Tag Archives: inspiration

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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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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To Resolve or Not to Resolve by LV Gaudet

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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Here we are, on the cusp of a new year again.  The time of year where people turn to making their selves promises to better their selves out of guilt over the gluttony of Christmas, because it is their custom to make resolutions for the new year, or simply for a lark.

They count down to midnight, holding glasses to the sky and looking around for someone to play the age old cat and mouse game of “who do I want to lock lips with and who do I desperately want to avoid at the stroke of midnight, and oh no, is that person giving me a hungry I want to devour you look; eww, yuk, don’t touch me.”  Fortunately, those firmly entrenched in romantic-type relationships have a certain sense of immunity.

The new year is often thought as chance at a new start.  Out with the old and in with the new year.  And for some, their yearly resolution is to adamantly proclaim to not have any new year resolutions.

For a month after New Years’, places offering life affirming, soul searching, and body improvements are to be avoided at all costs lest you lose your sanity trying to negotiate the parking lot in endless circles in hopes a spot will open.

By the end of February, many resolutions are forgotten like that dirty underwear discarded and fallen behind the laundry hamper, nagging at the back of the minds of those who remember they landed there but don’t want to dig them out.  you can once again approach the gym without the expectation of spending half an hour or more circling in search of the nefariously impossible to find parking.

 

I am not much of a resolution maker.  I never have been.  I have never really seen the point myself.

Rather than making myself a yearly promise to better myself, telling everyone that I must dedicate myself to something I am loathe to do or give up, I opt for more of a daily simplicity.

It is easier to embrace healthy choices when you don’t make it a chore.  Vegetables are not the enemy, boring food is.  Exercise is an exploration.  Don’t think about how you have to plan it, how much work it will be, just make it simple.  Simple choices.  Chose the positives, not the negatives.

I try to make that a simple part of everyday life.  I enjoy food.  I embrace it.  A good meal does not have to be hard.  Simplify.  Healthy and delicious, rather than lazily bland and over fat inducing.  I enjoy feeling good, not sluggish.  Living, moving, not laying about while time ticks by without me.

 

If I am making any kind of resolution this year, I made it in November, during NaNoWriMo.  It is not a pledge to better myself.

My promise was more of a what do I want to accomplish over the next year.  Over the next years.  Nothing worthwhile comes without some form of compromise.  Nothing in life is ever that simple.

I made a choice to focus my effort on finishing works in progress.  Choosing a story at whatever state of progress it is in, from the first drafts sitting idle to the partially done.  It means sacrificing the nonstop ideas that come up, urgently wanting to be written.  I have too many unfinished stories, put aside when the next story begs to be written.

And, let’s face it, writing is much more fun than editing.  Creating something new, the story flowing through you with no idea where it will take you; vs. re-reading the same story a hundred times over while you work to develop it into the best thing you can make it be.

So, while the new stories clamber to be written, I will try to focus instead on the new discoveries waiting to happen with old friends as I re-explore the stories to be edited, revised, torn asunder and reconstructed, and to be finished.

 

And, just for fun, for the New Year’s Eve glorified resolutions and customs fanatics, for your enjoyment …

 

From smashing your dirty dishes on your neighbor’s door to burning effigies, to fist fights, to who steps first over a threshold, here is a list of 25 strange new year’s customs.  As with anything internet based, take it for what it is, unverified and maybe true maybe not.

 

https://list25.com/25-strangest-new-years-traditions-from-around-the-world/

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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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Some Last (Written) Thoughts About Bill by John E. Stack

 

Bill has been out of our house for a little over six months and our lives are so vastly different now that we only have one child.  That is on child living in the house.  We have opened our house up again for a new child that has been displaced from their parents and their home.  We notified our agency about a month or so ago that we thought we were ready, but whether it is by the decision of the agency or just God’s will, we still have an empty nursery.  The one thing our agency may not understand is the longer our nursery stays empty, the easier it is to let it stay empty. 

 

For those of you that are reading my writings for the first time, or maybe have forgotten, Bill is a young boy that my wife and I took into care.  We work as foster parents and Bill was our twentieth child.  Bill was a micro-preemie and weighed only one pound twelve ounces at birth.  When we met him, he was up to a little over four pounds. And about two and a half months old.  He was the smallest baby we had ever seen, much less held.

 

We went through a lot with Bill.  He had about every type of therapy you could imagine.  It seems like my wife was running to appointments about three to four times a week.  Bill had a very difficult time gaining weight (not a problem that we have in common).  Since he was very tiny at birth, the doctors wanted him to gain as much as possible as quickly as possible.  Along with being tiny, Bill had (has) sensory problems, particularly with food textures.  He was also very, very active.  Finally, the doctors decided that if he was gaining any weight, it was better than losing it (in his case).

 

Well, approximately two and a half years went by and we began working a permanent placement plan for Bill.  His birthday was rapidly approaching, and he would soon be three.  I guess the Department of Social Services went into panic mode.  If he was still in foster care at three it would really mess up their statistics.  Normally, a transition lasts three to four months.  Bill’s was less than five weeks.

 

Bill’s new parents have had him for the past six months and his adoption recently went through.  We get to see some real cute pictures of him and his new family.  We don’t believe that he is fully bonded with his new mom and dad, but it shouldn’t take much longer.  Once they are ready, we will skype and if that goes okay then we will try for a short visit.  We think they are going to make it.  They may have some rough roads to travel, but we all do once in a while.

 

How are we doing with all this?  Do we miss him?  You bet.  Our house has never been so quiet.  I don’t think a day has gone by where we don’t mention him in a conversation.  He is very much missed, and not by just us.  Family, church family, friends, workers in stores we frequent all ask how he is doing and say how much they miss him.  This life we live affects lots of people – more than we ever knew.

 

Some ask, “why didn’t you adopt him?”  Our response is usually, “why didn’t you?”  You know, it was never in our plans to adopt, but we didn’t know God’s plans for us.  Now that we do, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Will God put that in front of us again?  Only he knows.  Plus, we are getting kind of old to be stepping out like that again.  So, for now, we wait to see the next step in his plan for us.  We never know what to expect!

 

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure, and the soon to be released (hopefully) Secret Lives (of Middle school teachers).

Hey, by the way, if you enjoyed, this share it with a friend or group of friends.  We are always in need of foster or adoptive parents and some of these posts may inspire them to step out of their comfort zone and change someone else’s life.

If you really, really enjoyed this, click on the link and check out some of the great books published by Indigo Sea Press.  That too could change someone else’s life.

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That Special Girl by John E. Stack

That special, one-of-a-kind girl showed up in my life a few years ago and totally changed my life. She had been badly hurt, even though there were few outward signs. You could tell by looking into her eyes that she felt unloved and was ready to give up on life. God had given my wife and I  a mission – to love. From the moment we laid eyes on her, we fell in love. I will call her Katherine.
My wife and I first met Katherine at a hospital about an hour away from home. Her room was at the end of the hallway. There was a nurse’s station right outside her room, but it was not being used. The lights were out and the hallway was dark. Even though it was daytime, her room was completely dark. Her bed was situated where she could not even see the door.
About the only visitors Katherine ever received were the nurses or the med tech’s coming in to check vitals or to draw blood. The doctors had given up on her and expected her to die, said they figured about three weeks. The nurses didn’t come in unless they had to because they didn’t want to become too attached. So, she was picked up in order to change her diaper, stuck with a needle in order to draw blood. She didn’t know many good touches. Katherine was four months old when we became her foster parents and became totally involved in her life.
My wife and I worked with the nurses and changed a lot of things, even to the point of having her removed from that hospital and transferred to one closer to home. Even if the doctors expected her to die, we weren’t going to give up. God had a different plan. There was something very special about Katherine. I went through a crash nursing course and the nurse supervisor had to sign-off that I knew how to complete certain tasks. It was tough but she was worth it.
Within a few days after having her airlifted to the new hospital, she was discharged and was able to go home with us. She was now six months old but only weighed nine pounds. When Katherine was less than two weeks old she developed a condition, which caused her intestines to die. The doctors removed almost eighty percent of both her large and small intestines. It took a while, but things started to improve, and her health started to improve. We fell deeper in love.
The adoption went through right after her second birthday. She was stuck with us forever.
Fast forward to about three weeks ago. Katherine was watching a video about kids going into foster care with her mom. As the kids were brought out of their homes they carried black garbage bags. “why are they carrying those black bags?” she asked. My wife explained that when social workers remove children from their homes, the kids don’t have much time to pack. They also don’t own suitcases.
Katherine was shocked, “What do you mean? Those kids have to carry their clothes in a garbage bag? That’s not right.” Katherine was upset about this when she went to bed.
My wife had been talking to me about finding someone that would supply some type of bag that social workers could have on hand to give kids if they had to be taken into custody.
The next morning Katherine woke up with an idea. She decided that for her birthday, she wanted her party guests to not buy presents for her, but to buy things that would fit in a string bag. She wanted to have people by tooth brushes with tooth paste, small blankets, small stuffed animals, toys for little kids, etc. She also figured her mom could make or buy some simple string bags and we could give these to social workers or police officers to give to kids when they were removed from their homes.
Her mom asked her about her birthday gifts and she said that those didn’t matter because we would buy her some things. So, on her birthday party invitations, we put a note explaining Katherine’s wishes.
More than anything we received a wonderful gift. We got to see a heart that was willing to give pretty much all she had and hoped to give to other kids that she didn’t even know. She’s my new super hero.
Happy 8th Birthday, to my beautiful, sweet, and wonderful daughter. We love you.

***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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2017 – A Blank Canvas by Sherrie Hansen

One of the highlights of 2016 for me has been that I’ve started to paint. I won’t say I learned to paint, because except for a 3-4 minute online tutorial on how to paint flowers and leaves, I haven’t had a teacher. I have had a lot of inspiration and encouragement, from both people and places. And somewhere, hidden deep inside me, there was evidently a smidgen of artistry waiting to be brought to life.

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A favorite quote from my favorite author, Maud Hart Lovelace, who wrote the Betsy Tacy books –  “Isn’t it mysterious to begin a new journal like this? I can run my fingers through the fresh clean pages but I cannot guess what the writing on them will be.” (from Betsy in Spite of Herself). For me, the new year has long been the time to start a new diary, write the first words in a blank journal, or begin a new book. I’ve always had a wild imagination, an abundance of curiosity, and plenty of thoughts and opinions. But painting has taken me to a whole new layer of creativity. Here’s why I like to think of 2017 as a blank canvas.

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When we write, we start out with white pages. When I paint, I begin with a stretched linen canvas, painted black. It provides a good base, a medium for blending, and the perfect contrast and background for other colors. Black separates the colors and keeps them from becoming muddled. It gives the painting a sense of unity. Unless you’re a lot younger and much more pristine than I am, it seems fitting to start out with a canvas that’s been woven, wet, starched and stretched, maybe even painfully so.

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To me, the black represents the past – triumphs and treasures, mistakes I’ve made and ongoing struggles. Much as I might wish that some of those events never happened, I realize that they’re the foundation of who I am, and that the finished painting will be many times more beautiful because of the richness of my past experiences and the things I’ve learned along the way. The wonderful thing about painting is that I can start out fresh and cover the background with colorful new dreams and experiences.

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I can paint whatever I like on my canvases. If I don’t like how they turn out, I can choose new colors, or alter the lines, or even start completely over again. There are no rules, no rights or wrongs, no preconceived notions to worry about. It’s all good.

Painting - Northern Lights

I don’t begin to know what 2017 will hold. I hope to see Golden Rod finished and published. All things considered, I feel a great sense of anticipation about what the year will bring. I wouldn’t be human if it wasn’t mixed with a little trepidation about what lies ahead. There are some significant milestones in store for me – a big birthday, and the 25th anniversary of the opening of my bed and breakfast and tea house.

BBI - Spring 2012

The important thing is that 2017 will be filled with all kind of opportunities – to choose the high road, focus on the good, to choose hope over despair, and people over technology – to be positive, and grateful, and loving and kind. Don’t be afraid to add some color to the mix. Create some new hues, try something you’ve never done before. Travel to new places and sing a new song or two. For the rest – “Brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. “ (Philippians 4:8)

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Wishing you many blessings and rich, colorful landscapes in 2017. It’s a blank canvas – why don’t you pick up your brush and paint!

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Transition by John E. Stack

If you have read very many of my blogs, you would know that my wife and I are foster parents.  We work with medical critical babies. We care for them, help them feel safe, and try to help them get ready for their transition back home or to their forever families.  We have had babies live with us for as short as two weeks and up to two and a half years.  Currently, we have a little boy I will call Bill.  You may have read about Bill in some previous blogs that I have written.  He has been a part of our lives for quite a while.

Bill’s life is getting ready to start a new chapter and we are excited for him, but also sad because of the changes.  A special family has been identified to become his forever family and if all goes as we hope, then in a couple of months Bill will have a new mom and dad.

Bill was a preemie, with some medical problems.  The doctors didn’t have a very positive outlook on whether he would have a normal life or how well he would be able to function.  They figured he would have at least some learning disabilities.  In every aspect of his life, Bill was delayed.  Bill was followed by four or five doctors of various specialties.  This meant lots of appointments, lots of blood drawing, and lots of therapy.

In the meantime, Bill was tied up in court.  His birth mom and dad refused to get their acts together.  They talked a good talk, but they refused to follow the plan that the court had established.  After two years, the parents lost their rights.

Well, because the court process is so slow, the Department of Social Services did not start looking for adoptive parents.  They did keep asking my wife if we had found someone.  Finally, my wife told the social worker that finding adoptive parents was not her job.  Anyway, my wife started praying that we could find someone in the local area that would want to adopt.

We are firm believers in prayer.  We have seen too many children far exceed the doctor’s expectations.  We’ve also seen the expressions on doctor’s faces when the child they said would never walk, ran across the floor.  God is still in the business of miracles and we get the pleasure of watching them happen.

Bill is still small for his age, but is now running and jumping.  You can’t understand everything he says, but he likes to talk and asks questions all the time.  Bill loves to sing and everything is classified a drum, and anything can be used as a drum stick. (He plays in time with any music we listen to.)  And, he has a girlfriend, who is about his same height.

Once we were given the okay to really look for adoptive parents, Suzanne changed her prayers a little.  This time she prayed that she wanted a good Christian family that would be willing to adopt Bill, that would understand some of his issues, someone that had previously raised kids, someone that would help foster his love of music, and finally, she wanted to have someone approach her and say that they believed that God had placed the desire to adopt Bill on her heart.  Talk about asking God for specifics.

About three weeks later, a lady at his preschool asked Suzanne if she could talk to her about Bill.  Preschool was what my wife considered her last gift to Bill – the opportunity to be separate from her and gain some independence.  She said that several weeks before she felt like God was pushing her toward Bill and she had really fallen in love with him. But, within the past week she felt that God wanted her to adopt Bill.  She had talked it all through with her husband.  Then she looked at Suzanne and said that she felt that God had placed it on her heart to adopt Bill.  This was one of the few times my wife was left speechless.

After getting some information and a little small talk, my wife had to leave.  As she sat in the car, she felt amazed at what had just happened.  She really found it hard to believe that the lady had used almost the same words that she had prayed.  Then it seemed like a small voice said in the back of her mind – isn’t that what you asked for?

Miracles happen, sometimes we just need to ask.  We are pretty sure that all of this will work out and Bill will get his forever family.  Meanwhile, we work transition and short visits, waiting for all the paperwork to happen.  It is bittersweet, but he deserves the best.  He has been through a lot, but we believe it will be worth it in the end.

 

Have you ever considered an adventure in foster care or adoption?  Check it out.  It could be the most blessed ride you have ever taken.

***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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Children Don’t Belong in Plastic Bags! by Arhonda Luman

It was a day like any other. I was at work styling hair and giggling with my customers, until one man, who was patiently awaiting a haircut, remarked “OH! That scared me!”

He had all my attention. I jerked my head around so quickly it nearly spun off my shoulders. His face was ashen, but a smile slowly appeared.

He was not the type of man to be easily scared. I tried not to panic. Cautiously, I asked him, “What happened?”

 

He grinned a bit more but the smile wasn’t quite to his eyes yet. He was trying to recover his senses. mannequin  Quiet stalked the room like a lion does it prey. Every eye was upon him.  The room full of people waited for his response.

He looked into the room next to where I work and said, a little sheepishly, “I thought there was a child in that plastic bag on the floor.”

I had to go look at the scene because I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. When I entered the room, I knew what had happened.  The child wasn’t a child at all. It was a mannequin head that is used for practice. It had been packed into a bag to take to State Board when my granddaughter went to test for her license.  My little boys, who are akin to a hurricane, had made a spin through the room and knocked it off the table without my knowing. Ha!  It was funny, but I couldn’t laugh.  I had seen the look in my customer’s eye and the stress on his face. He couldn’t believe I would have a child in a plastic bag, but his eyes saw something different. His emotions were torn asunder trying to decide what he should do. Clearly, if there had been a child in the bag, he would have contacted child protective services as fast as his fingers could dial. And he should have if that were the case.

I forgot this incident. It blended into the obscurity of a sea of episodes that one accumulates over a lifetime. Then, yesterday, I was playing on Facebook, and something drew my eye to a video. It was about a homeless man being a hero. It drew my attention as sure as it was a magnet and my eyes were steel. As I watched it,  everything stopped around me. There was no sound, only the caption below.  I watched in horror as the video revealed what is missing in the hearts of many people.

The city was a large one.  The day was frigid. Busy people brusquely walked to and fro. Some were shopping, others were trying to get to work. The little boy stood on the edge of the sidewalk holding a black plastic bag. He was begging.

I leaned closer to my computer screen. Bile rose in my throat as I saw people, waltz by him as if they could only dance to their own music. So lost in themselves, they could not hear the sound of the little boy’s distress. They were all bundled up for the day in their warm coats, hats, and gloves.  Gucci shoes clicked on the concrete. Men glanced furtively at their Rolex watches.  They never even noticed the boy wearing a t-shirt in freezing weather.

My mind furiously searched for answers to a thousand questions. Was this video staged? Why isn’t someone helping?  Can’t someone give him some warm cocoa? Why doesn’t someone go to a thrift store and buy him a jacket?  Who is holding the blasted camera??

Of course, it was a surveillance camera, In my distress, I almost missed that nugget of knowledge.

homeless-in-americaI screamed at the monitor screen, “Help him!”

The boy stood in the cold for over an hour. When he could not stand the cold any longer. He climbed into the large black plastic bag to shield himself from the wind. Only his head and shoulders were visible. Hundreds of people passed him. Still, no one offered help.

“Why?” I didn’t know. I cried.

After two hours, a homeless man approached the little boy. He sat him up so that he could look into his eyes. He removed his coat and placed it around the child. Though I couldn’t hear what he said, his actions spoke volumes. The coat was symbolic. By giving it, he offered the boy hope.

Again, I had questions. Why did the homeless man wait so long?  I shuddered. The sobering clutches of reality made its grand entrance.  I knew what he had been wrestling with in his soul. He had a front row seat in the arena of humanity and witnessed first hand, his own fate. If he gave up his own coat in the freezing temperatures, it would likely mean his death. It was obvious to him, anyone who did not have enough compassion to help a child, would never find enough in their hearts to help a grown man.

I was ashamed.

Have we become a nation that can ignore the cry of the little children? We, who live in the land of milk and honey, can we not spare a cup for the poor and desolate?  What are we to become if our bowels of compassion are locked so tight that all that is good in us dies.

Kindness is one of the cheapest commodities available. There is no reason it cannot be freely given. The homeless man set an example for us all. He, who used the frigid sidewalks,  to teach by example,  gave all he had, himself.  In so doing, he gave hope and encouragement to those not as fortunate as he. He might not have a college education or drive a luxury vehicle. He might not own anything but the clothes on his back, but he jeopardized his life to save a child. Even he knows, children do not belong in garbage bags!

 

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Happily Ever After (revised) by John E. Stack

(This is a revision of a previous blog in regards to Foster Care and Adoption.)

Stories. We hear stories everyday about people who were down and out, and they turn their lives around. They become successful and often wealthy. What about the stories we don’t hear? Are those lives successful? Do they pull themselves out or are they even capable of success?

We read stories where everyone lives “happily ever after.” Again, this isn’t always the case. This story about a kid is true. I’ll call him Calvin. This kid’s name may not be Calvin, and he could be either male or female. But, it is a true story all the same.

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It didn’t matter where he was or what school he attended, in his mind people always disrespected him, because of his clothes or the way he looked. Life really sucked when you were thirteen and stuck in middle school where no one knew anything about you. Nor did they even care!

“I said get out of my way,” yelled Calvin, as he pushed the boy against the locker. The boy slammed against the metal lockers with a loud bang.

“Calvin, in my office, now!” said Principal Stern. “I’m really tired of your attitude. We probably need to call your mom. These outbursts really need to stop.”

“Foster Mom,” replied Calvin, a little louder than necessary. “I don’t live with my mother.”

“I said – to my office, Calvin!” responded Mr. Stern.

All of a sudden Calvin was near tears. “Go ahead. Call her.” he replied in an almost angry tone. “If I get into trouble again, she will just call the social worker and have me put with a new family. So what does it matter if you call her. You won’t have to worry about me anymore either.”

Calvin was a kid in the system. Yeah, one of those foster kids. Those are the kids that the state has to pay money for someone to take care of them. Maybe you think that you’ve never seen one before, but you have. There are usually two types: one that you never notice and one that you can’t miss. The one you never notice usually blends in with their current family. They are dressed nicely and they are treated like one of the family. They get to go shopping at the mall and get to go on vacations with their foster family.

The other type of foster kid usually doesn’t match the family they are with. They might look kind of dirty, or they need a haircut, or maybe their clothes don’t fit quite right. Their pants are either too long or too short. Shirts are almost always second hand, stained or too big. It’s obvious that they don’t belong to the family they are with. They are treated differently, like when the family goes on vacation, the kid gets to go into respite care with another family. Life is definitely not fair.

Calvin’s story was typical. He didn’t know his birth dad. Brandi, his mom, never really had it together. She was really wild in school – bad boys, alcohol and drugs. She liked to party and it finally got to the point that partying became more important than anything else, even him. His mom was fifteen when he was born. Brandi’s dad told her mom, “She needs to keep the little brat, so she can see what it’s like to raise a child on her own. That will teach her a lesson to not go sleeping around.” They had helped out a little bit, but kicked her out after a while when she didn’t follow their rules.

Calvin was three when he was taken away. Calvin lived with the first foster family until he was six. The second liked kids with problems because the state paid them extra money. There were many others. But few really cared. His current foster mom really cared, but didn’t know if his anger problems could be controlled.

She also didn’t know, nor did he, but Calvin had a little brother.  His name is Bill and he was born when Calvin was ten.  Bill was born with cocaine and heroin in his system.  He is okay for now, but they do not know the long term implications of the drugs.  Bill was also taken away by Social Services and this time Calvin’s mom was put in jail.

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I don’t know if Calvin’s and Bill’s stories will have happily-ever-after endings or maybe real-life endings, but they will have some sort of ending. Kids in foster care have a very slim chance for success. Often circumstances push them toward drugs, alcohol, prostitution, or some form of abuse. Those chances for success get better when they have someone in their lives that care.

In North Carolina there is, as I suspect it is in other states, a shortage of foster parents. This results in over-crowding of good foster homes and the outgrowth of lots of bad foster homes. There is always a shortage. Right now in NC there are 5 to 7 thousand kids in foster care.

Being a foster parent is a tough job. My wife and I have been foster parents for almost nine years and haves had 20 kids in foster care. We do new-borne babies and keep them until adopted. We fall in love every time. Of the 20, we adopted one, and wish we were 20 years younger so we could do more. I said it was a tough job, the toughest job you will ever love.

In November we will celebrate adoption Sunday. Check it out. There may be a life out there that you can change and give the gift of a “happily ever after.


***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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