Slipping Sand into Precious Pearls

There is a thief on the loose, one so elusive I am unable to catch him. He is quite versatile, able to take on any shape and size, whatever needs to be done in order to snatch, steel, and plunder.  Stealthily, he intrudes on my daily life, pilfering that which seems to be the most precious of commodities. 

Sometimes he comes in the form of a crisis. Large or small, it doesn’t matter, for any crisis results in same thing. The housework does not get done. The laundry sits in piles. The characters in my book stand by, unable to go forward, wondering if I will ever return to guide them. I am stranded on the shore at sunset, searching for an extra hour, knowing the ship has sailed.

Sometimes, the thief comes in the form of technology. That very thing which is meant to prevent the crime is often the catalyst that allows the thief to enter. He may come as a broken link, a spinning ball, or a scrolling page. Often, he is a frozen screen on which the only thing that moves is the clock in the top corner, mocking me as the minutes slip away before my very eyes. I reach to catch them and hold onto them, but they vanish, never to return.

Other times, the thief comes in the form of a call or a visit from a friend or loved one. It is at those times that I feel him taunting me, saying, “Isn’t this what you wanted? I’m giving you what you’ve asked for. Enjoy it.” But in my the recesses of my mind, I’m still complaining, still mounting charges, “Yes, this is what I wanted, but why now? Why can’t it happen when I can afford to enjoy it? Why do you send this person to interrupt my day instead of at a better time?” But that time never comes. One thing the thief knows for sure, we can never create perfect timing, and we must accept some interruptions as gifts and some interlopers as valued friends.

Why do I always feel like I am racing him, trying to lure him into a trap? Where is he hiding my precious moments? How do I get them back? I am so busy trying to hold onto the ticking clock that I blink, and the holidays are upon us. I close my eyes, and the school year is coming to a close. I turn around, and my girls are grown and gone.

Those stolen moments make me I realize that I am the one who has been caught in the trap. I am the one who has allowed the thief to enter, emboldened by my own willingness to let him to take those minutes, those hours, those days in return for the few seconds of happiness I am willing to accept and enjoy. I am the one who has turned my life into a race along the shore, where the water weighs down my feet as they try to make progress and the waves mock my futile steps.

I must find a way to work with the thief of time. I must make more room in my calendar for the minutes that matter. There must be a way to accept the crises and the glitches, as well as the unexpected pleasures, and make them work together to slow the sand in the hourglass. For one day, without my permission or knowledge, the thief will have taken the last granule of sand, and I will be left to wonder if I used those grains to build castles with open drawbridges or walls and moats. Perhaps the thief is there to remind me that time, like all gems, is rare, precious, and to be handled with care. I am the one who needs to find a way to turn lost moments from slipping sand into precious pearls.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: There are no Strangers Here.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

Friended By God

GFMPerhaps I’m the only person watching, but I absolutely love the new television show, God Friended Me. It tells the story of an atheist, Miles, who is friended by God on Facebook. He declines the invitation again and again until he realizes this prankster, as he believes the person to be,  isn’t going to give up. Once Miles reluctantly accepts the request, he begins receiving friend suggestions from ‘God.’ Each new friend is, indeed, a friend in need. Reminiscent of two of our favorite shows, Touched by and Angel and Early Edition, each episode revolves around Miles and his friends trying to help the person God has thrust into their lives. 

Why do I love this show so much? There are several reasons.

First, I love that it’s about helping others, reaching out to those in need, and putting others first. There are way too many shows on television that are about hooking up, shaming good people, belittling parents, and living selfish lives. Isn’t it time we rally around a show that makes us feel good about what we can accomplish when we put others’ needs above our own? And isn’t it even better when we do so because it’s what God wants us to do?

Hebrews 13-16

Second, watching Miles struggle with his belief, or disbelief, in God reflects the same struggle that many, if not most, people go through at some point in their lives. Miles lost his mother when he was eight-years-old. From that point on, he reused to believe in God. But every time Miles helps another person, he sees more evidence that God exists. He is beginning to question his doubts. Hopefully, it takes a long time for Miles to accept there is a God because I’d love to see the show stick around for a while (the good news is that it’s on CBS which seems to like shows which highlight Christian families). But for those who believe, we can take solace in the fact that God is always ready be our friend, no matter how big our doubt or how long our journey to find Him. 

Joshua 1

Third, though Miles is convinced that ‘God’ isn’t really GOD, he has come to believe that his life has meaning, that he is here to serve a higher purpose, and that we are all called to help, and that sometimes you just have to stop questioning and start doing. Miles closes the most recent episode by telling his Podcast audience, “Helping people isn’t a burden; it’s an opportunity.” 

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Fourth, and this is my favorite reason, I love being reminded that we are ALL being friended by God. He wants to be our friend, our guide, our mentor, our driving force. He wants us to go to Him when we need something. He wants us to follow His lead and help others. He wants to be part of our lives!

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In the most recent episode [SPOILER ALERT], Miles complains that helping people is a burden, and he wishes ‘God’ would leave him alone. Presto! He is unfriended, but not before seeing that God sent another friend suggestion. Unable to allow himself to let that person go unaided, Miles spends the show trying to help Rachel, who lost her sister in a car accident. At the end of the show, she tells him that he is the “first person I’ve ever met…who walks the walk.” How awesome would this world be if we all walked the walk! 

Galatians 5

Upon his return to his podcast studio, Miles does what he probably never thought he would do – he goes to Facebook and re-friends God, and immediately, God accepts. How often have we had to do that? How often do we have days, weeks, months, years, when we abandon our friendship with God? The beautiful thing is that God always accepts us back as a friend immediately. There is no time too long and no distance too far, for a new or renewed friendship with God. He is waiting for you. Will you accept?

Jeremiah 2

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Patience is a Virtue I am Lacking.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

Hero Worship and the Making of True Leaders

Monday morning, I watched a very interesting interview on CBS This Morning. The guest was author, General McChrystal, and he spoke about his new book, Leaders: Myth and Reality. One of the things that most intrigued me about the interview was that, just two days prior, I lead a women’s retreat that focussed on female leaders of the Old Testament Coincidence? I think not. The response of the women to the retreat and then the surprise of seeing this morning’s interview have caused me to really think about what we are teaching our children about whom and what a real leader/hero is.

General McChrystal argues that “leadership is not what we think it is and never has been.” His opening example is the portrayal of George Washington crossing the Delaware. We’ve all see this famous painting by Emanuel Leutze, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
washington_crossing_the_delaware_by_emanuel_leutze

The problem is that historians believe that the actual crossing looked something more like this depiction by artist, Mort Kunstler.
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For many years, Americans have accepted as fact the portrait of Washington in which he looks confident, standing with the flag, his troops bravely battling the elements. But Washington could not have taken such a stance without tipping the boat, and the troops would not have had a clear and glowing sky leading them onward while the snow and wind battered everything else around them. More likely, as Kunstler portrays, Washington would have been nervously holding onto the wheel of the hastily-constructed barge while the men, barely clothed for the cold, would have been fighting the weather and the current to make it safely across the river. 

Why is this important? Because there is a mythology that heroes and leaders are “ten feet tall, never scared, never wrong, have the answer to all our questions.” But, McChrystal argues, “this is almost never correct.” Moreover, it’s typically not the leader who solves the problem but the team he or she is commanding. We often give leaders certain attributes even though they may not be that way in real-life, or in private. We thrust greatness upon people, forgetting that they are in fact people. People are human. They make mistakes. They do things the wrong way. They have flaws and bad habits. They aren’t always honest or moral. They aren’t meant to be placed upon a pedestal, or to stand upright with their legs propped up on the side of a rowboat, lest they cause everything to be out of balance and go toppling into the waves.

McChrystal also says that we count on and encourage our leaders to solve all of our problems. He argues, and I agree 100%, that a leader teaches us how to solve our own problems. He or she helps us find the tools necessary to make things better. He “leads” us to find greatness in ourselves. The effectiveness of a true leader should be based on moral leadership not on looks or great speeches given, or portraits based on myth and not facts.

This past weekend, the women who attended our parish retreat learned lessons in leadership and in life from Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah. These were women who sometimes made mistakes, who did not always do what society expected them to do, who had pasts that had to be overcome, who sinned and were redeemed. But they all strived for some common goals: to be people of character, to hold fast to their faith, to counsel and advise, to teach others how to live virtuous lives, and to be women of God. They were not queens, not rulers, not rich, and not always revered. They had flaws, but they worked for the good of the people and taught others to do the same. They weren’t about power and glory (and when Miriam did become haughty, she was punished, served her time in exile, and was forgiven), but they were about doing what was right for the glory of God. Not themselves. For God.

In this world where everyone bows to sports heroes, politicians, and Hollywood movie stars, hailing them as leaders and heroes, we are telling our children that, to be a leader is to be braggadocios, self-serving, rich, morally bankrupt, abusive, foul-mouthed, promiscuous, lecherous, and gluttonous. By holding up these people as those to emulate, we teach that it’s okay to lie, to tear down, to disparage, to make fun of, and to engage in all forms of debauchery. We forget that true leaders and heroes are ordinary people, going about their lives doing their jobs to the best of their ability. My friend, Susan, blogged about the heroes of the recent hurricanes. Those are the people I want my girls looking up to!

George Washington was not a hero because he was tall, strong, fierce, and out to be a great destroyer of armies and men. He was a hero because he faced his fears, he was good to his men, he was loving toward his family, he did his job to the best of his abilities, and fought beside his men. He wasn’t perfect; he made mistakes, and that’s okay. Sometimes, a leader does. But what makes him a true leader, a real hero, is what he learns from his mistakes and what he teaches others about how to do things better.

Our children need to know who the real heroes are. Let’s teach them about Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah. Let’s make sure they know about the heroics of men like St. Peter and St. Paul. And let’s encourage them to model themselves after some of the real heroes of the world:
Nelson Mandela
The Dalai Lama
Pope John Paul II
Malala Yousafzai
William Kyle Carpenter
Candace Lynne Lightner
Rosa Parks
Jane Addams
Joan of Arc
Oskar Schindler
Martin Luther King Jr

It’s time to stop the hero-worship. It’s time to stop promoting myths about what greatness is and what it looks like. It’s time to redefine leadership and heroism. It’s time to recall the words of Isaiah, “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.”

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Longing for a Little Sleep.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

Spending a Fortune on the Marriage

35553327_2182882288395900_5241912812019646464_nA young friend of our family has just announced her engagement. We are so happy for her and praying that she will have a wonderful wedding and even more wonderful marriage. As today is my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, I’d like to take the time to offer some advice to those young people out there planning their own nuptials and expand on what I told our friend:
1. As you plan the wedding, don’t spend money; spend time with those you love.
2. Spend more time and energy planning the marriage than the wedding.

When Ken and I got married, twenty-five years ago, we wanted a grand wedding with all of the accouterments – the fairy tale dress and tuxedos, the large wedding party, the enormous guest list, an unforgettable nuptial Mass, a full-course dinner, and a joy-filled evening of dancing and partying. We got it all. We hosted 300 guests, and we didn’t break the bank doing it.Wedding

Here’s how:

Ken and Amy Wedding DayThe Dress and Veil
My aunt, my mother, and I scoured the stores to find the perfect dress at the perfect price. We bought it, off the rack, at a discount bridal shop. It was on the “last year’s fashions” rack and was exactly what I wanted. The veil was made with my mother’s wedding tiara. I wore it for my First Communion as did my both of my cousins and, years later, all three of my daughters. We added new tule and some pearls, and it was the perfect accessory for my dress. I wanted lots of lace, a modest bodice, a beautiful back, and a detailed train. I got it all at a bargain basement price. I just had to be patient, wait and relax, and enjoy the hunt with my aunt and my mom.

Wedding3The Ceremony
The church that my parents attended (in the parish where I attended when in high school and before marriage) was under construction, so we headed up the road to the church I grew up in, and it was still as beautiful as I remembered it. We worked with our Pastor, Father Paul Dudziak, to plan a meaningful ceremony rich in faith and tradition. Afterward, a friend of Ken’s lamented that he had never attended a wedding that was an hour and a half long! It was worth every minute. I’ve never been a fan of the ten-minute wedding. I believe a wedding should be something that represents the eternal love of Jesus Christ as well as the eternal bond of marriage. I wanted everyone, especially Ken and me, to leave the church knowing that something special, something lasting, something sacred had just taken place.

Wedding1The Flowers, Photography, and Cake
Our flower arrangements and bouquets were designed by mother and me with the help of a family friend who owned a florist. She helped us choose exquisite selections that matched the color theme and my personal tastes while staying within a strict budget. Our biggest single expense was probably the photographer, but we could afford to spend a little more because we cut costs everywhere else, including the wedding cake. A friend of ours owned a bakery and made the most mouth-watering cakes you’ve ever tasted. When we asked her about making the cake, she insisted on making it as her gift to us. We have never forgotten her generosity.

The Venue
We held our reception at the church hall next to our parish’s yet-to-be-constructed church. It wasn’t fancy, but it was affordable, and the decorations that my mother and her friend planned and designed transformed the room from an ordinary church hall into an elegant banquet room. We hired someone with event experience to make sure the food was on the buffet table and to do all of the serving and cleanup of the dishes.

Ken and Amy's Wedding34-001

The Food
Believe it or not, we made all of the food ourselves. Yes, we made a traditional Southern Maryland Fall Dinner, for 300 people, all by ourselves. Every – single – bite – with the exception of frozen rolls that were baked fresh during the ceremony. For months, everyone in the family chipped in to pick crab meat. Throughout the summer, we saved enough meat for my grandmother and Ken’s grandmother to fill their freezers with homemade crab balls. My mother made hundreds of her unforgettable pumpkin muffins and froze those as well. My father and my grandmother spent days, leading up to the wedding, making the Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham, a delicacy only found in Southern Maryland. My uncle worked his magic to grill melt-in-your-mouth pit beef. And the day before the wedding, all of the women in our family, my Godmother, my bridal party, and several family friends, gathered in the church hall to cut fruit and veggies, steam shrimp, and assemble trays while the men followed my mother’s decorating instructions. We talked, we laughed, and we reminisced. It was a day that I remember and cherish as much as the wedding day itself, and in some ways, even more. 

Wedding2The Marriage
But the truth is that none of that would have mattered. None of it would have meant anything at all. All of it would have been for nothing if Ken and I had not spent as much effort planning and working on our marriage. Twenty-five years together, in today’s world, is a long time. Sometimes, it feels like twice that. There have been days when we didn’t like each other very much. There have been moments when we wondered if it was worth it. There have been fights and slammed doors and long drives to clear my head. But in the end, we meant it when we said, “until death do us part.” We’ve lived through the good times and bad, the richer and poorer, the sickness and health. We’ve laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. But we’ve always been there for each other. We’ve never turned our backs on each other, never considered life without the other, never looked to anything beyond what we have together.

IMG_8196.JPGDon’t ever let anyone tell you that, if you’re right for each other, everything else will fall into place. Don’t let anyone tell you that marriage shouldn’t be hard sometimes. Don’t believe that you won’t have to work at it, even harder than you work at your job, your studies, your goals. But don’t ever think for a moment that it isn’t worth it to have someone to come home to who loves you more than anyone or anything in the world. To have someone to share your dreams and your failings. Someone to hold you when you cry and someone who knows how to make you laugh.

And don’t make the mistake that so many make these days and wait until it’s too late! There will NEVER be enough money. There will NEVER be the right time in your career. There will NEVER be plenty of time down the road for the timing to be right. We got married at 23 and 24. Unheard of today! We still had several years of graduate and law school ahead of us. We had nothing except college loans and a lot of hope and dreams. And we had each other, a plan, and faith.

As we read in Ecclesiastes, “Therefore, it is better for two to be together, than for one to be alone. For they have the advantage of their companionship. If one falls, he shall be supported by the other.” (Ecc. 4:9-10). And in Proverbs: “To find a wife is the find happiness, a favor granted by the Lord” (Prob 18:22). So, to those young couples getting ready to embark on the most wonderful time of your lives, don’t worry about spending a fortune on your wedding. A small budget can still give you the wedding of your dreams! But do spend a fortune on your marriage, paid for with all the treasures that will ensure a happy life together – love, joy, communication, tenderness, understanding, patience, resiliency, forgiveness, and an abundance of faith in God.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Little Time to Spare.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

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).

 

Riding Out the Storm

Please don’t think I mean any disrespect to those in the Florida Panhandle or that I am diminishing what they are going through. Rather, I greatly sympathize with them, for they are facing a far greater storm than most of us do in our daily lives. However, I can’t help but think that what has happened with hurricane Michael is the perfect analogy for what often happens to us at certain times in our lives.

Sometimes, we are perfectly happy living a carefree life with blue skies over head and the sun beating down upon us. Even though there might be some warning signs, and those who voice caution, we have no worries because everything is running smoothly and going our way. Then, all of a sudden, we wake up one morning to the news that a category 4 hurricane with 104mph sustained winds is barreling upon us. With barely enough time to register what is happening, we are forced to go into survival mode.

What are we to do during these times of impending disaster? Where do we turn for help? Do we turn for help? Do we buckle down, sequester ourselves, and declare that we are going to wage this war on our own? Or do we look for help, realizing that there are times in life when the storm is too great, the winds are too strong, and the clouds are too dark for us to fight it alone?

It is during those times that I find I need my family and friends more than ever. But more than my friends and family, I need God. Who better to lead me safely through the storm than He who parts the seas, calms the waves, and turns the dark into day?

In a world full of chaos, where everyone seems only to be out for themselves, it’s tremendously comforting to me that God is there. He listens. He offers comfort, help, and hope. Even when I am too distraught to offer my own prayers, I know that the prayers said on my behalf, by friends and family, are reaching a merciful God who knows me, knows my innermost thoughts and feelings, and knows what I need even when I don’t. I’m not always perfect when it comes to prayer, not even close. I often let life get in the way. I don’t always remember to talk to God during those rare, quiet moments of the day when He is listening, hoping, that I will reach out to him. I often fall asleep in the middle of my evening prayers and wake with the knowledge that God knows all things, even those left unsaid. But despite my short-fallings, my failures, my forgetfulness, and even my selfishness, God is there and is waiting for my call for help.

May God’s hand reach down into the lives of those caught in the storm, Michael and otherwise. May they feel His comfort and His healing touch. May we be touched by the Holy Spirit and know that, no matter how dark or frightful things become, God will calm the storm, and He will bring light to a new day.Sunset2

What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Little Time to Spare.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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).

Friendly Deception – how social media is changing our relationships and what we can do about it

IMG_7748Isn’t it funny how deceiving a picture can be? Take this one for example. It looks like the perfect day – not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the sun shining above, everything lush and green. The truth – it was darn cold, and it rained off and on all day. But you’d never know it by looking at the photo. This idyllic scene from my recent trip to Stockholm is quite deceiving unless you were there. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, about how every day we look at pictures of people and places that seem to be perfect, but we don’t really know what’s going on because we aren’t there, but more importantly, because we don’t ask.

I recently read an interesting article by Jay Baer, consultant and keynote speaker, who said that “those situations where we ‘meet’ someone through social media, have the opportunity to interact in real life, and then develop a relationship that creates true friendship are few and far between.” He lamented the fact that a social media friend committed suicide, and nobody saw it coming. He wondered if this person actually was his friend, was he anybody’s real friend? He argues that social media isn’t bringing us closer together but driving us farther apart “as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them.” 

39931590_419362661928100_610133224239162107_nThink about your own social media account. I don’t know about you, but I use mine to share updates about my kids, picture of my travels, and upcoming events I want to invite people to. And that’s what I want to see on other people’s posts. I don’t care how you lean politically, and I don’t want to see your dirty laundry aired for the world to see. I prefer Facebook to be my happy place, where I can go and see a smiling picture of a happy person, enjoying life. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this picture of my oldest daughter, and I think it’s one of the prettiest pictures I’ve ever seen of her. And like all of the first-day-of-school photos and the Homecoming shots, it just made me smile. But I also know what was going on in her life on the day this picture was taken, the people and things she was worried about, the decisions she had to make, and the hectic pace of her life that week. You don’t see any of that in her smile.

Her picture perfectly illustrates how my attitude, of wanting to see only the good, blinds me to what’s really going on with my family and friends. I see their happiest moments and often forget to ask about the tears they shed for a loved one, the defeat they just suffered at work or on the field, the problems they are facing with their family, or the devastating news they recently received. I’m not saying that I, or anyone, should pry into other people’s business, but I sometimes need to be reminded that social media lets us forget that we’re all real people. We need human interaction, and not the technological kind. We all have what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed, the Hierarchy of Needs (anyone who has taken a psychology course at any level should remember that triangle). Nowhere does it mention that we need hundreds of sometimes friends, but it clearly says that we need intimate relationships. We need REAL friends.maslow-5

I’ve had to stop and think, when was the last time I picked up the phone and called a friend to see how she’s really doing? When was the last time I invited someone to lunch or took the time to visit with anyone in person? When was the last time I sent a card to someone just because I wanted them to know I was thinking about them and not just hitting the “like” button on their page?

FullSizeRenderI consider myself extremely blessed because I do have an intimate group of friends who are “my people.” We tell each other everything. We commiserate with each other when our lives are spiraling out of control, and we lift each other up when we are feeling down. And yes, we do that through a private Facebook chat group. But here’s what really makes the difference in our friendship: we seek out time to get together. We plan trips to see each other. We revel in each other’s real presence. We hug, we hold hands, we look each other in the eyes. We participate in a real friendship. 

On the downside, I rarely see or talk to the women who live nearby and who have been my best friends for many years. I think I take for granted that they will always be there. I forget that they, too, are just a phone call away, a short trip down the road. It’s so easy to let those relationships slide because I know I can just send a text and say, “let’s get together.” The problem is, I rarely do. I let my everyday life get in the way. I depend upon social media to keep me up on what’s going on in their lives. I do exactly what Baer warned about, I allow social media to inform me about my friends and my relationships instead of reaching out beyond my computer screen.

I know that I need to really assess my friendships and my relationship with social media. Because that’s really what the relationship is with – social media – not with real, live people. We can’t live without checking out Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but we live without checking in with the real flesh and blood people in our lives. Maybe it’s a generational thing. My mother is on Facebook and peruses it regularly, but more often, she can be found having lunch with her friends, taking trips with her girl group, and organizing get-togethers with people near and far. She knows how to cultivate friendships and how to keep them for many, many years. I fear that the rest of us are losing that ability. 

So, the next time you’re scrolling through those smiling, happy photos plastered on Instagram, remind yourself to stop and think about the faces you’re seeing. Ask yourself when the last time was that you contacted them, asked about their families, inquired about a hard situation they were in, or checked on their health. Baer summed up his article reminding us that we all think we know someone and what’s going on in their life, but we don’t. “And that’s social media’s fault. But more so, our own.”

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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).

 

 

 

Standing Straight and Reaching New Heights

This marks my third week of going to physical therapy, three weeks of therapy after more than three months of waking up every morning with severe upper back pain. I’ve always known that I have terrible posture, and sitting at my desk for hours at a time, leaning over my computer, certainly doesn’t help. However, I was shocked when I learned that months of pain was due to the deterioration of my trapezius and pectoral muscles because of my bad posture. Who would have thought that poor posture would actually lead to a reduction in the rotation of my shoulder? Alas, that was the diagnosis, and the doctor said it needed to be fixed now before it was too late. However, fixing the problem is somedays more painful than the original aching back muscles, and I know it’s imperative to keep working on it, but sometimes, I just want to give up.

And isn’t that how we often feel about the things that are hard, things that cause pain, things that make us wish there was a magic spell to make everything okay? 

Why do I have to do these exercises? Why do I have to cause my body even more discomfort? Why do I have to take time from my busy day to spend an hour making my body ache even more than it already does as it rebels against this change?

We all know the old adage, “no pain, no gain.” While we know that it’s the truth, it’s hard to force ourselves to believe that the painful thing we are doing, the tough decision we need to make, the unwanted change that we know is right, is worth the hurt, the worry, the heartache. Sometimes, we have to do things we really don’t want to do. We may have to leave our comfort zone, our family, our home, our friends, our school, or even just our favorite chair or our bed. 

I feel like I’m starting over again with learning how to walk, sit, drive, and do all of the normal physical daily activities I’ve been doing for almost fifty years. And it’s hard! And frustrating, and irritating, and yes, painful. Sometimes, when I’m doing my physical therapy, I just want to cry or quit or yell, “I’m not going to do this anymore!” And I have to remind myself that there are times in life when we just have to push ourselves. We have to make ourselves do the hard work, go the extra mile, or just change course. When I’m ready to give up or turn back, I have to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and tell myself that I can do this. I can move forward.

When I went away to college, I went with such high hopes and big dreams. My parents didn’t go to college. My grandparents didn’t go to college. It was a big, big deal, and I embraced it with enthusiasm. I applied to one college (because that’s what we did back then), and I prayed that I would get in. And I did. With a full scholarship. Off I went, hugging mom and dad goodbye, lugging my big blue chest full of clothes and my backpack of ridiculously priced books. And I hated it. It was not the place for me. I couldn’t figure out where I fit in, who my real friends were, or what activities were right for me. The longer the year went on, the more I knew that I needed to change. Telling my parents was hard. Giving up that scholarship was even harder. Finding a new school, transferring, making new friends, joining new clubs, and finding a new place to live, were really, really difficult. But just like my therapy, I knew I had to do what was best for me. 

When my children were young, they were in a school where they were not thriving. One was being bullied and seemed to be wasting her potential. Another was slowly losing her self-confidence due to harassment from a group of boys in the class. Our youngest was just starting out, and we worried that the situation in the school was only going to get worse. I had always wanted the girls at the local Catholic school, but we just couldn’t afford it. After much prayer, a sign from God told us that it was time to make the change. Our two youngest were enthusiastic about the change. Our oldest, not so much. She had friends and a level of comfort that she wasn’t willing to give up despite the bullying and the fear and the reality that she was being stifled in that environment. But she let her sisters’ excitement persuade her to give it a try, and she visited the school with trepidation. After that visit, she never went back to her old school again. She immediately transferred, found new friends, made a new home, and began a meteoric rise that is still ascending, taking her to new heights among the stars. It all started with resistance that acquiesced into a small step and morphed into a giant leap. And she never looked back. 

At some point, we all have to change course, break our bad habits, learn to sit a little straighter, walk a little taller, push back our shoulders, and hold our heads high, trusting in God that He will never lead us astray. And we will be amazed at the heights we will reach.On top of the world.jpg

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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).