Earning Fs in Life

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

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

What? All Fs?

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

Because…

The real gifts in life all begin with the letter, F. In all that we do, we should strive to achieve those Fs. Below are the few that Father pointed out as well as a few that I have taken the liberty of adding:

 

 

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Family: A simple internet search brings up many published articles with titles such as,  For Happiness, Seek Family, Not Fortune – WebMD, Family Talk: Family makes many of us happy – NewsOK, and Families Are Changing, But Still Key to Happiness. Study after study proves that having a tight-knit family leads to happiness. Family can do more than provide stability. Family gives us a whole group of people to lean on, a built-in support system, a ready-made network, and a circle of friends. My mother is, and always has been, my best friend. My husband is my rock. My sister-in-law and I are each other’s spiritual warriors. My brothers are there for me in thick and thin. I can call on my Aunt Debbie for anything and everything. My mother-in-law is a second mother to me, and my children are the lights of my life. At the core of all of this is one simple thing – love, a deep and unwavering love for each other.

Friends: I have quoted the book of Sirach more than once and will happily do so again. “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure” (Sirach 6:14). And who can forget the immortal words of the angel, Clarence, in Frank Capra’s timeless story of the importance of friends, It’s a Wonderful Life? “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” This past Monday, our Bible study group discussed the importance of having meaningful relationships with friends, all kinds of friends, including those who bring us to a deeper faith.
Sirach

Faith: Though I am listing this as number three, I firmly believe that faith is the most important F in our lives. For every article about the importance of family, there are ten about the importance of faith. As we were told by Jesus, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Faith is what gets us through the hard times, believing that things will get better. Faith helps us stay on track when everything around us seems to go awry. Faith can lead to miracles (see my blog about the movie, Breakthrough).

Famliy Fun.jpgFun: Where would we be if we never had fun? It’s more than just a notion, more than a passing moment, more than a childish endeavor. Seeking and having fun is necessary in so many areas of our lives. Psychology Today tells us that Having Fun Must be Taken Seriously for it is through fun that people learn to negotiate rules, develop healthy lifestyles, gain emotional control and social competency, grow personal resiliency, and hone curiosity. Psychologist Marc Bekoff Ph.D. writes “Play is a banquet for the brain, a smorgasbord for the senses, providing nourishment for body and spirit.” He also says that we, Americans, are forgetting the importance of the feast and not joining the buffet line when it comes to seeking and creating fun in our lives. We work too hard and play too little. We need people like my cousin, Eleanor, in our lives to remind us to have fun.

Fulfillment: I believe that all of us have a need to feel fulfilled. While all of the other Fs mentioned above can and should contribute to that fulfillment, each of us is put here on Earth to serve a purpose. We each have our meaning in life–the pursuit of that which makes us feel whole. For some, it’s charity work. For others, it’s career. For others, it’s providing a loving home for their families. However, I find that what we think is our purpose in life is often what we’ve been told is our purpose–to have a good career, to make lots of money, to provide a big house with lots of stuff for our families. The simple truth is, the life purpose of each person goes beyond what he earns or what she does for a living. It is, again, that thing which makes us feel whole, that which inspires us to a higher calling. 

Fortune: We should all strive to achieve great fortune in life–riches and wealth beyond compare. However, these riches do not consist of the material things we own, and the wealth, of which I speak, is not the amount of money we have in the bank. The fortune we should seek is that which encompasses all of the other Fs that we should be earning throughout our lives. We need to gather our family closer and cherish them. We need to collect good and faithful friends who will lift us up. We need to have the faith to move many mountains. We must amass hours of fun. We must search for what will lead us to fulfillment. When we have all of those things, we all will have cups overflowing with the sweetest drink.

So, I urge you, go out and earn those Fs. If you do, you will leave this world as an A+ student of life.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: I Was a Free-Range Kid.

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 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

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).

Strangers in a Strange Land

Smithsonian Mag - The Search for Jesus
Our Group of Pilgrims
It was early when we gathered, strangers in a strange land, having flown through the night and disembarked bleary-eyed, yet ready for adventure. A few people spoke; many smiled and nodded in acknowledgement. We shared a purpose, the same excitement and expectations, but were strangers nonetheless. With suitcases in hand, we boarded our assigned buses, most of us now having met three or four others. What would this week bring? How would we get along? How would this land of Moses change us?

It changed us in ways none of us could quite guess as of yet. We met our guides and watched eagerly as they pointed to landmarks on the landscape. Galilee is green. Did you know that? It is fertile and pleasant, even in the month of February. A cautious camaraderie formed during the first lunch, each person feeling out the others. Thank Heaven for Facebook, the genius of modern communication that allowed us to identify our fellow travelers and make small talk.

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Ken and I renewing our vows
Each day brought new things to see and places to go. Our first major site was the Church of the Annunciation, and we all left with high hopes and renewed zeal for the coming days.  “How can it get any better than this?” We thought when Father Darryl reminded us that “the Word was made flesh, here.”  But it did. That afternoon, we visited Cana where many of us renewed our wedding vows. While there was not a dry eye in the church, there were many laughs accompanied by food and dance at the “reception” that evening.

 

 

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The Sea of Galilee
In Mark 4: 35-41, the winds whipped across the Sea of Galilee. For us, they were calm when day two ushered in a boat ride for the one-hundred pilgrims who were talking, praying, and taking pictures with traveling companions. A moment of raw emotion took me by surprise when a fellow pilgrim stopped me to tell me that, in my smile, she had seen the face of her dear friend, who had recently passed. That is a moment I will never forget. A connection was made, and, I hope, perhaps a healing had begun. Later that day, we walked through the Valley of the Doves, literally following the footsteps of Jesus. It was unforgettable.

 

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The holy place of Peter’s Primacy
Ken was moved to tears at the Church of the Transfiguration, and we continued on our journey toward Jerusalem, stopping at Jericho for lunch. The sound of the call to prayer filled the Muslim dominated town as we ate and talked, each person learning more about our new friends. A visit to the seashore to recall the Lord’s command to Peter to shepherd His flock, left us all hearing the question, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

 

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The star marking the spot of Jesus’ birth
The next morning found us in Bethlehem where the true purpose of our trip began to
settle in. Though under construction, the Church of the Nativity loomed large and glorious before us. Kneeling before the place, where once laid a newborn King, was humbling for all of us. In Shepherd’s Field, we imagined what it must have been like when the light of a mystical star shone overhead, beckoning the shepherds from the cave to be greeted by a heavenly host of angels.

 

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Garden of Gethsemane
On Friday, we stood in the chapel at Pater Noster and held hands as we prayed the words the Lord prayed on the ground where the Apostles first learned the prayer. To describe my emotions would be inadequate as mere words cannot express what that felt like. It was as if the Lord stood in our midst. But the best was yet to come as that day gave way to one emotional moment after another. Walking the Palm Sunday path, we found ourselves descending the Mount of Olives and entering the Garden of Gethsemane. Our guide shared with us his personal belief that Jesus’ prayer that this cup be passed was not a moment of weakness and fear of the coming pain of crucifixion, but of the coming pain of the kiss, the betrayal by one He loved. Never again will I think of that Biblical scene without recalling that thought.

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Strangers no more
From there, we entered the Upper Room, the approximation of where the Lord and His disciples shared the Last Supper. It was during Mass on this hallowed ground that I watched, during the handshake of peace, as each person in the room hugged, kissed, and greeted each other by name, all pretenses gone. No more strangers. At that moment, we all felt it. We were among true friends.

 

 

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The tomb of Christ
The culmination of the trip took place at sunrise on Saturday morning. As the glow of the candles danced on the marble, and the Franciscan Monks sang the High Mass, Father Darryl celebrated the most unforgettable Mass of my life. To stand before the tomb of the risen Lord and partake in His meal of everlasting life, while doves sat in the church’s recesses above our heads, was too surreal to imagine. I tried to sing, tried to utter the prayers I had been hearing and saying all of my life, but the conflicting combination of sadness and joy were overwhelming. To lay my head on the Lord’s tomb, and then to kneel at Calvary, was almost too much to take in all at once. As Jesus did, we wept.

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Along the Via Delarosa
I will never forget the Via Delarosa, the walk through the streets of Jerusalem while praying the Stations of the Cross. As tourists and other pilgrims watched our group, and those used to such events went on with their daily lives, we traced the steps of our Lord from Pilate’s Praetorian to Calvary. The day was filed with more emotion than I’m sure any of us knew we were capable of.  Before heading to the airport on Sunday, Ken and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk back down to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher once again. This time, we were alone, no crowd of one-hundred, whispering and waiting their turn to spend just a few seconds at the empty tomb. With just ten people in front of us, we waited in line until it was time to say our final prayers at the site of the Resurrection. We savored the moment, knowing that this might be the one and only time in our lives that we would be able to visit this land of holiness and turmoil.

 

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A group of friends at our farewell dinner
When we finished our last dinner together, later that evening, the tears began to flow. Our lives had been changed forever. We were now fishers of men, charged with the task of returning to our homes and loved ones and sharing with them all that we had seen and heard. Unlike the first time we gathered at the airport, this time there was laughter, a final toast, sharing of memories, and plans to see each other again. No longer strangers in a strange land, I believe we all felt as if we had come home, and in doing so, met the family we never knew we had.

 

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is due out in the summer of 2016.

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

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

S’More Fun To Be Had

DSC01385For a country where all are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we sure do have to put up with a plethora of rules and regulations.  In my ten years as a camp director, I’ve seen the regulations regarding overnight camps skyrocket.  This year I will have 100 girls and 60 staff members at camp all week.  Think about that – a 6 to 10 ratio!  Why?  There is now a requirement that I give a two-hour break to all staff members every day.  I know, I know, that sounds reasonable enough; but this is an all-volunteer camp.  These adults have volunteered their time 24 hours a day (because incidents at camp don’t stop when the lights go out), and they expect to be busy running programs, watching on the beachfront, helping with crafts, going on hikes, etc. None of us expects to sit lazily under a tree or take a nap in our cabins for two hours.  And mealtimes and recreational time don’t count as breaks.  I’m turning away girls because I have to house staff in order to satisfy this rule.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our volunteers, but I’d love to welcome more girls to the joys of camp.

And paperwork!  You wouldn’t believe the amount of paperwork that has to be done to become a volunteer.  In addition to a lengthy application and three references who submit very detailed analyses of each volunteer, everyone has to do a background check through our Girl Scout Council, a state and federal fingerprint check, and a child protective services background check.  The theory is that one will catch what another misses.  Add to all of that the number of trainings required in order to run any type of program, and I’m surprised the volunteers don’t go running in the other direction.

Believe me, I know that our top priority is the safety of the girls, and I’m all for that.  But as Director, all of this paperwork is killing me.  Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the medical information we are required to obtain, each piece carefully documented and signed by a physician.  Something tells me that Lord Baden Powell and Juliette Gordon Lowe would have given up before they even got started if they were trying to take children camping today.

Let’s hope that all of the state, national, and Council requirements don’t steer others from stepping up as camp directors and volunteers. Imagine all of this plus the time and effort put into just the administration and operation of the camp itself – planning programs, unit and cabin assignments, scheduling all events for the week without conflicts, meal planning, evening activities, and much, much more. It’s a grueling and full-time job at times, and I often wonder why I continue doing it.

Then the most amazing thing happens.  The time for camp arrives, and I see, often for the first time in a year, the wonderful volunteers I have come to love.  After spending 24 hours unpacking, cleaning, organizing, and setting up for camp, we greet the campers, smiling, happy girls from ages six to thirteen.  We work hard all week, but we have fun, too.  From the first night scavenger hunt to the closing ceremony, the smiles and laughs far outweigh the frustrations.  There is nothing else I would rather be doing each summer than spending it with this group.  We are family, and as we all know, family stays together through good and bad, thick and thin, sun and rain (but, please, no rain)!  So as the time grows near, and the first day of camp quickly approaches, I say let’s have s’more fun!

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com