Stubbornness

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God has blessed us with a lovely, intelligent rough collie puppy. She has only one flaw—stubbornness. When she doesn’t want to go the way we are going it evolves into a tugging match and ends up with me dragging her.

It seems cruel to drag a puppy across the street or down the sidewalk—but when the light changes and cars are coming from both directions, or when there are workers ahead with dangerous equipment—dragging is a kindness that saves her life.

Stubbornness is an admirable trait in a writer. With 150 rejection slips from publishing companies in the U.S. and U.K.—I kept writing. With 40 years of disappointments and agony, I kept hitting the keys. My new Christian Cozy Mystery “Croft Murders,” featuring Mike the Headless rooster, Fiona the pouting rooster, and croft owner Nora whom someone wants to kill would not have been published without stubbornness.

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Nor would I be working on another book after the first review on “Croft Murders” was a three-star from a reader who said I didn’t know enough about Texas. I was born there and moved from Texas to Scotland eight years ago. Texas is indeed “a whole ‘nother country” with every climate and eco system imaginable. The tornado stricken, flat, snowy panhandle; the lovely Texas Hill Country with its plethora of wildlife; the nearly desert environs along the Mexico border; the east Texas piney woods and oil wells, and the west Texas mountains and Big Bend State Park. The reviewer apparently didn’t know much about home of my heart, the Texas Hill Country, because everything I mentioned about Texas in “Croft Murders” reflected a true experience.

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Savannah and I have worked out a compromise. As long as she’s in no physical danger, and as long as it’s not extremely important to go to any one particular place—I put the leash on her and follow her. Now before anyone reaches the conclusion that I’m a coward, or have never trained a dog before, I would just like to justify that compromise by pointing to…writing. Yup, all of y’all, writing.

The characters in my books come alive and take over the plot and action. Without dropping a spoiler about “Croft Murders,” before the characters took over, I planned a completely different outcome for Nora. Therefore, I can justify my decision to “go with the flow” where Savannah is concerned. I’m used to being dragged around.

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It’s Not the Bombs

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When I was a kid, a siren would sound and we would scramble under our desks to protect ourselves from bombs. I did what I was told. I had no idea what a bomb was or what destruction it would cause. I know about destruction now – and it’s not from bombs.

When I was a kid, our parents would send us out into the yard to dig bomb shelters in the Georgia red clay banks surrounding our house. They weren’t really worried about bombs – they just wanted to keep us occupied. But I know about destruction now – and it’s not from bombs.

Addiction costs the US an estimated $559 billion a year, with $193 billion of that being from alcohol. It costs the UK an estimated 21 billion pounds a year, with 100 billion of that being from alcohol.

But the real cost of addiction is hidden: shattered families, abused and neglected children, abused and dumped pets, vehicle crashes, murder. An alcoholic with a long string of previous arrests shot my brother Greg to death when Greg was 21. (Greg with our pet lion, Eb.)

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 An alcoholic who already had two DUIs crashed into our truck, totaled it, and caused permanent spinal damage to my cancer-suffering husband. A drug addict ran up so much debt against my property that I lost it. All these incidents dropped off the string of statistic-takers’ figures: hidden costs of addiction that cause lifelong hurt and torment for overlooked victims.

The solution is simple. Learn and accept these truths from the Bible and teach them to our children: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians)

Would you stick a cigarette into Jesus’ mouth? Would you hand him a beer or pills to pop? If you are wise enough to realize that God would be offended by these things – keep garbage out of your own mouth and set that example for your children. It’s not the bombs that destroy our lives. It’s the addictions.

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Epiphanies

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Epiphanies can happen anywhere, which is why the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines them as “sudden” striking understandings of something. My newest epiphany hit when I noted a towering tree with scared bark as I walked our dog. Irregularities made the tree unique, beautiful and strong.

God did not send storms to shake the roots of that tree and to twist and mar the bark, but He allowed the storms to mold the tree into perfection and beauty. So, too, with our lives. God doesn’t make bad things happen to us. But because this is a sin-sick world, bad things happen.

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Fleeing sexual and physical abuse at home, I ran away and lived under a bridge in the Texas Hill Country, painting signs for meals. I never went hungry. When flash floods came, I had to drive my pickup truck out from under the bridge and live in it on a back street. Those early hardships molded my life as a writer. I will be releasing book number 23, a Christian Cozy Mystery-Romance this week. God’s word never fails, is never wrong. God uses the worst part of our lives to build the best. “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Romans 8:28

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No shakes, twists, mars, or scars are wasted in God’s perfect purpose for our lives.

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You CAN Go Home Again

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Thomas Wolfe was wrong – you CAN go home again – if “home” is Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World.” The hard part is getting there.

Take the couple on the plane next to me with the sanitary wipes. So diligent were they at wiping down everything around them that I thought, “If they know I let dogs kiss me on the face – they’ll spray me with something.”

Airport signs. The one for my gate pointed straight up. “Heaven?” I wondered. “I would love to see Luke again.”

Picking up my bag in Newark to go through customs and recheck it, I followed the signs to the elevator, but a live person turned me away at the top and sent me back down, over two elevators, and up a different elevator. That led to “Priority” whatever, and the workers standing behind desks doing absolutely nothing gave me a major eye roll. I’ll have to remember that when I’m writing my next book. People really do roll their eyes.

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A lovely friend whom I hadn’t seen in 42 years met me at the San Antonio Airport. I was afraid we wouldn’t recognize each other, but we did. The only problem…she couldn’t find her car. Perfect! I’m not the only directionally challenged person in the world!

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Once in Bandera I felt like I had never left. After having been gone for nine years, folks said, “Hey, nice to see you. I haven’t seen you in a while. What ‘ya been up to?” No clue I had been gone.

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Main Street seemed cleaner and wider. There were new buildings. Some old ones were gone. Hair was a bit whiter on some heads and some folks walked with a cane. But the Bandera spirit of friendliness and welcome remained changed.

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Everywhere I went in Bandera, folks talked openly about God. They prayed before meals and included the U.S. and the President in those prayers. Never heard a word of profanity while I was there. Home.

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How Does God Do That?

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Sometimes when I’m extremely tired and have life bullets zinging off me in a crazy pattern that doesn’t seem to make sense I have to dig deep into my store of faith to keep believing in God. I spent the first 20-plus years of my life thinking I was an atheist and when I got saved and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my mother thought I was unbalanced and emotionally unstable.

Mom viewed everything strange in life as “coincidence.” Her favorite catch phrase when I tried to share something remarkable God had done in my life was, “That’s coincidence.”

God loves me so much that when I’m digging deep within my heart to rediscover my roots of faith—He sends me a Godincidence. He does something that only He could have done.

We live in a small house built on grounds where a gospel church used to stand. The church has been gone at least 10 years. Today we got a large envelope addressed to “Gospel Hall.”

We had no idea who to contact about the mail, or what to do with it. When I took our 11-week-old collie pup on a walk, she walked further than she usually does. On the way back I spotted an orange cat in a back yard. I stopped to show Savannah the cat. “That’s a cat,” I told her. As I stood there, a woman opened a second story window to throw birdseed down into her yard. She asked about Savannah’s name and age, and said she was on her way to the Gospel Hall in another village. I told her about the envelope I had received just a few hours earlier and she was as astonished as I was. We made plans to exchange the envelope. A Godincidence.

Why is it a Godincidence? I don’t usually walk Savannah at that time or in that direction. I had never walked her that far before. Had the timing not be orchestrated by God, I would not have been standing there at the precise moment the homeowner opened the window to dispense birdseed. Had we not spoken to one another—I would never have known she went to the Gospel Hall, and she would never have known that I had the envelope. Only God could have worked out all those details.

How does God do things like that? I don’t know, but I know He does. And knowing it’s a God thing holds my roots of faith firmly in place when the gale force winds of adversity strike.

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Headless Chickens & Collie Pups

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Once a year folks flock to Fruita, Colorado, USA, to participate in a fun-filled festival celebrating a headless chicken named Mike. Really.

The Olsen family chose Mike for a dinner date for their family in September, 1945—but Mike survived the execution attempt. One of Mike’s ears was cut off and his brain stem was left only semi-attached. Mr. Olsen took pity on the headless chicken and fed him milk and water with an eyedropper. Mike learned to walk without eyes and without a head to help him balance. He wandered around the yard attempting to peck for food with his neck.

Mike traveled the country for the next 18 months and earned $4,500 a month in appearance fees for his family—more than the average U.S. citizen earned. Mike was featured in Time and Life magazines.

After Mike succumbed to a blot clot, he was immortalized by his home town in the annual Mike the Headless Chicken Festival—which is held every year in May.

Losing his head changed Mike (losing our heads changes us too!), but Mike was still a chicken. Even without a head, Mike scratched in the dirt and pecked with his headless neck because he was a chicken. God created him as a chicken and even without a head—Mike was still a chicken.

We brought home a rough collie puppy three weeks ago. She didn’t bark. Three weeks and never a bark. Because she isn’t old enough yet for her second set of puppy shots, Savannah has been isolated. She is not around other dogs and doesn’t hear them bark. We were overjoyed thinking that we had a quiet collie dog who would never disturb the peace barking. She barked today.

God created Savannah as a dog, and dogs bark. Even without the example of other dogs, Savannah learned to bark. Being isolated did not keep her from becoming what God created—a dog.

Mike and Savannah are good examples of the foolishness of people thumbing their noses at God and saying, “I don’t care what kind of equipment I have between my legs, I’m going to choose my own gender.”

A headless chicken is still a chicken.

An isolated collie puppy is still a dog.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27.

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Riches in Waiting

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Yesterday was a wild day, mostly spent on two different buses or at the bus station in between buses as we traveled from Dunoon to Glasgow, from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and then made the return journey.

First the purple, a deep vibrant purple more intense than a lavender field. A woman at the bus station was wearing it. She was tall and it reached from her neck down to her purple boots, so there was a lot of it. And her hair was purple—except where dark roots nudged through the head bouquet. The purple woman has absolutely nothing to do with this blog, except that some things once seen can’t be unseen and when I close my eyes, the inside of my eyelids are swathed in purple.

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Then the revolving glass door. I ran into it. Twice. The first time I almost panicked because the people in the other two sections of the glass door had a way out, but I was in the middle of a glass tunnel with no escape route. That just reaffirmed what I already knew: I am not and will never be a “city” person. I belong in the country with birds, wildlife, trees, grass, wildflowers—even purple ones.

Finally, we arrived at our destination, after a short ride scrunched into the backseat of a car so tightly that no one could even fasten their seatbelt. And we met Savannah. We picked up the tiny merle rough collie puppy and told her we would be her new parents soon and that her name was Savannah. When we left, I called, “Savannah,” and out of the mix of swirling, climbing collie puppies, she was the only one who looked up. She looked up at us and watched us until we were out of sight. Some things are worth waiting for, worth an all-day bus ride, worth getting trapped inside revolving glass doors, worth purple on the inside of the eyelids. Savannah is one of those things.

“Those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

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Worth the Fight

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My newest book, “Pirate Hole Murders,” should have been out two weeks ago. Wait. Wait. I hate waiting. Most people do.

Finally the imminent release day…more waiting. Because I had shared five Facebook posts with strong language about New York’s evil abortion law allowing abortion up until birth, I got locked out of Facebook. Facebook supports liberal agenda and is hostile toward conservative and Christian values. Google too, which is why I use Yahoo as much as possible. Google worked the lockout with Facebook, and all but the most recent emails disappeared.

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The impasse lasted nearly two days, and because of the difficulty of retrieving cover art from the missing emails publication of “Pirate Hole Murders” was further delayed. But when it was released, it made it to #15 on Amazon’s UK site immediately.

Some things are worth fighting regardless of the consequences. Abortion is one of them. I am honored to have been singled out for my stand against abortion. And had my Facebook and email accounts remained locked, “Pirate Hole Murders” would still have been released in spite of additional waiting because it had prayer support. Ultimately, God is in control. He is from everlasting to everlasting and is immune to time.

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God creates us. God hates murder. Psalm 139:13 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” No one—no sex, no religion, no culture, no one—has the right to murder the humans God creates in the womb where they are the most defenseless and deserve the most protection.

When the lockout of Facebook was lifted, the first thing I shared was another post against the evil of the new NY law. Some things are worth the fight.

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Happy 2019

Slipping in here a few days late to wish everyone a Happy, Joyful, God-Blessed New Year.

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So many people make New Year’s Resolutions, and that’s a good thing. Keeping them is especially good. Yes, I would like to exercise more this year and lose more weight, but that’s always my goal. Now that it’s been a year since my back surgery, I’m cleared to start running again.

As a writer, I can’t ignore that part of my life when planning for a new year. I wrote six books last year and I honestly don’t intend to write that many this year. The new series takes a lot of research which translates into a lot of time. I’m hoping to have the third “Fog Busters, Old Bones Detectives” out sometime in January.

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As a writer and as a person, the most important goals I can set for 2019, or any year, are found in the Bible, specifically in Philippians, Chapter 3: That I may know God and His power; That I may press on; That I may forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead, that I may press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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That about sums up my 2019 goals. As an author, my inspiration comes from God.

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Whoever you are and wherever you are reading this, may God light your new year with beauty, bounty, and joy. Happy New Year!

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P Choices: People or Phones

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It’s been wonderful beyond description spending time with people—meaning my family members in Tampa, Florida. This side of heaven, I can’t imagine anything sweeter—and now we are on our way to Laredo, Texas, to visit the rest of the family.

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Therefore, it wounded me watching a family at the table next to us at a local restaurant. Three adults sat on one side of the table playing with their phones. A toddler sat on the other side of the table—screaming. The child was crying so hard that her face was pinched, her cheeks wore white patches, and she was shaking. Not a single one of the adult women even glanced up from their phone screens.

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The child screamed so loudly that two elderly ladies in a booth across from the table motioned the waitress over and demanded to be moved somewhere else. And, still, the three adult women sat zoned out in front of phone screens.

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Psalm 127:3 says that children are a heritage of the Lord. Psalm 107: 41 says, “God sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock.” Those folks at the restaurant chose phone over people—over their own children and family. Tragic. Unbelievably tragic. Family is our only gift in this life that follows us into eternity.

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