Author Archives: John E. Stack

About John E. Stack

I am retired Air Force, but currently teach middle school Social Studies, aka World History. I've been married for 44 years to my wife Suzanne and I have 3 daughters, 42, 40 and 9. I also have 3 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. I attend a local Christian Church. A love to read, especially fantasy. I have published 3 picture books: Cody's Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody's Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia's Sweet Adventure.

Getting Older by John E. Stack

Hey all, I was sitting around the other day and I noticed that my joints hurt.  My knees were killing me and I could hardly straighten my back.  When I tried to stand it was mission impossible.  I hobbled to the bathroom to get something for the pain and what I saw nearly scared me to death.  I think my house is haunted.

We have this great big mirror in our bathroom.  I try not to look too deeply into it because I’ve read too many stories where you see something that is not supposed to be there.  I have read where people see other worlds, where people can walk into the mirror and transport somewhere else, people walk out of the mirror from who knows where, or they may see something really scary.  I think that may be what happened to me.

Anyway, I decided to look into the mirror to check and see if there was anything wrong on the outside of me.  Much to my surprise, looking back at me was an old guy with really gray hair and glasses.  He was fairly chubby, and generally looked like he had been put through the wringer.  Bad thing was that when I moved, so did he.  Every move I tried, he duplicated.  I knew that it must be a haunted mirror or some kind of trick my wife was trying to play on me.

The poor old guy looked really bad.  Maybe if he hit the gym, lost some weight, and tried to iron out some of those wrinkles he might not look so bad.  Then I noticed something familiar about him.  He looked a lot like my dad.  He had the same nose, but his ears weren’t big enough.  He had lots of hair, though it be gray, where dad had hair on the sides and back, but none on the top.  It just couldn’t be my dad because he has been gone for many, many years.  Must be a coincidence.

Something strange was going on and I had to figure it out.  The more I looked the more I realized that it couldn’t be me.  I wasn’t that old.  Last I looked I was around forty-five, and that guy wasn’t even close to that age.  But, wait a minute, my daughters are forty-two, forty and nine.  When did that happen?  I might be older but not that old.  It seems like the girls just got married only a short time age and Allie was just getting ready to start school.  Where did time go?

I was starting to feel sick.  My stomach hurt.  I was dizzy.  I could hardly see because my bi-focal’s were dirty.  Bi-focal’s?  Yeah, okay.  Anyway, I just wasn’t feeling all that well.  I thought that maybe if I passed out, things would be back to normal when I woke up, even if I was at the hospital.

I decided to check one more thing before I called the doctor.  I would check my driver’s license because it would have my birthdate and a picture.  As I looked at it I could tell the picture had been altered.  I knew it.  My wife had been up to her practical jokes again. Well, maybe not. With these dirty glasses, who can tell what they are looking at.

Then something else fell out of my billfold.  It was a red, white and blue card that said welcome to Medicare.  As the tears poured from my eyes, I knew it must be true.  That wrinkled up old guy had to be me.

It is hard to believe, but yes, this is the year I thought I would never see.  In a couple of days I will be sixty-five.  Two to be exact.  Life has been good but these last few years have flown by.  It is almost time to retire, but not quite.  I still have a nine-year-old to help raise.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the ZooOlivia’s Sweet Adventure and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

 

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Project Done by John E. Stack

Hi All.  It has been a while since I have been here, but I went through a rough time with lots of stuff on my mind and just not in the mood to write.  Anyway, I decided that it was time to once again try my hand at writing.

Last summer (2017), I undertook a remodeling project in our master bedroom and bathroom.  I waited all summer to build a door that would serve as the entrance to our master bathroom.   After everything else was complete I was able to start the door.  It took a while but since I was designing it as I went along that was okay.  The hardest part was getting the rail installed correctly since the instructions assumed that I knew a lot about installing barn doors.  Well, I finally completed the construction and finished the door with a paint wash (mix of 1/2 paint and 1/2 water).  It really allowed the grain in the door panels to pop.  I was pleased and Nana was pleased.

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Then, Suzanne (Nana) found a cabinet that she really liked.  It had a barn door covering half the front but was much larger and heavier than what we had room for.  Anyway, I had some time at the end of summer to start work on redesigning the cabinet and to start building.  I decided I would take their suggestion of using pocket screws and glue for assembly.  This would keep any of the screws from being visible and fewer holes to be plugged or filled.  Before the end of August, I was about 90% complete, but had to stop due to school starting.  Isn’t it funny how work really interferes with what you really want to do?  This is as far as I got…

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I knew that I needed to find time to work on it but with school going full force and life itself finding extra time was difficult.  Then we had a hurricane and our district decided to play it safe and close school on a Thursday and Friday.  Mostly, the weather was beautiful, so… I worked on my cabinet and finally completed it.  I did a paint wash on this one to match the original door, mounted the hardware and door and school started again.  This was as far as I got…

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Well, only a short time went by and I was able to get it hung in place.  I do need to replace the pully bolts with some a little longer, but it is now complete and being used.  The left side hides supplies behind the door like deodorant, TP, cleaner, etc.  Sooner or later the right side will be used for some type of decoration.  I’m happy with it and Nana really likes it.  So, it was worth the time taken to construct it.  I did cut some corners from the original plan.  Instead of using 3/4 inch plywood, I used 1/8 inch plywood which was a lot lighter (it was heavy without the back).

Instead of buying a hardware kit, I fabricated the hardware from two 1 inch iron bars and two clothes line pulleys.  I cut it to size and painted everything black.  It’s not fancy but it works.  Here is my finished product…

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I also designed it to be hung using a cleat so if we moved we could take it with us.  Sometimes you can’t leave all that hard work and creativity behind.  I hope you all have a great week.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure, and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

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Summer: Where did it go? by John E. Stack

After a pretty rough school year, I was looking forward to getting some things done around the house. During the school year, I had to learn a new subject area, Social Studies. As much as history does not change, I really do not remember something I studied 20/45+ years ago (college second time and high school). Anyway, most of my normal free-time during the school year did not exist. I even had very difficult time feeding my reading addiction.
Last summer, I was able to undertake a bedroom/bathroom renovation (still haven’t found the right bathroom light fixture). But, I didn’t get the bedroom furniture refinished or the shower door replaced. Those were on my list for this summer. I also wanted to build a couple of new cabinets for the bathroom.
After taking a few weeks for relaxation/vacation, I planned to get things done. We spent a week up in the mountains of North Carolina, visited Chattanooga, Tennessee and a quick day trip to Helen, Georgia.
While in Chattanooga, we visited this beautiful place called Ruby Falls. After waiting in line or a couple of hours, we took a elevator one hundred and twenty-some feet down into the earth. We walked for about forty-five minutes through a maze of tunnels to discover an underground waterfall. It was highlighted by various colored lights but was absolutely beautiful. It was well worth the time and trouble.
On the day before we were to leave to come home, we visited a small mountain town of Helen, Georgia, where we decided to go tubing. The water level was a little low, but we went anyway. About half way through, we got stuck on a rock. Before we could get dislodged we were hit by a large group of adults. Allie was shot out of her tube in into the river. I went in after her but luckily another set of tubers grabbed her and held on to her until I got there. She was okay, just a little shaken.  Walking back down the river to where my wife anchored our tubes, a rock rolled under my foot and down I went. Now, if I were a much smaller guy, I would probably have been okay. Needless to say, I’m not and my foot jammed into the river bed. Ended up with a broken little toe, a broken big toe and a boot. I’m just glad it was the last day of vacation and not the first.
That pretty much destroyed my work schedule. Since then, along with a few weeks of healing, I have been able to refinish all the bedroom furniture and replace the shower door. I may even get to complete one of the cabinets before school starts back in a couple of days.  May be I’ll post some pics when I get it done.

Oh yeah.  In regards to my habitual reading, I’ve completed at least three eBooks and  6 hardbacks.  Even though my foot is not fully healed, life is good.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure and Cody’s Almost Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

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Oh Really!! Revisited by John E. Stack

Hi again, last month I wrote about some issues within the foster care system.  This month, I still find my self irritated, and I wanted to make a clarification.  I will start with the clarification first.  I made a statement that it costs the state around $1500 per month per child that is in foster care.  That is a true statement.

What might be misleading is people believing that the foster parents get this money.  We do not.  We do get a monthly stipend to help provide for the children that we have.  For newborn babies up to toddlers around 4 (it maybe older), foster parents receive less than $500 per month to buy clothing, diapers, wipes, and formula if they use over what WIC provides. Most months we are in the red.   We do not get paid to get up three or four times a night when the baby wakes up crying, we don’t get paid for colic, or taking time off work for doctor appointments.

I am thankful for social programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and it may have different names in different states.  We normally have children who need special formulas.  WIC usually allows 8 – 10 cans per month.  One of our recent children needed a formula and the cost is $39 per can or around $390 per month.   Our daughter was on a formula that cost $49.95 per can and she went through a can every two days.  Thank you WIC because who can pay over $700 a month for formula.

What does it cost birth parents? (Remember, they are usually the reason their child is in foster care).  They get supervised visitation from 1 to 4 times a week at government expense.  They do not have to help provide for their child, not even diapers.  Some have to get counseling, take classes, get a diploma, get their license, get a job.  They do not have to get drug counseling, or parenting classes.

Why do we do foster parenting when there are so many problems with the system?  We look at this as a ministry.  We believe that this is a job that God wanted us to do and has provided us with the means to do so.  Most of the time it is hard work, but the blessings we receive make it worthwhile.

Sorry for the rant, but sometime you just have to get stuff out of your system. My wife had a mom ask how much we got paid to take care of the kids that were placed in foster care.  When my wife told her what we were paid, she could hardly believe it.  She had been told that we got several thousand a month.  Only in a perfect world…maybe there would be no need for foster parents.  What a concept.

Okay, off my rant.  Who knows what next month might hold in store.  May you be blessed in all you do.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Oh Really!! by John E. Stack

Hey.  Sorry I missed last month and if I’m intruding on anyone today, I apologize.  Having a baby with colic is not a lot of fun.  That, with school winding down and teen attitudes going up, I missed it.  So, here I try again.

When a baby has colic it usually lasts around four months, ours is 5 months.  For those that do not know what colic is, it is gas that causes severe abdominal cramps.  Now, where some enjoy a good bout of gas, little ones are not so appreciative.

Anyway, our local newspaper published a article this week that said, “Parents abusing drugs led to more than half of (our county’s) foster care cases.” The article went further to say that state-wide of the 16,500 children in foster-care in 2017 that 39% were placed due to opioid use by parents or family members.

Of all the babies that we have had in care a large majority were born addicted to multiple illegal drugs, prescription drugs and/or alcohol.  I don’t know if you have ever seen an adult go through withdrawal, but it is tough.  Imagine going through that being only days old.  Many start seizing within hours of being born and continue to detox for three to four months.  It is truly pitiful, with what these little ones are put through.

More often than not, these parents will have several children in foster care, all born with drugs in their systems.  In North Carolina, it is not against the law for a mother to give birth positive to drugs or her baby to be positive to drugs.  If the mother would give the child drugs after they gave birth, she would go to jail.  This does not make sense to me.

The law-makers here need to open their eyes.  If you just look at the monetary costs alone, the state pays over $1500 per month per child in foster-care.  This does not take into account the social programs that also spend their budgets for the same.  Do the math:  $1500 x 12 months (average time in foster-care) x 16,500 children.  That is around $300 million per year just for foster care in North Carolina alone.  The birth parents pay nothing.

Parents that abuse drugs and in-turn have babies born addicted should go to prison, even on the first offense.  Allowing this is wrong and the law-makers know it.  They just refuse to do anything about it.  Should they never sleep well until the children become more important than their other pet projects.

Well, that is my soapbox.  Children are more important than the parents rights to abuse drugs.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure, and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

 

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Examining My Own Mortality by John E. Stack

Something happened to me a few weeks ago that I’ve seldom gone through.  I read the name of a friend from long ago in the local obits.  It really threw me off since it was a person that had helped change the direction of my life.  It also from a time over thirty years ago and two thousand miles away on the far side of this United States.  He was distant kin and I was almost half way around the world when I chanced to meet him. Out of respect, I called him “Chief” due to military rank, and he called me “Cuz”.  Often times when old friends pass, particularly when they are not that much older, it sets your mind off on an excursion to rediscover the things that you went through, especially those things that may have had an impact on the lives of others.

I was about halfway through my Air Force career, stationed at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada. I would have been described as an arrogant and self-centered young sergeant.  I worked on the high side of construction and design.  We often went on temporary assignments and completed construction projects, such as buildings, roads and utility systems.

Not long after I was stationed in Las Vegas, I came across a brass, cigar-smoking chief master sergeant who had the same last name as my mom’s maiden name “Whitlow”.  A short while later I asked if he was kin to the Whitlow’s from North Carolina.  To my surprise he said he was.  He also said that my grandfather was his uncle.  What a coincidence!  It always gave us something to talk about.

The other things we often had opportunities to talk about was my mouth and attitude.  Both were horrible.  Not a time I’m proud of.  I often wonder now how my wife could stand to be around me back then. I won’t go into everything, but after the second time I lost my temper and said some very unprofessional, rude things to a young lieutenant he came to my rescue.  The lieutenant was extremely angry because of the name I called him and threatened to put me up on charges.  Chief saw (heard) what was going on and moseyed over to where we were having our conversation. He said that I was needed back on the job site right away because there was a problem. I think I was the problem.  As I walked away, I heard, “Excuse me sir, could I speak to you for a moment?”

I don’t know what was said in their conversation, but I do know that after I apologized to the Lieutenant, he agreed not to file charges.  After the butt-chewing I received from Chief, all I could say was thank-you.  I still remember some of the words he told me.  He said, “Stack“, I knew I was in it deep. “This is the last time I save your ass.  You are the best at what you do.  You don’t have to tell people, they can see it in the quality of your work.  You need to grow-up and make sure that you want to make the Air Force a career, because if you keep on this path you won’t last.”  I was surprised that he cared enough to call me out, and I’ve never forgotten.  It was more than just being family.  Even though I lost track of him, I never lost respect.

I often wonder if I have touched people in this way (the caring part, not the rude part).  I started to turn my life around and eventually I became a Christian.  After retirement, I went back to school and became a middle school teacher.  I felt that God pulled me in this direction and now I’m completing my twentieth year.  I’ve taught hundreds of middle-schoolers.  When I think back I question whether my old-school ways had positive effects on these students or was I too tough?  Did I care enough?  I like to think I did but often felt that my standards were a lot higher than the parent’s or kid’s expectations.

And then I think about the children that have lived in our home.  God provided us with a house way too large for just my wife and I, and then asked “what are you going to do with all these rooms?” (no, God did not speak directly to us but as we talked this was what we felt.)  We became foster parents about eleven years ago and have had twenty-two babies get their start from our arms.  I hope these beginnings have been positive.  I often ask myself, “have my fallings and failures affected these babies?”

As a teacher we are supposed to reflect on what we do.  Self-examination is much more difficult, and I hate them both.  I don’t like the feelings of inadequacy that I have when I question myself.  Will I get past this before I’m called to account that final time?  I know that I can’t please everyone, but will I meet my own standards for me?

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and co-authored with his daughter Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Leprechaun Gold by John E. Stack

For years we have been chasing that lucrative pot of gold.  Who?  My daughter, Allie, and I.  For the past several years we have been trying to catch that little green guy and gain access to his gold without chasing to find the end of a rainbow.  He trashed our daughter’s bathroom for the last two years.  Rainbows and shamrocks on her mirror, green foot-prints on the counter and on the toilet seat. and he somehow turned the toilet water green.

This year Allie decided that we were going to build a Leprechaun trap.  Suzanne did some research.  We used an oatmeal  box, cut a hole in the top, and camouflaged the hole.  Then we painted everything green.  We built a ladder from popsicle sticks and baited it with green M &Ms.

We even stuffed the bottom of the trap with tissues, so he wouldn’t get hurt if he fell.  We set the trap on the bathroom counter.

This morning, the tissue paper was torn and most of the M &M’s were gone.  We checked inside the trap and it was empty.  This time he left some stuff on the counter.

He also left her a note…

And some gold coins.

Well, it didn’t work out this year, but there is always next time.  We are always looking for a bigger and better Leprechaun Trap.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody and the Great Zoo Adventure, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

 

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I forgot I had Something to Say by John E. Stack

What? Is it time again? Already? But, I just wrote a blog a few days ago. It can’t be time again. I have no thoughts, nothing to write about. I’m sleepy, real sleepy. Can I just go and take a nap? The baby is crying again. Baby? I just got her to sleep. Baby? Oh yeah, the noise maker in the swing with colic. What day is it anyway? Is it time for me to go to work? Saturday? Good, then I can sleep in. No, the baby is crying, and someone needs to check on her. But, I just laid her down. Isn’t it Allie’s turn to check on her? Okay, but I really need some coffee. Maybe I can hold her in one arm and feed her, and type with the other. Yeah, that should work at least until she needs to be burped or she spits up. Fun!!  Hey, I’m only a week and a half late in writing.  I feel lucky that I made it at all.

Amid the business of everyday life, we threw a stick in the spokes that help keep things running smooth. We had thought that it was time for us to exit the foster parenting stage of life and maybe try something else. What it would be, we had no idea. Then, back in November, the day before Thanksgiving, we were asked if we could take a short-term placement. She was tiny, but extremely healthy, and we would only have her for about two weeks. It took about two minutes to fall in love with that two-day old and we were sad to see her go.  Including our own natural children, this was the first baby we have ever had that never spit-up.  She had a great snuggly personality and only cried when she was hungry.  Even then, she gave a few minutes of grunts and groans to say, “hey guys, get things ready cause I’m waking up.”  If she got no response, then she would cry.

Over Christmas, our house was empty of babies. That was an unusual feeling, which hadn’t happened for several years. That emptiness was short lived when we received call for another little girl, this one a thirty-three-week preemie. She was eating every two to three hours, so as normal, Suzanne and I took turns feeding her. I often take the late, late night feeding and the early morning feeding. This gives Suzanne time to get some rest since she has the all-day duty. I usually catch a nap or two and drink large cups of coffee.  This little miss is usually awake sporadically from ten at night to around six in the morning.  She also feels that she has to right to be held all night.  We know this because when we lay her down to sleep she wakes up and screams until she is picked up again.  She may scream an hour or until she tires out.  Right now we both stay tired.  In order to stay awake, Suzanne drinks a caffeinated cola.  Cola hurts my stomach so in order for me to make it, I drink coffee.  Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, such a magical potion. This helps me get to work on time and stay awake while teaching a hundred middle schoolers. Sometimes I drink it for no particular reason.

Only within the past ten years have I become a coffee addict. During my twenty years of serving in the Air Force, I seldom drank more than a cup a month. I often made fun of the guys carrying a half full coffee cup with a large brown stain on the front of their dress shirts. They were true coffee drinkers. Most were office jocks with ranks of E-5 (Technical Sergeant) through E-8 (Senior Master Sergeant). What I didn’t realize was that these were the experienced airmen who were often called in for night shift problems and had to work until the issues were resolved. Then they had to also work their day shift. I, later in my career, found out about those long duty days.

Fast forward fourteen years after retirement and our new calling, Foster Parenting.  I find that I am called in for night time problem more and more (it’s that experience thing).  The second child that was placed in our care (ten years ago) was the major reason for my coffee addiction. I’ll call her Little Miss M.  Miss M didn’t sleep except in short bursts. She had the worst case of colic I’ve ever come across, plus milk allergies. This was complicated by a doctor who said, “All babies have gas and eventually, she will get used to the formula”. What a nut job.

Anyway, working as a middle school teacher, I couldn’t just take the day or multiple days off, so I tried coffee. The kick was just what I needed to keep awake after an almost sleepless night. After about two and a half months my attempts at drinking coffee had turned into an everyday thing, whether we have a child in our home or not. Addicted, probably. I’ve thought about giving up drinking coffee (not seriously), but every time I do, we get another phone call, “Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Stack. Would you be ready to take another baby?”  Looks like it is time for a little more experience.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Starting Again by John E. Stack

At the end of April, my wife and I placed, Bill, our foster son of almost three years, into his new forever home. It was tough, it was painful, and a big chunk of our hearts went with him. It is tough not to fall in love with someone that has been a big part of  your life for such a long time.
We decided that we needed a short break from being foster parents. The wound was too raw. Everything in our house reminded us of him. We realized that we were going through the grieving process as if he had died. We knew that he was okay, it was just trying to convince our hearts of it.
By the end of September, we decided that we would, again, open our home to babies. We informed our agency that we were ready, and we waited. A month or so went by and we were offered children two separate times, but decided that they would not be a good fit. The care that we would need to provide went beyond our training and abilities. Don’t get me wrong, both babies had medical problems severe enough where they would be unable to leave the house or ever be able to lead a normal life. Chances that either one would ever be adopted was slim, therefore taking either child would obligate us for a much longer time that we wanted.
So we abided our time and waited. We were starting to come to the conclusion that our time of being foster parents was coming to an end.  Neither of us are that young any more, so we started planning for the holidays. We opened our home for a big family gathering. Thanksgiving was going to be crowded. We had thirty-two people on the list that were planning to be there for lunch. (I don’t know which is harder, newborns or thirty-some people for a holiday meal!)
On Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, we received a call from our agency, and they wanted to know if we were open to take a newly born little girl. She had been born the day before. Of course, we agreed. On Wednesday, we received a call that they were leaving the hospital and on the way to our house.
Allie, our eight-year-old, was so excited that she couldn’t sit still.  She was desperately ready to be a big sister again.  She traveled to and from the front door about every five minutes. After each trip, she would ask how much longer until they got here.
Finally, the social worker arrived. Allie was jumping up and down. We finally got to meet our new little girl, and her name was Callie (not her real name). She was two-days-old and weighed a little over six and a half pounds. What a way to restart our fostering adventure.
Callie loved to snuggle and only cried when she was hungry. She was the only baby we have ever had that did not spit-up or have reflux. Normally, if you removed the bottle before she had emptied it, she might lose a drop, but that was it. She had a very gentle personality and it was a real pleasure to have her here.  We fell head-over-hills in love the moment our eyes met hers.
Callie was placed in her new forever home after almost three weeks. Her new parents were so excited to meet their new daughter. My wife said that all they could do was cry.
If we had given up on foster parenting, we would have never had to the pleasure of taking care of this tiny treasure. I can’t imagine not having her in my life.
Maybe God’s plan for us to foster is not over quiet yet. God is good.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure, and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

Hey, by the way, if you enjoy reading my thoughts, like and share with friends.  They might like this also. Every author is always looking for greater exposure.  Also, new foster parents are always needed and our love for these special children may influence someone else to take that step out of the their comfortable world and become foster or adoptive parents.

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Blessings by John E. Stack

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

As much as we want Christmas to be a happy, joyous time, often it is not. Life is tough and no matter how hard we try, sometimes grief and pain over-shadow that happiness. People experience tremendous loss, whether in a loved one or in their livelihood.

Even in my own life, loss is prominent around Christmas. Many years ago, my dad passed away a week or so before Christmas. A few years later, my wife’s brother was found dead a couple of days before Christmas and a couple of years later her mom passed on Christmas eve. I even applied for a job with NASA, but even though I had a good shot and was fully qualified, I didn’t get the job. I was extremely disappointed. Yeah, the events of life can certainly dampen the spirit of Christmas.

It is so easy to focus on all the bad going on or how cruel employers can be when they let employees go just days before Christmas or burying a loved one on the day after Christmas. It is easy to lose sight of the great blessings that we receive.

I’ve come to realize that no matter how devastating something may be to us, it did not take God by surprise. During these times he wants us to refocus on Him. When we do that, we can begin to see all the blessings that He has provided.

In the death of a loved one, new bonds are formed between all of those connected to that person. Comfort can be found in those bonds and grief shared is not quite so devastating. The job loss gives one the opportunities to refocus their priorities and to concentrate on the blessings God will provide.

The passage from Luke shows the great gift that God gave us because of his love for us. A Savior. His own son. Could he foresee the death of His Son? Again, these things don’t take God by surprise. He had/has a plan. He already loves you. His gift proves it.

I pray that during this season that you look for the blessings. They are there, you just need to look. Maybe the blessing you seek will be that baby in a manger. Be a blessing to someone, look for ways to help those less fortunate, and yes, there are those less fortunate.

By the way, not getting the job at NASA resulted in great blessings. We didn’t realize that God had his hand in that decision. That job would have required us to move to Houston. If we would have moved to Houston, we would not have become foster parents. We would have missed out on taking care of twenty-one babies, including one wonderful now eight-year-old little girl that is my daughter and a special nine-year-old young man that is my grandson. What blessings.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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