A Little Time to Spare

Yesterday, I was out running errands while Morgan was at field hockey practice. I just got a new car, and I wanted to organize the storage space in the front seat, so I ran to my favorite home organization store – the Dollar Tree. If you’ve never done home organization shopping at the Dollar Tree, then you are missing out. Every room of my house has the perfect containers, all purchased for a dollar each! Anyway, I was standing in the back of the store, weighing my options and trying to decide what would work best, when an older man stopped nearby to look at something.

“Hmm, sugar free chocolate. I wonder if it’s any good,” he said to himself.

Glancing over, I saw the display of Baker’s Chocolate that had caught his attention. I winced.

“Only for baking,” I told him. “You definitely do not want to eat it. It’s very bitter.”

He looked at the box for a moment, and then I saw understanding dawn. 

“I guess the name should have given that away. I’m diabetic, and the words ‘no sugar’ jumped out at me. I sure miss eating chocolate.”

Before I knew it, this man launched into a story about his younger sister who had eaten a whole box of ExLax as a child. It was much more information than I needed to know about this stranger and his family, but I smiled and listened. When he finished his story, I nodded, picked up the plastic containers I’d been eyeing, and began to turn away. But I didn’t get far. 

“I have three kids,” this man proceeded to tell me. Before I could say that I, too, have three children, or rather, before I could escape and run down the aisle, he began telling me about his children and his grandchildren. Twenty minutes and several stories later, I smiled, told him I enjoyed talking to him, and wished him a nice day. The entire time he talked, my mind was screaming, “Don’t you get that I have things to do?” But my heart was saying, this man needs to talk.

Perhaps his wife has a medical issue and can’t hold a conversation with him. Perhaps he recently retired and is at loose ends in his life. Perhaps he is just so filled with joy at this stage of his life that he wants the world to know it. Whatever the reason, he chose me to spend close to a half hour regaling with stories. In the end, I paid for my stuff, ran to the grocery store, and still had time to sit in the school parking lot and organize my car. What could have been seen as lost time in my otherwise very busy day, ended up being just a few minutes that I had to spare.

It’s crazy how busy we all are. My days seem to roll by at a constant speed with little time to take a break. If you had told me yesterday morning that I’d spend part of my day listening to a stranger tell me how he feels when his grandson lays his head on his lap and looks up and says, “Grandpa, I love you,” I would have told you no way, I had no time for that. But, as it turned out, I had plenty of time. In fact, I had more than enough time. It’s amazing how sometimes, when we’re open to it, God allows us to make time for little things like listening to a stranger. And that makes me wonder.

If I had been on my phone, if I was one of those people who walks around with earbuds in my ears all day, or if I had simply ignored this man’s comment to himself about the chocolate, the conversation never would have taken place. Would my day have changed? Not at all. But would his? I’ll never know. But God does. He knew that I was meant to be there at that time. He knew that this man needed someone to listen. He knew that my day would turn out just fine if I spared a few minutes for a stranger. He knew that I’d still be thinking about it today. Maybe that man is still thinking about it, too. And maybe it was just what he needed.

Rick Warren

What I was writing about one year ago this week: America, Our Ship is Sinking.

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, 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 on pre-sale. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.

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)

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)

Do You Believe in Miracles?

DSC06791A few years ago, our family took a vacation to Canada. While there, we visited the Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupre. Upon entering the church, the first thing one notices are the displays of canes, crutches, and other medical devices left behind by those who have been healed in the church. While standing and observing one such display, I watched as a man and woman, presumably part of a tour group, walked into the church. The man wondered aloud about the display. The woman read to him from a nearby sign that explained the significance of the objects. The man laughed quite loudly and said “what a joke” before walking away.  I could have been angered, annoyed, or even offended by his reaction and words, but instead, I felt sorry for him.

Today, one can watch an Olympic hockey team go from being the underdogs to Gold Medalists and declare it a “miracle” yet be unable to recognize that real, faith-infused miracles actually exist. The cry of a newborn baby, the survivor of an accident in which nobody should have been spared, the chance meeting of two people destined to be together – these are not simply random happenings, unexplained phenomena, or cosmic chaos made right. These are just a few of the every day miracles that go unrecognized as such. Is a man who is declared to be cancer-free simply a beneficiary of science, or a living, breathing miracle?  What is so wrong with believing, not only that all things are possible with God, but that all things are possible because of Him?

I am often amazed by the amount of people in this world who would rather believe that all things just “happen” instead of believing that there exists someone greater than the sum of all parts who sees things exactly the way they should be and makes it happen. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all believed that anything is possible?  I’m not talking about a Pollyanna existence, but an “I can do anything through Him who strengthens me” existence. A recent study shows that people who rely solely on God for help and healing have a lesser chance of actually getting well. While I understand how this can be, and I certainly believe in modern medicine, there is something to be said for asking God to intervene. After all, doctors are only human. Why not ask for a little help from above? In fact, friend and radio host, Gus Lloyd, recently said, “Sometimes prayer is all we can do, and it’s the better portion.”

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, about ten years ago, he sought all the medical help he could find. He did everything the doctors prescribed. But he also prayed. Daily. And with profound belief that God would hear his prayers. Dad turned 80 two weeks ago. A miracle? Perhaps not, but there are proven medical miracles that even doctors can’t explain. Many of them. How else can we describe those other than as miracles?

Studies show that those of us who do believe in miracles experience increased satisfaction in life and greater protection against the negative effects of stress. Perhaps that’s just by chance. As for me, I subscribe to the belief that every day lived is a miracle and that true miracles exist all around us. Why would anyone want it any other way?

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What I was writing about one year ago this week: Be the Apple.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  It’s Been a Great Four Years by Rebecca Schisler in The Mountain EchoWhy I Like Travel With Kids More Than When I Was Single by Wonderoak; 7 Challenges Successful People Overcome by Dr. Travis Bradberry, author Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

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/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 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

hands.JPGHow 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)

Lighting the Way This Christmas

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About ten years ago, I had a public disagreement with someone who was the leader of an organization that I was and still am a part of.  We were planning a trip for a large number of young girls, and we were at odds over the logistics of the trip.  After causing a bit of a scene, this person ended the meeting and then called the “higher ups” to complain about my alleged coup.  A friend, who was at the meeting, asked me, “Does she know about everything you’re going through right now?” After I shook my head to say no, she replied, “You should tell her.  She shouldn’t be treating you like that.”

You see, my grandmother had recently had a debilitating stroke and was going downhill fast; my father had just been diagnosed with cancer, again; one of our daughters was really struggling with bullies at school, and we were in the process of trying to figure out how to send all three girls to the Catholic school where we so desperately wanted them to be anyway.  To make matters worse, Ken had unexpectedly resigned from his job after life in the political limelight became too much for us all; and just when I had decided to stay home and try to get my writing career started, a tumor was discovered on my uterus and would require surgery and a biopsy.  It seemed that my entire world was falling apart before my eyes, but very few people actually knew the whole of what we were facing.  Ken wasn’t sleeping at all at night because he worried about us losing everything if he didn’t find a job.  Our daughter cried uncontrollably every morning when I tried to put her on the bus, and our savings was quickly being depleted with no hope in sight.  But it all taught me some very important lessons. 

First, have faith, always.  I never let my faith waiver.  I knew that, despite both us being out of work, God was going to provide.  I knew that if He wanted our children to change schools, He would make it happen.  I knew that whatever was to come, we could face it together.  The story of how we overcame all of this can be saved for another day, but suffice it to say that God came through in some very miraculous ways.  Yes, faith the size of a mustard seed can indeed move mountains.

Another very important thing I learned was that while I was suffering inside, so, too, might this other person have been suffering.  I knew very little about her.  I had never met her before joining this group, and after this incident drove her to quit the organization, I never saw her again.  I often wonder if things might have turned out differently had I taken the time to get to know her, to talk to her, to ask her if everything was okay.  Perhaps she wasn’t upset with me or our group at all.  Perhaps there was something bigger going on in her life, and she felt things spiraling out of control just as I had.  Maybe planning this trip was too much for her with whatever else was going on.  Sadly, I’ll never know.  In all honesty, I can’t say I’ve gotten better at this, but I do try to be a little more empathetic.

Finally, we all have opportunities to reach out to and help one another.  Not only my faith in God, but my friends and family got me through one of the hardest times in my life.  Though very few people knew the whole story, those who did became my rocks.  They prayed for me, brought my family meals after my surgery, cleaned my house, and took care of my children.  And over the years, I’ve tried to repay them and pay it forward.

We’re in the season of Advent.  It’s a time of preparation but also a time of healing, of sharing, of reaching out to others.  There is so much that we can do, in ways both large and small, to have an impact on the lives of others.  Take your children to drop off gifts at a homeless shelter or a prison.  Support your local organizations that help those in need (look for a St. Vincent de Paul Society near you and ask how you can help).  Bake cookies for the shut-in across the street, and spend time with her when you deliver them.  Call an old friend or family member who you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.  Let go of old grudges, and forgive.  Open your heart to the relatives you’d rather not spend time with.  Ask them how they are, and let them know you care.

I remember one Christmas, many, many years ago. I might have been seven or eight, but I’m really not sure.  There was a report on the news about a poor family in DC who not only had no presents but no clothes, no food, and no heat.  I think there was a new baby in the house, and the family would be lucky to make it through Christmas.  If my parents looked at each other with sadness as we watched the story, I didn’t notice.  When they discussed it, I don’t know.  How they found out where this family lived, I have no idea.  But one evening, my father came home and loaded us all into his car.  We drove into the city, going to a neighborhood we wouldn’t have entered during the day, not to mention at night.  When the mother opened the door, we all stood on her front step with wrapped presents, bags of clothes, and food.  I’ll never forget her tears or the way she hugged us all.  I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of the little children as they reached for their presents.  Maybe some of these details are a little mixed up.  Maybe I invented half of them with the imagination of a child who witnessed something akin to a miracle, but this is how I remember it.  I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas that year.  To be honest, we didn’t have extra money growing up, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some, maybe all, of those wrapped presents were meant for us.  What I do remember is that there never was and never will be another Christmas quite like that one.

So maybe you can’t solve all of the world’s problems this holiday season.  Maybe you can’t supply Christmas for a needy family.  But I bet you can find something to do to brighten someone’s day, to make their holiday a little more joyous.  Look beyond what you see in each person and what you think you know about them, and find a reason to love them anyway.  And let them know it.  When Christmas arrives, you will be more than prepared.  You will be lighting the way.

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 most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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), Whispering Vines (2016)

“Without any doubting or quiddit”

img_0995My daughter, Rebecca, will be taking the LSAT this weekend and I’m sure you can imagine that she’s quite nervous about it.  She’s afraid that she won’t get a high enough score to get into the school of her choice, but I’m not worried.  I know that she’s going to do just fine.  And if she doesn’t?  What if she walks in there and completely goes blank?  What if she forgets everything she has ever learned or studied about the law?  I’m sure that she will see herself as a total failure.  I’m sure that she will see herself as having made an unforgivable error in judgment.  But we have heard time and again, and I truly believe, that failure is just the first step on the road to success.  No, it’s not what she would want to hear, but it’s true.  We all screw up.  We all make mistakes.  And if we take what we’ve learned, see through the haze of self-doubt and recriminations, then we can use our past failures as steps to success. 

Many of my friends have ‘favorite saints,’ people who have come before us and set an example for us, and can now intercede on our behalves when we need extra help.  Many of these saints are seen by the world as flawless believers who never had a misstep or lapse of judgement, who never committed a sin or broke a law, and who never wavered in their faith in God and themselves.  Well, those people would be very, very wrong.  In fact, most of the saints made the same mistakes we make, but they didn’t give up or give in.  They continued to work every day to become the person that God knew they could be.  The same goes for so many average individuals throughout history.  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.  Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before inventing the lightbulb.  Henry Ford went bankrupt trying to invent the car. But they all persevered, believing they had something to offer the world.

Those individuals did not dwell on failure.  They knew that it’s in seeing past the possibility of failure that we achieve success.  When Rebecca was in high school, she participated in Poetry Out Loud and blazed through the competition, just missing the chance to compete at Nationals.  One of the poems she recited was It Couldn’t Be Done by Edward Albert Guest.  His formula to success was quite elementary, “I take simple everyday things that happen to me and I figure it happens to a lot of other people and I make simple rhymes out of them.”  Those rhymes are an inspiration to anyone who hears them.  Rebecca, I’m sure, remembers every line of that poem, and I urge her to recite it before the test.  For those of you unfamiliar with the rhyme, you might just want to memorize it yourself and pull it out of the recesses of your brain when you’re faced with a daunting task.

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This past weekend, we attended Family Fest at Rebecca’s university, Mount St. Mary’s. We met and spoke with several professors who sang Rebeca’s praises.  One of them,  a science professor, said that Rebecca reminded her of herself.  She said that someone once told her that she was going to be successful because she was too naive to see borders and would just plow through them.  There is no doubt that the same has been and will continue to be said about Rebecca.  So I’d like to leave her and all of you with some quotes of inspiration.  This is the advice that I want Rebecca to take with her into the LSAT this weekend.  Be strong, have faith, and do your best.  You will not fail because when you look into the future, you can only see the path to success.

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho

“to fear nothing, not failure or suffering or even death, indicates that you value life the most. You live to the extreme; you push limits; you spend your time building legacies.” – Criss Jami

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t try to do something remarkable.” – John Green

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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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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), Whispering Vines (2016)

 

Speak Softly, and Write a Love Letter to the World

mother-teresa-biographyFirst, let me get one thing straight right off the bat. This past Sunday, Pope Francis acclaimed that Mother Teresa is a saint.  He did not make her a saint as so many are incorrectly saying.  The Church does not make saints.  Only God makes saints.  The Church acclaims to the world that a person is a model for everyone to follow in their daily lives, thus calling that person a ‘saint.’  Okay, now that we have that out of the way, please allow me to continue.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was a remarkable woman.  She left behind so many things, including her wisdom.  She told us:

“We do not need to carry out grand things in order to show a great love for God and for our neighbor. It is the intensity of love we put into our gestures that makes them into something beautiful for God.”

“Since we cannot see Christ, we cannot express our love to Him. But we do see our neighbor, and we can do for him what we would do for Christ if He were visible.”

“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.”

“It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.”

“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

No wait, that was Theodore Roosevelt, and it wasn’t about God; it was about political and military might, but here’s where I think the similarity lies.  Mother Teresa spoke softly but carried the might of God.  She didn’t need political power; in fact, she had none.  She didn’t need military power; in fact, she believed only in peace.  She knew that the only weapon she needed was love.  Love is the “big stick” that we are all called to carry.  And though she would have had other things in mind, can’t you see Mother Teresa advising her fellow sisters to “Speak softly?”

Oh how hard that is.  When someone has wronged you, when you’re cut off by another driver, when your child has misbehaved, isn’t one of your first reactions to yell?  Often times, mine is, and it shames me.  Later, I will always think of so many other ways that I could have better handled the situation.  I know, I see it in their faces, detect it in their shift of posture; no child, or any person for that matter, continues to listen once we lose control of our own emotions.  We might as well be yelling at a brick wall or an empty chair.  And how does that make that other person feel?  No doubt, like the empty chair.  Like they’re not actually there in your eyes, not worthy of your respect, not worthy of being spoken to with dignity, not worthy of having an open dialogue with you.  

My children had a favorite middle school teacher.  They still talk about her today, the respect she showed them, how hard they were willing to work for her, how much they learned from her both academically and as a person.  They often say, when telling others about her, that even when she was angry, she spoke softly, and with a smile.  That’s what impressed them the most.  That she never, ever lost her temper, never spoke harshly to anyone, never treated another person with disrespect, and was never without a smile.  I can’t look at her today without thinking about the impact she had on them, and I pray that they will always take her behavior and attitude to heart.

Each of us is called to strive to be a better person, the person whom God created us to be.  I know that I have a long way to go, but it helps to have examples all around us that we can look to as role models — saints and middle school teachers alike (heck, I think anyone who teaches middle school must be destined for sainthood).  Each of us is called to treat each other with kindness, to see every person as someone deserving of love, respect, and dignity.  Every act throughout every day should be an act of love, which brings me to my favorite Mother Teresa quote of all time.  

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

May you add your own paragraph to that love letter in all that you do and concerning every person you meet.

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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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), Whispering Vines (2016)

 

Seeking the Silver Lining

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Recently, I sat in my car outside of a local pool waiting to hear whether or not Morgan’s swim meet was going to be cancelled. I was shocked when I saw Morgan climb onto the block and dive into the pool as the wind whipped through my open windows and the clouds darkened to a ominous, charcoal color. Were they actually letting the kids go into the water? Was nobody going to acknowledge the coming storm? Why weren’t they cancelling the meet? The weather was predicted to get worse as the evening went on. 

I sat and watched the clouds roll in, and raindrops began to ping on my windshield, growing more intense each second. It occurred to me that so many people go through life without acknowledging the coming storms. They look straight ahead with blinders on, oblivious to the gathering clouds and flashes of lightning. They close their ears to the crashing thunder and the howling wind. And then they’re shocked when they end up soaked and seeking shelter in a place where there is no place to go. 

I’m not a worrier, never have been. I keep my chin up and my spirits bright. God carries my worries, and my burden is light. However, I am always keeping my eye to the sky, recognizing that having faith and being prepared is not the same as being oblivious to the storm. 

We are entering hurricane season. Yes, it’s August, but I’m speaking about a separate hurricane season, one from which nobody in this country will escape no matter where they live. Our world is in crisis. Our politicians act shocked that things have gone this far – that terrorists are striking daily in major cities all over the world, that the people sworn to protect us aren’t always the good guys, and that the ones who are the good guys are being targeted and struck down as if they are a disease that must be eradicated. 

I wish I knew the answer, a simple way to stop the hatred, the distrust, the fear. I wish we had a better crop of politicians who would unite our nation and allow every person, from the unborn to the elderly, to live with dignity and respect. I wish we could all see past colors and borders and love everyone as God calls us to do. When will we come out of this storm and see the silver lining? At this time, I don’t see an end to the bad weather, and it is frightening. I find myself constantly relying on my faith, trusting that, somehow, things will get better, that the clouds will clear, the sun will shine, and the world will be washed clean for everyone to come out and enjoy it together.

Against all predictions, and my own misgivings, the sun did come out that evening, and the swim meet went on as planned. While I still believe that we need to be prepared and watch for the coming storms, I was reminded that night that it’s sometimes even more important to just have faith that all will turn out the way it was meant to be. Carry your umbrella, but have faith that the clouds will part, and trust that the storms will lead to a sunnier tomorrow.

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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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), Whispering Vines (2016)