Wonder Women

IMG_4576I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of spending the better part of this summer with many amazing women. It started with my trip to Europe, with my daughter, Katie, to celebrate her high school graduation. On that trip, I had the privilege of seeing my daughter, the adult. I was awed by her, as I usually am by each of my daughters, and I reveled in the two and a half weeks that we shared together. While she still has some growing up to do, as all kids do when they leave for college, I saw many glimpses of the woman she is becoming. I look forward to seeing all that life has in store for her.

Staff 2017.JPGIn July, the girls and I returned to our favorite summer event – a week of Girl Scout camp. While there are two men who volunteer, the camp is primarily run by women, and what a great group of women they are. Ranging from high school freshmen to women in their sixties, they are students, attorneys, teachers, nurses, a CNN camerawoman, business owners, troop leaders, and a host of other professions. They are all, young and old, women to look up to, if for no other reason than that they tirelessly give an entire week of their lives, every year, to ensure the happiness of 100 little girls. But that’s not the only reason. They are women who inspire and encourage other women, and that’s so vitally important in a world where so many women are determined to continuously put others down.

IMG_7045.JPGA week after camp ended, I found myself on a plane to Austin, Texas, to join 300 other Catholic women for a weekend of spirituality and fun. Joining me in Austin were thirteen of the women I met on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land almost two years ago. For some of us, this was a second or third reunion. For many, it was the first time we’d seen each other since February of 2016. There were tears, prayers, and laughter, much laughter. Each of these women has struggled with something – past regrets, infertility, divorce, health issues, rocky marriages, job loss, the death of a child, ailing and infirmed parents, or some other type of hardship. Each has her own cross to bear, and bear it she does, with dignity, grace, and beauty that cannot be measured by the human eye. Each loves without judgement, acts without selfishness, and relies on her faith to see her through the toughest of times. I look at these women and am overwhelmed by them, by all that they’ve done, by all that they have to give, and by their strength and determination. At one point, one of the women said to me, “When I grow up, I want to be you.” Those words will never leave me because I just want to be like all of them.

IMG_7159.JPGThis week, I got to spend time with the women who matter the most in my life – my three girls. Along with us on our family vacation, is Rebecca’s life-long best friend, Bailey. It has been such a pleasure to spend time with them. Yesterday, we started the day by hiking Bushkill Falls. There were no easy trails for this crew. We knew that the harder and rockier the trail, the better the view, so onward and upward we went. The girls laughed at the warnings that the trails we had chosen would be strenuous, and even Bailey, not a fan of heights, tackled the mountain with grace and ease. It was another glimpse of the women they are and will be, and I marveled at the young ladies we had raised. Picture-cbkma-20170808-0015953In the afternoon, Morgan, her boyfriend, Katie, and I took on a five-level treetop adventure course. With each level, the challenges grew harder and higher. After the first three, Jacob decided he had spent enough time high above the ground (you’ve to hand it to a boy who is deathly afraid of heights but willingly takes on such a challenge). Katie, not one to give up, wanted to continue on to courses four and five, courses on which few people are willing to continue. In fact, she and I were the only females, in our group of two dozen or so people, to move on AND CONQUER the courses, and two of the small handful of women who even attempted the courses that day. As we were leaving, the men were offering us congratulations and compliments, and a woman waiting at the end,  high-fived us, telling us that a man ahead of us had called us the Warrior Women. 

But here’s the truth about all of this. I would never have taken Rebecca and then Katie to Europe after their graduations had Rebecca not encouraged me to do so. She was confident that the two of us could manage ten cities and seven countries in three weeks, and we did. That led to Katie’s trip in which we visited nine cities in three countries in just over two weeks with skill and ease. Their confidence in me in humbling. Their confidence in themselves in awe-inspiring. Likewise, I would never have taken on the job of camp director if another woman hadn’t been so positive that I was up to the task. She encouraged me to take the reins and has continued to support and encourage me for the past eleven years. IMG_7058.JPGI would never have formed the bond that I have formed with my sisters in faith from all across the country if they hadn’t been so open and trusting with each other, so supportive, and such faith-filled, persevering women. There is no judgement there, no attempts to be better than anyone, no snarkiness or cutting each other down. There is just pure love and the understanding that each of us is here just trying to do the best we can in a world that is a never-ending challenge. Much like my day with my family yesterday in which each thing we did was harder than the thing before it. Each level was rockier, higher, more challenging, but we encouraged each other to push on. 

IMG_9935We all have the ability to be Wonder Women, to fight for justice, for truth, for peace, and for love. We all have the ability to encourage one another, to see each other for what we have to give and not for what we lack, to be there for each other in the good times and the bad, to inspire others to have faith in themselves, each other, and God. I learned all of that from the ultimate Wonder Woman, my mom. She is my inspiration, my ideal, that to which I aspire. I am who I am, and my girls are who they are because of her. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you. May we all be blessed with a Wonder Woman, or a group of Wonder Women, in our lives.

 

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Proverbs 31:25-31

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Off the Grid.

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/amyschislerand 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)

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?

It changed us in ways none of us could quite guess as of yet. We met our guides and watched eagerly as they pointed to landmarks on the landscape. Galilee is green. Did you know that? It is fertile and pleasant, even in the month of February. A cautious camaraderie formed during the first lunch, each person feeling out the others. Thank Heaven for Facebook, the genius of modern communication that allowed us to identify our fellow travelers and make small talk.

DSC08368
Ken and I renewing our vows
Each day brought new things to see and places to go. Our first major site was the Church of the Annunciation, and we all left with high hopes and renewed zeal for the coming days.  “How can it get any better than this?” We thought when Father Darryl reminded us that “the Word was made flesh, here.”  But it did. That afternoon, we visited Cana where many of us renewed our wedding vows. While there was not a dry eye in the church, there were many laughs accompanied by food and dance at the “reception” that evening.

 

 

DSC08415
The Sea of Galilee
In Mark 4: 35-41, the winds whipped across the Sea of Galilee. For us, they were calm when day two ushered in a boat ride for the one-hundred pilgrims who were talking, praying, and taking pictures with traveling companions. A moment of raw emotion took me by surprise when a fellow pilgrim stopped me to tell me that, in my smile, she had seen the face of her dear friend, who had recently passed. That is a moment I will never forget. A connection was made, and, I hope, perhaps a healing had begun. Later that day, we walked through the Valley of the Doves, literally following the footsteps of Jesus. It was unforgettable.

 

DSC08483
The holy place of Peter’s Primacy
Ken was moved to tears at the Church of the Transfiguration, and we continued on our journey toward Jerusalem, stopping at Jericho for lunch. The sound of the call to prayer filled the Muslim dominated town as we ate and talked, each person learning more about our new friends. A visit to the seashore to recall the Lord’s command to Peter to shepherd His flock, left us all hearing the question, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

 

DSC08603
The star marking the spot of Jesus’ birth
The next morning found us in Bethlehem where the true purpose of our trip began to
settle in. Though under construction, the Church of the Nativity loomed large and glorious before us. Kneeling before the place, where once laid a newborn King, was humbling for all of us. In Shepherd’s Field, we imagined what it must have been like when the light of a mystical star shone overhead, beckoning the shepherds from the cave to be greeted by a heavenly host of angels.

 

DSC08707
Garden of Gethsemane
On Friday, we stood in the chapel at Pater Noster and held hands as we prayed the words the Lord prayed on the ground where the Apostles first learned the prayer. To describe my emotions would be inadequate as mere words cannot express what that felt like. It was as if the Lord stood in our midst. But the best was yet to come as that day gave way to one emotional moment after another. Walking the Palm Sunday path, we found ourselves descending the Mount of Olives and entering the Garden of Gethsemane. Our guide shared with us his personal belief that Jesus’ prayer that this cup be passed was not a moment of weakness and fear of the coming pain of crucifixion, but of the coming pain of the kiss, the betrayal by one He loved. Never again will I think of that Biblical scene without recalling that thought.

11935161_10206269764486641_6843883817663045855_o
Strangers no more
From there, we entered the Upper Room, the approximation of where the Lord and His disciples shared the Last Supper. It was during Mass on this hallowed ground that I watched, during the handshake of peace, as each person in the room hugged, kissed, and greeted each other by name, all pretenses gone. No more strangers. At that moment, we all felt it. We were among true friends.

 

 

DSC08744
The tomb of Christ
The culmination of the trip took place at sunrise on Saturday morning. As the glow of the candles danced on the marble, and the Franciscan Monks sang the High Mass, Father Darryl celebrated the most unforgettable Mass of my life. To stand before the tomb of the risen Lord and partake in His meal of everlasting life, while doves sat in the church’s recesses above our heads, was too surreal to imagine. I tried to sing, tried to utter the prayers I had been hearing and saying all of my life, but the conflicting combination of sadness and joy were overwhelming. To lay my head on the Lord’s tomb, and then to kneel at Calvary, was almost too much to take in all at once. As Jesus did, we wept.

DSC08774
Along the Via Delarosa
I will never forget the Via Delarosa, the walk through the streets of Jerusalem while praying the Stations of the Cross. As tourists and other pilgrims watched our group, and those used to such events went on with their daily lives, we traced the steps of our Lord from Pilate’s Praetorian to Calvary. The day was filed with more emotion than I’m sure any of us knew we were capable of.  Before heading to the airport on Sunday, Ken and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk back down to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher once again. This time, we were alone, no crowd of one-hundred, whispering and waiting their turn to spend just a few seconds at the empty tomb. With just ten people in front of us, we waited in line until it was time to say our final prayers at the site of the Resurrection. We savored the moment, knowing that this might be the one and only time in our lives that we would be able to visit this land of holiness and turmoil.

 

DSC08919
A group of friends at our farewell dinner
When we finished our last dinner together, later that evening, the tears began to flow. Our lives had been changed forever. We were now fishers of men, charged with the task of returning to our homes and loved ones and sharing with them all that we had seen and heard. Unlike the first time we gathered at the airport, this time there was laughter, a final toast, sharing of memories, and plans to see each other again. No longer strangers in a strange land, I believe we all felt as if we had come home, and in doing so, met the family we never knew we had.

 

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 latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is due out in the summer of 2016.

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)

Be Not Afraid

My SSPP GirlsYesterday, some friends and I were talking about how hard it is raising children in today’s world.  As mothers, we all worry about our children.  Will they make the right decisions, meet the right people, find the right job, make it to school or work and back safely, be safe at school or work, survive to be an adult, a parent, a grandparent.  It’s a constant state of worry.  Worry like that can be crippling, immobilizing, even life-threatening.  So what’s a mother to do?

We all came to the same conclusion.  It’s not a perfect one, but it’s all we can do.  We have to hope for the best, put our trust in God, and love our children fiercely every day.  We can’t lock our children in a tower (that never works in Fairy Tales), and we can’t live our lives in constant fear, nor do we want to teach our children to live their lives in constant fear.  We want them and ourselves actually LIVING!  So we have no other choice but to teach them right and wrong, instill in them a solid set of values and morals, and pray for them every day.

Looking back, every single bad decision I’ve ever made in my life, whether as a child, a teen, or an adult, was made out of fear.  What if they don’t like me?  What if he won’t love me?  What if I don’t do that, say that, try that?  The question was always based in fear, and the decision was always disastrous, if not then, than later down the road.  However, every decision I ever made with confidence that it was the right thing to do, was made with complete trust – trust in friends, my loved ones, my husband, God.  And those decisions have never come back to haunt me.

Years ago, Ken and I were at a crossroads in our lives.  Our children were attending a school that they hated.  I had to forcibly put Katie on the bus every day and jump off as the bus driver closed the door while Katie cried and pounded on the windows.  She was eight years old, not a young child, and the knowledge that she was so unhappy was heart-breaking.  It was my first year staying at home and attempting to become a published author when Ken decided to leave his job.  The position had created so much stress for him that I feared for his health, but what would we do?  After a few months, our small savings was almost gone and we had three children to feed.  While we were talking over the situation one night, my husband had the craziest idea, and I mean crazy.  He said to me, “You’ve always wanted them in Catholic school, so maybe it’s time.”  I looked at him like he had lost his mind.  “We have no money, no jobs, and no way of knowing what our future holds, but you want to put all three girls into a private school thirty minutes from our home?”  He said yes.  But how?

We went to the school the very next day and talked over our situation with the principal.  She had known us for years from church and was thrilled that we wanted the girls there.  She was willing to take our applications and hold spots for them until we figured out what we were going to do.  It was March, so we had several months before school started, but we needed a plan, or even a sign.  When and how would we know what was the right decision?  We talked some more and decided that the best route to take was the one shown to us by God.  Ken had several interviews set up, so we said to God, “It’s all in your hands.”  If Ken was offered a job with a salary the same or lower than what he was making at his previous job, the girls would stay put, and we would somehow find a way to manage the situation.  If, however, Ken was making anything at all above his last salary, we would take that proverbial leap of faith.

I will never forget the day the call came.  It was May, school was almost out, our applications were on hold, and the girls were wondering where they would be that fall.  I was hanging clothes on the line in the backyard.  Drying inside the house was expensive and hot, so the air conditioning stayed off, and the clothes hung outside.  I had thrown our portable phone in the basket and had to dig through the wet clothes to find it when it started ringing.  “Call the school,” Ken announced with joy.  I was stunned.  He was in Boston, on his way to the airport after a job interview, and I had been waiting to hear how it went.  “They offered me my dream job.  We can stay in Maryland, and I can work at home.”  “And?” I asked.  “And the pay is what I was making plus to the penny, to the penny,” he emphasized, “exactly what we need to pay the tuition.”  I was overjoyed.  I couldn’t wait to tell the girls the good news.

We’ve been at Saints Peter and Paul for almost ten years now.  Rebecca graduated with honors and went on to a wonderful college.  Katie and Morgan have many friends and are receiving an outstanding education.  But even more important is that they are all happy.  Correction, we are all happy.  Who knows what would have happened if we had not taken that leap of faith and trusted in God.  “Be not afraid,” appears more times than any other phrase in the Bible.  The message is simple.  Whether or not we hear it can make all the difference in the world.

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, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online.  Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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

What’s Happened to the Family?

 All week this week, Cuba, the United States, and the whole Catholic world will be focused on the family, and with good reason. Today, we are seeing a worldwide decline in the “family.” The days of Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver are long gone and are now seen as a joke, but there’s something to be said for the golden age of the family. It used to be that families ate dinner together every night, attended church together on Sunday, and watched tv, read, and played games together on a regular, if not daily, basis. But in 2015, it’s rare that families spend one hour a week together.

Athletics, careers, social lives, social media, and a host of other things have become more important than spending time together. The vast majority of the families I know find it impossible to sit down for a meal together. The typical middle or high school child spends their afternoons at athletic practice for school, and then practice for a rec team, and then a meeting of some kind (Scouts, work, etc.), and then there’s still homework to be done! Even in elementary school, children are shuffled from one event to another with no break in between. My family is as guilty as the next of over-scheduling and overbooking. Sometimes we have to take a long, hard look at what’s on our calendar and just make the decision to scale back and refocus our attention on what matters – being a family.

The decisions aren’t always easy, and we’ve found it best to have rules that we stick to without fail. When our children were old enough to play sports for school, the rec sports were wiped off the slate. So no, none of my children are on travel teams or all-stars, or those necessary paths to college scholarships that almost all families seem to think are vital to their children’s future. Let’s face it, only one child on the team is really good enough to get that scholarship. Is it really yours? Wouldn’t it be better for them to get their homework done and get a good night’s sleep instead? The most valuable piece of advice our high school field hockey coach ever gave us was “your daughter is very good, but she’s not that good.” Instead of being upset, we were relieved. What a tremendous load that took off of her back! Much more time went into academics and less into trying to contact every college coach on the east coast, and she graduated with honors and quite a nice sum in merit scholarships.

Another hard and fast rule for us is that Sunday is for God and family. Sure, we go to a lot of Saturday evening Masses, but that just opens up our Sunday to do something fun as a family. Even if it’s just watching a football game together, the key word is together. When my middle daughter considered trying out for basketball, there was just one factor that changed her mind – Sunday practices. There has to be a place to draw the line, and that was it for us.

Throughout our world, we are witnessing a staggering drop in population. Families aren’t valued any more. In many cases, they aren’t even desired. We have become a world where people have to choose between family and career, family and a house, family and a life. Whatever happened to FAMILY LIFE? When did children become a burden rather than a gift?

As we listen to the Holy Father talk about the importance of the family, let us all consider how we can improve our family life. How can we find a way to make family meals work? What can we cut out of our children’s schedules to make them live fuller, happier, more peaceful lives? How can we reshape our culture to make others see that families and family lives matter? At the very least, begin having meals without phones at the table! These are things that all parents need to think about before it’s too late.

I will never greet my family at the door wearing an apron and holding Ken’s slippers, but I will make it my job to ensure that all of them always know the importance of being a family.
Christmas is coming. Buy books!

I had the extreme pleasure a couple weeks ago to attend the Decatur Book Festival just outside of Atlanta Georgia. It was so great to see all of the people, couples, families, friends, out buying books and supporting authors. The National Book Festival has also just taken place, and we’re not done yet! This weekend is the Baltimore Book Festival, and several Eastern Shore writers will be selling, signing, and speaking. Come see and hear us if you are in the area!

Be sure to support all of your favorite authors this Christmas. Please comment below on where you can find authors this fall and what other book festivals are taking place. Let’s encourage everyone to give the gift of reading this year!

If you’re looking for an autographed copy of any of my books to give as gifts, you will be able to find me at the following places over the next couple of months. Please check my web site for more information.

Sunday, September 27 – the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore, MD

Wednesday, September 30 – St. Michaels library’s author event, St. Michaels, MD

Friday, October 9-Saturday, October 10 – Wisp Resort, Fort McHenry, MD

Monday, November 9 – Meet the Author! at the Wicomico County Library, Salisbury, MD

Saturday, November 28 – the News Center, Easton, MD

I am happy to travel outside of Maryland. Just let me know when and where you’d like me to be. Happy reading!

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, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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