My Dog Made Me A Better Christian

Misty at door.jpgA few years ago, I shared the news that our Golden Retriever, Misty, had been diagnosed with a heart murmur. This past Sunday, I held my beautiful girl in my arms as her heart beat for the last time. I won’t get into a theological debate about whether or not she’s waiting for me in Heaven. That’s one of the many things beyond my comprehension. What I do know is that we could all learn to be better Christians by emulating our canine friends. Here’s how my girl brought the teachings of the Bible to life…

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To Those Who Wait

In this age of instant gratification, it seems that nobody has the patience to wait for anything anymore. No matter how old we are, we have all been swept up in the belief that we need everything to happen or be given to us right now, at this very moment. The notion of waiting for anything has completely gone out of fashion. Amazon is even looking at the possibility of same-day delivery drones because getting a package in one or two days is simply not fast enough any longer.

This week, our Jewish friends are celebrating Chanukah, meaning dedication, an eight-day period to celebrate religious freedom and the rededication of the temple after war with Greece. Though the great temple in Jerusalem is no longer standing, the Jewish people continue to pray there and continue to wait for the coming of their Messiah. In fact, they have been waiting for 6000 years. Talk about being patient! While Christians believe that the Messiah has already come, we are reminded, each year, of the 4000 years we waited when we celebrate Advent. To many, this four-week period of anticipation is more than they can bear. I know of one couple who already exchanged Christmas presents because they couldn’t bear to wait just twenty days more for Christmas.

I get it. It’s hard to wait, but… Read more

In the Desert

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The desert outside of Jerusalem

We are exactly two weeks into Lent, and I don’t know about you, but I find myself lost in a vast spiritual desert. I started this Lent without a clue as to what I was going to do. I have never been one who feels satisfied giving something up for Lent. It does nothing for my soul. I’d much rather add something of value–more prayer time, more scripture reading. etc. But when Lent began this year, I was having a very difficult time coming up with anything at all to focus on. And then I was hit hard by the Old Testament reading on the first Friday of Lent:

 

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. – From Isaiah 58

Wow. Was I doing any of that? Was I releasing those I held bound? Was I sharing bread with the hungry? Was I clothing the naked? Was I turning my back on people? And taking it deeper, was I being impatient, unyielding, obstinate, selfish, unloving, or uncaring? Yes, yes, and yes to all of them!

But that message was not enough. I have been bombarded, throughout the past two weeks, with signs pointing out my spiritual inadequacies. In the Faith Study group that I participate in two Mondays a month, we are doing a new study by Dr. Edward Sri, titled, Who Am I To Judge? The study is not at all what I thought it would be. It’s so much more. I thought I would be learning how to deal with people in our society with whom I have differing views. But at its core, it’s a series of lessons on how I can become the person I was meant to be. It’s really an extension of the reading from Isaiah!

And that’s not all. Every day, I receive in my inbox a Lenten reflection video. On the first day, the reflection was titled, An Opportunity. The crux was that Lent is an opportunity to be a new “Springtime,” a new season in my life to find joy by becoming the person I was meant to be. Every single day, that reflection hits directly where I need it that day. How amazing is that? I’ve been reminded that I need to be myself, encourage others, track my progress so far and celebrate it, accept my imperfections, accept that I cannot please everyone, become a better person, and live a more virtuous life.

In thinking about all of this, I see how, during this Lenten season, I have been called to step outside of myself and see the world through the eyes of others. I have to listen to my husband when he explains why I can’t have everything I want at this moment. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and time is precious and limited. I have to stop reading emails or working on other tasks while having a phone conversation with my daughter. She deserves my undivided attention. I have to make time for others, to share their joys and pains, to be the friend they deserve.

It’s not easy seeing past my own little world, my to-do lists, my seemingly never-ending first floor remodel. It’s not easy being patient when I want everything to move at my demanded pace. It’s not easy being humble in a world that is constantly screaming, “Look at me.” It’s not easy being generous or compassionate or loving when I’m so focused on my own wants and desires. Just two weeks into Lent, I’ve realized that I am in the desert and that this might be the worst Lent I’ve ever experienced. Or it just might be the best.

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morning on the Sea of Galilee

Are you looking for a new way to meditate on the Stations of the Cross this Lent? If so, check out the newly revised edition of Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms. You can download the ebook version today!

What I was writing about this time last year:  Giving More.

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 Me, Whispering 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/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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

 

Dancing Through Life

Here’s a little known fact that I’ve always found cute and endearing: my husband loves to dance. I didn’t say he is a good dancer. I often equate him with Steve Martin’s The Jerk when he discovers that music has a beat.

I’m pretty sure that Ken sees himself more like Fiero in Wicked.

  

But the truth is that Ken really, really loves to dance, and he wants to be good at it. In fact, when we were first married, he told me that someday he’d like us to take ballroom dancing lessons. Well, someday is here.

For Christmas, I gave Ken a month of ballroom dancing lessons. I went into it thinking it was going to be easy for me. After all, I’ve always loved to dance. I took dance as a little girl and actually learned square dancing and the waltz in gym class. Ken and I used to do country line dancing all the time before we had children. I knew that this was going to be a piece of cake. I was so wrong.

We go to dance every Thursday night from 7-9pm. We are learning the Rumba, the Bolero, the Waltz, and the Salsa. I’ve had to throw everything I knew about dance out the window and begin at step one, literally (you know, 1,2,3and 4 or 1and2,3and4). It’s exhausting and sometimes frustrating. I can hear the beat, but Ken cannot. He can grasp the side breaks, but I struggle.

Four dances in two hours is brutal. And then there is the hour of at-home practice that Ken insists upon every night. If I thought the arthritis in my foot was bad before, aye-yi-yi! It’s killing me! But last night, as we danced around our living room, I could sense a break-through. We began working together. Sure, we had our moment of frustration with each other, but we let it go. We let it go and just danced.

We will never be Fred and Ginger. And all joking aside, we make the newbies on Dancing with the Stars look like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. But we are learning to dance, and perhaps, we are learning even more important lessons, ones I sometimes need to tell myself over and over again.

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. (Ephesians 4:2)

Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace. (Proverbs 15:18)

The end of something is better than its beginning. Patience is better than pride. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

Ken and Amy's Wedding36And most of all, the words that were read at our very own wedding over twenty-four years ago:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)

Perhaps those were lessons God intended for us to learn all along.

 

What I was writing about this time last year:  The American Way

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 Me, Whispering Vines,  and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three 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 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, is on sale online and in stores.

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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

Patience is a Virtue I am Lacking

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The main part of our kitchen this past Christmas

My patience is being tested to the end! For the past week, I have been living in chaos. We’ve been in our home for over sixteen years, moving into the house between Katie’s fifth birthday and Morgan’s birth a month later. My father-in-law built my kitchen, and it was a beautiful kitchen. But, as with all things, it was time for an upgrade. The floors throughout our first level were in terrible shape, as happens with cheap flooring and a houseful of kids and dogs. The kitchen cabinets were showing a lot of wear, and Ken and I were ready for a change. Rather than do the downstairs in bits and pieces, we dove in headfirst, ordering new cabinets, appliances, and floors, all at the same time. And we still need to think about paint!

I’m pretty sure I’m the most impatient person I know, and I have a strong need to always be in control. Imagine living for almost three weeks without countertops or appliances
(not to mention the first week of not even knowing where to find a spoon). Now imagine that you are only beginning week two. I sit here and type along with the cadence of saws and hammers and crewmen calling across the room to each other. My upstairs office is away from the mess but not from the noise. Our microwave is precariously perched on the disconnected dishwasher in the garage, surrounded by flattened cardboard boxes, dismantled cabinets, and the other appliances. This is where I make my oatmeal and tea every morning. The contents of my kitchen are spread throughout the downstairs, including on the front porch and in the sunroom. I know that I will go to bed tonight with the sound of incessant banging ringing in my ears. Oh, and the chirp of the smoke detector that keeps alerting me to the overwhelming presence of sawdust in the house.

Today’s responsorial psalm for the Mass is from the 40th Psalm. In the psalm are the lines, “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, To do your will, O my God, is my delight.” In the midst of all the chaos surrounding me, I am reminded that I cannot always be in control and that I should bow joyously to God’s will. Sometimes, I have to let things happen slowly, to let situations come about of their own accord, to deal with the dust and the dirt and the noise of this everyday life without trying to make things happen in my own time and in my own way. I have to remind myself to delight in what God has in store. And it’s so, so hard.

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We’ve come so far, but we’ve got so far to go! Mosquitoes are taking over the house (thank Heaven the door goes back on today), and the counters won’t be here for another week. But the wine is out and ready!

Patience is a virtue. We hear it so often that I think we forget that there is truth in the saying. I know I do! Perhaps God enjoys throwing us curveballs, blocking our path, or forcing us to endure long, drawn-out trials, both large and small, in order to remind us that we are just one small presence in this world. We are to live our lives for Him and for others, finding patience when we are being tested and acceptance when we cannot be in control. I know that, by the end of next week, I will be overjoyed with my kitchen. Until then, I need to bear all things and be satisfied with each small step, looking forward to what is to to come. God is in control in all ways and in all things. I need to remind myself, when my stress level rises, that He has this.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. 

James 5:7-12

What I was writing about one year ago this week: The Five Reasons We Allow You To Date.

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 followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.

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), The Greatest Gift (2017)

Raising Adults

DSC07028No offense to any new moms out there, but you have it easy!  Those first few years of parenthood are both wonderful and exhausting.  Sleepless nights, changing diapers, choosing a preschool, putting them on the bus, teaching them to make friends, watching them make the wrong friends, helping with homework, cheering on the sidelines, cleaning scraped knees and wiping snotty noses and tear-stained faces are just some of the painful joys of parenthood.  But I have to be honest with you, looking back, it was actually quite easy to raise children.  It’s once they hit high school that everything changes because that’s when you realize that you are no longer raising children; you are raising adults.

I liked raising children so much better than raising adults.  I have such a hard time letting go.  It just seems so much easier for me to fill out forms, contact teachers, cry to (and about) coaches, and make the tough decisions for them.  I want so badly for them to advocate for themselves, but I can’t help myself!  I am always fighting the urge to step in, and I often lose the battle.  If you think that watching your child fall off a bike is hard, try watching them fall in love, fall into the wrong crowd, or fall on their faces literally and figuratively.  Being able to pick them up, cradle them in your lap, and kiss the hurt away is infinitely easier than mending a broken heart or being on the other side of the slammed door.  Being a guide and mentor would be easy if I didn’t want so much to be at the reins, controlling everything that happens in their lives.  As if I could have stopped that bike from falling…

Raising adults is a lot like raising puppies.  You discipline as best you can, hoping they understand that it’s out of love, you scold and yell to stop them from doing something harmful, you keep them on a short leash for as long as you can; but then you realize that there comes a day when you have to trust them, leave them alone, let them wander, and pray that when you or they return, nothing has been damaged beyond repair.  There will be accidents and incidents, and no matter how old they are, they will try your patience and make you so angry you see red, but deep down, you know that all they really want from you is your love and attention.

I still have a lot of learning and letting go to do.  It’s not an easy road, and there are many bends, dead ends, yields, and U-turns, but I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  My mother and I don’t always agree, and we had our share of arguments when I was becoming an adult, but there’s nobody in the world whom I love, respect, and enjoy spending time with more than her.  I can only hope and pray that I can be as lucky with my three girls.  Correction, my three young adults.  Loving them while letting them go is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know that someday we will all reap the rewards.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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