A New Beginning

They say every good thing must come to an end, but is that really true? I’ve been thinking about that as Morgan and I approach the end of our trip to Greece. With all the pictures, videos, and—best yet—the memories, does our trip truly come to and end? And even if the trip itself does end, isn’t the entire trip actually more of a beginning?

Why is the sunset considered the end of the day and not the beginning of the night? Why is the end of a relationship not the beginning of a new start? Why does everyone see graduation as the end of something so momentous when life has only just begun?

Sunset on Naxos

I remember, when I graduated from high school all those years ago, we were told that we were not celebrating our graduation but our commencement—not marking the end of something but the beginning of something even better. We were starting over, becoming who we were meant to be, discovering ourselves in a new way and in a new place. My oldest daughter always says that nobody should peak in high school because life doesn’t really begin until you leave home and discover who you are. Perhaps this is why we should celebrate not the ending but the beginning, the chance to truly grow into the person God designed us to be.

This is what my daughters and I celebrated after their graduations. I can honestly say that those trips with my daughters were new beginnings that opened new worlds for us both literally and figuratively. We visited new places, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and spoke new languages. Our worlds expanded in the most concrete ways. However, our worlds as mother and daughters expended just as much, perhaps even more.

Oia, Santorini

Over the course of the past 10 days, Morgan and I, like each of her sisters and I in the past, visited new places in our relationship. We weren’t just mother and daughter. We experienced Greece as traveling companions and as friends. We developed a new culture, a new way of life, a new understanding of who each other is. We learned things together. We found new foods we want to make at home and new drinks we both enjoy. We learned a new language, not the language spoken by a particular civilization but the language spoken between a mother and an adult daughter.

Morgan and Amy in Santorini

I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s maturity, her take-charge attitude, and her willingness to try new things, including cliff jumping into the Mediterranean! I’m convinced there is nothing she can’t do, and it makes me feel like an accomplished mom of a confident and competent adult. It’s a gift to see her in a new light–an adult ready to take on the world.

Morgan cliff jumping on Milos

It’s always difficult when something ends. As human beings, we sometimes find it challenging to accept change, to embrace something new, to say goodbye to those things to which we are accustom. But I’ve learned that from endings come beginnings. Though it saddens me to think that my baby will soon be living over five hours away, it excites me to see what she will do, accomplish, become. I’m so proud of the person she is growing into and look forward to seeing her embrace her new circumstances, new challenges, new life.

My baby is all grown up (Syros)

This trip isn’t the end of our time together any more than her graduation was an ending. Like the sunset, it’s merely a transition into something new, something wonderful, something to look forward to. I spent eighteen years getting to know my precious child. I hope to have twice that many years to get to know this wonderful adult.

Sunset at the Temple of Apollo, Naxos Island
You can see videos of our amazing adventure.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Glimpse of Paradise.

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 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

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).

A Mother/Daughter Adventure

Those who have been following me for a few years know that each time one of our daughters graduates, she and I embark on a mother-daughter trip abroad. Rebecca and I backpacked through seven countries, beginning in England and finishing in Sweden. It was a whirlwind, three-week adventure that we will never forget.
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Katie Ann and I spent over a week in London, exploring every British pop-culture phenomenon from the Beatles to Harry Potter as well as several neighboring cities, then we spent a few days in Scotland and a few days in Iceland.
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This year, Morgan and I are tackling the Greek Isles with five days on the mainland and a side trip to Pompeii.

While the places, the food, the plays, and the tours are memorable in and of themselves, it’s the little things that make these trips special. And you can experience your own special adventure with your graduate even if you only go as far as your own back yard. What’s important is to…

Let your child be the guide.
DSC01287Rebecca and Katie both had very specific lists of what they wanted to do on their trips. Rebecca had to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe, visit Elsinore Castle (the home of the real-life Danish prince on whom Hamlet was based), and see the Red Light District of Amsterdam (yes, we did walk through it, though I covered her eyes for most of it)!

Katie wanted to experience all of her pop-culture favorites. We toured the Harry Potter studio, walked on Abby Road, took part in the Sherlock Holmes tour, and saw Romeo and Juliet at the Globe. We took buses and trains outside of the city to see Windsor Castle and the Magna Carta in Salisbury. Katie was interested in digging up some family history in Edinburgh and visiting a glacier and a volcano in Iceland.IMG_4266

Morgan’s main interests are relaxing in the Greek Isles, doing some kayaking and hiking,  and shoppinglots and lots of shopping. It will be a very different trip from the others, but my girls are all three very unique individuals! To be honest, after the crazy spring we had, I am actually looking forward to a lot of down time in the hot sun and cool water.

Let your daughter plan your adventure, and give in to her wishes. You’ll see things and go places you never imagined (like standing INSIDE one of the tallest waterfalls in the world).
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Embrace the hiccups.
DSC01103.JPGRebecca and I wanted so badly to visit the beaches of Normandy, where her great-grandfather and his Brothers in Arms stormed the shore to liberate France. Unfortunately, there was a train strike the day we needed to get from Mont St. Michel to Normandy. We found ourselves spending an entire day inside the train station in Renee, France, playing scrabble on my iPad. We talked, laughed, and made the most of the time. When we arrived in Luxembourg a couple days later, we learned that there was an American cemetery not far from the city. It wouldn’t make up for not visiting Normandy, but we decided it was important to go. We had to take a bus and walk quite a bit to get there, but we were two of the few visitors there that day who were able to pay our respects to General Patton himself.

IMG_6473Like the train strike, we had small glitches here and there on both trips. There were some days when the weather was not in our favor. Katie and I ran through a downpour in London, lugging our bags and waving to taxis, and we walked the streets of Edinburgh in a foggy mist that probably would have kept us inside back home. Just because it rains on your parade doesn’t mean you should pack up the band and head home. An adventure is an adventure. Grab your umbrella, smile, and walk in the rain. You will never regret the time you spend with your child no matter the weather.

DSC01025-001Take God with you, or find Him there, and He will surprise you.
We spent a lot of time on our trips visiting churches and monasteries. Why? Because I love visiting churches, and in Europe, that’s where all the history is! While in Brugge, Rebecca and I found ourselves among a very small group of people visiting a local church. Well, unbeknownst to us, one of  Michelangelo’s Madonna statues stood in a corner of the church, and we got to see it. A year or so later, I sat in a dark movie theater and watched George Clooney and company save the Brugge Madonna from the Germans. Until The Monuments Men came out, I’m guessing most tourists would not have thought to visit that beautiful church, one of the highlights of our stay in Brugge.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to on this trip is our visit to Corinth. We will be walking among the ruins where Paul preached. We will trace the steps of the Corinthian Christians, whom Paul reminded that love is patient, kind, not jealous or pompous or rude, not brooding or quick-tempered, but believing, hoping, and enduring. What better lesson can a young adult learn, and what more could I want for my child?

No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing. Pray that the Holy Spirit be your guide. Let God lead you, or seek Him out. It will send a message to your child, reminding her that God is in all places and all things, and that it’s important to seek Him out and make Him part of your life, even on vacation. She will face many circumstances over the next few years where it will be crucial for her to remember that God is always there, waiting for her to find Him.

DSC00835.JPGBe in the Moment.
Yes, you may risk missing that plane to France, but when you hear the queen is coming, you must go see her! And running through the airport, shouting, “Look out, we’re on the Amazing Race,” will be one of the most memorable and talked about parts of your trip.

Embrace your time together.
Talk to each other. Laugh together. Try new foods, see new sights. Walk paths you’ve never walked, and reach for new heights. Ask your graduate about his or her hopes and dreams. Ask about her fears and his uncertainties. Remind your child how much you love him and how excited you are for her as she enters a new phase in life.

DSC00954-001Whether you head to foreign lands or walk to the neighborhood park, what maters most is that you do it together. Take this time to truly get to know this young adult, no longer a child, and enjoy her company. The summer will go by quickly, and before you know it, the first year of college will fade. You will blink, and law school will be almost finished. You will exhale, and a wedding is being planned. 

So, what are you waiting for? Live. Laugh. Love. Together.

More to come next week. For now, Morgan and I are off on an adventure.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Defining Success.

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 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

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).

 

A Marriage of Worth

Baby RebeccaDear Daughter,
Congratulations on your engagement! It’s hard to believe that the day has come when I am writing these words. So often, I still think of you as my little girl, my first-born. Has it really been over twenty-three years since you came into our lives? It seems like yesterday that I first looked into those wide eyes, so full of curiosity and hunger for knowledge, and thought, “She’s mine.” Nothing has changed since that moment. You are still full of curiosity and have an insatiable desire for knowledge, and you are still mine. No matter how old you get, no matter where you live, no matter your choices in life, no matter whose heart or lead you follow, first and foremost, you will always be mine. That doesn’t mean I won’t allow you to live your life, make your own decisions, and become your own brand of wife and mother.

What it means is…

I will always have your back. I will always be there to catch you when you fall. I will always pick up the phone, race to your side, cheer your success, hold you when you fail, and pray for you every day. I will continue to marvel at the things you do and sometimes cringe at the things you say. I will never stop trying to teach you, but I will always listen to your thoughts and opinions. In return, I hope you will continue to listen to me. In case you don’t, or I’m not here in your times of need, never forget…

You have always been fiercely independent, and that shouldn’t end, but it will need to change. Jesus reminds us that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). In becoming one, you will no longer live for yourself but for each other. While this sounds romantic, it’s not. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. You have to think of what is best for the two of you, at all times, rather than what is best for yourself. You will disagree. You will fight. You will be angry with each other. But just as a cut to your own skin wounds you, a cut in the flesh you share wounds you both. You need to remember that to each other, you are “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). What hurts one will ultimately hurt the other.

Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, in the iconic movie, Love Story, popularized the saying, ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’ This line has been misinterpreted often, and that’s so detrimental to a relationship. You see, you will have to say you’re sorry, perhaps over and over again, because you will make mistakes, and you will need to apologize, but what love actually means is that the person who has been hurt accepts that you’re sorry, forgives you, and moves on. Saying sorry is important, but forgiving is tantamount to loving. You must love each other so much that you are willing to forgive time and time again without regret and without repercussions. You know before you say the words that love has already brought about forgiveness. That’s what it means to not have to say you’re sorry.

For several years now, you have been the arbiter of your destiny. You have made all of your own decisions and chosen the path that is best for you. From now on, you will make decisions together for the best of your family. Some of those decisions will come easily to you both, but others will cause turmoil and dissension. Those are the most important decisions for those will create the moments in which you place your unfaltering trust in one another. There will be times when you will need to go against your better judgement, and he against his, but these will be times that will both test and strengthen your marriage. Accept them, and accept the chance to bend, for these moments can, at times, far outweigh the easier times when you agree on everything. These moments will be when you’re most angry, most lost, and most afraid, yet they may, in the end, be the most rewarding as they foster trust and growth. 

IMG_2758.JPGNever stop talking to each other. About everything. Tell each other your hopes and dreams, your fears and sorrows. Share the highs and lows of each day. Ask each other how you feel, what you desire, and how your day was. Talk of the lowliest and the mightiest things. But more importantly, listen to each other. Listen to what each says and does not say. Be attentive to what is asked for and what is not asked for but is desperately needed. Strive to know each other inside and out. Be in tune with the songs of each other’s hearts and the harmonies of your bodies. 

Don’t let your wedding Mass be the only time you invite God into your relationship. He enters into it from the start and desires to stay with you always. Remember that “Those who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love” (Wisdom 3:9). Just as I will never abandon you, neither will God. Allow Him to be the rock upon which you build your marriage. When you build, make God the cornerstone. When you seek, allow Him to show you the way. When you wonder, be open to His wisdom. When you hurt, plead for His mercy. When you transgress, ask for His forgiveness. And do this together. Pray together, fast together, go to Mass together, seek Him together. It truly is the only way your marriage will survive and prosper.

Finally, be a woman of worth, for “far beyond jewels is her value” (Proverbs 31:10). I have strived, throughout your life, to teach you how to do this through the grace of God. And so, I leave you with His words and not mine. May He bless your love and your marriage, lead you to prosperity and joy, and grant you a life filled with happily-ever-afters.

I love you,
Mom

Who can find a woman of worth?
Far beyond jewels is her value.

Her husband trusts her judgment;
he does not lack income.

She brings him profit, not loss,
all the days of her life…

She girds herself with strength;
she exerts her arms with vigor…

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

She is not concerned for her household when it snows—
all her charges are doubly clothed…

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and laughs at the days to come.

She opens her mouth in wisdom;
kindly instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband, too, praises her:..

Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Proverbs 31

(And there’s this just in case Anthony needs a reminder of my words of wisdom to him.)

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Returning to the Island.

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 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

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).

Earning Fs in Life

Over the past two days, I was back home attending the funeral of a beloved cousin. The prayer service on Monday evening and the funeral Mass on Tuesday were beautiful and brought many happy memories to mind as we bid goodbye to one of the brightest lights in our family.

Rebecca in MSM Library.jpgFather Early’s Homily really struck a chord with me. He likened life to a class in school. He said that, ideally, when we go to class, we work to achieve As; however, Father told us that we should work hard to achieve all Fs in the class of life.

What? All Fs?

Yes, he encouraged us to earn Fs in life. Why?

Because…

The real gifts in life all begin with the letter, F. In all that we do, we should strive to achieve those Fs. Below are the few that Father pointed out as well as a few that I have taken the liberty of adding:

 

 

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Family: A simple internet search brings up many published articles with titles such as,  For Happiness, Seek Family, Not Fortune – WebMD, Family Talk: Family makes many of us happy – NewsOK, and Families Are Changing, But Still Key to Happiness. Study after study proves that having a tight-knit family leads to happiness. Family can do more than provide stability. Family gives us a whole group of people to lean on, a built-in support system, a ready-made network, and a circle of friends. My mother is, and always has been, my best friend. My husband is my rock. My sister-in-law and I are each other’s spiritual warriors. My brothers are there for me in thick and thin. I can call on my Aunt Debbie for anything and everything. My mother-in-law is a second mother to me, and my children are the lights of my life. At the core of all of this is one simple thing – love, a deep and unwavering love for each other.

Friends: I have quoted the book of Sirach more than once and will happily do so again. “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure” (Sirach 6:14). And who can forget the immortal words of the angel, Clarence, in Frank Capra’s timeless story of the importance of friends, It’s a Wonderful Life? “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” This past Monday, our Bible study group discussed the importance of having meaningful relationships with friends, all kinds of friends, including those who bring us to a deeper faith.
Sirach

Faith: Though I am listing this as number three, I firmly believe that faith is the most important F in our lives. For every article about the importance of family, there are ten about the importance of faith. As we were told by Jesus, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Faith is what gets us through the hard times, believing that things will get better. Faith helps us stay on track when everything around us seems to go awry. Faith can lead to miracles (see my blog about the movie, Breakthrough).

Famliy Fun.jpgFun: Where would we be if we never had fun? It’s more than just a notion, more than a passing moment, more than a childish endeavor. Seeking and having fun is necessary in so many areas of our lives. Psychology Today tells us that Having Fun Must be Taken Seriously for it is through fun that people learn to negotiate rules, develop healthy lifestyles, gain emotional control and social competency, grow personal resiliency, and hone curiosity. Psychologist Marc Bekoff Ph.D. writes “Play is a banquet for the brain, a smorgasbord for the senses, providing nourishment for body and spirit.” He also says that we, Americans, are forgetting the importance of the feast and not joining the buffet line when it comes to seeking and creating fun in our lives. We work too hard and play too little. We need people like my cousin, Eleanor, in our lives to remind us to have fun.

Fulfillment: I believe that all of us have a need to feel fulfilled. While all of the other Fs mentioned above can and should contribute to that fulfillment, each of us is put here on Earth to serve a purpose. We each have our meaning in life–the pursuit of that which makes us feel whole. For some, it’s charity work. For others, it’s career. For others, it’s providing a loving home for their families. However, I find that what we think is our purpose in life is often what we’ve been told is our purpose–to have a good career, to make lots of money, to provide a big house with lots of stuff for our families. The simple truth is, the life purpose of each person goes beyond what he earns or what she does for a living. It is, again, that thing which makes us feel whole, that which inspires us to a higher calling. 

Fortune: We should all strive to achieve great fortune in life–riches and wealth beyond compare. However, these riches do not consist of the material things we own, and the wealth, of which I speak, is not the amount of money we have in the bank. The fortune we should seek is that which encompasses all of the other Fs that we should be earning throughout our lives. We need to gather our family closer and cherish them. We need to collect good and faithful friends who will lift us up. We need to have the faith to move many mountains. We must amass hours of fun. We must search for what will lead us to fulfillment. When we have all of those things, we all will have cups overflowing with the sweetest drink.

So, I urge you, go out and earn those Fs. If you do, you will leave this world as an A+ student of life.

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Subscribe to my newsletter for information on upcoming books, cover reveals, and insider information.  Do you know what my next book is about?  My newsletter subscribers do!

 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: I Was a Free-Range Kid.

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 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

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).

Grading on a Curve

Those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will know that I spent this past weekend at a writer’s conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What a fabulous city that is! I’m going to be honest here, my only knowledge of and experiences with Milwaukee involve the Cunninghams, Fonzie, and Laverne and Shirley. I had no idea what a delightful place it is with its Old World architecture, German restaurants, and biergartens (lots and lots of beer gardens, pubs, and bars). Of course, I did take some time to visit the Bronze Fonz while I was there, but my best and most personal experience had nothing to do with 70s television or even with the conference…
Fonz.JPG

Old St Mary Milwaukee.JPGOn Sunday morning, before heading to the airport, I awoke early and walked to the church of Old Saint Mary for the 7:15 Mass. The church was packed, a nice sight to see that early on a Sunday morning.  After hearing the homily, I could see why. The priest was witty, friendly, and engaging. More important, his homily was so thought-provoking, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

Father Timothy Kitzk told the story of visiting his family years back when his older sister taught high school calculus. In order to allow his sister to complete her work and spend time with the family, Father Kitzk and his brother offered to help grade papers. His brother struggled with marking the answers wrong when the students seemed to have tried really hard but narrowly missed the answer. Father’s sister assured them that they had nothing to worry about because she graded on a curve. Father then reminded us that God grades on a curve. Think about that.

God grades on a curve.

He doesn’t look at one act, one sin, one bad decision. He looks at all of our hard work and grades us all on a curve. He knows that we can’t be perfect. More importantly, he knows that we can’t make the grade on our own. We need His help! We need Him to have mercy on us and grade us on a curve.

How profound is that? But even more than that, the homily got me thinking about how I grade people. While I certainly am not on par with God, what I say and think and do can matter greatly in the lives of the people I care about. We all know that a kind or harsh word from somebody, even an acquaintance, can have an effect on how we feel the rest of the day and often how we feel about ourselves. But the truth is, nobody is perfect. Everybody deserves to be graded on a curve!

Last night, I attended our parish penance service for Lent. I was reminded of the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asked the Lord, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18: 20-21). If Jesus expects us to forgive someone 77 times, how often do you think, in His perfection, God is willing to forgive us? When I look back over my mistakes in life, 77 seems like a drop in the bucket! But the bottom line is, we need to be more like God and let people keep trying, keep forging ahead, keep making mistakes, and love and forgive them anyway.
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Now, don’t get me wrong. the point isn’t that someone should be allowed to hurt you over and over again. No, the point is that we need to have mercy on others. We need to look past what they’ve done and see them for who they are. Sometimes, yes, we will need to walk away, but even that can be a way to grade on a curve, perhaps for them, and perhaps, more so, for ourselves. Because when it comes right down to it, not giving people the benefit of the doubt, not showing mercy, not giving second chances–that might hurt the other person, but it actually ends up taking a toll on you, the person unwilling to forgive, to let things go, to grade on the curve. Sometimes the person you need to forgive, to give a break to, is yourself.

I’m going to say it right here and now. I am writing this for me as much as for you. I need to be reminded of these things as much as or more than anyone. I have a long way to go before I reach that big red 100% that God expects of me, but I’ll keep working at it every day, learning, studying, and growing in my journey. And I’m going to try to remember that everyone else is doing the same. I’m going to make my best effort to start grading everyone on a curve. And that includes the grade I give myself.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: The Family Table.

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.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is being released this Friday! Order your copy today, and join her at her book launch celebration.

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).

 

Friendly Deception – how social media is changing our relationships and what we can do about it

IMG_7748Isn’t it funny how deceiving a picture can be? Take this one for example. It looks like the perfect day – not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the sun shining above, everything lush and green. The truth – it was darn cold, and it rained off and on all day. But you’d never know it by looking at the photo. This idyllic scene from my recent trip to Stockholm is quite deceiving unless you were there. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, about how every day we look at pictures of people and places that seem to be perfect, but we don’t really know what’s going on because we aren’t there, but more importantly, because we don’t ask.

I recently read an interesting article by Jay Baer, consultant and keynote speaker, who said that “those situations where we ‘meet’ someone through social media, have the opportunity to interact in real life, and then develop a relationship that creates true friendship are few and far between.” He lamented the fact that a social media friend committed suicide, and nobody saw it coming. He wondered if this person actually was his friend, was he anybody’s real friend? He argues that social media isn’t bringing us closer together but driving us farther apart “as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them.” 

39931590_419362661928100_610133224239162107_nThink about your own social media account. I don’t know about you, but I use mine to share updates about my kids, picture of my travels, and upcoming events I want to invite people to. And that’s what I want to see on other people’s posts. I don’t care how you lean politically, and I don’t want to see your dirty laundry aired for the world to see. I prefer Facebook to be my happy place, where I can go and see a smiling picture of a happy person, enjoying life. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this picture of my oldest daughter, and I think it’s one of the prettiest pictures I’ve ever seen of her. And like all of the first-day-of-school photos and the Homecoming shots, it just made me smile. But I also know what was going on in her life on the day this picture was taken, the people and things she was worried about, the decisions she had to make, and the hectic pace of her life that week. You don’t see any of that in her smile.

Her picture perfectly illustrates how my attitude, of wanting to see only the good, blinds me to what’s really going on with my family and friends. I see their happiest moments and often forget to ask about the tears they shed for a loved one, the defeat they just suffered at work or on the field, the problems they are facing with their family, or the devastating news they recently received. I’m not saying that I, or anyone, should pry into other people’s business, but I sometimes need to be reminded that social media lets us forget that we’re all real people. We need human interaction, and not the technological kind. We all have what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed, the Hierarchy of Needs (anyone who has taken a psychology course at any level should remember that triangle). Nowhere does it mention that we need hundreds of sometimes friends, but it clearly says that we need intimate relationships. We need REAL friends.maslow-5

I’ve had to stop and think, when was the last time I picked up the phone and called a friend to see how she’s really doing? When was the last time I invited someone to lunch or took the time to visit with anyone in person? When was the last time I sent a card to someone just because I wanted them to know I was thinking about them and not just hitting the “like” button on their page?

FullSizeRenderI consider myself extremely blessed because I do have an intimate group of friends who are “my people.” We tell each other everything. We commiserate with each other when our lives are spiraling out of control, and we lift each other up when we are feeling down. And yes, we do that through a private Facebook chat group. But here’s what really makes the difference in our friendship: we seek out time to get together. We plan trips to see each other. We revel in each other’s real presence. We hug, we hold hands, we look each other in the eyes. We participate in a real friendship. 

On the downside, I rarely see or talk to the women who live nearby and who have been my best friends for many years. I think I take for granted that they will always be there. I forget that they, too, are just a phone call away, a short trip down the road. It’s so easy to let those relationships slide because I know I can just send a text and say, “let’s get together.” The problem is, I rarely do. I let my everyday life get in the way. I depend upon social media to keep me up on what’s going on in their lives. I do exactly what Baer warned about, I allow social media to inform me about my friends and my relationships instead of reaching out beyond my computer screen.

I know that I need to really assess my friendships and my relationship with social media. Because that’s really what the relationship is with – social media – not with real, live people. We can’t live without checking out Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but we live without checking in with the real flesh and blood people in our lives. Maybe it’s a generational thing. My mother is on Facebook and peruses it regularly, but more often, she can be found having lunch with her friends, taking trips with her girl group, and organizing get-togethers with people near and far. She knows how to cultivate friendships and how to keep them for many, many years. I fear that the rest of us are losing that ability. 

So, the next time you’re scrolling through those smiling, happy photos plastered on Instagram, remind yourself to stop and think about the faces you’re seeing. Ask yourself when the last time was that you contacted them, asked about their families, inquired about a hard situation they were in, or checked on their health. Baer summed up his article reminding us that we all think we know someone and what’s going on in their life, but we don’t. “And that’s social media’s fault. But more so, our own.”

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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 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/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).

 

 

 

Seeing Through the Forest to the Trees

Recently, a friend posted the following graphic on Facebook:

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This really hit me hard. As the mother of three girls, I see and hear all too often so many judgements and criticisms of others. While we’ve tried very hard to raise children who are kind, loving, and tolerant, it’s so very easy for all of us to fall into the trappings of a society that thrives on comparisons, disparages, and denunciations. Sometimes we even fall prey to these weaknesses with each other.

IMG_8422Of my three daughters, two of them are outspoken, free-thinking, and often exasperating in their insistence that they know best for themselves and others. But one daughter is quiet, introspective, and much more tolerant of everyone. She’s more emotional, more insecure, and more likely to see her own faults and weaknesses. She’s most certainly the tree that stands alone in the woods, the one that is struggling to reach the light, the one that needs its own space but is woefully dependent upon the others. That’s a thing, you know. Some scientists and naturalists believe that “trees of the same species are communal, and will often form alliances with trees of other species. Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence similar to an insect colony.

I’ve seen this play out over and over again within our own family. Our daughter wants to be independent and self-assured, but one biting word or harsh look from one of her sisters or a peer, and she’s once again the bent tree, desperately in need of light. And it isn’t just her sisters and peers that have this affect on her. I’m afraid that I’m a major contributor to her feelings of inadequacy. A high-achiever, perfectionist, and admittedly intolerant when it comes to others’ faults, I often have a hard time being the “good” parent. I want to, but my own fears for her future lead me to say and do things that don’t help at all. Thank Heaven for Ken, who is able to relate to her on a level that I am never able to. Sometimes, I just have to give him a look, and he knows that he needs to step in. He’s so patient, loving, and kind in those times when I’m pulling out my hair in frustration. Tree expert, Peter Wohlleben, tells us that “young saplings in a deeply shaded part of the forest…survive because big trees, including their parents, pump sugar into their roots through the network.” Thankfully, Ken is there when our daughter needs to be pumped up by his strength. 

But here’s the strange thing – I, too, was that tree in the woods that wanted so desperately to be more than I thought I was – to have the greener leaves, richer soil, more abundant birds nesting in my branches, and a greater amount of light shining on me. Though I think I hid it well, I was always insecure, never trusting that my friends were really my friends, always striving to be more than I felt I was, never sure that I was… enough. 

Trees.jpgToday, I know that I am what I am. I am enough. I am exactly who and what God intended me to be. I suppose I am on my way to being like the oldest, tallest, and sturdiest trees in the forest. As Professor Suzanne Simard says, “Mother trees are the biggest, oldest trees in the forest…nurturing, supportive, maternal. With their deep roots, they draw up water and make it available to shallow-rooted seedlings. They help neighboring trees by sending them nutrients, and when the neighbors are struggling, mother trees detect their distress signals and increase the flow of nutrients accordingly.” Even having been a mother for over twenty-two years, I am still working on dispensing that flow of nutrients when and how they are needed, but I certainly see that that we are all–families, friends, communities–dependent upon each other. We were all created by God, and all are works of wonder.

Some of us are tall and sturdy. Some are thin and weak. Some need more nutrients than others. Some are green and vibrant all the time while others have the need to go dormant for periods of time. Some have long branches that reach out to everyone, some have deep roots that give stability, and some have leaves that quake like the Colorado aspen, shining and waving to others, welcoming them into the fold.

 

We should all be reaching out to others, providing stability, welcoming others in. We should all see each other as trees, accepting those who seem less than worthy, providing strength to those who are like struggling saplings, and nourishing others with whatever they need–be it food, shelter, friendship, or just a kind word or deed.

I urge you to begin looking at each other differently. Even if these naturalists are literally barking up the wrong tree, and all of their assumptions about the interdependency of trees is rubbish, we can still learn a lot from the ecosystem that has created and sustained the world’s woodlands and forests. Sumard says, trees “live longest and reproduce most often in a healthy stable forest. That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.” Rather than judge, condemn, or criticize, we need to acknowledge and accept the gifts that each person has to offer. All we need to do is begin seeing each other as trees. 

Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very delighted to be partnering with Sundial Books on Chincoteague for this celebration. All are welcome on Wednesday, July 24 from 1:00-3:00 at Sundial Books. For more details, click here.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

 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 Miraclesare 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 Miracleshas 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), Island of Promise (2018).