For God So Loved the World…

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

As I reflect on the Christmas story and the Gifts that have come to each of us as a result of the Savior’s birth, I never fail to think about the Eternal Father of us all. It was he that I met with during my near-death experience. I never saw Jesus but I did see and meet with God the Father.

Because of my experience, I believe that I know better than most the complete perfection of God and the complete devotion and love he has for each of us as his children. I can tell you that words cannot begin to express or describe his love and his devotion.

As the mother of six children and the grandmother to eighteen grandchildren, I cannot begin to fathom the love that enabled God to send his son and allow his sacrifice for all mankind. We are each truly blessed in so many ways – many of which we are not even aware of!

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior – I pray that we will send thankful prayers to the Father of us all. May you and those you love receive the Father’s love and blessings in abundance!

I hope you enjoy today’s story the includes both sacrifice and a Christmas miracle!:

The Father’s Sacrifice: A Christmas Story
Patti Davis

For 5 years in the late 80’s and early 90’s, My husband and I were foster parents to infants and toddlers with special needs. It was a time of special blessing for us as we saw God’s healing power touch these little lives. We never bought into the sentiment that you can’t get too attached. We believed in fully investing our lives in these children for as long as we had them. Of course, we knew that would mean a real time of grieving as they left, but how could we compare that short time of pain with the incredible joy they brought us? And how could you even begin to weigh it against those children having a time in their life when they were loved completely. Whether or not they ever consciously remembered the experience, I firmly believe that we planted in their spirits something that, throughout their life, would be able to recognize and respond to love.

Our first little girl came to us in July of 1991. After 5 little boys in succession, I was especially excited to have a little girl to dress up in ribbons and bows. She was our little princess. And she was BEAUTIFUL! At 2 1/2 months old, she came to us babbling and cooing non-stop. There were also lots of smiles and giggles. As time passed, it appeared that there was a very good chance she might come up for adoption. But we kept in our minds that the goal of fostering was restoring families, not building our own. We continued to pray for her parents and lavish her with love. She captured our hearts and the hearts of all around us.

At Thanksgiving time when she was 18 months old, we got word that her mother had fulfilled reunification and our princess was going home in January. Our stomachs were in our throats as we faced the inevitable. The thanks were bitter-sweet that Thanksgiving. So grateful for the time we had, but heartbroken to see her leave. Thankful for having a year and a half to fill her with love and cover her in prayer, but knowing a time of real grieving was on its way.

Then, the first week of December, it happened. The social worker came and told us that the mother had decided to relinquish her parental rights and let us adopt. We were euphoric! She was going to be ours – all ours. I was to meet with the mother the following week to discuss what the relationship would be between her and our daughter after the adoption. But within 15 minutes into our conversation, it became very obvious that we were discussing two very different things. She had not yet made up her mind about releasing her daughter for adoption and was wanting to meet with me to decide whether or not this was, indeed, what she wanted to do.

In an instant, I had to completely turn my thinking around and once again become, not the adoptive parent, but the support system for a mother facing a difficult decision. An advocate for that family, not my own. I reassured her that we would support whatever decision she made and do all in our power to make that change a positive one for her little girl. That her decision needed to be solely based on what she believed was in her child’s best interest. My husband and I should not be a consideration. Again, I reassured her that she had our full support. For an hour and a half we talked and cried and hugged and cried and talked. In the end, her decision was one of the most selfless acts I’d ever personally encountered as she decided to give us her child.

I was not prepared for how incredibly humbling this experience would be. It would forever changed me in ways I could not even comprehend at the time. Christmas took on a new depth that year. This woman had given up one of her 7 children so that that child might have a better life. How great a sacrifice this mother, who loved her child dearly, had made. I could see in her eyes a pain I could only imagine and could never heal.

As the Christmas story was told and retold that year, I couldn’t help but draw the comparisons. God had given up, not one of many, but His only child. Not to have a better life, but to be sent to a place where He would be spat upon and rejected, reviled and tortured. And why? So that we would have a better life. So that His perfect life and sacrifice could pay the debt for our sin. The Father’s sacrifice had never been so real to me as it was that year and has been ever since.

As we go into this holiday season, let us reflect, not only on the sacrifice of the Son, but on the sacrifice of the Father.

Story shared from the following website: http://www.yourchristianhome.com/printStory.phtml?id=91

 

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Now When Jesus was Born in Bethlehem of Judea…

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. As you read the Christmas miracle, do you wonder what made the wise men wise? Do you wonder how they knew that the Savior of the world had been born?

I believe that they were wise because they knew God – I believe that wisdom comes as we come to see the world as it really is – the world that God created.

One of the things that I have learned about miracles is that often ordinary people become key in the delivery of miracles. Have you ever wondered if a miracle depended on you? I think we often underestimate our importance in creating miracles and in making the world around us a better place. So often, it is in small acts of kindness that miracles are created.

Today’s story shares the creation of a miracles through an act of kindness. I hope you enjoy!

When my mother died at the age of eighty-four, my four sisters and I were heartbroken. How could we ever get over the loss of this warm and loving woman, a talented artist who enjoyed life in spite of its challenges and always doted on her husband, daughters and grandchildren?

For weeks after, my sisters and I would meet for dinner, laughing and crying over old memories. When it came time to sell the home my mother loved, we spent many days in disbelief, clearing out her belongings. I remembered reading an Ann Landers column years earlier that discussed how many siblings fight bitterly over the possessions left by their deceased parents. I thought, “How lucky we are that will never happen to us.” Somehow, we easily and peacefully divided Mom’s belongings—furniture, jewelry and household items—among ourselves and a few charities. Although I expected there might be a tug of war over her paintings, that never happened. Pretty good considering there were five daughters and four grandchildren. No conflicts, squabbles or disputes at all. Until we discovered the old nativity set in a box in Mom’s closet.

I remembered Mom telling the story of how she acquired the manger. An old friend who did carpentry work gave it to my mom and dad as a Christmas gift when they were first married. My sister, Eileen, however, remembers it differently. Mom told her she found the crèche in a garbage can belonging to Mrs. Bingham, the elderly lady who lived across the street from us.

Unlike some of the ornate versions found in today’s stores, this manger was crafted from dark wood and completely unadorned—just a roof, a floor and a railing surrounding it. Though beautifully crafted, there was one flaw: one side of the double gate in front was lopsided. Mom filled it with three figurines to start—Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus. For many years after, she continued to add others—the Wise Men, shepherds, angels, and animals. As kids, we loved the annual rites of the Christmas season, especially taking the nativity set and decorations down from the attic and carefully putting them in place. When the sisters all married and grandchildren came along, they added new characters of their own to the stable, including a set of the three little pigs.

After Mom’s death, when the nativity set emerged, no one was prepared for the battle that would follow. My sister Joanne was the first to claim the manger, insisting it was the only one of Mom’s possessions that she really wanted. Her wish was granted. But when my niece Mandy found out, she called from her apartment in California to voice her objection. She was clearly emotional as she repeated a decades-old promise made to her by my mother: “Nanny promised me that I could have the nativity set when she was gone,” she cried. “The nativity set belongs to me.” Joanne felt strongly that as Mom’s daughter, she had first dibs. Neither she nor Mandy would budge.

When the disagreement showed signs of becoming a full-blown family feud, we realized something had to be done. Enter the family arbitrator, my sister Eileen, who somehow saw through the fog. But as Mandy’s mother and Joanne’s sister, could Eileen handle this dilemma fairly? Temporarily, she set aside the emotion of the dispute, and thought logically. The nativity set was just a wooden stable, not an irreplaceable masterpiece of art. The beauty was in the eye of the beholders, the perception of two people who coveted a simple item owned by someone they loved. Couldn’t a copy be created? Of course! She would order the wood from the lumberyard and get someone to build a second manger.

The following day, Eileen went to Centre Millwork and stood in line behind several contractors ordering lumber from a young man with a crew cut. He was wearing a tag with his name, Brett, written in green magic marker. When Eileen’s turn came, she had to shout over the sound of buzzing saws. She pointed to the nativity set in her arms and told him the story, explaining that it was causing a major rift between her sister Joanne and her daughter Mandy. Brett took the stable from her, held it up with one hand and laughed, “They’re fighting over this?”

“Yes,” Eileen explained. “I know it seems crazy, but it was my mother’s and they both loved her very much. Is there any way you could measure and cut some wood so we could have a duplicate built?

Brett said, “Leave it here. I’ll see what I can do.” Eileen left, hoping he could come up with a minor miracle. That’s what it would take to satisfy the two women in her life that were squabbling.

A few days later, she received a phone message saying that her order was ready. When Eileen arrived at the hardware store to pick up the wood, she couldn’t believe what she saw — two identical stables sitting side by side. Brett had not only cut and measured the wood, he had built a second manger. “I know you wanted them to look the same, so I added a couple of dings and flaws that were in the original. Hope that’s okay.”

Sure enough, the new stable had the same lopsided front gate. “Okay?” Eileen said in tears. “You have no idea what this will mean to my sister and my daughter. To the entire family. I don’t care what this costs. Your work has saved the day.”

“That will be $3.75 for the materials,” Brett said. When Eileen insisted on paying him more, he said, “I didn’t do it on company time. I built it at home so I won’t charge you for the labor.” He pointed to the new manger. “I hope this helps your family have a merrier Christmas.”

Eileen left Brett with a large tip and a big hug of thanks. When she got home and called Joanne and Mandy about her creative solution, they were very happy and extremely relieved that the problem was resolved. One phone call later, Joanne and Mandy had agreed that Joanne would take possession of the new stable as well as some of the old figurines—including Mary, Joseph and the infant. Mandy would get to keep the original—just as Nanny promised.

—Kathy Melia Levine

Reprinted by permission Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC © 2013

Story shared from the following website: http://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/christmas-stories-wonder-love/3/

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And There Were in the Same Country Shepherds Abiding in the Field…

 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…I don’t know why but this part of the Christmas story always reminds me of God watching over us. I find it so comforting to know that, even in our loneliest moments, we are not alone and God and his angels are watching over us.

I don’t know if the story I share today is true – therefore, it may not be a story of a “true” miracle. However, I loved the spirit of the story so much, that I decided to share it anyway. I hope as the day we celebrate Christ’s birth draws closer that the spirit of his love for you burns ever brighter! Enjoy!

“A Christmas Miracle”

Rose rubbed the sleeve of her nightgown against the frosty glass and peered out into the night sky. The moon peeked over the mountain behind the little cabin.

Rose searched the sky. She needed to find a shooting star. Christmas was only three days away, and she had to make a wish.

“Rose McKenzie, stop your daydreaming,” Mama said. She pulled the curtain shut and kissed the top of Rose’s head. “It’s time for bed.”

Rose scrubbed her face and hands in the washbasin and ran a brush through her tangled hair. Her brothers, James and Henry, were settling down on their mattresses near the fire. Baby Bonnie was already fast asleep in her little bed — a drawer lined with soft blankets that rested on the chair beside her parents’ bed.

Rose leaned over to kiss the baby good-night. Then she kissed Mama and Papa, blew out the lantern, and crawled into the little fold-up bed next to the window that she shared with her sister, Sarah.

Rose tugged the covers to her chin. The fire in the fireplace hissed and popped. Papa’s snores rattled through the cabin. Outside, the wind rustled through the trees.

And Rose thought she would never fall asleep. It was too close to Christmas, too close to the most wonderful day of the year, and too close to the morning when her family would open small homemade gifts again.

 

Rose looked out the window again. She remembered how Mama had stared at the lacy green dress in the window of Mr. Pranger’s store when they drove into town. Rose wanted to give her mama that dress.

She closed her eyes and could see Mama opening it on Christmas morning.

There was Mama, laughing out loud in surprise. The green lace dress matched Mama’s sparkling green eyes.

Then Papa opened his gift — a shiny black pipe. Not a homemade one, whittled from a hickory branch. A brand-new pipe ordered from a catalog and shipped all the way from New York City.

Bonnie’s gift was a crib, carved and painted, and the boys got new wool coats. In Sarah’s gift was a note that said, “Look outside.” Sarah pulled open the door, and there stood a dapple gray pony with a big red ribbon around his neck.

“They got just what they wanted,” Rose murmured.

She opened her eyes. Sunlight streamed into the cabin.

Rose shook her head. “It was only a dream,” Rose said, as she smiled. “But what a wonderful dream. I wish it could come true.”

After breakfast, Rose helped her mother wash dishes. “Mama,” she said. “If you could have anything for Christmas, anything at all, what would you wish for?”

Mama smiled and set the clean plates in the cupboard. “I already have everything I could want — you, your brothers and sisters, and your father, all in good health.”

“I know, but I mean something extra,” Rose said, as she squeezed out the dish towel. “Something wrapped in a box that you could open on Christmas morning. What would it be?”

“Well, it would be a mighty funny-looking box,” said Mama. “But if I could have something extra, I’d wish for a Christmas tree, tall and full, with so many decorations you could hardly see the branches. And a big, plump turkey I could roast with dressing and potatoes.” She leaned against the cupboard and smiled. “And when it was done, we would sit down at the table next to our Christmas tree, and eat the finest Christmas dinner any of us have ever tasted.” She closed her eyes. “I can almost taste it now.”

“And a new dress?” asked Rose. “Would you like a new dress?”

“Yes,” Mama nodded. “A new dress.” Then she shook her head. “But there’s no sense wishing for something you can’t have.”

Papa chuckled. “Looks like Rose isn’t the only dreamer in the family.” He reached for his rifle. “I can’t promise you a turkey, but maybe I can find a fat goose for our Christmas dinner.”

He pulled on his coat and headed toward the woods.

Rose waited for Papa all morning. While she swept the cabin, peeled potatoes, and mended her stockings, she kept peeking out the window to see if Papa would bring home a goose.

Finally, just before noon, Papa tramped out of the woods carrying a gunnysack over his shoulder. Rose threw down her mending and burst out the door.

“Papa, you did it!” she cried. “We’ll have roast goose for Christmas after all.”

Papa laughed. “Not quite, missy.” He opened the sack. “I didn’t see any geese, but I did bring home a pheasant big enough to feed seven hungry McKenzies.”

Papa hung the pheasant under the eaves outside the cabin. Its russet and green feathers gleamed in the sunlight.

“I’ll need to clean it,” Papa said. He blew on his hands and rubbed them together. “First I need to go inside and warm up. Is that your mama’s potato soup I smell?”

Rose followed Papa inside and helped Mama ladle out seven bowls of soup.

While they ate, Rose tried to watch the pheasant. But every time she glanced out the window, Papa said, “Eat your soup.”

After lunch, Rose ran to the window and shouted, “Oh, no! Papa, look. He’s eating our Christmas dinner!”

Rose pointed at a bear that had wandered into the yard and pulled the pheasant down from the eaves.

Papa flung open the door. The bear ran off into the woods. All that remained were a few russet feathers lying in the grass.

The next day was Christmas Eve. After breakfast, Papa, Henry, and James pulled on their boots and coats and set out for the woods.

“Don’t worry,” Papa said. “We’ll have a fine Christmas dinner yet.”

Rose waited by the window. Sarah came and sat down beside her. The sun rose high in the sky. Finally Papa and the boys hiked out of the woods. James carried a gunnysack over his shoulder. Rose and Sarah rushed to the door, and Rose flung it open.

“Did you get another pheasant?” Rose asked.

“Is it as big as the first one?” asked Sarah.

“Not a pheasant,” said Papa, “and not as big.”

James opened the sack and pulled out a small quail. “Birds just aren’t that plentiful this time of year,” said Papa. “But we won’t leave this one under the eaves.” He laughed and said, “That pesky bear can catch his own Christmas dinner.” Papa and the boys cleaned the quail right away and brought it into the house.

Rose stared at the little bird. “But this can’t be our dinner,” she said. “It’s barely enough to feed Bonnie.”

“Nonsense,” said Mama. Then she kissed Papa on the cheek. “It’s exactly enough. Rose, you can help me peel potatoes, carrots, and onions for quail soup. And Sarah, you can help me bake loaves of bread. Then you can both take turns churning fresh butter. This will be the finest meal we’ve eaten in months.”

Mama pulled her big soup kettle from the cupboard and put it on the stove.

The quail soup simmered, and the bread dough baked into crusty brown loaves. Savory aromas filled the cabin. Rose and Sarah churned butter until they were sure their arms would fall off.

Finally, as the sun sank over the mountaintop, Mama said, “Help me set the table, Henry. Dinner’s ready.”

Sarah and James scrambled to their chairs. Rose placed the bread in the center of the table, and Henry set out bowls and spoons. Mama carried the hot soup over from the stove, and Papa held Bonnie in his arms. Then they all bowed their heads to give thanks.

Tap. Tap. Rose looked up. Someone was knocking at the cabin door.

Mama frowned at Papa and said, “Who would be visiting way out here at this time of night?”

Tap. Tap. Papa opened the door. A stranger stood on the step. His eyelids sagged with weariness.

The stranger’s voice quivered. “Could you shelter a hungry traveler from the cold?”

“Of course,” Papa said. He opened the door for the stranger. “You’re just in time for dinner. We don’t have much, but you are welcome to share what we have.”

“Bless you,” said the stranger. “Merry Christmas.”

Mama set an extra place at the table and began ladling out the soup. When she finished filling the eighth bowl — the stranger’s bowl — the soup kettle was empty. “Look at that,” Mama said. She set the bowl in front of the stranger. “We have just enough.”

After dinner, the stranger helped clear the table, then sat in a chair by the fire.

“Where did you come from?” Sarah asked him.

The man chuckled. “I’ve traveled for so long, it’s hard to say just where I’m from. I’ve been to the Great Lakes and to New York City and to the White House. I’ve even met Abraham Lincoln himself.”

Henry’s eyes grew wide. “Abraham Lincoln!” he exclaimed.

The stranger nodded. “Twice. I plan to keep traveling and meeting good folks like yourselves. I want to see the ocean someday, and the Grand Canyon.”

“And the giant redwoods?” asked James.

“And the giant redwoods,” said the stranger. He pulled a harmonica from his pocket and began playing. Papa pushed the table aside and pulled Rose to the center of the floor. Sarah picked up Bonnie, Mama grabbed the boys, and soon everyone was dancing.

The stranger played and played, and Rose’s family danced and danced. Finally, Mama collapsed in a chair. “Time for bed,” she said.

James and Henry piled blankets on the floor by the fire for the stranger, and everyone crawled into bed.

Before Rose closed her eyes, she took one more look out the window. A bright yellow star shot across the sky, leaving a sparkling trail behind it. “Oh!” she cried. Rose stared at the shooting star.

“Please let my family have a wonderful Christmas,” she whispered, “and let Mama have a Christmas tree.”

Dawn peeked over the mountain. Rose opened her eyes. It was Christmas! She would surprise her parents and the traveling stranger by making the coffee before anyone else awoke.

She tiptoed toward the fire. James and Henry were fast asleep, and the stranger was gone! On the floor where he had slept lay a bulging gunnysack.

“Mama! Papa!” Rose shouted. “Look.”

Her parents rushed over, Sarah stumbled out of bed, and the boys sat up on their mattresses. They all stared at the sack.

“It’s filled with presents,” Papa said. He pulled out a box and read the tag. “This one’s for you, Sarah, and this one’s for Mama.”

He passed out the gifts, then he, Mama, Sarah, and the boys began pulling off wrapping paper.

Mama lifted a green lace dress from her box, and Papa opened a shiny, new pipe. James and Henry unwrapped new wool coats, Sarah unwrapped a toy horse, and Mama helped baby Bonnie unwrap the biggest gift of all — a crib, carved and painted, just like in Rose’s dream.

Rose watched in silence. She was happy for her family. Still, the sack was empty, and there was no gift for her. She ran to the window to hide her tears.

“Oh!” she cried. “Look!”

Outside stood a fir tree, full and tall, with beautiful hand-carved decorations. Rose ran out the door. On the tree was a note that said: “To Rose. Merry Christmas.”

“It’s a miracle!” she shouted. “My wish came true. Merry Christmas!”

Today’s story shared from the following website: http://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-christmas/christmas-stories-a-christmas-miracle1.htm

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And She Shall Bring Forth a Son…Our Savior’s Birth

Our Savior’s birth, have you ever given some time to really think about it? Have you ever thought about what it means to you personally? Have you ever thought about the whys and the what ifs?

I believe that our Savior’s birth is the most critical event that has ever occurred. Without it, his sacrifice could not have been made. Without it, we would have been lost.

I am grateful for the perfect way that his birth communicates so many priceless lessons. Over and over, I have been taught lessons by that precious timeless story that has been preserved by our Lord’s apostles. I have learned that life should be simple. I have learned that God is aware of us all. I have learned that the circumstances of our birth does not indicate our worth. I have learned those things and so much more. Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned is that God is a God who presents us with miracles in the most meaningful and intimate of ways. I hope you have been blessed with many such miracles.

The Christmas miracle I share today perfectly demonstrates the intimacy with which God succors his children with miracles!:

Late afternoon that Christmas Eve, I paced from room to room opening and closing closet doors, searching everywhere like a mama dog that had recently lost her pups to adoption.

I don’t know what I was looking for because the only thing I wanted had just driven away with their dad. My sons, Michael and Patrick were spending their first Christmas at his new house. I was spending mine alone.

I wandered into the kitchen to start the tea kettle and noticed our cat in a tangled mess on the hardwood floor. Mittens had knocked down one of the Christmas cards taped to the kitchen door.

She was in a frenzy trying to shake off a small card stuck to her forepaw and the more she jerked and twisted her paw, the more tangled up she became. I sat on the floor murmuring sweet nothings until she stopped flailing and I could help peel away the tape.

The card was from my new pastor, Ruth. I had received it that morning mixed in with Christmas greetings from the gas and electric companies who wished me a joyous season even though I owed them money.

Ruth’s card stood out because it was so simple. The size of a small note card, it was all white except for a tiny detailed etching of a baby in a manger. Below the etching the word love was written in script so fine it looked like a whisper.=

The card was blank inside except for Ruth’s handwritten message.

Merry Christmas, Margaret.
My gift to you is Luke 1:37.
Love, Ruth.

I had no idea what Luke 1:37 was and smiled at her attempt to get me to read the Bible. She had snuck a Bible into my mailbox that summer and wedged it sideways on top of my bills and free offers for a cleaner furnace and a firmer me.

Her yellow sticky note on the cover said, “Read me 15 minutes a day.” It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland’s note, Drink Me, and I wondered what would happen if I read it.

Of course, I didn’t read it. How was I supposed to read the Bible three months after my fifteen year marriage ended? I couldn’t focus enough to read how to microwave a frozen pizza.

I opened Ruth’s card again. My gift to you is Luke 1:37. I couldn’t ask her what it meant because she was working on a mission in Paraguay for the holidays. I closed her card and taped it back on the kitchen door where I had been displaying cards every Christmas for the last 15 years.

This year, all the cards just ticked me off. Cheery Santas and family photos with Labrador retrievers looked fake as a cheap toupee. I stared at all of them trying to find some joy, something that might help me feel less alone and when they began to blur into one giant Christmas card, I realized that for the first time I my life, I didn’t know what to do.

I had been the fixer all my life and I couldn’t fix my marriage.

I knew I’d fall apart if I didn’t get out of my empty house so I rushed to dress for a walk hoping the frigid Minnesota temperatures would numb my pain.

Within 20 minutes, I realized I had underestimated the biting cold which was probably why I hadn’t seen another sole out walking. My fingertips felt like I had dipped them in scalding water. Before frostbite set in I knew I needed to find a place to get warm.

I was grateful to see a few boutiques open for Christmas Eve shoppers and slipped into a renovated bungalow called The Hunt Queens.

An overhead bell chimed as I walked into a Wonderland. Tiny white fairy lights twinkled everywhere like a Christmas forest filled with fireflies. Tables were set with bountiful displays of all the trimmings: heart shaped shortbread cookies piled high on vintage cut glass platters, sterling bowls heaped with pomegranates, gold tipped pine cones nestled in pine boughs.

A stunning blonde woman dressed in a winter white wool pantsuit was humming “O Come All Ye Faithful” along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Her rich scarlet lipstick was a stark contrast to her white suit. “Merry Christmas!” she exclaimed. “Were you out walking in this?” Her hand flew to her face and I noticed her manicured nails painted the same scarlet red.

I looked like a refugee from Siberia. In my hurry to get out of the house, I had grabbed my son’s woolen ski cap and pulled it down past my eyebrows and wrapped a ratty old scarf around my face to protect my nose.

“I heard it’s almost -32 with the wind chill,” she continued as I peeled away the scarf. I hated looking so crappy at Christmas. I wanted to look as lovely as she did. I wanted to be wearing makeup, a designer suit and killer heels.

“Oh, I just felt like going for a walk with all the activity at my house. My kids have a few friends over playing Nintendo and I needed some quiet.”

A big fat lie.

The same as the ones I told everyone about how happy our marriage was.

She offered me some hot cider which I gratefully took to warm my fingers. I noticed her merchandise, a combination of old and new and felt like I could have been in my own living room. Vintage floral oil paintings, antique crystal chandeliers and mirrors in gilt frames looked similar to my own.

“Have you been in the store before?” she asked.

“No, but, I’ve been hearing about it. I collect antiques and love things that tell a story.” I walked towards a blue painted cabinet filled with lush linens, all shades of white.

“Are you looking for anything in particular?”

I suppressed an urge to ask if she had any husbands for sale in the back room who meant “forever” when they said it.

“Hey, if you like things with a story, you might like this painting I just put out this very morning.”

She turned around to remove it from the wall and held it in both hands to appraise it. “It’s an old watercolor. Reminds me of one of those Home Sweet Home paintings.” She stretched out her arms to examine it at a distance. “Although, I’ve never seen this expression before.”

I sipped my cider and approached her to look at it but she stepped in front of me to grab a dust cloth. She laid the painting on the counter face up. “Apparently, it’s a piece of scripture. I called my business partner this morning and asked her to look it up in her Bible.”

She wiped the glass. “I wasn’t familiar with it, but maybe you are. My partner said it’s from Luke 1:37.”

I put my cup down and held my breath.

I pictured my cat, my card from Ruth.

“Did you say, Luke 1:37?” I sounded like I had laryngitis. I unzipped my jacket and fanned my face with my scarf.

“Yeah, that’s what the painting is.” She turned it to face me. “See?”

I reached out and touched the glass. It was an old watercolor with a soft creamy background stained in a few spots where someone might have spilled tea. About thirty inches wide and ten inches tall, the painting was surrounded by a half-inch wooden frame painted white, chipped and worn on the edges.

The main body of the painting was a tranquil blue sea and if you looked closely to where the sea met the horizon, the artist painted three vertical black lines, a half inch tall, masts of sailboats miles from shore, deadlocked in a windless sea.

Deadlocked. Like me.

And, there it was. Ruth’s Christmas gift. Luke 1:37.

In four inch Gothic letters, the artist had painted:

With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible

I stared at the painting, unbelieving, but believing at the same time. I remembered when a magician pulled the entire Queen of clubs marked with my signature out of his wallet after I had signed it and ripped it into tiny pieces.

I took it out of her hands. I needed to feel its weight to make sure it was real. I barely heard her as she continued. “I almost kept it myself because I like the message, something good to remember, don’t you think?”

I bought it and carried it home.

After searching for an hour, I found the Bible from Ruth at the bottom of my laundry basket. I looked up Luke 1:37 just to be sure. But as I flipped the pages, I knew it would be there exactly like the painting and when I found it, I caressed the words and read them over and over.

With God nothing shall be impossible.

Shared from the following website: http://mariashriver.com/blog/2012/12/my-christmas-miracle-margaret-terry/

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