Embracing Change

I’ve always felt like I’m in the minority here, but I love change. I welcome change. I open my arms to it and let it fill me with possibility. Like the beloved nanny who appears on the winds of change, you never know what’s going to happen when there’s a shift in the current dynamic. Rather than cower and despair when change is upon us, I see things the way that Mary Poppins sees them, “We’re on the brink of an Adventure. Don’t spoil it by asking questions” (P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins Comes Back).

Life is all about change.

Whole novels have been based on it: Gone With the Wind, 1984, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Musicals take a bow to it: The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wizard of Oz.

History is made by it: The birth of Christ, the reign of King Henry the VIII, the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I could go on and on.

Change, like the weather, is sometimes unpredictable but always inevitable. Who, under the age of 55, can’t recite Robert Frost’s classic poem as immortalized by Ponyboy Curtis in the Outsiders?

frost

Some see the poem as a reference to youth, others to death. I like to think of it as a homage to change. It’s a reminder that nothing stays the same. Everyone ages, people pass away, the sun rises and sets, the earth continues to evolve, the calendar succumbs to the end of another year, and we are meant to accept all these things and move on.

January brings with it many opportunities–a new year, new resolutions, a new chance to become a better person, to try new things, to make new friends, to engage more fully in this thing called life. To many, those things are daunting, even overwhelming. We often hear, “nobody likes change,” and truthfully, change can be hard. It can frightening. It can lead to chaos. However, those who embrace change and find a way to either create it or capitalize on it, are often the ones who change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saint Paul

Abraham Lincoln

Simon Bolivar

Queen Victoria

Galileo

Leonardo da Vinci

Pope John Paul II

The list in endless.

So, I encourage you. Greet the new year with excitement, and embrace the changes that come your way–a new job, a new school, a new boss, a new home, a new city. Whatever life throws at you, seize the golden moment, the sunrise as well as the sunset–the beginnings and the endings. And when the changes you encounter cause you to retreat and reassess, take that as a sign that it’s time to react. As a very wise man once said,

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi).

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Our Future is Going Up In Smoke.

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).

Standing Straight and Reaching New Heights

This marks my third week of going to physical therapy, three weeks of therapy after more than three months of waking up every morning with severe upper back pain. I’ve always known that I have terrible posture, and sitting at my desk for hours at a time, leaning over my computer, certainly doesn’t help. However, I was shocked when I learned that months of pain was due to the deterioration of my trapezius and pectoral muscles because of my bad posture. Who would have thought that poor posture would actually lead to a reduction in the rotation of my shoulder? Alas, that was the diagnosis, and the doctor said it needed to be fixed now before it was too late. However, fixing the problem is somedays more painful than the original aching back muscles, and I know it’s imperative to keep working on it, but sometimes, I just want to give up.

And isn’t that how we often feel about the things that are hard, things that cause pain, things that make us wish there was a magic spell to make everything okay? 

Why do I have to do these exercises? Why do I have to cause my body even more discomfort? Why do I have to take time from my busy day to spend an hour making my body ache even more than it already does as it rebels against this change?

We all know the old adage, “no pain, no gain.” While we know that it’s the truth, it’s hard to force ourselves to believe that the painful thing we are doing, the tough decision we need to make, the unwanted change that we know is right, is worth the hurt, the worry, the heartache. Sometimes, we have to do things we really don’t want to do. We may have to leave our comfort zone, our family, our home, our friends, our school, or even just our favorite chair or our bed. 

I feel like I’m starting over again with learning how to walk, sit, drive, and do all of the normal physical daily activities I’ve been doing for almost fifty years. And it’s hard! And frustrating, and irritating, and yes, painful. Sometimes, when I’m doing my physical therapy, I just want to cry or quit or yell, “I’m not going to do this anymore!” And I have to remind myself that there are times in life when we just have to push ourselves. We have to make ourselves do the hard work, go the extra mile, or just change course. When I’m ready to give up or turn back, I have to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and tell myself that I can do this. I can move forward.

When I went away to college, I went with such high hopes and big dreams. My parents didn’t go to college. My grandparents didn’t go to college. It was a big, big deal, and I embraced it with enthusiasm. I applied to one college (because that’s what we did back then), and I prayed that I would get in. And I did. With a full scholarship. Off I went, hugging mom and dad goodbye, lugging my big blue chest full of clothes and my backpack of ridiculously priced books. And I hated it. It was not the place for me. I couldn’t figure out where I fit in, who my real friends were, or what activities were right for me. The longer the year went on, the more I knew that I needed to change. Telling my parents was hard. Giving up that scholarship was even harder. Finding a new school, transferring, making new friends, joining new clubs, and finding a new place to live, were really, really difficult. But just like my therapy, I knew I had to do what was best for me. 

When my children were young, they were in a school where they were not thriving. One was being bullied and seemed to be wasting her potential. Another was slowly losing her self-confidence due to harassment from a group of boys in the class. Our youngest was just starting out, and we worried that the situation in the school was only going to get worse. I had always wanted the girls at the local Catholic school, but we just couldn’t afford it. After much prayer, a sign from God told us that it was time to make the change. Our two youngest were enthusiastic about the change. Our oldest, not so much. She had friends and a level of comfort that she wasn’t willing to give up despite the bullying and the fear and the reality that she was being stifled in that environment. But she let her sisters’ excitement persuade her to give it a try, and she visited the school with trepidation. After that visit, she never went back to her old school again. She immediately transferred, found new friends, made a new home, and began a meteoric rise that is still ascending, taking her to new heights among the stars. It all started with resistance that acquiesced into a small step and morphed into a giant leap. And she never looked back. 

At some point, we all have to change course, break our bad habits, learn to sit a little straighter, walk a little taller, push back our shoulders, and hold our heads high, trusting in God that He will never lead us astray. And we will be amazed at the heights we will reach.On top of the world.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).

Hunting for Eggs and Apartments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

My oldest, Rebecca, returned home from school yesterday after an emotional farewell to her roommates and her boyfriend who are graduating.  They are moving on to the next stage of their lives, catapulting change not only on themselves but those around them.  What will the future bring for them and for their loved ones?  We can only guess.  Jobs, graduate school, families, mortgages, and all that comes with moving into adulthood will now become reality for the Class of 2016.  At every level – high school, college, and beyond, commencement brings change.  Leaving home for the first time, leaving the comfort and safety of your school and friends, entering “the real world,” and saying goodbye are experienced by some for the very first time.  For parents, whether it is your first child or your last, letting go is often accompanied by great heartache.

Though Rebecca has another year to go in college, the reality of change has really hit me this week.  She will be entering her senior year at Mount St. Mary’s the same time that her sister, Katie, enters her senior year of high school.  While one is looking at colleges, the other is looking at her future and trying to decide what it will hold.  Both are eagerly planning and thinking about the next step while I hold my breath and close my eyes and still hear them cooing in their cribs, see them taking their first steps, feel them curled in my arms, so small and delicate and new.  How has time passed so quickly?  When did they get so big?  

I think journalist Sydney Harris summed it up best when he said, “Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”  We know that change is good and that with each change, we grow as a person and experience life more deeply, but we long for things to stay the same or to return to a time in the past.  At least, I know I do.  I have loved every minute of being a mom.  I have laughed and cried at every stage of my daughters’ lives, and I know I will continue to do so as they leave home, go to school, get jobs, marry, have children, and become the people God intended them to be.  But there will always be a part of me who wants to turn back the hands of time and just enjoy those moments that I see now were so fleeting.  

Change is inevitable, and the only thing we can really do is embrace it.  Let change help us to grow, at every age and at every stage.  There is always something to reach for.  Even changes that are bad, ones that rip us apart, can lead us to a new understanding, perhaps a new friend, a new way to look at life.  No matter how hard the next few years will be for me as a parent, I ask that I have the courage to both accept and embrace the changes that are coming and to see each change as a blessing, a chance to learn and grow, and a new season to be welcomed. 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

–Alexander Pope

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 now available for pre-order.

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)

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