I Miss the Rains Down in Africa

by Harriet Michael

Okay, I know. The real words to that song are “I bless the rains down in Africa” but personally, I miss the African rains and so many other things too! As some of you may have noticed, my blog posts often have some connection to Nigeria, the nation of my birth. I’m a Third Culture Kid—a person born and reared in a country different from her citizenship. Well, I actually had duel citizenship until I was 18 and had to choose. Of course, I chose the USA. That was the right choice, but I do miss so much that I left behind in Africa. Thanks for letting me tell you again about a place my heart loves.

Though travel to Nigeria today is not advised due to political dangers, such as Boko Harem and other sad realities, the country does have some incredible places, many tucked away forever in my memory.

There are beautiful rivers to see. The Niger, near where I was born, is a wild river. Swimming is not recommended due to the possibility of crocodile attacks. But it’s beautiful, just the same. My family crossed it in a large open canoe-type boat with wooden seats and a thatched roof when I was about 10. I remember sitting on that boat and thinking it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen in my short life. The first time I ever visited Disney World and rode The Jungle Cruise, I was taken back in a flash to that moment in my early life when I traveled the Niger.jungle cruise

The Ethiope is a different story. It’s tame and wonderful. Most all of my missionary kid friends have fond memories of swimming in the Ethiope. Here is how I described snorkeling there in a post on my personal blog a few years ago:

“The place we entered was only about a five-minute swim from the pier, but it seemed to take forever to get there. First we drove for a while, then walked a small path for what seemed like a long time. Finally, we came to the river. From the bank we could see the other side. Even to a child it did not look too far to swim. My dad put goggles, flippers, and a snorkel on me. Another missionary went in first, then me, and my dad behind me. What happened next was like entering into a world of wonder—one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

What appeared to me to be a short, easy swim to the other bank suddenly seemed wild, challenging, exciting, and even scary. As I kept my eyes under the water, in an instant I saw the ground below me drop what seemed to be a mile. I don’t really know how deep it was but it was clear to my child’s eyes that it was deeper than anyplace I’d ever been before. It was over my head and my dad’s by a long shot! It felt like I was swimming from the top of one underwater mountain to another, as I swam from that shore line to a sand dune a short distance away. The river floor below was alive too! There was grass swaying and fish swimming everywhere. I understood why my dad wanted to be behind me and didn’t want me swimming this part of the river by myself. And I was really glad he was there!

Very soon the three of us were on the sand dune resting. I sat in utter amazement and wonder at what I had just seen. Then we set out again and swam to the pier which seemed to be just around the corner. The river floor below me in this part was much more shallow, brown in color from the sand, less green and not so alive.”

Eku River

This is an actual picture of the Ethiope River shared with me by a childhood friend who grew up in Eku, very near the river.

Another place I fondly recall from my childhood is the warm springs in Ikogosi. The mission had a retreat there when I was a child. The place was managed by missionaries, John and Doris Mcgee, and the beautiful chapel on the grounds was designed by missionary Wilfred Congdon. Even as a child, the warm water had been diverted in part, so as to gather in a swimming pool but flow out again so it would not become stagnant. Today, it is a resort. The pictures from the website show much development, but the chapel still stands. http://www.ikogosiresort.net/ Ikogisi chape

The chapel in Ikogosi in the 1950’s, when it was fairly new.

There are so many other places I could write about—the Yankari Game Reserve–I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard stories about it from my childhood friends, http://www.wcsnigeria.org/Wild-Places/Yankari-Game-Reserve.aspx.  The incredible rock formations in the northern Plateau State, http://www.nigeriagalleria.com/Nigeria/States_Nigeria/Plateau/Riyom-Rock-Formations-Jos.html, –and so many more.house in Jos (Joy)

I love this picture! It was taken about three  years ago by a childhood friend on a visit back to the Plateau State.

I miss these places, but I must admit, I’m glad I am a US citizen. Ours is truly the greatest nation on earth, and we are blessed to live here.

Writing Prompt: Make up a fictional adventure in Africa. Include why you went there (business, pleasure, mission work?) and what happened while there.



3 Questions Wednesday with Tracey Lyons

tracey-lyons-1345-hr-colorPlease make welcome multi-published author, Tracey Lyons, to the Writing Prompts Blog. Tracey considers herself a small town gal who writes small town romances…

Glad you dropped by, Tracey! First question:

What books have fortified you as a writer? How?

TraceyWriting From the Inside Out by Dennis Plumbo, Pencil Dancing by Mari Messer and Donald Maass’s on Writing the Breakout Novel. How? These books help to unleash my inner creativity by giving me different ways to think about my writing process.

We all need our creativity unleashed. 🙂 Now…

What secret talents do you have?

Tracey:  I dabble in watercolor art. I started doing this about a decade ago when I was struggling with my writing career. I figured if I could write, then I must be able to paint! So I took a few watercolor classes and discovered that I do have a tiny little talent for art.

Watercolor art sounds like fun. Last question:

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Tracey:  I would probably make my old standby dinner of roast pork loin, steamed green beans and roasted red potatoes. Which I would follow with a killer dessert maybe a fruit cobbler or some chocolate confection layered in my trifle dish.

Put me down for the chocolate confection! Thanks, Tracey, for being our guest…

Tracey is ready to bless one person with a Kindle e-book giveaway of A Changed Agent. Just leave a comment to be entered…

  A Changed Agent

achangedagentbookcoverWhen schoolteacher Elsie Mitchell meets rugged William Benton on a train platform in Albany, it appears they have nothing in common. He isn’t the sort of fellow a proper young woman of the 1890s would ever speak to, much less become involved with. But when she arrives at her small town in the Adirondack Mountains, Elsie is offered a job as caregiver for this mysterious out-of-towner’s niece and nephew, who’ve been tragically orphaned. Heartbroken for them, she accepts.

Unknown to her, William is an undercover Pinkerton agent posing as a lumber-company foreman. He’s never wanted family—his work is too dangerous. Yet as Elsie transforms his house into a home and he spends time with the children, he feels drawn to family life—and to Elsie.

As a good Christian, Elsie is troubled by William’s secrets…though she does find him intriguing. And when a sinister figure from her past arrives, Elsie and William will have to trust in faith and newfound love to protect their unlikely family from danger.

tracey-lyons-1345-hr-colorAn Amazon Top Ten bestselling historical romance author of the Women of Surprise series, Tracey Lyons sold her first book on 9/9/99! Her books have been translated into several languages and are available in print, digital and audio formats. Tracey lives with her husband in New York’s Hudson Valley region. She has appeared on the award winning Cox Cable Television show, Page One and on the stage of Lady Jane’s reading salon in New York City.

She holds membership in Romance Writers of America, American Christian Fiction Writers and Novelists Inc. A true upstate New Yorker, Tracey believes you should write what you know. Her historical romances are all set in the New York State area. Tracey considers herself a small town gal who writes small town romances. You can learn more about Tracey and her books by visiting her website at www.traceylyons.com. Her new release is available here.



Following in Jesus’s Footsteps



By Karen Jurgens

About nine years ago I experienced a trip of a lifetime. Landing at the Israeli airport in Tel Aviv seemed like a dream where the pages of my Bible came alive and allowed me to live inside those stories.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

Early morning in Tiberias

Our tour began in Tiberias, a town nestled on one edge of the Sea of Galilee. After a good night’s sleep my jet lag lifted, and reality hit. Drinking early morning coffee on the balcony of my hotel room, I gazed past the sunrise and across the sea to Jordan’s distant shore. White doves floated in azure skies, making the experience surreal. It was like stepping into another dimension. Although Jesus’s physical presence in this town had been absent for more than two thousand years, this was a place where Jesus had walked, and I could feel His eternal presence.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

A boat ride on the Sea of Galilee

The first day we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, followed by a fish dinner on the shore. It made Scriptures come alive as I remembered stories of His disciples pulling in their nets bursting with fish, or waking Jesus during a storm, or Peter walking on the sea at Jesus’s command.

Following in Jesus's Steps by Karen Jurge

The Temple in Capernaum where Jesus taught

Following in Jesus's Steps by Karen Jurgen

In Capernaum where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount

Especially wonderful was visiting Capernaum, a town Jesus cursed because the Jews had refused to believe in Him. We walked through the ruins of the synagogue where Jesus preached, climbed the hill where He delivered the famous Sermon on the Mount, and visited Peter’s house where the Lord healed his sick mother-in-law. The little Catholic church built next to the sea was full of that same sweet peace, and His Spirit whispered that we stood on holy ground.

Ascending to the top of Masada, a fortress erected by Herod the Great, also proved incredible. Its stunning panoramic view surrounded us as we walked through the ruins, sat in the remains of a temple, and listened to the story of how 960 Sicarii rebels had exhaled their last breaths there. What these Jews had experienced as they waited to be overcome by their enemies kept swirling through my mind. How frightening!

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

View from Masada


Would a trip to Israel be complete without a dip in the Dead Sea? We changed into swimsuits and took the salty plunge. No worries if you couldn’t swim because it’s impossible to sink! Some people smear on the mineral-rich sea mud and soak for hours to gain maximum benefits. The strong residue left on your skin feels like a rubber glove, but it comes off after a good, soapy scrubbing.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

Bathing at the Dead Sea

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

Floating in the Dead Sea

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

Slathering up with mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea

Have you been baptized in the Jordan River? Many tourists can’t wait for the chance to follow in Jesus’s tradition when John (the Baptist) baptized Him in those waters two thousand years ago. What an awesome experience!

Do you enjoy museums? We toured several sites, including Qumran. About 75 years ago shepherds discovered 981 Qumran Caves Scrolls. Viewing some of these ancient holy documents behind glass cases was a rare privilege.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

The caves at Qumran

Another interesting place was the Holocaust Museum. Each room, nook, and cranny held displays that related a story of the past. Families, torn apart and shattered, told their individual stories through audio-visual and written displays. A separate building honored the children, and a recording eternally repeats their individual names 24/7. Specks of light like stars shone in the darkness as tourists walked through the narrow corridor, representing each precious life.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

The Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem

I was especially anxious to visit Bethlehem. Jews are not allowed to enter it anymore, so our guide exited our tour bus, and a Christian Arab replaced him. He led us to the famous Church of the Nativity. We descended a staircase to the bottom level where a huge star marked the spot where Jesus was supposed to have been born. I imagined the divine scene with cattle lowing around the straw-filled manger, flanked on either side with Mary and Joseph worshipping the newborn King. It was a moving experience.


Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

The city of Bethlehem

During our tour, Christian tourists were allowed entrance into the area outside the Temple Mount. The golden Dome of the Rock could be seen almost anywhere in Jerusalem. It was fascinating to see the vast space next to the Dome and realize that the third Temple is prophesied to be built there someday soon. In the Jewish part of the Old City, we saw artisans inside a glassed area working on the golden menorah for use in this third temple.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

The Dome of the Rock

In the Old City, we reverently traced the steps where Jesus bore His cross on the Via Dolorosa. From the Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, nine stations mark the Trail of the Cross.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

A Christian pilgrimmage in Jerusalem

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

Next was the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives. After prayer in the grove of ancient trees, we had a service inside the church grounds. Then we walked down the road descending into Jerusalem, retracing Jesus’s steps as He rode on a donkey. I imagined the palm branches waving and the cries of “Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest!”

Afterward, we visited what may have been the Upper Room and enjoyed a time of praise and worship. We reveled in what it must have been like during Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles that day.

Prayer at the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) was another moving experience. The stones seemed to vibrate with God’s holy presence as I laid my hands on them and prayed. I wrote my requests on a slip of paper, rolled it, and wedged it between the rocks.

The highest climax for me was entering the garden tomb, the Protestant holy site, and witnessing its empty grave. Our tour concluded with holy communion as we remembered Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. I am convinced that He is alive! Everyone says that you’re permanently changed after visiting Israel. And that was absolutely true for me. I’ll never be the same.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

He’s alive!

Writing Prompt: If you have been to Israel, write about your most meaningful experience. If you haven’t but would like to go someday, write about what you are looking forward to seeing the most and why.

How I Would Travel Around the World in Eighty Days

By Betty Boyd


In June of 2016, Solar Impulse 2 just finished an epic flight around the world. The trip took over 16 months to complete and made aviation history. I want to mimic what was done in the movie “Around the World in Eighty Days” but with a solar powered airplane, rather than a balloon.

What wonders would I see in the air, the glistening water, billowing clouds, land masses with different shapes galore, using this type of airplane. I would start my trip from Huntsville International Airport in Alabama, cruising at an altitude 23,000 feet above the Earth. I want to head up the East coast and visit New York City, landing at LaGuardia International Airport. I would take in a Broadway show, visit the shops on Fifth Avenue, and other famous sights and sounds that are the Big Apple.

I then would cross the North Atlantic Ocean and land at London’s Heathrow Airport. I can’t wait to see Big Ben and hear it sound off on the hour. I’d drive over the Tower of London, boat on the River Thames, see a Shakespearean play at the Globe Theatre, and finish up at Trafalgar Square.


My next stop is a mere 1130 miles (a lot less than the over 3400 miles to London). I would land in Rome’s Fiumiacano-Lenardo da Vinci International Airport.  Hopefully, it will be a Wednesday and I can to go Vatican City and try to get a glimpse of Pope Francis. There are so many fantastic places of interest such as the Sistine Chapel and the Coliseum. I would eat gelato, pasta, and partake of some wine. There are also day trips from Rome, where I would explore Tuscany and see the beautiful wine country, along with Pompeii. To top it all off, it would be fun to discover the alluring island of Capri.


My journey is not yet finished. Hovering above Africa and passing over the Indian Ocean covering 8,935 miles, I would arrive in Sydney, Australia. This would take 21 hours to complete, crossing over 3 datelines. I could spend a lifetime on this beautiful continent. Some of the best sights in Sydney are the harbor, Opera House, and the Botanical Gardens. If I have any time left, I would take a trip to the outback, depending upon the time of year. The seasons are opposite to what’s in the United States.


I would finally fly almost another 9,437 miles across the southern Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, landing back at Huntsville, AL. My trip was not long enough, but proved to be incredible, invigorating with memories that will last a lifetime.

Writing Prompt: What if you had a solar plane? Imagine where you would travel…



3 Questions Wednesday with Lori Stanley Roeleveld

roeleveld-headshot-2015It is my privilege to welcome Lori Stanley Roeleveld, author and disturber of hobbits, back to our blog.

Hello, Lori! I’m so glad you’re back. 

Please let our readers know what books have fortified you as a writer? How?

Lori: Pivotal to my early spiritual formation (aside from God’s Word) was A Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster.  I devoured this book and incorporated these disciplines into my life as a freshman in college and taking this path has made all the difference.

I’ve read countless books on the craft of writing and for me, it was finding the courage of my own creativity that was the battle (as well as the gumption to make my writing dream a priority while still serving my family). The books that helped me most to find my voice and schedule the time for writing were: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett,  and Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg .

Aside from these, I also consume large quantities of fairy tales, folk tales, and epic fantasies so that my non-fiction has wings.

Writing true, huh? Might have to add that one to the wish list…

What secret talents do you have?

Lori: When I was forty, a group of women who had black belts challenged me to take karate. They wanted to study the Bible but I had to attend karate classes with them prior to leading the study. Before this time, I was a world-ranked sitter. If sitting were an Olympic sport, I’d be the Michael Phelps of the event! It took me four years but I earned my black belt in karate and discovered I have a fierce back kick as well as a solid right hook. The experience also taught me that with small steps and perseverance, we can achieve what appears to be impossible.

That’s awesome 🙂 Last question…

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Lori: I would hand you a lovely glass of water or a hot cup of coffee depending on the weather as we discussed which local restaurant we’d visit. With a full-time day job and a full-time writing habit, my cooking muscle is atrophied but southern Rhode Island is a sea of fine dining. My favorites are sushi, Mexican food, chowder and clamcakes, white pizza, or good bleu-burgers with sweet potato fries.

I love eating out! And let’s try the seafood. Thanks, Lori, for stopping by!

Lori has graciously offered to give away a copy of Jesus and the Beanstalk, in print or Kindle. (winners choice) Please leave a comment to be entered…

Jesus and the Beanstalk

We live in unsettling, challenging times. Everywhere we high-res-beanstalk-cover-300-pxlook, we see giant problems: giant obstacles to sharing faith, giant barriers to peaceful lives, giant strongholds of fear. But what if you knew eight small secrets to unlocking a strength big enough to overcome whatever obstacle life may bring?
Using allegory and a bit of humor, Jesus and the Beanstalk explores a passage in 2 Peter 1 to uncover eight truths that will help you unleash a larger-than-life faith:

· Faith

· Goodness

· Knowledge

· Self-control

· Perseverance

· Godliness

· Affection for others

· Love

 In this creative, refreshing perspective on spiritual growth, you will discover an unyielding strength when you tap the power of a God who is stronger than any beanstalk and bigger than your biggest giants.

Links to my books:

Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) 

Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus)

Red Pen Redemption

roeleveld-headshot-2015Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored an unsettling blog since 2009; a pursuit that eventually resulted in her first book, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus). Her next book, Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life), releases September 2016. Her speculative Christmas novella, Red Pen Redemption, is a quick but challenging read if you love history and life’s big questions. If you don’t find her at her website, www.loriroeleveld.com, know she’s off somewhere slaying dragons. Lori is a retired home school mom with a day job who lives her Jesus adventure in Rhode Island with her husband, Rob.