Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

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:


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.


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.




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.


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.”


“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:
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:


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.”


“I didn’t feel it, though.”


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