Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

When You Feel Like You're Drowning

Hi Friends,

Well, yesterday I found out I have bronchitis. I've got a list of over 20 things that need to be done ASAP. The twins are being potty trained (no fun), and I feel like some elephant is using me as a dance floor. Ever feel like that?

So, in the midst of pull-ups, cough medicine, and trying to ignore that to-do list, I was reminded of something that happened just a few weeks ago. Here's how it happened:

Sometimes parents are right. This was one of those times.

Joelle paddled around the shallow end of the pool with a long, skinny floater tucked under her arms. She made a few circles then headed for the far end of the pool.

I watched her go. Past the ladder, past her sisters, past the light that marked the end of the area where she was allowed to swim. “Don’t go in the deep end!” I called out the warning after her. “Stay where you can touch bottom.”

She didn’t turn.


I started to go after her.

My husband, Bryan, touched my arm. “Give her a minute. She’ll learn.”

Joelle glanced back at me. “I’ll be all right, Mommy. I’ve got my floatie.”

“You could let go of it, and it would float away.”

She turned back around away. “I won’t. I promise.”

“Stay out of the deep end.”

But of course she didn’t. Soon after, the floatie had drifted off and there was Joelle, floundering, gasping, sputtering in the deep end of the pool. Arms flailed, water splashed. And the floatie moved even further from her reach.

Bryan shook his head and went after her. A moment later, he’d hauled her back to the shallow end.

Joelle trembled, and wailed, and hung on to her Daddy.

He sighed. “Well, what did Mommy tell you?”

“Waaaaa!” She buried her head deeper in his neck and refused to look.

He loosened her grip from around him and placed a finger under her chin. “You’re all right. Next time listen to Mommy.”

She sniffed and nodded. “I was s-s-s-scared.”

Bryan smiled at her. “I know. Now, let’s practice how to float, in case that ever happens again.”

So they did. They practiced being still, letting her body float at the top of the water, and raising her head above the surface to breathe. No flailing, no panic.

The strange thing is, bodies are buoyant. Yet people still drown with their noses a couple inches from air. Joelle had gasped and thrashed when all she really needed to do was calm down, stop flailing, and raise her face above the level of the water.

She only had to lift her chin and look up.

I wonder if it’s not often like that in life as well. We do something foolish, and we start to drown in our mistakes. But God doesn’t abandon us. He’s given us what we need to float. We just have to listen when he says to "Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV) All we’d really have to do is look up, look to Him, and we’d find our head above water. We’d be okay.

But instead we panic. We flail about in fear and desperation. And all the while God is swimming toward us, calling out to us to just look up.

The Bible says in Psalm 121 (NIV), “I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth… The LORD watches over you … The LORD will keep you from all harm. He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

God is not far. There’s no need to panic. Instead, we just need to be still and look to Him.

So, today, as I feel the waters rising, as I'm tempted to flail around in fear, I'm remembering the lesson of Joelle’s trip to the deep end. I'm reminding myself to not panic, look up, and breathe in the peace of God. Because my Father in heaven is here with me. He won’t let me drown. He’s given me what I need to stay afloat in all the circumstances of life. Even bronchitis, potty training, and a 20-item list.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

God's Plans . . . Not Mine

Hi Friends,

I just got back from Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference near Scotts Valley, California. What a rich, wonderful time of being with God, friends, and other writers! As usual, I stayed up late in Central Lounge laughing at the stories told by long-time friends like Steve Laube (my agent), John Olson, Randy Ingermanson, Tracy Higley (my roommate for the conference - fun!), Lynne Thompson, Meredith Efken, Mary Hampton, and others. And new friends like Tosca Lee and Rick Acker. The seminars were fantastic, the weather mostly sunny, and the food yummy.

Now I am both exhausted and refreshed. :-) So, no story with a scriptural point from me today, but I did want to share a thought that was meaningful to me over the time of the conference. Here it is:

A recurring scripture for me (both in life and this past weekend) is Ephesians 2:10, which when translated from the Greek reads something like: For we are His masterpiece, having been created in Christi Jesus for good works which God before-prepared, that in them we may walk.

What I love about this verse is both the idea that God has already PREPARED (not just "assigned") the good works for us but also that we're not just to do them, but walk in them. The Greek there for "walk" literally says "walk around." So, there's the feel not of a good works to-do list, but these good things that God has prepared for us to walk around in, to live in, experience and become.

For me that is a huge encouragement. I don't need to force my own plans into my life. I don't need to compare my success with others. I don't need to fret because things don't work out the way I want them to. God has prepared the good works for me. They are a gift, not a task. Now, I may walk around in them. I have a chance to live them.

I just need to walk. That's all. God says to me "This is the way, walk ye in it." (Isaiah 30:21) So, I just need to go forward, love Him, and be looking for ways to love others, ways that He has already prepared for.

That's the wonder of my walk, your walk, with a VIVID God.

(P.S. I've got some news coming out on my newsletter soon, so make sure you're signed up -- go to my website homepage - see button above - and enter your email address in the box on the right column! And please feel free to tell anyone else who might be interested about the newsletter too!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Obeying God - The Right Tool

Hi Friends,

Today, I'm reminded of a story about what it takes to obey God, to follow Him, to be the person He wants me to be. I'm reminded of the difference between will power and submission. It happened like this . . .

It was the size of a watermelon. A very large watermelon. I stuck my hand through the huge hole in the screen door and hollered for my husband. “Aren’t you ever going to fix this screen?”

I heard mumbling from the other room.


“Maybe this weekend,” Bryan yelled back.

This weekend? Was he crazy? A hundred flies would buzz through the hole before then. Or a mouse could get through. Or even the neighbor’s cat. I stood up and put my hands on my hips.

“I want to do it now.”

“Go ahead. The new screen’s in the garage.”

It wasn’t exactly the answer I was hoping for, but I wasn’t going to wait any longer. “Fine. I’ll do it myself. No problem.” I slapped my hands together and headed for the garage. There, as promised, was the brand new hole-less screen.
I tromped back into the house with the screen in my hand. Within minutes I had the door removed and the old screen out and thrown away. Now all I had to do was squeeze the new screen into the metal frame and replace the door. It seemed like a simple task.

I laid the screen on the frame and pushed, and shoved, and tweaked, and groaned. But the screen wouldn’t stay in the frame. Finally, I took a butter knife and tried to wedge the mesh into the thin crease. I pushed the screen in. It came out. I pushed it in sideways. It came out again. I smashed the stainless steel knife into the mesh and pushed it into the frame with all my might. It stayed in for a moment, then slipped out. For forty-five minutes I tried everything I could think of to squeeze the screen into the frame, but nothing work.

Finally, I threw the butter knife onto the ground. “I can’t do this!" My shout echoed through the house. "It’s impossible!”

Bryan ambled into the room. “What’s wrong?”

I sniffed. “I can’t get this stupid screen into the frame.” I grabbed the butter knife and stabbed it in Bryan’s direction.

He grinned. “You’re using a butter knife?”

I crossed my arms. “Yeah. So?”

“There’s a tool for that, you know.”

“Of course I want to."

Ten minutes later we were standing before a bin of 79-cent tools. I stared at the small plastic sticks attached to miniature wheels. “This is it?”

“That’s it.” Bryan smiled.

Less than a dollar later, Bryan and I were headed home with tool in hand.

Once I got back, changing the screen took only a few seconds. I couldn’t believe how my impossible task had suddenly become so easy. All because I had the proper tool.

Sometimes I feel like following God, and obeying his will, is a lot like changing a window screen. Without the right tool, it’s almost impossible. I like to think that I can obey God through sheer will power. But after struggling, groaning, and trying with all my might, I find the hole-filled screen of my life far from fixed. What I need is not the butter knife of will power, but the new heart that God promises. I need to lay down my self-sufficiency and pick up complete reliance on God. I need to stop thinking that I can fulfill God’s dreams for me if I just try hard enough.

Instead, I must depend on the right tool – on God’s grace and mercy in my life. Only then will I be able to accomplish the tasks God has for me.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Through grace, God gives me what I need to obey Him. He only asks that I be willing to give up my old heart of stone . . . or in this case, of stainless steel.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Perfect Life by Robin Lee Hatcher

Hi Friends,

This week, I'd like to tell you a little about The Perfect Life, a new novel by Robin Lee Hatcher. So here we go . . .

by Robin Lee Hatcher

Katherine Clarkson has the perfect life. Married to Brad, a loving and handsome man, respected in their church and the community. Two grown daughters on the verge of starting families of their own. A thriving ministry. Good friends. A comfortable life.

She has it all—until the day a reporter appears with shocking allegations. Splashed across the local news are accusations of Brad's financial impropriety at his foundation and worse, of an affair with a former employee. Without warning, Katherine's marriage is shattered and her family torn apart. The reassuring words she's spoken to many brokenhearted women over the years offer little comfort now.

Her world spinning, Katherine wonders if she can find the truth in the chaos that consumes her. How can she survive the loss of the perfect life?


Publisher's Weekly says:

"Hatcher is a dab hand with dialogue, which is one reason her characters are so well drawn: readers will feel empathy with all members of the family. Hatcher also gets kudos for creating, in Katherine's best friend, a sympathetic non-Christian character, something all too rare in faith fiction. This will be a surefire hit with Hatcher's many fans."


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.


An Interview with Robin

Question: Where do you get the ideas for your stories and what has been your greatest inspiration?

Answer: Ideas come from all kinds of places – from dreams, from bit of news on the television, from conversations overheard in restaurants. Sometimes I’m conscious of the exact moment an idea for a novel began. But for most my novels, the ideas seem to creep up on me. The Perfect Life was more the latter. One day I simply recognized I had the premise for a story rolling around in my head, then I began brainstorming the bigger picture and eventually the novel was born.

Some of my novels have come from deep personal experiences. Because God has walked me through dark places and brought me out on the other side, I want to share with others the grace He has shown me. Since I am a novelist, fiction is the main way I can do that. And naturally, the faith element of my novels comes out of my own faith experiences, from lessons God has taught me or is teaching me. Sometimes I’m looking for answers right along with the characters of my books, so writing is a form of discovery for me.

Question: How does it make you feel to see your books, not only in print but on the shelves of stores?

Answer: I can honestly say it was every bit as exciting when I held The Perfect Life, my 56th book, as it was when I held my very first novel (1984). Every novel is a story from my heart, and I pray that each one will bring readers both enjoyment and new understanding. To see it come to fruition is an amazing thing.

Question: Do you have a favorite of all the books you have written so far? Why is it your favorite?

Answer: I don’t have one favorite book, but some of my books are special to me for different reasons. For instance, I love Ribbon of Years because my protagonist, Miriam, is the kind of Christian I hope to be at the end of my life. I love The Shepherd’s Voice because God taught me that He can and will do amazing things with what I offer to Him, even when it is so imperfect. I love Beyond the Shadows because I long to let Christians who love alcoholics know that they are not alone and that there is always hope in Christ. I love Catching Katie because Katie was such a fun character and the research was fascinating. I love The Forgiving Hour because God poured that story into my heart and many of the scenes came straight out of my own life (albeit the experiences came more than 25 years before I wrote the book). I love The Perfect Life because I understand Katherine’s perfectionist tendencies and her need to control the chaos. And I always love the next book I plan to write because there is still hope that it will completely fulfill the vision I have for it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Finding Your Way Through Darkness: A Poem

Hi Friends,

I've been thinking this week about how dark times don't last forever. Dawn comes, light dawns, and joy can be renewed. So, what is the purpose of the night? I think the night teaches us to trust God, to follow Him in the dimness, to submit our wills to His and believe that the path on which He leads us will bring us to a new day. The night teaches us to believe. The day teaches us wonder. But we can't be filled with the wonder of God, with the wonder of the Cross, until we've walked through the darkness and learned to believe when we can't see.

So, in that "light," I offer the following poem:


I ask Him where I'm going,
Where does this path lead?
To a land of endless day
Where all darkness flees?
Beyond the tears I weep today,
Will joy come tomorrow?
To banish fear within me,
To sooth the edge of sorrow?

I hear the voice of the King
Calling through my night,
Beckoning to my soul,
"Bask within my light."
I dry my tears, lift my head,
And choose to follow Him,
Despite my fear and sorrow,
Despite the ache within.

And, lo, as I travel
Where His feet have gone,
The depths of my darkness
Dissolve into the dawn.
Joy begins to blossom
From the seeds of pain
For He has led me on the path
Where He alone can reign.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Leaving November by Deborah Raney

Hi Friends,

The book I have to introduce to you this week is Leaving November by Deb Raney. Read on for a little about it, plus an interview!

Leaving November is the second novel in the Clayburn Novels series from Howard/Simon & Schuster.

Daughter of the town drunk, Vienne Kenney has escaped Clayburn for law school in California. But after failing the bar exam—twice—she’s back home with her tail between her legs, managing Latte-dah, the Clayburn cafĂ© turned upscale coffee shop. Jackson Linder runs the art gallery across the street and Vienne has had her eye on him since she was a skinny seventh grader and he was the hunky high school lifeguard who didn’t know she existed. Now it’s his turn to fall for her and suddenly Clayburn seems like a pretty nice place to be...until Vienne discovers that Jack is fresh out of rehab and still struggling with the same addiction that ultimately killed her father.

DEBORAH RANEY is at work on her seventeenth novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award and Silver Angel from Excellence in Media. Deborah's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Deb serves on the advisory board of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Ken Raney, have four children and enjoy small-town life in Kansas.

Visit Deb on the web at http://www.deborahraney.com/.


Q. What was your inspiration for Leaving November?
A. When I was writing the first book in the series, Remember to Forget, Jackson Linder, a secondary character in the book, really intrigued me. Jack has struggled with something that is my greatest fear: being responsible for the death of another person. I wanted to explore how someone in his shoes could find forgiveness, redemption, and even happiness.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I've just finished the first draft for the third book in the Clayburn series, Yesterday’s Embers. I have a new contract for another three-book series, and a couple of stand-alone novels to write, but there are other characters from the Clayburn novels begging to have their stories told! I don’t know if I’ll get to write any more Clayburn books, but I’ve loved my time in this little fictional Kansas town!

Q. What do you enjoy most about writing? Least?
A. Most: Having written! Because that means I’m getting reader feedback on my novel—the reward for all the hours of solitude! I also love that I get to be at home and make my own hours.
Least: First-drafting! I love rewriting—taking my editors’ comments and applying them to make my book the best it can be. But the blank page terrifies me! For me, it’s far easier to fix a horrible manuscript than to try to come up with something out of thin air.

Q. What do you do when you're not reading or writing?
A. I love working in the beautiful garden my husband, Ken, designed in our back yard (for a peek, go to http://kansasprairiegarden.blogspot.com/) and I love decorating our home. It’s such fun to comb antique shops and flea markets for a great object from the past that I can use on my desk or in my kitchen, or a great piece of furniture to paint or refinish. I’m not much for pretty stuff just for the sake of having it on display, but I love “repurposing” antiques—like the old chamber pot I use for deadheading in the garden, or the antique bank mail sorter that serves as my filing “cabinet.”

As much as I enjoy my career, I’ve always believed that my most precious calling is wife to Ken, my husband of 33 years; mom to four great kids; and now mom-in-law, and “Mimi” to two darling little grandsons. In addition, I have some of the most amazing friends in the world, including a group of women who share my name. We affectionately call ourselves Club Deb. I think being in the solitary profession of writing helps you really appreciate the people you have eye-to-eye contact with!