Signs…and…No Signs

The first time we looked for our rental house in Dunoon, Scotland—we couldn’t find it. Knowing we are directionally challenged, we figured it was our fault. Later we realized…there were no legible street signs.

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We felt vindicated when friends from the Black Isle came to visit and also became lost. Signs are important. Faced with medical or other emergencies, signs attain life or death importance.

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Signs matter. They matter to me especially since I’ve been a sign painter. For one of the first signs I painted, I bought a dictionary to ensure correct spelling. When the 10 signs were delivered, the customer yelled at me for misspelling his signs. When I explained I had looked the word up in a dictionary, he demanded to see the dictionary, so I handed it to him. He was livid as he thumped the cover: Webster’s English Dictionary. Authorize is spelled authorise in the UK.

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We read the rules on a pool sign recently. I don’t know if you’re allowed to bring glass containers into the pool area—but leave the ducks at home.

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Signs of spring, signs of autumn, signs of approaching storms—not all signs are produced by humans.

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My favorite sign is the Bible, God’s Word. Lack of street signs may result in physical misplacement, but lack of spiritual signs result in miserable, misspent years in this life, and risk of eternal separation from God.

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Jesus promised, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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No other sign can match that promise.

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Restrained

Rain is a blessing.

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Yet Genesis in the Bible tells of a flood that covered the earth, and when the waters were restrained – it was a blessing. “Rain from heaven was restrained…and the surface of the ground was dry.” (Genesis 8:2-14)

Sometimes the rain of blessings in our lives is restrained and our hearts grow weary, dry, and brittle. Everything seems to go wrong. Rain falls into other people’s lives and makes their gardens flourish…dry ground surrounds us.

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Alan retired on March 31, after 35 years of ministry and we moved to a perfect little rental house in Dunoon, Scotland. Shortly after we moved in we discovered water and black mold under the floor. The floor in the hall started to break through and tiles in the kitchen cracked. Then, after running three miles one day, I was unable to walk the next. Our own spell of restrained blessings and dry ground…although perhaps “dry” is a poor choice of words since we were literally flooded under the flooring!

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We returned to Dunoon after a marvelous 8.000-mile round trip to visit family in the U.S. (me on crutches) and found ourselves installed in a hotel for three days. With tired bodies, dirty laundry, and three weeks of having been separated from our computers…we were restrained from returning to normal life. Our collie’s mobility is severely impaired from a deteriorating nerve condition, and she and I had to hobble up a flight-and-a-half of stairs several times a day. The palms of my hands blistered from balancing on the crutches going up and down. A season of restraint.

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We are currently camped in a cabin at a holiday village with only a small amount of our belongings. Within a week, we will move to another house for six months while our house is repaired. No stress in retirement! Alan lost his mobile phone going through security in one airport. He lost his passport at the London airport. He cancelled his bank card and credit card when he thought his billfold was lost. Thankfully, it was lost – in the car – while we made rushed trips back and forth from our house to our temporary camp. And me? Still on crutches.

I can’t explain why the Lord has stretched out His hand and supernaturally healed me in the past, but hasn’t healed me now. I can’t explain why I have laid hands on others and prayed for them and they have been healed – but I’m still on crutches. I can’t explain why we are living out of suitcases on a patch of dry, barren ground while riots of flowers and vegetation flourish in other people’s gardens. Thankfully, God doesn’t expect me to explain. The Creator of the universe and all that is in it doesn’t want my understanding, just my trust.

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The Genesis account of the flood is an example of how God transforms restraint into blessing. So, too, the book of Job. Through no fault of his own, Job loses everything: children, possessions, health. His wife tells him to curse God and die. Two friends who come to comfort him mock him. “Job, admit that you’ve sinned. This has happened to you because of what you’ve done wrong. It’s your fault.” (Everyone needs friends like that, right?)

It wasn’t Job’s fault. Job told his friends, “He knows the way that I take. When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” A true statement. “And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than the beginning.” (Job 42:4&12)

So when dry ground crops up around your feet and God seems to be restraining the rain of blessings in your life, rejoice! Rain returns.

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Crutches

Atheists attack Christians for using their faith as a “crutch.” Having just completed a 4,000-mile trip to visit family in the U.S., I am forever indebted to crutches.

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Not that I initially planned to include crutches on the trip. Oh, no! This Texan was going to meet family standing tall and straight in her own strength and leave the crutches at home. However, while I was born Texan, one hip must have come from a neighboring state. When we left on the trip, the crutches traveled with us. What a blessing they were!

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First, they helped me walk – especially on those long stretches through multiple airports. An unexpected benefit was preferential treatment. I never requested help. I confidentially swung along the endless corridors on metal crutches. Airport personnel, however, put Alan and I at the front of the lines and even changed our seats to the front of the plane for one flight. On two of the flights, we would have missed our connections had it not been for the hated crutches. We were personally walked through the additional boarding pass we needed and then Security by an American Airlines employee (I called him our angel since the plane was already boarding by the time we got there). Next, we were whisked through the endless reaches of airport terminals on a wheelchair – or at least – I was in the wheelchair. Without that “crutch,” we would have missed our flight.

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Visiting SeaWorld with granddaughter Dulcinea and her mom won further accolades for the resented crutches. Crutches transformed into a wheelchair which sent us to the front of long lines. It was not planned, it just happened. While I had eschewed the use of crutches on the trip and feared they would be an embarrassment – my granddaughter and her mom were thrilled at how beneficial they proved.

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But the main benefit of crutches proved my restored belief in people’s kindness. Everywhere I walked on crutches, strangers of both sexes and every ethnicity rushed to help me. With smiling faces and sympathetic nods, they lifted and carried my bags and opened doors. With all the negative news focusing on violence and hatred around the world, what a blessing to find out that kindness is alive and operating generously.

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I’ve repented and asked God’s forgiveness for my resentful attitude about the crutches. Even though I know and believe my two favorite Bible verses, “in everything give thanks,” and “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord,” my pride took a hit from my mobility weakness. God transformed the crutchy experience into a beneficial one.

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Another favorite verse of mine has always been “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5 & 6.

So…is Christianity a crutch? Hey, who cares? Crutches rock!

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_

Happy Birthday America! #4thofJuly

Unashamed of Jesus explains why we need to transform the phrase “One nation under God” into a reality.

Unashamed of Jesus

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. Psalms 33:12

4th of July is a holiday we celebrate the birth of America. The birth of a great nation that was founded and built on the Word of God. As this nation got further and further from God, we seen a decline in morality and prosperity. Its important as Americans we keep God first, because the nation who trusts in God is blessed.

This is why its important we vote for politicians who vote for The Bible. To eliminate abortion which has killed an estimated 60 million babies already. Like standing for Israel, which was given to them by God and will always be their land under God. Also, preserving our religious freedom in this country, which most countries they don’t have the luxury of. The symbol of the…

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Trump’s track record on abortion

Why hasn’t Trump done more to defend the unborn? Don’t blame him. Mustard Seed explains.

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focusing abortion debateBefore Inauguration Day, liberal magazine Mother Jones moaned that Trump would be a “nightmare for abortion rights.”

Today, pro-life leader Cheryl Sullenger is hopeful about the pro-life movement under the Trump administration.

“He’s been their worst nightmare,” said Sullenger, senior vice president of Operation Rescue. “They’re desperate to keep their funding. These people are a business. I don’t care if they call themselves a non-profit. They’re making money doing abortions, and fewer and fewer women are going in for abortions. Basically, federal funding is propping up a failed abortion industry.”

Trump anti abortionAccording to Sullenger, Trump has done more to save babies than all previous Republican presidents since Roe v. Wade.

“All the other Republican presidents just gave lip service to the pro-life movement. It’s been really frustrating,” said Sullenger. “Even Reagan did nothing substantial to move the ball down the field.”

“Trump’s been great,” she said. “The only reason he hasn’t…

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When seagulls attack! 

Thank you, Samantha Grant & The Wee White Dug for taking over my blog spot for me today! Fabulous Scotland both in words and photos.

Scotland with the Wee White Dug

It seems like an age since I’ve published a new blog here. I pen this after a yucky 2 week battle with flu which left me tired, weak and going stir crazy. No sooner had I recovered than I jetted straight off to that wonderful, lunatic asylum known as NYC for a 6 day trip!

Now here I am flu free, jet lagged, tired and a little shell-shocked after a pretty inactive and overactive few weeks!

I can’t wait to get out on the open road again, to explore Scotland’s hills, remote sandy beaches and historic ruins with the Wee White Dug. It feels like forever since we’ve had a Scottish adventure together.

Directly before the lurgy struck and we headed to NYC on holiday we were able to enjoy a mini Scottish adventure. On a sunny, Wednesday morning in early June myself, Mr G, The Teen and the Wee…

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Unexpected

One day I ran 3 miles. The next day I had to buy a walking cane to get across the room. Unexpected.

Life changing, unexpected events – many of them history changing – are called “black swans.” Risk Management was invented to identify, assess, prioritize, and stop black swans. Black swans were thought non-existent until some were found in the wild – unexpectedly.

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Label them black swans and employ risk management – but it is impossible to stop the unexpected.

Black swans in recent history, many in my lifetime, include Chernobyl. Folks were expecting nuclear war at the time. They weren’t expecting nuclear devastation from an energy plant.

A few more black swans: the sinking of the Titanic; the assassinations of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.; the attack on Pearl Harbor; 9/11, the Beetles breaking up.

Unexpected can equal good; the lab accident that led London’s Alexander Fleming to discover penicillin; the creation of Israel as a Jewish State in 1947, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Most recently, headlines around the world proclaimed in shocked tones, “Trump Pulls Off Biggest Upset in U.S. History.” The man who had never before held elected office is now the President of the United States.

Black swans are not imaginary or non-existent. They are everywhere! Admittedly, my black swan is minuscule in terms of U.S. history and world events…but I’d like to ditch it and the walking stick.

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When black swans slide across our horizon, we need to remember that God is still in control. Surely no one in history suffered more from the unexpected sightings of black swans than righteous Job. Satan wanted to turn Job against God, so he destroyed Job’s family, wealth, and health. Job’s own wife told him to curse God and die. Job’s friends came to comfort him. “Job,” they said, “you’ve sinned against God or you wouldn’t be in this mess. It’s your fault.” Yup, we all know a few “friends” like that.

Job’s responses are legendary: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb…the LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

In the end, God blessed Job and gave him twice as much as he had before. Good for Job. As for me…I just want to stop swimming with black swans and get back to walking again. And, by the healing power in the name of Jesus, I will.

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http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Skunk Summer and Summer Love

Sharing this blog. Leslie P. Garcia is simply a brilliant poet.

Return to Rio

13131089_996662583702962_1822918684602946358_o alwaysSkunk Summer, Love, and Poetry

 Those of you participating in theSummer of Love Giveaway, good luck. Those of you who aren’t, should be!

A wonderful group of authors has been sharing love through books, gift cards, and goodies of all kinds for several years now, and I’m delighted to be participating. For extra entries, visit all of us and perform some simple task. Here at Return to Rio, just read this blog and leave a comment when you finish.

Although two of my romances, Unattainable and A Love Beyond, will bring you to the searing south Texas heat, the ‘skunk summer’ mentioned in the title evokes love of a totally different kind—love that fills our lives and lingers, regardless of the state of our romantic love journey. Or journeys.

You’ll find Skunk Summer in my collection of poetry, Always the Moon, on sale this week for .99, along with…

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Small & Deadly

Most folks probably fear and flee large critters – but small things can kill.

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One vacationing site on the Scottish Highlands applauded Culicoides Impunctatus, the ferocious Highland Midge. It concluded that if there were fewer midges in the Scottish Highlands there would be more tourists and more tourists would spoil the scenic beauty that tourists come to see. It added cheerfully that no one had ever died from a midge bite. I don’t buy it.

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Painting signs in the Texas Hill Country, I was attacked by the midge’s American cousin, no see ‘ems. While balancing 20 feet up in the air on the metal rungs of a ladder, I battled to keep the invisible biting, stinging gnats out of my eyes. Keeping them out of paint was impossible. They love paint. Thus my straight, neat lines often wobbled as the brush pulled over the bodies of hundreds of still-struggling no see ‘ems.

The Scottish tourist site posted photos of folks wearing head masks and gloves to protect themselves from Scotland’s “nuisances.” Faces under the masks were totally blocked from sight from the layers of midges. Same with the gloves and outer clothing. One photo was a cupped hand piled high with black soil – no – make that “non-deadly” “nuisances,” midges.

With their sight blocked by midges, what if a hill walker gets too close to the edge of a cliff? What if I had fallen off the ladder? No one has died from a midge bite? Are we sure of that?

There’s a delightful folktale Travellers (gypsies) relate about how midges came to Scotland. I included it in my mystery-romance-suspense “Captive of Fear.”

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Watching baby ducks with Mom started me thinking about small things. Bites on my face and neck turned me from thinking cute to thinking kill. But how do you dispatch a cloud of insects that are virtually invisible?

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Something else small is deadly. Words. The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Cruel words break hearts, cause fights, and bring about death and suicide. James says, “The tongue is a little member and boasts great things…No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Jesus said that we are not defiled by what we put into our mouths – but by the words that come out of our mouths.

Some small things are cute – like baby ducks. Some small things must be handled with care – like words. Some small things are a nuisance – like midges. Are they deadly? I’d maintain that the jury is still out on that one.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Write What You Know

18362492_1238027982976551_1361060936_o“Write what you know,” the weathered writing instructor with grey-streaked red hair and periwinkle glasses told us, holding up two lackluster books that had probably not sold more than 30 copies each. Still, her two-day class was cheap, and at 20-something with a gathering stack of rejection slips, I figured some knowledge was better than no knowledge.

Wrong! I was quick to realize that at 20-something, I basically knew nothing. I should have given up writing then. Because by the time I knew enough to write books—reaping that knowledge had imprinted bloodstains on my heart. Some people like pain. I don’t.

When I attended those writing classes, I didn’t know God. When I started to realize God might be real, I prayed for Him to remove every doubt. He did. Accomplishing that meant sending me into the desert at night with a young child to support, no money, no job, no place to stay, and no vehicle. When you’re crying your heart out in the desert at night matching coyote wails, and the next day you receive everything you prayed for—it kind of removes the doubt element. Except, it’s mighty scary and uncomfortable at the time. Oh…almost everything. The vehicle arrived a few weeks later after we had started attending church and my four-year-old son said, “Mom, why don’t you pray for a truck?” I didn’t have enough faith to pray for that, but he did—and the next day—we had our truck.

A failed first marriage, fleeing and hiding from an abusive husband, supporting a child by myself, and working two to three jobs—knowledge is costly.

I must confess that my newest book, “Bridge to Texas,” is a comical mystery-romance-suspense not based on personal knowledge…exactly. I’ve never done a nude calendar shoot and at my age and weight—no one would buy the calendars. However, I covered a story when I was working for a Bandera, Texas newspaper that gave me the idea. Older women raising money for charity took off their clothes and made history, so to speak, plus a lot of money!

I must thank my husband Alan T McKean, talented author in his own right, for “Bridge to Texas.” The entire story grew out of a comment he made: “You should write another Texas Miz Mike. You could have Evan get kidnapped.” Does he get kidnapped? Read the book. Oh, and here’s a link to Alan’s books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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The differences between Scotland and Texas spin comedy effortlessly in “Bridge to Texas,” and the characters are a bossy bunch who grab a’holt of a story plot and corral it for their own rodeo. So you can say the book wrote itself. I say God wrote and I typed it. But whatever your personal outlook, you will probably enjoy this romping mystery-romance-suspense that can make you laugh…yes…out loud!

Even the cover and cover blurb are the result of knowledge: photographer Don Davis’ genius with a camera; Paul Garrison III’s mule training advice, and friend Shawn Petersen’s riding skill.

So that jaded teacher was right. Write what you know. And if you’re too young yet to know a lot…be thankful and wait. Don’t rush the knowledge—unless you’re one of those peculiar folks who enjoy pain.