Though the entire world always seems to ignore the month of November and move right into December, November is the month of giving thanks. I’d like to take just a few minutes to share some things for which I am eternally grateful (in no particular order).
My husband and children
My Friends, near and far
Those who serve
My you all have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. God bless you, and God bless our land.
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.
School has been out for less than a week, and so far, my girls have worked at their respective jobs, gone kayaking, watched movies on our backyard movie screen, gone on bike rides and boat rides, and spent time lying on the hammock, reading books. The requirements that they get outside every day, read every day, and work a summer job have been drilled into them their entire lives. However, I still see them spending way more time on their electronic devices than I would like, but I’m coming up with some ways to change that. And you should, too. Since it’s summer time, I’m going to ask you to step outside. Outside your house or office, outside your comfort zone, maybe even outside of yourself.
There is a whole world outside that awaits you, but the only way to really appreciate it is to get up off the couch or away from your desk, and go outside to see it. Perhaps this means taking a bike ride, going out on the water, or even visiting a museum. The main point is to get outside of your house. Go somewhere. Do something. You’ll be amazed at what you might learn. But first, you’ll need to…
It takes hard work and effort to break a habit. Believe it or not, that phone is not actually glued to your hand. And don’t think that I’m Miss Perfect when it comes to putting down my phone. I’m absolutely as bad as the next person. The other night, we were watching a movie in the backyard when Rebecca looked around and said, “Every one of you is playing a game on your phone or iPad instead of watching the movie.” While I protested that I could certainly watch a movie and play Words With Friends at the same time, I knew she was right. Note to self: the next time we have movie night, the iPad stays in the house. Watching a movie in the backyard with my family, with a glowing fire blazing nearby, and two dogs slumbering next to my chair, should be all the entertainment I need.
ry something new
Last week, I wrote about trying something new. There is so much in the world that I haven’t done, and I’ve done a lot! I could probably make a list of over 100 things that I’d still like to do. Of course, I can’t fit them all in this summer, but I’ve been trying to decide lately what I can do. For starters, I cut a mango today for the very first time. And I’m going to be visiting my first active volcano in July! Now those are certainly very different firsts, but they both count! Your something new can be small, large, or life-changing. The point is, you’re trying something new, but you must do it physically and not using a phone, tablet, or laptop!
ee the world
Ken gets very frustrated when we go on long drives and everyone has their eyes glued to some kind of screen. “Look around you,” he’ll cry. “You’re missing all the good stuff.” And as much as I love to read in the car, I know he’s right. When everyone is staring at their screens, they’re missing the real show outside their window. Luckily, my girls have been able to experience some of the those beautiful things they’ve missed as the world goes by while they’re on their phones. They’ve slid down a snowy hill on a warm, sunny day in the middle of July. They’ve white-water-rafted in the Rocky mountains. They’ve kayaked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. And not once during any of those times did they ask, “Where’s my phone.”
Imagine a world without cell phones. I know, we say it all the time, “What did we ever do without cell phones?” Or without computers? Hmmm, let me see if I remember. Oh yeah, we talked. We played. We stayed out late, well after dark, playing hide and seek and jailbreak. We played street hockey. We rode bikes. We played flag football in the backyard. We went on long walks, spent time in the neighborhood park, took tennis lessons, joined Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and so much more. The list goes on and on. And not once did we wonder what we were missing. Not once did we worry about who was trying to reach us while we were out. Imagine what life would be like if we could do all those things today without frantically looking for a place to charge our phones!
Discover life beyond your laptop. A study in New York Magazine from 2015 showed that about 1/3 of Americans have never interacted with their neighbors. Researchers believe this is because we are more in touch with people through electronics than through personal relationships. The study also showed that those who did know and interact with their neighbors are healthier and enjoy their day more. Many neighborhoods today have playgrounds, swimming pools, hiking trails, bike paths, and more. Step outside and look around. Wave. Have a drink with the guy across the street. Check out the local park. Go on a bike ride. And take your kids with you.
If I were a anthropologist in the future, studying the collapse of the human race, I could probably trace the demise back to one single invention – the cell phone. People are on them ALL. THE. TIME. At dinner, at the movies, on the subway, walking down the street. What is so important that none of us, myself included, can go more than sixty seconds without looking at our phones? I’m sure you’ve all heard that America is suffering from a terrible, contagious, life-threatening disease. It’s known as FOMO. Time Magazine even did a story on it recently – This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out. The answer? Gratitude. “Really?” you ask. Yep. It’s that simple. Be grateful for what you have. Appreciate your friends, family, home, job, life. The article sums it up by saying, “Gratitude is essential.”
By focussing on the good in your life, going outside without your device, trying something new, seeing the world, imagining the possibilities, discovering the people around you, and being grateful for what you have, you can kick the electronic habit. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?
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.
I am blessed to live in the United States, a country that boasts “the pursuit of happiness” as an unalienable right. If doesn’t, however, guarantee that you will be happy or that anyone has to be forced to make you happy. It just decrees that you have the right to pursue being happy. Nor are any of us given a path to happiness, a guarantee of some sort that we will be happy. That is up to each of us as individuals. And the only way to be happy is to pursue a life of happiness, not from others, but from the things that you, yourself, do every day. Unfortunately, many people are searching for happiness in ways that leave them feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even sad and sometimes lonely. In my observations of the people and situations around me, here is what I see that they’re doing wrong.
1. Allowing others to dictate your mood. Nobody can make you unhappy but you. I tell my children this all the time. Others can criticize you, put you down, attempt to take away your self-esteem or lessen your accomplishments; but at the end of the day, you are the one who lives with your choices, your beliefs, the person you are or are becoming. Only you can determine how you should feel, and only you can take the reins and make your life be what you want it to be.
After his first audition, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”*
2. Letting failure get the best of you. You’re never going to be perfect. That role belongs to only one being, and He doesn’t expect you to be perfect; but He does expect you to try to be. So what if you failed at something. Are you going to let that be the end of life as you know it? Stick that chin out, roll up your sleeves, and try again.
Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times while trying to invent the light bulb. When asked how it felt, Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”*
3. Not appreciating what you have. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food on your table, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet? Then what are you complaining about? There are many people in the world who are far worse off than you are, but they are able to find happiness. How? By appreciating what they have and not what they lack. We aren’t supposed to get everything we desire in life, or there would never be anything to strive for, hope for , look forward to. Enjoy what you have without complaining about what you don’t have, and you will find that what you have will increase tenfold.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey**
4.Letting worries win. I am willing to bet money that the happiest people you know are the ones who worry the least. They know that life has a way of working things out. Personally, I believe that God will do my worrying for me. Remember the saying, “Live and let God.” Whether you believe in a divine presence or not, you will be a happier person if you do not dwell on worry. Some things in life are out of our control. Don’t try to control them. They will only end up controlling you.
“There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.” Pope Francis***
5. Not allowing yourself to catch the joy of others. Embrace other peoples’ happiness. So you’re not having a good day, or a good experience. Is that any reason to bring others down or to not try to lift yourself up? Share in the joy of others. Allow their joy, their inner peace, to enter your life. Someday you will regret the time you spent alone nursing your wounds, continuing to make yourself unhappy; but you will never regret the time you spent enjoying life with friends and family and seeking joy.
“To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.” Roger Ebert****
6. Ignoring the golden rule. To enjoy true happiness, you must create happiness and share it with others. Smile, and others will smile back. Hold the door for someone, and they will hold it for someone else. Speak kindly to those around you, and they will speak kindly in return. No further explanation is needed.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
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.