“The family is the first essential cell of human society.” –Pope John XXIII
Have truer words ever been spoken? Where would I be without my family? Though I put God first and foremost in my life, I would be nothing, have nothing, achieve nothing, and live for nothing if not for my family. Not seeing most of my extended family for over a year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in life. Thankfully, that long, dry period ended this past weekend.
On Saturday, we hosted a graduation party for our middle child, Katie Ann. She graduated in May from Mount St. Mary’s University, but we wanted to give our family a little more time to be comfortable in a large gathering, so we asked them all to save the date for August 21. It made my day to get responses like, “I told the rest of the family they could do whatever they wanted, but I will be there come hell or high water,” and “I’m done with not seeing everyone.” We were all determined to be together, and not even a potential tropical storm was going to keep us apart.
Opera great, Robert Breault, is attributed with saying, “What greater blessing to give thanks for at a family gathering than the family and the gathering.” And he was so right.
One thing I learned at an early age is that life is not all about work, and work is not all about the absence of fun.
This past weekend, my parents were visiting for Father’s Day. Mom and I spent a little bit of time in town–we live right outside of the Maritime tourist destination, St. Michaels–and visited my girls at work, Morgan at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Katie at Simpatico, a fabulous Italian market. We all went crabbing, along with Ken’s mom, and feasted on our catch with Rebecca and Anthony who joined us on Father’s Day afternoon. We went to Mass, did a little gardening (thank you, Dad for the new forsythia!), and relaxed, happy to enjoy Mom and Dad’s first time staying at the house since 2019.
While I was making desserts on Sunday afternoon, we listened to a playlist that I created which consists of all the music we listened to when I was a kid. At one point, I looked at my mom and said, “I made this list because all these songs remind me of non-football Sunday afternoons.” Mom smiled, knowing exactly what I meant. She added, “When we’d play all the old records and clean the house before the start of the work week.” I nodded and said, “Yep. We’d blast music while cleaning and doing laundry, but what I loved most is how we’d dance and sing while we did our chores.” Those afternoons are among my favorite childhood memories.
I learned so many lessons on those Sundays, lessons like…
I’ve written before about having faith in God rather than living your life in fear. It’s something that is often on my mind but especially so over the past year.
A few days ago, a friend posted this photograph with the caption,
Covid 19 is not your enemy, fear is. You will not die one day sooner or one day later than God has planned for you. But he did not create you to live in fear. The Bible says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
This truly spoke to me because this is how our family has chosen to live over the past year.
Earlier, I saw a meme online that said, “We are not given a good life or a bad life. We are given a life. It’s up to us to make it good or bad.” What a simple but profound statement.
We are all born into a certain life. Some are born and then a new life is chosen for them. But for all of us, we don’t have any say in where we come from. Some are born to wealth and others to poverty. Some are born into fame while some obscurity. Some are born free while others are born into captivity of one kind of another. No matter where one starts, there are millions of choices as to where one ends up.
“Joy must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again … I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”
Just a couple weeks back, I wrote of the joy of those who work at Castel Gandolfo. I was amazed not by their happiness, not by their pleasure at being able to guide and assist, but by their sheer joy, a palpable exuding of something we simply cannot sustain here on earth.
How ironic that I now find myself immersed in the sentiment of joy once again as I read the delightful novel, Becoming Mrs. Lewis. While the story is meant to tell the love story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, what I find the most intriguing are the many ways Lewis finds and relishes those moments of joy.
Bonjourno! What an amazing, spontaneous adventure I’m having! I am so exited to share with you what I discovered today. About two weeks ago, my husband told me that he had been asked to meet with his company’s administrative team at their headquarters in Rome to discuss their upcoming budget. After checking, he realized he had enough frequent flyer mileage to take me with him (so long, empty nest back home). The only catch was that he would be working ten-hour days, so I would be on my own most of the time. Alone in Rome with nothing to do…how would I fill my time?
Of course, I have found plenty of ways to fill my time! And I can’t wait to share with you the best experience I’ve had in a long time. Read more →
The past few days have been a blur for Ken and me. We returned from a trip with friends in time to pack up the car and head right back out again. We spent the day driving toward a city almost six hours away where we said goodbye to our youngest daughter after a full day of setting up her dorm, running to the store for last minute things, buying the last of her books, and getting her settled for her freshman year of college. On the way home, we made a quick, late-night stop to see daughter number two and check out the on-campus house where she will spend her junior year. We were exhausted when we pulled into the driveway just after midnight last night, and the house seemed awfully quiet this morning, but we are so happy for all three of our girls as they each begin a new school year (oldest daughter is beginning her final year of law school).
I wish so many things for my girls as they embark on or continue with new chapters of their lives. I wish for good health, happiness, wisdom, and faith. Most of all, I wish them fulfilling, lifelong friendships. We should all be open to new friendships, no matter where we are in life, how old we are, where our career is headed, or what stage of family life we are experiencing. I have seen first-hand how much friendship can change and enhance your life. That was made more clear than ever this past weekend. Read more →
A few years ago, I shared the news that our Golden Retriever, Misty, had been diagnosed with a heart murmur. This past Sunday, I held my beautiful girl in my arms as her heart beat for the last time. I won’t get into a theological debate about whether or not she’s waiting for me in Heaven. That’s one of the many things beyond my comprehension. What I do know is that we could all learn to be better Christians by emulating our canine friends. Here’s how my girl brought the teachings of the Bible to life…
It’s snowing outside, and at last check, the temperature was 26 degrees and dropping. Yet, as I pass by the dining room, I have a reminder that the world will not remain dreary and cold. Outside, the snow lays on the ground, but inside, flowers are blooming on my table. Though we are entrenched in the shadows of winter, in time, spring will return as my father reminds me every day with his Facebook countdown (he reports that we have 62 days to go).
And so it is with life. We have cold and dreary seasons and then warm and sunny seasons. Without the cold or the snow or the rain, we would have no new life, nothing to look forward to, no buds blooming or fruit trees blossoming. Without sorrow, we cannot know joy. Without pain here on earth, we cannot begin to fathom the true joy of Heaven that is to come.
As our family finds itself entrenched in the shadows of woe, I remind myself that there will be a spring. Even in the darkest moments, there is light.
I’d like to share a short story. On Monday morning, Ken’s mother, his brother and sister, and our families met at Mom and Dad’s farmhouse for breakfast. Dressed in black, steeling ourselves for a day that would be shrouded in grief, we met to enjoy a family breakfast provided by the mother of Morgan’s boyfriend. We feasted on an egg and sausage casserole, fruit salad, coffee cake, and danishes. We drank coffee, apple and orange juice, and hot tea. We sat for a solid hour, relishing not only the food but the love and thoughtfulness that brought it to us and that surrounded us. And as we ate, we shared stories and memories. We laughed until we cried, and then, joining well over a hundred people who filled the little country church across the road and the reception afterward, we cried until we laughed.
I am reminded of Ecclesiastes, 3:1-8:
There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:
A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.
A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building.
A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.
A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.
A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for discarding.
A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking.
A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace.
For where there is snow, there is a flower underneath, waiting to bloom. Or a tomato plant.
Amy 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 Meand Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016.Whispering Vineswas 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; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.
As I’m finishing up our 2016 photo album, I’ve been looking back over the past year and thinking about all that we did and saw.There were many life-changing events, but the things that make me smile the most are the things, large and small, that bring to mind the phrase, ‘wonder and awe.’I still remember being in 8th grade, preparing for Confirmation, and learning about the Gift of the Spirits.Sr. Janet told us that the most important gift was wonder and awe, which she described as always seeing life through the eyes of a child, unjaded and full of amazement at all that God does, creates, and gives.Her words have always stuck with me, and I have been reminded of them many times throughout my life.
Over the past year, I was humbled as I knelt before the tomb of our Lord.I cried as I walked through the 9/11 Museum.I laughed at the antics of my girls while we were in Spain.All of these things brought me to a new understanding of whom I am and where I am in my life.But nothing makes me smile like the simple memories – Katie’s eyes as they lit up watching Aladdin’s magic carpet rise above the Broadway stage; the joy on the faces of my children and their friends when they summited a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado; my mother’s exclamation of pure amazement when she looked through the kids’ Christmas-light 3-D glasses.These small things bring me great joy, and they exemplify the truth in the saying that money doesn’t buy happiness.
So many people spend their lives searching for more: more wealth, more stuff, more power, more friends, more time.You name it, everyone wants more of it.Morgan and I recently listened to a Ted Talk about happiness.It talked about the correlation between having more stuff and feeling less satisfaction.Having more doesn’t mean feeling more unless that feeling is that of being overwhelmed, burdened, disorganized, and dissatisfied.When will people, particularly in the Western World, realize that all we need to feel happy is to be content with what we already have?It’s not about keeping up with the neighbors.It’s about finding joy within yourself and radiating it out to others.It’s not what others give to you but what you give to them that will bring true satisfaction with what you have and who you are.
In 2017, I implore you to look past the stuff and see the simple joys that surround you every day.Laugh at the kids building a snowman in your yard or next door.Delight in the smell of the flowers in your garden this spring.Close your eyes and revel in the feel of the warm sun on your face.Breathe in the crisp, cool fall air.Don’t let a minute of the next year go by without noticing all of the amazing things in this world.Find your sense of wonder of awe, and cherish it.Never stop looking at life through the eyes of a child.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.