911: A Tuesday Morning That Would Change Our World

By Steve Connolly

It began like any other Tuesday morning for me. A casual drive to work. Fall colors dancing in the trees. Crisp cold air with no frost. It was the perfect day. Arriving at the office, I’d planned an early morning conference call with the west coast to update a current project. The meeting started on time and was running smoothly. Suddenly, a west coast co-worker said we needed to end the meeting because a jet plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. At the time, it didn’t make sense. I thought it must have been a small plane. I looked at my watch. 9:50 AM.

Walking back into my department, I mentioned to a manager a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. She gave me a look which reflected how I felt. Someone must have gotten the event confused. We had another conference room in the front of the building equipped with a TV. When I turned on the set, a breaking news banner appeared. What I had been told by my west coast colleagues was true. The newscasters looked as if they were trying to decide what was happening. As I watched the screen, another plane crashed into the South Tower of the Trade Center. It was hard to comprehend. Just a few months earlier, on a business trip, I’d switched planes in NYC. I remembered seeing the World Trade buildings and thinking how massive they were.

Throughout the morning, acts of terror continued to advance. Next, a plane crashed into the Pentagon, and then another plane was forced to crash in the fields of Pennsylvania. Later, both towers of the trade center collapsed. Buildings were burning and parts of the city were evacuated. It was surreal. Never to be forgotten.

The result of the terrorist acts caught everyone off guard.  Regular travel was paralyzed and all US air traffic grounded. My boss was stranded in Los Angeles. My cousin and her mother had an unplanned extended stay in Las Vegas. A co-worker in Florida was forced to take a train home.  Everyone I talked to became hesitant to fly as we wondered what would happen next.

Was the terror over?

As the week went on, I kept close track of the news broadcasts. I watched as rescue personnel and volunteers combed through the rubble searching for survivors. The fires at the sites continued burning. I learned that my younger brother, Frank, a fireman from Miami Beach, volunteered to help in the search and rescue. This caused me to worry because my brother has a tender heart, and I wondered how this would impact his life.

Before I knew it, an opportunity opened for me to go to New York City. Our church was sending a group to hand out water and offer support to the people. This was not my thing, but thinking of my brother in the thick of the rescue effort, I figured I could do something to help. Once there, I found myself surrounded by New Yorkers who wanted to be comforted, either to talk or have prayer. I hugged many people that weekend.

Everywhere you looked there were flyers of the many loved ones still missing and unaccounted for from the towers. It was a sad time. At one point, we could walk down toward Battery Park. The route we took was several streets over from where the trade center buildings had stood. I was shocked by the destruction. The storefronts, several blocks away, were filled with ash.  Seeing glimpses of the tower’s rubble made it a challenge to grasp the reality of the terror. Fires continued burning filling the air with the smell of destruction. I was thankful I could be there to help, even if it was just a little.

So many changes were precipitated by the events of 9/11. The United States entered into war, attacking Iraq and sending forces into Afghanistan (the longest running war with US involvement). Today, we still have troops in both locations.  Many Americans have sacrificed their lives in these two countries. New words and phrases became part of our everyday vocabulary. ISIS, al-Qaida, Taliban, and Ground-Zero just to name a few.

The Department of Homeland Security was created, and the Patriot Act was implemented. The TSA was created (Transportation Security Administration) and assigned strict screening at all US airports. Only ticketed customers could go through security checkpoints to board flights. Airplanes were fitted with security cockpit doors.  So many changes, too many to list.

One day of events drastically changed our lives. The repercussions of that day continue to shape and change the daily routine of America. We cannot become complacent and let such a time of terror repeat itself.

Click to tweet: 911: A Tuesday Morning That Would Change Our World. #911 #NYC 

Writing prompt: It was two weeks after 9/11. I was on the street handing out water to those working in the rubble. I reached out to give the fireman approaching me a bottle of water. As I did he embraced me in a bear hug and whispered in my ear…

A Third Grandmother

By Darcy Fornier

For this month’s theme “It Happened in the Last Twenty Years,” any story from my life could fit. But I want to tell you about a person who left her impression on my life for always.

When I was young, my family attended a little white church atop a grassy hill with large maples framing the front. A postcard-worthy church. My mom attended there as a girl, and a sweet older lady by the name of Ada Mae took Mom under her wing.

I think if I had to describe Ada Mae in one word, it would be sweet. She had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. She’d set you straight if she needed to, but you never doubted she genuinely loved you.

I can vaguely remember being very small and visiting her house. Her husband Vernon loved to collect knick-knacks: seashells, little onyx carvings, glass baubles–things irresistible to little fingers. The coffee table overflowed with them, and no one was the least bit concerned I might break something. I mean, they told me to be careful, but not in such a way it inhibited my fun.

In 2005, when I was ten, Grandma Ada Mae needed surgery, and Grandpa Vernon was bedridden at that point with severe diabetes. So our family stayed at their house with him since Mom is a nurse and could care for him. My sisters and I loved it. The house was cluttered with years of things that had come in while no one ever cleared anything out. Some rooms were off-limits, but Grandma let us dress up in her old-fashioned dresses, rearrange her artificial flowers, and play house in her front room with all its old furniture.

Grandpa Vernon didn’t talk a whole lot whenever we visited, but he had been a pastor, and he loved to talk about the Lord. I loved to hear him and wish I could remember more of it. Sometimes in the evenings we’d get out hymnbooks and sing. I loved to hear Grandma Ada Mae pray. I couldn’t possibly imitate her—and it would sound strange if I tried—but her voice’s pitch rose and fell and the words flowed almost as if she were singing. She was talking to the Lord with her whole heart, and it was the most natural thing in the world.

I was thirteen and we were living out of state when Grandpa Vernon died. Grandma Ada Mae had severe rheumatoid arthritis, but she stayed in her home.

In 2010, between the sale of one house and the purchase of another, we lived with her for a month. That was fun. I loved to hear her stories of growing up during the Depression in the northeast Georgia mountains. She had a great sense of humor and loved a good wise-crack or practical joke.

Sometimes we helped clean her house, but she preferred to leave most of the clutter alone. She always had the television on, from years of living alone: the news three times a day, Christian channels in between, and game shows in the evenings. Late at night before bed, she’d read Grandpa Vernon’s super-giant-print Bible.

I got to know her even better that month we shared her house. We had such a good time. I haven’t enough room to tell you about all the little things that are so special to look back on.

In the spring of 2011, Grandma Ada Mae threw some fertilizer on Grandpa Vernon’s azaleas. She lost her balance and fell on the driveway, breaking her hip. Thank the Lord she always carried a cordless phone with her, just in case. Due to complications, her surgery was delayed a few days. In the meantime, the hospital gave her blood thinner to prevent blood clots from reaching her brain, heart, or lungs. Instead of a clot, she had a cerebral hemorrhage.

A person is never the same after a brain bleed. Grandma’s hip healed, but after a month of physical therapy, she still couldn’t return home. So, a year after we’d moved out of her house, she moved in with us.

But she wasn’t the same person. She didn’t always know us, so she didn’t trust us. We wanted so badly for her to get well. I was glad to help with her exercise, her baths, her eating, everything. But she grew weaker and more confused. Her lucid moments were precious, but they made the continuous confusion even harder to handle emotionally. Our life revolved around her, and it was stressful. Sometimes her biological daughter and grandson would stay with her for a few hours so our whole family could have a break.

Finally, on October 31, she passed away. (She would have laughed over that date, too.) That was the hardest loss I’ve experienced in my twenty-two years. I love my biological grandparents, but with Ada Mae, I never doubted her acceptance. She loved me, and prayed for me, and was proud of me no matter what.

I still miss her. So much.

Blood doesn’t necessarily make a family. Family takes unconditional love. Best of all is the family bound together by Jesus’ love. And that was Grandma Ada Mae for me.

Click to tweet: Grandma Ada Mae had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. #Family #InspiredPrompt

Writing prompt: Think of someone who has been family to you, even though you weren’t related. Describe them, or capture a favorite memory of them, in one sentence.


Darcy Fornier (pronounced forn-yay) believes the best stories provide clean, compelling entertainment while also provoking the reader to think about life in a new way. She’s been spinning stories ever since she learned how to play “pretend,” and she has seriously pursued writing since 2013.

When she isn’t writing, editing, or dreaming up a story, you might find her washing dishes, “dissolved” in a book, playing the piano, hiking in the woods, singing at the top of her lungs, or talking up a storm with her sisters. At six years old, she gave her heart to Jesus, and she lives to know Him more. She makes her home with her parents and two younger sisters, wherever that happens to be.

Readers can find me at my blog:

https://peculiarmissdarcy.wordpress.com

And on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DarcyFornierWriter

Freedom, Focus and Joy in Philippians

By Lisa Worthey Smith

Which book of the Bible is my favorite? The one I am studying at the time! No matter how many times I have read or studied any book or section of His Word, God always presents a new and fresh application for my life at that moment. There is one book that I tend to re-read pretty often.

Freedom

Philippians is the first book of the Bible that I studied in-depth, so it has an extra special place in my heart. With threads of joy woven throughout, it is the favorite of many and a great place to spend some time.

God spoke to me in the very first chapter (verse 6) about His faithfulness – “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” At the time I was struggling with not being good enough, perhaps even failing in my responsibilities and He gave me this personal note of freedom right there in the first verses!

Then, in the third chapter all the success and failures of the past and present, simply vanished when I looked at Paul’s comment about his own resume’. He was so proud of his righteous, law-abiding resume’ until he met Christ. Then he threw out his “righteousness” in exchange for righteousness from God through faith! While I knew that in theory, it became very real to me when Paul explained his experience. That’s part of the beauty of Philippians. Paul used his life as a relatable example.

I realized that my life was more than what I cooked for dinner, my job description, my parenting efforts, how my hair looked, what my house was like, my clothes, or any other goal of perfection I may have sought before. Any reward for those goals would be short-lived and of little lasting value. My mission became to walk in a manner worthy of what Christ did for me, to share that good news with all those around me, no matter where I was.

Focus

Paul finished that passage with an encouragement to press on. If his life was a race toward a goal, the finish line was heaven, and he was diligently reaching out toward that finish line. Not to end his life quickly, but to live it in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel 1:27” No distractions, no detours, no slacking off, but moving forward toward heaven, remembering that Christ paid my sin debt so that I could gain entrance.

Like Paul, during the study of Philippians, I determined that my life focus would be to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel that Christ paid for my entrance into heaven. Every aspect of my life simplified when I took on this “eternal perspective.”

Then, there are those days…you know the ones I mean…the days when worry, and dread, and even fear, creep into my heart and mind and I get bogged down, and even wallow (think pig in muddy pit) in discouragement, robbed of all joy.

Paul knew about those days too. In the fourth chapter he reminds us to

1 – Give it to Him  – “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

2 – He will guard your heart and mind“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

3 – Remember His goodness “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Paul’s remedy for the battle in our mind? Get out of the muddy pit, give it to God, and get focused.

Joy

Peace with God (and of God) allowed Paul to retain his joy – not just peace, but joy – in all circumstances, even while he was in prison and likely to die soon. His freedom and focus allowed him to keep his eternal perspective so that he could look death in the face and proclaim…“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Philippians 2:17

So, you and I can rejoice and press on today and all our remaining days, to encourage others to find freedom, and focus, and joy, in their race to the finish line!

“Brethren… one thing I do:

forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 Philippians 3:14

Click to tweet: Philippians has threads of joy woven throughout. #Bible #Faith

Writing prompt – The words that changed my heart, and direction of my life….


Lisa Worthey Smith

Lisa is a long-time Bible study leader and author of Oscar the Extraordinary Hummingbird (voted in the 50 Indie Books Worth Reading for 2016), a non-fiction account of a severely injured hummingbird she rehabilitated, and her own time of suffering. It includes a Study Guide with lessons on suffering in the life of a Christian.

Her newest work, The Wisdom Tree, scheduled to be released fall 2017, is the parable of an olive tree planted in the Garden of Gethsemane for a special purpose during the time of Jesus. He is fed nutrients (Scripture) by his wise worm-friend, Herm, and tenderly cared for by the Master of the garden. There are questions about our relationship with God and basic Christianity at the end of each chapter with Scripture answers in a Study Guide at the end – suitable for book clubs, homeschool, small group study, or personal growth.

Lisa, her husband, and their 21 pounds of cuteness wrapped in a Schnauzer suit, live in north Alabama.

 

 

How to Obtain An Amazon Best-Selling Ranking

By Susan Neal

My previous blog post here on Writing Prompts, Make Your Dream Come True and Self Publish Your Book, described how to self-publish a book on Kindle, CreateSpace, and IngramSpark (Barnes & Noble). Today’s post will walk you through the steps to obtain an Amazon best-selling ranking. You may need to read the previous post to understand Kindle categories, KDP Select, and some other terms.

In 2016, I self-published two books, Scripture Yoga which was a #1 Amazon best-selling yoga book and Yoga for Beginners which ranked #3 in the yoga book category.

How?

First, publish your e-book on KDP.Amazon.com, otherwise, known as Kindle. Choose KDP Select because it allows you to lower your price during your book launch. Your subscription lasts for three months, and during that time you cannot publish your e-book on any other platform. However, you can publish a print book on another site. I unsubscribed from KDP after three months.

Be sure to include a request for a book review, along with a link to your Amazon book page, at the end of your Kindle e-book. The link becomes available after you have published your book. So remember to go back and add this link into your formatted book and reload it into KDP.

When choosing your Kindle categories, select a broad and a narrow category. The narrow one is key to obtaining the high ranking because you do not have as many books to compete against. For example, the broad category for Scripture Yoga was Christian Living which included a large number of other books. However, the narrow category, Yoga, contained fewer books to compete against for the Amazon ranking.

Next, choose two dates to have a $0.99 sale within KDP Select. This sale will show up in the Kindle store on Amazon. The first period should be at the beginning of the three-month subscription to KDP; this is the date you ask your book review team to purchase your book and submit a review. The second date will be your official book launch with the goal of increasing your Amazon ranking and it should be toward the end of the three-month period after you have several book reviews.

Book reviews are an important component of your marketing plan. Create a book review team by asking several individuals if they would like an advanced review copy of your book in exchange for a book review or they could purchase your reduced price book for $0.99. It is best to have at least 7–10 reviews before your book launch. Also, ask your team to share your book’s promotional materials you have created on their social media sites during its launch.

Your book launch goal is to obtain a ranking within the top 100 Amazon books in your category. If this occurs, you can publicize your book as an Amazon best seller. To accomplish this goal, lower your Kindle book price to $0.99 (usually for 3-7 days) after you have at least five reviews. You want to try to get as many purchases as possible within a short period of time for the Amazon ranking to rise. During your launch, monitor your book’s ranking which is listed at the bottom of your book’s Amazon page and take a screenshot as it increases.

There are many of things you can do to plan for this date. However, the most important thing is to pray and ask that your book glorifies God. Next, notify all of your family, friends, social media contacts, and email subscriber list that your book is on-sale. You could raffle a prize, and each person who verified that they purchased your book would be entered into the contest.

At the same time as your book launch, advertise your KDP Select promotion dates on BargainBooksy.com, ReadersInTheKnow.com, and FreeBooksy.com. These websites have access to large numbers of readers who want to purchase books at a discounted price. These promotions will drive up your book sales. At Bargain Booksy, it costs around $25 to run a one-day ad which would be well worth it to attain the best seller status. Whereas FreeBooksy charges a higher price to promote your book, and Readers In the Know allows you to promote your book for free while it is at the discounted price.

There are numerous websites available to market your book including CrossRoads.com, ChristianKindleNews.com, GospelBooks.net, FaithfulReads.com, GoodEbooks.net, and EbookChristian.com. It would be prudent to choose a few of these sites to promote your book during its launch.

Also, advertise your book on KDP.Amazon.com by clicking the “Promote and Advertise” button next to your published book in your account. Select “Create an ad campaign” and click “Sponsored Products.” Sponsored ads show up at the top of a similar themed book’s search results and the very bottom of a competitor’s book product detail page. It is the only ad that is displayed twice. Choose automatic targeting which allows Amazon to choose the keywords.

For my Scripture Yoga ad, I set a bid amount of $.25 and an average daily budget of $2.00. You can increase from there. You only pay if someone clicks your ad. If you monitor this a couple of times a week, it is easy to determine if an ad is working or not. If an ad is spending more than it is making, you can simply pause or terminate the ad.

The morning of my book launch I was at my 88-year-old mother’s home. I woke up early, and for about three hours I sent out many emails and posted to my social media sites. Then I saw a peer’s Facebook post for her book launch and how she was praying for its success.

I realized I had not prayed, so I got on my knees and asked God to forgive my oversight and bless this book’s launch. I felt reassured that it was in his hands. So I drove my mother and three daughters to Homosassa Springs for the day. When I got back to my mom’s home, my book was #1. Praise God!

It takes time and some work, but it pays off when your book is an Amazon best-seller.

Click to tweet: Let me walk you through the steps to obtain an Amazon best-selling ranking. #IndiePub #Amazon


Susan Neal-RN, MBA, and MHS has a passion for inspiring others to be healthy and grow in their faith. Her article, Eatin’ in Eden was published in Clubhouse magazine. She published two books, Scripture Yoga and Yoga for BeginnersHer hospice C.D., Bedside Encouragement: When You Don’t Know How to Say Goodbye, two Christian Yoga DVDs, God’s Mighty Angels and What the Bible Says About Prayer, and two Christian Yoga Card Decks, “Fruit of the Spirit” and “How to Receive God’s Peace” are available on Amazon.com and ChristianYoga.com.

Susan’s two digital products, Eat to Live with a Low-Carbohydrate, Low-Glycemic, Anti-Inflammatory Diet and How to Prevent, Improve, and Reverse Alzheimer’s and Dementia are available at ChristianYoga.com and Gumroad.com. Susan is a member of Word Weavers International and has been interviewed on Moody Radio, Blog Talk Radio, and Premier Christian Radio of the UK.

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Coupons: A Family Tradition

By Bonita Y. McCoy

Coupons saved my way of life.

When my oldest son was a baby, we lived in a neighborhood that had sidewalks. This was the first house we had owned, and money was tight. Because we were a one-car family, I would take the baby out for a stroll in the afternoons just to get a break.

I began to notice on recycling day that many of my neighbors didn’t keep their coupon booklets but rather tossed them in with the other recycling. It took a bit of nerve, but if I spotted the booklets on top of the bins, I stopped and pulled them out. We needed all our pennies, and coupons were one way I could help cut the cost of our groceries.  After all, I was a stay at home mom, and I wanted to do my part.

Over the next several months, I began to find more and more of the booklets at the top of the bins. My neighbors were becoming aware of my weekly walks on recycling day and made the effort to make the coupons accessible for me.

Their ministry to my little family lasted for nearly two years until we moved.

During this time, my aunt in Mississippi also began sending me an encouraging note along with coupons for diapers and other items that she knew I used. Through the generosity of my aunt and neighbors, I was able to keep our grocery bill within our budget.

Today, coupons play an important role as a ministry tool for me and my family. We have given coupons for diapers and formula to new mothers and young families, and we have sent specific coupons to friends when it was a product that we knew they used often.

Within my family, I exchange them with my mother-in-law, and on the flip side, I pass them along to my own daughter-in-law.  They have become a family tradition, of sorts. Even my youngest son knows to ask for a coupon before going to get a haircut. For us, couponing works.

Five Coupon Tips:

  • Don’t buy items just because you have a coupon. The idea is to save money. If the store brand is cheaper or the coupon is for something you don’t normally use, it won’t save you money.
  • Team up with a buddy. Nobody can keep up with all the sales. Find someone who is interested and swap coupon booklets every week or two.
  • Don’t be an extreme coupon-er if it isn’t you. Do what fits your life style. Some people have notebook binders; others like me have the wallet-sized coupon holder that fits in your purse.
  • Put your coupons somewhere, like in your purse or your car, so you’ll have them with you when you’re out. The number #1 problem with using coupons – leaving them at home.
  • Remember coupons can be used as a ministry tool. You can use them to purchase needed items for food banks or homeless shelters, or you can find a neighbor who could benefit from your unused coupons and share with them, like my neighbors did for me.

Coupons have played a vital role in the life of my family. They are a McCoy tradition. We use them to save money for sure, but more than that, we use them to bless others.

Click to tweet: Coupons saved my way of life.

Writing Prompt:  The coupon made me think of my neighbor Lenita…


Hello! I’m Bonita Y. McCoy. I hail from the Great State of Alabama where I live on a five-acre farm with three horses, two dogs, two cats, and one husband who I’ve had for over twenty-five years. I am a mother to three mostly grown sons and one beautiful daughter-in-law who joined us from Japan. I love God, and I love to write. My blog is an expression of both these passions. Drop by and visit.

www.beautifulpiecesofgrace.blogspot.com