Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year to You!

Hi Friends,

Just wanted to wish you a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

May this year be one in which you:

--discover something new and breathtaking about God.

--finally overcome that annoying trait that's been holding you back.

--find a new friend.

--share the wonder of Jesus with someone.

--mend a relationship.

--discover something new that brings you joy.

--trust God in that area that makes you most afraid.

--laugh more.

--worry less.

--and love Jesus more than you ever have before.

(P.S. Stay tuned for baby news -- Jordyn is due in just 2 weeks!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Feeling Left Out at Christmas ... Hope for You!

Hi Friends,

Merry Christmas! I wanted to share a story from when I was in deep in our infertility journey, and what I learned about feeling like a "have-not" at Christmas. I hope you're encouraged by this story, no matter where you are in your journey through life's ups and downs:

“O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,” sang the children’s choir from the front of the church. But, I felt anything but joyful, or triumphant. Despite the Christmas lights glittering from the sanctuary’s ceiling, despite the candles that flickered and glowed from behind the pulpit, darkness hung over me like a heavy cloak. Everything around me seemed so perfect – parents snapping pictures from the pews, Pastor Joe grinning from his chair at the side of the platform, little Mary Lou shyly stepping forward to read Isaiah 9. But, of all the little girls pulling restlessly at prim velvet dresses, of all the little boys standing tall and proud behind starched shirts and clip-on ties, none were mine. No little eyes searched the crowd looking for me, no little fingers wiggled a wave in my direction, no little voices called me “Mommy.”

Barren, the Bible named me, a cold, empty word. I hated it, not so much because it described the condition of my womb, but because it revealed the feelings of my heart - especially at Christmas time, when families gathered, mothers baked sugar cookies, and children counted the days until they would sit beneath laden Christmas trees and tear open gifts from Mom and Dad. Barren, the word haunted me now as I sat in the back pew and wished for the hundredth time that Christmas didn’t hurt so much. But it did. Christmas, it seemed, was for the “have’s” – those who have families, have children. And I was a “have-not.” What hope did Christmas hold for people like me?

In a moment, clapping broke out over the sanctuary as the kids’ choir finished their final song. With sweeping bows and stifled giggles, the children scampered to a wide box in front of the pulpit and pulled from it sprigs of mistletoe tied with bright red ribbons. My throat closed as each child trotted toward the pews and presented their parents with the mistletoe. I dropped my gaze. I should have never come tonight, I told myself again. But my husband needed to run the sound system for the performance, and no one would have understood if he had come alone. So, here I sat, uncomfortable and hurting while the laughter of happy families swirled around me.

“M-Mrs. Schalesky?” a timid voice sounded from beside my elbow.

I looked up to see 8-year-old Caroline holding her piece of mistletoe toward me. I quickly glanced around and noticed that Caroline’s parents hadn’t come tonight. In fact, they rarely came. My eyes met hers, and she smiled down at me.

“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Schalesky,” she whispered, then leaned over and kissed my cheek. “I hope Jesus brings you lots of gifts this year.” With that, she turned and hurried toward the back door.

Warmth flooded me. “Thank you,” I choked, too quiet for her to hear me as she slipped out of sight.

There, in my lap, lay the small piece of mistletoe, its red ribbon winking at me with the reflection of the Christmas lights overhead. It was such a small gift, so simple, so plain. As simple, perhaps, as a baby wrapped in rags, lying in a feeding trough. As plain as the Son of God, born not before family and friends, but before a stable full of animals - a gift announced not to the movers and shakers of Bethlehem, but to a few Gentiles in the east, and to a bunch of sheep-herders working the night shift.

I picked up my gift of mistletoe and held it close to my heart. If animals, shepherds, and even foreign kings were remembered in the first Christmas, maybe the childless, the outcast, and the hurting were remembered this Christmas too. Maybe I was remembered.

In this small bit of mistletoe, God was telling me that I’d been right – Christmas was for the “have’s.” For in Jesus there are no “have-not’s.” Christ was born for people like me, for “have-not’s” who, through the simple gift of Christ, are welcomed into the family of God.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lessons from a Christmas Bulb


Hi Friends,

Here's a fun Christmas story that happened a few years ago. I'm thinking about it again as we decorate our tree and have a new "little one" reaching for the bulbs (which, by the way, my hubby insisted that we throw out this year!). Anyway, here's what I learned from a Christmas bulb:

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 Bria 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, Bria, you can’t have that.”

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…”

“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, Bria 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. Bria, 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 Bria’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, stomped my feet and cried when God didn’t give me the good things that I wanted. I thought about the new book contract I was praying for, my hopes for new members for our church, the horse we’d seen but weren’t able to buy. Good things, all of them, as good as a shiny red Christmas bulb. But for me too, these bulbs were just out of reach.

As I put Bria 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 Bria, 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.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Her Healing Ways by Lyn Cote

Hi Friends,

Here's the new novel I have to tell you about this week. It's HER HEALING WAYS by LYN COTE.

Here's a bit about it:

Unconventional. Unafraid. Unwelcome. A female physician with an adopted black daughter? The townsfolk of Idaho Bend will never accept Dr. Mercy Gabriel—even when faced with a deadly cholera epidemic. But all Mercy needs is one man willing to listen…and to trust.

Four years of war command turned Lon Mackey into a footloose gambler who can't abide attachments. Yet he can't help getting riled by the threats Mercy keeps receiving. Her trailblazing courage could reignite his faith and humanity. And his loyalty could make her dream—for the first time—of a family of her own….

Find out more about Lyn and her books here: http://strongwomenbravestories.blogspot.com

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Interview

Hi Friends,

This week I thought it would be fun to share a bit of Q&A about my personal Christmas traditions ... getting in the mood for the season, ya know. So here ya go:

Q: Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

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

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

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

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

Q: When do you put up your tree?

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

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

Q: Describe the decorating at your house.

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

In other words, decorating pretty much consists of rescuing all breakable ornaments and putting them way up high on the tree, and redecorating the bottom third with the “safe” ornaments about every half hour, as they remove them and hide them in odd places.

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

Q: What is your favorite Christmas song or album?

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

Q: It’s Christmas Eve… anthing different this year?

A: My wonderful hubby, Bryan, is playing his trombone in both Christmas Eve services at our church. Should be fun. Can't wait!

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmastime Thoughts (& Tidbits of News)

Hi Friends,

Merry Christmas season! At the kick-off of the Christmas season for 2010, I thought it would be fun to share some thoughts about memory and Christmas. These are some things I thought about especially while writing Beyond the Night, since that book has a strong theme about the power of memory in our lives.

But first, some tidbits of news:

1) Jayden's turning two! He loves shapes, letters, numbers, and writing. He sits up with his twin sisters and wants to learn all the letters and what sounds they make. He also loves penguins (and names them all "Apple.")

2) New baby is looking good (we had an ultrasound yesterday). I'm at almost 34 weeks, so only 6-7 weeks to go (hopefully). We're thinking of naming her Jordyn.

3) If Tomorrow Never Comes (translated into Dutch) is one of the top 10 Christian fiction books in the Netherlands. (Fun!)

4) 5 more days to buy my books, or those from nearly 80 other Christian fiction authors, autographed at http://christianreviewofbooks.com/index.php?page=view/article/781/Marlo-Schalesky

And now, for some thoughts:
Memory has power. 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’s 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 stable-and-horse set that my girls will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid’s guitar for my oldest (age 7), or the new “ooo-ahh” (stuffed gorilla) for one of my 2-year-old twins.

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.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Get Signed Books for Christmas

Hi Friends,

Check out the big online booksigning bash at Christian Review of Books. There's nearly 80 Christian authors participating. Great time to get specially signed books for those on your Christmas list!

Check out my page at: http://christianreviewofbooks.com/index.php?page=view/article/781/Marlo-Schalesky

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi Friends,

Just wanted to wish you a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING (for all you in the U.S.) this week. May you have a blessed day and week.

Some questions to ponder:

--What's the strangest thing you're thankful for? My 7-year-old says she thankful for stairs. What easily overlooked thing are you thankful for?

--What unexpected, neat little thing has God done for you this year that you're thankful for? What pops to mind?

--What easily overlooked attribute God are you thankful for this year?

--What unique opportunity has God brought you this year that you're thankful for?


And now, a fun Thanksgiving story that I like to share at this time of year:


"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 17, 2010

Learning from Life's Ups & Downs

Hi Friends!

The ups and downs of life have got me thinking lately. We go to a horse show on Saturday and Jayna does a great job in goat-tying (her first time!). Yay! But then she gets bucked off in the very next event (cattle sorting). Ack! Then I get a reader letter telling me how one of my books made a difference in someone's life. Yay! Sales numbers come in. Yikes! We get a new client in our engineering firm. Yay! Unexpected bills come in. Boo! One friend finds out she's pregnant at last. Another calls to say she had a miscarriage. The kids are healthy. The kids get sick. Things go well. Things go badly. LIFE IS LIKE THAT. Up, down, up, down.

So, as I think about how life is, I've been considering this verse: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

And in that verse, I've discovered a disturbing fact. I'm not God. Big surprise, huh? And yet, while that may seem like an obvious truth, it defies much of what I was told as a child. “You can do anything you set your mind to,” “Achieve your dreams,” “All it takes is a little hard work.”

But honestly, I’ve come to realize that very little of my life is actually within my control. I can’t undo past mistakes. I can’t control what happens to me today – if someone will crash into my car, if it’ll rain and spoil my morning plans, if I catch a cold. I can’t even guarantee my future. I could die today, or get cancer, or never get another writing contract.

That’s why I’m glad God is God of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

He is God of today. Whatever happens is in His hands. The good, and the difficult. And moreover, He is the God of how I choose to spend this day, this hour, this minute. None of my “now” belongs to me. He is God of it all. And I need to remember that.

He is God of yesterday. There’s nothing in my past that can’t be forgiven, and there’s nothing I’ve done that He can’t turn to good. He is the God who can transform an instrument of execution (the cross) into a symbol of life and hope.He is God of tomorrow, of my hopes and dreams, and my fears. I can leave all that in His hands.

So, in the realities of life, I'm finding it's not my job to "achieve my dreams." It's not my call to grasp after what I want, and despair when things don't go as hoped. All I can do is try to be faithful to Him today, in the circumstances in which I find myself. Rejoice with the good, mourn with the bad, and seek just to know Him better, see Him better, and maybe, in that, glimpse a bit of His glory, and with it, perhaps a bit of His vision for me.

The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week -- THE SOUND OF SLEIGH BELLS by Cindy Woodsmall. Sounds like a fun Christmas read!

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?

2010 Inspirational Readers Choice Contest winnerCBA and ECPA Bestseller

To read the first chapter and/or for purchasing info, go to http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/books/sound-of-sleigh-bells_excerpt.php

Bio ~

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

She is also a veteran homeschool mom who no longer holds that position. As her children progressed in age, her desire to write grew stronger. After working through reservations whether this desire was something she should pursue, she began her writing journey. Her husband was her staunchest supporter as she aimed for what seemed impossible.

To visit Cindy’s Web site, go to http://www.cindywoodsmall.com

For information on how to receive free bookmarks and autographed bookplates, go to http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/bookplates.php

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What a Daisy Taught Me about Worship

Hi Friends,

This week, I've been thinking about the wonder and power of worship. While I was thinking, this story from a few years ago came to mind.

It happened like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Winter Reunion by Roxanne Rustand

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week. It's Winter Reunion by Roxanne Rustand (a Steeple Hill Love Inspired Romance, ISBN 978-0-373-87633-4).

Here's the back cover blurb:

Home to heal...and reconcile?When wounded Marine Devlin Sloan comes back to Aspen Creek, he's surprised by his late mother's will. His new business partner for the next six months will be Beth Carrigan. His ex-wife. This might prove to be Dev's most difficult mission yet. He never stopped loving the sweet bookstore owner, but his military career broke them apart. Now, as they work together at helping others get a new start in life, he hopes he can break down the walls between them....and explore the possibilities of renewing the life they had with each other.

The book is available at bookstores everywhere and at
www.steeplehill.com

About the author
Roxanne Rustand has written seven inspirational romantic suspense novels for Steeple Hill. This is her first romance for the Love Inspired line, and is also the first in her Aspen Creek Crossroads series. Each book stands alone, but readers wanting to revisit the scenic St. Croix River Valley area and the quaint town of Aspen Creek can come back in Second Chance Dad, which will be out on June, 2011, and in another book which will be out in December.Roxanne was nominated for an RT Bookclub Magazine Achievement Award in 2005, and one of her books won a RT Bookclub Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award in 2006. END GAME is a 2010 RT Bookclub Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Nominee for Best Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense of 2010.

You can find her at her blogs and website at:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Got Regrets? Here are some thoughts . . .

Hi Friends,

I just finished writing an article for In Touch magazine on the topic of regret, which was also a major theme in my latest book, Shades of Morning. As I was thinking about the topic, I thought in might be helpful to share a few of the questions and answers about regret that I've been talking about on the various radio interviews I've been doing. So, if you're interested in living beyond regret, consider these thoughts:


Q: Why do so many believers struggle to let go of their regrets?

A: I think there are two reasons. First, as believers, we are keenly aware of the cost of our sins and mistakes to the One we love. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us. So we wish we could have done better, chosen better, lived in a way that would always bring honor to God. But of course, we haven’t and we didn’t and we won’t. Not always.

And that’s when the little whispers of fear set in – whispers that tell us that we missed God’s best for us. That if only we’d done better, chosen better, lived right, then we would be the people God wanted and be living the life He wanted too. But now, the whispers say, it’s too late. Our mistakes are too great. Now we can never live God’s dream for us.

Hogwash! There’s a reason that our enemy is called “the accuser of the brethren” – it’s because those whispers are not from One who loves us, calls us, transforms us. They are lies from the one who accuses. They are meant to paralyze us and keep us from following Paul’s example in Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV), “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Q: How can we find forgiveness and healing from those past regrets?

A: This is the important thing: God calls us to repent, not to regret. And that’s what we need to do. All of us have made mistakes, have chosen poorly, missed opportunities, done things we wish we’d never done. But we don’t need to dwell in regret. Instead, simply confess, repent. move on. It’s like riding a horse. If you keep looking behind you, the horse stalls, wavers, gets confused. You have to keep your eye on where you want to go. Repentance keeps you looking forward. Regret causes you to keep looking back.

And worse, a bigger problem with regret is that it denies the primary power of God – the power to transform anything in our lives to His glory. It says, “This is too much for God.”

But the God who transformed an implement of execution, the cross, into a symbol of salvation has proven that He can transform anything – past, present, or future – into something that points to His glory. Think about that. Before Jesus, the cross was a symbol of horror and disgrace and misery. It was the most horrific way to die a criminal’s death. But after Jesus, it became a symbol of redemption and wonder and love. If God could so change the meaning of the cross, He can also transform those ugly things in our lives for His glory.

So, we need to take off the band-aid and expose our regrets, repent of them, and simply leave them in the hands of God, looking forward in expectation of His transforming power, even when that transformation seems impossible.

Q: Regret often keeps us from going deeper in our relationship with God. How does your main character, Marnie’s, relationship with God change during the course of the Shades of Morning?

A: Regrets will shape you if you give them the power, if they become what you treasure in your heart. And that’s exactly what happens to Marnie. She hides from her regrets by locking them away. She doesn’t think they can touch her there. But instead of being free from them, she’s really just carrying them with her.

That’s how it is with us. When we lock away these parts of our lives from God and ourselves, we are really just hiding them in our hearts, making them our treasure.

Marnie learns that she has to face her regrets, confess them to those she hurt and to her friends, and only then can she be healed of them. And with healing, she finds that can see God’s presence in her life and how He’s been working in beautiful and wondrous ways to transform those regrets into something new and good in her life. But as long as she hides her regrets in her heart, she simply can’t draw close to God and experience the power of his healing touch.

For her, and for us, it’s about trusting God enough to face regret and let it go, to believe that God can take anything and make it beautiful. To believe that God truly does forgive our sins and forget them. And that He can take our mistakes and remake them. That’s what the cross is all about. That’s what life in Christ is about too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Prairie Christmas Collection

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week. It's a compliation of different prairie Christmas stories from Barbour Books. Here's a bit about it:

A Prairie Christmas Collection
by Tracie Peterson, Deborah Raney, Tracey Bateman
and other favorite Christian authors

Settling the vast open prairies, weathering winter storms, and finding joy to celebrate during Christmas epitomizes the pioneer experience. In a unique collection of nine Christmas romances, Barbour Publishing brings readers A Prairie Christmas Collection where they can relive a prairie Christmas with all its challenge and delights as penned by multi-published authors, including Tracie Peterson and Deborah Raney. Featuring deckled-edge pages and a foil-stamped cover with fold-under flaps, the collection makes an ideal gift for the romance reader.

In this holiday romance collection, the warmth of Christmas will radiate new love from the high plains of Minnesota and Dakota Territory, across the rolling hills of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, and down into the flats of Kansas. Filled with inspiration and faith, each story will become a treasure to be enjoyed again each year. Along with Peterson and Raney, other contributing authors include Tracey Bateman, Pamela Griffin, JoAnn A. Grote, Maryn Langer, Darlene Mindrup, Janet Spaeth and Jill Stengl.

For more information see Deborah Raney's website at www.deborahraney.com.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Why Does God Want YOUR Life?

Hi Friends,

What a week! On Monday I flew out to Colorado Springs for a Tuesday radio interview with Focus on the Family (it's supposed to air in January), plus two more interviews for KTLF (those should air soon - not sure when), and some other meetings as well. The meetings and interviews were wonderful ... the flights, not so much. High winds created delays and missed connections and late nights. But they also gave me time to think. So, I thought about what it means that I've given my life to God.

One of my favorite songs is Surrender by BarlowGirl. In fact, it’s one of the songs that plays on that little music player in the right hand column of my blog (http://www.marloschalesky.blogspot.com/). I was listening to it on my iPod on the final flight home and was reminded of something that happened a few years ago. It happened like this:


I’d heard it a dozen times before. “Give your life to God! Surrender!” And that Sunday, the message our pastor proclaimed was no different. I leaned back and thought about how glad I was that I had given myself to God and how I wanted to make my life a gift to him every day. But then, something new struck me, something I hadn’t dwelt on before.

I thought about the songs we’d sung earlier – songs about the grandness of the God of the universe, about His majesty, His holiness, the wonder of His presence. And as I thought about the glory of God, the value of my one, puny, rather unimpressive life seemed like a poor gift indeed. After all, I was no Billy Graham, no President of the United States, no great mover-and-shaker of the world around me. I was just plain ol’ me, with no extraordinary accomplishments, no fancy resume, nothing to make my life seem a worthy gift to so great a God. Did God really care if I gave my life to him? Did it really matter after all?

My thoughts troubled me as the service ended and I slipped out to pick up my then-nearly-three-year-old daughter from Sunday School. A dozen small bodies wiggled from the classroom and darted down the hall toward me. Among them was Bria. As soon as she saw me, she let out a squeal and waved a piece of yellow construction paper over her head. [NOTE: the picture above is the current frig offering, not the yellow one from a couple years ago ... the pictures just keep coming! :-)).

“Mommy, mommy, look!” she cried as she hurled herself toward me.

The other kids rushed past like a river at flood-stage. Bria crashed into my legs, then hugged me around the knees. A moment later, she giggled and shoved the construction paper into my hands. “For you, Mommy. My make picture for you.”

She smiled up at me with wide eyes framed by curly, wheat-colored hair, and my heart melted. I knelt beside her. “For me?”

“It’s a present.”

I held her close and looked down at the construction paper. Red and blue crayon marks formed lopsided circles that listed off to the right bottom corner of the page. A black smear marred the upper corner, and in the middle a rough outline of Bria’s handprint started off well, then dropped off to a long squiggle at the pinkie finger.

I pulled her closer and kissed her on the forehead. “I love it!” I proclaimed. And I did. I really did. It was no Monet (Picasso maybe), but to me, it was every bit as precious.

Later that day, I put the picture in the center of the refrigerator door where I could see it every day. I stood back, smiled, then stepped forward to adjust it just right.

I knew, of course, that if someone else were to find the picture lying on the ground, they would think it was just trash. They wouldn’t see it like I did. They would see a piece of cheap paper with crayon scribbles and pen marks. But to me, it was a treasure. I loved the squiggled outline of her little hand. I adored the awkward circles. And one day, when a new picture came to replace the yellow construction paper on the frig, I knew I would put this one away in my “special things” box, with a tiny date written on the back. Then, in years to come, I’d pull it out, and look at it, and remember.

It was then, as I stood there and admired the picture on the frig that I understood at last what it means to God when I make my life a gift to him. He doesn’t care if I’m a bit off-center, with lopsided circles that droop to one side. He doesn’t care if I’ve never done anything that seems very important. What matters is that I give Him my life as an offering of love. What matters is that God loves me so much that my life, even mine, is precious beyond measure.

My life may never be a Monet, but God still loves to hang my picture on the frig.

Legacy of Lies by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Hi Friends,

Here's the book I have to tell you about this week. It's LEGACY OF LIES by my friend Jill Elizabeth Nelson. Here's the scoop:

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Secrets Buried Deep!
Evidence from a decades-old murder is the last thing Nicole Keller-Mattson expected to find in her grandmother’s back yard, but the finger-pointing and accusations leveled at her family came as no surprise. Everyone in Ellington is eager to blame the Kellers—but after an attack leaves Nicole’s grandmother in a coma, only Nicole can clear the family name. With the assistance of police chief Rich Hendricks, she stands a chance of solving the mystery . . . if she’s willing to accept Rich’s help. Nicole lost her policeman husband in the line of duty—getting close to another cop is too painful. But keeping her distance could be deadly.

WORDS FROM THE AUTHOR ABOUT LEGACY OF LIES:

I’ve always been fascinated by social dynamics in a small town. Having lived in rural communities all my life, I’m intimately familiar with the unique politics involved. Crafting a story about the shadow cast over a town by its founding family came readily to me. I was particularly interested to explore the affect past sins and secrets can have on a tight-knit community and how the illusion of power is always trumped by the immutable laws of God. We do reap what we sow, no matter how grand and invincible we imagine ourselves to be.

The scripture I used at the front of the book was Psalm 37: 10 – 11 from the NIV version of the Bible: A little while and the wicked will be no more; Though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. I comfort myself with these words quite often when I see the injustices in the world.

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BOOK NOW!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0373444087/jillelizabeth-20

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jill Elizabeth Nelson writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith, earning her the tagline: Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth. She was delightfully astonished this year to receive the prestigious Carol Award in the Short Contemporary Suspense category for her 2009 release, Evidence of Murder. Jill speaks regularly at conferences, writer’s groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. When teaching classes for writers, she thrills to bring the Ahah! moment to her students as they make a new skill their own. Jill and her husband live in rural Minnesota where they raised four children and are currently enjoying their first grandchild. Visit Jill on the web at http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com for book giveaways, excerpts, and information.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO HER WEB SITE!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

When Nothing Seems to Be Paying Off

Hi Friends!

In honor of this being Pumpkin season, I wanted to share with you something that happened around last fall. Some of you may have heard this story before, but I thought it was worth sharing again to encourage you to persevere in doing what you're supposed to be doing, even when it doesn't seem to be having the results you were hoping for. So here ya go:

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.”

“Cool.”

“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 now. 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. It may seem like nothing but bare dirt, like nothing is ever going to happen, like life is dormant. But something is there, even when I don't know and can't see ... something that will sprout and grow when the time is right.

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 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, or the work I'm doing doesn't seem to matter, 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 18, 2010

Facelift by Leanna Ellis

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week. It's FACELIFT by my friend, Leanna Ellis. Here's the scoop:

About the book:
FACELIFT
ISBN: 0805449892
B&H Publishing

A ‘can do’ kind of woman runs her own business, raises her teenage daughter, and takes care of her ex-mother-in-law after a botched facelift. But Kaye learns a facelift is more than skin deep. Joy is more than tacking on a happy face. It's relying on her sovereign God who has a plan for her life.

About the author:
Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna Ellis writes women’s fiction and is known for her quirky characters and wacky plots as in her current novel, FACELIFT. But don’t let the quirkiness fool you, Ellis probes the heart and plucks at the heartstrings. In 2011 FORSAKEN, the first of an Amish/vampire series, will debut. Now that is wacky!

Amazon Purchase Link:http://www.amazon.com/Facelift-Novel-Leanna-Ellis/dp/0805449892/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287421547&sr=8-4

Excerpt Link:http://leannaellis.com/facelift.html

Author website and blog:www.leannaellis.comwww.leannaellis.com/news/

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recognizing God's Unexpected Gifts


Hi Friends,

At the women's retreat I attended over the weekend, we talked about being God's beloved. That reminded me of how God, like a lover, brings us unexpected gifts to surprise and delight us. These are sometimes small things that make us smile. Reminders from God that He loves us, that He's there. That He cares.
It's like the time when my husband brought me one red rose. Just because. It happened like this . . .

"Just because I love you," Bryan leaned down with a big grin to plant a kiss on my forehead.

I looked up to see a beautiful rose, blushing deep velvet red.

"For me?" I blinked once to be certain that my eyes and nose weren't deceiving me. The vision of the rose remained.

My husband smiled and brushed my cheek with his fingertips. "Just for you."

"But why? It isn't my birthday, or our anniversary. It's just a regular ol' day."

"Just because I love you," he repeated. "Do I need any other reason?"

I shook my head and gently touched one soft petal, as the fragrance of Bryan's love for me filled the room.One red rose. It was exquisite; a special, simple gift of love, given with no strings attached, given "just because," to remind me that my husband loves me, even on plain, ordinary days. I didn't deserve it. I hadn't done anything special. He just wanted to show me once again that he loves me just for being me. Such love is precious.

There's only one person who loves me more than my husband, and that is Jesus Himself.As I sat inhaling the flower's sweet perfume, I realized that God gives me, His beloved bride, roses too; those small blessings in my life that are tokens of His love, that He gives "just because He loves me."

His gifts to me are free. They require only my acceptance. So often when I consider the free gift of God's love, I think of Jesus' death for me on the cross, and I stop there. But God did not stop there. The gift of His son was only the beginning. Every day is filled with little reminders of how much God cares for me, His way of saying "I love you still." Pleasant surprises, little ways that God works on my behalf, simple serendipities that give me joy -- yes, God brings me roses too, not because I've been good, or because I've been especially diligent in my devotions, but just as demonstrations of His overwhelming love for me. No strings attached.

But, do I miss the roses from God? How many do I overlook because I forget to look up and receive? Do I fail to recognize and accept the little gifts of God's unconditional love, the gifts He gives me every day, not because he must, but simply to show me again that He is so much in love with me? How many times does He reach out to me saying, "Here, my love, I'm giving you this show you again how much I love you," and I brush past Him, unaware?As God showed His love for me in Jesus, so He affirms it in a thousand little ways every day of my life. I don't need to earn His love. His outpouring of love is not contingent on my actions. He simply loves me. I just need to open my eyes and see the rose, breath deeply and smell the beautiful fragrance of God's love, and reach out with a thankful heart to touch the soft petals of His gifts.

And so, with one red rose I am reminded again that "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32 NIV).

May you receive sweet, unexpected gifts from God today and remember that you are His beloved!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Don't Kiss Him Goodbye by Sandra Byrd

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week: Book 3 in the London Confidential Series, DON'T KISS HIM GOODBYE, by my friend, Sandra Byrd.

Here's a bit about it:

Book Three, Don't Kiss Him Goodbye, finds Savvy, now established in her quirky British village, working hard to get an article with her own byline published. When an attractive and mysterious boy asks her for help with his school work, Savvy is slowly pulled into his circle and soon finds out that the wrong set of friends—boys and girls—can influence her own behavior. Following her own advice to cut ties with a charming bad boy would mean abandoning her dearest wishes, and it just doesn't seem as wrong as it feels. Is it? Read on for surprise twists throughout the book!

In a shocking turn of events, all writers for the Wexburg Academy Times will cast their votes for next year's editor—and it looks like Savvy's vote will be the tie breaker! In Book Four, Flirting With Disaster, Savvy must choose between a nasty-girl-turned-nice, with a sudden interest in letting Savvy get what she wants, and the prickly Hazelle, who promises nothing at all. Savvy then finds herself wrapped up in a new, seemingly innocent but potentially dangerous activity. It's all at risk in this book: her position on the paper, the boy she likes, the ministry she wants to go well. At a critical moment, Savvy must figure out how to rely on God rather than luck and to overcome temptation before it is too late.

London Confidential is a new series for tweens and teens where British fashion, friendships, and guys collide as an all-American teen girl learns to love life and live out her faith.

Please visit Sandra online at http://www.sandrabyrd.com/ The books can be purchased at amazon.com through her website or at other fine online or local bookstores near you. If they're not stocked, just ask!

London Confidential Books 1 and 2 were featured in Focus on the Family's Thriving Family Magazine ... click here:

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/protecting_your_family/book-reviews/a/asking-for-trouble.aspx

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Healing Old Wounds (What I Learned from a 3-Year-Old)

Hi Friends,

This week, I've been thinking about how God peels off the band-aids in our lives and asks us to move forward in an area where we've been hurt before. He asks us to trust, to do right, to risk. That's what God has been asking me this week. And so, I've been remembering this story:

A shriek pierced the air. Then another. And another.

A chill shot through me. I dropped the papers in my hand and bolted for the door.

Another scream sliced across my nerves as I sprinted down the hill toward the plastic kiddie pool where my three-year-old daughter was playing with her Daddy. I spotted her taut-as-a-bow-string body standing next to the pool. She turned her red, scrunched-up face in my direction and let out another howl.

My husband, Bryan, sat in a chair next to the pool with his arms crossed. White spots shone on his arms where his fingers pressed into his biceps.

I slowed. This didn’t look like the near-death, blood-everywhere, broken-bones, 9-1-1 emergency that I was expecting. Instead, it looked liked a certain little girl was having a fit.

“Hey, what’s going on here?” My voice barely carried over Bethany’s shrill cries. “Did she get hurt?”

Bryan turned toward me. His eyebrows bunched together in a frown. “No.” The words came out like a flat stone hitting water.

“No? But –“ I gestured toward Miss Blotchy-Red-Face who was now taking a ragged breath.

Bryan sighed. “You’re not going to believe this.” He pointed to the small rectangular bandage on her thigh. The plastic strip was dangling from the “owie spot” where she’d gotten an immunization two days before. “I told her we needed to take that band-aid off.”

Bryan had hardly finished the sentence when Bethany started up again. “Noooooo,” she wailed, “dooooooon’t.”

I turned to Bethany, but before I could say a word, she clenched both fists and threw back her head. “I don’t waaaant to take it off. It’s gonna h-h-huuuuurt.”

“It’s half off already.”

“Noooo, noooo, noooo . . .”

Bryan threw his hands up in the air. “I’ve had it.” He thrust himself from the chair and tromped toward the garage. “You sit with her.”
I settled into the chair and grabbed Bethany’s towel. “So, I guess you’re done in the pool, huh?”

Two sniffs, then her arm wiped across her nose. “No.”

I raised my eyebrows.

She jumped back into the pool.

A few minutes later I spotted the bandage floating on water’s surface. I hid my smile. “Hey Bethany, how ‘bout we take off that band-aid now?”

“Aaaa,” she began, then looked down. Her cry stopped abruptly. “Where is it?”

I pointed to the pale pink strip. “Guess it didn’t hurt so much after all.”

She poked at the bandage with her toe. “It came off.”

“Yep.”

“I didn’t feel it, though.”

“Nope.”

She studied the bandage for a moment then plopped down and starting playing with her bucket.As I watched her, I began to chuckle. All that fuss for nothing. But I guess I’m no different. Often for me, too, the anticipation of pain is more than the reality.

Because God is a good father, He, too, wants to remove the bandages in my life, those things I use to hide old pain. He asks me to open up, to be vulnerable to Him and others. But even though I may not holler as shrilly as Bethany, in my heart I still often cry, “Nooo. It’s gonna huuuurt.”

Yet, God continues to call me to truth rather than hiddenness. In fact, the Greek word for “truth” in the New Testament has the same root as “unhidden.” And so, I think about that bandage floating on the water’s surface and wonder if God’s simply trying to tell me that if I trust him and open up, I’ll find that it doesn’t hurt so much after all. I’ll find that God can and has healed my owies. And now, it’s time to trust, to risk, and to try something new.

So, these days when God asks me to take off the bandages in my life, I’m trying not to fuss too much. Instead, I pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Perfect Blend by Trish Perry

Hi Friends,

Here's the book I have to tell you about this week. It's THE PERFECT BLEND by Trish Perry.

A little about The Perfect Blend:

Steph Vandergrift left everything to elope with Middleburg attorney Rick Manfred, who then stood her up at the altar. Too embarrassed to return home, Steph hopes to earn enough to get by until she can decide what to do next. Tea Shop owner Milly Jewel hires her and appreciates the extra help at the tea shop. Also appreciative of Steph is Kendall James, one of the kindest, most eligible bachelors in the area. But by the time Steph feels able to consider dating again, her run-away fiancé returns and tries to win her back. Steph is wary, but she and Rick always blended so well. Christie Burnham, the frank-talking equestrian from whom Steph rents a room, and her frillier sister Liz become fast friends and confidantes to Steph. Between the two sisters, there isn't much any man is going to pull over on Middleburg's newest bachelorette and tea shop employee.

A little about Trish:

Award-winning novelist Trish Perry has written The Perfect Blend (2010), Sunset Beach (2009), Beach Dreams (2008), Too Good to Be True (2007), and The Guy I’m Not Dating (2006), all for Harvest House Publishers. Her monthly column, “Real Life is Stranger,” appeared in Christian Fiction Online Magazine during its inaugural year. She was editor of Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.’s Capital Christian Writers organization (CCW), for seven years. Before her novels, Perry published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media. She will release several new books in 2011.

Perry holds a B.A. in Psychology, was a 1980s stockbroker, and held positions at the Securities and Exchange Commission and in several Washington law firms. She serves on the Board of Directors of CCW and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She invites you to visit her at www.trishperry.com

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Feeling Weak? How to Survive: Fish & Philippians 4:8

Hi Friends,

How do we survive when we're feeling small, weak, vulnerable? I was thinking about this today and remembered a story about a couple puny little goldfish that my daughter won at a carnival years ago. It happened like this:

They were supposed to die. I had planned on it, counted on it, prepared my five-year-old daughter for the inevitable. From the moment Bethany won those two tiny goldfish at the carnival, I fully expected to be flushing them away a few days later.

I lifted the clear plastic bag and stared at the fish. One bumped against the side.

Bethany danced around me. “Yay, yay, yay, one for me and one for Joelle!” She tugged on my pantleg. “Do we have a bowl for them? Do we have food? What are we going to name them? Will they get bigger? Are they girls? I’m going name one Dorothy.” She grinned and clapped her hands.

I lowered the bag. The water sloshed inside it causing the fish to dip and spin. I brushed my hand over Bethany’s hair. “We have everything we need, Sweetie, but you know fish like this don’t live that long.”

“How come?”

“I don’t know. They just don’t.” I’d gotten fish like this many times before, some as carnival prizes, some with “three free goldfish” coupons from our local pet store. They never lived past the first week.

Bethany sighed. “Well, all right. But can we keep them anyway?”

“Of course.” I put my arm around her and smiled.

When we got home that evening, I carefully put the fish into a bowl of treated water and crumbed some fish food flakes on top.
Bethany pressed her nose against the outside of the bowl and watched with big eyes. “Maybe they won’t die right away.”
I patted her arm. “Bedtime now. Go get ready.” Then, I glanced back at the fish as Bethany scampered upstairs. I shook my head. They’ll probably be belly-up by morning.

But they weren’t.

The next morning they were swimming around their bowl and glowing with health.

“Look, Mom, they’re still alive!”

Give them a few days. I stifled the words and turned away.

A few days came and went. The fish still lived. I gave them until the weekend. They were still alive on Monday. I cleaned the bowl, treated new water, and waited.

Another week, another bowl cleaning, another and another. And still the fish lived.

One day I even dropped one of them into the sink as I was cleaning the bowl. I grabbed it up and threw it back into the water. It’ll die for sure now. But it didn’t. In fact, it’s been almost a year, and those tiny fish aren’t so tiny anymore.
Recently, I looked at them and wondered aloud, “Why have these fish lived when all my previous goldfish died so quickly?” After all, I treated their water too, and fed them the same food, and cleaned the bowl just the same as with these fish.

My husband, Bryan, answered from the other room, “It’s the water out here. It’s got to be.”

“Water? What do you mean?”

“All those other fish we had at our old house. Now we’re on well water. We had it tested. Remember? It’s pure, a lot purer anyway than that city water we used to get.”

The water - what they were surrounded in, what they lived in and breathed every day. Of course.

The next week, I was reading Philippians when I came to chapter four, verse eight (NIV). It said, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.” And as I thought about the idea of purity and excellence, I remembered Bethany’s not-so-little fish. They were weak, and small, and destined to die quickly. But they lived because of the purity of the water, even after the hardship of dropping one in the sink.

People, maybe, aren’t much different. How well we survive, how well we thrive, may have everything to do with what we let our thoughts soak in, what we live and breathe every day. Do I let my mind swim around in discouraging, damaging thoughts? Or do I clean the bowl and put in pure water as often as I can?

After all, even the weak survive when the water’s pure.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Letters in the Attic by DeAnna Julie Dodson

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week:

About Letters in the Attic

Up in her grandmother’s attic in Stony Point, Maine, Annie Dawson finds a stack of old letters from her childhood friend Susan Morris. Annie remembers Susan fondly and would like to get back in touch, but nobody seems to know what’s become of her. Her friends at The Hook and Needle Club aren’t much help either. All they remember is that Susan left town more than twenty years ago to marry a very wealthy man, but none of them is quite sure who he was. And Annie can find no record of any marriage.

The more Annie searches, the more she begins to wonder if something has happened to Susan. Something bad.

Excerpt from Letters in the Attic:

Annie stepped out of the library door, took a deep breath and then scurried across Oak Lane to The Cup and Saucer. The lunch crowd was gone, and Annie was glad to see that her favorite corner table was empty.

Peggy looked up from the counter where she was refilling salt shakers. “Hi, Annie. What’ll it be?”

“Coffee to start with. I don’t know what I want to eat yet, but I’m starved.”

It took just a minute for Peggy to bring her a steaming cup and a little pitcher of cream. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. It is.” Annie sighed. “Some people just have it rough, you know.”

“Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”

Peggy gave her a menu and a wry grin, and Annie answered with one of her own.

“I know, but some people get a lot of trouble all at once.”
“Anybody I know?”

“Susan Morris, the one we were talking about at the club meeting. I’ve been over at the library doing some research. Mary Beth was right about her parents being killed in a car wreck, and I found out that the aunt she was living with in New York died not very long before that.”

“That’s too bad.” Peggy leaned against the other side of the booth. “And she was just out of college then? What a shame. What about that rich guy? Did you find out anything about him?”

“I haven’t found any marriage records for Susan yet. So far, Prince Charming is still a complete mystery.”

“Did somebody say Prince Charming?” A lanky guy in a policeman’s uniform got up from his stool at the lunch counter and sauntered over to Annie’s table. “Are you looking for me, ma’am?”

Peggy pursed her lips. “Oh, go sit down and drink your coffee, Roy, and let the adults talk.”

“Now, that’s no way to treat your elders, Peg. Why don’t you introduce me to your friend here? Not that everybody in Stony Point hasn’t heard of pretty Annie Dawson.”

Annie didn’t know whether to be flattered or annoyed. She settled for skeptical. “Have they?”

“Yes, indeed.”

Peggy snorted. “This is Roy Hamilton. Obviously one of Stony Point’s finest.”

“I haven’t seen you around town,” Annie admitted, shaking the hand he offered. “Are you new here?”

“Just hired on. Chief Edwards was down a man when Callahan retired. I was working in Newcastle until a little while ago, but I heard Stony Point was a pretty attractive place to hire on.” He grinned at Annie. “Very attractive, if you ask me.”

Annie refrained from rolling her eyes. “Do you live here in town?”

“I’m renting a beach house on Ocean, just north of Elm.” His grin widened. “I guess that makes us neighbors.”

“You must be at Mr. Cruz’s. The little house with white trim and a porch swing?”

“That’s the one. And, of course, everybody knows about Grey Gables. That’s a big place for one little lady by herself.”

“I don’t live alone.” Annie pretended not to notice the smirk on Peggy’s face.

“You don’t?” Roy’s sandy eyebrows met in the middle of his forehead. “I heard you were a widow.”

Annie smiled sweetly. “I am.”

“And all your family lives back in Texas, right?”

“They do.”

Roy chuckled. “You’ve got a dog.”

“A cat,” Annie admitted. “But she’s the jealous type.”

“Hmmm. Maybe I’ll have to try to win her over with some fresh salmon. We lawmen aren’t allowed to accept bribes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t offer a few.”

She couldn’t help laughing. “I’ll leave that between you and Boots.”

“Of course, if you’d like to–” A beep from the cell phone hooked to his belt drew his attention. “Excuse me a second.”

He walked back over to the counter to take his call, and Peggy shook her head.

“Sorry about that, Annie. He’s just not one to take a hint.”

“Poor guy’s probably just lonely. It’s hard when you’re new in town. I know.”

“I beg your pardon, ladies.” Roy came back to Annie’s table. “I’ve got business to see to, Annie, but I hope, now that we’ve been properly introduced, that I’ll see you again.”

“Stony Point’s a small place.” Annie kept her voice light and impersonal. “So that’s probably pretty likely.”

“Us being neighbors and all.” Roy took his mirrored sunglasses from his shirt pocket. “If you ever need anything, you come see me. Thanks for the coffee, Peg.”

He handed Peggy a folded bill and went out the front door. Annie watched as he took long strides across Main Street towards the Town Hall.

“Well, he’s not shy.”

“Just a nuisance more than anything else.” Peggy made a sour face. “He’s always asking for his ‘Police Discount.’ Hardy-har-har.” Peggy unfolded the bill, brightening when she saw it was a five. “But he does tip well.”

Annie chuckled, and Peggy pocketed the money.

“Anyway, back to what we were talking about earlier, I’ve been asking just about everybody I’ve seen if they know anything about Susan Morris, but nobody seems to remember much about her. Sorry. I really would have thought you’d find something about her marriage.”

Annie sighed. “That’s where I hit a brick wall. Nothing on any Susan Morris getting married to anyone anywhere in the State of Maine anytime between nineteen-eighty-five and two-thousand-five. Absolutely nothing.”

“Hmmmm. I guess it’s possible she was married somewhere out of state.”

“I guess so.” Annie took a sip of coffee. “That proverbial haystack just got a lot bigger. Are you sure you never heard anything about this man she was supposed to be married to?”

“Me? I was way too young to pay any attention to that kind of thing back then. Maybe Mary Beth will have thought of his name by the time you see her next.”

“Or that shoe company he had. It was shoes, right?”

“That’s what she said.”

Annie bit her lip. “I guess I could search for Maine shoe manufacturers and see what I come up with.”

“But if she wasn’t married in the state, maybe he didn’t live here either. His company could have been in Virginia or New York or Timbuktu.”

Annie propped her chin on her hand. “Yeah, I know.”

“Hey, I forgot.” Peggy tapped the tabletop with one bright pink nail. “I have some good news for you. I asked Wally about the other guy, the handyman. His name is Tom Maxwell and Wally says he’d do you a good job if you’re in a hurry to start on your bathroom.”

“Actually, I’d really rather have Wally do it. I know the kind of work he does, and that way it helps you out, too. But Mary Beth sounds like she doesn’t want to wait much longer to get her basement organized. I’m sure she’d like the referral.”

“I appreciate you wanting to hire Wally. I would like to see us get a little ahead for once.”

“It’s pure selfishness on my part. He did such a nice job on my kitchen, I don’t want to use anyone else.” Smiling, Annie handed the menu back to Peggy. “I hope you still have that shrimp chowder you had on your special today. I need something to warm me up.”

“Coming right up.”

***

The chowder was delicious, a hearty cream base packed with shrimp, bacon and potatoes, and things looked a little bit brighter by the time Annie pulled up in front of Grey Gables.

Alice waived from the front porch of the carriage house and then scurried over to the car. “Find out anything?”

“You’re just as bad as Peggy. Come in out of the cold and I’ll tell you about it.” Annie unlocked her front door and picked up the stack of mail lying just inside. “I have some chicken and veggies in the crock pot if you want to eat later on.”

“That sounds a lot better than the leftover pasta I was going to have. Don’t mind if I do.”

There was a patter of paws on the stairs and then Boots hurried into the room, rubbing against Annie’s legs to make her demands plainly known.

“All right. All right. You first.” Annie handed Alice the obituary about Susan’s aunt. “That’s all I found out. Pretty much the end of the story as far as tracking Susan through her. Be right back.”

When she returned from feeding the cat, Alice returned the article to her.

“End of story all right. I’m sorry.”

“Now I just have to figure out how to track Susan down through her marriage in forty-nine other states.”

“Don’t forget the territories, the District of Columbia and all the foreign countries in the world.”

“Great. Thanks.” Annie sat on the couch beside Alice and started shuffling through the mail. “Bills, bills and bills, it looks like. What did you decide about the harvest banquet?”

“It’s the pumpkin bread again.” Alice sighed dramatically. “My public demands it.”

“You know you could always–” Annie frowned at the envelope she held. “I wonder what this is. It couldn’t have come in the mail. There isn’t an address.”

Alice shrugged. “Maybe somebody brought it by. What’s in it?”

“Let’s see.”

Annie slit open the envelope and took out the single sheet of paper, half smiling as she looked at it. The letters were cut from the newspaper the way they did in old gangster movies. It had to be a joke, right?

There was concern in Alice’s eyes. “What is it?”

Annie let her read the message for herself.

FORGET ABOUT SUSAN AND MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.


About DeAnna Julie Dodson

DeAnna Julie Dodson is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, and Letters in the Attic, a contemporary mystery in the Annie’s Attic series. She is currently working on The Drew Farthering Mysteries, a new series of books set in 1930s England. A graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, she currently lives in North Texas with four spoiled cats and, when not writing, enjoys quilting, cross stitch and NHL hockey.

Interview:

Tell us about your latest book.

I’m very excited about the release of Letters in the Attic, an Annie’s Attic Mystery. Letters is the fourth book in this new series about Annie Dawson, a widow from Texas who goes up to clean out and sell her late grandmother’s Victorian house in Maine only to find a whole attic full of intriguing and sometimes mysterious objects. The series particularly interested me because Annie and her friends are all needleworkers – knitters, crocheters, quilters, cross-stitchers – and I’ve been interested in needlework for as long as I can remember.

Letters in the Attic came out this summer from DRG.

What's your favorite part of the story?

I think I enjoyed writing Officer Roy Hamilton the most. I actually didn’t think much about him at first. He was meant to be a very minor character who was there just to take fingerprints. Soon, though, he let me know that that was not going to be enough for him. He put on his mirrored sunglasses and sauntered up to me and said he just knew I had something more important for him to do. And darned if he wasn’t right!

What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

I think the most important thing is that there is freedom in truth. Hiding from it only weighs you down and keeps you prisoner. Facing the truth breaks those chains and breaks the hold of those who would use the fear of that truth against you. Once it’s in the light of day, whatever it is you’re hiding from, it loses its power.

Tell us a little about your writing. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

Of course, the greatest reference tool these days is the internet. It’s made research so much easier, though you do have to be careful of which sources you trust. Still, I like to have some actual reference books handy when I’m writing. I especially like The Well-Tempered Sentence by Karen Elizabeth Gordon and Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss for solving those thorny grammar and usage questions. They’re both extremely practical while appealing to my sometimes-off-the-wall sense of humor.

For Letters in the Attic, of course, my best friend was the packet of series information the publisher gave me so my book would mesh with the others in the series. Since writing this kind of book was new to me, this packet was really a life saver.

Who do you rely on for help when writing?

Writing can be a very lonely and isolated job. And the worst part of it is that, once you’ve written something, you can never see it the way a new reader will see it. Obviously, you know what you meant to say when you wrote it, but does it really say that? Really? You just have to have a pre-reader look it over, someone who will speak the truth in love and tell you honestly what works and what doesn’t.

I met author Robin Hardy (The Chataine’s Guardian and many, many more) when I took a “Writing Christian Fiction” class at the local community college. At that point, I didn’t imagine I would ever actually be published. She was so gracious and so kind to this very green wannabe writer. She actually read through my 250,000-word manuscript (the one that became In Honor Bound) and showed me how to improve it and, more importantly, how I could cut it down to a manageable length. Now, years later, she’s still my first and best pre-reader and a terrific friend. She catches inconsistencies and stupid mistakes and tells me when something just falls flat. I would so much rather hear it from her than from my editor or, worst of all, from my readers. I’m so blessed to know her!

Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

I’m addicted to cross-stitch and quilting. I have just a ton of projects yet to be done because I want to do everything. That’s one of the reasons I have enjoyed working on this series so much. I can relate to the ladies in the Annie’s Attic Mysteries who love to make beautiful things by hand.

What advice would you give to an unpublished writer?

I suppose there are writing prodigies out there, people who can just sit down and write perfection from word one, but I’ve never met anyone like that. The only way I know to succeed in writing is to write. And write. And write. And read a lot. And write more. I’ve heard it said that it takes about ten thousand hours to really master the craft of writing. Shortcuts don’t work. Put in your time. There’s really no other way to end up with a product that will make you proud.

But while you’re putting in your time, don’t get discouraged. Really learning to write is a long, arduous process. It’s usually a thankless job. Lots of people say they want to write. Very few stick with it long enough to actually become writers. Writing is a lonely business. It can be a very discouraging one. But if it’s something God has called you to do, there is nothing else as satisfying. Stay the course. Learn your craft. Write the book that’s on your heart. God will use it where He sees fit.

Website: http://www.deannajuliedodson.com

Blog:
http://www.deannajuliedodson.com/blog/

Purchase Letters in the Attic:
http://www.anniesmysteries.com

Friday, September 24, 2010

Formula for Danger by Camy Tang

Hi Friends,

Here is the new book I have to tell you about this week, a fun romantic suspense by my friend, Camy Tang. Here's all about it:

Formula for Danger
by
Camy Tang

HER LIFE WAS ON THE LINE

Someone wants dermatologist Rachel Grant's latest research, and they'll do anything to get it. Including trashing the plants needed for her breakthrough scar-reducing cream—and trying to run Rachel down. Desperate for help, she turns to Edward Villa, the only man she trusts. But the greenhouse owner knows too much about Rachel's research, and now he's a target, too. Break-ins, muggings, murder…the would-be thief is getting desperate—and getting closer. Edward vows to protect Rachel at all costs. Yet with time ticking away, Edward knows they have to uncover the madman shadowing Rachel before their chance for a future is destroyed.

Links:
Camy's website: http://www.camytang.com/
Camy's blog: http://camys-loft.blogspot.com/