Dear Graduate, Be Happy

Dear Graduate,
I can scarcely believe that you, my baby, are about to go out into the world on your own. At eighteen, after twelve years of school (fourteen counting Pre-K and kindergarten), I’m sure that you think you know everything you need to know about the world and how to navigate it. I am confident that you have learned enough to be successful in college, to find the right friends, and make the best choices. You have already proven that time and again. However, there are many lessons still to be learned. The lessons I feel you most need to concentrate on are the Five Simple Rules To Be Happy.

5 Simple Rules.jpg

I’m not sure who originally came up with the list.  A former yoga instructor of mine finished every class with the rules, and you can find them listed in books, blogs, and articles everywhere. They’re available on mugs, paperweights, and T-shirts. While these rules make sense, and I do want you to follow them, there are important things to remember about each of them.

1. Free your heart from hatred. ‘Hate’ is one of the most overused words I ever hear. People hate everything from broccoli to music to people. Because it is so commonly used, I think people tend to forget what it actually means. Hate is intense. It is passionate. It can lead to death and destruction. It can tear apart lives and poison the soul. Psychologist Dr. John H. Sklare warns, “The more you hold onto hatred, the more likely it is that the hot coal of the emotion will burn you. And the more you feed it, the stronger it becomes.”

Never let hate be the emotion you feed. It will zap you of your energy, steal your happiness, and elude you of peace. It will take away your joy and turn you into a bitter, resentful person. Instead, always look for ways to love, even toward those who hurt you. Perhaps Mother Teresa’s advice is all you need to know, “I have the found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” 

2. Free your mind from worries. Oh, my dear child, how I’ve seen you worry. I’ve watched you fret over the large and the small, and I’ve seen you become anxious over things that you cannot change or control. Remember that you cannot control all things and all people. You can only control how you react to them. React with patience, with kindness, and with love. Seek peace from your faith, and no that God has a plan for you. Put your trust in Him, forsaking all worries, and know that He will lead you down the path for which you were chosen. When in doubt, pray. When prayers don’t easily come, hold fast to this one,

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonable happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.
                                            Reinhold Niebuhr

 

IMG_0672When times of worry strike, when anxiety overtakes you, find solace in the things that bring you joy. Take a break and visit someone who always makes you feel good. Spend just a few minutes with the Lord. Treat yourself to something that makes you happy. Reflect on all the good times you’ve had. Turn to someone who makes you smile. There are many times in life when a smile is all that is needed to cure whatever ails you.

3. Live simply. Do not hold onto things, people, grudges, money, or time. Let your heart delight in the small things: a child’s laughter, a puppy’s kiss, an afternoon with friends, a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, a delicious meal, a good book,  and a refreshing cry. Know that one true friend has more worth than fifty others who won’t be there when you need them. And always be that friend to others. Don’t take on too many responsibilities or neglect the ones that matter.

IMG_3070.JPGTake the time to breathe. Never underestimate the value of walk in the woods, a dance in the rain, or a snowflake on your tongue. Take time for yourself. Allow yourself to experience silence. Keep in mind the words of St. Pope John Paul II, “only in silence does man succeed in hearing in the depth of his conscience the voice of God.”

4. Give more. When you live simply, you will find that you have more to give. Give your time to help those in need. Give your ear to those desiring someone to listen. Give your words to those seeking comfort and reassurance. Give your talents to the causes that are most worthy. Give money to the poor and your coat to those in need. Share what you have, and never be selfish. 

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40

5. Expect less. I’m going to admit that I have a hard time with this. I agree that you should never presume, but there are many things in life that you should expect. The motivational speaker, David Jospeh Schwartz, said, “Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.” Expecting less may allow us to feel less pain or experience fewer falls, but it can also lead to lower standards. You often asked why I always expected you to get As. What would you have said if I had only ever told you I expected you to get Bs? How hard would you have worked if I told you I only expected you to pass? Setting expectations is necessary in order to achieve goals.

You should expect your partner to be faithful. You should expect your friends to be loyal. Expect to be treated with kindness. Expect nursing school to be hard! 

I believe that this rule is more of a reminder to keep in mind that what you expect will not always be what you get. Sometimes, life will far exceed your expectations, and other times, it will fall short. You may need to adjust your expectations (like the year you took Physics). You may need to reassess your goals. You may need to find new friends. When faced with those times, remember that there is always a greater lesson to be learned. Sometimes you have to recognize that expectations are unrealistic, and that’s okay!

“You can’t expect perfection. It is important to sort of acknowledge some of our imperfections. I write them down. There’s something about acknowledging mistakes and being able to put them down on paper; they become facts of your life that you must live with. And then, hopefully, you can navigate the road a little bit better. “
Ron Howard, actor, director

DSCN8172The bottom line is, only you can create your happiness. Only you can control what you feel. Only you can find contentment with the world, with others, with yourself. By sowing love instead of hate, by freeing yourself of worries, by living simply, by giving more, and by setting the right expectations, you can experience profound joy, delight in all that matters, and find peace in your heart and mind. Of all the things you should remember as you march to Pomp and Circumstance, remember this, you have the power to live the happiest life possible. Go out there and seek joy, and everything else will fall into place.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: It’s Summer Reads Time Again!.

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 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

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).

Earning Fs in Life

Over the past two days, I was back home attending the funeral of a beloved cousin. The prayer service on Monday evening and the funeral Mass on Tuesday were beautiful and brought many happy memories to mind as we bid goodbye to one of the brightest lights in our family.

Rebecca in MSM Library.jpgFather Early’s Homily really struck a chord with me. He likened life to a class in school. He said that, ideally, when we go to class, we work to achieve As; however, Father told us that we should work hard to achieve all Fs in the class of life.

What? All Fs?

Yes, he encouraged us to earn Fs in life. Why?

Because…

The real gifts in life all begin with the letter, F. In all that we do, we should strive to achieve those Fs. Below are the few that Father pointed out as well as a few that I have taken the liberty of adding:

 

 

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Family: A simple internet search brings up many published articles with titles such as,  For Happiness, Seek Family, Not Fortune – WebMD, Family Talk: Family makes many of us happy – NewsOK, and Families Are Changing, But Still Key to Happiness. Study after study proves that having a tight-knit family leads to happiness. Family can do more than provide stability. Family gives us a whole group of people to lean on, a built-in support system, a ready-made network, and a circle of friends. My mother is, and always has been, my best friend. My husband is my rock. My sister-in-law and I are each other’s spiritual warriors. My brothers are there for me in thick and thin. I can call on my Aunt Debbie for anything and everything. My mother-in-law is a second mother to me, and my children are the lights of my life. At the core of all of this is one simple thing – love, a deep and unwavering love for each other.

Friends: I have quoted the book of Sirach more than once and will happily do so again. “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure” (Sirach 6:14). And who can forget the immortal words of the angel, Clarence, in Frank Capra’s timeless story of the importance of friends, It’s a Wonderful Life? “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” This past Monday, our Bible study group discussed the importance of having meaningful relationships with friends, all kinds of friends, including those who bring us to a deeper faith.
Sirach

Faith: Though I am listing this as number three, I firmly believe that faith is the most important F in our lives. For every article about the importance of family, there are ten about the importance of faith. As we were told by Jesus, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Faith is what gets us through the hard times, believing that things will get better. Faith helps us stay on track when everything around us seems to go awry. Faith can lead to miracles (see my blog about the movie, Breakthrough).

Famliy Fun.jpgFun: Where would we be if we never had fun? It’s more than just a notion, more than a passing moment, more than a childish endeavor. Seeking and having fun is necessary in so many areas of our lives. Psychology Today tells us that Having Fun Must be Taken Seriously for it is through fun that people learn to negotiate rules, develop healthy lifestyles, gain emotional control and social competency, grow personal resiliency, and hone curiosity. Psychologist Marc Bekoff Ph.D. writes “Play is a banquet for the brain, a smorgasbord for the senses, providing nourishment for body and spirit.” He also says that we, Americans, are forgetting the importance of the feast and not joining the buffet line when it comes to seeking and creating fun in our lives. We work too hard and play too little. We need people like my cousin, Eleanor, in our lives to remind us to have fun.

Fulfillment: I believe that all of us have a need to feel fulfilled. While all of the other Fs mentioned above can and should contribute to that fulfillment, each of us is put here on Earth to serve a purpose. We each have our meaning in life–the pursuit of that which makes us feel whole. For some, it’s charity work. For others, it’s career. For others, it’s providing a loving home for their families. However, I find that what we think is our purpose in life is often what we’ve been told is our purpose–to have a good career, to make lots of money, to provide a big house with lots of stuff for our families. The simple truth is, the life purpose of each person goes beyond what he earns or what she does for a living. It is, again, that thing which makes us feel whole, that which inspires us to a higher calling. 

Fortune: We should all strive to achieve great fortune in life–riches and wealth beyond compare. However, these riches do not consist of the material things we own, and the wealth, of which I speak, is not the amount of money we have in the bank. The fortune we should seek is that which encompasses all of the other Fs that we should be earning throughout our lives. We need to gather our family closer and cherish them. We need to collect good and faithful friends who will lift us up. We need to have the faith to move many mountains. We must amass hours of fun. We must search for what will lead us to fulfillment. When we have all of those things, we all will have cups overflowing with the sweetest drink.

So, I urge you, go out and earn those Fs. If you do, you will leave this world as an A+ student of life.

Want More?

Subscribe to my newsletter for information on upcoming books, cover reveals, and insider information.  Do you know what my next book is about?  My newsletter subscribers do!

 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: I Was a Free-Range Kid.

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 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

How Many Licks Must We Take?

my-wordly-girls.jpgAs a parent, I’m grateful that all three of my girls are intelligent, that they have traveled enough to be worldly, and that they understand the importance of doing well in school. However, I can’t help but wonder… as my girls were growing up, as they were experiencing all of those wonderful things, visiting foreign places, and learning how to navigate the world, did I remember to teach them the importance of being wise? What do I mean by that? Intelligence is a function of the brain. Worldliness is a function of experience. Doing well in school comes as a result of hard work and studying. Not a single one of those has anything to do with wisdom. Wisdom is a gift of the spirit and comes entirely from God.

So how do we achieve wisdom?

In today’s first reading, from the book of Sirach, we are told of the importance of wisdom. It is elusive, but can be found and should be sought by every man and woman. Those who know wisdom (personified as a woman in the text), love life, inherits glory (heavenly, not earthly), receives blessings, overcomes fear and dread, treasures knowledge, and understands justice. Wisdom does not come easily but through hard work, perseverance, and trust in God. It is not the kind of thing you can learn from experience or by reading a book. It can only come from spending time with God, reading scripture, and knowing and understanding that there is a higher being on who we should depend and in who we should trust.

Morgan at DU.JPGThis past weekend, my youngest daughter, Morgan, and I visited Pittsburgh so that she could attend Nursing Preview Day at the college of her choice. I watched all of those excited women (and a few men) and marveled at how young they looked. I cried a little when I thought about sending my baby off on her own. I thought about both of her sisters and their college experiences, the good and the bad; and I can’t help but wonder if I ever taught them anything about the importance of wisdom.

Like all young adults, my girls believe that they know what is best for them. Don’t we all? And as any good parent would, my husband and I have always supported them and allowed them to choose their own paths. Yes, there have been times when we raised a brow, questioned a decision, or sighed in disbelief over decisions made. We cried when the choices were bad, and we celebrated when they were good. But I’m still left with the question, are my girls truly wise?

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 10.30.13 AMThose of us above a certain age will remember the wise old owl who was sought for his knowledge. He was asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?” When he couldn’t figure out the answer, he cheated and noisily bit into the lollipop. I think that’s how most people approach wisdom. They think they have all of the answers, and when they’re unable to solve a problem, they take a shortcut, or they give up, or they give in. Their choices are often destructive, and their paths are covered with thorns and lead them nowhere. Sometimes, they find themselves on rocky ground with nowhere to go. They believe they are being wise and don’t understand when things don’t turn out the way they thought they would. True wisdom tells us that all of the answers lie with God. 

How many licks must we take, how many dead-end roads must we travel, how many mistakes must we make before we understand that we’re doing it all wrong? When faced with a problem, how many of us think, right off the bat, that we need to pray for an answer? How many stop and think far enough into the future to see beyond this moment, this situation, this world? How many understand that obtaining wisdom isn’t arbitrary or automatic or easy? It doesn’t mean you will never make mistakes, never question yourself, and never worry about the future. However, it does mean that you work to get past the trial, understand the limits, and look for the right path. Wisdom, herself, understands that finding her is difficult.

I will walk with them in disguise,
and at first I will test them with trials.
Fear and dread I will bring upon them
and I will discipline them with my constraints.
When their hearts are fully with me,
then I will set them again on the straight path
and reveal my secrets to them.
– Sirach 4:17-18

All good things comes to those who possess wisdom. That doesn’t mean they will never suffer, nor does it mean that their lives will always be perfect. What it means, according to 2 Chronicles 1: 11,  is that they will amass riches beyond measure and be honored for their knowledge. I’m pretty sure it’s not material riches that they will be given but love, happiness, contentment, and eternal rest. Solomon, known as the wisest person to ever live, when offered anything in the world, asked God for just one thing – wisdom. One of my all-time favorite hymns is Hail Mary, Gentle Woman. In the song, we implore Mary, more than once, to “teach us wisdom, teach us love.” Perhaps we would all do well to ask for and seek the same. 

Join me to celebrate the release of my newest novel, The Devil’s Fortune. Let me know if you can be there on Sunday, March 24, 2019.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: In the Desert

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

 

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?

 Quote.jpg

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.

tenor.gif

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).

 

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.
washington_crossing_the_delaware_by_emanuel_leutze

The problem is that historians believe that the actual crossing looked something more like this depiction by artist, Mort Kunstler.
111208-Washington_crossing_the_Delaware-painting-AP111208150487

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.”

Isaiah 33-15-16.jpg

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).

 

Learning to Sail Your Ship

Dear High School Senior,

Here it is, the beginning of your last year of high school, your last year in the school that has been your second home since 1st grade, your last year living at home, your last year as a minor, your last year of being a kid with little to no responsibilities. I could go on and on, but that would make both of us sad and ignore what’s really important–that this year of “lasts” should be a year of making lasting memories. This year should also be about looking back and reflecting on your journey through the past so that you can sail safely and securely to a great future. 

Hurricaine Isabel (16)You probably only have vague recollections of Hurricane Isabel which blew into our lives when you were just three-years-old. It was late September, and we were leaving the following morning for a week-long trip. Our house sits on a piece of high land, so the world looked right when we awoke to a beautiful sunrise that morning. Your father took you and Rebecca down the driveway to cross the street and check on your great-grandparents, but the end of the driveway did not yield to a road, as it should have. Instead, there was rushing water as far as you could see. Daddy got the little rowboat we kept in the backyard, and the three of you made your way to Nan and Pop’s. They were trapped but lucky, for the water went all the way to the top of their porch steps and stopped. After making sure that your aunt was on her way to stay with them, we piled all of our suitcases, our dog, and you three girls into the rowboat and two kayaks and paddled our way out of town. For more than a mile, we steered our way through the flooded roads until we found your Poppy, waiting for us on the other side. I think that was your first lesson in traveling through life. You see, there will be violent storms and rushing water, and your carefully laid plans may be washed away by the floods. You’ll be left with two choices: sit around and wait for the waters to recede, or find a way to paddle your way out of there. How you face the storms and conquer the floods are up to you. Don’t let rough weather get in the way of your plans when you can paddle your way out of the situation at the break of day.

Morgan ridesThere is a story you’ve heard dozens of times, but it’s one of my favorites. You were four, and you went outside to play in the backyard. I stood at the kitchen window, washing dishes, glancing up every few minutes to see you playing on the swings or in the sandbox. As I was finishing up my task, I saw something whir by the window. When I looked again, there you were–riding your sister’s bike, with no training wheels! I ran out and asked you when you learned to ride, and you said, “Just now.” I asked who taught you, and you said, “Me!” It was my first clue that you were going to be a force to be reckoned with. You were not going to let any obstacle get in your way. No challenge was too large, no goal too lofty. With or without help, you were going to achieve your objective. That has never changed, and I hope it never does. Let your goals shine like beacons, and steer your ship toward them. You will encounter storms and rough seas, and you may need to change course, but you will reach your destination.

Years later, for reasons I still don’t understand, you were not allowed to be in the advanced math class with a small handful of your peers. You were angry and confused, as were your parents, but you had such a great attitude once you realized you couldn’t change the decision. You set out to do your best, prove your abilities, and advance on your own. Taking it upon yourself to take two math courses the following year, you advanced and excelled. Once again, you proved that you could not be held back and that you could do anything you set your mind to. But it didn’t come easily to you. You struggled, you had to push yourself, you even cried at times. But you never gave up. There will be times, over the next five years and beyond, when you will be told you aren’t good enough. You will be held back in some way or another. You will be made to feel inferior. Remind yourself that you can do anything you put your mind to. Even when there is no wind at your back, I know you will find a way to sail on.  As Garth Brooks reminds us,

There’s bound to be rough waters,
And I know I’ll take some falls,
With the good Lord as my captain,
I can make it through them all.

collage.jpgRemember your first big dance? You got all dressed up and curled your hair because you were so hoping a certain boy would ask you to dance, and he didn’t even show up! But you smiled, danced with your friends, and enjoyed yourself. And what a lesson that was! Sometimes in life, people don’t show up–literally and figuratively. Sometimes, you’re left on your own to figure things out, to clean up a mess, or to have a good time. When that happens, you can let yourself feel bad about your situation, or you can smile and dance. Perhaps whomever or whatever wasn’t there for you then will be just the person or thing that comes through when you need them the most later in life.

22728713_10210269648273922_4818804090097890691_nYou are only seventeen, yet I know that you have grieved deeply. You lost Granny when you were in elementary school, and then you lost both Nan and Pop when you were in middle school, leaving your little heart especially broken. Nan and Pop lived across the street from us your entire life, and their passing was hard on you. But harder still was losing your Grandfather, Poppy, this year. I’ve never seen you so sad, but you were never helpless. Instead, you rose to your greatest height in those last few weeks. You took the most painful time in your life and used it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to embrace what time you and your Poppy had left. You so loved him, and it was your love and your strength that propelled you through those dark days and set you on your lifelong course to come. I know that, in every patient you encounter as a nurse, you will see your grandfather, and you will gift your patients with your compassion, your grace, and your love.

High school hasn’t always been easy for you. You’ve struggled with your own doubts and fears, your own insecurities and anxieties, but you’ve found ways to overcome them. You’ve made friends and lost friends, but you’ve discovered whom you can count on without fail. You’ve been left out, let down, and leaned on without reciprocation, but you’ve shouldered the burdens with your head held high and a smile on your face. You’ve learned that life isn’t perfect, that not every person is honest and trustworthy, that adults don’t always make the right decisions, and that the world doesn’t revolve on fairness. But you’ve also learned that these things don’t have to change who you are. You are a person of worth and integrity, a person who doesn’t lie or cheat to get ahead but perseveres and overcomes, a person who is loyal and true. And you are a person of faith, a person who knows that you will face things that “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19: 26).

Follow your heart, listen to your inner voice, and rely on your faith. Make this year the best year of your life so far. Take what you have learned, and use the knowledge to continue growing, reaching, believing, and achieving. As this year progresses, continue to learn the ropes, build your ship, set your course, and enjoy the ride. When the time comes for your ship to embark on the vast oceans of life, know that I will be standing on the dock, crying but waving and wishing you luck and prosperity. I will watch, holding my breath, as you hoist your sails, surge on through the storms, navigate the rough seas, look toward Heaven, and follow the stars. You will know the way. Sail on.

I love you, Mom

Morgan steering her ship.jpg

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, 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).