Exposed to the Light

“Faith, like film, is developed in the darkness.” This was said by our associate pastor, Father Michael Angeloni, at daily Mass this past Monday, April 20. When I heard those words, I did what I so often want to do when I attend a live Mass–I stopped the video and backed it up to listen again. “Faith, like film, is developed in the darkness.” Father said that even those who walk closely with God experience times of darkness, times when nothing seems to make sense, times when we ask questions and seek answers.

Several times each day, I look at this situation we are in and wonder, what is happening? Why is this happening? How can we get past this? I question everything that is being done. Is it the right thing to stay home and not risk being exposed? Is it right to protest staying in? Is it right to close so many businesses? Is it right to keep businesses open? Is it right to visit with people whom we know have had no exposure? Is it best to shut ourselves off from physical contact with anyone and everyone? How do we know when it’s safe to go into the world again? What are the answers, and how do we know what the right answers are? 

I am stumbling in the dark, grappling for the light switch. I can’t see where I’m going. I don’t know if danger lies ahead. The darkness seems to swallow me, distorting my vision, and I can’t tell if I’m alone.2020 Darkness

But then, I remember… Read more

The Only Gift That Matters

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I recently heard someone say that the greatest gift her parents gave her was her faith. It kind of stopped me in my tracks. Here we are, in the midst of the Christmas shopping season, and I hear that the greatest gift someone received from her parents was the gift of faith. Not an Apple Watch, not a laptop, not a designer bag or piece of jewelry, but the simplest of gifts–the ability to believe what is not seen and embrace it, the courage to trust in God, and the knowledge that there is a glorious new life awaiting us. 

I thought to myself, how true it is that the greatest gift we can pass down is easy and free to give, but then I realized, faith is not easy and it’s not free… Read more

Let Go and Let God

Did you ever have one of those days when you feel like you are doing nothing but banging your head against a wall? A day where you hit obstacle after obstacle and are living the old adage, one step forward and two steps back? I’m having one of those weeks, and I have to admit, I feel so discouraged. This is hard for me because I am not a person who is easily discouraged. So, today I’m going to try to think of ways to overcome these feelings, and I have the perfect starting point. Read more

Where Two or Three are Gathered…

The past few days have been a blur for Ken and me. We returned from a trip with friends in time to pack up the car and head right back out again. We spent the day driving toward a city almost six hours away where we said goodbye to our youngest daughter after a full day of setting up her dorm, running to the store for last minute things, buying the last of her books, and getting her settled for her freshman year of college. On the way home, we made a quick, late-night stop to see daughter number two and check out the on-campus house where she will spend her junior year. We were exhausted when we pulled into the driveway just after midnight last night, and the house seemed awfully quiet this morning, but we are so happy for all three of our girls as they each begin a new school year (oldest daughter is beginning her final year of law school).

I wish so many things for my girls as they embark on or continue with new chapters of their lives. I wish for good health, happiness, wisdom, and faith. Most of all, I wish them fulfilling, lifelong friendships. We should all be open to new friendships, no matter where we are in life, how old we are, where our career is headed, or what stage of family life we are experiencing. I have seen first-hand how much friendship can change and enhance your life. That was made more clear than ever this past weekend. Read more

Earning Fs in Life

Over the past two days, I was back home attending the funeral of a beloved cousin. The prayer service on Monday evening and the funeral Mass on Tuesday were beautiful and brought many happy memories to mind as we bid goodbye to one of the brightest lights in our family.

Rebecca in MSM Library.jpgFather Early’s Homily really struck a chord with me. He likened life to a class in school. He said that, ideally, when we go to class, we work to achieve As; however, Father told us that we should work hard to achieve all Fs in the class of life.

What? All Fs?

Yes, he encouraged us to earn Fs in life. Why?

Because… Read more

A Journey of Faith

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The Guadalupe Pilgrims

This past Sunday’s first reading told us how, after eating eating and drinking, Elijah was strengthened for his forty day journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:4-8). It was a good reading for me because Sunday was the last full day of our journey to Mexico City to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You may remember that, three years ago, Ken and I participated in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, There, we met a group of pilgrims who have increasingly become more family than friends. We try to get together several times a year, and often, our get-togethers revolve around our Catholic faith. This past weekend, many of our pilgrim family spent five days journeying to the religious sites and churches in Mexico City, praying, celebrating Mass, and enjoying the short time we had together. Read more

You’re My Inspiration

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When I began writing the award-winning book, Island of Miracles, I never planned to have another Chincoteague Island book follow it. But as the book was coming to a close, I found it hard to say goodbye to the characters I had created.  When I got to the end, I had no follow-up story in mind, yet the words To be continued… sprang from the page. There was no doubt, by then, that the story of the Middleton and Kelly families was not over. 

Now that I have begun writing the first draft of the sequel, it strikes me that many of the characters and situations in this book, more so than any of my books, are a direct reflection of the people and events that have influenced me throughout my life. Perhaps that is why I can’t just let it go. While all of my characters take on a life of their own and become very real to me, the ones in Island of Miracles became living, breathing individuals in my mind and heart. It now makes me wonder about the impact that others have on all of our lives and if we even realize how much we are influenced by what goes on around us at the time.

I wrote Island of Miracles at, what I consider now, a turning point in my life. It was just after I visited the Holy Land, and I was forever changed as a person in ways that cannot be explained unless you have been there yourself. I was hungry to write a book that was about something more than romance and intrigue. I wanted it to be filled with inspiration, and I found that inspiration in the people I most love and admire in my personal life.

Many of the characters are named for real people who mean so very much to me. If you read Island of Miracles, you will certainly remember the young priest who helps Kate along her journey. Father Darryl is indeed a real person whose faith, optimism, and general outlook on life has had a great impact on me since I met him on my trip. One of Kate’s closest friends, Anne, is based on three of my closest friends. One has been my best friend for almost 25 years; and the others have become two of my closest friends over the past two years, beginning with the bond we shared in the Holy Land, and it now feels like they have been a part of my life from the beginning.

Ronnie is a dear friend who inspires me with her faith, perseverance, and patience. Dr. Sprance is not a heart doctor at all unless you recognize his ability to show unconditional love to those he meets. His unwavering faith touches every person who knows him. He may not be a doctor who can heal the heart, but he truly is a healer of the soul. Trevor is my Godson, and while he is still young, I see in him the gentleman he will become someday. Tammi, Shannon, and Marian are all friends who have touched me deeply through their friendship, and I cannot imagine life without them.

I am introducing a new character in the sequel who is named after my other best friend. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she was forced to begin her entire life again in her thirties, reshaping it in her forties, and learning to enjoy life as it is and not how it might have been. I don’t think she has any idea how much she inspires me every single day with her quiet resolve and desire to find joy and peace in an unsettling world.

And then there’s the other new character I am introducing, a young former Marine trying to find his place in the world. Yes, he too is a real person, and he knows exactly who he is. He’s always telling us how we helped him become the person that he is, but I don’t think he realizes how he has helped us in our journey as well. It is nothing short of inspirational to watch this young man mature and discover who he is and who he is meant to be. 

Of course, my parents and my brothers have greatly influenced me over the course of my life. As have my husband and our children. In fact, I’m not sure we ever reach a time in our lives when we cease to be influenced by the people, places, and events around us. We are all living in a constant state of growth, change, and renewal. I thank God every day for the many influences He has placed in my life. Know that if your name or your circumstance appears in any of my books, you, your life situation, your decisions, and the person that you are, have greatly influenced me in someway. For that, and for you, I am most grateful.

Who or what has influenced you?

What I was writing about this time last year:   Starting Today…

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)

It’s Not Enough

Author’s Note: When I first wrote this piece, it was much longer. It laid out, in great detail, all the lessons I learned in 2017. But as I thought about it, I realized that there was only one lesson that truly mattered. Here it is…

Life itself is a classroom, a continuously evolving curriculum, an education that lasts from the day you are born until you die. At my age, after more than a few decades on this earth, I am amazed at the things I learn every day. Here is the most important thing I learned in 2017 that will shape my words and actions in 2018 and beyond.

It’s never enough to assume that others know how you feel. When Ken and I first began dating, over twenty-five years ago, I thought it was more than strange that his entire family says “I love you” every single time they are on the phone. Without fail. It took me a long time to get used to hearing Ken tell his mother, father, brother, and sister that he loves them so often. I’m not sure when the change began to occur in me. Perhaps it was when my father had his last bout with cancer. Maybe it was when Rebecca began driving. Or when my dear grandmother left us. At some point, I noticed that I, too, had started saying “I love you” before hanging up the phone. Over the past two dozen years, we’ve lost grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends. We’ve watched others lose parents and even children. We’ve seen how quickly you can lose someone who meant more to you than you ever said out loud. So, you see, the most important thing I learned this past year is that it’s not enough. It’s not enough to say I love you once a year, once every five years, once in a lifetime. It’s not enough to only say I love you to your children or parents. It’s not enough to wait until someone is dying to hold his hand, kiss his cheek, and whisper in his ear that you love him. It’s simply not enough.

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What I was writing about this time last year:  Through the Eyes of A Child

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 World Without God

My father is a firm believer that we are living in a world without God and that God, angry with us, is showing us His wrath. I don’t believe in a vengeful, wrath-filled God. Jesus dispelled that when He was here on earth. However, I do believe that, where God is not welcome, evil fills the void. We, as a nation, have turned our backs on God. He is not wanted in our schools, our government, our hospitals, our military, our public spaces. I daresay, He is not welcome in many private spaces either. We have shoved Him out of our lives and left the door wide open for evil to enter in and take up residence. 

I don’t care if you believe in Satan or demons or anything like that. That’s a theological debate that has been ongoing for centuries. However, there can be no doubt that, call it what you will, there is pure evil in the world. How else do you describe a massacre like the one that just took place on Las Vegas? If that isn’t evil, I don’t know what is. Murders, rapes, drug addiction, family violence, and a horde of other evils plague us every day, and it’s only getting worse. How can one not label that the work of an evil presence in our midst?

We live in world where God is mocked, where people are told to do as they wish, where pleasure is seen as the only thing worth obtaining, and where we value things, including celebrity and power, over virtues. We live in a world where people claim to be “spiritual but not religious.” What does that even mean? I was fascinated by the most recent results of the Pew Research Center study of religious landscapes. Those who said they were “spiritual but not religious” were mostly under 40, unmarried, childless, and making less than $100,000 per year. Most had some college or less. Almost 85% rarely or never attend any kind of religious service. 

Why do I bring this up? Because I think it’s a good snapshot of where we are in America today. We have lost our foundation. So many young people are no longer getting married and are choosing to have one child or none. Many never read or hear or learn about God. And while the vast majority of these “spiritual” people believe in God (over 91%), they really have no idea what or who God is, how to relate to Him, or why He is important. We are raising a generation of people who believe that they are their own god, that only their decisions matter, and that being “happy” can only be found through self-gratification. Is it any wonder that evil can so easily slip into and become commonplace in our lives?

St FrancisThe next question is, what can we do to combat the evil that has taken up residence in our world? The answer is so simple it sounds trite, impossible even. Be kind. Be loving. Be patient. Be compassionate. Be forgiving. BE CHRIST. Be Christ to everyone. More than once, I’ve written a few blogs about bringing peace, being a person of encouragement, and kindness (Be Kind and “In the End, Only Kindness Matters”). Many others have as well, but a few words written down will never make a difference. What will make a difference is you and me and others, spending every day of our lives trying to make this world a better place. On this feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, let’s all strive to be instruments of peace, to treat other with kindness and respect, and to be Christ to the world. 

I pray for the people killed and injured in Las Vegas. I pray for those suffering throughout our country and our world. I pray for those who are lost and hopeless. I pray that we find a way to let God back into our lives. He is waiting for us. All we have to do open the door and ask Him to come back in.

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What I was writing about one year ago this week: Nine Reasons Why Saying Yes is Not a Weakness.

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 followed up her success with, Island of Miracles. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now on pre-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)

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)