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

The Secret Language of Hospitals

You don’t want to be in the hospital—you would rather be home. But remember that the hospital staff doesn’t want you either. You increase their workload and add to the financial burden of providing food, electricity, and clean linens. So to make the hospital transition easier, I am decoding the secret language of hospitals. I can do that. I’ve been here for weeks with an infected hip replacement joint and may continue here for several more months.

Once you are installed in your bed, room, ward—or whatever term is used in your part of the world—you will be handed a “buzzer” and told to ring the nurse if you need anything. Keep in mind that the person who told you this made no promises. You will ring the buzzer and for a long time—no one will come. Eventually, someone from the lower echelon of nursing will come—to turn off the buzzer. Don’t expect this person to solve your problem. Their rank means that they are only allowed to bring towels, and water, etc. The buzzer-minder will fly into the room, turn off the red button, ask you if you need anything. When you reply—he or she will say, “I’ll ask the Nurse.”

Maybe the buzzer minder does ask the nurse. Maybe he or she forgets in their hurried flight around the corridor turning off red buttons. In any event, Nurse will not show up to fix your problem until it fits into Nurse’s schedule.

Now a word about time in the hospital. It’s relative. Here is a basic guide: when someone says, “I’ll be back in one wee second,” it actually means five minutes. “Two wee seconds” usually translates to within 45 minutes. Usually. If someone says, “I’ve told Nurse. She/he is with another patient and will be here as soon as possible—rip those lines and tubes out of your body and flee. The other patient takes priority over you. They all take priority over you.

When you are told, “a wee scratch,” grab the bed frame and hang on. It’s gonna hurt.

When you are told, “Someone will be here after we hand off the patients to the new shift”…keep yourself entertained by eavesdropping. Don’t worry about stealth—no matter how late at night or how early in the morning—they won’t be quiet. Each new shift begins with a party as the old-comers greet the new comers. You can pick up some fascinating stories just by listening. Maybe even about you.

Please don’t take this as a criticism of any hospital in any country, and certainly not the one in which I’m residing at the moment. The staff is busy and overworked and the patient load is heavy. That’s actually to your benefit. See, if you are as naïve and trusting as I am—when someone promises or says they are going to do something—you believe them. Shame on you. Wise up. A hospital stay is the perfect vehicle to teach patience and skepticism. When you live long enough, you will realize that people seldom mean what they say. They don’t always keep promises. After a hospital stay, those truths will become engrained. You will be amazed when someone does follow through on their words. It will make you thankful. It will create in you new levels of appreciation. And we can all benefit from a grateful heart full of appreciation.

Pray and have others pray for you. You’re going to make it. Perhaps not on your timescale, but God loves you. You may not feel like anyone’s favorite at the hospital or like you rate first place—but you rate first place with God and He will never leave you or forsake you. And He will come alongside you during those long dark nights in between the boisterous parties at the nurses’ station and give you strength and peace.

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

Letting Go…

So much of life is about learning to let go. For me, these past two weeks in the hospital have been a refresher course in…letting go…

Turning the care of my covid-positive husband over to someone else. Putting our collie in the kennel. Letting go of the beverage that has sustained me through a lifetime of highs and lows—Diet Coke. Keeping up with family and friends on social media. No internet connection. Even writing. The mouse died. I’m helpless without it.

My hip replacement surgery on December 5, 2021, seemed to be successful. I could walk again—almost without pain—almost without crutches. Then infection roared in with all the fervency and cruelty of an invading army. Abruptly, pain returned, lameness returned, and I had to let go and go to the hospital for emergency surgery. They opened up the recent surgery site, cleaned everything out, and placed me on intravenous antibiotics. Within two days I went from walking Savannah and cooking for Alan to maneuvering between a jumble of lines and tubes. I let go of normalcy.

After the surgery, they have me a little machine to carry around that quacks like a duck. It’s kind of comforting. Like keeping a pet in my hospital room. The machine is attached to my wound and sucks out the infection matter. It has a pretty circle of rotating green stars at the top. Then one of the nurses pointed out that two stars that had left the circle and were twinkling on their own. “It only lives for seven days,” she said. “When all the stars leave the circle, the machine dies.” Letting go…

The one thing I didn’t let go of was…God. Through the pain and confusion, He was there for me. The first night after the surgery, He gifted me with the song of a nightingale through the early hours. It was God. There are no nightingales here.

On the morning I read and prayed my favorite Psalm, Psalm, 27, He provided a miracle. I could have stayed in the hospital for another two months. Many people with an infection like mine in a joint replacement do. But my infection numbers plummeted. I went from intravenous antibiotics to pills and was told I probably would not need another surgery and would be able to go home soon. It was God. The surgeon who did the wound and hip joint cleaning expected me to stay in the hospital for at least another month.

Letting go is never easy. But never let go of God.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army—of infection or any other horrible thing—may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. In the time of trouble, He will hide me. I will sing praises to the LORD. I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD!” Psalm 27.

Learn to let go, but never let go of God.

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

Crutch-free 2022

I’ve heard atheists say of Christians, “They are so weak that they need a crutch.”

As someone who has spent most of the past five years on crutches—I laugh. There is nothing easy about moving one’s body weight on a couple of sticks. It takes strength, determination, and grit.

My first experience motivating everywhere with crutches was prior to back surgery. Next it was a two-year wait for a knee replacement. Now it is recovery from hip replacement surgery. One of my nurses laughed at me for having my name written on my crutches. She didn’t understand that they were the dependable tools that enabled me to get up, get down, and move around putting one foot in front of another. They were my lifeline to freedom of movement.

Still, after my recent hip replacement surgery, I am looking forward to a crutch-free 2022. I think my sticks have earned a rest!

I’ve been asked what I’m going to do with my crutches when I no longer need them. I think I will keep them as a reminder to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Jesus has done so much for me. Yes, He is my Crutch. He is my Weight Bearer. Because He lives, I am not afraid to die. When a person does not fear death—there is nothing left to fear.

Because Jesus lives, I am unmoved by the fear-mongering over the pandemic. With Jesus bearing the weight, I can walk through life unafraid, leaning on Him when I need to lean, and letting Him pick me up and carry me when I am weary. Because Jesus is my Crutch—One whom I will keep not only through 2022, but through the rest of my life—I have peace and joy that passes all understanding.

Yes, I have a Crutch. And I am so proud of Him.

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

Dysfunctional at Christmas

I enter into the joyous Christmas season the same every year—dysfunctional.

If I were Santa, virtually no one would get a Christmas present. First, I would lose the list of “naughty” and “nice.” There would be no checking the list twice—it would be more like searching all over the North Pole to find the blasted thing.

If I were Santa, I wouldn’t even start thinking about Christmas until December 24. By then, stores would be sold out of things on the list—if I had even found the list by then. It would be impossible to purchase, wrap, and load all those gifts. I would probably just pop a few of them into gift bags and drop down the nearest chimney.

If I were Santa, my reindeer wouldn’t fly. They would be too fat and lazy from snuggling around me on the bed to keep me warm. I hate being cold. I hate cold weather. I hate snow. The only good thing I would find in living at the North Pole would be getting to leave once a year.

And if I were Santa, I would spoil the tradition of eating the cookies and drinking the milk that was left out for me. I’m trying to lose weight. Besides; I only like chocolate cookies and chocolate milk.

Nope. It’s a good thing I’m not Santa. The world is dysfunctional enough without me adding to its woes. Besides; I don’t want to live in North-Anything. I’d insist on the tropics.

Fortunately, I’m not Santa and feeling dysfunctional at Christmas doesn’t matter—because Christmas isn’t about me—it’s a birthday! Christmas isn’t about pretty trees, precious gifts, and perfect plans—it is about Jesus. It is a celebration of God loving the world so much that He gave His only Son as a gift that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. There is no way any human can make Christmas better—or worse. (Whew! That’s a relief.) No human can add anything more important to Christmas, because God already gave His all.

‘’Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’’

Christmas. It’s people-proof.

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

Christmas In All Of Its Colors

My husband complains that it is hard to shop for me. I don’t wear jewelry. I don’t want more clothes. I am blessed. I have everything I need. My favorite gifts are rocks and chocolate—and I’m picky about the chocolate.

When son Luke was in USMC basic training in San Diego, a street vendor approached him with a tray of jewelry and said, “Son, buy one of these beautiful necklaces for your mother for Christmas. She will love you forever.”

Luke replied, “My mom doesn’t wear jewelry, sir. What she really wants is a bag of cement for her garden.”

My favorite thing at Christmas is giving. From working two and three jobs at a time as a single parent to other adventures in life, I’ve never had much money to spend at Christmas (or any other time of the year) to enable me to give freely. This year presents even less opportunity for giving, because while recovering from hip replacement surgery—perhaps going back to the cement and rocks?—I can’t drive for six weeks.

So this year, especially, I am thankful that Christmas is not about shopping. It is, however, about giving. It is about One Gift from God. All the colors of Christmas are written in these words:

“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke, Chapter Two.

This is Christmas.

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

Christmas Can’t Be Stolen

Headlines and commercials over here in the UK scream, “Shop early. Covid is going to steal Christmas.”

Christmas can’t be stolen.

Everyone in the world should watch “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and read Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Christmas can’t be stolen because it is not about rushing out to stores and purchasing gifts and decorations. It is not about a tree. It’s not about cooking a feast and overeating. Christmas is about Jesus. For all of eternity, Jesus is a gift that cannot be stolen. He is the reason for the season. Jesus is the gift of Christmas.

Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth. Christmas can’t be stolen.

“There were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke, Chapter 2.

Don’t put up a Christmas tree. Don’t decorate. Don’t buy gifts. Don’t plan a big meal. Make December 25 just another day on the calendar. But one thing will never change; Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Son of God came to earth as a baby and suffered and died as a man so that all those who believe in Him will have eternal life. He doesn’t judge us on our skin color, our wealth, how many talents we have, our state of health, whether we are famous, or who our parents are. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16. And that will never change.

Christmas. Can. Not. Be. Stolen.

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

Inspired…

Writers are strange creatures. They find inspiration in strange places.

Friend One: “That was a terrible thing that happened to him.”

Friend Two: “What an ironic way to die.”

Writer: “I can use that in a book.”

Not wanting it to sound like I’m exercising false humility, because it’s true—God writes my books. I’m the typist.

Inspiration is like gold. Sometimes it’s lovely and unexpected—a nugget resting on top of desert soil. Sometimes it’s hidden in gravel and discovered after traveling down the riffles in a wet or dry washer—alternatively known as the hardships of life. Sometimes it’s the streak of bright shining metal in a quartz rock—obvious, but needing to be ferreted out.

Nearly all my books are Christian cozy mystery-romances. The idea for “Body in a Tree Murder” sprang from the memory of a Texas Hill Country motorcycle accident I covered for the local newspaper. “Unsigned Card Murder” came from an incident in church where a person refused to sign a birthday card and left me wondering why. The opening paragraph for “Body from the Sky Murder” hit me when I sliced open a bell pepper and found a perfectly formed baby sitting inside. “Balloon Body Murder” fell into place after I read a newspaper article about the new Texas law that allows hunters to shoot feral hogs from balloons, and “Thawed to Death” from a news item about a body found in a freezer.

Inspiration for my newest book, “Signed to Death,” developed after I watched an antiques program on TV and had the random thought, “You could hide a body in one of those old signs.”

“Look out!” Maj yelled as the huge orange gulf gasoline sign with blue letters lumbered toward me down the slopped driveway. The warning came too late. The metal frame hit me. My feet came off the ground. I fell. So did the dead guy inside the sign.

Regardless of the initial source of inspiration for my books, the ultimate author is God. “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace.”

There is one thing in my books for which I take complete and total credit for—mistakes.

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