Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Life Throws You a Curve...

Hi Friends,

Sometimes life throws you a curve.  Things become uncertain, strange, not what you expected.  In those times, I've found this story from a few years ago (when Jayna was a toddler) to be a helpful encouragement. Maybe you'll find it helpful too!  Read on . . .

Darkness closed in around our camper just as the crickets began to sing. It was going to be a long night.  I knew it because there was no familiar crib, no Curious George toy, no door I could close to shut my two-year-old daughter off from the strange and scary noises of the night.

I zipped up Jayna’s jammies and kissed her forehead.  Then, I set her on the bed in the pop-up camper and pointed to a spot beside the canvas wall.   “Night night time, Jayna. Lay down.”

Her brow wrinkled.  Her lip trembled.  “Nigh Nigh?”

“It’s okay.  Lay down.”  I pointed again.  “Close eyes.”

She looked down at the spot.  Her eyes stayed opened.  Too wide.  

I cringed.  “No cry.  Go night night.”  I patted the bed.

She sniffed and scowled some more.  Then, she rubbed her nose and pranced in a circle around the bed, her head barely skimming the canvas above.  

“No, no, no!”  I snatched her up and plunked her down on the thin mattress.  “Night night.”

She sprung back up.

I bit my lip.  I knew this wasn’t going to work.  Jayna was used to her own room, her own crib, her own little Winnie the Pooh bumper to keep her head from hitting the crib’s slats.  This wide camper bed, with plain sheets, wobbly sides, and a big pillow was nothing like where she slept every night.  It was strange, different.  Weird.  I sighed.  “Okay, just wait a minute.”

I put on my pajamas and quickly brushed my teeth.  Then, I crawled into the bed beside her and pulled up the covers.

She stopped prancing and stood still.  She looked at me.

I patted the bed beside me.  “Night night.  Lay down by Mommy.”

She plopped down and rolled on her side, her big eyes fastened on my face.

I blinked as a swath of moonlight trickled in to illuminate Jayna’s face.

She smiled at me.

I smiled back.  

She inched closer.  Then, she sat up and patted my shoulder.

“Mama hee-a.”  The words came out as an awed whisper.

“Yes, Mommy’s here.”

She laid back down and snuggled up next to me.  Then she began to laugh.  “Mama here.  Mama here.  Mama here,” she said between giggles.  She turned to face me.  A huge grin lit her face.  She touched my cheek.  “Mama.  Here.”

I laughed with her as I held out my arms and gathered her close. 

She closed her eyes, the smile still evident on her little face.  She was happy, thrilled, comfortable, secure.  Despite the darkness, despite the strangeness, despite the weird sound of a hundred crickets chirping outside in the night.  None of that matter, because Mommy was here.  The joy of Mommy’s presence drove all the fear away.

As I laid there in the moonlight, with Jayna snoring softly next to me, I marveled that for her “Mama here” was enough.  And if that was so, shouldn’t “Jesus here” be enough for me as well?

When I enter the dark places in my life, times laced with uncertainty, scattered with strange and unfamiliar sounds, why should I fear?  Jesus is with me.  He said in Matthew 28:20 (NIV), “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Always.  When I’m traveling alone, when I’m in a group of strangers, when I’m trying something new, when I’m in circumstances that are unfamiliar and difficult.  He is with me.  

When worries chirp outside my camper walls, when I can’t see beyond the end of my bed, when it looks like life is taking a turn to places that make my brows wrinkle and my lips tremble, then God says to me, as it says in Isaiah 41:10 (NIV), “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

And so maybe, for me too, “Jesus here” will be enough.  Maybe I don’t need to fear because God is with me, wherever I go, wherever I lay down to rest.  Maybe I, too, can just snuggle in and have a little giggle.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Live the Good Life

Hi Friends,

In honor of Joelle's 9th birthday yesterday, here's a little story from when she was 3, and with it, a tip on how to live the good life . . .

I stood there with the blanket in my hands and tears in my eyes.  Light shone through a dozen great, gaping holes in the crocheted blanket.  I had made the blanket for my 3-year-old when I was pregnant with her.  It was to be a special gift, an heirloom, for her to keep into adulthood.  But here it was, filled with holes, with her standing beside me with scissors in her hand.

“Oh, Joelle, how could you?”

Her eyes slid away.  

“You know this is your special blanket.”

She sniffed and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand.  “I didn’t know.”

I closed my eyes.  She was right.  She didn’t know.  She didn’t understand how special that blanket was, and that I couldn’t replace it, and it would be almost impossible to repair.  She didn’t understand what that blanket meant to me, and would one day mean to her.  There were a lot of things that didn’t know.

But there were some things she did know.  One was that she wasn’t allowed to get the scissors out of the drawer.  The other was that she wasn’t to play with her blanket.  She didn’t like those rules, didn’t understand them.  But today showed the results of breaking them -- a blanket filled with holes.

I took the scissors out of her hand and placed them high up on a shelf.  Then, I folded the blanket into a ball.  

Joelle chewed her lower lip.  “Can you fix it, Mommy?”

I shook my head.  “I don’t think so, sweetheart.  You did a bad thing when you cut it up with the scissors.”

She took a big, gulping sob and then ran to her bed and threw herself into the pillow.  

I stood there and didn’t follow.  Truth was, I didn’t know what to do or what to say.  Nothing could make it all better now.  She would just have to live with the consequences, now and into the future.  That’s just how it would be.

I went downstairs, spread the blanket on a table, and tried to figure out how I make salvage the mess.  As I did, I thought about her words, “I didn’t know.”  

How often do I say that same thing to God?  I didn’t know that little white lie would come back to bite me.  I didn’t know that if I just kept stubbornly pushing for my way, I’d end up regretting it.  I didn’t know that if I was rude to that person I would pay for it later.  I didn’t know a lot of things.

But I did know that God calls me to the truth, all the time.  I knew that God wants me to submit to his will and leadership in my life.  I knew he asks me to be kind to everyone, whether I feel like it or not.  

As it says in Deuteronomy 4:40 (NIV), “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.”

Sometimes, God’s commands seem restrictive and no fun.  But he gives them to me all the same, and the reason he does is because I don’t know – I can’t see how everything will turn out.  So he gives me instructions in His Word so that it will go well with me.  

And just like Joelle, I can ignore the rules too.  I can get a chair, get into the off-limits drawer, and pull out the forbidden scissors.  I can have great fun . . . for a moment.  But later, there’s going to be tears and things that cannot always be put back the way they were.

So now when I read about God’s commands in the Bible, I remember that they’re there because I don’t know everything, and he’s just trying to keep me from cutting holes in my own blanket.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life Feeling a Little Wobbly? Read This!

Hi Friends,

After my fall on my horse this week (she stumbled, we both fell), I was reminded of this story of a similar fall from my bike when I was in college.  So, if life's feeling a little wobbly these days, or you think you might be headed for the trees, read on!

It was my first new bike ever. A beautiful apple-red mountain bike, with a shiny black seat and real, honest-to-goodness gears. Not many gears, but gears all the same. Unfortunately, it was also the cheapest new bike I could find. In the weeks before heading off to college, I had scoured the newspaper ads to find the very lowest price for a new bike. Eventually, I found it.

I didn’t realize my mistake until a few months later when I was late to Chemistry class. I pedaled hard up the last hill. Gears crunched, wheels turned, my backpack slipped sideways on my shoulder. Then, it happened. With a sharp crack, followed by a loud clunk, the left pedal broke and fell off my bike. I swerved off the path, brushed against a tall pine, and finally crunched into an old wooden bench. I looked down at the spot where the pedal should have been and at the fresh smear of grease on my pant leg. 

Then, I propped the bike against the bench and went back to retrieve the pedal. Surely I could just stick it back on, or screw it in, or do something to make it stay put. But it wasn’t that easy. With the right tool, and a couple small parts, the pedal could be fixed. But that didn’t help me now, on the side of the bike path, five minutes late to Chemistry 101.

So, I popped the pedal into a pouch in my backpack, climbed back on the shiny black seat, pointed the bike in the right direction, and pushed my foot against the one pedal that was left. After two wobbly revolutions of the wheels, I quit. Trying to ride a bike with only one pedal was not only impractical, it was impossible. The bike was still apple red, the seat still shiny, the gears still working as they should. Everything was just right, except for the one missing pedal. But that’s all it took for the whole bike to be useless for its purpose. So, there I was, with a perfectly good bike, minus one pedal, walking to class and pushing the bike beside me.

I learned two valuable lessons that day: First, cheapest is not always best. And second, more importantly, both pedals need to be attached for a bike to go.

 The second lesson has come back to me often over the years since college. I don’t ride a bike much anymore, but there still have been plenty of times when my daily life seemed to be veering off the path and heading toward the pines. When, no matter how hard I was trying to pedal uphill, I just couldn’t get things to work. And in those times, most of my life still looked right – the shiny parts were still shiny, the gears still worked as they should. But something had gotten lost or loosened along the way. Something had to be fixed before my life could pedal up the straight path again.

Sometimes that something was a relationship that needed mending, or a habit that had to be changed. Sometimes it was fear replacing faith, or a hidden anger that things hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. Most often, something had gone awry spiritually. I was too busy to take the time needed to maintain an intimate relationship with God. So, the pedal of trust grew loose and my life wobbled into the trees. When that happens, I’ve found that I need to stop trying to push forward, get off the bike for a moment, and see what’s wrong. Then, it’s time to ask God to repair my broken parts and make me whole.

In those times, I often pray the words of Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV): “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

 And God is more than willing to replace my pedals and help me back onto the path He’s chosen for me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Facing Criticism with Grace

Hi Friends,

This week, Bryan and I have been talking about criticism (he hates it and I'm not so fond of it either -- who is?).  So, in keeping with that topic, I thought it might be helpful to offer some tips on facing criticism with grace (besides, I need the reminder!).  Often in life criticism comes when we don't want it and don't expect it. It's often awkward, sometimes rude, and may not seem helpful at all. And even if people are well-intentioned (and something they aren't!), their criticism hurts. So, how can we respond in a Christ-like manner to criticism whether it's true or not?

Here are some tips:


1. Do keep a cool head. Anger will cloud your reasoning.

2. Do say a quick prayer, asking God keep you from being defensive and to show you any truth in the person's words.

3. Do hear the criticism without allowing it to affect your self worth. God can use criticism to point out flaws that He hopes to change.

4. Do hear the feelings behind the complaints. Sometimes criticism is the way people say, "I need help. I feel bad, and I want you to fix it." Watch for an opportunity to show that you care. A sensitive, rather than argumentative, response will make the other person feel valued, not demeaned.

5. Do be ready to admit any fault of your own, no matter how small.

6. Do ask the person to be part of the solution. Perhaps they can fill in where they think you're falling short.

7. Do thank the person for their concern (whether their words show concern or not).


1. Don't immediately jump to your own defense. In time, you may need to present your side of the story, but to do so initially will only make your critic try harder to convince you of your fault.

2. Don't tell the person they're wrong. Being adversarial only causes resentment.

3. Don't answer immediately, especially if you find your emotions starting to flare. Instead ask for time to think and pray about what was said. Tell your critic you'll get back with him later. (Then do so.)

4. Don't worry about being right. It's better to be accused falsely than to lambaste the other person. Remember that your relationship with the criticizer is more important than who is right. Differences should be honestly and healthily confronted, but they won’t always be resolved.
Finally, remember that Jesus, too, was criticized and condemned. But, "when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23 NIV). Criticism, and even injustice, are an opportunity to reflect the character of Christ.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nooooooo, Don't Do It!

Hi Friends,

This week, we've been talking to our kids about choosing wisely, doing right ... not so much because God will "getcha" if you don't, but because we want life to go well for them.  

As we were talking, I was reminded of this story about avoiding sin:

The room was crowded and the night sweltering as we took our family to Chevy’s Mexican Restaurant to enjoy an evening out.  Before long, a sizzling platter of chicken fajitas was placed before us with a mound of sour cream and guacamole heaped to one side.  And there, perched high and proud on the top of the pico de gallo, was an enormous jalepeno pepper.  

Becky’s eyes lit up as she saw it.  Soon, her chubby hand reached across the table to grasp the pepper in her fist.  "Pickle!” she exclaimed as a huge smile spread over her face.  

I gasped.  "No, no, Becky,” I admonished.  "It’s not a pickle.  Here, give it to me.”  I reached over and tried to pry the vegetable from her grip.  

Immediately, she shrieked her disapproval.  "Pickle!  Mine!”

"Listen to me.”  I attempted to remain calm.  "That is a jalepeno pepper.  It’s very hot.
You’ll burn your mouth if you eat it.”
Her forehead furrowed in consternation.  Becky loved pickles.  And, to her young eyes, the pepper looked an awful lot like her favorite kind. 

"It’s very hot,” I repeated.  

In a fraction of a second she made up her mind.  She knew better than I did.  It was a pickle.  So, with one swift movement, she shoved the pepper into her mouth and bit down.  

Sure enough, a moment later, her eyes watered, her mouth burned, and she was crying for water.  "Waa!  Hot!” she hollered, her hand grabbing for the closest glass in sight.   

Gulp, gulp, gulp, she guzzled down the water.  But her mouth still burned.  I shrugged my shoulders.  It was too late for my advice now.

Am I ever as foolish as Becky?  Sin is like a jalepeno pepper.  Sometimes it looks good, like a sweet, juicy pickle, but it burns us when we bite into it.  In Deuteronomy 5:29 (NIV), God laments, "Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”  In His word, God warns me against eating the peppers.  He wants my life to go well.  And He knows that sin will always hurt me, no matter how harmless it may seem at the time.

But, sometimes, I think I know better than God.  He says "No,” but I ignore Him.  I think my circumstances are special, it's really not a big deal, or I really will be better off if I just get my way this one time.  But sure enough, as soon as I sink my teeth into sin, I suffer.  Then I must endure the painful consequences in my life that no amount of water can quench.  Of course, God forgives, but my mouth is still left burning.

Now, when faced with temptation, I remind myself of Becky’s face, all wrinkled up as she grabbed for the water glass.  And I remember that sin is not a sweet pickle, it's a hot jalepeno pepper.  And that helps me to be wise, especially when temptations come my way!