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.