Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Imagine Yourself Before Him . . .

Hi Friends,

Today, I thought it'd be neat to share a few simple thoughts about Revelation 1:17-18. Here's how it reads:

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys to death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).

Some Thoughts:

Imagine for a moment that you’re sitting in your favorite chair. One leg is tucked beneath you. Your Bible is in your lap, and your brand new copy of Beyond the Night (hee hee) is propped against your knee. Then, without warning, Christ himself is standing before you. His eyes are blazing like fire, his hair is as white at lightning, his waist sparkles with gold, his face is shining like the sun at high noon. What would you do? Would you cover your face, fall at his feet, jump up and hug him? John, the apostle who knew Jesus so well, the one who spoke of Christ’s love most often, chose option #2. He fell at Jesus’ feet as though dead.

His reaction shows us how incredible, breath-taking, magnificent Christ’s presence is. Yet Jesus calls us daily into his presence and tells us, as he told John, “Do not be afraid.” So, how can we take this call lightly? Think about the amazing privilege we have to be able to talk with the One who not only died on the cross for us, but who holds our very lives in his hands. “The First and the Last,” the “Living One,” the One who holds the keys of death and Hades – he is the One who calls you to spend time with him today, to tell him your concerns, to listen to his guidance. He is the One who longs to share with you what’s in his heart. He is the One who loves you. Wow, huh?

Monday, July 28, 2008

One Smooth Stone by Marcia Lee Laycock

Hi Friends,

I came across a novel lately that intrigued me, and I wanted to tell you about it. It's sitting here on my desk, and I'm hoping to read it very soon, but I wanted to post on it now, before time got away from me.

So, here it is. It's called ONE SMOOTH STONE, written by Canadian author Marcia Lee Laycock.

Here's a bit about it:
Alex Donnelly is on the run, trying to hide from his past life, the police and from God. He picks a good place to hide – the wilderness of the Yukon in northern Canada. When a lawyer shows up at his cabin one day, Alex has a hard time believing the news he has come to deliver – that he has inherited a large sum of money. But Alex’s need to find out who his parents were drives him to return to the city where he was born. It is there he discovers something so disturbing it makes him run back to hide in the north, but God has a few divine appointments waiting for him there. One is with another man who is also hiding in the wilderness and the other is with a grizzly bear.

Here's more info from the author herself:
Q: Why do you write in this genre (what do you love about it?) and do you write in other genres as well?

A: This was my first go at the contemporary genre – the story I wanted to tell fit well in that category, though some have said it fits well in the suspense genre too. I have also written a fantasy for young adults (not published yet, though an editor is interested) and two non-fiction devotional books (Essence Publishing).
Q: Why did you write this novel?

A: The germ of the idea came when a woman from a local Pregnancy Care Centre spoke at our church. While chatting with her she said, “Can you imagine what it would be like for someone to discover his mother had tried to abort him?” I did imagine and the character of Alex Donnelly emerged.

Q: Please share a significant moment for you as you were writing the book (either personally or professionally).

A: Hmm – interesting question. Writing some of the abuse scenes in the book were difficult for personal reasons. Professionally, seeing how God brought people to mind who could help with some of the details in the book – a policeman, a paralegal, for instance – I think these were divine appointments God put in my life many years ago, for the specific purpose of being able to offer the information needed to make the book authentic and believable. In a way, my experience of living 12 years in the Yukon was exactly that as well – God does not waste anything in our lives. The moment I finished the book was also significant in that now I knew I could do it – I could write a long fiction from beginning to end. Of course winning the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award was significant too!

Q: Why do you think your fiction matters?

A: I think a lot of people are running and hiding - from their lives and from God. We all do this to some degree (even Christians) and I believe God wants us to stop and face the past traumas, what we have done, etc. And he wants us to know He loves us in spite of it all.

The very first book I took out of the box went to a friend whose daughter was raped as a teenager. She did not intend to read the book when her mom gave it to her, but she came down with the flu and had nothing else in the house to read at the time. She called her mom at midnight, said she couldn’t put it down and that she “finally believes God loves me, in spite of everything.” That makes it all worth while, knowing God is using the book to accomplish His purposes.

Q: What other books have you written?

A: Focused Reflections – a devotional on special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc.
The Spur of the Moment – a compilation of my devotional column – currently sold out, but I hope to do a new edition soon.

For more information, here are links to Marcia's publisher - http://www.castlequaybooks.com/
and her website – http://www.vinemarc.com/

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fun Stuff from Let Them Eat Cake

Hi Friends!

Awhile back I told you about a new novel by friend Sandra Byrd - LET THEM EAT CAKE. Since then, "Cake" was named a Christy Finalist, AND I obtained a fun recipe from the author that I thought it would be fun to share with you.

So, here's a fun recipe from the book:

Boyfriend Bait Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, well trimmed, meat cut bite-sized pieces (about 1” square)
4 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups canned beef broth
3 tsp corn starch
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Over medium high heat, gently sauté beef tenderloin in 2 tablespoons of butter for about 2 minutes, till just seared on all side. You’ll still be able to see red. Remove from pan and set aside in a rimmed dish or baking sheet so you collect the juices.

Over medium high heat, sauté shallots and mushrooms in remaining butter until soft and wilted, about 5 minutes. Mix corn starch into cold beef broth, whisk to blend. Pour into pan, and stir together with shallots and mushrooms till thickened, two or three minutes.

Add sour cream and mustard, stir to blend. Add beef and juices from dish; stir over medium just till warmed through. Sauce will coat but not be overly thick. Serve immediately over noodles or white rice, salt to taste.

So, there ya go. For more about Sandra or the book, here are some links:



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

News, News, News!!

Hi Friends,

Well, this has been a week full of big news. So, I figured I'd share the news and some thoughts on Beyond the Night too, all in fun interview format. So, read on, you don't want to miss this . . .

Inquiring Minds: So, I heard your Veil of Fire has been named a finalist in a big national contest. Is that true?

Marlo sez: Yep. Got the call this week that Veil of Fire is a finalist in the ACFW (that's the American Christian Fiction Writers) Book of the Year Contest in the Long Historical category. Yay!

Inquiring Minds: What else happened this week? Something surprising? Something OH WOW??!!??

Marlo sez: Okay, well, I suppose I’ll just break the news here for those who haven't heard . . . I’m pregnant. And that is a HUGE surprise. I still can hardly believe it. After spending most of my adult life (15 years) dealing with infertility, never ever being able to have a baby without extreme medical intervention (some of which worked, many of which didn’t), finally coming to end of that journey (I thought), turning the big 4-0, and giving away every last bit of my maternity clothes, nursing clothes, baby clothes, baby equipment, everything … I’m pregnant.

Can you hear God chuckling? I’ve been in shock (happy shock, but shock!), and hoping that nothing goes wrong (after having four awful miscarriages last year to end our hopes for a last baby, it’s been a bit scary wondering if this baby would make it . . .but we’ve made it out of the touchy first trimester and so far so good! Feel free to pray for me and new baby, please!)

And the latest from yesterday . . . we had our 21-week ultrasound and baby looks perfectly fine. AND IT'S A BOY! His four sisters are ecstatic, and so are we. What fun!

Inquiring Minds: Wow, after that big news, let's move on to talk a bit about your latest novel, Beyond the Night. A significant setting in Beyond the Night is Stanford University, your alma mater. What made Stanford perfect for this book?

Marlo sez: Setting the story partially at Stanford was SO MUCH fun! It allowed me to pluck out a some neat memories from my husband’s and my own love story and sprinkle those things throughout Paul and Maddie’s story. Mem Chu, Tressider, and the Quad … it was fun to go back relive moments through Paul and Maddie’s eyes. And when Paul and Maddie take their trip to the city (that is, San Francisco), well, let’s just say Sam Wo’s is a place not to be missed!

Plus, for Maddie’s situation, I needed a university that would both work with its students to keep them enrolled but was also highly dedicated to its educational standards, a place where most students are pursuing a specific vision for their lives, a vision, which for Maddie, is interrupted by blindness. Stanford fit the bill there too.

So, if readers want to find out more about the connection between Stanford, me, my hubby, and Paul & Maddie’s story, I encourage them to check out the fun, informal Stanford video tour on my website (just click the video player on the bottom right side of my front page!) http://www.marloschalesky.com/

Inquiring Minds: And lastly, what do you hope people take away after reading Beyond the Night?

Marlo sez: Funny thing is that if you’d asked me that when I first proposed this book, I would have said something about the enduring qualities of real love. And that still is part of what Beyond the Night is all about. But as I started to write, I soon discovered the story, at its heart, was really about overcoming fear – fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of getting hurt, fear of letting go – the kinds of fear that regular, not-particularly-fearful people still have to face in their everyday lives.

Then, as the story progressed, I began to see that overcoming fear isn’t really about “getting up the courage” or trying to be brave. Not at all! What truly defeats fear is a glimpse of the breathtaking wonder of a vivid God. It’s about the awe of knowing that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has risen to understand what God has prepared for those who love Him” (my translation from the Greek of 1 Corinthians 2:9). Just as light drives out darkness, so fear is driven out by hope, and hope is found in God’s amazing love.

So, that’s really what I’m hoping people will take away after reading Beyond the Night – that glimpse of God and His breathtaking love, that glimmer of beauty, that “wow” of seeing a bit more of the wondrous love of God – the love that drives out our fears.

Inquiring Minds: Okay, any last words for today?

Marlo sez: I hope y'all will pick up a copy of Beyond the Night and give it a read! Let me know what you think ... I'm gathering up reader quotes for my sales reps and would love to include you! (As always, handy links to Amazon and CBD are on my website.)

Also, the contest for Beyond the Night is still running, so you can still play to win a great gift bag filled with Beyond the Night related surprises. Fun!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren

Hi Friends,
Got another new novel to tell you about this week. This one's FINDING STEFANIE by SUSAN MAY WARREN. I got to hang out with Susie this past weekend at ICRS, and she's GREAT! I think you'll love her books. So, here's a bit about this latest one:
Noble Legacy series, book 3 -- Finding Stefanie

ISBN 1-4143-1019-6

Tyndale Romantic Suspense

When she put her dreams on hold to help run the family ranch, she never imagined they would slip out of sight. Luckily for Stefanie, those dreams are about to come knocking at her door.

Lincoln Cash has gained fame and fortune on the big screen, but a crippling secret leaves him one last chance to make his mark on the movie industry. With dreams of hosting a new film festival, Lincoln intends to remodel a sprawling ranch in eastern Montana to make it the new Hollywood hot spot.
Unfortunately, a house fire threatens his plans. So does opposition from his new neighbor Stefanie Noble, who's not thrilled about his Tinseltown changes. What Lincoln and Stefanie don't know is that the fire won't be the last disaster to threaten Lincoln or his future. Someone is out for revenge... but who? And who is the real target?

Susan May Warren is the award-winning novelist of over twenty novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, and have been Rita or Christy award finalists. Her compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She loves to write and help other writers find their voice through her http://www.mybooktherapy.com/ boutique editing blog and services. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren and her husband of 20 years, and four children, now live in a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where they are active in their local church.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Daring Chloe by Laura Jensen Walker

Hi Friends!

I wanted to tell you about a new novel from my friend, Laura Jensen Walker. Laura's books are fun, witty, and great get-away reads. I just finished DARING CHLOE, and this one was no exception - what fun!

Here's a bit about it:
Daring Chloe, the first in the Getaway girls collection ...
Chloe has led a safe, quiet life. Adventure? No thank you! But when her finace dumps her the night before their wedding, her friends convince her to take hte vaction of a lifetime ... and timid Chloe blossoms into daring Chloe. A Chloe who just might be ready to face her biggest adventure of all.

And the vacation of a lifetime takes place in Paris ... oooo la la! It's like getting a vacation yourself ... so why not visit Paris, at least in your imagination.

Okay, so here's a link on Amazon for Chloe, so you can find out more:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Notes on Retreat and Convention

Hi Friends,

I just got back from Orlando last night, and thought it would be fun to share a photo with you of all the Christian novelists that were at the retreat I attended before the International Christian Retailing Show (ICRS). So, here we are! I'm there in the middle, with the brown shirt (to the left of the green shirt). We held the retreat at the Embassy Suites, and it was wonderful.

So, if you want, comment on who your favorite Christian fiction author is (besides yours truly, of course!), and I'll let you know if that person was there. Fun, huh?

Highlights of the convention: Getting a chance to reconnect with Ken Petersen, VP and Publishing Director at Waterbrook-Multnomah (my publisher) - I met Ken at Mount Hermon in 1993 when I first started writing - he was the very first one to believe in me and my writing/work; Walking the convention floor with fellow Multnomah authors Amy Wallace, Mark Mynheir, and Gayle Roper; meeting the great sales reps from Multnomah face-to-face at last!

So, no interesting stories with a spiritual point today (I'm too tired, after flying back home all day yesterday), but only a word of advice: treasure the people God is bringing into your life right now. Thank Him for them. You never know what God will do with those relationships in the days to come.

May your day today be blessed with WONDER!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Love Starts with Elle by Rachel Hauck

Hi Friends!

I'm here at ICRS in Orlando (that's the big Christian Retailing Convention) and have been have a good time with other fiction authors, including my friend Rachel Hauck. So, this week, I wanted to tell you a bit about Rachel's new book. So, here ya go ... below is info and an interview too.


She's the last of five sisters to find true love. So, when Elle Garvey's wide receiver-turned-pastor boyfriend, Jeremiah Franklin, proposes, she answers an enthusiastic, "Yes." Until...she discovers the engagement comes with unexpected sacrifices.

But every relationship requires compromise, and as Jeremiah takes on a large Dallas pastorate, Elle’s life purpose and calling is challenged. As she stays behind in Beaufort, South Carolina to plan the wedding and sell her beloved art gallery, doubt shadows her engagement decision.
Meanwhile, New York lawyer Heath McCord needs a change of scenery and moves with his young daughter to the low-country with dreams starting over and writing a novel.
As Heath renews his hope and heart, Elle's life begins to unravel. Crushed when Jeremiah ends their engagement, she heals morning by morning, praying in a dilapidated chapel, searching for passion and purpose.
In the midst of crisis, God’s love ignites her heart, and as her friendship with Heath blooms into love, Elle understands beauty always rises from the ashes.

About Rachel:
Rachel Hauck is the author of ten, going on eleven novels, and has recently become “acclaimed.” (Yeah, funny how that happened. Some dude found her lottery stub stuck to the bottom of his shoe and tried to “acclaimed” her, but her husband refused to pay out.)
Living in central Florida with her hubby of sixteen years, two dogs and one ornery cat, Rachel is a graduate of Ohio State University and a huge Buckeye football fan. One day she hopes to stand on the sidelines next to Coach Tressel as a famed, acclaimed OSU alumni, beloved for her work in literature and letters. (She’s written at least a couple hundred letters in her life time.)
She is a worship and prayer leader in her city, a lover and disciple of Jesus.
Visit her blog and website at http://www.rachelhauck.com/
Love Starts with Elle Interview:
How did Elle come to be?
RH: Elle was a great, funny, beautiful, character in Sweet Caroline. She had a small story line going and I saw that she was strong enough to carry her own novel. So, I proposed her as the next book and my editor loved it.
How much of you is there in Elle? Your husband in Heath?
RH: I think there’s some of us in each of the characters. Tony’s strength and confidence in Heath, my love of prayer in Elle. She is more controlled and goal oriented than I am, but I am one who looks a head like Elle.
What was your favourite scene to write?
RH: I had a few favorite scenes. I think the scene with Julianne and Elle in prayer chapel is one of my favs. And almost all the scenes with Elle and Heath. And oh, I love, love the first scene with Heath after he’s moved to Beaufort!
What do you hope readers take away from this story?
RH: There’s something you discover about yourself in meditative, concentrative prayer you cannot discover any other way or place.
Why did you pick the setting of Beaufort, South Carolina?
RH: A worship leader friend of mine wrote a song called Praise House. The slide back ground for the song lyrics was of an old, white, clap board shack with the words Praise House painted across the front.When I asked him about the shack and the song, he showed me a home video of his trip to Beaufort, looking for this elusive praise house he'd seen on the internet.I loved the scenery and the setting, loved seeing the lowcountry, and thought I needed to set a book in South Caroline. Since it's not far from my home, the research was easy.
Elle's an artist. Is this reflective of you? Perhaps a secret passion or hobby?
RH: No, I only can dream of being an artist. Seriously, I can't draw stick people. I love art and when Elle came to live in Sweet Caroline, she came as an artist. Didn't really even have to think much about it. Elle is a reflection of society today - very artsy and romantic, feeling oriented, living by intuition more than "thought and reason." If you study the Romantic Era of the 1800's, the landscape of society today is very much the same. We're in a Renaissance of that time. So, having her go on a journey of prayer really fit her emotional palette.
What is the number one challenge facing most Christians in the realm of prayer?
RH: Of course, this is my opinion based on observation and experience, but it's time management. We just have so many voices and sounds in our lives today. So many choices. It's hard to carve out time to get alone with God. I'm not talking "Quiet Time," setting aside fifteen minutes to read a devotional and pray - which is a component of getting to know the Father - more about stealing away to be with Him. Contemplative, soaking prayer takes time, discipline and concentration. I still struggle, but those days I sit at His feet for an hour or more - either alone or in a corporate prayer setting - is when I feel the most connected with Him. We need all kinds of prayer - on the run, emergency, pleading, hopeful, thankful prayers. But we also need to find time to sit and soak.Song of Solomon 2:14 says, "O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret place of the steep pathway, let Me see your form, let Me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your form is lovely." Jesus is talking to the individual believer here about stealing away with Him. He longs for those alone times. In the clefts of the rock, in the steep pathway speaks of the difficulty of getting to the secret place with Him.There are a lot of things I do in my life that will account for nothing in eternity. I remind myself that setting aside time for Him is one thing that will endure, and prosper both now and always. There's a great line in the book from a wise friend of Elle's, and it's one I adopted for myself, "Pray is not inactivity." It's a very active, and pro active verb!
So, What is in your writing pipeline? A sneak peek?
RH: Ah, look for something fun and interesting in the spring! ;) How’s that for a sneak peek.

Loving the Person Who Annoys You PART 2 -- LINK

Hey Friends,

I'm off at ICRS (International Christian Retailing Show) in Orlando, Florida, and having a good time here. Lots to see and learn. And meeting great people.

But I wanted to quickly post a link to my latest article on The High Calling website about learning to love annoying coworkers. This is the second of a two part article (the first part went up last week).

So, if you're interested, here ya go:

And stay tuned for more posts later this week!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

News & Such

Hi Friends,

I'm packing up today to head out to the International Christian Retailing Show in Orlando. My plane leaves very early, so I've got to get completely ready today. Soooo, what that means for you is that no big blog post here today. BUT, I do have a few fun things to share. And they are . . .

1) I did a "When I Was Just a Kid" interview for the website/blog with that name. It turned out really fun. So, if you'd like to read a bit about me as a kid and see some old pictures (like me with my first horse, me with baseball great Dusty Baker, me and my Grampie, and MORE!), check it out at:

2) I had a meeting for the women's retreat I'll be speaking at this fall (October 10-12) on Monday, and WOW, this is going to be a fantastic retreat. God's delight and creativity have been so evident in the planning so far. I'm just in awe ... and excited to be a part of it! The theme is "UNWRAPPED! Revealing the Wonder." So, if you're going to be anywhere near the Salinas, CA area on that weekend, you should definitely consider coming! The retreat is sponsored by Salinas Valley Community Church. It's gonna be great! (And you SVCCers who read my blog ... make sure you sign up early. You won't want to miss!)

3) And since I just can't leave you with nothing to think about, here's a poem I wrote some time ago about the darkness and God's light:

The Moth
by Marlo Schalesky

As a moth is drawn to light,
So am I drawn to You, my God.
Though the darkness presses in around me,
And my wings have wearied in the night,
Though I beat against unrelenting glass,
Still my heart longs for Your light.
I will keep flying, fluttering, straining
To be closer, closer, closer yet
To You, my desire, my life, my love,
Closer to Jesus, my Light.

Monday, July 7, 2008

From a Distance by Tamera Alexander

Hi Friends!

Here's a new novel to tell you about this week. It's FROM A DISTANCE by Tamera Alexander. At the end, there's an interview with Tamera. Tammy talks about some of the things I've been discussing here on my blog. I hope you'll take a look at what she has to say there. Good stuff! Fantastic interview. Give it a read!

First, a bit about Tamera:
Tamera Alexander is a bestselling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots and poignant prose resonate with readers. Tamera is a finalist for the 2008 Christy Award (Remembered), and has been awarded the coveted RITA® from Romance Writers of America (Revealed), along with Library Journal’s Top Christian Fiction of 2006 (Rekindled). Having lived in Colorado for seventeen years, she and her husband now make their home in the quaint town of historic Franklin, Tennessee, where they enjoy life with their two college-age children and a precious—and precocious—silky terrier named Jack.

And here's the From A Distance Back Cover Blurb:

What happens when dreams aren’t what you imagined,
And secrets you’ve spent a lifetime guarding are finally laid bare?
Determined to become one of the country’s premier newspaper photographers, Elizabeth Westbrook travels to the Colorado Territory to capture the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the remote town of Timber Ridge. She hopes, too, that the cool, dry air of Colorado, and its renowned hot springs, will cure the mysterious illness that threatens her career, and her life.

Daniel Ranslett, a former Confederate sharpshooter, is a man shackled by his past, and he’ll do anything to protect his land and his solitude. When an outspoken Yankee photographer captures an image that appears key to solving a murder, putting herself in danger, Daniel is called upon to repay a debt. He’s a man of his word, but repaying that debt will bring secrets from his past to light.

Forced on a perilous journey together, Daniel and Elizabeth’s lives intertwine in ways neither could have imagined when first they met . . . from a distance.

And a Note from Tamera:

Stories are journeys, and each story I write is a journey for me.
Rekindled began with a dream—the image of a man returning home on horseback. He came upon a freshly dug grave and when he knelt to read the name carved into the roughhewn wooden cross, he discovered the name was…his own. The inspiration for Revealed grew from two characters in Rekindled whose stories needed to be told. But even more, whose stories I needed to tell. Writing Revealed was a very personal journey for me, and a healing one. For Remembered, I met that story’s heroine (figuratively, of course) while strolling the ancient cobblestoned pathways of a three hundred-year-old cemetery in northern Paris, France. And From a Distance came from a question I was struggling with in my own life at the time, “What happens when the dream you asked God for isn’t what you thought it would be?”

For me, the greatest thrill of these writing journeys is when Christ reveals Himself in some new way, and I take a step closer to Him. And my deepest desire is that readers of my books will do that as well—take steps closer to Him as they read. After all, it’s all about Him.

FAD First chapter link: http://www.bethanyhouse.com/ME2/Audiences/dirmod.asp?sid=0477683E4046471488BD7BAC8DCFB004&nm=&type=media&mod=Media+Manager&mid=8E7ADACE794A4BDC91C037C7C03EB903&tier=3&rid=EFC3BFC6548E402B9687EF1C23019269

And finally, an INTERVIEW with Tammy:

Q: Elizabeth Westbrook is a proponent of women’s rights – a suffragette and a woman aspiring to be the first photographer/journalist for the Washington Daily Chronicle. However, you chose to afflict her with a lung disorder that reminds her often of her true weakness and mortality. How purposeful was the dichotomy of this strength and weakness? Where did the idea come from?

A: While the dichotomy grew out of Elizabeth’s developing character, it was also a conscious choice on my part. I just didn’t know at the outset what her physical weakness would be. When I first started “getting to know” Elizabeth Westbrook, I quickly discovered she was a strong-minded woman. Not a current day feminist, per se, but she was determined to achieve her goals, wanting above all to be the woman God wanted her to be. And yet, even in that earnest and honest desire, her perspective was skewed. Part of her journey in From a Distance is learning what it means to give God her dreams, to surrender her aspirations for His.

Q: What drew you to the Civil War and freed slaves as issues to set alongside the infant feminine movement?

A: Being born and raised in Atlanta, I’ve long held an appreciation for Southern history, and for the Civil War in particular. I’ve looked forward to writing a book where I could blend the rugged backdrop of the Colorado Territory with that of the antebellum South. I’ve read numerous accounts and diaries from men and women of that era and have a deep respect and appreciation for what they endured, and for their contribution to this country’s rich and diverse heritage.

Josiah’s story is truly one of mercy and grace in a person’s life. He tells Elizabeth, “Knowin’ Jesus has already sifted through what’s comin’ before it gets to me…Well, I reckon that ought to be enough.” This is not an easy lesson for anyone to learn. Can it be taught be any means other than pain and loss? Do you think this is the key to understanding why people have to endure suffering?

I truly believe that a faith like Josiah’s has to be refined by fire, as it says in I Peter 1:7. By trials. I know that, personally, I grow closer to God in the hard times more so than the easy times. A dear friend once said, “Nothing happens to me but what it first hasn’t been sifted through the loving hands of my Heavenly Father.” I believe that. I believe God is sovereign and He knows what’s coming down the pike, so to speak, in my life. And that nothing touches me or my life that hasn’t been “allowed” by His sovereignty.

Now, does that mean that everything that happens to me is purposed by God? No, I don’t believe so. I believe that we live in a fallen world where sin exists, and that just as I have free will, so does someone else who’s chosen not to follow God. And when our “free wills” collide, things happen. Sin happens. Be it fair or not, we pay for the consequences of others’ choices. Oftentimes dearly.

Did God want me to be sexually abused when I was a little girl? No. I think His heart broke when that man took me in a back bedroom and, on repeated occasions, sexually assaulted me. But God (obviously) allowed that to happen. And through the years, He’s also provided healing for those emotional wounds, as well as avenues to share that healing.

Writing Revealed (my second book) was a healing journey from sexual abuse for me that I hadn’t anticipated. But God knew. I believe that when I first created Annabelle Grayson’s secondary character in Rekindled, God knew I’d write Revealed, and He was already waiting for me in that moment a year later as I wrote Annabelle’s story, even as He was with me in that current moment when her character first “stepped onto the page.”

And something more… I believe that years ago—even as a man lured a little six-year-old girl into a bedroom and sinned against her—God was already setting into motion a plan for her healing. And that He knew I’d someday answer His call to be a writer, and that His glory would be made known through the story of a prostitute who was abused at a tender age. I never could have written Revealed, I never could have gone to those dark places in the human heart, had I not experienced such pain. And then later…such amazing joy!

Q: Daniel, Elizabeth and Josiah all reach a point where they either choose to share or are forced to share the truth about their circumstances. Why do we feel so compelled to hide what is painful from others when it is in the sharing of our trials that we often find forgiveness and freedom from the guilt often associated with those trials? Why is it so difficult to see and understand how God works in our lives even through these difficult times?

A: It’s hard to take off the mask and let people see who we really are—warts and all, as the saying goes—because it makes us vulnerable. And when we’re vulnerable, we can get hurt. All over again. And who wants to intentionally open yourself to more hurt? And yet, when we’re vulnerable, we’re real. (Writing this makes me want to run grab my copy of The Velveteen Rabbit and read it all over again!) Being real, being authentic, is such an attractive quality in a person.

As I get older, I see God most through these difficult times in my life, and yet my seeing Him, sensing and witnessing His presence, doesn’t always help me to understand the “why” behind something He allows. I’ve long ago surrendered the quest to figure out why God does something. Searching for the answer to a “why” has never led to a deeper faith step in my life. Choosing to trust Him despite not knowing the reason why something happened, choosing to trust (in the words of Job) “though He slay me”….does.

Q: Will we get to see more of these three great characters in the next book in this series? How many books will this series contain?

A: Yes! We’ll see these characters in the next two books, which will release in 2009.

Q: What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Any closing words of encouragement you want to share with your readers?

A: An exciting (and memorable) moment happened for me recently. My husband and I are having some landscaping done, and one afternoon the landscaper asked me what I did for a living since I was “always home.” LOL! I told him I was a writer, and he shared that his wife loved to read. And that she was currently on bed rest, due in three weeks with their fourth child.

I gave him a set of Fountain Creek Chronicles (Rekindled, Revealed, Remembered) to give to his wife. Well, I got an email the next night saying that his wife was loving Rekindled and was telling him every single scene when he got home from work, so he wouldn’t have to read the book—his wife had already told him everything!

The next day he arrived. I met him in the backyard to discuss some details and he said, “Before we start, I just want to thank you for writing that book.”

“Rekindled?” I asked.

He nodded. “My wife finished it last night. She loved it.” He got a little quiet. “She came up to me afterward and told me that reading that book made her love me more, and that she was more committed to our marriage now than she had been.”

There are moments in your life when you wonder if you’re doing what God made you to do. While I have no clue whether I’ll be still writing novels ten years from now, I have no doubt that I’m doing what God designed me to do…for this moment in time. And I’m grateful to share the hope in Christ that He’s entrusted to us. That’s what this brief little journey called life is all about.

Q: What aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?

A: Having written! When the book is done, all revisions made, and I’m holding that first “hot off the press” copy in my hands. Oh, that’s a wonderful feeling.

The next best thing is typing “THE END” on a first draft.

Q: What are the most challenging problems for writers?

A: I can only speak for myself, but it’s discipline. Discipline to write a set word count everyday. Discipline to keep at it when “the muse” isn’t particularly generous that day. Along with the discipline of writing even when you don’t feel like it, comes the discipline of exercising each day, after those long hours of sitting (not good for the hips!). Then the discipline to “turn off the story” (or at least mute it) when you’re with family and friends. Again, sometimes easier to do than others, especially when I’m on deadline. Like now!

Q: For what achievement would you like to be remembered?

A: I most would like to be remembered for having made a difference in people’s lives. In the end, people are what matter. Not achievements, not awards, not accolades, not print runs, not bestseller lists. But people.

Loving the Person Who Annoys You -- LINK

Hi Friends!

Just wanted to let you know I have an article up on The High Calling website (a website on Biblical perspectives and reflections for the working person) about Loving the Annoying Person, especially at work (though the insights should work in any situation!). It's a two part article, with 2 tips shared this week, and 2 next week. So, if you're interested in checking it out, here's the link:


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More Thoughts on Walking Through the Dark

Hi Friends,

Based on some comments from my last week's post on Walking Through the Dark, I thought it might be helpful to post some thoughts and clarifications as I've continued to think about the topic.

So, a few thoughts:

Some have asked if I mean that to be spiritually mature, we must wrestle and struggle through every dark time in our lives. Is it not possible to say, "It is Well With My Soul," through the darkness?

To which I say, I don't mean that every difficult time is the same, nor our response the same. In fact, if we do head through the dark times in honesty and truth with ourselves and God, we ought to come out different on the other side. And so each dark time will by necessity be encountered differently by us as we grow and discover how God is shaping us. And that's how we know -- have we come through the darkness changed, with an ability to see more of God, more of His truth? Or are we the same? Did we allow God to encounter us in the darkness, or did we cling instead to something else, a platitude, a saying, a vision of faith as a thing that never struggles?

Because even though I certainly believe that we can come through dark times saying "It is Well With My Soul," I also wonder if we can truly be who God envisions us to be if we NEVER struggle, NEVER question, NEVER wrestle, NEVER doubt. When I look at the witness of scripture - of righteous Job's questions and doubts, of David's Psalms of lament and crying out "How long?", of Habakkuk standing before God and saying, "I don't get it," of Paul beseeching the Lord three times, and mostly of Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane - I see faith strengthened through struggle. When I look to the witness of Christian history - of Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, Luther, Wesley, you name it ... I see again a consistent mention of the "dark times of the soul." And when I look at the people I know whose faith inspires me, in whose eyes I see the depth of God's wonder, I find that they too, at some point in their lives, have had a time of struggling, questioning, doubting. They have come through their own darkness to be changed on the other side.

So, does every difficulty require struggle? No. But struggle is normal, and sometimes it's right.

Yet, what I find too often represented in our Christian culture is a picture of faith that disallows struggle, doubt, questions. Too often I have heard people told to "just have faith" and what is meant is that they shouldn't question, shouldn't wrestle. I've never heard anyone told that they aren't struggling enough (and that's not at all what I'm saying here either!), but plenty of times I've heard of people discouraged, disparaged, and put down for their struggles, doubts, and questions. That is the side of the issue that I believe we are most likely to err on -- to make people feel guilty and lesser-in-faith because they are wrestling, when wrestling may in fact be exactly where God wants them to be.

So, my point is, there are times in our walks with God when He brings us to the darkness, and when He intends us to wrestle with it - not every time, but sometimes ... and most probably in our lives, at least once! Just like when the "man" came to Jacob in Genesis 32:24 and "wrestled with him till daybreak." Notice that the man, not Jacob, initated the wrestling match (also note that not every difficulty Jacob faced was a wrestling match, but this one was). Knowing that wrestling, struggling, questioning is sometimes just what God expects, frees us to deal honestly with the darkness, allows us to approach those times in freedom, to find what God has for us. It gives us permission to rage if needed, cry out as necessary, express our deepest hearts in a way that is the most honest. We don't have to pretend.

So, in the end, if we never allow ourselves to doubt or question, if we tell others they are being faithless when they doubt, then we just may be thwarting what God has planned for those He loves. We could be standing in His way, and theirs.

So, finally, for those of you who have come through dark times, cherish the lessons you learned there. And walk forward in new light.

For those in the midst of the dark, hang on to Him. Embrace what is true, what is real, what is honest. If it is well with your soul, sing it! And if your heart is crying out, "Oh God, how You do this to me? I don't get it!" then express that too. Do what is right and true. Engage with God in the dark. And don't think that faith means never having a doubt. And know, too, that the darkness doesn't last forever. But within it can be found treasure that is mined no where else. Hang on!

For those who are approaching the dark, who see it coming, turn to Him. There are riches there that are painful to discover, but worth the try. He does not take you this way for nothing. Just turn to Him in as much honesty and vulnerability that you can muster. Don't think that faith means always saying, "I'm fine." And find friends who will allow you to express yourself most honestly and who won't judge or condemn or tell you that faith is never doubting. Then, hang on for the ride.