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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chat with author Deborah Vogts and a book giveaway!



I'm so excited to welcome my close friend and fellow author, Deborah Vogts, to my blog today to talk about her latest book, Seeds of Summer. Debbie and I met years ago through the writer's group American Christian Fiction Writers where we were critique partners, and now we're both excited to be writing for Zondervan. Keep reading for a chance to win a copy of her latest book, Seeds of Summer!

Debbie and her husband have three daughters and make their home in Southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Debbie developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Seeds of Summer is book #2 in her Seasons of the Tallgrass series and is a heart-warming contemporary romance set in the Flint Hills of Kansas where a former rodeo queen abandons her dreams in order to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two half-siblings, only to realize with the help of a young new pastor that God can turn even the most dire circumstances into seeds of hope.


LISA: How long have you known you wanted to be an author?

DEBBIE: Ever since I was in high school. I began writing my Great American Novel as a junior—Splendor of the Sun. That earned me an A++ in Senior English. I studied English and journalism in college, but it wasn’t until 2002 that I began taking serious steps to be published.

LISA: Tell us about your journey to getting your books published.

DEBBIE: There came a time in my life when I felt God prodding me to do more with my writing or risk having the talent taken from me. At that point, I joined a local writer’s group and ACFW, (an online writing organization). I also joined a critique group, started reading writing how-to’s and attended writing conferences.

I met my first agent at the ACFW Nashville Conference in 2005. We hit it off at our meeting, and she gave me some tips on making my book series “bigger.” I did that and submitted my idea to her and she took me on. We shopped my Seasons of the Tallgrass series for a year and had a few bites (one of them Zondervan) but no sale. In the end, she released me, which was a real heart breaker. However, we don’t always see the big picture like God does, and six months later I signed with agent, Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary, and we had an offer from Zondervan three months after that in May 2008.

LISA: How long have you been a published author?

DEBBIE: My debut book, Snow Melts in Spring, released in July 2009. It is the first book in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series, which are contemporary inspirational romance books published by Zondervan.


LISA: Why do you write the kind of books you do?

DEBBIE: My tag line (and the name of my blog) is Country at Heart. I’ve always enjoyed reading contemporary or historical books with a western, country or small town setting. It’s the life I know and it’s what I enjoy reading. I guess writing about that life is what comes natural to me. I believe my core readers are those who love country life, were raised in the country or who dream of the simple life it offers.

LISA: How did the story idea for this series come to you?

DEBBIE: Years ago, I took a Flint Hills Folklife course at Emporia State University. Along with classroom study, we took field trips into the heart of the Flint Hills and visited with old-time ranchers, schoolmarms and post-mistresses. It was such a delightful experience, especially our drives into the pastures. We would get on these back roads and drive over pasture guards into the open range. We would travel for miles without seeing another car or even an electric line—just pure, native prairie. That summer, I fell in love with the Flint Hills and it has stayed with me all this time.

LISA: Is there a running theme through the series?

DEBBIE: There seems to be one of forgiveness in each book—as well as following the path God gives us rather than our own. Each book also deals with family conflicts. I’d like readers to remember how important family relations are and that we can get through our difficulties if we remember to love and forgive each other. I also hope to give my readers a taste of the Flint Hills and of how God’s beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

LISA: How much of your own experience influences your characters?

DEBBIE: I would have to say that Natalie is most like my oldest daughter, Samantha. Very strong, determined and dependable. So when I wrote this story, I would often think to myself, how would Sam have handled this. ☺ A lot of the scenes in the story came from my own experience on the farm. Like Chelsey (Natalie’s sister), as a girl I did much of the cooking for the family, and took care of the house while my parents and brothers farmed. The haying scene in the book came directly from my own experience of raking hayfields and watching the crew stack the bales in the haymow. And Natalie’s horse Jackson was inspired by one of our own horses—a gallant protector. I believe some horses are extremely faithful creatures and can sense their owner’s emotions and will act accordingly.

LISA: What was your favorite scene/chapter from the book?

DEBBIE: There were many. I always enjoy writing the outdoor scenes in my books, so in Seeds of Summer, I especially enjoyed the fishing and horse-riding scenes. I love trying to find a fresh new way to describe the Flint Hills to my readers, and I hope I’ve done that for them!

LISA: Where can readers find you on the Internet?

DEBBIE: I’m on Facebook, Twitter or readers may visit my Web site: http://www.deborahvogts.com or my Country at Heart blog:

Thanks so much for stopping by, Debbie! For a chance to win a copy of Debbie's new book, please leave a comment with a way for me to contact you. I'll draw a winner on August 7th. This contest is limited to the United States.

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Night in Africa


Our family will be returning to the States this fall for our scheduled furlough and will be based in Houston. During this time we will be doing some traveling, visiting supporters, friends, and family, as well as hosting "Night in Africa" dinners where we will share about what God is doing in Mozambique over an African meal.

If you and/or your church are interested in learning more about our ministry and how you can serve as prayer warriors and/or financial contributors, then we would like to meet personally with you during our time in the States. To see about checking for open dates, please contact Scott.

Blessings,

Lisa

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

English Camp

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.


As I sat in on the debriefing this weekend and listened to snapshots from the team from SugarCreek of the week, I was struck by one thing in particular. Several of last years campers were invited to return to this years camp as ambassadors. These young men and women became followers of Christ during the camp last year and have been active in our English Club, Bible studies, and service projects since then.

During the free times at camp, you could always one or two of the old campers sitting in small groups and teaching and sharing Christ with the new campers. It was an amazing display of discipleship in action and we are so excited to watch as God has already began to transform lives.

I'll be posting some video clips later this week from the camp.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and encouraging emails!

Lisa

Monday, July 26, 2010

Are we there yet?


It's been an adventurous weekend, and that's putting it mildly. After a fantastic English camp (I stayed home with my youngest, while our two oldest attended the camp) Scott needed another car and driver to help get the team back to South Africa and the airport, so we packed up the whole family and left for South Africa for the weekend so they could catch their flight. I was looking forward to a day at Kruger, plus some extra time for our family to spend with the team before they left.

But as we've come to learn, things rarely go exactly as planned.

We set off in a three car convoy with sixteen people early Saturday morning. About forty kilometers down the road, Car #1 had a flat. We pull off the road, and with an audience changed the tire, ensured that everyone's tires were aired up, and hit the road again.

A few minutes later, Car #2 heard a hissing sound like leaking air and pulled over. Sure enough, one of the tires was leaking air through the valve stem that had somehow got stuck open when they added air to the tire. After fixing the problem, we headed out again.

Finding out about the leak turned out to actually be a miracle, because while we wondered how they could have heard the air leaking from the tire, we soon found out that the noise they'd heard hadn't actually been the tire. It was Car #3 losing its exhaust pipe. (Excuse the lack of mechanical details for this story.)

As noise got louder, we stopped in the middle of nowhere at a small town with a mechanic on the side of the road. Here they found out that a bolt had fallen off, so after a couple hours, they managed to temporarily fix the problem (thankfully car #3 was to go in for service on Monday anyway) and we headed off again.

Except this time as we started off, Car #3 lost all acceleration.


We all headed back to the mechanic, did a lot of praying, and made a decision to continue on. By this time we were about halfway between home and the border and knew that we had to get the car to our mechanic in South Africa, so there was no use turing back. Unable to fix the problem, Car #3 was able to manage about 60 kilometers an hour as we plugged down the narrow road toward the capital.

By now we were hours behind schedule and hopes of getting across the border before dark were quickly disapearing as we tried to determine plan B.

Another hour or so later and the airconditioner and radio went out as the car limped down the road with its loud clacking noise. It finally died, which meant the next step was to tow it. We got out the tow straps, hooked it up to Car #2 and with no other option continued toward the capital.


By the time we got close to the capital it was dark and we knew we'd never make it across the border driving as slow as we were. Plan C (or was it D or E?) was finally decided upon and with the help of some friends in the capital, we stopped at the airport and rented a car as Car #3 was now completely dead.

At this point, our typically 7 hour drive had turned into about 14 hours and we still weren't across the border that we'd been told closed at 10. It was already nine and with another hour of driving left, we skipped buying any dinner and booked it toward the border.

The whole time I watched the clock. I asked Scott what the plan was if the border closed before we got there, but his answer of sleeping at the border in the cars was not apart of my plan.

Praise God, due to FIFA, the border doesn't close at night this month, so even though we made it there just past ten, we were able to cross. And, there was one small grocery store still open, giving us a chance to buy a few sandwiches before we drove the last thirty minutes to where we were supposed to spend the night--after 18 1/2 hours of driving!

Tonight, we're exhausted, but safe at a missionary guest house while our team is flying back to the States. And while there have definitely been some very difficult things happen over the past week, God is transforming lives and moving among His people!

And that's what it's all about!

I'll be posting more photos and videos of the camp later this week and share some snapshots of what God is doing. Please keep us in your prayers as we drive home tomorrow and for the Sugarcreek Team as they fly back to Houston!

Be blessed today!

Lisa




Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chat with author Deborah Vogts and a book giveaway!



I'm so excited to welcome my close friend and fellow author, Deborah Vogts, to my blog today to talk about her latest book, Seeds of Summer. Debbie and I met years ago through the writer's group American Christian Fiction Writers where we were critique partners, and now we're both excited to be writing for Zondervan. Keep reading for a chance to win a copy of her latest book, Seeds of Summer!

Debbie and her husband have three daughters and make their home in Southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Debbie developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Seeds of Summer is book #2 in her Seasons of the Tallgrass series and is a heart-warming contemporary romance set in the Flint Hills of Kansas where a former rodeo queen abandons her dreams in order to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two half-siblings, only to realize with the help of a young new pastor that God can turn even the most dire circumstances into seeds of hope.


LISA: How long have you known you wanted to be an author?

DEBBIE: Ever since I was in high school. I began writing my Great American Novel as a junior—Splendor of the Sun. That earned me an A++ in Senior English. I studied English and journalism in college, but it wasn’t until 2002 that I began taking serious steps to be published.

LISA: Tell us about your journey to getting your books published.

DEBBIE: There came a time in my life when I felt God prodding me to do more with my writing or risk having the talent taken from me. At that point, I joined a local writer’s group and ACFW, (an online writing organization). I also joined a critique group, started reading writing how-to’s and attended writing conferences.

I met my first agent at the ACFW Nashville Conference in 2005. We hit it off at our meeting, and she gave me some tips on making my book series “bigger.” I did that and submitted my idea to her and she took me on. We shopped my Seasons of the Tallgrass series for a year and had a few bites (one of them Zondervan) but no sale. In the end, she released me, which was a real heart breaker. However, we don’t always see the big picture like God does, and six months later I signed with agent, Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary, and we had an offer from Zondervan three months after that in May 2008.

LISA: How long have you been a published author?

DEBBIE: My debut book, Snow Melts in Spring, released in July 2009. It is the first book in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series, which are contemporary inspirational romance books published by Zondervan.


LISA: Why do you write the kind of books you do?

DEBBIE: My tag line (and the name of my blog) is Country at Heart. I’ve always enjoyed reading contemporary or historical books with a western, country or small town setting. It’s the life I know and it’s what I enjoy reading. I guess writing about that life is what comes natural to me. I believe my core readers are those who love country life, were raised in the country or who dream of the simple life it offers.

LISA: How did the story idea for this series come to you?

DEBBIE: Years ago, I took a Flint Hills Folklife course at Emporia State University. Along with classroom study, we took field trips into the heart of the Flint Hills and visited with old-time ranchers, schoolmarms and post-mistresses. It was such a delightful experience, especially our drives into the pastures. We would get on these back roads and drive over pasture guards into the open range. We would travel for miles without seeing another car or even an electric line—just pure, native prairie. That summer, I fell in love with the Flint Hills and it has stayed with me all this time.

LISA: Is there a running theme through the series?

DEBBIE: There seems to be one of forgiveness in each book—as well as following the path God gives us rather than our own. Each book also deals with family conflicts. I’d like readers to remember how important family relations are and that we can get through our difficulties if we remember to love and forgive each other. I also hope to give my readers a taste of the Flint Hills and of how God’s beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

LISA: How much of your own experience influences your characters?

DEBBIE: I would have to say that Natalie is most like my oldest daughter, Samantha. Very strong, determined and dependable. So when I wrote this story, I would often think to myself, how would Sam have handled this. ☺ A lot of the scenes in the story came from my own experience on the farm. Like Chelsey (Natalie’s sister), as a girl I did much of the cooking for the family, and took care of the house while my parents and brothers farmed. The haying scene in the book came directly from my own experience of raking hayfields and watching the crew stack the bales in the haymow. And Natalie’s horse Jackson was inspired by one of our own horses—a gallant protector. I believe some horses are extremely faithful creatures and can sense their owner’s emotions and will act accordingly.

LISA: What was your favorite scene/chapter from the book?

DEBBIE: There were many. I always enjoy writing the outdoor scenes in my books, so in Seeds of Summer, I especially enjoyed the fishing and horse-riding scenes. I love trying to find a fresh new way to describe the Flint Hills to my readers, and I hope I’ve done that for them!

LISA: Where can readers find you on the Internet?

DEBBIE: I’m on Facebook, Twitter or readers may visit my Web site: http://www.deborahvogts.com or my Country at Heart blog:

Thanks so much for stopping by, Debbie! For a chance to win a copy of Debbie's new book, please leave a comment with a way for me to contact you. I'll draw a winner on August 7th. This contest is limited to the United States.

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

English Camp 2010

Mozambique Trip :: Summer 2009 from Sugar Creek on Vimeo.



"The English Culture Camp is one of the most spiritually significant projects in the ministry the Lord has blessed me with. Our team was filled with the Spirit and lived incarnationally with the Mozambican students (about 22) for 5 days. We slept with them, ate with them, and did life together.

"We used chronological oral bible stories from creation to resurrection to develop their understanding of the creator God's plan for their lives. We did a community blessing project together, cleaning the city of Maxixe. We saw animists, atheists, and muslims, transform from little or no knowledge of the creator God and Jesus Christ to become genuine worshipers. In fact one young man wrote a praise song the last night we were together.

"They are ALL singing new songs. God's sovereign purpose and power was all over this camp...we exceeded every expectation. The team was so alive and responsive in the spirit and they will remember this forever. This project is wrapped in the long-term strategy of the Tonga in Mozambique and God has raised passionate new laborers for His harvest."
Don Waybright- Team Leader

A year later, we can look back at how many lives were truly changed because of that camp. Throughout the past year we've continued to work with many of the campers. We've hosted dinner and a movie in our home, met twice a week for language activities and Bible studies, worked on service projects of rebuilding homes and praying at the hospital on Fridays, and through it all God has been moving. Many of the campers who attended have accepted Christ and are continuing to grow in their faith.

The new team who will be hosting this year's camp arrives on Friday and we can't wait to see how God is going to work through them. Please pray for the campers and the staff that God's Spirit will fill the camp and that hearts will be opened so many will come to know Him!

Lisa

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Observations of a seasoned traveler


I've been blessed with some unique experiences while traveling whether it's flying over Victoria Falls in a small plane, taking a motorized boat though the Amazon, or a canoe down the Zambezi. Even with all these experiences, there is always something that happens from time to time--like being charged by a herd of elephants for example--that stands out as out-of-the-ordinary.

The past couple weeks have been pretty exhausting, especially for Scott. When he returned to the States for Allen's funeral, he ended up having to drive to South Africa because there weren't any flights out of here when he needed them. (The airport here is only open about four days out of the week.) This meant that he'd also have to make the long trip home alone. When he came down with a bad cold and sinus problems I suggested I fly to SA in order to help him drive the long trip home.

I arrived at the airport on Friday, never having flown out of Mozambique before, and found it to be one of those out-of-the-ordinary experiences. For starters, there was no security checks and no computers at the check in. The employees used carbon copies to enter information and wrote out the tickets by hand. No seat assignment, no X-rays of bags that were carted off by hand to the plane.

Despite of feeling as if I'd stepped back a couple decades, I have to say that I was impressed with how smoothly things went. The plane, which was very clean, departed on time. The biggest issue ended up being that they apparently changed the departure on my e-ticket but not the arrival time on my ticket which put me in an hour later than I had planned.

On Saturday, after a quick trip to the doctor for Scott who was diagnosed with a bad sinus infection, some grocery shopping for the group coming in later this week and breakfast with friends, we enjoyed a quiet, normal trip home--Normal that is if you count the long stretches of bumpy dirt roads with so much dirt we could hardly see, boarder crossings, and avoiding herds of cattle crossing the road.

AND THE WINNER IS...

On another note, I apologize for not posting the winner of my Crazy Jell-O contest. I loved reading through all the recipes and plan on trying many of them. My internet has been acting up making it very hard to get on line. I turned in my manuscript last week and with it the recipes for two submitted that my children voted on as the winners. Thanks to Abi, for her Cherry Coke Salad and to Jackie for the simple idea of Jell-O with miniature marshmallows on top. (Three votes for this one from my kids) You will both receive a copy of An Ocean Away once the book is released in February!

Be blessed today!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Encountering God

Once again, I'm struggling with my internet. For some reason, I can't access the internet or email, but Skype works. Strange as it is, at least that has allowed me to communicate with Scott. He did get me a back up system that works with the cell phones that I can use on a limited basis. It allowed me to send off my manuscripts to my editors this week which I know they appreciated and I was relieved to have them off!

I want to say thank you again to all the wonderful emails of encouragement. Scott is in Texas with the family and will be with them through the burial and funeral this week. While the kids and I miss being there, God has given us a peace and we are doing well.

Here's the devotional my mom and I would like to share today.

Verse: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17

In I Kings 19, we read that Elijah believed he was the only man left who was following God. As a prophet of the Lord, he spent his time warning the Israelites to stop following false gods and to return to the one true God. He was a zealous man, heartbroken that the Israelites had broken down God’s altars, rejected His covenants, and even killed His prophets. And to top it off, his own life was in danger as the queen was planning to kill him.

Certain that he was soon to meet his death, Elijah went and spent the night in a cave. God though, told him to go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, because He was going to pass by.

Three things happened next. A great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart, shattering the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. Next, an earthquake shook the ground, causing the earth below Elijah’s feet to tremble. I’m sure that by this time, Elijah himself was trembling. But once again, the Lord was not in the shifting of the earth beneath his feet. Next came a raging fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

After the fire, though, came a gentle whisper. And in that quiet, gentle whisper was where Elijah found God.

How often, in the constant roar of life, do we stop and look for God, pausing to seek His face? Most of the time, life seems to be rushing past us like a fierce whirlwind or earthquake. Commitments keep us jumping, disaster spins round us, and the urgent takes over the important. But it’s often in the stillness of a morning sunrise, the quite touch of a friend, or in the pages of His Word where we encounter God face to face.

Just like with Elijah, the Lord knows what he needed, and he was strengthened by God’s presence. Jezebel still wanted to kill him, and his trial had not "gone away," but God gave him the strength to continue. What compassion God showed to Elijah. God was tender with him, and in Elijah’s distress He provided for His immediate needs by sending an angel who told him to eat and drink the food the Lord had provided because the journey was too much for him.

As in Elijah’s life, think about what compassion God shows to us each day. Just as the angle of the Lord comforted Elijah, He has given us so much; His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His Spirit, adoption as His children, and much more.

In closing, read James 5:11b and John 14:16 and thank God for the blessings he has given you today.

Be blessed!