Keeping Track

We laughed this morning, in my cardio class, when the instructor had to set her Fitbit before class to track her exercise, saying, “If it’s not tracked, it doesn’t count.” The reason we laughed is because we all understood exactly what she meant. I once forgot to wear my Apple watch to class and felt like the whole class was for nothing because if I couldn’t show that I was there, how could I prove I actually did the work? I know, it sounds crazy.

I’ve been thinking about it all morning, and I believe there’s something there to consider. We’ve all succumb, in one way or another, to the fitness-tracking craze. My father keeps track of the miles he racks up during the day as he walks in the neighborhood and around the house. I like to monitor my steps to make sure I’m not sitting for too long. I know some people who follow every calorie they burn, every “ring” they close on their exercise app, and even how many deep breathing pauses they take.

All good stuff, I’m sure, but let’s stop and think for a moment about what we’re tracking and why. Are they the minutes or steps that really matter? Are they the things that are going to make a difference in the end. And I mean that end. 

Are we tracking how much we give to the poor (and I don’t mean for tax purposes)?

Are we tracking the time we spend in Church? in prayer? in one-on-one time with God or the Bible?

Are we tracking the amount of time we spend with our families? our children? our spouses? our parents?

Are we tracking the amount of time we spend listening when others are talking–really, truly listening?

Are we tracking the times we say thank you? to our families, our friends, cashiers, parking attendants, ticket takers, God

Are we paying attention to those moments in life when we’re called to slow down, stop, take a breath, and just be? How often do we actually do that?

Are we recording every special moment in our minds, and reflecting on them later, or are we rushing through life unable or unwilling to actually enjoy and appreciate this gift we’ve been given?

Are we remembering to say happy birthday, happy anniversary, I’m sorry, I’m thinking of you, I’m praying for you, or even just hello or have a nice day?

I love that I can track my steps, that I can record my exercise, that I can boost my confidence by boosting my movement. But I have to stop and ask myself, am I really tracking the things that matter? If the answer is no, and it quite often is, then I have some work to do. How about you?
gather ye rosebuds

Join me in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, on March 24th and 25th to celebrate Maryland Day and the release of my latest book, The Devil’s Fortune. Watch my Facebook page this week for more information.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: You’re My Inspiration.

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.

Amy’s next novel, The Devil’s Fortune, will be released in March of 2019. Pre-ordering is available from some vendors with more being added each day.

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).

 

There’s Gotta Be A Little Snow Sometime

SnowyTrees2019.JPGOne day last week, while my husband and youngest daughter slept snugly in their beds, and Mother Nature covered the trees and fields with a soft blanket of white, I quietly walked outside in the dark to take some photos of the gently falling snow. The world around me was cold, barren, frozen and unwelcoming. And it was absolutely exquisite. It was my favorite kind of snow. It fell softly from the sky, landing on every branch, leaf, and needle, turning each and every tree into a glowing, white piece of art, a fine sculpture created by the loving hand of God. I couldn’t help but think about a conversation that I’ve had with more than one person lately.  

You see, I’m noticing a trend, and it makes me sad. I see it in the young and old, in the workplace and in school, among volunteer committees and organizations, even within my own family. Everyone is looking for the easy way out, the no-pain method of doing things. There is a belief that everyone is entitled to happiness, to the never-ending bliss that drowns all pain and discomfort and allows each person to live a life of total pleasure without worry or sacrifice. I’ve even heard people say that here, in the United States, everyone is entitled to be happy.  

But they’re wrong.

We are merely entitled to the pursuit of happiness, and even that is within the confines of the law. That clause in our Declaration of Independence (mind you, it is nowhere in the Constitution, the document that actually rules this land) is based on the principle that we are all seeking some higher form of happiness endowed by our Creator. But even our Creator never promised happiness on earth. On the contrary, we were told that there would be suffering and pain and sorrow.

I’m reminded of an old Lynn Anderson song. Yes, I’m showing my age now, but you may recall her lyrical protest: “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta to be a little rain sometime.” Preach it, Lynn. 

Without sadness, we wouldn’t fully understand joy. Without mourning, why would we find the need to rejoice? Without snow, who would appreciate the spring?

It sounds simple, but it’s so much deeper than just letting a little rain, or snow, fall into our lives now and then. We need to learn to embrace the dark times, and allow them to shape us into better persons. There is a term that I think of more and more as I get older.  It is “redemptive suffering.” It is the Christian belief that all suffering we do here on earth is meant to lead us to a deeper relationship with Christ. In our suffering, we experience just a small taste of what He experienced in His passion and death. Furthermore, the suffering gives us the opportunity to share in Christ’s humanity and to understand one of the characteristics that makes us truly human. It binds us to each other and to Christ. The more we accept our suffering, the more we become like Christ, and the more we are redeemed. It breaks my heart to hear people say that if there were a God, He wouldn’t allow suffering because there is so much to be learned from sorrow and pain, and not just for the person suffering.

Being a witness to suffering can help us to feel less selfish, to become more caring, more giving. It can allow us to be more charitable and comforting. I think of my daughter, who decided to pursue a career as a nurse after helping my father-in-law during his last days on earth. What a gift her grandfather gave her.

Suffering can purify our souls and help us to understand and appreciate what true happiness is. We just have to embrace it, and know that the cold, barren, darkness won’t last forever. I think of my oldest daughter, who lost a dear friend to suicide, and how it transformed her thinking so that she fully appreciates how good life is even on days that seem too hard to face.

It is meant to lead us to a more beautiful place, a place where it never rains, never snows, never allows pain and sorrow.  For those who are very lucky, that place can actually be found here on earth, even in the midst of suffering.  And it can be a beautiful sight to behold. I think of someone I love very much who suffered through a traumatic event recently and has allowed herself to become stronger, more self-assured, and more willing to embrace new opportunities that have come her way.

snow2019So the next time you experience a time of cold, harsh, and unwelcoming sadness in your life, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual, remember that there is a reason for our suffering. There are things that can be learned, not by the mind but by the soul. Let others see that sorrow and pain does not always have to end in total despair; there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Be strong, courageous, and faithful, knowing that your spring will come, and eternal happiness will be your reward. Remember that there is always the breaking of dawn, even after the coldest, snowiest night.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: From Sorrow, Joy.

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.

Amy’s next novel, The Devil’s Fortune, will be released in March of 2019. Pre-ordering is available from some vendors with more being added each day.

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).

Hero Worship and the Making of True Leaders

Monday morning, I watched a very interesting interview on CBS This Morning. The guest was author, General McChrystal, and he spoke about his new book, Leaders: Myth and Reality. One of the things that most intrigued me about the interview was that, just two days prior, I lead a women’s retreat that focussed on female leaders of the Old Testament Coincidence? I think not. The response of the women to the retreat and then the surprise of seeing this morning’s interview have caused me to really think about what we are teaching our children about whom and what a real leader/hero is.

General McChrystal argues that “leadership is not what we think it is and never has been.” His opening example is the portrayal of George Washington crossing the Delaware. We’ve all see this famous painting by Emanuel Leutze, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
washington_crossing_the_delaware_by_emanuel_leutze

The problem is that historians believe that the actual crossing looked something more like this depiction by artist, Mort Kunstler.
111208-Washington_crossing_the_Delaware-painting-AP111208150487

For many years, Americans have accepted as fact the portrait of Washington in which he looks confident, standing with the flag, his troops bravely battling the elements. But Washington could not have taken such a stance without tipping the boat, and the troops would not have had a clear and glowing sky leading them onward while the snow and wind battered everything else around them. More likely, as Kunstler portrays, Washington would have been nervously holding onto the wheel of the hastily-constructed barge while the men, barely clothed for the cold, would have been fighting the weather and the current to make it safely across the river. 

Why is this important? Because there is a mythology that heroes and leaders are “ten feet tall, never scared, never wrong, have the answer to all our questions.” But, McChrystal argues, “this is almost never correct.” Moreover, it’s typically not the leader who solves the problem but the team he or she is commanding. We often give leaders certain attributes even though they may not be that way in real-life, or in private. We thrust greatness upon people, forgetting that they are in fact people. People are human. They make mistakes. They do things the wrong way. They have flaws and bad habits. They aren’t always honest or moral. They aren’t meant to be placed upon a pedestal, or to stand upright with their legs propped up on the side of a rowboat, lest they cause everything to be out of balance and go toppling into the waves.

McChrystal also says that we count on and encourage our leaders to solve all of our problems. He argues, and I agree 100%, that a leader teaches us how to solve our own problems. He or she helps us find the tools necessary to make things better. He “leads” us to find greatness in ourselves. The effectiveness of a true leader should be based on moral leadership not on looks or great speeches given, or portraits based on myth and not facts.

This past weekend, the women who attended our parish retreat learned lessons in leadership and in life from Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah. These were women who sometimes made mistakes, who did not always do what society expected them to do, who had pasts that had to be overcome, who sinned and were redeemed. But they all strived for some common goals: to be people of character, to hold fast to their faith, to counsel and advise, to teach others how to live virtuous lives, and to be women of God. They were not queens, not rulers, not rich, and not always revered. They had flaws, but they worked for the good of the people and taught others to do the same. They weren’t about power and glory (and when Miriam did become haughty, she was punished, served her time in exile, and was forgiven), but they were about doing what was right for the glory of God. Not themselves. For God.

In this world where everyone bows to sports heroes, politicians, and Hollywood movie stars, hailing them as leaders and heroes, we are telling our children that, to be a leader is to be braggadocios, self-serving, rich, morally bankrupt, abusive, foul-mouthed, promiscuous, lecherous, and gluttonous. By holding up these people as those to emulate, we teach that it’s okay to lie, to tear down, to disparage, to make fun of, and to engage in all forms of debauchery. We forget that true leaders and heroes are ordinary people, going about their lives doing their jobs to the best of their ability. My friend, Susan, blogged about the heroes of the recent hurricanes. Those are the people I want my girls looking up to!

George Washington was not a hero because he was tall, strong, fierce, and out to be a great destroyer of armies and men. He was a hero because he faced his fears, he was good to his men, he was loving toward his family, he did his job to the best of his abilities, and fought beside his men. He wasn’t perfect; he made mistakes, and that’s okay. Sometimes, a leader does. But what makes him a true leader, a real hero, is what he learns from his mistakes and what he teaches others about how to do things better.

Our children need to know who the real heroes are. Let’s teach them about Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah. Let’s make sure they know about the heroics of men like St. Peter and St. Paul. And let’s encourage them to model themselves after some of the real heroes of the world:
Nelson Mandela
The Dalai Lama
Pope John Paul II
Malala Yousafzai
William Kyle Carpenter
Candace Lynne Lightner
Rosa Parks
Jane Addams
Joan of Arc
Oskar Schindler
Martin Luther King Jr

It’s time to stop the hero-worship. It’s time to stop promoting myths about what greatness is and what it looks like. It’s time to redefine leadership and heroism. It’s time to recall the words of Isaiah, “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.”

Isaiah 33-15-16.jpg

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Longing for a Little Sleep.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

Friendly Deception – how social media is changing our relationships and what we can do about it

IMG_7748Isn’t it funny how deceiving a picture can be? Take this one for example. It looks like the perfect day – not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the sun shining above, everything lush and green. The truth – it was darn cold, and it rained off and on all day. But you’d never know it by looking at the photo. This idyllic scene from my recent trip to Stockholm is quite deceiving unless you were there. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, about how every day we look at pictures of people and places that seem to be perfect, but we don’t really know what’s going on because we aren’t there, but more importantly, because we don’t ask.

I recently read an interesting article by Jay Baer, consultant and keynote speaker, who said that “those situations where we ‘meet’ someone through social media, have the opportunity to interact in real life, and then develop a relationship that creates true friendship are few and far between.” He lamented the fact that a social media friend committed suicide, and nobody saw it coming. He wondered if this person actually was his friend, was he anybody’s real friend? He argues that social media isn’t bringing us closer together but driving us farther apart “as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them.” 

39931590_419362661928100_610133224239162107_nThink about your own social media account. I don’t know about you, but I use mine to share updates about my kids, picture of my travels, and upcoming events I want to invite people to. And that’s what I want to see on other people’s posts. I don’t care how you lean politically, and I don’t want to see your dirty laundry aired for the world to see. I prefer Facebook to be my happy place, where I can go and see a smiling picture of a happy person, enjoying life. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this picture of my oldest daughter, and I think it’s one of the prettiest pictures I’ve ever seen of her. And like all of the first-day-of-school photos and the Homecoming shots, it just made me smile. But I also know what was going on in her life on the day this picture was taken, the people and things she was worried about, the decisions she had to make, and the hectic pace of her life that week. You don’t see any of that in her smile.

Her picture perfectly illustrates how my attitude, of wanting to see only the good, blinds me to what’s really going on with my family and friends. I see their happiest moments and often forget to ask about the tears they shed for a loved one, the defeat they just suffered at work or on the field, the problems they are facing with their family, or the devastating news they recently received. I’m not saying that I, or anyone, should pry into other people’s business, but I sometimes need to be reminded that social media lets us forget that we’re all real people. We need human interaction, and not the technological kind. We all have what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed, the Hierarchy of Needs (anyone who has taken a psychology course at any level should remember that triangle). Nowhere does it mention that we need hundreds of sometimes friends, but it clearly says that we need intimate relationships. We need REAL friends.maslow-5

I’ve had to stop and think, when was the last time I picked up the phone and called a friend to see how she’s really doing? When was the last time I invited someone to lunch or took the time to visit with anyone in person? When was the last time I sent a card to someone just because I wanted them to know I was thinking about them and not just hitting the “like” button on their page?

FullSizeRenderI consider myself extremely blessed because I do have an intimate group of friends who are “my people.” We tell each other everything. We commiserate with each other when our lives are spiraling out of control, and we lift each other up when we are feeling down. And yes, we do that through a private Facebook chat group. But here’s what really makes the difference in our friendship: we seek out time to get together. We plan trips to see each other. We revel in each other’s real presence. We hug, we hold hands, we look each other in the eyes. We participate in a real friendship. 

On the downside, I rarely see or talk to the women who live nearby and who have been my best friends for many years. I think I take for granted that they will always be there. I forget that they, too, are just a phone call away, a short trip down the road. It’s so easy to let those relationships slide because I know I can just send a text and say, “let’s get together.” The problem is, I rarely do. I let my everyday life get in the way. I depend upon social media to keep me up on what’s going on in their lives. I do exactly what Baer warned about, I allow social media to inform me about my friends and my relationships instead of reaching out beyond my computer screen.

I know that I need to really assess my friendships and my relationship with social media. Because that’s really what the relationship is with – social media – not with real, live people. We can’t live without checking out Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but we live without checking in with the real flesh and blood people in our lives. Maybe it’s a generational thing. My mother is on Facebook and peruses it regularly, but more often, she can be found having lunch with her friends, taking trips with her girl group, and organizing get-togethers with people near and far. She knows how to cultivate friendships and how to keep them for many, many years. I fear that the rest of us are losing that ability. 

So, the next time you’re scrolling through those smiling, happy photos plastered on Instagram, remind yourself to stop and think about the faces you’re seeing. Ask yourself when the last time was that you contacted them, asked about their families, inquired about a hard situation they were in, or checked on their health. Baer summed up his article reminding us that we all think we know someone and what’s going on in their life, but we don’t. “And that’s social media’s fault. But more so, our own.”

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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).

 

 

 

Seeing Through the Forest to the Trees

Recently, a friend posted the following graphic on Facebook:

32376696_1996321867068805_1715786649603932160_n

This really hit me hard. As the mother of three girls, I see and hear all too often so many judgements and criticisms of others. While we’ve tried very hard to raise children who are kind, loving, and tolerant, it’s so very easy for all of us to fall into the trappings of a society that thrives on comparisons, disparages, and denunciations. Sometimes we even fall prey to these weaknesses with each other.

IMG_8422Of my three daughters, two of them are outspoken, free-thinking, and often exasperating in their insistence that they know best for themselves and others. But one daughter is quiet, introspective, and much more tolerant of everyone. She’s more emotional, more insecure, and more likely to see her own faults and weaknesses. She’s most certainly the tree that stands alone in the woods, the one that is struggling to reach the light, the one that needs its own space but is woefully dependent upon the others. That’s a thing, you know. Some scientists and naturalists believe that “trees of the same species are communal, and will often form alliances with trees of other species. Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence similar to an insect colony.

I’ve seen this play out over and over again within our own family. Our daughter wants to be independent and self-assured, but one biting word or harsh look from one of her sisters or a peer, and she’s once again the bent tree, desperately in need of light. And it isn’t just her sisters and peers that have this affect on her. I’m afraid that I’m a major contributor to her feelings of inadequacy. A high-achiever, perfectionist, and admittedly intolerant when it comes to others’ faults, I often have a hard time being the “good” parent. I want to, but my own fears for her future lead me to say and do things that don’t help at all. Thank Heaven for Ken, who is able to relate to her on a level that I am never able to. Sometimes, I just have to give him a look, and he knows that he needs to step in. He’s so patient, loving, and kind in those times when I’m pulling out my hair in frustration. Tree expert, Peter Wohlleben, tells us that “young saplings in a deeply shaded part of the forest…survive because big trees, including their parents, pump sugar into their roots through the network.” Thankfully, Ken is there when our daughter needs to be pumped up by his strength. 

But here’s the strange thing – I, too, was that tree in the woods that wanted so desperately to be more than I thought I was – to have the greener leaves, richer soil, more abundant birds nesting in my branches, and a greater amount of light shining on me. Though I think I hid it well, I was always insecure, never trusting that my friends were really my friends, always striving to be more than I felt I was, never sure that I was… enough. 

Trees.jpgToday, I know that I am what I am. I am enough. I am exactly who and what God intended me to be. I suppose I am on my way to being like the oldest, tallest, and sturdiest trees in the forest. As Professor Suzanne Simard says, “Mother trees are the biggest, oldest trees in the forest…nurturing, supportive, maternal. With their deep roots, they draw up water and make it available to shallow-rooted seedlings. They help neighboring trees by sending them nutrients, and when the neighbors are struggling, mother trees detect their distress signals and increase the flow of nutrients accordingly.” Even having been a mother for over twenty-two years, I am still working on dispensing that flow of nutrients when and how they are needed, but I certainly see that that we are all–families, friends, communities–dependent upon each other. We were all created by God, and all are works of wonder.

Some of us are tall and sturdy. Some are thin and weak. Some need more nutrients than others. Some are green and vibrant all the time while others have the need to go dormant for periods of time. Some have long branches that reach out to everyone, some have deep roots that give stability, and some have leaves that quake like the Colorado aspen, shining and waving to others, welcoming them into the fold.

 

We should all be reaching out to others, providing stability, welcoming others in. We should all see each other as trees, accepting those who seem less than worthy, providing strength to those who are like struggling saplings, and nourishing others with whatever they need–be it food, shelter, friendship, or just a kind word or deed.

I urge you to begin looking at each other differently. Even if these naturalists are literally barking up the wrong tree, and all of their assumptions about the interdependency of trees is rubbish, we can still learn a lot from the ecosystem that has created and sustained the world’s woodlands and forests. Sumard says, trees “live longest and reproduce most often in a healthy stable forest. That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.” Rather than judge, condemn, or criticize, we need to acknowledge and accept the gifts that each person has to offer. All we need to do is begin seeing each other as trees. 

Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very delighted to be partnering with Sundial Books on Chincoteague for this celebration. All are welcome on Wednesday, July 24 from 1:00-3:00 at Sundial Books. For more details, click here.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

 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 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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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), Island of Promise (2018).

 

Returning to the Island

Front CoverEighteen months ago, I introduced many readers to Chincoteague Island, a place long-known and loved by many in the Mid-Atlantic area. The response to the award-winning novel was overwhelming, and I fell in love with the characters as much as my readers did. In less than a month, on June 15, the sequel to Island of Miracles will be released. In this darker story, we learn that promises are like castles made of sand…

Kayla believed Zach was the man to repair her heart and her family. Zach believed Kayla was the woman to repair his soul. But Zach’s secrets are too big, his guilt too heavy, for him to keep his promises. He needs to get out now before he causes Kayla more heartache than the young widow has already endured.

There’s nothing like a crisis to bring two people together, and suddenly, the idyllic island off the Mid-Atlantic coast has those in spades. A serial killer has found his way into paradise, bringing Zach’s former life close to home, and Kayla is facing a health scare that is every woman’s worse nightmare. Will the tragedies they face pull them apart or bring them closer to fulfilling their promises to each other?

It’s a race for time that pits the island against an unthinkable evil and Kayla against her own body. I’ve had a few people ask why this had to happen? Why turn a beautiful haven into a house of horror? The reasons are both complex and simple. Unfortunately, we live in a world where even the safest places–schools, hospitals, movie theaters, our homes–are no longer safe. We also live in a world where we are confronted, sometimes on a daily basis, by sins of the past. For Zach and Kayla, each trying to overcome the horrors of their past, life on island is ideal. Surrounded by friends and family, nothing can take away their happiness. But every one of us knows that happiness can be destroyed by demons that attack from both the inside and outside at the most unexpected times.

Of course, Island of Promise isn’t a horror story, and it isn’t a harrowing roller coaster of suspense. At its heart, it’s a story of community and family and the ties that bind them together, a story of a mother’s unfailing love for her children, a story of redemption, and a story of love conquering all. 

I hope this book serves as a reminder that the one thing we can always expect is the unexpected. Bad things happen, but good things can come of them if we choose to have faith in the promise of the future. As a visitor to the island says in chapter fifteen, “A glass is an empty vessel until you fill it with water, or coffee, or whiskey, or whatever else you want to put into it. And then it’s full, full of something life-giving. And that’s how I felt. Empty until I found something to fill me up….Find the thing that fills you up. And cherish it with all your heart.”

I welcome you all back to Chincoteague Island for the second installment in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I hope you’ll come on over and stay for a while. The ice cream is cold, the oysters are hot, and the community is holding its arms open for you.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Mothers, Daughters, and Memories

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 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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores. 

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)

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)