Do You Believe in Miracles?

DSC06791A few years ago, our family took a vacation to Canada. While there, we visited the Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupre. Upon entering the church, the first thing one notices are the displays of canes, crutches, and other medical devices left behind by those who have been healed in the church. While standing and observing one such display, I watched as a man and woman, presumably part of a tour group, walked into the church. The man wondered aloud about the display. The woman read to him from a nearby sign that explained the significance of the objects. The man laughed quite loudly and said “what a joke” before walking away.  I could have been angered, annoyed, or even offended by his reaction and words, but instead, I felt sorry for him.

Today, one can watch an Olympic hockey team go from being the underdogs to Gold Medalists and declare it a “miracle” yet be unable to recognize that real, faith-infused miracles actually exist. The cry of a newborn baby, the survivor of an accident in which nobody should have been spared, the chance meeting of two people destined to be together – these are not simply random happenings, unexplained phenomena, or cosmic chaos made right. These are just a few of the every day miracles that go unrecognized as such. Is a man who is declared to be cancer-free simply a beneficiary of science, or a living, breathing miracle?  What is so wrong with believing, not only that all things are possible with God, but that all things are possible because of Him?

I am often amazed by the amount of people in this world who would rather believe that all things just “happen” instead of believing that there exists someone greater than the sum of all parts who sees things exactly the way they should be and makes it happen. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all believed that anything is possible?  I’m not talking about a Pollyanna existence, but an “I can do anything through Him who strengthens me” existence. A recent study shows that people who rely solely on God for help and healing have a lesser chance of actually getting well. While I understand how this can be, and I certainly believe in modern medicine, there is something to be said for asking God to intervene. After all, doctors are only human. Why not ask for a little help from above? In fact, friend and radio host, Gus Lloyd, recently said, “Sometimes prayer is all we can do, and it’s the better portion.” 

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, about ten years ago, he sought all the medical help he could find. He did everything the doctors prescribed. But he also prayed. Daily. And with profound belief that God would hear his prayers. Dad turned 80 two weeks ago. A miracle? Perhaps not, but there are proven medical miracles that even doctors can’t explain. Many of them. How else can we describe those other than as miracles?

Studies show that those of us who do believe in miracles experience increased satisfaction in life and greater protection against the negative effects of stress. Perhaps that’s just by chance. As for me, I subscribe to the belief that every day lived is a miracle and that true miracles exist all around us. Why would anyone want it any other way?

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What I was writing about one year ago this week: Be the Apple.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  It’s Been a Great Four Years by Rebecca Schisler in The Mountain EchoWhy I Like Travel With Kids More Than When I Was Single by Wonderoak; 7 Challenges Successful People Overcome by Dr. Travis Bradberry, author Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

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)

Hunting for Eggs and Apartments

17814282_10210272324457868_3436768655060859814_oEvery year, Ken and I host a giant Easter celebration for our combined families. My parents come for the weekend (typically bringing my brother and his daughter with them), the kids dye eggs on Saturday, we play games until late into the night, attend the early morning Easter Sunday Mass, and come home to get the food ready for our guests. Once everyone is here, we pray, feast (and I mean feast), and watch as the kids try to find approximately 500 stuffed Easter eggs. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the entire year, and I hope to continue these traditions for many years to come.

This year, I was acutely aware of the many changes heading our way within the coming months. At Mass, I watched Katie proclaim the readings, and wondered if she would continue in that ministry when she heads off to Immaculata University next year. I watched Morgan tend to the needs of the elderly priest, knowing this was probably her last time as an altar server on Easter Sunday as she is moving on to lectoring and giving Communion. When Rebecca, Katie, and I all three shared in the ministry of giving Communion (yes, it’s a very small church), I wondered if this would be the last time that we were all four on the altar together.

17972441_10212878236580691_7290950570728900784_oBack at the house, Rebecca went straight to work, helping to straighten up, set tables, and prepare food. When the food was served, she even helped herself to a glass of wine. The realization hit me: she’s no longer my little girl. At some point, my firstborn became an adult. The talk between Rebecca and her best friend, Bailey, whose family has been sharing Easter with us for as long as I can remember, centered around the fact that this would be their last year as participants in the Easter egg hunt. There comes a time when the hunters must become the hiders, and they planned to make the most of their last year as hunters, kidding about which one would find the most chocolate and the most $1 bills.

When it came time to hide the eggs, my brother, Mike; Bailey’s sister, Shelby; their mom, Debbie (my best friend); and I went out with the giant box of 500 eggs. It was the first time since Rebecca was a toddler that I participated in hiding the eggs. I could have found others to take on the task. After all, I had guests with whom to visit and dishes to wash, but something in me said that it was important that I go out. Maybe it was the knowledge that I was the one who hid the eggs for Rebecca’s first Easter egg hunt, and I had to be the one to hide them this year, on the occasion of her last. I don’t know; I just knew that I wanted to have a hand in hiding those colorful, treasure-laiden, plastic eggs.

Watching Lulu, my cousin’s three-year-old, excitedly scoop up one egg after another, I was reminded of how quickly time goes by. It’s an elusive creature, time, unable to be seen, heard, captured, or pinned down. Only in pictures and in our memories can we stop the clock and keep the creature at bay. This fact really hit me on Monday as Rebecca and I spent the day visiting apartments in the DC area. When did she grow old enough to live on her own in the city? I can’t stop her from moving on to the next phase of her life any easier than I can return to those days when she was the one in her fancy dress and white, patent leather shoes, expressing pure joy over every egg she found. CUA Law School awaits, along with a future she can only imagine.

So here’s to tradition. Here’s to family gatherings, blessed meals, toddlers and children of all ages hunting for eggs, enjoying a drink with your child adult, and watching your children grow and take flight. Here’s to remembering the things that matter most in life: God, family, friends, and loving and serving others. May your Easter season (which has only just begun) be filled with all of the above. And may our family Easter egg hunts go on for, at least, another twenty-one years.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Be a Person of Encouragement.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Lent is over. Now what? by Matt Hadro on Catholic News AgencyWhat is “brain hacking”? Tech insiders on why you should care aired on 60 Minutes, April 9, 2017.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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 Top Ten Reasons Easter is Irrelevant

DSC09185I read a news piece recently that said that the majority of Americans believe that Easter has become irrelevant and that celebrating it is “a waste of time,” “meaningless,” and “completely unnecessary.” While I will not argue that too many people associate Easter with Peter Cottontail rather than Christ, I was surprised at the vehemence of some of the respondents. So I gave it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with a Top Ten List of why Easter has become irrelevant in our present-day society. Counting backwards:

10.  Easter parades just tie up traffic and cause delays. Of course, parades are often associated with holidays, but the Easter parade began, not as a celebration but as a procession. In the Mid-1800s, Christians processed to Mass on Easter Sunday, wearing their new Easter clothes after a long, forty-day period of fasting and abstaining. Onlookers gathered to watch the church-goers go by in their new, spring clothes. For many families, Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection, was the only time when new clothes and shoes were purchased. Of course, today, we have the luxury of purchasing new clothes, shoes, toys, housewares, electronics, and anything else we want, every day of the week. Like so many other practices, the purchase of an Easter dress is just another tradition that we can get rid of. Who needs to celebrate the putting on of new clothes after emerging from Lent a new and better person?

9.  Those silly little Easter eggs are completely pointless. Why would anyone want to look for those when they can find virtual reality creatures instead? After all, the tradition of using eggs to symbolize the Resurrection is so out of date. Lost is the reason for the eggs: the hard shell being cracked open in representation of the empty tomb. Eggs were once only painted red, a reminder of the blood that Christ shed on the cross. Even outside of Christianity, the egg is used in many cultures as a symbol of life and rebirth. But who cares about celebrating life anyway?

8.  Easter egg rolls have no meaning and are a waste of time.  Unless, of course, you use the activity to relate to your children that the eggs are rolled to remind us that the stone sealing Jesus’ tomb was rolled away, revealing the risen Christ.

7.  But why the Easter Bunny? Surely this is a ridiculous and silly tradition. It’s hard to argue that the visitation of the gift-bearing bunny on Easter morning is anything but a commercial invention to sell more chocolate. Of course, many people don’t know that German immigrants, in the 1700s, brought to the United States the tradition of the Easter Bunny, a sign of life and rebirth. Osterhase was a colored-egg laying hare for whom children built nests in which the hare could lay her eggs. But of course, teaching children about ethnic traditions, caring for the world’s creatures, and building homes for others are just more wastes of time.

 

6. Forcing kids to put down their phones and other electronic devices in order to enjoy time in the outdoors or with their relatives is a waste of their potential. Why use their brains to hunt for eggs when their phones can locate the exact geo-location of some trinket or useless “treasure” or even better, the elusive Pokemon character, Magmar (yes, I had to look that one up).

 

5.  Taking a Sunday off from watching  baseball, NASCAR, and other sporting events to spend time with family is just ridiculous. After all, the other sports fans play a much larger role in your life than your family, and maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose parents and siblings will live forever. You can see them any time.

4.  Easter is only about receiving chocolate, and I can eat that whenever I want.  Somewhere, I believe I was taught that Easter is about receiving Salvation, but I suppose that’s not important anymore since we have all we could ever need in this current life. Why worry about a possible life beyond?

3.  Easter Sunday Mass is just another, boring hour of being lectured about some guy who died two-thousand years ago. Nobody today needs to hear about Jesus. He was just some prophet who walked on the earth, cured the blind and lame, fulfilled all of the ancient prophesies about a Messiah, including those about His crucifixion, and then rose from the dead. As they say, those stories will never last. Soon, He will be forgotten like all those who claim to be something or someone they are not. What’s two-thousand years anyway?

2.  The return of the singing of the Gloria and the resounding Alleluia after forty-days of solemn celebrations doesn’t need to be heard, and the Gospel of the Resurrection doesn’t need to be told. Our children will learn about and understand the importance of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in school and from their friends. Oh wait… maybe not. Oh well, I guess it’s just not important then.

1.   There is no reason to view the Resurrection as a glimpse into the afterlife, the promise of a world yet to come for those who believe. We have everything we could ever want right here, right now. We have everlasting peace, the elimination of poverty, hunger, and strife, only benevolent and loving rulers, and the promise that we can live for all eternity in harmony and tranquility. Right? There’s no reason to hope for a new life, a life of splendor and glory, a life in which we will rise from our earthly graves and experience pure ecstasy with our loved ones and our creator. Don’t you agree? I guess you’ll have to answer that question for yourself. As for me and my family, we will spend Sunday morning singing, praising, and worshiping, while wearing our new Easter dresses, and will then host a giant Easter egg hunt with our friends and extended family. You are welcome to join us.

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.  —  COL 3:1-4

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Embracing the Romance.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Technology Has Forever Changed Our Way of Thinking. Here’s How to Take it Back by freelance art director, Cristina Vanko; What is “brain hacking”? Tech insiders on why you should care aired on 60 Minutes, April 9, 2017.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines has just been awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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)

A Love Without End

200_sHow deep is your love for your spouse? How far would you go to show them you love them? The Lord told us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. I don’t think Jesus’ words refer only to physical death. There are many ways that we can lay down our lives for our loved ones. I would like to share with you the most beautiful example that I know.

A little over a year ago, Ken and I met a kind and gentle man named George on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Most of the travelers were there with their spouses, some with friends, a few with their daughters, but George was alone. At least, it seemed that way at first. But as we all got to know one another, we realized that George was never alone. In his pocket, next to his heart, he carried with him the photograph of his beloved, Josi. The trip to the Holy Land was one that they had wanted to make together, but while George joined us, Josie lay in a bed in the nursing home, where she had been for most of her fifties, suffering from early onset dementia. When we all renewed our wedding vows at Cana, George stood, holding his photo of Josi, and renewed his vows with us, as faithfully committed as ever to his bride.

Unfortunately, Josi’s story is not unique, but George’s is.  In today’s world, George would be seen as having every right to abandon Josie, to let others take care of her, to begin dating once she supposedly forgot who he was, even to find a “kind” doctor to help Josi “alleviate her suffering.” But even close to 10 years after Josie begin to fail, George refused to turn his back on her. He could be found every night, sitting by her side, holding her hand, brushing her hair, reading to her, and praying with her. Everything George did, every plan he made, was done with Josie in mind. She was always first in his life no matter where she was, or what she was or was not able to do, say, or feel. George knew, without a doubt, that Josi heard him, listened to him, and responded to with with the squeeze of her hand or a look in her eyes.

This past weekend, the Gospel reading was the story of the death and raising of Lazarus. Our priest pointed out to us that Jesus never once used the word “death” when referring to his friend. He said that Lazarus was merely asleep and called him to awaken. Father told us that we should take Jesus’ words to heart. When we go to sleep, we enter another realm of consciousness and awake refreshed, renewed, and reinvigorated, ready to live life to its fullest. Thus is the same for death. We fall asleep only to awaken to a new life, renewed, refreshed, and reinvigorated to live in the fulness of life with Christ.

How fitting that this was the Gospel that was read around the world on the last day that Josi spent on earth. For years, she slept, being renewed and refreshed, being prepared to live out eternity with the Lord. She was a gift to the world, a witness to the will of God rather than the will of society. George’s love for Josi, poured out in all that he did, and his faith and trust in the Lord, sends a powerful message to all those who know him. George never lost faith that Josi knew him, was aware of his presence, and knew how much he loves her. And he never lost faith that God was with him every step of the way, no matter how hard, no matter how desperate. George knew from the beginning that the road ahead would be hard, that there would be heartbreaking moments that he could never foresee, that many days would be dark and rough.  But he held Josi’s hand and walked her journey with her, always seeing the light and glory at the end, always trusting that his love for her, and God’s love for them both, would never fail.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”  Isaiah 42:16

Ken and I have become very close to George over the past year, and by extension, to Josi. We have visited with George in New York many times, and he has come to our home to share family celebrations with us. Our girls have fallen in love with George and consider him as much a family member as all of their blood relatives. He has brought much joy to our family, but more than that, he has brought hope. He allowed us to share in his love for Josi as well as his unwavering faith. He taught us all so much about love, acceptance, trust, and faith. May you all have a George in your life, and may you all experience an unfailing love like the love between George and Josi.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: The Agony of the College Search.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Eight Things Whole-hearted, Creative Women do Differently  by blogger, Emily Freeman, How Women Use Body Language To Beat The Double-Bind Paradox by Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. (Leadership and Management)The Simple Reason Why Goodreads Is So Valuable to Amazon by Jordan Weissman (The Atlantic). 

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines has just been awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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)

“Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Stride”*

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Katie diving for the ball
This past Thursday, I watched Katie play in a tennis match in which she spent each break between games doubled over, holding her stomach. Apparently she was coming down with something, and her stomach cramps were causing her great pain. Afterward, her coach asked her why she didn’t quit or tell him she wasn’t feeling well. Katie just looked up at him and replied, “I wanted to play, and I wanted to win.” And win she did, 8-1, losing only the first game, which is her usual strategy – to spend more time focusing on how her opponent plays than trying to win that first round. Katie ended up being sick all night and stayed home from school the next day but bounced back by early afternoon.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the next comment her coach made, “I guess it runs in the family.” I don’t know why he said that, other than the fact that he has spent the past eight years coaching one Schisler or another in both tennis and field hockey. Surely he knows that neither Rebecca or Morgan let anything stop them from reaching their goals, and he watches Katie do that every day at practice and in matches. Thinking about it made me wonder where they get it from, and that led me to ask where I get it from. The answer is simple.

Over the past thirty years, my father has battled three different types of cancer. He has had a hip replacement and hears very little of what is said to him. In less than three weeks, he will turn eighty, and I’m sure he will spend that day like every other. He will wake up early, walk at least a mile, attend Mass, run errands, and then go to work in his garage, building amazing outdoor chairs or benches or tables, birdhouses, children’s play furniture, bookcases, or closet storage units –  whatever has been ordered that week.  He’ll spend the evening watching TV with mom, looking forward to watching his Orioles play. Dad was probably one of those kids who got perfect attendance every year in school. He lets nothing slow him down or stop him from achieving whatever goal he has set before him, even if the goal is to simply live to see another day.

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My favorite office accessory – my whiteboard wall!
My father-in-law once told me that I’m impatient and always want everything “yesterday.” He wasn’t trying to insult me; he was just pointing out that I don’t like waiting for things to be done. And he’s right. But I don’t think it has to do with impatience (although I readily admit to that being one of my major flaws). Rather, I think it’s because an unfinished project or open task means that a goal has not been met; the next goal is put on hold. I constantly have a list running, a tally of things I need to accomplish in a day, a week, a month. My family sees lists posted all over the house that remind them of tasks to be done. If things aren’t completed within my set timeline, it throws off the whole system. It sounds neurotic and controlling, I know, but I tend to see it differently.

You see, we were all put on this earth for a reason, to fulfill something, to attain our purpose. If I were to spend my days taking naps, watching TV, playing video games, or socializing with friends, does that mean I would enjoy life more? Would I obtain greater satisfaction? A bigger sense of fulfillment? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. On the other hand, when I finish a successful week of summer camp and see the girls leaving with smiles on their faces, calling to their friends, “See you next year,” I am filled with deep, unwavering satisfaction. All of the time and effort that I put into planning the camp, throughout the entire year, pays off. It’s the same with my writing. Selling books and garnering good reviews isn’t a means to satisfying my wallet but a means to satisfying my soul. It’s the feeling of a job well done, but more importantly, it’s the feeling of bringing enjoyment to others. And sometimes, like with finishing my new home office, it’s simply the sense of satisfaction that it brings to me.

Perhaps I have it all wrong. Maybe pushing myself to stay on task, looking ahead to the next thing on the list, and constantly striving to accomplish my goals isn’t good for me. Perhaps I’ve created monsters that my children will never be able to overcome that will lead them to anxiety, fear of failure, and the inability to move forward. I certainly hope not. I hope that they will learn to harness anxiety and turn it into motivation, recognize that failure is sometimes success on an alternate path, and that moving forward sometimes means taking one baby step at a time. I also hope that we all continue working hard, crossing off our goals, and enjoying our lives until we’re at least eighty. My dad seems to have found the path to a long and happy life. All I can do is pray that I’m following in his footsteps.

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My Dad and me at Christmas
What I was writing about one year ago this week:  Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Not a Perfect Mom, but an Enough Mom  by Wonderoak,  A Craving for Confession at Y’all Need Jesus, How the Like Button Ruined the Internet from the Atlantic. 

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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)

*Title taken from the lyrics of Break My Stride by Matthew Wilder.

All That Stuff & 5 Things It Taught Me

This week, my new home office is being completed, or nearly completed as there will still be things to do such as pictures to hang on the wall, a rug and curtains to pick out, etc. But for the most part, it will be ready to be used, complete with new furniture and a custom built closet, all courtesy of my wonderful father. It’s very strange to be sitting in the room that Rebecca occupied for most of her life, but she was all in favor of me converting the room, and I was way past due for a space of my own (you can only get so much accomplished when your “office” consists of a few shelves in a hall closet and a cabinet under the kitchen counter).

Over the course of the past couple weeks, Rebecca and I cleaned out her room, and I cleaned out two under-eave storage spaces to make room for the things she’s saving for her future office and/or apartment. I also cleaned out the downstairs hall closet, Ken’s office closet (where my Girl Scout stuff was), and that kitchen cabinet I mentioned. I am amazed at the amount of stuff that we pulled out, threw away, took to St Vincent DePaul, packed for Rebecca, and moved into the office. Where did it all come from?  

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This is just the “office” stuff that was in the hall closet!
I spent several hours just going through the seaman’s trunk that was found in the basement of my great-grandparent’s house. Inside were all the cards that Ken and I received from well-wishers when we got married (over twenty-three years ago) lots of old photographs of family and friends, the scrapbook my mother made when I was a baby, and a stack of old concert programs. I have no idea what to do with any of this stuff. Okay, I actually threw away the cards, but the wedding planner has to stay. Why? I have no idea, but I’m sure I’ll think of a reason.

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My eclectic mix of programs, and no George Micheal isn’t bringing lots of money on eBay these days.
I swore that I was not going to go along with the 40 Bags in 40 Days that so many have come to associate with Lent (I’m sorry, but that’s like associating snowmen with Christmas). I swore that I wasn’t going to get rid of things just because it’s Lent, and I’m still not, but there has been an awful lot of stuff leaving this house in the last two weeks. And an awful lot that has stayed.  But I try to learn something from everything, so I’ve been thinking about some of the lessons I’ve learned over this week of cleaning. Here are the ones that have made an impact.

1.  If your children don’t care about it, then you don’t need to either.  Conversation: 

Rebecca:  “Mom, you still have all of my trophies from elementary school?” 

Me:  “Of course. Why would I throw them away?”

Rebecca:  “Why would you keep them?”

I have no idea. I don’t know why I kept them except that I thought she would want them. Now the question is, what do I do with them?

2.  Buying what’s on sale isn’t always the best idea. I used to always buy packs of children’s Valentines the day after Valentine’s Day. They cost no more than a quarter on that day. A few years ago, I was cleaning out that same, catch-all closet, and I came across half a dozen boxes of Valentines. I couldn’t remember the last time my girls traded Valentines, but I was well prepared should they want to start up again. And don’t even get me started on school supplies. Morgan asked me last week to stop by the store to buy her new pens and pencils. The only store I went to was “the closet.” Rebecca watched me pull them out and asked if I had enough school supplies for her children to use someday. Sadly, the answer is yes. And while it’s great to not have to run by the store every time someone runs out of their designated supply of pens, the amount of supplies we sometimes end up with is monumental. The girls are collecting school supplies to send to our sister parish in Guatemala. I hope they need pens and pencils, lots of pens and pencils. And notebooks and paper and index cards….

3.  Calculate your needs first. I have piles of books that I will never sell. I wish I had been able to sign and sell every one of them, but I was arrogant and overzealous. I ordered my first three books in quantities that even Barnes and Noble couldn’t handle in their warehouse. Now I have lots of copies of books that came out two, three, and four years ago, and I’m busy trying to sell the most recent works. These days, I order books three dozen at a time, and only when I know that I am going to sell them. If I need more, I can always contact the publisher and have a box sent. And I don’t feel so defeated by piles of unsold books. Now, about that whole storage area of storage containers….

4.  If you don’t have a use for it, plan to wear it, or aren’t sure you’re going to like it, don’t buy it. I have six white sweaters. Why? Because I’m a sucker for a good, white sweater. How often do I wear white sweaters? Good question, but I always know I have several if I need them. Unfortunately, I don’t. I wear the same white sweater every time I reach for a sweater. Somehow, I always think that this one will go better with that outfit, or that one will look better with a skirt, that one with pants. The truth is, they all look exactly the same – like a good, comfy, white sweater.

5.  Make use with what you have. Over the course of planning my office, I’ve had a running list of things I intended to purchase. While the cost of the office was growing, the size of the room was not, and neither was my bank account. I had to do some re-evaluating of my needs and wants. The shelves that I took down from Rebecca’s wall will work perfectly in the closet dad is building me. The black curtain rod can be spray painted to match the new color scheme. The degrees and awards I found while cleaning make more sense to hang than expensive art (using the frames from the pictures Rebecca took down).

I still have a long way to go. Yes, I did buy a new wall clock today. There’s just something I love about a wall clock with real hands, and I refuse to move the one from the kitchen. But I did end up throwing away the wedding planner. I’ve got all the memories still tucked safely away in my mind and heart. And there’s always room for more there.

Come back next week to see the transformation!

For Lenten inspiration, check out Amy’s collaboration with authors, Anne Kennedy, Susan Anthony, Chandi Owen, and Wendy Clark:  Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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 9 Most Important Things I’ve Learned at 47

5-Granada53Today is my birthday, and though my children and I kid that I turn 29 again every year, I really don’t mind people knowing that I am 47. Every day, I remind myself how lucky I am to be alive, be part of my family, have the wonderful friends that I have, and live in the greatest country in the world. Age means nothing to me except that the older I get, the wiser I am, the more experiences I’ve had, the closer to God I grow, and the more I appreciate where I’ve been and what I have. Unfortunately, we live in a throwaway society. There are many stories on the news these days about elderly people being put to death simply because they are old or ill. We throw away things that aren’t broken as well as broken things that can be fixed. Everybody wants to stay young, look young, and only have things that are the newest of their kind. It’s actually quite sad when you think about it. Who says that just because something or someone is old, it or she is no longer any good? Below, are the things that I see as the best part of growing older.

1.  I no longer feel guilty about doing or buying what I want. I’ve had a job since I was 16 years old, and Ken and I have worked hard for everything we have. There’s no reason not to enjoy it.

2.  Although I still have two girls in high school, my children and I are at the point in our lives where we are able to talk to each other and do things together as friends. From going to concerts to vacationing to sharing a glass of wine (since Rebecca turned 21 last month), we are able to relish the friendship that we have spent the past 21, 18, and 16 years cultivating.

3.  I have never really been the kind of person who cares what others think about me, but I have always known the difference between character and reputation. Reaching middle age means that I have established my reputation and assume that people know my character. If they don’t, it’s no longer my problem.

4.  I know exactly who my friends are. The days of trying to fit in, avoid mean girl cliques, and live outside of the popular crowd, are long gone. I know who the people are that I can count on, who the people are with whom I can share secrets, and those with whom I can share a smile and even a cup of coffee but not the intimate details of my life. It’s quite freeing to know that I don’t have to play the games that some people play. I’ve had the same best friends for 40, 23, and 16 years, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

5.  My life is only half over. I’m an eternal optimist, so thinking of my life as half over is foreign to me. Instead, I think of it as only half over. I still have, hopefully, another 47 years to do all of the things I still haven’t done – visit the last four states that I have yet to go to, ride in a hot air balloon, return to the Holy Lands, see my children marry and have children of their own, and walk El Camino (2019 is my target year, right Anne, George, Marian, Anne, Susan, Chandi, Ronnie, and Tammi?).

6.  My parents aren’t getting any younger either. I try to see them as often as possible and spend as much time with them as I can. I cherish our moments together and hope they know that everything I am, have, and believe is due to their love, guidance, and example.

7.  My faith is stronger now than it ever was, and I am still learning more about it every day. Time in prayer has become more treasured and coveted. Reading scripture is a daily habit. I’ve walked with God intermittently over the past 47 years. I want to spend the next 47 walking beside Him every minute of every day.

8.  Even the bad days are good. As happens in everyone’s life now and then, there are days when nothing seems to go right. These are the days when I recall the things that really matter (all of the other things on this list), and remain grateful for what I have. My mother used to tell me time and again, there’s no use crying over spilt milk. Instead of worrying about spilled, spoiling milk, I prefer to seek out and smell the roses because…

9.  Life is a gift and a blessing. We have the ability to do so much, to experience so much, to give of ourselves to others, and be blessed by others in return. We should make every day count and enjoy life to its fullest.

For Lenten inspiration, check out Amy’s collaboration with authors, Anne Kennedy, Susan Anthony, Chandi Owen, and Wendy Clark:  Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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)