The past few days have been a blur for Ken and me. We returned from a trip with friends in time to pack up the car and head right back out again. We spent the day driving toward a city almost six hours away where we said goodbye to our youngest daughter after a full day of setting up her dorm, running to the store for last minute things, buying the last of her books, and getting her settled for her freshman year of college. On the way home, we made a quick, late-night stop to see daughter number two and check out the on-campus house where she will spend her junior year. We were exhausted when we pulled into the driveway just after midnight last night, and the house seemed awfully quiet this morning, but we are so happy for all three of our girls as they each begin a new school year (oldest daughter is beginning her final year of law school).
I wish so many things for my girls as they embark on or continue with new chapters of their lives. I wish for good health, happiness, wisdom, and faith. Most of all, I wish them fulfilling, lifelong friendships. We should all be open to new friendships, no matter where we are in life, how old we are, where our career is headed, or what stage of family life we are experiencing. I have seen first-hand how much friendship can change and enhance your life. That was made more clear than ever this past weekend.
The best friendships allow us to experience true joy.
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is not quite a tourist mecca. There are few flights in and out, and there aren’t massive museums with ancient artifacts or amusement parks graced with princesses and daily fireworks or sandy beaches lined with palm trees. In fact, there isn’t much in Saskatoon to draw the average tourist, but nineteen travelers chose the city, smack-dab in the middle of Canada, for a reunion. Why? Because that’s where the SaskaPriest lives and leads his flock of parishioners at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Father is a cheerful man with a reddish beard and ready smile whose website is filled with homilies, occasional blogs, and the always entertaining video series, #TenSecondTuesday.
It was this priest, Father Darryl Millette, who was one of the main catalysts that cemented the friendships of a group of pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land in 2016. Father is the epitome of joy with an infectious chuckle and twinkling eyes that just make you want to smile. If ever anyone followed Pope Francis’ command to live life with joy, it is Father Darryl. Just being friends with him brings us all an immense amount of joy, and that joy is radiated in our love for each other. There’s no greater joy than bounding through the airport to throw your arms around a man you love like a brother or watching a young child play with a toy you gave him just because you know he loves planes. There is no greater joy than being with a group of people you call family even though you’ve known each other for less than four years and see each other once every six to twelve months. Joy abounds because love abounds.
Friendship = Joy = Healing
True and strong and faithful friendships can heal one’s body and soul. Our group of pilgrims have been there for each other in the joyous times and the painful times. Over the course of the past four years, friends from our pilgrimage have endured great suffering. We’ve been through the loss of a spouse, the loss of a parent or grandparent, battles with cancer, marriage difficulties, and other deeply personal struggles within our families. No matter what we are all going through, we have each other to lean on. Whether it is a late night text or a spontaneous flight, we show each other that we will do whatever is needed to provide comfort and healing.
The right friends will make us wiser
In my Chincoteague Island Trilogy, there is a character named Ronnie. She is the sage, the one everyone goes to for advice. She is the one who is wise, loving, comforting, and faith-filled. She is the character I hope to be in real life some day. Ronnie is based on a real person, another pilgrim who has come to mean the world to me. When I am hurting, confused, lonely, or in need of advice or comfort, I know that she is there for me. But she is not the only one. I can rely on Tammi and Anne for anything at any time. The same goes for George. Where would all of our lives be without George? It is his quiet example, remarkable courage, unwavering friendship, and deep faith that remind us all just how blessed we are to be part of this special group.
These people help me to be a better person, to make better decisions, to be stronger in my faith. Which brings me to the most important thing about this friendship…
The right friends will deepen our faith
When we all gathered after arriving in Saskatoon, where did we go? To Father’s parish church to celebrate Mass together. It was the perfect beginning to the weekend, just as Saturday evening Mass before our early morning flight home was the perfect ending.
No matter your faith or religion, it is so important to have a group of people who will support and encourage your beliefs, worship alongside you, and help you remain true to yourself and God. As a young person, even into adulthood, I didn’t realize how crucial this type of friendship was. Yes, I have lots of friends of different faiths, and some with no faith at all, but I feel truly at my best and able to be the person I really am when I am with my friends who understand and share my faith. There is such a deep connection between us that goes far beyond happiness, health, and wisdom. This particular group met in the Holy Land. We bonded while walking in the footsteps of our Lord. We continue to grow in friendship and faith each time we are together. It was our faith that brought us together and our faith that continues to bind us as a community, a family, a group of people who walk with Jesus, even if the walk is a bit shaky at times (Folk Fest, distilleries, breweries, etc).
We are a group of people with a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and life experiences. In some ways, we couldn’t be more different, but in the ways that count, we are all exactly the same. We are living the best lives we can while we are on earth, lifting each other up so that we may all meet again in Heaven.
That is what I wish the most for my girls. I wish them the kind of friendship that will help them get to their final destination, the kind that will bring them joy, help them to heal, make them wiser, and lead them to a deeper faith. I pray that they will be able to say that no matter what they do, where they go, what they experience, or whom they are with, they know that they are truly walking with the Lord on the path to Heaven. Will they always behave like angels? Heck no! Did we enjoy flights of whiskey at the Saskatoon folk fest Scotland pavilion before moving on to Ukrainian liqueurs and Caribbean rum? You bet we did. And that’s okay. We enjoyed our trip to the fullest, all the while knowing that our faith and our friendship will take us to a higher place someday. Who could ask for better friends than that?
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Seven Things I Should Have Done.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, is based, in part, on her family history and is garnering many five star reviews.
Book Three of the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, is now available! Order your copy today!
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).