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)

The Top Ten Reasons Easter is Irrelevant

DSC09185I read a news piece recently that said that the majority of Americans believe that Easter has become irrelevant and that celebrating it is “a waste of time,” “meaningless,” and “completely unnecessary.” While I will not argue that too many people associate Easter with Peter Cottontail rather than Christ, I was surprised at the vehemence of some of the respondents. So I gave it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with a Top Ten List of why Easter has become irrelevant in our present-day society. Counting backwards:

10.  Easter parades just tie up traffic and cause delays. Of course, parades are often associated with holidays, but the Easter parade began, not as a celebration but as a procession. In the Mid-1800s, Christians processed to Mass on Easter Sunday, wearing their new Easter clothes after a long, forty-day period of fasting and abstaining. Onlookers gathered to watch the church-goers go by in their new, spring clothes. For many families, Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection, was the only time when new clothes and shoes were purchased. Of course, today, we have the luxury of purchasing new clothes, shoes, toys, housewares, electronics, and anything else we want, every day of the week. Like so many other practices, the purchase of an Easter dress is just another tradition that we can get rid of. Who needs to celebrate the putting on of new clothes after emerging from Lent a new and better person?

9.  Those silly little Easter eggs are completely pointless. Why would anyone want to look for those when they can find virtual reality creatures instead? After all, the tradition of using eggs to symbolize the Resurrection is so out of date. Lost is the reason for the eggs: the hard shell being cracked open in representation of the empty tomb. Eggs were once only painted red, a reminder of the blood that Christ shed on the cross. Even outside of Christianity, the egg is used in many cultures as a symbol of life and rebirth. But who cares about celebrating life anyway?

8.  Easter egg rolls have no meaning and are a waste of time.  Unless, of course, you use the activity to relate to your children that the eggs are rolled to remind us that the stone sealing Jesus’ tomb was rolled away, revealing the risen Christ.

7.  But why the Easter Bunny? Surely this is a ridiculous and silly tradition. It’s hard to argue that the visitation of the gift-bearing bunny on Easter morning is anything but a commercial invention to sell more chocolate. Of course, many people don’t know that German immigrants, in the 1700s, brought to the United States the tradition of the Easter Bunny, a sign of life and rebirth. Osterhase was a colored-egg laying hare for whom children built nests in which the hare could lay her eggs. But of course, teaching children about ethnic traditions, caring for the world’s creatures, and building homes for others are just more wastes of time.

 

6. Forcing kids to put down their phones and other electronic devices in order to enjoy time in the outdoors or with their relatives is a waste of their potential. Why use their brains to hunt for eggs when their phones can locate the exact geo-location of some trinket or useless “treasure” or even better, the elusive Pokemon character, Magmar (yes, I had to look that one up).

 

5.  Taking a Sunday off from watching  baseball, NASCAR, and other sporting events to spend time with family is just ridiculous. After all, the other sports fans play a much larger role in your life than your family, and maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose parents and siblings will live forever. You can see them any time.

4.  Easter is only about receiving chocolate, and I can eat that whenever I want.  Somewhere, I believe I was taught that Easter is about receiving Salvation, but I suppose that’s not important anymore since we have all we could ever need in this current life. Why worry about a possible life beyond?

3.  Easter Sunday Mass is just another, boring hour of being lectured about some guy who died two-thousand years ago. Nobody today needs to hear about Jesus. He was just some prophet who walked on the earth, cured the blind and lame, fulfilled all of the ancient prophesies about a Messiah, including those about His crucifixion, and then rose from the dead. As they say, those stories will never last. Soon, He will be forgotten like all those who claim to be something or someone they are not. What’s two-thousand years anyway?

2.  The return of the singing of the Gloria and the resounding Alleluia after forty-days of solemn celebrations doesn’t need to be heard, and the Gospel of the Resurrection doesn’t need to be told. Our children will learn about and understand the importance of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in school and from their friends. Oh wait… maybe not. Oh well, I guess it’s just not important then.

1.   There is no reason to view the Resurrection as a glimpse into the afterlife, the promise of a world yet to come for those who believe. We have everything we could ever want right here, right now. We have everlasting peace, the elimination of poverty, hunger, and strife, only benevolent and loving rulers, and the promise that we can live for all eternity in harmony and tranquility. Right? There’s no reason to hope for a new life, a life of splendor and glory, a life in which we will rise from our earthly graves and experience pure ecstasy with our loved ones and our creator. Don’t you agree? I guess you’ll have to answer that question for yourself. As for me and my family, we will spend Sunday morning singing, praising, and worshiping, while wearing our new Easter dresses, and will then host a giant Easter egg hunt with our friends and extended family. You are welcome to join us.

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.  —  COL 3:1-4

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Embracing the Romance.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Technology Has Forever Changed Our Way of Thinking. Here’s How to Take it Back by freelance art director, Cristina Vanko; What 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 has just been 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 Love Without End

200_sHow deep is your love for your spouse? How far would you go to show them you love them? The Lord told us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. I don’t think Jesus’ words refer only to physical death. There are many ways that we can lay down our lives for our loved ones. I would like to share with you the most beautiful example that I know.

A little over a year ago, Ken and I met a kind and gentle man named George on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Most of the travelers were there with their spouses, some with friends, a few with their daughters, but George was alone. At least, it seemed that way at first. But as we all got to know one another, we realized that George was never alone. In his pocket, next to his heart, he carried with him the photograph of his beloved, Josi. The trip to the Holy Land was one that they had wanted to make together, but while George joined us, Josie lay in a bed in the nursing home, where she had been for most of her fifties, suffering from early onset dementia. When we all renewed our wedding vows at Cana, George stood, holding his photo of Josi, and renewed his vows with us, as faithfully committed as ever to his bride.

Unfortunately, Josi’s story is not unique, but George’s is.  In today’s world, George would be seen as having every right to abandon Josie, to let others take care of her, to begin dating once she supposedly forgot who he was, even to find a “kind” doctor to help Josi “alleviate her suffering.” But even close to 10 years after Josie begin to fail, George refused to turn his back on her. He could be found every night, sitting by her side, holding her hand, brushing her hair, reading to her, and praying with her. Everything George did, every plan he made, was done with Josie in mind. She was always first in his life no matter where she was, or what she was or was not able to do, say, or feel. George knew, without a doubt, that Josi heard him, listened to him, and responded to with with the squeeze of her hand or a look in her eyes.

This past weekend, the Gospel reading was the story of the death and raising of Lazarus. Our priest pointed out to us that Jesus never once used the word “death” when referring to his friend. He said that Lazarus was merely asleep and called him to awaken. Father told us that we should take Jesus’ words to heart. When we go to sleep, we enter another realm of consciousness and awake refreshed, renewed, and reinvigorated, ready to live life to its fullest. Thus is the same for death. We fall asleep only to awaken to a new life, renewed, refreshed, and reinvigorated to live in the fulness of life with Christ.

How fitting that this was the Gospel that was read around the world on the last day that Josi spent on earth. For years, she slept, being renewed and refreshed, being prepared to live out eternity with the Lord. She was a gift to the world, a witness to the will of God rather than the will of society. George’s love for Josi, poured out in all that he did, and his faith and trust in the Lord, sends a powerful message to all those who know him. George never lost faith that Josi knew him, was aware of his presence, and knew how much he loves her. And he never lost faith that God was with him every step of the way, no matter how hard, no matter how desperate. George knew from the beginning that the road ahead would be hard, that there would be heartbreaking moments that he could never foresee, that many days would be dark and rough.  But he held Josi’s hand and walked her journey with her, always seeing the light and glory at the end, always trusting that his love for her, and God’s love for them both, would never fail.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”  Isaiah 42:16

Ken and I have become very close to George over the past year, and by extension, to Josi. We have visited with George in New York many times, and he has come to our home to share family celebrations with us. Our girls have fallen in love with George and consider him as much a family member as all of their blood relatives. He has brought much joy to our family, but more than that, he has brought hope. He allowed us to share in his love for Josi as well as his unwavering faith. He taught us all so much about love, acceptance, trust, and faith. May you all have a George in your life, and may you all experience an unfailing love like the love between George and Josi.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: The Agony of the College Search.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Eight Things Whole-hearted, Creative Women do Differently  by blogger, Emily Freeman, How Women Use Body Language To Beat The Double-Bind Paradox by Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. (Leadership and Management)The Simple Reason Why Goodreads Is So Valuable to Amazon by Jordan Weissman (The Atlantic). 

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 has just been 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)

The 9 Most Important Things I’ve Learned at 47

5-Granada53Today is my birthday, and though my children and I kid that I turn 29 again every year, I really don’t mind people knowing that I am 47. Every day, I remind myself how lucky I am to be alive, be part of my family, have the wonderful friends that I have, and live in the greatest country in the world. Age means nothing to me except that the older I get, the wiser I am, the more experiences I’ve had, the closer to God I grow, and the more I appreciate where I’ve been and what I have. Unfortunately, we live in a throwaway society. There are many stories on the news these days about elderly people being put to death simply because they are old or ill. We throw away things that aren’t broken as well as broken things that can be fixed. Everybody wants to stay young, look young, and only have things that are the newest of their kind. It’s actually quite sad when you think about it. Who says that just because something or someone is old, it or she is no longer any good? Below, are the things that I see as the best part of growing older.

1.  I no longer feel guilty about doing or buying what I want. I’ve had a job since I was 16 years old, and Ken and I have worked hard for everything we have. There’s no reason not to enjoy it.

2.  Although I still have two girls in high school, my children and I are at the point in our lives where we are able to talk to each other and do things together as friends. From going to concerts to vacationing to sharing a glass of wine (since Rebecca turned 21 last month), we are able to relish the friendship that we have spent the past 21, 18, and 16 years cultivating.

3.  I have never really been the kind of person who cares what others think about me, but I have always known the difference between character and reputation. Reaching middle age means that I have established my reputation and assume that people know my character. If they don’t, it’s no longer my problem.

4.  I know exactly who my friends are. The days of trying to fit in, avoid mean girl cliques, and live outside of the popular crowd, are long gone. I know who the people are that I can count on, who the people are with whom I can share secrets, and those with whom I can share a smile and even a cup of coffee but not the intimate details of my life. It’s quite freeing to know that I don’t have to play the games that some people play. I’ve had the same best friends for 40, 23, and 16 years, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

5.  My life is only half over. I’m an eternal optimist, so thinking of my life as half over is foreign to me. Instead, I think of it as only half over. I still have, hopefully, another 47 years to do all of the things I still haven’t done – visit the last four states that I have yet to go to, ride in a hot air balloon, return to the Holy Lands, see my children marry and have children of their own, and walk El Camino (2019 is my target year, right Anne, George, Marian, Anne, Susan, Chandi, Ronnie, and Tammi?).

6.  My parents aren’t getting any younger either. I try to see them as often as possible and spend as much time with them as I can. I cherish our moments together and hope they know that everything I am, have, and believe is due to their love, guidance, and example.

7.  My faith is stronger now than it ever was, and I am still learning more about it every day. Time in prayer has become more treasured and coveted. Reading scripture is a daily habit. I’ve walked with God intermittently over the past 47 years. I want to spend the next 47 walking beside Him every minute of every day.

8.  Even the bad days are good. As happens in everyone’s life now and then, there are days when nothing seems to go right. These are the days when I recall the things that really matter (all of the other things on this list), and remain grateful for what I have. My mother used to tell me time and again, there’s no use crying over spilt milk. Instead of worrying about spilled, spoiling milk, I prefer to seek out and smell the roses because…

9.  Life is a gift and a blessing. We have the ability to do so much, to experience so much, to give of ourselves to others, and be blessed by others in return. We should make every day count and enjoy life to its fullest.

For Lenten inspiration, check out Amy’s collaboration with authors, Anne Kennedy, Susan Anthony, Chandi Owen, and Wendy Clark:  Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms.

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 book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  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)

Giving More

firemans-parade-1Ash Wednesday is upon us, so for the next 40 days, Christians around the world will be fasting, praying (more), and giving alms. The last one, I believe, is the kicker for most people. It sometimes feels like I am always giving.  Every time I turn around, someone has their hand out – a new organ for the church, new uniforms for the tennis team, fundraising for our girls’ mission team, a read-a-thon for a younger relative, not to mention the man on the street for whom I emptied my pocket that, for some unknown reason, happened to be full of quarters on that particular day last week. Giving is something that we are all asked to do on a daily basis, and I can understand why many people feel overwhelmed by all of the solicitations, as wonderful as some of the groups and circumstances are. But give we (Ken and I) do, and I feel we must; and I’d like to share with you two personal stories that explain why.

Many years ago, when Ken and I were first married, we found ourselves in a very tight spot. We were more than stretched thin, two young kids in their twenties who spent every cent they had ever saved on a modest house in town. I was working as a school librarian while going to UMCP to get my Masters in library science. Ken was holding down three jobs and applying for loans to attend law school. On a particular Sunday, we quarreled on our way to Mass. Ken noticed that, as he drove, I was writing a check to the church to go in the weekly offering. He asked me to stop and void the check because we just didn’t have the money to spare. I kept writing and explained that I felt that, even though we didn’t have much, we had more than many and could give a small portion to the church. After a few minutes of back and forth, he grudgingly relented. I didn’t blame Ken. It wasn’t the money, or the church, or even whether or not we had a few dollars to spare. Ken is a worrier, and I’m not. He lies in bed at night thinking about everything bad that could happen to our family if this or if that. I say my prayers, give any worries I might have over to God, and go to sleep, knowing that I am in good hands.

Anyway, we put our check in the offering, and went on about our business. Two days later, Ken came into the kitchen with a frantic look on his face. I was cooking dinner, and he had been going through the mail. I stopped and looked at him, knowing that something horrible had happened or was about to. With a pained expression, Ken told me that he just realized he had forgotten to pay the mortgage. It was due the very next day, and we had nothing left in our bank account. He was a man without options, and his despair emanated from him, filling the room like the thick, October, Eastern Shore fog. I told him that we would somehow make it work, but he shook his head and left the room, knowing that there was nothing he or I could do to fix the situation. I did what I always do. I prayed. The following morning, Ken left the house at 3:30am to go crabbing. Payday wasn’t until Friday, and I knew he would spend the entire morning trying to figure out a way to rob Peter to pay Paul before the money came through. The school where I worked was out for the summer, so I was in the kitchen doing homework for my graduate classes when Ken returned. After coming in to say hello, Ken headed through the kitchen to go upstairs and get ready for job number two. As he was passing the hutch that his father made for us, he stopped. I watched as a strange expression came over his face. Reaching up onto the top shelf, he picked up a souvenir tin with the Maryland flag on it and shook it. Opening the tin, he pulled out a wad of cash. With elation on his face, he turned to me.

“I forgot that I put this there weeks ago because I didn’t have time to go to the bank. I’m pretty sure it’s exactly the amount we need to pay our mortgage”

He was astonished, and I was relieved but not surprised. Jesus told us in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you.”

Another story has to do with our daughter. When Katie was very young, she started displaying some medical issues that were concerning. I took her to see her pediatrician, and the doctor ordered what I believed to be a series of standard tests. Unalarmed, I went home and told Ken that Katie needed to be taken to Johns Hopkins for a breathing test to see whether she had Cystic Fibrosis. Ken immediately broke into tears, not a normal reaction by any means, and certainly not one I expected. He proceeded to tell me that a very close childhood friend of his had CF and defied the odds by surviving until the age of 16. Shocked, and unwilling to consider the possibilities in front of us, I remember shaking my head and saying over and over, “This just can’t be happening.”

On the day of the testing, Ken insisted on taking Katie to Baltimore. I stayed home with Morgan, who was a baby, and made sure Rebecca got to and from school. I was a nervous wreck, totally out of character for me, and Ken was beside himself with grief even before knowing the results. I spent most of the day in prayer waiting for his call. When Ken finally called with the news that Katie did not have CF, he sobbed into the phone, and tears streamed down my face. From that moment on, we’ve been hard-pressed to say no to any charity that involves helping sick or dying children. We are lucky, and truly blessed by God, that Katie grew out of her ailments and now just carries an inhaler that she uses before and sometimes after exercise. It’s hard to look at another parent or child facing the unspeakable and not find myself back in those few days of the unknown. Katie turns eighteen this week, and I cherish every minute she has been alive as a precious gift.

Why do I share these things with you? Because I have a feeling that everyone has their own story. We all have a cause we support, be it breast cancer research, sheltering the homeless, visiting Veterans, or saving soda tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. Our reasons for supporting causes may be different, and some people might not even consciously realize why are they supporting something, but we’re all working, in our own ways, to make the world a little better for someone else. And if we’re not, we should be. If you are reading this on a computer, phone, or tablet, then you have, at a least a little bit, more than others. Even a handful of quarters might help someone more than you know.

So over the next 40 days, as you’re cleaning out your closets to collect 40 bags, or avoiding the candy aisle at the grocery store, I ask you to really think about what you can do to be more generous and to help others in need. So many of us have more than we could ever need or use, including a nice home, new clothes, and good health. I believe we all have something we can give. It doesn’t even have to be money. Can’t we all spend just over a month finding ways to give, whether it’s money, time, or even a prayer for someone in need? Your true and honest generosity, no matter how small, will be greatly rewarded.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”          Mark 12: 41-44

For more Lenten inspiration, check out Amy’s collaboration with authors, Anne Kennedy and Susan Anthony:  Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms.

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 book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  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)