Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Life: God's Wild Ride

Hi Friends,

This week I've been contemplating life with God and realizing what a wild ride it is. Tears of sorrow over Oreo's death, awe at how God used that time, weariness over all that must be done just to keep things going around here, encouragement from the Dynamic Marriage class Bryan and I are going through, wonder at how God found us two new horses to ease the pain of Oreo's passing, gratefulness for the friends he's brought us, waiting to see what will happen next with my books (I'm at the galley stage now for Shades of Morning, the novel releasing in June, which is the last one that's currently under contract), and questioning what God has for us next.

Every day around here is an adventure! It reminded me of a story I shared some time ago and was thinking about again - a story of a roller coaster ride that reminds me a lot of my life with God. It happened like this:

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

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

I grinned up at him. “Yup.”

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


He laughed. “We’ll see.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bryan chuckled. “I thought you were scared.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even when it makes my hair stand on end.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

God's Grace & Oreo

Hi Friends,

As some of you already know, our little horse, Oreo, died in our arms on Friday. And I will never be same.

Not so much because I've lost a special, wonderful horse that we all loved, but because in her passing, God showed us His grace in amazing and powerful ways.

As you know from previous posts, Bryan and I have been thinking about how we might and we must cultivate an attitude of gratefulness in ourselves and in our kids instead of an attitude of entitlement. And so, when we found out Oreo had cancer, our prayers became ones for wisdom for how to guide our girls through the experience of Oreo's sickness and upcoming death in a way that would be healing for them and help them to see God more clearly and be thankful.

That day for wisdom came on Friday, while Bryan was out of town and the girls were all at school. Pop called from the horse pens to say that Oreo was laying down. I went to her and found her lying on her side, and I knew she would never get up again. So, the question came - should I call the vet and ask him to come out so Oreo would be gone and buried before the girls came home from school, or should I see if Oreo could hold out long enough for the girls to say their goodbyes? I prayed for wisdom. God gave it. So I prayed that He would give Oreo the grace to hold on until the girls came home and we could pray over her, say our goodbyes, and be there for her. Then, I waited and I watched. Oreo held on.

Later, I went to get the older girls from school. On the way home, I told them about Oreo. They wailed and wept, and little Joelle cried out, "But I didn't get to thank her for everything she did for me!" So, I prayed some more, that God would let Oreo live until Joelle got to say her thank you's.

Oreo held on. She was laying quietly when we arrived. We ran to her, gathered around her, and held her, petted her, and told her how much we loved her. Joelle thanked her. We talked about heaven and being made new. Then, we prayed. We thanked God for the time we had with her, thanked Him for how much Oreo meant to us, and for the gift of her. For 40 minutes we stayed with her, with Joelle at her head, talking, praying, petting, holding, and crying.

Then, Oreo gave one last shudder, stretched, and died in our arms. As she passed, the little girls started to pray again, prayers of thankfulness, of gratefulness to God, and requests that Oreo be taken to God's pastures in heaven. Then, they looked up into the sky and called out their final goodbyes.

It was the most heartbreaking, beautiful thing I've ever experienced. To witness God's grace in allowing us to be there in Oreo's final moments, to feel His tender care, to see the work He did in my girls' hearts taking them from "why doesn't God heal her, why didn't we get more time with her, etc." when we first found out about the cancer to "thank you, God, thank you, Oreo, we love you," and seeing God's grace and blessing in the midst of such sorrow when she died.

The next day, we put flowers on her grave and all four of the little girls prayed, and Joelle prayed such a sweet prayer of thankfulness that my heart broke all over again. And I thought about how she had been baptized just a few months ago and had made her very serious commitment-to-God-for-a-lifetime pledge and how God took her through this so soon after, deepening her faith and her vision of Him. I was left breathless in wonder.

And so, this week we're grieving, and sometimes I see Joelle staring off with a serious look in her eye, and I know she's thinking of her Oreo. And sometimes, I see her eyes turn red with tears. But we're healing too, and we're still thanking God, and we're grateful that we can see and experience His love and grace in the midst of losing the little mare that we loved so much.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Beneath a Southern Sky by Deborah Raney

Hi Friends,

Here's the new novel (written by my friend Deb Raney) that I wanted to tell you about this week:

Beneath A Southern Sky
by Deborah Raney
WaterBrook Press

First released in 2001, Beneath a Southern Sky, has been reissued with a new cover as part of WaterBrook Press's new value line fiction.

Her Second Husband Healed the Sorrow of a Tragic Loss.

Her First Has Just Returned from the Dead.

Which Man Has the Right to Claim Daria's Heart?

After two years of serving as a missionary in a remote area of South America, Daria Camfield has returned to the States to mourn her husband, reportedly killed while providing medical aid to a neighboring Colombian village.

One family discovers how God can redeem any tragedy.

At first, Daria finds comfort only in the daughter born to her after Nate's tragic death. As she begins to heal, she also finds a listening ear and a tender heart in her new boss, veterinarian Colson Hunter. Determined to move forward with life, Daria ignores the still small voice calling her to wait and accepts Cole's marriage proposal. But after the wedding, Daria's new dream life turns into a nightmare with the arrival of an unbelievabletelegram:"Nathan Camfield found alive. Flying into K.C. Int'l. via Bogota…"

Now two men have the right to her daughter, her life, and her love. Will Daria return to her beloved first husband, abandoning Cole? Or will she reject Nate and choose the only man her daughter has ever called "Daddy"--a man she has come to cherish with all her heart?

• 2002 RITA Award from RWA• 2002 FH&L Inspirational Readers' Choice Award• Book of the Year for American Christian Romance Writers (now ACFW)• 2001 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award• 2002 HOLT Medallion Finalist• 2002 Aspen Gold Award, 2nd place• Named one of christianbook.com's Top 10 Fiction book of 2001

BIO: DEBORAH RANEY is at work on her 20th novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Almost Forever, first in her new Hanover Falls Novels series, will release in May from Howard/Simon & Schuster. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas. They are new empty nesters with four grown children and two precious grandsons, all of whom live much too far away.

WEBSITE: http://www.deborahraney.com

PURCHASE THIS BOOK: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/cms_content?event=AFF&p=1142383&page=561314&sp=67484

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thoughts on the Grateful Life

Hi Friends,

This week's crazy-busy, so I only have a few moments to share what I've been thinking about this week. We found out that our little Oreo has a kidney tumor that seems like fairly aggressive cancer, so it's really just a matter of time before... (you know ... ugh). So, that's been super hard. But I usually figure that if I've got to go through a hard thing I may as well squeeze all the life lessons and character development I can out of it while I'm there.

So, in light of that, the girls and I have been talking and thinking long and hard about having an attitude of gratefulness in life rather than an attitude of entitlement. I'm hoping to live this season with that gratefulness and help them do the same. So, we've been considering (in the midst of tears and sorrow over Oreo) how thankful we are for the time we've had with her - how she taught Joelle how to be a confident rider, how to sit the trot and the lope, how to do gymkhana, and how Joelle taught little Oreo how to jump, and how much enjoyment they've gotten from each other. We've also been thinking about God's kindness not just to us for giving us at least this little time with Oreo, but also His kindness toward her. Knowing that she was near the end of her life, he brought her to us, a family who would love her through her last days. She had the chance to teach one more little girl how to ride before the end (two, actually, because she helped Bethany so much too), which is something she loves to do. At her former home, she'd done that, but the girls had all grown up and she didn't have a job to do there anymore, so she was just sitting around. How kind of God to allow her a last opportunity to be loved by little girls and teach them. Oh, I'm getting choked up just writing this!

I suppose we could complain about how little time we've had, how we expected years and years more with her, how God hasn't healed her, how unfair it all is. But instead, we're hoping to focus on God's love and kindness, and I'm hoping to show and teach the girls how that attitude of gratefulness can change our lives for the better, how becoming a grateful person who thanks instead of expects, who see God's kindness instead of his "no," who looks for God's love in all things, will radically change the way we approach life and allow us to see Him more clearly and live the lives He envisions for us.

So anyway, that's what we've been mulling on around here ... even as we cry our tears for Oreo. (And thanks to all of you who have shared how you're praying for us, we so appreciate it, because even though we're learning to cultivate grateful hearts, this is also a very hard thing, and a very sad thing. So, we're grateful for all of you, too!)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge

Hi Friends,

I've got a great new marriage book to tell you about today - just in time for Valentine's day! I haven't had a chance to read all the way through it yet because I've been keeping up with my homework for the Dynamic Marriage class that Bryan and I have been taking at church on Monday nights (it's going great). But I'm really looking forward to digging in to this new book soon. It looks to be really helpful. Anyway, here's the info in case you want to check it out for yourself. (In fact, if you're married, I suggest making a Valentine's commitment to your spouse to read one marriage book every couple months together for the year - wouldn't that be a great way to invest in your marriage?!). Now, to the info:

Book: Love and War
Author: John and Stasi Eldredge

What the Eldredge bestsellers Wild at Heart did for men, and Captivating did for women, LOVE & WAR will do for married couples everywhere. John and Stasi Eldredge have contributed the quintessential works on Christian spirituality through the experience of men and the experience of women and now they turn their focus to the incredible dynamic between those two forces. With refreshing openness that will grab readers from the first page, the Eldredges candidly discuss their own marriage and the insights they’ve gained from the challenges they faced. Each talks independently to the reader about what they’ve learned, giving their guidance personal immediacy and a balance between the male and female perspectives that has been absent from all previous books on this topic. They begin LOVE & WAR with an obvious but necessary acknowledgement: Marriage is fabulously hard. They advise that the sooner we get the shame and confusion off our backs, the sooner we'll find our way through. LOVE & WAR shows couples how to fight for their love and happiness, calling men and women to step into the great adventure God has waiting for them together. Walking alongside John and Stasi Eldredge, every couple can discover how their individual journeys are growing into a story of meaning much greater than anything they could do or be on their own.

Here are different options where you can purchase the book online:

This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fatal Burn by Roxanne Rustand

Hi Friends,

Here's the novel I have to tell you about this week. Sounds like a good one!

Roxanne Rustand
Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense
Isbn 978-0-373-44380-2
February, 2010

Smoke and mirrors...
Someone's after Kris Donaldson. and they don't just want her hurt--they want her ruined. First, an arsonist tries to destroy her cabin, and evidence points to Kris as possible insurance fraud. Then an injured deputy is found at her place...with ballistics proof that he was shot with her rifle. Even Trace Randall, the arson investigator who's helped her before, seems to doubt her now. She has to prove her innocence, but how? Her reputation, her life--and her chance for happiness with Trace--are all on the line.

Roxanne Rustand is the author of twenty-eight romantic suspense and heart-warming relationship novels, including eleven inspirational titles. Her 2010 releases include two books in her Big Sky Secrets series for Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense: Fatal Burn in February and End Game in June. In November, 2010, Winter Reunion will be released, the first book in her Aspen Creek Crossroads series for Love Inspired. She lives in the country with her family, and a menagerie of pets that frequently find their way into her books.

For information, visit her blogs and website at: http://www.roxannerustand.com/ www.shoutlife.com/roxannerustand http://roxannerustand.blogspot.com/ (The All Creatures Great and Small Place)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Squeezed, Pressed, Shaped ... Life in the Master's Hands

Hi Friends,

I wrote a column for Power for Living last week that really describes my life right now and what I'm learning in it. So, I thought I'd share those thoughts here (as my column won't come out for over a year!). So, anyway, here's what I'm thinking about lately, especially with our little Oreo sick and failing (vet is coming out again tomorrow morning for an exam, checking for a tumor/cancer - all prayers welcomed and needed!).

Anyway, here are some thoughts:

I could see it in my mind, the vision of a delicate bird, made from yellow play dough. I placed the dough on the table before me and began to shape the soft, pliable material as my four-year-old twins rolled their lumps of dough into different figures.

“Look, I made a snake!” Bria called.

“I did a hamburger. Yum!” Jayna held up her creation.

I grinned and worked at my dough. In some places, I pressed, in others, I smoothed. I squeezed, I plumped, I removed unneeded pieces to certain areas and added to others. I made bumps that would become wings, lines that would define the tail, and tiny balls that would be squeezed into a beak and two eyes.

Jayna stopped her work and leaned toward me. “What’s that?” She pointed at the clay in my hand.

“You’ll see.”

“Is it a cat?”

“You’ll see.”

Bria furrowed her eyebrows. “I think it’s a flower.”

I chuckled. “Just wait, and you’ll see.”

They settled back into their chairs, played with their dough, and kept watching for my creation to take on a recognizable shape.

I continued pressing, pushing, smoothing, trimming and adding. Then, the questions started again.

“Why are you doing that?”

“Why do you need that?”

“What’s that for?”

I had the vision of a beautiful bird in my mind, but the twins couldn’t see it yet. To them, what I was doing seemed strange and meaningless.

I pulled out a butter knife and did some detail work. “Trust me.” I pressed lines into the wings to make feathers. I shaped the eyes and trimmed the beak. I removed bits to refine the feet and tail feathers. Then, I held it up. “See.”

Jayna sucked in a breath. “A bird.”

Bria sat up straighter. “That’s a hummingbird.”

“Yes, it is.” I grinned at them. “Do you like it?”

“I love it,” they said in unison.

As I held the play dough bird in my hand, I considered the work it took to make it, work that didn’t make sense to my two little observers. But I knew what the dough would become all along. I set the bird on a shelf for the twins to admire then popped back into my office.

There, I found an email from a disgruntled co-worker, an overdue notice that had come in the mail, a reminder of the deadlines I was having trouble meeting, and a message from the vet about my very sick horse. I put my head in my hands. I’d prayed about all those things, but nothing seemed to be getting better. As I looked at all the reminders of the hard things in my life, it just didn’t make sense. I couldn’t see how God was working. Here I was, squeezed, pressed, dented, hurt. And God seemed so distant.

“Lord, I’m tired. Where are You?” I whispered.

I waited for an answer, but I didn’t get one. All I got was the image of my play dough hummingbird flitting through my mind along with a few scripture passages:

“For we are God's workmanship....” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV), and “We are the clay, you [God] are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (NIV).

Finally, I understood. I am the hummingbird. I just need to trust Him, to remain soft and pliable in His hands. Just because things don’t make sense to me, just because I can’t understand what He’s doing, just because it all seems like a big, useless lump, doesn’t mean that God is absent. It simply means that He has His own vision in mind. And maybe, just maybe, He’s pressing, smoothing, squeezing, poking in order to shape me into the person I am meant to be. Perhaps He’s closer than I can even imagine.

So in times of pressing, I’m learning that I need to trust that “… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV) If I place myself in his hands, nothing that happens to me is pointless. He can, and does, use everything, even the things that don’t make sense, to form me into the vision He has for me.

And that vision is to be like His Son.