Little Joys

It is a long walk—a lot of it uncovered and exposed to constant rain—between the little ferry in Gourock and the train station where one can either catch the train, or go through the building and get a taxi or a bus. Before when I made this walk frequently, I was on crutches. I was always the last one to get from the ferry to the front of the station building. When I first began visiting Alan in the hospital nearly every day on the Thursday after Christmas, I was off crutches—but still the last one to reach the front of the building. But now, after all these weeks of walking that route—I can keep up with the frontrunners! I was in the group of the first three folks today to reach the front of the building. Just a little bit of joy to season the day. (I was probably the only one to know that I was ‘racing’ the others!)

Savannah went on a walk with me two nights ago. “Wait,” you might well say. “Don’t dogs usually go on walks with their owners?” Not Savannah. Not after dark. Since the November 5 Guy Fawkes Night fireworks, Savannah has refused to go outside after dark. Every night when the rain is not pouring down I put Savannah’s collar and leash on her and walk to the front door. The leash comes with me. The collar and the dog stay behind. So having her willingly go on a walk with me after dark was a big thing. And it was just another bit of joy to season the day.

My newest Christian cozy mystery-romance came out in paperback today. I got home to find two paperback copies had been dropped through the mail slot. A bit of joy to season the day.

While I was walking around waiting for the ferry yesterday afternoon, I got to take an interesting photo of a building out on a pier, the roof covered with seagulls, and a boat rocking gently in the fog. Today as I waited for the ferry, I got to watch pigeons diligently choose nesting materials and fly off with them sticking out of their beaks. Little joys.

Joy doesn’t have to come in something the size of a shipping container or a new vehicle. It can be small and quiet, a whisper passing through the heart. The Bible says, “In everything give thanks,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

A thankful heart finds joy in little things. Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update


After a two-year hiatus due to covid, the Cowal Family Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland, kicked off this year with a huge attendance. Not only that—for once it didn’t rain and it was even…gulp!…sunny.

Writers rarely get days off, so I didn’t attend the festivities that were practically in our backyard. However, when I walked Savannah past the stadium we watched the excitement and happiness on the other side of the chain link fence. It was wonderful to see families—many complete with their canine members—having fun. The joy was electric.

Then came Sunday morning. Instead of electric joy, I felt deflating sadness as I heard clinks and clatters and saw tents and carnival equipment coming down. Endings. I hate them. Such a rare and perfect day of sunshine and celebration after two long years of lockdown—I doubt anyone was ready for it to end.

Some writers get excited when they write “The End” on their books. Not me. It means the fun and joy and excitement I was privileged to experience for approximately 300 pages is suddenly gone. It means that I need to hunt down another idea and come up with 300 new pages—even though my head feels as empty as the fluff from last spring’s dandelion stalks.

So many sad endings of things we don’t want to end: vacations, a good meal, visits with family and friends, spring, summer, comfortable shoes, favorite clothes—and death.

Thankfully, some endings are good: the end of pain, cold, disease, sorrow—and death.

Death makes both lists of endings because death isn’t real. It’s a shadow, an illusion. With Jesus, there is life beyond this life we are living now…and Heaven is the end of sorrow, parting, illness, pain, disease. We do not belong to this earth. We are passing through to our eternal destination in Christ Jesus.

Still…I hate endings. Especially the end of spring and summer. Death I do not fear. But winter and snow give me the cold shivers. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

From America to Scotland with Confusion

We are thrilled that some friends of ours are coming to visit us here in Dunoon, Scotland. Some things may confuse them, so I decided to dedicate my blog this week to my confusion as an American first arriving in Scotland.

Light switches are on the outside of bathrooms. This might not seem a biggie—and folks who have lived in the UK all their lives will probably say, “Well, duh,” but trust me—this is a biggie when you are desperate to get to the toilet and it is buried in a bathroom as dark as a cave and you can barely see the toilet even with the door open…and you can’t find the light switch because in your country—it lives inside the bathroom with the light.

Perhaps it’s my age, but bathrooms pay a predominate role in my everyday existence. So a few more things about Scottish bathrooms. Most of the sinks have separate hot and cold water faucets, so the temperature of the water can’t be adjusted like most U.S. sinks which have one lever that adjusts the temperature. Public restrooms in northern Scotland are scarce making long distance traveling a nightmare.

Bathroom stalls go from the floor to ceiling, so there is no way to climb out over the top, or crawl out under the bottom if the door gets jammed. Furthermore, the metal hardware on the doors has often been painted over so thickly that locks stick—so I never lock a bathroom I don’t know.

WC means public bathroom. Usually it also means very old which translates into weird plumbing like water tanks up on the wall with pull chains—and stall doors that once closed may be difficult to open.

Other confusing things. Gaelic writing shares road signs with English writing which crams so much lettering on sign faces that it is virtually impossible to read them. There are missing or faded road signs everywhere—cities, villages, the country—which make navigating difficult. And roundabouts—those dreaded roundabouts. With the impossibility of sifting through the Gaelic quickly enough to read the English and figure out where to turn…I have roundabouted the roundabouts repeatedly—much to the confusion of other drivers who already know where they want to go.

Restaurants serve small portions and don’t give free refills on beverages. And if a person orders lasagna, for example—that’s what they get—lasagna. Just lasagna. No breadsticks or salad—everything except the main course is an added order and an added charge. And what is served with macaroni and cheese? “Chips” which Americans know as fries. Starch on top of starch. My mother wouldn’t believe me if I told her that. She insisted every meal must have meat, starch, and veggie. We seldom had desserts.

Speaking of meals, in Scotland, “tea” means hot tea and it also means the evening meal. So it’s confusing if someone invites you to tea. You don’t know if you’re going to be eating or drinking. Also, all desserts are “puddings,” and yet, there is no actual dessert that is pudding.

Cooking is equally confusing. Forget cups, ounces, teaspoons, and tablespoons as units of measure. Things here are grams, kilograms, and liters. And you don’t set your oven on 350F, a normal cooking temperature for many things in the U.S., because everything is centigrade. I have to look up weights, measures, and temperatures on the computer every time I use my American cookbook.

After ten years in Scotland I finally found dill pickles. They aren’t really dill pickles and they’re called gherkins.

But this is where God has planted me, so this is where I need to bloom. The scenery is stunning. The people are friendly and fabulous. And isn’t that what’s most important anywhere? Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Loving Where You Live

Dunoon 10 pm

We live in Dunoon, Scotland. I love it. It’s beautiful and interesting—but the people make the difference. They are great.

Our rough collie Savannah just turned nine months old. For the past two months, she has battled constant diarrhea and wouldn’t eat. When her diarrhea started occurring every fifteen minutes, I called our local vet practice, Bute & Cowal Vets. Dr. Catriona MacIntyre got up out of bed and met us there at 3:00 a.m., sweeping aside apologies for interrupting her sleep. Savannah was no better on Saturday, so Catriona performed surgery, removing tissue for biopsies. When Savannah was worse on Monday, Catriona sent her to Glasgow to an emergency animal hospital. When Savannah started discharging blood and quickly fouled three diapers in a row, Catriona ran back and forth from her surgery to the taxi cab bringing towels, wet wipes, a huge roll of paper towels. By the time we arrived in Glasgow with Savannah, Catriona was already on the phone to them asking if Savannah had arrived yet and how she was doing.

sav in ditch

For the next three days, Savannah was in the hospital and Catriona called the hospital regularly to check on her. Moreover, when I called Clyde Taxi to schedule a trip home—the dispatcher and the driver who had taken us immediately asked how Savannah was doing.

We got back home to find FB messages and posts asking about Savannah, many from our New Life Christian Fellowship friends, many from FB friends, and some from complete strangers who had seen Savannah’s pictures on FB and who had been praying for her.

Dunoon is a great place to live. Wherever you live is a great place to live. In spite of negative and false news – so is this world. Love it, treasure it, be thankful for it. Neither this world – nor any of us – will last forever. But isn’t it good to know that wherever you live is a great place to be?

“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:17

cross St. John

Not Perfect

cross St. John

We live in Dunoon, Scotland, with good neighbors, friendly folks, a great church, a wonderful pastor, wife, and congregation—and plenty of walking places including along the banks of the Firth of Clyde where the wind whips the salty water and air into a fresh smell that thrills the soul. Walking the back streets of Dunoon in the afternoon is like stepping back in time to an Andy Griffith show: neighborhood children playing together and riding bikes on the sidewalks while the aroma of moms’ cooking steals out of open windows and hangs in the air.


But Dunoon is not perfect. It’s not just the marine climate, cool temperatures, and scarcity of sun that mars the perfection of our retirement home—it’s that age-old spoiler of all good things—sin. If you lift up the outer edges of life here you see that just like in the rest of the world some people struggle with life-stealing addictions. There is a police station in Dunoon because there is crime, just as there has been on the earth since Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the one tree in the entire Garden of Eden that God commanded them not to. Sin never stays small and manageable—it grows and morphs into a monster that kills, steals, and destroys.

Enter Treasury. That’s the world I created from the Bible for my Christian Fantasy, “Voices in the Wind,” which has earned an orange flag as a bestseller and already has one 5-Star review now—mere days after its release. Treasury is such an alluring place to be that I run there at night and hide in its beauty if I have trouble getting to sleep. Treasury is much like Heaven—yet it is not perfect. Rhoda lifts up the curtain of rain and finds herself in Treasury, but must prove her right to stay there by crossing a divide, climbing Verboten Mountain and engaging huge Bullet Train Ants, enormous serpents, armed warriors, and Dino Birds in her bid to stay in Treasury and marry her soul mate. But Rhoda’s cruelest enemy proves to be human.

Treasury is not perfect. Only Heaven, created by God, is perfect. The Bible assures us that once we get to Heaven we will have new bodies and there will be no more sorrow, tears, pain, illness, or parting. Nothing that defiles will be admitted to Heaven. So if you haven’t already joined the throng for Heaven, come on aboard. Believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved. He is driving the train.


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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.


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.

me pccs rope best

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.

prickly pear bloom heart

Loving Rocks

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I love rocks.

I’ve loved rocks since I was a toddler. This I know because one of my earliest memories is my mother’s command to put the rocks down and quit carrying them around before I drop them on my toes. Which I did. But silently, no matter how much it hurt, because Mom also said, “Don’t come crying to me when you drop that rock on your toes.”

rock wall three

Scotland is intriguing for rock lovers, with amazing rock walls which date back to the 17th century. They were built by hand without masonry cement, without modern tools, and on every landscape gradient. They were built with rocks gathered from the fields, not quarried or cut. Hundreds of years later, they stand.

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I’d like my life to be like a Scottish rock wall and leave something enduring behind. But nothing I accomplish will cleave to history with the tenacity and durability of Scottish dry stone walls.

When my temporary life on earth ends, I will join the Rock of Ages in Heaven. “The LORD is my Rock and my fortress and my deliverer; the God of my strength in whom I will trust…I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised.” 2 Samuel 22:47.

Jesus, the Rock of eternity, the whisper of the next breath.

Rock of Jesus

What I’ve Missed Most


Spending time in the U.S. again, both in Florida and now in Texas, gives me a new foundation for making comparisons between Scotland—where I’ve spent the past seven years—and America. What I’ve missed most…


A plethora of churches, every denomination and non-denomination; plenty of “God Bless America” banners, and “Merry Christmas.”

Blue Cheese Dressing. For seven years, salads have never tasted this good.

Buffets. All you can eat from a colossal assortment of restaurants.

Free refills. On beverages at restaurants, along with wait staff who return several times, always with smiles and offers to top up iced tea, coffee, or sodas.

fruit tree TX

Outdoor Christmas decorations replete with Nativity Scenes and awash with colored lights on houses, trees and along yard borders.

Sun and warm weather. Wearing shorts and a T-shirt in December.

Steak. Huge, affordable, tender steaks.

Houses of different colors. Here in Laredo, Texas, houses follow the rainbow. Outside colors include lilac, pink, turquoise, blue, purple, yellow, orange, magenta, lime green, red-brown, gold, Jesus Is Alive Green…house colors are only limited by the owner’s imagination and preference.

Cactus. Of all shapes and types—growing in yards and rock flowerbeds.

Wildlife. Including reptiles like turtles, snakes, and lizards.

Family. I’ve missed family most. Blue Cheese Dressing isn’t even in the running…really.

prickly pear laredo  

Marine Climate & Common Sense

thorny love 

Because I’m from Texas and grew up in southern U.S., I’m accustomed to hot temperatures and extended dry periods.


Getting acclimatized to Dunoon, Scotland, has been a challenge. It doesn’t rain every day—it rains almost every day. It has probably reached 70F during the “summer” a few times, but it hasn’t gone much above that. Mostly, I wear the same number of layers, the same jackets—and at times even the same woolly hat—summer and winter.

 L cross

One of my pet peeves is labels because they are misused. Labels that judge, condemn and hurt are wrong and not beneficial. And I hate politically correct labels like calling abortion “choice” instead of murder, and attempting to soften the blow of transgression by calling sin “risky lifestyles.”

 best FB rainbow

Some labels create a chuckle: “Warning, take child out before washing.” Or on a garden implement: “Not intended for human consumption.” Way to go me; I eat hammers for breakfast and spit out nails for the rest of the day.

Now I’ve found a label that explains why we wash clothes and hang them around the house (rain outside) and it takes them three days to dry. We live in a “Marine Climate.”

Finally! A common sense label.


Joy, Real Joy


Dunoon, Scotland sponsored a great event this past weekend, the Cowal Highland Gathering. Tens of thousands attended to watch and participate in the dancing and pipe and drum band competitions. The event wrapped up with a parade down the main street in Dunoon and fireworks at Argyll Ferries.

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The event is so popular that Western Ferries operated a four-boat service with around 550 sailings over a five-day period, and Argyll Ferries operated a three-vessel service during the games on Saturday. It was fun. It was wonderful to see families celebrating together and neighbors greeting one another. I loved watching the dogs that attended the event, so proud to be there with their families.

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It was great fun—but not all of it was joy. Sadly, we watched a teen stumble up the steps to the main street, marijuana joint in hand, pausing to pass it around to his buddies. The kid was so wiped out that he couldn’t walk—he could barely stand. That is not joy.

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Psalm 16:11 says that the fullness of joy is found in the presence of the Lord. Jesus said that the secret of full joy is found in living for Him. The games were fun and entertaining, but those of us who met at New Life Christian Fellowship on Sunday after the games experienced real, lasting joy; joy so full and overflowing that we took it home with us.

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