The Gospel reading this past Sunday was about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. I heard recently that for two-thousand years, theologians have gotten the story wrong. The modern interpretation is that the story is not about a miracle but about sharing. Supposedly, the Apostles asked the boy with the bread to share, and once he shared, everyone else decided to share, too. We’re now told that Jesus couldn’t really make five loaves and two fishes feed five-thousand people, and we should accept that this is just a nice story about the good side of humanity.
On Sunday, Father Michael gave us his own take on this story. He confirmed that it is about sharing, but not in the way that modernists believe. Jesus asked the Apostles where they could get food, and Andrew answered, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”(John 6:9). Jesus told the Apostles to share the boy’s food with the crowd, and miraculously, they had their fill and then “collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat” (John 6: 13). Father told us that God was able to perform this wonderful miracle because one little boy was willing to share all that he had.
When Ken and I got married back in 1993, we knew that we were going to be parents right away–his mother’s Golden Retriever was due to have a litter of puppies just a few weeks after our wedding. We were both very much dog people and were raised with dogs in the house. We brought our first baby home a few days before Christmas, and the timing could not have been more perfect. That was the winter of the great ice storm that crippled most of the Mid-Atlantic, particularly the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Ken was working in Annapolis and was stranded. I was home alone–two hours from my own hometown–with no friends, no family (I still hardly knew Ken’s family), and nowhere to go. I was housebound with nobody but Tucker to keep me company. I’ve often kidded that it was that puppy who got me through the first year of being married.
Ken and I had been married just over two years when we became pregnant with Rebecca, our oldest daughter. Everyone laughed at me because along with the typical expectant mother books, I read all of the books about introducing your dog to your new baby. They laughed, they teased, and they told me I was crazy, but I remember my sister-in-law worrying that our dog just would not accept a new love in my life. As recommended in the books, the evening after Rebecca was born, my mother-in-law took home the little cap she had worn all day in the hospital and let Tucker smell it. When we arrived at the house the next day, I carried Rebecca in one arm and a large dog bone in the other. I presented Tucker with the bone, but he wasn’t interested. He was instantly smitten, and for the next nine+ years, he and Rebecca were the best of friends.
By the time Rebecca was ten, and we’d been blessed with two more little girls in our family, and we lost Tucker to cancer. It was such a tragic time for us. We all cried for so long, but I was increasingly sad. Every day that went by, I felt so lonely. Ken was away so much due to work, and the girls were all in school. I missed the affection and companionship that my first baby had provided. One day, Ken arrived home and said, “Let’s go. I’m getting you a puppy.”
We had Sunny for only five years, but he was a beautiful part of our family. He was extremely smart and well-behaved. He loved being with us, but found his true home on the boat. Unfortunately, he vanished from our yard one day and was never seen again. This time, it was Ken who took it the hardest. He’d wanted a Brittany Spaniel ever he’d had one as a child. He and Sunny were inseparable. Ken was cutting the grass one day, and Sunny and our latest addition, Misty, were playing in the yard. A frantic Misty got Ken’s attention, howling, crying, running in circles, and begging him to follow her. Ken realized Sunny was missing, and took off toward the end of the driveway, hot on Misty’s heels, but Sunny was nowhere to be found. For three days, Ken walked every inch of our small peninsular town, wading through marshes and combing through fields. We’re pretty sure someone just took her, and all we could hope was that she had a good home.
This time the heart-broken one was Misty. Sunny had been her constant companion, and she cried and moped and stared out the window for hours. It was torturous to watch her decline, day after day. She was dying of loneliness. She had literally lost her best friend. The day we brought Rosie home to Misty was the happiest day of her life.
After a long illness at the age of four, Misty developed a heart murmur. The vet told us that she could love another ten years or die the next day. He encouraged us to give her the best life we could, allow her to run and play, and just treat her like we would treat any beloved member of the family, and that’s what we did. When Misty was ten, she returned home from her favorite past-time, swimming in the creek across the road, pranced into the yard with her tongue hanging out and tail wagging, and then jolted and fell to the ground. I held her and begged her not to leave me. Like Tucker, she had become my best friend, and I couldn’t imagine life without her. She had taught me so much in those short ten years. I held her in my arms as she took her last breath. Little Rosie watched from the doorway, and I know she felt the pain as deeply as I did.
The dog we bought as a companion for Misty became my constant shadow, and I may spoil her just a little. Rosie is so sweet and so good. She just wants to spend her days by my side, always under my desk as I work and staying close by while we take our daily walks. She loves her animals and cares for them like they’re her babies. She’s been the only dog in the house for two years, and we thought she was content that way, until…
That little baby we’d brought home from the hospital over twenty-five-years ago grew up and got married and adopted a puppy of her own. The first time Rebecca brought Casper to the house, Rosie was the happiest we’d seen her in a long time. It was like she was a puppy again, running around, nipping playfully at Casper, and just having a grand time. When Casper went home, Rosie sulked. It took two days for her to be herself again, and the more she and Casper had playdates, the more we knew…
Rosie needed a sister. She needed someone to cuddle with, to play with, and to care for. She needed a companion during the day and someone to snuggle with at night. She needed someone like…
We brought Luna home yesterday. The whole process, from being notified that there may be a puppy available for us to the ride home, puppy in tow, took about 30 minutes. We hadn’t planned on pulling up to someone’s house, having a puppy thrust into our arms, and then being told to have a nice day. That’s pretty much what happened. My youngest, Morgan, and I were stunned, but I didn’t question it for a minute. Luna needed us much more than we needed her. With ribs protruding and fleas feasting, she melted into Morgan’s arms like she was at peace for the first time in the four months she’s been on earth. After baths and a quick trip to the vet, Luna and Rosie are bonding (and Casper has FaceTimed with them). This new sweetie is still timid and still adjusting, but I think she already feels the love. She’s not quite sure where her place is while I’m working, but we’ll get there. For now, I’m just happy that she has found a home, and we have found a new family member.
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’, “Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.” This official writing finally put to rest the two-hundred-year debate in the Church about whether or not dogs go to Heaven. For me, it’s not really about whether or not I will see my dogs, made whole and beautiful and healthy again, in Heaven. I’ve always felt that I would. No, for me, these helpless creatures we take in and make a part of lives are a tiny glimpse of what Heaven is like. Unconditional love, companionship, and healing (really, is it just a coincidence that dog is an anagram of God?). We mere mortals have been given the most precious gift. We get to feel a love that shows no bounds and weathers any storm. From stories of dogs waiting outside the hospital for their humans to be released to the ones who lie by the bedside of someone leaving this world, we witness to the smallest degree what God’s love is like. All we have to do is open our arms and accept the love being handed to us.
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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 Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas 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.
There are few things our family enjoys more during the summer than crabbing in the rivers and creeks that extend from the great Chesapeake Bay like multiple fingers from a hand. These offshoots, consisting of salt, fresh, and brackish waters, are as much a part of Ken and me as the blood that runs through our veins. I come from a long line of watermen and boat builders dating back to the Ark and the Dove that landed on St. Clement’s Island in 1634. Much of my family history was woven into my book, The Devil’s Fortune. Ken began working as an apprentice on a crabbing boat when he was eleven and owned his own boat by the time he was fifteen. Our girls are water creatures, especially our youngest, a champion swimmer and proud holder of a boating license since she was twelve.
As much as our family enjoys crabbing together, what we enjoy even more is taking other people crabbing. There’s something about it that appeals to people on so many levels that it’s akin to a spiritual event. In fact, our former Associate Pastor, Father Olsen, summed it up best several years ago. After we went crabbing, steamed our catch, and sat down to eat, he said a blessing over the food. He thanked God for the experience of harvesting, cooking, and feasting on God’s earthly bounty. It was such a beautiful moment that I still think of it each time I sit down to eat our catch.
I’ve written many times about my first trip to Israel and the friends I met on that trip who have become family. Since that trip in 2016, we’ve shared many happy times and some sad ones, always leaning on each other and witnessing to our faith. This week, we received the news that we lost a second pilgrim, and the Lord gained a new saint in Heaven. Just weeks after we returned from our sojourn, one of our most beloved pilgrims was killed in a plane crash. He was a veteran who continued to fly missions as a civilian bringing home POWs and MIAs. His loss came as a great shock to all of us. Just as sad, and initially shocking, was the very recent passing of a dear, sweet woman who has been battling cancer since our trip five years ago. The news came two night ago, and my friends and I are in the midst of sending flowers and planning our travel for the funeral that coincides with Hurricane Elsa. I’m sorry, Elsa, but you are no match for the strength of our Frances.
Frances’s passing comes at a unique time for me. My parents have always paid summer visits to our home, with the exception of 2020, and they have been here all week. What makes this trip unique is the duration of their stay. Rather than just a long weekend, they are spending an entire week with our family, and they brought my 15-year-old nephew with them to spend time with my girls. We’ve watched many classic movies that the kids haven’t seen, played cards and games, visited the local maritime museum where Morgan works, stopped into the shop where Katie works, and spent a fair amount of time on the boat. It’s been a wonderful week, and I’m sad to see it coming to a close. Mom and Dad will head home tomorrow night after my book launch, and I will head to Pennsylvania to stay the night with a friend before the two of us drive to New York for the funeral.
While I always enjoy every minute that I am blessed to spend with my parents, the coinciding of these two events gives new meaning to this precious time. We are not meant to waste a single minute of our lives or our time with our loved ones. Frances knew that. My parents know that. I pray that the rest of the my family knows that. Bickering and fighting and petty disagreements should never come between people who love each other, and every day should be faced with courage and strength, joy and peace. Frances taught me that. She taught all of us that.
I have a thousand things to do today, but I wanted to check in and let you know that I’m working on some fabulous launch celebrations for the release of my new book.
Join me for my first ever Book and Wine Dinner!
I’m so excited to announce my first ever Book and Wine Dinner! On Thursday August 12, I’m partnering with the amazing Laurie Forster, sommelier, to offer an exclusive event at Scossa’s Italian restaurant in Easton, Maryland. You may know Laurie from her appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, Fox Business Network, NBC and ABC News, or from one of her many interviews with Brides Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Wine Enthusiast, Sirius Radio, or Martha Stewart Living! Laurie will bring her expertise and her joyful personality to an evening of food, wine, book talk, wine talk, and lots of mingling, talking, laughing, and toasting. To be part of this exclusive ticketed event, visit my website and buy your ticket today. Spots are limited in order for everyone to enjoy this intimate evening in a beautiful setting on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For Info and Tickets
One thing I learned at an early age is that life is not all about work, and work is not all about the absence of fun.
This past weekend, my parents were visiting for Father’s Day. Mom and I spent a little bit of time in town–we live right outside of the Maritime tourist destination, St. Michaels–and visited my girls at work, Morgan at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Katie at Simpatico, a fabulous Italian market. We all went crabbing, along with Ken’s mom, and feasted on our catch with Rebecca and Anthony who joined us on Father’s Day afternoon. We went to Mass, did a little gardening (thank you, Dad for the new forsythia!), and relaxed, happy to enjoy Mom and Dad’s first time staying at the house since 2019.
While I was making desserts on Sunday afternoon, we listened to a playlist that I created which consists of all the music we listened to when I was a kid. At one point, I looked at my mom and said, “I made this list because all these songs remind me of non-football Sunday afternoons.” Mom smiled, knowing exactly what I meant. She added, “When we’d play all the old records and clean the house before the start of the work week.” I nodded and said, “Yep. We’d blast music while cleaning and doing laundry, but what I loved most is how we’d dance and sing while we did our chores.” Those afternoons are among my favorite childhood memories.
I learned so many lessons on those Sundays, lessons like…
Earlier this morning, I read that spending trends among Americans are changing. Rather than buying things (which we all did a lot of over the past year), Americans are buying experiences (which we did very little of in 2020). People are realizing that they have enough stuff but not enough experiences. People are not only ready to get out of their house (and out of their pajamas and sweatpants) but to get out into the world.
I’m always amazed by those who have little but live a lot. By that, I mean those who sell everything and buy a sailboat or an RV and live life as one grand adventure. A few years ago, friends took their four small children (and I mean really small–ages 3-9) on a sailboat trip around the world for a year. I can’t even imagine that! Ken was enthralled and talks often about selling everything and living the rest of our lives visiting one campground after another.
If you’re from the Mid-Atlantic, have traveled here, or are familiar with the area at all, you know that one of the area’s claims to fame is its Maryland Blue Crab. I was blessed, not only to be born in Maryland, but to be born into a family of master boat-builders and to a grandfather who was a waterman. I grew up with blue crabs as something we took for granted rather than as a delicacy. There weren’t big crab feasts for us where we invited all of our friends and neighbors and enjoyed the special meal. No, crabs for us were sometimes a regular dinner but more often an evening snack, usually accompanied by whatever the most popular prime-time television show of that night was. And it was pretty much a daily occurrence at Granddad’s house.
I knew that my grandfather was smiling down on me when I met my husband, a young man who had been working on the water since the age of 11, who owned his own boat, and paid his way through college by catching crabs all season. For most of our marriage, it was the seasonal crab haul that took us on our vacations and added a little more spending money to our pockets. For the past several years, Ken traveled extensively; and while his travels took him, and often the whole family, to beautiful and exotic places around the world, they also took him away from his favorite pastime–being on the water and catching crabs. That all changed in 2020.
Did you ever see the movie, Up? The movie is about Carl, a grumpy old man whose wife passes away before they do the last thing on their bucket list–visit Paradise Falls. Carl ties hot air balloons to his house in order to fly himself to South America to live out his last great adventure with his beloved Ellie on his mind and in his heart. There’s a lot more to the story, but Carl learns the beautiful message of the movie when he returns from his adventure, still not satisfied with the way his life has turned out. He sits in his chair and leafs through the photo album of his life with Ellie and realizes that their entire life, every single moment great and small, was an adventure.
The older I get, the more I realize that there are all kinds of adventures.
Those who follow me on social media know that I’ve spent the past seven days at our family’s cabin the San Juan Range of the Rocky Mountains in Southwest Colorado. I’ve been enormously blessed to be able to share this majestic part of the world with eight other women from my tribe of women to whom I have become close since meeting in the Holy Land in 2016. Six of the women had to leave after five days, but two were able to stay a little longer and will return home later today. To say that a piece of my heart goes with each one of them is an understatement.
I learned so much about and from these women in just a few days, and the insights continue as the week goes on…