There’s Gotta Be A Little Snow Sometime

SnowyTrees2019.JPGOne day last week, while my husband and youngest daughter slept snugly in their beds, and Mother Nature covered the trees and fields with a soft blanket of white, I quietly walked outside in the dark to take some photos of the gently falling snow. The world around me was cold, barren, frozen and unwelcoming. And it was absolutely exquisite. It was my favorite kind of snow. It fell softly from the sky, landing on every branch, leaf, and needle, turning each and every tree into a glowing, white piece of art, a fine sculpture created by the loving hand of God. I couldn’t help but think about a conversation that I’ve had with more than one person lately.  

You see, I’m noticing a trend, and it makes me sad. I see it in the young and old, in the workplace and in school, among volunteer committees and organizations, even within my own family. Everyone is looking for the easy way out, the no-pain method of doing things. There is a belief that everyone is entitled to happiness, to the never-ending bliss that drowns all pain and discomfort and allows each person to live a life of total pleasure without worry or sacrifice. I’ve even heard people say that here, in the United States, everyone is entitled to be happy.  

But they’re wrong.

We are merely entitled to the pursuit of happiness, and even that is within the confines of the law. That clause in our Declaration of Independence (mind you, it is nowhere in the Constitution, the document that actually rules this land) is based on the principle that we are all seeking some higher form of happiness endowed by our Creator. But even our Creator never promised happiness on earth. On the contrary, we were told that there would be suffering and pain and sorrow.

I’m reminded of an old Lynn Anderson song. Yes, I’m showing my age now, but you may recall her lyrical protest: “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta to be a little rain sometime.” Preach it, Lynn. 

Without sadness, we wouldn’t fully understand joy. Without mourning, why would we find the need to rejoice? Without snow, who would appreciate the spring?

It sounds simple, but it’s so much deeper than just letting a little rain, or snow, fall into our lives now and then. We need to learn to embrace the dark times, and allow them to shape us into better persons. There is a term that I think of more and more as I get older.  It is “redemptive suffering.” It is the Christian belief that all suffering we do here on earth is meant to lead us to a deeper relationship with Christ. In our suffering, we experience just a small taste of what He experienced in His passion and death. Furthermore, the suffering gives us the opportunity to share in Christ’s humanity and to understand one of the characteristics that makes us truly human. It binds us to each other and to Christ. The more we accept our suffering, the more we become like Christ, and the more we are redeemed. It breaks my heart to hear people say that if there were a God, He wouldn’t allow suffering because there is so much to be learned from sorrow and pain, and not just for the person suffering.

Being a witness to suffering can help us to feel less selfish, to become more caring, more giving. It can allow us to be more charitable and comforting. I think of my daughter, who decided to pursue a career as a nurse after helping my father-in-law during his last days on earth. What a gift her grandfather gave her.

Suffering can purify our souls and help us to understand and appreciate what true happiness is. We just have to embrace it, and know that the cold, barren, darkness won’t last forever. I think of my oldest daughter, who lost a dear friend to suicide, and how it transformed her thinking so that she fully appreciates how good life is even on days that seem too hard to face.

It is meant to lead us to a more beautiful place, a place where it never rains, never snows, never allows pain and sorrow.  For those who are very lucky, that place can actually be found here on earth, even in the midst of suffering.  And it can be a beautiful sight to behold. I think of someone I love very much who suffered through a traumatic event recently and has allowed herself to become stronger, more self-assured, and more willing to embrace new opportunities that have come her way.

snow2019So the next time you experience a time of cold, harsh, and unwelcoming sadness in your life, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual, remember that there is a reason for our suffering. There are things that can be learned, not by the mind but by the soul. Let others see that sorrow and pain does not always have to end in total despair; there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Be strong, courageous, and faithful, knowing that your spring will come, and eternal happiness will be your reward. Remember that there is always the breaking of dawn, even after the coldest, snowiest night.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: From Sorrow, Joy.

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

Amy’s next novel, The Devil’s Fortune, will be released in March of 2019. Pre-ordering is available from some vendors with more being added each day.

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).

Favorite Novels – What’s on Your List?

DSC04542As I sit here this morning looking out over our backyard, a heavy mist shrouds the landscape.  The snow and grass seem to be in a struggle over which parts of the yard belong to whom.  Across our property lies a patchwork of white, brown, and green bordered by trees that actually seem to be looking down upon the earth wondering when it will be time to awaken from their long, cold slumber. And as if the East Coast hasn’t already had more than its share of winter, more snow is heading our way.  The good news for those of us in the Mid-Atlantic is that at least we’ve been able to thaw a little in between each storm.  Not so for Boston, Buffalo, and many other cities and towns north of here!

I’ve already accepted the fact that there will be four people in the kitchen tomorrow baking Katie’s sweet sixteen cake rather than just one, and I might just have many more hands available to decorate for her party on Friday. However, I so long for an entire week of writing without interruption!  I understand that many people are just itching to get into their gardens and out in their boats.  I would just love to have a five-day stretch where I can sit in quiet and complete a chapter or so per day in my next novel.  Alas, that doesn’t seem to be in the forecast for me this week, but perhaps a good read is in your future.  So I’ve decided to share with you my list of my all time favorite books.  Like all good librarians, I will categorize the list.  I hope there is something here that you will enjoy reading.  I believe that you will find a few hidden gems amongst some of the more well-known titles.  So pick a book, sit by the fire, and remember that spring is just 15 days away!

Amy’s All Time Favorite Books:

Historical Fiction

The Lady of Arlington by Harnett T. Kane – a novel based on the life of Mary Custis Lee, the wife of Robert E. Lee

The entire Little House series – have you read them as an adult?  You should!

Romance

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green – a book I have loved since I was in middle school.

Fantasy

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling – really, did you truly expect me to not have a Harry Potter book on the list?

Memoir

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma – A father and daughter vow to read together for 1,000 nights, and magic happens.

General Literature

So many to list!

Beaches by Iris R. Dart – A tear-jerking story about lifelong best friends and the ups and downs of their relationship

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – a timeless tale (truly – you have no idea when in time this takes place) of secrets and lies that come out when a young writer is summoned to write the memoirs of a dying woman.

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham – perhaps an odd choice, but I love a good book about football, and this one is a lot of fun!

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks – The “choice” will leave you buried in a pile of tissues!

Classics

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier – A nameless heroine falls in love with Max deWinter, a man haunted by his past.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Jane falls in with Mr. Rochester, also a man haunted by his past.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – love and romance in the Victorian Age

Mystery/Suspense

This is the hardest list to narrow down for me.  I am a sucker for a good suspense story!

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

The Lifeguard by James Patterson

Where are the Children by Mary Higgins Clark

Please add your favorites to the list!

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

It’s the Little Things

DSC04547We had another snow day today.  Ok, it has basically turned out to be a barely-any-snow-with-small-patches-of-ice day, but we got to sleep in on a 20 degree morning, so it’s hard to complain!  As I lay in my bed this morning with my three-year-old Golden Retriever lazily snuggled up next to me, her head on my chest, I starting thinking about my own snow days many years ago.  I’m sure you remember those – the days before crazy, aggressive drivers, and lawsuits against school systems, and all of the other ridiculous reasons we now cancel school at the sign of the first flake.  In those days, snow days were truly SNOW days, when you woke up and jumped out of bed, ran to the window, and the entire world was blanketed in white all the way up to the window ledge. I remember one time, the winter I was eight, when my father had to dig tunnels through the snow so that our dog, Snoopy, could go out for a run. Once the sun was high in the sky, all of our neighbors came outside and worked together to uncover cars and dig everyone out while we children made ice blocks and built igloos!  Many snow days were spent baking with mom or doing puzzles on the big card table in the basement. Those are the things I remember about winters when I was a child.

In the spring, we often took a trip into DC to visit the Botanical Gardens.  Easter was spent at my grandparents’ house and usually ended with a giant game of cousin football.  What I recall the most about those times was that we somehow always ended up caked with mud and having a wonderful time. Summer meant lots of time outside.  Once every couple of weeks, we would go to the Smithsonian for the day.  If we were very lucky, we might pay to swim in the pool at a local motel or be invited to the one house in the neighborhood that had a pool in their backyard.

My absolute favorite times were the weeks I spent at my grandparents’ house in the country where I picked blackberries that grew along the path behind the barn, spent many mornings on Granddad’s boat catching fish and pulling up bountiful baskets of Maryland Blue Crabs, helping Grandma take the clothes off the line (I can still smell the fresh, clean scent) or simply playing Canasta with my friend, Lynn, who lived on the farm across the road.  Back home, we spent our days playing street hockey at Cindy’s or night tag at Laura’s.

Sometimes I wonder how many children will grow up with these types of childhood memories.  Will they have no recollection at all of time spent with friends and family because all of their retention powers were eroded by video games and tiny screens of text?  I wish I could take my children back in time and share with them my childhood.  We didn’t travel or have a lot of useless gadgets and gizmos.  We never, ever made the trip to Disney (we took my parents there after I had three children of my own) or flew anywhere on a plane; but I wouldn’t trade a single day of my childhood for anything in the world.  It’s all of those little things that we did that made me who I am.

Those are the memories I cherish.  So I’ll sign off now and get the girls out of bed.  I think we’ll go outside and take some pictures, maybe try to find a big enough patch of white to make a snow angel, and then we’ll come in and bake something completely unhealthy and eat the whole batch.  I hope that someday they’ll look back and count this as a day to remember.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Time to Make the Doughnuts

IMG_3326Do you have a favorite family tradition from when you were little?  I think that both of my brothers would agree with me that one of our all time favorite family traditions was making homemade doughnuts on the first snow day of the year.  Of course, back in the 70s, they were deep fried, like everything else was back then, but oh, they were so good!  I’m not sure how many we ate in one day, but it was a once a year tradition, so I’m guessing our Mom turned a blind eye when we snuck back for more.

I don’t know when or why the tradition stopped.  At some point, I guess my brothers and I started sleeping in rather than getting up to make doughnuts.  I do know that ever since I’ve had children, I have awaken on snow days thinking back to those fun times in the kitchen with Scott, Michael, and Mom.  I can still picture us huddled around the kitchen counter taking turns putting in the ingredients and mixing the batter.  After they were baked, we dropped them into powdered sugar for the boys and sugar-cinnamon mix for me.  Sometimes I feel like I can taste them.  No doughnuts from any chain bakery could ever compare.

Today is our school’s first snow day of the year, and guess what my mother gave all of us for Christmas this year?  She gave us a pan for making baked doughnuts and a recipe to follow.  She says she has tested it out, and while they’re not the same as the good old fried ones we used to make, they are pretty darn delicious.  I don’t know how they taste, but I do know that my youngest daughter, Morgan, is having a lot of fun at the moment frosting them with homemade icing and topping them with sprinkles.  So if you don’t mind, I think I will sign off for the week and have myself a doughnut.  What snow day tradition will you continue or re-establish this year?

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon. https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

On the Road Again

DSC00380Have you ever taken a long road trip with your family?  Movies and television shows always portray these trips as the absolute worst kind of torture a family can inflict upon itself.  Sure, everyone can get irritated with other, and someone always falls asleep and wakes up cranky, but there’s a lot to be said for spending time together in a small space with nobody to talk to but each other.

I thought about this yesterday as my girls and I were driving together on an impromptu road trip.  My oldest daughter, Rebecca, had just returned to her college from a school trip to Nashville.  Still on winter break, she was supposed to drive home in her twelve-year-old, dark green Saturn, a car which she hates but is the best car we’ve ever owned as far as maintenance.  Twelve years on the road, and over 200,000 miles, and it’s never had an issue other than air conditioning finally giving out.  But back to Rebecca… she arrived at school at 4am, texted me to let me know she was in her dorm room, and went back to bed saying she would head home around noon.  When she woke up at 11:00 that morning, she looked out of her window to see that the mountains surrounding her campus were completely covered with snow, and the storm didn’t look like it was going to end any time soon.  Her car was nestled in four inches of the heavy powder, and she dreaded the thought of driving her little car on the treacherous roads.  So, of course, I got the call, “Mom, can you come get me?”

Meanwhile, the snow was really coming down here on the Shore as well, and schools were letting out early.  I headed to town to pick up her sisters, and we hit the road.  Three hours later, after driving through some pretty heavy snowfall on Interstate 70, we made it to the campus.  For the next three hours, Rebecca talked about her trip – the people she met, the things she learned, how her deep faith had been strengthened even more.  Her sisters shared stories about their New Year’s party and the first day back at school.  I don’t think we turned on the radio even once, and no movies played on anyone’s electronics.  Though Katie and Morgan took turns nodding off, we spent the entire ride talking to each other.  Does anyone even remember what that’s like?  To spend hours with other people just talking to each other?

It reminded me of the many road trips we’ve taken as a family.  We have driven cross-country and back numerous times, to Florida and back just as many times, and to Boston and back twice.  Sure, the girls had a DVD player in the back of the van for many years, and then they all acquired their own personal devices; but many times, we talked, we sang, we played games, and we loved it.  Were there arguments?  Sure.  Did someone always end up poking, pinching, or punching someone else?  Of course they did.  But I don’t think any of our children would trade a minute of those family trips we took, car ride and all.  We always looked at the ride as part of the adventure.  Yes, we’ve seen the great Corn Palace of South Dakota, the world’s largest sandhill crane, and the world’s biggest concrete buffalo, and the girls still talk about every one of those things in addition to the many little museums and country stores we visited along the way.

What we learned on those trips can be applied to many other areas of our lives:  you have to make an effort to get along with others; you never know what treasure lies around the next bend; there’s always more than one route to get to where you’re going, so choose wisely; don’t forget to look around and to take a break along the way; keep your sights set on your destination, but know that how you get there is just as important.  If you’ve never taken a family road trip, I highly advise it.  You never know what you might learn along the way.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon. https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com