A Lost Paradise

“Why hasn’t our government done something about this?” I asked the question over and over throughout the week, and each time, the answer was hard to digest. 

On a recent trip to the beautiful island group of Puerto Rico, I was amazed by the beauty, intrigued by the history, and stunned by the infrastructure.
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IMG_3547-001.jpgMy husband is a VP for the division of a global energy company that specializes in clean energy. At least a dozen times per day, he stopped to gaze up at the electrical wires throughout the cities and towns we visited. He would just shake his head and say, “That’s so unsafe.” It didn’t surprise him though. Puerto Rico’s electric company is a pariah in the business. The corruption and failure to follow safety standards is well-known in the industry. In fact, one of the upsides of Hurricane Maria might just be that it shed some light on the company’s ineptness. 

Unfortunately, nobody seems to care. 

IMG_1468.jpgOn our visit to El Junque Rainforest, we drove to a beautiful waterfall where dozens of tourists were stopping for pictures. Sadly, it was the only place in the national park that we could visit. Why? Maria damaged the rest of the roads and trails. We were told that it would take another two years to make them accessible again. Can you imagine the National Park Service not having Yellowstone or Mount Rushmore back up and operating within weeks of a natural disaster? Why not work as hard to make this park accessible again? Tourists are flocking to Puerto Rico right now, and it’s a disgrace that they can’t fully enjoy this national treasure.

Vieques is a national treasure. A small island of Puerto Rico, it was hit particularly hard by Maria. For some inexplicable reason, the bioluminescent bay seems to have benefitted from the storm, but the rest of the island has not. While the island was packed with tourists, and our trip to the bay was full of eager kayakers, the damage was apparent. Buildings were boarded up, hotels were closed, and streets and sidewalks were in desperate need of repair.  Despite the mood of the island and the spectacular views, damage and devastation abounds.
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Each time I asked why nothing is being done, I was given a different, sometimes vague, answer. The Puerto Rican Government is corrupt. The Puerto Rican power company is corrupt. The bidding process is corrupt. The United States Government doesn’t care. The people aren’t demanding better treatment and can’t decide which government to support. The people don’t know to whom to turn. The government of PR doesn’t want the US Government to interfere. The US Government doesn’t want to interfere. The PR Government takes most of the federal aid and squanders it on other things. The US doesn’t send enough aid. Every person you ask, from the average citizen to those working on the inside, has a different answer. 

And look, I don’t know what the real answer is. I don’t know how much of what the Puerto Rican people are told is true. Heck, I have no idea how much of what we’re told here on the mainland is true. All I know is that we had the pleasure of visiting a true treasure. If only those in charge (on all levels) knew how to take care of that precious gem. The people on all sides of this should be ashamed.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Real Boyfriend.

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 latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is being released this Friday! Order your copy today, and join her at her book launch celebration.

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).

Go to Joseph, or to Dad

IMG_5336-001We all know that Father’s Day in the United States is in June, but today I was inspired to move the date up a few months. While listening to the radio this morning, friend and talk show host, Gus Lloyd, told listeners that we were going to celebrate Father’s Day in honor of St. Jospeh, whose feast day is March 19. He asked listeners to call in and tell him how their fathers played a critical role in their faith lives. I couldn’t resist calling in, and I shared just a couple brief stories about my faith-filled father. After hanging up, thoughts of my father continued to swirl in my brain, and I realized that my father, more than anyone I know, truly embodies the spirit of St. Joseph, the father of Christ.

My father and my mother met in the early 1960s when my mother was living in an apartment in DC with two other women. One of the women was my father’s cousin, Claudia, and she invited my father, Richard, fresh from the Air Force, to stop by and visit one night. After Dad left that night, he decided to ask one of his cousin’s roommates out on a date, but he couldn’t remember which girl was which! He called and took a chance, asking Judy out on a date. When Judy came the door, my dad was a bit taken aback as the woman staring back at him was the other roommate! Much like Jospeh, my father followed that little voice, perhaps even an angel, telling him to honor their date. Rather than backing out and leaving Judy standing in the doorway, Richard, “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19) smiled and took her hand. The rest, as they say, is history. Richard and Judy have been married for over 55 years! Dad says he waited until they’d been married for some time before telling mom about the “mistaken identity.” I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that my dad, like Joseph, “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).

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Dad and Mom with cousin Claudia

IMG_0084Over the past 55 years, my father has worked to provide for his family. He always puts us first, often taking a backseat to whatever mom or we children had going on. Like Jospeh, Dad was content to stay in the background, usually letting my mother take the spotlight. More times than not, he even shined the light on her himself, like the time he sent a letter about Mom to Paul Harvey who then did a tribute to her on his daily, nationally syndicated radio show. Joseph knew that it was his place to protect and provide for Mary and Jesus, and he may have known that Mary would be the one to receive all the credit for Jesus’s birth and upbringing. There’s much we can learn from Joseph, just as I’ve learned much from my dad.

When my father was about 50, he was diagnosed with cancer. He made a vow to Mary that, if she implored her Son to grant him just a few more years–enough time to see his children grow up–he would say a Rosary every day. My father is now almost 82 years old, and he says several Rosaries each day. He is a man of his word. He made a promise to Mary, and to God, and kept it. How hard was it for Joseph to be a man of his word? To take Mary as his wife though she was pregnant? To sneak away in the night, with his wife and baby, leaving his family, friends, and job, in order to protect them? To teach his son all that he knew about God and scripture, all while knowing that his son was the son of God, the Messiah Himself?

When Jesus was about twelve, He was lost for three days and found in the temple, teaching the scribes and the pharisees. Mary admonished her son, telling him that they had been searching for him, but Jospeh said not a word. Here’s what I think happened. While Mary was scolding Jesus, Jospeh was running around the temple asking everyone, “Did you hear my son? Did you hear how wise he is?” and saying, “That’s my boy!” I believe this because I know my own dad. I receive emails all the time from people telling me they read my book or followed my blog because my dad told them to. While at a book signing last summer (with my father at my side), a woman told me that she was only there, buying my book, because my father had joined their community Facebook page and had spent the previous few weeks encouraging everyone to attend my signing and buy my books! She couldn’t resist his urgings and had to read the book that my father was bragging about.37811359_796502363887105_1650673493697626112_n

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My Valentine’s Present last year

Joseph was a carpenter, or more technically, a tradesman who worked with his hands. I love the scene in The Passion where Jesus is making a higher-than-normal table and shows his mother how one would sit at it using a chair. It’s such a playful scene, and I love seeing Jesus making a table the way his father would have taught him to. My father is also a tradesman who works with his hands. Throughout my life, my father, like my mother’s father, made things out of wood. It was not much more than a hobby, sometimes a way to save money or make something just the way they wanted it. Now that Mom and Dad are retired, Dad makes outdoor furniture for pleasure and to subsidize their retirement. His rocking chairs are a hot commodity as are his Adirondacks, porch swings, benches, and even birdhouses. His work is popular for two reasons–one, his craftsmanship is beyond compare; and two, my father constructs everything he makes with a healthy dose of love nailed into each board. Not love for what he’s doing, but love for those who placed the order and a genuine love for life and appreciation that he’s still here and still making furniture at eighty-one. I have no doubt the same could be said of Jospeh.

Ken and Amy's Wedding17When I got married, just before he walked me down the aisle, my father took me aside and held my hand. He said to me, “Amy, as a wife, and eventually a mother, it will be your responsibility to raise your family in the faith. You will need to make sure your husband goes to church and that your children are baptized and raised in our faith. It will be your most important job in life.” Of all the things my father could have said me at that moment, that’s what he chose to say. It made such a profound impact on me that I still remember it and adhere to it twenty-five years later. If my mother was the one who did that in our house, I don’t remember it. I’ve often wondered, when they first married, did she have to push my dad to go to Mass each week? Did she have to take the lead in teaching us about our faith? I honestly don’t recall. What I do recall is that all five of us attended Mass every single weekend whether we were at home or away. There was never, ever an excuse to skip Mass. It may have been Mom who chaired the church bazaar, presided over the PTA, served on the parish council, raised money to help those with cancer, and volunteered at all of our Catholic school events, but Dad was behind her every step of the way. Like Joseph with Mary, he was the presence that always allowed and encouraged Mom to be the blessed woman she is. He sings her praises every chance he gets, as I’m sure did Jospeh did of Mary.

Joseph never said a recorded word in the Bible, but his actions spoke volumes. He was a husband beyond reproach, a loving father who cared for and protected his son, a hard worker, a witness to his faith, and a “righteous man” who lived for others and for God. I am so blessed to have a father who emulates St. Joseph in all that he says and, more importantly, in all that he does.

Go, then to Joseph, and do all that he shall say to you;
Go to Joseph, and obey him as Jesus and Mary obeyed him;
Go to Joseph, and speak to him as they spoke to him;
Go to Joseph, and consult him as they consulted him;
Go to Joseph, and honour him as they honoured him;
Go to Joseph, and be grateful to him as they were grateful to him;
Go to Joseph, and love him, as they love him still.
– St. Alphonsus Liguori

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Let Your Light Shine Through

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 latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is being released this Friday! Order your copy today, and join her at her book launch celebration.

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).

Peru: A Small Service Excursion Abroad

Hello faithful readers! My name is Megan, and I am Amy’s publishing assistant until May. Since she is on a trip this week, I’m here to share my experiences with you from my spring break trip over the last 10 days: Peru!IMG_9515.JPG

Before we get into specifics, I’ll give you a little bit of background information about me. This year I am a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University and will be graduating with a degree in Communication and with a minor in Spanish. I grew up as a military brat (Ooh-Rah!), and when my family was stationed overseas from 2006-2009, we traveled as much of Europe as we could manage. Though I don’t really have a place that I’m “from,” I currently live in Carroll County, Maryland, where I graduated high school. I love romance novels, which is what drew me to Amy’s open position, and my favorite novel of hers is Whispering Vines because, in my mind, it’s closely linked to my favorite movie, The Longest Ride, but features a fun Italian twist, and with recipes!

Over the first 10 days of March, my Spanish teacher finally achieved her four-year goal to get me on one of her Spanish study abroad experiences. Doctora, as she’s known by all her students, has been trying to get me to study abroad in Spain or Costa Rica, the month long excursions, since my first year in college, but I never wanted to spend an entire month away from my family. The Peru trip, though, was 1) only 10 days, 2) open to members of my family, which means I could take my mom, and 3) probably the only time I’d ever go to South America, so it was the PERFECT time and place to go.

Thus began our journey to South America.

Friday, 3/1/2019: Travel Day.

 

We woke up at 330 am to drive to Dulles airport, fly to Panama City International, and then fly again to Lima. Our passports were stamped with our visas, and we stayed overnight in a small hostel to rest before moving to lower altitudes.

Saturday, 3/2/2019: Travel Day Part 2

 

We woke up early again to fly from Lima to Cusco, and then took a van from Cusco to Urubamba, a town much lower in altitude. For reference, Cusco is about 11,000 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu is about 8,000 feet, and Urubamba is closer to 6,000 feet. Staying in Urubamba allowed us to adjust to the altitude gradually and avoid some altitude sickness! At the hotel San Agustin, they had Coca Tea to help with the altitude. Coca Tea is made by steeping the literal Coca leaf in water and drinking the tea produced. I, personally, was NOT a fan, and chose to stick to my Altitude Rx natural pills instead.

Sunday, 3/3/2019: Ollantaytambo Visit

 

Our first real day of excursions! We visited the town of Ollantaytambo (Oh-yan-tie-tahm-bo) which had some ancient Incan ruins. Doctora scheduled a tour guide to lead us on different cultural tours, and this was the first day we met her. She led us through the ruins of Ollantaytambo and explained many of the different histories of the Inca, including the importance of the Incan cross, the terraces created in the mountainside to help with irrigation, protection, and to support the structure of the mountain, and even where the name Ollantaytambo came from. One of the possible explanations for it being named so could be a misconstruction of the Quechua (the Incan native language) word “tampu,” which referred to a small resting place for many of the Incan messengers to stop on their journeys. A “tampu” was supplied with food by the “allyu,” which was the Incan equivalent of a state. The state paid its dues in labor and supplies to Cusco, the capital of the region, and each “allyu” was responsible for maintaining their “tampu” for the messengers and other travelers. “Tambo,” then, could come from a mispronunciation of “tampu.”

Monday, 3/4/2019: Machu Picchu

 

Our day to Machu Picchu started with a van back to Ollantaytambo, where we rode a train car with MANY windows to the Machu Picchu station. Machu Picchu, or MaPi for short, is now considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, and many more people travel to it than before. Our hotel was the new Casa Andina, and we heard the roar of the Urubamba river outside our window while we slept. The town of MaPi has become very centralized for tourists, and includes many different restaurants, a shopping market that you can easily get lost in, and bus trips to and from MaPi itself. Once we rode to the top of the mountain, we saw the breathtaking ruins, climbed many stairs, and learned more than enough about its history from our tour guide. There were even llamas roaming free across the grasses, and they were incredibly unbothered by all the people.

Tuesday, 3/5/2019: Machu Picchu Town and Travel Day

 

Because there are only two major times when the train rides between Ollantaytambo and MaPi, we had the morning to ourselves in MaPi until our 1:30 p.m. train departed back to Ollantaytambo. My mom and I strolled through the market for a bit before sitting in a cute little French bistro for the rest of the afternoon. I sampled a Mochaccino, which was homemade with authentic and delicious Peruvian chocolate. After we returned from MaPi, we took a van back to Cusco city and allowed our bodies to adjust to the higher altitude by simply relaxing and enjoying dinner in the hotel.

Wednesday, 3/6/2019: Cusco City Day 1

 

Our stay in Cusco City began with a trip to the Coricancha, or the Temple of the Sun God. For the traditional Incan people, the Coricancha is the equivalent of the Vatican for Catholics today. This was their holiest of holy places, and it was once covered in gold. Gold represented the tears and essence of the Sun God, also known as “Inti.” When the Spaniards arrived to colonize and conquer, they built a church and monastery over the Coricancha and ordered all other temples to stop construction as part of the conversion of the Incan people. Every 300 years, however, Cusco suffers a giant earthquake, and when the last one occurred in the 1950s, the Cathedral atop the Coricancha fell, but all the Incan stones of the Coricancha below remained completely intact. Because of this, the Incan belief in Inti and their historical culture is somewhat affirmed to the Incan people, and the Coricancha remains a reverent place for the traditions.

After vising the Coricancha, we took a short walking tour of Cusco city and made our way over to the orphanage where we would be serving for the next three days. As part of the Peru excursion, Doctora always works with an orphanage in Cusco to have us complete some time of service. We helped play with children ages three to six in the courtyard for an hour and a half, often giving hugs and physical affection throughout the time we spent there. Though there wasn’t much else to do, it was a good way to begin our service.

Thursday, 3/7/2019: Cusco City Day 2

 

We began the morning by shopping at the local grocery store for food to bring to the orphanage. Then we took the gifts we had of food and soap to the orphanage and volunteered until after lunch. Our Peru group had seven students this year, and we split into two groups for volunteering: those who could teach English to the older girls, and those who would play with the younger children. I was able to help teach English to some of the older girls, and while they knew some already, they were very eager to learn new songs, different English words, and what school was like at the university level in the United States. At lunch time, I was given a small two-year-old named Sandi to feed, and though I’ve never fed a baby anything before, I learned very quickly. She was so quiet, so sweet, and so cooperative that it was very easy! Her favorite thing to do when I held her before lunch and as she sat on the tiny chairs during lunch was swing her legs everywhere, but she was always looking for food.

After our time at the orphanage, we had the afternoon to ourselves, so my mom and I used our cultural ticket to visit as many museums as we possibly could in the Cusco area. We visited the Incan history museum near the orphanage, the Coricancha museum, and two different art museums that featured both popular and contemporary art pieces. We also found the Coffee Museum of Peru, which was free to enter and had a small hallway of information about coffee, as well as some delicious cafe snacks. Our server, Maria, was wonderful and I was able to hold a fluent, easily-understood conversation with her entirely in Spanish! As someone who aspires to be bilingual, if not multi-lingual, I thought this was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip.

Friday, 3/8/2019: Cusco Day 3

 

We attempted to start our day with more service at the orphanage, but due to a miscommunication, there wasn’t much for us to do. Before we left for Peru, Doctora handed out different school supplies for us to donate to the older girls at the orphanage who were attending school so that we could divide everything appropriately, and we handed these supplies out this morning. Many of the older girls at the orphanage actually do have parents, but their parents want to give them a better life, and the nuns who run the orphanage allow the girls to go to school in Cusco so long as they live and help with the younger children at the orphanage. This particular orphanage is only allowed to house children until they turn six, unless they are the older girls helping, and once children turn six they must either be adopted or they will be sent to another orphanage somewhere else in Peru, where more of the older orphans are.

The nun in charge of the orphanage spoke about one child who was in the orphanage because her mother was raped at 11 and had her at 12. Unable to care for the child and choosing to seek work elsewhere, the mother gave her daughter to her grandmother, who wanted to give her to the mother’s aunt who just had a baby herself. The aunt was unable to take care of another child, however, so the child was sent to the orphanage. This child was the one who, when we visited the first day, would go around to each person for a quick hug, over and over again in the circle, until she became distracted by someone else. The nun described how each child has a cross of suffering to bear, just as Jesus did, because they are unwanted or unable to be cared for, but there is Jesus in every one of their hearts, just as there is Jesus in every one of ours. By coming to volunteer, she said, she could see Jesus in our hearts and urged us to go home and hug our parents and our families, and to thank them for loving us and giving us the opportunities that we’ve had.

Sometimes our problems seem incredibly painful, but when compared to the suffering of others, it can easily put into perspective how lucky and blessed we truly are.

Without anything else to help with at the orphanage, we had another free day, and my mom and I took the day to explore the chapels and churches around. We met up with the main group at 2 p.m. to visit the Cathedral, and while no pictures were allowed inside any of the churches, I can promise you they were magnificent. Many of them were heavily influenced by the Baroque style of architecture, and gold leaf was a focal point for many of the decorations and didactic paintings.

Saturday, 3/9/2019: Lima City

 

On Saturday we flew back from Cusco to Lima, where we checked into our hotel next to the airport and began a 4-hour bus tour of the city of Lima. Though four hours may seem like a long time, we only scratched the surface of the cultural and historical elements that surround the city. We visited two main Plazas, the main church of San Agustin, and the Lover’s Park toward the ocean. We had another tour guide for this trip, and she told us many different facts about the history of the city. For example, there are three main colors of buildings from the old Spanish reign: red, blue, and yellow. Red buildings were often used to denote where native people and slaves, blue buildings were for the rich Spanish colonizers, and the yellow buildings were for different industrial shops and stores.

Another fun fact she mentioned was about the Lover’s Park, where they hold a contest every Valentine’s Day to see who can break the record for the longest kiss without breaking away. If you ever want to try and beat the record for yourself, the current one is at 1.5 hours, so best of luck!

Sunday, 3/10/2019: Travel Day Home

Sunday was, in a word, exhausting. We woke up at 3 a.m. for our flight from Lima to Panama City, which took about 4 hours. Once in Panama City International, we then went through ANOTHER security checkpoint that complies with the United States’ TSA requirements, and then flew another 5 hours from PTY to Dulles. Once there, we were free after customs!

Unfortunately, this meant we still had 2 hours to drive from Dulles to Carroll County, where I quickly did my laundry at home and had to drive another hour back to the Mount, where a quiz awaited me on Monday morning.

Normally I am a very organized person and always put my things away, but on Sunday night, I threw everything on the ground of my dorm room and went straight to bed. Though there was no time difference, travel jet lag is real!

Tuesday, 3/12/2019: Reflection Day

Writing this recap of my break has made me realize three things:

  1. No matter how experienced you are at traveling, there will still be hiccups and you will ALWAYS be tired. No one should have to fly 10+ hours in one day, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
  2. Peru, while never my first travel choice (I prefer Europe 🙂 ) was a beautiful place full of natural wonders, amazing history, no bug bites for me (!!!), and great experiences.
  3. Everyone deserves love, and everyone needs love, no matter how big or small. Our problems may be our own, but when we step back to serve others, we realize how fortunate and blessed we are to have what we do, especially when it comes to family. I’ve always been a big supporter of my family, and especially grateful for everything that my parents have done for me, but this trip helped put in perspective some other things about family. Though I may want to kick my little sister sometimes, at least I know I have a little sister. I know where she is, I can call her when I need her, and I know she’s usually safe. Even though my dad may try to go to Walmart more often than any of us needs, I know that I have a dad who is always supporting me, financially, emotionally, and in morale. No matter what hardships I face, I still have a full family. I still have a family that’s together. I still have extended family that I know, and that I know love and support me.

Not everyone gets that full family. Not everyone gets even half a family, or a small family. Sometimes all we have are those with Jesus in their hearts who reach out to help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my journey and seeing some of the pictures from the amazing trip that I was able to go on with my mom! Amy will be back shortly with more stories of her own trip this week. If I can leave you with one thing today it’s this:

Go hug someone you love and appreciate, and tell them so! In the end we’re all family, and sometimes family needs reminding just how important they are.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey 🙂

Sincerely,

Megan

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,
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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).