Riding the Roller Coaster of Parenting

IMG_9543Today is Ash Wednesday, and our family certainly took advantage of Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday by indulging in food and fun over the past few days. We surprised Katie Ann and whisked her away to Orlando to celebrate her 20th birthday. This is not something we normally do, believe me, but she was on a wild ride on the roller coaster of life over the past few months, and we wanted to show her how happy we are with how she’s handled things and that we recognize how hard she’s worked academically and personally. So, we met Katie at a restaurant near the airport, supposedly for a surprise luncheon for someone else, and told her that we had packed a bag, so she should grab whatever else she needed because our plane was leaving in two hours time! Needless to say, there was a lot of screaming, and many happy tears were shed. While it was a wonderful, joy-filled weekend, there was a lot of introspection for me…

Princess Belle and girlsMany years ago, we took our own princesses to meet the princesses they idolized. Our girls were so little, unaware of the bad things in this world, and unable to grasp the concept that not every girl becomes a Disney princess. I’m sure that, like many young American girls, they never thought about ever having days of darkness, despair, loneliness, heartbreak, or even insecurity. Those big, bright eyes, looking at the beautiful fairy tale princess could not have imagined a world where people can lose hope, lose faith, and lose themselves. 

 

This past weekend, as I watched the dozens (and dozens) of girls in their princess dresses, with big eyes and wide smiles, I longed for a return to those days.

Those were the days when my girls rarely felt like a fish out of water,
Epcot Nemo Morgan.JPG

were unafraid of monsters in the closet, 
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and believed nothing could solve problems better than a big bear hug.
Pooh breakfast Pooh and girls

Those were the days when they knew, without a doubt, that with a smile on your face, a song in your heart, a heart full of inspiration, and perhaps a little bit of pixie dust, all your dreams could come true.castle Amy girls (1).jpg

Of course, my girls are still pursuing their dreams. When life knocks them down, they get back up. When there’s sorrow or heartbreak or despair, they put on those smiles, shake the real dust off their hands and start over. And as a mom, I’m so proud of them each time they do that, but my heart still pines for the days when we thought there really is a happiest place on earth where all cares can be forgotten, where the real world doesn’t exist, and where we don’t have to return to the rat race of daily life. I know that the trials and tribulations my girls have faced are just the beginning for them. As they enter adulthood, they will be faced with problems that will feel like it’s them against the universe. And I want them to know this…

My girls, no matter what, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how dark it seems, no matter how broken you feel or how intense your pain is, your dad and I will always be there for you. 

We will help you catch whatever is thrown your way.IMG_7687.JPG

We will ride the roller coaster with you.IMG_9675

We will always remind you that life can be magical if you let it.IMG_9473

And that, when you’re ready, we’ll smile and wave as you climb to new heights and make all of your own dreams come true.IMG_9468

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Ashes and Chocolate

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.

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).

 

 

 

How Many Licks Must We Take?

my-wordly-girls.jpgAs a parent, I’m grateful that all three of my girls are intelligent, that they have traveled enough to be worldly, and that they understand the importance of doing well in school. However, I can’t help but wonder… as my girls were growing up, as they were experiencing all of those wonderful things, visiting foreign places, and learning how to navigate the world, did I remember to teach them the importance of being wise? What do I mean by that? Intelligence is a function of the brain. Worldliness is a function of experience. Doing well in school comes as a result of hard work and studying. Not a single one of those has anything to do with wisdom. Wisdom is a gift of the spirit and comes entirely from God.

So how do we achieve wisdom?

In today’s first reading, from the book of Sirach, we are told of the importance of wisdom. It is elusive, but can be found and should be sought by every man and woman. Those who know wisdom (personified as a woman in the text), love life, inherits glory (heavenly, not earthly), receives blessings, overcomes fear and dread, treasures knowledge, and understands justice. Wisdom does not come easily but through hard work, perseverance, and trust in God. It is not the kind of thing you can learn from experience or by reading a book. It can only come from spending time with God, reading scripture, and knowing and understanding that there is a higher being on who we should depend and in who we should trust.

Morgan at DU.JPGThis past weekend, my youngest daughter, Morgan, and I visited Pittsburgh so that she could attend Nursing Preview Day at the college of her choice. I watched all of those excited women (and a few men) and marveled at how young they looked. I cried a little when I thought about sending my baby off on her own. I thought about both of her sisters and their college experiences, the good and the bad; and I can’t help but wonder if I ever taught them anything about the importance of wisdom.

Like all young adults, my girls believe that they know what is best for them. Don’t we all? And as any good parent would, my husband and I have always supported them and allowed them to choose their own paths. Yes, there have been times when we raised a brow, questioned a decision, or sighed in disbelief over decisions made. We cried when the choices were bad, and we celebrated when they were good. But I’m still left with the question, are my girls truly wise?

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 10.30.13 AMThose of us above a certain age will remember the wise old owl who was sought for his knowledge. He was asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?” When he couldn’t figure out the answer, he cheated and noisily bit into the lollipop. I think that’s how most people approach wisdom. They think they have all of the answers, and when they’re unable to solve a problem, they take a shortcut, or they give up, or they give in. Their choices are often destructive, and their paths are covered with thorns and lead them nowhere. Sometimes, they find themselves on rocky ground with nowhere to go. They believe they are being wise and don’t understand when things don’t turn out the way they thought they would. True wisdom tells us that all of the answers lie with God. 

How many licks must we take, how many dead-end roads must we travel, how many mistakes must we make before we understand that we’re doing it all wrong? When faced with a problem, how many of us think, right off the bat, that we need to pray for an answer? How many stop and think far enough into the future to see beyond this moment, this situation, this world? How many understand that obtaining wisdom isn’t arbitrary or automatic or easy? It doesn’t mean you will never make mistakes, never question yourself, and never worry about the future. However, it does mean that you work to get past the trial, understand the limits, and look for the right path. Wisdom, herself, understands that finding her is difficult.

I will walk with them in disguise,
and at first I will test them with trials.
Fear and dread I will bring upon them
and I will discipline them with my constraints.
When their hearts are fully with me,
then I will set them again on the straight path
and reveal my secrets to them.
– Sirach 4:17-18

All good things comes to those who possess wisdom. That doesn’t mean they will never suffer, nor does it mean that their lives will always be perfect. What it means, according to 2 Chronicles 1: 11,  is that they will amass riches beyond measure and be honored for their knowledge. I’m pretty sure it’s not material riches that they will be given but love, happiness, contentment, and eternal rest. Solomon, known as the wisest person to ever live, when offered anything in the world, asked God for just one thing – wisdom. One of my all-time favorite hymns is Hail Mary, Gentle Woman. In the song, we implore Mary, more than once, to “teach us wisdom, teach us love.” Perhaps we would all do well to ask for and seek the same. 

Join me to celebrate the release of my newest novel, The Devil’s Fortune. Let me know if you can be there on Sunday, March 24, 2019.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: In the Desert

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.

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).

 

 

Yearning to Be Free

everything-everythingLast night, the girls and I watched a very good and interesting movie. It was your typical teenage girl’s romance in many ways, but there was an unexpected twist (unless, like my girls, you read the book by Nicola Yoon) that has me thinking about parenting in today’s world. The movie, Everything, Everything, centers around Maddy, a seventeen-year-old girl who suffers from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease, or SCID. Maddy cannot leave her house – ever. Any visitors, and there are practically none, must enter through a decontamination chamber and be sanitized, before being allowed into the house, and must keep their distance from Maddy. For seventeen years, Maddy contentedly lives life through books and movies, but all that changes when Olly moves in next door.

SPOILER ALERT

The story revolves around Maddy’s ever-increasing desire to experience life outside of her house. She longs to sit in the same room and have a real conversation with Olly, a compassionate seventeen-year-old boy whose father is abusive and can’t hold down a job, forcing the family to move every few months. Once Olly manages to convince Maddy’s nurse to let him in, being together is not enough for the two teens. The young couple wants to date, to experience the world together; and Maddy begins to ponder the age-old questions, what would you do for love, and would you risk your life to be happy? Once she decides that the answers are “everything” and “yes,” the story takes a turn that those unfamiliar with the book would never see coming. 

WARNING – MAJOR PLOT TWIST REVEALED

What would you do for love? Would you risk someone else’s life to ensure your own happiness? As a mother, watching the revelation that Maddy’s mother had been lying for her child’s entire life, those questions had more meaning.  A doctor, with a clear understanding of what her daughter would have to endure, Maddy’s mother lied to Maddy, and everyone else, from the time Maddy was a baby. After losing her husband and Maddy’s brother in a car accident, Dr. Whittier decided that the only way to never lose Maddy was to keep her locked inside their home forever. It’s truly the kind of stuff that fairy tales are made of. The mother locks the daughter in the castle until the young prince or knight or other charming male comes along and rescues the fair maiden. And as in most fairy tales, the viewer (or reader) is cheering for Maddy and Olly to break out and be free even though the truth about Maddy’s condition isn’t known until the end of the movie.

But what if we aren’t talking about a fairy tale? What if a parent spent a child’s entire life keeping the child locked inside as a way to protect her? Impossible? Not really. I look around today and see many parents doing just that. Sure, their kids are allowed to go outside and play and be with other kids or go to school, but where is mom? Often times, mom is right there beside them. At school, at the pool, at camp, and everywhere else. I see moms unable to let their children fall, make mistakes, get hurt, or fail. A child cries, and mom is right there to pick up the pieces, but what does that do to the child? Does she become a strong, independent person who can contribute to society, or a person who has no idea how to live in the real world, solve her own problems, and find her own place where she can truly be the person God intended?

A recent study revealed that “95% of college counseling centers across the nation reported that they are concerned with the growing amount of psychological issues that they are seeing students enter college with, due to helicopter parenting.” According to the article, young adults today have a higher rate of suicide, a higher dependence on prescription drugs as well as recreational drugs, and a harder time taking control of their adult lives. Take a look at this graphic and tell me if you think there may be a correlation between the amount of young people unable to get a job and the rise in helicopter parenting.

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Am I am a perfect mom? No way. Every day I make mistakes.  Every day I am learning. Every day I am trying to find where I fit into the ever-changing lives of my daughters. Every day I want to be better than I am. Every day I wonder what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. And I try to fix what I’m doing wrong, not what they’re doing wrong. And that’s where I feel we have to draw the line. Because in truth, our children are yearning to be free, to be their own persons, to be successful, to have their own lives, and even make their own mistakes. By hovering over them at all times, not allowing them to make their own decisions and their own mistakes, and insisting that they always be within our sights, we are holding them back – plain and simple.

Interestingly, a sign that you’re a helicopter parent is the amount of time you talk to your adult child. Millennials talk to their parents 8.8 times per week, with 86% of first-year college females communicating frequently with their mothers. This is where I have to disagree with the professionals. I talk to my mother every single day. And I have some form of conversation with my grown daughter every day. Sure, I give her advice, but I try to do so only when she asks. And only after I ask her how she thinks she should handle it. I’m not always good at that, but I do try. I hope that, rather than solving problems for my children, I have and do instill in them the ability to solve problems for themselves. It’s not always easy seeing the distinction, but it’s imperative. Have I overstepped? Sure, I have. But I hope that my mistakes have been lessons for my girls as well as for me. 

Cover-001.jpgThis fall, I will be releasing my next children’s book, The Greatest Gift. Ironically, it’s about a king and queen who lock their daughter in a tower in order to protect her from the world. While it is a young man who eventually takes her from the castle, it is the princess who ultimately decides when, how, and with whom she will leave. Like Maddy, she is able to break free from the prison imposed upon her by her parents. Will other young adults today be able to do the same?

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Seeking the Silver Lining.

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. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand 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)

 

Hunting for Eggs and Apartments

17814282_10210272324457868_3436768655060859814_oEvery year, Ken and I host a giant Easter celebration for our combined families. My parents come for the weekend (typically bringing my brother and his daughter with them), the kids dye eggs on Saturday, we play games until late into the night, attend the early morning Easter Sunday Mass, and come home to get the food ready for our guests. Once everyone is here, we pray, feast (and I mean feast), and watch as the kids try to find approximately 500 stuffed Easter eggs. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the entire year, and I hope to continue these traditions for many years to come.

This year, I was acutely aware of the many changes heading our way within the coming months. At Mass, I watched Katie proclaim the readings, and wondered if she would continue in that ministry when she heads off to Immaculata University next year. I watched Morgan tend to the needs of the elderly priest, knowing this was probably her last time as an altar server on Easter Sunday as she is moving on to lectoring and giving Communion. When Rebecca, Katie, and I all three shared in the ministry of giving Communion (yes, it’s a very small church), I wondered if this would be the last time that we were all four on the altar together.

17972441_10212878236580691_7290950570728900784_oBack at the house, Rebecca went straight to work, helping to straighten up, set tables, and prepare food. When the food was served, she even helped herself to a glass of wine. The realization hit me: she’s no longer my little girl. At some point, my firstborn became an adult. The talk between Rebecca and her best friend, Bailey, whose family has been sharing Easter with us for as long as I can remember, centered around the fact that this would be their last year as participants in the Easter egg hunt. There comes a time when the hunters must become the hiders, and they planned to make the most of their last year as hunters, kidding about which one would find the most chocolate and the most $1 bills.

When it came time to hide the eggs, my brother, Mike; Bailey’s sister, Shelby; their mom, Debbie (my best friend); and I went out with the giant box of 500 eggs. It was the first time since Rebecca was a toddler that I participated in hiding the eggs. I could have found others to take on the task. After all, I had guests with whom to visit and dishes to wash, but something in me said that it was important that I go out. Maybe it was the knowledge that I was the one who hid the eggs for Rebecca’s first Easter egg hunt, and I had to be the one to hide them this year, on the occasion of her last. I don’t know; I just knew that I wanted to have a hand in hiding those colorful, treasure-laiden, plastic eggs.

Watching Lulu, my cousin’s three-year-old, excitedly scoop up one egg after another, I was reminded of how quickly time goes by. It’s an elusive creature, time, unable to be seen, heard, captured, or pinned down. Only in pictures and in our memories can we stop the clock and keep the creature at bay. This fact really hit me on Monday as Rebecca and I spent the day visiting apartments in the DC area. When did she grow old enough to live on her own in the city? I can’t stop her from moving on to the next phase of her life any easier than I can return to those days when she was the one in her fancy dress and white, patent leather shoes, expressing pure joy over every egg she found. CUA Law School awaits, along with a future she can only imagine.

So here’s to tradition. Here’s to family gatherings, blessed meals, toddlers and children of all ages hunting for eggs, enjoying a drink with your child adult, and watching your children grow and take flight. Here’s to remembering the things that matter most in life: God, family, friends, and loving and serving others. May your Easter season (which has only just begun) be filled with all of the above. And may our family Easter egg hunts go on for, at least, another twenty-one years.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Be a Person of Encouragement.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Lent is over. Now what? by Matt Hadro on Catholic News AgencyWhat is “brain hacking”? Tech insiders on why you should care aired on 60 Minutes, April 9, 2017.

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. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 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)

Becoming the Learners

IMG_0505This week so far has been pretty surreal. Katie has already started counting down to “move-in” day, Rebecca is home for what will probably be her last leisurely spring break and her last time “living” in our family home, we’ve started the process of converting Rebecca’s room to my office, and today was spent touring law schools. The end of the school year is approaching faster than I imagined, and I was already aware that it was barreling down on us like a tornado in the Oklahoma summer.

It’s going to feel very strange around here next year. Katie has this wonderful, endearing ability to bring light to every situation. It’s no wonder her class just chose her, “Most Likely to Brighten Your Day.”  I’m really going to miss that ray of sunshine next year. And Rebecca and I have had the best conversations in the few days she’s been home. I’d forgotten how even our disagreements, when done in person and not over texting, can be honest, engaging, and informative. We’ve talked non-stop while cleaning out her room, driving to the law schools, and roaming the halls of academia, while plotting her future, reminiscing about the past, and just enjoying each other’s company.

It’s going to feel strange walking into my office every day and not thinking about the many years she inhabited the room, her Broadway marquee signs mingled with her Washington Capitals posters and inspirational plaques. Her awards and trophies have been packed away, and her favorite pieces of art, map of the world, and globe paperweight have been carefully packed, labeled, and set aside for “Rebecca’s future law office.” As we paint later this week, I know it will feel as if we are erasing one phase of life and replacing it with another. Alas, time marches on whether we’re ready or not.

I think this is why God gave me three daughters. Rebecca is here to show us the way. She taught us how to be parents, what we did right and what we did wrong, how to plant roots and grow a tree, and how to let go. Katie taught us the ups and downs of parenting. She showed us that there are good days and bad days, and we have to be ready for both. She helped us to be more attentive and kind, to better accept and appreciate the differences in all people, and how to let go, have fun, and say goodbye with the knowledge that it isn’t the end of anything but the beginning of everything. And Morgan has taught us patience, perseverance, and persistence. She has shown us how two people with almost identical personalities can be enormously different. She will remain in the nest, for a little longer, while the other two begin to spread wings and take off in flight. We’ll be back where we were twenty-one years ago, just Ken, our daughter, and me. She’ll have us all to herself, and I look forward to watching her grow and make her mark the way Rebecca and Katie have and continue to do. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and I think she will teach us more than both of her sisters combined.

Nobody ever told me that having three daughters was going to be easy. Nobody ever tried to convince me that letting them go would go wouldn’t break my heart. And nobody ever said that saying goodbye wouldn’t bring tears. But I wouldn’t have traded our lives for anything else. In spite of the fights between sisters and the fights between daughters and parents; despite the nights spent worrying about where they were or what they were doing; despite the trials, mistakes, and screw-ups we’ve endured as parents; and despite the sadness of watching them leave, I know that my heart rejoices in the women they are now and are becoming, and my tears of heartache are far outweighed by my tears of joy.

Life hasn’t always been easy parenting three headstrong, independent girls, I mean young women. Sometimes, I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster of never ending ups and downs, harrowing turns, and frightful loop-de-loops. But I guess that’s what parenting is all about. We start out thinking that we are the ones who know everything, who will impart years of wisdom on these young souls, who will be the ones to teach them everything they need to know. I never imagined that it would be I who would learn the most.

For Lenten inspiration, check out Amy’s collaboration with authors, Anne Kennedy, Susan Anthony, Chandi Owen, and Wendy Clark:  Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  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)

“In the End, Only Kindness Matters”

photo_40389_20150830I was recently introduced to several songs that have become go-to songs for me. The playlist they make up is the most played one on my phone and in my car. A few of the songs I knew, some from my own youth, and others were new to me but not to the world. All of these songs were featured on last spring’s television event, The Live Passion; and after watching it, I was compelled to buy the soundtrack the very next day. Now, whether I hear one of these songs on my playlist or on the radio, I hear it in a whole new light often picturing where it belongs in the retelling of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. Even though we’re getting ready to enter Advent and not Lent, one of those songs has been on my mind a lot lately. The song, Hands, was sung by Tricia Yearwood in the live show, but it was written and originally sung by Jewel. I don’t know how I missed this when it was first released, but I guess I was simply in a different place in my life, and it didn’t speak to me then like it does now. Here are the lyrics:

If I could tell the world just one thing ~~ It would be that we’re all ok ~~ And not to worry because worry is wasteful ~~ And useless in times like these ~~ I will not be made useless ~~ I won’t be idled with despair ~~ I will gather myself around my faith ~~ For light does the darkness most fear ~~ My hands are small, I know, ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ And I am never broken ~~ Poverty stole your golden shoes ~~ But it didn’t steal your laughter ~~ And heartache came to visit me ~~ But i knew it wasn’t ever after ~~ We will fight, not out of spite ~~ For someone must stand up for what’s right ~~ Cause where there’s a man who has no voice ~~ There ours shall go singing ~~ My hands are small, I know, ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ And I am never broken ~~ In the end only kindness matters ~~ In the end only kindness matters ~~ I will get down on my knees and I will pray ~~ I will get down on my knees and I will pray ~~ I will get down on my knees and I will pray ~~ My hands are small, I know, ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ And I am never broken ~~ My hands are small, i know, ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ And I am never broken ~~ We are never broken ~~ We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s mind ~~ We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s heart ~~ We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s eyes God’s hands ~~ We are God’s hands God’s hands We are God’s hands

Hands, Written by Jewel Kilcher, Patrick Leonard • Copyright © Downtown Music Publishing LLC, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

While there are many reasons why I could be thinking of this song, the main reason is that, lately, I have come to believe that the virtue of kindness is disappearing from our culture, and maybe the world. I see and hear children speaking to each other and to adults with such blatant disrespect, and having no idea that they’re doing it or why it’s wrong, and I think, no wonder we have so many problems in this world. What would the world be like if everyone made a concerted effort, every single day, to just be kind to one another? What if I held my tongue more often before speaking to my husband? What if my daughter thought about how someone else might feel before chastising them? What if a teacher thought about the repercussions on a student because of a cutting comment the teacher uttered in front of the class? What if politicians considered what they are teaching future generations when they do nothing but verbally knock each other down?

St. Paul the Apostle, in his letter to the Galatians, said “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” He outlined the most basic guidelines for how we should act, speak, live, and treat one another. Believe me, I know it’s hard. I struggle with this every day, but there is something that gives me hope. You see, St. Paul didn’t call these the “Rules of the Spirit,” or the “Commands of the Spirit.” He called them the “Fruit of the Spirit.” How beautiful when you think about it. These aren’t the things that we are ordered to do or even the things we will be given outright, but they are what we reap, what we harvest, what we can share with others. If we practice the fruit of the Spirit, then we can spread love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to others, and in return, we should receive all of those back.

I implore you to join me in starting today. Together, let’s think about what we do, what we say, how we act, especially in front of our children. So often, I find myself reminding my own children that they are not being respectful, speaking kindly, or acting with love. In those moments, I wonder if I have set the example for them, if I have failed as a parent. For if I have not taught my children to be kind, then what does it matter what else I have taught them?

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

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), Whispering Vines (2016)

The Five Reasons We Allow You to Date

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Dear Daughter,

It’s been challenging for you lately, and I know that.  You’re young, and you think you’re in love, and I think it’s wonderful.  You’re growing and learning and figuring out who you are and what you want in life, and I have no problem with you having a partner who cares about you to help you figure that out.  I also know that there are others who disagree and some, young and old, who are giving you a hard time about it.  I appreciate you telling them that I allow you to date and that they can take it up with me; and I know we’ve talked about this, but I’d like to make sure that you fully understand why I allow you to date because it’s a privilege, one that I feel is very important for the healthy development of your mind, body, and spirit.  

As you know, I’ve been given a fair share of advice from others about how to handle the ‘dating situation.’  In fact, it’s a topic that has come up among friends and acquaintances many times, and  often, it becomes an admonishment on me for allowing you and your sisters to date.  This is something that I pray about a lot and your father and I talk about a lot, and while we don’t have all of the answers or make all of the right decisions, we try our best.  We have our reasons for the things we do and allow, very good ones we believe, and you should know what they are.  I’m not setting out to tell the parents of your friends or even your teachers what is right or wrong, but I do want you to know why I have made some of the choices I have in regards to you.  

I have been told, “High school children belong with their families and not out on dates. They have plenty of time for that in college and beyond.”  Interesting thought, but I have another take.  I have heard, “Teens are not mature enough to handle dating.”  No argument from me about maturity, but I’ll get to that.  Recently, you told me that an adult told you, “The purpose of dating is to have sex, so if you’re not planning on getting married and having children in the immediate future, then you should not be dating.”  Uh-huh.  I have lots to say about that one, but let me begin with the least of the reasons why I allow you to date.

5. You’re learning the Ropes.  Your high school years are all about preparing for your future.  You will need to develop good study habits, learn time management, become skilled at balancing school and a job, and become adept at standing up for yourself and your beliefs.  Along with those things, I want you to also prepare for the dating scene.  What is proper behavior on a date?  Where are acceptable locales?  What is the proper dress? This may all sound silly to you, but seriously, these are important questions and not just old-fashioned ideas.  I want to know that when you leave the house with a boy, you know what is acceptable and what is not and what should be expected or not (by and from both of you).  And I want those values and rules coming from me, not from your college roommate.

4. Dating is part of growing.  It is part of figuring out what you want in a future spouse.  That does not mean that you have to marry the first boy who asks you to a dance.  If means that you are learning what it feels like to be asked to a dance, to hold hands, and yes, even to kiss (cue the gasps).  It also means that you are learning about mutual respect.  Does he open the door for you? Is he attentive to you in conversations?  Does he put your needs and desires first?  Is he able to compromise?  Does he respect your wishes, your values, your family and friends?  If the answer is no, then move on!  He was not the right one, but it’s okay to try again.  Would you buy a pair of shoes without making sure that they fit, that they work with your wardrobe, that they’re comfortable and make you feel good?  Dating is no different but far more important.

3.  You need to see him with his mom and yours.  Dating in college is very much a social endeavor.  You will go to parties, night clubs, football games, and dances, much like you are doing in high school, but you will be doing it on your own time, with your own friends, and without your family tagging along, so there are things that you will miss, important things that won’t be revealed to you.  For example, how does he treat his mom?  Is he kind to her, loving, respectful?  Does he help out around the house?  Does he like being with his family?  And, in a way, more importantly, does he like being with yours?  Is he kind and respectful to your parents?  If he never wants to spend time with your family, then I have to ask why?  Is he selfish?  Is he all about what he wants and not what you want?  And on a darker note, is he possessive?  Is he violent?  Does he try to drive a wedge between you and your family?  Remember, when you meet the right one, he will become a part of our family.  Is he willing to do that?  Dating in high school is about blending your family life with your dating life, and that’s an extremely important facet of being a couple.  Learn to do it early and to do it well.

2.  Maturity is learned not inherited.  If I had kept you in the nursery until your eighteenth birthday  and then suddenly set you free in the world, would you think I was crazy?  Would you know how to manage on your own without any prior knowledge?  Of course not!  And dating should be no different.  You can’t grow and properly mature without experience.  You need to learn how to behave in public and in private.  You need to know how to set limits, how to compromise, and how to say no.  Everything you do as you are growing up affects what you do and how you act when you are on your own.  But you need to recognize that you are still growing, still learning, still maturing until, scientists say, the age of 25.  So there will be limits set on you while you’re at home–curfews, acceptable places to go, and acceptable people to be a part of your life.  If we say no, the answer is no, but we will always explain to you why.  And hopefully the ‘why’ will stick with you and help you mature into a person who makes good choices.

1.  The world is a scary place, but I’ve got your back.  You will be put into uncomfortable situations.  You will be faced with circumstances that you may not know how to handle.  You will have questions, and fears, and will make mistakes.  And I want to be there the first time you do, the first time you come face to face with the ugly side of dating.  I want to be sitting on your bed with you when you’re crying after your first broken heart.  I want to be behind the wheel when you need someone to come get you because you don’t feel safe.  I want you to crawl in my bed at night because you’re upset and need your mom.  I want you to go off to college with a past, not a reputation, but a past in which you learned how to spot a nice boy, how to say no, how to get yourself out of a bad situation, how to dress and act on a date, and how to know if he’s the right man.  

The dating world has changed a lot in the past thirty years.  You all do things differently and at a much faster pace than we did.  But to be in the right kind of relationship, make the right decisions, and figure out who the right mate is, you need guidance, and I’ve only got four short years to be that guide.  But know this, even when you are on your own, when you have questions, or when you make mistakes, I will always be here.  I will always be praying for you.  I will always be your mom.  Even when you are grown and go home to someone else.

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

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), Whispering Vines (2016)