When I had my first child, my mother and grandmother stayed at the house to help me. I don’t know what I would have done without them. My husband couldn’t get off from work, and I would have been on my own. Here we are, twenty-six years later, and I’ve taken up the mantle and am at my daughter’s house helping take care of her newborn.
When Rebecca told me that her husband had two weeks of paternity leave and would be there to help as well, I honestly didn’t think too much of it. Sure, he’d be there, but what good would he be? If Rebecca needed guidance and help from someone who had “been there,” she would have me. Anthony certainly wouldn’t have anything to add to the equation. I pictured him coming home from the hospital, tired and hungry, eating whatever I made before going to bed and returning to the hospital the next day to bring Rebecca and the baby home. From there, I assumed he’d make an appearance during the day, but his primary role would come into play at night with diaper changing and then handing off Evelyn for feedings.
All month long, I’ve written and posted about love. I’ve touched on romantic love, self-love, and the love between mothers and daughters and grandmothers and granddaughters. I’ve talked about our Father’s love more than once. What I haven’t mentioned is the love between a daughter and her father, a love which I happen to think transcends all other types of earthly love as a reflection of the love between a daughter and Our Father.
Pope John Paul II said, “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family.” How true that is.
It took my parents several years to have me. Just as they were in the throes of adoption, I gave them the surprise they’d been praying for. By then, my father, at thirty-three, was a little older than most first-time fathers of the time. Of course, I didn’t realize this until much later in life; but now I am reminded every day how truly blessed I am to still have him with us at eighty-four (eighty-five in April).
Growing up, my father was loved and adored by everyone, which was no surprise as he was always a kid at heart, and he has a heart the size of a mountain.
We all know that Father’s Day in the United States is in June, but today I was inspired to move the date up a few months. While listening to the radio this morning, friend and talk show host, Gus Lloyd, told listeners that we were going to celebrate Father’s Day in honor of St. Jospeh, whose feast day is March 19. He asked listeners to call in and tell him how their fathers played a critical role in their faith lives. I couldn’t resist calling in, and I shared just a couple brief stories about my faith-filled father. After hanging up, thoughts of my father continued to swirl in my brain, and I realized that my father, more than anyone I know, truly embodies the spirit of St. Joseph, the father of Christ.
My father and my mother met in the early 1960s when my mother was living in an apartment in DC with two other women. One of the women was my father’s cousin, Claudia, and she invited my father, Richard, fresh from the Air Force, to stop by and visit one night. After Dad left that night, he decided to ask one of his cousin’s roommates out on a date, but he couldn’t remember which girl was which! He called and took a chance, asking Judy out on a date. When Judy came the door, my dad was a bit taken aback as the woman staring back at him was the other roommate! Much like Jospeh, my father followed that little voice, perhaps even an angel, telling him to honor their date. Rather than backing out and leaving Judy standing in the doorway, Richard, “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19) smiled and took her hand. The rest, as they say, is history. Richard and Judy have been married for over 55 years! Dad says he waited until they’d been married for some time before telling mom about the “mistaken identity.” I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that my dad, like Joseph, “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).
Over the past 55 years, my father has worked to provide for his family. He always puts us first, often taking a backseat to whatever mom or we children had going on. Like Jospeh, Dad was content to stay in the background, usually letting my mother take the spotlight. More times than not, he even shined the light on her himself, like the time he sent a letter about Mom to Paul Harvey who then did a tribute to her on his daily, nationally syndicated radio show. Joseph knew that it was his place to protect and provide for Mary and Jesus, and he may have known that Mary would be the one to receive all the credit for Jesus’s birth and upbringing. There’s much we can learn from Joseph, just as I’ve learned much from my dad.
When my father was about 50, he was diagnosed with cancer. He made a vow to Mary that, if she implored her Son to grant him just a few more years–enough time to see his children grow up–he would say a Rosary every day. My father is now almost 82 years old, and he says several Rosaries each day. He is a man of his word. He made a promise to Mary, and to God, and kept it. How hard was it for Joseph to be a man of his word? To take Mary as his wife though she was pregnant? To sneak away in the night, with his wife and baby, leaving his family, friends, and job, in order to protect them? To teach his son all that he knew about God and scripture, all while knowing that his son was the son of God, the Messiah Himself?
When Jesus was about twelve, He was lost for three days and found in the temple, teaching the scribes and the pharisees. Mary admonished her son, telling him that they had been searching for him, but Jospeh said not a word. Here’s what I think happened. While Mary was scolding Jesus, Jospeh was running around the temple asking everyone, “Did you hear my son? Did you hear how wise he is?” and saying, “That’s my boy!” I believe this because I know my own dad. I receive emails all the time from people telling me they read my book or followed my blog because my dad told them to. While at a book signing last summer (with my father at my side), a woman told me that she was only there, buying my book, because my father had joined their community Facebook page and had spent the previous few weeks encouraging everyone to attend my signing and buy my books! She couldn’t resist his urgings and had to read the book that my father was bragging about.
Joseph was a carpenter, or more technically, a tradesman who worked with his hands. I love the scene in The Passion where Jesus is making a higher-than-normal table and shows his mother how one would sit at it using a chair. It’s such a playful scene, and I love seeing Jesus making a table the way his father would have taught him to. My father is also a tradesman who works with his hands. Throughout my life, my father, like my mother’s father, made things out of wood. It was not much more than a hobby, sometimes a way to save money or make something just the way they wanted it. Now that Mom and Dad are retired, Dad makes outdoor furniture for pleasure and to subsidize their retirement. His rocking chairs are a hot commodity as are his Adirondacks, porch swings, benches, and even birdhouses. His work is popular for two reasons–one, his craftsmanship is beyond compare; and two, my father constructs everything he makes with a healthy dose of love nailed into each board. Not love for what he’s doing, but love for those who placed the order and a genuine love for life and appreciation that he’s still here and still making furniture at eighty-one. I have no doubt the same could be said of Jospeh.
When I got married, just before he walked me down the aisle, my father took me aside and held my hand. He said to me, “Amy, as a wife, and eventually a mother, it will be your responsibility to raise your family in the faith. You will need to make sure your husband goes to church and that your children are baptized and raised in our faith. It will be your most important job in life.” Of all the things my father could have said me at that moment, that’s what he chose to say. It made such a profound impact on me that I still remember it and adhere to it twenty-five years later. If my mother was the one who did that in our house, I don’t remember it. I’ve often wondered, when they first married, did she have to push my dad to go to Mass each week? Did she have to take the lead in teaching us about our faith? I honestly don’t recall. What I do recall is that all five of us attended Mass every single weekend whether we were at home or away. There was never, ever an excuse to skip Mass. It may have been Mom who chaired the church bazaar, presided over the PTA, served on the parish council, raised money to help those with cancer, and volunteered at all of our Catholic school events, but Dad was behind her every step of the way. Like Joseph with Mary, he was the presence that always allowed and encouraged Mom to be the blessed woman she is. He sings her praises every chance he gets, as I’m sure did Jospeh did of Mary.
Joseph never said a recorded word in the Bible, but his actions spoke volumes. He was a husband beyond reproach, a loving father who cared for and protected his son, a hard worker, a witness to his faith, and a “righteous man” who lived for others and for God. I am so blessed to have a father who emulates St. Joseph in all that he says and, more importantly, in all that he does.
Go, then to Joseph, and do all that he shall say to you; Go to Joseph, and obey him as Jesus and Mary obeyed him; Go to Joseph, and speak to him as they spoke to him; Go to Joseph, and consult him as they consulted him; Go to Joseph, and honour him as they honoured him; Go to Joseph, and be grateful to him as they were grateful to him; Go to Joseph, and love him, as they love him still. – St. Alphonsus Liguori
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 Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas 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.
Though you won’t read this until Wednesday, January 16, I’m writing it on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. January 15, 2018 feels like yesterday, and I find it hard to believe an entire 365 days have passed already. On this day, one year ago, our family sat in a church and said goodbye to one of the most beloved human beings I have ever known. Even writing that, I have to squint to see through my tears. Some wounds take a long time to heal. Some never do.
The Italian novelist, Umberto Eco, once said,
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.”
If that is the truth, and I believe it is, then my father-in-law taught us a great many things. He taught us to work hard. He taught us to love life. He taught us to never give up. He taught us to believe in ourselves. He taught us that family always comes first. He taught us to never be too proud to do a job yourself, no matter how dirty. He taught us that God can be found in the most unlikely of places. Most of all, he taught us to laugh–at the world, at our problems, at ourselves.
I grew up hearing people on television make fun of, avoid, and speak ill about their in-laws, and it was never anything I understood. My father and his father-in-law were the best of friends. My father still weeps when he talks about what a wonderful man my grandfather was, what a wonderful friend. I saw their bond and wondered if they were unique or if Hollywood just thought it was funny to act like all in-laws were the kin of satan.
When I became engaged, friends warned me about the power struggle between daughters-in-law and mothers /fathers-in-law. I prayed that I would get along with Ken’s family, that we would love each other no matter what, that we would see past pettiness and be able to enjoy good times together. I hoped for a kind of friendship with Ken’s family–perhaps something like what my father and grandfather had.
What I got was a real, true second set of parents, and not the kind who ground you or tell you what you do wrong or expect you to do everything the way they want it done. I got the kinds of parents I already had. They are kind and loving, fun to be around, and people I genuinely love to spend time with. At the center of the family, for so many years, was Ken’s father, David.
He was never “David” to me. He was always, “Dad.” Almost as much a father to me as my own dad, and that’s saying a lot. I could call on Dad for just about anything, and I did.
When another driver ran a red light and totaled my car, and Ken didn’t have a cell phone (because none of us did back then), I called Dad.
When our oldest daughter was flown to shock trauma after being hit in the head with a baseball bat, and the entire county police force was trying to track down Ken, I called Dad.
Whenever something broke, and Ken was out of town, I called Dad. Or when I needed more firewood. Or when a snowstorm hit, or I needed help hauling some treasure home from the auction.
Dad came to pick us up when Hurricane Isabel hit, and our town was so flooded, we had to leave in a rowboat.
Dad came to help set up and decorate for every celebration, however big or small.
Dad built much of the furniture in our first house and the original kitchen in the house we live in now.Dad “stopped by to bring the girls some doughnuts.” Mind you, he lived 45 minutes away, but he “stopped by” just the same.
Dad became the rock I leaned on when Ken was traveling. He held me when I cried for my grandmother after she passed. He sat next to me in the hospital when the doctor gave Rebecca 11 stitches.
Dad once walked across the field hockey field, minutes before the last game of the season was the begin, just to give Morgan a Hershey Bar and a hug.
Dad once convinced the girls to eat dog food because it “tastes like candy.”
Dad once won “big” at the casino, spent all of his winnings to buy ice cream sundae ingredients, and invited all the grandkids over to celebrate his win.
Dad must have owned fifteen Coast Guard Academy t-shirts and hats, that he wore EVERYWHERE, just so he could tell people that his grandson was there. One Easter, dad showed up with PVC pipes formed into “guns” and taught all the kids how to shoot marshmallows at everyone. And now, a full twelve months after we told him goodbye, I still feel like he’s going to walk in the door any minute with a box of doughnuts, a handful of candy bars, or a homemade cheese danish.
Dad was never a man of great means, but he gave all he had to anyone who needed it. Proverbs 13:22 tells us that “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” It’s not referring to gold or silver or a fancy house or an estate or trust fund. A true inheritance is a lasting legacy–the knowledge that you were loved, the understanding of how to love others, and the wisdom it takes to live a truly good and fruitful life. Ken’s father left us all a mountain of wealth. Like author, Ruth E. Renkel said, “Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.”
We love you Dad, and we miss you. Every single day.
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 Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promiseis 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.
Amy’s next novel, The Devil’s Fortune, will be released in March of 2019.
This past Thursday, I watched Katie play in a tennis match in which she spent each break between games doubled over, holding her stomach. Apparently she was coming down with something, and her stomach cramps were causing her great pain. Afterward, her coach asked her why she didn’t quit or tell him she wasn’t feeling well. Katie just looked up at him and replied, “I wanted to play, and I wanted to win.” And win she did, 8-1, losing only the first game, which is her usual strategy – to spend more time focusing on how her opponent plays than trying to win that first round. Katie ended up being sick all night and stayed home from school the next day but bounced back by early afternoon.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the next comment her coach made, “I guess it runs in the family.” I don’t know why he said that, other than the fact that he has spent the past eight years coaching one Schisler or another in both tennis and field hockey. Surely he knows that neither Rebecca or Morgan let anything stop them from reaching their goals, and he watches Katie do that every day at practice and in matches. Thinking about it made me wonder where they get it from, and that led me to ask where I get it from. The answer is simple.
Over the past thirty years, my father has battled three different types of cancer. He has had a hip replacement and hears very little of what is said to him. In less than three weeks, he will turn eighty, and I’m sure he will spend that day like every other. He will wake up early, walk at least a mile, attend Mass, run errands, and then go to work in his garage, building amazing outdoor chairs or benches or tables, birdhouses, children’s play furniture, bookcases, or closet storage units – whatever has been ordered that week. He’ll spend the evening watching TV with mom, looking forward to watching his Orioles play. Dad was probably one of those kids who got perfect attendance every year in school. He lets nothing slow him down or stop him from achieving whatever goal he has set before him, even if the goal is to simply live to see another day.
My father-in-law once told me that I’m impatient and always want everything “yesterday.” He wasn’t trying to insult me; he was just pointing out that I don’t like waiting for things to be done. And he’s right. But I don’t think it has to do with impatience (although I readily admit to that being one of my major flaws). Rather, I think it’s because an unfinished project or open task means that a goal has not been met; the next goal is put on hold. I constantly have a list running, a tally of things I need to accomplish in a day, a week, a month. My family sees lists posted all over the house that remind them of tasks to be done. If things aren’t completed within my set timeline, it throws off the whole system. It sounds neurotic and controlling, I know, but I tend to see it differently.
You see, we were all put on this earth for a reason, to fulfill something, to attain our purpose. If I were to spend my days taking naps, watching TV, playing video games, or socializing with friends, does that mean I would enjoy life more? Would I obtain greater satisfaction? A bigger sense of fulfillment? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. On the other hand, when I finish a successful week of summer camp and see the girls leaving with smiles on their faces, calling to their friends, “See you next year,” I am filled with deep, unwavering satisfaction. All of the time and effort that I put into planning the camp, throughout the entire year, pays off. It’s the same with my writing. Selling books and garnering good reviews isn’t a means to satisfying my wallet but a means to satisfying my soul. It’s the feeling of a job well done, but more importantly, it’s the feeling of bringing enjoyment to others. And sometimes, like with finishing my new home office, it’s simply the sense of satisfaction that it brings to me.
Perhaps I have it all wrong. Maybe pushing myself to stay on task, looking ahead to the next thing on the list, and constantly striving to accomplish my goals isn’t good for me. Perhaps I’ve created monsters that my children will never be able to overcome that will lead them to anxiety, fear of failure, and the inability to move forward. I certainly hope not. I hope that they will learn to harness anxiety and turn it into motivation, recognize that failure is sometimes success on an alternate path, and that moving forward sometimes means taking one baby step at a time. I also hope that we all continue working hard, crossing off our goals, and enjoying our lives until we’re at least eighty. My dad seems to have found the path to a long and happy life. All I can do is pray that I’m following in his footsteps.
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. 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.
I’m going to do something today that I never thought I would do. I have the privilege of aligning myself with one of my greatest idols, master story-teller, George Lucas. This morning, I re-watched Lucas’ interview with Charlie Rose; and for the second time, I was mesmerized by his story and struck by his priorities. When asked why Lucas walked away from directing for fifteen years, he said “I wanted to be a dad.” Wow. One of the most successful movie makers in the world, and arguably the most successful story-teller of our time, walked away from it all to be a dad; not a politician, not an actor or a rock star, not some other avenue toward greater celebrity, but a dad.
Yes, one could argue that Lucas had no need for more wealth or greater celebrity, but in today’s world, that’s hardly the point. In a world where everyone’s main objective seems to be to grow richer and more famous, here is a man who had it all, the world at his fingertips, and the only thing he really cared about was being a good dad. Read more →
Here we are in the month of November, the one month of the year when everybody seems to be grateful for something – actually 30 somethings – one new thing every day. While I applaud the effort of those truly trying to show their gratitude, I find myself wondering every year, are these people thankful for these things all year long or just when they can post it on Facebook for all the world to see? Do any of us really understand what it means to be grateful? Are those petty little things actually the things in life for which we are the most thankful? Why do we take so much for granted, whether that means appreciating something just once a year or never giving it a thought at all?
This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Cartagena, Colombia (I’m grateful for business trips to exotic places and for frequent flyer mileage). While we were there, we took an excursion that led us off the beaten path and through a rural landscape that revealed poverty the likes of which I have never seen, and I’m sure few people in this country could imagine. We recently began sponsoring a young boy in Colombia, and I cried when I looked at the huts outside of my window and pictured him living in one of them. We asked if we could send him shoes or clothing, and we were told no because it might cause him harm to have things that nobody else has. How sad, how tragic to think that a simple pair of shoes is too much for a person to even hope for.
Hey, listen, I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to buying things I don’t need, eating more than my share, taking for granted all that I am blessed to have. All I ask is that every United States citizen stops and takes a minute to think about all that they have and how lucky they are to live in a land where we have the ability to run to the store for milk, shop whenever we want new clothes, or even just change our shoes when our feet get sore. Be grateful that you have family and friends, that you have a home and means of transportation, that you have the freedom to worship, work, and play however you please, and that there are men and women standing guard at night while you’re asleep making sure that you can wake up tomorrow and still have all of those opportunities.
We are among the lucky ones. Remember, not just today, but every day to thank God, your parents, your teachers, and our military for all of the sacrifices they have made for you. It’s not about the cars and houses and material things. It’s about the life you live and those who are a part of it. Smile and be thankful – every minute of every day.
Special thanks on this Veteran’s Day to my father, Richard; my father-in-law, David; our friend, Nick; and my nephew, Ty for their service to our country.
Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble. Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.
I was listening to my favorite radio show this morning, Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd, and he mentioned that he had gone fishing in Wyoming over the weekend. For the rest of the ride home, I thought about my favorite fishing memory and how much it meant to me, still means to me. I grew up spending my summers on the water with my grandfather. I have many fond memories of jumping off the dock with my cousins, crabbing with Granddad (the subject of my first book), and going fishing. Often, my father would join us if it wasn’t a weekday or if he and mom had taken off from work and were down at Grandma’s with us for a few days. Fishing was a past time that we all enjoyed, and I still enjoy it today. Read more →
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