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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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.

God and Passwords

Why should I, a mere human, expect to understand the Great and Mighty God, Creator of the universe…when there are mere human existence questions which mystify me?

For example, living in Scotland. When friends invite us over for “tea,” I am greatly perplexed. Do they mean we should come to eat dinner with them? Or do they mean we should come over and have a cup of tea? It can mean either one. So I invariably have to ask. Sometimes asking is embarrassing because kind-hearted friends think I’m inviting myself to dinner and will quickly respond, “Oh, yes. Stay and have a meal with us.”

Panties. This might sound like a strange thing to be perplexed about but it’s something that has flummoxed me since childhood. Are panties worn under a nightgown or pajamas, or does one just wear the night attire next to the skin? It’s something my mother never told me. On the rare occasions when I slept away from home – like attending a summer camp – it was a question I couldn’t ask the other girls. My pride wouldn’t let me admit that I didn’t know the answer. The problem with being too proud to ask a question is that sometimes you go through life never knowing the answer.

Computer passwords. This throws me every time. When I visit a website and it asks for a password, I stare at it stupidly. How dare it ask for my password! I don’t give out my password to strange sites. Or…is it asking me to make up a password for that website? Sometimes I look at the website and declare, “If you’re trying to get business you should drop the password thing, because really – looking at what you’re trying to sell – it isn’t worth making up a new password and trying to remember it. Then I go away…still not knowing which password it meant.

So if I am too thick-headed to know the life answer to these three simple everyday problems, why would I expect to understand Mighty God, Creator and Miracle-Worker?

Some of our friends and family members are going through severe trials at the moment. They are lovely, kind, wonderful people who love God. Why are they suffering?

I don’t know.

We are in the middle of a storm that feels like the eye of a hurricane – except hurricane eyes are supposed to be calm and our storm isn’t even calm in the middle. Why?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this secret to the universe that unlocks every blessing of God and makes it available to us if we just exercise enough faith to believe and accept it: God is in Control. “ALL things work together to good for those who love the Lord.” Romans 8:28.

God may be a mystery. His way of working may indeed be mysterious. Yet He made it so simple that a child can understand it.

Trust. Just trust.

http://goo.gl/wmLNDy

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Broken…

Broken, shattered, splintered, smashed, disintegrated, destroyed – my exploded world on November 17 last year when my son USMC Major Luke Parker died in a plane crash at age 37.

A newspaper reporter interviewed me about my newest Christian mystery-romance-suspense book, Bridge Beyond Betrayal. “I see that the book is dedicated to your son and includes the prophetic poem he wrote a year before his death. You seem to have been close to your son. How did you get over losing him?” she asked.

I haven’t. I didn’t. I won’t. Memories play over in my mind like a DVD with no off switch. His smile. He always had a smile – even in photos his buddies took of him in war zones.

His faith; praying for a truck as a four-year-old because we were without transportation and I lacked enough faith to pray – the Lord gave us a truck the next day. The time the truck got stranded in the Nevada desert and Luke prayed, then insisted that the man who came out of nowhere to help us was an angel. I disputed that. Until we attempted to take a thank you card and some home-baked cookies to our rescuer. We never found him, nor did we find a house, a driveway, or even a dirt trail that explained how he had reached us.

His kindness. Luke’s animal rescues included a one-legged raven; a three-legged dog; a one-eyed possum; and a mentally challenged possum that lived in the closet and used a litter box because it wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to get out the open door. His people rescues. The way Luke stood up to bigger and older students who bullied younger students.

His determination. From starting out in life with hearing loss, a speech impediment and learning disabilities, Luke went on to learn and excel at everything that he wanted to do; playing a trumpet, playing a piano, scuba diving, rock climbing, training horses, flying airplanes, restoring WWII jeeps. He got a college degree in spite of his weakness in math. He went into the US Marine Corps as enlisted and worked his way up to major.

I’m most proud of Luke because his men in Iraq wrote in the newsletter that they respected his Christian example and added, “No matter what we do, we can’t make Captain Parker curse – not even when we hide his gun.”

I’m most proud of Luke for refusing to drink with other recruits in basic training. Already drunk, they threatened him with a knife. He crawled into his bunk, pulled the sheet over his head and ignored them. When he woke up in the morning, his mattress was slashed all around his body.

I’m most proud of Luke for the worn, highlighted, underlined Bible that went everywhere with him.

I’m most proud of my son for walking with God. And because he walked with God, I know he is not dead. He left the USMC to report to duty in Heaven under his Commander for all eternity – Jesus.

So, no, newspaper lady – I’m not over losing my wonderful son. But I will not sorrow like those with no hope because I know Luke lives still and I will see him again. Jesus is in the business of fixing the broken and restoring wholeness to shattered lives and hearts.

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

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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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Orkney, Guns & Collies

Just got back from a lovely trip to the Scottish island of Orkney. Even though Orkney’s history was written in spilled blood from Viking longboat invasions along the coast, the island is quiet and peaceful now and you don’t need a gun.

My past was written in the western drama of Texas. My Christian mystery-romance-suspense book Bridge to Nowhere (Sunpenny Publishing) is set in the imaginary Texas town of Three Prongs, much like Bandera, “Cowboy Capital of the World” – a place where misfits fit. Guns are important to folks in Bandera. If you find a rattlesnake in your driveway, a wild pig killing livestock, or a rabid coyote chasing your dog – you’re gonna want a gun.

Fish Soup (Sunpenny Publishing) author Michelle Jayne Heatley, from Brixham here in the UK, inquired about becoming an honorary Texan. It was suggested that she get a gun, an answer she quickly negated. To folks in the UK, including picturesque Orkney, guns are not needed and are despised. They are not written into the fabric of the country.

I never owned a gun in Texas (but I can shoot one) for the same reason I don’t train collie dogs. You have to be smarter than the dog to train it. And if you’re using a gun for protection, you better be smarter than your attacker – or he will get the gun away from you and use it against you. Why make it easier for him? I know the sum of my intelligence. I failed high school math.

But not owning a gun doesn’t mean that I can’t protect myself. I have a mobile security company on the job. I own stock in the company. “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” Psalm 46:1. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

So I would encourage you wherever you are in the world to seek your protection from the Source of security Who will never let you down. You don’t have to be smart enough to train a collie or own a gun and you don’t have to live on an idyllic island like Orkney. Only one condition is demanded for 24/7 security…faith.Image

Island Awry

Our plans showcased a great weekend trip that included visiting favorite friends and spending the night on a lovely, peaceful island. The host at the bed and breakfast cooks an amazing breakfast with eggs from his hens that are so fresh you can still smell the chicken.

We started out in Glasgow visiting Alan’s 96-year-old mother and his brother. Both are remarkable folks. Alan’s brother is a dedicated street preacher, working nearly every day. His mother still reads the Bible, prays, and sings praises to the LORD. In fact, she sings and hums all the time. Even in moments of quiet reflection, her face wears a cheerful smile. So the problem with our trip wasn’t how it started out, but rather how it ended. Clearly, we were meant to stay in Glasgow and it took three tries for God to message us.

We left early Saturday morning to keep our afternoon appointments. We were a couple of hours down the road when we realized we had forgotten Alan’s insulin and left it in the refrigerator. We went back for it. Thinking we were gone, Alan’s brother had gone to work. Wisely, their lovely mother has been instructed not to answer the door when she’s alone. So it was a two-hour wait to get the insulin and start out again, this time running late for the afternoon appointments – but still determined to keep them.

What stopped us that time was a taxi that didn’t. We stopped at a red light and the taxi behind us kept going. Our poor little car was severely crunched. The back window shattered, the hatchback sprang open, glass rained down on all our cases in the back…That disaster stopped us. We went back to Glasgow and spent the rest of the weekend with Alan’s family. I hadn’t seen them in two years and Alan hadn’t seen them in a year. Sunday was Mothers’ Day in the U.S., which made it even more special for me to be spending time with Alan’s mom.

Two Bible verses frame my life: “In everything give thanks,” and “All things work together for good to them that love the LORD.” We have already sorted out some of the things that are working together for good in our lives because of the accident. And our time here on this earth is short, no matter what our present age is. How precious to have spent that extra time with Alan’s family.

I came back on the bus and began answering emails about our books: Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart, Shadow Chase, Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee and Alan’s The Scent of Time  and his newly released The Scent of Home. Emails included a request for a press release for The Scent of Home. So as I labor over the keyboard in an attempt to catch up on everything, I realize that an island awry stole a weekend of writing. Instead of following The Scent of Home, I was following the scent of fresh eggs.

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