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

The Problem with Coffee

My morning cup of coffee is a Diet Coke. So, too, other members of my family even though our parents drank coffee from waking up to going to bed. I keep saying that when I grow up—I’ll learn to drink coffee.

I don’t have a problem with coffee. I love the smell. I don’t have a problem with folks depending on it to kick start the day. That’s why I drink my soda. But I don’t share or like the coffee memes on social media that intend humor while offering excuses for bad behavior and elevating coffee to divine status: I can’t function until I’ve had my coffee; don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee; my sanity is in a cup—a cup of coffee; coffee saves lives—ask my kids; humanity runs on coffee; great ideas start with coffee, today’s good mood is sponsored by coffee.

Memes that credit coffee with super powers it does not possess take our focus off Jesus, the Savior of the world and give our praise to an inanimate object instead of God.

We don’t need coffee to function—we need God. We couldn’t take the next breath without Him. Great ideas start with God. God controls humanity, not coffee. Today’s good mood is a choice—our choice—regardless of whether we start off the day with coffee, a soda, tea, water, etc. If we breathe, that breath comes from God.

“In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.

But as for chocolate…a balanced diet is chocolate in both hands… Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Too Late

For weeks every time I took our collie Savannah on a walk we passed a beautiful vine dressed with bright red leaves hanging over a wooden fence. Every time we passed it I thought, “That’s lovely. I need to take a picture.” Then I kept walking because…it was raining…or the camera was in the other coat…or I was in a time crunch.

Today I passed that once glorious vine—and the leaves were gone. Only one leaf remained on the twisty branches, only one leaf flaunted its bright color and beauty against the fence. I was too late.

There was a couple in one of my husband’s parishes. The wife spent the days of their marriage flogging her husband. If he did dishes—she did them over because he didn’t do a good enough job. If he vacuumed the floor—she did it over because he missed spots. They lived in one of the best houses in the village and had all the furnishings and conveniences that anyone could want. He even rode the bus to work so she would have the car during the day. Still she complained: he didn’t spend enough time with the children when they were young; he didn’t help her enough around the house; he wasn’t romantic…he was a total failure as a husband. She should have married a classmate who had become a physician.

Sadly, she was a Christian. But since she didn’t apply Biblical wisdom to her marriage, she remained miserable and transferred that misery to her husband. One day, however, she got her Bible out and read it deeply. She turned to Proverbs because she thought Proverbs would be easy to understand. One verse lacerated her heart: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” She thought about how she had snapped at her husband that morning for spilling toast crumbs on the tablecloth and hanging up the towel in the bathroom crookedly. She decided to change.

She baked his favorite cake—a Victorian sponge—and prepared his favorite meal—mince and tatties. She donned her best clothes and prepared to meet him at the bus stop close to their house. She hurried to the stop. He got off the bus…staggered…and fell across the curb dead. He had suffered a heart attack.

As a writer, I would want to change this ending. I would want the wife’s sudden turn to sweetness to last and bring sunshine and roses into the last and best years of their marriage. I would want forgiveness, healing and growth. But…this is a true story. It was too late for a happy ending.

Ecclesiastes 3 says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted…a time to laugh; a time to mourn…

Yes, indeed. There is a time and a season. But there is also a time when it is too late.

So love your family and your pets today and everyday and never let them doubt how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate them. When that last leaf falls from the vine…it is too late. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Always Remembered

A plaque in a local hospital commemorates a former worker for more than 40 years of service—but the plaque was erected more than 20 years ago—and no one remembers her now.

Donald Davies was a computer scientist and mathematician who transformed global communication and influenced the development of the internet. Yet few people recognize his name.

James Harrison found he had an unusual plasma composition in his blood that could treat Rhesus disease. He spent the next 57 years of his life making more than 1,000 blood donations that saved the lives of 2.4 million babies. He is mostly forgotten now.

Vasili Arkhipov, a senior officer on a soviet submarine refused to follow his captain’s order to launch a nuclear torpedo at U.S. warships in October 1962, thus preventing the start of World War III. An unsung hero. Few remember.

Nils Bohlin invented car seat belts while working at Volvo. He gave away the patent for free to reduce manufacturing costs and thus save lives. His name and contribution is largely forgotten.

Polish doctor Eugene Lazowski saved 8,000 Jews during Holocaust by injecting them with dead typhus cells. They were healthy, but tested positive for typhus and the Germans were afraid to deport them to concentration camps. A great hero—a forgotten hero—an unsung hero.

Neerja Bhanot, 22, an air hostess wound up on a hijacked plane. She helped hide 41 American passports—because the hijackers were targeting Americans—and died shielding three children with her body. One of the children grew up and became a pilot because of the respect he had for her courage. However, her name has mostly passed out of memory now.

The gorgeous and realistically illustrated Little Golden Books that I loved and grew up reading—and then read to my son—were illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. The editor at Golden Books called her “the soul” of the publications. She died in October, 1987, and while many of the books she illustrated became classics in children literature—few people remember her now.

All different—all heroes. They gave every human effort and strength they possessed—yet years later—they are forgotten.

Jesus Christ, Son of God, crucified on a cross 2,000 years ago…never forgotten.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Jesus. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Mow That Grass!

One of the places we lived when I was a child was an old antebellum house in Georgia that survived Sherman’s march to the sea. A former carriage road ran in front of the graceful (but falling down) house which was serviced by an outhouse just off the carriage road. The house had no bathroom, no running water. A log cabin off to one side of the house and surrounded by a sea of yellow daffodils in the spring was the first slave cabin in our county. The house had history galore…but no comfort.

The highway ran behind the house instead of in front of it. Every school morning we had a long trek down the red clay driveway to the bus stop. Because the field surrounding the house was by default our front yard, one of my jobs was to mow it with a push mower. Mowing the actual front yard that adjoined the carriage road was a relatively quick and easy job except for twice—once when a swarm of bees took objection to the mower and once when I moved some debris out of the way and unknowingly disturbed a wasp nest. Mowing the three-acre back yard/front yard, however, was pretty much an all-day job.

No one else in the family—parents, grandmother, six younger siblings—wanted to mow. They rather questioned my sanity for enjoying the arduous task. That’s because they didn’t know my secret.

My secret was that even though I pushed the mower through grass and weeds, picking up rocks that were in the path, and avoiding harmless snakes and baby rabbits—I wasn’t just mowing the yard. I was building stories. With every forward thrust of the mower characters emerged and conversations evolved. Every time I tugged the mower to life with the pull rope and started through the enormous field—new stories, new conversations, new book plots materialized from the green expanse in front of me.

I don’t remember if I ever came in from mowing and wrote down any of the stories. I rather doubt it. I was probably too hot, too tired, too sweaty—and with no running water in the house and no bathroom—I couldn’t jump into the shower and wash off the sweat. With a household of ten and no privacy, baths were sponge baths in a basin and timing them right for the sake of modesty was challenging. Nonetheless, I loved to mow. I still do.

Any physical task that requires more brawn than brain is an ideal opportunity to people my head with characters, conversations, and story plots. It’s not work, it’s not a chore—it’s an exercise in imagination building.

The Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might,” Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Work presents an opportunity for imagination building. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Fear of Orange

My late brother Gregory with our “pet” lion Ebenezer

I’ve faced a lot of fear in my lifetime. Bitten by a water moccasin snake; accidentally found a bear’s den in Florida; unknowingly ran over a fallen tree in Georgia—with a black bear under it; attacked by a400-pound “pet” lion; kicked in the face by my horse when I fell off while he was bucking; spent a lot of years working two and three jobs to support a child as a single parent, never knowing if there would be a next meal; back surgery, knee surgery, hip surgery, 2 ½ month stay in the hospital with an infection—and yet—out of all these—the color orange scares me to death.

I love orange as a color. The favorite place where I ever lived was a mobile home in the desert of Lovelock, Nevada. The kitchen was frosted orange and touches of orange were repeated in every room. It was a clean, refreshing color and I inhaled a deep breath of satisfaction every time I walked into my home. Even now, I remember it as a place of dreams—both the desert and the trailer with the orange decor.

Orange flowered dresses and clothes; orange cars and vans; orange handled kitchen appliances; orange fruits and veggies; orange doggie toys; orange towels. No problem. It’s when the orange creeps outside that I panic—orange flowers on the wild lilies; orange leaves on the trees. The end of summer.

I hate winter. I hate cold. No matter how adequate my clothes or how many layers I don—I hate winter weather. Yet, every year—the wild orange lily blooms and the trees release their beautiful verdant leaves and go orange…and I go scared.

It’s that time of the year again, the flowers turn orange, my heart turns sad—and I wish I could bring back the childhood fears of facing bears and lions instead of facing another winter. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle


After a two-year hiatus due to covid, the Cowal Family Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland, kicked off this year with a huge attendance. Not only that—for once it didn’t rain and it was even…gulp!…sunny.

Writers rarely get days off, so I didn’t attend the festivities that were practically in our backyard. However, when I walked Savannah past the stadium we watched the excitement and happiness on the other side of the chain link fence. It was wonderful to see families—many complete with their canine members—having fun. The joy was electric.

Then came Sunday morning. Instead of electric joy, I felt deflating sadness as I heard clinks and clatters and saw tents and carnival equipment coming down. Endings. I hate them. Such a rare and perfect day of sunshine and celebration after two long years of lockdown—I doubt anyone was ready for it to end.

Some writers get excited when they write “The End” on their books. Not me. It means the fun and joy and excitement I was privileged to experience for approximately 300 pages is suddenly gone. It means that I need to hunt down another idea and come up with 300 new pages—even though my head feels as empty as the fluff from last spring’s dandelion stalks.

So many sad endings of things we don’t want to end: vacations, a good meal, visits with family and friends, spring, summer, comfortable shoes, favorite clothes—and death.

Thankfully, some endings are good: the end of pain, cold, disease, sorrow—and death.

Death makes both lists of endings because death isn’t real. It’s a shadow, an illusion. With Jesus, there is life beyond this life we are living now…and Heaven is the end of sorrow, parting, illness, pain, disease. We do not belong to this earth. We are passing through to our eternal destination in Christ Jesus.

Still…I hate endings. Especially the end of spring and summer. Death I do not fear. But winter and snow give me the cold shivers. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Grab That Bed!

Balance. From the time we are born we learn to balance. To roll over. To sit. To stand. To walk. Gradually the lessons in balance become more difficult. Balancing time. Balancing Family. Balancing God’s word with personal life. Balancing health choices and eating habits. Life seems to stretch out along a long and uncertain balance beam.

Mostly, I’m a positive person. I eschew negative and attempt to surround myself with positive people and flee from negative thought-poison brokers. Yet at times—balance rears its mystifying existence and I teeter on the balance beam.

God never intended death to be a part of this life. He gave Adam and Eve the gift of free choice and they chose sin. Because sin came into the world people get ill and die.

Enter Jesus who defeated sin and death at the cross. After He comes into our hearts—we have eternal life. We live again after we pass through the shadow of death. Shadows are not real.

I know people who have defeated cancer and other life-stealing and spoiling diseases with prayer and positive attitudes. The Bible says that “by Jesus’ stripes we are healed.” Over the years Jesus has healed me multiple times, yet He also allowed me to go through a knee replacement, hip replacement, and three months of hospitalization due to an infection.

It would be difficult to find a more positive Christian and prayer warrior than Joni Eareckson Tada. She was only 17 when she dove into shallow water and broke her spine. As a quadriplegic, Joni writes books and paints—with implements stuck between her teeth. She founded a Christian ministry to help those who are disabled. She is positive. She prays. But she remains a quadriplegic.

My former husband was sent home from the hospital to die. He had cancer and Chron’s Disease, was down to 90 pounds, his skin had turned yellow from liver failure, and he could only walk with me walking behind him holding him up. A Christian couple came to visit and held a cheerleading event for him. “Don’t think of death,” they told him, “think of life. You’re going to get well. You’re going to beat this thing. You just need to exercise. You just need to get up out of your chair and walk.”

The friends meant well, but I’m sure they made him feel terrible. He must have thought it was his fault he was dying because he wasn’t trying hard enough to live.

It’s in the balance.

Jesus healed a paralyzed man. He told the man to take up his bed and walk—and the man did.

But if we don’t have the power of Jesus flowing out of us—instead of telling someone to “get up and walk,” we need to grab that bed, hoist the person over our shoulders and do the walking.

No matter how positive, no matter how much faith we have, no matter how much we pray—our health will eventually fail and we will walk through the shadow of death.

When we get to that point, we don’t need a cheerleader. We need a worker who will take up our bed, hoist us over their shoulders and do the walking.

Given the uncertain art of balancing, I’m thankful that God holds the balance beam. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle


Blog SAD

I saw an exceptionally sad banner recently. Parents wished their son a happy 21st birthday. It was sad because it was filled with images of beer cans, whiskey bottles and tipped champagne glasses as if the only proud thing to celebrate about living for 21 years was being old enough to drink.

Twenty-one years. Some of us still have twenty-one years left to make the world a better place. But achievement is never found in the bottom of a whiskey bottle.

‘Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.’’ Philippians 4:8 Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Fear Mongers Seek New Material

My counting is far from quintessential, but I think we’ve had three days of “summer” in this part of Scotland—meaning three days of sunshine where it has gone over the 70-degree mark. Fear mongers’ numbers differ. They say pets and people are calculated to die in the current killer heat wave sweeping across the UK. “Beware! Stay inside. Stay hydrated. Don’t walk your pets in the heat.”

I talked to a few fellow dog walkers who had bought into the ridiculous hype. They were wearing lightweight jackets, yet made the following statements: “I’m just taking him on a short walk because of the heat”; “she didn’t really want to go out because it’s so hot”; “I waited until it cooled down before taking Maxi on her walk”; “I’m thinking about getting some doggie booties for his poor little feet to protect him from the hot pavement”, and—“isn’t your dog (a rough collie) suffering in this heat?”

It was pointless to point out to the loving pet owners—although I did—that it wasn’t that hot and, after all, they themselves were wearing jackets. The fear mongers had shouted on newscasts and in paper headlines that climate change had resulted in a heat wave and folks and pets were going to pay for it by dying. Me, scratching my head, “I thought ‘summer’ was supposed to be hot.

The heat wave hype was expected. Fear mongers needed new material; new focus. Most folks who have had covid a couple of times in spite of flocking to get vaccinated twice and then getting a booster are no longer living in fear of covid. Some aren’t living at all. Some at age 40-something have died abruptly from heart attacks and strokes. Some are living with life-challenging neurological conditions from having followed the fear mongers’ insistence that they had to take the jag for their country, because even if it didn’t stop them from getting covid—it would protect others, and it make covid milder if they did get it.

Between the heat wave and covid, of course, there was the cost of living hype with “heat or eat,” and dire predictions of how no one was coming out of the current financial situation alive. Yeah…it’s tough. We’ve been impacted just like everyone else. But I remember hearing what extraordinary challenges folks faced during the Great Depression—and I feel blessed. And I feel cold. It’s ‘summer here and all the way up to 55.4 degrees with the typical canopy of clouds. And I feel angry because my husband was one of those who followed the lure of the fear mongers and took the jags—and now has Parkinson’s Disease. While the fear mongers try desperately to make the killer heat wave last…I watch my husband stumble through the house and catch the door frames between rooms to keep from falling. I see him struggle, making up to five failed attempts to get out of a chair. I see his inability to get in and out of bed at night; zip his jacket; get out of the shower; fasten his seatbelt, get out of the car.

Meanwhile, I think of all the Bible truths that the fear mongers could shout to the world to help instead of scare. Like the 365 “fear nots” in the Bible. Like trusting God in all circumstances. Like Psalm 91: 9, “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling, for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

No fear here. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle