At the Drop of a Shell

seagull-eating-crab

Imagine a crab safely hidden amid seaweed and rocks. Abruptly a seagull swoops down, plucks it out of its secure place, carries it skyward, and drops it on a hard surface.  The crab’s shell shatters and the gull eats the hapless victim.

Life is like that. Events pluck us out of our safety zones and drop us into hard times, hard circumstances. Enemies may even dive into our lives and pick at us while we are at our lowest ebb.

I appreciate the wisdom and intelligence of a seagull. People who believe animals don’t think have never been around animals. A crab has a hard shell designed to protect it from predators. Hungry seagulls figure out how to circumvent this obstacle.

But while I can respect the abilities of animals—like gulls—to think, I personally rebel against hard times and hard circumstances. I don’t like them. Yes, they stretch us and make us grow—but I’d rather stay the comfortable size and shape I am. Still, God is in control. He is too wise to make mistakes and too kind to be cruel.

So as the hard times and circumstances come—for they will, I will hide my heart hurts in Psalm 144 & 145: “Blessed be the LORD my Rock, my high tower and my deliverer…The LORD is near to all who call upon Him.”

gulls 3

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Tweets

 

Alan goose friendsEven if they don’t have a Twitter account, most folks know what tweets are. I love Twitter. Even though I’ve never met them, I feel as if I have some awesome friends on Twitter. I love retweeting and retweets and I’ve found some great new authors from Twitter tweets—and thankfully, some folks have found my books.

I’m very particular about my Twitter account. There are books I won’t retweet regardless of how many times those authors retweet me. I don’t want vampires, werewolves, witches, porn, same sex romance, or profanity on my Twitter page. I give preference to Christian authors, wildlife and nature photos, Bible quotes, and people whose books I have read and enjoyed—although there are so many other wonderful books out there that I haven’t had time to read yet. Most of the new authors I’ve discovered have been through Twitter. I won’t name them here, because I don’t want to forget anyone and hurt their feelings. Actually, I believe that every new book I’ve read for the past two years—I found through Twitter.

Sometimes I wish life were like my Twitter page and I could have control of what goes on and what stays off. This is one of those times. My sweet husband, author Alan McKean, has kidney cancer and is facing the removal of is left kidney. I wish I could just leave that tweet out of our lives. Fortunately, he and I both believe that God is in control, that all things happen for a reason, and that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord—so we will get through this with God’s help, comfort and healing. But if it were a Twitter Page and I were in charge—I’d leave this one off.

Alan has just had his next book accepted by Reagan Rothe and Black Rose Writing. I’m so proud of him. He spent a year researching WWII and writing the book. So in honor of him, I’m putting a special tweet out for him, my husband and hero. The link to his books is below. (The WWII book, What the Ocean Divides, has not been released yet.)

alan and waterfall

https://www.amazon.com/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1526276595&sr=1-2-ent

Girls, Take it From the Birds

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When God created birds, He gave male birds bright, colorful feathers to attract females. Girl birds don’t work to attract boy birds; boy birds work to attract girl birds.

We’ve got it all wrong today. Females wear skimpy to non-existent clothing, color their hair, pierce their bodies, and paint their faces to attract males. Listen up, women: we should learn from the birds.

I saw a young girl yesterday wearing such exaggerated makeup that she looked like a cat. Her eye shadow was so thick and dark that it hid her eyebrows. She wore a short skirt that barely covered her underwear, a top cut so low that her boobs almost popped out, and the expression of a lost puppy on the side of the road.

Women need to reverse the media hype about attracting men and make men work for it. Take it from the birds. Today’s expectations about how women should look, and the pressure for women to hunt down men as if they were prey and capture them is a recipe for mental illness. It makes women feel unattractive, unloved, and unappreciated because they can never live up to the unrealistic expectations. We should learn from the birds.

In Jesus’ time, when a man asked a woman to marry her, he went out and built her a house, then collected his bride. He worked for it and she felt respected, loved and protected. When Abraham wanted a wife for his son Isaac, he sent camels loaded with treasure to the young woman and her family. Isaac loved his wife Rebekah and she felt loved, cherished and appreciated. Isaac worked for it.

The Bible upholds the best image for a woman to have of herself: Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30) Time cannot ruin beauty that is on the inside, nor does it require plucking, painting, pricking, or pruning to perfect.

We should learn from the birds.

peacock 2

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Beautiful Tree

tree after storms

 

This is a beautiful tree. It speaks. Look at it intently and listen to it whisper, “endurance.”

Poets memorialize heart-tugging moments in life. Authors, painters, and artists of all media catch fleeting moments of life and expound on them. One word whispers through all the art forms, through all the ages. The same word the tree whispers into the wind, “endurance.”

“All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:7. Even seaweed blooms, but, oh, so briefly.

It’s God’s job to send the sun and the rain to create blooms. Our job is to endure.

seaweed blooms

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Adventure Outside Books

FB back Dunoon

Most of my books are mystery-romance-suspense and revolve around adventure, but sometimes adventure is overrated. Most of my adventures outside books revolve around getting lost—or similar calamities.

God has a sense of humor. Both my husband and I are directionally challenged, yet God put us together. Sometimes getting lost is a positive experience. Getting lost led us to Scotland’s historic Ballachulish, a slate quarry which opened in 1692 and employed up to 300 men for more than 250 years. Roofing slates were shipped to Scottish cities, with a record 26 million Ballachuish slates produced in 1845. It is now a tourist attraction of walking trails and poignant memories carved in rock.

blog ballachulish signvert        blog arch Ballachulish

We just returned from two days of travel, six hours of driving both days. We only got temporarily lost on the way up to the Black Isle, and twice on the way back, so it was good other than the eight road work delays. Due to time constraints, we couldn’t stop to take pictures on the way up. We planned to stop on the way back. Never count on the next day for good weather in Scotland—we should know that.

When we finally reached the hotel booked for any time after 2 p.m., it was closed. Every door in the front was locked and no one answered our incessant doorbell ringing—incessant because I was desperate to get to a toilet. It was after 5 p.m., and there was not even a light inside. We stood there in the rain and cold wind (me with my legs squeezed together) considering our options. I walked around to the back and found an open door to what was apparently a linen closet and workshop. First I shouted, then getting no reply – I walked in, still shouting. No answer, but I found an unlocked door that led into the motel. I could see a bathroom in the gloom. Steps led up into the bowels of the historic hotel, which was built in 1892, a listed two-story square rubble stone building with dormer windows, a Tudor hood mold at the main entrance, and spacious rooms with elaborate trim around the high ceilings inside.

My husband was appalled (or perhaps frightened) by my bold adventuring, so he was back in front of the building waiting in the rain. The entrance along the main road opened into a bar and I got a chuckle thinking that people passing by and seeing Alan waiting might wonder if he had retired from the ministry to indulge in drink. Eventually two other people showed up—and unlike us—they had cell phones and called someone.

We finally made it to our room, which was grand and beautiful—but as cold as the outside stones. The restaurant was closed, so it was back out into the rain to walk across the street and get take-away Indian curry, which we ate in the closed restaurant.

The shower was good once I finally snapped to the fact that it was not a power shower and the reason I couldn’t find a button to push to turn it on was because there were no buttons. The bathroom heater didn’t work, so we were nearly as cold the next morning as we had been the previous night.

Then the trip home, driving through a rain/snow mix over mountains and behind slow moving vehicles and watching with pounding hearts as impatient drivers put their lives at risk attempting to pass big trucks in limited visibility.

Sadly, when we were almost to Dunoon, I looked in the rear mirror to see a car zooming along a line of seven vehicles attempting to pass all of them and realized with horror that an oncoming car was about to smash into it. We went around a hairpin turn and I couldn’t see what happened. A few minutes later, police cars with flashing lights rushed past us, and when I looked back in the rear view mirror, only two vehicles of the seven remained behind us…and there was no sign of the car with the impatient driver. So we started praying for everyone involved in the accident and thanked the Lord for our own safe travels.

Some adventures are better missed.

FB back Dunoon 2

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

Conversation Stopper

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus some 740 years before Jesus was born. Isaiah may have been martyred—sawn in two—during the reign of Manasseh for speaking truth. He condemned the wealthy for oppressing the poor; he condemned women who neglected their families in the quest of carnal pleasure; he condemned priests and prophets who became drunken men-pleasers instead of teaching and keeping God’s law.

Isaiah declared God’s displeasure with sin and endeavored to turn his generation away from disobedience to God. He paved a foundation of hope and promise for those who remained true to God by telling them about the birth of Jesus, Savior and Redeemer.

Speaking out against sin and injustice, Isaiah said, “Woe unto…” Yet after he had a vision of the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah said of himself, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5) Faced with God’s holiness, Isaiah realized that the same sinfulness he had prophesied against in others was found within himself.

That’s why I wrote gritty, real “Killer Conversations.” I’ve been criticized because the narrative of child abuse creating a serial killer is not a fairy tale—it’s painful and haunting. It’s the only book I’ve ever written that has received a one-star review. As Christians, we sometimes use what we perceive as our goodness as an excuse to criticize others. We use the fact that we don’t smoke, drink, curse, etc. as a battering ram against other believers. It’s a temptation to set ourselves up and put others down. We forget: “There by the grace of God go I.”

The Price of Beauty

snow sunset

For some reason, folks harbor a love affair with snow. They pen poetry about snow, create paintings of snow, feature snow on Christmas cards. They think it’s beautiful.

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Beauty has a price. The same clean whiteness that lights up Christmas cards also clogs roadways, causes accidents, makes structures collapse, shuts down power, closes schools and hospitals, and kills living creatures

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Lush lawns must be mowed. Colorful gardens must be weeded. Beautiful animals must be fed, watered, exercised, brushed, and taken to vet clinics. Lovely homes must be painted and maintained. Beauty comes with a price.

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The only free beauty I know of is God’s. Heaven will be more beautiful than anything we can imagine from our earthly focus. Psalm 27:4, “one thing I have desired of the LORD that I will seek; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life and behold the beauty of the LORD.”

wooden-spool-sunrise

Oh…wait a minute. Heaven is not free. It cost the life of Jesus Christ, Son of God.

But Heaven’s beauty is free for us, because Jesus paid the entry fee.

cross on hill

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Coincidence? Not.

blog coidence

My mother, who lived most of her life as an atheist but died a Christian, would have called it “coincidence.” That was her favorite description for anything lacking a logical explanation.

Luke was 10 when we started back to Texas from Montana. For Texas folks, Montana winters are brutal and “summers” are weak. When we arrived in August with our Texas tans, everyone asked where we were from. Five months later on January 1, we headed back to Texas. It was -12F. When we got to Jackpot, Nevada, it was still snowing, but Luke and I walked around with no coats because 32F felt warm.

Our route took us through Reno. It was still snowing. We stopped briefly for gas and food. Miles later, I wondered if we should have stayed. Snow grew deeper with every mile, but we were crossing the Dreaded 40-mile Desert and there was no place to stop. I hid my anxiety from Luke and told myself that as we continued south, it would get warmer.

There were sandwich boards signs along the interstate, but I couldn’t read them. They were covered with snow. And I was still tense from the frightening signs in Montana’s Blue Mountains: “Watch For Ice Heaves.” What was an ice heave? Where did I watch for one? Would it race across the road in front of us? Would it fall from the sky? Would it fly from a tree and smash our windshield? What if there were deep pits in the road and we fell into one? Why put up a sign warning about ice heaves without explaining what they were?

So…I ignored the sandwich board signs, although a diminutive pocket of common sense nudged me: suppose the signs were warnings that the interstate was closed? Would I get arrested?

In another of Mom’s “coincidences,” a semi-trailer truck parked on the side of the road pulled out in front of us. I followed that big rig’s tire tracks all the way across the desert to the next town. I knew that if I lost that truck, we would get stuck in a snow drift. By this time, I was fairly certain the signs warned: “Interstate Closed.”

When the semi pulled off on the exit to Lovelock, Nevada, I pulled off, laughing when a string of headlights followed. Other drivers either couldn’t read the signs or had ignored them. Not a single pair of headlights continued straight.

My truck made it through town until it got directly in front of our former pastor’s house. It stopped in the middle of the road and would not budge. Pastor Ted and Jenny Kern were kind and lovely (and still are). They invited us to spend the night. They said the interstate was closed, motels were full, and people were camped out inside the police station.

The next day when enough snow had been cleared, I drove to the local supermarket. The interstate was still closed. I couldn’t leave for Texas. Nevada State Troopers were stationed at the interstate ramps turning drivers back.

Coincidence? As I stood in the snow, arms outstretched, praying and asking God what to do, friends of ours from a gold mine drove up. “Hey, girl,” Ed hollered. “Need a job? Clo broke her arm. We need some help.”

Luke was ecstatic. What boy wouldn’t love roaming the desert and exploring a gold mine? We drove 40 miles out to the mine, Ed’s truck behind ours so he could push us forward every time my truck stopped.

gold 2

More coincidence? Months later, Clo sent me into town for the mail. I parked in front of the post office, collected the mail, and got back into the truck. The gear shift lever fell to the pavement. Not knowing what else to do, Luke and I walked over to the Kern’s house for assistance. Jenny called a church friend to fix the truck, painfully shy Thomas Logue, a strong Christian who loved helping people and fixing things—and could repair or build almost anything.

A few months later, Pastor Ted married us. Luke gained the most wonderful stepfather any child could have in Tom, who died of cancer in 2014. The Marine Corps sent Luke home from Iraq for the memorial service.

Coincidence, Mom? I think now you would agree with me that there are no coincidences. They are all God incidents.

(Pastor Theodore Kern pastors Crescent Valley Baptist Church in Battle Mountain Nevada, along with three mission churches in outlying areas. Jenny just retired from her teaching career to spend more time with grandchildren and also plays the piano for church services.)

Blog WheelerSnow

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Things to Remember; Things to Forget

view from Hillfoot Street Dunoon

So at some point in this blog about my recent hospital stay, I should write something funny about the food. I can’t. It wasn’t funny.

Scotland’s National Health Service is under attack from every angle. Criticisms, some justified, are as copious as rainfall, and for those who have never lived here – it rains nearly every day. My surgeon was skilled, hospital employees were caring and competent, and the facilities were outstanding. No way would I bash the health care system which literally saved my life. Chronic, agonizing pain is a killer. Cauda Equina Syndrome is synonymous with killer pain.

As a title of respect in the UK, surgeons are introduced as “Mr.,” not “Doctor.” So it is with upmost respect that I thank my surgeon, Mr. Bhattathiri,” not only for his skillfulness in surgery, but for his genuine compassion. His name may be spelled with a “B,” but he genuinely put the “care” in caring.

I believe the Bible, including 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “I everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” And I know that I know that I know that, “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.”

I don’t know why this happened to me. I don’t know why I had to have major back surgery. But I do know that I’ve been blessed by all the years of good health that God has given me. Soon, Cauda Equina Syndrome will be merely a memory.

The food? Not so much.

Scotland robin #2

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No Fear…Absolutely

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There are no easy answers for why bad things happen to good people, and why a loving God allows them to happen.

There are a lot of chipper, upbeat standard answers that sometimes make those afflicted with pain and suffering angry. Sure, they may be true – but in the midst of pain who wants to hear: Everything that happens in your life is a consequence of the decisions you’ve made and your actions. True or not, I can’t imagine walking into a hospice ward to visit a person with lung cancer and saying, “Well, this is your fault for smoking.”

True or not, in the center of a storm of pain, hardship, and suffering – telling someone that God created a perfect world, which was ruined by sin, and that God never intended bad to enter His perfect creation is not much comfort. Action to help the person is needed more than all the glib clichés one can deliver.

Please, I welcome your prayers, but the following is Not a plea for sympathy. When my hip pain started a few years ago, I ignored it. I declared stoutly, “I don’t need to go to the doctor. Even if an x-ray shows a problem, I will never let anyone cut me open. So why go?” So I exercised, ran, and prayed the pain away. I was a Texan, after all, and just like my character Texas Miz Mike in my mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge” series, Texans stand up to crisis. They don’t back down even from rattlesnakes.

Prayer works. From the time I was a new Christian and God removed my warts, to the time my son was scheduled to have a metal rod inserted in his spine and God healed him instead, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever – and Jesus heals. Prayer works. But sometimes we don’t get the answer we want or expect. Sometimes God answers “No.” Sometimes He answers “Wait.” For me this time, God’s answer was “NO.” For whatever reason, God did not heal me and I became increasingly worse. By worse, I am on crutches. I can’t open my mouth to take a bite of food without throwing the utensil down and hollering in pain.  Sneezing, yawning, coughing – the pain is so intense that it would knock down an elephant. Fortunately, I’m a Texan.

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The MRI showed a “huge” bulging disc in my spine that presses directly into the nerve. Instead of my right hip, the pain has spread to both hips and makes it impossible for me to drive because I can’t lift my foot and press down on the clutch. Why do I have this pain? Why has God not healed me? I don’t know. I do know that the Bible says to give thanks in everything, because this is the will of God for me in Christ Jesus. So I give thanks. I know that everything works together for good to those who love the Lord. Everything. How is this horrific pain working together for my good? I don’t know exactly, but I have an idea.

No fear. The greatest fear a person faces in life is death. Once that fear is eliminated – there’s nothing to fear. I lost my fear of death when my 37-year-old son died in a plane crash four years ago. He’s in Heaven and I will get to see him again when I get there. Everyone must walk through the valley of the shadow of death to get to Heaven. But shadows aren’t real. They can’t hurt. Shadows are an illusion. No fear.

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However, I love mobility. I want to walk, run, swim, climb mountains – keep moving. Therefore…I was determined that no doctor, no surgeon was ever going to touch my spine. Until…the pain. It took severe pain to grow me past the fear of having surgery. My surgery is scheduled for next week and I would be jumping in joy – if jumping didn’t hurt so much and if I could lift my feet. I am thrilled. I am totally unafraid and totally ready to surrender my life, health, and spine to whatever surgeon God provides. Trusting God totally and totally without fear.

I can’t answer the question of why bad things happen, or why Jesus didn’t heal me this time as He has in the past. Mysteries belong to God, even though I write them in books. But this I know, pain has pushed me to grow beyond fear. Totally.

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