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The first time an editor marked up an article I had written, I felt the air leaking (gushing) out of my emotional balloon. I had labored thoughtfully over every word, every comma, every simile – and she was picking it apart!
 

I gritted my teeth and went through each suggested change and answered her questions. I was prepared to disagree and defend the way I had written it, but as I examined her comments and made the suggested changes, I realized she had made my story tighter, clearer, and . . . yes, better.
 

She also helped me see the story from the reader’s point of view. I saw that I was so close to the topic I had forgotten to think about how a reader might perceive and understand the story.

 
Lots to learn

 
Even after this helpful learning experience, I still felt a twinge of dread each time I received an editor’s comments on my writing. But trying to be a big girl, a positive person, and a professional, I tried to welcome this helpful feedback.
 

When I wrote my first book, the editor’s insightful and challenging questions caused me to restructure the book altogether. Once it was finished, I remembered my original version and literally cringed.

 
A few weeks ago I wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune and the editor sent it back with about a dozen questions that required calling several people and re-interviewing the subject. But the worst was that I had to incorporate all sorts of additional information and still cut the piece from 750 to 450 words! That was a challenge. But when it was finished, I saw that all of the essentials were there and it was a concise yet informative article.

 
Two heads better than one

 
Today I can honestly say that I welcome editing. It’s a privilege to have someone with expertise in the field and a fresh set of eyes read my material and use his or her knowledge to improve it.

 
Now that I’m an editor too, I try to use what I’ve learned to make others’ books better. I completely understand when an author isn’t thrilled to hear from me, but I hope as we work together he or she will know that the editor is really a friend who shares the author’s desire that the book becomes a best-seller!

axe

Think for a moment what it would be like if you or I were snug in our cozy house or apartment in an American suburb where we have lived comfortably, safely, securely. Suddenly, a terrorist representing ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) pounds on our front door, wielding an axe and shouting, “Flee, convert, or die.”

You don’t know what to do – this can’t be happening. This is America. We don’t have barbaric situations like that here. But the axe-wielding thug repeats his threat, “Flee, convert, or die.”

What will you do? How will it be to leave your home of many years, perhaps with just the clothes on your back, gathering your family members with you to run for the hills, or in the case of the Kurds, to a desert mountain with no water, food, or shelter from the baking sun?

As the Iraqi Christians are doing, you cry out for help, you cry to God. He is there but He allows your family to flee these enemies and take refuge in the hills that are so very lacking in resources. The home you leave behind is warm, clean, comfortable, and has a refrigerator and cabinets full of food and clean water running right from your tap. Your home is your refuge. It is safe. You grow flowers in the summer and shovel snow in the winter. Neighborhood children pass your house as they walk to the school bus stop. You have never been burglarized, vandalized or threatened, or even if you have, that incident is tame compared to the death threats you face today.

You wonder, Will anyone stand with us? Will anyone stop what is happening to us? Or is everyone too occupied with his or her own safety, comfort, and prosperity to take the risk to help me? Surely the Iraqi Christians are wondering this now.

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

When will we in America end our silence and speak out about the horrible things being done both to our own once-great nation and around the world? I hope and pray that when we do, it will not be too late.

 

Snowfinal

Have you ever looked at something you’ve seen all your life and suddenly it looked brand new? Maybe when you first saw the world through the eyes of a parent, having just become a mother or dad for the first time. Wow – this little person is my child. Hard to comprehend, wasn’t it?

 

One such time for me was after my first book was published, not that I’m comparing that to the wonder of parenthood.

 

I was in a pizza place the night my book was accepted by the publisher, and honestly, it seemed as if the world had shifted – I was to be a published author! Today one can do that a lot more easily with Amazon ebooks and Create Space and other avenues, but for me at the time it was a dream come true. And pizza took on a new flavor for me that night when I, a soon-to-be published author, sat with my friends and ate a piece.

 

This winter has been a time like that for me as it pertains to snow. Yes, for most of my life after my family moved from the South up to New Jersey and then Illinois, I have experienced snow. This year we’ve had a plethora of snow – not sure plethora can be applied to snow, but it felt right at the moment I typed it. Tons of snow, gallons of snow, mountains of snow – however you measure it, we’ve had an abundance of that and bitter cold temperatures this winter.

 

I’ve always thought the first snow of the season was beautiful, especially if it produced a white Christmas, and I’ve always been partial to the ice that forms on trees, making the street look like a crystal cave surrounded by icy stalactites and stalagmites (the way I remember which is which is that stalactites have a “c” for ceiling and stalagmites have a “g” for ground, but I digress).

 

After the first snow and the second and third, it starts to look less pretty to me, but still I like the four seasons and snow is part of that.

 

But this year – this year! Not only have we had a ton of it, it has also been absolutely gorgeous. I’ve tried taking photos and I’m including a couple of them in this post. They’re not great but if you enlarge them you can see actual snowflake-shaped snowflakes captured by an obvious amateur!

 Coatfinal

The first time this struck me in a new way was on an evening I was visiting my friend Kay’s house and as I left her house, we could see this powdery, sparkly, fluffy stuff on the ground that literally looked like what they would use on a stage or movie set to sprinkle around when you need fake snow. In the snow you could see snowflakes that looked like plastic confetti, like something you would buy at a party store. They were absolutely perfect and about 3/8-inch in diameter, big enough that you could see their shape with the naked eye.

 

Today, a couple of winter months later, we’re again having snow. The piles on the sides of the driveway are probably almost four feet high – you have to be really careful backing out into the street. But when I got in the car this morning, I again saw those picture-perfect little flakes, perfectly formed and I again took pictures with my phone.

 

As I said, I have seen snow all my life, but snow this year is utterly gorgeous and points me in God’s direction because He set everything up so that snowflakes would be the amazing way they are. They say that no two snowflakes are alike, a claim I question because no one has seen them all, so how could you know?

 

It’s easier for me to believe that no to people are exactly alike because I’ve known identical and fraternal twins as different as they can be and it just doesn’t make sense that two people would have the same personality, intelligence, preferences, laugh, foot shape, and all the other things that go into each person being him- or herself.

 

My point, you may be wondering about. What is it? Just this: God set it all up so that snowflakes would form their perfect little selves, just like flowers would reproduce themselves as the gorgeous creatures they are. And He gave us these things to enjoy. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).

 

If He has done all this, can He not help us, you and me, when we need Him most? Since He knows the number of hairs on our heads, as well as all of our needs, and has promised to take care of us, can we not trust Him? Even when the world seems to be spinning out of control?

 

God, would you please give each of us a new glimpse of you, so that when we feel like the world has tilted and is no longer the same – we will remember that you are still God and you are still taking care of us and loving us?

 

Let me know about a time you saw something in a new light, when the world tilted for you. I’d love to know about it.

Snow

In my neck of the woods, we’re in the middle of a huge snowstorm. We’ve shoveled multiple times, but it just keeps on coming. It is truly beautiful. The boughs of the forty-foot-tall blue spruce right outside my window at this moment, heavy with the thick white stuff, bob slowly and gracefully in the wind. They’re so heavy they can’t move very fast but seem to just float up and down with their burden.

 

I love snow – at least its clean, white, cozy appearance and the stay-inside-by-the-fire feeling it brings just to look at it. I even enjoy shoveling, which is good exercise to boot. But I don’t like to drive in it.

 

Anyway, the very best part of a big white snowstorm like the one we’re experiencing now is that it makes everything beautiful, hiding all the imperfections under a fluffy white blanket.

 

And that reminds me of what our wonderful God does for me, as He says in Isaiah 1:18:

 

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’”

 

If that’s not a reason to praise Him, I don’t know what is. Because of Jesus, God covers my sins and sees me as white as snow. And He does the same for every person who loves Jesus – because He paid the price for our sins when He died on the cross and rose from the grave.

 

Hallelujah!

yard 10

We have two large maple trees in our front yard – maybe 70 or 80 feet tall. We never rake the leaves until around Thanksgiving time because they are very late to fall off.

 

But the changing of the leaves is dramatic and, to me, exciting–because overnight (at least it seems so) they go from green to a vivid yellow, making the yard look like a sunny day, no matter what the weather actually is. You look out the front window into a bright, beautiful day.

 

The first strong wind or rain splashes the leaves all over the front grass and then we have a sunny yellow carpet. It really is beautiful.

 

This year, this metamorphosis happened a few weeks ago and after the leaves were all off the trees, I spotted a squirrel’s nest up high in one of the maples, the first time I ever remember having one in the yard. If you recall my thoughts on Protection for My Nest, you’ll know that seeing the nest in my own yard after all the leaves were gone touched my heart as a reminder of God’s goodness and protection.

 

The nest was hidden all summer but, even so, it was providing a home and haven for the critters who lived there. It reminds me of one of my favorites Bible verses, “You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7 NASB).

 
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

slider1_1What Does Every Author, Speaker or Business Need to Succeed But May Not Have?

 

The answer is so obvious that you’ve undoubtedly answered the question already. It’s not a zillion followers . . . or a big bank account . . . or a staff of dozens.

 

It’s a business basic that many are without – a good website. Duh, you might be saying, and you’re right – tell me something I don’t know! But surprisingly, many of us wanting to compete in today’s marketplace don’t have one or have a rudimentary, cookie-cutter site that isn’t helping us much.

 

Enter a team that can help you get to the next level and beyond: A team of book marketing AND digital marketing experts, the Verve Group.

 

I was such an author, trying to stir up interest in my books by word of mouth, social media and anything else I could think of doing. Being a can-do and rather naïve sort of person, I had gone to WordPress and taken a tutorial and then signed up for a free service to help me create a website. When the free service began spamming with up to five emails every day hounding me to buy stuff from them and I still had no clue what to even do first, I knew doing it myself was not the answer.

 

The Verve Marketing Group team has experience launching over a thousand books – from New York Times bestsellers, to medical books, to college textbooks. Whether it’s non-fiction or fiction; books written for adults or kids; titles published in hardcover, ebook, audio, or DVD – they come alongside with the expertise to help us authors accomplish our goals.

 

Getting their help was the answer and they have turned my life as an author around. Check out my beautiful new site and imagine what they can do for you and your books as well.

 

Happy writing!

 

 

 

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My 26-year-old son is being baptized today! He has long been a believer and in the last couple of years has been on fire for the Lord. His conversation is loaded with praise and he wants to obey God. He knows, as we all do, that we fail at that and fall short, and we are ever grateful that our wonderful God waits with open arms to forgive us and take us back to closeness with Him.

 

Another amazing thing is what led up to his baptism today. He recently completed a work assignment in Arizona and was driving back to spend some time here at home. On the way he stopped to see a close friend and his wife in Colorado.

 

The first night Andrew was there, he was sitting on the sofa with their dog, who suddenly snapped and bit Andrew badly in the eye and lip. They rushed to the hospital and after a long wait, he got 21 stitches in his eye and a couple in his lip. Of course his friend and his wife felt terrible.

 

Apparently, a prominent eye doctor had been summoned to the hospital a couple of hours earlier because of another emergency eye problem and he “happened” to still be there when Andrew needed him. He said there would be no damage to Andrew’s eyesight or eye and repaired the damage. Andrew said he was truly an artist, as the stitches were millimeters from his eyeball.

 

Here’s the first praise that led to the title of today’s blog post: Andrew came out of all of this praising God—for protecting him and preventing him from losing the sight of his eye and for having that doctor on hand to treat him.

 

The second praise is that Andrew’s friend Scott’s wife gave her life to Christ the next night!

 

The third is for God’s mercy and wonder and the incredible ways He acts. Here Andrew suffered a pretty serious injury and came out of it praising Him, and all three—Andrew, Scott and his wife—decided to be baptized today.

 

Thank You is never enough, but thank You, God!

 

 

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One thing I’m asking God is that He would teach me to recognize His voice so that I know when a thought or idea is just from me or some other source or from God. I’m in a Bible study where we’re studying Patricia Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God. Of course He let me know that when it’s a Bible verse or passage that I think of, that’s definitely from Him. Even there, though, I can’t just apply verses I think of willy-nilly to an issue I’m thinking about.

 

So on my walk on one fall day, I kept asking Him to teach me to recognize His voice and promptings and know when they are truly from Him. I focused on that for my entire two-mile walk, rather than asking for things or even praising Him, as I often do when walking.

 

It seemed like nothing was coming, so I realized that it takes longer than one two-mile walk to learn to discern God’s voice from among others. One thing I’m pretty sure I do is that when I want or need something, I interpret things I see as being from God, especially if they are in support of my request. Such as, if I’m thinking about publishing something, when I proofread a book and see “God can use your struggles to help other people,” I tend to take that to mean God’s saying go ahead, when He might not be saying that at all. So I need to learn how to discern and identify His messages to me from others, including those I hope will back up what I want.

 

During my walk, I kept noticing squirrel or hawk nests high up in the leaf-bare trees surrounding the field I walk around. Don’t start reading something from God into them, I told myself firmly. Still, I couldn’t help noticing them, lots of them – some trees had three or four way up high. Since my mind works the way it does, I started thinking about my own nest and how God has done amazingly above what I could ever ask or think as to my three wonderful, delightful, excellent children—all of whom truly love God and desire to walk with and serve Him wholeheartedly. With that, what more could a parent ask? Well, I do ask for other things for them too but that’s the main thing in life—this life and for all eternity, so I am hugely blessed.

I could obviously make the connection that God has kept my nest of three protected, high above the fray swirling around them as He kept them from harm and evil. But I told myself not to read into things, as I often do. I knew I need to wait for God to reveal Himself to me, and I can’t just expect that when I ask for that, it happens right away. Still, He has done that for me and my nest!

 

So a few days later on my way into the office I was listening to the dramatized KJV New Testament on CD and Jesus said in the beautiful, rich, majestic voice they use for His, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22, emphasis added).

 

With more belief than I usually have when I ask for things—  since I don’t believe I can think that God will necessarily do what I ask for or want because He knows better than I do and His timing is perfect—I asked for some specific help on two issues my children were facing. I asked these things in Jesus’ name, believing, as the verse said. Believing more than I usually do, to be honest.

 

I don’t close my eyes and bow my head to pray while driving of course, but I was at a stoplight as I was praying for these two specific things, BELIEVING. I looked at the car in front of me as the light turned green and in the tree right over the car was one of the squirrel nests! I cried, knowing that He really does graciously show us Himself when we seek Him (you shall seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart).

 

Thank You, God, for being so amazing and wanting a relationship with us. Please do teach me to discern Your voice among my thoughts and desires and other competing messages. And I ask, BELIEVING, that you will continue to protect my nest.

 

 

hacker

You can call me either gullible or stupid (I prefer the former), but here’s an amazing thing that happened to me recently.

 

I got the blue screen of death on my home computer twice after having Microsoft help me with a problem I was having getting email.

 

After getting the blue screen the second time, I called Microsoft for some more help, mentioning that this had all started after my service call for the email problem, which had been fixed via Microsoft’s free help service.

 

The tech person I talked to asked me a couple of questions and said that my issue could not be fixed through the free service (surprise!) and I would need to pay either $99 for a one-time fix or $149 for a year’s worth of repairs.

 

Goodbye, blue screen of death

Despite the advice of my grown children, who said I should not pay for this (but I had had two blue screens, after all), I gave my credit card number and purchased the $99 fix. All well and good. The technicians ran scans for literally three hours, at the end of which they pronounced it fixed. It turned out I had had a Trojan malware worm-type thing, despite my McAfee subscription. So Vijesh, the Level 2 technician who had pronounced my computer cured, said he would call me the next evening at 7:00 p.m. Central time to be sure I hadn’t gotten the blue screen again.

 

The next night I was talking to a friend and colleague and I told her I had to hang up at 7:00 because Microsoft was going to call me. While we were talking, I got a call at 6:40, which I ignored because I knew that Vijesh would call at 7, so I could talk with her until then.

 

Vijesh called me back at 7:20 and instead of checking my computer, he said he would call me again the next night at 7 to be sure everything was okay. Not sure why the delay, but I said okay.

 

So the next night, I got a call at 5:40 p.m. and caller ID just said “out of area.” Since the Microsoft call had come in the night before at a different time from the one I expected, I picked it up, being thankful I was at home since I usually get home from work much later than this.

 

Under attack!

I could barely make out what the person was saying due to language differences, and I admit that I am slightly hard of hearing. But he said something like, “Your computer is being attacked. Microsoft has had alerts letting us know that this is happening and we need to get into your computer to block this from damaging your computer.”

 

Being dumb but not that dumb, I asked why the calling phone number said “out of area” and was told that Microsoft uses different numbers to call customers back, especially at peak hours. I asked to speak to a supervisor. The “supervisor” came on the line and I asked for the incident number and (stupidly, I admit it) said, “Last night I talked to Vijesh and he was going to call me back tonight.”

 

The fake supervisor said, “Oh, I’ll connect you with Vijesh now.” Good.

 

A Vijesh impersonator came on the line and said, “This is Vijesh. How are you this evening, Barbara?”

 

Relieved, I asked him what the problem was. Surely you can see how confusing this was since he was to call me last night and when he finally reached me he had only said he would call me back the next night. The situation was starting to seem like a cross between a Grimm’s fairy tale and the Twilight Zone where reality got very fuzzy indeed.

 

The evil impersonator

I swear his voice sounded like that of the real Vijesh from the night before. He said, “There’s been an attack on your computer and I need to get remote access so I can stop the attack for you and fix your computer.”

 

I said, “Why did your phone number come up as ‘out of area’?” and he said that’s what it does when they call customers back. I asked for his phone number and the incident number and he said he needed to stop the attack right now and would give me that information in just a minute.

 

Dumbly (yes, stupidly), I followed his instructions and gave him access to my computer, all the while insisting that he give me the incident number and the Microsoft phone number. As soon as the access connection was established and I was still asking for the information, he said he’d call me back in 15 minutes. I again reiterated my request for information and he hung up.

 

Finally, I got it. I immediately turned off my computer and asked for help from my son (kindly refer to Ask a Kid!) and he helped me unplug the computer and all its accoutrements.

 

I then put in a call to Microsoft, waited for quite a while, and while I was waiting the real Vijesh called me with his phone number showing up on caller ID as Microsoft. I picked up via call waiting and told him what had happened.

 

He didn’t smirk at my naivete, at least not in a way I could detect it, and he checked my computer and said to check my bank account and credit cards for the next several days. He said it looked like I had turned the machine off in time to prevent untold damage, for which I am thankful.
I asked if this scam had anything to do with my two recent Microsoft service calls and he said no, these things just happen randomly.

 

Not sure I agree with him, but I hope to do better next time in listening to warning signals and getting out fast.

 

Maybe you should too.

Assistance (with clipping path)

I have a lovely young friend at work who could chronologically be my daughter for sure. But we have just clicked. We have much in common, and we have differences too, which is fine. She is utterly brilliant – everyone wants her on their project because she creates amazing, beautiful, contemporary designs and artwork that bring any project to life – whether it’s a corporate strategy or a new training course. People want to fast-track her into the corporate hierarchy, but she just wants to do what she’s good at and loves and she declines these offers.

 

So that’s her professional self and I am privileged to get her on some of my projects, which always makes me breathe a sigh of relief because I know that our marketing efforts are going to be outstanding with her involved.

 

But listen to what she did recently! She read my blog post about my friend Linda and she contacted me and said Linda sounds like such a wonderful person whom she would like to reach out to with a random act of kindness. I gave her Linda’s name and address and, sure enough, she sent Linda a book, an encouraging note, and a check for $25. And she doesn’t know Linda from Adam! She just did this because she was touched as she read about a woman with a big heart and small to nonexistent resources.

 

Soon Linda called me to say she had received this anonymous gift and asked if I knew the person. Of course I said I did and Linda described the lovely soft and comfortable nightgown (she has chronic pain that makes most clothing painful) she had been able to purchase with the gift and how thrilled she was that someone would reach out to her like this.

 

So next time you get discouraged about the condition of the world, think of people like this who, just out of the goodness of their hearts, do something wonderful for someone else – someone she doesn’t even know and may never meet or even talk to. And have hope . . . because while I get discouraged at times about the future and some of the people I observe, I know that amazing people exist at every age. And they are actively doing surprising things that demonstrate goodness every day.