Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Good News! A New Book!

Hi Friends,

I just got off the phone with my agent, Steve Laube, who was telling me that Zondervan Publishers is very excited to publish my new nonfiction book, Wrestling With Wonder (the book that will take a deep look at the life of Mary, Jesus' mother, to explore the character of God and His workings in our lives).

I AM SO EXCITED to be writing this book under contract and partnering with a company who seems to have caught the vision for it.  YAY!

Anyway, I just had to share the good news and ask you to be praying for me over the next 10 months as I write this book.  God has given me such a beautiful vision for what this book could be, so I'd ask for you to pray that I will find the words and those deep truths that God wants me to express, and then express them in a way that touches hearts and minds in a real way.  And pray for the insights, the time to write, the connection I need with God to make this book come to life.  Thank you!!!

Meanwhile, here's a bit from the book's proposal so you can see what it's supposed to be about:

The life we live is not the life we dreamed.  Instead the dreams, dresses, and dances are swallowed by difficulties, disappointments, and doubts.  Where is God’s favor then?  What does His favor even mean?

For Mary, the mother of Jesus, it meant an unexpected pregnancy, a difficult journey, a son she didn’t understand, and a moment at the foot of the cross that was so dark, so terrible, that it takes our breath away.  For her, it meant a life that didn’t make sense, but did make her into the woman she was always meant to be - the mother of our Savior.  Only through hardship could she become the woman she was created to be.  It’s no different for us.

Because Mary shows us God -- Passionate, breath-taking, and unpredictable...

Who is this God?  For us, like Mary, His favor isn’t about our happiness.  It isn’t about a life of ease, of every-prayer-answered as we expect, or easy faith.  It’s about His tireless commitment to make us into the unique creation that He envisions us to be.  It’s about standing at the foot of the cross and seeing our dreams die so that His dreams can come to life.  It’s about finding Him and being amazed.

Mary’s story illuminates all of our stories because it shows us the depth and purposes of a God who is often not who we expected Him to be.  By traveling with her through the pages of this book, readers will find their perspective transformed from discouragement to hope, from fear to deep joy.  By wrestling with wonder from the manger to the cross, they will find a God who takes their breath away ... even, and especially, in those moments when life seems to have gone awry.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Walking in the Dark

Hi Friends,

These last few weeks for me have been a strange contrast of darkness and light, confusion and clarity, discouragement and hope.  And as I've faced each extreme, I've been pondering what it means, in a practical sense, to place my hope fully in GOD -- not in circumstances, not in these ups and downs, not in trying to make sense of things that don't make sense.  I've been thinking of what it means to walk in hope and light even when life is discouraging and dark.

And while I've pondered and grown in my understanding, I found this story that happened a few years ago to be helpful in my journey.  I hope you'll find it useful too as you walk in whatever darkness is before you, and learned to trust the light even in the dark.

It happened like this:

The house shuddered. The wind rattled against the windows. Outside, lightning flashed against a pitch-black sky. I huddled beneath my blanket and flipped the television station to the news.

The TV flickered.

So did the lights.

Then, everything went dark.

My husband, Bryan, shifted in his chair. “Power’s out.” He got up and turned the television to “off.” Then he flipped the light switches. “Guess we should just head to bed. Good thing we got ready early.”

I gripped by blanket tighter and squinted into the darkness. I could almost make out the outline of his chair. “Do you have a flashlight over there?”

“What for?”

I huffed. “So I can see where I’m going between here and our room, of course.”

Bryan sighed. “Come on. Just get up and go. It’s not that far.”

“But it’s dark.”

“You should be able to get between here and there with your eyes closed.”

“Yeah, but…”


I tossed aside the blanket and stood up. But the shadows didn’t become any lighter, or clearer. “Oh, okay, you’re right.” After all, I told myself, I’d walked between here and the bedroom hundreds of times before. Still, I wished there had been a little more light.

I took a step forward, then another. A moment later, I navigated around the coffee table, around a chair, through the doorway, skirted the dresser, and reached my side of the bed.

Bryan was already on his side. I could sense him grinning in the darkness. “See, told ya.”

I crawled into bed then glanced back into the shadows. I could nearly see the outline of the dresser, but not the chair on the far side of the door. There, it was completely black. And yet, I’d walked that distance without running into the furniture or stubbing my toe or hitting a wall. Bryan was right. I’d been able to cross the distance not because I could see, but because I’d been that way before. Because I remembered in the dark what I had seen in the light.

As I lay there in bed, listening to the thunder, I thought about how walking through my home in a power outage is similar to walking through the dark times of life. There are times life when I just can’t see what’s ahead. When life gets dark and confusing. Jobs change. Kids move out. Tragedy strikes. Friendships crumble. Doubts rise. Fears whisper. Choices present themselves. And I know I must move forward, but I can’t see the way.

It’s at those times that I need to remember that even if I haven’t faced these exact circumstances, I have walked this way before. I’ve seen God’s love, mercy, guidance, truth in the light. I’ve known I can trust Him. I’ve believed He will lead me aright. There have been times when doubts didn’t rage, when I saw prayers answered, and gifts of His love to me in my everyday life.

I’ve walked through darkness before too. And I’ve seen that He is faithful, that He won’t leave me or forsake me, and that not even doubt, darkness, or confusion can separate me from the love of God. 

Perhaps that’s why Hebrews 10:32 (NIV) says, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.” The Hebrew writer calls readers to remember both the light and how they stood fast despite the darkness So, too, we are called to remember God’s truth in our own lives, and how He has been faithful to us when we faced times of trial. He has helped us find our way before, when the lights went out.

So now when I face times of confusion and darkness, I remind myself that if walked this way before, and I can navigate through if only I remember in the darkness what I saw in the light. If only I remember that God has brought me through “lights out” times before. And of course, it helps to recall that the power won’t stay out forever … before too long, the lights will come on again.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why God Values Your Life Even When It's a Mess

Hi Friends,

I was talking to a friend last night about what it means to surrender our lives to God -- and how that surrendered life doesn't always look like we might expect.  To give our lives to God may mean our life becomes this crazy, unpredictable thing that may seem a mess to ourselves or to others walking by.  We may be sent to the "valley of the shadow of death."  Our lives may not look like "victory" but like incredible defeat.  Life may be filled with loss or confusion or pain, or a whole lot of doubt.  

And as I was thinking about the surrendered life as a gift to God, I remembered a story I shared before, a story about pictures on the frig.  And it reminded me that no matter how ugly our lives (our "pictures") may seem to us, God values them so highly.  We are not expendable.  We are not "throw away" ... even when He doesn't come in and make our  pictures look pretty from the outside.  In the mess, He counts us as precious, and makes us His own.  We are His, and that changes everything.

Anyway, here's the story of pictures on the frig.  I hope it will encourage you as it encouraged me, to remember how God sees you, how he values you and your life surrendered to him ... even in the darkest, messiest, most painful times:

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 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 Bethany.  As soon as she saw me, she let out a squeal and waved a piece of yellow construction paper over her head.  

“Mommy, mommy, look!” she cried as she hurled herself toward me.  

The other kids rushed past like a river at flood-stage.  Bethany 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 Bethany’s handprint started off well, then dropped off to a long squiggle at the pinkie finger.  

I pulled Bethany 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.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What's a Truck Hitch Have to do with Love?

Hi Friends,

In honor of Bryan and I being married for 24 whole years as of this week, I thought it would be fun to share a story from earlier in our marriage (when our Ford Explorer was new!).

As I was thinking about this story, I realized that what I learned about my relationship with Bryan also applies to my relationship with God.  If I really love God, I'll be interested in the the things that interest Him.  Today, I'm thinking about what that means in my every day life . . .

Meanwhile, here's the story of Bryan and I:

Well, it finally happened. My husband, Bryan, got a brand new hitch for his Ford Explorer. Not just any old hitch, mind you - not one of those pesky little balls on the bumper. Oh no. This was a man-sized hitch.

I knew I was in trouble when Bryan came home with a smile as big as a slice of watermelon. “So, what do you think,” he grinned, motioning to the back of the truck.

I glanced at the metal bar and attempted to appear impressed. “Uh, it’s nice.” I squatted down to look closer, thinking I must be missing something. Nope, it still looked like nothing more than a steel bar with a hole in it. Somehow, I had expected more for the three hundred and some odd dollars he’d paid for it.

“Nice?! Is that all you can say?” Bryan raised his eyebrows. “That’s a Type 3 hitch. Why, we could pull a huge boat,” he motioned with one hand into the air, “or a camper, or a big trailer, or, or, well, just about anything!”


 Bryan glanced at me and sighed, obviously disheartened by my lack of enthusiasm.

Of course, I would have been more impressed if we actually had one of those things he mentioned. But we didn’t. No boat, no camper, no trailer, not even one of those little bike racks. Nothing. But, this fact didn’t seem to squelch Bryan’s joy. And I knew better than to point it out.

“Gee, it’s . . .” I searched for a word. “Lovely.”

The watermelon-look turned more like a prune.

I swallowed. Hard. Apparently, “lovely” is not a word you should use in conjunction with a man’s truck. I took a deep breath and tried again. “It looks very strong.”

Bryan’s face lit up again. “It can pull 5,000 pounds.”

Was that a lot? I didn’t know. I decided to take the leap. “Wow, isn’t that great. That’s a pretty powerful piece of equipment. I’m impressed.” I then proceeded to make the appropriate “oooo” and “ahhh” sounds.

Bryan’s grin returned, full force. Then, he knelt down to show me just how incredible that hitch really was, and how much we could now do with it. As he explained a variety of very important features that meant nothing at all to me, I realized something. He was happy. And I was happy. And that made our marriage just a little bit better.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. I discovered that being interested in the things that interest my husband shows him that I value him. I was reminded of Paul’s instruction in Philippians 2:4 (NIV): “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I had always thought that verse applied to the big, important things in life – like decisions about job opportunities, where the family would live, or where we would attend church. But as I stared at that hitch, I began to understand that God meant the verse for the less life-changing things too – even the small stuff that makes Bryan’s eyes light up and causes that little boy smile to dance over his face. Those things are important too. In other words, I’ve learned the value of being impressed with his toys. And using the right words - like strong, powerful, big, wow - doesn’t hurt either. Somehow, my being interested in steel bar with a whole in it, could communicate to Bryan I that care about him, that I really do love him.

Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t long before we found plenty of fun things to pull behind our Explorer.