The Greatest Christmas Gift You Can Give

Thanksgiving is over. We survived Black Friday, and Cyber Monday seems to be stretching itself all the way to Friday. The Hallmark channel now plays constantly on at least one television in every home in America (come on, admit it). Santa is receiving letters and is making a list and checking it twice. The ads on television and on the Internet are telling us that those lists need to be longer, the letters fatter, the asking louder, the gifts bigger. It has always amazed me that we spend an entire day giving thanks for all we have and then turn around within ten hours (or substantially less for some) and begin focussing on what we don’t have, what we want, what we must have, or else. Perhaps others also see the irony in this, and that is the reason why this commercial, from Forest Hill Church, in Charlotte, North Carolina, has gone viral in the past couple days.

 

Believe me, I am just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to focussing on gift giving at Christmas (and gift getting). I sent a link to my family for an item I’d really like to have with the suggestion they buy it while it’s on sale. And I’ve sent links to my extended family with gift suggestions for my girls. It’s how we’ve always done things, and it’s hard for me to see anything wrong with it, but something I read the other day really made me stop in my tracks. It was a gospel reflection by Bishop Robert Barron.

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So, now I have a confession to make. Even after reading this, I still went to Amazon on Monday. And I still clicked on the BUY button for that giant-screen TV I’ve been longing for. And I’m really excited that it arrives tomorrow. Yes, we have a decent-sized television. Yes, it works just fine. We’re going to move it to our bedroom and replace the one in there because the screen on that one seems to have gotten smaller as I’ve gotten older. Ken keeps kidding that we now have to tear down the living room and build a bigger one that will fit the new TV. “…tear them down and build bigger ones.”

Gulp–the sound of me swallowing that lump in my throat.

Wow. I wonder if the rich man had more than just his possessions. Did he have a family? Did he have friends? Was he in good health? If he were real and alive today, would he awaken like the man in the Forest Hills ad and be grateful for all that he has? Would he see the riches and blessings that he has before him and know in his heart that he doesn’t need more? Would he recognize that all he needs to make him happy is love? The love of God, the love of others, and love for himself as he is, without possessions, without riches, without STUFF.

We live in a world where the grass is always greener on the other side. We always want what someone else has, and sometimes we want what we can never have. We ask for more and more; we work longer and harder so that we can buy more. We do this even though our closets are bursting, our drawers won’t close, and our cups runneth over with things. And how happy are we? Even with a family, a home, electricity, hot food, cars, and coffee, are we still looking for more? When will we be satisfied? When will we realize that we already have enough? When will we realize that love is all we need? That it is love that makes us wealthy, not things?

There are 27 days until Christmas. That gives me 27 days to remind myself and my family, every single day, what Dr. Seuss tried to tell us many years ago:

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We have all already received many, many gifts. Even those who don’t have many “things” still have blessings for which to be thankful. Let’s take the Thanksgiving spirit with us right into Christmas and beyond. Let’s be grateful for all that we have, and let’s spend the Christmas season thinking about giving rather than getting. Begin thinking today about what you can do to help others see that we all have so much for which to be thankful, and let’s all remember as we go through Advent that “Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

Santa and Jesus

In one simple word, the meaning of Christmas is, love. Love that is never-ending, all-encompassing, and self-sacrificing. We don’t need Santa to bring us more stuff. We’ve already been given the greatest gift of all – love. All we need to do is open our hearts, not our closets, to giving and receiving more.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Food Memories.

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).

Feeling Grateful

Though the entire world always seems to ignore the month of November and move right into December, November is the month of giving thanks. I’d like to take just a few minutes to share some things for which I am eternally grateful (in no particular order).

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My Parents
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My Mother-in-Law
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My Friends, near and far
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My brothers
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Those who serve
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Our country
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Our God
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My you all have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. God bless you, and God bless our land.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Breaking The Rules.

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.

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).

Slipping Sand into Precious Pearls

There is a thief on the loose, one so elusive I am unable to catch him. He is quite versatile, able to take on any shape and size, whatever needs to be done in order to snatch, steel, and plunder.  Stealthily, he intrudes on my daily life, pilfering that which seems to be the most precious of commodities. 

Sometimes he comes in the form of a crisis. Large or small, it doesn’t matter, for any crisis results in same thing. The housework does not get done. The laundry sits in piles. The characters in my book stand by, unable to go forward, wondering if I will ever return to guide them. I am stranded on the shore at sunset, searching for an extra hour, knowing the ship has sailed.

Sometimes, the thief comes in the form of technology. That very thing which is meant to prevent the crime is often the catalyst that allows the thief to enter. He may come as a broken link, a spinning ball, or a scrolling page. Often, he is a frozen screen on which the only thing that moves is the clock in the top corner, mocking me as the minutes slip away before my very eyes. I reach to catch them and hold onto them, but they vanish, never to return.

Other times, the thief comes in the form of a call or a visit from a friend or loved one. It is at those times that I feel him taunting me, saying, “Isn’t this what you wanted? I’m giving you what you’ve asked for. Enjoy it.” But in my the recesses of my mind, I’m still complaining, still mounting charges, “Yes, this is what I wanted, but why now? Why can’t it happen when I can afford to enjoy it? Why do you send this person to interrupt my day instead of at a better time?” But that time never comes. One thing the thief knows for sure, we can never create perfect timing, and we must accept some interruptions as gifts and some interlopers as valued friends.

Why do I always feel like I am racing him, trying to lure him into a trap? Where is he hiding my precious moments? How do I get them back? I am so busy trying to hold onto the ticking clock that I blink, and the holidays are upon us. I close my eyes, and the school year is coming to a close. I turn around, and my girls are grown and gone.

Those stolen moments make me I realize that I am the one who has been caught in the trap. I am the one who has allowed the thief to enter, emboldened by my own willingness to let him to take those minutes, those hours, those days in return for the few seconds of happiness I am willing to accept and enjoy. I am the one who has turned my life into a race along the shore, where the water weighs down my feet as they try to make progress and the waves mock my futile steps.

I must find a way to work with the thief of time. I must make more room in my calendar for the minutes that matter. There must be a way to accept the crises and the glitches, as well as the unexpected pleasures, and make them work together to slow the sand in the hourglass. For one day, without my permission or knowledge, the thief will have taken the last granule of sand, and I will be left to wonder if I used those grains to build castles with open drawbridges or walls and moats. Perhaps the thief is there to remind me that time, like all gems, is rare, precious, and to be handled with care. I am the one who needs to find a way to turn lost moments from slipping sand into precious pearls.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: There are no Strangers Here.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

Me Enamoré

This past week, Morgan and I were blessed to be able to go on a business trip with my husband, Ken, to Colombia. We spent three days in Cartagena, where his conference was being held, and then the weekend in Bogota. The weekend was an add-on, and the reason is quite funny. My husband does a lot of work throughout Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and nearly fluent in Portuguese. When he was striving to be more conversational in Spanish, his tutor suggested he begin listening to Spanish-language music. That is how my husband fell in love with Shakira.

IMG_9866Though Ken has never been a big concert-goer (unlike the girls and me), he was beside himself with excitement when he learned that Shakira was coming to DC. He bought two tickets, and he and our oldest daughter made their plans to attend. Alas, Shakira developed some throat problems and had to postpone her world tour. The rescheduled date? When we were on our pilgrimage to Guadalupe. Ken was so upset! But hope was not lost. Fast forward to this past weekend. We knew that Ken would be attending this conference in Cartagena and that Morgan and I were going to tag along. If you’ve never been there, Cartagena is a beautiful city, rich in Spanish, Latin American, and Catholic history. I’ve been with Ken several times now, and I enjoy it every time I go.

So, a couple months ago, Ken came to me with a huge, boyish grin on his face.
“Guess where Shakira’s final concert on the world tour is?” he asked with excitement
“Where?” I asked.
“Bogota.” The grin widened.
“Okaaaay…”
“The weekend we will be in Colombia!”
Ah, I could see where this was going.
“And?” I asked.
“And…we can get a cheap flight from Cartagena to Bogota the night before, tour Bogota that day, and attend the concert that night.” His enthusiasm grew with each word.

And that’s how we came to be at the Shakira concert, in Bogota, on Saturday night. We spent the day climbing to the top of Monserrate Hill, exploring the historic downtown, and even witnessing an ordination at La Iglesia de la virgin della Carmen. We enjoyed obleas, a yummy concoction of two large, round wafers (that Morgan says remind her of the Eucharist) sandwiched with various fillings–fruit spread, cream, caramel, or any combination of the three. Morgan and I have decided that we are going to figure out how to make them ourselves (Amazon must have the wafers, right?).

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The view from Monserrat Hill
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The plaza in the historic district of La Candelaria
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An ordination at La Iglesia de la virgin della Carmen
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Obleas!

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Saturday evening, we joined over 30,000 other fans, waiting in line to get into the park. Even with the VIP tickets that Ken ordered (at a lower price than the standard cost-inflated American tickets), we had to wait over two hours to get into the Simón Bolívar Parque. Once inside, we felt like the filling in the obleas. It was packed! There were no chairs, and even the VIP section was general admission. This did not bode well for someone who is under 5’5″! Luckily for Ken, he’s nearly a foot taller than I am and had a great view, and luckily for me, there were three giant screens above and next to the stage. The concert was great, and Shakira put on a fabulous show. Ken never stopped smiling the entire time.

IMG_9927I was exhausted. I didn’t know or understand the lyrics. I couldn’t see a dang thing other than the back of the heads in front of me. But the predicted rain held off. Morgan and Ken sang along with every song. And I got to see Ken do something he never, ever does. He spent an entire evening doing what he wanted to do. Honestly, that’s so rare. Ken spends most of his life trying to make the girls and me happy. He bends to our every wish and never asks for anything in return. So what if it wasn’t the evening I would have chosen (and my phone was stolen on the way out). For Ken, it was a dream come true. So, maybe no me enamoré (I did not fall in love) with Shakira, but I did fall in love a little more with my husband–a grown man loving life, enjoying a simple pleasure, and wanting to share it with his wife and daughter. 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Saint Buck, Patron of Granddaughters.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

 

Friended By God

GFMPerhaps I’m the only person watching, but I absolutely love the new television show, God Friended Me. It tells the story of an atheist, Miles, who is friended by God on Facebook. He declines the invitation again and again until he realizes this prankster, as he believes the person to be,  isn’t going to give up. Once Miles reluctantly accepts the request, he begins receiving friend suggestions from ‘God.’ Each new friend is, indeed, a friend in need. Reminiscent of two of our favorite shows, Touched by and Angel and Early Edition, each episode revolves around Miles and his friends trying to help the person God has thrust into their lives. 

Why do I love this show so much? There are several reasons.

First, I love that it’s about helping others, reaching out to those in need, and putting others first. There are way too many shows on television that are about hooking up, shaming good people, belittling parents, and living selfish lives. Isn’t it time we rally around a show that makes us feel good about what we can accomplish when we put others’ needs above our own? And isn’t it even better when we do so because it’s what God wants us to do?

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Second, watching Miles struggle with his belief, or disbelief, in God reflects the same struggle that many, if not most, people go through at some point in their lives. Miles lost his mother when he was eight-years-old. From that point on, he reused to believe in God. But every time Miles helps another person, he sees more evidence that God exists. He is beginning to question his doubts. Hopefully, it takes a long time for Miles to accept there is a God because I’d love to see the show stick around for a while (the good news is that it’s on CBS which seems to like shows which highlight Christian families). But for those who believe, we can take solace in the fact that God is always ready be our friend, no matter how big our doubt or how long our journey to find Him. 

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Third, though Miles is convinced that ‘God’ isn’t really GOD, he has come to believe that his life has meaning, that he is here to serve a higher purpose, and that we are all called to help, and that sometimes you just have to stop questioning and start doing. Miles closes the most recent episode by telling his Podcast audience, “Helping people isn’t a burden; it’s an opportunity.” 

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Fourth, and this is my favorite reason, I love being reminded that we are ALL being friended by God. He wants to be our friend, our guide, our mentor, our driving force. He wants us to go to Him when we need something. He wants us to follow His lead and help others. He wants to be part of our lives!

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In the most recent episode [SPOILER ALERT], Miles complains that helping people is a burden, and he wishes ‘God’ would leave him alone. Presto! He is unfriended, but not before seeing that God sent another friend suggestion. Unable to allow himself to let that person go unaided, Miles spends the show trying to help Rachel, who lost her sister in a car accident. At the end of the show, she tells him that he is the “first person I’ve ever met…who walks the walk.” How awesome would this world be if we all walked the walk! 

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Upon his return to his podcast studio, Miles does what he probably never thought he would do – he goes to Facebook and re-friends God, and immediately, God accepts. How often have we had to do that? How often do we have days, weeks, months, years, when we abandon our friendship with God? The beautiful thing is that God always accepts us back as a friend immediately. There is no time too long and no distance too far, for a new or renewed friendship with God. He is waiting for you. Will you accept?

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Patience is a Virtue I am Lacking.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

Hero Worship and the Making of True Leaders

Monday morning, I watched a very interesting interview on CBS This Morning. The guest was author, General McChrystal, and he spoke about his new book, Leaders: Myth and Reality. One of the things that most intrigued me about the interview was that, just two days prior, I lead a women’s retreat that focussed on female leaders of the Old Testament Coincidence? I think not. The response of the women to the retreat and then the surprise of seeing this morning’s interview have caused me to really think about what we are teaching our children about whom and what a real leader/hero is.

General McChrystal argues that “leadership is not what we think it is and never has been.” His opening example is the portrayal of George Washington crossing the Delaware. We’ve all see this famous painting by Emanuel Leutze, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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The problem is that historians believe that the actual crossing looked something more like this depiction by artist, Mort Kunstler.
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For many years, Americans have accepted as fact the portrait of Washington in which he looks confident, standing with the flag, his troops bravely battling the elements. But Washington could not have taken such a stance without tipping the boat, and the troops would not have had a clear and glowing sky leading them onward while the snow and wind battered everything else around them. More likely, as Kunstler portrays, Washington would have been nervously holding onto the wheel of the hastily-constructed barge while the men, barely clothed for the cold, would have been fighting the weather and the current to make it safely across the river. 

Why is this important? Because there is a mythology that heroes and leaders are “ten feet tall, never scared, never wrong, have the answer to all our questions.” But, McChrystal argues, “this is almost never correct.” Moreover, it’s typically not the leader who solves the problem but the team he or she is commanding. We often give leaders certain attributes even though they may not be that way in real-life, or in private. We thrust greatness upon people, forgetting that they are in fact people. People are human. They make mistakes. They do things the wrong way. They have flaws and bad habits. They aren’t always honest or moral. They aren’t meant to be placed upon a pedestal, or to stand upright with their legs propped up on the side of a rowboat, lest they cause everything to be out of balance and go toppling into the waves.

McChrystal also says that we count on and encourage our leaders to solve all of our problems. He argues, and I agree 100%, that a leader teaches us how to solve our own problems. He or she helps us find the tools necessary to make things better. He “leads” us to find greatness in ourselves. The effectiveness of a true leader should be based on moral leadership not on looks or great speeches given, or portraits based on myth and not facts.

This past weekend, the women who attended our parish retreat learned lessons in leadership and in life from Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah. These were women who sometimes made mistakes, who did not always do what society expected them to do, who had pasts that had to be overcome, who sinned and were redeemed. But they all strived for some common goals: to be people of character, to hold fast to their faith, to counsel and advise, to teach others how to live virtuous lives, and to be women of God. They were not queens, not rulers, not rich, and not always revered. They had flaws, but they worked for the good of the people and taught others to do the same. They weren’t about power and glory (and when Miriam did become haughty, she was punished, served her time in exile, and was forgiven), but they were about doing what was right for the glory of God. Not themselves. For God.

In this world where everyone bows to sports heroes, politicians, and Hollywood movie stars, hailing them as leaders and heroes, we are telling our children that, to be a leader is to be braggadocios, self-serving, rich, morally bankrupt, abusive, foul-mouthed, promiscuous, lecherous, and gluttonous. By holding up these people as those to emulate, we teach that it’s okay to lie, to tear down, to disparage, to make fun of, and to engage in all forms of debauchery. We forget that true leaders and heroes are ordinary people, going about their lives doing their jobs to the best of their ability. My friend, Susan, blogged about the heroes of the recent hurricanes. Those are the people I want my girls looking up to!

George Washington was not a hero because he was tall, strong, fierce, and out to be a great destroyer of armies and men. He was a hero because he faced his fears, he was good to his men, he was loving toward his family, he did his job to the best of his abilities, and fought beside his men. He wasn’t perfect; he made mistakes, and that’s okay. Sometimes, a leader does. But what makes him a true leader, a real hero, is what he learns from his mistakes and what he teaches others about how to do things better.

Our children need to know who the real heroes are. Let’s teach them about Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah. Let’s make sure they know about the heroics of men like St. Peter and St. Paul. And let’s encourage them to model themselves after some of the real heroes of the world:
Nelson Mandela
The Dalai Lama
Pope John Paul II
Malala Yousafzai
William Kyle Carpenter
Candace Lynne Lightner
Rosa Parks
Jane Addams
Joan of Arc
Oskar Schindler
Martin Luther King Jr

It’s time to stop the hero-worship. It’s time to stop promoting myths about what greatness is and what it looks like. It’s time to redefine leadership and heroism. It’s time to recall the words of Isaiah, “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.”

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Longing for a Little Sleep.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

Spending a Fortune on the Marriage

35553327_2182882288395900_5241912812019646464_nA young friend of our family has just announced her engagement. We are so happy for her and praying that she will have a wonderful wedding and even more wonderful marriage. As today is my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, I’d like to take the time to offer some advice to those young people out there planning their own nuptials and expand on what I told our friend:
1. As you plan the wedding, don’t spend money; spend time with those you love.
2. Spend more time and energy planning the marriage than the wedding.

When Ken and I got married, twenty-five years ago, we wanted a grand wedding with all of the accouterments – the fairy tale dress and tuxedos, the large wedding party, the enormous guest list, an unforgettable nuptial Mass, a full-course dinner, and a joy-filled evening of dancing and partying. We got it all. We hosted 300 guests, and we didn’t break the bank doing it.Wedding

Here’s how:

Ken and Amy Wedding DayThe Dress and Veil
My aunt, my mother, and I scoured the stores to find the perfect dress at the perfect price. We bought it, off the rack, at a discount bridal shop. It was on the “last year’s fashions” rack and was exactly what I wanted. The veil was made with my mother’s wedding tiara. I wore it for my First Communion as did my both of my cousins and, years later, all three of my daughters. We added new tule and some pearls, and it was the perfect accessory for my dress. I wanted lots of lace, a modest bodice, a beautiful back, and a detailed train. I got it all at a bargain basement price. I just had to be patient, wait and relax, and enjoy the hunt with my aunt and my mom.

Wedding3The Ceremony
The church that my parents attended (in the parish where I attended when in high school and before marriage) was under construction, so we headed up the road to the church I grew up in, and it was still as beautiful as I remembered it. We worked with our Pastor, Father Paul Dudziak, to plan a meaningful ceremony rich in faith and tradition. Afterward, a friend of Ken’s lamented that he had never attended a wedding that was an hour and a half long! It was worth every minute. I’ve never been a fan of the ten-minute wedding. I believe a wedding should be something that represents the eternal love of Jesus Christ as well as the eternal bond of marriage. I wanted everyone, especially Ken and me, to leave the church knowing that something special, something lasting, something sacred had just taken place.

Wedding1The Flowers, Photography, and Cake
Our flower arrangements and bouquets were designed by mother and me with the help of a family friend who owned a florist. She helped us choose exquisite selections that matched the color theme and my personal tastes while staying within a strict budget. Our biggest single expense was probably the photographer, but we could afford to spend a little more because we cut costs everywhere else, including the wedding cake. A friend of ours owned a bakery and made the most mouth-watering cakes you’ve ever tasted. When we asked her about making the cake, she insisted on making it as her gift to us. We have never forgotten her generosity.

The Venue
We held our reception at the church hall next to our parish’s yet-to-be-constructed church. It wasn’t fancy, but it was affordable, and the decorations that my mother and her friend planned and designed transformed the room from an ordinary church hall into an elegant banquet room. We hired someone with event experience to make sure the food was on the buffet table and to do all of the serving and cleanup of the dishes.

Ken and Amy's Wedding34-001

The Food
Believe it or not, we made all of the food ourselves. Yes, we made a traditional Southern Maryland Fall Dinner, for 300 people, all by ourselves. Every – single – bite – with the exception of frozen rolls that were baked fresh during the ceremony. For months, everyone in the family chipped in to pick crab meat. Throughout the summer, we saved enough meat for my grandmother and Ken’s grandmother to fill their freezers with homemade crab balls. My mother made hundreds of her unforgettable pumpkin muffins and froze those as well. My father and my grandmother spent days, leading up to the wedding, making the Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham, a delicacy only found in Southern Maryland. My uncle worked his magic to grill melt-in-your-mouth pit beef. And the day before the wedding, all of the women in our family, my Godmother, my bridal party, and several family friends, gathered in the church hall to cut fruit and veggies, steam shrimp, and assemble trays while the men followed my mother’s decorating instructions. We talked, we laughed, and we reminisced. It was a day that I remember and cherish as much as the wedding day itself, and in some ways, even more. 

Wedding2The Marriage
But the truth is that none of that would have mattered. None of it would have meant anything at all. All of it would have been for nothing if Ken and I had not spent as much effort planning and working on our marriage. Twenty-five years together, in today’s world, is a long time. Sometimes, it feels like twice that. There have been days when we didn’t like each other very much. There have been moments when we wondered if it was worth it. There have been fights and slammed doors and long drives to clear my head. But in the end, we meant it when we said, “until death do us part.” We’ve lived through the good times and bad, the richer and poorer, the sickness and health. We’ve laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. But we’ve always been there for each other. We’ve never turned our backs on each other, never considered life without the other, never looked to anything beyond what we have together.

IMG_8196.JPGDon’t ever let anyone tell you that, if you’re right for each other, everything else will fall into place. Don’t let anyone tell you that marriage shouldn’t be hard sometimes. Don’t believe that you won’t have to work at it, even harder than you work at your job, your studies, your goals. But don’t ever think for a moment that it isn’t worth it to have someone to come home to who loves you more than anyone or anything in the world. To have someone to share your dreams and your failings. Someone to hold you when you cry and someone who knows how to make you laugh.

And don’t make the mistake that so many make these days and wait until it’s too late! There will NEVER be enough money. There will NEVER be the right time in your career. There will NEVER be plenty of time down the road for the timing to be right. We got married at 23 and 24. Unheard of today! We still had several years of graduate and law school ahead of us. We had nothing except college loans and a lot of hope and dreams. And we had each other, a plan, and faith.

As we read in Ecclesiastes, “Therefore, it is better for two to be together, than for one to be alone. For they have the advantage of their companionship. If one falls, he shall be supported by the other.” (Ecc. 4:9-10). And in Proverbs: “To find a wife is the find happiness, a favor granted by the Lord” (Prob 18:22). So, to those young couples getting ready to embark on the most wonderful time of your lives, don’t worry about spending a fortune on your wedding. A small budget can still give you the wedding of your dreams! But do spend a fortune on your marriage, paid for with all the treasures that will ensure a happy life together – love, joy, communication, tenderness, understanding, patience, resiliency, forgiveness, and an abundance of faith in God.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Little Time to Spare.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).