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).

 

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).

Slipping Sand into Precious Pearls

There is a thief on the loose, one so elusive I am unable to catch him. He is quite versatile, able to take on any shape and size, whatever needs to be done in order to snatch, steel, and plunder.  Stealthily, he intrudes on my daily life, pilfering that which seems to be the most precious of commodities. 

Sometimes he comes in the form of a crisis. Large or small, it doesn’t matter, for any crisis results in same thing. The housework does not get done. The laundry sits in piles. The characters in my book stand by, unable to go forward, wondering if I will ever return to guide them. I am stranded on the shore at sunset, searching for an extra hour, knowing the ship has sailed.

Sometimes, the thief comes in the form of technology. That very thing which is meant to prevent the crime is often the catalyst that allows the thief to enter. He may come as a broken link, a spinning ball, or a scrolling page. Often, he is a frozen screen on which the only thing that moves is the clock in the top corner, mocking me as the minutes slip away before my very eyes. I reach to catch them and hold onto them, but they vanish, never to return.

Other times, the thief comes in the form of a call or a visit from a friend or loved one. It is at those times that I feel him taunting me, saying, “Isn’t this what you wanted? I’m giving you what you’ve asked for. Enjoy it.” But in my the recesses of my mind, I’m still complaining, still mounting charges, “Yes, this is what I wanted, but why now? Why can’t it happen when I can afford to enjoy it? Why do you send this person to interrupt my day instead of at a better time?” But that time never comes. One thing the thief knows for sure, we can never create perfect timing, and we must accept some interruptions as gifts and some interlopers as valued friends.

Why do I always feel like I am racing him, trying to lure him into a trap? Where is he hiding my precious moments? How do I get them back? I am so busy trying to hold onto the ticking clock that I blink, and the holidays are upon us. I close my eyes, and the school year is coming to a close. I turn around, and my girls are grown and gone.

Those stolen moments make me I realize that I am the one who has been caught in the trap. I am the one who has allowed the thief to enter, emboldened by my own willingness to let him to take those minutes, those hours, those days in return for the few seconds of happiness I am willing to accept and enjoy. I am the one who has turned my life into a race along the shore, where the water weighs down my feet as they try to make progress and the waves mock my futile steps.

I must find a way to work with the thief of time. I must make more room in my calendar for the minutes that matter. There must be a way to accept the crises and the glitches, as well as the unexpected pleasures, and make them work together to slow the sand in the hourglass. For one day, without my permission or knowledge, the thief will have taken the last granule of sand, and I will be left to wonder if I used those grains to build castles with open drawbridges or walls and moats. Perhaps the thief is there to remind me that time, like all gems, is rare, precious, and to be handled with care. I am the one who needs to find a way to turn lost moments from slipping sand into precious pearls.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: There are no Strangers Here.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her 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.

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).

Me Enamoré

This past week, Morgan and I were blessed to be able to go on a business trip with my husband, Ken, to Colombia. We spent three days in Cartagena, where his conference was being held, and then the weekend in Bogota. The weekend was an add-on, and the reason is quite funny. My husband does a lot of work throughout Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and nearly fluent in Portuguese. When he was striving to be more conversational in Spanish, his tutor suggested he begin listening to Spanish-language music. That is how my husband fell in love with Shakira.

IMG_9866Though Ken has never been a big concert-goer (unlike the girls and me), he was beside himself with excitement when he learned that Shakira was coming to DC. He bought two tickets, and he and our oldest daughter made their plans to attend. Alas, Shakira developed some throat problems and had to postpone her world tour. The rescheduled date? When we were on our pilgrimage to Guadalupe. Ken was so upset! But hope was not lost. Fast forward to this past weekend. We knew that Ken would be attending this conference in Cartagena and that Morgan and I were going to tag along. If you’ve never been there, Cartagena is a beautiful city, rich in Spanish, Latin American, and Catholic history. I’ve been with Ken several times now, and I enjoy it every time I go.

So, a couple months ago, Ken came to me with a huge, boyish grin on his face.
“Guess where Shakira’s final concert on the world tour is?” he asked with excitement
“Where?” I asked.
“Bogota.” The grin widened.
“Okaaaay…”
“The weekend we will be in Colombia!”
Ah, I could see where this was going.
“And?” I asked.
“And…we can get a cheap flight from Cartagena to Bogota the night before, tour Bogota that day, and attend the concert that night.” His enthusiasm grew with each word.

And that’s how we came to be at the Shakira concert, in Bogota, on Saturday night. We spent the day climbing to the top of Monserrate Hill, exploring the historic downtown, and even witnessing an ordination at La Iglesia de la virgin della Carmen. We enjoyed obleas, a yummy concoction of two large, round wafers (that Morgan says remind her of the Eucharist) sandwiched with various fillings–fruit spread, cream, caramel, or any combination of the three. Morgan and I have decided that we are going to figure out how to make them ourselves (Amazon must have the wafers, right?).

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The view from Monserrat Hill
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The plaza in the historic district of La Candelaria
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An ordination at La Iglesia de la virgin della Carmen
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Obleas!

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Saturday evening, we joined over 30,000 other fans, waiting in line to get into the park. Even with the VIP tickets that Ken ordered (at a lower price than the standard cost-inflated American tickets), we had to wait over two hours to get into the Simón Bolívar Parque. Once inside, we felt like the filling in the obleas. It was packed! There were no chairs, and even the VIP section was general admission. This did not bode well for someone who is under 5’5″! Luckily for Ken, he’s nearly a foot taller than I am and had a great view, and luckily for me, there were three giant screens above and next to the stage. The concert was great, and Shakira put on a fabulous show. Ken never stopped smiling the entire time.

IMG_9927I was exhausted. I didn’t know or understand the lyrics. I couldn’t see a dang thing other than the back of the heads in front of me. But the predicted rain held off. Morgan and Ken sang along with every song. And I got to see Ken do something he never, ever does. He spent an entire evening doing what he wanted to do. Honestly, that’s so rare. Ken spends most of his life trying to make the girls and me happy. He bends to our every wish and never asks for anything in return. So what if it wasn’t the evening I would have chosen (and my phone was stolen on the way out). For Ken, it was a dream come true. So, maybe no me enamoré (I did not fall in love) with Shakira, but I did fall in love a little more with my husband–a grown man loving life, enjoying a simple pleasure, and wanting to share it with his wife and daughter. 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Saint Buck, Patron of Granddaughters.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her 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.

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).

 

Friendly Deception – how social media is changing our relationships and what we can do about it

IMG_7748Isn’t it funny how deceiving a picture can be? Take this one for example. It looks like the perfect day – not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the sun shining above, everything lush and green. The truth – it was darn cold, and it rained off and on all day. But you’d never know it by looking at the photo. This idyllic scene from my recent trip to Stockholm is quite deceiving unless you were there. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, about how every day we look at pictures of people and places that seem to be perfect, but we don’t really know what’s going on because we aren’t there, but more importantly, because we don’t ask.

I recently read an interesting article by Jay Baer, consultant and keynote speaker, who said that “those situations where we ‘meet’ someone through social media, have the opportunity to interact in real life, and then develop a relationship that creates true friendship are few and far between.” He lamented the fact that a social media friend committed suicide, and nobody saw it coming. He wondered if this person actually was his friend, was he anybody’s real friend? He argues that social media isn’t bringing us closer together but driving us farther apart “as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them.” 

39931590_419362661928100_610133224239162107_nThink about your own social media account. I don’t know about you, but I use mine to share updates about my kids, picture of my travels, and upcoming events I want to invite people to. And that’s what I want to see on other people’s posts. I don’t care how you lean politically, and I don’t want to see your dirty laundry aired for the world to see. I prefer Facebook to be my happy place, where I can go and see a smiling picture of a happy person, enjoying life. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this picture of my oldest daughter, and I think it’s one of the prettiest pictures I’ve ever seen of her. And like all of the first-day-of-school photos and the Homecoming shots, it just made me smile. But I also know what was going on in her life on the day this picture was taken, the people and things she was worried about, the decisions she had to make, and the hectic pace of her life that week. You don’t see any of that in her smile.

Her picture perfectly illustrates how my attitude, of wanting to see only the good, blinds me to what’s really going on with my family and friends. I see their happiest moments and often forget to ask about the tears they shed for a loved one, the defeat they just suffered at work or on the field, the problems they are facing with their family, or the devastating news they recently received. I’m not saying that I, or anyone, should pry into other people’s business, but I sometimes need to be reminded that social media lets us forget that we’re all real people. We need human interaction, and not the technological kind. We all have what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed, the Hierarchy of Needs (anyone who has taken a psychology course at any level should remember that triangle). Nowhere does it mention that we need hundreds of sometimes friends, but it clearly says that we need intimate relationships. We need REAL friends.maslow-5

I’ve had to stop and think, when was the last time I picked up the phone and called a friend to see how she’s really doing? When was the last time I invited someone to lunch or took the time to visit with anyone in person? When was the last time I sent a card to someone just because I wanted them to know I was thinking about them and not just hitting the “like” button on their page?

FullSizeRenderI consider myself extremely blessed because I do have an intimate group of friends who are “my people.” We tell each other everything. We commiserate with each other when our lives are spiraling out of control, and we lift each other up when we are feeling down. And yes, we do that through a private Facebook chat group. But here’s what really makes the difference in our friendship: we seek out time to get together. We plan trips to see each other. We revel in each other’s real presence. We hug, we hold hands, we look each other in the eyes. We participate in a real friendship. 

On the downside, I rarely see or talk to the women who live nearby and who have been my best friends for many years. I think I take for granted that they will always be there. I forget that they, too, are just a phone call away, a short trip down the road. It’s so easy to let those relationships slide because I know I can just send a text and say, “let’s get together.” The problem is, I rarely do. I let my everyday life get in the way. I depend upon social media to keep me up on what’s going on in their lives. I do exactly what Baer warned about, I allow social media to inform me about my friends and my relationships instead of reaching out beyond my computer screen.

I know that I need to really assess my friendships and my relationship with social media. Because that’s really what the relationship is with – social media – not with real, live people. We can’t live without checking out Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but we live without checking in with the real flesh and blood people in our lives. Maybe it’s a generational thing. My mother is on Facebook and peruses it regularly, but more often, she can be found having lunch with her friends, taking trips with her girl group, and organizing get-togethers with people near and far. She knows how to cultivate friendships and how to keep them for many, many years. I fear that the rest of us are losing that ability. 

So, the next time you’re scrolling through those smiling, happy photos plastered on Instagram, remind yourself to stop and think about the faces you’re seeing. Ask yourself when the last time was that you contacted them, asked about their families, inquired about a hard situation they were in, or checked on their health. Baer summed up his article reminding us that we all think we know someone and what’s going on in their life, but we don’t. “And that’s social media’s fault. But more so, our own.”

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

 

 

A Glimpse of Paradise

 

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A day on the water with my brothers and grandparents

When I was a little girl, there was no place more enchanting, more relaxing, more rejuvenating for my mind, body, and soul than grandma’s house. Whether for a weekend, a week, or the whole summer, be it alone or with my brothers, it was my escape from the real world. After I got married, I continued visiting my grandmother, whose 97th birthday would have been yesterday, carving out a week every summer to make the three-hour drive from our home on the Eastern Shore down to St. Mary’s County. I even made the trip, without fail, when I had three babies in tow. How my grandmother loved those visits, and how I loved being with her. Just like when I was child, there were no demands, no places we had to go, no stresses or worries. We lounged in the living room and read books, We sat on the backyard swing and talked. We made the rounds, visiting the cousins and neighbors, but were in no hurry to be anywhere. No matter my age or station in life, grandma’s house was, for me, a glimpse of Paradise.

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Morgan’s first visit to Granny’s

I tried, once I had the girls, to take a week at my own parents’ house as well, but somehow, the summers always got away from us, and I started going less and less. Just as I did when I was little, I began sending my girls to their grandmother’s house at a young age. I think Rebecca was three the first time I left her at my mother’s by herself. From the calls throughout the week, and the stories Rebecca brought home, you would have thought she spent the week at Disney World. Last summer, at the age of twenty-one, Rebecca took her boyfriend, Anthony, with her to spend several days at my parents’ house. I can’t begin to express how that made me feel. My parents felt like the most special people in the world, but they still reminded me that I didn’t get home enough. Every time I went home for a quick, overnight trip, my mother would say, “You need to come more often and stay longer.” I knew she was right, but I never really made the time to do it. 

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Rebecca’s visit to Grandma and Granddad’s
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Day one of my visit – Father’s Day

After we lost Ken’s dad this past winter, I realized how important those visits are, not just for my girls but for my parents and for me. That’s why, for the past three mornings, I have awoken in my old bedroom to the sounds of my eighty-one-year-old dad getting ready for his two-mile walk. Joining him, at a much earlier time that I would be opening my eyes at home, dad and I headed through the neighborhood. The first half the walk was spent in silence as we each prayed the Rosary. After that, dad pointed to the various houses along the way, telling me who still lived where, who was retired, who had since passed, and what changes were taking place in the neighborhood. We talked about our family and about people we knew. At times, we didn’t talk at all. We just enjoyed the quiet of each other’s company.

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Mom and I at Ladew Gardens

Yesterday, Mom and I went on a home and garden tour. We have watched three movies, gone shopping, and talked a lot. We’ve been in no hurry, had no stress or cares, and just enjoyed being together, chatting about books and the kids and life. It was my husband who reminded me that this visit is much like the ones I used to make to my grandmother’s house. I never let a summer go by that I didn’t make the trip, and far too many years have passed since I marked that week on the calendar. I’m so happy Ken reminded me how important that was. I’m going to make sure a trip to my parents’ house is always the first thing I mark on the calendar from now on when summer planning gets underway. We can’t let the busyness and the hectic pace of life allow us to ignore those beautiful gifts and glimpses of Paradise.

Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very happy to partner with Sundial Books on Chincoteague for this celebration. All are welcome on Wednesday, July 24 from 1:00-3:00 at Sundial Books. For more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/238528263576139

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Seven Reasons to Put Down Your Electronic Devices This Summer

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).

Withdraw From Your Cares

IMG_0884-001I recently heard of a survey, showing that 52% of Americans reported unused vacation days in 2017. This is down 2% from the previous year, but the trend remains–Americas, unlike their counterparts around the world, are not leaving work behind to spend downtime with their friends and family. And while more people did take time off, half a million more vacation days were lost in 2017 than in 2016. 705 million vacation days were left unused. Of the days not used, Americans forfeited 212 million days, a donation of $561 per person on average in work time to their companies.

I read those numbers and gasped, shaking my head that so many people would rather work, or feel the need to work, rather than take time for themselves. While cost was cited as a barrier to taking time off, I can’t help but ask, what is the cost of a day at home, or at a local park, or at a free museum? Compare the cost of a vacation to that of a hospital stay after a heart attack or stroke brought on by long, stressful days at the office? Almost the same number of people reported their children as barriers to time off. Really? People won’t take vacations because their children get in the way? What kind of world are we living in?

For the first half of our marriage, Ken was an elected official and then the head of a state agency. For all of those years, he was expected to work, or least be available, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He and I both knew that, for the sake of his mental health and the health of our family, he needed to take breaks. Vacations, no matter how big or small, near or far, were always vital to our family and his sanity. For more than ten years now, Ken has worked for a global company, which means that often, while I’m in bed asleep, he is on the phone with colleagues in Korea or Australia. He travels often, almost weekly, and his sleep schedule is never normal. I fear that, without a vacation, he will have a mental or physical breakdown. And his job is not at all abnormal in this world of the internet, cell phones, and ease of travel.

When I was a child, our family didn’t have money to spare, but my brothers and I felt like we were the richest kids in the world. My parents took us to Andrews Air Force Base to see the Blue Angels. We visited every Smithsonian Museum. We hiked up and down the hills at the National Zoo, laughing at the monkeys and marveling at the elephants. All of those things were free. Meals? Hot dogs at the concession trucks. To my parents, these were low-cost days away from work, spent with family. To my brothers and me, they were priceless days that made lasting memories.

I encourage everyone to take a break this summer, or multiple breaks. Go outside. Connect with nature. Discover a passion. Enjoy time with your family. Play ball with your kids. Last summer, the company that Ken worked for was being sold, and we weren’t sure of Ken’s employment future. Rather than a long, expensive vacation, we borrowed a dear friend’s cabin in the Poconos. We hiked, zip lined, and even parasailed, but most of the trip was spent playing games, doing puzzles, and taking it easy. Morgan and Jacob spent hours fishing, and Ken and Katie enjoyed frequent naps. It was wonderful.

So, work hard this summer. Make each day count. But don’t forget this beautiful advice:

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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:  Oh, The Places You’ll Go (to borrow from Dr. Seuss)

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)