We are now into the second full week of the stay at home, self-containment policy requested by the federal government. It’s been challenging at times, but there has been a lot of good that has come out of it.
I’m reminded on a daily basis that life doesn’t always go according to one’s plan. Things are consistently changed, rearranged, sidelined, or reimagined. Goals are shifted, and priorities are reconsidered. Life is a giant balancing act, sometimes performed on a tightrope, often without a net. How we maintain our balance, meet the challenges, and adjust our way of life and our attitude can and will make all the difference. This time presents us with the beautiful opportunity to see things in a different way. It is, perhaps, the gift that the world so desperately needs.
I’m writing this post from the armchair in my living room. Our oldest daughter, who moved out three years ago, is still asleep in the twin bed in my office (her old bedroom). When Rebecca heard that everyone was expected to stay home for weeks, possibly months, she packed a bag and headed home. She had no desire to be left alone during this time.
Our other two daughters are home from college, doing online studies in between craft projects, naps, and playing tennis when they can (our driveway was poured to be the regulation size of a tennis court, complete with removable net). They are learning to abide by house rules once again and reminded of the importance of sharing in household chores.
My mother-in-law joins us during the day but returns to her house at night, making no stops in between. It’s been a treat for her and for the girls to spend time together.
Many ongoing adjustments are taking place, not the least of which is sharing my office with Rebecca. A huge revelation has been that Ken and I realized we liked being empty nesters! Don’t get me wrong, we love having all of our girls home, but our private time is gone, our shows go unwatched, and our quiet house is a constant bustle of activity (once everyone emerges from their cocoons). We’ve come to cherish our early morning time together, catching up on the previous day, watching the news, and making and eating breakfast together. That has been a true gift–those moments we are carving out for each other.
And there are other gifts that we experience every day. Last night, we ate dinner in the dining room. Other than birthdays and dinners with guests, the dining room stands empty and unused almost all of the time. Our long, custom-made kitchen table is always the hub of activity in the house, and that continues to be the case. However, it is now the place for games and puzzles and sometimes a study area, and our sunroom has been turned into a craft room. The dining room is finally serving its purpose!
Facetime dates with my parents are something I look forward to, and I love seeing my friends’ faces on my computer screen. It’s so nice to look them in the eye and give them my full attention, instead of just hearing their voices over the phone while I do laundry or cook dinner.
Missing Mass has been a real challenge for me, but not receiving the Eucharist has created a deep longing to return to that intimacy that we, as Catholics, are blessed to have with our Lord, and I’ve heard many, many others express the same sentiment. We need that intimacy with our Lord. More importantly, we need God! We need prayer, we need holiness, we need faith, and I believe people are beginning to see that.
There is even more good that has come of having to “attend” Mass online. Our friend, Father Darryl, livestreamed his Mass this past Sunday from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and it turns out that many of our pilgrim family tuned in to participate. So, not only was my entire family in attendance together in our living room, so, too, was our pilgrim family, tuning in from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and other states. That led Father to the idea of presiding over a special Mass for all of us that will take place this evening, celebrating the feast of the Annunciation, harkening back to the first place we celebrated Mass together in the Holy Land four years ago. It brings me to tears to know that Ken and I will be attending Mass tonight with this special group of people
This special reunion is a reminder of what brought us together–a life-changing trip that was based on our faith and our desire to grow closer to Jesus. While the trip did just that, it also created a closeness between a group of strangers that has become an unbreakable bond. I see the potential for a similar bond being forged between more groups around our country. How? Because living in a type of solitary confinement creates the same kind of longing as being away from the Eucharist. We are seeing how hard it is to live away from other human beings. We are realizing how much we need human interaction. We need to be physically near each other, to be able to touch each other, to be able to sit next to someone and talk intimately. And we’re all gaining a new appreciation for our grandparents and other elderly relatives! Let us all cherish every moment we have with them. It really puts into perspective the fact that just a short time ago, many were touting the “advantages” of euthanasia. In fact, I believe we may be gaining a whole new appreciation for the sanctity of life at all stages.
This time also presents a great lesson in the importance and diverse utilization of technology. A few weeks ago, I did a live presentation for our parish about a 2021 Holy Land pilgrimage we are planning. Tonight, I will do the same presentation online for a second group of interested parishioners. The Bible study that I lead gathered yesterday morning in an online setting. Was it ideal? No. Did it work? Yes. My husband has been participating in online job interviews for the past week. My girls are taking online classes and attending online meetings. This period will show us, in a very profound way, the potential of the internet as well as the pitfalls.
Add to all of this the great period of learning and discovery that we are all going through right from our own homes. Museums have put exhibits online. Internet study programs are being offered for free. Our nightly history lesson revolves around Chernobyl. Morgan is expanding her art skills and is going to learn to create a sourdough starter and bake bread. We are trying out new recipes (cocktails are recipes, right?) and sharing new workout routines. With the gym closed, Ken has gone back to riding his bike and has taught himself to make homemade sausage and scrapple (which is apparently only a Maryland and Pennsylvania breakfast food).
Believe me, I will be more than ready for this whole thing to end. I crave routine and silence and peace, but I love that we are all being given a reason, really a command, to slow down, work fewer hours, and appreciate the things we have. We have been given a great opportunity to reexamine our lives, our priorities, our relationship with God and others, our perspective on the sanctity of life, and where and how we spend our time. When we look back on this time in our lives, I think we will see it, not a as burden, but as a gift. Perhaps this will be the time that changes everything.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Searching for Answers.
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, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy is available as a complete set for your Kindle and is also available on audio!
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).