The Rhythm of Life

In my Wednesday morning cardio class, we always begin with music that has a slow beat. Over the course of 45 minutes, the music gets faster as the beat increases. Our breathing becomes strained, heartbeats race, and movements grow more rapid as our instructor calls out the steps in that day’s routine. The class flies by, with a short break here and there to get a drink and take a breath, then resuming at a faster speed, all of our thoughts and efforts focused on the precision of steps, proper breathing, and keeping up with the pace of the music, until we welcome the cool down with its smaller, slower movements and calming breaths.

This morning, it occurred to me what a perfect metaphor the class is for life. We start out slow, unsteady, unsure of what lies ahead, focussing on learning our steps and finding the right beat. The majority of our lives are spent running the race, fighting for our breath, making our movements in the world larger, faster, more meaningful. And then, in the blink of an eye, we’re forced to live at a less hectic pace, find a slower rhythm, breathe a little easier, knowing we made it all the way through and have come out stronger, smarter, and more aware of the person we have become. But have we?

I’m reminded of a waterfall–a gentle river that lazily rolls along until it picks up speed, rushing and turning, breathing in leaves and twigs, pebbles and debris, until it plunges off the edge in a torrent of energy, ending its journey when its furthest ripples become a calm and placid pool. We are like the water, swept up in a life over which we have little control, unable to stop the swirling chaos as it gathers our time, our energy, and our very being and rushes toward the precipice, falling into serenity at the end of the journey. Has the water changed? Has it grown? Has it found its own rhythm, told its own story? Have we?

As my youngest prepares for her senior year of high school and my oldest begins talking about a future wedding (no, she is not engaged, but she’s a gal in her twenties with a super guy at her side), I am beginning to feel the rhythm of my life start to slow. I’m no longer running the roads every day, driving my little girls to and from school. My school volunteer commitments are narrowing down, and I’m focussing more on my writing and less on homework and class parties and play dates. The loss of my father-in-law has also really put things in perspective for me. I made a vow to spend more time with my parents. I don’t have to be home every day to cook dinner or tuck my almost-adult youngest child in bed, so a night or two at mom and dad’s is not only possible, it’s a blessing and a joy. And it makes we wonder what I’ve missed along the way. Did I always stop when I needed to so that I could take a breath, smell the roses? Have I led my own life or allowed the constant push and pull of commitments and the ways of the world to dictate what I did and who I’ve become?

Yes, I’m still a long way from the end of the cool-down (at least, I hope I am), but I’m seeing the wonderful opportunities that lie ahead as I readjust my steps and take deeper breaths. Life is such a beautiful gift, and it saddens me that it goes by so quickly while we are all moving to an accelerated beat. I pray that my own girls can live their lives at a nice steady speed, enjoying a healthy life while, at the same time, keeping up with the demanding pace of this modern life. I’m sure there is a healthy balance in there somewhere. They just need to find the right music and remember that no matter how long a person is on earth, life is short. Don’t forget to take a deep breath, slow down, and always look for the rainbows that bend over the rushing waters of life. Let them be a reminder to you that it’s okay to stop and take a breath as often as needed or desired.

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The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Eight Books You’ve Never Heard of for the Summer of 2017.

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 Me, Whispering 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/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)

 

From Sorrow, Joy

IMG_5884It’s snowing outside, and at last check, the temperature was 26 degrees and dropping. Yet, as I pass by the dining room, I have a reminder that the world will not remain dreary and cold. Outside, the snow lays on the ground, but inside, flowers are blooming on my table. Though we are entrenched in the shadows of winter, in time, spring will return as my father reminds me every day with his Facebook countdown (he reports that we have 62 days to go).

And so it is with life. We have cold and dreary seasons and then warm and sunny seasons. Without the cold or the snow or the rain, we would have no new life, nothing to look forward to, no buds blooming or fruit trees blossoming. Without sorrow, we cannot know joy. Without pain here on earth, we cannot begin to fathom the true joy of Heaven that is to come.

As our family finds itself entrenched in the shadows of woe, I remind myself that there will be a spring. Even in the darkest moments, there is light. 

I’d like to share a short story. On Monday morning, Ken’s mother, his brother and sister, and our families met at Mom and Dad’s farmhouse for breakfast. Dressed in black, steeling ourselves for a day that would be shrouded in grief, we met to enjoy a family breakfast provided by the mother of Morgan’s boyfriend. We feasted on an egg and sausage casserole, fruit salad, coffee cake, and danishes. We drank coffee, apple and orange juice, and hot tea. We sat for a solid hour, relishing not only the food but the love and thoughtfulness that brought it to us and that surrounded us. And as we ate, we shared stories and memories. We laughed until we cried, and then, joining well over a hundred people who filled the little country church across the road and the reception afterward, we cried until we laughed. 

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes, 3:1-8:

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building.

A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for discarding.

A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking.

A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace.

For where there is snow, there is a flower underneath, waiting to bloom. Or a tomato plant.

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In loving memory of David Schisler, 1946-2018

What I was writing about this time last year:  Hidden Figures and Orbiting the Stars

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; and her 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)

 

 

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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