Being steadfast and pushing forward in difficult times can feel like you're climbing a mountain. You're nearing the peak, but your lungs are starved for oxygen and every muscle is screaming. You want to quit.
Sometimes my life seems to be all about mountain climbing. How about yours?
I got to thinking that maybe it's time to hear from others who have done some of that climbing. From now through December I'll be hosting a guest blogger every Wednesday who will share insights on their own journey's up mountain sides.
Today, I'm thrilled to welcome the illustrious Marlo Schalesky.
Marlo lives with her husband, six young children, eight horses, six cats, two parakeets, one rabbit, one rat, two dogs, three chinchillas, five goldfish, and one lonely betta in a log home in Salinas, California. (Note: Critter numbers may change without notice, especially if Marlo attends yet another adoption event for rescue animals ... to her husband's chagrin.)
I hold a book in my hands. It's called Wrestling with Wonder, a Transformational Journey through the Life of Mary. It released last week. I hold it and I shake my head because I know there's no logical reason that this book should be a book.
But it is a book, and a story, a testimony, and a wonder. A thing somehow born when I was done ... when I was undone. It was born when I had just had it with writing, with life, with everything that made my days the crazy mess that they were.
Wrestling with Wonder was born on the day when another rejection broke the proverbial camel's back, when I couldn't go on, when I crumbled like a sad little rag doll on the floor of my laundry room.
I share this story in the book's introduction. Here's how it happened, when God saw me when I was done, and undone, and showed me the truth that kept me pressing on:
It happened like this:
My palms press into the cold tile of the laundry room floor. Harsh, unyielding, the sound of my pain lost in the steady thumping of the dryer, the slosh of cleansing clothes, and the wicked whisper of words that for the moment, I believe.
I am Esau. Unloved. Unchosen.
I am Cain. Rejected. Cast away.
What am I doing here, a broken mess on the laundry room floor? To my shame, it isn't even tragedy that has driven me to my knees. It's not my 20 years of infertility. Of discovering that despite all my prayers, all my hopes, all the long and painful procedures. I am not pregnant again. I've been there. But not today.
It's not my six miscarriages. Not hoping beyond hope, cradling a belly that's supposed to hold new life, and losing. Again. I've been there too. But not today.
It's not a dead father, a difficult childhood, a death, a divorce in the family. Those have brought me to my knees, made me wrestle, made me weep. But not today.
Today, it's nothing, really. And it's everything. It's a hundred little things piled up on a day my husband is away on business, my baby just threw up, the toddler is crying, and I received another rejection. A small one, telling me I was unchosen. Unwanted. Passed by.
I should be happy anyway. After all, life is good. It's good enough. But I'm not fine. And I'm not happy. Instead, I am on the floor, listening to the thump and slosh and crying out to a God who I'm sure doesn't care. And all the pain is back again. Of miscarriage and infertility, of death and disappointment. Of rejection, of hope lost. I feel it all again, and I am undone.
Why? Why am I a ragged mess, a broken child? Why am I a woman weeping on the floor when I'm supposed to be writing a talk on the wonder of God's immeasurable love? When I'm supposed to know, supposed to believe, supposed to no longer doubt? But I do doubt. And wrestle. Again. Still.
Who am I? Who is this God I say I believe, I say I trust?
Slosh. I hear the sound. And in it, a whisper. Less than a whisper. Only a wisp. It is not easy to become clean. You must be tossed, spun. Beaten.
Thump. It is a long process. Hot. Harsh. Unyielding.
And I see. I understand. A bit. A glimpse. A tiny glimmer of who I am. Who God is.
I shudder and push myself up from the hard tile. Cold on my fingertips. Chilling. God? I watch the clothes tumble and spin. I watch. And breathe.
Then, I glance left to the changing table. The place where baby often squirms and shouts, cries, and struggles as I work to make her clean. The place where she has grown from a tiny bundle that knew me only as a blur and scent, to an almost-toddler who can hear the whisper of my voice from the other room and know that Mommy is near.
I step closer and run my hand over the terrycloth surface. I love her, but when she lies here, she doesn't understand. She knows she doesn't want to be here, she wants to get down and play. But I make her stay. I hold her still. I clean her. I do it because she is my loved one, my daughter, my favored child. But she doesn't understand my love.
I don't understand His. But the glimmer widens.
Perhaps I am not Esau. I am not Cain. Instead, I am like another woman who knelt in the darkness, waiting to be cleansed. A woman who wept and did not understand. A woman whom God called "highly favored" and yet who found herself at a cross, with all her dreams crushed, all her beliefs challenged.
And that's when I see it. I am Mary. The favored one. Not the cute little figurine in my Precious Moments nativity set. Not the peaceful-looking statue holding the form of a baby in my childhood church. But the woman for whom God's favor looked like a stable, like rejection, like kneeling at the foot of that bloodstained cross.
What if God's blessings don't look like good health, secure finances, and fulfilling relationships? What if His favor includes pain, poverty, sorrow, and even death? What if it's about a hundred little things that seem to go wrong? What if favor is found through shattered dreams and on cold tile floors. That was Mary's life. And it is mine.
What if ...
I am not Esau.
I am not Cain.
I am Mary.
And that's how God broke through to me that day. That's how this book was born. That's how I pushed through being done and undone. I found truth in a laundry room. I found that God was not who I expected him to be, that he never had been, and perhaps that was okay.
So I got up, I tried again. I walked forward one stumbling, unsteady step at a time. And I told God that I would write what he would show me about Mary's life. I would dig. I would search. I would be faithful to the journey of her life, and mine.
I would just be faithful. That's it.
The rest would have to be up to him. If he wanted it to become a book, if he wanted that book to be published, if he wanted it in the hands of others who could benefit by joining the adventure of Mary's journey ... well then, that would take some kind of miracle.
And today, I hold a book in my hands. I hold it and I shake my head because I know there's no logical reason that this book should be a book. But God has shown me that he is rarely who I expect him to be; he rarely does what I expect him to do.
But all I have to do is be faithful, one shaky step at a time. The rest is his job.
Maybe I like it that way.
You've never seen Mary, or her God like this!
Who is this God? Who is he who calls us to surrender and then leads us on a journey of twists and turns, ups and downs, unlike anything we could have ever expected? Who is this God who calls a young girl to birth a Savior and then watch him die on a Roman cross? Who is he who fulfills every promise and yet shatters every expectation?
Come, join Mary, Jesus' mother, on a journey of discovery. Hear the angel's call, walk the long road to Bethlehem, give birth in a barn, search for a lost son, kneel at the foot of a cross, and experience the wind of the Spirit. Come, walk with Mary, and find your own journey in hers.
Because life rarely turns out the way we planned ...
Because we lose the wonder in the disappointments of life ...
Because being highly favored does not mean being highly pampered ...
Because Mary shows us God -- Passionate, breath-taking, and unpredictable.
Thank you, Marlo. I can't wait to get a copy of this incredible book.
My friends, grace and peace to you from God,