Non-Verbal Communication

Our dog Angel Joy is skilled in non-verbal communication. Without using words—or even her voice—she chooses directions on walks, tells us when to refill her food dish, when to stop everything and spend time with her, and when it’s bedtime. Sometimes she uses her voice to remind us of when it’s time to take her pills or when she deserves a treat, but those reminders are elucidated without benefit of words.

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Words are not needed to convey the emotions behind a child’s tears, a smile, a hug, a kiss. Without words, a person’s face transmits messages: a grimace of pain, a glimmer of amusement, joy and expectation, despair and disillusionment. Words are powerful, the swords of our spirits, but non-verbal communication can be equally powerful.

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Even silence speaks. The quiet of an enchanting forest, the sparks of glory in a sunrise, the rolling splendor of an unspoiled landscape, the marvel of flower faces.

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As a writer, I love words. It’s hard to admit that the world can survive and continue without the addition of my words. Foolish pride. No matter how much time I put into crafting a perfect sentence, my words fall short of describing or explaining this marvelous universe created by God.

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“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1. A witness without words.

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Yet, as writers, we use our words. Words keep us alive. Thankfully, sometimes they are needed.

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

Write What You Know

18362492_1238027982976551_1361060936_o“Write what you know,” the weathered writing instructor with grey-streaked red hair and periwinkle glasses told us, holding up two lackluster books that had probably not sold more than 30 copies each. Still, her two-day class was cheap, and at 20-something with a gathering stack of rejection slips, I figured some knowledge was better than no knowledge.

Wrong! I was quick to realize that at 20-something, I basically knew nothing. I should have given up writing then. Because by the time I knew enough to write books—reaping that knowledge had imprinted bloodstains on my heart. Some people like pain. I don’t.

When I attended those writing classes, I didn’t know God. When I started to realize God might be real, I prayed for Him to remove every doubt. He did. Accomplishing that meant sending me into the desert at night with a young child to support, no money, no job, no place to stay, and no vehicle. When you’re crying your heart out in the desert at night matching coyote wails, and the next day you receive everything you prayed for—it kind of removes the doubt element. Except, it’s mighty scary and uncomfortable at the time. Oh…almost everything. The vehicle arrived a few weeks later after we had started attending church and my four-year-old son said, “Mom, why don’t you pray for a truck?” I didn’t have enough faith to pray for that, but he did—and the next day—we had our truck.

A failed first marriage, fleeing and hiding from an abusive husband, supporting a child by myself, and working two to three jobs—knowledge is costly.

I must confess that my newest book, “Bridge to Texas,” is a comical mystery-romance-suspense not based on personal knowledge…exactly. I’ve never done a nude calendar shoot and at my age and weight—no one would buy the calendars. However, I covered a story when I was working for a Bandera, Texas newspaper that gave me the idea. Older women raising money for charity took off their clothes and made history, so to speak, plus a lot of money!

I must thank my husband Alan T McKean, talented author in his own right, for “Bridge to Texas.” The entire story grew out of a comment he made: “You should write another Texas Miz Mike. You could have Evan get kidnapped.” Does he get kidnapped? Read the book. Oh, and here’s a link to Alan’s books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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The differences between Scotland and Texas spin comedy effortlessly in “Bridge to Texas,” and the characters are a bossy bunch who grab a’holt of a story plot and corral it for their own rodeo. So you can say the book wrote itself. I say God wrote and I typed it. But whatever your personal outlook, you will probably enjoy this romping mystery-romance-suspense that can make you laugh…yes…out loud!

Even the cover and cover blurb are the result of knowledge: photographer Don Davis’ genius with a camera; Paul Garrison III’s mule training advice, and friend Shawn Petersen’s riding skill.

So that jaded teacher was right. Write what you know. And if you’re too young yet to know a lot…be thankful and wait. Don’t rush the knowledge—unless you’re one of those peculiar folks who enjoy pain.

Moving Chair

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We first spotted it in the woods along a dog-walking path. A strange place to find a wooden chair from someone’s dining set, but the mystery deepened when the chair moved to the beach.

Being a writer, my head spun stories about the moving chair: a thief stole it and abandoned it when spotted. Said thief went back to retrieve the chair, but was caught again. Or perhaps one ex was getting back at the other by cleaning out the house, one chair at a time. Or an angry teen with a lazy parent moved the chair to make the parent question his or her sanity when things vanished. Being lazy, said parent would never go looking for the missing item. Or perhaps some kind person thought older dog walkers would appreciate a comfortable place to rest.

My favorite story is dedicated to the memory of Bandera County, Texas pioneer Edwina Boyle—because it mirrors her real life story.

An old woman lived in the woods near the beach. She couldn’t watch the sea from her house, but each day she walked through the woods to the beach. She threw stranded starfish back into the waves. She rescued baby seals. She carried injured sea birds home with her and nursed them back to health…until…until the day she suffered a stroke.

Usually a mild person, the old woman experienced anger when she heard negative, disparaging words about her condition. “It was a severe stroke,” the doctor said. “She’ll never recover. She’ll never walk again. She needs to go to a nursing home.”

Family members were just as pessimistic. “She can’t walk. She can’t even move her legs. There’s no choice. She will have to go into a home.”

The angry woman mounted a secret campaign against her bleak prognosis. She prayed, asking God over and over to heal her legs. Daring even to demand that God heal her! Every time she was alone, she concentrated all her thoughts and energy into making a toe move, then a foot, then a leg. One day before her scheduled hospital release, she slipped out of bed and teetered around the room.

Once home, the determined woman continued her self-imposed physical therapy. She propped her back door open and carried one of her kitchen chairs out to the porch. The next day, she carried the chair down the steps. Each day, the woman carried the chair further, sat in it to rest, then returned home. Before long, she was sitting in her chair at the beach reading moments of joy and fury from the voice of the waves. Neighbors stopped to ask her to forecast the weather because they knew the water talked to its faithful friend.

Writing is like that moving chair. At times, it’s hard not to listen to the negative, derogatory predictions for success. Rejections, lack of sales, bad reviews—it’s enough disappointment and broken dreams to send authors to retirement homes.

Don’t give up and surrender yourself to a retirement home. Keep moving the chair. Oh—and when it gets too heavy for you to carry, ask God to help.

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

Pee on Crabs

Our rough collie is a lady. If she became homeless and had to “dumpster dive” for food—she would starve.

So, too, with her bathroom habits. She simply will not do her business on: a road, a sidewalk (pavement in the UK), the golf course, or manicured lawns. Heck—she will hardly defecate in her own yard!

A dead crab on the beach, however, fails to benefit from her gracious habits. She will pee on it in a heartbeat. It seems unseemly to abuse a corpse, but Angel Joy shows no remorse. A dead crab shell on the beach is a fair target. Most uncouth, but there you have it.

So I looked up information on crabs to find out what’s wrong with them—from a doggy perspective. Nothing. They wear a thick exoskeleton, which they shed and replace as they grow, and range in size from the aptly named tiny “pea crab,” to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span of 13 feet. They are renowned for their sideways walking, but that’s no different from politicians skirting questions. Crabs are aggressive, yet they are also known to work together to provide food and protection to their families.

And there you have it: the secret to writing interesting fiction characters that will nab readers. Complex. Layered. Not all good, not all bad. As a writer, don’t hesitate to pee on the crab.

As to why Angel Joy, who is not a writer, pees on crabs…well, I will probably never know.

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

Not Offended

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Still find it hard to believe that the British Medical Association told its staff not to use the term ‘expectant mother’ as it could offend transgender people.

We are heading toward a future population who will find cause to be offended at myriad incidents instead of using the opportunity of opposition to grow in strength and character.

Like any other “handicapped” child, Aimee Mullins was mocked. She was born without calf bones and both her legs were amputated when she was a year old. Instead of hiding away “offended” by cruel remarks – she learned to fly. She is a world class runner who broke world records in 100 meters, 200 meters and the long jump – while competing against “able-bodied” athletes.

Shakespeare’s poems and plays are still popular around the world some 400 years after his death. He used more words from the English language than any other writer ever has – and was taunted by some of his contemporaries, including Robert Greene who called him among other things an “upstart crow.”

Vincent Van Gogh painted his inner feelings of depression and was labeled a failure and “mentally ill.” He rose from poverty and mocking to praise and riches. His “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” was one of the world’s most expensive paintings and is now valued at $155 million.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, couldn’t get into law school, borrowed money for a business and went bankrupt, and lost five elections before he became President. Personal tragedies included losing his mother when he was nine; the deaths of a sister, a sweetheart, and three of four sons. He also suffered a broken engagement and was diagnosed with clinical depression, spending six months in bed after a nervous breakdown.

The world was perfect when God created it. But when sin came into the world, that perfection was marred. We now live in a world of “hard knocks.” Being given permission to be offended at every real and imagined slight will never build us into individuals who can grow in grace, character, and strength.

I am so thankful that I never “fit in” as a child. Because I learned at an early age not to seek peer approval, I escaped the rampant drug culture when I went to college. Because I care more what God thinks about me than what other people do, I can write hard books that get flak: pro-life “Heart Shadows;” abused child turned serial killer “Killer Conversations,” and soon-to-be-released Texas Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense #7, “Bridge Home.” The easy to love, bonkers Miz Mike is the same in “Bridge Home,” but there is an added dimension. Should Christians be in favor of, or opposed to same sex marriage? Miz Mike faces that dilemma when her fiancé is falsely arrested for killing one of two women who requested a same-sex marriage ceremony in his church.

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The release of “Bridge Home” should prove interesting. My hope and prayer is that readers will love it and welcome it as another of Miz Mike’s “pickle-making” mysteries. But I’m prepared for flak and one-star reviews because, thankfully, when I was growing up I didn’t have the British Medical Association looking out for me.

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

Author Val Poore, Life HER Way

Meet Author Valerie Poore, Living Life HER Way.

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Best selling author Valerie Poore’s books include “Watery Ways,” “Walloon Ways,” “African Ways,” “Harbour Ways,” “How to Breed Sheep, Geese And English Eccentrics, and “The Skipper’s Child.” Her secret to success could be her courage to live life her way, never abandoning dreams no matter how impossible they seem. I am honored that she agreed to share my blog this week.

Val, do you remember what age were you when you decided to become a writer and what inspired you to make that decision? What is the earliest writing success you remember? Have there been any heartbreak rejections? If so…what kept you going?

Oh my goodness, Steph, I cannot remember ever not writing something. I wrote reams of stories as a child and then later, I wrote more descriptive articles. I also had to write for my work as a communications manager, so that meant a lot of copywriting for ads and brochures as well as newsletters. But the actual decision to write seriously for myself started in South Africa. I spent so much time listening to the radio that I decided to try my hand at writing plays for broadcast. Sadly, I never had any luck and had a few rejections from the SABC (SA’s broadcasting corporation) as well as from the BBC, but I did have a short story broadcast on a Christian radio station. It was a story about a minister who finds a kitten and on returning it to its atheist owner, starts an unusual friendship that leads them into all sorts of philosophical discussions. It had a happy and (I still think) rather touching ending.

It sounds like a marvelous story. I would enjoy reading it – but then, I enjoy reading everything you write! Your young adult book “The Skipper’s Child” is fiction, based on history and fact which, I believe, gives it added dimension and interest for readers. It has – along with some of your other books – been a best seller. “How to Breed Sheep, Geese, and English Eccentrics” seems to be fictionalized non-fiction. The rest of your books are non-fiction in the memoir genre. Which do you enjoy writing most and why? Do you have a future writing project in mind that is different from the books you’ve already written? And if so, would you like to discus it?

Well, I’m not sure if you would call any of them real best sellers, but I’ve been lucky enough to have The Skipper’s Child and two of my memoirs at the top of their respective categories for a while, so that’s been a huge thrill. As for the mix between fact and fiction, yes, I can’t seem to get away from fact completely. All the same, I enjoy writing fiction as it allows me the creative freedom to invent things that I don’t have with memoir writing. I have never written anything as completely fictitious as you have though – not yet! My next book is a novel set in Africa but is still based on my life there. The one after that will be much more of a challenge as it involves more research into the history of the waterways than I’ve ever needed to do before and it will be completely fictitious story. I’m really excited about it, actually. The idea is for a novel about a Dutch skipper’s efforts to escape from the Germans during the war. It will start with the bombardment of Rotterdam, which was much more horrific than I ever realised.

What a great idea, Val. Like all your other books, I can’t wait to read it! Now, let me ask this: “Watery Ways,” “Harbour Ways,” and “Walloon Ways” all detail restoring barges and adapting to living on the water. I love what one reviewer said, “Val makes even plumbing interesting.” What are the disadvantages of barge living? Do you expect to always live on a barge or do you want to plant your life back on solid ground someday?

Ah, Steph, I am already in a kind of transitional phase. I don’t spend all the time on my barge anymore as my partner finds it too small and uncomfortable these days, so I live with him in a house at weekends and on my barge during the week when I’m alone in Rotterdam for work. The disadvantages I have are only because of the location of my home harbour, which is on a tidal river in the middle of the city. The challenges come from problems with excessively high or low tides combined with wind, and of noise from being in the city’s social hub. If I were to move to a different location, there wouldn’t be any disadvantages as far as I’m concerned, but it’s not a ‘switch on the light and turn on the tap’ kind of life. You have to sort out your own electrical connections, fix your own plumbing and fill up water tanks on a regular basis. It’s hard work, and I’ve had to learn how to do it all myself, but I don’t see that as a downside. Quite the reverse – it’s all be part of the adventure.

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I love your sense of adventure, Val! Along with brilliant writing, it’s what makes your books so much fun to read. Even though you might deny it, you are also courageous and that pops out from the words on the pages when you detail the difficulty and hard work involved in building your life on a floating foundation. Another question, from “Walloon Ways” and anecdotes about your dog Sindy, and from “How to Breed Sheep, Geese, and English Eccentrics, it’s obvious you love animals. Do you ever plan to retire from your barge and fill your life with animals again? How difficult is it to keep a dog on a barge?

Oh yes, I love animals – probably more than most people really. Having a big dog on a barge was quite a challenge, and when Sindy got old, it was really difficult, especially as she hated being on the move too. Because of that, I won’t have another dog or cat until I lead a more settled life, but yes, I would love to have animals again. I miss Sindy terribly, even now. One day, though, I’ll have another dog, a small one though, and a cat too. I’d really like to have chickens as well. They are the funniest, most delightful creatures to have and to watch – just the job for when I get old and want to stay at home more, and then I can have my own eggs as well!  

I’m sure you will have all of that and more some day. You might even run your own farm when you exchange your watery ways for walking ways. It’s been so much fun having you here today. Delightful. Thank you. Before you leave to get back to your busy life, what would you most like readers to know about you and your books?

Wow, that’s a difficult question, but a good one! I think all I really want people to know is that life can always be an adventure if you just get up every day with a sense of wonder and curiosity, and I hope my books reflect this. Of course I’ve had my ups and downs, but my attitude is always to keep exploring, keep trying new things and keep enjoying every opportunity, however challenging it is. It’s taught me about places and introduced me to wonderful people I might never have encountered otherwise. I suffered from depression and crippling shyness as a teenager, but going to Africa cured me of both. It was the best thing I could have done and I think it’s what taught me to be open to everything and to cherish every experience, both good and bad.

I can’t imagine you ever having suffered from depression and crippling shyness, Val. You have done as marvelous a job of reinventing yourself as you have your lifestyle and your barges. That makes you an inspiration for others, especially those who are facing the same battles in their lives. Thank you so much for joining me today.

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http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Poore/e/B008LSV6CE/

http://vallypee.blogspot.co.uk/

Loof Lirpa & Money in the Bank

While my brothers and sisters were honor roll students, I was a mediocre student, predictably in the middle of my class. Sadly, my high school math average is – F.

However, I loved writing. Writing was the only occupation I knew where you got paid to lie. As a fourth grader, my first check as a writer was for $5 from a magazine that bought my story about the enormous snapping turtle in our pond. There was a snapping turtle. It was a whooper – just like the whooper about how much of a whooper the thing was!

Our seventh grade history teacher assigned us homework over the weekend, a two-page story on the explorer Loof Lirpa, who had discovered America before Columbus. I promptly forgot the assignment until Monday morning when I heard complaints and groans from students who hadn’t written their two-page paper because they couldn’t find information on Lirpa. No problem. I sat down at my desk and zipped out two pages feeling snug that for once – just once – I would be ahead of my class instead of behind them.

Our teacher asked how many people had completed their homework assignment. I proudly raised my hand. I felt like a champ when he invited me up to the front of the room to read my two-page report on the famous explorer.

Then he wrote Loof Lirpa on the board. Under it, he wrote “April Fool.”

Later, when I was a brand new Christian and a single parent, our church scheduled a special offering for building repairs. I desperately wanted to give generously to the project, but I knew that I only had $25 in the bank until my next check – a week away. However, when I sat down and carefully added and subtracted everything, I found an extra $100. Elated, I wrote out a check to the church for the extra $100. A few days later, checks started bouncing. Sure, my math was bad. Sure, I failed math in school. But I had checked and rechecked…and the money should have been there.

I marched into the bank with my check book to show them the deposits. They agreed with me and stopped all the bouncing checks and put money from the bank fees back into my account. They kept my check stub so their financial wizard could solve the conundrum. By the time they found the problem, I had received my paycheck and was in the clear…because the $100 really wasn’t in the account and never had been in the account. One of their cashiers had written a $10 deposit so sloppily that – even to the bank – it had looked like $100. The church got their offering, I got a week’s interest-free loan and no bank charges…God has a sense of humor!

Perhaps the reason I’m so excited about my next Miz Mike Christian mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge Beyond Betrayal,” is that it’s funny. I love humor. Bridge Beyond Betrayal is scheduled for release by Sunpenny Publishing Group on June 30. I can’t wait! I’m going to read it all over again just to get a good laugh!

Hope a lot of folks will buy Bridge Beyond Betrayal and join me in laughter. Besides, I can’t keep adding to the Miz Mike series if the books don’t sell. Even with my limited math skills, I understand that.

Writing, I love it! What other occupation pays liars?

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

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What my Date with Willie Nelson Taught me about Writing

Before Willie Nelson became a household word, he worked as a wrangler at Lost Valley Dude Ranch, in Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World.”

Just out of high school and two years of college, I fell in love with Willie Nelson – at least with his songs. As a writer myself, the simple brilliance of his words resonated with me: Pretend I never happened, Erase me from your mind, You will not want to remember, Any love as cold as mine.

Not knowing it, I broke one of the first rules of writing: write about what you know. I was a 20-year-old kid. I didn’t know anything about anything, so if I wrote anything at all – it had to be about something I didn’t know anything about. My first full-length adult novel (thankfully still unpublished) featured a country-western singer as the protagonist. Not that I knew he was called a protagonist.

Willie Nelson wasn’t my only interview. Local celebrity and bar owner Arkey Blue, of Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar in Bandera, was kind enough to give me an interview. I’m sure I asked stupid questions. He patiently answered them without telling me how stupid the questions were.

When he was performing at Floore’s Country Store in Helotes, Willie Nelson gave me his phone number. For weeks, I called fruitlessly. Being a Texan, I never gave up. Finally, Willie answered and invited me on a date for an interview.

Willie was married to his third wife, but I was young and stupid – and not a Christian. I wanted to be a famous writer, and I wanted to do it the easy way. Willie Nelson was the ticket. He would fall in love with me, divorce Connie, marry me, promote my books – and I would soon be interviewed by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.

When Willie picked me up for the Menudo Festival in San Antonio, he was drunk. I didn’t realize how drunk he was until we hit the winding Texas Hill Country road to San Antonio in the middle or on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately we arrived safely, and I clutched a notebook with answers to my questions. Willie said that when he grew long hair, men with traditional haircuts hated him. When he cut his hair – the “longhairs” hated him even more. I asked, “Are you really as sad as the words to your songs make you sound?”

Willie looked at me with humor glinting from the depths of deeply brown eyes and said, “I don’t think anyone can be that sad. Do you?”

On the way back, Willie asked if I minded if he smoked marijuana. I said, “Yes.” He pulled the car off the road and tried to kiss me. I was shocked. In my dreams, we took long walks, talked, spent more and more time together until he proposed. Even young and inexperienced, I realized the sexual advance was fueled by lust, not love, and would be meaningless and demeaning. When I resisted, he was surprised. “You mean you really are writing a book?”

A few months later, I saw Willie at a restaurant. He was staring at me, so I said, “You probably don’t remember me…” He replied, “Sure I do. You’re the girl who really is writing a book.”

That date with Willie Nelson taught me more about writing than any writing course or writing book I’ve ever read.

Write about what you know. Make characters real. Don’t put them on a pedestal because no one – not even famous people like Willie Nelson – is perfect. Your characters need flaws as well as strengths. Persevere. Never give up. Don’t look for the easy way or try to ride someone else’s fame. Even if that works, it will only be temporary, and you will realize that you cheated. That will rob your sense of fulfillment.

As a Christian, let God write the script. Even if Willie had married me and pushed my writing to success, my life would have been all wrong. He is now 80, living with wife number four. He’s a liberal; I’m a conservative. He drinks. I hate alcohol. He’s an activist for marijuana; I hate drugs. God has His own plan and purpose for Willie Nelson and I am not part of that pattern.

Most of all, if my dream wedding to Willie Nelson had taken place, it would have denied me the joy of raising my wonderful son, Luke, who walked with God his entire life.

Instead, God has blessed me with author husband Alan T McKean (The Scent of Time, The Scent of Home, and the soon-to-be-released The Scent of Eternity). We live in the extraordinary Black Isle of Scotland with such vast and varied scenic beauty that one can look in any direction and never see blight.

It’s taken me 40 years and 150 rejection slips to do it the right way and the hard way, but I am now author of five Christian mystery-romance-suspense books, and one young adult pro-life adventure-romance.

Most importantly, I can stand before God and instead of echoing Frank Sinatra’s song, I did it my way, I can say to my Heavenly Father, “I did it Your way.”

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

http://goo.gl/o9In3J

http://goo.gl/uvGzRU

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Welcome Storms in 2014

When tornado-strength thunderstorm winds batter the Texas Hill Country, massive live oak trees that have stood for hundreds of years uproot and topple. Here in the Black Isle of Scotland, gale force winds sweep from coast to coast constantly – seldom uprooting or toppling trees.

Duress has provided the impetus compelling Scottish trees to grow into defiant survivors impervious to life’s storms. Scottish trees stand intransigent and victorious, feeding on the fury of the wind to send roots deeper into the soil.

That’s a good illustration for the New Year. Welcome life’s storms as challenges forcing growth and change. Storms may seem like furious, unrelenting events over which we have no power, and which will rob us of victory or success, but the power of life’s storms and our resulting defeat are both illusions.

The Bible promises that our weakness is an opportunity for God to present Himself strong and victorious in our lives. God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you: My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

The world has coined two clichés: what doesn’t make you bitter makes you better and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Storms have peppered my life over the years. As a child, I lived in a cowshed with no indoor plumbing facilities. After escaping childhood sexual abuse and two forced non-medically supervised abortions that nearly killed me, I lived under a bridge. As a single parent, I worked two and three jobs to make ends meet and slept in the back of a pickup truck on top of our belongings when moving from job to job. I spent over a year in an open-ended garden center with no indoor plumbing, bathroom or kitchen facilities, and wildlife coming in and out freely. I had my property stolen by underhanded legal proceedings. All on the same day; our sheepdog died, my mother died and I couldn’t attend her funeral because my husband was sent home in an ambulance to die, and my truck caught on fire in downtown San Antonio. Just over a month ago, I lost my only son in a plane crash. No one is immune to storms. We have two choices when storms hit us; suffer and grow bitter, or grow and become stronger.

Storms have strengthened my writing, too. From the time I was eleven, all I’ve wanted to do is write. Fifty years of rejection slips, disappointments and closed doors have strengthened my resolve into a wall that simply can’t be battered down. I’m thankful to have six published mystery-romance-suspense books, but even if I had never had one book published or one copy sold – I would keep writing. Storms have driven my writing roots so deep that they can’t be uprooted.

May your 2014 be full of calm, peace, love and joy and as few storms as possible. Should a storm find you in 2014, embrace it as an opportunity to grow stronger roots. My prayer for you: “That God would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in your inner parts.” Ephesians 3:16.

When I feel faint, I look again at this picture of a little tree determinedly growing out of the top of a fence post. If it can bloom where God has planted it, so can I!

Link to all six of Stephanie Parker McKean’s Christian mystery-romance-suspense books: http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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Why I Hate Christmas

I hate Christmas.

Hate it because I love giving and Christmas is the perfect season of the year for giving – yet I never have enough money to buy all the things I want to give.

I hate Christmas because imaginary Santa has replaced real Jesus, the Reason for the Season.

I hate Christmas because the emphasis is put on commercial sales rather than on the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and the gift of eternity that He gives to the world for free.

I hate Christmas because it’s associated with snow and it must be cold to snow.

I hate Christmas because it’s been hijacked by atheists and special interest groups. School children can color pictures of Santa and reindeer on rooftops, but not the manger where Baby Jesus spent His first Christmas. School children can sing nonsense songs about a snowman, but not “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come.”

When Bob, or Marty, or Mary, or Susan have a birthday, we sing, “Happy Birthday, Susan, Mary, Marty, Bob, etc. But on the day that is set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savor of the world…we dare not mention His name for fear of offending someone and are expected to say “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry CHRISTmas.

But, really, could anyone hate Christmas?

I love Christmas lights. Jesus is the Light of the World. His brightness is reflected in every glittering bulb that knocks a hole in darkness.

I love Christmas trees. Some equate Christmas trees to pagan history and spurn them. Jesus made trees. Wood was important to Jesus during his lifetime on this earth. He worked with His stepfather Joseph, a carpenter. He carried His cross on His bleeding back. He was crucified on a tree. Some claim a dogwood tree held the Lord Jesus. They point to the blood-stained petals in the shape of a cross with a crown of thorns in the middle. When I look at a Christmas tree, I don’t see a pagan symbol. I see the celebration of creation, redemption and victory over death.

I love Christmas because I love giving. Even though I never seem to be able to give everything I want to give at Christmas, I love a day set aside for giving instead of receiving – small kindnesses like taking baked goodies to neighbors or providing meals for the homeless.

I love Christmas because families come together. Before his death in a plane crash on November 17, my son Marine Corps Major Luke Gaines Parker was planning to fly me from Scotland to North Carolina to spend Christmas with him. He gets to spend his first Christmas in eternity with Jesus while I spend it down here missing him – but I still love Christmas. Every bright and colorful light will remind me of the blessing I had being his mother, however briefly.

So I don’t really hate Christmas. I love Christmas. I love Jesus, the Reason for the Season. And if I never received another Christmas gift in my life, I would be joyful because I’ve already received every blessing of God in this life. I was chosen to be Luke’s mother, and I have the eternal gift of salvation, purchased for me by Jesus at the cost of His blood.

Then there are the added gifts God has bestowed on me; husband and fellow author Alan T McKean, our rough collie dog, Angel Joy, and the gift of writing.

So, Happy Birthday, Jesus! And to all, Merry CHRISTmas!

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

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