Friday, April 24, 2009

Fiction Fridays meet Marlo Schalesky

Today I would like to start a new feature on this blog and call it "Fiction Fridays." No, I won't have a new fiction book to feature every single Friday, but hopefully about once a month I will share with you a book that I've enjoyed, starting with a few featuring infertility in the plotlines, since obviously this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

Allow me to introduce you to Marlo Schalesky, award winning author of seven books including the wonderful resource Empty Womb, Aching Heart: Hope and Help for Those Struggling With Infertility and several fiction titles including her newest release If Tomorrow Never Comes. You can read my book reviews on Amazon, so I'll now turn this blog over to Marlo for a guest post on her personal journey through infertiltiy and how her own story has impacted the storyline of If Tomorrow Never Comes...

Infertility. I’ve lived with it for most of my adult life. Walked with it, fought with it, bargained with it. It’s challenged my faith, robbed my bank account, and made me into a stronger, braver woman. From it, I’ve written a nonfiction book on infertility (Empty Womb, Aching Heart) and a novel exploring the affects of infertility on a marriage (my newly released If Tomorrow Never Comes, the second of my Love Stories With a Twist!). Today, I find that most everything I know about God, His love, myself, and the wonder of a life lived with Jesus, I’ve learned on the infertility journey.

But it wasn’t always that way. Early in the journey, for months upon months, my Bible sat on the shelf, unopened and unread, my prayer journal lay unused, and my attendance at church became sporadic at best. I didn’t want to talk about God, I didn’t want to read about God, and I certainly didn’t want to pray.

Then, one day I was cleaning out the closet in our spare room when I found a box filled with college treasures. In it was a small book with peonies on the front. I opened the cover and discovered pages and pages filled with my own writing. I sat on the floor, with my back against the closet door, and rubbed one hand over the first page. “Junior Year,” it read in big purple letters. Purple had always been my favorite color. I flipped to about half way through and began to read.

I saw the sunrise today, Lord. It was amazing. I wish I could say that I saw it because I was up early to pray, but as You know, I had to pull an all-nighter to get that paper done. But it was worth it to see the streaks of orange, red, and gold at the dawn of a new day. I stood there and thought to myself, I know the One who made that sunrise. The same One who lives in me. You know, I can feel You there, Lord, in my heart. Some days, like today, Your love is a tangible thing, like a warm blanket that wraps around my insides. In these moments, I feel like I could shout to the stars about what an awesome, incredible, super-wow God You are. I can’t believe there was ever a time when I turned my back on You. What a fool I was. But everything’s different now, God. My life, my heart, is filled with the wonder of knowing You. I’ll never forget this feeling. I’ll never forget to keep loving You. I promise . . .

Tears came to my eyes as I read the words and remembered the day I wrote them. I remembered how nothing else mattered as much as knowing and loving God. But a lot had changed since then. Too much had changed.

I sat there, with my back pressing against the closet door and the old journal resting against my knees, and realized how much I missed my relationship with God. There was a pain, a loneliness, in me that went even deeper than not having children. In these last months, I’d lost something more precious than my hope for a child. I’d lost my closeness with God. And that had made my heart even emptier than my womb. Yet, even though I missed my relationship with God, I could still feel the anger that was lodged in my heart like a huge stone, burying me in my self-made tomb. How could I ever be free? How could I ever get past my pain?
I rose from the floor slowly and grabbed a pen from the top drawer of the desk by the door. Then, I reached up and took another journal from the shelves above. I blew off a layer of dust from the book’s cover, sat down at the desk, and began to write.

God, it’s me, you know, the one who keeps asking you for a baby. Well, I’m so mad at You I could just spit . . .
I wrote for an hour, pouring out my bitterness, my anger, my hurt. And with every word I wrote, I drew a little closer to God. He drew a little closer to me. So I continued journaling my frustrations, my prayers, my hopes. And as the months passed, I began to see God’s hand at work in my life. God hadn’t abandoned me as I had once thought. Instead, He was taking me on a life path that would help me to see more clearly, whether I was blessed with children or not. And on that road, God was asking me to love, to trust, even in the midst of my pain.

That day when I opened my journal, I began a long, slow journey back to God, a journey that’s reflected in the main character in my latest novel, If Tomorrow Never Comes. There, Kinna Henley faces the same questions, the same doubts, and a similar journey back to God. She, too, finds a new kind of strength and sacrifice through her journey through infertility. She finds that God understands her anger, hears her fury, accepts her hurt. And she discovers that true strength and bravery is found in choosing to love sacrificially, instead of clinging to her dreams.

Infertility taught me to see God’s love for me in new ways, not linked to whether or not I would have children, but rather how this life of mine fits into the whole of God’s Kingdom. I’ve come to think that might be the question that really matters.
In the end, my infertility taught me that it’s good to wrestle with God for the answers I need. It’s good to cry out, to keep turning to God with all my doubts, all my anger, all my pain. It’s better to shout than to be silent, better to call God unkind than to not call at all.

And it’s only when I learned that, only when I surrendered all my dreams, doubts, and difficulties to God, that He eventually gave me children through extensive treatment. Today, I have a nine-year-old daughter born after infertility surgery and an intrauterine insemination, another daughter born after a miscarriage, a year of failed inseminations, two failed in-vitro fertilizations, and finally a successful frozen embryo transfer, 3-year-old twins born after another frozen embryo transfer, and finally a miracle 5-month old born after four miscarriages and all our frozen embryos were used up … a long journey with 11 years before the first was born followed by nine more years of treatments with a few successes and a lot of failures – a lifetime, practically, molded by infertility, the journey, the doubts, the struggles, the difficulties … and the lessons that I wouldn’t have learned, couldn’t have learned, if God hadn’t taken me down that long path.

So, today, through my life journey, and through Kinna’s, I share that God doesn’t condemn us for those doubts. All He asks is that we bring our frustration, fears, anger, and questions to Him. He can handle it. He has big shoulders, as big as the sunrise.


Please visit her website at and check out the audio interview, infertility resources, and other goodies there. She would love for you to sign up for her e-newsletter, "which I put out a few times a year (or whenever there’s exciting news like a book release!). You can sign up on the front page of my website." There’s a sign-up box there on the right hand column above the audio/video player.

Also, please visit her blog at About once a week she post news and hopefully helpful info on rekindling the wonder in our walks with God.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Virtual Spa Weekend

The first weekend in May, Hannah's Prayer Ministires (Christian infertility and pregnancy loss support ministry I helped launch nearly 15 years ago) will be holding a retreat in OH. There will be about 40 ladies gathered to encourage and support one another. The theme of the weekend will be "Beautiful In His Sight" and the guest speaker is Ginger Garrett, author of Beauty Secrets of the Bible (as well as a devotional book on infertility and several award-winning Christian fiction titles). I know it will be a wonderful, blessed weekend for all who attend!

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of women who are regular participants on the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums who are unable to attend for a variety of reasons (mostly, the prohibitive cost of travel) but would really love to be there. As the excitement builds on our Forums for the ladies who will be attending, the disappointment for those who cannot is growing as well. And so I'm going to be hosting a Virtual Spa Weekend on my InnerBeautyGirlz blog from May 1-3.

This event will be open to everyone, but especially geared toward the ladies of Hannah's Prayer. I am looking for home-spa ideas, beauty treats and suggestions, guest blogger articles on beauty (with fun tips for our bodies, but also a focus on inner beauty), and product donations for drawings and give-aways throughout the weekend. Since my target readers that weekend will all be dealing with infertility or the death of a baby, I need to specifically avoid child-related posts and products (like using examples from motherhood in your stories).

Please share your suggestions for this event! Have a beauty topic you would like to write a guest blog about? Have a product you would like to donate as a give-away (and get your business featured in the process)? Have any creative ideas and suggestions for creating an at-home-spa experience? I would love to hear from you!

Monday, April 20, 2009

helping a friend with chronic illness

It is easy to become discouraged sometimes, at at those times it is so very important to stop and count the many blessings God has given me. I have been so blessed to be surrounded by many understanding friends. When my daughter expressed a desire to try gymnastics, a friend used her birthday as an oppoturnity to give R a gift certificate for 3 trial lessons and then went the extra step in offering to pick her up and take her to the classes with her own daughter for those three weeks. Our son has joined other homeschooling families on their nature hikes since hiking isn't an option for me. And on more than one occasion I've had friends show up at my door with a crock pot or bag of fast food I hadn't been counting on, yet God has sent it just when I've been overwhelmed with the idea of cooking.

One of these same friends has called a few times to check on my laundry status and either come over to help me hang and fold 2 weeks worth of clean laundry for a family of 5, or even gone so far as to scoop up the same amount of dirty laundry into a train of laundry baskets and take it all home, returned within 48 hours, folded or on hangers and ready to be put away! Talk about going the extra mile for a friend; these ladies are such an amazing blessing!!!

If you know someone living with a chronic illness, seen or unseen, here's a great article filled with simple, practicle, every-day suggestions on helping her cope:
How to Encourage Moms with Chronic Illness

Friday, April 17, 2009


My three-year-old came to me crying last night, "My toe-elbow hurts!" He had stepped on a toy and his heal was sore. Toe-elbow was easily healed with a Mommy kiss but I didn't want to forget the adorable descriptive so I'm jotting it down here to share with you all. :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Our Family Passover

Last night we used the book Celebrating Biblical Feast to observe a family Passover Sedar. (Yes, I know passover actually started on Thursday, but we aren't about legalism as much as learning, observing and remembering, so the symbolism was what we were really aiming for.) We had a fun, busy, little-bodies-squirming, some-mistakes make and learned from, and lots of learning and laughter evening. My parents were able to join us and even though my dear hubby came home sick from work and landed in bed before the evening was over, he stuck with us as long as he could.

My mom came an hour before dinner with her long white linnen tablecloth and helped me set the Seder plate while 6-year-old R had fun setting out our china and crystal. She couldn't wait to get dressed in her hot pink Hellow Kitty tights and pink satin dress. I drew the line at the princess crown though, reminding her that the evening was in celebration of the Lord, not her. ;) Dinner took us about 2 hours and I was exhausted by the end, but it was such a worthwhile evening. I was so thankful for my parent's help in clean up as Dad helped calm down excited kids with several bedtime stories and Mom helped me load up the dishwasher and put away food. I only wish we would have remembered to take pictures.

I didn't make it to the grocery store for matza crackers until a couple of hours before sunset on Thursday afternoon, so as you can imagine, the shelves were pretty empty by then! 9-year-old Big-J and I made our first attempt at matza-ball soup and the leg of lamb turned out really well. We did not try the traditional whitefish because Big-J looked green just at the sight of it in the store and I was afraid we were going to need to call for a sick "clean up on isle 5" so I placed that jar of oily fish quickly back on the shelf and made other selections. We ended up with chocolate-covered matza because that's what was still available, but it was labeled "kosher for Passover" and "imported from Israel" so I guess it was authentic enough, but made for interesting "sandwiches" with our bitter herbs! :) I was just glad that we found some kosher items at all, since when I asked about matza at the first store we tried, the clerk gave me a blank look then said I could try the asian or hispanic food sections.

I found another blog this morning that shares another family's passover adventures this year. I think I will borrow some of their ideas for future observances, especially the tips about keeping things simple and focused for younger ones to really enjoy the experience as I know that much of what we did was over the heads of our 3- and 6-year-olds this year!
Editing on Monday morning to add another family Passover story I found. This one written by a 19-year-old homeschool grad, telling the story of sharing this special meal with her parents and siblings. Since I also graduated from high school as a homeschooler, this young lady holds a very soft spot in my heart, though I've only met her through her blog posts. I enjoyed reading of their family's celebration as well and find it interesting just how many variations there are in the same basic observance of traditions.