The Twelve Days of Christmas: More than a Song

Merry Christmas! I know that for many, today is the day after Christmas, but for most Catholics around the world, today is not merely the day after Christmas, it is the Second Day of Christmas. A few weeks ago, I wrote about anticipating Christmas, but more importantly, enjoying and appreciating the days after Christmas – the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS! 

We all know the song and its seemingly endless list of Christmas gifts. The English Christmas carol was first published in 1780 and was a rhyme, not a song with music. It may even originally have been a French chant. English composer, Frederic Austin, first published the musical arrangement we are familiar with today including the recurring word “on” which did not appear in earlier versions.  The exact origins of the song are unknown, but it is believed to have been a children’s game played on the English festival, Twelfth Night, that, over time, evolved into a chant and then a song. Many have suggested that the twelve gifts have Biblical meaning though most modern scholars dismiss this claim. While that suggestion has been debunked, it it is interesting to note that there are exactly 364 gifts, one for each of the year except Christmas.

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The Site of birthplace of Christ

While all of that is well and good, none of it explains exactly why we believe that Christmas should be celebrated for twelve days and not just one. One reason is that the Church implores us to recognize the importance of Christmas and to reflect on its meaning for more than a day (especially important today when you consider that most people never even gave Jesus a single thought on December 25th). Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. Never mind that history did not record the actual date of His birth. It’s the celebration and the meaning of Christ’s coming that are important, not the exact date in history. Christmas commemorates the single most important date in history, the day that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1: 14).

What can we do to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas today? We can go to daily Mass, of course, but there are other things that were done throughout history when it was better understood that these are days of reflection and commemoration. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to return to these practices today. There are several important feast days during these Twelve Days that can still have meaning for us today in the celebration of the day and the actions that were once associated with them. 

December 26th is the feast day of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. It is traditionally a day where Christians commemorated St. Stephen by giving their Christmas leftovers to the poor. December 27th is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist. It was through John that the world learned that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh” (John 1:1). It is considered a day of reconciliation (taken to heart by Pope John Paul II who visited and forgave his would-be assassin on this day in 1983). December 28th is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the babies who were killed by Herod in his attempt to stop Christ from becoming king. For a number of centuries, it was a day when children were allowed to run the household, the country, or even the Church (with the appointment of a child Bishop for the Day). It is considered a day of fun and folly for children. 

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Celebrate your family on December 30th

December 29th is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury in the 1100s. It is considered a day to examine our lives and resolve to work to overcome injustice in the world. December 30th and 31st are alternately celebrated as the feast day of the Holy Family, depending upon the liturgical calendar of the year. This should be a day to reflect on Mary, Jospeh, and Jesus as a role model family and what we can do to help our families become more holy. January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Traditionally, it was a day when families prayed the Rosary together. January 2nd is the feast day of both St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen who were teachers of the trinity and lifelong friends. It is a day to celebrate friendship. Parties were traditionally held on this day to celebrate the Christmas holiday with friends. 

On January 3rd, we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. It is a day on which we should celebrate a person’s name and its meaning. We should recall that, as the Catechism states, “Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.” Depending upon when the first Sunday after Christmas is, the feast of the Epiphany is celebrated between January 2nd and 8th. The arrival of the Magi is sometimes marked by a blessing of the house, especially the entranceway, to welcome the Lord and all visitors. Some Christian households inscribe “20 + C + M + B 19” over their doors, the traditional date of the new year and the initials of the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar). January 6th is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. It is the twelfth and final day of Christmas, the culmination of the season, the third epiphany of Christ’s infancy (the first was to the shepherds, the second was to the Magi, and the third was to Simeon and Anna at the temple). 

However you celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, the importance thing is to CELEBRATE! Though you may go back to work and the kids back to school, keep with the Christmas spirit. Acknowledge that there is more to the season than just a day of giving presents and eating too much food. Presents are given to symbolize the greatest present of all – Christ to the world. They shouldn’t be the main focus of Christmas. Think of the Twelve Days of Christmas as your honeymoon period with Christ. Revel in it and in the joy of His coming and birth. Before you know it, we will be entering into Lent, and Christmas will be a faint memory. Enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

References:
The more days the merrier: Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas
When Is Christmas Over: January 1? Epiphany? Candlemas? (Whatever that Is)
You’ve Heard the Song — but What are the 12 Days of Christmas?

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Seeing Jesus.

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).

 

Make your Own Hallmark Story This Christmas

I’m just going to say it. I’m really tired of hearing people put down the Hallmark Christmas movies. Yes, they’re predictable. Yes, most of them follow the same formula. Yes, they all star the same actors and actresses. But you know what? They are a welcome refuge from everything on the news and the crowds in the stores and the stress of the holiday season. I mean, really, there is a reason why they are so popular–who wants to spend more than two minutes thinking about everything that’s going wrong in the world today? Wouldn’t you rather be watching two people fall in love over the course of a holiday season with the most beautiful snowy backdrop in the most welcoming Christmas village kind of town? And who says that romances like that don’t really happen?

To prove my point, all I have to do is think about the conversation I overheard this past Saturday night. My girls and I hosted our annual Mother-Daughter Christmas party with dear friends from our community, parish, school, and family. After the party was over, Rebecca’s friends, most from other states, spent the night here at the house. As we were cleaning up, the talk turned to weddings, as it often does with post-college girls! Then several girls told the stories of how their parents met. Each one was more charming than the last, and my heart swelled every time I heard Rebecca’s roommate swoon, “I’m obsessed with this story, keep going!” Since I was there, Rebecca asked me to tell the story of how Ken and I met. It’s a lovely story that our family really enjoys sharing. And it was obvious that the girls all felt the same about their own parents’ first encounters.

The stories revolved around failed first marriages, high school sweethearts, second chance romances, and fate encounters. Each one was different, but they all shared one quality–in the eyes of their daughters, no matter what the circumstances were, the stories were enchanting tales of falling in love and living happily ever after. It didn’t matter if there was pain or strife involved, if there was swirling snow or the perfect cup of cocoa, or if the meeting took place at a bar, a frat party, or a gingerbread cottage (as so many HM movies do). The stories gave the girls hope that someday, they would all be featured in their own personal, Hallmark movie romance, just like their parents were.

You see, not every romance or happy story takes place in the perfect Christmas town where the non-believer comes around to joyfully celebrating the holiday with his or her new-found love while light snowflakes fall around them. But every family’s beginning has a story, and those who retell the story often see a fairy-tale unfold even in the most unlikely of circumstances. All of those girls made their parents’ romances sound like a Debbie Macomber novel (HM favorites) even if we all knew that the story was just an ordinary meeting between two ordinary people destined for an ordinary life in an ordinary town. There was no exaggerating or creating an epic bestseller from a comic book, but each story was special, and the girls all knew it. They all recognized that every story has the potential to be a Hallmark story, even the ones that go awry. Why?

Because, like many of the characters learn by the end of the two-hour movie, your life, your story, your family’s story, is what you make it. When we see our lives and the people in them as something special, unique, and to be cherished, we can all be just like the people on Hallmark. Sure, we won’t all have Balsam Hill Christmas trees or perfect sugar cookies in less than fifteen minutes, but we all have the ability to see the wonder of life and to appreciate our own stories and to pass this along to our children.

photo-6176892386934784So, this Christmas, when your family’s rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing doesn’t sound like a Blake Shelton-produced movie or your cookies aren’t picture-perfect, don’t worry. Your children will remember everything the way you make it out to be–The Nightmare Before Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life. You’re living your own Hallmark movie every day. Write it the way you want it to be told, cherishing the good and bad, and smiling along the way. Bring happiness into the world. Celebrate the holidays with all the joy and enthusiasm found in a winning gingerbread house contest or a sleigh ride on a snowy mountain. Someday, you may look back and see your lives, your romances, and your Christmases for what they really were–stories better than a Hallmark movie.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Seeing Jesus.

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).

Listening to the Silence

Here we are, more than halfway through the season of Advent. Two weeks ago, I wrote about being grateful and giving the gift of love this Christmas. Last week, I wrote about the importance of patience and even more important, not taking for granted what you’ve been waiting for! This week, amid the hustle and bustle of the season, I’ve been trying to remember to be grateful, patient, and appreciative, but it’s a busy time of year, and it’s easy to get caught up in the preparations without remembering what it’s all about. For several days now, I’ve been thinking about a beautiful Scripture passage: 1 Kings 19, 11-13. I can’t help but marvel in how that story of Elijah is repeated every day in our own lives, especially during the Christmas season.

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake;

after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.

When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

This is my week this week: Start each morning off with a visit to the gym, dentist appointment for my regular cleaning, grocery shopping for the next two weeks, baking and decorating nearly 250 traditional, frosted sugar cookies, wrap Christmas presents, prepare bedrooms for my two oldest daughters to come home from law school and college, decorate the Christmas tree with the family, package and mail Christmas gifts to friends out of state and in Canada, prepare the house for our annual Mother/Daughter Christmas party this weekend, make presents for party guests, set up for the 43 dinner guests, plan and prepare the dinner for the party, and continue doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping and vacuuming, etc. The list seems to grow each day. I seem to add tasks as quickly as I cross them off.

After standing in my kitchen for ten solid hours on Monday, decorating cookies, I can honestly say that I don’t ever remember being so tired and sore! This entire week, so far, has been like the strong and violent wind howling in the eaves and shaking the shutters. One would think that I have had little time to listen for the Lord as He tries to speak to me amid the blustery winds of busyness. There will be little time to stop and hear Him in the disaster zone that will be created after our earthquake of a party this weekend. How will I hear Him amid the roaring flames of short tempers, lighted fuses, and the arguing that comes from the whole family being together 24/7?

Rosary.jpgLuckily, there is the beautiful gift that a friend gave to me at the beginning of Advent. Chandi, one of my co-authors and dear friend, suggested that our friend group, of thirteen women across the country, pray a daily Rosary for each other throughout the month of Advent. I used to pray the Rosary every day, but amid the winds, earthquakes, and fires of life, I let the daily offering of prayer slip away. But Chandi’s suggestion was so profoundly beautiful as she apologized for throwing one more task at us during this frantic time. It has become, for me, not only a way to make sure that we are all connecting with God but, on a much higher level, with each other. We were praying for two people’s surgeries, one person’s hospital stay, one’s daughter in need of prayers, one who just lost an in-law, several who will be traveling, one who is moving, and all who are in need of an extra intercession, or two, or twelve.

Every day, I get to carve out a little time to listen for the “light silent sound,” to be still and hear the message from God, to talk to Him, share with Him my troubles and my joys, thank Him for all that He has given me. And in those moments, I am rewarded with the knowledge that He is there in all that I do – in the wrapping and the baking and cleaning – in the smiles and the tears and the laughter. Whenever I am bent by the wind, shaken by the earthquake, or scorched by the fire, I only need to close my eyes and listen for His voice in the silence. And He comes, every single time, He comes. Whether I hear Him or not. Whether I feel Him or not. He comes in the gentleness of my husband’s touch and his offer to help bake cookies, in the sweetness of cake baked for a friend, in the joy of hearing my daughter say, “I’m on the way home.”

IMG_2183And He comes, not as a mighty warrior or a powerful king or a ferocious beast. He comes, at the end of this waiting time, as a child, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. In all of the grandeur and glory, in the bright lights and festive music, in the myriad of decorations and parties and feasts, He comes in the simplest form. Like a little bit of prayer time in the midst of a hectic day, He is there, among the messiness of the stable and the crying of the animals, waiting for us to come to Him and to listen for Him in the silence.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: What If?.

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).

To Those Who Wait

In this age of instant gratification, it seems that nobody has the patience to wait for anything anymore. No matter how old we are, we have all been swept up in the belief that we need everything to happen or be given to us right now, at this very moment. The notion of waiting for anything has completely gone out of fashion. Amazon is even looking at the possibility of same-day delivery drones because getting a package in one or two days is simply not fast enough any longer.

This week, our Jewish friends are celebrating Chanukah, meaning dedication, an eight-day period to celebrate religious freedom and the rededication of the temple after war with Greece. Though the great temple in Jerusalem is no longer standing, the Jewish people continue to pray there and continue to wait for the coming of their Messiah. In fact, they have been waiting for 6000 years. Talk about being patient! While Christians believe that the Messiah has already come, we are reminded, each year, of the 4000 years we waited when we celebrate Advent. To many, this four-week period of anticipation is more than they can bear. I know of one couple who already exchanged Christmas presents because they couldn’t bear to wait just twenty days more for Christmas.

I get it. It’s hard to wait, but… Read more

The Greatest Christmas Gift You Can Give

Thanksgiving is over. We survived Black Friday, and Cyber Monday seems to be stretching itself all the way to Friday. The Hallmark channel now plays constantly on at least one television in every home in America (come on, admit it). Santa is receiving letters and is making a list and checking it twice. The ads on television and on the Internet are telling us that those lists need to be longer, the letters fatter, the asking louder, the gifts bigger. It has always amazed me that we spend an entire day giving thanks for all we have and then turn around within ten hours (or substantially less for some) and begin focussing on what we don’t have, what we want, what we must have, or else. Perhaps others also see the irony in this, and that is the reason why this commercial, from Forest Hill Church, in Charlotte, North Carolina, has gone viral in the past couple days.

 

Believe me, I am just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to focussing on gift giving at Christmas (and gift getting). I sent a link to my family for an item I’d really like to have with the suggestion they buy it while it’s on sale. And I’ve sent links to my extended family with gift suggestions for my girls. It’s how we’ve always done things, and it’s hard for me to see anything wrong with it, but something I read the other day really made me stop in my tracks. It was a gospel reflection by Bishop Robert Barron.

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So, now I have a confession to make. Even after reading this, I still went to Amazon on Monday. And I still clicked on the BUY button for that giant-screen TV I’ve been longing for. And I’m really excited that it arrives tomorrow. Yes, we have a decent-sized television. Yes, it works just fine. We’re going to move it to our bedroom and replace the one in there because the screen on that one seems to have gotten smaller as I’ve gotten older. Ken keeps kidding that we now have to tear down the living room and build a bigger one that will fit the new TV. “…tear them down and build bigger ones.”

Gulp–the sound of me swallowing that lump in my throat.

Wow. I wonder if the rich man had more than just his possessions. Did he have a family? Did he have friends? Was he in good health? If he were real and alive today, would he awaken like the man in the Forest Hills ad and be grateful for all that he has? Would he see the riches and blessings that he has before him and know in his heart that he doesn’t need more? Would he recognize that all he needs to make him happy is love? The love of God, the love of others, and love for himself as he is, without possessions, without riches, without STUFF.

We live in a world where the grass is always greener on the other side. We always want what someone else has, and sometimes we want what we can never have. We ask for more and more; we work longer and harder so that we can buy more. We do this even though our closets are bursting, our drawers won’t close, and our cups runneth over with things. And how happy are we? Even with a family, a home, electricity, hot food, cars, and coffee, are we still looking for more? When will we be satisfied? When will we realize that we already have enough? When will we realize that love is all we need? That it is love that makes us wealthy, not things?

There are 27 days until Christmas. That gives me 27 days to remind myself and my family, every single day, what Dr. Seuss tried to tell us many years ago:

Grinch.jpg

We have all already received many, many gifts. Even those who don’t have many “things” still have blessings for which to be thankful. Let’s take the Thanksgiving spirit with us right into Christmas and beyond. Let’s be grateful for all that we have, and let’s spend the Christmas season thinking about giving rather than getting. Begin thinking today about what you can do to help others see that we all have so much for which to be thankful, and let’s all remember as we go through Advent that “Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

Santa and Jesus

In one simple word, the meaning of Christmas is, love. Love that is never-ending, all-encompassing, and self-sacrificing. We don’t need Santa to bring us more stuff. We’ve already been given the greatest gift of all – love. All we need to do is open our hearts, not our closets, to giving and receiving more.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Food Memories.

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).

Seeing Jesus

Every time I have tried to write this post, I have been brought to a standstill. I intended to write on the meaning of Christmas, but I can’t seem to move past the events taking place in my family. Several days ago, radio host, Gus Lloyd, posed the question, if there was a survey in which people had to look at a picture of Santa and a picture of Jesus and choose which one has to do with Christmas, which picture would the majority of people pick? He contended that most would choose Santa, and he’s probably correct. I had a whole blog written in my head on that very topic, but somehow, I find myself unable to actually write it.

While it might be true that nowadays, many people associate Santa with Christmas, the Easter Bunny with Easter, and Jesus with ancient stories that have no relevance today, I have been blessed to witness Jesus over and over this Christmas season.

You may know that my father-in-law is very sick and will not be with us much longer. Those words are very difficult to write. For over twenty-four years, he has been a second father to me. Recently someone commented to me that it was asking a lot of me to take care of man who isn’t even my own dad. But, from day one, Dad has always treated me like his daughter. I can’t let him down. But I do.

I have learned that I am not a caregiver. I think I did all right as a mother. My girls all seemed to have turned out okay. But when I take my turns with Dad, I find myself at a loss for what to say, what to do, how to comfort him. I try, but words fail me. I want to be kind and loving when he’s hurting. I want to be stern and commanding when he’s doing something he’s been told not to do. I want to let him know that I am there for him and talk to him about my girls, the weather, or the news. Instead, I often find myself not sure how to talk to a man who used to love talking to everyone, telling stories, and hearing tales but can no longer speak or interact. I want to help feed him, attend his personal needs, and care for his failing body, but I stumble on my own insecurities.

And then I watch my sister-in-law, Chrissy, who so loving and uncomplainingly writes to Dad over and over on his white board and coaxes him to write back. I observe my husband, Ken, as he gently guides his father to the bathroom, helps him comb his hair, and changes his clothes, all with an unwavering devotion and patience. I wipe away a tear as my Rebecca gives up a weekend of studying for her last first-semester law school exam to visit her grandfather and to lay a wreath on his father’s grave. I marvel at my sixteen-year-old, Morgan, really just a child, who has become one of Dad’s most frequent and attentive caregivers. She skipped her school’s Christmas party this morning to wake up at the crack of dawn and feed her grandfather, help the hospice nurse change and shave him, and spend her first day of the break tending to his every need so that her grandmother could attend an important event and doctor’s appointments. I look at these people, and countless others – my daughter Katie who runs countless errands so she can help us out, the hospice nurses who gently wash Dad, Morgan’s teachers who allow her to leave school early to help feed her grandfather when I fear I will do something wrong.; I look at them, and I see Jesus.

I don’t know when society began turning away from God or when Christmas became more about Santa than about Jesus, but I do know that Jesus exists, here and now. He told us, “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Sometimes the most difficult and painful times in life provide us with the opportunity to show the greatest amount of love. So, during this Christmas season, I’d like to remind everyone of the real reason for the season, but I’d also like to point out that Jesus doesn’t come to us at Christmas time only. He is here every day, in the loving hands of those who tend to the sick and dying, in the eyes of a child who finds peace in bringing happiness and comfort to others, in the arms of a loved one, providing care and comfort for the weary. He is there in a million things we do each day. We just need to open our eyes and see Him, and then point Him out to others so that they, too, can know He is here.

Merry Christmas to you all. May you encounter Jesus at the celebration of His birth and every day throughout the year.

1503911_10200877328958367_1431887920_nMy dear precious Jesus, I did not mean to take your place,
I only bring toys and things and you bring love and grace.
People give me lists of wishes and hope that they came true;
But you hear prayers of the heart and promise your will to do.
Children try to be good and not to cry when I am coming to town;
But you love them unconditionally and that love will abound.
I leave only a bag of toys and temporary joy for a season;
But you leave a heart of love, full of purpose and reasons.
I have a lot of believers and what one might call fame;
But I never healed the blind or tried to help the lame.
I have rosy cheeks and a voice full of laughter;
But no nail—scarred hands or a promise of the hereafter.
You may find several of me in town or at a mall;
But there is only one omnipotent you, to answer a sinner’s call.
And so, my dear precious Jesus, I kneel here to pray;
To worship and adore you on this, your holy birthday. – Author Unknown

What I was writing about this time last year:  Tis The Season

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance 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 followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

‘Tis the Season

IMG_2675.JPG‘Tis the season… for exhaustion.  And I do it to myself.  I can’t remember the last night I had a good night’s sleep, and it’s my own fault.  Shopping and wrapping are always done early and not a problem.  Even the annual Mother-Daughter Christmas dinner the girls and I host is easy for me.  But there are the other things that I put on myself that tend to keep me up at night.  I love Christmas letters.  I know some people think they’re cheesy, but I love them.  I want to know what’s going on with the military family I grew up with and how many grandchildren our elderly relatives now have.  I love reading about where people have traveled, what their children are majoring in, and how I can pray for them in the coming year.  For years, I wrote my own family Christmas letter and kept copies on the last page of our family albums.  Then a few years ago, I started sending our letter electronically, and somehow that morphed into a slideshow complete with Christmas carols.  The end product is something we all enjoy watching and sharing, but getting to that end, with everything else we have going on, is sometimes a painstaking endeavor.

Add to that the family Christmas story.  Many years ago, when my children and their cousins were very young, I wrote a Christmas story and bound it with a handmade cover.  The kids loved it, and my mother-in-law said it made her Christmas.  As happens so often, the tale took on a life of it’s own, and every year, I reach into the depths of my mind to create a story that is still fun and whimsical but is relatable to everyone as they get older.  It’s no easy task.  Writing the story, creating graphics, and putting it together into a book takes longer than all of the wrapping I do for every occasion all year long.  But the love and laughter that go along with that Christmas day read-aloud is worth it.  As least I think it is.  By the time I’m done with everything that I do to prepare for the holidays, I’m positive that I’ll be too tired to really enjoy any of it.  But then December 22nd rolls around. 

Once we’re at Mom’s and our family is gathered under one roof – the five of us, my parents, my brothers and their families, aunts, uncles, cousins, all of the extended family and closest friends – whatever worries or exhaustion I may have been feeling, just melts away.  Amidst the cooking, the football watching, the game playing, and the picture taking, I find my zen, my foundation, my piece of Heaven on Earth.  I know that Christmas isn’t about presents, or stories, or letters, or baking, or any of the other things that the world would like us to believe it’s about, but it is about self-sacrifice.  It’s about coming into this world to serve others, to put the good of mankind above all, to love your neighbor as yourself, to strive for peace on Earth, and to lay down one’s life for your friends.  It’s about all of the good that still exists in this world and the riches and joys of the world to come.  It’s about seeing the face of Jesus in others and feeling the love of Jesus in our hearts.  I pray that everyone is able to experience the true meaning of Christmas this holiday season.  When you feel run-down, overwhelmed, and too exhausted to go, remember,

“unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2: 11-14

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 most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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)