Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Glimpsing Glory in Grief

Hi Friends,

As many of you know, a dear friend of mine went to heaven this week. Rhena Agostini was an amazing woman and made a huge impact on my life, and in the lives of my family. As I was reminiscing about all she taught me over the years, I remembered this little story of when our pony, Oreo, died. Rhena was with us every step of the way through Oreo's sickness, and was there when our little pony died in our arms. I look back on that day now, and I remember the glimpse of glory. And I think, even now, I can glimpse that glory again as I think of my friend who loved well, lived well, and showered the love of Christ on me and everyone.

(The picture is of Oreo with Joelle and Rhena.)

Oreo's story went like this ...

Goodbye, Oreo

by Marlo Schalesky

When our vet glanced over the back of my daughter’s horse, Oreo, and said the dreaded word, “cancer,” I knew we were in for heartbreak.  What I didn’t know was that in our sorrow we would also get a glimpse of glory.  
            For over a month, we had struggled to discover what was causing Oreo’s decline.  Exams and blood tests revealed nothing.  Prayers for healing did nothing.  She continued to lose weight.  We continued to pray. 
But that day when the vet looked at me and shook his head, I knew my prayers had to change.  “Prepare your girls,” he said, knowing that to them, Oreo was more than just a horse. She was a friend, a companion, a family member.  
Later, I walked back into the house.  Our six-year-old, Joelle, met me at the door.  “What did he say?”
“I’m sorry, honey, Oreo has cancer.”
Her eyes dampened.  “Is she going to die?”
I nodded as words stuck in my throat, refusing to be voiced.  Oreo, our perfect little horse.  She’d taught Joelle to ride.  Joelle had taught her to jump.  They were a team, and Joelle loved her.
Tears streamed down my daughter’s face.  “But we prayed!  How come God didn’t make her better?  But I want, but she …”  She couldn’t go on.  Instead, she collapsed in my arms.
I patted her hair.  “I know.” A verse whispered through my mind: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).   In all things give thanks?  Even in cancer?  Even in the face of death?  Really? I took a deep breath.  “I’m so thankful for the time God’s given us with Oreo,” I murmured.  “She’s been such a gift.  What a wonderful gift to us, and to her.”
Joelle sniffed.  “What do you mean?”
My voice steadied.  “I’m glad God brought her to us, a family who would love her, for her last days.  She got to teach another little girl to ride. You know she loved that.”
“I did too.”
“Let’s just keep loving her, and thanking God for her.”
And that’s what we did.  For the next weeks, as Oreo continued to waste away, we watched, we loved, we cared, and we talked about being grateful in our sorrow.  
Then one day while my husband away and my girls were at school, I found Oreo lying in her pen.  I knew she would never get up again. 
I waited, and I watched. And so did Oreo.  She held on until the girls got home from school.  
We ran to her, gathered around her, held her, petted her, and told her how much we loved her. Joelle thanked her for being such a good horse and partner. We talked about heaven and being made new. Then, we prayed. 
“Thank you, God, for Oreo,” Joelle cried.  “Thank you for giving her to us.  Thank you for every minute I had with her.”
For forty minutes we stayed with her, with Joelle at her head, talking, praying, petting, holding, and crying.
Then, Oreo gave one last shudder, stretched, and died there in our arms. As she passed, the little girls started to pray again, more prayers of thankfulness, of gratefulness to God, and requests that Oreo be taken to God's pastures in heaven. Then, they looked up into the sky and called out their final goodbyes.
The next day, we put flowers on Oreo’s grave and Joelle prayed such a sweet prayer of thankfulness that my heart broke all over again. I thought about how she had made her very serious commitment-to-God-for-a-lifetime pledge just months before and how God took her through this so soon after, deepening her faith and her vision of Him, taking her from “why” to “thank you,” teaching her the secrets of gratefulness in pain.
Now, as days pass and we continue to grieve, sometimes I see Joelle staring off with a serious look in her eye, and sometimes those eyes turn pink with tears. Then I know she's thinking of her Oreo.
And in those moments she teaches me that even in our pain, maybe especially in our pain, God also gives us a glimpse of His glory.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What are Your Valentine's Expectations?

Hi Friends,

Here's an oldie but goodie. Wrote this some time ago, but it still seems relevant. See what you think...

The Dreaded “E” Word on Valentine’s Day

"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. 
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!