Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Falling for Italy

Hubby and I have returned home from a spectacular tour of Italy.

The theme of this trip, I can't help but say it:  I'm falling for Italy!

I can't limit my tales of this gorgeous county to one post. I'm devoting my November newsletter to our adventures and will tell more in a few blogs. This is a trip I'd take again in a heartbeat. Definitely. The people. The language. The food. The art. The history. Wow!!

While I'm doing the laundry and getting over jet lag I'll leave you with:

Photo Courtesy


Photo Courtesy

Romance on the water

Photo Courtesy


Photo Courtesy

a time in history



These photos are bringing tears of great memories. I can't wait to upload my own photos.

What place in Italy have you wanted to see?

The laundry will be done for next Tuesday's post.

Friday, October 21, 2016

If Only I Had a Spare Moment, I'd...

Karen Schravemade is my friend from Australia. I love the way she says, "Mom". Karen is living a life many young moms do: several young children, developing a career, volunteering, and all the other things mom's pack into a day. Come read her honest and encouraging words...ripe for anyone with a busy schedule.

A Childhood Dream

My dream of becoming a writer began as a child. I loved books from the very start, but I vividly remember the moment when I first realised I could be a shaper of stories rather than just a passive recipient.

"Mum," I asked, "where do the storybooks come from?"

"People write them," she replied.

Those simple words sparked something revolutionary inside my little-girl brain. Right then and there, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

I wanted to write stories.

That dream has stayed with me from childhood, and I've never wavered from it. That doesn't mean there haven't been times of discouragement along the way. 

The road to publication has not been easy. But that's a very good thing. It's forced me to become a better writer. To hone my craft. To develop as a person, with a deeper understanding of what makes us human - the common heart-cries that bind us together, no matter how different we may appear."

And along the way, I've grown to understand that while God may call us to something, it's our job to grow into that calling. To take our raw talent and shape it into something worthwhile, then offer it back to Him for His glory.

I have two small boys a toddler girl and a baby boy. I juggle part-time work with being a stay-home Mum, and all the pressures that come with both roles. I'm a wife, a mother, a teacher a friend, and a daughter of God trying to walk the journey of faith as best I can in the midst of life's everyday craziness.

I'm also a writer of inspirational women's fiction.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the various responsibilities in my life. Many people have told me they set their writing aside for a season while their children were small.

 It's made me think - is it really possible to juggle personal dreams alongside the responsibilities of motherhood and do both well?

Before having children, I use to dream about writing acclaimed novels in my spare time. Now I dream about having spare time, and my greatest ambition is to get a full night sleep.

In the end, my prayer had been that God would show me what he desires for my life in this season. Not what other people think is doable or achievable. Not what I think I can comfortably handle. But what he wants me to do.

Meanwhile, I'll keep holding onto that childhood dream, knowing that God plants gifts and passions into our lives for a reason. I may not yet have seen the fulfilment of that dream, but I know one day it will come to pass, as long as I never give up on the seed God planted in my heart all those many years ago.

Visit her website: http://www.karenschravemade.com
Or her mummy-blog: http://ahousefullofsunshine.blogspot.com.au/

How have you grown into the calling God has given you? What questions can we help you with?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

There Were These Three Herons Walking Down The Road

Photo by Vee family

There were these three herons walking down the road one day.

Oh, the chatter. Good grief. Like old men swapping stories exaggerating, and one-upping each other mostly about the biggest fish caught.

One said "I've been to Italy."

Photo Courtesy
The Second said, "No way. Do you realize how far Italy is from here? You can't fly that far."

One said: Yes I can. See how sleepy my eyes look?

The Third one said: If you really went there, tell us what fish you ate.

One stood still, his eyes swaying to the side. "I had the nicest waiter bring a platter of shrimp and scampi. They were served in the shell and with the heads still on. So juicy. That was my first day. Well, you can see why I chose to stay for a few more days."

The Second said: "Were they served fresh?"

One: "I couldn't have plucked them from the water any fresher."

Third leaned closer: "What else did you eat?"

One bent his beak to his feathers and wiped drool: "Let's see, there was an Albacore tuna confit. "

Second: "Longfin tuna? I love that!"

One:  "I was treated like a Caesar. with a plate of rustic, roasted red mullet fillet, served on a bed of potatoes, fennel, olives, capers, and parsley. The right amount of salt, garlic, I can still taste it." 

Third: You mean you were treated like a mob boss, right?

One: No. Sheesh. Then I had sea bass with celeriac puree, wild sorrel, and a smoked sauce. 

Second: The sauce looks like spit!

One: Cut it out. It's suppose to look like sea foam. That's all right, I was the one who tasted the sweetness, the smokey clams in the sauce. Unbelievable."

Third: "Stop! You're killing me."

One shouting at second who is running away: "Hey, where're you going?"

This post has been brought to you by the one word: GeezersInItaly

Friday, October 14, 2016

Not Erased By Rejection

Angie Dicken wrote a great piece. She is a great friend and an author with a debut release in a year. I'm so excited for her success. I'm sure you'll be blessed. Leave her a comment at the end to encourage, empathize, or chat.

Not Erased By Rejection

Six years ago, I was preparing for my first writer's conference. 

It has been quite a journey for me as a writer. And I thought I'd share what I've learned along the way.

I walked away from my first conference with an agent's request for some chapters. It gave me hope that my dream of getting published was tunneling ahead and God's mighty hand was blessing me quickly. Certainly I had discovered my calling and found the door to success.

And then came rejection. As quick as the blessing pushed me forward, the rejection pulled me back. 

Whoa. My writing needed some work, and the agent was kind enough to point out specifics. Yeah, It hurt.

“What was the point of that blessing, God?”

Fast forward to the next spring, and a new novel which I submitted to contests. It semi-finaled in the ACFW Genesis contest and finaled in the RWA/FHL Touched by Love contest. Yes! 

That little blessing months before may have ended in rejection, but I received some advice, some experience and finally arrived in the writing world...for sure this time, right?

I took my newest novel to the next conference, sure that blessings would abound. I had discovered “how” to write, hadn't I? Spurred on by the first agent's rejection, and learning techniques and tricks of the trade over the year, I had a polished almost-award-winning novel in hand.

And I got one request, then two, then three. I left that conference with blessing upon blessing knowing this was surely it.

Over that next year, I received a few more requests and a few more rejections. I received some pretty harsh critiques, and I very nearly threw in the towel.

“Alright, God, what is it with these empty blessings?”

With each request, I was sure God guided and opened a door for me. And when rejection followed, I doubted that God was behind any of this at all, and it was just a luck of the draw, a fun hobby that I had put too much time and effort into.

Ashley and Angie
I was knocked to the floor with humility and discouragement. Calling? What calling? Just foolish dream chasing. But, my “angels” picked me up and righted my heart toward reality. Those angels are my writing besties...the Alley Cats including my crit partner, Ashley. With their words of wisdom, I began to understand two things that prepared me not just for this writing journey, but for life in general:

Blessings are just stepping stones to something grander, AND, God's timing is perfect.

It was easy for me to focus on the rejections and doubt I was truly being led by God. Yet, with prayer and camping in God's word, I have come to understand that those blessings of requests were not erased by rejection, but the rejections were blessings also. 

In James 1:1-4  it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

All along, I have been hopping from stepping stone to stepping stone, refining my perseverance. Sometimes I have failed in this test of faith, sometimes I have focused too much on the trial and not God, but in the end, I have submitted to Him who has my best interest in mind.

What a waste of a calling if I published the novel I intended to be my debut. That was not God's plan. And now that I look back on my writing from that first conference, heat crawls up my neck and my face turns a deep shade of red. How could I have thought my writing was ready?

Angie is a historical author
and  especially enjoys Lady Jane era.
This is her Lady Jane costume

The next conference I will continue to equip myself with a few of my favorite things: My one sheet (one of my favorites because I love graphics!), my pitch (the actress in me needs lines!), and the most important thing—a shimmering pool amidst my stepping stones of perseverance—a verse:

            “...the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.

His peace is the best blessing I have received so far. It gives me the strength and courage to follow, even in the trials. The greatest blessing of all, is knowing that He has me right where He wants me, and all I have to do is take the next step.

Mary here: Since then, Angie signed with an agent AND her really awesome news: Angie received a book contract. I'm so excited for her!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When In Rome..A Saying That Speaks of Respect

I read a brochure about Rome. 

Photo by Mary Vee

Apparently the locals feel disrespected when Americans visit dressed in what we'd consider typical apparel. Jeans, tee, clothes we'd wear to a mall, park, even on a train or airplane. 

Actually, most Americans like jeans and a tee/shirt but will dress up for certain occassions like a fancy restaurant, certain conferences, church, weddings, etc. 

I don't think Italians look down on American's apparel as much as they see a person who has not taken the time or consideration to research what the appropriate wear is for a given setting like touring Rome. 

Seeing from the brochure that most Italians living in Rome wear nice clothes like sports coat for guys and a dress for girls, hubby and I decided to invest in giving respect. 

I went to several dress stores and found the prices astronomically high. To stay within our budget and yet still show respect, I chose, instead, to go to a fabric store, pick out several patterns and fabric, and make my dresses. (I haven't sewn anything in...um...well, I'll just say years.

To me, choosing to visit Italy required me to "when in Rome" rather than expect Italians to accept me the way I prefer to dress in America. I'm excited to see the Coliseum and other famous places. I'd like to blend in with the people as much as possible to absorb the culture. Also, to prepare, I've taken some free crash courses to learn basic Italian. All to show my respect for the people of Italy.

I've finished two dresses and hoping to finish two more. 

I'm so excited to wear them when I go to Italy.

What the people of Italy are asking is not so much. It's a consideration kinda thing.

Our God shows us respect everyday. He created the world and people then engaged in his creation. He greets us with God art sunrises and says good night with God art sunsets. He provides rain for the crops...well, you know the huge list that can fill volumes, including giving Adam the job of naming the animals. All to show us He is thinking of us...is engaged in our lives...He even left his home in heaven to live thirty years among us. A time when He felt hunger, sadness, joy, laughter, sorrow, rejection, and everything we experience. He knows what we feel. He understands. He loves us.  He cares. God is actively involved in our lives. This is respect.

So, what is the point other than we should respect others? 

Well...maybe...and this is just a thought...maybe we shouldn't expect respect from others if we don't first give respect.

Yeah...I needed these words myself. 

I hope you have an amazingly wonderful, spectacular day...so much so you find yourself laughing.

This post has been brought to you by the one word-Respect

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Necessary Life Compass

Hubby and I like to take off on odd day trips. We usually set a destination, avoid all maps of any sort and drive in the general direction of the end point...often having to turn around at dead end roads...but also seeing some pretty awesome sites no one would see from the main road. The one rule we've kept was to have a compass in the car. We didn't want to get lost...just find a creative way to get to our destination.

Today, Cindy Wilson will share her creative journey...not the direct route, but the one God intended.

It Was Meant to Be

If you would have asked me ten years ago to write a post about myself or my writing journey, it would not have included the words “God” or “right path” or “blessing” or “Christ-like.” 

I was a mom in my early twenties who loved to write and tried to live a moral life without the necessary compass. God.

I hadn’t been raised in the church, my parents didn’t go to church, and we didn’t talk about the Bible or God or even God. And yet I loved to write and knew that something had placed that passion inside of me.

When I became a Christian at the age of twenty-five, I’d already written four novels, gotten an agent and thought I was well on my way to wowing the world with my writing skills. And it all changed in the blink of an eye. 

I felt like I had to start over again. I’d never even read a Christian novel before, let alone written one. I don’t think God cared. He ignited that passion full-force this time, didn’t let  me quit, and helped me write another ten novels. Ones that moved me to tears. Ones I felt were meant to be. 

Somehow it was only recently that it really dawned on me God had been shaping my writing journey before I even knew Him. Because when things got hard, He’d get me through. With an encouraging note from an agent. With the chance at a contract. With the support from a writer friend.

But those times were tough. Even recently I stumbled and thought about quitting writing for good. But again, God was faithful.

I don’t know where God will take me from here, but I have no doubt He’s been part of this writing journey and part of my life since the moment I was born. And it gives me pleasure to praise Him for His faithfulness because whether it’s writing or relationships or some other passion in your life, He will get you through. Even better, He’ll go through it with you and not let you down. 

Now instead of just being a mom, I’m a daughter of Christ (who gets to be a mom, too). And with His support, I get to write fiction for a living. And it was meant to be.

Cindy began creating worlds as a kid, entertaining her siblings with spontaneous ghost stories before bed. She filled notebooks with novels and ideas and realized quickly she wanted to be a writer as an adult.
Now Cindy lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels.
Cindy writes speculative and contemporary YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. She’s represented by Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary. Her first book will be released by Entangled in 2018.


What has God done in your life 
to encourage you to use your talents for Him?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Italian Food, This Restaurant in Canada Scored a 10+

As one of my readers, you know I simply love to travel. 

I love to hike, walk a beach, take a five-hour train ride to a remote wilderness, try a new restaurant, WAIT...hubby and I did all of that on our fall color trip this weekend! 

I am bursting with news to share. I chose only one of the things I mentioned and will save the rest for my Nevergiveupstories newsletter that will be sent out to subscribers October 15th. (There is a sign up box to the right. It's free! And all subscribers get my novella free. The link will be in your confirmation notice. I hope you sign up)

And now for the piece of news I chose to share.

Hiking in the wilderness can crank up an appetite. For dinner, hubby and I drove by Giovanni's located on Great Northern Road in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, Canada. The full parking lot told us this was a place worth turning back for.

The fresh food aroma floating through the front door mesmerized me. My stomach agreed we needed to go inside.  Italian music softly played as the host took us to an elevated seating area.

I chose the Tour of Italy from a six-page menu. So many choices! All looked absolutely delicious.

Thick marinara sauce blanketed ravioli, gnocchi, tortellini, and two large meatballs. A masterpiece worthy of savoring. While hubby and I enjoyed our meals, I noticed other patrons having friendly conversations. Laughter, birthday songs, storytelling. It occurred to me that this was a gathering place. A restaurant where people came to eat, drink, and talk. Not to be rushed out the door.

Our waitress joined in table conversations as well, keeping her role in mind while helping the patrons enjoy the evening. When she picked up our plates at the end of our meal she asked if she could get us anything else. Hubby and I always order a dessert at an Italian restaurant. She looked at our plates and said...but you didn't finish your dinner. We all three laughed. Our response was, "Yes, but our kids are not here." We all laughed again.

I ordered a chocolate raspberry cheesecake which was some infinite amount of calories. Starvation diet will begin tomorrow.

And hubby ordered a chocolate gelato (did you know that gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, yet we in America separate our ice cream from gelato).

I've eaten at other Italian restaurants. I've enjoyed several. One because the quality of food, one because the formal ambiance, but this Giovanni's in Sault, Canada, has a warm, cozy, touch of class, incredible food, amazing menu, please-come-backness that earns it top score in my book.

If you get a chance to hop into Canada, plan to eat lunch or dinner at Giovanni's. You won't be disappointed.

This post has been brought to you by the one word-Italy

Friday, September 30, 2016

When Conforming is a Good Decision

Julia Refiner, a kindred friend, writer, and one filled with spiritual wisdom says:  

I Want to Be Conformed to Christ's Image

I don't quite know where to begin. 

One thing popped in my mind: I want to be conformed to Christ’s image. I’m certainly not there. I sin, I come to my knees and beg for His grace, He pours out His love and bids me stand up.

All my journeys together match up to this one overriding goal: to hear well done good and faithful servant. Knowing that I don’t deserve anything, but so grateful for His mercy moment-by-moment helping me through my days.

Sometimes these are tiring days. All of you know about that. Busyness takes over, but He calls me sit at his feet, like Mary, pouring my best out for Him. My best that is worth nothing, my efforts that are worth nothing. But Jesus delights in my songs, off-key, often with wrong words thrown in. The visceral heart cries when I’m desperate and can do nothing more than cry out a plea. 

My writing, too, desperately broken. I bleed on the page, yet sometimes I cauterize the wounds with a styptic pencil preferring the temporary sting to the shame of sharing my true self on the page. As the blood flows freely, He gently bandages my wounds yet asks me to show the scars to others so they can find healing. I flinch at the sight. Want to turn away at the thought of my wretched self.

Homeschooling, too, a constant breaking. Of my time as I watch another writer friend pile away pages per day after placing her girls on the yellow school bus. Patience, as I pray for grace to finish another math lesson, a constant reminder of my lack. Strength and energy lacking, thoughts of self-doubt in abundance. 

Coming to you with broken pieces, begging for you to put me back together. 

I am…

*a desperate sinner in need of Christ’s grace every moment
being sanctified, and conformed into His image 
*a wife who desperately desires to be a life-giving helper
learner at the hands of my beloved 4 and 7 year olds
*a fumbling writer desperate to minister to others
*a messy housekeeper
*a lover of food who is learning to care for her temple
*an intercessor as led by the Spirit of God

More than anything else, if one word could define my life I think I would want it to be worshipper. Worshipper of the living God. To have my life be about who He is and not who I am. Let my writing, my prayer life, my family relationships all be defined by this single word. HE IS WORTHY TO BE PRAISED!

Julia used worshipper as a single word she'd like to define her life. I would like the word encourager to define my life. 

What word would you like to define yours?

This post has been brought to you by the one word: Defining

Julia has helped me with crits, prayed for my needs, lifted my spirits, calmed my storm, listened when I rejoiced, encouraged my writing and has welcomed me to reciprocate.

Julia is a fellow Alley Cat. We are co-writers with eight other fabulous ladies for The Writers Alley, a blog for writers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Quasi Epic Fail

Puzzled by the title?

I probably would be too, except I was here when...

My son brought a huge bundle of paw paws from Grandpa's tree. Grandpa apparently likes the tree but had never harvested the fruit. My son decided we should taste the fruit.

Photo courtesy
We cut one open and found seeds, larger and thicker than watermelon seeds, and dotted throughout the fruit. The seeds, I'm told, should not be eaten. The fruit, had a creamy mushy texture like squished bananas. The taste was a mix between a mango, pear, and banana. 

So, now...proud son wants Mom (that's the role I played in this story), to make Paw Paw jam. Uh, yea...not so much. I pictured banana jam and couldn't see it working. 

He separated the fruit from the skin and seeds, put it in a bowl, and set it in the fridge. On his way out the door he said, "I have the paw paws all ready for you to make jam when you're ready, Mom."

At this point, I was desperately racking my mind for a way to use these paw paws. What banana recipes could I try for the paw paws. Bread? Cake? The winning idea was paw paw cream pie.

I found this recipe for banana cream pie on the food network:

Take 6 graham crackers, break in half and 

crush in a food processor

add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons water, mix 

press graham cracker mixture into a pie pan. (Spray the pan to keep pie from sticking) and bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes.

put 1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin in a bowl. Add three tablespoons boiling water. Stir and set aside to gel.

In a separate bowl mix 1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar, 

3 tablespoons flour, 1 1/2 cup milk, 2 egg yolks, and 1 teaspoon vanilla

whip together then poor in saucepan. Stir over high heat until mixture boils. Turn off heat and add the gelatin. Stir. 

Layer paw paws (or 3 bananas cut into little slices) on top of the graham cracker crust.

Poor the custard over the paw paws. Smooth the top and put in fridge for 3 hours to set. Do not cover with plastic wrap because it will mar the surface.

Remove from fridge and decorate with whip cream if desired.

Paw Paw Cream Pie
So when a dessert is normally served to family members, an overwhelming need to inhale said dessert takes place. But this paw paw dessert was new.

It used a new fruit.

One we hadn't incorporated as a regularly served item to eat.

Hubby, son, and daughter took a bite. "Good, Mom." Was their answer. But those diplomats didn't ask for seconds. They didn't even finish the small sample serving I gave.

Hours later I took the photo of the pie....yep, no one sneaked in the fridge to have a second piece.

Conclusion--paw paw cream pie is not one I recommend serving your mother-in-law, or your mother, or company...or anyone, not even the dog or cat.

It didn't taste bad. The custard on top slithered down into the paw paws and gave them a sweeter taste. 

It's just....yeah...a Quasi Epic Fail.

Do you have any ideas for paw paws? 

....My son planted three trees in our field. 

.........We will have plenty to share--hint, hint.

This post has been brought to you by the one-word: It-never-hurts-to-try-or-does-it