A Marriage of Worth

Baby RebeccaDear Daughter,
Congratulations on your engagement! It’s hard to believe that the day has come when I am writing these words. So often, I still think of you as my little girl, my first-born. Has it really been over twenty-three years since you came into our lives? It seems like yesterday that I first looked into those wide eyes, so full of curiosity and hunger for knowledge, and thought, “She’s mine.” Nothing has changed since that moment. You are still full of curiosity and have an insatiable desire for knowledge, and you are still mine. No matter how old you get, no matter where you live, no matter your choices in life, no matter whose heart or lead you follow, first and foremost, you will always be mine. That doesn’t mean I won’t allow you to live your life, make your own decisions, and become your own brand of wife and mother.

What it means is…

I will always have your back. I will always be there to catch you when you fall. I will always pick up the phone, race to your side, cheer your success, hold you when you fail, and pray for you every day. I will continue to marvel at the things you do and sometimes cringe at the things you say. I will never stop trying to teach you, but I will always listen to your thoughts and opinions. In return, I hope you will continue to listen to me. In case you don’t, or I’m not here in your times of need, never forget…

You have always been fiercely independent, and that shouldn’t end, but it will need to change. Jesus reminds us that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). In becoming one, you will no longer live for yourself but for each other. While this sounds romantic, it’s not. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. You have to think of what is best for the two of you, at all times, rather than what is best for yourself. You will disagree. You will fight. You will be angry with each other. But just as a cut to your own skin wounds you, a cut in the flesh you share wounds you both. You need to remember that to each other, you are “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). What hurts one will ultimately hurt the other.

Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, in the iconic movie, Love Story, popularized the saying, ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’ This line has been misinterpreted often, and that’s so detrimental to a relationship. You see, you will have to say you’re sorry, perhaps over and over again, because you will make mistakes, and you will need to apologize, but what love actually means is that the person who has been hurt accepts that you’re sorry, forgives you, and moves on. Saying sorry is important, but forgiving is tantamount to loving. You must love each other so much that you are willing to forgive time and time again without regret and without repercussions. You know before you say the words that love has already brought about forgiveness. That’s what it means to not have to say you’re sorry.

For several years now, you have been the arbiter of your destiny. You have made all of your own decisions and chosen the path that is best for you. From now on, you will make decisions together for the best of your family. Some of those decisions will come easily to you both, but others will cause turmoil and dissension. Those are the most important decisions for those will create the moments in which you place your unfaltering trust in one another. There will be times when you will need to go against your better judgement, and he against his, but these will be times that will both test and strengthen your marriage. Accept them, and accept the chance to bend, for these moments can, at times, far outweigh the easier times when you agree on everything. These moments will be when you’re most angry, most lost, and most afraid, yet they may, in the end, be the most rewarding as they foster trust and growth. 

IMG_2758.JPGNever stop talking to each other. About everything. Tell each other your hopes and dreams, your fears and sorrows. Share the highs and lows of each day. Ask each other how you feel, what you desire, and how your day was. Talk of the lowliest and the mightiest things. But more importantly, listen to each other. Listen to what each says and does not say. Be attentive to what is asked for and what is not asked for but is desperately needed. Strive to know each other inside and out. Be in tune with the songs of each other’s hearts and the harmonies of your bodies. 

Don’t let your wedding Mass be the only time you invite God into your relationship. He enters into it from the start and desires to stay with you always. Remember that “Those who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love” (Wisdom 3:9). Just as I will never abandon you, neither will God. Allow Him to be the rock upon which you build your marriage. When you build, make God the cornerstone. When you seek, allow Him to show you the way. When you wonder, be open to His wisdom. When you hurt, plead for His mercy. When you transgress, ask for His forgiveness. And do this together. Pray together, fast together, go to Mass together, seek Him together. It truly is the only way your marriage will survive and prosper.

Finally, be a woman of worth, for “far beyond jewels is her value” (Proverbs 31:10). I have strived, throughout your life, to teach you how to do this through the grace of God. And so, I leave you with His words and not mine. May He bless your love and your marriage, lead you to prosperity and joy, and grant you a life filled with happily-ever-afters.

I love you,
Mom

Who can find a woman of worth?
Far beyond jewels is her value.

Her husband trusts her judgment;
he does not lack income.

She brings him profit, not loss,
all the days of her life…

She girds herself with strength;
she exerts her arms with vigor…

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

She is not concerned for her household when it snows—
all her charges are doubly clothed…

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and laughs at the days to come.

She opens her mouth in wisdom;
kindly instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband, too, praises her:..

Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Proverbs 31

(And there’s this just in case Anthony needs a reminder of my words of wisdom to him.)

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Returning to the Island.

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).

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?

HL Day 5.jpg
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.
Sunset Galilee.jpg
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.
Dad's 82nd.jpg
We can remind ourselves every day that we are to look for those precious moments of peace and savor them.

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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: 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

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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).

 

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…
Fonz.JPG

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).

 

Peru: A Small Service Excursion Abroad

Hello faithful readers! My name is Megan, and I am Amy’s publishing assistant until May. Since she is on a trip this week, I’m here to share my experiences with you from my spring break trip over the last 10 days: Peru!IMG_9515.JPG

Before we get into specifics, I’ll give you a little bit of background information about me. This year I am a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University and will be graduating with a degree in Communication and with a minor in Spanish. I grew up as a military brat (Ooh-Rah!), and when my family was stationed overseas from 2006-2009, we traveled as much of Europe as we could manage. Though I don’t really have a place that I’m “from,” I currently live in Carroll County, Maryland, where I graduated high school. I love romance novels, which is what drew me to Amy’s open position, and my favorite novel of hers is Whispering Vines because, in my mind, it’s closely linked to my favorite movie, The Longest Ride, but features a fun Italian twist, and with recipes!

Over the first 10 days of March, my Spanish teacher finally achieved her four-year goal to get me on one of her Spanish study abroad experiences. Doctora, as she’s known by all her students, has been trying to get me to study abroad in Spain or Costa Rica, the month long excursions, since my first year in college, but I never wanted to spend an entire month away from my family. The Peru trip, though, was 1) only 10 days, 2) open to members of my family, which means I could take my mom, and 3) probably the only time I’d ever go to South America, so it was the PERFECT time and place to go.

Thus began our journey to South America.

Friday, 3/1/2019: Travel Day.

 

We woke up at 330 am to drive to Dulles airport, fly to Panama City International, and then fly again to Lima. Our passports were stamped with our visas, and we stayed overnight in a small hostel to rest before moving to lower altitudes.

Saturday, 3/2/2019: Travel Day Part 2

 

We woke up early again to fly from Lima to Cusco, and then took a van from Cusco to Urubamba, a town much lower in altitude. For reference, Cusco is about 11,000 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu is about 8,000 feet, and Urubamba is closer to 6,000 feet. Staying in Urubamba allowed us to adjust to the altitude gradually and avoid some altitude sickness! At the hotel San Agustin, they had Coca Tea to help with the altitude. Coca Tea is made by steeping the literal Coca leaf in water and drinking the tea produced. I, personally, was NOT a fan, and chose to stick to my Altitude Rx natural pills instead.

Sunday, 3/3/2019: Ollantaytambo Visit

 

Our first real day of excursions! We visited the town of Ollantaytambo (Oh-yan-tie-tahm-bo) which had some ancient Incan ruins. Doctora scheduled a tour guide to lead us on different cultural tours, and this was the first day we met her. She led us through the ruins of Ollantaytambo and explained many of the different histories of the Inca, including the importance of the Incan cross, the terraces created in the mountainside to help with irrigation, protection, and to support the structure of the mountain, and even where the name Ollantaytambo came from. One of the possible explanations for it being named so could be a misconstruction of the Quechua (the Incan native language) word “tampu,” which referred to a small resting place for many of the Incan messengers to stop on their journeys. A “tampu” was supplied with food by the “allyu,” which was the Incan equivalent of a state. The state paid its dues in labor and supplies to Cusco, the capital of the region, and each “allyu” was responsible for maintaining their “tampu” for the messengers and other travelers. “Tambo,” then, could come from a mispronunciation of “tampu.”

Monday, 3/4/2019: Machu Picchu

 

Our day to Machu Picchu started with a van back to Ollantaytambo, where we rode a train car with MANY windows to the Machu Picchu station. Machu Picchu, or MaPi for short, is now considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, and many more people travel to it than before. Our hotel was the new Casa Andina, and we heard the roar of the Urubamba river outside our window while we slept. The town of MaPi has become very centralized for tourists, and includes many different restaurants, a shopping market that you can easily get lost in, and bus trips to and from MaPi itself. Once we rode to the top of the mountain, we saw the breathtaking ruins, climbed many stairs, and learned more than enough about its history from our tour guide. There were even llamas roaming free across the grasses, and they were incredibly unbothered by all the people.

Tuesday, 3/5/2019: Machu Picchu Town and Travel Day

 

Because there are only two major times when the train rides between Ollantaytambo and MaPi, we had the morning to ourselves in MaPi until our 1:30 p.m. train departed back to Ollantaytambo. My mom and I strolled through the market for a bit before sitting in a cute little French bistro for the rest of the afternoon. I sampled a Mochaccino, which was homemade with authentic and delicious Peruvian chocolate. After we returned from MaPi, we took a van back to Cusco city and allowed our bodies to adjust to the higher altitude by simply relaxing and enjoying dinner in the hotel.

Wednesday, 3/6/2019: Cusco City Day 1

 

Our stay in Cusco City began with a trip to the Coricancha, or the Temple of the Sun God. For the traditional Incan people, the Coricancha is the equivalent of the Vatican for Catholics today. This was their holiest of holy places, and it was once covered in gold. Gold represented the tears and essence of the Sun God, also known as “Inti.” When the Spaniards arrived to colonize and conquer, they built a church and monastery over the Coricancha and ordered all other temples to stop construction as part of the conversion of the Incan people. Every 300 years, however, Cusco suffers a giant earthquake, and when the last one occurred in the 1950s, the Cathedral atop the Coricancha fell, but all the Incan stones of the Coricancha below remained completely intact. Because of this, the Incan belief in Inti and their historical culture is somewhat affirmed to the Incan people, and the Coricancha remains a reverent place for the traditions.

After vising the Coricancha, we took a short walking tour of Cusco city and made our way over to the orphanage where we would be serving for the next three days. As part of the Peru excursion, Doctora always works with an orphanage in Cusco to have us complete some time of service. We helped play with children ages three to six in the courtyard for an hour and a half, often giving hugs and physical affection throughout the time we spent there. Though there wasn’t much else to do, it was a good way to begin our service.

Thursday, 3/7/2019: Cusco City Day 2

 

We began the morning by shopping at the local grocery store for food to bring to the orphanage. Then we took the gifts we had of food and soap to the orphanage and volunteered until after lunch. Our Peru group had seven students this year, and we split into two groups for volunteering: those who could teach English to the older girls, and those who would play with the younger children. I was able to help teach English to some of the older girls, and while they knew some already, they were very eager to learn new songs, different English words, and what school was like at the university level in the United States. At lunch time, I was given a small two-year-old named Sandi to feed, and though I’ve never fed a baby anything before, I learned very quickly. She was so quiet, so sweet, and so cooperative that it was very easy! Her favorite thing to do when I held her before lunch and as she sat on the tiny chairs during lunch was swing her legs everywhere, but she was always looking for food.

After our time at the orphanage, we had the afternoon to ourselves, so my mom and I used our cultural ticket to visit as many museums as we possibly could in the Cusco area. We visited the Incan history museum near the orphanage, the Coricancha museum, and two different art museums that featured both popular and contemporary art pieces. We also found the Coffee Museum of Peru, which was free to enter and had a small hallway of information about coffee, as well as some delicious cafe snacks. Our server, Maria, was wonderful and I was able to hold a fluent, easily-understood conversation with her entirely in Spanish! As someone who aspires to be bilingual, if not multi-lingual, I thought this was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip.

Friday, 3/8/2019: Cusco Day 3

 

We attempted to start our day with more service at the orphanage, but due to a miscommunication, there wasn’t much for us to do. Before we left for Peru, Doctora handed out different school supplies for us to donate to the older girls at the orphanage who were attending school so that we could divide everything appropriately, and we handed these supplies out this morning. Many of the older girls at the orphanage actually do have parents, but their parents want to give them a better life, and the nuns who run the orphanage allow the girls to go to school in Cusco so long as they live and help with the younger children at the orphanage. This particular orphanage is only allowed to house children until they turn six, unless they are the older girls helping, and once children turn six they must either be adopted or they will be sent to another orphanage somewhere else in Peru, where more of the older orphans are.

The nun in charge of the orphanage spoke about one child who was in the orphanage because her mother was raped at 11 and had her at 12. Unable to care for the child and choosing to seek work elsewhere, the mother gave her daughter to her grandmother, who wanted to give her to the mother’s aunt who just had a baby herself. The aunt was unable to take care of another child, however, so the child was sent to the orphanage. This child was the one who, when we visited the first day, would go around to each person for a quick hug, over and over again in the circle, until she became distracted by someone else. The nun described how each child has a cross of suffering to bear, just as Jesus did, because they are unwanted or unable to be cared for, but there is Jesus in every one of their hearts, just as there is Jesus in every one of ours. By coming to volunteer, she said, she could see Jesus in our hearts and urged us to go home and hug our parents and our families, and to thank them for loving us and giving us the opportunities that we’ve had.

Sometimes our problems seem incredibly painful, but when compared to the suffering of others, it can easily put into perspective how lucky and blessed we truly are.

Without anything else to help with at the orphanage, we had another free day, and my mom and I took the day to explore the chapels and churches around. We met up with the main group at 2 p.m. to visit the Cathedral, and while no pictures were allowed inside any of the churches, I can promise you they were magnificent. Many of them were heavily influenced by the Baroque style of architecture, and gold leaf was a focal point for many of the decorations and didactic paintings.

Saturday, 3/9/2019: Lima City

 

On Saturday we flew back from Cusco to Lima, where we checked into our hotel next to the airport and began a 4-hour bus tour of the city of Lima. Though four hours may seem like a long time, we only scratched the surface of the cultural and historical elements that surround the city. We visited two main Plazas, the main church of San Agustin, and the Lover’s Park toward the ocean. We had another tour guide for this trip, and she told us many different facts about the history of the city. For example, there are three main colors of buildings from the old Spanish reign: red, blue, and yellow. Red buildings were often used to denote where native people and slaves, blue buildings were for the rich Spanish colonizers, and the yellow buildings were for different industrial shops and stores.

Another fun fact she mentioned was about the Lover’s Park, where they hold a contest every Valentine’s Day to see who can break the record for the longest kiss without breaking away. If you ever want to try and beat the record for yourself, the current one is at 1.5 hours, so best of luck!

Sunday, 3/10/2019: Travel Day Home

Sunday was, in a word, exhausting. We woke up at 3 a.m. for our flight from Lima to Panama City, which took about 4 hours. Once in Panama City International, we then went through ANOTHER security checkpoint that complies with the United States’ TSA requirements, and then flew another 5 hours from PTY to Dulles. Once there, we were free after customs!

Unfortunately, this meant we still had 2 hours to drive from Dulles to Carroll County, where I quickly did my laundry at home and had to drive another hour back to the Mount, where a quiz awaited me on Monday morning.

Normally I am a very organized person and always put my things away, but on Sunday night, I threw everything on the ground of my dorm room and went straight to bed. Though there was no time difference, travel jet lag is real!

Tuesday, 3/12/2019: Reflection Day

Writing this recap of my break has made me realize three things:

  1. No matter how experienced you are at traveling, there will still be hiccups and you will ALWAYS be tired. No one should have to fly 10+ hours in one day, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
  2. Peru, while never my first travel choice (I prefer Europe 🙂 ) was a beautiful place full of natural wonders, amazing history, no bug bites for me (!!!), and great experiences.
  3. Everyone deserves love, and everyone needs love, no matter how big or small. Our problems may be our own, but when we step back to serve others, we realize how fortunate and blessed we are to have what we do, especially when it comes to family. I’ve always been a big supporter of my family, and especially grateful for everything that my parents have done for me, but this trip helped put in perspective some other things about family. Though I may want to kick my little sister sometimes, at least I know I have a little sister. I know where she is, I can call her when I need her, and I know she’s usually safe. Even though my dad may try to go to Walmart more often than any of us needs, I know that I have a dad who is always supporting me, financially, emotionally, and in morale. No matter what hardships I face, I still have a full family. I still have a family that’s together. I still have extended family that I know, and that I know love and support me.

Not everyone gets that full family. Not everyone gets even half a family, or a small family. Sometimes all we have are those with Jesus in their hearts who reach out to help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my journey and seeing some of the pictures from the amazing trip that I was able to go on with my mom! Amy will be back shortly with more stories of her own trip this week. If I can leave you with one thing today it’s this:

Go hug someone you love and appreciate, and tell them so! In the end we’re all family, and sometimes family needs reminding just how important they are.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey 🙂

Sincerely,

Megan