Sheltering With My Blessings

2020 WildeOur girls were sent home from college on March 13, so it’s been three weeks since we started social distancing and two days since shelter in place was put into effect in our state. To say that we are living on top of each other is an understatement. To say that there haven’t been arguments and disagreements would be a lie. However, to say that it’s been 24 hours each day of nonstop misery would be grossly inaccurate.

Throughout these past few weeks, we’ve experienced both good and bad, and I’m determined to come out of all of this remembering the good, such as…

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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)

Rewriting the Story

Last night, I took my mother,  sister-in-law, and friends to see Wicked. It was the fourth time I’ve seen the production, and If you’ve never seen the it, I encourage you, no I implore you, to run, don’t walk, to the nearest theater at which it is playing.  For those who, like myself, read the book and were left shaking your head and wondering what on earth all of the hype is about, trust me.  The play is a beautiful celebration of friendship that you don’t want to miss and will never forget.  Rather than rehashing to story of Dorothy from Kansas, Wicked tells the tale of the deep and abiding friendship of Dorothy’s good and beautiful guardian, Glinda, and Dorothy’s archenemy, the Wicked Witch of the West, known in the book and play as Elphaba.  The most dramatic and pivotal scene is when Elphaba, after casting a spell on an ordinary broom, gains the ability to fly and takes off for the Westernmost reaches of Oz. However, the climax is when the best friends, Glinda and Elphaba, tell each other goodbye.

Elphaba laments that she is limited in her abilities to do good, to save the world, which was all she ever wanted to do.  She has been cast as the villain, and she tells Glinda that she must now figure out how to save Oz from an evil which is overtaking it in the form of the Wizard (not the good guy Frank L. Baum led you to believe he was).  The two friends sing about how their meeting and subsequent friendship is like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes the sun, a stream that shifts when it meets a boulder, a seed dropped by a bird in a distant wood – their friendship is a catalyst for change.

Elphaba says that she has heard that people come into our lives for a reason, that we are led to those who need us, who help us to grow.  She and Glinda agree that no matter what has happened in the past or what may happen in the future, their friendship has changed them, “For Good.”  The song tells us that they are who they are because of knowing each other and that their stories have been rewritten because they are friends (obviously the message of the play).

I can honestly say that I am who I am today because of the people who have crossed my path, because of those I call my friends.  My friends influenced who I was a child, as a teen, and as an adult.  I’ve had to choose wisely, sometimes letting go of people, even close, dear ones, because their influence wasn’t a catalyst for good in my life.  I look back and see where I need to seek forgiveness and where old resentments no longer matter.  I can look around me and see who has changed me for the better both as friends and colleagues. Many years ago, I met a gal from church who became my very best friend and has continues to be a major force in my life. A few years later, I met the mother of one of Rebecca’s classmates, and now I have two best friends who have changed my life and my understanding of friendship. Almost a year ago, a whole new group of people came into my life.  I never thought, when first meeting this group, that they would have such a profound impact on me.  A seed was definitely dropped in a distant wood, and its roots took hold and sprouted into a wonderful new life.

I can’t begin to express what it means to me to know that I have friends who have been there for my entire life.  I have friendships that have deepened over the past twenty years, and I have new friendships that have such strong bonds, I can scarcely believe that we just met.  What I can express is best summed up by the words of Glinda and Elphaba, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

Jesus told His disciples, “Follow me,” and they left the lives they knew and followed Him.  Never could they have imagined what awaited them or the world.  They felt an instant connection, and sometimes, if we are among the very luckiest, we find that same connection with others.  Just as the disciples did, we find our stories being rewritten because someone came into our lives.  My wish is that all of my girls are lucky enough to find those relationships, in marriage and in friendship, the ones that change their lives “for good.”

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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Waves of Emotion

Almost ten years ago, Ken’s aunt and uncle made us a deal we couldn’t refuse.  Fifteen years earlier, they bought an above-ground swimming pool from a store that was going out of business.  They had every intention of putting it up in their yard for their two little girls.  Well, one thing led to another, life went on, and the pool sat unopened in their garage. Their girls had grown up, gone to college, and moved out, and the pool was of no use to them any longer.  The pool was ours if we were just willing to drive the two hours to pick it up and then figure out how to put it together.  It DSCN4727had no pump or filter and no ladder, but it was spring, so those things were readily available.  Ken went the very next day to pick up the pool, and I scoured Craig’s list for the missing pieces.  By the time Ken got home, I had secured a filter and pump, and a few weeks later, Ken’s sister had located a ladder.   Read more

A Season for Changes

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.     Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

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We’ve all read the verses or at least heard the song.  Every school choir seems to sing it at some point.  It has been featured in movies and in books.  Many reflections have been written about the words attributed to Solomon (although the author is not actually identified).  But I believe there is a line that is missing, something that each of us experiences over and over throughout our lives – a time for change.

One could argue that every line in the passage is about change, and that is very true.  Birth and death bring change as do tearing down and building up.  Scattering and gathering can be catalysts for change as can seeking, losing, keeping, casting, rending, sewing, speaking, loving, etc.  We are faced with changes, both large and small, time and time again, every day.  I am reminded of this more and more each spring as graduation time is thrust upon us, whether we are ready or not. Read more

The 6 Things You Are Doing That Limit Your Happiness

DSC_1859I am blessed to live in the United States, a country that boasts “the pursuit of happiness” as an unalienable right.  If doesn’t, however, guarantee that you will be happy or that anyone has to be forced to make you happy.  It just decrees that you have the right to pursue being happy.  Nor are any of us given a path to happiness, a guarantee of some sort that we will be happy.  That is up to each of us as individuals.  And the only way to be happy is to pursue a life of happiness, not from others, but from the things that you, yourself, do every day.  Unfortunately, many people are searching for happiness in ways that leave them feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even sad and sometimes lonely. In my observations of the people and situations around me, here is what I see that they’re doing wrong. Read more

Strangers in a Strange Land

Smithsonian Mag - The Search for Jesus
Our Group of Pilgrims

It was early when we gathered, strangers in a strange land, having flown through the night and disembarked bleary-eyed, yet ready for adventure. A few people spoke; many smiled and nodded in acknowledgement. We shared a purpose, the same excitement and expectations, but were strangers nonetheless. With suitcases in hand, we boarded our assigned buses, most of us now having met three or four others. What would this week bring? How would we get along? How would this land of Moses change us? Read more

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

DSC09019It’s almost funny, the things we will do to spend just a small amount of special time with the ones we love, and how we truly come to appreciate those times over the years.  Christmas is one of those times.  Christmas in our house was always special, always a wonderful get-together with our large, extended family.  When I was very young, my parents and I would spend the entire Christmas holiday with my grandparents on the Wicomico River in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.  We always attended the Christmas Eve vigil at the church where my parents were married (which was built by my grandfather).  While it was just the five of us there on Christmas morning, throughout the day, family would arrive until the tiny house was bursting at the seams with all of the people, presents, and holiday cheer.  Dinner was a festive event with family from all over Southern Maryland popping in and out to exchange gifts and greetings. Read more

Family Portraits

DSC_1825I know that when it comes to taking pictures, I drive my family crazy. Countless times I have heard the phrase, “Another picture?” or “Haven’t we taken enough?” or “Can I go now?” They can keep complaining. It doesn’t phase me. I will continue to take their pictures, their friends’ pictures, our pets’ pictures, our family pictures, our vacation pictures, our holiday pictures, and any other photos I feel like DSC06333taking because it all boils down to one thing – this event, this memory, this small moment in time will only happen once and only last for an instant, and I want to remember it forever. Read more

Be Thankful

DSC09204-001Here we are in the month of November, the one month of the year when everybody seems to be grateful for something – actually 30 somethings – one new thing every day.  While I applaud the effort of those truly trying to show their gratitude, I find myself wondering every year, are these people thankful for these things all year long or just when they can post it on Facebook for all the world to see?  Do any of us really understand what it means to be grateful?  Are those petty little things actually the things in life for which we are the most thankful?  Why do we take so much for granted, whether that means appreciating something just once a year or never giving it a thought at all?

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Cartagena, Colombia (I’m grateful for business trips to exotic places and for frequent flyer mileage).  While we were there, we took an excursion that led us off the beaten path IMG_1439and through a rural landscape that revealed poverty the likes of which I have never seen, and I’m sure few people in this country could imagine.  We recently began sponsoring a young boy in Colombia, and I cried when I looked at the huts outside of my window and pictured him living in one of them.  We asked if we could send him shoes or clothing, and we were told no because it might cause him harm to have things that nobody else has.  How sad, how tragic to think that a simple pair of shoes is too much for a person to even hope for.

I read somewhere recently that our families are getting smaller while our houses are getting larger.  We have accumulated more “stuff” than any generation before us, yet with all that people have, there are those who are still crying for more.  Even the poorest people in our country have more than those in 3rd World nations, yet the ones we saw last weekend are out there working hard every day trying to feed their families while here, over 1/3 of the US population is on welfare.  So many of us drive around in luxury cars without a care in the world while approximately 50,000 of our US Veterans are living on the streets.  We can all find time to go to Disney World, but 85% of nursing home residents never have anyone visit them.

Hey, listen, I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to buying things I don’t need, eating more than my share, taking for granted all that I am blessed to have.  All I ask is that every United States citizen stops and takes a minute to think about all that they have and how lucky they are to live in a land where we have the ability to run to the store for milk, shop whenever we want new clothes, or even just change our shoes when our feet get sore.  Be grateful that you have family and friends, that you have a home and means of transportation, that you have the freedom to worship, work, and play however you please, and that there are men and women standing guard at night while you’re asleep making sure that you can wake up tomorrow and still have all of those opportunities.

We are among the lucky ones.  Remember, not just today, but every day to thank God, your parents, your teachers, and our military for all of the sacrifices they have made for you.  It’s not about the cars and houses and material things.  It’s about the life you live and those who are a part of it.  Smile and be thankful – every minute of every day.

                                        Vets

Special thanks on this Veteran’s Day to my father, Richard; my father-in-law, David; our friend, Nick; and my nephew, Ty for their service to our country.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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