Make your Own Hallmark Story This Christmas

I’m just going to say it. I’m really tired of hearing people put down the Hallmark Christmas movies. Yes, they’re predictable. Yes, most of them follow the same formula. Yes, they all star the same actors and actresses. But you know what? They are a welcome refuge from everything on the news and the crowds in the stores and the stress of the holiday season. I mean, really, there is a reason why they are so popular–who wants to spend more than two minutes thinking about everything that’s going wrong in the world today? Wouldn’t you rather be watching two people fall in love over the course of a holiday season with the most beautiful snowy backdrop in the most welcoming Christmas village kind of town? And who says that romances like that don’t really happen?

To prove my point, all I have to do is think about the conversation I overheard this past Saturday night. My girls and I hosted our annual Mother-Daughter Christmas party with dear friends from our community, parish, school, and family. After the party was over, Rebecca’s friends, most from other states, spent the night here at the house. As we were cleaning up, the talk turned to weddings, as it often does with post-college girls! Then several girls told the stories of how their parents met. Each one was more charming than the last, and my heart swelled every time I heard Rebecca’s roommate swoon, “I’m obsessed with this story, keep going!” Since I was there, Rebecca asked me to tell the story of how Ken and I met. It’s a lovely story that our family really enjoys sharing. And it was obvious that the girls all felt the same about their own parents’ first encounters.

The stories revolved around failed first marriages, high school sweethearts, second chance romances, and fate encounters. Each one was different, but they all shared one quality–in the eyes of their daughters, no matter what the circumstances were, the stories were enchanting tales of falling in love and living happily ever after. It didn’t matter if there was pain or strife involved, if there was swirling snow or the perfect cup of cocoa, or if the meeting took place at a bar, a frat party, or a gingerbread cottage (as so many HM movies do). The stories gave the girls hope that someday, they would all be featured in their own personal, Hallmark movie romance, just like their parents were.

You see, not every romance or happy story takes place in the perfect Christmas town where the non-believer comes around to joyfully celebrating the holiday with his or her new-found love while light snowflakes fall around them. But every family’s beginning has a story, and those who retell the story often see a fairy-tale unfold even in the most unlikely of circumstances. All of those girls made their parents’ romances sound like a Debbie Macomber novel (HM favorites) even if we all knew that the story was just an ordinary meeting between two ordinary people destined for an ordinary life in an ordinary town. There was no exaggerating or creating an epic bestseller from a comic book, but each story was special, and the girls all knew it. They all recognized that every story has the potential to be a Hallmark story, even the ones that go awry. Why?

Because, like many of the characters learn by the end of the two-hour movie, your life, your story, your family’s story, is what you make it. When we see our lives and the people in them as something special, unique, and to be cherished, we can all be just like the people on Hallmark. Sure, we won’t all have Balsam Hill Christmas trees or perfect sugar cookies in less than fifteen minutes, but we all have the ability to see the wonder of life and to appreciate our own stories and to pass this along to our children.

photo-6176892386934784So, this Christmas, when your family’s rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing doesn’t sound like a Blake Shelton-produced movie or your cookies aren’t picture-perfect, don’t worry. Your children will remember everything the way you make it out to be–The Nightmare Before Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life. You’re living your own Hallmark movie every day. Write it the way you want it to be told, cherishing the good and bad, and smiling along the way. Bring happiness into the world. Celebrate the holidays with all the joy and enthusiasm found in a winning gingerbread house contest or a sleigh ride on a snowy mountain. Someday, you may look back and see your lives, your romances, and your Christmases for what they really were–stories better than a Hallmark movie.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Seeing Jesus.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.

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

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

All I Want for Christmas…

Our alarm clock sounded at 4am Monday morning. For the third day in a row, in a string of many days to come, my husband rose early to go to his parents’ house to be there before his father woke up. Needing round the clock care now, his father can’t be left alone, and Ken’s mother can’t do it by herself. There’s only so much time his sister can take off, and his brother lives in another state. So, I set the clock Sunday night, kissed Ken goodbye Monday morning, and watched him leave the room, his shoulders slumped, his heart heavy.

A few hours later, I was on the way home from the gym when I heard the news that a bomb had been detonated on or near a New Jersey transit train at a station in NYC. I immediately stopped the car and texted my dear friend, George, a daily traveler on the NJT into NYC. Thank Heaven, the train was at another station, and he was safe. To say I was relieved is an understatement. I don’t think I can take more bad news. Between our family’s daily struggles, a number of sick and dying parents among the friends in our group this holiday season, a  cousin’s house burning down over the weekend, the never-ending news cycle of lying, corruption, and perverseness, as well as the threats to peace on earth, I’ve had enough of bad news. Haven’t we all?

hallmark_channel_christmas-620x412A little while later, when I sat down to work, an article in the Washington Post caught my eye. Titled, We can’t take any more of 2017, so we’ve turned to the Hallmark Channel in desperation, the article had me hooked. Though we don’t have cable, I’ve been stalking YouTube for Hallmark Christmas movies. I’ve been through every sweet Christmas movie on Amazon and Netflix, and I can’t get enough to satisfy my craving. I admit, I’ve always been a sweet movie fanatic, a Hallmark fan to the end. I tried paying for Hallmark Movies Now but found it a waste of money at Christmas time because it contains only a handful of holiday movies, and they’re all old. Not fair, Hallmark, not fair. I’d pay good money to have access to what’s on their channel without having to have cable. Do you hear that, Hallmark?

Anyway, back to the article. I think I speak for the masses when I say, we are ready for good news, sweet romance, and happy endings. And though these movies aren’t usually Christ-centered, they do offer those three things (my good friend and fellow blogger, Anne Kennedy, wrote a great blog that pretty much sums up the standard Hallmark Christmas movie plot).

Sweet RomanceWe all need hope and goodness in our lives.  Luckily, there are many of us out there, aside from Hallmark, working very hard to provide just that. There’s a whole category of fiction that is Clean and Wholesome Romance, or as it’s more commonly known, Sweet Romance. Sex, if any, is behind closed doors, foul language is kept to a minimum or nonexistent, and deaths, even murders, are not graphically depicted; yet the couple still finds their way to happily ever after.

I find it no coincidence that, just twelve days before Christmas, today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 11:28-30:

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

It’s crunch time. We’re all trying to keep our heads above water, and we all have things going on in our lives, but then we have this great reminder that no matter what’s going on, Jesus is there. He is not only the reason for the season, He is our hope, our counsel, our way to peace. Whether He’s acknowledged by the Hallmark Channel or not, He is there.

So, the next time you’ve had it with the news, or even with your own personal life, know that there is a place to where you can escape. And when you’ve run out of movies to watch on Hallmark, look for a clean and wholesome romance novel. And above all, look toward Heaven. There may never be a time without troubles or peace on Earth, but there is peace to come – a real-life happily ever after. I know a happy ending is all our family wants for Christmas this year. I’m pretty sure we’re not alone.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Lighting the Way This Christmas

9780692946176Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet 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 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 available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on 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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)