A mix collection of inspirational stories gathered from the internet and personal experiences.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Path to Happiness

If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.

W. Beran Wolfe

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Strand I Could Not Fix

By Janet Perez Eckles

Like fog in the morning, the spirit of Christmas had vanished. Still, I shuffled in the garage. One by one, I retrieved the bins I'd stored the previous Christmas. While the aroma of sugar cookies wafted through the air and Silent Night played in the background, I began the decorating.

Placing the nativity scene as the focal point of our family room, I spread the rest of the decorations around the house: red and green candles, musical boxes with winter scenes, and bright red poinsettias framed with green garland adorned with burgundy, velvet bows. They all transformed our home into a lively winterland.

Next, I retrieved three stockings to fill the marked places above the fireplace; each embroidered with our sons' names: Jason, Jeff, and Joe. Once Jason and Jeff's were hung, with tears burning my eyes, I clutched Joe's against my chest.

The empty stocking sears my heart. It's been five years since the Lord called Joe home. Five years that Joe's absence left an emptiness we can almost touch. And five years that God's grace wiped away portions of the grief that flogged our hearts. But often, it's the scorching pain that opens our eyes to a bigger picture.

Years ago, when our three sons, including Joe, were still young, I focused on providing a perfect Christmas; a perfect tree to wrap a perfect celebration. As a result, little things tended to roil in me such as a light strand that refused to shine because of a burned bulb. Annoyed at the glitch, I promptly set off to resolve it -I fussed, I rearranged, plugged and unplugged until frustration grew hot in me.

How foolish and silly. I focused on that one bulb, dismissing the glow of the star atop the Christmas tree. I'd done the same with light bulbs that burned in my life-from broken relationships to shattered plans. Exerting tons of energy trying to fix them, I missed the star-- the one that gave significance to my life.

When that void in our heart aches to be filled, it's the star of comfort that makes it whole. When bitter sorrow robs the spirit of Christmas, it's the star of His genuine love that whispers joy. When a health diagnosis shakes our world, it's the star of reassurance that shines the certainty of new tomorrow's. It's the same star that never loses the brilliance of hope, incomprehensible hope, one we can only embrace when all strands of life burn out.

With eyes focused on the star, I hang Joe's stocking along with his brothers'; not empty anymore-but filled with sweet memories--his wit, laughter, his hugs and kisses.

For that reason, God called it His "Morning Star" to dispel our darkness, dry our tears and repair strands we cannot fix.

Janet Perez Eckles is an author and national speaker. She loves to host visitors to her site, and imparts bits of inspiration in her blog. www.janetperezeckles.com

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Do Something!

You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind.
Your mind gets bored and therefore tired of doing nothing.
Get interested in something!
Get absolutely enthralled in something!
Get out of yourself!
Be somebody!
Do something.
The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself,
the more energy you will have.

Norman Vincent Peale

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mental Feng Shui

ONE. Give people more than they expect and do it

TWO. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get
older, their conversational skills will be as
important as any other.

THREE. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have
or sleep all you want.

FOUR. When you say, 'I love you,' mean it.

FIVE. When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in
the eye.

SIX. Be engaged at least six months before you get

SEVEN. Believe in love at first sight.

EIGHT. Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who
don't have dreams don't have much.

NINE. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt
but it's the only way to live life completely.

TEN.. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.

ELEVEN. Don't judge people by their relatives.

TWELVE. Talk slowly but think quickly.

THIRTEEN! .. When someone asks you a question you
don't want to answer, smile and ask, 'Why do you want
to know?'

FOURTEEN. Remember that great love and great
achievements involve great risk.

FIFTEEN. Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze.

SIXTEEN. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

SEVENTEEN. Remember the three R's: Respect for self;
Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your

EIGHTEEN. Don't let a little dispute injure a great

NINETEEN. When you realize you've made a mistake, take
immediate steps to correct it.

TWENTY. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller
will hear it in your voice.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007


©2007 Kathleene S. Baker

The man had just filled his car with gas; he was cold, wet, and ready to head for home. He opened his car door and bent down to climb inside.

"Sir, sir."

He glanced in the direction of the frail voice to find a well-dressed, elderly lady attempting to get his attention.

He closed the car door and walked towards her. "Can I help you, ma'am?"

The older woman explained that the gas pump was not working properly, and asked if he knew what she was doing wrong.

"These are new pumps and very touchy-even for me. I've found the easiest thing to do is forget locking them while I fill; they keep shutting off for some reason."

"Oh my! I can't keep pressure on that handle until my tank is full. My hands don't have much strength in them anymore." She cast her blue eyes to the ground in frustration.

"I'd be honored to fill your tank for you!" The man's Texas accent was gentle and he gave her a little wink. "By the way, I love your British accent."

"Yes, a British accent in Texas.people always notice!" She smiled. "We just came to the States a few years ago. That's my husband in the car." She paused for a moment, "He has Alzheimer's now."

"I'm so very sorry.for both of you." After a slight lull the gentleman continued. "Why don't you get back in the car while I do this; the snow is picking up and you're going to get wet."

She was a lovely woman with snowy-white hair; her attire was prim and proper as one would expect from a Brit. "I'd rather visit if you don't mind. Our son is out of town for Christmas; he's with his wife's family this year and I'm feeling a bit blue."

A knot formed in the Texan's throat and he hoped to change the subject. "Just what are the two of you doing out in this weather? I hope your drive home is a short one. You know these Texas drivers aren't the best when it comes to snow and sleet," he teased.

"We're on our way home from a Christmas party. The medical center has one each year for the Alzheimer patients. They are rather like children's parties-and they have Santa visit. Oftentimes patients will have moments they recall things from their past. Some sing along to Christmas carols when they haven't carried on an actual conversation in quite a long while."

"Did anyone recognize Santa today?"

"Oh, yes, my husband recognized Santa and tried to steal his hat! He even said, 'Ho, ho, ho-Merry Christmas.' His recollection was rather brief but it was the highlight of my day." She grinned.

The gas pump clicked off, the woman swiped her credit card to make payment, and turned to thank the man who had been willing to help her. The two were saying their farewells when the squeal of brakes, a thud, and breaking glass at the intersection caught their attention.

"Oh, my!" The lady whimpered with a distressed expression. "It's getting so slick. I've got to hurry and get home."

"Ma'am, I'd be honored to follow you in case you have problems."

She hesitated momentarily and then appeared relieved, "Oh, I'd be so grateful. I can't thank you enough. And by the way, my name is Margaret." She reached out to shake hands with her new friend.

"Margaret, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Ray." He patted her hand gently before they released their grasp. "You just drive slowly; I'll be right behind you."

When Margaret pulled into her garage Ray stopped curbside. "I just want to be sure you get inside safely," he shouted.

Margaret waved and asked him to wait for a moment-then nodded and spoke to her neighbor hanging Christmas lights. She guided John into the house, quickly reappeared in the garage, and motioned for Ray to pull into the driveway.

She thanked Ray again and soon mentioned this being the first Christmas she and her husband had ever spent alone. Ray, always a soft touch for older folks, was happy to listen. She spoke fondly of traditions her family adhered to when she was a child in England and revealed an interesting glimpse into her past.plus a taste of her cherished memories from across the pond.

"You know mistletoe is very traditional in England. My first "real" kiss was under the mistletoe when I was a teenager. Oh, what memories I have." For a split second, Margaret looked like a young girl again.

Several minutes passed before Margaret began to shiver and they were forced to say farewell.


Christmas morn found Margaret peeking out her front door just as the sun crested the horizon. She stepped outside, instantly clasped her hands like a small child, and peered up and down the street. With not a soul in sight she began to examine the items discovered on her porch.each one dredged up memories of years gone by in Merry Old England.

Just above her head hung an arrangement of mistletoe adorned with elegant lace; she touched it gently. Bedecked with Victorian ornaments, a small, lighted Christmas tree sat in the corner-beneath it a homemade mincemeat pie wrapped securely and tied with golden ribbon. The card attached said only, "From: Santa." Hanging from the doorknob a brilliant red Santa Claus hat with tag, "To: John."

Margaret called to John; he slowly made his way and stepped outside. Nothing on the porch sparked his interest until Margaret placed the Santa hat in his hands. After staring at it and stroking the velvety softness, he plopped it onto his head. It sat askew but John's face beamed as his voice rang out across the neighborhood, "Ho, ho, ho! Ho, ho, ho!"


Parked several houses away, a Secret Texas Santa sniffed and wiped at a lone tear. a happy tear. "Merry Christmas and God Bless." He smiled and drove towards home.

Kathy was born and raised in the small town of Augusta, Kansas, a few miles outside of Wichita. She married a native Texan, Jerry, in 1977 and was soon transplanted to Dallas. A large city offers many things, but she misses the slower pace of small town America. Kathy has two stepchildren and four grandchildren. Pets have always played a huge part in her life. In fact, they were her inspiration to begin writing. Kathy's website can be viewed at: YELLOW ROSE (www.txyellowrose.com) or she can be contacted at Lnstrlady@aol.com

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Letter from Jesus

Ruth went to her mail box and there was only one letter.

She picked it up and looked at it before opening, but
then she looked at the envelope again.

There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and

She read the letter:

Dear Ruth:

I`m going to be in your neighborhood Saturday
afternoon and I'd like to stop by for a visit.

Love Always,


Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on
the table.

"Why would the Lord want to visit me?

I'm nobody special.

I don't have anything to offer."

With that thought, Ruth remembered her empty
kitchen cabinets.

"Oh my goodness, I really don't have anything to

I'll have to run down to the store and buy something
for dinner."

She reached for her purse and counted out its
contents. Five dollars and forty cents.

Well, I can get some bread and cold cuts, at least."

She threw on her coat and hurried out the door.

A loaf of French bread, a half-pound of sliced
turkey, and a carton of milk...leaving Ruth with grand
total twelve cents to last her until Monday.

Nonetheless, she felt good as she headed home, her
meager offerings tucked under her arm.

"Hey lady, can you help us,lady?"

Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plans, she
hadn't even noticed two figures huddled in the

A man and a woman, both of them dressed in
little more than rags.

"Look lady, I ain't got a job, ya know, and my wife
and I have been living out here on the street, and,
well, now it's getting cold and we're getting kinda
hungry and, well, if you could help us. Lady, we'd
really appreciate it."

Ruth looked at them both.

They were dirty, they smelled bad and frankly, she
was certain that they could get some kind of work if
they really wanted to.

"Sir, I'd like to help you, but I'm a poor woman

All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I'm
having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was
planning on serving that to Him."

"Yeah, well, okay lady, I understand. Thanks anyway."

The man put his arm around the woman's shoulders,
turned and headed back into the alley.

As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar
twinge in her heart.

"Sir, wait!"

The couple stopped and turned as she ran down
the alley after them.

"Look, why don't you take this food. I'll figure
out something else to serve my guest."

She handed the man her grocery bag.

"Thank you lady. Thank you very much!"

"Yes, thank you!" It was the man's wife, and Ruth
could see now that she was shivering.

"You know, I've got another coat at home.
Here, why don't you take this one."

Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the
woman's shoulders.

Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the
street...without her coat and with nothing to serve
her guest.

"Thank you lady! Thank you very much!"

Ruth was chilled by the time she reached her front
door, and worried too.

The Lord was coming to visit and she didn't have
anything to offer Him.

She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But
as she did, she noticed another envelope in her

"That's odd. The mailman doesn't usually come twice
in one day."

Dear Ruth:

It was so good to see you again.
Thank you for the lovely meal.

And thank you, too, for the beautiful coat.

Love Always,


The air was still cold, but even without her coat,
Ruth no longer noticed.

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Monday, December 17, 2007


Louise Redden, a poorly dressed lady with a look of defeat on her face, walked into a grocery store.

She approached the owner of the store in a most humble manner and asked if he would let her charge a few groceries.

She softly explained that her husband was very ill and unable to work, they had seven children and they needed food.

John Longhouse, the grocer, scoffed at her and requested that she leave his store at once.

Visualizing the family needs, she said: "Please, sir! I will bring you the money just as soon as I can."

John told her he could not give her credit, since she did not have a charge account at his store.

Standing beside the counter was a customer who overheard the conversation between the two. The customer walked forward and told the grocer that he would stand good for whatever she needed for her family.

The grocer said in a very reluctant voice, "Do you have a grocery list?"

Louise replied, "Yes sir." "O.K" he said, "put your grocery list on the scales and whatever your grocery list weighs, I will give you that amount in groceries."

Louise, hesitated a moment with a bowed head, then she reached into her purse and took out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. She then laid the piece of paper on the scale carefully with her head still bowed.

The eyes of the grocer and the customer showed amazement when the scales went down and stayed down.

The grocer, staring at the scales, turned slowly to the customer and said begrudgingly, "I can't believe it."

The customer smiled and the grocer started putting the groceries on the other side of the scales. The scale did not balance so he continued to put more and more groceries on them until the scales would hold no more.

The grocer stood there in utter disgust. Finally, he grabbed the piece of paper from the scales and looked at it with greater amazement.

It was not a grocery list, it was a prayer, which said:

"Dear Lord, you know my needs and I am leaving this in your hands."

The grocer gave her the groceries that he had gathered and stood in stunned silence.

Louise thanked him and left the store.
The other customer handed a fifty-dollar bill to the grocer and said;

"It was worth every penny of it. Only God Knows how much a prayer weighs."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

For the Man Who Hated Christmas

The story that inspired the White Envelope Project

This story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman's Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine's "My Most Moving Holiday Tradition" contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it. Woman's Day continues to support this tradition and The White Envelope Project today.

For the Man Who Hated Christmas
by Nancy W. Gavin

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas--oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it--overspending... the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma---the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition--one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there.
You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

This story is indeed a true story and inspired four siblings from Atlanta, GA to start The White Envelope Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting this tradition and charitable giving. The White Envelope Project founders are regularly in touch with the family in the article and are thrilled to have their support. Sadly, Nancy Gavin (the author) died less than two years after her husband - also of "the dreaded cancer." Her legacy lives on as the Gavin family and now thousands of others continue to celebrate the "white envelope" tradition each year. For more information about The White Envelope Project or to honor a loved one through a "white envelope" gift this year, please visit their website www.WhiteEnvelopeProject.org.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Whale

If you read the front page story of the SF Chronicle, you would have read
about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider
web of crab traps and lines.

She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to
struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped
around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the
Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group for help.

Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was
so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her ..

a very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer. They
worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her.

When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles.
She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them,
pushed gently around --- she thanked them. Some said it was the most incredibly
beautiful experience of their lives.

The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the
whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate .. to be surrounded
by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you.

And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

To All Married Couples and Singles Who Intend To Get Married

When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand
and said, I've got something to tell you. She sat down and ate quietly.
Again I observed the hurt in her eyes. Suddenly I didn't know how to
open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a
divorce. I raised the topic calmly.

She didn't seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly,
why? I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the
chopsticks and shouted at me, you are not a man! That night, we
didn't talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find
out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a
satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to a lovely girl called Dew.
I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!

With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated
that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company.
She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had
spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt
sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take
back what I had said for I loved Dew so dearly. Finally she cried
loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her
cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had
obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.

The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing
something at the table. I did'nt have supper but went straight to sleep
and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day
with Dew.

When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did
not care so I turned over and was asleep again.

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions:
she didn't want anything from me, but needed a month's notice before
the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to
live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had
his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our
broken marriage.

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to
recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day.
She requested that everyday for the month's duration I carry her out of
our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going
crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd

I told Dew about my wife s divorce conditions. She laughed loudly and
thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she has to
face the divorce, she said scornfully.

My wife and I hadn't had any body contact since my divorce intention
was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day,
we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, daddy is holding
mummy in his arms. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the
bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters
with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; don't tell
our son about the divorce. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her
down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove
alone to the office.

On the second day, both of us acted much more easily.
She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I
realized that I hadn't looked at this woman carefully for a long time.
I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her
face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her.
For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.

On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy
returning. This was the woman who
had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth
and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy
was growing again. I didn't tell Dew about this. It
became easier to carry her as the month slipped by.
Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.

She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few
dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my
dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so
thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.
Suddenly it hit me. She had buried so much pain and bitterness in her

Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.

Our son came in at the moment and said, Dad, it's time
to carry mum out. To him, seeing his father carrying
his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife
gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my
face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last

I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the
sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and
naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.
But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last
day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had
gone to school.

I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked

I drove to office... jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the
door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind... I walked
upstairs. Dew opened the door and I said to her, Sorry, Dew, I do not
want the divorce anymore.

She looked at me, astonished. Then touched my forehead. Do you have a
fever? She said. I moved her hand off my head. Sorry, Dew, I said, I
won't divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I
didn't value the details of our lives, not because we didn't love each
other any more. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on
our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart. Dew
seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed
the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away.

At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my
wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and
wrote, I'll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.
The small details of your lives are what really matter in a
relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, property , the money in
the bank, blah..blah.. blah.

These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give
happiness in themselves. So find time to be your spouse's friend and
do those little things for each other that build intimacy.

Do have a real happy marriage!

Note: This story is from a forwarded e-mail

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Friday, December 7, 2007

What really matters

click on the picture if you cannot read the text

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Max Ehrmann early 20th Century American poet

GO Placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they, too, have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter;for there will always better as well as worse than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.But do not let this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideas; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of aridity and disenchantment it perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But go not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

The Ivory and Gold Tablecloth

By Howard C. Schade

At Christmas time, men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a huge miracle -- not exactly.

It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit, prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now, the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood. But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down church. They felt that with hard work and lots of faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

But, late in December, a severe storm whipped through the river valley, and the worst blow fell on the church -- a huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they couldn't hide the ragged hole.

The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, "Thy will be done!" But his wife wept, "Christmas is only two days away!"

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended the auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a gloriously beautiful, very ornately sewn, gold and ivory lace tablecloth.

It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. But it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who, today, had any use for such a thing? There were a few halfhearted bids. Then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.

He bid it in for $6.50.

He carried the glorious gold and ivory lace cloth back to the church and very carefully put it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel. It was a great triumph. Happily he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

Just before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop. "The bus won't be here for 40 minutes!" he called, and invited her into the church to get warm.

She told him that she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town but she had been turned down. A Jewish war refugee, her English was imperfect.

The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while she dropped her head and prayed. She looked up and saw the great gold and ivory cloth. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel.

She looked at the beautiful tablecloth with remembering eyes.

The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn't seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and lovingly rubbed it between her fingers, tears welled in her kind eyes. But they were happy tears of recognition.

"It is mine!" she said. "It is my banquet cloth!" She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it. "My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it."

For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese; that being Jews, she and her husband wanted to flee from the Nazis. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border. She never saw him again. Later she heard that he had died in a concentration camp.

"I have always felt that it was my fault -- to leave without him," she said. "Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment!" The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the beautiful cloth with her. But she refused saying, "no, no, the cloth has found it's way to you. You need it. It has a purpose here. I want you to have it. I am happy knowing you have it."

She gazed lovingly up at the magnificent gold and ivory lace cloth, then quietly went away.

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the magnificent cloth was going to be a great success. It had been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

The glorious gold and ivory lace cloth actually glowed in the candlelight! It cast lovely fine designs on the walls and ceiling of the church. Everyone looked around in wonderment, and a tranquil ambiance was cast over all.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him that the church looked more beautiful than ever before.

From the generous donations that were given, a few days later the pastor had the local jeweler who was also the clock-and-watch repairman come to repair the church chimes.

The repairman's gentle middle-aged face drew into a look of great astonishment! As if in a trance he walked right up to the beautiful cloth and looked intently!

"It is strange," he said in his soft accent. "Many years ago my wife - God rest her -- and I owned such a cloth. My wife put it on the table" -- and here he gave a big smiled -- "for holidays and when the Rabbi came to dinner."

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in church to get warm, saw the cloth, and recognized it to be hers! The startled jeweler clutched the pastor's arm. "Can it be?" he said through desperate tears.

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed the women for the governess position, got her address, then they both drove to the city.

The jeweler knocked on the heavy, weathered, door. As it opened, there stood his beloved wife. The many years of separation were immediately washed away by their blissfully tears, as they held each other in loving embraces, never to be parted again. True love seems to find a way.

To all who hear this story, the joyful purpose of the storm was to knocked a hole in the wall of the church.

So Dear Ones, the next time something knocks a hole in your dreams, your goals - Just remember to have enough faith, enough belief in those dreams and goals, to lovingly and creatively hang your own brilliant lace cloth over the temporary mar. Then watch the miracles come.


This story was originally written by Howard C. Schade for the December 1954 issue of Reader's Digest. It is a fitting way to get an early start on the upcoming Christmas season.

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