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.

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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

Location Motivation

It has been written that a person who likes the place where they live will like the next place.

The Texas Hill Country is home of my heart, and I miss it, but every place has its own attraction. Life is an adventure!

One of my favorite places is the Great Basin Desert of Northern Nevada. Luke was seven when we moved there. We explored hidden ghost towns and gold mining camps. We scaled mountains and followed herds of wild horses and antelope. From highways, the land looks empty and barren…nothing but miles of sagebrush and alkali dirt. That illusion hides treasures: horned toads, brightly colored lizards, colorful bull snakes (yes, rattlesnakes, too), great horned owls and barn owls, crystal beds throwing light back at the sun, gold nuggets, shallow streams crowded with brown trout, and tumbleweed circuses performed by dust devils.

Ravens nest at the entrances of abandoned mine shafts dropping rocks on intruders to protect their young. Coyotes stream across the dry land in undulating brown shadows. Mountain lions sun themselves on boulders, melting into the landscape when disturbed.

Desert folk hidden in forgotten ghost towns and mining camps live in freedom today’s world has forgotten: no electricity or electric bills, no phones or phone bills, no TV or computer games, no running water or broken water lines.

It was in this desert that my seven-year-old son taught me to see the wind. Yes, actually see the wind. It’s a gift I treasure.

One book would never adequately describe this amazing desert. “Bridge to Desert Desire” is a Texas Miz Mike Christian mystery-romance-suspense. It makes no attempt to disrespect this land of mountain, sky, changing colors, and living shadows by summarizing it. The unique characters, backdrop…and even some of the action…are based on real life experiences in this majestic slice of God’s creation.

Yes, I love everywhere I have ever lived, but my heart has a tendency to whisper, “Go West, Child, Go West. Return to the Desert.”


“Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” from the Desert

As a single parent with a sick child, I couldn’t afford to buy a Christmas tree. I hadn’t been able to afford a turkey and all the fixings at Thanksgiving – we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Trees of any size or kind were rare in the Nevada desert, populated by sagebrush, tumbleweed, coyotes, horned toads, bull snakes, rattlers, and antelope. I loaded my seven-year-old son, Luke, and our dogs into the truck and drove out into the desert to find a Christmas tree. We drove up and down dry washes and on such faint narrow trails that it seemed inevitable that we were going to get stuck even more in the middle of nowhere than where we lived. Finally we climbed a steep, dusty hill and found a few scraggly mountain junipers crouched between rocks. Luke was thrilled!

Luke examined each tree critically, scrambling over rocks and climbing up steep ledges to view each tree from every angle. Then he picked his favorite and cut it down. We bounced back home over rocks and through dry washes and carried the little tree into our mobile home.

The tree trunk was as twisted as egg beaters and the branches not much better. It was difficult to keep the tree in the stand because no matter which way it was turned – it over balanced and fell. Finally, I managed to wrap towels around the trunk tightly enough to make it stand and Luke joyously dragged out decorations and glorified the juniper with lights, bulbs, and handmade decorations.

I fought back laughter every time I looked at that scraggly tree weighted down with twinkling lights and colorful decorations. It reminded me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

Enter Missing Dad who had hardly seen Luke after his fourth birthday and who had never sent a penny of child support. MD immediately declared the little tree was the ugliest thing he had ever seen and berated me for not having bought a real Christmas tree for my son. Luke left the room in tears and MD stomped out the door and drove off – forever, I hoped. Sometimes things are not forever. MD was soon back with a large store-bought, pre-decorated Christmas tree. He moved Luke’s tree into the corner and installed the “real” Christmas tree in its place. Then he berated Luke for not being excited about the purchase and for insisting that he liked his Charlie Brown tree better.

Fortunately, MD did not stay in our lives long. He never had. Still criticizing us for keeping Luke’s tree in the house when we had a “real” tree, and still criticizing me for not having purchased gifts to put under the store-bought tree (even after I explained I couldn’t afford to buy anything), he drove away. We watched him until he was out of sight and shared a sigh of relief.

Eyes sparkling, Luke turned to me, “Mom,” he said. “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but now that he’s gone, can we have the real tree back? Please, Mom.”

So we stuck store-bought tree out back and hung popcorn strings on it for the birds. We put Luke’s “real” tree back in its place of honor in our home.

Love, not money, makes things real. Luke loved his “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Thanksgiving

BridgeBeyoneBetrayal_650As a single parent who had saved up all my vacation time to write the best-selling American novel and live in the country with my seven-year-old son, I was virtually starving. All I could afford to serve for Thanksgiving Dinner was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I sat on the kitchen floor of the rented mobile home in the Great Basin Desert of northern Nevada and cried because people all over the U.S. would celebrate Thanksgiving with their families, digging into turkey and trimmings, followed by gloriously unhealthy desserts while all I could give my child – who happened to love turkey – was peanut butter and jelly.

A knock on the door brought me to my feet. I hastily dried my tears and answered the door. Our lone in-the-middle-of-nowhere neighbor stood on the porch. She invited us to Thanksgiving Dinner at her house. Since she was elderly, we went early to help.

Enter her family. Her son staggered through the door with six-packs of beer under both arms and an open one sloshing all over the floor. Without greeting his mom, he plopped down in her comfy chair and turned on the TV to a football game. His wife spewed profanity – mainly aimed at her husband – as she plopped down in the next most comfy chair in front of the TV. Enter the two teens. The boy had safety pins hanging off both ears, both eyebrows, both nostrils and tattoos and studs in other improbable locations on his body. He openly smoked a joint as he shouted profanity at his parents. The girl had multi-colored hair, earrings and nose hoops and wore a mini-skirt and a low-cut bodice in spite of the snow. Like her other family members, she failed to greet Mrs. Merika, but at least she didn’t enter the curse-them-dead feast. Poor Luke had never heard such foul language before and was shocked.

Luke set the table while Mrs. Merika and I put out the food. The visiting family fell on it like a pack of coyotes – not even thanking the Lord or their mom/grandmother. Luke, Mrs. Merika, and I clasped hands and prayed together. After the meal was devoured, Mrs. Merika and I put up the leftovers, did the dishes, cleaned up the kitchen. Then Luke and I walked home through the snow.

“Mom,” he said after a moment. “I would rather eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the rest of my life than to go to a feast with people like them.”

A Thanksgiving lesson never forgotten. It grieves my heart that he is celebrating Thanksgiving in Heaven this year instead of with us, but he lives on in the prophetic poem he wrote a year before his airplane crash. It’s in the opening pages of Bridge Beyond Betrayal.

Happy Thanksgiving, Luke. I love you, Son!


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.


Mother’s Day – Don’t Leave the Kids Behind!

The most exciting event of my life occurred on Mother’s Day when my son was four. Count Your Many Blessings, name them one by one rang out as the invitational hymn and Luke left my side, walked down the aisle, and asked Jesus to come into his heart.

That memory is more important to me than ever on this Mother’s Day as USMC Major Luke Gaines Parker celebrates another day with Jesus and I endure my first Mother’s Day without his cheerful, enthusiastic voice starting off the day with, “Good morning, Mom. I love you! Happy Mother’s Day!”

The magnitude of the decision he made 33 years ago is my peace and hope in a rest-of-my-life without him because it assures me that, just like the Jesus he served, Luke is in Heaven. This separation is painful – but temporary.

Luke gave me a Bible for Christmas in 1992, when he was sixteen. He paid for it with earnings from his first job. Two years later, I gave him a Bible when he entered the U.S. Marine Corps. He carried his Bible with him for the rest of his life, including his six deployments to war zones, and read it nearly every day. Like the Bible he bought me, nearly every page is marked, underlined, or has notes written into the margins. I cherish both Bibles and keep them visible on my desk as constant reminders of how marvelously privileged and honored I was to have a son who walked in God’s Truth.

When I look back to Luke’s childhood, I regret all the things I couldn’t buy for him because – as a single parent – I couldn’t afford them. I regret never having had enough money to take him to Disney Land or on a vacation. But what Luke and I did share is bigger and greater than all of my regrets combined: a love for Jesus Christ Who gave up His life on the cross for our sins so we can spend eternity with Him in a place where there is no death, sickness, dying, sorrow or tears. Wow! Luke’s plane crash on Nov. 17, 2013, wasn’t the end – it is the beginning.

You mothers reading this Mother’s Day blog may suffer the same insecurities that I did as a parent if your finances aren’t long enough to stretch to meet expenses. Don’t fret. More than things you can buy for them, your children need your time. More than expensive vacations and trips, your children need your love.

One of Luke’s most cherished memories was living in poverty in the Nevada Desert in a cabin with no electricity, no running water, and an outhouse for a bathroom. Luke loved it because he could have me – my time and love. Instead of running between two and three jobs to make ends meet, I was teaching him at “home” and spending every day and night with him. He mentioned that as a highlight of his life in every Mother’s Day card he sent, and in nearly every phone call.

Don’t waste time and energy agonizing over what you can’t give your children. If you spend time and love on them and teach them about Jesus, you are a successful parent. The only thing we have here on earth that can follow us to heaven is our children. Make sure they know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Don’t leave the kids behind!

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Christmas shadows & Lights

For seven years of single parenthood, my son Luke (the late Major Luke Gaines Parker, Aug. 19, 1976-Nov. 17, 2013) and I lived in the Nevada desert. One of our favorite entertainments was holding sagebrush jumping contests – which I hasten to add, he invariably won!

Except the mountains changing colors as clouds pass over them, shadows in the desert are short. Rocks, sagebrush, Russian thistle (tumbleweed), rabbit brush – all cast short shadows and there are virtually no trees. When we moved to the Texas Hill Country, trees along the road threw shadows down and when those shadows hit the road in front of me when I was driving, I got dizzy. It was a silly thing and I couldn’t understand it until Mom’s Christmas present.

Because Mom never had much money to spend on us at Christmas, she came up with unique, affordable gifts like the scrapbook of childhood photos she compiled for each of us one Christmas. It must have taken her weeks of sorting through pictures to get all the photos in the right albums for the right children. Luke loved the pictures of his mom as a child. We were looking at the album one day when I focused in on a small wooden house splattered with shade from trees surrounding it. Suddenly, the picture reached out and grabbed me. I was pulled through the hall to the back door where – partly outside my range of vision – my father was beating something to death. I couldn’t see the victim clearly enough to identify it, and the unexpected image frightened me so badly that I snapped out of the trance. I tried to revisit that picture later when I was alone, but I never could get past the front door again. The image of him pounding something and blood everywhere had terrorized me.

So my newest book, “Fear of Shadows,” was born from that Christmas gift and from the horrendous memory that almost surfaced.

My father was an atheist. He was a cruel wicked man who obeyed no law – God or man-made – except his law: “What’s good for J.L. Potter is good.” As a result, he committed shockingly evil crimes during his lifetime and was one of the first 51 people in the U.S. to die from a newly discovered disease that hadn’t even been named yet. We know it now as AIDS.

“Fear of Shadows” is a Christian mystery-romance-suspense book written from my imagination, not a true story. They say that fact is stranger than fiction. It is a fact that when I was five, my father loaded me, his mother, a Great Dane dog, my grandmother’s dog, and two cats into a wood-paneled station wagon and drove away from California in the middle of the night. He left my sister, my brother, and my pregnant mother behind. We camped out in the then-untamed Florida Everglades swamp along a lagoon with venomous snakes and alligators. We ate bread and peanut butter, and pancakes that my grandmother cooked over an open fire, every day…day after day. All these years later, I still can’t eat pancakes. My father claimed he was looking for work. Perhaps he wanted to herd alligators.

So…who and what was his victim? I don’t know. But I think you’ll enjoy the story that this experience wrote for me. God Bless you and Merry Christmas.


Fire the Rocks with Beauty

Bloom where you are planted. Light up the rocky ground with the fire of the gifts and enthusiasm that God has given you. If lovely flowers can bloom vividly on the slate roof of a building, we can light up the rocks where we’re planted with God’s glory.Image

I’m a Texan. I love Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World.” It’s my home and the setting for most of the Christian mystery-romance-suspense books that I’ve written: Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart, Shadow Chase and Until the Shadows Flee. Heart Shadows is set in the Nevada desert.

When my job ended in Bandera, I left. I’ve left Bandera before, but I’ve always gone back. I call it the boomerang effect. The LORD told me to leave, but I fought against going. I prayed and begged God to change His mind all the way to Alabama. Alabama had an even higher unemployment rate than Texas – which made me wonder why I was there. It took me a couple of months to find a job. I had never been out of work before in my life. But it gave me time to write my next Sunpenny Publishing release, Bridge Beyond Betrayal, and when I did find a job, it was a great job with a great boss. God blessed me for blooming where I was planted – even though it wasn’t Texas.

Now that I’m in Scotland, I realize why I was in Alabama. The LORD moved me there to shake the soil out of my roots and free me to marry my wonderful husband, author Alan T McKean (The Scent of Time & The Scent of Home). Surviving in a colder, wetter climate and adjusting to culture changes sometimes made me feel like a weed clinging to a rock, more likely to fall off than bloom. But with God’s grace, my life has blossomed around me in spite of all my human errors and weakness. Besides having a great husband, a lovely rough collie dog named Angel Joy, and living by the sea in a place that simply has no ugly views in any direction, the LORD has given me time to write. That resulted in the pro-life adventure-romance, Love’s Beating Heart, which has been acclaimed by critics as “inspirational” and “life-changing.” God blesses us when we bloom where we’re planted.

So if you find yourself planted in rocky ground, decide to fire the rocks with your beauty. You are beautiful because God created you and He doesn’t make junk! God gives all of us gifts. You may not be a writer, but God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He has a reason for sticking you in the rocks. Think of the lovely roof flowers waving cheerfully from their lofty heights on slate and be encouraged. All things really do work together for good to them that love the LORD, just like the Bible promises. If God sticks you in the rocks, He will water you with a special blessing that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

Fire the rocks with beauty!