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).

Gifts of the Father

Though you won’t read this until Wednesday, January 16, I’m writing it on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. January 15, 2018 feels like yesterday, and I find it hard to believe an entire 365 days have passed already. On this day, one year ago, our family sat in a church and said goodbye to one of the most beloved human beings I have ever known. Even writing that, I have to squint to see through my tears. Some wounds take a long time to heal. Some never do. 

The Italian novelist, Umberto Eco, once said,

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.”

If that is the truth, and I believe it is, then my father-in-law taught us a great many things. He taught us to work hard. He taught us to love life. He taught us to never give up. He taught us to believe in ourselves. He taught us that family always comes first. He taught us to never be too proud to do a job yourself, no matter how dirty. He taught us that God can be found in the most unlikely of places. Most of all, he taught us to laugh–at the world, at our problems, at ourselves.

I grew up hearing people on television make fun of, avoid, and speak ill about their in-laws, and it was never anything I understood. My father and his father-in-law were the best of friends. My father still weeps when he talks about what a wonderful man my grandfather was, what a wonderful friend. I saw their bond and wondered if they were unique or if Hollywood just thought it was funny to act like all in-laws were the kin of satan.

When I became engaged, friends warned me about the power struggle between daughters-in-law and mothers /fathers-in-law. I prayed that I would get along with Ken’s family, that we would love each other no matter what, that we would see past pettiness and be able to enjoy good times together. I hoped for a kind of friendship with Ken’s family–perhaps something like what my father and grandfather had.

What I got was a real, true second set of parents, and not the kind who ground you or tell you what you do wrong or expect you to do everything the way they want it done. I got the kinds of parents I already had. They are kind and loving, fun to be around, and people I genuinely love to spend time with. At the center of the family, for so many years, was Ken’s father, David. 

He was never “David” to me. He was always, “Dad.” Almost as much a father to me as my own dad, and that’s saying a lot. I could call on Dad for just about anything, and I did.

When another driver ran a red light and totaled my car, and Ken didn’t have a cell phone (because none of us did back then), I called Dad.

When our oldest daughter was flown to shock trauma after being hit in the head with a baseball bat, and the entire county police force was trying to track down Ken, I called Dad.

Whenever something broke, and Ken was out of town, I called Dad. Or when I needed more firewood. Or when a snowstorm hit, or I needed help hauling some treasure home from the auction.

Dad came to pick us up when Hurricane Isabel hit, and our town was so flooded, we had to leave in a rowboat.

Dad came to help set up and decorate for every celebration, however big or small. 

Dad built much of the furniture in our first house and the original kitchen in the house we live in now.DSC04386.JPG

Dad “stopped by to bring the girls some doughnuts.” Mind you, he lived 45 minutes away, but he “stopped by” just the same.

Dad became the rock I leaned on when Ken was traveling. He held me when I cried for my grandmother after she passed. He sat next to me in the hospital when the doctor gave Rebecca 11 stitches. 

22728713_10210269648273922_4818804090097890691_nDad once walked across the field hockey field, minutes before the last game of the season was the begin, just to give Morgan a Hershey Bar and a hug.

Dad once convinced the girls to eat dog food because it “tastes like candy.”

Dad once won “big” at the casino, spent all of his winnings to buy ice cream sundae ingredients, and invited all the grandkids over to celebrate his win.

Dad must have owned fifteen Coast Guard Academy t-shirts and hats, that he wore EVERYWHERE, just so he could tell people that his grandson was there.
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One Easter, dad showed up with PVC pipes formed into “guns” and taught all the kids how to shoot marshmallows at everyone.
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And now, a full twelve months after we told him goodbye, I still feel like he’s going to walk in the door any minute with a box of doughnuts, a handful of candy bars, or a homemade cheese danish.

Dad was never a man of great means, but he gave all he had to anyone who needed it. Proverbs 13:22 tells us that “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” It’s not referring to gold or silver or a fancy house or an estate or trust fund. A true inheritance is a lasting legacy–the knowledge that you were loved, the understanding of how to love others, and the wisdom it takes to live a truly good and fruitful life. Ken’s father left us all a mountain of wealth. Like author, Ruth E. Renkel said, “Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.”

We love you Dad, and we miss you. Every single day.

dad's inheritance

What I was writing about a year ago this week: It’s Not Enough.

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.

the_devils_fortune_cover

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).

Embracing Change

I’ve always felt like I’m in the minority here, but I love change. I welcome change. I open my arms to it and let it fill me with possibility. Like the beloved nanny who appears on the winds of change, you never know what’s going to happen when there’s a shift in the current dynamic. Rather than cower and despair when change is upon us, I see things the way that Mary Poppins sees them, “We’re on the brink of an Adventure. Don’t spoil it by asking questions” (P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins Comes Back).

Life is all about change.

Whole novels have been based on it: Gone With the Wind, 1984, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Musicals take a bow to it: The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wizard of Oz.

History is made by it: The birth of Christ, the reign of King Henry the VIII, the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I could go on and on.

Change, like the weather, is sometimes unpredictable but always inevitable. Who, under the age of 55, can’t recite Robert Frost’s classic poem as immortalized by Ponyboy Curtis in the Outsiders?

frost

Some see the poem as a reference to youth, others to death. I like to think of it as a homage to change. It’s a reminder that nothing stays the same. Everyone ages, people pass away, the sun rises and sets, the earth continues to evolve, the calendar succumbs to the end of another year, and we are meant to accept all these things and move on.

January brings with it many opportunities–a new year, new resolutions, a new chance to become a better person, to try new things, to make new friends, to engage more fully in this thing called life. To many, those things are daunting, even overwhelming. We often hear, “nobody likes change,” and truthfully, change can be hard. It can frightening. It can lead to chaos. However, those who embrace change and find a way to either create it or capitalize on it, are often the ones who change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saint Paul

Abraham Lincoln

Simon Bolivar

Queen Victoria

Galileo

Leonardo da Vinci

Pope John Paul II

The list in endless.

So, I encourage you. Greet the new year with excitement, and embrace the changes that come your way–a new job, a new school, a new boss, a new home, a new city. Whatever life throws at you, seize the golden moment, the sunrise as well as the sunset–the beginnings and the endings. And when the changes you encounter cause you to retreat and reassess, take that as a sign that it’s time to react. As a very wise man once said,

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi).

Change.jpg

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Our Future is Going Up In Smoke.

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).

New Year, New Strategies

New Year’s resolutions are tricky. So often, people choose ones that are so lofty, it’s impossible to reach them. Other times, resolutions are simply not easily added to our daily routines and are forgotten or just fall by the wayside. This year, like everyone else reading this, I am determined to keep my three 2019 promises to myself, but I’m not off to a good start! So, I’ve come up with some strategies that will, hopefully, help to keep myself on task.

I don’t usually share my resolutions, but I want to hold myself more accountable this year, so I’m going to share them with the 1000+ people reading this! I’ve set three goals for 2019:
1. I want to continue getting back into the routine of saying a daily Rosary.
2. I want to make it to a gym class at least three times each week.
3. I MUST stop saying, “I already told you…” to my husband!

Yesterday was January 1st, and I was determined to start the year off right. I was going to say my Rosary before Mass, but, of course, we had an issue with the altar ministries that I had to sort out, so that didn’t happen. All day, I intended to fit it into my schedule, but in all honesty, I never took the time to make it happen. So, FAIL, right off the bat!

Enter, strategy one:

🔷 I will find a time during my daily routine that will allow me to have 20 minutes to say my Rosary. Now, I know when that time will work for me, but when will it work for you? When can you find the time in your day to do that one thing you’re determined to do to make yourself a better person? Are you an early riser? Can you wake up 15-20 minutes earlier than normal every day for the next year in order to accomplish one of your resolutions? Or are you a late-night person? A danger I have found in trying to do something late at night is that I’m often so tired, I can’t stay up any longer than normal, so keeping my eyes open an additional 20 minutes just doesn’t happen. But the reality is, we all have 15-20 minutes in our day that we can squeeze in something that is important to us. Have you timed yourself on how long you scroll through Facebook? I bet it’s easily 15 minutes for many people. Ask yourself, what’s more important to you–seeing what everyone is bragging about online or making yourself a better person?

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This morning, I was headed to the gym for my Wednesday morning cardio class. Just before I was to walk out the door, my husband walked into the kitchen in a panic. He was so tired when he went up to bed last night, he removed his hearing aids and couldn’t remember where he put them! It was an all-out search for the next twenty minutes, and by the time we found them, it was too late for me to make it to class.

Strategy number two:

🔷 Compromise and improvise. I know that the internet has an endless supply of exercise videos, and many can be streamed right to my television using the ROKU. A quick search gave me dozens of options. The first couple were not what I wanted, but on the third try, I found the perfect video. Freedom Fit with  Jenny Ford had exactly the cardio routine I was looking for. It was the right length, style, and pace. Even better, it nearly matched the routine my regular fitness coach does in class. Sure, I would rather have been with my gals at the gym, but the other alternative was to blow off the workout for today. I told myself, when devising my resolutions, that blowing off my workouts was not an option, and I felt so good about myself when my workout was done. When life gets in the way, don’t let yourself down. Find a way to make your resolution happen. It might not be exactly what you intended, but a little compromising goes a long way. And maybe a different time or different place will inspire you even more than the original or usual plan.

Yoga

Two down, one to go. How am I going to tackle my third resolution? Admittedly, this will be the hardest one to keep. Raise your hand if you feel like you have to tell your husband over and over and over again the same things.

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See–I knew it wasn’t just me! Deep breath.. The real question is, does pointing that out each time it happens actually help the situation? Not in the least. In fact, it just leads to wasted time, hurt feelings, and extreme exasperation for both of us. Starting today, I will try really hard to think before I speak. Not an easy task, believe me. But it’s something I’ve always said I was going to be better at with everyone I encounter, and now seems to be the right time to start.

So, strategy three…

🔷 As in any difficult or knee-jerk type of situation, take a deep breath and count to ten. Hey, even counting to five is better than jumping in without considering the consequences. And then, take a second to digest what’s really going on and how to respond to it. Have a chest of other verbal options at your disposal. Instead of saying, “I already told you…” what else can I say that isn’t accusatory or inflammatory? Having several, well-intentioned responses will be more helpful and amicable than basically telling my husband, once again, that I am right, he is wrong, and if he would just listen to me, we wouldn’t be in this situation! That argument never seems to get me anywhere. And when I do speak, I need to watch my tone. That always seems to get me into so much trouble. Deeply inhaling and taking the time to think through my response should help me temper my tone. It certainly can’t hurt. Don’t you have something that you’re working on this year that would be more successful if you take just a moment to breathe deeply and ponder your reaction before you do or say something you will regret?

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No matter what your resolutions are, I’m confident that you and I can be successful in sticking with them for the next 363 days. If we just make a concerted effort to take time for what matters most, learn to compromise and improvise, and take a deep breath, a step back, or a moment to evaluate, we can accomplish anything.

So, what are your resolutions, and how can you put these three simple strategies into use to help make 2019 your best year yet?

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Learning From the Past, Preserving the Future.

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).

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas: More than a Song

Merry Christmas! I know that for many, today is the day after Christmas, but for most Catholics around the world, today is not merely the day after Christmas, it is the Second Day of Christmas. A few weeks ago, I wrote about anticipating Christmas, but more importantly, enjoying and appreciating the days after Christmas – the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS! 

We all know the song and its seemingly endless list of Christmas gifts. The English Christmas carol was first published in 1780 and was a rhyme, not a song with music. It may even originally have been a French chant. English composer, Frederic Austin, first published the musical arrangement we are familiar with today including the recurring word “on” which did not appear in earlier versions.  The exact origins of the song are unknown, but it is believed to have been a children’s game played on the English festival, Twelfth Night, that, over time, evolved into a chant and then a song. Many have suggested that the twelve gifts have Biblical meaning though most modern scholars dismiss this claim. While that suggestion has been debunked, it it is interesting to note that there are exactly 364 gifts, one for each of the year except Christmas.

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The Site of birthplace of Christ

While all of that is well and good, none of it explains exactly why we believe that Christmas should be celebrated for twelve days and not just one. One reason is that the Church implores us to recognize the importance of Christmas and to reflect on its meaning for more than a day (especially important today when you consider that most people never even gave Jesus a single thought on December 25th). Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. Never mind that history did not record the actual date of His birth. It’s the celebration and the meaning of Christ’s coming that are important, not the exact date in history. Christmas commemorates the single most important date in history, the day that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1: 14).

What can we do to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas today? We can go to daily Mass, of course, but there are other things that were done throughout history when it was better understood that these are days of reflection and commemoration. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to return to these practices today. There are several important feast days during these Twelve Days that can still have meaning for us today in the celebration of the day and the actions that were once associated with them. 

December 26th is the feast day of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. It is traditionally a day where Christians commemorated St. Stephen by giving their Christmas leftovers to the poor. December 27th is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist. It was through John that the world learned that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh” (John 1:1). It is considered a day of reconciliation (taken to heart by Pope John Paul II who visited and forgave his would-be assassin on this day in 1983). December 28th is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the babies who were killed by Herod in his attempt to stop Christ from becoming king. For a number of centuries, it was a day when children were allowed to run the household, the country, or even the Church (with the appointment of a child Bishop for the Day). It is considered a day of fun and folly for children. 

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Celebrate your family on December 30th

December 29th is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury in the 1100s. It is considered a day to examine our lives and resolve to work to overcome injustice in the world. December 30th and 31st are alternately celebrated as the feast day of the Holy Family, depending upon the liturgical calendar of the year. This should be a day to reflect on Mary, Jospeh, and Jesus as a role model family and what we can do to help our families become more holy. January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Traditionally, it was a day when families prayed the Rosary together. January 2nd is the feast day of both St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen who were teachers of the trinity and lifelong friends. It is a day to celebrate friendship. Parties were traditionally held on this day to celebrate the Christmas holiday with friends. 

On January 3rd, we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. It is a day on which we should celebrate a person’s name and its meaning. We should recall that, as the Catechism states, “Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.” Depending upon when the first Sunday after Christmas is, the feast of the Epiphany is celebrated between January 2nd and 8th. The arrival of the Magi is sometimes marked by a blessing of the house, especially the entranceway, to welcome the Lord and all visitors. Some Christian households inscribe “20 + C + M + B 19” over their doors, the traditional date of the new year and the initials of the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar). January 6th is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. It is the twelfth and final day of Christmas, the culmination of the season, the third epiphany of Christ’s infancy (the first was to the shepherds, the second was to the Magi, and the third was to Simeon and Anna at the temple). 

However you celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, the importance thing is to CELEBRATE! Though you may go back to work and the kids back to school, keep with the Christmas spirit. Acknowledge that there is more to the season than just a day of giving presents and eating too much food. Presents are given to symbolize the greatest present of all – Christ to the world. They shouldn’t be the main focus of Christmas. Think of the Twelve Days of Christmas as your honeymoon period with Christ. Revel in it and in the joy of His coming and birth. Before you know it, we will be entering into Lent, and Christmas will be a faint memory. Enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

References:
The more days the merrier: Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas
When Is Christmas Over: January 1? Epiphany? Candlemas? (Whatever that Is)
You’ve Heard the Song — but What are the 12 Days of Christmas?

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Seeing Jesus.

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).

 

Make your Own Hallmark Story This Christmas

I’m just going to say it. I’m really tired of hearing people put down the Hallmark Christmas movies. Yes, they’re predictable. Yes, most of them follow the same formula. Yes, they all star the same actors and actresses. But you know what? They are a welcome refuge from everything on the news and the crowds in the stores and the stress of the holiday season. I mean, really, there is a reason why they are so popular–who wants to spend more than two minutes thinking about everything that’s going wrong in the world today? Wouldn’t you rather be watching two people fall in love over the course of a holiday season with the most beautiful snowy backdrop in the most welcoming Christmas village kind of town? And who says that romances like that don’t really happen?

To prove my point, all I have to do is think about the conversation I overheard this past Saturday night. My girls and I hosted our annual Mother-Daughter Christmas party with dear friends from our community, parish, school, and family. After the party was over, Rebecca’s friends, most from other states, spent the night here at the house. As we were cleaning up, the talk turned to weddings, as it often does with post-college girls! Then several girls told the stories of how their parents met. Each one was more charming than the last, and my heart swelled every time I heard Rebecca’s roommate swoon, “I’m obsessed with this story, keep going!” Since I was there, Rebecca asked me to tell the story of how Ken and I met. It’s a lovely story that our family really enjoys sharing. And it was obvious that the girls all felt the same about their own parents’ first encounters.

The stories revolved around failed first marriages, high school sweethearts, second chance romances, and fate encounters. Each one was different, but they all shared one quality–in the eyes of their daughters, no matter what the circumstances were, the stories were enchanting tales of falling in love and living happily ever after. It didn’t matter if there was pain or strife involved, if there was swirling snow or the perfect cup of cocoa, or if the meeting took place at a bar, a frat party, or a gingerbread cottage (as so many HM movies do). The stories gave the girls hope that someday, they would all be featured in their own personal, Hallmark movie romance, just like their parents were.

You see, not every romance or happy story takes place in the perfect Christmas town where the non-believer comes around to joyfully celebrating the holiday with his or her new-found love while light snowflakes fall around them. But every family’s beginning has a story, and those who retell the story often see a fairy-tale unfold even in the most unlikely of circumstances. All of those girls made their parents’ romances sound like a Debbie Macomber novel (HM favorites) even if we all knew that the story was just an ordinary meeting between two ordinary people destined for an ordinary life in an ordinary town. There was no exaggerating or creating an epic bestseller from a comic book, but each story was special, and the girls all knew it. They all recognized that every story has the potential to be a Hallmark story, even the ones that go awry. Why?

Because, like many of the characters learn by the end of the two-hour movie, your life, your story, your family’s story, is what you make it. When we see our lives and the people in them as something special, unique, and to be cherished, we can all be just like the people on Hallmark. Sure, we won’t all have Balsam Hill Christmas trees or perfect sugar cookies in less than fifteen minutes, but we all have the ability to see the wonder of life and to appreciate our own stories and to pass this along to our children.

photo-6176892386934784So, this Christmas, when your family’s rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing doesn’t sound like a Blake Shelton-produced movie or your cookies aren’t picture-perfect, don’t worry. Your children will remember everything the way you make it out to be–The Nightmare Before Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life. You’re living your own Hallmark movie every day. Write it the way you want it to be told, cherishing the good and bad, and smiling along the way. Bring happiness into the world. Celebrate the holidays with all the joy and enthusiasm found in a winning gingerbread house contest or a sleigh ride on a snowy mountain. Someday, you may look back and see your lives, your romances, and your Christmases for what they really were–stories better than a Hallmark movie.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Seeing Jesus.

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).

Listening to the Silence

Here we are, more than halfway through the season of Advent. Two weeks ago, I wrote about being grateful and giving the gift of love this Christmas. Last week, I wrote about the importance of patience and even more important, not taking for granted what you’ve been waiting for! This week, amid the hustle and bustle of the season, I’ve been trying to remember to be grateful, patient, and appreciative, but it’s a busy time of year, and it’s easy to get caught up in the preparations without remembering what it’s all about. For several days now, I’ve been thinking about a beautiful Scripture passage: 1 Kings 19, 11-13. I can’t help but marvel in how that story of Elijah is repeated every day in our own lives, especially during the Christmas season.

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake;

after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.

When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

This is my week this week: Start each morning off with a visit to the gym, dentist appointment for my regular cleaning, grocery shopping for the next two weeks, baking and decorating nearly 250 traditional, frosted sugar cookies, wrap Christmas presents, prepare bedrooms for my two oldest daughters to come home from law school and college, decorate the Christmas tree with the family, package and mail Christmas gifts to friends out of state and in Canada, prepare the house for our annual Mother/Daughter Christmas party this weekend, make presents for party guests, set up for the 43 dinner guests, plan and prepare the dinner for the party, and continue doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping and vacuuming, etc. The list seems to grow each day. I seem to add tasks as quickly as I cross them off.

After standing in my kitchen for ten solid hours on Monday, decorating cookies, I can honestly say that I don’t ever remember being so tired and sore! This entire week, so far, has been like the strong and violent wind howling in the eaves and shaking the shutters. One would think that I have had little time to listen for the Lord as He tries to speak to me amid the blustery winds of busyness. There will be little time to stop and hear Him in the disaster zone that will be created after our earthquake of a party this weekend. How will I hear Him amid the roaring flames of short tempers, lighted fuses, and the arguing that comes from the whole family being together 24/7?

Rosary.jpgLuckily, there is the beautiful gift that a friend gave to me at the beginning of Advent. Chandi, one of my co-authors and dear friend, suggested that our friend group, of thirteen women across the country, pray a daily Rosary for each other throughout the month of Advent. I used to pray the Rosary every day, but amid the winds, earthquakes, and fires of life, I let the daily offering of prayer slip away. But Chandi’s suggestion was so profoundly beautiful as she apologized for throwing one more task at us during this frantic time. It has become, for me, not only a way to make sure that we are all connecting with God but, on a much higher level, with each other. We were praying for two people’s surgeries, one person’s hospital stay, one’s daughter in need of prayers, one who just lost an in-law, several who will be traveling, one who is moving, and all who are in need of an extra intercession, or two, or twelve.

Every day, I get to carve out a little time to listen for the “light silent sound,” to be still and hear the message from God, to talk to Him, share with Him my troubles and my joys, thank Him for all that He has given me. And in those moments, I am rewarded with the knowledge that He is there in all that I do – in the wrapping and the baking and cleaning – in the smiles and the tears and the laughter. Whenever I am bent by the wind, shaken by the earthquake, or scorched by the fire, I only need to close my eyes and listen for His voice in the silence. And He comes, every single time, He comes. Whether I hear Him or not. Whether I feel Him or not. He comes in the gentleness of my husband’s touch and his offer to help bake cookies, in the sweetness of cake baked for a friend, in the joy of hearing my daughter say, “I’m on the way home.”

IMG_2183And He comes, not as a mighty warrior or a powerful king or a ferocious beast. He comes, at the end of this waiting time, as a child, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. In all of the grandeur and glory, in the bright lights and festive music, in the myriad of decorations and parties and feasts, He comes in the simplest form. Like a little bit of prayer time in the midst of a hectic day, He is there, among the messiness of the stable and the crying of the animals, waiting for us to come to Him and to listen for Him in the silence.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: What If?.

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).