Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year

Hi Friends,

Just wanted to wish you all a Happy, Happy New Year! May this coming year be one in which you discover God's love for you in new and amazing ways. May His presence guide you and comfort you. May you grow in wisdom, increase in gratefulness, and know Jesus in deeper ways.

And along those lines, I offer you a prayer poem for the New Year:

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.

Blessings and Wonder to you, my friends!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Memories of Christmastime

Hi Friends!

Wishing you a wonder-filled and beautiful Christmas this year . . . one that you will remember for years to come.

Memory, I've found, is a powerful thing. We hear a song from our high school days and we’re transported to sweaty school dances and blasting the radio in our first car. The smell of brownies baking takes us back to pigtails and ponies. We drive by the house we lived in as a kid and remember the swingset in the backyard and how that rotten kid from next door blew spitwads through the hole in the fence.

Ever gotten sick on a type of food? You’ll never want to have that again. And don’t even think about naming your child after that whiny little brat that sat behind you in the fourth grade, even if your spouse loves that name.

Memory. It’s why we treasure photos, display mementos, keep in touch with people from our past. It’s why God set up festivals for the ancient Israelites and told them to erect memorials at significant places in their history.

Memory. It’s why the sight of a stuffed stocking takes me back to those early mornings in my childhood when my brother and I would wake up before dawn, run to the fireplace, get our stockings, and race back to my parents’ bed. Mom was always ready. Dad pretended to complain. And together, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we’d pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one. Simple things, boring really. Candy. A toothbrush. Some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short weeks. And yet, opening stockings is my favorite Christmas memory from childhood.

Why? I think it’s because good memories are not necessarily made from the “big stuff.” Rather, they’re fashioned out of warmth and happiness and times together. They’re woven with laughter, colored with simple, plain joy. They come from times when you experience love.

So, this year, I’m thinking about the memories I’m making now, for my kids, and for myself. 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 cool big-play-horse sets that my twins will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap baby "piano" for my youngest (who just turned one), or the horse "paint-by-number" sets for the older girls.

Because the toys will break, get old, get lost, or they’ll outgrow them. But they won’t outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking – those won’t get old. The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch – those won’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.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Merry Christmas - From My Home to Yours

Hi Friends,

Merry Christmas! Below is a holiday home tour Christmas greeting I recorded just for you. Please click and enjoy a glimpse of my all-decorated-for-Christmas log home, and a greeting from my kids. Then see the note beneath for more holiday home greetings from other authors!

If you want to see holiday home greetings from more Christian authors, just click on the link below. I'm linking to author Amy Wallace at:


So, keep on clickin' to see Amy's greeting and get the link for the next author in the circle. Enjoy, and a very Merry Christmas to you!

:-) Marlo

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Her Patchwork Family by Lyn Cote

Hi Friends,

Here's the new novel I have to tell you about today. It's Her Patchwork Family, a historical romance by Lyn Cote. It's the 2nd in Gabriel Sisters series, which is described as: "In the wake of the Civil War, three women combat injustice and find true love."
Here's a bit more about it:

Christmas is for Families…

And Felicity Gabriel intends to build a family right away! When she inherits a mansion, she decides to turn it into a home for orphans.

But her first charges test her resolve. One child is a thief, suspicious of her kindness. The other is the local judge's traumatized daughter. Broken by war, Judge Tyrone Hawkins is devastated when his little girl runs from him to Felicity. But Felicity's courage despite the town's scorn for her orphanage and her caring way with his daughter restore his lost faith. Now he wonders if they all can find the family they seek…just in time for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Bulb Blues

Hi Friends,

Decorating for Christmas with a one-year-old is quite an adventure. I was reminded of that again as we're planning to decorate this weekend, right after Jayden turns one on Thursday. That should be an experience!

But, since I'm a writer, no experience is wasted. I know because Bethany was a year old at Christmastime too. Below is what I gleaned from that experience, and what I'm reminding myself of this year as we unpack the Christmas bulbs.

Here's how it happened all those years ago:

My one-year-old daughter stood on her tiptoes and reached for a glass bulb halfway up the Christmas tree. Her fingers wiggled as she struggled to grab the bright red orb.

I leaned back on the couch and shook my head. The tree looked silly this year, with the lights and bulbs reaching only partially down the branches. Everything glass I had carefully hung out of the reach of tiny hands. Other decorations were placed differently this year as well. The ceramic old-fashioned Santa was now on top of the bookcase. The green candles sat high on a shelf. And the coffee table, usually decorated with my Precious Moments nativity, was completely bare. Instead the Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, and the wise men crowded on top of the television on some cotton “snow.”

But none of those things interested Bethany now. All that mattered was to get her hands on that beautiful, shiny ball that hung just beyond her fingertips. With a grunt she reached higher, then toppled backward.

“Waaaaa!” came her frustrated cry. She pointed to the bulb, looked at me, then let out another indignant shriek.

“No, Bethany, you can’t have that,” I explained.

Her lower lip trembled. Great tears welled in her eyes and tumbled down her cheeks.

She pointed at the bulb again. “Ma-ma-ma-ma-maaaa…” she yelled.

“No,” I repeated. “It’s not for you.”

She pushed herself to a standing position, stomped her feet, and cried all the louder.

I handed her a stuffed reindeer.

She promptly threw it on the floor.

I sighed, picked her up, and took her to her crib. A few minutes there and she’d remember how to be a good girl and take “no” for an answer.

I returned to the family room and glanced at the offending bulb. It really was beautiful, with swirls of deep red and a two silver stripes made of glitter. I removed it from the branch and held it in my hand. In a few years, Bethany would not only be able to touch this bulb, but she’d probably be helping me to place it on the tree. But for now she wasn’t ready. I’d heard stories of babies breaking ornaments and putting the shards in their mouths. Just the thought made me shiver. Bethany, however, didn’t understand that she wasn’t old enough to be trusted with a glass bulb. To her, it was something good, something desirable. So, why would I not allow her to have it?

I turned the bulb over and place it on the back of the tree, even further out of Bethany’s reach. Then, I went to get her from her crib. As I did, I realized my daughter’s actions weren’t so different from my own. I, too, sometimes stomped my feet and cried when God didn’t give me the good things that I was hoping for.

As I put Bethany on the floor to play with the stuffed reindeer, I wondered if God was also saying to me, “You’re not ready yet. Wait.” What if He was simply letting me “grow up” a bit before he gave me the good things that I wanted? If so, I needed to focus on growing in him, and trusting him to know what’s best for me in this particular place in my life.

For me, like Bethany, that’s been a difficult thing to do. It’s hard to trust. But God says to me, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) And so, when those good things I want are just out of reach, I have to remind myself, sometimes it’s right to wait. Sometimes, I may just need to grow up.

Treasured/God Gave Us Love/ God Gave Us Christmas

Hi Friends,
I have three more books to tell you about today. The first two are Children's picture books by Lisa Tawn Bergren: God Gave Us Christmas and God Gave Us Love.

These are sweet, easy to read stories that make great read-before-bed stories. I'm looking forward to giving my copies to the twins for Christmas. They'll love them. I highly recommend these two books great read-aloud stories that underscore God's love. (P.S. God Gave Us Love would be a great gift for a grandchild!)

Here's a bit more about them:

In God Gave Us Christmas, as Little Cub and her family prepare to celebrate the most special day of the year, the curious young polar bear has something on her mind: “Who invented Christmas?” she asks. “Is God more important than Santa?” Her questions reflect the confusion of so many children during the holiday season. And this heartwarming story takes them on a wonderful journey of discovery—right to the heart of Christmas. Through Mama’s gentle guidance, Little Cub learns that God loves her and everyone— polar bear, moose, or human—so much that he gave us Jesus, the very best gift of all.

In God Gave Us Love,
Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, and the young polar bear begins to ask questions like why must we love others . . . even the seemingly unlovable? Why is it easier to love those we like? Where does love come from? And why does God love her so much? Grampa Bear patiently addresses each one of Little Cub’s curiosities by explaining the different kinds of love we can share: the love between friends, the love between families, the love between moms and dads, and the love for God. He also assured Little Cub that because of the love God has given her through his Son, there’s nothing she can do to make God love her any more or any less. Through Grampa Bear’s encouraging Little Cub to love others with a “God-sized love,” children will be inspired to love others and to be patient, gentle and kind, so that in every way, they too can demonstrate God’s love.

The third book is Treasured by Leigh McLeroy. This one would also be a great grift, especially for anyone you know who's a collector. Here's more about it:

In Treasured, Leigh McLeroy considers tangible reminders of God’s active presence and guides readers in discovering evidence in their own lives of his attentive love.

“The idea for the book came from a cigar box filled with odds and ends of my grandfather’s life that arrived a few months after his death. Sifting through the objects in the box, I experienced him in a fresh new way. This made me wonder what treasures might be tucked away in Scripture that could frame God for me in an equally intimate, tangible way. This process also helped me uncover my own “treasures” of my walk with the Lord: objects that remind me of my history with him and his faithfulness to me,” says McLeroy.

Drawn from the pages of Scripture, the author considers twelve such treasures and personalizes their meaning for readers, such as a green olive branch that offers proof of God’s “new every morning” mercy and a scarlet cord that demonstrates his willingness to adopt “strays” of every sort.

Weaving these treasures together with scenes from her personal history, Leigh McLeroy invites readers to discover God’s heart for them and embrace their unique role in his redemptive story. Treasured offers readers a guided experience of God’s love and character and invites them to consider their own treasures that point to their part in God’s ongoing story.

Author Bios:
Leigh McLeroy
is the author of The Beautiful Ache and The Sacred Ordinary. An avid collector and recorder of everyday moments, words, and wonders, Leigh’s keen eye for God’s presence in ordinary life infuses her writing and living with a deep, insistent joy. A frequent conference and event speaker, the author makes her home in Houston, Texas, and posts often on http://www.leighmcleroy.com/ and http://www.wednesdaywords.com/.

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than 1.5 million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Love follows in Lisa’s classic tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She lives in Colorado, with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

Purchase these books at RandomHouse.com: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074815http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074471http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400071753

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Monterey Memories by Gail Gaymer Martin

Hi Friends,
Here's the new book I have to tell you about today. It's MONTEREY MEMORIES - Three novels by Gail Gaymer Martin set in the beautiful Monterey area in the central coast of California. The Barbour anthology includes the novels And Baby Makes Five, Garlic and Roses and Butterfly Trees.

Book Description:
Walk the streets and countryside of Monterey, California, with three couples who are surprised by love in the midst of their busy lives. Chad helps Felisa when she goes into labor in his lettuce field. Juli meets Alan while volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ross takes an overdue vacation at Alissa’s bed-and-breakfast. Can busy people slow down enough to realize the love God has brought into their lives?

Gail's Bio:
Multi-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of forty-three novels with three million books in print. Her novels have received seven national awards and was presented the Favorite Heartsong Presents Author Award for 2008. She writes for Steeple Hill, Barbour Publishing, and is the author of Writing the Christian Romance from Writers Digest. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S. www.gailmartin.com.

Purchase the novel is bookstores everywhere or click this link to purchase on Amazon

ISBN-13: 978-1602605824
from Steeple Hill Love Inspired

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tasting the Turkey

Hi Friends,

Here's a little story that I like to share at Thanksgiving time. It comes from my husband, Bryan. Enjoy, and a very Wonder-Filled Thanksgiving to you!

Here ya go:

"Yum!" It was Thanksgiving day and I was in the kitchen, sneaking bits of turkey while no one was looking. To my ten-year-old mind, nothing could compare to Mom’s perfectly cooked turkey. I stuck my fingers into the warm juice and pulled off another piece. "Ahhh," I sighed and smiled. It was delicious. I glanced around then snatched another bite.

This is my favorite part of Thanksgiving, I thought, licking my fingers as the turkey juices dripped down my hand. I loved to sample the little pieces of turkey that fell to the bottom of the pan during cooking. It was like a special, tasty prize that made my mouth water just to think about it. I jammed a fourth piece of turkey into my mouth and rubbed my belly, enjoying the dual pleasures of taste and smell.

At my Sunday School three days later, Pastor Ron visited our class. He sat down on the stool in front and straightened his collar. His eyes swept over the students. "Let me tell you a story," he began. "There was a man named Joe. Joe spent his life doing stuff that was very bad. He drank. He gambled. He lived a wild life. He swore all the time and never went to church. When he ran out of money, he robbed a store and then continued his bad living. On his death bed, Joe knew he was going to die, so he begged God for forgiveness and decided to trust in Jesus. That night, Joe died and went to Heaven, the same as if he had loved and served God all his life. What do you think of that?"

"Hey, that's not fair!," I burst forth. My cheeks grew red with annoyance.

"No, it's not fair," he agreed. "Not fair to Joe.”

“To Joe?” I questioned. “What do you mean?”

“I mean it's not fair because Joe missed the greatest joys in life."

"But he was bad!” I exclaimed, sputtering in confusion. “If he could get into heaven, why should I bother to do what I’m told? I may as well go out and rob a store too!”

My Pastor smiled. “Do you really think so?”

I lowered my head and stared at my feet. Then, I shrugged my shoulders.

Pastor Ron cleared his throat.

I looked up at him again. His mouth was quirked in a strange half-grin.

"Tell me," he continued, "have you ever sneaked into the kitchen to taste a little bit of turkey before the Thanksgiving meal?"

I drew a quick breath and nodded my head. My eyes grew wide in shock. How had he known? I remembered back to my time in the kitchen just three days before. Yes, I knew very well what it was like to taste the turkey. It was great!

"Well," he said, glancing at the rest of the class, "that's just what it's like for you and me. All the time we spend serving God in this life is just like sneaking into the kitchen to taste the turkey. We get a little taste of heaven before the great banquet. Joe, on the other hand, doesn't get to taste the turkey in this life. He has to wait. Just think of all the fun he missed out on here in this life."

"Wow," I whispered, "I never thought of it like that.

Pastor Ron chuckled. "Now, every time you sneak a bit of turkey, you can think about the fact that every day you spend serving God is a little taste of heaven here on earth."

To this day, I still sneak my little bit of turkey before the Thanksgiving meal, and every time I thank God for another day spent in His love, tasting the turkey of Heaven.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Puzzling Parts of Life

Hi Friends,

Well, crazy week around here. Besides Jayna's broken arm and my substantive edits that are coming due, the whole family came down with some kind of awful flu bug. Being cooped up in the house with five sick kids with edits due hasn't been so much fun. But this morning as the twins were coughing and putting together a puzzle on the living room floor, I was reminded of a story when Joelle was putting together the same puzzle a few years ago. And that story reminded me that this piece of my life's puzzle (the one full of whiny kids and tissues and bottles of medicine) may not look so great, but even it fits into God's plan for the whole.

Anyway, I found the story encouraging and hope you will too. It went goes like this:

“No, Sweetie, that doesn’t go there.” I pointed my finger at the puzzle piece in my two-year-old daughter’s hand.

Joelle studied the bright piece and frowned. Vivid reds and pinks splashed over the cardboard surface. “Flower. Go dere.” She again pushed it into the open space along one side of the puzzle.

“It won’t fit. You’re not ready for that piece yet.”

“Fit. Go dere.” Her brows furrowed as she turned the piece sideways and tried again. Push, turn, shove, turn, stare, frown. And still the piece wouldn’t slide into place.

I tapped my fingers on the table and reached for the puzzle piece.

Joelle hid it against her chest.

I had to admit, it was a beautiful piece. Rose petals shone against the deep green background and created an enticing image of color. But no matter how hard Joelle tried, it wouldn’t fit into spot she had chosen for it.

I watched her struggle for a few more minutes, then searched through the pile for the right piece. I finally found it – a piece covered in shades of ugly brown with dark knobs for the tree trunk. “Here, love, try this one.” I handed her the picture of the brown trunk.

She looked at the piece in my hand, then at the pretty flowers in hers. She pushed my hand away. “No.”

I wiggled my fingers. “This is the one you need.”

“No.” She pointed at my hand. “Yucky.”

I looked down at the piece. She was right. It was yucky compared to the flowers. But it was the piece she needed at this time. The only one that would fit in order to make the picture complete.
The difference was that I had the whole picture in mind, the whole puzzle. She, only the piece in her hand. It took Joelle five full minutes to finally put down the flowered piece and try the one I was holding out to her.

Not that I blamed her. I prefer flowered pieces too. In the picture of my life, I’ve often tried to shove in the pretty piece – something that looks good, seems appealing. I want success in my career now. I want my relationships to be easy and comfortable. I want my children to always choose what’s right, and my health to be excellent.

But sometimes God holds out a piece that isn’t nearly so attractive. He calls me to a difficult task, to face failure or fear, to endure a painful situation, or to invest in a relationship that seems to bring only heartache. At those times, the piece He’s giving me looks brown, gnarled, and ugly when I want bright and beautiful.

And sometimes, I, too, want to hang on to my idea of how my life should be right now. Sometimes I want to force a pretty piece, one I like better, when God’s giving me the less attractive piece because in the end that’s the one that will make the picture of my life right.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” God tells the people of Israel in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And the same holds true for me. He knows the plans He has for me. His plans, not mine. Plans that take into account the whole picture of my life, the picture He is creating especially for me.

So today, as I watched my girls put puzzle pieces together, I was reminded that God knows all the pieces of my life, where they fit, and in what order they must be placed.

And when he hands me a piece that isn’t all flowers, I need to trust that He sees the whole picture, and one day that picture will be beautiful.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Joelle's Baptism - Yay!

Hi Friends,

In happier news, our 6-year-old daughter, Joelle, was baptized yesterday at church. She was soooo excited about. She's been bugging me for months to be baptized, so she was very pleased to finally be able to do it, to make her commit to Christ public and to tell everybody how much she loves Jesus. She was so sweet! We got her a blank journal with scripture quotes in it so that she can start writing down her thoughts about God, her prayers, her questions, and her spiritual musings. She's already filled three pages.

And here's what Bryan said before baptizing her:

Joelle’s mom and I have shared the Gospel message with her dozens of times from before she could even talk.

When she was 2 ½ years old she invited Jesus into her heart. I don’t think she really understood what that meant at the time. But I believe God honored her little prayer. He gave her a desire to know Jesus.

Over the next four years Joelle learned much more about God at home, at Sunday School, and Awana. We counted that she has memorized about 200 different Bible verses while she was a Cubbie and Sparkie.

When Joelle was 4 she started asking really interesting questions about God. Daddy had to get some wisdom to answer some of those questions.

In the last year I believe that Joelle began to claim her faith for her own. She really began to take ownership of her faith. It wasn’t just the faith of Mom and Dad anymore. It was Joelle’s faith. It wasn’t just Mom & Dad’s love for Jesus—it was Joelle’s love.

Over the last couple of months Joelle has been very excited about being baptized. She really wants to be able to share with all of you her love for Jesus and her commitment to follow him.

Questions he asked her, to which she answered with a resounding "YES!":

Do you love Jesus?

Do you believe he died for your sins and rose from the grave?

Are you going to love and serve him for the rest of your life?

Jayna's Arm

Hi Friends,

For those who haven't heard, one of my four-year-old twins, Jayna, broke her arm up near the shoulder on Friday night (by falling off a chair - not a very interesting way to break an arm, huh?). Here she is with it in a sling, and wrapped. She's feeling fairly good in the daytime, though nights are tough.

We were hoping to see the orthopedic doc today, but he's in surgery all day so we have to wait until tomorrow. We'll know a lot more, we hope, after we get in to the doc.

Yes, this is the same kid who cut her own hair ... twice, fell down the steps, splatted into a coat rack and got a black tooth, fell off her bike, and probably about ten other things just this year. Not the most careful pea in the pod! Very good natured little girl, though.

Anyway, all prayers welcome! I'll have to get another magazine article out of this experience, somehow (one good thing about being a writer - nothing's wasted!).

Meanwhile, I'm supposed to be doing my substantive edits on my next novel - ack!

Fit to Be Tied by Robin Lee Hatcher

Hi Friends,

Here's the new novel I have to tell you about this week. It's FIT TO BE TIED by Robin Lee Hatcher.

Here's a bit about it:

Who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?

Cleo Arlington dresses like a cowboy, is fearless and fun-loving, and can ride, rope, and wrangle a horse as well as any man. In 1916, however, those talents aren’t what most young women aspire to. But Cleo isn’t most women. Twenty-nine years old and single, Cleo loves life on her father’s Idaho ranch. Still, she hopes someday to marry and have children.

Enter Sherwood Statham, an English aristocrat whose father has sentenced him to a year of work in America to “straighten him out.” Sherwood, who expected a desk job at a posh spa, isn’t happy to be stuck on an Idaho ranch. And he has no idea how to handle Cleo, who’s been challenged with transforming this uptight playboy into a down-home cowboy.

Just about everything either of them says or does leaves the other, well, fit to be tied. And though Cleo believes God’s plan for her includes a husband, it couldn’t possibly be Sherwood Statham. Could it?


Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She makes her home in Idaho where she enjoys spending time with her family and her high-maintenance Papillon, Poppet.

About FIT TO BE TIED, the Library Journal said: "A master of lively historical romances, Hatcher demonstrates an expert ability to craft spunky, unlikely heroines who go against the tide of the times in which they live, making for fun, exciting stories. She also pays close attention to historical detail. This second series entry (after A Vote of Confidence) is highly recommended for readers of inspirational and historical romances and women's fiction."

A Note from Robin

The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series sprang from the question: Who says a woman can't do a man's job? And I can't fully express just how much fun I've had looking for the answer through the eyes of my heroines in this series. Although I have no favorites among the novels I've written (each were special to me at the time I wrote them), I do have some favorite characters. Cleo Arlington is one of them. I love her for her strong faith, for her quirky turns of phrase, for her confidence with horses and her lack of confidence with men, even for her impatience with Sherwood, the English aristocrat that she's supposed to turn into a cowboy. I've been so delighted that readers have taken her into their hearts the way they have. I hope you'll feel the same way about her.


Here is the trailer:

Here is the Amazon link:

Here is the Christianbook link:

And here is a link to an excerpt of FIT TO BE TIED:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Noel with the Novelists -- Coming Dec. 15th!

Hi Friends,

Ever wonder how your favorite novelist lives? Well, maybe you can find out this Christmas. I'm participating in a fun blog event where you can visit the homes of different novelists through short videos. Get a Christmas greeting, see how their homes are decorated, get an inside glimpse into the life of authors whose books you read (and discover some new authors). My house and video will be included. It all starts December 15th, right here on my blog. I can't wait - this will be lots of fun!

Here's a promo video which will tell you a bit about it:

And in the meantime, may God bless your week with His breathtaking wonder!

:-) Marlo

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Responding to Criticism & Check out my new cover!

Hi Friends!

Well, I'm waiting for my substantive edits (those are the "big picture" comments and suggested changes) to come from my editor today for my next novel, SHADES OF MORNING (Check out the cool new cover!!). So, I should be getting a letter soon that outlines all the things that aren't right about the book, things that need improvement, places where the story falters.

So, as I'm preparing for the "big letter," I was thinking about some tips for facing criticism in general. Of course, it's my editor's job to show me how my story can be improved, so I'm happy for her comments. And she'll be tactful, helpful, courteous, and professional in her comments.

But often that's not how we receive criticism in life. Often in life criticism doesn't come from people are supposed to give it. It comes unexpectedly. It's done awkwardly, rudely, and may not seem helpful at all. And even if people are well-intentioned (and something they aren't!), their criticism hurts. So, how can we respond in a Christ-like manner to criticism that isn't professional, helpful, and kind like my editor's?

Here are some tips:


1. Do keep a cool head. Anger will cloud your reasoning.

2. Do say a quick prayer, asking God keep you from being defensive and to show you any truth in the person's words.

3. Do hear the criticism without allowing it to affect your self worth. God can use criticism to point out flaws that He hopes to change.

4. Do hear the feelings behind the complaints. Sometimes criticism is the way people say, "I need help. I feel bad, and I want you to fix it." Watch for an opportunity to show that you care. A sensitive, rather than argumentative, response will make the other person feel valued, not demeaned.

5. Do be ready to admit any fault of your own, no matter how small.

6. Do ask the person to be part of the solution. Perhaps they can fill in where they think you're falling short.

7. Do thank the person for their concern (whether their words show concern or not).


1. Don't immediately jump to your own defense. In time, you may need to present your side of the story, but to do so initially will only make your critic try harder to convince you of your fault.

2. Don't tell the person they're wrong. Being adversarial only causes resentment.

3. Don't answer immediately, especially if you find your emotions starting to flare. Instead ask for time to think and pray about what was said. Tell your critic you'll get back with him later. (Then do so.)

4. Don't worry about being right. It's better to be accused falsely than to lambaste the other person. Remember that your relationship with the criticizer is more important than who is right. Differences should be honestly and healthily confronted, but they won’t always be resolved.
Finally, remember that Jesus, too, was criticized and condemned. But, "when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23 NIV). Criticism, and even injustice, are an opportunity to reflect the character of Christ.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall

Hi Friends,

Here's the new novel I have to tell you about this week -- The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall.

About Cindy:
Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish has been featured on ABC Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Plain Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. Cindy is the mother of three sons and two daughters-in-law, and she and her husband reside in Georgia. Visit her Web site at http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/

Synopsis for The Sound of Sleigh Bells:
Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people’s wares. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fiancĂ©. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work–including Lizzy’s dry goods store. But she doesn’t know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry. Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it’s not that simple–will Lizzy’s elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love–or just more heartbreak?

The Sound of Sleigh Bells is a heartwarming Christmas novella where lack and abundance inside an Amish community has power for good when it’s tucked inside love. Romantic Times gave The Sound of Sleigh Bells 4 ½ stars, saying ~ This is a wonderfully written, transformative story of two Amish families at Christmastime. It will bring sleigh-riding memories to life as readers vicariously join in this jolly and exciting holiday tradition.

To read the first chapter of The Sound of Sleigh Bells, go to: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/books/sound-of-sleigh-bells_excerpt.php

To purchase through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Sleigh-Bells-Cindy-Woodsmall/dp/0307446530/ref=pd_ts_b_5?ie=UTF8&s=books

To purchase through CBD.com: http://www.christianbook.com/sound-sleigh-bells-cindy-woodsmall/9780307446534/pd/446534?event=HPF2

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Unexpected Pumpkins

Hi Friends,

In honor of the season, I wanted to share with you something that happened around here a few months ago. It was the strangest sight – a lush, green plant growing in the middle of an expanse of bare dirt. I stood there on my front porch and stared at it. Wide leaves, a bright yellow flower, thick, healthy stalks. It was perfect, beautiful, and clearly not a weed, even though it seemed to have sprung up overnight.

The plant wouldn’t have seemed so strange if it weren’t for its surroundings. Around it, for a dozen yards in every direction, there was nothing but bare, dry soil. Not a sprig of grass, not a seedling, not even a stray weed. Nothing but dusty earth and this one perfect plant growing in the center.

Months ago, my husband had graded the area in front of our house in anticipation of doing some landscaping. The landscaping hadn’t happened and the area had been dirt ever since. Until now.

“Look at that.” I called to my daughter, Bethany, as she zoomed past on her bike.

She steered her bike around and stopped in front of me. “What?”’

I pointed to the splotch of green amongst the dusty brown.

Her gaze followed the motion. “Wow. What is that?” She parked her bike and trotted to the edge of the pavement for a better look.

“I don’t know. Should we go see?” I stepped from the porch and made my way across the driveway, through the dirt, and toward the middle of what will someday be my lawn.

Bethany came up behind me.

I leaned over the plant.

She did too. “Well, what is it?”

I studied the flower and leaves. “It looks like a pumpkin plant.”


“But how did it get here?” We didn’t have any other pumpkin plants, and we certainly hadn’t intended to plant any seeds. Then, I remembered. Last winter, we had thrown our old pumpkins out into the yard. Bryan must have ground them up with the tractor when he was grading, then somehow moved one of the seeds out to the middle of the area, many yards away from where the pumpkins had sat. There, it had laid dormant until the summer. And that’s how we could have a strong, healthy pumpkin plant where we’d never expected anything to grow at all.

As I studied the plant, I realized that sometimes God’s Kingdom works like that too. My actions can plant seeds even when and where I don’t expect. Sometimes, just by doing what’s right, by making smooth places out of rough ones, I can spread seeds of God’s love that will sprout later and turn into new life.

I thought about some things I had done over the past year that didn’t seem to yield any spiritual results - simple acts, like making a job easier for a coworker, smoothing her way in a new task, or helping a neighbor move, or sharing a meal with a friend. Those were times when I didn’t think I was spreading seeds, and I didn’t see any specific growth coming from my actions. But just like the pumpkin plant, seeds may sprout and grow when I don’t expect, where I don’t expect. Maybe my coworker will never acknowledge my help, but someone else in the office will be touched by what was done. Or my neighbor won’t be changed because of the help offered, but a relative of hers may be. The truth is, I don’t know. I can’t always predict where and how new life will spring up. Maybe that’s why Galatians 6:9 (NIV) says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

All God asks is that I continue to do what’s right, continue to make rough ground smoother for others. And even if I don’t see results now, or the person I’m hoping to help seems unresponsive, I shouldn’t give up. It could be that there are a few pumpkin seeds caught in my tractor’s wheels, and as I go about making smooth paths for God, a few seeds will fall out where I don’t expect them and a new plant will grow, flower, and flourish in what was once a bare yard.

And maybe I’ll even get to enjoy an unexpected pumpkin or two in the process!

Monday, October 19, 2009

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week. It's White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner, and here's a bit about it, including an interview with the author:

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will enjoy White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?

The story in a nutshell:
When her black sheep brother disappears, Amanda Janvier eagerly takes in her sixteen year-old niece. Tally is practically an orphan: motherless, and living with a father who raises Tally wherever he lands– in a Buick, a pizza joint, a horse farm–and regularly takes off on wild schemes. Amanda envisions that she and her family can offer the girl stability and a shot at a “normal” life, even though their own storybook lives are about to crumble.

An Interview with Susan:

What led you to write White Picket Fences?
Several years ago I was a court-appointed advocate for children involved in protective services. There were times when I saw that despite the outward appearance of a less-than-perfect home, a child could be loved there. Just because a parent is unconventional or unsuccessful career-wise or makes choices that buck societal norms, it doesn’t mean that he or she is by default a “bad” parent. Likewise, parents who we would traditionally call “good” -meaning they provide, they protect, they don’t hit, they don’t ridicule - can nevertheless make decisions regarding their children that have hugely negative effects and yet their outward appearance would never lead anyone to suspect it. Even if you live behind a white picket fence, you still have to deal with the fallout of a living in a broken world. You can’t hide from it. The perfect, idyllic life is an illusion. Life is a weave of both delight and disappointment and it’s precisely these things that give it definition and depth. To ignore what is ugly is to cheapen what is beautiful.

You dovetailed a current day family drama with the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto. Why the connection?
I think it’s fair to say that the depth of the atrocities inflicted during the Holocaust wasn’t fully appreciated until after the war. There was ugliness happening, if you will, and much of the West failed to see it — for whatever reason. Within the horror, though, people made brave choices, selfless choices. And there were survivors who had to choose what they would take with them from the ashes of their suffering. I wanted to explore how a person makes that decision. Even the decision to pretend it never happened is a decision regarding those ashes.

What do you think interests you about the intersection of personal relationships and perceptions – a theme you wove into both The Shape of Mercy and White Picket Fences?
I see every great work of fiction being about human relationships. Gone With the Wind is so much more than just an epic story with the Civil War as a backdrop. It’s a story of human relationships. Scarlett and Ashley, Scarlett and Rhett, Scarlett and Melanie, Scarlett and her father. It’s within our closest relationships that our brightest virtues and worst flaws are exposed. That’s why there is such tremendous story value within intimate human relationships. We are at our best and our worst when we are responding and reacting to the people who shape who we are. Human history is the story of relationships and what they teach us about what we value. And what we don’t.

White Picket Fences is a different kind of novel than your acclaimed book, The Shape of Mercy, but there are some similarities too. Can you explain those?
As with The Shape of Mercy, there is a historical thread in White Picket Fences, though it is not as dominant. The invasion of Poland by the Nazis is woven into the story, and provides the backdrop for Chase’s and Tally’s discoveries about hope, dreams, and redemption. This thread is enhanced by visits to a nursing home where Chase and Tally meet a man blind from birth who survived the occupation of Poland. It is also a story that draws its pathos from family dynamics and the near-universal desire we have to make straight what is crooked. There are two young protagonists in White Picket Fences, like there was in The Shape of Mercy, as well as a third character, who, along with the two men in the nursing home, provide a similar multi-generational story thread.

What do you hope readers come away with after reading White Picket Fences?
The pivotal moment in the story for me is when Josef says to Chase: “[This] is what all survivors must decide. We have to decide how much we will choose to remember, how much courage we are willing to expend to do so.” It takes courage to acknowledge and remember what drove you to your knees or nearly killed you. If you choose to forget – and that’s assuming you actually can – then it seems to me you suffered for nothing. You are different but you don’t spend any time contemplating – or celebrating – how. I’d be happy if there was a takeaway for someone out there who needs to consider that.

Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of The Shape of Mercy, named one of the Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. A devotee of purposeful pre-writing, Susan encourages workshop audiences to maximize writing time by mapping the writing journey and beginning from a place of intimate knowledge. She is the leader/moderator of a local writer's group, a pastor’s wife and the mother of four young adults. A native San Diegan, Susan attended Point Loma Nazarene University. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at The Church at Rancho Bernardo.

You can purchase White Picket Fences here:

And read an excerpt here:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It Won't Rain Forever

Hi Friends,

Yesterday it didn't just rain around here, the sky dumped buckets of water. I think we got about 5 inches. And with the rain we got leaks, pools, rivers, streams, ponds, and a lot of wet everywhere. Bryan spent the afternoon siphoning off a pool of water that was threatening the basement, while trying to keep the horses dry, their pens from flooding, and the temporary shelter we had made for one of them from collapsing. It was a crazy day.

But this morning, the sun is peeking through white clouds, the rain has stopped, and it's a new day. So, as I sat down at my computer this morning, in my rain-stained chair (yes, I had a leak in my skylight yesterday - right over my chair!), I remembered a story from back in my early days of infertility before we had any children. And as I recalled the story I was struck by the wonder of God's grace and mercy.

Back in those years, I wrote about infertility like this:

Infertility, I have found, is a journey, a monthly journey that swings between hope and disappointment, and rarely leaves me unchanged. It always starts the same, with that insidious whisper of hope. Could this be the month? Could I be pregnant? I feel a little pain and wonder if it means something. My stomach flutters, and I think that perhaps it’s morning sickness. I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up again, but I can’t help it. I count the days. Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight. I hold my breath. Twenty-nine, I release it. Thirty. Two days late. Thirty-one. This is it! Thirty-two. The bleeding starts. My heart breaks. Again.

This month was no different. I sat on the edge of my bed and told myself not to cry. But I cried anyway. Great, raindrop-sized tears. I wrapped my arms around myself and looked out the window. Storm clouds gathered in the sky. I shivered, hating the weather, hating the tightness in my throat, the wetness on my cheeks. Every month it was the same, hope and disappointment chasing each other in countless loops along the path of my life.

The sound of a chair scraping against linoleum penetrated my senses. A dish clattered in the sink. I grabbed a tissue and tried to stifle my tears.

Footsteps echoed in the hallway. I sighed and opened the door. In a moment, my husband Bryan reached the bedroom. For a full minute, he stood in the doorway, not knowing if he should come in and try to comfort me, or just turn around and walk away. Our eyes met. He shook his head. “Not this month either, huh?”

I didn’t answer.

Slowly, he left the bedroom and ambled back to the kitchen. I returned to the bed and sat on the edge. My hand moved over the rough patchwork quilt made by my grandmother. An heirloom, something to be passed down from generation to generation. I frowned and reached for the sweater that was tossed across my pillow.

Then, something unusual happened. Something that didn’t happen the previous month, or the month before. A shaft of light, bright and warm, sliced through the clouds to illuminate a patchwork rose. I watched the light, then glanced up and out the window. There, in the distance, beyond the storm, a rainbow arched through the sky. Purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red, the colors stood in brilliant contrast to the grayness of the day.

I caught my breath and remembered a promise given thousands of years ago. A vow from Genesis 9:12-17 that it would not rain forever. God’s assurance of love, His guarantee that the sun will shine again.

I stood and rested my elbows on the windowsill. Outside it was still dark, still dreary. But in the distance, I saw a break in the clouds. There, the sun flickered through. And in that moment, I got a glimpse of the path of my life. As I live through the storm of infertility, the way is dark and full of tears. But somewhere out there, the rains will cease. Someday, all this will be behind me. God has promised me that much. God has promised that He will not leave me nor forsake me. He has promised me the rainbow.

So, I look to the future and learn to see this month’s disappointment against the backdrop of eternity. I tell myself to keep my eye, not on today’s pain, but on the goal of a life lived in a way worthy of Christ, who calls me His own. For I know that someday I will bask in the Son.

Today, as I look outside after yesterday's big rain and remember all the long years of infertility, I realize that the storm has passed at last. No more infertility treatments, no more months of checking, hoping, waiting. After twenty years, that's behind me. The rains really did end, the rainbow really did come.

So, I encourage you today, if you're in the midst of a storm, hang in there! The rain doesn't last forever. The sun will shine again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Where Do You Worship - Thoughts on Psalm 100

Hi Friends,

Where do you worship? I was reading Psalm 100 this morning in my (too brief) personal time, and remembered some reflections I'd written a while ago. I'm considering these thoughts again this morning, thinking about the question: Where do you worship?

When I ask Christians that question, I always get the same answer – the church they attend on Sundays. And no wonder. On Sunday mornings we go to worship services, are called to worship by worship leaders, sing songs led by worship teams. In our culture, worship is what we do on Sunday mornings. Work is what we do the rest of the week.

But a closer look at Psalm 100 shows us that maybe that answer has it all wrong. Psalm 100:2-3 says:

2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his….

At first glance, these verses don’t seem to have anything to do with our work week. That is, until we realize the Hebrew word used for “worship” in verse two is the same word (abad) used in Exodus 20:9: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work …” It’s also often translated “serve.”

Consider the difference when we read Exodus 20:9 in that way: “Six days you shall worship, you shall serve, and do all your business . . .” Worship, then, is not just that thing we do in the church building on Sunday mornings. Worship is what we do in our business; it’s what we do the other six days of the week.

If worshipping God, serving Him, is for our workday, then how does that change how we go about doing our regular work? Again, Psalm 100 helps us to understand.

Verse two calls us to worship the Lord with gladness. What attitude do we bring to our work? Do we complain about it as if it’s a burden? Is our work something we just get through to make a few bucks? Or do we engage in our business with an attitude of joy and thankfulness? If work is worship, then our attitude needs to be one of gladness to serve.

Psalm 100 also calls us to come before His presence with singing. While our actual work situation may not allow us to literally sing, we can, at least, pay attention to what’s coming out of our mouths at work. If work is worship, then things like grumbling and gossip are out of place. Instead, our speech needs to be more like a song – filled with light and grace.

Verse three reminds us to know that the Lord is God and we are His. We are not the “god” of our workplace. When we manage others, interact with customers, deal with fellow workers in the workplace, we do it with humility knowing that God is the “big boss” and we are not.

In the end, Psalm 100 tells us that the Biblical view of worship is for everyday, for our work days. It’s not just a Sunday event. We do it with gladness, grace, and humility, knowing that we are worshipping our real boss in heaven.

And that is something I need to be reminded of in the busy-ness of today, and everyday!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Tantrum at Disneyland?

Hi Friends,

Well, I've finally gotten all the laundry done and the stuff put away from our fun Disneyland trip last week. We had a great time. Baby did really well and so did the girls. Bryan and I survived too! Whew!
We rode the Small World ride about a zillion times (they've really improved it - it's beautiful now), and Pirates, and Splash Mountain, and the Winnie the Pooh ride. The girls and Bryan did teacups (I draw the line at the teacup ride!)
We did California Adventure one day (it was HOT) and Disneyland the other days. We even got to see Haunted Mansion all redone with the Nightmare Before Christmas theme (something Bryan has always wanted to do). It was so neat!
But one thing we noticed was that the "happiest place on earth" had a lot of crying and fussing too. Kids throwing fits, tantrums, whining, crying, fussing (even our kids a few times - though they did surprising well). And parents with angry eyebrows and red faces (and not just from the heat). It reminded me of something that happened a few years ago on another trip to Disneyland. It happened like this (names have been changed to protect the guilty :-)):

"No! I don't wanna go!" Katy pushed out her lower lip and drew her eyebrows into a dark scowl. "I want Splash Mountain!" Her face wrinkled into a mask of stubborn fury.

Katy's look was so at odds with our surroundings that I had to shake my head. We were in Disneyland, where laughter and fun were the order of the day. How could anyone be gloomy when Mickey Mouse, Snow White, or Goofy stood on the corner to bring smiles to every face? After all, this was the Magic Kingdom.

"We'll go there next," Katy’s mother whispered. "But first, we're going on the Pirate ride. You'll like it."

"No!" Katy stomped her foot as we got in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Soon, we were stepping into the big boats that would take us on our magic ride through pirate country. The soft music of crickets and water gently lapping against the sides of our boat did not calm Katy's angry spirit. She continued to glower. She refused to look around as we glided through the bayou. Her little sister cried out in delight and pointed to the tiny lights that were meant to be fireflies. Still, Katy didn’t budge. Even the pirate treasures did not interest her. She didn't "ooo" and "ahhh" as we floated through the middle of the big pirate battle, with cannon balls flying across our bow to land on either side. She didn't laugh at the rosy-cheeked man being dunked in the well or the pirates chasing women through the windows of the town. She wouldn't join in as we all lifted our voices to sing "Yo ho, yo ho, it's a pirate's life for me."

Nothing got through to her. Even as we came around the last bend, still humming the pirate song, her frown had not dissipated. We all tumbled from the boat, the other children laughing, giggling, and excitedly talking about what they had seen. But not Katy. Despite all the magic of Disneyland, especially in the Pirates of the Caribbean, she was still mad.

I again glanced down at her small, grumpy face. Then, I stopped short as recognition whispered through me. She looked – gulp - an awful lot like me. In fact, I was sure I had worn that same expression just a few weeks ago at church. I remembered the morning well. I had been scheduled to make an announcement about the women’s retreat at the beginning of the service, but the pastor said we didn’t have time. Then the worship team had cut my favorite hymn in order to put in some frothy chorus. And to top it off, the pastor shortened the time when we usually had prayer requests, but he left plenty of time for greeting one another. Nothing had gone the way I wanted it. I wanted Splash Mountain, not the Pirates!

Cold realization formed a lump in my chest as I grabbed Katy’s hand and headed out the ride’s exit. Had I been as silly as her, sticking out my lower lip at all the fun of the Magic Kingdom?

After all, Sunday morning services should be as joyful and fun-filled as Disneyland. I went to church to worship my God and Savior, to learn more about Him, and to enjoy His presence with others who love Him too. What could be better than that? Yet, instead of relishing the special time of gathering together in God's house, I was just as unhappy as Katy because everything didn’t go my way. I, too, had allowed selfishness to creep into my heart, so that I couldn’t enjoy the ride God was taking me on. What a shame!

These days, I try to remember Paul’s instructions: "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4, NIV) That way, I can laugh and appreciate God’s Sunday morning Pirate rides, whether I’d rather be at Splash Mountain or not.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Soldier Daddy by Cheryl Wyatt

Hi Friends,

Here's a fun Love Inspired book I wanted to tell you about this week. It's Soldier Daddy by Cheryl Wyatt. Here's a bit about it:

About the book
U.S. Air Force commander Aaron Petrowski leads pararescue teams, yet can't find one nanny for his three-year-old twins? The widowed father is returning to duty, but not without the best care for his beloved boys. So when Sarah Graham applies, the young woman surprises everyone by passing inspection. Until Aaron discovers Sarah has a secret tied to a tragedy in his past. He can't keep her in his employ—or in his heart. Until his brave little soldier boys teach him a thing or two about love.

About the Author
Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.
Soldier Daddy on Amazon
Or http://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Daddy-Inspired-Cheryl-Wyatt/dp/0373875576

Sunday, September 27, 2009

If God is Good by Randy Alcorn

Hi Friends,

Here's a nonfiction book I wanted to tell you about. It's a great new book on the place of suffering in our lives and what that has to do with God and our relationship with Him. Good stuff! Here's the info:

Book: If God Is Good
Author: Randy Alcorn

Every one of us will experience suffering. Many of us are experiencing it now. As we have seen in recent years, evil is real in our world, present and close to each one of us.

In such difficult times, suffering and evil beg questions about God--Why would an all-good and all-powerful God create a world full of evil and suffering? And then, how can there be a God if suffering and evil exist?

These are ancient questions, but also modern ones as well. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and even former believers like Bart Ehrman answer the question simply: The existence of suffering and evil proves there is no God.

In this captivating new book, best-selling author Randy Alcorn challenges the logic of disbelief, and brings a fresh, realistic, and thoroughly biblical insight to the issues these important questions raise.

Alcorn offers insights from his conversations with men and women whose lives have been torn apart by suffering, and yet whose faith in God burns brighter than ever. He reveals the big picture of who God is and what God is doing in the world–now and forever. And he equips you to share your faith more clearly and genuinely in this world of pain and fear.

As he did in his best-selling book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn delves deep into a profound subject, and through compelling stories, provocative questions and answers, and keen biblical understanding, he brings assurance and hope to all.

Author Bio:
Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspectives Ministries and a bestselling author. His novels include Deadline, Dominion, Edge of Eternity, Lord Foulgrin’s Letters, The Ishbane Conspiracy, and the Gold Medallion winner, Safely Home. He has written eighteen nonfiction books as well, including Heaven, The Treasure Principle, The Purity Principle, and The Grace and Truth Paradox. Randy and his wife, Nanci, live in Oregon and have two married daughters and four grandsons.

Intervention by Terri Blackstock

Hi Friends,

I'm back from Disneyland (more on that later!) and survived (we had a good time), and now am playing catch-up. The first thing is to tell y'all about a couple books that I wanted to post about last week and wasn't able to (no internet service at our hotel).

So, first, here's a great new novel by Terri Blackstock called INTERVENTION. Here's a bit about it:

Terri Blackstock's new book Intervention was inspired by her personal experiences with her daughter's addictions. Six years ago she became aware that her daughter (then in her early twenties) had a severe prescription pill addiction that was killing her, and she hired an interventionist to convince her daughter to go to treatment. After a grueling few hours, her daughter agreed to go. As Terri put her on the plane with the interventionist, she was hit with the crushing feeling that her daughter was in the hands of a stranger, and anything could happen. That's when this book was born.

Over the past few years, Terri's family has been in a tornado of relapses and rehabs, with one emergency after another, and grace upon grace. But through all this, God has taught her to pray as never before, and he's shown her how many other families are experiencing the same thing. He's also shown her that many blessings can come from crises such as this. Terri has tried to fold all of those experiences into this suspense novel of desperation and hope. She's also added a page to her web site: "Hope for Families of Addicts," (http://www.terriblackstock.com/hope-for-families-of-addicts/ ) which has tips on dealing with a loved one who has addictions.

Though the book is fiction, Terri poured much of herself into Barbara, the mother who's desperate to save her daughter. And Terri's own daughter has given her blessings for Terri to talk about this, in hopes of helping other hurting families and raise awareness about the perils of addiction. To see/hear Terri share her personal story about Intervention, don't miss her interviews on American Family Radio's "Today's Issues" on September 24, Moody Radio's "Chris Fabry Live on September 25, and "The 700 Club" on September 29.

In Stores Everywhere September 22nd--
It was her last hope—and the beginning of a new nightmare.
Barbara Covington has one more chance to save her daughter from a devastating addiction, by staging an intervention. But when eighteen-year-old Emily disappears on the way to drug treatment—and her interventionist is found dead at the airport—Barbara enters her darkest nightmare of all.

Barbara and her son set out to find Emily before Detective Kent Harlan arrests her for a crime he is sure she committed. Fearing for Emily’s life, Barbara maintains her daughter’s innocence. But does she really know her anymore? Meanwhile, Kent has questions of his own. His gut tells him that this is a case of an addict killing for drugs, but as he gets to know Barbara, he begins to hope he’s wrong about Emily.

The mysteries intensify as everyone’s panic grows: Did Emily’s obsession with drugs lead her to commit murder—or is she another victim of a cold-blooded killer?

In this gripping novel of intrigue and suspense, bestselling author Terri Blackstock delivers the page-turning drama that readers around the world have come to expect from her.

Watch the Intervention video trailer at www.youtube.com/terriblackstock

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Loving despite . . .

Hi Friends,

I've been thinking this week about how easy it is to be annoyed with people, to dislike, to criticize, to accuse. But God calls us to love. So, how do we love the irritating? In pondering that question, I was reminded of an story I shared a few years ago, and the things I learned from it. It was a good reminder for me, and I hope you'll find it interesting too. Here's what happened and what I learned:

"Love one another" -- it sounds so simple! So, why is it so hard? Let's face it. People are difficult to love. They whine, complain, they rarely listen. And what about all those annoying little habits? No matter how much of a "people person" we may be, there are still those who really get under our skin. For me, Pam was just such a person.

She sat across from me on the trolley at the company outing. A harmless honeybee buzzed down the aisle, and she screamed. I barely stopped myself from rolling my eyes in disgust. Back at work, another person disagreed with her, and she pouted for the rest of the day. Later she complained loudly about the temperature in the office, even though the rest of us were comfortable. In short, everything about her rubbed me the wrong way.

Yet, no matter how much she annoyed me, God kept thrusting us together. And all the time His words nagged at the back of my mind, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20 NIV)

Yikes! Hard words. It wasn't that I hated Pam, but I certainly didn't love her either. How did Jesus love the less than loveable? During His earthly ministry, He was surrounded with annoying people, not the least of which was Peter. Impulsive, emotional, always speaking at the wrong time, Peter would have been a challenge for anyone. Peter was not so different from Pam. Yet Jesus saw more in Peter than his actions warranted. Could I see Pam the way Jesus saw Peter?


What's in a name? In the gospels, Simon Peter resembles more the shifting sand than a firm, immovable rock. Yet, early in their relationship, Jesus renames Simon, saying "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18 NIV) Somehow, Jesus saw past Peter's present faults and shortcomings and found the seed of who Peter would become under the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Then, Jesus chose to address Peter as if he had already become the rock.

What would I call Pam if I saw what she could become under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit? In my mind, I had been calling her "annoyer" and "petty complainer," but what did God see? As I prayed for God to show me one good quality, I began to see that her bothersome habits were partially the result of a sensitive spirit. With God's grace, that sensitivity could be transformed into a Christ-like compassion. So, every time I saw her I began to silently call her "compassion" and think of her as such. With her new 'name' firmly in my mind, I started watching for the glimmer of compassion I knew was in her. Soon, I found myself seeking out her company, and even beginning a real friendship.


As I schooled myself to see Pam as ‘compassion,’ my next task was to learn to see beyond her faults and affirm her potential. Again, I thought of Peter.

I can almost see the scene as they reclined around the table, still scattered with bits of the Passover meal. Twelve disciples, grasping for their fair share, arguing about who was the greatest. And there was Peter, fiercely asserting that he was greater than all the others. But Jesus knew better. Everything that was wrong with Peter would soon come to the forefront when he would deny Jesus three times. But even in the acknowledgement of Peter's imminent failure, Jesus still saw the future "rock" in Peter. In Luke 22:32 (NIV), He says, "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Jesus didn't say, "Simon, you are such a wishy-washing, impulsive, emotional disciple that you won't even have the backbone to stand by me when I need you the most," (even though that may have been true!). Instead, Jesus prayed that Peter's faith, despite his failure, would become strong and rock-like. Then, Jesus looked beyond Peter's faults and affirmed his potential -- 'Peter, despite your failure, you'll turn back. Then, be a rock to your brothers.'

Could I look beyond Pam's faults and affirm her potential too? For me, it was so natural to dwell on what was wrong with Pam, to constantly ask, "What's the matter with her?," or "Why does she have to act like that?," until I could see nothing else. Even one such thought would poison my interaction with her, dispelling God's love just as surely as if I decided to hate her after all.

I needed to control my thoughts about Pam. As Paul says, "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV) To control my thoughts, especially when she was the most irritating, I began to pray for her to become "compassion," just as Jesus prayed for Peter. For example, when she started to whine about another employee, I tried to squelch my exasperation and instead pray that God would give her understanding. Then, when she was kind to another employee, I tried to make sure that I commented on it. When she was helpful, I took the time to express my appreciation.

Choosing affirmation rather than criticizing began to cause small changes in Pam. Soon, she was complaining less and spending more time trying to be helpful. One day, she stopped me in the hall and asked, "What do you see in me, anyway?"

It was the opportunity I had been waiting for. "I see someone who God loves," I said, "And I see the neat qualities He's placed in you. I wonder, will you let Him make you into the person that both He and I see you could be?"


In Luke 22:31-38 (NIV), after Jesus' resurrection, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. When Peter says yes, Jesus says "Feed my sheep." In this scene, Jesus forgives Peter's past failure and commissions him to become the man that He has seen all along.

Like Jesus, I needed to focus on Pam’s future and help her to become God's vision of her. Instead of saying, "Why don't you do this or that?," I began saying things like, "Mary's having a hard day, let's sit with her at lunch and try to make her feel better," and, "Thank you for telling me about Mike's troubles. How do you think we can help him?" When she complained about the temperature, I would say, "I'm glad you brought that up, let's see how others feel." I was asking her, in a subtle way, and with my help, to be compassionate to others.

These days, Pam sometimes still screams at honeybees, and she still likes the thermostat turned too high. But, she's learning to see herself through God's eyes, and to trust Him to make her into His dream for her. Perhaps someday she'll be like Peter, with a solid, rock-like faith, and the compassion of Christ Himself. And in the meantime, I am learning, little by little, to love her like Jesus loves her.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Final Exposure by Roxanne Rustand

Hi Friends!

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week. It's FINAL EXPOSURE by Roxanne Rustand. Here's a bit about it:

Safety. Serenity. That’s what Jack Matthews wants, and what he seeks in Lost Falls, Montana. A quiet retreat is just what Jack and his orphaned nephew, Max, need—especially with gentle, beautiful Erin Cole as their host. But when sirens in the night leave Max screaming, Jack’s faced with the harsh truth. They’re not safe—not him, not Max and especially not Erin. What is she hiding? What does the shadowy figure stalking her want? And how much will Jack have to risk to keep her safe?

Something new for Roxanne is her blog: ”All Creatures Great and Small Place.”

The name came from the lyrics of “All Things Bright and Beautiful,”
a Cecil Alexander hymn written in 1848. If you love animals, this is the place to visit–where authors and writers can share stories (both poignant and fun) about their pets. Roxanne lives on acreage in Iowa and has horses, dogs, cats, and welcomes strays too often!

You’ll also find periodic additions to “The Old Horse Trader Tales”–true stories about the adventures (and misadventures!) of a horse trader during the 1930’s -1980’s. She wrote them as feature articles for a magazine about fifteen years ago, and looks forward to sharing all of the nostalgic stories about this charming old man.

Find her at: http://www.roxannerustand.com/

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Far Side of the Pool

Hi Friends,

Well, our Thursday homeschooling is finally done, I'm catching up on this week's to-do list (hence my one-day-later-than-usual blog post), and the girls are out in the pool, swimming and having a great time. As I listen to the splashing and laughing that drifts up to me through the open window, I'm reminded of a story from a few years ago. And I find that God is using this story again to remind me of what success really is.

So, here's the story. Maybe you'll find it helpful too!

Bryan and I stood at the edge of the community pool and watched the water lap into the gutters. Two teenagers splashed at the far end while an old man slowly made his way back and forth in the far lane.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “They have lessons for preschoolers. Bethany’s old enough now.”

Bryan scowled. “Are you kidding? There’s no way I’m having a stranger teach my daughter to swim.”

“You’re going to do it?” I cleared my throat. “Do you know how?”

Bryan raised his eyebrows.

“I know, I know. You swam for Stanford, went to the NCAA, still have swim records on the books back in North Dakota.” I jabbed my finger into his chest. “But that doesn’t mean you know how to teach a little kid to swim.”

He squatted down and dangled his fingers in the water. “Eighty-one degrees. Exactly.” He grinned up at me. “Didn’t I tell you about the summer when I was twelve?”

“Of course.” I knew all about that summer, or at least I thought so. I’d heard the story a hundred times – how Bryan had gone flying off the front end of his brand new 10 speed. How his left arm swelled like a sausage. How his mother insisted that the doctors x-ray the other arm as well, only to find that both arms were broken. Broken, and put into twin casts during the summer he was supposed to break the state records for the 12 and under age group and lead his team to the state championships. Broken arms, broken dreams.

“So you know what I did that summer?”

“Well, you didn’t swim. You didn’t break any records. You didn’t win the state championship.”

“Yes I did.”


“I helped win the state championship.”


“The coach put my in charge of the littlest kids. He didn’t have time to teach them. But I did. I had all summer.” Bryan gazed over the pool. A smile twitched his lips. “I taught over a dozen little kids to make it from one end of the pool to the other. And because of them we won the state championship that year. You wouldn’t believe how many points those kids won just because they could swim across the pool.”

“You never told me that.”

He shook his head. “It wasn’t always pretty, but it worked. And we won.” His voice lowered. “Even without the team’s ‘big star.’” He stood and playfully flicked droplets of water over my shirt. “So I think I can teach our daughter how to swim.”

I laughed. “Okay, I guess you’re qualified.”

Bryan rested his hand on my shoulder. “Glad you agree. Now let’s go home.”

We turned from the pool and walked back to the parking lot. As I got into our car and buckled my seatbelt, I glanced over to Bryan in the driver’s seat. “You know, that is the most profound story I’ve heard in a long time.”


“Do you think it works like that in God’s kingdom too?”

“What are you talking about?”

I rubbed my chin. “Well, I’m no superstar evangelist. I haven’t brought thousands to Christ. I write books, but we both know they haven’t rocketed up the bestseller lists.”

Bryan stifled his cough.

I shot him a glare. “We don’t have any big, successful ministry, and our small group is, well, small.”

“It’s good though.”

“But we’re not setting any records.”

“Maybe we don’t need to.”

I settled back in my chair. Paul does say, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, NIV).

“Just like those little kids were like my crown in the state championships.”

I nodded. “You know I’ve been so worried that what I’m doing in God’s kingdom isn’t good enough. That somehow I’m falling short. But maybe it isn’t about me and my success. Perhaps God’s telling me that it’s enough to help others to learn how to get to the other side of the pool.”

Bryan winked at me. “Sometimes, that’s what winning is all about.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Making Music with the Master

Hi Friends,

Well, Bethany started orchestra practice last Friday. She's finally old enough to be learning an instrument at school. So far, she's trying out the violin, and loving it. She's been practicing every day, and it reminded me of a story that I might have shared awhile back. It went like this:

Small brows furrowed in concentration. Small fingers pressed hard on guitar frets. Small thumbs thrummed the strings.

And music filled the room – awkward, off-key, clashing music. But to my mommy-ears, the sounds were sweet. I smiled.

Bethany and Joelle, my two young daughters, were working so hard to learn how to play real music on their brand new kids’ guitars. They sat on short stools in front of their dad, with their guitars on their laps and their fingers poised over the strings.

Bryan held his own guitar (adult-sized, of course) and strummed the chord again. A perfect C warbled from his instrument. He paused. “See, like that.” The sound died away. “Now you try.” He placed the girls’ fingers on the proper frets one more time.

The girls studied Daddy’s fingers. They glanced at their own, then looked at his again. Then, they took deep breaths, and strummed.

Better. Not good, but at least the sound didn’t leave my hair standing on end.

Bryan adjusted their fingers again. First Joelle’s, then Bethany’s. “Try not to push down the other strings.”

Bethany nodded and grinned. “Okay, Daddy.” She leaned forward.
Joelle stuck out her tongue to focus.

I hurried for the camera.

They tried it yet again – studying the way Daddy did it, checking their own fingers, and playing the note. Studying, checking, playing. Boldly, joyfully, with Daddy’s help.

It wasn’t perfect, but each time, the sound improved. By the end, their fingers were dented by the strings, their picks were well worn, and they had almost learned to produce a decent C chord.

But most importantly, they were happy. Glowing. Why? Because they were playing guitar, just like Daddy.

As I stood by and clicked pictures, I was reminded of how God, my father, asks me to imitate Him too. 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV), says “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” And in Matthew 11:29 (NIV), we’re told to, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart . . .”

I’m called to be like Him, to learn from Him. Doing that, I’ve come to realize, isn’t a whole lot different from my girls learning to play guitar. As God makes beautiful music, He asks me to join in – to try. And though my fingers may be still a little small, and I might bump the wrong strings, still what’s important is that I study the way my Daddy does it and try to do the same myself. Study, check, play. Boldly, joyfully, and with my Father in heaven’s help.

It doesn’t matter if my music isn’t always perfect. What matters is that I watch, learn, and try again. That I practice using my instruments like God uses His. The Bible, circumstances in life, popular culture, off-the-cuff comments by acquaintances, friends, or family – how does God make music from these instruments? How does He work in people’s lives? And how can I make music with those same instruments?

The only way to know is to study the Master. Study the gospels. How did Jesus use scripture, culture, circumstances, comments, in the gospel accounts? How does God work in my own life?
In the lives of the people I know? We must study, watch, learn, and play.

God is making music all around us. If we pay attention, we can make music too. It may not be perfect. It may a little off-key, a little awkward. But if we practice and watch the master musician – if we allow him to move our fingers along the frets, we too can play the notes of heaven, and bring beautiful music into the lives of those around us.

So, let us play. Joyfully, boldly, with our gaze fixed on the Master who teaches us the proper chords.