Earning Fs in Life

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

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

What? All Fs?

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

Because…

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

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

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

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

Savor the Moment

Is anyone else feeling nostalgic or sentimental as the school year quickly fades away? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the school year started? Or just last week that my baby began kindergarten? Yet here she is, about to graduate and embark on a grand new adventure.
Morgan kindergarten.jpg
The older I get, the more I realize that everything slips too quickly from our grasp, and I am led to wonder how can I make it stop? How can I slow down time? How can I make sure I don’t miss a thing? I once read something by Bishop Robert Barron in which he said, “An image that always comes to mind when I think of these things is the gorgeous firework that bursts open like a giant flower and then, in the twinkling of an eye, is gone forever. Everything is haunted by nonbeing.” Yet this is not necessarily a bad thing, this reminder that all things fall into nonbeing. It can be a truly good and wonderful thing.

But how? How can thinking about this nonbeing be a blessing?

Here’s how…

What is it that we appreciate about a sunrise? Is it the beauty? The reminder of God’s promise of a new day? The knowledge that it will happen again tomorrow and the next day and the next day? Or is it something more? Could it be that we long for that brief moment in time when all is good and peaceful in the world? Perhaps the sunrise happens the way it does–every morning at a known time but each occurrence unique–because we are meant to marvel at the sight for just those few minutes before it becomes mundane, just another sunny day. Don’t we all long for that tiny bit of time when everything around us is quiet and still and breathtaking?

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Sunrise in Jerusalem

We live in a world where everything moves quickly. Our days speed by in a flash of commotion, and we are left trying to catch our breath, wondering how it could all be over so fast. We forget that, in all things, there can be found a moment of peace. We don’t even look for it or think about, and when the event, or the day, or the year, or life has come to an end, we wonder if that elusive pause ever happened at all. How did my baby become an 18-year-old adult? How have I been married for over twenty-five years? How can my father be 82? 

Yet if we stop and close our eyes, and allow the world to become quiet, we can see all of the things that brought us to where we are. We can remember the pauses–the peace, quiet, stillness, and breathtaking moments. We spend each day working, running from here to there, always trying to stay one step ahead of something or someone, and we long for respite. Luckily, we can find it! As we read in Psalms, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalms 127:2).

All of the chaos, all of the toiling, this race we constantly find ourselves in will come to and end, as all things do. When we reach our Heavenly reward, we will finally be able to rest. But do we really have to wait until then? I don’t believe so.

And that brings me to the blessing of the nonbeing, the nonbeing that we must accept here and now and find a way to make it mean something so that it doesn’t have to result in nothing. How?

We can take a pause in the morning or evening to marvel at the sunrise or the sunset.
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We can ooh and aah at a fireworks display.
Firework.jpg

We can hold that newborn, kiss her sweet-smelling forehead, and take in the scent of her newness.
Morgan's Christening (7).jpg

We can celebrate every milestone, every birthday, graduation, anniversary, new job, or new adventure.
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We can remind ourselves every day that we are to look for those precious moments of peace and savor them.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: The Rhythm of Life.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction.

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

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

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

 

A Breakthrough in Life

A couple nights ago, Ken and I went to the movies to see Breakthrough.
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If you have somehow managed to miss the trailer for this movie, let me summarize it for you. It is the miraculous true story about 14-year-old, John Smith, who fell through the ice on a lake in his small hometown outside of St. Louis. He was pulled from the ice and taken to the local hospital. After approximately an hour with no pulse, the doctor, a father of one of John’s classmates, told John’s mother (played by This Is Us star, Chrissy Metz) that there was nothing more he could do–John was dead, and she needed to say goodbye. John’s mother, Joyce, implored for help from the Almighty, begging Jesus to send his Holy Spirit down to breathe life into her son. Suddenly, the monitor began to beep. After more than an hour of death, John had a pulse, and the battle to save his life ensued.

If you think that this blog is going to be about the power of prayer, you’re wrong. If you think that it’s going to be about how faith can move mountains, you are mistaken. If you think I’m going to give you a theological lesson about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, you couldn’t be farther off base. While I could spend quite some time writing about each of these topics, the revelation that Ken and I both had as we left the movie theater is far more earth shattering and, quite honestly, should be frightening to every person living in this country today.

When John’s pulse returned, his doctor knew that John’s only chance of survival was to be sent to the top doctor specializing in treating children in John’s condition. John and Joyce were airlifted to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis. It was there that Joyce was told that John would most likely not make it through the night, but if he did, his injuries would be catastrophic. Having been deprived of oxygen for such an extreme amount of time, John was unlikely to ever regain consciousness. If he awoke, he would never be the same. John’s father struggled with what to do, but Joyce did not. She told the doctor that if he was truly the best, he would do everything he could to bring her son back and heal him and that if he did his job, God would take care of the rest. The family asked for prayers, and the entire community prayed around the clock for John to be made whole again. While other medical personnel were not hopeful, and some were even resentful of the care of that John received, Dr. Garrett allowed care to be maintained and continued to monitor him while Joyce continued to pray.

What I’m going to tell you next is most certainly a spoiler alert, but I’m going to assume that you know that they never would have made the movie if the outcome had been different. Not only did John survive, but as soon as he woke up, he was able to speak and showed no brain impairment at all. NONE. He walked out of the hospital less than two weeks later. This is all 100% true and heavily documented in the news and throughout medical science.

Here’s what I want to point out to you from this story – John and Joyce were airlifted to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis. They were not taken to a state-run facility or a for-profit hospital. They were taken to a non-profit hospital run by St. Louis University, a Catholic institution. According to their website, the mission of the hospital is, “Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God.”

And so I ask you to consider…

What if John had not been taken to Cardinal Glennon? 

What if John had been sent to a state-fun facility or for-profit hospital?

What if John’s doctor was not interested in working in tandem with God’s healing presence?

What if John was at a hospital or with doctors, that did not believe in the value and sanctity of life?

We live amid the culture of death. We hear stories every day about assisted suicide and compassionate death, about the most vulnerable among us having little say in whether they live or die, and about families being encouraged to “pull the plug.” What if, instead of actually giving John a chance to survive, the doctors or hospital had decided to stop all medical care? Thankfully for John, he was at an institution where they believed in the power of life.

These were our thoughts as Ken and I drove home the other night. We believe it was all part of God’s perfect plan that John was sent to Cardinal Glennon. We believe that John’s story may be a message to the world, a plea from God: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We believe that John’s story and others like it are a reminder that life is sacred, that God is the divine physician, and that too many have bought into the lie that the extinguishing of life is done for the greater good. Even if you don’t believe in miracles or think there was a scientific cause for John’s healing, you have to ask yourself, would the outcome have been different at another hospital where money or hospital politics or greed or anything else trumps the sanctity of life?

As you ponder the “what ifs” of John’s miraculous healing, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). May this world experience a true breakthrough in the belief in the sanctity of life. And may we always have the courage and strength to let God be God and man be man.

Romans 15 13

Want to Know More?

Subscribe to my newsletter for information on upcoming books, cover reveals, and insider information.  Do you know what my next book is about?  My newsletter subscribers do!

 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: I Didn’t Know I Needed You….

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction.

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

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

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

 

Telling Love Stories

This week is Holy Week throughout the Christian world. It’s the week where we are reminded just how much God loves us. It’s the week that the past several weeks of Lent have been leading up to–the crescendo in the opus of God’s masterpiece about love.  How remarkable that it was late in Lent when I was given the beautiful gift of realizing why what I do is so special, why my writing is so meaningful to me and to many others, and why it’s all about love.

My regular followers know that I recently attended a writer’s conference in Milwaukee with my dear friend, Alexandra Hamlet. One evening, as Alexandra and I were hanging out in our hotel room talking girl talk, swapping family stories, and comparing writing notes, Alexandra said something to me that was so profound, it completely changed the way I look at my writing. I was telling her that I was a having a hard time with some in the “romance” community because my books don’t always fit the bill, so to speak. As I’ve said before, I don’t like rules, and I often don’t follow them! This does not go over too well with the romance writing folks. I have been searching for a while now to find where and how my writing fits into today’s literary world, and Alexandra laid it out perfectly.

So what was it that she said to me that profoundly expanded my way of thinking?

My dear and wise friend said, “Amy, you do not write romance novels. You write love stories.”

Wow.

That was it. The life-changing realization.

Alexandra and I talked about this at length that evening and continued to come back to it all weekend. She is absolutely correct. All of my novels have a romance or two, but it’s rarely the main thrust of the story. More often, there’s an abundance of love going around that doesn’t even involve the love between two people. My books are often about love between man and woman, but they are actually more about the love of family, love of community, love of Country, love of God, and more. There are scenes in Summer’s Squall that clearly demonstrate love for nature. The Devil’s Fortune contains themes of love of family, love of history, and even the love of a house. It was this book that allowed me to bring my grandmother back to life and show my deep love for her. My Chincoteague Island books portray love of community at their core as well as familial love and the love that comes with true friendship. My children’s books are also about love–Crabbing With Granddad is about love for my grandfather and love for a disappearing way of life while The Greatest Gift is about the kind of love that comes wholly and perfectly from the heart. All of my books share the common theme of discovering love of oneself.

I wish there was a genre that was simply for readers looking for books about love, not romance, just LOVE!

With love, there is often loss. There is hardship and pain and compromise and perseverance. Love is deeper than romance. It’s more enigmatic than any mystery novel. It can generate faster heart-pounding than a suspense read. It’s more mystical than a supernatural or paranormal tale. Love contains history, religion, and sometimes even elements of horror. Love is all-encompassing, and true love endures longer than the butterfly phase of even the greatest romance. Love is the one thing that can always make everything, good and bad, even better.
Mother Teresa on Love.jpg

I had another profound realization while at the conference. When meeting with one particular agent, everything I ever knew about my personal genre was confirmed. The agent looked at me and said, “You write inspirational women’s fiction.” It was not a question. She had read an excerpt from the upcoming Island of Hope and knew immediately what my writing was all about.  We talked about the strong element of faith in my books, and she said, “I bet your writing also contains a lot of scenes with family and with female-friend relationships.” And she was correct. I write to inspire, and what’s more inspirational than stories of true love for family, friends, and God? 

So, as we close out Lent and begin the journey from death into life, I urge you to look around you and identify all the loves in your life–those people and things you love as well as those who love you back. In a recent blog post, one of my favorite bloggers said, “I think the meaning of life is to love. To love people where they’re at…not to judge, or condemn…but just to love. Like Jesus did. And be a light to the world.”

To be totally honest with you, that’s all my writing has ever been about–using my God-given talent to be a light to the world. Is there really anything better to write about than love? I’ll let the great Catholic literary genius, Flannery O’Connor, answer that.

“To maintain any thread in the novel there must be a view of the world behind it & the most important single item under this view of the world is conception of love—divine, natural, & perverted. It is probably possible to say that when a view of love is present—a broad enough view—no more need be added to make the world view.” – Flannery O’Connor
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: The Blank Page.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Grading on a Curve

Those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will know that I spent this past weekend at a writer’s conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What a fabulous city that is! I’m going to be honest here, my only knowledge of and experiences with Milwaukee involve the Cunninghams, Fonzie, and Laverne and Shirley. I had no idea what a delightful place it is with its Old World architecture, German restaurants, and biergartens (lots and lots of beer gardens, pubs, and bars). Of course, I did take some time to visit the Bronze Fonz while I was there, but my best and most personal experience had nothing to do with 70s television or even with the conference…
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Old St Mary Milwaukee.JPGOn Sunday morning, before heading to the airport, I awoke early and walked to the church of Old Saint Mary for the 7:15 Mass. The church was packed, a nice sight to see that early on a Sunday morning.  After hearing the homily, I could see why. The priest was witty, friendly, and engaging. More important, his homily was so thought-provoking, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

Father Timothy Kitzk told the story of visiting his family years back when his older sister taught high school calculus. In order to allow his sister to complete her work and spend time with the family, Father Kitzk and his brother offered to help grade papers. His brother struggled with marking the answers wrong when the students seemed to have tried really hard but narrowly missed the answer. Father’s sister assured them that they had nothing to worry about because she graded on a curve. Father then reminded us that God grades on a curve. Think about that.

God grades on a curve.

He doesn’t look at one act, one sin, one bad decision. He looks at all of our hard work and grades us all on a curve. He knows that we can’t be perfect. More importantly, he knows that we can’t make the grade on our own. We need His help! We need Him to have mercy on us and grade us on a curve.

How profound is that? But even more than that, the homily got me thinking about how I grade people. While I certainly am not on par with God, what I say and think and do can matter greatly in the lives of the people I care about. We all know that a kind or harsh word from somebody, even an acquaintance, can have an effect on how we feel the rest of the day and often how we feel about ourselves. But the truth is, nobody is perfect. Everybody deserves to be graded on a curve!

Last night, I attended our parish penance service for Lent. I was reminded of the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asked the Lord, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18: 20-21). If Jesus expects us to forgive someone 77 times, how often do you think, in His perfection, God is willing to forgive us? When I look back over my mistakes in life, 77 seems like a drop in the bucket! But the bottom line is, we need to be more like God and let people keep trying, keep forging ahead, keep making mistakes, and love and forgive them anyway.
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Now, don’t get me wrong. the point isn’t that someone should be allowed to hurt you over and over again. No, the point is that we need to have mercy on others. We need to look past what they’ve done and see them for who they are. Sometimes, yes, we will need to walk away, but even that can be a way to grade on a curve, perhaps for them, and perhaps, more so, for ourselves. Because when it comes right down to it, not giving people the benefit of the doubt, not showing mercy, not giving second chances–that might hurt the other person, but it actually ends up taking a toll on you, the person unwilling to forgive, to let things go, to grade on the curve. Sometimes the person you need to forgive, to give a break to, is yourself.

I’m going to say it right here and now. I am writing this for me as much as for you. I need to be reminded of these things as much as or more than anyone. I have a long way to go before I reach that big red 100% that God expects of me, but I’ll keep working at it every day, learning, studying, and growing in my journey. And I’m going to try to remember that everyone else is doing the same. I’m going to make my best effort to start grading everyone on a curve. And that includes the grade I give myself.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: The Family Table.

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 latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is being released this Friday! Order your copy today, and join her at her book launch celebration.

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).

 

Searching for Answers

Over the course of the past couple weeks, I have seen, heard, read, experienced, and learned so many things–things that, at first glance, seem to have no connection at all. Of course, we all know that life, in God’s perfect plan, doesn’t happen that way. Everything is connected. Everything has purpose. Everything is meant to teach us and to lead us to a closer relationship with God and with each other.

Here’s my take on these seemingly random, but no doubt interconnected, occurrences…

My latest novel, The Devil’s Fortune, was released on March 22nd. I am humbled by the emails, Facebook messages, and reviews I am receiving regarding this book. It has certainly struck a chord with many readers, and I love that they are enjoying Courtney’s journey through life and through the renovation of her ancestor’s colonial home. It’s a book about searching–searching for treasure, searching for one’s roots, searching for healing, searching for one’s identity, searching for love, and searching for God’s purpose in one’s life. I think part of the reason the book has touched so many is because we are all searching for one or more of those things. Life seems to be a never-ending series of searches. Sometimes, as in my book, all of the things one is searching for can be found back where the search first began, often right in front of us all along.
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MD DayOn the day after my launch celebration, I was blessed to be able to sell my books at the Maryland Day Celebration at the St. Clement’s Island Museum. As part of the celebration, a cross was displayed that was recently found at Georgetown University. The cross, identified by etched writing along the beams, was brought to the New World in 1634 on the Ark or the Dove, and was probably the very cross used in the first Mass said in the colonies after the landing on St. Clement’s Island on March 25, 1634. Finding the cross had become the mission of Father G. Ronald Murphy, a Jesuit priest at the university. He told the large crowd in attendance that, upon learning the cross was somewhere on the university’s campus, he searched every room, chapel, and closet to no avail. After searching a storage room on the campus, filled with liturgical vestments and vessels, university artifacts, and even Civil War weapons turned in by students returning from war, Father gave up his futile search. His attention veered toward the sabres hanging on a far wall, and he moved toward them in interest, his quest to find the cross sadly abandoned. Before reaching the swords, Father stumbled over something on the ground and fell flat on his face. Turning to see what had caused him to trip, Father discovered the cross, lying on the floor at his feet. He literally tripped over the very cross for which he had been searching. And isn’t that the way life often goes?

Sometimes we spend hours, days, even years, searching for something that we believe is “out there,” perhaps just beyond our grasp, often right in front of our face but hidden from view. So many people turn to alcohol or drugs, thinking those things will help with their search. If only they could understand that those things are hindering their search, not leading them on to a deeper understanding of themselves but just the opposite–allowing them to run and hide rather than seek the truth. Some people search for meaning by trying to develop relationships, often ones that are unhealthy or stagnant. They look for someone else to show them their purpose in life instead of seeking wisdom and answers from their creator. Some people ignore the truth altogether, searching for the answer they want instead of the answer they need.

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was the story of the Prodigal Son. Talk about searching! The young man was on a search for happiness, fulfillment, perhaps his purpose in life. Maybe he really didn’t know what he was even searching for. He believed that, whatever it was he was seeking, could not be found in his father’s house, so he asked for his share of his father’s estate, and he left in search of answers. He continued to search. He searched in far-off lands, in dens of darkness and sin, and “squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation” (Luke 15:13). When he did not find what he was searching for, he returned home where his father waited with open arms.  Somewhere, we all have a loved one waiting with open arms. No matter how far we run in search of life, love, ourselves, there is a place where we are wanted, where we can find purpose. Even if nobody on earth is left to welcome you home, God waits with open arms for you to discover Him. He has known you and loved you for all eternity.James 3.jpg

This past weekend, I saw the unforgettable movie, Unplanned.  Throughout the movie, it was apparent that Abby Johnson, former director of the largest and most successful Planned Parenthood in the country, was searching for truth but refused to see it. Like so many, she allowed others to persuade her that white was black and wrong was right. She ignored those who tried to make her see the obvious, which was right in front of her, the truth she should have tripped over; but she listened to the lies and the manipulations until the day she witnessed an abortion and finally saw it for what it was–the painful eradication of a human life.Jeremiah 1 5

This morning I spent an hour in Adoration at our church. For the entire hour, I prayed for wisdom and guidance. I, too, am searching for answers and divine intercession. I am dealing with a personal matter that just won’t go away.  It haunts me in my sleep and plagues my every waking hour. I blame it for so many things, and I just want it to leave us alone, but there are reminders everywhere–in the books I read, the shows I watch, and the news I hear and see every single morning. I want to escape it, but I can’t. It makes me angry. It fills me with overwhelming sadness. It makes me want to question why, what good can possibly come of it? For an hour this morning, I prayed for an end to the repercussions of this one event and comfort for all of us who are suffering because of it. I prayed for wisdom for the searching and healing for the suffering. I know that the search is going to take a turn. I can feel it, and I fear those things that lurk around the corner, the unknown tide that is coming our way. I am searching for the right words to say, the right things to do, and the strength and wisdom to follow through, to see the search to the end. But I am no different from you.

My struggles are my own. My fears are my own. My search will be part of my journey. But aren’t you searching for something, too? Aren’t we all? How will you proceed? What path will you choose?  And when we will all be given the gift of wisdom, the realization that the answer is most likely right in front of us, waiting for us to stumble upon it.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Following the Heart.

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 latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is being released this Friday! Order your copy today, and join her at her book launch celebration.

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).

 

Go to Joseph, or to Dad

IMG_5336-001We all know that Father’s Day in the United States is in June, but today I was inspired to move the date up a few months. While listening to the radio this morning, friend and talk show host, Gus Lloyd, told listeners that we were going to celebrate Father’s Day in honor of St. Jospeh, whose feast day is March 19. He asked listeners to call in and tell him how their fathers played a critical role in their faith lives. I couldn’t resist calling in, and I shared just a couple brief stories about my faith-filled father. After hanging up, thoughts of my father continued to swirl in my brain, and I realized that my father, more than anyone I know, truly embodies the spirit of St. Joseph, the father of Christ.

My father and my mother met in the early 1960s when my mother was living in an apartment in DC with two other women. One of the women was my father’s cousin, Claudia, and she invited my father, Richard, fresh from the Air Force, to stop by and visit one night. After Dad left that night, he decided to ask one of his cousin’s roommates out on a date, but he couldn’t remember which girl was which! He called and took a chance, asking Judy out on a date. When Judy came the door, my dad was a bit taken aback as the woman staring back at him was the other roommate! Much like Jospeh, my father followed that little voice, perhaps even an angel, telling him to honor their date. Rather than backing out and leaving Judy standing in the doorway, Richard, “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19) smiled and took her hand. The rest, as they say, is history. Richard and Judy have been married for over 55 years! Dad says he waited until they’d been married for some time before telling mom about the “mistaken identity.” I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that my dad, like Joseph, “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).

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Dad and Mom with cousin Claudia

IMG_0084Over the past 55 years, my father has worked to provide for his family. He always puts us first, often taking a backseat to whatever mom or we children had going on. Like Jospeh, Dad was content to stay in the background, usually letting my mother take the spotlight. More times than not, he even shined the light on her himself, like the time he sent a letter about Mom to Paul Harvey who then did a tribute to her on his daily, nationally syndicated radio show. Joseph knew that it was his place to protect and provide for Mary and Jesus, and he may have known that Mary would be the one to receive all the credit for Jesus’s birth and upbringing. There’s much we can learn from Joseph, just as I’ve learned much from my dad.

When my father was about 50, he was diagnosed with cancer. He made a vow to Mary that, if she implored her Son to grant him just a few more years–enough time to see his children grow up–he would say a Rosary every day. My father is now almost 82 years old, and he says several Rosaries each day. He is a man of his word. He made a promise to Mary, and to God, and kept it. How hard was it for Joseph to be a man of his word? To take Mary as his wife though she was pregnant? To sneak away in the night, with his wife and baby, leaving his family, friends, and job, in order to protect them? To teach his son all that he knew about God and scripture, all while knowing that his son was the son of God, the Messiah Himself?

When Jesus was about twelve, He was lost for three days and found in the temple, teaching the scribes and the pharisees. Mary admonished her son, telling him that they had been searching for him, but Jospeh said not a word. Here’s what I think happened. While Mary was scolding Jesus, Jospeh was running around the temple asking everyone, “Did you hear my son? Did you hear how wise he is?” and saying, “That’s my boy!” I believe this because I know my own dad. I receive emails all the time from people telling me they read my book or followed my blog because my dad told them to. While at a book signing last summer (with my father at my side), a woman told me that she was only there, buying my book, because my father had joined their community Facebook page and had spent the previous few weeks encouraging everyone to attend my signing and buy my books! She couldn’t resist his urgings and had to read the book that my father was bragging about.37811359_796502363887105_1650673493697626112_n

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My Valentine’s Present last year

Joseph was a carpenter, or more technically, a tradesman who worked with his hands. I love the scene in The Passion where Jesus is making a higher-than-normal table and shows his mother how one would sit at it using a chair. It’s such a playful scene, and I love seeing Jesus making a table the way his father would have taught him to. My father is also a tradesman who works with his hands. Throughout my life, my father, like my mother’s father, made things out of wood. It was not much more than a hobby, sometimes a way to save money or make something just the way they wanted it. Now that Mom and Dad are retired, Dad makes outdoor furniture for pleasure and to subsidize their retirement. His rocking chairs are a hot commodity as are his Adirondacks, porch swings, benches, and even birdhouses. His work is popular for two reasons–one, his craftsmanship is beyond compare; and two, my father constructs everything he makes with a healthy dose of love nailed into each board. Not love for what he’s doing, but love for those who placed the order and a genuine love for life and appreciation that he’s still here and still making furniture at eighty-one. I have no doubt the same could be said of Jospeh.

Ken and Amy's Wedding17When I got married, just before he walked me down the aisle, my father took me aside and held my hand. He said to me, “Amy, as a wife, and eventually a mother, it will be your responsibility to raise your family in the faith. You will need to make sure your husband goes to church and that your children are baptized and raised in our faith. It will be your most important job in life.” Of all the things my father could have said me at that moment, that’s what he chose to say. It made such a profound impact on me that I still remember it and adhere to it twenty-five years later. If my mother was the one who did that in our house, I don’t remember it. I’ve often wondered, when they first married, did she have to push my dad to go to Mass each week? Did she have to take the lead in teaching us about our faith? I honestly don’t recall. What I do recall is that all five of us attended Mass every single weekend whether we were at home or away. There was never, ever an excuse to skip Mass. It may have been Mom who chaired the church bazaar, presided over the PTA, served on the parish council, raised money to help those with cancer, and volunteered at all of our Catholic school events, but Dad was behind her every step of the way. Like Joseph with Mary, he was the presence that always allowed and encouraged Mom to be the blessed woman she is. He sings her praises every chance he gets, as I’m sure did Jospeh did of Mary.

Joseph never said a recorded word in the Bible, but his actions spoke volumes. He was a husband beyond reproach, a loving father who cared for and protected his son, a hard worker, a witness to his faith, and a “righteous man” who lived for others and for God. I am so blessed to have a father who emulates St. Joseph in all that he says and, more importantly, in all that he does.

Go, then to Joseph, and do all that he shall say to you;
Go to Joseph, and obey him as Jesus and Mary obeyed him;
Go to Joseph, and speak to him as they spoke to him;
Go to Joseph, and consult him as they consulted him;
Go to Joseph, and honour him as they honoured him;
Go to Joseph, and be grateful to him as they were grateful to him;
Go to Joseph, and love him, as they love him still.
– St. Alphonsus Liguori

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Let Your Light Shine Through

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 latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is being released this Friday! Order your copy today, and join her at her book launch celebration.

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).