To Be Happy…Love Everyone

To be anybody, you must love everybody. Patricia T. HollandLoving everyone around you may not always be easy – but it is always life transforming. Love doesn’t always give approval. Love doesn’t negate accountability. What is does do is open doors, open hearts and instill joy.

I love today’s story! I love the message and I love it’s symbolism! I think when you read it, you will feel a little more love in your heart! I hope you enjoy!

The Devoted Son

Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and many others adorned the
walls of their family estate. The widowed elderly man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.

As winter approached, war engulfed their nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, the elderly man received a telegram that his beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season-a season that he and his son had so looked forward
to in the past-would visit his house no longer. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. He opened the door and was greeted by a soldier
with a large package in his hand.

The soldier introduced himself to the old man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man’s son had told every one of his-and his father’s-love of fine art work. “I’m also an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.” As the old man began to unwrap the package, paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man’s son. Though the world would never consider it a work of genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail.

Overcome with emotion, the old man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the portrait above the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars worth of paintings. And then the old man sat in his chair and spent
Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. During the days and weeks that followed, the man learned that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart. As the stories of his son’s gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease his grief, as he realized that, although his son was no longer with him, the boy’s life would live on because of those he had touched. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the priceless pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received. The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation, since, with the old man’s passing, and his only
son dead, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day, the way he had received his greatest gift. The day finally arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams could be fulfilled this day; greatness could be achieved as some
could say,” I have the greatest collection.” The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum list… It was the painting of the old man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent.

“Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked. Moments passed as no one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and get on to the good ones.” More voices echoed in agreement. “No, we have to sell this one-first,” replied the auctioneer. “Now who will take the son?”
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. “Will you take $10 for the painting? That’s all I have. “Will anyone go higher?” called the auctioneer. After more silence he said, “Going once, going twice…Gone!” The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone shouted, “Now we can get on with it and bid on these treasures!”

The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced that the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Then someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a portrait of some old man’s son! What about all of the other paintings? There are
millions of dollars worth of art work here. We demand an explanation!” The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.”

Just as the art collectors discovered on that day…The message is still the same…the love of the Father….a Father whose son gave his life for others…And because of that Father’s love…Whoever takes the Son gets it all.
Story shared from the following website: http://www.rogerknapp.com/inspire/devotson.htm

 

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Never Give Up!

Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it. Winston S. Churchill

When Life is Difficult

When life hands you difficult moments and challenges that seem insurmountable, remember that you never lose until you give up! Don’t give up! Don’t give up trying to improve and trying to make the world a better place. Don’t give up on yourself!

Winston S. Churchill

I love Winston S. Churchill! I love his spunk, his love of freedom and I love that he was such an amazing patriot! I suspect that he wasn’t the gentlest person that ever lived, but I am grateful for his tremendous heart and his efforts to keep this world free!

In 1941, World War II was raging. Winston Churchill left family and home just before Christmas to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He did this at considerable risk to himself. Christmas Eve, he and President Roosevelt spoke to the nation via a radio broadcast. These are the words he shared:

“Here, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the land and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart… Here, then, for one night only, each home…should be a brightly lighted island of happiness and peace. (Shared from the book In The Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough)

I believe that his and other leaders efforts to inspire the people of the free nations to raise their hopes that evil could be overcome and that goodness would prevail helped to grow the faith needed during that dire time in the history of the world.

We Have God to Turn to

We each have a a personal mentor who waits for our request to be blessed with hope, faith, and all of the abilities we might need to triumph over life’s difficulties. He never gives up on us and He will always walk our path with us. He does not do for us what we can do for ourselves, but with His perfect knowledge and His perfect Vision, He will guide us where we need to go and bless us with all that we truly need!

i hope that as you read today’s story, you will commit to Never Give Up!:

Never Give Up

Sir Winston Churchill took three years getting through eighth grade because he had trouble learning English. It seems ironic that years later Oxford University asked him to address its commencement exercises.

He arrived with his usual props. A cigar, a cane and a top hat accompanied Churchill wherever he went. As Churchill approached the podium, the crowd rose in appreciative applause. With unmatched dignity, he settled the crowd and stood confident before his admirers. Removing the cigar and carefully placing the top hat on the podium, Churchill gazed at his waiting audience. Authority rang in Churchill’s voice as he shouted, “Never give up!”

Several seconds passed before he rose to his toes and repeated: “Never give up!” His words thundered in their ears. There was a deafening silence as Churchill reached for his hat and cigar, steadied himself with his cane and left the platform. His commencement address was finished.

story shared from the following website: http://www.motivationalwellbeing.com/motivational-stories-3.html

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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 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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