You’re My Inspiration

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When I began writing the award-winning book, Island of Miracles, I never planned to have another Chincoteague Island book follow it. But as the book was coming to a close, I found it hard to say goodbye to the characters I had created.  When I got to the end, I had no follow-up story in mind, yet the words To be continued… sprang from the page. There was no doubt, by then, that the story of the Middleton and Kelly families was not over. 

Now that I have begun writing the first draft of the sequel, it strikes me that many of the characters and situations in this book, more so than any of my books, are a direct reflection of the people and events that have influenced me throughout my life. Perhaps that is why I can’t just let it go. While all of my characters take on a life of their own and become very real to me, the ones in Island of Miracles became living, breathing individuals in my mind and heart. It now makes me wonder about the impact that others have on all of our lives and if we even realize how much we are influenced by what goes on around us at the time.

I wrote Island of Miracles at, what I consider now, a turning point in my life. It was just after I visited the Holy Land, and I was forever changed as a person in ways that cannot be explained unless you have been there yourself. I was hungry to write a book that was about something more than romance and intrigue. I wanted it to be filled with inspiration, and I found that inspiration in the people I most love and admire in my personal life.

Many of the characters are named for real people who mean so very much to me. If you read Island of Miracles, you will certainly remember the young priest who helps Kate along her journey. Father Darryl is indeed a real person whose faith, optimism, and general outlook on life has had a great impact on me since I met him on my trip. One of Kate’s closest friends, Anne, is based on three of my closest friends. One has been my best friend for almost 25 years; and the others have become two of my closest friends over the past two years, beginning with the bond we shared in the Holy Land, and it now feels like they have been a part of my life from the beginning.

Ronnie is a dear friend who inspires me with her faith, perseverance, and patience. Dr. Sprance is not a heart doctor at all unless you recognize his ability to show unconditional love to those he meets. His unwavering faith touches every person who knows him. He may not be a doctor who can heal the heart, but he truly is a healer of the soul. Trevor is my Godson, and while he is still young, I see in him the gentleman he will become someday. Tammi, Shannon, and Marian are all friends who have touched me deeply through their friendship, and I cannot imagine life without them.

I am introducing a new character in the sequel who is named after my other best friend. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she was forced to begin her entire life again in her thirties, reshaping it in her forties, and learning to enjoy life as it is and not how it might have been. I don’t think she has any idea how much she inspires me every single day with her quiet resolve and desire to find joy and peace in an unsettling world.

And then there’s the other new character I am introducing, a young former Marine trying to find his place in the world. Yes, he too is a real person, and he knows exactly who he is. He’s always telling us how we helped him become the person that he is, but I don’t think he realizes how he has helped us in our journey as well. It is nothing short of inspirational to watch this young man mature and discover who he is and who he is meant to be. 

Of course, my parents and my brothers have greatly influenced me over the course of my life. As have my husband and our children. In fact, I’m not sure we ever reach a time in our lives when we cease to be influenced by the people, places, and events around us. We are all living in a constant state of growth, change, and renewal. I thank God every day for the many influences He has placed in my life. Know that if your name or your circumstance appears in any of my books, you, your life situation, your decisions, and the person that you are, have greatly influenced me in someway. For that, and for you, I am most grateful.

Who or what has influenced you?

What I was writing about this time last year:   Starting Today…

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet 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 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; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, is now 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)

There are no Strangers Here

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” 

Romans 15:7

Visiting Granny (23)Last spring, as we prepared for Katie’s graduation, reality started to sink in that Morgan soon would be the only child left at home. People began asking Morgan, “What will you do without Katie?” Morgan didn’t have an answer. She had never been without Katie, and theirs is a bond that I can’t imagine ever being broken. They have been best friends since the first time Katie held Morgan in her arms. Nobody can make each other laugh the way they can (and nobody can make each other cry or get angry the way they can either). So much time and thought was going into the many changes that were about to occur for Katie, and part of me worried about how Morgan would handle the changes in store for her.

Around Easter of last year, Morgan came home from school looking like a girl on a mission. “I’ve been thinking,” she began. Never a good opener in the mind of a parent. “Since I won’t have any sisters anymore after Katie leaves, can I get an exchange student?” After the initial shock of her words settled in, Ken and I laughed. “You will always have sisters,” I said, unsure whether I was happy she was secure in Katie’s leaving or sad that she could move on so easily. “Of course, I will,” Morgan said. “But I’m going to be lonely, and our school announced today that we’re hosting exchange students in the fall, and I was the first one to put my name down as being interested.”

Ken and I didn’t know quite how to answer. What would it be like to have a stranger living in our home, participating in our family time, experiencing the ups and downs we might go through during those months? Would we be able to communicate with and understand each other? What would her family be like? Would she complain about going to Mass every weekend? Would she protest our early-to-bed habits? Would she like my cooking, our dogs, their school? Would she get homesick and be inconsolable? Suffice it to say that, after some lengthy discussions with each other, Morgan, and the school, we decided to open our home and our hearts to a stranger. 

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Morgan and Astrid meet for the first time.

In May, we received our packet with details about the young woman who would be living with us. Her name was Astrid, she was from Guatemala City, a Roman Catholic, and shared many of Morgan’s interests – tennis, music, books, school, shopping, etc. They were close in age, in the same grade, and had similar long-term goals. The one question left was, would the girls like each other and get along? We were given the date when they would be allowed to communicate, and Morgan set her phone to a countdown that rivaled in anticipation the New Year’s Eve ball in Time’s Square. “45 days until we can email Astrid,” “27 days until we can email Astrid,” “18 days until we can email Astrid.” The mantra continued all summer. Finally, the day came. As I sent an email to Astrid’s parents, Morgan sent one to Astrid. We heard back almost immediately, and a new friendship was born. Emails turned into texts and texts into SnapChats and SnapChatting into FaceTiming. The sound of laughter and squeals of delight could be heard emanating from Morgan’s room late into the night for the next month. A new countdown had begun, and we all anxiously awaited Astrid’s mid-October arrival.

Almost a month into Astrid’s all-too short eight-week stay, we’ve had our ups and downs. Morgan has gotten use to having a sister in the house all over again, both the good and the bad aspects, and Astrid has gotten used to a new room, new food, new school, and a whole new family. Sometimes they need their space, but they’ve learned that that’s okay. They’ve also learned new words and phrases (in both English and Spanish), new food preferences, and new cultural norms. The biggest thing they’ve learned is that none of us are very different. Astrid often remarks that something I do or say is just like something her mother does or says. The girls often talk about the “drama” of high school and how it is the same everywhere. And they both love my chicken and rice casserole.

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Strangers no more

With Astrid’s time here almost halfway over already, the girls have started talking about future visits. Morgan plans to spend at least two weeks, if not three, with Astrid’s family next summer. She would like to attend Astrid’s graduation next fall, and Astrid would like to come back here for Morgan’s graduation the following spring. We’ve talked about making plans for our families to get together and even about Astrid’s future plans to get her Master’s in the US, preferably somewhere close to us or to wherever Morgan is.

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Before the Homecoming dance

It seems strange now when we hear talk about “foreigners.” Americans seem to assume that everyone else in the world is so different from us, that we are somehow better, more cultured, smarter, more industrious, etc. Welcoming a stranger into our home only affirmed what Ken and I have taught our girls all along. We are all the same. We all have the same worries, fears, hopes, and joys. Teenage girls love to shop, paint their nails, and get dressed up for special occasions. And they worry about their futures, getting into universities, finding jobs, living on their own, meeting a spouse. Our world becomes smaller every day through invention, innovation, and determination.  Let us all open our hearts and homes to others and remember that we are all living similar lives and have the same needs and desires. Let us all believe that there are no strangers among us, only those who have yet to become our friends.

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What I was writing about one year ago this week:  Saying Goodbye to Worry and Regret.

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)

Saint Buck, Patron of Granddaughters

Granddad1It’s the beginning of November, which means that one thing will be constantly on my mind all week. Actually, one person – my grandfather. You see, November 1st is All Saints’ Day, the day we celebrate all the saints in Heaven. November 2nd is All Souls’ Day, the day we pray for all the souls not yet in Heaven. And November 3rd is what I like to think of as Saint Buck’s Day, that day when our family celebrates the birth of a man dedicated to his faith, his family, and his community.

In my book, Crabbing With Granddad, I describe my grandfather like this:

“He was a large man, tall and muscular. His skin was the color of an old copper penny from spending so much time outdoors – mornings in the boat and afternoons tending his field. He always wore a baseball cap to shield his bright blue eyes from the sun. The hat did little to keep his head cool from the blazing sun for he had thick, curly white hair that stood up a full inch above his rough face. His hands were hard and calloused, covered with the lines of a man who had worked hard all of his life. To me, they were the gentlest hands in the world.”

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I was eighteen when the world lost this great man. I was a freshman at a very prestigious private college a couple hours from my home where the drug culture was in full swing, and I was the only girl I knew who wasn’t the daughter of a prominent attorney, famous actor, or member of Congress. I was lost and lonely, living in a world I wanted no part of, and, though I graduated from one of the best public schools in the state, was woefully unprepared for college. To say I was struggling doesn’t begin to describe my life. By the middle of October, I was counting down to Thanksgiving and trying to figure out how to tell my parents that I wanted to give up my full scholarship and transfer schools.

I vividly remember that chilly day, the nineteenth of October. Autumn had arrived, and everyone was finally wearing their jeans, sweaters, and fashion boots. I attended my morning classes, ate lunch with my roommate, and went to my American Lit class, the class I dreaded the most (I won’t digress into what a terrible professor that man was). We were discussing Moby Dick, and it was all I could do to keep my eyes open (I learned early in my college career that I should never take a class right after lunch). As my professor droned on and on about the symbols in the novel, I suddenly had a moment of panic from out of nowhere. My heart began racing, my throat went dry, my hands started shaking. It was all I could do to hold back the tears as this feeling of dread washed over me. Though I had no reason to think anything was wrong, in my heart I knew. I’m not making this up, not exaggerating at all, I truly knew.

I left class in a daze and walked on autopilot to my job at the campus library. I had just started putting away a cart of books when my roommate and a good friend from high school walked into the library. I can still picture the scene in my mind as if it happened this morning. They entered the building, stopped, looked around, and both spotted me at the same time. I looked from one face to the other and began to cry.

“Your dad called,” my roommate said.

I nodded, “I know,” I told her. She looked surprised. After all, this was 1988. There were no cell phones, no laptops in every book bag, nothing but a pay phone at the end of our hall. “He’s gone, isn’t he?” I choked out the words.

“Your grandfather passed away about thirty minutes ago,” my friend, Greg, told me.

With confirmation that my fear was real, the tears began to flow uncontrollably. And that’s the last I remember of most of the next several weeks.

I’ve been told that over 400 people attended Granddad’s funeral, but I couldn’t tell you. I went through those following weeks enshrouded in a fog that would not lift. I rarely got out of bed, barely ate, and almost never went to class. I was drowning in a sea of despair the depths of which my friends and family never knew. I was certain I would never find the strength to break the surface and gasp for air. Between my misery at the school, the homesickness I couldn’t overcome, and the loss of the one person I loved more than any other person on earth, I had no desire to open my eyes and live. Today, everyone around me would have recognized that I had plunged into a deep depression, but that word was almost unheard of at the time, whispered behind closed doors and kept secret from everyone, for fear that it made one less of a person.

But Saint Buck knew just what I needed. He knew the main reason for the sadness that overwhelmed me. It wasn’t just that he was gone. It was that I was the only member of the entire family who wasn’t there to say goodbye. While everyone else was gathered around his bedside, I was three hours away, listening to the destruction of Ahab in his quest for the white whale. It was not just grief that had taken hold of my soul; it was guilt. And only the one person with whom I was most in sync could pull me out of my misery and force me back into the world of the living.

And so it was that, as I lay in my dorm room, about four or five weeks later, my grandfather stood beside my bed and told me to get up. Some may say I was dreaming. After all, I was doing nothing but sleeping twenty or so hours a day. Others might attribute it to a hallucination from lack of food and water. But I maintain that he was there, beside me, talking to me, telling me that I had a life to live. He told me that he knew what was wrong and that he had come to make it right. He told me that he had come so that I could say goodbye. Not so that he could say goodbye, but so that I could. As he always had, Granddad knew exactly what I needed. He never touched me, didn’t give me a hug, or lay his hand gently upon my shoulder as he had done so many times before. But he let me say goodbye, tell him I loved him and missed him, and ask him how I was supposed to go on without him.

“You have a whole life ahead of you,” he said, just as clear as anyone had ever spoken to me. “Now, by gawd, get out of this bed and start living it.”

With that, he was gone, and so was the weight that had been pulling me down. No longer in a daze, I rose from bed, feeling light on my feet but cognizant of everything around me. I walked down the hall and showered, went to the cafeteria for lunch, and even made it to my afternoon class. My grades recovered to the point where I was not embarrassed to show my face in class; and, over Thanksgiving, my parents agreed that I could transfer schools at the end of the year. I made it through the second semester by working hard in my classes, going on daily runs, and remembering the words of Saint Buck, “You have a whole life ahead of you…start living it.”

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What I was writing about one year ago this week: “In the End, Only Kindness Matters”.

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)

Wonder Women

IMG_4576I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of spending the better part of this summer with many amazing women. It started with my trip to Europe, with my daughter, Katie, to celebrate her high school graduation. On that trip, I had the privilege of seeing my daughter, the adult. I was awed by her, as I usually am by each of my daughters, and I reveled in the two and a half weeks that we shared together. While she still has some growing up to do, as all kids do when they leave for college, I saw many glimpses of the woman she is becoming. I look forward to seeing all that life has in store for her.

Staff 2017.JPGIn July, the girls and I returned to our favorite summer event – a week of Girl Scout camp. While there are two men who volunteer, the camp is primarily run by women, and what a great group of women they are. Ranging from high school freshmen to women in their sixties, they are students, attorneys, teachers, nurses, a CNN camerawoman, business owners, troop leaders, and a host of other professions. They are all, young and old, women to look up to, if for no other reason than that they tirelessly give an entire week of their lives, every year, to ensure the happiness of 100 little girls. But that’s not the only reason. They are women who inspire and encourage other women, and that’s so vitally important in a world where so many women are determined to continuously put others down.

IMG_7045.JPGA week after camp ended, I found myself on a plane to Austin, Texas, to join 300 other Catholic women for a weekend of spirituality and fun. Joining me in Austin were thirteen of the women I met on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land almost two years ago. For some of us, this was a second or third reunion. For many, it was the first time we’d seen each other since February of 2016. There were tears, prayers, and laughter, much laughter. Each of these women has struggled with something – past regrets, infertility, divorce, health issues, rocky marriages, job loss, the death of a child, ailing and infirmed parents, or some other type of hardship. Each has her own cross to bear, and bear it she does, with dignity, grace, and beauty that cannot be measured by the human eye. Each loves without judgement, acts without selfishness, and relies on her faith to see her through the toughest of times. I look at these women and am overwhelmed by them, by all that they’ve done, by all that they have to give, and by their strength and determination. At one point, one of the women said to me, “When I grow up, I want to be you.” Those words will never leave me because I just want to be like all of them.

IMG_7159.JPGThis week, I got to spend time with the women who matter the most in my life – my three girls. Along with us on our family vacation, is Rebecca’s life-long best friend, Bailey. It has been such a pleasure to spend time with them. Yesterday, we started the day by hiking Bushkill Falls. There were no easy trails for this crew. We knew that the harder and rockier the trail, the better the view, so onward and upward we went. The girls laughed at the warnings that the trails we had chosen would be strenuous, and even Bailey, not a fan of heights, tackled the mountain with grace and ease. It was another glimpse of the women they are and will be, and I marveled at the young ladies we had raised. Picture-cbkma-20170808-0015953In the afternoon, Morgan, her boyfriend, Katie, and I took on a five-level treetop adventure course. With each level, the challenges grew harder and higher. After the first three, Jacob decided he had spent enough time high above the ground (you’ve to hand it to a boy who is deathly afraid of heights but willingly takes on such a challenge). Katie, not one to give up, wanted to continue on to courses four and five, courses on which few people are willing to continue. In fact, she and I were the only females, in our group of two dozen or so people, to move on AND CONQUER the courses, and two of the small handful of women who even attempted the courses that day. As we were leaving, the men were offering us congratulations and compliments, and a woman waiting at the end,  high-fived us, telling us that a man ahead of us had called us the Warrior Women. 

But here’s the truth about all of this. I would never have taken Rebecca and then Katie to Europe after their graduations had Rebecca not encouraged me to do so. She was confident that the two of us could manage ten cities and seven countries in three weeks, and we did. That led to Katie’s trip in which we visited nine cities in three countries in just over two weeks with skill and ease. Their confidence in me in humbling. Their confidence in themselves in awe-inspiring. Likewise, I would never have taken on the job of camp director if another woman hadn’t been so positive that I was up to the task. She encouraged me to take the reins and has continued to support and encourage me for the past eleven years. IMG_7058.JPGI would never have formed the bond that I have formed with my sisters in faith from all across the country if they hadn’t been so open and trusting with each other, so supportive, and such faith-filled, persevering women. There is no judgement there, no attempts to be better than anyone, no snarkiness or cutting each other down. There is just pure love and the understanding that each of us is here just trying to do the best we can in a world that is a never-ending challenge. Much like my day with my family yesterday in which each thing we did was harder than the thing before it. Each level was rockier, higher, more challenging, but we encouraged each other to push on. 

IMG_9935We all have the ability to be Wonder Women, to fight for justice, for truth, for peace, and for love. We all have the ability to encourage one another, to see each other for what we have to give and not for what we lack, to be there for each other in the good times and the bad, to inspire others to have faith in themselves, each other, and God. I learned all of that from the ultimate Wonder Woman, my mom. She is my inspiration, my ideal, that to which I aspire. I am who I am, and my girls are who they are because of her. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you. May we all be blessed with a Wonder Woman, or a group of Wonder Women, in our lives.

 

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Proverbs 31:25-31

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Off the Grid.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Yearning to Be Free

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

SPOILER ALERT

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

WARNING – MAJOR PLOT TWIST REVEALED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

 

Mothers, Daughters, and Memories

Recently, I read an article in a magazine entitled, A Moment in Time: Try Not to Forget. It was the story of Laurel Miff’s visit to London with her grandmother who now suffers from Alzheimer’s. That trip is one of the few memories that Miff’s grandmother still recalls. “Whenever I visit her now,” Miff wrote, “she speaks of how we deftly made our way through the Tube from one London site to another, with barely a moment’s pause to enjoy a cup of tea.” The article brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the wonderful trip my mother and I took to Ireland. We spent our days, from sunup until long after the sun went down, touring site after site in city after city. Some nights, though exhausted, we laughed so hard we thought we might be booted from the hotel. We still love to joke about our Psycho experience in Kilkenny, our favorite town, where the hotel owner, bellhop, cleaning service, chef, and concierge were all the same person. Those eight days are among the most wonderful of my life, and I thank God that we were able to spend that time together.

Four years ago, when Rebecca graduated from high school, she had this crazy idea that a group of her friends and a couple moms (myself included) would drive cross country and back. I say crazy because this was when gas was over $6.00/gallon! Ken laughed and told her that, with all of the frequent flyer mileage he accumulates, he could fly her and me to Europe and back cheaper than she could drive halfway across the country! Well, he didn’t have to say that twice.

Rebecca spent the next couple months planning our trip, based on what she learned in two of her favorite classes: World History and World Geography. Over the course of three weeks, we visited seven countries on a budget of $6000, and no, I did not stay in any hostels. There comes a time, or an age, in life where you have to draw the line! 

We knew that we had opened a real can of worms with two younger sisters eager to follow in our footsteps, but the trip was worth every penny spent then and will be worth what is spent in the future. Rebecca and I created memories that we will both cherish for a lifetime. From walking around the ancient stones of Stonehenge on a chilly, windy day to seeing three different figures of royalty, live and in person (Queen Elizabeth II of England, The Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Queen Beatrice of Denmark), to sipping wine and eating escargot at an outdoor cafe in Paris as we watched the passersby, the trip was magical. 

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In a few weeks, Katie and I will embark on our journey. While she has planned a week’s stay in London, we will be using the time there to venture out to places neither of us has seen: Bath, Windsor, Wimbledon, and a few others. We will then visit Scotland (alas, no trip to Craigh na Dun for me) and finish our trip in Iceland. It’s a completely different itinerary as Rebecca and Katie are very different people, but the end goal is the same. It’s a time for mother and daughter to renew our relationship, reminisce about the past, talk about the future, and create memories to last a lifetime.

I can’t figure out where the time has gone over the years of my life and the lives of my children, but I do know that I haven’t let it go by without trying to create as many lasting memories as I can. I cherish every moment I have with my mother as well as every moment with my girls. Sure, we have disagreements, and there are moments of drama, but I can honestly say that cross words are few and far between. I consider myself the luckiest person in the world to have the mother I have and the daughters Ken and I have raised.

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It’s a big world out there with lots to see and do. Take the time to see explore it, and take a friend. I highly recommend your mother, grandmother, or daughter. Create memories that are so good, even Alzheimer’s can’t cause them to fade. And I’ll remember you, my readers, in a few weeks as I sip my scotch and look out over the city of Edinburgh or stare at the volcanoes of Iceland. Raising a glass, I will toast to you, to travel, and to mothers and daughters everywhere.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: A Season for Changes.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Helicopter Parents Are Raising Unemployable Children by Marcia Sirota of The Huffington Post; Husband’s Confused When Wife Climbs In The Crib. Then, He Learns The Heartbreaking Reason… by Jenny Brown on Shareably; 21 Highly-Anticipated Book Club Reads Coming This Spring by  on the BookBub Blog.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

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

 

A Love Without End

hands.JPGHow deep is your love for your spouse? How far would you go to show them you love them? The Lord told us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. I don’t think Jesus’ words refer only to physical death. There are many ways that we can lay down our lives for our loved ones. I would like to share with you the most beautiful example that I know.

A little over a year ago, Ken and I met a kind and gentle man named George on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Most of the travelers were there with their spouses, some with friends, a few with their daughters, but George was alone. At least, it seemed that way at first. But as we all got to know one another, we realized that George was never alone. In his pocket, next to his heart, he carried with him the photograph of his beloved, Josi. The trip to the Holy Land was one that they had wanted to make together, but while George joined us, Josie lay in a bed in the nursing home, where she had been for most of her fifties, suffering from early onset dementia. When we all renewed our wedding vows at Cana, George stood, holding his photo of Josi, and renewed his vows with us, as faithfully committed as ever to his bride.

Unfortunately, Josi’s story is not unique, but George’s is.  In today’s world, George would be seen as having every right to abandon Josie, to let others take care of her, to begin dating once she supposedly forgot who he was, even to find a “kind” doctor to help Josi “alleviate her suffering.” But even close to 10 years after Josie begin to fail, George refused to turn his back on her. He could be found every night, sitting by her side, holding her hand, brushing her hair, reading to her, and praying with her. Everything George did, every plan he made, was done with Josie in mind. She was always first in his life no matter where she was, or what she was or was not able to do, say, or feel. George knew, without a doubt, that Josi heard him, listened to him, and responded to with with the squeeze of her hand or a look in her eyes.

This past weekend, the Gospel reading was the story of the death and raising of Lazarus. Our priest pointed out to us that Jesus never once used the word “death” when referring to his friend. He said that Lazarus was merely asleep and called him to awaken. Father told us that we should take Jesus’ words to heart. When we go to sleep, we enter another realm of consciousness and awake refreshed, renewed, and reinvigorated, ready to live life to its fullest. Thus is the same for death. We fall asleep only to awaken to a new life, renewed, refreshed, and reinvigorated to live in the fulness of life with Christ.

How fitting that this was the Gospel that was read around the world on the last day that Josi spent on earth. For years, she slept, being renewed and refreshed, being prepared to live out eternity with the Lord. She was a gift to the world, a witness to the will of God rather than the will of society. George’s love for Josi, poured out in all that he did, and his faith and trust in the Lord, sends a powerful message to all those who know him. George never lost faith that Josi knew him, was aware of his presence, and knew how much he loves her. And he never lost faith that God was with him every step of the way, no matter how hard, no matter how desperate. George knew from the beginning that the road ahead would be hard, that there would be heartbreaking moments that he could never foresee, that many days would be dark and rough.  But he held Josi’s hand and walked her journey with her, always seeing the light and glory at the end, always trusting that his love for her, and God’s love for them both, would never fail.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”  Isaiah 42:16

Ken and I have become very close to George over the past year, and by extension, to Josi. We have visited with George in New York many times, and he has come to our home to share family celebrations with us. Our girls have fallen in love with George and consider him as much a family member as all of their blood relatives. He has brought much joy to our family, but more than that, he has brought hope. He allowed us to share in his love for Josi as well as his unwavering faith. He taught us all so much about love, acceptance, trust, and faith. May you all have a George in your life, and may you all experience an unfailing love like the love between George and Josi.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: The Agony of the College Search.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Eight Things Whole-hearted, Creative Women do Differently  by blogger, Emily Freeman, How Women Use Body Language To Beat The Double-Bind Paradox by Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. (Leadership and Management)The Simple Reason Why Goodreads Is So Valuable to Amazon by Jordan Weissman (The Atlantic). 

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 has just been awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Becoming the Learners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Not a Thing Could Come Between Them

img_0909Growing up, I was always jealous of my friends who had sisters. They had a built-in best friend, confidant, support system, and roommate. My closest childhood friends, two sisters who lived down the street, shared a room from the time my friend, Cindy, was born until the older sister, Jane, graduated from college. Even when they could have separated themselves from each other, they chose to live together on campus. Of course, I remember many times when they were at war and once when Cindy and I taped a line down the middle of their room; but even today, they are the best of friends.

img_0907My mother and her sister, Debbie, are also best friends, talking often, getting together for dinner, day trips, and visits with family. My Aunt Debbie was the closest thing I ever had to a sister since she and I are just fifteen years apart. It’s a cherished relationship, but it’s not quite the same as having that sisterly bond. I grew up longing to be a sibling to Laura, Mary, and Carrie Ingalls, or one of the Walton girls, or a member of the March clan.  After all, I was named after Amy March.  Why did she get sisters, and I didn’t?  Oh to have two or three sisters, that was a dream that I couldn’t get enough of. And I’ll be darned if God doesn’t work in funny and sometimes frustrating ways.

I’ve spent the last 18 years witnessing  firsthand the phenomenon that is sisterly love. I’ve been told by many people that having three girls, not two and not four, but three is the roughest scenario. Two are always on one side, and the third is always on another. Throughout their lives, my girls have been able to go from the best of friends to the worst of enemies in less than ten seconds. Our youngest, Morgan, laments almost daily that she doesn’t know what she will do without Katie next year when our middle daughter goes off to college.

Those same days, she can be heard telling Katie, “I can’t wait until you’re gone!”  Really?  I shake my head and ask myself if this is really what I imagined all those years ago. I don’t remember the Ingalls girls, or Mary Ellen, Erin, and Elizabeth Walton, or Jo and her March sisters having the same daily arguments and struggles with their sisters that my girls have. Okay, maybe the March sisters, but Jo and Amy did have very strong personalities.

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And that, I believe, is the monster I deal with. I have two daughters who are very strong-willed and have quite similar overbearing personalities. I’ve often wondered if Katie feels crushed between them as the middle child. How different her life will be next year when she is on her own. And how quiet it will be here. There won’t be any more morning img_0914arguments because Katie is running late for school. Again. There won’t be any accusations that someone wore someone else’s sweater without asking or, God forbid, that they came down wearing almost matching outfits. There won’t be fights over who didn’t clean up her mess or left the cap off the toothpaste.  On the other hand, there won’t be those moments when one cries on the other’s shoulder; when one runs into the house, past me at lightening speed, because she has to share big news with her sister, or when the beautiful sound laughter wakes me late at night during a spontaneous sister slumber party.

Irving Berlin’s words sure ring true in our house:

Sisters
Sisters
Sisters
There were never such devoted sisters

Never had to have a chaperone “No, sir”
I’m there to keep my eye on her

Caring
Sharing
Every little thing that we are wearing

When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome
She wore the dress and I stayed home

All kinds of weather
We stick together
The same in the rain or sun
Two diff’rent faces
But in tight places
We think and we act as one

Those who’ve
Seen us
Know that not a thing could come between us

Many men have tried to split us up but no one can
Lord help the mister
Who comes between me and my sister
And Lord help the sister
Who comes between me and my man

As the song says, sisters should be devoted to each other, share, care, and let nothing come between them.  They are there for each other to celebrate milestones. They comfort one another in sadness. They have fun together, and they care deeply about each other. No matter what happens, they know that they are there for each other.

I don’t think I will ever fully understand the relationship between my three girls. It rips my heart out when I hear them tell one another that they hate each other, and it brings me to tears when I see them cuddled together on the couch, sharing a bowl of popcorn while they watch a favorite show. God does work in mysterious ways. He never gave me the sister I longed for, but he made me the mother of sisters; and somehow, I think that’s even better.

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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 inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Lighting the Way This Christmas

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About ten years ago, I had a public disagreement with someone who was the leader of an organization that I was and still am a part of.  We were planning a trip for a large number of young girls, and we were at odds over the logistics of the trip.  After causing a bit of a scene, this person ended the meeting and then called the “higher ups” to complain about my alleged coup.  A friend, who was at the meeting, asked me, “Does she know about everything you’re going through right now?” After I shook my head to say no, she replied, “You should tell her.  She shouldn’t be treating you like that.”

You see, my grandmother had recently had a debilitating stroke and was going downhill fast; my father had just been diagnosed with cancer, again; one of our daughters was really struggling with bullies at school, and we were in the process of trying to figure out how to send all three girls to the Catholic school where we so desperately wanted them to be anyway.  To make matters worse, Ken had unexpectedly resigned from his job after life in the political limelight became too much for us all; and just when I had decided to stay home and try to get my writing career started, a tumor was discovered on my uterus and would require surgery and a biopsy.  It seemed that my entire world was falling apart before my eyes, but very few people actually knew the whole of what we were facing.  Ken wasn’t sleeping at all at night because he worried about us losing everything if he didn’t find a job.  Our daughter cried uncontrollably every morning when I tried to put her on the bus, and our savings was quickly being depleted with no hope in sight.  But it all taught me some very important lessons. 

First, have faith, always.  I never let my faith waiver.  I knew that, despite both us being out of work, God was going to provide.  I knew that if He wanted our children to change schools, He would make it happen.  I knew that whatever was to come, we could face it together.  The story of how we overcame all of this can be saved for another day, but suffice it to say that God came through in some very miraculous ways.  Yes, faith the size of a mustard seed can indeed move mountains.

Another very important thing I learned was that while I was suffering inside, so, too, might this other person have been suffering.  I knew very little about her.  I had never met her before joining this group, and after this incident drove her to quit the organization, I never saw her again.  I often wonder if things might have turned out differently had I taken the time to get to know her, to talk to her, to ask her if everything was okay.  Perhaps she wasn’t upset with me or our group at all.  Perhaps there was something bigger going on in her life, and she felt things spiraling out of control just as I had.  Maybe planning this trip was too much for her with whatever else was going on.  Sadly, I’ll never know.  In all honesty, I can’t say I’ve gotten better at this, but I do try to be a little more empathetic.

Finally, we all have opportunities to reach out to and help one another.  Not only my faith in God, but my friends and family got me through one of the hardest times in my life.  Though very few people knew the whole story, those who did became my rocks.  They prayed for me, brought my family meals after my surgery, cleaned my house, and took care of my children.  And over the years, I’ve tried to repay them and pay it forward.

We’re in the season of Advent.  It’s a time of preparation but also a time of healing, of sharing, of reaching out to others.  There is so much that we can do, in ways both large and small, to have an impact on the lives of others.  Take your children to drop off gifts at a homeless shelter or a prison.  Support your local organizations that help those in need (look for a St. Vincent de Paul Society near you and ask how you can help).  Bake cookies for the shut-in across the street, and spend time with her when you deliver them.  Call an old friend or family member who you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.  Let go of old grudges, and forgive.  Open your heart to the relatives you’d rather not spend time with.  Ask them how they are, and let them know you care.

I remember one Christmas, many, many years ago. I might have been seven or eight, but I’m really not sure.  There was a report on the news about a poor family in DC who not only had no presents but no clothes, no food, and no heat.  I think there was a new baby in the house, and the family would be lucky to make it through Christmas.  If my parents looked at each other with sadness as we watched the story, I didn’t notice.  When they discussed it, I don’t know.  How they found out where this family lived, I have no idea.  But one evening, my father came home and loaded us all into his car.  We drove into the city, going to a neighborhood we wouldn’t have entered during the day, not to mention at night.  When the mother opened the door, we all stood on her front step with wrapped presents, bags of clothes, and food.  I’ll never forget her tears or the way she hugged us all.  I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of the little children as they reached for their presents.  Maybe some of these details are a little mixed up.  Maybe I invented half of them with the imagination of a child who witnessed something akin to a miracle, but this is how I remember it.  I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas that year.  To be honest, we didn’t have extra money growing up, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some, maybe all, of those wrapped presents were meant for us.  What I do remember is that there never was and never will be another Christmas quite like that one.

So maybe you can’t solve all of the world’s problems this holiday season.  Maybe you can’t supply Christmas for a needy family.  But I bet you can find something to do to brighten someone’s day, to make their holiday a little more joyous.  Look beyond what you see in each person and what you think you know about them, and find a reason to love them anyway.  And let them know it.  When Christmas arrives, you will be more than prepared.  You will be lighting the way.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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)