Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sharing Your Sore Spots

Hi Friends,

Well, on Monday I talked at my MOPS group about what I learned from Bethany and Bandaids.  I talked about the value of sharing our sore spots, taking off the bandaids in our lives and opening up our owies to the fresh, healing air of others.  (See that story below!!)

Then on Tuesday I talked to my counselor … and here I am to share one of my sore spots.  The counselor told me a disturbing fact.  Apparently I am STILL not God.  Sigh.  What a disappointment! Apparently I can't do everything for everyone all the time and meet all the needs and do all the tasks and smile and be happy in the whirl
wind of everything that must be done.  I am, alas, not omnipotent, omnipresent, or even omniscient.  I am merely human.  And so, to be happy, healthy, and wise, I must live within the limits that God has created for me.  Instead of trying to do-all, be-all, perfect-all, I'm supposed live in the reality of my favorite Bible verse (you'd think I would have gotten it by now, but apparently I still struggle):

Ephesians 2:10:  For you are God's MASTERPIECE, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that HE has ALREADY before-prepared for you to walk around in. (That's my translation out of the Greek.)

He's got what I need to do all prepared for me, like a parent prepares everything his child needs to do a fun craft project together.  I don't need to try to do everything, just what he's prepared to do, and then I can walk around in it with Him.

Maybe this I'm-not-God-really-I'm-not thing isn't so bad after all . . .

I think I'll go walk around a bit now, and in the meantime, here's the bandaid story from when Bethany was little:


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 Bria’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 bandage off.”
Bryan had hardly finished the sentence when Bria started up again.  “Noooooo,” she wailed, “dooooooon’t.” 
I turned to Bria, 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 Bria’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 Bria, 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 Bria, 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)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What's a Grasshopper got to do with Living Free?

Hi Friends,

Today Bethany will be taking an entrance exam for a high school.  Will she do well? Is this the right school? Have we prepared her well enough? What's the right decision? Did she bring a good enough lunch?

So many things to be concerned about . . . and so, I was thinking about the grasshopper she caught years ago and what she (and it!) taught me about living a life of FREEDOM from worry, anxiousness, and the captivity of the cages we too often remain in when Jesus has opened the doors.

For anyone else tempted to worry and stay caged, here's that story:

Go, Grasshopper, Go!

“Mommmmyyyy!”  Bethany raced into the house with a small wire cage gripped tightly in her hands.  “Look, look, look, look!”  She skidded to a stop before me and shoved the cage under my nose.  “Look what Grandpa caught for me.  Isn’t it cool?”
I looked down into the cage at a pale green grasshopper and a bit of fresh clover.  I forced a smile.  “Oh, isn’t that great.”  Just what I needed, another bug in the house.
“I’m going to keep him in my room.  Whoo-hoo!”  She darted up the steps and into her bedroom.  She spent the next hour putting the tiny cage on her dresser, on the floor, on the table next to her bed, on the windowsill, and finally, back down in the kitchen.
For three days, I watched that poor little grasshopper as he sat on the wire mesh and twitched his legs.  By that time, the clover had withered and the grasshopper had lost its brand-new appeal. 
“Why don’t you let that thing go now,” I said to Bethany as she wandered into the kitchen and grabbed a snack.  “He’ll die if you keep him in there for too long.”
She studied the insect for a long moment, then shrugged her shoulders.  “Oh, okay.”  She reached for plug on the side of the cage. 
“Nooo, not in the house!  Take it outside.”  I waved my hand toward the door.
Bethany snatched the cage and took it out to the front deck.  A few minutes later, I heard her shout.  “Mom, it’s still in the cage.”
I dried my hands on the dishtowel and hollered back.  “Let it out, Bethany.”
“It won’t go!”
“What do mean, it won’t go?”  I stepped outside to see the cage open and the little grasshopper still clinging to the mesh inside.
I squatted down.  “Hmmm.”
Bethany waited.
I waited.
The grasshopper waited.  And waited.  And waited.
Finally, we gave up and left it in its open cage on the deck.  “It’ll go out eventually,” I told Bethany.
Three days later, that grasshopper was still in his cage with no water and no food. 
Bethany crossed her arms and frowned.  “How come it won’t go out?”
I shook my head.  “Silly, isn’t it?  It’ll die in there if it doesn’t get out soon.”  I tipped the cage, picked up a stick, and beat on the far end until the grasshopper fell through the opening.  A moment later, it hopped away. 
Bethany took my hand.  “Would it really have died?”
“I think so.”
We sat down on the step and stared at the place where the grasshopper disappeared.  Strange, I thought, how a creature would sit in a cage and suffer when the way to freedom was open just beside it.  But then, I wondered if I was much different. 
John 8:36 (NIV) tells me, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Christ has set me free, too.  Free from sin, from worry, from fear. 
Yet, sometimes, I forget that because of Christ I am free indeed.  Instead I live as if worry and fear should be normal parts of my everyday life. Bills come and I worry about how I will pay them.  I have tests at the doctor’s office and am afraid of what the results might be.  I worry that I’ll do poorly on an assignment, fail at my job, or that no one will show up to my church small group. 

So I sit in the cage of my fears and get weaker and weaker while the door is standing open beside me.  But God has not called me to live in the wire mesh of fear.  Instead, He calls me to trust Christ enough to get out of the cage and explore the life that He has for me.  He calls me to be free.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Got Expectations? Thoughts for Valentine's Day!

Hi Friends,

Happy Valentine's Day!  Today for Valentine's Day I thought I'd share something I learned a few years back that has made this day a lot more special for me since.  So, read on, and may YOUR day be filled with thankfulness, joy, and the wonder of living in GOD's amazing love for you!

Here's how it happened . . .

"Happy Valentine's Day, Honey," my husband murmured, then scooted out the door with his usual quick kiss and bear hug.  "See ya later."  Bryan winked and was gone.
That’s it? I thought.  No candy, no flowers, no delicate chocolates in the traditional bright red heart-shaped box!  Just a hug, kiss, and out the door?  This was supposed to be a day of passion, of romance, of chocolates!  A frown tugged at the corners of my mouth and deepened into ugly grooves.
Bryan never was much of a romantic anyway, I complained.  He just doesn't understand women.  Days like today are supposed to be special.
I sighed and drew my brows together in a deeper scowl as I proceeded to review again all the faults I imagined in my poor, unwary spouse.  By the time I was finished, I was thoroughly dissatisfied.  Valentine's Day was ruined.  And it was all his fault! 
I threw my body crosswise on the couch and swung my legs across the cushions.  Reluctantly, I picked up the Bible for my daily devotion.  I wasn't in the mood.  My eyes fell on the day's scripture, "Serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13).  Love.  There was that word.  Today was supposed to be the day of love.  I wasn't feeling much love at all.  And it was all Bryan's fault! ... Or was it?  The scripture didn't say to expect to be loved.  It especially didn't say to expect chocolates just because it was Valentine's Day.
Slowly, my temper quelled and I began to examine my reactions.  Bryan had done no more or less than any other day.  He had given me the hug and kiss that I usually counted as a treasure.  So why the difference this morning?  Was it because today I had expected more?  Had I succumbed to the dreaded "E" word - Expectation? 
I began to realize that the problem with my expectations is that I can never win with them.  As soon as I expected Bryan to act a certain way, I set myself up for disappointment.  When he didn't meet my expectations, I was upset.  If he had acted as I expected, then I would have been satisfied.  But how could I have been pleasantly surprised and appreciate his kindness if I had been expecting it all along?
February, they say, is a month for love.  And Jesus showed us what real love is all about -- Not candies, nor flowers, nor sweet chocolates wrapped in a fancy box.  No, love is about laying down our lives for one another, about serving one another in love.
In setting for us an example of servanthood, Jesus " began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him" (John 13:4-5, NIV).  What would it have been like if the disciples had expected Christ to play the role of the lowest of servants?  Imagine Peter lounging there with his sandal thongs untied, wiggling his toes in anticipation of Jesus washing them.  Imagine the others shifting their weight impatiently on their cushions, wishing that Jesus would hurry up and get to the washing since their feet were dirty and uncomfortable.  Surely Christ's admonition that "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet" (John 13:14, NIV) would have lost much of its meaning had expectation roused itself to interfere with the scene.
For Bryan and I, true Godly joy comes into our relationship whenever we can surprise one another with an act or word of loving servanthood.  The more expectations are supplanted by love, appreciation, and acceptance, the richer our marriage becomes.
So, this year for Valentine's Day, I'm not going to worry about gifts of tantalizing chocolates.  I'm not going to cling to expectations of what my husband is supposed to do for me.  Rather, I plan to give my husband one of the greatest gifts of all in a marriage -- I'm going to exchange my expectations for joy and thanksgiving.  This year, I'm making Expectation a dirty word!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Are You Settling for Parking Lot Prayers?

Hi Friends!

In honor of the teeny tiny bit of rain we've gotten in the last week (and in hopes of more tomorrow!), I thought it would be fun to share a story about what I learned in a parking lot in a rainstorm.  Can God's "No" deepen our prayer lives?  Can soggy pant legs and wet shoes be God's tools for drawing us deeper into his love?  For me, the answer was yes . . .

So, if you don't want to settle for shallow "parking lot" prayers any more, read on . . .


Rain, like the thundering of a mighty army, pounded on my windshield and drummed over the roof of my Ford Explorer.  Puddles danced along the roadside as fat droplets plunged from the sky.  I shivered and turned the wipers on high.  The squeak of rubber on glass shot through my nerves.  I squinted and leaned forward.  There!  The entrance to the grocery store parking lot loomed in front of me. 
I sneezed as I guided my car into the lot and between two long rows of cars.  It had been a bad day already.  The milk had spoiled, I’d forgotten my umbrella, and now I felt a cold coming on.  And worse yet, the parking lot was full.  The last thing I needed was to get soaked on my way into the store.  “Oh God, please find me a parking space up close,” I prayed.  “I don’t want to get all wet.” 
I had scarcely finished my prayer when red taillights flashed in front of me.  There, at the front of the row, a tiny VW Bug was pulling from a prime spot.   “Thanks, God,” I sighed and stepped on the accelerator.  But before I could reach the empty space, a pea-green pick-up zipped around the corner and into my spot.  I slammed on the brakes and threw up my hands as a man in his forties jumped from the truck, pulled up his jacket’s hood, and ran toward the store.  He didn’t even glance my way. 
A few choice words skittered through my mind as I stepped on the gas pedal and began a slow crawl through the rows of cars.  Up and down, back and forth I went, each row taking me further from the sheltered front door of Nob Hill Foods.  
Eventually, I gave up and parked on the far edge of the lot.  Huge droplets splashed on my glasses as I open the car door and stepped out.  I hunched my shoulders and raced toward the store.  By the time I got there, my coat was soaked, my shoes soggy, and my hair straggled down my forehead like tiny tributaries racing toward the sea.  
As I headed up the fruit aisle, irritation surged through me.  Why couldn’t God just answer my prayer?  If the God of the universe couldn’t even find me simple parking space, how was I to trust him with my larger hopes and dreams?  After all, it was such a small request!
After a few minutes in the store, followed by another mad dash back to my car, I arrived home wet and grumpy.  Slowly, I unpacked the groceries for our evening meal - Pre-made salad, pre-cut vegetables, pre-marinated steaks, and a bottle of sparkling cider.  I stared at the items - convenience items, all of them, things to make my meal preparation faster and easier.
As I put the steak in the refrigerator, it occurred to me that my recent prayers had been a lot like my groceries.  They were convenience prayers - quick requests to make my life easier.  As my days had grown more complicated, as the pace of life increased, I’d begun to just pray for my immediate needs and wants.  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d prayed for God to make my heart more like His, or to help me to see His will in my life, or to show me what it meant to love Him more and more.  Somehow, in the busyness of life, I’d forgotten the greater things of God.  Had I been asking for pre-cut veggies when God had a banquet in mind? 
James’ admonition struck my heart, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  (James 4:3, NIV).  Perhaps my prayers had become too much about me and what I wanted.
In the next few minutes, with my refrigerator door half open and a cold piece of meat in my hand, God reminded me of what he offers me – not a parking spot close to the store, but place close to His heart.  And that was far better than dry shoes and a coat.         

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rachel by Jill Eileen Smith

Hi Friends,

My friend, Jill Eileen Smith, has a new Biblical novel out that I think you'll enjoy.  Here's a bit about it:

A Novel by Jill Eileen Smith

4 ½ Stars from RT Book Reviews

Can true love overcome a legacy of betrayal?

Rachel wants nothing more than for her older half sister Leah to wed and move out of their household. Leah wishes her father would find a good man who would love her alone. Unbeknownst to either of them, Jacob is making his way to their home, trying to escape a past laced with deceit and find the future God has promised him.

But the past comes back to haunt Jacob when he finds himself on the receiving end of treachery. The man who wanted only one woman ends up with sisters who have never gotten along and now must spend the rest of their lives sharing a husband. In the power struggles that follow, only one woman will triumph . . . or will she?

About the author:
Jill Eileen Smith is the author of the bestselling Wives of King David series, and of Sarai, Rebekah, and Rachel in the Wives of the Patriarchs series. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan.
In honor of Rachel’s release, February 1 – February 14, 2014, Revell Books in cooperation with Jones House Creative is doing a grand giveaway! Two fabulous prizes await two winners!
The Grand Prize is The Inheritance of Jacob
Prize includes a stunning lithograph of Jewish artist Moshe Dagon’s work “The Twelve Tribes”, two lovely silver goblets that are still used in Jewish tradition today, a selection of dried fruits of Israel, a delicious box of baklava, and a copy of Rachel.
2nd Prize is Women of Faith and Beauty
Prize includes all three books in the Wives of the Patriarchs series, a “Sisters by Heart” sculpture, and a Dead Sea Beauty Gift Basket.
(For further details for both prizes and how to enter click here.)

Buy the Book:
Barnes & Noble - http://goo.gl/3ImnfL
Christian Book - http://goo.gl/khQUcs
And wherever fine books are sold.