This past weekend, Ken and I went out to dinner with another couple. The four of us try very hard to get together about once a month, which isn’t easy with the busy lives we lead, but it’s crucial that we make the effort. We’ve known John and Alix for almost twenty years. Alix and I have been in the same Bible study group for nearly that long. Our kids went to the same school from first grade through high school. Ken and John went on a mission trip to Guatemala together. Our friendship is based on all these things, but what really holds it together is our faith. I have learned so much about prayer, faith, and healing from these wonderful people.
My long-time readers probably know that Ken was in politics for a very long time, almost half our marriage. His political career came to an end during a very tumultuous time in our lives. It was difficult for all of us. Imagine that the person you love most in the world is made into a scapegoat, has his name and reputation smeared by people he trusted, and is dragged through the mud for no other reason than political motivations. It was a heart-breaking time for me, to see my husband’s face on the news and read his name in the paper and know that everything being said was a lie. Rather than being relieved when the state ethics board cleared him 100%, I was angry because our lives had been turned upside down and because the media never once acknowledged his innocence other than a teeny, tiny one paragraph blip hidden at the bottom of an inner page in the local paper. I asked my husband over and over again how he was dealing with all this, how he was coping with the loss of trust and friendship he had, how he showed no anger toward the people who did this to hm, and his response to me was always the same. He simply said, “I pray for them.”
Now, if that doesn’t stop you in your tracks and make you look inward, nothing will.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”Matthew 5:44
But there’s more to those four little words than I could comprehend at the time. So much more.
Fast forward a few years. Ken was happily working in the private sector, our girls were flourishing in school, my writing career was taking off. Everything seemed perfect on the outside, but inside our family, I noticed something that bothered me. Though Ken weathered that storm with faith and humility, he had lost almost all his friends. He was alone, without any male companions, traveling and working all the time without even a whisper of a social life. At that same time, our parish was planning its first mission trip to our sister parish in Guatemala. I encouraged Ken to sign up, thinking it might be good for him, but Ken didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to travel to Central America. He didn’t want to take the time off from work. He didn’t feel the need to do a mission trip. Then, our associate pastor approached Ken, knowing he spoke fluent Spanish, and asked him to go as one of their interpreters. Nobody could ever say no to Father Evers. You just can’t look this wonderful, spiritual young man in the eyes and not say yes to whatever he is asking. So Ken went to Guatemala.
Ken was matched up with another man, a father from our girls’ school and husband of one of my friends. Ken and John didn’t know each other, and I’m sure the first night was probably awkward, but by the end of the trip, after long days of work and prayer, they truly bonded. From that point on, the four of us made an effort to do things together as much as possible.
That almost came to a halt when John’s wife, Alix, was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.
Our community rallied around their family, and Ken checked in on John as much as possible. We stayed in close contact, especially over the month when Alix wasn’t allowed to have visitors. Alix was so sick, and we all feared the worst but prayed for the best. I say all, but there was one person who never feared, and that was Alix. She got sick, and she got tired, and she even got angry at times, but she had a very, very strong belief that God would get her through this. It was more than a belief. It was complete faith. She told me that she felt that Mary, the Undoer of Knots, was carrying her through, untying each knot in which she was entangled, lifting her over each hurdle, and holding her when she felt too weak to manage. I cried many nights, and I said many prayers, and I’m sure Alix did the same, but I don’t think she ever wavered in her belief that she was in the capable hands of our Divine Physician and His loving mother. I believe she held fast to the words of Pope Francis, “God, our good Father, who distributes his grace to all of his children, wants us to trust Her, to entrust to Her the knots of our sins, the tangles of our miseries.”
Toward the end of Alix’s treatments, I traveled with Ken on a business trip to Rome. While in one of the shops within the Vatican walls, I discovered an entire display of pictures and statues of Mary, Undoer of Knots. I bought a statue for Alix and a picture for myself. I couldn’t wait to get back home and give the statue to Alix when I would see her for the first time in almost a year. It happened to be her birthday, and I took her the statue along with my pumpkin squares, and we talked forever. It was then that I learned about Alix’s prayer book. I mentioned to her that a family member was struggling with something, and she whipped out this little, pocket-sized paperback journal and opened it up.
“I’m adding him to my prayer list,” she said, jotting down his name and what prayers he needed.
I asked Alix about the book, and she showed it to me. Page after page after page was filled with names and events and circumstances that needed prayer. No, I didn’t read any of it. That was too private. She just flipped through it and explained that every time she was in pain or angry or starting to feel sorry for herself, she opened the book and looked at the many names of the people in need, and she prayed for them. She offered up every bit of her illness for others. She opened her arms and extended them on her cross, and offered her own suffering for everyone else.
That is something I will never forget. That is exactly what we are all called to do. St. Paul said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24). The Catechism says, “By His passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive passion” (CCC 1505). We are to turn our sufferings into prayers for others.
This past Saturday night, over dinner, we talked about our kids, about their school (mine have all graduated, and Alix is down to two of four), about books, movies, and music, about going to trivia night together sometime soon, about our summer plans, and about our families. We never once talked about cancer. Those days are behind her. After fighting the battle her life, Alix is cancer-free.
If you were to ask her how she survived what her doctor told her was almost certainly an irreversible death sentence, I think she would probably tell you that her caregivers were wonderful, that her acupuncturist helped save her mind and body, and that her family and friends gave her strength. But I think she might also tell you that she was never worried because she had put her life in Jesus’ hands from day one and had leaned on the love and support of our Blessed Mother. I believe that she knew They had her in Their loving care and that they heard her many prayers.
When I feel that I am falling, when I can’t see what lies ahead of me, when I worry about things out of my control, I think of Alix. I think of all the knots she had throughout her body and how they were miraculously untied. I think of her faith and perseverance. I think of her prayer journal and how she always put the needs of others before her own pain and suffering. I think about her strength, her humility, and her example. I think of how she taught me that we need to completely abandon ourselves and trust in God.
When I can’t understand how I am to react or respond or continue, I remember the words that Ken and Alix said to me with such love and confidence.
“I pray for them.”
Come see Amy on one of these dates:
April 9, 2022 – First Landing Wine and Arts Festival, St. Clement’s Island Museum, Clements, MD
April 23, 2022 – A Day of Wine and Roses Book Festival, Brook Hollow Winery, Columbia, NJ
June 4, 2022 – Christ Church 350th Anniversary Fair, Broomes Island, MD
June 12, 2022 – Saints Peter and Paul Communion Brunch, Saints Peter and Paul Church, Easton, MD
June 18, 2022 – SunDial Books, Chincoteague, VA – The Launch of My New Chincoteague Trilogy!
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What I was writing about one year ago this week: Make Your Sacrifice and Eat It, Too.
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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. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. 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 chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall.
Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was 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 in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021.
Amy’s new book, Seeking Tranquility, will be released June 15, 2022. Pre-order your copy now!
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), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021).