Before I begin this week’s blog, I’d like to remind us all that today is 9/11.
May all of us remember with love and compassion this day.
May we grieve with those who still mourn,
And share memories with those who cannot forget.
May we draw strength from those who bravely responded,
And gave their lives to save others.
May we stand with strangers who became neighbors that day,
And remember their generosity and hospitality.
Above all God may we remember your faithfulness
And learn to trust in your unfailing love
The other morning, I heard an interview with Jeannie Gaffigan, wife of comedian, Jim Gaffigan, that echoed recent thoughts of mine. Her new book, When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People (Oct 1, 2019), tells the story of what she learned after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. The main takeaway from the interview was, good can come from bad. No matter what cross we bear, we can choose how to carry it, how we respond to it, and how to navigate to the end of the painful road. More importantly, we can take that pain and suffering and put it toward the good. How fitting that we think of this today.
And how clear this was to me this past weekend.
Think about someone you know who has truly suffered, and did so with a smile, with the confidence that God would not give him or her more than he or she could handle. Looking back, I bet you can identify some good that came from that suffering–a better job, a more peaceful life, a closer bond with friends and family, perhaps even a new love. Because the truth is that God will often give us more than we can handle, much more, because He can handle it. Often we need to be reminded of our country’s motto, “In God we trust” because it is that trust that moves us from this life to the next, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
Remember the aftermath of 9/11? Not the anger or the fear but the compassion, the faith, the shared hope that things would get better. Remember how the churches swelled with attendees? Remember how the blood banks filled with the blood of those left behind, those wanted to contribute in some way? Remember how the flags raised, the anthem soared, and hearts of stone were softened? That horrible, unthinkable tragedy made everyone look at life–and death–differently. It brought us together. It became an inspiring call to Never Forget. Our compassion, our love for each other, country and God, and our human spirit were resurrected.
I’ve mentioned before that one of my dearest friends has cancer. I am constantly amazed by her unwavering faith and ever-present joy. She does not sugarcoat her illness. She admits that it’s hard. She’s tired. She’s in a lot of pain. Her days are filled with countless moments of distress and frustration. But she never fails to smile, to tell everyone how blessed she is to be surrounded by friends and family, to profess her faith that everything is going to turn out just right, whatever God wills that to be. She knows that, no matter how much she suffers, there is some form of light, joy, and peace on the other side of the suffering.
Someone I love dearly has been suffering for the past year. She underwent a tragic event that altered everything about her life. She was forced to move, say goodbye to friends, change her career goals, and learn to love herself again. Through it all, she kept her chin up, made the best of each situation, and remained focussed on dealing with what happened, overcoming the hurt and loss, and starting new. It was scary. It was painful. It was the largest cross she may ever carry, but she carried it; and Saturday morning, a beautiful, sunny morning, she texted me. She said, “It’s been one year today, and look how far I’ve come.”
She is happy. She is flourishing. She is shining with radiance and grace. Her brokenness, her wounds, her suffering–they have been transformed and renewed. She has been resurrected. Yes, there were some very dark moments. Yes, she had the support of loved ones. Yes, she sought professional help. Yes, she prayed and went to Mass and sought guidance from above. And she didn’t give up, didn’t give in, didn’t allow herself to be defeated. It wasn’t easy. It was a real struggle. Some days she wasn’t sure she would make it, but it made her stronger, more confident, able to examine her life, her choices, her goals, her friends, and her faith. Her struggles took her to the next level.
And that’s what suffering and pain and loss are all about. They are a means to getting to the next level. It’s the path to new life. And we don’t get there alone. Like we learned after 9/11, we get there by relying on each other and on God.
Pope Francis tells us, “The Way of the Cross alone defeats sin, evil and death, for it leads to the radiant light of Christ’s resurrection and opens the horizons of a new and fuller life. It is the way of hope, the way of the future. Those who take up this way with generosity and faith give hope and a future to humanity.” — Address at Via Crucis in Blonia Park, Krakow, Poland, July 30, 2016
To those who are suffering and to those watching someone you love suffer, remember this: almost without fail, pain and suffering lead to something great and wonderful, perhaps not in this life, perhaps not ways you can see or touch or measure, but sometimes in ways so profound, we must wait until the next life to understand it.
I don’t wish pain or suffering or grief on anyone. What I wish for everyone is that, when pain comes along, we all see it as a road to something wonderful.
“One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end of the road without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their numbers were so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.”
–Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, #153
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Welcome to My World.
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 of the “book that was a joy to read!”- Ann on GoodReads.
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), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).