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.
Yesterday morning, I drove two and a half hours to the funeral of my friend’s mother. While on the phone, taking care of some business while driving, I was told, “It’s nice that you have the time to do that.” I assured the person on the other end that I did not have the time, but that I was raised in a family where attending funerals is just what you do. You make the time. People flock to showers and hospitals to welcome new babies into the world, but few people take the time to usher someone out of this world. I went because it was the right thing to do. And what did I gain from it? Simple; the joy on Anne’s face when she glanced up and saw me there. It’s all about spreading joy even in places where you expect to find none.
We’ve actually been talking about joy a lot lately in our family. It has been a hard few months for us. Rebecca is juggling the LSAT, law school applications, the hardest classes she has taken so far, and an impending change as she crosses the street from childhood into adulthood. Katie, my homebody, is facing leaving home for a college between two and four hours away. For many, that distance seems inconsequential; but for Katie, it’s monumental. Morgan, my baby, is grappling with hormones, shifting friend groups, and all that comes with being fifteen. Of course, Ken and I are staring into the future and contemplating what life will be like in just over two years when we are empty nesters. Sometimes, when faced with the trials of every day life, joy can be hard to find.
Pope John Paul II, said that “God made us for joy.” It seems so simple yet so hard at times. Recently, a friend suggested that, when finding it difficult to get past the hard times in life, it can help to keep a gratitude journal. This was the most beautiful advice and can really make a difference. Best selling author, Brené Brown, tells us that “There is no joy without gratitude.” The more we are thankful for, the more we see the good in the world, and the more joyful we are. To take the small things throughout the course of the day, and see them for the joy they can bring is so easy, so why don’t we do it more often? Just look around. Witness the thrill of a child with a new puppy. Savor the taste of a hearty meal or a good glass of wine. Feel the warmth of a fire on a chilly night. Experience the calming effects of a beautiful song, a good book, or a meaningful prayer. Be thankful for time spent with friends, no matter the occasion.
On a recent mission trip to Guatemala, Ken was humbled by the poverty of the people he visited and amazed by their constant expressions of happiness. He said that they had so little but radiated such joy. It reminds me of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians that, as Christians, we should be “in pain yet always full of joy; poor and yet making many people rich; having nothing, and yet owning everything” (2 Corinthians 6:10). We tend to put so much stock in material things, always looking for happiness in grand ways, but it’s in the every day, little things, that we can find true joy, even at a funeral. We must look, always and everywhere, for the things that that make us happy. For in finding true joy, we not only create better lives for ourselves but for all the world around us.
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 latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
Call it what you may, but saying yes, giving of my time and talents, taking on too many tasks, is not a weakness. I’ve had this argument more than once with family and friends, and each time, I leave the conversation thinking that I was not successful in getting across why I continue to say yes. No, I don’t have an irrational desire to please nor am I insecure and unable to stand up for myself. I have a deep-in-my-soul belief that I was meant to serve. There are those who, I know, think I’m crazy. Sometimes, even I think that. But then there are the times that reaffirm my calling in resonating tones.
This past Sunday, the Gospel reading ended with the line, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.” Our priest told us that each of us is called to do service here on Earth. He said that we are not meant to spend our lives being waited on or watching others do work. We are meant to pitch in, do our share, and contribute to society whenever and however we are needed. Everything that I have ever believed about serving others was summed up so loudly and clearly that I wanted to turn to everyone around me and shout, “See, I’m only doing what I was meant to be doing.”
While others may benefit from my service, I know that, ultimately, I am the one who is achieving the greatest reward. Here are my reasons for believing this and what I have learned in the process:
Discovering Strengths: I am a master at organization. Give me an event, and I can plan it down to the smallest details. I can find the right people, give the right directions, and orchestrate the affair without letting any complication, large or small, dictate its success. But there are things I am not good at, and that’s okay. I have discovered what I can do and what I cannot. I consider that a gift and a blessing.
Admitting Weaknesses: I do know when to quit, when to say no. In fact, I said no last week. I was asked to be part of a capital campaign and solicit money for a good cause. For a very good cause. For a cause near and dear to my heart. But I’ve been there and done that. And I learned that I am not good in that role. I am not comfortable in that role, but I know that there are others who are. There are others who are called to do that, Just as there are others who are called to direct plays, do bookkeeping, and maintain gardens. All things that I’ve been asked to do at one time or another and either knew or learned the hard way that they are beyond my capabilities.
Joy is a Beautiful Thing: Whether it is planning a week-long summer camp or an all-night after prom party, I delight in seeing everything come together in a way that brings happiness and joy to the participants. Seeing their faces, hearing their stories, and watching them have fun, makes all of the hard work and countless hours more than worth it.
My soul is satisfied: Few things in life feel better than the success or accomplishment of great tasks. It’s not about self-aggrandizement. It’s about self-discovery, self-growth, and self-satisfaction. It wouldn’t matter to me if no other person in the world knew that I was behind an event. I know it, and it feels good to see something I’ve worked on go the way that I hoped and prayed it would.
But it’s not about what I have to offer: It’s about what we can accomplish together. It’s about bringing together a group of individuals and helping each of them to find their strengths, encouraging them to use their talents, and inspiring in them and others the passion to serve. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
My children are learning to lead: They are not learning to be pushovers but to plan, to accept their strengths and their shortcomings, and to serve others. I once had someone say to me that I was doing my children a disservice because they would grow up to be women who couldn’t say no, who took on too many tasks. At first, I worried about this, but then I watched my children come to their own realizations about what they can do and how much they can handle. They understand what it means to stay committed to something, what it takes to lead, and when it’s necessary to back down or say no.
There is no obstacle too large to overcome: Often, we hear about mountains being in the way of success. We can climb over them, go around them, tunnel through them, or turn around and go back the way we came. I am a big believer in finding those ways to get to the other side of the mountain. If there’s a will, there’s a way, right? It’s often my mantra, and I’ve never found it to be untrue. The acclaimed surgeon, Ben Carson, wrote in his book, Gifted Hands, “Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.” How true that is.
My yoke may be heavy, but my burden is light: This is the one thing that others never understand. Yes, committing to several large endeavors while maintaining a home and career is daunting, but it’s not tiring. I am busy, but I am not overwhelmed. I keep my eye on the finish line, jumping over hurdles, sometimes sloshing through puddles, but holding steady to my pace. Most of all, I don’t worry or stress or let fears or uncertainties overcome me. I know that I am not doing all of the things I take on for myself. I am doing them for the greater good. And that’s what matters because I know that God will not let me fail. He will not let me falter. He will hold me up, guide me on the trail, and lead me to victory, not mine, but His, for the glory is His. Because…
I am the handmaid of the Lord: I am here to serve. I am here to do His will. I will continue to listen to that inner voice that says, “No, this is not the right time” or “This is not the right job,” or “Yes, you can handle this. I will be by your side.”
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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
I am blessed to live in the United States, a country that boasts “the pursuit of happiness” as an unalienable right. If doesn’t, however, guarantee that you will be happy or that anyone has to be forced to make you happy. It just decrees that you have the right to pursue being happy. Nor are any of us given a path to happiness, a guarantee of some sort that we will be happy. That is up to each of us as individuals. And the only way to be happy is to pursue a life of happiness, not from others, but from the things that you, yourself, do every day. Unfortunately, many people are searching for happiness in ways that leave them feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even sad and sometimes lonely. In my observations of the people and situations around me, here is what I see that they’re doing wrong. Read more →