Today is my birthday, July 28th. My heart is smiling, thinking about my son’s last birthday and what God put in place to build a special memory of that day for my family and so much more. Like ripples from a stone being tossed into a pond, we might not get to see all the ripples that happen from a special event orchestrated by God… but it is a joy discovering some of those ripples. So far, I have seen two giant ripples – one for my family and one for the Heffernan family. I hope to learn from others about ripples I have yet to see…
Here is the stone that God cast to start these ripples. It is the stone of timing for my book.
I planned to have my Anchor Moments book launch on April 11th, at 11 a.m. While I was doing my final edits, I told all my family and friends that was going to be my launch date.
My husband, Jeff, researched how to format my manuscript into a Kindle ebook as well as how to format my book into a paperback. He put both versions up on Amazon on March 22nd and chose April 11th as the launch day, allowing the books to be pre-ordered. It takes Amazon a couple of days to check the content to be sure the files are submitted correctly and print-ready. On March 23rd, my Kindle ebook version was approved, and it was available for preorder on Amazon. My heart was so full of joy to see my book listed on Amazon for the first time! I was finally truly an author!
The next evening while having dinner with friends after Mass, we got an email from Amazon that my paperback was also approved! Father John Coleman was with us that night and ordered dessert for all of us to celebrate! When we got home, Jeff ordered eleven books at the wholesale price to be delivered to us. We were so excited!
The next morning, while I was having breakfast at Mimi’s Cafe with my friend, Stormy Rose, my husband called me to tell me that my paperback version was actually live. It could be ordered and delivered to people within a couple of days.
“That is too soon! I haven’t had time yet to promote it!” I told Jeff with dread in my heart.
A sweet stranger named Russ, walked up to our table and told me, “I am sorry but I couldn’t help overhearing you. I have published eight bestsellers on Amazon, and my advice is to take it down. You never publish a paperback before an ebook because you need book reviews in order to have a successful launch. You get a launch team together before the launch and send them your manuscript first. That way, they can read it and when your Kindle version launches, they can quickly order it and write a review for you. This will help you have a successful launch.”
He also recommended a book to read by Gundi Gabrielle, Publish a #1 Bestseller in the next 30 Days.
He wished me luck, either way.
I talked it over with Jeff and Stormy. Realizing that the next day was my son Jacob’s 20th birthday, we decided to not take the early-released book down. Instead, we decided to promote it by creating a special hashtag, #SurpriseJacob, and ask our family and friends who may want to purchase the book if they would do so on Jacob’s birthday before 6 p.m. Then, we could surprise him at his birthday dinner with news that his mom’s book was released early and hit number one bestseller in at least one category.
Our friends and family love Jacob, and knowing that he is such a sweet soul and this would make him smile, they bought my book.
On Jacob’s birthday, March 26th, I posted stories on social media about Jacob encouraging me to finish my book, including him giving me a fancy pen for Christmas. “It is for signing your books, Mom!”
My book started climbing in rank quickly to third or fourth place in a few hot new release categories, just behind bestselling authors Joan Chittister and former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (who had recently passed away). It was exciting and a nail-biter because we were at third place right before having to leave to pick up Jacob. My husband Jeff was refreshing his computer screen and looked up to heaven and said, “Justice Scalia, you are in heaven right now. You do not need money from the sales of your book. Can you please ask Jesus to let Gina pass you up right now so we can surprise Jacob with his mom hitting number one bestseller on his birthday? Gina is even giving a dollar from each book sold to help CeCe’s Hope Center whose mission is to help young woman ages 18 to 24 who have experienced severe sexual trauma.”
Seconds after Jeff’s plea, at about five minutes before leaving for ASU, my Anchor Moments book hit #1 in Conflict Management! My husband and I cheered! Jeff took a screen shot and printed it out so we could write on it as my son’s birthday card. I thanked Jacob for being my inspiration to finish writing this book because of his encouragement. (We also put a birthday check in the card as well.)
When we picked up Jacob from ASU, we let him pick the restaurant of his choice for dinner. He picked our family favorite, Floridino’s! At dinner, we gave Jacob his birthday surprise and check. Jacob was proud of me… and you know, this memory of him being excited and so supportive will live in my heart forever!
When we got home from dinner that night, my book also hit #1 Hot New Release in two more categories, Family Conflict Resolution and Self-Help Books for Catholics.
Number one hot new release in Family Conflict Resolution!
Number one New Release in Self Help for Catholics!
Surprising Jacob and sharing a special family moment together was not the only reason why God launched my book a few weeks early. God soon showed me a second ripple.
There is a picture on page six in my book of when Jeff and I got married at St. Andrew’s Church in 1990. I took classes to become Catholic when Jeff and I were engaged. Jeff gave me my First Communion on my wedding day while I was wearing my white gown and veil. Also in that photo, behind the altar, was our altar server, John Heffernan. He and his family belonged to St. Andrew’s parish. When John was a first grader five years earlier, Jeff was his school teacher – in the first class Jeff ever taught. It was so neat to have John as part of our wedding!
This year, Jeff and I have been married for twenty-nine years. When I wrote the first chapter of my book and included that picture, John Heffernan was 43 years old. A month later, we got sad news that John passed away in his sleep from a heart condition that no one knew he had. It was such a sad shock. Jeff was asked to do a reading at John’s funeral because Jeff was one of John’s favorite teachers. Jeff was honored to do it.
I am Facebook friends with John’s sister, Kelly Heffernan Munoz. That is how Kelly was able to quickly give us the sad news about John passing and details of the funeral.
Fast-forward to the week my book “accidentally” launched early… Kelly Heffernan Munoz contacted me again on Facebook Messenger and asked me if I would like to attend her daughter’s confirmation at St. Gregory’s Church in Apache Junction. I told her we would be honored to attend.
Towards the end of the confirmation ceremony, the Bishop asked us to hold up our gifts for the students to be blessed. It was exciting to hold up my gift bag for Meghan knowing the Bishop was calling on God to caress and bless these gifts with love.
Then after the ceremony, we hugged the Heffernan family. They had a beautiful green heart balloon with them. They asked my husband and I if we knew what the balloon represented.
“We knew Uncle John would have wanted to be here today. This balloon represents Uncle John, and it is green because St. Patrick’s Day was his favorite holiday.”
I could feel God hugging my heart. I asked, “Would you mind if Meghan opens up her gift from us here right now instead of at the party at your house?”
They smiled and said, “Sure!” as we walked out to the church courtyard.
I gave Meghan a locket full of charms and one of my first batch of eleven freshly-printed Anchor Moments books. I asked her to turn to page six. (Her family did not know that John’s picture was in my book.) I told her to look at the date under the picture. “March 17, 1990.” St. Patrick’s Day! Meghan and her family gasped with surprise to see John’s picture, and tears of bittersweet love filled their eyes.
This was on March 31st. My book was not supposed to launch until April 11th.
I truly believe that John Heffernan asked God to help get my book published a few weeks early so that his sweet niece, Meghan, could get a bishop-blessed copy of my book at her confirmation. That way Meghan would know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Uncle John loves her and is in heaven looking over her life. Never truly leaving her… watching over her… and always loving her while in the presence of our ever-loving God.
Sometimes we can’t pick the timing of events. Sometimes they happen on God’s time, and God’s time is always right on time!
If you received a copy of my paperback book on or before April 11th, know that God wanted you to have that book early. If it touched your heart in a special way, please comment in the comment section below or write to me at LaBenzPress@gmail.com. It would be a blessing and special birthday gift to hear about any ripples that came from the stone God tossed launching my book early. (Or even if you received my book after April 11th and it touched your heart, please let me know.)
I wish everyone who reads this Anchor Moments blog or my book, or watches or appears on my Anchor Moments show on CWWN.tv or HSBN.tv many blessings of joy and peace!
Thank you, God, for letting me experience some of the ripples of your love and gifting me another year on this planet!