Positive conversations with old and new friends. I'd love for you to join me on my back porch.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Can You Go? Part 2

Earlier this week Shelia Stovall shared her experience serving God in Africa. Please go back and read about her trips.

Today I wanted to share a few more of her pictures.

2012 Mission Team

And two market girls.

Shelia said about the next picture, "This is one of my favorite pictures. The little boy is wearing the Muslim hat and the cross he made in VBS. Notice the people on the wall. Everyone had been invited inside the compound, but then because of crowd control, we had to lock the doors.
Many people sat on the wall and listened to the Bible stories. Our interpreter Cephas preached to those on the wall and reminded them that the doors
had been open for all, but many had not accepted the invitation and it was too late.
One day, Jesus will return to us, and then it will be too late for them."

Many years we played parachute games at VBS. Shelia said the children in Africa liked it as much as our kids did.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38.

Don't forget to read about Shelia's trips to Africa, you can read more of her posts at www.sheliastovall.com

Monday, October 27, 2014

Can You Go?

Welcome Shelia Stovall to my back porch today. She graciously agreed to share about her time in Niger.

I have been blessed to travel to Niger, Africa on mission trips three times in the past three years. It’s hard for me to believe I’ve done this because I’m not the missionary type. I’m not a Bible scholar. I don’t like to sweat, (the temperature has exceeded 100 ° on past trips), and I don’t enjoy getting dirty. I’m a librarian and have lived most of my life in a small rural community in Kentucky. Who am I to travel to the ends of the earth to share the gospel? The short answer is that I am a Christian. Jesus didn’t call me to go; he commanded.

Any Christian, who is healthy and can walk long distances can do what I do. There is nothing special about me. If the opportunity to travel on a foreign mission team is presented to you, I ask you to pray about it.

When I saw a bulletin board notice regarding a 10-day mission trip to Africa, I immediately dismissed the idea. Then a valued friend asked me to pray about it, and my prayer went something like this. It’s too expensive. It’s too far from home. I don’t speak the language. What can we accomplish in 10 days? That doesn’t sound like a prayer does it?

One of my excuses for not going was the expense, but the cost is comparable to renting a three bedroom condo on the beach for a week. It all boiled down to me being willing to sacrifice a vacation for a mission trip and being afraid. I finally prayed, “God, if you want me to go to Africa, you are going to have to change me, and I’m willing to be changed.” And the miracle is that not only did God take away my fear, he convinced my husband to join the mission team, too.

During our last trip, I stood on a slight hill looking down on a village that had never been visited by missionaries. The name of Jesus had probably never been said aloud in this desolate place. I could see two men wearing tunics, standing in front of a mud brick building. I said a prayer and studied my sandaled, dirty feet and felt like I was walking into the book of Acts. How had a woman who had grown up in a small church in Auburn, Kentucky ended up in Africa?

I am changed by each trip as God continues to remove the scales from my eyes, and I am thankful for his patience with me. If you too are afraid to travel to a foreign country, consider the morning news. There is no safe place. I can understand being uncomfortable travelling to a population that is 99.9% Muslim where everyone is a different race. I can assure you strangers in your hometown will be less receptive to hearing about Jesus than the people I’ve met in Africa. In America, the door might not be answered, or even slammed in your face. In Africa, I have been treated as an honored guest as the people listen to Bible stories.

My 2015 trip is uncertain at this point. My friends wonder if I’m crazy to consider returning with the Ebola virus threat. Ebola is not in Niger yet, but what if it does spread? What if thousands die having never heard His name waiting for someone, anyone, to tell them about a savior? What if I’d been born in Africa, waiting for someone to tell me about Jesus? Virtually everyone in Niger has never heard the name of Jesus.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of who they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written. How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38.

To read about my trips to Africa, you can read other posts at www.sheliastovall.com

I fell so blessed to have Shelia share about her mission trips. Here are a few pictures.

The group visited an orphanage in Niamey run by Good Samaritan. They distributed backpacks with school supplies and soccer jerseys on their 2013 trip.

Shelia's group conducted VBS in one of the few churches in Niger. The cross on the little boy's neck was one of their craft projects.

One more picture today. Here they are worshiping at a house church in Niamey.

Next time I'll share more of Shelia's pictures from Africa.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Southport in the Movies

One of my favorite movies, Safe Haven, was filmed in Southport, North Carolina. Tim and I visited Southport a few years ago after the movie was filmed and before it was released. The locals were so excited about the movie. Every place we visited somebody mentioned the movie and how nice the cast was.

The Southport Visitor's Center has a display of the movies filmed there.

Crimes of the Heart was also filmed here.

Nicholas Sparks lives in North Carolina, and that could be why some of his other movies were filmed in Southport.

It amazes me that such a charming town has been the place where so many good movies have been filmed.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Janet Ferguson shares reflections from her Front Porch

Janet Ferguson and I became friends in the past year. We are in a small critique group together with Misty Beller and LeAnne Bristow. Janet is a contemporary author working toward publishing three romantic comedies set in her home state of Mississippi. When you read Janet's writing, you can picture yourself in Mississippi. And now, here's Janet...

I come from a long line of gardeners, but I missed that gene altogether.

I used to spend a lot of time on my front porch swing when the kids were little. They’d play in the yard, many times in a little wading pool, squirting the hosepipe, as we call it down here. Our collie ran around, playfully circling the pool and barking. Good times.

At night, sometimes my husband and I would sneak out once the kids went to bed. We’d let the swing rock and listen to the sounds of the Mississippi night. I loved these times which reminded me of my childhood, back in the day when children played outside until Mama called you in for supper.

I’m not exactly sure, but I think once my kids began high school, was when I began neglecting my porch and my swing. And my yard. Oh, my. During those years, things got real hectic. Ball games and concerts and practices and shopping, plus I took a job at the high school library. No time to sit. I have a lot of pictures of my cats enjoying the swing, though.

Now our daughter is getting ready to graduate college, and my son will leave for the university next fall (we hope, ha). Not long ago, I left the driveway to walk my dog, and I looked out at the weeds in the flower bed and the scraggly bushes. I determined that I really should help my husband in the yard. His engineering work keeps him tied up so much now.

With good intentions, I pulled on my yard gloves (since I developed an allergy to poison oak) and headed outside to pull weeds. Within two minutes, a wasp stung me. Literally, two minutes. A few days later, or maybe weeks, I tried again. Pulled one weed, a tall one, apparently connected to an underground tunnel of fire ants. Why can’t we find a cure for those synchronized stings? It hurt. I went inside to tend my wounds. Another day, I lobbed a few branches from a tree, until my neck got a catch in it, and I was unable to lift my arms without excruciating pain for a week.

Anyway, I sat outside to type this article, and a swarm of mosquitoes attacked me, despite a good amount of insect repellant I applied. I don’t really get this, but I’m taking it as a sign.

No yard work.
No guilt.
A time and a season for everything.
I’ll enjoy the outdoors walking my labradoodle and test the yard work out in another year. Or two. Maybe the gene will kick in.

If you’d like to check out my website or find me on social media, I’d love to hear from you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tea time in Southport, North Carolina

I recently stopped for lunch at Southport Tea House with my sister-in-law, Carol. The moment we stepped through the door I was enchanted. We entered into a cozy environment from a driving rain to be greeted by a sweet waitress.

The tables were set with floral tablecloths, fine china tea cups and saucers, and sugar bowls with real sugar. No artificial sweeteners in sight. Each table featured a unique teapot. The place oozed charm from the ceiling to the floor.

We enjoyed the Southport tea of the day, quiche, salad and tea crackers. Even though I was full, I wanted to try their Oreo-brownie. It was as delicious as lunch. I even bought a peach tea to take home and try. We stretched out lunch as long as possible, and I felt as if I was leaving a friend when we left.

I look forward to my next trip to Southport, and I plan to make time for tea again.

Until then I may have to throw a tea party of my own.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Welcome Holly Michael

I'm so excited to welcome my friend, Holly Michael.

She's going to share with us about her book, Crooked Lines and life in South India.

Holly, tell us a little about Crooked Lines.

The best way to do that is to share the back cover blurb: On the shores of Lake Michigan, Rebecca Meyer seeks escape. Guilt-ridden over her little sister’s death, she sets her heart on India, a symbol of peace.

Across the ocean in South India, Sagai Raj leaves his tranquil hill station home and impoverished family to answer a higher calling. Pushing through diverse cultural and religious milieus, he labors toward his goals, while wrong turns and bad choices block Rebecca from hers.

Traveling similar paths and bridged across oceans through a priest, the two desire peace and their divine destiny. But vows and blind obedience at all costs must be weighed…and buried memories, unearthed.

Crooked Lines, a beautifully crafted debut novel, threads the lives of two determined souls from different continents and cultures. Compelling characters struggle with spirituality through despair and deceptions in search of truth.

Why did you chose India as a setting?

My husband is from India and I've traveled there nearly a dozen times, each time exploring a different part of this incredible, diverse country.

Tell me abut the characters, Sagai and Rebecca.

Sagai is fictional, but he's based off of experiences of my husband and friends who left their villages as teenagers to join a strict religious congregation. While I came of age in the 70s and 80s in Wisconsin (my other half of the setting in Crooked Lines) my husband was living in a religious order. Over the years, he and his friends have shared amazing stories of these years: Meeting Mother Teresa, ministering to the "rag-pickers" in the slums of India, working in orphanages and with lepers. Yet, were we really so different as people? Somehow, hearing their stories, I could relate to the emotional themes. We weren't so different and shared the common goal of seeking peace, truth, and wanted to live out God's plan for our lives. So, I began writing Crooked Lines, using thematically based chapters, going between Sagai in India and Rebecca in America.

Do the characters meet?
I won't give anything away, but will say that soon in the story they learn of each other through Sagai's mentor who comes to the United States. He sees their similar struggles and asks them to pray for each other.

How long have you been writing?
I wrote poems as soon as I could read and write.

Tell us about your path to publication.
My writing background is a so diverse. I'm like a kaleidoscope, twisted by the hand of God and it really began turning years ago when I made a conscious decision to quit writing. Fed up after receiving yet another rejection letter, I went for a walk and explained to God that I was done writing unless He gave me a real sign. Returning from the walk, my answering machine was blinking. A call from a magazine editor who wanted my essay! I never queried again and diverse writing opportunities fell into my lap. I did freelance ghostwriting for Guideposts magazine, worked for a newspaper as a features writer, a journalist, then did a lot of other odd writing jobs.

How did you go from nonfiction to fiction?
I always had it in the back of my mind that I would write a novel, but it was way in the back of my mind. Then, a business man whom I'd done editing for asked me if I'd write a novel for him, based on his life experiences. Later, he changed his mind about the project, but I was hooked on fiction and started writing Crooked Lines.

Do you still write nonfiction?
Yes, I consider myself an all around hybrid. I write fiction and nonfiction, I'm traditionally and indie published, and I drive a hybrid car.

Tell us about your other fiction and nonfiction works.
Sure. Fiction First. Crooked Lines is my debut novel. The sequel will be released late January or early February 2015. I also have another novel (I'll Be Seeing You) coming out in March 2015. A family drama that involves an estranged family coming together to make end of life decisions for their father. An angel and the father (in a coma) are also main characters. I have a new adult novel that--if indie published--should be ready to release in the Spring of 2015.

And Nonfiction: My son and I have a devotional contracted with Harvest House that will be released in the fall of 2015. First and Goal: What football Taught Me About Never Giving Up. My son is an NFL player with type one diabetes and we've really enjoyed working on this project together. I am also returning to India in November to do a ten-year follow-up on the villages and orphans we helped in 2004 and have a couple of other devotionals and nonfiction projects to be released later in 2015.

Tell me about more about the tsunami book and your mission work in India.
Ten days after the tsunami, after a very successful fundraising event, my husband (an Anglican Priest) and I landed in tsunami-ravaged South India. He asked his contact in Chennai to send us to the most remote villages that had not been helped by anyone, not even the Red Cross. We traveled hours to devastated villages in Nagapattinam where we found men weeping in busted up boats, women standing in the rubble of their homes, and children dragging junk from the sea. Heaps of bodies still burned. My husband, who has a counseling degree, knew the native language and consoled and comforted the people. We bought boats for the villages, helped a local boat builder get his business running again so that the men who no longer wanted to fish could build and repair boats. We also gave immediate aid and helped about 200 orphans. The village headmaster brought the orphans to the local bank and we set up CD's in their names to be held with interest and collected ten years later. It's coming up on ten years and the orphans are grown and ready to begin their adult lives. They can now collect the money from their accounts. My husband and I will return to the villages in November and I'll write a book to be released on December 26th, 2014--a then and now story.

Holly, thanks for visiting with us today. It sounds like you've got lots of exciting events ahead of you.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Life in India

Next week Holly Michael will share her story Crooked Lines with us. I wanted to go ahead and introduce you to this amazing woman and friend.

Today I want to share some of her pictures from India.

The picture of the young woman looking out to the sea touches my heart. And all of those boats? I love boats, but I don't depend on one to make a living. How many lives were harmed because of collateral damage from the tsunami?

On a happy note, I also included a picture of Holly and her son, Jake Byrne, who plays for the San Diego Chargers. I can't wait for their devotional book to come out next fall.

I hope you have a blessed weekend.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Seek and Hide

Today I'm excited to introduce you to my new friend, Amanda Stevens. She's going to share a little about her new book Seek and Find.

As a child, Amanda G. Stevens disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now, she writes speculative fiction. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English and has taught literature and composition to home-school students. She lives in Michigan and loves books, film, music, and white cheddar popcorn. Amanda’s first novel, Seek and Hide, will be available September 15, 2014 from David C Cook.

Amanda, welcome to my back porch. Tell us a little about Seek and Hide.
Seek and Hide is a dystopian novel in which Christianity has been outlawed. The main character, Marcus Brenner, is a new Christian, a recovered alcoholic, and a man whose only family are fellow believers. Protecting those he loves is the most important thing to Marcus, and he plunges into a one-man fight to help others flee or hide from the Constabulary (agency that enforces philosophical crime).

What’s the setting for Seek and Hide?
Well, obviously, it’s a dystopian setting. I chose not to specify a year, but it’s clear that the place is the United States, specifically Metro Detroit, since I’ve never lived anywhere but Michigan.

How did you come up with the title for Seek and Hide?
This has been the working title for a very long time. I was prepared to say goodbye to it, but my publisher liked it, too. As I worked and reworked the book, different applications popped out at me over time. Of course, Christians worship in hiding and are sought by the Constabulary, but each character also seeks things and hides things over the course of the story.

Is Seek and Hide the first book you published?
Yes. It’s the first in a four-book series.

Why did you write Seek and Hide?
I had these two characters in my head, Marcus and Lee. I knew about Marcus’s alcoholism, about their backstories. I knew Marcus was in love with her, but she was resistant to that. What I didn’t have was a plot. It seemed these two stubborn people needed some kind of war to fight, and the storyworld was born from there. I didn’t have Aubrey (female point-of-view character)’s story until later. So I guess I would have to say originally, I wrote Seek and Hide for Marcus and Lee. I wanted to give them a voice. I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

What do you want readers to take away from Seek and Hide?
This is always the hardest question for me to answer. I just tell a story, for the most part. Readers bring their own life experiences to it and take away what they will. However, the storyworld of this series does demand some pondering, I think. What does God require of us as we live here, in a relatively free America, and what would he require of us if we lived in Marcus and Aubrey’s America, where being found in possession of a Bible means prison? Do my characters always respond with perfect Christ-likeness? No. I want them to resonate with the reader as real, relatable people. As such, they mess up all the time, and in their blunders, maybe readers will ask questions they haven’t asked before.

What is your writing process?
I hate to draft and love to edit. Because this is a series, I’ve needed a basic idea of where I’m going in future books in order to set things up properly, but I don’t outline the whole book. It’s more a knowledge of where the characters should be by the end, and then the book is one surprise after another as they show me how they get there. This applies to physical obstacles in the plot as well as emotional steps in the character arc. Wherever I am in drafting, I like to know what’s going to happen for the next couple chapters, but that’s about as far as I can ever plan anything. Editing is the place I sharpen the setups and conflicts as well as the prose. Oh, and I rarely have a clue what my themes are until I’ve revised and edited a few times. Sometimes, not even then. It’s not uncommon for a reader to point out the themes of my own book to me.

What are you working on now?
The fourth and final book in the Haven Seekers series.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
I can be found at my website, Amanda G. Stevens Books, and I’m active on Twitter and Goodreads.
Also, if you don’t mind, I’ll share a blurb for Seek and Hide:
Six years ago, the government took control of the church. Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment—including risk his own freedom to gain the trust of a government agent.

Aubrey Weston recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby. Now released, she just wants to provide for her son and avoid government notice. But she’s targeted again, and this time, her baby is taken into custody. If only she’d never denied Him, maybe God would hear her pleas for help.

When Aubrey and Marcus’s lives collide, they are forced to confront the lies they believe about themselves. And God is about to grab hold of Marcus’s life in a way he’d never expect, turning a loner into a leader.

I don't know about anybody else, but I can't wait to read Seek and Hide. Amanda, thanks for stopping by today.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Catching Up on the Backporch

And we have a winner. Janet Ferguson won the $10.00 gift card to Panera. Janet, send me your snail mail address, and I'll get your card in the mail.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm considering how to do Throwback Thursday, and I want to start Tuesday travels. So stay tuned, and let me know if you'd like to share a travel story.

Some of you may remember on April 23, I started the Paleo Diet. I was strict the first couple of months, and have mostly stayed faithful. I seem to stray more when traveling. Anyway, I do feel better, I've lost 17 pounds, and my cholesterol is now 148! Whoohoo!

I hope you all have a great week ahead.

Wesley Village's Heroes, Saints, and Legends Banquet is Tuesday. I always look forward to this inspiring night of how others have lived their lives for Jesus.

Have a great week!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Time Jumpers & Vince Gill, Together Again

Recently I shared with you about our experience meeting Vince Gill and attending The Time Jumpers concert.

Here's a clip of one of the songs we heard that night.



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