What I’ve Missed Most

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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…

Family.

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

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Adventure Outside Books

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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.

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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

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Coincidence? Not.

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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

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Crutches

Atheists attack Christians for using their faith as a “crutch.” Having just completed a 4,000-mile trip to visit family in the U.S., I am forever indebted to crutches.

US & Texas Flags

Not that I initially planned to include crutches on the trip. Oh, no! This Texan was going to meet family standing tall and straight in her own strength and leave the crutches at home. However, while I was born Texan, one hip must have come from a neighboring state. When we left on the trip, the crutches traveled with us. What a blessing they were!

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First, they helped me walk – especially on those long stretches through multiple airports. An unexpected benefit was preferential treatment. I never requested help. I confidentially swung along the endless corridors on metal crutches. Airport personnel, however, put Alan and I at the front of the lines and even changed our seats to the front of the plane for one flight. On two of the flights, we would have missed our connections had it not been for the hated crutches. We were personally walked through the additional boarding pass we needed and then Security by an American Airlines employee (I called him our angel since the plane was already boarding by the time we got there). Next, we were whisked through the endless reaches of airport terminals on a wheelchair – or at least – I was in the wheelchair. Without that “crutch,” we would have missed our flight.

Victory riders #2

Visiting SeaWorld with granddaughter Dulcinea and her mom won further accolades for the resented crutches. Crutches transformed into a wheelchair which sent us to the front of long lines. It was not planned, it just happened. While I had eschewed the use of crutches on the trip and feared they would be an embarrassment – my granddaughter and her mom were thrilled at how beneficial they proved.

Alan, Fl wild

But the main benefit of crutches proved my restored belief in people’s kindness. Everywhere I walked on crutches, strangers of both sexes and every ethnicity rushed to help me. With smiling faces and sympathetic nods, they lifted and carried my bags and opened doors. With all the negative news focusing on violence and hatred around the world, what a blessing to find out that kindness is alive and operating generously.

Alan w everyone

I’ve repented and asked God’s forgiveness for my resentful attitude about the crutches. Even though I know and believe my two favorite Bible verses, “in everything give thanks,” and “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord,” my pride took a hit from my mobility weakness. God transformed the crutchy experience into a beneficial one.

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Another favorite verse of mine has always been “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5 & 6.

So…is Christianity a crutch? Hey, who cares? Crutches rock!

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Fog Vision

Since childhood, I have loved fog. It shrink wraps the world into a manageable space and draws mysterious misty stage curtains across the landscape hiding imperfections. For the writer, it falls gently down into the world like fresh inspiration for a stalled novel. Background for dreams – new fire for romance.

Non-writers hate fog. For drivers and pilots, the opaque, morphing water droplets translate into a nightmare. Limited vision endangers travelers, slows down roadway traffic and clogs up the skies.

Me? I love fog. It reminds me of all the times in my life when the future has been as invisible and uncertain as ground to sky clouds that hide and confuse. Like a dog looking for a comfy place to nestle in grass, I’ve turned endless circles around present circumstances in an effort to find a storm-cleared path past present trials and hurts. I’ve looked for a warm, level, sunbathed path to an idyllic future.

If that describes your search – give it up. This is earth, not heaven, and there are no easy paths. Everyone has trials, testings, troubles, heartbreaks, failures, disappointments and hurts in their lives. You wouldn’t want to exchange sets of problems with another person. Their circumstances might be worse!

Having survived child abuse, living under a bridge, single-parenting, having my property stolen out from under me while I lived in an open-ended garden shed with no running water, bathroom or kitchen facilities and no heat in the winter – I consider myself an expert on hard times and survival. It helps to live in the fog.

When you learn to trust two Bible verses – in everything give thanks and all things work together to them that love the LORD – you travel through life in a spiritual fog that protects you from pain and injury. You still have to work hard. You still have to face problems, trials, temptations and grief. But you can ride through these like rainbow reflections on soap bubbles.

It’s not necessary to see where you’re going in the fog just so you make it safely to your destination. With Jesus in control, safe travel is guaranteed!

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Lighthouse in the fog, Fortrose, Scotland