Riding the Roller Coaster of Parenting

IMG_9543Today is Ash Wednesday, and our family certainly took advantage of Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday by indulging in food and fun over the past few days. We surprised Katie Ann and whisked her away to Orlando to celebrate her 20th birthday. This is not something we normally do, believe me, but she was on a wild ride on the roller coaster of life over the past few months, and we wanted to show her how happy we are with how she’s handled things and that we recognize how hard she’s worked academically and personally. So, we met Katie at a restaurant near the airport, supposedly for a surprise luncheon for someone else, and told her that we had packed a bag, so she should grab whatever else she needed because our plane was leaving in two hours time! Needless to say, there was a lot of screaming, and many happy tears were shed. While it was a wonderful, joy-filled weekend, there was a lot of introspection for me…

Princess Belle and girlsMany years ago, we took our own princesses to meet the princesses they idolized. Our girls were so little, unaware of the bad things in this world, and unable to grasp the concept that not every girl becomes a Disney princess. I’m sure that, like many young American girls, they never thought about ever having days of darkness, despair, loneliness, heartbreak, or even insecurity. Those big, bright eyes, looking at the beautiful fairy tale princess could not have imagined a world where people can lose hope, lose faith, and lose themselves. 

 

This past weekend, as I watched the dozens (and dozens) of girls in their princess dresses, with big eyes and wide smiles, I longed for a return to those days.

Those were the days when my girls rarely felt like a fish out of water,
Epcot Nemo Morgan.JPG

were unafraid of monsters in the closet, 
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and believed nothing could solve problems better than a big bear hug.
Pooh breakfast Pooh and girls

Those were the days when they knew, without a doubt, that with a smile on your face, a song in your heart, a heart full of inspiration, and perhaps a little bit of pixie dust, all your dreams could come true.castle Amy girls (1).jpg

Of course, my girls are still pursuing their dreams. When life knocks them down, they get back up. When there’s sorrow or heartbreak or despair, they put on those smiles, shake the real dust off their hands and start over. And as a mom, I’m so proud of them each time they do that, but my heart still pines for the days when we thought there really is a happiest place on earth where all cares can be forgotten, where the real world doesn’t exist, and where we don’t have to return to the rat race of daily life. I know that the trials and tribulations my girls have faced are just the beginning for them. As they enter adulthood, they will be faced with problems that will feel like it’s them against the universe. And I want them to know this…

My girls, no matter what, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how dark it seems, no matter how broken you feel or how intense your pain is, your dad and I will always be there for you. 

We will help you catch whatever is thrown your way.IMG_7687.JPG

We will ride the roller coaster with you.IMG_9675

We will always remind you that life can be magical if you let it.IMG_9473

And that, when you’re ready, we’ll smile and wave as you climb to new heights and make all of your own dreams come true.IMG_9468

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Ashes and Chocolate

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 MeWhispering 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.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

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).

 

 

 

How Many Licks Must We Take?

my-wordly-girls.jpgAs a parent, I’m grateful that all three of my girls are intelligent, that they have traveled enough to be worldly, and that they understand the importance of doing well in school. However, I can’t help but wonder… as my girls were growing up, as they were experiencing all of those wonderful things, visiting foreign places, and learning how to navigate the world, did I remember to teach them the importance of being wise? What do I mean by that? Intelligence is a function of the brain. Worldliness is a function of experience. Doing well in school comes as a result of hard work and studying. Not a single one of those has anything to do with wisdom. Wisdom is a gift of the spirit and comes entirely from God.

So how do we achieve wisdom?

In today’s first reading, from the book of Sirach, we are told of the importance of wisdom. It is elusive, but can be found and should be sought by every man and woman. Those who know wisdom (personified as a woman in the text), love life, inherits glory (heavenly, not earthly), receives blessings, overcomes fear and dread, treasures knowledge, and understands justice. Wisdom does not come easily but through hard work, perseverance, and trust in God. It is not the kind of thing you can learn from experience or by reading a book. It can only come from spending time with God, reading scripture, and knowing and understanding that there is a higher being on who we should depend and in who we should trust.

Morgan at DU.JPGThis past weekend, my youngest daughter, Morgan, and I visited Pittsburgh so that she could attend Nursing Preview Day at the college of her choice. I watched all of those excited women (and a few men) and marveled at how young they looked. I cried a little when I thought about sending my baby off on her own. I thought about both of her sisters and their college experiences, the good and the bad; and I can’t help but wonder if I ever taught them anything about the importance of wisdom.

Like all young adults, my girls believe that they know what is best for them. Don’t we all? And as any good parent would, my husband and I have always supported them and allowed them to choose their own paths. Yes, there have been times when we raised a brow, questioned a decision, or sighed in disbelief over decisions made. We cried when the choices were bad, and we celebrated when they were good. But I’m still left with the question, are my girls truly wise?

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 10.30.13 AMThose of us above a certain age will remember the wise old owl who was sought for his knowledge. He was asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?” When he couldn’t figure out the answer, he cheated and noisily bit into the lollipop. I think that’s how most people approach wisdom. They think they have all of the answers, and when they’re unable to solve a problem, they take a shortcut, or they give up, or they give in. Their choices are often destructive, and their paths are covered with thorns and lead them nowhere. Sometimes, they find themselves on rocky ground with nowhere to go. They believe they are being wise and don’t understand when things don’t turn out the way they thought they would. True wisdom tells us that all of the answers lie with God. 

How many licks must we take, how many dead-end roads must we travel, how many mistakes must we make before we understand that we’re doing it all wrong? When faced with a problem, how many of us think, right off the bat, that we need to pray for an answer? How many stop and think far enough into the future to see beyond this moment, this situation, this world? How many understand that obtaining wisdom isn’t arbitrary or automatic or easy? It doesn’t mean you will never make mistakes, never question yourself, and never worry about the future. However, it does mean that you work to get past the trial, understand the limits, and look for the right path. Wisdom, herself, understands that finding her is difficult.

I will walk with them in disguise,
and at first I will test them with trials.
Fear and dread I will bring upon them
and I will discipline them with my constraints.
When their hearts are fully with me,
then I will set them again on the straight path
and reveal my secrets to them.
– Sirach 4:17-18

All good things comes to those who possess wisdom. That doesn’t mean they will never suffer, nor does it mean that their lives will always be perfect. What it means, according to 2 Chronicles 1: 11,  is that they will amass riches beyond measure and be honored for their knowledge. I’m pretty sure it’s not material riches that they will be given but love, happiness, contentment, and eternal rest. Solomon, known as the wisest person to ever live, when offered anything in the world, asked God for just one thing – wisdom. One of my all-time favorite hymns is Hail Mary, Gentle Woman. In the song, we implore Mary, more than once, to “teach us wisdom, teach us love.” Perhaps we would all do well to ask for and seek the same. 

Join me to celebrate the release of my newest novel, The Devil’s Fortune. Let me know if you can be there on Sunday, March 24, 2019.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: In the Desert

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 MeWhispering 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.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

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).

 

 

A World of Kindness

Have you ever met someone who exuded kindness like the smell of a cherry pie in an open window on a summer day? This is a person whose eyes catch you, twinkle, and without words, bid you a good day. The kind of person who holds out his hand to help you down from a bus, or pulls out a chair for you, or offers to carry your suitcase even though he has one of his own. The kind of person who talks little about himself or herself but offers to listen, without judgement, to whatever is on your mind, offering a smile and encouraging word. As I’ve said before, kindness is all that really matters, and meeting a truly kind person can alter your attitude, your day, even your life. How often do you meet such a person? Once a day? Once a month? Once in a lifetime? 

Wouldn’t it be nice to meet someone like that in every encounter you have?

Wouldn’t it be nice to be that someone to others?

What would that world look like?

Everything about my recent trip to the Holy Land was special, meaningful, and life-changing. It wasn’t my first visit, but I ended both trips feeling the same way–overwhelmed by all that I saw and learned; sad to have to say goodbye to such wonderful places, experiences, and people; and determined to use the trip as a stepping stone to become a better person. 

HL Day 3 - Capernaum-009
The shoreline of the Sea of Galilee

There’s something about spending ten days with a group of absolute strangers, in a mystical land, that automatically causes one to act like a better person, to show the best side of himself or herself. I like to think that it really allows us to show our true selves. Why hide your real self from a group of people you may never seen again? Not to mention, in a place like the Holy Land, where emotions are always bubbling to the surface, and it’s easy to become vulnerable, to open up in a way you’ve never done before, to shed your mask and let others see the person you are or hope to be. When standing on the shores of Galilee, how can you not open your heart and mind like the Apostles did when Jesus said, “Follow me” and become the person He created you to be?

HL Day 3 - Banias (Caesarea Philippi)-005
at the head waters of the Jordan

Though my sister-in-law and I have been family for the past twenty years, we learned things about each other and our loved ones that we never knew. We opened up to each other like we have never done, and we bonded in a way that took me by surprise. Several times in the past week, I’ve smiled and swallowed the lump in my throat when reading a text from Lisa saying, “I miss you.” We allowed each other to see and be seen like never before, and I believe we love each other more because of that.

Every day, when we left the bus to explore another site, Gerard stood outside the door and offered his hand to each person. Most of us probably didn’t need his help, but he offered it just the same. And it wasn’t only his hand that led us down the large step and onto the sidewalk; it was his smile, his greeting, his genuine kindness. Even though we battled daily with Gerard and his wife, Jen, for our favorite seat (for the record, we shared pretty well, about 50-50), we talked and joked and laughed, and shared many meals together with them and their son, Ben. We learned so much about about each other, but the thing that will always stick out in my mind the most is that simple gesture of helping us all exit the bus.HL Day 8 Tel Aviv-003.JPG

Will, a twenty-four-year-old from Florida, accompanied his Aunt Maria to the Holy Land so that she didn’t have to travel alone. From the moment Will smiled and introduced himself, I felt his kindness. It was just something palpable, something that couldn’t go unnoticed, like the aroma of that cherry pie on the windowsill. The more we talked, the more I knew, beyond doubt, that Will was special, a man with a kind heart. Perhaps there are things he kept hidden, a dark past, a troubled youth, but I think it was obvious to everyone on the trip, that Will possessed a kind soul. I’m not sure there is anything more beautiful that can be said about a person.

Joan, oh Joan, your wit kept us all on our toes! After long days of walking, listening, praying, and marveling at the world around us, Joan entertained us with a never-ending parade of jokes. The sparkle in her eyes as she delivered each punchline had us cheering and begging for more. While there were some groans and shaking of heads, we all looked forward to the next one. But here’s what I figured out. It wasn’t about the jokes. It wasn’t about lightening our emotional loads at the end of the day. It was about Joan, her smile, her twinkling eyes, and her enthusiasm. Oh, if only we all had a Joan around every evening to make us laugh and smile at the end of a long, tiring, and emotional day!

And then there was Ben, a college freshman traveling with his parents, Gerard and Jen. This young man beamed when he talked about the organization he started to lead mission trips to Uganda. He lives every day of his life searching for ways to help others. He has a heart so full of love and exuberance, you can’t help but soak in the kindness he passes around to everyone he meets. Every day, Ben would approach the group to share evening plans to go out and explore the city. His enthusiasm was contagious!

HL Day 4 Train Station 001
A night on the town in Jerusalem

I could go on and on. There was sweet Toni, always so appreciative of the pictures that I shared. There were sisters, Lauren and Alicia, with their bright smiles and invitations to stay in touch and visit them. There was Michelle, Jami, and May Ann, and Joe, Betty, Father Jhon, and our leader, Jan, just a few among a number of other wonderful people I now call friends. There were so many who made our trip memorable and special, just as I experienced when Ken and I traveled to the Holy Land three years ago. Perhaps there’s something about treading on holy ground, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, and standing on the same ground as Mary, Joseph, Elijah, and Abraham. Maybe the power of the Holy Spirit is so strong there that it overwhelms one’s soul and prevents one from being anything but kind. Or maybe hearing the stories of healing and conversion along with reliving the passion, death, and resurrection just create the perfect environment, one in which everyone naturally becomes the best and kindest version of themselves.HL Day 3 - Primacy of Peter-009

I like to believe that each one of us has returned home with a renewed spirit, a humbled heart, and the desire to reach out to everyone we know with the kindness we experienced on the Sea of Galilee, the streets of Jerusalem, and the hill country of Judea. I pray that we remember the words we heard on the Mount of Beatitudes and go forth as the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers. Let us comfort and console, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and know that we are truly blessed.

And may we strive every day to just be kind. If everyone were to make that one little thing the cornerstone of all we do, imagine what a wonderful world it would be.

Beatitudes.jpg

Join me to celebrate the release of my newest novel, The Devil’s Fortune. Let me know if you can be there on Sunday, March 24, 2019.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: In the Desert

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 MeWhispering 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.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

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).

‘Til Death Do Us Part

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. While the world has turned the holiday into nothing more than a day to spend money on Hallmark cards and expensive chocolates, it’s actually a day to celebrate those you love. Last week, I had the pleasure of witnessing eight couples renew their wedding vows at the site of the wedding feast of Cana. I remembered when Ken and I had that same beautiful opportunity three years ago. I felt so blessed, each time, to stand with couples who realize that marriage is something to be obtained, maintained, and sustained, through good times and bad.

Cana
Renewing vows in Cana of Galilee

In the 3rd Century, Roman King Claudius II outlawed weddings as he believed that marriage led soldiers to distraction, and he wanted all men to become soldiers. Valentine was a Catholic priest who secretly married couples and was eventually thrown into jail and executed for refusing to renounce his faith. While in jail, Valentine befriended the jailer, whom he converted, and began teaching the jailer’s young daughter. Before his death, Valentine wrote a note to the young girl, encouraging her to stay close to Jesus. Thus began the tradition of sending notes on Valentine’s Day, a tradition that dates back to the 5th Century when it replaced the Roman festival of Lupercalia. It was thought that a day to celebrate true love was far better than the practice of celebrating spring and fertility by pairing off men and women through a lottery! Though I have to wonder, have things really changed all that much since the 5th Century?

I hear it all the time–the way to meet someone today is through an online dating site. I’m not knocking online dating. I know some couples who were paired by the magic matching algorithm and are quite happy. For some, it’s the best and easiest way to meet a companion or future spouse. For others, it leads to peril and abuse. An article in the Huffington Post points out the drawbacks of online dating. Among them: treating people as mere commodities, lack of willingness to commit, and the possibility of harassment and stalking. The potential for danger when meeting up with someone you only know online is terrifying for this mother of three young women.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the lure of meeting online is because we have become a society where showing any interest in a person of the opposite sex is automatically seen as harassment. After all, in today’s world, how can you let someone know you are interested in them without a) offending them or b) sending a signal that all you want is sex?

Here’s the other thing I think about when recalling the story of Saint Valentine. He was a man who was willing to die to protect the right to marry. Moreover, couples were willing to be imprisoned or killed for love. It would have been much easier for couples to engage in sex or live together without bothering with marriage, but that’s not what they wanted. They understood the importance of marriage, the sanctity of it, and the beauty of being husband and wife. It makes me sad that so many people today choose not to be married.

According to a recent analysis at the University of Maryland, more millennials are staying married after they’ve said, “I do.” Unfortunately, while the divorce rate among post-baby-boomers is decreasing, the amount of people tying the knot has dropped. More people are choosing to remain single, and more couples are choosing to co-habitate. A large part of these decisions is economic stability. College-educated adults are more likely to marry because they can afford to have a family and can afford to make the choice to stay home to raise their children. Marriage has become more of a status symbol and less of a natural progression of love and fidelity. Brides and grooms are getting older, and the amount of children they are bearing is lessening.

What would Saint Valentine think of our world and relationships today? Would he shake his head, perhaps even shed a tear, over modern views of marriage? If marriage was outlawed, or even just looked down upon, would he still risk his life or reputation to marry those who seek his help? Would people even bother? Would they risk their lives, their reputations, their self-reliance and pride, to take vows to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do them part?

As the sacred author tells us in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” And as is affirmed in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

Saint Valentine knew that men and women need each other and that marriage is not merely a way to bolster one’s status but a commitment made to each other and to God. May all of you, and your loved ones, have a very happy Valentine’s Day.

Primacy Hearts.jpg
Step stones at the Primacy of Peter, Galilee

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Ashes and Chocolates

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 MeWhispering 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.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

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).

Emphatically, Yes

As I write this, I am concluding day two of my second visit to the Holy Land. We spent the day in Galilee, visiting the towns of Nazareth, Cana, and Tabgha. I feel enormously blessed to be back in this place where, as we heard this morning, “the Word became flesh.” Just thinking about that brings me chills and causes my eyes to tear up. Who are we that the Son of God should come to save us? It’s such a humbling thought, and yet, throughout the day today, I have been reminded that God does come to us over and over in our lives. He seeks us out, invites us to come to Him, and implores us to follow Him. We but need to answer with one word…

At the Basilica of the Annunciation, we heard how Mary’s “yes” changed the world. Her willingness to do what God asked of her should not be taken for granted. Mary was a teenaged girl, not much more than a child. As my friend reminded me today, Mary was a young child, one day playing with dolls, the next betrothed to Joseph, and shortly thereafter expecting the child of the Holy Spirit. And yet, she said, yes. Imagine, an angel appears out of nowhere, tells her she’s going to bear the Messiah, and she says, yes.

Imagine, too, a young man who has just finished his apprenticeship and is ready to marry. He becomes betrothed to a fourteen-year-old girl. His whole life is planned out and lying ahead of him. And then he learns that, not only is his betrothed pregnant, she claims that the Spirit of the Lord overcame her and left her with child. As he ponders breaking off their betrothal, an angel visits to tell him to trust, believe, and agree. And Joseph answered, yes. Yes to taking Mary and her child into his home. Yes to raising this baby to be the savior of the world. Yes to humbling himself before God and man.

One of my favorite sayings is, we plan, God laughs. In fact, I recently wrote about accepting change, and why change can be good and rewarding. I don’t believe in coincidence but in the perfection of God’s plans. Everything happens according to His plan, not ours. Like young Mary and the carpenter, Jospeh, we make plans. We lay out what we want our lives to be like. We make lists, keep calendars, set times. And then God steps in. After the ultimate altering of plans to follow God’s plan, Mary understood this. Years later, at Cana, she told the wine stewards,”Do whenever He tells you.” And to her son, she merely let it be known that God decides when one’s time has come. So, what did the stewards and the son of Mary do? They said, yes.

Yesterday, we heard quite a lot about Jonah, who said no to God, and we all know how his journey went. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather fly home from this encounter with God than find myself in the belly of a big fish!

This afternoon, as the sun shone above us and the temperatures reached about 76 degrees, we were to visit several places, but… We received a warning that tomorrow would bring storms and rough seas. Our plans were switched, and we headed to the Sea of Galilee for our boat ride. Why were our plans rearranged? What was God trying to tell us? We may never know, but as a result of the change, we got to drive along the beautiful Golan Heights and see the site where Jesus cast demons into the swine, a site not often seen by visitors. Our leader told us it was the most beautiful and colorful she had ever seen the Sea.

Here’s what I know: when God calls to me, when He invites me to join Him, when he asks me to alter my plans and trust Him, I will remind myself that, no matter what my own plans may be, God expects me to give a very loud, firm, and resounding, YES.

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 MeWhispering 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.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

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).

Keeping Track

We laughed this morning, in my cardio class, when the instructor had to set her Fitbit before class to track her exercise, saying, “If it’s not tracked, it doesn’t count.” The reason we laughed is because we all understood exactly what she meant. I once forgot to wear my Apple watch to class and felt like the whole class was for nothing because if I couldn’t show that I was there, how could I prove I actually did the work? I know, it sounds crazy.

I’ve been thinking about it all morning, and I believe there’s something there to consider. We’ve all succumb, in one way or another, to the fitness-tracking craze. My father keeps track of the miles he racks up during the day as he walks in the neighborhood and around the house. I like to monitor my steps to make sure I’m not sitting for too long. I know some people who follow every calorie they burn, every “ring” they close on their exercise app, and even how many deep breathing pauses they take.

All good stuff, I’m sure, but let’s stop and think for a moment about what we’re tracking and why. Are they the minutes or steps that really matter? Are they the things that are going to make a difference in the end. And I mean that end. 

Are we tracking how much we give to the poor (and I don’t mean for tax purposes)?

Are we tracking the time we spend in Church? in prayer? in one-on-one time with God or the Bible?

Are we tracking the amount of time we spend with our families? our children? our spouses? our parents?

Are we tracking the amount of time we spend listening when others are talking–really, truly listening?

Are we tracking the times we say thank you? to our families, our friends, cashiers, parking attendants, ticket takers, God

Are we paying attention to those moments in life when we’re called to slow down, stop, take a breath, and just be? How often do we actually do that?

Are we recording every special moment in our minds, and reflecting on them later, or are we rushing through life unable or unwilling to actually enjoy and appreciate this gift we’ve been given?

Are we remembering to say happy birthday, happy anniversary, I’m sorry, I’m thinking of you, I’m praying for you, or even just hello or have a nice day?

I love that I can track my steps, that I can record my exercise, that I can boost my confidence by boosting my movement. But I have to stop and ask myself, am I really tracking the things that matter? If the answer is no, and it quite often is, then I have some work to do. How about you?
gather ye rosebuds

Join me in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, on March 24th and 25th to celebrate Maryland Day and the release of my latest book, The Devil’s Fortune. Watch my Facebook page this week for more information.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: You’re My Inspiration.

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 MeWhispering 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.

Amy’s next novel, The Devil’s Fortune, will be released in March of 2019. Pre-ordering is available from some vendors with more being added each day.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

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).

 

There’s Gotta Be A Little Snow Sometime

SnowyTrees2019.JPGOne day last week, while my husband and youngest daughter slept snugly in their beds, and Mother Nature covered the trees and fields with a soft blanket of white, I quietly walked outside in the dark to take some photos of the gently falling snow. The world around me was cold, barren, frozen and unwelcoming. And it was absolutely exquisite. It was my favorite kind of snow. It fell softly from the sky, landing on every branch, leaf, and needle, turning each and every tree into a glowing, white piece of art, a fine sculpture created by the loving hand of God. I couldn’t help but think about a conversation that I’ve had with more than one person lately.  

You see, I’m noticing a trend, and it makes me sad. I see it in the young and old, in the workplace and in school, among volunteer committees and organizations, even within my own family. Everyone is looking for the easy way out, the no-pain method of doing things. There is a belief that everyone is entitled to happiness, to the never-ending bliss that drowns all pain and discomfort and allows each person to live a life of total pleasure without worry or sacrifice. I’ve even heard people say that here, in the United States, everyone is entitled to be happy.  

But they’re wrong.

We are merely entitled to the pursuit of happiness, and even that is within the confines of the law. That clause in our Declaration of Independence (mind you, it is nowhere in the Constitution, the document that actually rules this land) is based on the principle that we are all seeking some higher form of happiness endowed by our Creator. But even our Creator never promised happiness on earth. On the contrary, we were told that there would be suffering and pain and sorrow.

I’m reminded of an old Lynn Anderson song. Yes, I’m showing my age now, but you may recall her lyrical protest: “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta to be a little rain sometime.” Preach it, Lynn. 

Without sadness, we wouldn’t fully understand joy. Without mourning, why would we find the need to rejoice? Without snow, who would appreciate the spring?

It sounds simple, but it’s so much deeper than just letting a little rain, or snow, fall into our lives now and then. We need to learn to embrace the dark times, and allow them to shape us into better persons. There is a term that I think of more and more as I get older.  It is “redemptive suffering.” It is the Christian belief that all suffering we do here on earth is meant to lead us to a deeper relationship with Christ. In our suffering, we experience just a small taste of what He experienced in His passion and death. Furthermore, the suffering gives us the opportunity to share in Christ’s humanity and to understand one of the characteristics that makes us truly human. It binds us to each other and to Christ. The more we accept our suffering, the more we become like Christ, and the more we are redeemed. It breaks my heart to hear people say that if there were a God, He wouldn’t allow suffering because there is so much to be learned from sorrow and pain, and not just for the person suffering.

Being a witness to suffering can help us to feel less selfish, to become more caring, more giving. It can allow us to be more charitable and comforting. I think of my daughter, who decided to pursue a career as a nurse after helping my father-in-law during his last days on earth. What a gift her grandfather gave her.

Suffering can purify our souls and help us to understand and appreciate what true happiness is. We just have to embrace it, and know that the cold, barren, darkness won’t last forever. I think of my oldest daughter, who lost a dear friend to suicide, and how it transformed her thinking so that she fully appreciates how good life is even on days that seem too hard to face.

It is meant to lead us to a more beautiful place, a place where it never rains, never snows, never allows pain and sorrow.  For those who are very lucky, that place can actually be found here on earth, even in the midst of suffering.  And it can be a beautiful sight to behold. I think of someone I love very much who suffered through a traumatic event recently and has allowed herself to become stronger, more self-assured, and more willing to embrace new opportunities that have come her way.

snow2019So the next time you experience a time of cold, harsh, and unwelcoming sadness in your life, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual, remember that there is a reason for our suffering. There are things that can be learned, not by the mind but by the soul. Let others see that sorrow and pain does not always have to end in total despair; there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Be strong, courageous, and faithful, knowing that your spring will come, and eternal happiness will be your reward. Remember that there is always the breaking of dawn, even after the coldest, snowiest night.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: From Sorrow, Joy.

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 MeWhispering 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.

Amy’s next novel, The Devil’s Fortune, will be released in March of 2019. Pre-ordering is available from some vendors with more being added each day.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

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).