Old Hat

Besides precious memories, too few pictures, and a much-read and much-used Bible, all I had left of son USMC Major Luke Gaines Parker was the old hat. Now the hat is gone.

It was ironic to still have Luke’s hat after he departed for Heaven at age 37. A hat should not last longer than the person wearing it – especially an old hat.

I bought the bright blue wooly hat for Luke in the Great Basin Desert of Northern Nevada when he was eleven. He left it behind when he reported to the Marine Corps for basic training.

Because it had been Luke’s hat, I kept it and wore it on cold, windy days – even though since it was a child’s hat, it was too small for me and kept popping off my head. Over the years, the hat became tolerant of me and relaxed enough to remain on my head. After I moved to Scotland, I wore the old hat nearly every day of the year – spring, “summer,” fall, and winter. Even in the height of “summer” it is still cool – often with a strong wind. The hat kept my hair from blowing across my face and getting tangled.

Now the hat is gone. It vanished. I wish I could believe that Luke reached down from Heaven and reclaimed the hat as a sort of sign. He didn’t. Heaven is a perfect place with a perfect climate. Luke would have no need for his old blue hat. When a person dies, their spirit goes immediately to be with Jesus in Heaven – if they belong to Him. Jesus is alive, Luke is alive – but he didn’t come for the hat.

I spent several days retracing walks and runs to look for the missing hat. Folks here in the Black Isle are honest and thoughtful. When they find someone’s property, they hang it on a fence post for the owner to find: shoes, socks, keys, dog whistles, shirts, hats, dog leashes. No bright blue wooly hat.

Perhaps the hat fell out of my pocket on the rocks and washed into the sea. Perhaps it blew out of my pocket when I was running and someone who needed a winter hat took it. Actually, I’m glad that it vanished because it taught me to look into my heart for what’s left that’s really important.

Everywhere I go, I see Luke’s smile. I remember the times he called me to sing a song he had just written. I still have cards and poems he sent me. When I look at his daughter’s face, I see his eyes and the bridge of his nose. He lives on in precious memories, and in the life of his daughter. These things are important. The old blue hat? Well, it was just a hat.

Every physical possession we have on this earth, no matter how valuable, will eventually wear out, get stolen, get lost, or disappear. Even the ones that we keep until we “die” will get left behind, just like Luke’s old hat when he went into basic training. No one leaves this earth for Heaven with a suitcase.

Value your children, friends, family members, pets – everyone and everything that you love – now. Spend all the time with them you can and lavish all the love on them that you have to give. You can’t spoil anyone with too much love – but you can break their hearts with too little love.

Build memories and hang on to them. Let old hats go.

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

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Look at me, Mom!

Our rough collie, Angel Joy, reminds me of a child. When we meet other dogs along the beach, she wants to show off. When she makes an especially good leap and catch, she holds the ball in her mouth and looks around to see if anyone observed her brilliance. She covets praise.

It reminds me of my son Luke when he was a child. “Mom, look!” Every parent can relate to that. “Mom, did you see that?” “Mom, guess what I did today!”

There were times when I wanted to be left alone to read a good book or do almost anything else than watch the same antics over and over, “Mom, did you see that! Look, Mom! Watch what I can do!”

Yet, as a parent – especially a single parent – I knew how important it was to give my son undivided attention even when he was acting immature and silly and I had other things to do than provide a loving, encouraging audience. How thankful I am now that I usually managed to pretend great interest in his endless somersaults, jumps off high objects, and riding a sky line down from a tree to the ground – over and over and over.

Luke graduated from earth to heaven at age 37, and I will never again have the chance to watch him, encourage him, praise him. He’s lost to me in this life.

Before Luke’s death, it was the same thing during phone calls – but it was Luke praising his daughter. “Mom, she’s so smart. I’m so proud of this girl.” “Let me tell you what she did today!” “She’s an angel!” She’s so smart and beautiful and brave.” “She can rock climb better than me.” “Let me tell you, that girl is just awesome and amazing!”

Dulcinea was only ten when she lost her daddy, but she can hold tightly to the memories of her father’s love for her and praise of her. Never did Luke speak one critical, angry or disparaging word about his daughter – my granddaughter. Dulcinea will never have to question whether or not her daddy loved her and was proud of her. She knows.

I challenge parents to watch your children at every opportunity – even if they are performing the same monotonous “trick” over and over to what seems like infinity. It isn’t. Your investment of time in your children will never leave you with regrets when God repossesses His loan. Children are gifts from God and they are only on loan to their parents.

Children are the only thing we have on this earth that will join us in Heaven. Give them what they need more than money, toys, or electronics – your time and love.

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Luke Gaines Parker, Aug. 19, 1976 – Nov. 17, 2013, with daughter Dulcinea

Books by Stephanie Parker McKean:

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

Sailcats, Crucifix Fish & the New Year

Sailcats, Crucifix Fish & the New Year

Kindhearted volunteer Marshall Scott answered the U.S. Marine Corps call to rescue me at the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport on Thanksgiving Day after I attended my son Luke Parker’s memorial service. Marshall took time away from his family Thanksgiving to make sure I made my connecting flight. Additionally he shared the legend of the Crucifix Fish.

Jesus on the cross is outlined on the front of the sailcat’s skeleton, complete with the hilt of the sword that was plunged into Jesus’ side. The back of the skeleton displays the Roman shield. When you shake the cross, you can hear the dice being tossed for the Lord’s clothing.

When I got back to Scotland, my research disclosed that gaftopsail catfish witness God’s love in life, too. For example: Jesus died on the cross and went down for hell for three days to take the keys of death and hell away from satan and secure eternal life for us. The sailcat lives on the soft bottom of the ocean – but unlike other catfish – it doesn’t feed there. Just as Jesus loves and accepts everyone of every color, every country, every social status in life, the sailcat feeds up and down through the entire water column.

Male gaftopsail catfish brood their young in their mouths until they hatch. During this entire period of up to 65 days, males do not eat. What a great parallel of Jesus’ nature; His willingness to sacrifice even His life that we might be born again and grow into His image. Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us when we are weak.

Sailcats are saltwater catfish. As Christians, we are instructed to be salt in the world. We should walk in love, but also in truth. Our truth – salt – has great healing power.

Crucifix Fish skeletons are popular for jewelry, but rare. Imagine my delight when I received a Christmas present from the Scott family, a box containing a Crucifix Fish! It will be freely shared here, going so much further than just our house.

What a great New Year it would be if we all took lessons from Crucifix Fish: witness Jesus openly both in this life and in the memories left behind when graduating to heaven. Love and accept others, no matter how different. Get out of the comfort zone and dare to be salty! Put others first. For 2014, I want to live like a Crucifix Fish.

Texas Eugenia Thornhill, in my new Christian mystery-romance-suspense “Fear of Shadows,” reminds me of the lessons of the Crucifix Fish. She is too self-reliant and self-sufficient to need God until she solves the mystery of her fear of shadows. The truth almost destroys her. There is power in the Cross of Jesus, but to tap into it – Texas would need to get out of her comfort zone and get salty. Can the proud, independent Texan who embraces one rebellion after another do that?

http://www.amazon.com/Fear-Shadows-Stephanie-Parker-McKean-ebook/dp/B00HGLRS7O/ref=la_B00BOX90OO_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387739222&sr=1-6

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Knife to the heart

There’s no knife to the heart in this short blog about Major Luke Gaines Parker who graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps to Heaven on Nov. 17, 2013 – except for the wound left in the heart of his mother. But there are knives in the story – so keep reading!

Luke isn’t dead. His plane crashed. The outer shell of his body will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, Dec. 3, but Luke went straight from the sky into the arms of Jesus. So many people have poured out love, support and praise for Luke that I wanted to share a bit of what made him special.

I was raised an atheist. When Luke was four, I had only just discovered Jesus and started reading my Bible and going to church. We had no vehicle and sometimes we nearly missed the bus home from my work. So my four-year-old said, “Mom, why don’t you pray for a truck?” I was afraid to pray for a truck. What would happen to Luke’s faith if we prayed and didn’t get a truck? What would happen to mine? Luke had no doubts. He prayed for a truck. We got one the next day.

Luke read his Bible and believed it. He read that with faith, a person could move mountains. So when he got warts, he asked Jesus to remove them. Jesus did.

When our truck was sputtering and I didn’t think we’d make it home, Luke slapped his hands confidently on the dash and said, “Get the hens, Satan. Get the hens.” Puzzled, I asked him about the hens, only to find that he meant, “Get thee hence, Satan.” God wasn’t confused. The truck made it home.

From snakes and turtles to all things bigger and smaller, Luke loved animals and rescued them. He saved songbirds from bee traps and raised a one-legged baby raven. I found him hanging upside down in a tree one day teaching a baby opossum how to climb. When he ran a marathon in New York City, a bird landed on his shoulder. He fed it drops of water until it revived and flew away.

Luke accomplished everything his heart set out to do. When he wanted to learn to play the trumpet, he did. When he wanted to learn to play the piano, he did. When he wanted to join the Marine Corps and was told he couldn’t because he needed a steel rod to straighten his back, he got prayer for his back. Jesus healed his back and Luke started running up to eight miles a day – every day – to prepare for basic training. He worked his way up in the Marine Corps from enlisted to major. He graduated from college even though he froze during tests. He learned to fly a plane, then bought his own plane. He flew in air shows and preformed aerobatics. But that’s not why I’m so proud of him.

Luke walked with God. When he was in basic training, some of the guys got drunk and tried to get Luke to drink. He refused. When their mocking and taunts continued, Luke got into his bunk and covered himself with a sheet. In the morning, Luke’s mattress was slashed all around his body. One slash had just missed his heart.

When Luke was in Iraq, one of the men wrote in the newsletter, “No matter what we do, we can’t make Captain Parker cuss.”

Luke loved his wife and daughter. He was a great dad to his little girl. He walked with God. The Marines lost a man. I lost a son who walked with God.

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Life is never long enough

Today, November 19, 2013, I learned that I must say goodbye to the best son any mother ever had, Marine Corps Major Luke Parker, who was killed in a plane crash Sunday. Life is never long enough when you love someone.

When I look back to my time as Luke’s mother, I know I was blessed by the LORD that He chose me out of all the other women on earth to be Luke’s mom.

Luke was hyperactive before hyper became a buzz word. At the doctor’s office, other children sat in their mother’s laps. Luke jumped off furniture, tore around the room like a wild fox, and shouted with laughter when I tried to catch him. When I finally caught him and attempted to restrain him, he screamed so loudly that we were taken into a waiting room in the back. There wasn’t enough space for him to bounce and run there, and by the time we left the doctor’s office I needed treatment for a raging headache. The Marine Corps was the perfect career for his boundless energy. He began training before he was out of high school, running four to six miles a day in every kind of weather.

Luke was born loving animals and they sensed that and loved him in return. Once when he was walking in New York, a thirsty bird landed on his shoulder. Luke feed the bird drops of water until it recovered and flew away. With Luke’s help, we rescued and saved dogs, cats, ravens opossums, frogs, tadpoles, snakes, lizards. I walked outside one day to find Luke hanging upside down in a tree teaching a baby opossum how to climb.

When Luke was four, the “experts” at a children’s clinic in Reno, Nevada, informed me that Luke had learning and developmental issues and would never do well in school or be particularly successful. My answer was, “As long as he loves Jesus and serves Him, I don’t care.”

The experts were wrong and Luke achieved everything he ever wanted to do. When he decided he wanted to play a trumpet, he learned. When he wanted to learn to play the piano, he took a few lessons and wound up playing in church. He was a skilled artist and poet, and in spite of the fact that he said he hated writing, he was entrusted to write newsletters for his Marine Corps unit. He decided he needed a college diploma and graduated from Stephen F Austin. He decided he wanted to learn to fly and earned not only a pilot’s license, but also his instrument and instructor’s ratings. He fell in love with an old army jeep and bought it and rebuilt and painted it from the ground up, learning as he went. He decided he wanted to buy a plane and found one of the only 19 surviving Focke Wulf planes in the world, which he kept in pristine shape. He and the plane went down on Sunday, Nov. 17. If he could have chosen the way to go – that’s what he would have chosen. From the sky into the arms of Jesus.

I could be proud that Luke made the rank of Major; that he graduated from college; that he and his plane performed in air shows; that he ran marathons. I am proud of all those things, but what I am most proud of him for is for having been a great dad to his daughter and walking with God.

Luke read his Bible nearly every day and prayed constantly. He would want me to use this opportunity to encourage you to consider where you will be when you die and make sure it’s heaven. You’ll get to see him there! Because of Luke, one of my favorite Bible verses is 3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

Proud of you, Son. Thank you for walking in truth. I’ll see you soon!

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To everything there is a Season

More than 2,000 years ago, King Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” He added, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Fall foliage reminds me these Bible verses. Trees take turns dressing in their fall flowering of red, gold, streaked and spotted colors. It is, as some have said, as if God individually paints each leaf and takes turns striking each tree with a swath of His glory. The result is bright cheering beauty to break a drab and dull world preparing itself for sleep.

Sometimes we want to rush our goals and dreams in life, and who could blame us? Life on this earth is short. The Bible equates it with a grass blade that soon withers; a vapor; a flower bloom that fades. Not happy thoughts – if we believe this life is it. But the same Bible that describes the brevity of life also promises that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ gains entrance into eternal life with Jesus in Heaven.

As much as we want to press ahead with our plans, we need to remember that God is in control. He holds our lives in His hands. He knows the number of our days. Sometimes he withholds the answer to a prayer; a promotion in our career; recognition that we’ve earned because He is too wise to make mistakes and too good to be cruel. God knows that waiting will either bring us something better than we could ever ask or think, or will build us into the kind of person that He wants us to be. So if the wait seems long, remember that God is painting the leaves one-by-one.

I don’t understand why as a writer it’s taken me forty years to build a successful life as an author when some people as young as 14-years-old break into the publishing industry. I don’t need to understand. That’s God’s look out. What God requires of me is faith and gratitude. It’s been a long wait, but I think the five Christian mystery-romance-suspense books and the one pro-life adventure-romance have benefited by the wait. (The newest, “Fear of Shadows,” will be out this week!)

Like fall leaves, God has painted my books one-by-one using the colors mixed by a waiting heart.

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

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