“Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Stride”*

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Katie diving for the ball

This past Thursday, I watched Katie play in a tennis match in which she spent each break between games doubled over, holding her stomach. Apparently she was coming down with something, and her stomach cramps were causing her great pain. Afterward, her coach asked her why she didn’t quit or tell him she wasn’t feeling well. Katie just looked up at him and replied, “I wanted to play, and I wanted to win.” And win she did, 8-1, losing only the first game, which is her usual strategy – to spend more time focusing on how her opponent plays than trying to win that first round. Katie ended up being sick all night and stayed home from school the next day but bounced back by early afternoon.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the next comment her coach made, “I guess it runs in the family.” I don’t know why he said that, other than the fact that he has spent the past eight years coaching one Schisler or another in both tennis and field hockey. Surely he knows that neither Rebecca or Morgan let anything stop them from reaching their goals, and he watches Katie do that every day at practice and in matches. Thinking about it made me wonder where they get it from, and that led me to ask where I get it from. The answer is simple.

Over the past thirty years, my father has battled three different types of cancer. He has had a hip replacement and hears very little of what is said to him. In less than three weeks, he will turn eighty, and I’m sure he will spend that day like every other. He will wake up early, walk at least a mile, attend Mass, run errands, and then go to work in his garage, building amazing outdoor chairs or benches or tables, birdhouses, children’s play furniture, bookcases, or closet storage units –  whatever has been ordered that week.  He’ll spend the evening watching TV with mom, looking forward to watching his Orioles play. Dad was probably one of those kids who got perfect attendance every year in school. He lets nothing slow him down or stop him from achieving whatever goal he has set before him, even if the goal is to simply live to see another day.

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My favorite office accessory – my whiteboard wall!

My father-in-law once told me that I’m impatient and always want everything “yesterday.” He wasn’t trying to insult me; he was just pointing out that I don’t like waiting for things to be done. And he’s right. But I don’t think it has to do with impatience (although I readily admit to that being one of my major flaws). Rather, I think it’s because an unfinished project or open task means that a goal has not been met; the next goal is put on hold. I constantly have a list running, a tally of things I need to accomplish in a day, a week, a month. My family sees lists posted all over the house that remind them of tasks to be done. If things aren’t completed within my set timeline, it throws off the whole system. It sounds neurotic and controlling, I know, but I tend to see it differently.

You see, we were all put on this earth for a reason, to fulfill something, to attain our purpose. If I were to spend my days taking naps, watching TV, playing video games, or socializing with friends, does that mean I would enjoy life more? Would I obtain greater satisfaction? A bigger sense of fulfillment? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. On the other hand, when I finish a successful week of summer camp and see the girls leaving with smiles on their faces, calling to their friends, “See you next year,” I am filled with deep, unwavering satisfaction. All of the time and effort that I put into planning the camp, throughout the entire year, pays off. It’s the same with my writing. Selling books and garnering good reviews isn’t a means to satisfying my wallet but a means to satisfying my soul. It’s the feeling of a job well done, but more importantly, it’s the feeling of bringing enjoyment to others. And sometimes, like with finishing my new home office, it’s simply the sense of satisfaction that it brings to me.

Perhaps I have it all wrong. Maybe pushing myself to stay on task, looking ahead to the next thing on the list, and constantly striving to accomplish my goals isn’t good for me. Perhaps I’ve created monsters that my children will never be able to overcome that will lead them to anxiety, fear of failure, and the inability to move forward. I certainly hope not. I hope that they will learn to harness anxiety and turn it into motivation, recognize that failure is sometimes success on an alternate path, and that moving forward sometimes means taking one baby step at a time. I also hope that we all continue working hard, crossing off our goals, and enjoying our lives until we’re at least eighty. My dad seems to have found the path to a long and happy life. All I can do is pray that I’m following in his footsteps.

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My Dad and me at Christmas

What I was writing about one year ago this week:  Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Not a Perfect Mom, but an Enough Mom  by Wonderoak,  A Craving for Confession at Y’all Need Jesus, How the Like Button Ruined the Internet from the Atlantic. 

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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)

*Title taken from the lyrics of Break My Stride by Matthew Wilder.

Be A Person of Encouragement

DSC09282A few years ago, I read a book called Magnetic Christianity by radio host and inspirational speaker, Gus Lloyd. I was reminded, while listening to Gus’ program yesterday morning, of his last chapter which is on encouragement. I’ve actually been thinking about this word a lot lately. What is encouragement? How can we be people of encouragement? And why do we want to be?

To encourage or give encouragement is “to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.”  It’s more than merely giving a pat on the back or simply saying good job. It’s the act of inspiring someone, of uplifting their spirit, of boosting their confidence. Those are pretty lofty aspirations, if you ask me. Think about it – giving encouragement to someone could actually make a difference in a person’s life. You could be the catalyst that allows someone to feel victory instead of defeat, success instead of failure, or become the person they were meant to be. 

My daughter, Katie, has a fabulous assistant tennis coach. When one of the kids is doing something wrong or making mistakes that affect their game, she doesn’t point out what they’re doing wrong. She encourages them to do what is right. She describes a better way, a more skilled approach, or path to improvement. She believes that by encouraging the player and showing him or her how to improve upon what they are already doing right is they best way to teach them to win. And she’s right every time. 

A teacher who encourages students to do their best will always be more successful than a teacher who consistently points out what a student does wrong. Encouragement isn’t the absence of correction but the enabling of confidence through positivity. A child doesn’t learn through negative reinforcement. He rebels or shuts down. But I’m sure we’ve all witnessed what happens to a child who meets that one teacher, coach, or mentor who lifts her up with encouragement and shows her that she matters and can succeed. 

The same can be said in the workplace.  According to a recent study by the University of California, people who are positive are more successful, less likely to be unemployed, healthier, and live longer.  It further found that positivity at work can lead to more engaged and resilient employees.  Psychologist, Sarah Lewis, in explaining the findings to CNN said, “[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments,” she said “they go into the more difficult conversations and they’re more productive.”  What employee wouldn’t want that in his workplace?  And encouragement should go both ways, from the employer as well as the employee.  

The key word in the definition of encouragement is “spirit.”  When someone has lost their spirit, they have lost a bit of themselves, perhaps forever. The death of one’s spirit can be the death of any positive outlook they may have for the rest of their life. But to encourage one’s spirit, to make someone feel good about themselves, to boost their confidence, to help them to see the good that is within, can be life-changing. We should all strive to be persons of encouragement. This means:

  • Point out and reinforce the good in an effort to fix the bad. People are always more receptive to the positive. 
  • Do not lie or spread rumors about others. This harms both your spirit and theirs. 
  • Do not tear down others. Show them, in a kind and loving way, how they can be or do better. 
  • Offer assistance to those you see struggling, whether it is of the mind, body, or soul. 
  • And smile. Show others that no matter what you, yourself, may be facing and no matter what troubles they may have, there is always a reason to smile. It’s the easiest way to begin your journey toward living a life of encouragement. It may even change the way you look at yourself. 

I guarantee that when you become a person of encouragement, you will not only change the lives of those you encourage, but you will become a changed person yourself.  So go out there and be a positive influence.  I know you can do it!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.  For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.  If we are afflited, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.”    -2 Corinthians 1: 3-8

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:  Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)

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