The Twelve Days of Christmas: More than a Song

Merry Christmas! I know that for many, today is the day after Christmas, but for most Catholics around the world, today is not merely the day after Christmas, it is the Second Day of Christmas. A few weeks ago, I wrote about anticipating Christmas, but more importantly, enjoying and appreciating the days after Christmas – the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS! 

We all know the song and its seemingly endless list of Christmas gifts. The English Christmas carol was first published in 1780 and was a rhyme, not a song with music. It may even originally have been a French chant. English composer, Frederic Austin, first published the musical arrangement we are familiar with today including the recurring word “on” which did not appear in earlier versions.  The exact origins of the song are unknown, but it is believed to have been a children’s game played on the English festival, Twelfth Night, that, over time, evolved into a chant and then a song. Many have suggested that the twelve gifts have Biblical meaning though most modern scholars dismiss this claim. While that suggestion has been debunked, it it is interesting to note that there are exactly 364 gifts, one for each of the year except Christmas.

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The Site of birthplace of Christ

While all of that is well and good, none of it explains exactly why we believe that Christmas should be celebrated for twelve days and not just one. One reason is that the Church implores us to recognize the importance of Christmas and to reflect on its meaning for more than a day (especially important today when you consider that most people never even gave Jesus a single thought on December 25th). Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. Never mind that history did not record the actual date of His birth. It’s the celebration and the meaning of Christ’s coming that are important, not the exact date in history. Christmas commemorates the single most important date in history, the day that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1: 14).

What can we do to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas today? We can go to daily Mass, of course, but there are other things that were done throughout history when it was better understood that these are days of reflection and commemoration. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to return to these practices today. There are several important feast days during these Twelve Days that can still have meaning for us today in the celebration of the day and the actions that were once associated with them. 

December 26th is the feast day of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. It is traditionally a day where Christians commemorated St. Stephen by giving their Christmas leftovers to the poor. December 27th is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist. It was through John that the world learned that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh” (John 1:1). It is considered a day of reconciliation (taken to heart by Pope John Paul II who visited and forgave his would-be assassin on this day in 1983). December 28th is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the babies who were killed by Herod in his attempt to stop Christ from becoming king. For a number of centuries, it was a day when children were allowed to run the household, the country, or even the Church (with the appointment of a child Bishop for the Day). It is considered a day of fun and folly for children. 

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Celebrate your family on December 30th

December 29th is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury in the 1100s. It is considered a day to examine our lives and resolve to work to overcome injustice in the world. December 30th and 31st are alternately celebrated as the feast day of the Holy Family, depending upon the liturgical calendar of the year. This should be a day to reflect on Mary, Jospeh, and Jesus as a role model family and what we can do to help our families become more holy. January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Traditionally, it was a day when families prayed the Rosary together. January 2nd is the feast day of both St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen who were teachers of the trinity and lifelong friends. It is a day to celebrate friendship. Parties were traditionally held on this day to celebrate the Christmas holiday with friends. 

On January 3rd, we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. It is a day on which we should celebrate a person’s name and its meaning. We should recall that, as the Catechism states, “Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.” Depending upon when the first Sunday after Christmas is, the feast of the Epiphany is celebrated between January 2nd and 8th. The arrival of the Magi is sometimes marked by a blessing of the house, especially the entranceway, to welcome the Lord and all visitors. Some Christian households inscribe “20 + C + M + B 19” over their doors, the traditional date of the new year and the initials of the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar). January 6th is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. It is the twelfth and final day of Christmas, the culmination of the season, the third epiphany of Christ’s infancy (the first was to the shepherds, the second was to the Magi, and the third was to Simeon and Anna at the temple). 

However you celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, the importance thing is to CELEBRATE! Though you may go back to work and the kids back to school, keep with the Christmas spirit. Acknowledge that there is more to the season than just a day of giving presents and eating too much food. Presents are given to symbolize the greatest present of all – Christ to the world. They shouldn’t be the main focus of Christmas. Think of the Twelve Days of Christmas as your honeymoon period with Christ. Revel in it and in the joy of His coming and birth. Before you know it, we will be entering into Lent, and Christmas will be a faint memory. Enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

References:
The more days the merrier: Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas
When Is Christmas Over: January 1? Epiphany? Candlemas? (Whatever that Is)
You’ve Heard the Song — but What are the 12 Days of Christmas?

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Seeing Jesus.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

To Those Who Wait

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

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

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

Riding Out the Storm

Please don’t think I mean any disrespect to those in the Florida Panhandle or that I am diminishing what they are going through. Rather, I greatly sympathize with them, for they are facing a far greater storm than most of us do in our daily lives. However, I can’t help but think that what has happened with hurricane Michael is the perfect analogy for what often happens to us at certain times in our lives.

Sometimes, we are perfectly happy living a carefree life with blue skies over head and the sun beating down upon us. Even though there might be some warning signs, and those who voice caution, we have no worries because everything is running smoothly and going our way. Then, all of a sudden, we wake up one morning to the news that a category 4 hurricane with 104mph sustained winds is barreling upon us. With barely enough time to register what is happening, we are forced to go into survival mode.

What are we to do during these times of impending disaster? Where do we turn for help? Do we turn for help? Do we buckle down, sequester ourselves, and declare that we are going to wage this war on our own? Or do we look for help, realizing that there are times in life when the storm is too great, the winds are too strong, and the clouds are too dark for us to fight it alone?

It is during those times that I find I need my family and friends more than ever. But more than my friends and family, I need God. Who better to lead me safely through the storm than He who parts the seas, calms the waves, and turns the dark into day?

In a world full of chaos, where everyone seems only to be out for themselves, it’s tremendously comforting to me that God is there. He listens. He offers comfort, help, and hope. Even when I am too distraught to offer my own prayers, I know that the prayers said on my behalf, by friends and family, are reaching a merciful God who knows me, knows my innermost thoughts and feelings, and knows what I need even when I don’t. I’m not always perfect when it comes to prayer, not even close. I often let life get in the way. I don’t always remember to talk to God during those rare, quiet moments of the day when He is listening, hoping, that I will reach out to him. I often fall asleep in the middle of my evening prayers and wake with the knowledge that God knows all things, even those left unsaid. But despite my short-fallings, my failures, my forgetfulness, and even my selfishness, God is there and is waiting for my call for help.

May God’s hand reach down into the lives of those caught in the storm, Michael and otherwise. May they feel His comfort and His healing touch. May we be touched by the Holy Spirit and know that, no matter how dark or frightful things become, God will calm the storm, and He will bring light to a new day.Sunset2

What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Little Time to Spare.

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).

A Journey of Faith

 

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The Guadalupe Pilgrims

This past Sunday’s first reading told us how, after eating eating and drinking, Elijah was strengthened for his forty day journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:4-8). It was a good reading for me because Sunday was the last full day of our journey to Mexico City to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You may remember that, three years ago, Ken and I participated in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, There, we met a group of pilgrims who have increasingly become more family than friends. We try to get together several times a year, and often, our get-togethers revolve around our Catholic faith. This past weekend, many of our pilgrim family spent five days journeying to the religious sites and churches in Mexico City, praying, celebrating Mass, and enjoying the short time we had together.

 

 

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Friends from our local parish we invited to join us.

Reflecting on that short time, and the way we spent it, I’ve come to realize that this past weekend is a small representation of my life in general. We journeyed a long way, some getting caught in flight delays or heavy traffic, causing us to take a different route (who knew traffic was that bad in Mexico City?). Some came prepared with extra luggage for the many things they would accumulate on the way. Some of us were unprepared for the great temperature variations throughout the day and ran out of clothes. Some traveled alone, and a few were strangers, invited by friends to come along. 

 

How indicative of our spiritual lives here on earth! Though life is short, we travel a long way in our quest to reach salvation. We meet roadblocks, delays, and detours along the way. We aren’t always as good and faithful as we should be, but we carry on, hoping to find the right path. We try to be prepared for whatever life brings us, carrying that extra baggage as needed, often feeling the need to unload some of it along the way. Often, we are unprepared, though, and have to make due with what we have or find a way to meet our needs. We want a way to predict what lies ahead, to see the coming rain and avoid it, but alas, all we know is that there is a sunset at the end of the day and the glorious rising of a new sun in the morning. Sometimes, we travel this journey alone, depending upon God, but realizing we can rely on the love and care of those sent by God to walk the journey with us. Often, we are strangers amidst our fellow travelers, seeking friendship and a spiritual connection. In the end, we are all on a pilgrimage, searching for something to make our lives more meaningful. 

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Juan Diego’s tilma, as vibrant and it was in 1531, undeteriorated by time and circumstances.

Juan Diego traveled each day to and from his home and work. On December 12, 1531, he took a detour, expecting to avoid seeing the Virgin who had been appearing to him, but she was there, waiting along his path, and told him that she would grant him a sign for the bishop (you can read the whole story here). Climbing to the top of Tepyac Hill, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, flowers only found in Spain and not native to Mexico, certainly not in December. Thinking this was the sign, Juan Diego gathered the roses in his poncho, his tilma, and hurriedly took them to the Bishop. Upon opening his tilma to reveal the roses, an image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma. For almost 500 years, the tilma hung, first in the chapel built by Juan Diego and then in the church built by the Bishop. There was no glass protecting it, no frame, no special scientific or technological preservations of any kind, yet the tilma remained completely intact, unfaded, undeteriorated, and unharmed. Upon being moved to a newer basilica, it was placed in a glass frame. A 1921 bombing attempt to destroy the precious cloth resulted in destruction of the altar and melting of the bronze crucifix (some believe this was a sign that Jesus was protecting his mother), yet the glass covering the tilma was not even shaken, no cracks or breaks, no melting of the frame.

Juan Deigo learned that we never know what or whom we will encounter on our travels. Even detours cannot change the course that the Lord has set for us. Along the way, we meet many strangers, some become friends, some become family; all play a part in our journey. At times we feel vulnerable, unprotected, unable to stop the stumbling blocks and even bombs placed before us. However, I have learned that to have true friends of faith on whom I can rely, to whom I can talk, with whom I can pray, helps me keep the course, finish the race, and keep my faith.

IMG_7022.JPGOur journey here on earth is short, very short. We should not waste a moment of it. Despite the detours, we must continue on. Having a faithful group of friends and family will strengthen us along the way. As St. Paul said to Timothy, I hope to one day say to my dear friends across the nation and into Canada,

“But you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering; do the work of preaching the gospel; fulfil the service asked of you.
As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart.
I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith
all there is to come for me now is the crown of uprightness which the Lord, the upright judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his appearing.
Make every effort to come and see me as soon as you can.”

2 Timothy 4:5-9

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).

Let Your Light Shine Through

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Did you know that paintings, statues, windows, etc were first put in churches to teach the illiterate about Christ and the stories in the Bible. How ingenious is that?

The main church in our parish has many, beautiful, stained-glass windows, depicting various scenes from the Bible from the Annunciation of Jesus’s conception to His Resurrection and almost every important event in between. There are windows around the altar bearing the images of several saints.  If you know anything about St. Francis and the history of the Church, you know how important these types of additions to the church building can be.

At our main parish church, we have these beautiful windows that, when the sun shines through them, bring us right into the stories they tell. They are awe-inspiring. But on Monday night, as I sat next to Ken at a Lenten penance service, I noticed something about those windows. When there is no light shining through them, they are nothing more than dark, meaningless, colorless shapes. They portray nothing more than interwoven shapes with no faces, no detailed landscapes, no recognizable places or people. And that got me thinking…

Is that what I look like when I’m not letting God’s light shine through? Am I nothing more than a dark, meaningless, colorless person? Are my features nothing more than blank, unrecognizable spaces? When I’m letting my fears, my hopelessness, or my despair run my life, do I look like an inanimate, two- dimensional being?

And doesn’t it go even deeper than my personal physical appearance? Jesus told us, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). We aren’t meant to block the light, to walk around in the throes of gloom and despair. We are meant to be a people of joy! We are meant to share our time and our talents, to serve others, to live a joy-filled life. Sure, there will be bad times, and times when we don’t feel like smiling or serving others. Even the day must succumb to the night.

But remember that there is always a dawn, a chance for the sun to shine (yes, I know there hasn’t been much sun along the East Coast in weeks), but all gloom and despair and darkness will subside. Somehow, even in our darkest times, we must reach down deep inside and lift off the bushel basket. And isn’t that what we should all be working toward during Lent, as we move from the desert, into the night’s garden, through the Crucifixion, and to the radiance of the Resurrection? Like those windows that shine brilliantly with the sun, revealing exquisite details and bringing to life the stories of Christ, we, too, are meant to shine with the glory of God. “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16).

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Father Nash begins a baptism, surrounded by stained glass windows throughout our church.

Did you hear Amy’s guest appearance on Danielle Bean’s Girlfriends Podcast? Check it out

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

What I was writing about this time last year:  Becoming the Learners

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines,  and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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

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

Ashes and Chocolate

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How ironic is that today we celebrate two very different days in the Church calendar? Most of the world simply knows this as February 14, Valentine’s Day. But for Christians the world over, it’s also Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Many mistake Ash Wednesday for a day when Catholics “show off” their Catholicism or publicly boast that they attended Mass that day by the ashes on their forehead. But this belief misses the point of the day. I don’t display ashes as an outward sign. I wear them as an inward reminder. Best explained by Catholic.org, 

Following the example of the Ninevites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and remind us that life passes away on Earth…Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.

stvalOne person, known to live with a spirit of humility and sacrifice, was Saint Valentine, a third-century Roman saint whose feast day is celebrated on February 14. While not much is conclusive about this saint, legends abound about his acts and character. According to legend, and backed by some historical findings, Father Valentine was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and for helping Christians who were oppressed under Roman rule. Refusing to renounce his Christianity, Valentine was executed on February 14, 269 (though there is some debate as to the exact year).  On the day of his execution, it is said that Valentine sent a note to a young girl he cured of blindness. The note was signed, “Your Valentine.” After the execution, Pope Julius I built a church near Ponte Mole, dedicated to Valentine. Ruins of that church, as well as a Roman catacomb believed to have been that of Valentine, have been unearthed by archaeologists.

27628797_10216383183558545_5791195675082047599_o.jpgWhile most people associate Valentine’s Day with love, happiness, cards, chocolates, and flowers, for me there’s something much more important that takes place on that day. My father never fails to give me a gift on Valentine’s Day. This year, it was a box of chocolates and a rocking chair that he handmade for me. When my first daughter was born, two days before Valentine’s Day, my dad told Ken of his tradition and said that it’s very important to always tell your daughters how much you love them. And he insisted that, at least once a year, it’s important to show them. My father never fails to show his love for me in all that he does and says, the sacrifices he has made for our family, and his outward displays of love for us all. Like Valentine, and like Jesus, my father is a man of humility and sacrifice.

So, while some may see Ash Wednesday as incongruent with Saint Valentine’s Day, I beg to differ. Ashes are a reminder, a sign of repentance, but also a symbol of love and a sign of the greatest gift ever given. As we begin Lent, we begin forty days of preparation for Good Friday, when Jesus shed his blood for our sins. He gave us the greatest gift of all, His life for ours. I’d say that makes Him the greatest example of what Saint Valentine’s Day is all about.

Ironic that we celebrate two seemingly at-odds holidays on the same day this year? Perhaps not.

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

What I was writing about this time last year:  A Treasury of Memories

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines,  and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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

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

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)