped through the first loop. The roar of wheels on metal tracks drown the screams of the riders as the coaster zoomed overhead.

As the car headed for the double corkscrew, my husband Bryan leaned close to me. “You scared?” His whisper tickled my ear.

I grinned up at him. “Yup.”

“It’s been a long time. You sure you’re up to it?”


He laughed. “We’ll see.”

As he turned his back and watched another car scream by, my fingers dug into my arms. I was up to it, wasn’t I? Sure, with long infertility treatments and two pregnancies, it had been years since I’d been on a roller coaster. And even then, I’d never been on one quite like this. But I’d be fine. Right?

Bryan draped his arm over my shoulders as the line brought us nearer to the boarding area. As we drew closer, I began to notice the signs.

Remove earrings and glasses before riding. I removed my earrings and glasses.

We got up to the front. Stay behind line, read another sign. I stayed behind the line.

A green car squealed to a stop in front of us. Butterflies did aerial acrobatics in my stomach. The gate swung open and I climbed into my seat and pulled down the safety harness. Check safety harness. I tugged at the bars to make sure they were secure.

The car jolted forward. Keep arms and hands inside car. I kept my arms and hands inside.

And off we went. Three loops, two corkscrews, and a twisting plunge. And me laughing and yelling at the pure fun of the wildest ride in the park. When we pulled back into the boarding area, my hair stood on end, my eyes streamed with tears, and my mouth stretched into a cheek-splitting smile.

“That was great!” I yelled over the clackety-clack of the car slowing to a stop.

Bryan chuckled. “I thought you were scared.”

“I was.” I pressed a hand to my stomach. “I still am.”

Bryan reached out and ruffled my already-wild hair. “But it’s a good scared, isn’t it?”

I giggled and nodded. It was a good scared. A very good scared. And that’s when I realized that not all fear is bad.

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV) says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” I’d always wondered about that verse, questioning how fear of God could possibly be good. After all, if I were afraid, wouldn’t I want to stay away? How could I love God and yet fear Him?

But as I thought back to the wildest roller coaster I’ve ever ridden, I realized that fear didn’t make me run. It made me careful. I obeyed the rules. I followed the instructions. I checked my safety harness twice. Fear of the roller coaster made me wise, just as the fear of the Lord makes me wise in life.

Like the roller coaster, God is beautiful, wonderful, terrifying. He’s an upside down, three loops, drop and twist, kind of God. Life with Him is full of unexpected turns that sometimes make me laugh, and sometimes make tears stream from my eyes. But whether I’m chugging up a steep hill, zooming down a sharp incline, or hanging on while my world turns upside down, my awe of God, my respect for Him, makes me pay attention to His Word, hang on tight to His promises, and stay behind the lines He draws in Scripture. Only then can I fully enjoy this wild and wondrous ride of life in God.

Even when it makes my hair stand on end.

(P.S. We found the horse, the crane guy came on Monday, the final bunk bed box came today . . . but those coupons are still inside my car door!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Finding Sanity in the Rush of Life

Hi Friends,

During these busy January days, I thought I'd share some thoughts about rush and rest and finding sanity in the hurry of life. So, here ya go:

I’m so tired . . . I can’t do it all. The words limped through my mind as I leaned against the headrest in my Honda Pilot. Rain drummed on the front windshield, accompanied by the steady thump of the wipers.

“Are you all right over there?”

I glanced over at my husband in the driver’s seat. “I dunno.”

“Just relax. We’ll be there in a minute.”

I tried to relax, but the baby started fussing in back seat. Then our 4-year-old began complaining, again, about her seatbelt. “Moooommmmm, it’s too tight.”

I tried to focus on the swish-swosh of the wipers, the patter-smack of the rain. But the kids were louder.

It was supposed to be a quick task. Just drop Bryan off at the shop to pick up his truck, then zoom back home. A few minutes to rest on the way there, then a short drive back, and get to work. But so far, I hadn’t managed a minute of rest. And it wasn’t all the kids’ fault. There were too many thoughts crashing around in my mind. An impossible to-do list, deadlines looming, diapers to change, messages to answer, bills to pay, laundry stacked a mile high, bits and pieces of life scattered about, all shouting for my attention.

It was too much. But that was life. Things had to be done. And I had to do them. But how? My gaze drifted to the side window. There, dozens of raindrops raced in herky-jerky motions across the glass. My eyes followed a group along the jagged, horizontal paths. A moment later, those drops flew off behind us, only to be replaced by others in an endless, useless race.

There was something sad, something awful, about how the raindrops shuddered across the glass. They reminded me of something. No, not something. Someone. Me. Just like them, I too was driven in a frantic rush from one side of the day to the other, often accomplishing little more than moving across the distance.

I pressed my fingertips against the pane and watched as a puff of mist outlined my hand. How could I stop it? The raindrops had no choice. Did I? It didn’t seem like it, and yet . . .

The answer came quickly in the form of a scripture verse I had memorized years before. “Be still, and know that I am God,” God said in Psalm 46:10 (NIV).

I frowned. Be still?! Sure, it sounded good, but honestly, how could that verse apply to me? I had two small, busy children, a business to run, papers due, and writing deadlines looming. There was no time to be still! But what if there was, somehow, someway? What if one of those racing raindrops just paused for a moment on the glass?

As if to answer my question, the Pilot slowed to a stop at a red light. Not one, but all the raindrops shivered then paused. In one instant, they glimmered like a dozen oval diamonds. No more racing. No more frenzy. Then, the light turned green. The Honda picked up speed. But the raindrops didn’t resume their helter-skelter dash. Instead those drops, the ones that paused, made a graceful swoop to the edge of the glass.

I stared at the window as new raindrops resumed the crazed race. It was as if nothing changed. But something had. I’d seen the raindrops that paused. And I knew that somehow I had to pause too. I may still have to get from one side of the glass to the other, but I didn’t have to do it all at once. I could spare a quiet moment in the midst of chaos, a breath of blessed silence, a time to stop the hurry and place my heart, my life, my to-do list, squarely in the hands of God. I needed to stop, even if briefly, to remember who I am, and more importantly, who He is. To breathe a word of praise into the noise of the day. I needed to simply, sometimes, be still.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner

Hi Friends,

It's back to new book Mondays. So, here' s the next great Christian novel I'd like to tell you about: Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner.

Here's what Susan says about Blue Heart Blessed in a nutshell:

Left standing at the altar, Daisy Murien, a wounded but hopeful romantic, opens a secondhand wedding dress boutique, hoping to soothe her broken heart while giving doomed wedding dresses a second chance at love. Her predictable days take a sharp turn, though, when the retired Episcopal priest who blesses the tiny, blue satin heart she sews into each dress falls ill. When the priest’s brooding and recently divorced son arrives with plans to take his ailing father away, a contest of wills begins between two stubborn—and hurting—souls. While fighting to keep Father Laurent close by, Daisy finally begins to understand why she has routinely convinced potential buyers not to buy the one gown that started her business—her own: She doesn’t want to give up on the dream of a fairytale romance. This compelling story is about the magnificence of unconditional love and God’s impeccable timing in bringing it about.

Publisher’s Weekly said this about Blue Heart Blessed: “Meissner tells her story well, and her Christian themes are interwoven throughout with a deft touch. Readers will appreciate some fresh elements: an Ecuadorian couple that cooks for the apartment dwellers every Sunday, and the one gown in Daisy’s inventory she does not want to sell. The ending is well told if conventional, with all the loose ends neatly tied up, which should please fans of “happily ever after” romance novels.”

Romantic Times gave it 4½ stars and chose it for one of their Top Picks for February: “Meissner's unique story is a treat. It's filled with realistic, wounded characters who rely on God's grace and guidance to see them through. Themes of learning to trust God and waiting for His perfect timing exude warmth and love.”

Where did this story idea come from?
I was on a long car ride with a friend one afternoon a couple years ago. She had just seen her roommate’s wedding dress and she was describing it to me. It sounded so beautiful. I said something like, “It’s kind of a shame such a lovely dress will only be worn once.” As soon as those words were out of my mouth, a story began to bloom in my head about a woman who opens a boutique and sells second-hand wedding dresses. I began to imagine what kind of woman would open a shop like that and by the time we got to our destination, I had a title for this book, my quirky character Daisy, and a reason why she can’t seem to sell the one dress that began it all. And I knew this would be a story about waiting on God for true love — that is, love that is true.

I’ve got a great blog started that will dovetail nicely with this book. The blog, called Blue Heart Blessed by the way, will feature stories, ideas, op-ed pieces, poems, jokes, lists, you name it, on quirky engagements, second chances at love, proposals, laughable wedding stories and the like. I’d love to hear from readers and writers alike, especially if they’ve a story to share. Here’s the web address:

Published by Harvest House, Blue Heart Blessed will release on February 1. Here’s the CBD link:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Caught by WONDER

Hi Friends,

I was really moved this week by a story that Linda Windsor shared with me. It was the story of how she came to know and love Jesus. Linda is a friend and fellow author. So, I wanted to share her story with you because it speaks of the wonder of God's love - His for us, ours for Him.

So, with no further ado, here's Linda's story. I hope it blesses you too:

It was the early 90's. I had always believed in God, but had problems accepting Christ as more than a great prophet. I had problems with some other Christian beliefs as well--or more so, questions. Chemical depression vexed me, but I had no idea what was wrong at that time. My 9 yr old son's learning disability forced me to place him in the only private school I could afford. A Christian school around the corner from my work. My kids wanted to go to church and so I finally caved in and took them to a round-the-clock Good Friday service where a pastor I'd never seen (I'd sung in enough weddings and funerals to know every one in town) stood up and preached on Doubting Thomas; how it was okay to question as long as we earnestly sought the truth. It nailed me to my seat and made this armchair philospher squirm. I hadn't earnestly sought the answers, just posed my skeptcism and drove faithful friends to distraction. It was a pivot point of my returning to my faith and to church. Where else could I find the answers to my questions/problems with the church/Scripture and about Jesus?

I went to a church to hear a minister whom I'd heard many times at said weddings and funerals and whom I respected. The answers to my questions flooded in, overwhelming me at times. I can't tell you how many worship services I endured, garroted by emotion. So much of what had kept me away from church had been misunderstanding or narrow views presented by my well-meaning grandmother and the practices of some hypocritical Christians. Still, it was about 3 years before I accepted Jesus completely. I first loved and admired him as a leader and teacher. As an incredible man and prophet, a revolutionary against the hypocrites of the church like those who'd turned me sour toward faith. And then, one day I was driving to work and a beautiful sky and a cedar grove in the midst of a field came into view, dew-splashed and dazzling in the sunlight.

A big "I love you Jesus!" just welled up out of no where and so took me by surprise, that I actually pulled over and sat there crying. Until that time I'd prayed to God and asked Him to bear with me until I could accept His Son, to show me Who His Son was. But this time, I'd prayed to Jesus and in that Name, I'd finally accepted Him. Now every day is a new discovery of just how marvelous He is and a chance to get to know Him even more. Even now I'm choked with wonder and gratitude...and love.

To find out more about Linda and her books, check out her website at http://www.lindawindsor.com/.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Hi Friends!

Happy New Year! Today, as I’m considering how I’d like to grow and change in the next year, I’m thinking about prayer.

Now, it’s not that I don’t know how to pray. I’ve been a praying Christian for years. I’ve read all the books, I’ve studied all the greats - Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and a dozen others. I’ve given talks and written seminary papers. I’ve fasted, and prayerwalked, and read the Lord’s Prayer in Greek. I’ve even written articles! And still, I haven’t learned to pray like my daughter when she was two.

It happened not so long ago. The food steamed on the table. The silverware shone. Our older daughter, Bethany (then 5), squirmed in her seat. “Who’s gonna pray so we can eat?” She looked down at the spaghetti on her plate.

I opened my mouth to volunteer, but before I could say a word, a little voice piped up from beside me.

“Me do it. I pray.”

I glanced at our two-year-old daughter, Joelle. “Okay, you do it. You know what to do?”

She nodded.

She’d never prayed out loud for a meal before, but she had heard us pray hundreds of times. We always asked God to bless the food and thanked Him for it.

Joelle folded her hands as we all bowed our heads.

Then, we waited. And waited.

I peeked at her. “Go ahead, sweetie. Pray.”

She closed her eyes. Then, came her prayer, loud and clear over the table. “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy. Amen.”

We all looked up.

Bethany frowned. “That’s a funny prayer. Can we eat now or not?”

I tapped her hand and shushed her. “It’s a great prayer. You can eat.”

Joelle stuffed her fork into her spaghetti and ignored her sister. “I pray,” she muttered.

I smiled as I contemplated her words. She prayed all right. A prayer no one had taught her, a prayer that came right from her heart, a prayer that put all my grown-up prayers to shame. In six simple words, Joelle had gotten to the heart of God-honoring prayer - not a rote repetition about the food, but a sincere desire for Jesus to be happy.

As I sat there twirling spaghetti on my fork, I thought about how my prayers compared with Joelle’s. Sure, I knew all the right phrases and all the how-to’s. Yet, as I contemplated her simple words, I saw how woefully self-centered my own prayers had become. I asked for blessings on my family, help with my work, wisdom in dealing with people, and that all would go well. Good things, surely, and things that God wants me to pray for. But it wasn’t enough. If I were to simplify my prayers down to Joelle’s language, I saw that they would sound more like “Marlo no cry. Marlo be happy.”
Where Joelle prays for Jesus, I pray for me.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:10 (NIV) to pray, “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I’ve read those words so many times, but only through Joelle’s prayer have I seen their deeper meaning. When we spurn God’s will, Jesus weeps. When we do His will, Jesus is happy.

So, for 2008, instead of only asking for God’s blessing, I want to focus more on asking God to help me to be pleasing to Him. As I ask for His help in my work and writing, I want to also voice my desire for Him to help me to glorify Him in my life. When I ask for wisdom, I want to ask Him to help me honor Him in all I do and think. And instead of focusing on my desire for all to go well, maybe I’ll ask Him what I can do to bring Him joy.

In other words, I want to learn to pray with childlike faith. To pray, “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy.” That’s my hope, my prayer, for 2008.