When George Bailey’s mother tries to scoot him from his brother’s welcome home party to the house down the road where Mary has just returned from college, George teases her that she’s trying to get rid of him. While George does tell his mother that he’s going, he takes his time. He strolls through the town, taking a look at the marquee and talking to old pal, Violet. He meanders around Bedford Falls and makes his way down the sidewalk, in no hurry at all, finally pacing back and forth in front of Mary’s house until she calls out and asks what took him so long.
George was in no hurry to get there, mostly because he’s unsure of what he wants to do. He takes his time. He thinks about his decision and where he’s going, and after a lot of thought and consideration, he ends up at Mary’s house where he gets the girl. Though his plans never seem to go the way he wants them to, he eventually learns that It’s a Wonderful Life.
In fact, George’s entire life is a lesson in taking things slowly. He puts off college so that his brother Harry can attend. He puts off his adventures to take over the savings and loan. He slowly grows older in a house that needs work, a family that keeps expanding, and a job that weighs him down. The pressures get to him (thanks to interference from old man Potter), and he wonders if life is really worth living.
So what happens?
His life comes to a stop, and he’s taken backwards on a journey that shows him the things that really matter. He’s literally made to stop, not take that sudden leap off the bridge, and reassess everything he’s known to be true.
Yes, I know Christmas is over, but there are so many lessons to be learned from the Frank Capra masterpiece, and I think this is one of the most important ones…
A 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…
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.
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.
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!
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 Vineswas 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.
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)
And 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.
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 Vineswas 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.
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.
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.
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 Meand Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016.Whispering Vineswas 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.
No 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. Read more →