Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Marketing a POD Book in 2009 - Reflections on What Worked and What Didn’t

Reflecting on marketing Children of Dreams this year brings me to some interesting conclusions. The things I thought initially would be the most effective weren’t. Some of the things that cost nothing except my time were. To focus my efforts for my next book and how I will market it, I will share some of my results. Hopefully I can help another person to make wiser choices about where to invest their efforts who, like me, may be a new author without huge sums of money to spend.

First, Children of Dreams was written as a memoir and published POD. If you have published a romance fiction or nonfiction book as an expert in some field, or some other type of book, your results may be different using these same marketing strategies.

Now to the marketing aspect:

Most of the things I spent a significant amount of money on marketing Children of Dreams, I doubt I would do again. The marketing people will say, “We guarantee exposure, not book sales,” and they have that one right. You can easily Google my name and find twenty or more pages where my name pops up. Based on these results, you might believe I am a best-selling author. I am not. What marketing experts guarantee is exposure, not book sales. As far as I am concerned, considering that information now borne out in experience, it makes me much more leery to invest dollars in the future on expensive marketing campaigns.

Some of the methods I used included the following:

1. Email blast. I spent around $250 on an email marketing campaign. I don't know that I sold one book out of it, and for that amount of money and not being able to document its success, I feel like it was a waste of money.

2. Email of my book cover and relevant information to all libraries and independent bookstores in the United States and Canada. This cost around $400, and again, I don't know that I sold a single book out of this campaign. Would I do it again? No.

3. RTIR, or Radio-TV Interview Report: Cost around $400. I was promoted two weeks in a row on radio only, and received two radio interviews. I am not aware of a single book that I sold as a result. One of the radio stations was in Canada and one was in the Boston area, I think. Would I do this again? Yes. I felt like it gave me a great experience and I enjoyed being interviewed. I was also able to take one of the interviews off the radio station's website as an MP-3 audio and posted it on my website. If I had the money, I would have done the TV portion of the promotion, but it is very expensive and I couldn't afford it. Maybe with my next book, instead of wasting money on email campaigns, I will put it into this marketing venture.

4. Other things I did that were free or inexpensive and more effective as far as book sales.

Videos: Make lots of videos. I made five and posted them all over the web, not just on YouTube. There are many other video websites and they get picked up in the search engines as if they were magnets. The interview of me personally wasn’t particularly “exciting,” I suppose, but I think what the viewer can see is who I am; my character, and that I am a real, live, living, breathing human being. Besides, I know the next one will be better because the first one of anything is always the hardest and usually the worst. You are testing the waters, breaking new territory, going where you have never gone before. Experience counts for something.

Book Reviews; I found it very difficult to get friends of mine to post reviews of my book on (or any place else). Most people, unless they are in the writing or marketing field, are intimidated by the thought of having their words on the web. I submitted free books and e-books to several different sites for free book reviews, which met with only limited success. Would I send out free books for reviews again? No. Most of them produced no reviews, and they probably took my free books and advertised them on or EBay. Some of the free eBooks I sent for reviews, however, did produce reviews.

My goal was to get twenty-five reviews on When I found it so difficult to get book reviews in a timely manner, I paid for a service that was very reasonable and legitimate, in my opinion, and rounded my review total to twenty-five reviews for five stars. Was it worth paying for some of the reviews? Absolutely. They were real people that read my book whom I did not know. I wasn’t paying for five stars. I was paying to have my book read and reviewed, and I don’t mind doing that. I would look at a book that has twenty-five reviews with five stars before a book with only two reviews with five stars. I feel this was money well spent. Also, the inside-the-book program on Amazon is excellent. If I can’t look inside someone’s book and I don’t know the author, I won’t buy the book, plain and simple.

The Masters of Marketing: The elite, the best, I believe, in the U.S. and probably the world is QVC. I close caption it almost on a daily basis, and have watched with interest how it is they can sell so many kinds of products and make millions annually. From hours of captioning, what I have observed goes like this.

The head person of the company actually appears on the network programming (and I mean “the boss”) and they are passionate about their product. They eat it, sleep it, dream it, and whatever else comes to mind. It is their life. I have captioned an hour of a product that I had absolutely no use for, and at the end of the show, have been convinced that I can’t live without that product. That is advertising and marketing as its best. If someone can be passionate about cleaning supplies and vacuum cleaners, I better be passionate about my book. Otherwise, I am in trouble.

To sum up what was only going to be a few comments is this: You must believe in yourself, in what you are writing, and have a passion never to give up or compromise, and finally, to give your book every ounce of tender-loving care that you possibly can. Then it’s your job to be the best writer you can be. That might mean you need to hire an editor to help you. Then you need to do everything you can to be that excellent writer—attend writer’s conferences, enroll in writing classes, read books about writing, search the web for all the information you can find. And there is a lot of good, free information out there. Finally, you must have something in your book that will make a difference in people’s lives. It’s your job to convince everybody they can’t live without your book. I know that’s easier said than done. But with POD, you have that time. Your book never goes out of print.

Don’t forget, you need a good website, you need to have a blog, you need to be on social networking sites to connect with people, you need to be willing to get out and speak to the public about your book, and you need to get on as many free e-zines from marketing people as you possibly can. There is more I could write, but this is a start.

Am I discouraged I have only sold about two hundred books so far? Hardly. I have the rest of my life as a POD author. I am working on my next book in connection with my Master of Arts in Creative Writing, and look forward to “meeting” new people on the web, appearing on more radio shows, blogging about things that interest me, and sharing information like I am doing here. I have complete control over my book Children of Dreams, I love marketing, and as far as I am concerned, it doesn’t get much better than that. I truly believe the sales will come because I won’t give up. I am going to continue to write about the things I am passionate about, do what I can to promote good information that people can use, and because we live on a big planet, with the Internet, I know there are others out there that are interested in the same things I am. My job is to find them. It’s intriguing to me when I see people have visited my website from as far away as Japan and Israel.

If you have learned anything here, please let me know. Hopefully my reflections will help you to use your money more wisely in your own marketing campaign. Happy Writing and Marketing in 2010 and beyond.

You can visit my website at

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Beauty and Writing

It's interesting to me that Jesus never said in the Beatitudes, blessed are the beautiful, blessed are the popular, blessed are the smartest, or blessed are those who are the best--whether it be as a teacher, artist, carpenter or writer. But He did say, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

I have sensed in my spirit that when I am creating I am most like God than at any other moment. There is a subconscious link between the creative aspect of who we are and God. When we choose to glorify Him in that endeavor, the beauty is far greater than we could have created (or written) on our own. When our motives are tainted, we lose part of that beauty. By tainted, I mean for fame, money, popularity, or acceptance.

One thing that has struck me is I have scuba dived all over the world, and there is a good possibility I have seen things that no one else on earth has seen—beauty that surpasses anything that I could describe here. I wonder why God would create beauty that would only be seen by me, or create beauty that would never be seen by even one person. New species are being discovered every day in science, and if I were a betting woman, I would say there are hundreds if not thousands of things out there that are still not seen or known. If we ask ourselves that same question, it can lead to some profound answers. Why create beauty if no one else will see it, believe in it, appreciate it, pay us for it, or give us accolades?

It's because that is the way God is. We will always have the Audience of One, and if that Audience of One chooses to bring us recognition here, then we can be grateful for that. But I believe our rewards will be far greater in heaven if the beauty we create here is for Him, and maybe even more so if never appreciated by anyone, because the rewards we receive in heaven from our heavenly Father will dwarf anything that we could receive from man.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Empty Paper Tray

One night in a dream I stood before the Great Judge as He sat at the bench draped in His official black robe. The courtroom was immense and dark. I was all alone and stood quietly pondering my fate. As I waited to be sentenced for my unspecified crimes, my stenograph machine, set up before me as if I was to record the proceedings, began spitting out the record of my life—everything that I had ever done from the time I was born until that point.

Just as a court reporter writes it all down, my notes unraveled and overflowed from the paper tray faster and faster until the courtroom was covered in thousands of interconnected loops of stenograph paper strewn everywhere.

I knew I was condemned as I stood before the Great Judge. I wanted to fix all my mistakes, but I couldn't. It was too late and I had no defense. He was about to sentence me, but from the back of the darkened courtroom, a lone figure came forward and stood beside me. He was a towering individual, and I was covered by His shadow and enveloped by His omnipresence. Dare I look into His eyes? The room was empty, except for the three of us, and I suddenly recognized it was Jesus who now stood next to me at my darkest hour.

He approached the bench and there was a conference out of my hearing between the Audience of One. I wondered what the Masters of my future would decide; I knew I deserved death. The ugliness of my life was no secret to them. They knew every sin I had committed, every secret thought, every wasted action, every omission and commission of things of which I knew better.

Suddenly, as in a flash of lightning, the ream of stenograph paper rolled backwards on itself and disappeared. The paper tray was empty. The scroll of my life was "remembered no more." There was no record that could be made, no court reporter's notes, no transcript. It was whisked away in an instant.

Jesus stepped down from the bench and returned to stand beside me. Again, without warning, the reams of paper now quickly reappeared, as a tornado, unraveling and covering the Holy One’s body. The Master stood condemned, my dirty, stained stenograph paper wrapped around Him as garments of cloth. He was bound as if he were to be laid in a borrowed tomb—or a manger. He would take the punishment I deserved. No longer guilty, God redeemed me by His love.

I now stood before more than a righteous judge. I stood before the Audience of One. Love compelled Jesus and my Heavenly Father to remember no more my past vulgarities. For the joy set before Him, Jesus was escorted away in shame. It was Love that took my place, Love that covered my sin all recorded on stenograph paper that spoke of condemnation.

As we share the joy of the Christmas holidays, let’s remember Jesus is the reason for the season. Let’s keep Him in our traditions and celebrations as we adorn Christmas trees in colorful ornaments and exchange lavish gifts. The greatest treasures we give, however, may not be wrapped in Christmas tissue but rather in what we do—our forgiveness, joy, and love filled to the brim, poured out, and shared unselfishly. Let the light of Jesus burn brightly through the window of our heart.

May it begin with me—more patience, more time, more of everything I lack. If Jesus gave His all, maybe, just maybe, I can venture out of my own comfort zone. If I try to be more like Him, if I allow His Word to mold me, perhaps I can be the difference maker in my own world filled with the most precious lives I touch—my children, my family, my friends, my coworkers, and my neighbors.

Most of all, I want to remember what I have to be thankful for—and it begins with the empty paper tray. Because of Jesus, I can write the greatest story ever told, of how a baby came from Heaven to earth, born in a manger, wrapped in rags, and who redeemed me….Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gold and the Yellow Brick Road

A man tried to sell a one‑ounce Maple Leaf on a beach in a prominent section of town.

"Will you buy this gold coin for $50?"

"No, I don't have any money."

He approached a woman, "Would you like this Canadian coin for only $25?


"Why not?"

"I don't have $25."

"Suppose I offer this to you for free, will you take it?"

The woman turned it over and examined it.

"It's beautiful."

"Do you want it?"


No one recognized the value of the coin worth over $1,100. Have we become so fooled by paper money that we believe the counterfeit is worth more than gold?

A look at history might reveal a clue. During the Great Depression, governments around the world abandoned the gold standard. In 1933, Congress and President Roosevelt banned private ownership of gold and asked citizens to turn in their gold at the rate $35 per troy ounce-essentially robbing Americans of their wealth.

Although it became legal to own it again in the 1970's, the money changers (Federal Reserve Bank and central banks) suppressed its value to bolster the dollar and manipulated the system to their advantage.

Gold became worth less than the counterfeit because it was not considered currency. This enabled the Federal Reserve and the central banks around the world to control the vast money supply.

Gold, a precious metal, has been used by man since ancient times for commerce. He recognized it for what it was-rare and valuable; but today, gold can't even be identified on a beach by passersby.

The yellow brick road in "The Wizard of Oz" symbolized gold. It carved its way through a beautiful fairyland called Oz inhabited by Munchkins, but the fabled Land of Oz was overshadowed by evil witches. Perhaps today they would represent the self-serving money-changers, the greedy capitalists, or the Washington bureaucrats who recklessly spend our money but are mortgaging our children's future.

While counterfeits abound, God never abandons the true believer. The Good Witch of the North, Glenda, loved the Munchkins. God has given us His Holy Spirit.

"The mysterious Wizard of Oz might be able to help you to return home," Glenda and the Munchkins told Dorothy.

So Dorothy set off on the yellow brick road to meet the Wizard of Emerald City. Along the way she greets three friends who join her-sojourners in search of a brain, a heart, and a nerve.

But when they meet the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy discovers the horrible truth. The Wizard was an imposter. The dog Toto exposed him as a fraud.

Today, as in "The Return to Oz," our yellow brick road is crumbling, paved in green fiat money as financial establishments teeter on the brink of collapse.

In heaven, no longer will we be standing on broken yellow bricks. Our eyes will recognize the intrinsic worth of God's creation and the counterfeits of man-the idols, the liars, and the fakes. All except the pure will have vanished-not destroyed with water but with fire, as gold is refined by fire.

I hope to be like a Munchkin, but even more so. Heaven won't be inhabited by evil witches but angelic creatures that serve a risen Savior. God will be our King, not a cowardly wizard hiding behind a curtain. He will be dressed in kingly garb as He bathes us in His light. Neither will ruby slippers be able to bring us home. A deeper magic, more costly than gold, more valuable than riches, hewn from wood and thorns, will transport us. The counterfeit world left behind, Jesus will welcome us on a real yellow brick road richly paved in gold.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

There is a Coming Economic Earthquake

"It is hard to imagine any action that our government could take that would affect our economy more adversely than to attempt to nationalize our healthcare system. Not only has the Federal government demonstrated time and again its ineptness in controlling costs and operating anything efficiently but, in fact, they have continued to set the standards for inefficiency, bureaucracy, complexity, and cost.

“Look at any area the government has touched and see if you can say honestly it is cheaper, more efficient, and less complicated. If so, please write me so I can put the information in the next book.

“While other countries are desperately trying to privatize government run agencies to avert financial ruin, we are trying to socialize another one seventh of our whole economy!

“Based on what is happening in Washington today, I have concluded that no real changes are being made to bring Federal spending under control. Consequently, it is my conclusion that sometime prior to the end of this century, we will experience a severe financial downturn caused by taxes that are too high, too much debt, too much regulation, and too many Americans on government "dole."

“Perhaps this downturn (recession) will be precipitated by a stock market crisis, as in 1929, or perhaps the stock market crisis will follow the downturn. The two are not necessarily directly related.

“The recession will expand into a depression as businesses fail, unemployment rises, and consumer confidence plummets. Even so, taxes will be increased to feed an ever expanding program of government supplied entitlements. The government will soon exhaust the last available resources as they tax all benefits, raid retirement savings, and eliminate the remaining middle income deductions. Politicians will be caught in a Catch-22.

“The more they tax, the lower the net gain in taxes and the more Americans are put out of work. With fewer available wage earners to tax, taxes are raised again. Finally, when taxes and credit are exhausted, the government will resort to the ultimate debt reduction plan: Inflation—soon to be followed by hyperinflation, as the government attempts to print its way out of debt.

“I don't want to sound like an alarmist, but I do want to sound an alarm: This healthcare plan can destroy the foundation of our free enterprise system all by itself."

This could have been written by any number of pundits on television or radio for last night's financial news. But it wasn't. It was taken from Larry Burkett's book, The Coming Economic Earthquake, pages 249 and 250, published in 1994.

I read this book when it first came out in 1992, and I have to admit, I didn't believe that many of the things he wrote way back then would happen—at least in my lifetime. It took some finagling to even find the book on the Internet. But I remembered some of his predictions and wanted to go back and reread them.

Larry Burkett was a Christian economist predicting these things when no one else was listening. Let's take heed to his warnings. I pray that our Senate never passes this disastrous healthcare bill that will destroy our country and burden our children with taxes they won't be able to pay.

I am fifty-four years old and always felt like the economy was too complicated to understand. I wanted somebody else to worry about it and tell me where to put my money in my IRA.

But about two years ago I forced myself to start keeping track of all of my expenses and learned how to live on a budget. I began to reduce my standard of living in simple ways and this last year I have done everything I can to pay off all credit card debts. I am close to having my house paid for.

You soon learn what is hard to do without, and it won’t be what you might think. For me, it’s that Starbucks Latte that is far too expensive that I'm addicted to.

I urge you, open your eyes and realize things can't continue down this road. The first step is knowledge. I have posted a video on my website, “The Money Masters—How International Bankers Gained Control of America.” It's three hours long, but if you don't know this stuff, you should. I think of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, “…be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Get out of debt. Live within your means. Encourage your Senator to vote against this healthcare bill. Yes, we do need healthcare overhaul, but we can't afford to pay for the bill that was just passed by the House—especially a government healthcare plan that will ruin this country. If we aren't socialistic now, we will be with national healthcare. Worse than that, it will be rationed. Healthcare will be so expensive, the old folks won't be considered worth saving. And I, for one, would like to think I am entitled to whatever I might need in my old age.

We are headed for deflation, more inflation, or hyperinflation, depending on which economic guru you want to believe. The only people who seem to think there are no major problems with the economy are the Washington bureaucrats who don't tell the truth anyway.

Although I'm not sure when or how, I know God will judge us just as He has judged the nations that came before us when they turned from Him. Many factors come to mind but the two most egregious are the millions of babies that have been murdered (aborted) and greed, including the money changers, the bankers, the government, the mortgage holders, the insurance companies, the people buying houses they couldn't afford, the advertisers convincing the public to spend, spend, spend—think of all the clich├ęs; i.e., you deserve a break today.

Make the time to read, listen, and get informed about the economic issues and healthcare problems facing our country. Pray that God will show you what you can do to be ready for the inevitable—whatever that may be. By preparing now, God can use you to help others less fortunate down the road. The challenges may be as difficult as they were during the Great Depression or worse. As Larry Burkett wrote many years ago, there is a coming economic earthquake.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Prolife Adoption Pamphlet

Please remember to pray for the unborn, especially during this time of attack on our families. You can visit my website at for a downloadable free pamphlet on adoption, that might persuade a woman to place her baby for adoptiion instead of having an abortion.

For my daughter's 11th birthday, I gave her a kitten. If her birthmother had chosen to abort her, I wouldn't have Joy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Reflections on God

I wonder if God looks back to His creation when it was untarnished by pollution, unblemished by famine and disease, and not scarred by the ravages of war.

When unpolluted oceans bristled with life as He walked in the garden with Adam; when He created strange-looking creatures just for the sheer enjoyment of creating; when sunsets danced to colors our eyes cannot see and waterfalls beat to the pulse of His heart before we broke it; when rocks proclaimed His glory and flowers sang His praises; when life was found in everything and death did not exist; a world we have never known -- at least not yet.

A world that was and a world to come, joined by a tiny thread of love woven through the fabric of time. A remnant of His perfection is hidden in our DNA. The crust of earth beneath our feet gives hint to His creations from ages past. The stars that shine as angels in the night sky proclaim His lordship over every living creature. The winds that mount on eagles' wings fill the earth with His spirit of redemption. Even the animals know.

"Ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you, or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:7).

God longs to live within our heart. He shouts to us in our suffering. At the crossroads of who we are and who God desires for us to become, we are either consumed by evil or we are conquered by love. If our sinful thoughts lose their grip, evil will lose its power.

Some day God will fill in all of those cracks. But during our time here, He wants to prepare us for a better place; a place where we will be perfect, even as He is perfect.

God delights in the process of molding us. I take comfort in the fact that God wastes nothing and uses everything. Truly, no eye has seen or ear has heard what God has prepared for us. Our deepest hurts and failures will become God's fertile soil for something far greater than we could ever have imagined.

"...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us (Romans 5:3-5).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Monster Inside My Daughter

“I feel a pulse,” one of the medics said.

The paramedics worked feverishly on Manisha to make sure she was still alive. My beautiful seven-year-old daughter from Nepal lay on the floor unconscious at the O’Connell Center of the University of Florida.

“Has she ever had a seizure?” another one asked?

“No, no,” I said in bewilderment. Manisha rolled over and vomited.

One emotion consumed me: Fear. The enormity of single parenting hit me like lightening.

I cried out, “Where are you, God? I feel so alone.”

After hooking up stabilizing IV’s, Manisha was whisked off in an ambulance to Shands Teaching Hospital. I found a pay phone and called my mother. Her first comment was, “Do you know what day this is?”

I remembered—September 19. Four years to the day and almost to the hour, my father had died of a brain tumor. It was about 5:00 p.m. My shattered world continued to close in on me. A short time later my worst fears were confirmed.

“There is something on the CAT scan. We have a called a neurologist,” I heard the nurse say.

“No, no, no,” every cell in my body cried out. “God, you can’t let this happen. Not again!”

But God was silent. The next nine days of hospitalization were filled with tests—MRI, gallium scan, spinal tap, TB test, HIV test, numerous blood draws, and too many questions and not enough answers by doctors doing their daily rounds with medical students in tow. Manisha had what in medical parlance is called a “zebra.”

As the days passed in the hospital, I asked God for two things that humanly speaking seemed impossible. I prayed first that the doctors would not have to do surgery. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing Manisha’s beautiful thick, curly black hair shaved off. The ugly scars of surgery still lingered in my mind from my dad’s brain surgery. And I prayed that whatever was in Manisha’s head would not be cancerous. I had asked God to heal my father of a brain tumor and he died. Could I trust God for Manisha’s healing?

The next year we learned how to live a new normal as we adjusted to the reality of seizures. Questions concerning the correct diagnosis lingered. Following another seizure and a questionable MRI a year later, we traveled to Connecticut so Manisha could be personally examined by one of the world’s leading experts in pediatric infectious disease at the New Haven Hospital, Yale College of Medicine. Dr. Margaret Hostetter put together a team of scientists to consult on Manisha’s case, including Dr. Patricia Wilkins at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and Dr. Clinton White, Chief of Infectious Disease at Baylor College of Medicine. The diagnosis had been narrowed down to two things: The lesion on the MRI was either a cancerous brain tumor or something known as neurocysticercosis. While both are monsters, I hoped that it was neurocysticercosis because anything was better than cancer—even a parasitic infection.

Manisha had been adopted by me from Nepal at the age of three—old enough to be exposed to the extreme poverty of Nepal and lack of clean drinking water. 57.1 percent of the water in Nepal is considered unsatisfactory for human consumption, contaminated with feces, according to a paper written by Kiran Sapkota, MS, which will be presented in November 2009 at the Annual Meeting and Expo sponsored by the American Public Health Association.

Neurocysticercosis is the most common parasitic infection of the nervous system. It is caused by the larvae of the tapeworm, Taenia solium, normally found in pork. The eggs of the tapeworm are shed in stools and then ingested. The eggs end up in the stomach where they lose their protective capsule and turn into larvae. The larvae can then travel anywhere in the body—the muscles, brain, eye, and other structures. Years later, when the larval cysts die in the brain, edema occurs which sets up an inflammatory response in the form of seizures. In Manisha’s case, the worms would have traveled from the intestines to her brain where they died, causing edema and infection. It was hard to believe that something that foreign could live inside her little body and cause seizures almost five years later.

Neurocysticercosis is still a relatively rare condition in this country, but increasingly is appearing on the radar as part of the differential diagnosis for seizures because of the increase in international travel from third-world countries. As more children are adopted from Nepal and other poor, impoverished nations, adoptive parents need to make sure their children are dewormed as soon as they arrive. Had Manisha been dewormed, the eggs, larvae and any worms in her body would have been killed.

Thankfully, eleven years later, Manisha is a well-adjusted 18-year-old just finishing high school and taking college classes. While the doctors at that time were never able to confirm she had neurocysticercosis, they were able to eliminate every other cause and felt with reasonable medical certainty that is what she had. Even a new, more sensitive test developed by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta was negative for neurocysticercosis. I had to trust God not to worry and trust the doctors with their medical expertise. Now, having been seizure-free for over eight years with no other symptoms, the diagnosis of neurocysticercosis is certain.

Why did God allow this “nightmare” to happen? I don’t know why God allows the hard things in our lives, but I do know God never wastes anything. Everything in our life He uses to draw us to Himself if we will listen to His voice inside of us. I hope writing about neurocysticercosis today with sound an alarm for all international adoptive parents to seek appropriate medical care for their newly adopted children from Nepal. Neurocysticercosis is treatable and oftentimes a preventable condition with awareness and deworming upon arrival.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy.”

I claimed Proverbs 13:12 when I adopted Manisha from Nepal, and I gave her the middle name “Hope.” That night when Manisha lay in the emergency room when all hoped seemed lost, I quoted this passage to the doctors as they worked on her. Later that evening as Manisha peacefully lay in her hospital bed and my heart was so heavy, God spoke to me in an almost audible voice. He said it twice: “Manisha will be okay. Lori, Manisha will be okay.” My only regret is that I wasn’t a better listener.

My faith was severely tested. I learned how weak I am and how much God’s word means to me. I learned how much my Christian friends loved me. I learned the meaning of prayer and its power in my life. I learned to live one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. I learned never to take my children for granted. They belong to God. I learned to have more compassion for others going through severe trials. I learned no matter what happened, my love for God would never waiver. If God was all I had, God was sufficient. And most importantly, I learned where there is life, there is hope.

I did not believe God brought Manisha here from a half a world away only to die at seven. God’s hand was on her and He brought her here for a far nobler purpose. When calamities face us and fears overwhelm us, may we remember that God is greater than all our worries. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will always be there.

As I reflect on how hard the teenage years have been, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness in bringing my daughter to me from Nepal and healing her from the horrors of seizures. In spite of the trials of single parenting, the years following that dreadful day of September 19, 1994, have been filled with life and joy just as I quoted to the doctors that night when she lay on a gurney hooked up to I.V.s. Manisha soon will be leaving home to make her own way in the world and I reflect on her middle name Hope—with God, there is always hope, and for that I am thankful.

For more on Manisha’s story, read Children of Dreams, available at, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstores.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Galatians 3:26-29: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

While the media tries to make us think diversity will make our country stronger and help us to be more tolerant of each other, quite the contrary is true. When diversity is used to show differences between people, it divides.

On 9/11 when our nation was attacked, the people of New York came together in a way that was totally unprecedented. It didn’t matter if you were black, white, wealthy or poor, people wanted to help each other because they were hurting.

In the Middle East, differences in race and ethnicity keep people apart. Oftentimes diversity does not draw people together; it divides.

In Christ, we are one in the spirit. We are all part of God’s family. Whenever I meet a fellow Christian, whether I am in Florida, Asia, or Australia, everything else about that person takes a back seat. I know we are one in Christ and that I am speaking to a brother or sister in Christ.

No country has ever survived when diversity was emphasized over the unity of the people. As we stray further and further away from the Judeo-Christian principles on which our country was founded, it’s only a matter of time before “diversity” undermines enough of the fabric of our country that we can no longer stand. No longer united as “One Nation Under God,” what will we become?

God made us all unique and special, but we are part of one body – the body of Christ. Once we elevate diversity above unity, we risk catastrophic consequences. In Luke 11:17, Jesus said, "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall."

Jesus Christ is the most divisive person that ever lived. He separated the believers from the unbelievers, and His divisiveness confounded the leaders of his day. But the unity of the believers became the cornerstone of His Church. Can we see unity and diversity through God’s eyes; as Jesus did 2000 years ago? He knew men’s hearts, and He knew what was in a man. That is the challenge set before us. May God grant us the ability to see diversity in light of the unity of Christ.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blessed be Nothing

My grandmother used to say, "Blessed be nothing." It's the "things" we hold on to that keep us from seeking the Lord. But maybe this recession can be a wakeup call that we can get by on a lot less than we think, and we can seek the Lord not to bless us with more, but to bless us with nothing but Him. May our desires find fulfillment in the only wise God who can truly satisfy the cravings of our eternal soul.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Are Americans So Afraid of Orphans?

Why Are Americans So Afraid of Orphans?

Why do the marketers of the movie “Orphan” think it will scare people?

In this country alone there are over 500,000 children in the foster care system. Worldwide, the U.N. estimates there are more than 145 million orphans. To put this into a number easier to understand, my oldest daughter, Manisha, now 18, was adopted from Nepal when she was three. The estimated population of Nepal is around 28 million. That means there are over four times as many orphans in the world as there are people in her native country.

Expressed another way, the population of the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 21, 2009, is 306,969,874. That means the number of orphans in the world equals half the population of our country.

If the word “orphan” is searched on Google today, the first two listings are for the movie “Orphan.” What a lost opportunity to speak the truth in love! The Wikipedia definition is third: “An orphan is a child permanently bereaved of its parents.”

The real horror is not that the movie portrays orphans as monsters. It’s the number of children that will be hurt by this disturbing message. The movie "Orphan" is only going to reinforce in the hearts and minds of individuals that orphans are damaged goods at best, monsters at worse.

Those who have thought about adopting may have second thoughts, plagued with fears and doubts. Children and teenagers who have been adopted and hear about or see the movie might be tempted to question their own self‑worth or value. Orphans who might have been adopted may not be because of the ill‑conceived notion, perpetuated by this movie, that they are “bad.”

“Orphan” is a sad commentary on Hollywood, our society, and a tragic statement of the culture we live in. A world where money is the bottom line and sensationalism tickles the ears of gullible listeners—let it not be at the expense of those who are the least fortunate. Instead, as in the words of flight director, Gene Kranz, as portrayed in the movie “Apollo 13,” when everyone doubted that the space program would be able to bring those doomed astronauts home, he stood up and said, “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”

I challenge every American, particularly those who are Christians, to look beyond the movie at the real horror—the little one who has no one to call mommy or daddy; the baby who goes to bed at night with a protruding, empty belly; the 145 million children around the world who, through no fault of their own, have lost their parents to AIDS, malnutrition, poverty, and violence.

Although all orphans have needs, some more than others, they are not monsters. They are children with beating hearts, sticky fingers, and minds full of unleashed potential. They just need to be given a chance. They are children made in the image of Christ and loved by the heavenly Father.

Rather than attacking the movie, let's join together and rewrite the script of “Orphan.” Give an orphan a chance to worship in our church and synagogue. Invite one to sit down at the dinner table. Help all of them to be educated in our schools. Let us change the negative image of an orphan one life at a time. Let us encourage them to dream big dreams and become everything God created them to be. Most of all, let us show the world that they are loved, just as Christ loved us.

If it were not for God's unconditional love, we would all be orphans. If we unite, we can send a far different message to Hollywood. We can speak for those little ones that sit in overcrowded orphanages and wait. And hope.

Through God's love, let us love until we feel their pain. Only then can we make a difference. Let us not let Hollywood have the last word. Truly, we can become the hand of God as we touch one of His own. Let it begin with me. Orphans Deserve Better. Let this be “our finest hour.”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What do Beavis and Butt-Head have to do with Jesus?

Last week I took my ten and a half‑year‑old daughter, Joy, to Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia, for a special overnight mother‑daughter trip. After spending the night in a comfortable hotel, we arrived shortly after opening at 10:30 in the morning with hot Georgia sunshine beating down and wet, humid air soaking our skin. As we lathered on the sunscreen and headed toward the gated entrance, I hoped there would be lots to do besides get sick on roller coaster rides. We were already dripping with perspiration by the time we got to the water park.

At Splash Island we found a haven from the heat and climbed up the voluminous steps to ride on the Kalani Blasters, two sets of slides that intertwined and lasted thirty seconds, dumping the rider into a large, cool pool at the bottom. As Joy and I waited our turn in the long line at the top holding an oversized inner tube, a little boy who couldn't have been much older than three forced his way through the crowded line and positioned himself at the top of the open flume. He wanted to be the next rider down.

I looked around and thought to myself, where is this kid's parent? What is he doing cutting in line? I wasn't sure whether to speak up as I was in shock at his boldness to ignore all the others waiting patiently ahead of him. After several seconds when it was obvious he wasn't leaving, several politely spoke to the young boy, "You must wait your turn. You can't break in line like that."

The same sentence was repeated to him several more times. I added my few words, too, just to support the others who had already spoken. The boy just stood there.

The park attendant who had been monitoring the flume looked up and saw what had happened. He spoke loudly to the young boy, "You must go to the back of the line. You must wait your turn."

Everyone gently encouraged him to leave but he continued to ignore us. I looked around for his parents again who were no where. He had brought the entire procession of sliding down the open flume to a complete halt as he stood there defying the world.

Finally, the little boy got the point that nobody in the line was going to let him break in front. He dejectedly headed to the back to wait his turn.

I said to Joy, "He might be cute, but he's not that cute." We all looked at each other thinking the same thing. Something is missing from this picture—the parent.

Later that afternoon, when Joy and I had our full of the water, we headed over to the dreaded roller coasters. While Joy enjoyed getting dizzy and spinning and being centrifuged to oblivion—after all, she is a gymnast—I held on and tried not to die. My stomach screamed even louder. Fortunately I did survive to live another day.

Our final event was the Gold Rush, a smaller, family-sized roller coaster which Joy talked me into riding. I hope it will be my last one. Of course, I said that the last time at Disney when she talked me into experiencing the Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I will spare you the bodily details on that one. If you are curious, you can watch it on YouTube—the full three minutes and eighteen seconds worth.

I stepped through the car of the Gold Rush and exited out the other side to place our personal belongings in a holding compartment. As I returned to my spot behind Joy, two wide‑eyed blond‑headed young girls were sitting in my seat.

All the other cars were full and everyone was waiting for me. I spoke to the little girls who might have been about eight years old, "You have taken my seat. You will have to wait till the next time to ride. My daughter is in front of you and I'm riding this with her."

They stared at me but refused to budge.

So I tried again. "I was setting our belongings in the storage compartment. You need to let me have my seat back."

Unflinching they continued to stare. Joy stared, too.

I said it again, this time a little louder. By this time I had gained everyone's complete, undivided attention and felt all eyes glued on me, but I wasn't going to give in.

"I'm sorry, but you have taken my seat. That is my daughter in front of you and I am riding with her."

Then one of the little girls yelled at me, "You mean you're not going to let me ride with my sister?"

"No, I am not." I glanced over at the other people waiting impatiently, one lady in particular. Are those her kids, I wondered? Nobody came to my rescue. I said it again more loudly, "You are in my seat. I was putting my stuff over here and you need to get out of my seat."

Finally, they reluctantly got out. The Gold Rush ride attendant walked over and seemed to be happy that the confrontation had ended peacefully without his becoming involved.

Then he added, "And you can't ride the Gold Rush with only a swimming suit top. You must have a shirt on." The girls looked at him disgustedly and promptly walked away.

I took my seat and enjoyed the easy ride thinking about the famous comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, who used to say, "I get no respect."

After the Gold Rush roller coaster ended, the young lady who had been watching the conversation intently between us asked, "Do you know those kids?"

"No, I don't." She shook her head in amazement as she walked away.

I thought about these two incidents at the park later. Where were the parents? After all, these were young kids. I didn't let my ten and a half-year‑old out of my sight and these children were much younger than my own daughter. And how could these kids have such disrespect for authority and adults? Perhaps the answer is no further away than the Beavis and Butt‑head show I had captioned a couple weeks earlier that was broadcast on MTV-2. Let me share some script from the episode that aired on June 17, 2009. Brace yourself.

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In the 1960's there was a hit song with a profound message, where have all the flowers gone? I wonder today, forty years later in 2009, where have all the parents gone? Where has all decency gone? Where are our children and teens learning their values—from MTV 2's Beavis and Butt-head? I hope not. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:15: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child." If parents don't teach and guide their children, they will get their values from somewhere. Opportunities abound for the evil one to snatch up our precious little ones and hurt them.

The words of Jesus are vastly different than the script of Beavis and Butt-head. His words do not degrade our bodies created in His image, diminish our self-worth for whom He paid the ultimate price, or tear holes in the fabric of our hearts that need healing. Jesus is our ultimate example of love. He admonished his disciples in Mark 10:14: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:16 tells us, "...and he [Jesus] took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."

These references and many others translate into "time." Jesus took time. We must take time to be with our children. Not just take them somewhere and drop them off for a day and leave them to their own devices. As a single mother, if I don't take that time, who will?

I don't want to leave the reader with an uninspired view of today's parenting world. As Jesus often did in His parables, I want to give "the other part of the story."

It was Mother's Day morning and I was on my way into the adult class for Sunday school when I received this text message: "I want to wish you a happy Mother's Day."

I did not recognize the name or the phone number. I sat through the entire Sunday school class reminiscing about who had sent me such a wonderful text message. My two daughters had already made me feel special but to receive a message from somebody I didn't know wishing me a happy Mother's Day lifted my spirits even more. I felt very special to have been remembered by an unknown person.

Later that afternoon my curiosity got the better of me and I text messaged back the person, "Who are you? I don't recognize your name."

As it turned out, a young girl had tried to text message her aunt and had mis-entered the number and I received her text. We sent many messages back and forth sharing the blessedness of Mother's Day and how much we appreciated our mothers and aunts and how we had quite so unexpectedly met in cyberspace. My daughters were quite amused at the flurry of words that were exchanged. I was sad when the text messages finally ended. A parent had taught their child how to love and the blessing had been "text‑messaged" to me.

I want my children to be a blessing to others. I don't want someone to look at my children and say, "I get no respect." It's wonderful when a parent unabashedly tells you, "Your child is a joy to have overnight at our house."

After a day at the Wild Adventures Park and seeing three children who did not know the meaning of respect, I am convicted of my need more than ever to be a loving mom. That translates into time. That might mean riding more roller coasters and flumes. Hopefully, at another time and place, a person standing next to one of my daughters won't be thinking, where is this kid’s parent? More importantly, I will be where God wants me to be, and it won't be captioning Beavis and Butt-head. I look forward to pushing the delete button and sending those nasty words to the recycle bin. That show needs more than recycling. Our children deserve better.