“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” – James Thurber
Isn’t that a great quote?
As a reader and a writer, I understand the need to have questions answered.
So Many Questions, so Few Answers!
We all begin reading a book with many questions. What is this about? Who are the characters? What will happen to them? What obstacles will they face and overcome? How will this end? At the end of the book, if it’s a book worth reading, those questions are all answered to a satisfying degree. Unless the story ends on a cliffhanger to be picked up in the next book, we are unsatisfied if we don’t have answers. We want and need more. We need all the answers.
Life is a journey on which we grow, learn, discover, and become. We begin that journey with many questions. Who am I? What is my purpose? What should I do? Where should I go? Where will I end up? The questions are large, small, simple, and complex; and often, the answers we discover lead to more questions. We long for answers and tidy endings, but life is not a book!
On a cold day in 2018, my daughter asked me if she could write my blog that week. When she told me her idea about temporary people and why she wanted to write it, I was amazed by her insight, wisdom, and faith. I was even more amazed when I read her words. Many times over the past four years, I have thought back on this blog and the impact it had on me and others.
This Friday, the third book in my Buffalo Springs series will be released. Much of the story was inspired by my daughter’s blog. Throughout the story, the characters learn to embrace my daughter’s wisdom, and their lives are richer and more meaningful as a result.
In honor of the release of Sapphires in Snow, I’m re-sharing Rebecca’s blog. I know it will impact you as much as it did me. If you’re reading it for the second time, perhaps it will have an even deeper meaning for you today.
I hope you enjoy this beautiful blog written by my daughter, Rebecca:
When I was in first grade, my best friend was constantly bullied. She had a rare medical condition that made her an easy target for the kids in our class. They were horrible to her, but she taught me what it meant to be a true friend. She brought out something else in me that those other kids would try to take away, but that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. Eventually, we grew apart, and I haven’t spoken to her in years.
When I was in fourth grade, I was the one who was struggling. My teacher saw something in me and challenged me. He was one of those people who you knew you could trust immediately, and he was so kind to all of his students, regardless of their own imperfections. He showed me what a true role model looked like and made me feel like I could accomplish anything. Eventually, I left that school, and I haven’t seen him since.
If there’s anything I cherish as much as I love and cherish spending time with my family, it’s spending time with friends. I think it’s something that people today don’t appreciate enough. When one can brag about having close to 1000 friends on Facebook, and the number of followers on Instagram is more important to them than the number of minutes spent face-to-face with live people, then there’s something very wrong with our world.
A few years ago, I was toying with the idea of writing a book about a former female Navy SEAL. I didn’t know her name or her story, but bits and pieces were beginning to come to me. I couldn’t find any direction and didn’t feel like the character was talking to me as I sat at my desk in my office on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I needed a break to clear my head. Some time away with a good friend was just what I was hoping for.
When I arrived in the Arkansas Ozarks, my dear friend, Tammi, assured me that I would one day write a series that takes place in one of the picturesque towns in the area. I was dead set against writing a series, but I went with an open mind. After several days of driving around and visiting many of the picturesque towns, I was even more convinced that I was not meant to write a series, and my character was still hiding in my brain, refusing to show herself. Then we drove through a town that broke my heart.
The sidewalks were cracked, most of the windows were boarded up, and the fountain in the center of town was dry and crumbling. Suddenly, I saw Andi, arriving home from the Navy, standing in the middle of town with a hole in her heart. She was dying inside, and the one place she thought could revive her was dying as well.
Here we are, three years later, and Andi is happily married and living in Buffalo Springs, the town she helped restore. Her sister, Helena, is engaged to the town doctor and piloting every organization in town. Their brother, Jackson, well… he’s trying to find his way out of Buffalo Springs as fast as he can.
Sapphires in Snow
Award-winning author, Amy Schisler, takes us home for Christmas to Buffalo Springs where every season is a time for love… and danger.
Award-winning author, Amy Schisler, takes us home for Christmas to Buffalo Springs where every season is a time for love… and danger.
The little white house on Main Street in Buffalo Springs, Arkansas, is the only home Jackson Nelson has ever known. With college behind him and both his sisters back in town to look after their aging parents, Jackson knows now is the time to make his big move. All he’s ever wanted is to move to New York and lead the high-stakes life of a real estate investor. He’s determined to leave town right after Christmas and never look back.
Cindy Kline has never had a real home or a real Christmas. Abandoned by her father and raised by an unfit mother, Cindy thought she had finally found the family she always wanted when the man of her dreams asked her to marry him; but when his Navy SEAL helicopter went down in a fiery crash before their wedding, Cindy had nothing left to keep her in sunny California. Packing her meager belongings into her old, beat-up car, Cindy drives straight to Buffalo Springs and to the only real friend she’s ever had – Andi Nelson. With Christmas around the corner, Andi, Jackson, and the whole Nelson family convince Cindy to stay through the holidays.
Just when Cindy is beginning to get into the Christmas spirit, her life is once again up-ended – this time by a series of break-ins and the news that her dangerous father may be lurking nearby. Cindy has no idea that her father’s mysterious past will put her life in jeopardy, and Jackson has no idea that the bright lights of New York are but a flickering flame when it comes to the sparks of the heart.
A cold wind—the precursor of a coming storm—shook the trees and rattled the shingles, but the flames flickered in the fireplace, and the house smelled of freshly baked bread and roasting, Thanksgiving turkey. Jackson slipped out the front door and leaned against one of the columns that framed the steps of the only place he’d ever called home. He took a sip from the bottle in is hand and heard the door open behind him.
“Cold night to be stargazing,” Jackson’s father said as he slowly moved to stand beside his son, using the furniture and porch railing to guide his steps. He hated using his walker.
“Cold but clear. The best kind of night to see the stars.” He gestured at the sky with the bottle.
“I guess you don’t see many stars in the city,” his father said.
Jackson took another sip. “Not as many as here,” he agreed. “But there are a lot of things the city has that Buffalo Springs doesn’t.”
“I suppose I probably thought that way when I was your age.”
Jackson ignored the comment and leaned closer to the man whom he had always admired. He asked quietly, “How’re you holding up, Daddy? Are you feeling okay?”
Joshua beamed up at his son. “Never better.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Jackson said though he doubted there was much truth to his father’s statement. “We just don’t want you overdoing it.”
“Nonsense,” Joshua said, waving his hand in dismissal. “I’m as fit as a fiddle.”
Joshua wished that was true, but one look told him otherwise. His father had aged at least ten years since his stroke back in June, and though Jackson had seen his progress in the months leading through August, he was shocked to see how fragile his father had become while Jackson was at school.
Joshua Nelson’s blue eyes seemed dimmer, and he had lost more than seventy pounds. His arms were thin with none of the muscle Joshua had built up after years of heavy lifting in the town’s paper mill. When the mill shut down a few years back, Joshua had no problem getting a job lifting and carrying loads at the local hardware store. It was only after he was laid off, during the town’s bad years, that Joshua’s health had declined. Now, he stood stooped over, his face sagged with wrinkles and empty skin, and his legs didn’t always work the way they should.
“Daddy, you must be freezing out here. Let’s go back inside. I’m sure Mama could use some help, and your game shows will be on soon.”
Jackson remained alert, his arms ready to give aid, as his father shuffled back toward the door. His heart broke to see his strong, capable father reduced to half his size and a quarter of his strength.
“Your mother’s the one who always overdoes it,” Joshua said. “I told her to wait to cook that bird in the morning when the girls are here, but she insisted that she always cooks it the night before. Says it’s easier for me to carve it that way.”
That was something Jackson hadn’t thought of. Was his father capable of carving the turkey? Could he even hold the knife steady? Maybe Jackson should suggest that it’s high time for him to learn to do the job. After all, he’d be a college graduate in less than a month. Time to start taking on some more responsibility around here. For what little time he’d be around here anyway.
After helping his father get settled in his armchair, Jackson’s eyes fell on the carpet where the repair stood out, the threads bright and colorful. He recalled the day a fireball had been thrown through the window and onto the rug. He frowned, remembering the men who tried to burn down his parents’ house and attack his sister, Andi, when she and Jackson devised a plan to save the town from the drug lords who were running it. It was during that time that Andi convinced Mayor Wade Montgomery to join their efforts, and Wade went from being a figurehead who bowed to the crooked town council to a legitimate mayor who fought for the best interests of Buffalo Springs. Both Andi and Wade came close to being killed by the men who thought they ran the town, and Jackson’s already high admiration of his sister had grown even more.
“There you are.” Grace’s voice pulled Jackson back to the present. “I called from the kitchen, but y’all didn’t answer.”
“Sorry, Mama. We were on the porch. Do you need help with something?”
“Can you lift the bird from the oven for me? It gets heavier every year.”
Jackson smiled. “Sure, Mama.” He started toward the kitchen.
“Just put it on top of the stove for now,” Grace called.
The aroma of spice-laden skin and toasted stuffing filled the air, and Jackson’s stomach growled despite the hearty supper they’d eaten only an hour before.
He hefted the turkey onto the stove and turned off the oven. Before he returned to the living room, he gazed around the bright kitchen with its yellow walls and lacy curtains. Nothing about this room had changed in at least fifteen years, but instead of comforting Jackson, it made him uneasy. Not much in this town ever changed even with all the new businesses that his sister and her husband were bringing in. It was no place for a young man just starting out in life, and as much as he would hate to break the news to his family, Jackson knew that come New Year’s, he would be long gone from here. He didn’t plan on ever coming back.
October 29, 2022 – Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, MD
Amy will be signing and selling books at the festival. The event features live music on two stages, boat rides, retriever demonstrations, oysters and other local fare, an oyster stew competition and cooking demonstrations, along with children’s activities, oyster demonstrations, harvesting displays and Chesapeake-related documentary screenings. More details coming soon.
Write What You Know Writer’s Workshop
November 12, 2022 – Time TBA – Leonardtown Library, Leonardtown, MD
Amy will be giving a workshop for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). She will talk about how to write a more authentic and readable novel by writing about what you know – the people, places, and events that have shaped your own life. More details coming soon.
November 19, 10am-4pm & November 20 10am-3pm – Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, MD
Amy will be selling and signing her books at the annual event just in time for Christmas! The Festival will feature artisans from around the country selling coastal and sea-glass related jewelry, home décor, art, and more. The two-day festival ticket includes entrance to the festival, live music, and all the exhibitions and historic structures on the campus of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
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What I was writing about one year ago this week: I Surrender.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall.
Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was 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 the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021.
Any day now, possibly by the time this goes to print, I will be a grandmother. For the past nine months, I have marveled at how I could be a grandmother already. It seems too soon. I’m excited, but I don’t feel ready. I don’t have enough life experience yet. I’m still busy screwing up my children’s lives! I still make parenting mistakes all the time. How can I help my daughter navigate her own life as a new mother?
I was lying in bed last night, unable to put my mind to rest, when I thought, I don’t know how to do this yet. My mother and grandmother were so good at it, so perfect, and I’m so much younger than they were when they took on this role.
Our family has always had a fascination with sea glass. Though we spend more time in the mountains, and I’ve never been a beach person, we love walking along the shoreline, searching for brightly colored pieces of time. It’s a peaceful, calming act in a world of noise and chaos. That was how we spent the last day of our vacation, and it was the perfect ending to an adventurous week!
My sister-in-law makes amazing jewelry, pictures, and other items from sea glass, so we’re always on the hunt for unique pieces and colors. Not to mention, the girls and I love sea glass earrings and necklaces!
Besides the beauty of the glass and serenity of the hunt for them, I think there are some lessons to be learned from these small fragments of glass that would serve us all well.
Have you ever experienced a time when something unexpected happened that threw off all your plans but ended up being a blessing in disguise? Of course you have. We’ve all had those moments when we realized that whatever was causing a disruption to our plans was actually a good thing, in some cases, a bounty of blessings.
Earlier this summer, Ken and I were planning our drive across the country from our home in Maryland to our cabin in Colorado. One of the things we love about this drive is that there is so much to do between here and there. Each trip is a grand adventure, and we always look forward to the stops we will make and the people we will be blessed to see. We had the entire trip planned out–a stop at the Air Force Museum, dinner with friends in Ohio, a tour of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, a trip to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, a quick visit to the Cathedral on the Plains, and a drive up Pike’s Peak. Everything was perfect until about three days before we were to leave.
We just ended an awesome vacation. My husband, two of our daughters, and I spent eight nights in Puerto Rico, and we fit so much into that time, including a lot of much-needed downtime. We ate amazing food, drank $5 mojitos and margaritas, zip lined and waterfall rappelled in the rain forest, kayaked in the world’s largest bioluminescent bay, explored caves and beaches, all read numerous books, and were blessed to have time to just be. It was absolutely perfect, except for one small detail.
I rarely had the opportunity to stop and call my mom.
Yes, you read that right. I only spoke to my mother twice during the entire trip. And while many of you may find that normal or think that even speaking twice was excessive, you have to understand my relationship with my mother.
I am blessed to say that my mother is my best friend.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God”(Luke 12:21).
We heard these words in Sunday’s Gospel just before leaving on our summer vacation. Vacations are sacred to us, treasures to be kept in our hearts and cherished. They aren’t tangible, and they can’t be stored physically, but they are precious gifts that we always look forward to and look back upon.
Many years ago, Ken and I made the decision to never skip a family vacation. He has always worked high pressure jobs and rarely has the ability to just take a day off or check out early. Before he had his present job, he traveled so much, he was hardly home for the equivalent of an entire week per month. For his own mental health, we knew that we had to make vacations one of the top priorities in our marriage.
When we lead marriage prep classes for our diocese, we do an exercise in which the couples have to list their individual priorities for their marriage and then share and discuss with their fiancés what their couple priorities for the marriage are. Many of these couples include travel as a priority. We always encourage them to keep that as a priority, especially when they have families, because those times are a treasure indeed.
I’ve written before about how important vacations are in a marriage and family even if it’s just a trip to some place in your home town. But they are more than just jaunts away from home or time off from work.
This past Sunday, the Gospel reading was the well-known story of Jesus’s dinner at the home of sisters, Martha and Mary, and the Lord’s advice to Martha about choosing the better part. On the way out of Mass, as I led my entourage of family and friends from the church, someone remarked to me that it looked like I could relate to the reading and the homily that weekend! I had been thinking the same thing as I sat in the pew with my husband, three daughters, my son-in-law, Katie’s boyfriend, two of Rebecca’s friends, Rebecca’s mother-in-law, and my bestie, Anne, from Illinois. These were just the last bit of people staying with us for Rebecca’s baby shower weekend.
Many know the story of Martha–cooking, cleaning, serving–and Mary, who quietly sits and listens to Jesus. Poor Martha, doing all the hard work and planning and then being admonished by the Lord for it! If only she could be more like her sister, Mary (how many siblings have heard that before?).
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
This story holds so many lessons for us, but the true meaning, the better part of the lesson, is lost on so many. It’s a lesson I often have to remind myself, including this past weekend…
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