Crazy – or Insane?

I hate those spineless scammers that go around paying other people’s bills without their knowledge or consent. Mind you, no one has ever paid my bills, but I know these bill-paying scammers exist.

I know because husband Alan McKean is still in the hospital. He has been there since the last week in December. The bills are in his name. I can’t pay them. The only reason I can imagine greedy utility companies refusing money without putting me through a more rigorous security check than the police check I had to pass to enter this country is that mean-spirited scammers go around tricking big corporations by paying other people’s bills.

First it was the phone company. Actually, I am gradually realizing that besides spending half-a-day on the phone to get my name added to the bill so that I was eligible to pay it, sorting out the phone company was a breeze. I had to pass through about the same layers of security and scrutiny as I did to get my visa to remain here in the UK.

But the electric company? “Oh, the electric company,” she moans, hanging her head. Throw in some handwringing. Actually, it was an extremely rough ferry crossing over to the hospital this morning and there was a woman wringing her hands. At the time, I thought it was fear. Now I think it was despair. I think her husband is probably in the hospital, too, and she tried to pay the electric bill for him.

I never got a bill from the electric company. We got dumped by our old company and sucked into a new one, so I didn’t even know the name of the company or how to contact them. Alan handled it through his email—which is password protected. He can’t remember the password. So, I started out asking the company—when I finally found out which one it was—to change the emails to my email address because my husband was in the hospital. Their reply; “We can’t do that unless your husband calls us.”

“But he’s in the hospital.”

“Yes, you’ve told me.”

“He’s been there since after Christmas. I don’t know if he’s getting out.”

“Yes. But he needs to call us and give us permission to add you to the bill.”

“He can’t call. He can barely talk. He’s in the hospital. What am I supposed to do—sit here and not pay you until the lights and the heat go out?”

“You can pay the bill. I just can’t change anything unless he calls us.”

“Oh, good. That’s all I want to do. Pay the bill. How much is it?”

“I can’t tell you.”


“Company policy.”

“You want me to pay the bill, but you won’t tell me how much it is? I want to speak to a supervisor.”

“I can transfer you to a supervisor, but they will tell you the same thing. Company policy.”

“Well, if you can’t tell me how much I owe can you just throw a number out for fun? And I’ll pay that.”

“That would be telling you the amount. I could lose my job.”

So…the electric bill is not paid. Any day I will return home from the hospital to a dark cold house. But the lady will have kept her job.

Crazy? No, insane.

Hey, if any of you guys out there know one of those pesky scammers personally—tell them to pay my electric bill for me.

Little Joys

It is a long walk—a lot of it uncovered and exposed to constant rain—between the little ferry in Gourock and the train station where one can either catch the train, or go through the building and get a taxi or a bus. Before when I made this walk frequently, I was on crutches. I was always the last one to get from the ferry to the front of the station building. When I first began visiting Alan in the hospital nearly every day on the Thursday after Christmas, I was off crutches—but still the last one to reach the front of the building. But now, after all these weeks of walking that route—I can keep up with the frontrunners! I was in the group of the first three folks today to reach the front of the building. Just a little bit of joy to season the day. (I was probably the only one to know that I was ‘racing’ the others!)

Savannah went on a walk with me two nights ago. “Wait,” you might well say. “Don’t dogs usually go on walks with their owners?” Not Savannah. Not after dark. Since the November 5 Guy Fawkes Night fireworks, Savannah has refused to go outside after dark. Every night when the rain is not pouring down I put Savannah’s collar and leash on her and walk to the front door. The leash comes with me. The collar and the dog stay behind. So having her willingly go on a walk with me after dark was a big thing. And it was just another bit of joy to season the day.

My newest Christian cozy mystery-romance came out in paperback today. I got home to find two paperback copies had been dropped through the mail slot. A bit of joy to season the day.

While I was walking around waiting for the ferry yesterday afternoon, I got to take an interesting photo of a building out on a pier, the roof covered with seagulls, and a boat rocking gently in the fog. Today as I waited for the ferry, I got to watch pigeons diligently choose nesting materials and fly off with them sticking out of their beaks. Little joys.

Joy doesn’t have to come in something the size of a shipping container or a new vehicle. It can be small and quiet, a whisper passing through the heart. The Bible says, “In everything give thanks,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

A thankful heart finds joy in little things. Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Blame it on Circles

My college art class professor loved circles. He gave us instruction in our class on Monday, then set an art project to be completed by Friday—and he always wanted us to include circles or curves—except for William, of course. William disappeared after Monday’s class, but he unfailingly showed up on Thursday night with a large canvas he had stretched. He applied masking tape to the blank canvas in geometrical shapes, spray painted different areas different colors, and removed the tape. Art project finished in thirty minutes. Result—straight ‘A’s.

It seemed unfair at the time that the 30-minute student in our class always rated an ‘A’ when the rest of us who showed up and worked on our projects all week, diligently including the required circles and curves, did not hit the ‘A’ mark. But I have since learned that life is not fair and I am not an artist. William was.

The country song, “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” recorded in 1935, by the Carter Family has a catchy tune and words: Will the circle be unbroken; By and by, Lord, by and by; There’s a better home a-waiting; In the sky, Lord in the sky. I love that song.

Circles are good in songs. “The Circle of Life” in “Lion King” being a prime example. But I’m beginning to distrust circles. Take the seasons. They curve and circle around enough to please even my art professor. But the circle includes winter (she says wearing three layers of clothes at the computer and shivering). Winter is simply not good for me no matter how many circles—or songs—it creeps into.

However, my main grumble about circles is that they are round. As I go back and forth across the water every day to visit my husband in the hospital, I watch the windows on buildings as the ferry approaches the terminals at each end of the trip. The windows are tall and trim and inflexible. I can’t help thinking that if I maintained the same shape as the windows—my weight would not creep up on me and become a problem. See—I’m not window-shaped. I’m round. And that’s the problem with circles. There is always room in the middle to add something. Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

For Such a Time

Sometimes God’s gifts involve having the right people in the right places at the right times.

I just released my 37th Christian cozy mystery-romance. It would have been impossible for me to write had I not been in the right place at the right time. Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World,” is home of my heart. I set my newest book, “Paid for Murder” at a Texas Hill Country Dude Ranch. The location is fiction, but the flood event at the start of the book is real, based on the historic Medina River Floods of 1978, and 2002. Even though Bandera is home, I have left it several times over the years—most recently now. I am currently living in Scotland. However, God took me back home for the floods that shaped the opening chapters of “Paid for Murder.”

Approximately 15 years ago while I was working at a Bandera newspaper I was sent to interview a Scottish minister who had exchanged pulpits with a Pipe Creek pastor. I rebelled against leaving the newspaper office to do the interview. We were on deadline and I needed to write up my notes from a city council meeting, a county commissioners’ meeting, and a school board meeting. I did not welcome another story to write for that week’s edition. However, the person assigned to interview the Scottish pastor didn’t show up at work that day. The minister was leaving to go back to Scotland. It was the last chance to get a picture of him and interview him. So stomping, spitting, and feeling sorry for my overworked self—I went. The pastor was Alan T McKean, my husband.

I am reminded of the book of Esther in the Bible. Esther was a poor Jewish girl who was in the right place at the right time to become queen. When a jealous rival of her uncle’s planned to kill not only Esther’s uncle, but also the Jewish people, her uncle asked Esther to intercede. He said to her, “Who knows whether you have come into the kingdom for such a time as this?”

There was a law that anyone approaching the king when he had not called for them would be killed. The king had not called for Esther. She said to her uncle, “I will go to the king which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

So Esther bravely went before the king and he not only accepted her, he accepted her people and turned the evil maneuvering of the enemy against himself so that he fell into the trap he had set for Esther’s uncle and the Jewish people.

God gives gifts. Each day of life is a gift from God. He daily loads us with benefits. Sometimes, it is just being in the right place at the right time.

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Building with Rocks

Approximately 200 years ago, rock masons tamed Dunoon, Scotland, corralling houses, streets, and green spaces behind unending  lines of rock fences of various heights and shapes, from ornate curved with little houses attached to the back for coal storage to basic. The years have whisked by with changes to property ownership and streets. The rock fences have remained unchanged.

Sadly, no written record exists to tell the history of the rock fences or to name the rock masons who built such marvelous structures. I’ve searched. It would seem that the rock fences and their builders were deemed too common place and unappreciated to warrant mention. And, yet, year after year—the rock fences remain silently and steadfastly doing their job.

Some of us can relate to the rock fences. Years pass as we faithfully perform the charges that God has given us—often without recognition or reward. Should we ever feel unappreciated and undervalued, we should think of rock fences and the burdens they so faithfully carry with no accolade. Year after year they make the world around them a better place. They don’t get praise for their existence, but they would be missed if they were gone.

Even better, remember Jesus: “Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:6

“Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death…that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9 Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Sounds of Joy

We have what is surely one of the most beautiful doorbells in the world. Which is a shame. Hardly anyone ever uses it.

For some reason, delivery people and friends tend to knock on our door rather than ringing the doorbell. Because of that, whenever the lovely musical chimes sound, my reaction is rather like “The Beverly Hillbillies” after they moved into their Hollywood mansion. When their doorbell rang, the entire family would wander around the mansion searching for the source of the sound. I find myself at first startled when our doorbell rings. Then I stand still to listen to the beautiful chimes in awe before finally dashing to the door to open it.

Perhaps I should organize a one-day neighborhood doorbell ringing event. Perhaps even a contest to see if our doorbell really is the most beautiful.

Regardless of how your doorbell sounds, or if you even have a doorbell, may 2003 ring sounds of joy into your life. May the Lord God who created the heavens and the earth sweep into your life with His gifts of love, joy, peace, and provision. In a world where there is no peace, may your life shine forth with a peace that outward circumstances cannot banish or steal. “Peace be within your walls…Peace be within you, because of the house of the LORD our God.” Psalm 122.

Smile Power

The cashier had such a acerbic look on her face that I avoided her check stand at first. She looked like her dog had just died this morning; her husband had asked for a divorce; her children had run away from home, and she had a pain in her gut. She looked so totally inapproachable that no one was at her stand even though customers were lined up on either side of her.

I hadn’t had a good morning either. My husband’s physical condition had declined so rapidly that he could no longer lay down in bed at night and we had both slept in recliner chairs; my husband could no longer walk and could not stand by himself, so I had to help him up and down from the chair and give him a sponge bath, etc. Not a good morning. But as I looked at the cashier’s face I silently prayed for Jesus to right whatever was so dreadfully wrong in her life. Then I forced the biggest, widest, most genuine smile I could produce on my face. The effort made my cheeks hurt.

Astonishing, Acerbic Cashier smiled back. By the time she had run my items across the scanner, she and I were engaged in a friendly conversation. Without the scowl and the glowering countenance, she was an attractive woman. The power of a smile.

Give away smiles endlessly. They are free. And they have the power to free others.

“A person who has friends must be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24 Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Old vs New


I love old cars and old houses. Given my childhood, it’s strange that I would favor old over new.

After our house burned down when I was in the ninth grade, I never had an indoor bathroom or running water in my house until after I left home. Back then, I was embarrassed by the holes in my jeans. Nowadays, I would be in style.

We never thought of ourselves as poor, yet my mother never had enough money for groceries or new clothes and new shoes for our family. I went to school often with the soles of my shoes held on with a thick rubber band from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution newspaper.

We lived briefly in an old antebellum house in Georgia that Sherman missed on his march to the sea. One winter the roof fell down in my brothers’ bedroom. Bees lived in the walls of the bedroom I shared with my sisters. We frequently got stung. There was no heating in the house. Nor was there a bathroom or any running water. We carried water from town in empty milk jugs. The house was so cold in the winter that the jugs of water lined up in the kitchen froze. We had to use that frozen water to take a sponge bath with before we left for school.

As bad as living conditions were in that house, it had a classic beauty that I loved. And it was an improvement over the unfinished log cabin in Splendora, Texas. That house had only half a roof and when a hurricane came inland from the Gulf, the water in the house was so deep that our grandmother had to stand on a folding metal chair to cook for us kids. We were on the only bed in the house and the water level was up to the mattress. My grandmother was scared to death of snakes, but when a poisonous water moccasin floated into the cabin and across to the bed where we kids huddled, my grandmother went after that snake with a broom. The goats and chickens came into the cabin with us to get out of the rain—which was funny since we were nearly as wet as they were.

Then there was the plywood shell of a house in the Texas Hill Country…it had a finished roof, but a dirt floor. No heating, no air conditioning, no running water or indoor plumbing.

Still, I love old houses and old cars. The craftsmen who built them followed their eye for beauty and the integrity of their hearts to produce a legacy.

However, growing up in old houses with no heat in the winter might explain why I hate cold and winter now.

Still, when I see a classic old vehicle or pass a historic old home, my heart trespasses into another era.

Not so with my flesh. New visits of pain and weakness get no welcome from me. I remember what Jesus said—warned? “When you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” John 21:18.

I’ll pick an old car or an old house over an old body any day! Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Wise Fear – Foolish Fear

One of my favorite things to point out to folks is that God put 365 “Fear Nots” into the Bible, one for each day. We need to trust God and not fear the future. God is good all the time, and all the time God is good, and all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.

However, God put the capacity of fear into us when He created us—good fear. Good fear warns us of imminent danger and gives us the wisdom we need to stay clear of danger.

Looking back at the foolish things I’ve done during my lifetime has given me empathy for our rough collie Savannah and her obstinate fear.

Folks in the UK have long memories—like Savannah. She never forgets anything. Back in 1605, a man named Guy Fawkes was involved in a gunpowder plot to blow up parliament. The plot was discovered and Fawkes was executed. So every November 5—the sky lights up with fireworks for Guy Fawkes Night, a night to celebrate the failure of the gunpowder plot. Or perhaps just for an excuse to have a good time and make a lot of noise.

In any event, animals don’t like fireworks, and some animals—like Savannah—are terrorized by them. With the absence of the usual rain this year, the sky lit up with fireworks and the boom-booms echoed around our neighborhood. Not expecting the intensity this year, I was taking Savannah on a long walk when the displays started. She ran to the end of her leash and continued running as I held her to a walking pace. She attempted to pull me up into the hills—which is the complete opposite of where we live. I had to drag her to get her home and her harness nearly pulled off several times.

It is now 25 days and counting since Guy Fawkes Night. Savannah will not go outside after dark. Every night I put her harness on, put my coat and rain gear on (it is nearly always raining), and try to walk Savannah. She will finally go from the side door to the front of our house. Period. End of walk. So I have started leaving her behind and taking myself on a walk in hopes that she will feel abandoned and decide to come with me. Of course, by the time this works—the sky will be lighting up again for New Year’s and the boom-booms will be thundering all around our house.

I will continue sharing one of my favorite reminders from the Bible: the 365 “Fear Nots.” I will continue trusting God and losing my fears in His power and goodness. But I must admit that in a way I admire Savannah’s obstinate fear. When I remember the silly, dangerous stunts I’ve pulled during my lifetime and the resulting pickles—I’m wishing I had possessed some of my dog’s obstinate fear. Sour pickles are good on burgers—but there’s a limit to how many one can pull out of the jar and eat.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 111:10. Fear should be spent wisely, not foolishly. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Some Days Are Like That

Perhaps The Day began before the day began—meaning while I was still asleep and dreamed I was unpacking a large new laptop from a box and installing it on my desk. I say that because after I actually woke up and turned on the computer—it wasn’t new and the keys were still sticking. When a person touch types, it is especially aggravating when keys stick, because one can type in sentences to paragraphs before looking up and seeing all the misspelled words that are missing because of the letters that stick—M, V, C, X—well, the X isn’t so bad—and the punctuation marks like : “ ‘.

The day did not improve from the disappointing start of sticking keys. To the optician to get an eye appointment (I haven’t had one in 11 years) so I can get new glasses and not need to wear two pairs at a time, one on top of the other to read small print—like my Bible. No appointment available until the end of December. To the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my husband…and the important pills he needed were not in the bag. To the electronic and everything shop to fix a lamp for our 90-year-old housebound friend…and the store is closed on Mondays. Several other stops and a lot of walking…and it was COLD. Just above freezing with a grey overcast sky and a determined wind that knew how to get around and under any number of layers. When it is cold…I. Am. Not. A. Happy. Camper.

Then the kicker. We shopped for Thanksgiving. They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK and turkeys are hard to find until right before Christmas. But we do celebrate Thanksgiving and we did find a small frozen turkey. That was good, but the results of putting the groceries in the trunk of the car were not good. We had a standup heater we had let our elderly friend borrow when her boiler was out and she had no heat. Somehow when I pushed the heater to the side to get the groceries into the trunk the heater cord got stuck in the trunk latch. Like…really stuck. Like really, really, really stuck. So stuck that it would not have been possible to get it out even if we had cut the cord and tried to pull it out from one side or the other. The cord would not move and it would not slide, so we would have destroyed the heater for nothing.

I tried to explain this to my husband. I told him I would take the car to the garage in the morning and let them fix it so we wouldn’t break anything. But a man has to do what a man has to do even if he has Parkinson’s and shouldn’t do it. Alan got into the back seat of the car to fix things. Then he needed fixing. Because of the Parkinson’s, he couldn’t get out again. Our car is small and has front doors, but none for the back seat. Alan was so hopelessly stuck in the back seat that I contemplated taking out a pillow and blanket for him and letting the garage folks unstick him in the morning along with the cord. I looked around for neighbors to help me pull him out—but they were all off on their own errands. I finally braced my feet and pulled like I’ve never pulled anything before—and got him out. But not without consequences. It turned into an aspirin kind of an evening to ease the muscles I pulled.

Some days are like that. But other days are fantastic. It’s all in the balance—and fortunately God holds the balance beam. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle