Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Grace and Falling Trees

Hi Friends,

What a week around here! We have over 30 giant (over 150' tall) trees down all over the property, with corresponding smashed up fences, our well is covered in downed trees, holes in houses, a couple tent-buildings torn up and upended, etc. No loss of life or injuries to animals or humans though (yay - thank you, God, for that!). Just tons of property damage.

As I was surveying the extensive damage (with the power out), I thought about the last time we had a downed tree (just one that time!) and the lessons God taught me.

Those lessons are needed again now, especially when we've had so much more damage! I thought you might appreciate them as well, so here ya go (all pictures are from our current storm damage ... as I work from the local coffee lounge because we're on day 5 of our power outage, sigh):

The Grace of Falling Trees

            Morning mist gathered on the window of my home office. I sipped my hot lemon water and thought about kidney stones and Type 1 diabetes. I thought about allergies and infections, broken lives, broken families, strained relationships. I pondered lost jobs and clients who refused to pay what they owe, stacks of bills and relatives hovering at death’s door. I thought about all the things that either I or someone I loved was facing at that moment, things that were completely out of my control.
            Lord, where are you ...
            I waited in the silence.
            I drank my water. I watched the droplets of mist just beginning to evaporate. Then I sighed and began to work on my next book.
            A minute passed, then two, then ten.
            The air rumbled. The house jolted, shook, shuddered.
            My water spilled over my desk. I leapt up. The house tumbled to a stop. I caught my breath. An earthquake? But the shaking had not come from the ground below. Instead, it came from all around me.
            I ran through my bedroom toward the front door. I glanced right. No light came through the windows on either side of my bed. Instead a flurry of green and brown blocked the panes.
            I raced outside. Sunlight splashed into my eyes, sunlight that was usually shaded by the giant cypress that grew in our front yard.
            The tree was gone.
            I turned toward it. And that’s when I saw a miracle.
            The tree, over fifty feet tall with a truck three feet in diameter, had fallen precisely in the narrow, less-than-ten-foot opening between our house and garage. I walked over to it and looked down the long length of the trunk. Had it fallen a little to the left, our newly-built garage would have been crushed. If it had gone just a bit to the right, our house would have been smashed, and me with it. But there it lay, exactly between, with just a few branches on each roof.
            Grandpa came out of his house next door and joined me. He looked at the tree. I looked at him. “Thank goodness the kids weren’t out here playing. This is just the time you usually come outside to play with them.”
            He glanced at me. “They asked to come out. I told them to wait ten minutes. I wasn’t ready yet.”
            The tree had fallen in that ten minutes. I swallowed. Hard.
            Then we went to inspect the damage. As we got closer, I could see that the tree had broken the roof of the tiny shed that covered our hot water heater and air conditioning unit. The unit had a small dent in the top, but the hot water heater was untouched. But that wasn’t all. Branches lay on each side of the delicate piping that rose along the house walls and traveled across to the garage. Not a single pipe was broken, even though several branches speared through the shed’s roof like swords through paper.
            Grandpa shook his head. “This tree couldn’t have landed more perfectly to cause the least damage, even if we had guided it ourselves.” Grandpa squatted down under the branches held up by the shed’s roof and examined the hot water heater. “The pilot light isn’t even out.” He glanced up at me.
            I glanced up at the sky.
            I wasn’t squashed. The kids weren’t dead. No one was hurt, not even the house or garage. And there wasn’t water spurting everywhere. A centimeter in any direction, ten minutes later ... There was only one Person I knew who could place a falling tree so perfectly in time and space.
            Thank you, Lord.
            I could almost sense him smile.
            I had been pondering all the hard things in life over which I had no control. I had felt the weight of all those things in my soul. But with one falling tree, God had reminded me that the One who could place a giant cypress so carefully between my house and garage would also handle all the other “falling trees” that concerned me.
            Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care...So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29,31 NIV)
            When things seem to be falling apart, when I’m afraid, when I’m in danger, God is guiding everything that’s coming down around me. I may shudder and shake, but God is in control.

            So even when giant trees fall and my whole house shudders, every branch, every leaf, every breath, every life, is guided by the hands of the God who loves me. So even in the scariest moments, I don’t need to be afraid.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why We Are All Living in Tents

Hi Friends,
As I think this week about what it means to be sojourners and foreigners, I am reminded of the journey of Sarah & Abraham in Genesis and how we often think that a place, that arriving "there" will solve all our problems. It was never meant to be so. 

So for those feeling like life hasn't turned out the way they'd hoped, here's some encouragement from my latest book, Waiting for Wonder:

Sometimes, getting where you want to go is not the answer you hoped it would be. Markus Persson, the founder of Minecraft, recently discovered this truth. A year after he sold his company to Microsoft for $2.5 billion, he tweeted, “The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.” Two minutes later, at nearly three in the morning, he followed that tweet with another: “Hanging out in ibiza with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I've never felt more isolated.”[1]
            I ponder these thoughts as I imagine Sarai’s arrival in the promised land. I consider what it means to finally arrive in the place God has promised and find it is not everything one dreamed or hoped. “When Jesus calls us, he does not guarantee the future or even tell us what it will be like,” says scholar Kent Hughes when commenting on Genesis 12.[2]
            Even when we get there, we can’t kick back, settle in, and assume the hard journey is over. I should know this. After eleven years of trying to having a baby, I finally held my newborn girl in my arms. She was beautiful, with pink cheeks, a head full of soon-to-be-curly hair, perfect little fingers, toes . . . vocal cords. She yelled at the top of her lungs for three nights straight after she was born. Nothing appeased her. She had opinions, and she let them be known. I didn’t sleep for 72 hours.
Having a new baby was not the cream-colored, angels-singing, everything-is-a-picture-perfect-painting that I had envisioned. Now, as a teen, my daughter is still beautiful, fierce, determined, and a reminder of what it really looks like to live in the promises of God.
            Sometimes it means you have no rest, no pillow on which to lay your head.
            To come to the place God has called us does not mean we’ve arrived at peace, perfection, sweetness, and light. It means we are sojourners, we are foreigners. We arrive, but we are still living in tents.
            And that’s the way it is meant to be.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/minecraft-founder-feels-isolated-unhappy-2015-8
[2] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 182.