Monday, September 29, 2014

The Ethiopian Orphan Who Became a Chef

As a boy growing up in Ethiopia, Markus, his sister and his mother became sick with tuberculosis. His mother died from the disease. 

He and his sister had no place to go.

One day, a family from Sweden decided to adopt a child. I don't know if they were unable to have children, but I do know they had room in their lives to give an orphaned brother and sister a loving family.

Markus and his sister moved with his new family to Sweden, he went to school, and grew tall. He became interested in cooking and was able to go to a culinary school.

Markus skills enabled him to become an accomplished chef. He worked in fine restaurants, has been a judge for cooking competitions, and has cooked in the White House for the president.

Markus volunteered for a program for poor children interested in becoming cooks. The program provides training, scholarship, direction, and opportunities for those who complete the training. From the look on his face, he really enjoys giving back to kids who need that special help.

Recently, four chef judges competed with each other. The charity of the winner's choice would receive the monetary award as a contribution. Each judge chose a very worthy charity. Markus chose the program he had been volunteering his skills.

One by one the four chef's were eliminated from the competition. Each round Markus demonstrated his exceptional culinary skills. When only two competitors remained, Markus was pronounced the winner.

I can only imagine the joy in his heart, as he reflected on his journey from homelessness in Ethiopia to winning this competition for his charity.

To me Markus has risen to the top. He had a rough start in life, but now he chooses to give back to those who are where he once was.

Rough situations happen to all of us. Sometimes the road of endurance can be difficult, and seemingly impossible. By putting one foot forward with our hand held firm by Jesus's hand we can walk through the bog and to dry, solid ground.

Can I pray for you or a loved one? You don't have to give details if you don't want. A simple yes will work.

If you are at a mountain peak and enjoying the sunshine of life's journey, write a blessing in the comment section. We all could use a blessing :)

May the peace of God shine in your heart and your day today.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fabulous Friday Feature-ACFW

ACFW Conference in St. Louis

Mary, Amy, Laurie Alley Cats

Mary Vee and Lee Carver
Casey chilling
Krista chilling
Casey fun photo
Organization Booth

Cara Putnam and Candace Calvert
Amy Simpson and Laurie Tomlinson

Casey Herringshaw and Beth Vogt

The bookstore

Mary Vee with Erica Vetsch

Mary Vee, Krista Phillips, Casey Herringshaw
Mary Vee and Joy Melville

Meeting with friends, learning, talking with agents and editors...WOW God is good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Solo Road Trip

Today, I head off on a solo road trip.

To save money, I'm driving seven hours to the ACFW conference in St. Louis. I've Googled directions, Map Quest for a back up, and AAA online trip tik to check for road issues.

I have a few cd's of past writing conferences to keep my mind alert.

Cruise control is my friend.

Drivers in a hurry are not my friends. Also impatient local drivers who know where they are going, and expect me to know the same then cut me off to communicate said impatience, are not my friends.
Photo Courtesy


I have allowed the day to land at my destination. I expect to get lost a few times and be forced to call my techy teen at home to bale me out and direct me back to the road I somehow turned off of. These adventures can make great fodder for stories and awesome pictures.

Speaking of the which, I have my AAA card. I hate changing tires. I have my umbrella. Soggy Mary's can get grumpy. I'm wearing comfy grunge clothes and promise to change into conference attire after I check in for the conference. I have my iced tea, a healthy lunch packed, and a bag of junk food. A well balanced meal is essential (wink)

Photo Courtesy

I also have a full bottle of windshield washer solvent. The bugs are bound to decorate my windshield.

I've packed plenty of nervous energy, bottled in separate containers to have enough for each agent or editor appointment. I also have my one sheet with me. This is the paper containing all essential information I should be saying about my manuscript. Comes in real handy when the remote to my head mutes my voice.

While I made sure to pack the necessary garments and information, I also packed my Bible. This gem and the Author are what will get me through the conference. 

It doesn't matter if I don't get a contract from an agent or requests to send my manuscript. God knows what I'm ready for. What I need is to say what He wants me to say and do what He wants me to do. 

This is the verse I am taking to the conference with me. The Apostle Paul wrote this to Timothy:

"Do not neglect the gift that is in you...Meditate on these things. Give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all." I Timothy 4:14-15

My dad always said if there was trouble to be had, he knew I would be there. Notice I am the only one misbehaving in this photo at last year's ACFW? 

So while this cat is away, reader, what do you mice plan to do? 

Monday, September 22, 2014

How Important Are Our Roots?

My family and I went to see The Hundred-Foot Journey. There are so many things to talk about regarding this movie. All good. We really enjoyed this film.

Today, we'll choose to talk about family roots. Spoiler alert.

In this movie, the character, Hassan is a young and hopeful chef. 

His story is very Romeo and Juliet, country vs city, Cinderella, and all worth seeing from this very unique presentation.

Hassan first attempts to prove his ability to cook to a famous French restaurant owner who happens to live and have her establishment one-hundred feet away from his family's new home.

Since he is not French, and since his family has opened a restaurant across the road, she immediately rejects his dish and turns away from him. 

Hassan refuses to give up. He works late and gets up early, dedicating his time to learning how to master his cooking skills. In time his work pays off. The key? Mixing what he knows with what he is learning and forming new tastes.

Hassan is invited to work in an exquisite Parisian restaurant. He's encouraged to experiment with new amazing flavors. This is called gastronomy. Surrounded by the best ingredients in France, he is gradually pulled away from the core ingredients that built his cooking foundation. 

As time goes by, Hassan feels alone and away from his family. He looks for comfort and friendship but can't find it. He longs for a taste he can't find in his experiments.

One day he tastes food made by another chef, and realizes what he needs to do.

Family members maybe quirky but they count on each other. Traditions are embedded in the heart of the child. When a smell, taste, or sight comes in the road, a memory is triggered and the heart yearns for the fun of yesteryear.  

Sometimes the child needs to take a step to become what they were meant to do. He might move to another city to go to college or take a job. The parents, all the while, hope he remembers the family he came from. 

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.

It takes a lot of strength to stand back and watch those we love make left turns to follow ideas that don't match what we've taught. But with love, prayer, and hope we can leave our loved one in God's hands to guide and keep our family roots strong in their heart. 

Do you have a loved one we can rejoice over what is happening in their life? 
Do you have a loved one we can pray for?
Feel free to simply say yes or no. Or leave a howdy-do in the comment box so I know you came to visit. I love chatting with you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fabulous Friday Feature-Sherri Wilson Johnson

Today I welcome author: 
Sherri Wilson Johnson

To win a copy
To Laugh Once More

Scroll to the end of the post 
to see how to get your copy.

Sherri had two books published then ran into a snag. The publisher closed down their fiction line. Her strength and courage to keep going is inspirational. I asked Sherri to share with us how God has led her on her writing journey. This is what she said:

The Right Door. The Wrong Way

Last winter, I went to downtown Atlanta with my son for an appointment and stopped in a public restroom beforehand. When I got into the stall, the latch bolt wouldn't slide across into the keeper because it was misaligned. I had no way to lock the door and wasn't doing my business with the door unlocked. So I decided to change stalls. However, the door wouldn't open!

I panicked!

I was stuck in the stall.

In a bathroom in downtown Atlanta.

With my son waiting out in the hallway.

How in the world was I going to get out? I pushed and pushed. Squeezed and squeezed. Finally, I made my way out of the stall and into the one beside it.

As I unlocked the door of stall #2 to exit, I realized something profound—the door opened by pulling it into the stall not pushing it out as I had done with door #1. It happened so easily without me even thinking about it. I just pulled and exited. I'm pretty sure I broke the hinges on door #1. You should've seen my son's face when I told him what I'd done.

Instead of feeling like idiots when we push through a door before God has opened it or assuming we're going through a wrong door, maybe we need to look at it like we're simply going through the door the wrong way. Maybe we don't need to push so hard (or at all). Maybe we're right where we're supposed to be for this season (the whole "God's timing is perfect" thing). Perhaps we need to change our approach to a situation.

The wonderful thing about God is that He's patient with us and waits for us to figure things out. He always gives instructions. We just need to listen. Had I not been in such a hurry to use the restroom, I'd have noticed that I was pushing the door instead of pulling it.

Most recently in my life, this has applied to writing. To Laugh Once More was contracted with a publisher earlier this year. My agent and I were very pleased about this. Then I got the email that they were closing down their fiction line and my contract had been canceled. That was probably the gloomiest day I'd had in a long time. I was ready to quit writing. I knew that success was never going to come my way. I was so tired of getting rejections. Most of the rejections had been based off the fact that publishers weren't giving out contracts to newbie writers, their lists were full, the story didn't fit what they were publishing although they liked my writing, etc.

A little voice told me that I'd given it my best shot and I just needed to hang up my writing hat, that since my kids are raised, it was time to get a job outside of the home and move forward. I was about to take a detour, but God rerouted me and showed me the way He wanted me to go. Part of that included stepping out in faith and going Indie with this book. A route I never thought I'd take. But He made it clear to me in so many ways that that was the way He wanted me to go with this project.

This door scenario applies to all areas of our lives. Jobs. Friendships. Ministry. Love. We need to keep our eyes open and look for the signs God is showing us so we'll go through the right doors the right way.

Sherri Wilson Johnson is an Inspirational Romance novelist, a speaker, and a former homeschooling mom who’d rather have laugh lines under her eyes than worry lines across her forehead. She lives in Georgia with her husband, her two children and her Chihuahua, Posey. Her favorite thing to do when she’s not with her family is to curl up with a good book or work on her current work-in-progress. She loves to dream of visiting romantic places and is passionate about the Lord, motherhood, homeschooling, and writing. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once MoreSong of the Meadowlark, and To Laugh Once More. She is a columnist with Habits fora Happy Home and Choose NOWMinistries.

You can connect with her on: 
Facebook author's page Sherri Wilson Johnson 

To Laugh Once More is a Victorian Inspirational Romance set in Georgia in 1895. The War may be over, but the battles still rage.

A dissatisfied wife. A misunderstood husband. Three tragedies will alter their path forever. Will their choices tear them apart, or will they allow them To Laugh Once More?

Three years after her marriage to Hamilton, former debutante Lydia Barrington Scarbrough is dissatisfied with life. She has yet to have children, and she spends most of her days sitting in a circle of women chatting about homemaking. She thought life would be more than what it's turned out to be. Hamilton travels on business and never takes her with him. What's a lonely wife to do when she has no children to raise? She longs for adventure and romance, and really, she longs for the fulfillment of her purpose in life. A purpose beyond being a wife and raising children.

Lydia faces a series of hardships that stretch her faith beyond capacity. Leaving her childhood home in Florida for Georgia proves to be more difficult than she ever imagined, and her marriage may not survive the trials. Lydia’s own personal battles drive a wedge between them. What will it take to make Hamilton attempt to save their marriage and draw Lydia back to him?

As Lydia strives to etch out a place for herself in a new world full of unfamiliar prejudice and attempts to overcome her private battles, she must help Hamilton understand her deepest longings and learn the true meaning of joy. Will she surrender her will in order to find her purpose? Will her future hold a happier marriage, motherhood, and a calling greater than she could ever have imagined?

Other books by Sherri Wilson Johnson:

All Lydia wants is to travel the world before she has to settle down with a husband. But she may not have that choice anymore.

April 1886 
Debutante Lydia Jane Barrington lives a carefree, protected existence on Live Oaks Plantation in Florida. But while her sisters happily learn the traditional tasks of women and talk of courting, Lydia dreams of adventure and independence. Even her friendship with handsome Hamilton Scarbrough isn’t enough to hold her back. 

Then one day Hamilton opens Lydia’s eyes and her heart to love. But before they can receive permission to court, Lydia overhears a secret conversation about an unscrupulous business deal. Worse, it has everything to do with her and her future. Now she’s faced with the biggest decision of her life—to concede or to fight. Either choice will require great sacrifice...and, perhaps, countless rewards. 

Plunge into pure romance. Passion. Friendship. A bitter enemy. A life-changing decision. Set in the charm of Victorian-era Florida.
To enter the contest for  
Sherri Wilson Johnson's book: "To Laugh Once More"
leave a comment (and email address)
AND become a follower of this site, 
OR sign up to receive posts by email
if you aren't already.

Open to All- This will be an eBook give away

Winner announced on my facebook page.

Thank you, Sherri, for Joining us This Weekend!

Don't forget to comment!

Reader, What door might you be trying to push through that perhaps you're not doing it the right way or it's just not the right time? If you don't have an answer, that's okay, just say howdy-do in the comment section. I love chatting with you.

Thanks so much for joining our chat today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A New Recipe-A New Fact About Our Heart

Ree Drummond's Orange Chicken
I saw a fantastic orange chicken recipe and decided to try it. I'm one of the last persons who would be able to do a cooking show. I especially appreciate not only the video of what the chef is doing but also the text version of the recipe.

Ree Drummond is a ranch wife, writer, photographer, and obviously a great cook. Her teen daughters love Chinese take-out, unfortunately they live to far from any restaurant. Ree figured out how to make her daughter's favorites: orange chicken and beef with broccoli.

The closest restaurant to me is thirty minutes. My choices there are: McDonalds, Big Boy, yeah, nothing fancy. To get to a nicer restaurant hubby and I have to travel one hour. I find myself in the same boat as Ree. If only I could cook as well as she does.

*Chefs take much less time to cook a meal than a novice like me. The forty minute chicken took me two hours. Gack! I know!! It's that perfection thing going on in me. 

I decided to make the orange chicken for my guests who were coming for lunch the next week. To make sure I had a handle on the process I made the dish on Saturday for my family. They totally loved the taste. Yeah, success!

I want to share with you what happened during one particular step in making this oriental dish. I needed to heat the oil to 350 degrees. After watching her video, I realized this temperature could easily give me a good burn. I kept a screen over the pot to prevent any drops of oil from wanting to escape.

When the thermometer reached 250 degrees, the oil spared no expense to remind me this was a very hot temperature. I slid the screen back on top of the pot immediately after taking this photo.

At 293 degrees the oil continued to froth and demonstrate the high heat.

Even though I have a gas stove, it seemed to take forever for the oil to reach 350 degrees. 

As I waited, I guessed the oil would continue to increase bubbling, swirling, popping, etc. I kept a safe distance with potholder in hand not knowing how violent the oil would get! 

To my surprise as the temperature neared 350 degrees the oiled seemed to calm, giving a deceptive appearance of being cool. 

The brown residue is from cooking the first set of chicken pieces. 

The oil response to the higher temperature became a mystery. 

I began to wonder if this is how we appear when we get angry. The people around us can see us lose our cool at first. But minutes, hours, days later, when we allow ourselves to become consumed with our anger others can't tell. We appear to be content but aren't. We give the illusion that everything is fine when inside it really isn't. 

The detriment, of course is when one simple word or action reminds us of our anger and sends us into an uncontrolled response.

No matter how others have wronged us, we need to seek God's help right away. Ask Him to give you exactly what you need to calm your heart and help you forgive the other person. 

When another word is added and rekindles the heat, run to God and ask Him again to give you exactly what yo need to calm your heart and help you forgive the other person.

Repeat as often as needed. Even years later. Only God knows you well enough to provide the calm you need. God can calm a storm. He can also calm your heart.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Life Moves at a Different Pace in Paris

Photo Courtesy

During our one-week stay in Paris, we rushed to get up in the mornings, hurried down to the quaint breakfast area of our hotel then briskly walked to whatever sight we wanted to see.

Each morning we passed so many cafes on our way to the subway or bus or walkway. Seriously, there seemed to be a cafe on each corner. And each cafe had fifty percent of the seating outside under an extended roof. 

One morning we left our hotel around seven. We walked a block and passed the first cafe. Two men sat across from each other, engaged in what seemed like a political discussion. 

I couldn't understand the French and only assumed. But you know what two people look like when they have these types of conversations. They leaned their body forward to make their point then sit back when satisfied they won...until the other person leaned forward and countered the thought. As they spoke, their hands moved to emphasize certain words. Of course their eyes also engaged in the conversation going from wide-eyed passion to slitty-knowing. I found them very amusing, but only laughed inside.

At another cafe, a group of businessmen sat with their morning coffee in one hand and in the other, cards fanned so only they could see what they had. A fun game before work? Nice.

Few Parisians live in homes like we are accustomed to. Most live in small apartments not suitable for having guest. Instead, they meet at cafes, restaurants, and pubs. While other businesses are closed in the early morning and into the evening, the cafes have their doors open. Come in. Meet friends. Relax. Talk about philosophy, politics, etc. Play a game. Sit back and have coffee until you have to go home.

Life runs at a different pace in Paris. 

What seemed different to me was the emphasis on meeting others in person and relaxing before and after the work day. 

God says in His Word, He desires for us to gather together. To fellowship. To commune with Him. To not be alone. When I have allowed myself to be alone for too long, and too long can vary from an hour to days depending on my needs, I feel sleepy, lonely, sad...all these negative feelings that are craving for company. At these times, God nudges me with opportunities to be with others.

How about you? Do you need to meet with someone-in person-not on FB or email?

Could you call someone and talk with them for a time, share your thoughts, hear their voice, and know that you are not alone?

Maybe you know someone who tends to feel lonely and could really use a visit or call from you. Who can you bless today? Tomorrow?

I hope you have a fun day. And don't forget us here. Leave your howdie-do in the comment section. I enjoy to chatting with you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fabulous Friday Feature-Jeanne Takenaka

Today I welcome author: 
Jeanne Takenaka

A prepublished author's
journey led by God

Jeanne and I have been good friends for a couple of years. I can't even remember where we met. We just did. Was it through My Book Therapy? The Writer's Alley? At a conference? I'm not sure, but what I know is she is one sweet person. She always smiles. Works really hard. Is dedicated to God's call for her to write. Wow. Jeanne is not yet published, but I am convinced she will be back here on Let's Talk with a debut novel some day. I asked Jeanne to share with us how God has led her on her writing journey. This is what she said:

The Story Only We Can Write

I’m the one who said I could never write a book.

Oh sure, I wanted to, from the time I was thirteen. But when the idea first entered my mind, the thought of creating settings, plots and characters seemed way too big to this insecure girl. So, I chalked it up as one of those, “I could never…..” passing fancies, and I got on with living the real life of growing up.

Fast forward to four years ago. As my husband and I sat in a couple’s retreat, an idea literally popped into my brain. A story question something along the lines of, “What if ballroom dancing could save a marriage?” A skeleton of a plot as well as the heroine’s name accompanied this crazy impression. 

I know agents and editors dread hearing, “God told me to write this story.” He really did give me the inspiration for it, though. I talked with a trusted writing friend and told her about my idea. Would she think it was as crazy as I did? Her words: “I think you should write this story.” 

My heart pounded as the shelved dream blossomed into a strong desire. I talked with my husband about it, knowing I needed his support to do something this radical (at least for me). He  told me I should do it. We talked about the things that would need to change in our lives so I could really pursue this dream of writing a book. 

Jeanne Takenaka, Gabrielle Meyer, Lindsay Harrel
at a My Book Therapy Retreat
I learned about My Book Therapy and devoured everything I could learn about writing craft. I attended their Story Crafter’s retreat and learned that I still had a lot to learn about crafting a compelling story. Their other retreats also gave me great teaching as well as introducing me to other people who understood this drive to write. 

God has put me in touch with encouraging people on this writing journey. They’ve shown me the necessity of being teachable, of hard work and of believing in this calling God places on the crazy ones (translated: writers). One crucial message I heard early in the journey goes along this line: “God gave me this story to write. He didn’t give it to someone else.” I need to write it because I’m the only one who can tell it the way I do. He knows the story we each need to pen because only He knows who will one day read it and be moved by it.

My first two books are women’s fiction because relationships and seeing them whole and healthy is my heart beat. My current manuscript is a contemporary. Each of my stories has a component that deals with understanding who we are in God’s eyes.

As I’ve grown in my writing skills, I’ve entered contests. I’ve finaled in a few, including the My Book Therapy’s Frasier contest in 2013 and 2014.

I’ve found blogging has helped me discover my voice. More than that, I’m meeting people and finding that comments left on the posts I write challenge me to consider the topics through different perspectives.

I’m not published yet, but I hope I will be one day. I’m working on my third book, and of course, I’m hoping this is “the one.” Ultimately, my writing is for God’s eyes first. I’m learning to trust His timing and his plan for my writing journey.

God’s the giver of every good gift. He equips us to fulfill the call to write for Him. I try to be teachable so that I can improve in telling stories He can use to touch readers.

Jeanne Takenaka writes contemporary fiction that deals with real life issues with a heart to draw women closer to God and to those around them. She is wife to one amazing man who is her real life hero, and mother to two exuberant boys who hope to one day have a dog of their own. She loves being God’s girl always learning about His grace, hanging out with friends and enjoying a great cup of coffee. She and her family live near the mountains in Colorado. She is a member of ACFW and My Book Therapy Voices.

You can connect with her on: 
Facebook author's page Jeanne Takenaka 


Jeanne's Manuscript:
 Safe in the Shadows
After being humiliated by a Hollywood scandal as a teenage TV star, Tiana Emory ran from fame—a dream come true that turned into a humiliating nightmare. She hid behind an altered name and the “normal” life of a non-profit manager, wife and mom. Now widowed and the mother of two children, Tiana clings to her anonymity. But when her husband’s former best friend, NFL player Carter Maddox, asks for her help, Tiana’s security is threatened. How can she say no when the job will help pay for medical treatments her chronically-ill daughter desperately needs?

As her choices draw her further into the public eye—and closer to Carter, Tiana must decide who truly defines her—the gossip-dishing media or the God who created her. And, was her safe life merely a mirage all along?.

Wow! Jeanne, This sounds like a fantastic book!

Thank you, Jeanne, for Joining us This Weekend!

Don't forget to comment!

What about you? Do you have any dreams you’ve stacked in the, “I could never….” shelves of your life? What dreams are you working toward accomplishing?

Reader, Take a moment and leave Jeanne a word of encouragement.

Thanks so much for joining our chat today. Don't forget to help yourself to virtual coffee/tea/pastries!