Listening to the Silence

Here we are, more than halfway through the season of Advent. Two weeks ago, I wrote about being grateful and giving the gift of love this Christmas. Last week, I wrote about the importance of patience and even more important, not taking for granted what you’ve been waiting for! This week, amid the hustle and bustle of the season, I’ve been trying to remember to be grateful, patient, and appreciative, but it’s a busy time of year, and it’s easy to get caught up in the preparations without remembering what it’s all about. For several days now, I’ve been thinking about a beautiful Scripture passage: 1 Kings 19, 11-13. I can’t help but marvel in how that story of Elijah is repeated every day in our own lives, especially during the Christmas season.

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake;

after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.

When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

This is my week this week: Start each morning off with a visit to the gym, dentist appointment for my regular cleaning, grocery shopping for the next two weeks, baking and decorating nearly 250 traditional, frosted sugar cookies, wrap Christmas presents, prepare bedrooms for my two oldest daughters to come home from law school and college, decorate the Christmas tree with the family, package and mail Christmas gifts to friends out of state and in Canada, prepare the house for our annual Mother/Daughter Christmas party this weekend, make presents for party guests, set up for the 43 dinner guests, plan and prepare the dinner for the party, and continue doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping and vacuuming, etc. The list seems to grow each day. I seem to add tasks as quickly as I cross them off.

After standing in my kitchen for ten solid hours on Monday, decorating cookies, I can honestly say that I don’t ever remember being so tired and sore! This entire week, so far, has been like the strong and violent wind howling in the eaves and shaking the shutters. One would think that I have had little time to listen for the Lord as He tries to speak to me amid the blustery winds of busyness. There will be little time to stop and hear Him in the disaster zone that will be created after our earthquake of a party this weekend. How will I hear Him amid the roaring flames of short tempers, lighted fuses, and the arguing that comes from the whole family being together 24/7?

Rosary.jpgLuckily, there is the beautiful gift that a friend gave to me at the beginning of Advent. Chandi, one of my co-authors and dear friend, suggested that our friend group, of thirteen women across the country, pray a daily Rosary for each other throughout the month of Advent. I used to pray the Rosary every day, but amid the winds, earthquakes, and fires of life, I let the daily offering of prayer slip away. But Chandi’s suggestion was so profoundly beautiful as she apologized for throwing one more task at us during this frantic time. It has become, for me, not only a way to make sure that we are all connecting with God but, on a much higher level, with each other. We were praying for two people’s surgeries, one person’s hospital stay, one’s daughter in need of prayers, one who just lost an in-law, several who will be traveling, one who is moving, and all who are in need of an extra intercession, or two, or twelve.

Every day, I get to carve out a little time to listen for the “light silent sound,” to be still and hear the message from God, to talk to Him, share with Him my troubles and my joys, thank Him for all that He has given me. And in those moments, I am rewarded with the knowledge that He is there in all that I do – in the wrapping and the baking and cleaning – in the smiles and the tears and the laughter. Whenever I am bent by the wind, shaken by the earthquake, or scorched by the fire, I only need to close my eyes and listen for His voice in the silence. And He comes, every single time, He comes. Whether I hear Him or not. Whether I feel Him or not. He comes in the gentleness of my husband’s touch and his offer to help bake cookies, in the sweetness of cake baked for a friend, in the joy of hearing my daughter say, “I’m on the way home.”

IMG_2183And He comes, not as a mighty warrior or a powerful king or a ferocious beast. He comes, at the end of this waiting time, as a child, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. In all of the grandeur and glory, in the bright lights and festive music, in the myriad of decorations and parties and feasts, He comes in the simplest form. Like a little bit of prayer time in the midst of a hectic day, He is there, among the messiness of the stable and the crying of the animals, waiting for us to come to Him and to listen for Him in the silence.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: What If?.

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).

Longing for a Little Sleep

IMG_0085Have you ever noticed that a child can sleep anywhere? How about that guy on the plane next to you who is asleep before the plane takes off and slumbers soundly until the plane touches down? By the way, that’s my husband. Oh, how I wish that was me. Actually, forget sleeping in a car or on a plane. I just want to be able to sleep in my own bed.

At some point every night, I wake up. Sometimes, it’s because Ken wakes up, and since I can’t sleep through the sound of a drop of rain on a blade of grass, that wakes me up, too. Sometimes, it’s the sound of the wind against the house. Sometimes, it’s because I hear Morgan get up to use the bathroom, or our dog, Misty, softly padding across the carpet. Sometimes, I have no idea at all what causes me to stir. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Once I’m awake, there’s no going back to sleep, even if it’s only midnight.  I lie in bed for the next two hours, four hours, six hours, just praying that I can go back to sleep. My body longs for restful slumber, but my mind refuses to shut down.

It’s not that I’m worried or stressed. I just can’t seem to stop the thoughts. I’ve written entire chapters with engrossing scenes and witty dialog while lying in the dark, my eyes closed, but my mind open. I’ve planned days and trips and parties. I’ve rehearsed conversations I intend to have family or friends. Mostly, I pray. I pray rote prayers I’ve known since childhood as well as long streams of consciousness that roll through the foggy recesses of my mind. There never seems to be an end to my prayers–asking for good health for my parents and Ken’s, asking for wisdom and happiness for my daughters, for success with a project, for traveling mercies, for the intentions of friends and loved ones. I pray more at night when I’m trying to sleep than I do during the day when I’m fully awake.

prayerWhich brings me to wonder… Maybe I’m trying too hard during the day to do things on my own, to fit in too many things, to honor too many commitments. Maybe I’m supposed to be doing less and praying more. Maybe I need to spend less time focussing on myself and more time focussing on God. It’s not something I ever thought of before, but maybe it should have been. 

Glancing at the clock, I have several more hours to go until bedtime. Perhaps it’s time to take a break from this world and concentrate on the next. Maybe then, I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Learning from the Past, Changing for the Future.

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 on pre-sale. 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)

Saying Goodbye to Worry and Regret

img_0144I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the whole nature versus nurture debate.  Are we really born with certain innate traits, or do we develop them based on environment and experience?  As our oldest daughter applies to law school, our middle daughter applies to college, and our youngest deals with the trials and tribulations of being in high school, I can’t help but wonder how they all three inherited, or perhaps learned, their father’s penchant for worrying, doubting, second guessing, and obsessing over the what ifs.  Contrast that with my own attitude of let go, let live, and let God, and I think, where did I fail to instill in them a belief that worrying is a total waste of time?

I recently read an article that claimed that there is a great “connection between anxiety and a stronger imagination.”  The article went on to say that “Worry is the mother of invention.”  That’s funny; I thought it was necessity.  Oh, and it also said that “Cheerful, happy-go-lucky people by definition do not brood about problems and so must be at a disadvantage when problem-solving compared to a more neurotic person.”  Um no, when my girls have a problem, they come to me.  When Ken has a problem, he comes to me.  My totally neurotic family aren’t able to see the forest for the trees.  I, on the other hand, can see the light on the other side of the forest.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m certainly not trying to blow my own horn.  I just haven’t been able to reconcile, in my own mind, how and why worriers are the way they are and the rest of us aren’t.  If it were really as simple as “Overthinking Worriers Are Probably Creative Geniuses,” as the title of the article suggests, then why does Ken not have a creative side while I write fiction?

I was at an impasse trying to figure this out until this past Monday, and then the light through the trees became even brighter as understanding dawned on me.  I was in a meeting with a wonderful group of women whom I am so lucky to be able to call my friends.  Many of us have been meeting every other Monday for the past twelve years.  We pray, discuss, read, and learn, and some of my greatest revelations have come from those Monday morning meetings.  We were watching a short video in which we heard, over and over, people saying that they always worried, were never content, and were constantly searching for happiness and the meaning to their lives until they realized that they could only find true joy in God.  When they learned to let Him guide them, take away their cares, and be the light at the end of their tunnels, their entire lives changed.  And that’s when it hit me.  It’s not about being creative versus neurotic or being intelligent versus imaginative.  It’s about knowing that there are many things in this world that are simply beyond our control.  We can only do so much and have to have faith that the rest will turn out okay.

This past weekend, I helped chaperone a group of high school students on our school’s annual trip to New York City.  We arrived back home after midnight on Saturday, and on Sunday, I chaired our Post Prom’s Bingo.  I had several friends comment that they couldn’t believe I was able to go away for the two days before our biggest fundraiser.  I didn’t see the problem.  I had everything ready the night before we left, and I had confidence in the others who were assisting me with the event.  While there were things that I would like to tweak for next year (including not holding them the same weekend for my own body’s sake), the event was a success, we made money, and we’re ready to move forward.  I could dwell on the fact that turnout wasn’t as high as last year, so we didn’t bring in quite as much as we had hoped, but I can’t change it, and worrying about it won’t make a difference; but analyzing why we had fewer people and planning the next event will.  It’s all about keeping perspective.  Staying calm, making plans, evaluating results, and moving on are the keys to success.

Do I worry about things?  Sure I do.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I worry about about the future of our country, but I can only look out for my small part of the world.  I voted, and then I had to let it go.  I can’t change minds or hearts, but I pray that God can.  Do I worry about the safety of my children?  Absolutely.  The health of my parents, the state of world affairs, the future of our school?  I’d be living in a dream world if I didn’t.  But do I dwell on them?  Not for a minute (okay, last night, for maybe longer than a minute).  

What I always do is pray every day that my children will learn to let go, let live, and let God.  To worry about the future is futile.  To dwell on mistakes of the past is incapacitating.  To fear every possible outcome is debilitating.  But to have faith that you have done what you could, and let the rest happen, prepared to move forward no matter the outcome, will allow you to walk calmly ahead and deal with the consequences.  The next time you find yourself giving into worry, go forward, into the trees, and have confidence that there is light on the other side.  Your attitude, and a bit of faith, will make all of the difference.

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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)

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.

Be Not Afraid

My SSPP GirlsYesterday, some friends and I were talking about how hard it is raising children in today’s world.  As mothers, we all worry about our children.  Will they make the right decisions, meet the right people, find the right job, make it to school or work and back safely, be safe at school or work, survive to be an adult, a parent, a grandparent.  It’s a constant state of worry.  Worry like that can be crippling, immobilizing, even life-threatening.  So what’s a mother to do?

We all came to the same conclusion.  It’s not a perfect one, but it’s all we can do.  We have to hope for the best, put our trust in God, and love our children fiercely every day.  We can’t lock our children in a tower (that never works in Fairy Tales), and we can’t live our lives in constant fear, nor do we want to teach our children to live their lives in constant fear.  We want them and ourselves actually LIVING!  So we have no other choice but to teach them right and wrong, instill in them a solid set of values and morals, and pray for them every day.

Looking back, every single bad decision I’ve ever made in my life, whether as a child, a teen, or an adult, was made out of fear.  What if they don’t like me?  What if he won’t love me?  What if I don’t do that, say that, try that?  The question was always based in fear, and the decision was always disastrous, if not then, than later down the road.  However, every decision I ever made with confidence that it was the right thing to do, was made with complete trust – trust in friends, my loved ones, my husband, God.  And those decisions have never come back to haunt me.

Years ago, Ken and I were at a crossroads in our lives.  Our children were attending a school that they hated.  I had to forcibly put Katie on the bus every day and jump off as the bus driver closed the door while Katie cried and pounded on the windows.  She was eight years old, not a young child, and the knowledge that she was so unhappy was heart-breaking.  It was my first year staying at home and attempting to become a published author when Ken decided to leave his job.  The position had created so much stress for him that I feared for his health, but what would we do?  After a few months, our small savings was almost gone and we had three children to feed.  While we were talking over the situation one night, my husband had the craziest idea, and I mean crazy.  He said to me, “You’ve always wanted them in Catholic school, so maybe it’s time.”  I looked at him like he had lost his mind.  “We have no money, no jobs, and no way of knowing what our future holds, but you want to put all three girls into a private school thirty minutes from our home?”  He said yes.  But how?

We went to the school the very next day and talked over our situation with the principal.  She had known us for years from church and was thrilled that we wanted the girls there.  She was willing to take our applications and hold spots for them until we figured out what we were going to do.  It was March, so we had several months before school started, but we needed a plan, or even a sign.  When and how would we know what was the right decision?  We talked some more and decided that the best route to take was the one shown to us by God.  Ken had several interviews set up, so we said to God, “It’s all in your hands.”  If Ken was offered a job with a salary the same or lower than what he was making at his previous job, the girls would stay put, and we would somehow find a way to manage the situation.  If, however, Ken was making anything at all above his last salary, we would take that proverbial leap of faith.

I will never forget the day the call came.  It was May, school was almost out, our applications were on hold, and the girls were wondering where they would be that fall.  I was hanging clothes on the line in the backyard.  Drying inside the house was expensive and hot, so the air conditioning stayed off, and the clothes hung outside.  I had thrown our portable phone in the basket and had to dig through the wet clothes to find it when it started ringing.  “Call the school,” Ken announced with joy.  I was stunned.  He was in Boston, on his way to the airport after a job interview, and I had been waiting to hear how it went.  “They offered me my dream job.  We can stay in Maryland, and I can work at home.”  “And?” I asked.  “And the pay is what I was making plus to the penny, to the penny,” he emphasized, “exactly what we need to pay the tuition.”  I was overjoyed.  I couldn’t wait to tell the girls the good news.

We’ve been at Saints Peter and Paul for almost ten years now.  Rebecca graduated with honors and went on to a wonderful college.  Katie and Morgan have many friends and are receiving an outstanding education.  But even more important is that they are all happy.  Correction, we are all happy.  Who knows what would have happened if we had not taken that leap of faith and trusted in God.  “Be not afraid,” appears more times than any other phrase in the Bible.  The message is simple.  Whether or not we hear it can make all the difference in the world.

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.