This past weekend, Ken and I went out to dinner with another couple. The four of us try very hard to get together about once a month, which isn’t easy with the busy lives we lead, but it’s crucial that we make the effort. We’ve known John and Alix for almost twenty years. Alix and I have been in the same Bible study group for nearly that long. Our kids went to the same school from first grade through high school. Ken and John went on a mission trip to Guatemala together. Our friendship is based on all these things, but what really holds it together is our faith. I have learned so much about prayer, faith, and healing from these wonderful people.
My long-time readers probably know that Ken was in politics for a very long time, almost half our marriage. His political career came to an end during a very tumultuous time in our lives. It was difficult for all of us. Imagine that the person you love most in the world is made into a scapegoat, has his name and reputation smeared by people he trusted, and is dragged through the mud for no other reason than political motivations. It was a heart-breaking time for me, to see my husband’s face on the news and read his name in the paper and know that everything being said was a lie. Rather than being relieved when the state ethics board cleared him 100%, I was angry because our lives had been turned upside down and because the media never once acknowledged his innocence other than a teeny, tiny one paragraph blip hidden at the bottom of an inner page in the local paper. I asked my husband over and over again how he was dealing with all this, how he was coping with the loss of trust and friendship he had, how he showed no anger toward the people who did this to hm, and his response to me was always the same. He simply said, “I pray for them.”
Now, if that doesn’t stop you in your tracks and make you look inward, nothing will.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
But there’s more to those four little words than I could comprehend at the time. So much more.
A 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?
What I was writing about one year ago this week: Be the Apple.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A favorite song of mine has been running through my mind all morning. It’s called On Eagles Wings, and it reminds us that no matter what we are going through, God is there for us. Life can be hard. We never know what curve ball will be thrown our way. Three nights ago, a friend of mine from high school lost her long struggle with cancer. She was 45, unmarried, and without children. She had so much life still to live! This morning, our world was rocked with the news that another family friend has passed on. Even more tragic, this young man was just twenty-one years old; his life was only just beginning. My friend died knowing that she was being held, as the song and Psalm say, “in the palm of His hand.” The young man did not, and I wonder if that would have made all the difference.
At every moment of our lives, we are being held in the palm of God’s hand. Whether we are feeling peace or loss, profound joy or the deepest grief, God is there. Even in the times when we do not feel His presence, He is there. As the Footprints poem says, it is at the times when we need Him the most, that God carries us. I know that I have relied on this belief many times in my life, and my wish for you is that you know that you are always “in the palm of His hand.”
Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.