Get Me Out of Here

Making the 90-mile one-way drive between my home in Lovelock, Nevada, and my work place in Reno with a young hyperactive son—I often wished I could be plucked off the heavily travelled interstate and deposited safely at my job. And often during the hard times and hard places in life I’ve had that same thought. I’ve wanted to shout at God, “Get me out of here!”

Who wouldn’t like to be gifted with a large amount of money during a financial crisis rather than taking a second job and working through it? Who wouldn’t like a cancer diagnosis reversed rather than going through brutal medical treatment? Who wouldn’t like to glide effortlessly through the hard places in life rather than fighting and slogging through them? How many times do we beg God to remove obstacles rather than making us overcome them?

When my hip replacement became infected, I spent two-and-a-half months in the hospital. I wanted to shout at God, “Get me out of here!” I wanted God to take me back to the initial surgery and do it all over again with a different result. I wanted easy and painless instead of hard and painful.

One of my favorite Bible verses is: “In everything give thanks.” Another of my favorite verses is: “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” I quoted those to myself daily while I was in the hospital—but I still wanted out.

Now that I am out, I am thanking the Lord again for making me go through rather than taking me out. I wrote two books while I was in the hospital. “Utopia House Murder” has already been released and “Mirrored Murder” will be released within the next week. One of the characters in “Mirrored Murder” was inspired by a woman who was in my ward. That character makes the cozy mystery-romance come alive, just as the person who inspired the character made our ward come alive. Additionally, I made two lasting friends. One of them, at 90, has no family and few friends. She lives close enough to us that I can walk over to visit. The other—who is 80—pops over to Dunoon, Scotland, to visit us both.

I wanted out. I didn’t want to go through. Yet God continues to bless me for the through path my life took.

When Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to remove the thorn in his flesh, the Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

I know that. I believe that. But I also know that at some time before my life on this earth is over I am going to shout at God again…“Get me out of here!”

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Seagull Wiggles

When seagulls land on a surface they do a wing shuffle and wiggle their feathers as if they are saying, “Good for me. Another fine landing.”

God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, but He is pleased when we appreciate ourselves and our efforts. He created us. He gave us our talents. When we appreciate ourselves—we are praising the Creator who fashioned us in the womb.

“You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13 & 14.

So give yourself permission to do a little wing shuffle and seagull wiggle today. You are special and specially made. There is no one else on this incredible, diverse earth who is just like you. And that is a good reason for preening and wiggling with joy.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Saving Mouse

Mouse came to us approximately two years ago during the pandemic. That is to say that Mouse showed up on our little back deck and sat quietly eating seed with the birds. Mouse was a polite little friend and never attempted to breach house etiquette by coming inside. Mice outside are cute. Mice inside are not.

Enter Cat. Stalking Mouse. Not our cat—we don’t have one. This large black and white cat claimed our back deck for his convenience when we first moved here four years ago—but he comes and goes and we don’t know who he owns. He’s been mostly gone the past two years and we’ve seen him around the neighborhood crossing the street and sitting on the top of rock fences in different locations. Since he doesn’t seem interested in hurting the birds that feed on our deck we’ve made him feel welcome. I even went out and pet him this morning since I hadn’t seen him in a long time.

Then we realized why the large black and white not-our-cat was back. He was stalking Mouse. The dilemma. We like our little mouse with polite manners—and our deck is a place of sanctuary. We don’t want carnage on our back porch. There’s too much of that in the world already. Cat had to go. First we opened the door and stepped out on the porch a few times knowing that Cat likes privacy—but Cat liked stalking Mouse more than privacy. Next we decided to engage nature by employing Dog. Dog ran out the door barking furiously, took one look at cat and fled back inside the house nearly knocking me down. In her defense, Cat is big—and with his back arched and fur standing up—Cat is really big and Dog was really scared.

Mouse remained in danger because Cat crouched back down next to the planter waiting for Mouse to make an appearance. What to do…we wanted Cat to leave, but we didn’t want to hurt Cat either. Our porch is a sanctuary.

Enter Husband who is being stalked by a couple of physical conditions—which no doubt gives him even more empathy for Mouse. He suggested throwing a glass of water in Cat’s direction. I didn’t want to do this after petting Cat—so he did. Cat vanished over the edge of the porch to find a dry (since it isn’t raining today) fence where he can sit and preside over neighborhood affairs. Mouse is on the deck quietly sharing food with the birds.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak.”

Sometimes to save a mouse—one must throw water.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

From America to Scotland with Confusion

We are thrilled that some friends of ours are coming to visit us here in Dunoon, Scotland. Some things may confuse them, so I decided to dedicate my blog this week to my confusion as an American first arriving in Scotland.

Light switches are on the outside of bathrooms. This might not seem a biggie—and folks who have lived in the UK all their lives will probably say, “Well, duh,” but trust me—this is a biggie when you are desperate to get to the toilet and it is buried in a bathroom as dark as a cave and you can barely see the toilet even with the door open…and you can’t find the light switch because in your country—it lives inside the bathroom with the light.

Perhaps it’s my age, but bathrooms pay a predominate role in my everyday existence. So a few more things about Scottish bathrooms. Most of the sinks have separate hot and cold water faucets, so the temperature of the water can’t be adjusted like most U.S. sinks which have one lever that adjusts the temperature. Public restrooms in northern Scotland are scarce making long distance traveling a nightmare.

Bathroom stalls go from the floor to ceiling, so there is no way to climb out over the top, or crawl out under the bottom if the door gets jammed. Furthermore, the metal hardware on the doors has often been painted over so thickly that locks stick—so I never lock a bathroom I don’t know.

WC means public bathroom. Usually it also means very old which translates into weird plumbing like water tanks up on the wall with pull chains—and stall doors that once closed may be difficult to open.

Other confusing things. Gaelic writing shares road signs with English writing which crams so much lettering on sign faces that it is virtually impossible to read them. There are missing or faded road signs everywhere—cities, villages, the country—which make navigating difficult. And roundabouts—those dreaded roundabouts. With the impossibility of sifting through the Gaelic quickly enough to read the English and figure out where to turn…I have roundabouted the roundabouts repeatedly—much to the confusion of other drivers who already know where they want to go.

Restaurants serve small portions and don’t give free refills on beverages. And if a person orders lasagna, for example—that’s what they get—lasagna. Just lasagna. No breadsticks or salad—everything except the main course is an added order and an added charge. And what is served with macaroni and cheese? “Chips” which Americans know as fries. Starch on top of starch. My mother wouldn’t believe me if I told her that. She insisted every meal must have meat, starch, and veggie. We seldom had desserts.

Speaking of meals, in Scotland, “tea” means hot tea and it also means the evening meal. So it’s confusing if someone invites you to tea. You don’t know if you’re going to be eating or drinking. Also, all desserts are “puddings,” and yet, there is no actual dessert that is pudding.

Cooking is equally confusing. Forget cups, ounces, teaspoons, and tablespoons as units of measure. Things here are grams, kilograms, and liters. And you don’t set your oven on 350F, a normal cooking temperature for many things in the U.S., because everything is centigrade. I have to look up weights, measures, and temperatures on the computer every time I use my American cookbook.

After ten years in Scotland I finally found dill pickles. They aren’t really dill pickles and they’re called gherkins.

But this is where God has planted me, so this is where I need to bloom. The scenery is stunning. The people are friendly and fabulous. And isn’t that what’s most important anywhere?

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

And Then I See…

My emotions get trampled along with the troops and helpless victims in Russia’s war against the Ukraine, and my burdened heart slows my steps. I shake my head in despair and mutter, “Evil. There is no hope in the world.” And then I see a flower.

Rising prices, rising taxes, shrinking finances—I shake my head in despair. And then the little birds in the tree outside my window sing their spring songs of love, joy, and praise and my heart rises higher than food and gas prices, higher than taxes. No one can tax a bird song.

Aches and pains tempt me to stay inside reclining in a chair and let the calories I’ve consumed for the day settle comfortably wherever they want. But I push myself up from the chair to take the dog on a walk and then I see the first spring green on a tree and my heart fills with joy that no physical pain can steal.

Loved ones—sick, weak, or dying to this world. So sad. So helpless. So hopeless. And then I remember the empty tomb and the fact that Jesus lives—and because He lives—hope returns. Because He lives, we will live again after this life in a place where there is no pain, no sorrow, no suffering, no illness, no death, no parting. I smile.

It’s a cold and dreary day. Grey inside. Grey outside. Grey everywhere. And then I see a flower.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—mediate on these things. Philippians 4:8

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Labels

I hate labels. Every person God created is unique, special, and priceless. Not every person has the same talents, gifts, or outward appearance—but each person is born with the fire of God burning in their souls.

Labels separate and divide. “Black Lives Matter.” “White Lives Matter.” All lives matter. All life matters.

Labels are destructive, not instructive. Allowing people to choose their pronouns makes about as much sense as referring to Mount Everest as a “hill” so people in other countries won’t be offended that their mountains are not the tallest in the world. Or deciding that it’s okay to run through a campfire with bare feet because you have designated the burning embers “water.” Labels do not change reality.

This fallen world will never be perfect. We are all travelers passing through. Some spend less time here than others—but no one stays. Nor do humanly-mandated labels. You can slap a label on a can of green beans and call them “Peaches,” but they will still be green beans. I could print posters labeling me as a professional singer—but no one would hire me. I can’t carry a tune—not even in a dump truck.

If a person convicted of violent crimes escapes from prison and the police are forced to use the pronoun “they” to keep from using he, or she—and that same person is loose in your neighborhood and has already killed someone and the police warn you to watch for they and call them immediately if you see they—what the heck are you looking for?

God is a God of order and common sense. Humans can attempt to delete God from their lives by labeling Him out—but it won’t change His creation. Humans can’t move Mount Everest even if they call it a hill. A baby in a mother’s womb is a person, a separate entity from its mother with its own DNA—not tissue or a blob. Abortion doesn’t make a woman unpregnant; it makes her the mother of a dead child even when abortion is labeled “choice.”

Politicians can rant attempting to sway voters with oration; movie companies can throw paint on evil and ugly attempting to transform it into good, and media outlets can choose their own agendas…but Mount Everest won’t fall down—and someday—all humans will fall regardless of the labels they have chosen for their lives.

There are only two labels in this world that make a difference: good and evil. Everything good is from God. Everything bad is from satan. The only eternal labels that exist are accepting God or rejecting God.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28.

As for being a “hill” or a “Mount Everest” in this life; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, but if you show partiality, you commit sin.” James 2:9.

Labels belong on food.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Perfect R Not Us

Some folks believe they are perfect. Perhaps they are, but probably not. Perfection is a stress-inducing condition from which I can cheerfully proclaim I do not suffer.

I can’t imagine the burden of needing to always be right—or to have other people think that you are—or of never making a mistake (or thinking you never do). Some of the most miserable folks I know are perfectionists. Stress is a killer. It starts on the face by killing the smile and turning it upside down.

Some of my mistakes have been notable: spending an extra $100 from my bank account because I read the teller’s receipt wrong and thought the money was there (so did the bank—so the Lord saved me on that one); turning our wedding cake into body shield armor by cooking an artificial sweetener for the frosting instead of powdered sugar; showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time because I always get lost—the list is long. Most recently, it was the first of the two books I wrote while I was stuck in the hospital with an infection in a hip replacement. I decided that the title “Utopia House Murder” had more punch than my first choice, “Murder at Utopia House.” I sent the change to the cover illustrator, but not to my editor. Oops! The book came out on Amazon as “Murder at Utopia House,” but the cover was “Utopia House Murder.” Fortunately, most mistakes can be rectified and the title now matches in both places. Whew!

Utopia House Murder is—like most of the other books I have written—a Christian cozy mystery-romance-suspense, but at the same time—it is unlike any of the other books I have written. Sadly, I can’t differentiate between the two here because that would be impossible without dropping a spoiler. And for a writer—spoilers are unforgiveable mistakes.

We, as humans, make mistakes. “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Psalm 18:30.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

It Really Is the Little Things

Folks often say, “It’s the little things that count.” They are right.

After spending more than two-and-a-half months in the hospital, it’s the little things that bring me unspeakable joy; getting to take a shower for the first time instead of a sponge bath because the dressing is finally off my wound; feeling the atmosphere God created on my face instead of the manmade unnatural hospital air that dries out skin; getting to freely wash my hair; cooking something I will enjoy eating…the little things.

After I recovered enough from my second hip replacement surgery (to remove the original hip replacement and clean it out because it had become infected) to get up out of bed and wash myself—I still wasn’t allowed to wash my hair. I was restricted to sponge baths because I had a machine (several during the months) hanging around my neck that sucked poison out of my wound. I couldn’t get it wet. I can’t stand it when my hair is dirty—and after two weeks of not being allowed to wash my hair I took a page out of my hero author and friend Val Poore’s book and washed my hair in the basin after I washed myself. I reminded myself of Val’s ingenuity and how she had constructed a little shower on her barge. She has to sit down under it and the water supply is limited. I’m no Val Poore, but I’ve learned from her remarkable books and the basin trick worked until I finally defied the “no washing hair in the sink because of covid” rule and washed it in the sink when I knew the nurses would be out of the room for a while. That rule made no sense whatsoever; the nurses were in the room handling patients who had covid—we all did even though I was the only one who did NOT have two injections and a booster—and after handling covid patients they washed their hands in the same sink I wanted to use to wash my hair.

After I got home, cooking was a bit of a challenge at first—not the actual cooking—but the standing long enough to cook. My right hip is still weak from two invasive surgeries and I’m missing a part of the back of my leg that used to be there—so I have a strange dip and crease along the wound.

They served “spaghetti” in the hospital. It had no meat in it. The overcooked pasta had been introduced to a splash of tomato sauce—but they didn’t even get close enough to shake hands apparently, because there was no spaghetti sauce on the spaghetti. So the first thing I cooked when I got home—was a copious amount of meatballs to put into the generous sauce I made with an appetizing amount of green peppers, onions, and carrots. Then I not only introduced the pasta to the sauce—I made sure they got really well acquainted! It’s the little things.

‘There are four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a feeble folk, yet they make their homes in the crags; the locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks; the spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and is the kings’ palaces.” Proverbs 30:24.

Never forget the little things.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

No Matter What

There are two Bible verses around which I have built my life: In everything give thanks, and ALL things work together for good to those who love the Lord.

It is easy to memorize these verses. It is easy to repeat them. But to live them? Hmm…that can be more difficult.

When I was virtually snatched from my home and sent to the hospital unexpectedly a few months ago with an infection after hip replacement surgery, it was a challenge to be thankful and accept it as good. The dog had to go to the kennel. My husband had to call in care givers to take my place. Me? I faced another surgery. The hip that had just been put in on December 5, 2021, had to be taken out, cleaned, and put back in. And that was followed by months of antibiotic treatments—IV bags at the hospital. Furthermore, if that didn’t’ work—the cleaned out hip would be removed again, a temporary spacer filled with antibiotics would be put in, and some months later—the spacer would be removed and a new hip joint would finally be put in to stay…hopefully to stay…after more months of hospital IV treatments.

Wow.

But God is good all the time and all the time God is good. Our Dunoon New Life Christian Fellowship Church family was brilliant. They fed Alan and gave him the support he needed. The couple running the kennel treated Savannah like a family pet. And after having little and big machines sucking the horrible, stinky discharge out of my leg for months—so much discharge that it kept filling up the machines and killing them—I was released to go home.

While I was in the hospital I completed two new Christian cozy mystery-romance books. One is at the editors already, and one is waiting for me to have time to proofread it—because I’m home now. Home now means stopping the proofing to walk the dog, help my spouse, cook meals, and return to life outside hospital walls.

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Give Away What God Gave

Greenock, Scotland artist Jim Stracaan is a professional artist who commands high prices for his work—except for what he gives away like the 40-foot long “Garden of Care” mural in the basement of Inverclyde Royal Hospital. His heart project began during covid to express his appreciation for hospital staff who continued treating patients in spite of the world-wide fear and uncertainty. When the mural is finished, it will include 60 portraits of staff members.

One of the panels shows gardeners—nurses and doctors—nurturing flowers. That particular panel pays homage to cancer treatment specialists at the hospital.

Why does Jim Stracaan do it? He loves to give away what God has given him—his creativity and artistic talent.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle