Believe in the Lighthouse even when you can’t see it

A foggy day along the beach toyed with my senses. I knew we were making progress walking, knew that we were going in the right direction – yet for long minutes – the lighthouse at the point was invisible. Our local landmark was whited out with dense fog, turning every direction into an amorphous wasteland of nearly tactile white.

While the lighthouse was invisible, it was hard to believe it was there. Yet even as we were surrounded in a surreal swirl of seawater-enhanced fog, the lighthouse had never moved. That reminds me of times in my life when painful, confusing circumstances drew blinders over my life making me doubt myself and the future. Why God? I would ask. Are You there? Do You see what’s happening to me? Do You care?

God was there every time. He did see. He did care. During days of dancing fog that confused and nights of oppressive fog that chilled the mind and stole sleep, God was working out His plan and purpose – and it was perfect for me. I needed to grow. I needed to move. I needed to change. I needed to increase in faith so that I would never doubt the existence of Jesus, the Light of the world, the Lighthouse for the lost and hurting – even during the times that I couldn’t see Him through the fog.

How can one appreciate the gift of the sun without the experience of stumbling around in the darkness? How can one appreciate joy without having shed tears of grief and misery? How can one trust God to catch them without ever jumping off the cliff?

No child should face the abuse and hardships that I did. My prayer is that no child ever will.

No adult should be subjected to the living conditions I have – living under a bridge and sleeping in the back of a pickup truck. Living in an open-ended garden center in the winter with no heat, no running water, no bathroom or kitchen facilities; sleeping on planks held up by concrete blocks and sharing “home” with scorpions, birds, toads, a wild cat and a curious skunk. Yet I wouldn’t exchange the life I’ve had for anyone else’s life, no matter how idyllic. Suffering childhood rape and forced into two abortions to hide it wrote pro-life adventure-romance Love’s Beating Heart. Living in the Texas Hill Country with all its marvelous mysteries and unique hardships penned mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere. Had I not actually lived under a bridge to escape abuse, I probably wouldn’t be writing a series of six Bridge books at all, including the first Sunpenny publication, Bridge to Nowhere.

If I had never jumped off the cliff and been lovingly caught by Jesus, I might doubt that the Lighthouse is real, even in the fog of misery and trial. Each book I’ve written (Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee, Shadow Chase, Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart) tells a compelling, exciting story through the eyes of faith. Faith grown in the rock of hardship and watered by the confusion of swirling fog.

The Lighthouse never moves, even in the fog.

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Sand and Storms

Where we live, the sand along the beach is wet, smooth and flat—until gale force winds blow.

 Strong winds change the sand, swirling it into patterns and pushing it up around rocks and pebbles. When this happens, the beach changes. Interesting patterns and textures emerge, replacing the mundane scenery with sand pictures and a kaleidoscope landscape of infinite variety.

 Our lives are much the same. Left in peace and comfort, the pages of our life turn in humdrum sameness. Nothing new, nothing scary, nothing unsettled. But when the winds of adversity howl around us, the landscape of our lives suddenly change. Like seagrass along the shore, we must dig roots deeper, strengthen fiber, stand resolutely against the storm. When the wind hushes to a whisper and the sand quits blowing blindingly, we have grown. We have changed. We are stronger.

 We could live out our lives in comfort and peace if storms never battered us. But we would be like weeds growing up through mulch—protected—but with shallow roots that hinder maturity.

 God-sent wind and storms should not alarm, frighten or discourage us. Just as God promises in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love the LORD.”

 Nor should man-made storms alarm, frighten, or discourage us. God does not send every storm that comes into our lives. Sometimes storms are a result of sin—ours or others.

It was not God’s plan that I should have been sexually abused as a child and forced to flee home and live under a bridge. It was not God’s storm that forced me into two abortions that nearly killed me. Yet God took the broken reeds left behind by those human storms of sin and depravity and strengthened them into a deeply planted life. He built new structures on the tragic and hurtful experiences of the past to bless my future. God’s blessing explains the success of my two “inspirational” and “life-changing” books, mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere, and pro-life adventure-romance Love’s Beating Heart. Neither of those books would have been inspired by calm comfort.

 Welcome storms into your life. You never know what blessings they will blow into your life.

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Real Men Wear Skirts

Here in Scotland, real men wear skirts for special occasions, only they’re not called skirts, they’re called kilts. It takes a real man to wear a kilt for several reasons.

Reason number one that it takes a real man to wear a kilt is that in some parts of the world, clueless individuals mock and call the kilt “a skirt.” Kilts have been traditional wear here for hundreds of years. Scots people are proud of their historic clans and the colors in the tartans denote individual clans, just like the 1950s movie Brigadoon, which I hasten to add is not popular over here.

The second reason it takes a real man to wear a kilt is that kilts are worn with nothing under them. Besides the obvious danger of strong gusts of wind or leaping about with joy, it is cold here. I think it’s very brave to expose that part of the anatomy to cold with limited protection.

The third reason real men wear kilts – refer back to reasons one and two. Suffice it to say that kilts matter here because they are a badge of honor, identification and national pride.

God doesn’t demand that Christians wear kilts. But He does demand that we put a difference between ourselves and the world. We should be so like Jesus that we become walking Bibles that can be read by our words and actions. James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Christians are warned not to follow a multitude to do evil and not to envy evil people no matter how wealthy or socially respected. Christians are ordered to be salt and light, the salt for cleansing and light to lead others to Jesus, the Savior of the world. Jesus said “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Like real men who wear kilts, real Christians who wear the breath of Jesus are frequently mocked.

I’ve had a lot of people write to me, email me and call me to tell me that they loved my mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere. But I’ve had people yell at me for having written my pro-life teen & up adventure-romance Love’s Beating Heart. I’ve been accused of stirring up the abortion issue to sell books, even though I wrote Love’s Beating Heart with a prayer that it will save the lives of unborn children.

Ultimately, it is not either the people who have praised me for Bridge to Nowhere, or the people who have criticized me for Love’s Beating Heart who matter. The only opinion that matters is God’s. His approval is eternal.

Real Christians wear spiritual skirts. They willingly wear the heart of God and accept mocking and derision. Then, following Jesus’ command, they step it up a notch. They forgive those who have criticized and condemned them just as Jesus did. They realize that non-Christians are clueless and need love, prayer and forgiveness.

So…kilts, skirts, or just a smile…wear whatever spiritual dress God sends to you, and wear it proudly. You don’t have to be from Scotland to wear a kilt.

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Seagull parents & baby battery

Unlike the U.S. where most schools have running tracks, the sports field here in Fortrose, Scotland, is a grassy field. When I went running today, I got dive bombed by two seagulls. The birds repeatedly swooped down at head level and split the air with high-pitched shrieks and constant chortles, clearly angry. About halfway around the field, I discovered the source of their anger. Three babies were sunbathing in the grass and attempting short, floppy bursts of flight. The parents were defending their babies.

Oh, for human parents with the love, compassion and action to defend their children with the courage of those gulls. I must have outsized and outweighed those parents 50 to one, yet they were fearless when confronted by what they perceived as a threat to their young. Every human parent should follow the example of those gulls.

Miz Mike, in my Sunpenny-published Christian mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere, is Texan to the core – and kind. Her kindness evaporates when a kidnapper snatches her youngest grandson. When the kidnapper is finally captured, Miz Mike is on the culprit like ticks on a wild deer. A human version of protective seagulls.

If seagulls, deemed “nuisance birds” by some, can be such loyal parents, why can’t humans? The label of “child abuse” shouldn’t exist because there should be no child abuse.

Abortion is the ultimate form of child abuse. Action-centered, caring individuals flock to good causes: saving marine life; supporting no-kill shelters for dogs and cats; running retirement centers for horses; protesting the slaughter of wild animals to feed the fur industry; saving whales, trees and spotted owls. But where are those same compassionate activists when unborn children with beating hearts are impaled, sliced and diced and tossed into garbage cans like debris? Why aren’t some of these animal-loving humans speaking for unborn children who can’t speak for themselves? Why aren’t they demanding that unborn children be given the choice of life?

Love’s Beating Heart, a parallel adventure, paints a pro-life choice that allows readers to decide the abortion VS pro-life issue. Teen Natasha North is pregnant. Her stepfather threatens to kill her if she doesn’t get an abortion. Not sure that abortion is right, Tash and her best friend Dena run away. Hiding sends the teens on a wild river ride on a flooded Texas Hill Country river. Meanwhile, Dena’s older sister Cat escapes from an abusive boyfriend and is rescued by a Christian family. The more Cat helps Dallas homeschool the children, the more Cat decides the Creekmore family suffers from religious insanity…and yet…she would like to replace Dallas as Sky Creekmore’s wife. Love’s Beating Heart is non-stop action, adventure and suspense, with the sweet spice of romance tossed into the redolent mix. Called “inspirational” and “life-changing” by readers, Love’s Beating Heart was written to paint the possibility of adoption as a loving option. The regret and guilt that frequently stalks women who have had abortions are twin giant joy killers. The inspiration for Love’s Beating Heart? As the Bible says, “ask the birds of the air, they will tell you.”

As human parents, the choice is ours. Are we seagulls or baby batterers?

                                                                       baby gulls

 

 

Missing the Click

Photographers know the feeling well. They miss the picture of a lifetime because they miss the click. One second sooner, one second later…Missing the click transforms what could have been an incredible capture into an average, okay picture.

Writing is the same. You can have written one of the greatest books of all times, yet if no one reads it…it sits in limbo with all the other millions of unread books. Promotion for the book can be off by a mere click in time. Promotion for my pro-life adventure Love’s Beating Heart hit one week too late to ride the tidal wave of public outrage when it was revealed that babies born alive at an abortion clinic had their spinal cords clipped with scissors to kill them.

Christian mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere, published by Sunpenny Publishing, just missed the tidal wave of publicity that was generated when my husband Alan McKean – a Scottish minister – released his first book The Scent of Time, which was deemed by some as “too sexy to have been written by a pastor.” When press releases went out for Bridge to Nowhere, sales increased only slightly. I had missed the click. The fact that I had gone from living under a bridge to writing a book with bridge in the title; the fact that I was living under the bridge after fleeing childhood sex abuse; the fact that the abuse had produced two pregnancies when I was a teen – followed by two forced non-medical abortions that nearly killed me – none of those facts increased sales. It was almost as if no one cared about about what I had suffered or wanted to know how I had overcome and recovered so other victims could be encouraged. Really, it wasn’t that no one cared – it was that I missed the click.

Our Christian lives are like that. Sometimes we miss the click. Being a Christian does not prevent us from having problems. Living for Christ is hard. Even if there were no other trials, atheists can be rabid. Why they attack Christians and their beliefs and spend so much time and money fighting a God Whom they don’t believe exists, I cannot imagine. But because they do, they can cause problems, especially in the workplace. Remember, what doesn’t make you bitter, makes you better. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. All things work together for good to them that love the LORD. Pressure and criticism sometimes make us silent when we should speak. Constant attack on our beliefs can keep us from taking needed action. We miss the click.

Jesus forgives us for missing the clicks. Yet when we get it right, our life becomes the perfect symphony God orchestrated for us. So don’t miss the click!

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Prickles & Stickles

I relate to my tough Texan heroine in Bridge to Nowhere, released by Sunpenny Publishing. Miz Mike always minds her own business, but she can’t resist mystery – so she winds up in one pickle after another when she sets out to molest new adventures. Miz Mike is adamant, intransigent, and intractable – only about important things, of course!

Me? I’m just stubborn. Take the prickles and stickles incident. No, don’t. You don’t want to go there.

When we first got our rough collie Angel Joy, she would only catch and collect balls as long as they were easy to retrieve. If they went too far, went into the water, or into bushes – it was our job. Golfers along the golf course would holler, “Can you get your dog to find my ball?” To which we would reply, “She won’t even find her ball.”

Angel Joy now goes into the water – as long as it’s not too deep – and into tall bushes and grass to find her ball. Not prickles and stickles. She’s smart.

Yesterday the wind blew off Moray Firth at near gale force. Her ball whipped into a hedge of wild Scottish roses intertwined with blackberry vines and gorse – solid prickles and stickles and thorns.

Suddenly Bridge to Nowhere‘s Miz Mike hijacked me. I body slammed those prickles and stickles and thorns and stickers and plowed a path into the impenetrable growth. Angel Joy nipped in, grabbed her ball and backed out again. It took me a bit longer since I was speared with thorns, stickers and vegetation with pickles, stickles and hooks.

Sometimes success demands that we plow into prickles and stickles. Staying in our comfort zone won’t get the job done. This is especially true in writing. It’s not enough to get a book published. After that comes the marketing – even if by pushing yourself forward you feel like you’re plowing into a rose bed and coming out with thorns rather than the fragrance, color and softness of rose petals.

Some readers will love you and everything you write. Others will hate you – not because what you’ve written is bad – but because they disagree with you. When that happens, you feel like you attempted to pluck a rose for your sweetheart and grabbed thorns instead.

If you’re a writer, I won’t encourage you to become like Miz Mike. For one thing, she and I are Texas born. It takes a while to learn how to be a Texan. For another thing – she’s my character! But I will encourage you to be stubborn. Get over your fear of prickles and stickles. They only hurt a little bit. Plow ahead with confidence and don’t let criticisms and discomfort steal your dream.

My newest book, Love’s Beating Heart, is the most stickery and prickery since it deals with issues like abortion, pro-life, adoption, homeschooling and the sanctity of marriage. It is also the most satisfying on the deepest level. Don’t get me wrong! I love stubborn, mystery-solving Miz Mike. She’s fun, funny and fun to write. Bridge to Nowhere is a great Christian mystery-romance-suspense, the first in a series of at least six.

But plowing into the stickles and prickles gave me a lasting gift to leave behind when I go home to be with the LORD. Love’s Beating Heart is more than a book. It’s a life-saving manual.

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Twisted Perfection

Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World,” used to be called the place where misfits fit. It still is (as Three Prongs) in the Christian mystery-romance-suspense book Bridge to Nowhere, published by Sunpenny.

Ross was a deaf mute. He rode his tractor up to the main road and caught a ride into town, visiting with friends at the coffee shop. He talked with his hands and everyone understood him.

Harold Jenkins was so twisted and gnarled from birth that he frightened children. His hands were like claws and his arms were bent and deformed. His face looked like it had been trampled on and then half-eaten by a wild hog. He had a heart of love that made him beautiful. He loved Jesus and told everyone. He was a volunteer ambulance driver and firefighter.

Occasional unkind remarks claimed that Gerald wasn’t much smarter than a mop. But even those who questioned his mental capacity lauded him as honest and hardworking. He rode his bicycle into town each day and waited until someone hired him for the day. He was always positive and never complained, even when he was dying of cancer.

Lou Colburn was long labeled a “hopeless alcoholic.” Then he got saved and exchanged the bottle for Jesus. He led trail rides, entertained guests at a local dude ranch and eagerly shared his salvation experience. Lou had TEXAS written in gold across his teeth.

Three sisters. I’m the author of Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart, Heart Shadows, Shadow Chase and Until the Shadows Flee. I’m blessed to be married to author Alan McKean, author of time travel adventures The Scent of Time and The Scent of Home. I am also blessed to have an extraordinary son, Luke, in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Leslie P. Garcia is the author of Unattainable. She has four lovely, talented children – all teachers and coaches – and nine great, lovely and talented grandchildren.

Vicky Potter is a talented editor and animal trainer. Her dogs visit in nursing homes and children’s homes, bringing joy to the housebound. Her dog Lucius is a star now in the musical Annie.

Abortion advocates believe that children in the mother’s womb who might experience physical or mental problems should be killed. Scientists are taking two or three human eggs, removing genetic imperfections, and putting the eggs together to create perfect babies. Had they tested us three sisters in our mother’s womb, we might never have been born. All three of us inherited a genetic weakness in math.

And how much poorer the memories of Bandera without its “misfits” – who fit?

Today I was feeling honored and blessed by God for having been allowed to write the pro-life teen & up action, adventure, romance Love’s Beating Heart. I was thinking about a world in which only perfect people were allowed to live. (Yup. I’d be out!) Without the Harold Jenkins of the world, how would we learn that true beauty is on the inside, not outside? How would we learn to look past the face and see into the heart?

Without a Ross, how would we learn to really listen, even without words?

Without a Lou Colburn, life would be boring.

Without a Gerald, how would we learn that God creates gifts and places them inside each individual and a person doesn’t have to graduate at the top of the class to be a success.

Without people who are allowed to live in spite of their imperfections, would we learn kindness? Would we learn to be thankful for our own strengths? Would we have the chance to be a blessing to others by helping someone less fortunate than us? Every life is precious. Every life is a gift from God. A world of perfect people would be horrible and twisted…and incredibly sad and empty place.

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Try a Bit Harder, Work a Bit Longer…

With a bit of weeding, digging and replanting, the garden looked nice…except for the dead branches and trunks of a tree along the fence. Our chainsaw will cut butter, but not much else and there are no repair or sharpening services in our area. The handsaw cuts a bit better, but the dead tree trunks were huge in circumference and grown too close together to allow the handsaw to get in between them. With our limited tools, cutting that dead, tangled mess looked impossible.

Enter determination. The same, “try a bit harder, work a bit longer,” that carried me past the agony and despair of receiving 150 rejection slips on different books over the years to eventual success. I now have five published Christian, mystery-romance-suspense books, Bridge to Nowhere (Rose & Crown/Sunpenny Publishing), Love’s Beating Heart, Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee and Shadow Chase. I knew I was a writer. God had put that burning fire in my bones and I could not contain it. But every rejection slip made me quit and give up…briefly – before I remembered to try a bit harder, work a bit longer.

So, too, with the dead wood in the front yard. First the clippers to remove the smaller branches. With scratched and bleeding arms and facing those huge trunks, I started to give up. Then I looked again at the bright green garden tossed with blooming flowers and mocked by one clump of ugly dead tree. The butter-cutting chainsaw came out. The butter-cutting-plus handsaw came out. Then help arrived in the form of my gifted, talented husband (also an author, The Scent of Time & The Scent of Home). He had been out visiting folks in the parish. Still dressed in his clerical shirt and collar (he’s a Church of Scotland minister) Alan began helping. Between the two of us and the two butter and better than butter-cutting saws, the dead wood came out. Try a bit harder, work a bit longer.

Taking out the dead growth was the right thing to do. Besides looking better, the open space allows room to finish edging in front of the beds and trimming the shrubs.But it wasn’t easy. It took trying a bit harder, working a bit longer.

Having five published books was the right thing to do. Without preaching, the characters and action in the books point to God. It is my prayer that they will help readers find their way to the Cross of Jesus. Love’s Beating Heart sends two teens on a wild river adventure to save Baby. The fast-moving adventure upholds marriage, homeschooling and pro-life over abortion. If it saves the life of even one unborn child, I have fulfilled my purpose as a writer. But success wasn’t easy. It took years to achieve and a lot of trying a bit harder, working a bit longer.

When you have a dream or a task that seems impossible, don’t give up! Try a bit harder, work a bit longer.

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