Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Building A Family by Lyn Cote

Hi Friends,

Here's the book I wanted to tell you about next week (a little early). It's Building a Family by Lyn Cote. Here's a bit about it:

Lawyer Eleanor Washburn defends wayward teenagers and supervises volunteers for Habitat for Humanity without missing a beat. But she is unnerved by fascinating single dad Pete Beck—especially since his chaotic life includes a little girl wishing for a mother. Sweet Cassie has Eleanor yearning for what's been missing from her lonely existence. Soon, both dad and daughter are chipping away at Eleanor's defenses. Can she find the courage to risk losing her heart to this ready-made family?

Dragons of the Watch by Donita K. Paul

Hi Friends,

Here's the book I wanted to tell you about this week. It's THE DRAGONS OF THE WATCH by Donita K. Paul. And here's a bit about it:

The Chronicles of Chiril continue as Ellie and Bealomondore find themselves trapped in an isolated city guarded by dragons and separated from everything they know and love. How can they escape? Along the way they meet a group of wild children and a very old man, whose needs they must meet before they can find their way home. With the help of the dragons of the watch, they discover that their fate depends upon their ability to recognize and step in line with the Creator’s will.

About the Author:

Donita K. Paul retired early from teaching school, but soon got bored! The result: a determination to start a new career. Now she is an award-winning novelist writing Christian Romance and Fantasy. She says, “I feel blessed to be doing what I like best.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

When Life Goes Awry...

Hi Friends,

I'm working on a proposal for a new nonfiction book that I hope will encourage you in your life journey with Jesus. (No title yet ... I'll let you know when I come up with something better than "Think of Really Good Title"). Anyway, here are some ideas I'm working with for the new nonfiction book proposal. See what you think! ...

So, is your life going just as you hoped and planned? No? Well, me neither. In fact, when people ask me for a sentence that defines my life I tell them it's this: "Your plans? Ha ha!" says God.

But I also find that I'm in good company. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. If there's anyone whose life was the opposite of her hopes and plans, it was hers. Yet, I also think about the wonder she witnessed. Both wonder and disappointment. Beauty and sorrow. She touched it. Lived it. Embodied the journey of us all.

There she was, engaged, planning on a nice, quiet, happy life. And boom, an angel appears. Forget your plans, he says, God’s got different ones. You’re having a baby, and it's not gonna be your husband’s. You get to have God’s son. I suspect being unwed and pregnant was soooo not part of her plans!

But Mary reacts pretty well to the change of her plans. “I’m God’s servant,” she says. And then we get her whole prayer praising God in Luke 1:46-55 that we like to read at Christmas time.

But it doesn't stop there. She’s coming up on 9 months pregnant and what should happen but a decree – she has to go to Bethlehem. A long trip on the back of a donkey. I’ve been 9 months pregnant, so I can you tell you that there’s no way that a trip like that was a part of Mary’s plans. Couldn't God make it a little easier? Couldn't He intervene?

No. And worse yet, when they get to Bethlehem, they can’t even get a room. (Side note: We always translate the Greek word as “inn” in our English versions of the Bible, as if there’s some sort of Motel 6 there in Bethlehem. But that word is usually used for a guest room in a relative’s house. So, it could be that Joseph went to his relative’s house there in Bethlehem and found that other relatives were there first and had taken up all the space. I wonder if it was because they had to travel slowly because of Mary’s condition that there was no place for them once they got there?) I also wonder if they were thinking that surely God would provide a room for them, a nice place to have that baby that was supposed to be God’s son. But no. A stable. And not one of those cute, clean little “stables” like we have in our nativities at Christmas. Think poop, flies, and stink.

Eventually, the magi come. Now, that’s more like it. Gold. Frankincense . Myrrh. Gifts fit for a king. At last! Except that no sooner do they leave than the soldiers come. And they aren't bearing gifts. They're bearing swords, ready to kill all the baby boys. Talk about a nightmare. And Mary and Joseph have to run off to Egypt, a foreign country, where they’re all alone. Mary's hopes, Mary's plans, ruined again.

In time, they come back to Israel, and we get one story in the Bible about Jesus as a youth. One single story. And what’s he doing? Yep, giving his mom grief. At twelve, he stays behind in Jerusalem, and gives his mom the scare of her life. That sure wasn’t a dream come true for her. If you've lost a kid in a store, you can get a taste of the panic Mary must have been feeling.

And if that’s not enough, her son grows up. Now, if I were the mom of God’s son, I’d be dreaming of some big stuff. In fact, you can see some of Mary’s plans in her original prayer –

--bringing down rulers, maybe she’s thinking of Rome,

--helping the humble,

--bringing abundance, food, to the hungry,

--bringing glory to Israel like they once had.

But instead, her son is wandering around homeless riling everybody up. So much so that she and some of Jesus’ brothers have to go to talk some sense into him. And when she gets there, does Jesus say, “Mom, great to see you! Come on in, sit by me.”?? Noooo. He says, “Who are mother and my brothers… These are my mother and my brothers,” as he points to other people around him – not to her. Jesus’ public ministry certainly wasn’t Mary’s dream come true.

And then, of course, comes the worst of all. Can you imagine it? Watching your first born son arrested, beaten, spat upon, and then nailed to a cross to die. Because where was Mary then? She was at the foot of the cross. Can you imagine standing there as the blood drips, and his anguished cries echo in your ears. Your son. The son you love. I can imagine nothing worse. Nothing more gut-wrenching and horrific. That was never, ever, ever in Mary’s plans. That was the greatest nightmare come true of all time.

AND YET… and here’s the most marvelous point of all. It is in that horrific moment, in that moment that encapsulates the very epitome of what it means for plans and hopes to go awry, to die – in that moment we find the most incredible, wondrous, breathtaking act of God of all time. It is the moment of redemption, of glory, of splendor, of the answer to all the prayers and hopes from the beginning of time until now. It is at that moment that we find the salvation of all mankind.

There, at the precise moment when all Mary’s hopes died. When all her plans came to nothing. That was the moment of answer. That was when truly the poor were provided for, a ruler of evil was overthrown, and mercy was given, just as she prayed all those years before. It was the moment of glory.

I think it may always be that way. That there, at the very place where our dreams don’t come true, where our expectations are shattered – that is where God is standing in the greatest power. Those are the moments, the places that change the world, where we find a depth and wonder deeper than we ever dared to dream.

Because, this I know for certain: the life God gives you is not the life you dreamed. It is the Kingdom of Heaven lived through you. It is wondrous. It is incredible. It is unexpected. And it is found at the foot of the cross.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Faith in the Fog

Hi Friends,

The girls had a field trip yesterday at the beach, where the fog rolled in and made the day cool and the visibility small. As I walked the beach, thinking about the difficult things that many of my friends and family are going through, I was reminded of this story:

On some days, I can almost glimpse eternity. It stretches outside my office window (yep, that's my view in the picture), reaching down the green valley lined with oaks, touching the distant, snow-frosted mountains. On those days, I gaze out over the tall Monterey pines and search out that special place where sky meets earth in a blaze of blue glory. And I know that God is real, that He created all this beauty, and that He shares it with me because He loves me. On those days, I have no doubts, no questions, no fear.

Too bad every day isn't one of those days. On many days, I can see no mountains, no valley. Even the tops of pines are blotted from my view. Instead, fog is laced through the bottom branches and swirls in thick ripples across the ground. Grayness presses against my window and forms tiny water droplets on the glass. It covers the mountains, masks the oaks, camouflages the pines.

On one of those days not so long ago, I sat at my desk and peered out into the day, and saw nothing but waves of thick fog.

“So, how do you like your new office?” My husband’s voice sounded from the doorway behind me.

I turned and smiled at him.

“I love it. And the view out this window is incredible. You ought to see it.”

Bryan strode through the door and leaned against the windowsill. His eyes narrowed. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, really. Oaks and pines, and snow-tipped mountains kissing the sky.”

Bryan’s eyebrows rose. “Very poetic, but it looks like a bunch of fog to me.” His voice lowered to a mutter. “Snow-kissed mountains. Yeah, right.”

I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms over my chest. “You’ll just have to take my word for it. On a clear day . . . wow, you can see forever.”

Bryan shrugged his shoulders. “If you say so.” He dropped a handful of mail onto my desk, then turned and left.

In the moments that followed, I shuffled through the mail then allowed my gaze to again travel out the window. The fog wouldn’t lift today. And maybe not tomorrow. It could be days, I knew, before I caught sight of the mountains or valley again. But the vision of snow-topped mountains and the deep green of the valley oaks remained fixed in my mind. I knew the mountains were out there, even though I couldn’t see them. I trusted that the trees remained as green and beautiful, even when they were lost to my sight.

As I sat and listened to the silence tangle with the fog outside, I was reminded of the Bible’s definition of faith. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I used to live as if faith was seeing the mountains. I believed that if I only had enough faith, I would see God clearly, I would always know what He wants, I wouldn’t have any doubts, any questions. There would never be any fog.

But these days, I'm beginning to see faith differently. Faith, I'm coming to believe, doesn’t dispel the fog, but is found within it. Faith isn’t about seeing the mountains. It’s about believing they are there when all my senses deny it. It’s about believing in that spot of blue glory when all I see is the persistent grayness.

There are times when I wonder if God really loves me, when hurt and confusion press against the window of my soul, when doubts creep in and twine around my thoughts as surely as the fog twists through the trees. That’s when faith flourishes. As surely as I can say I know the mountains and oaks and pines are there, even though I can’t see them, so I can say, I know God loves me even though I can’t see it now. I know that I am His and that He died for me. I choose to believe what I cannot see. For faith is not seeing, but believing, even in the fog. Especially in the fog.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Wedding Kiss by Hannah Alexander

Hi Friends,

Here's the book I have to tell you about this week. It's The Wedding Kiss by Hannah Alexander. Here's a bit about it:

Against the backdrop of 1901 Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the surrounding countryside, one simple kiss draws two people into a discovery that will forever change their lives.

Marriage seems the only option for Keara McBride and Elam Jensen after Keara's father gambles away her home and ends up in jail, and Elam's children need a mother's care. When the Jensens seal their vows at the altar with a kiss, however, their marriage of convenience seems much less convenient. The first kiss they share before a church filled with witnesses ignites a beacon of attraction that leaves them both feeling guilty. Elam's wife, Gloria--who was also Keara's best friend--has been dead less than a year. How can they betray her like this? And yet...oh, that kiss. When a stranger who bears a striking resemblance to Gloria shows up injured on the front porch on Elam and Keara's wedding night, the whole family is thrown into confusion, suspense and danger. But does this stranger also hold a key to the Jensens' future happiness?

Published by Summerside Press> http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN978-1-60936-308-6

Friday, September 9, 2011

His Mercy in Disguise

Hi Friends,

This week, I wanted to share some tidbits of encouragement for those of you going through something difficult. So, here ya go:

1) Just discovered this beautiful, powerful, deeply encouraging song by Laura Story. It's called "Blessings" and it asks what if your healing comes through tears, what if the trials of this life are His mercy in disguise. Profound! Check it out here: http://bit.ly/ieOec2

2) A message from the sign I keep on my desk: "Trust Me. I have everything under control. --Jesus"

3) Thought for the day: Life may not make sense to you, but it makes sense to God. Hang in there and trust Him through all of it.

Are you going through a trial now, searching for His mercy in disguise? Feel free to share in a comment and I'll be praying for you this week!

Friday, September 2, 2011

When Life is Puzzling ...

Hi Friends,

This week I've been talking with a number of people who are going through very puzzle-like times. They're handling some very dark pieces and it seems like nothing is ever going to fit together like it should. So, as I've been pondering and wrestling in prayer, I was reminded of this story. I found it encouraging. I hope you will too. It happened like this:

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

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

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

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

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

Joelle hid it against her chest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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