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Introduction 

According to an old Yiddish proverb, “God made man
because he loves stories.” Indeed, God must love stories:
not only is the Bible full of tales of adventure and intrigue
and love, but we humans are also full of stories ourselves.
Stories have the capacity to touch something deep within
us—something that goes beyond mere facts and logic. They
have the power to speak the truth to us, to transform us, to
remind us that we are not alone, and to inspire us to believe
that the impossible is surely possible.

The stories tucked inside these pages are about real people
like you and me. These individuals have lived in every historical
age and come from every walk of life. Each has left
footprints deeply embedded in our world, often in ways that
astound. In these stories, you will discover that there are no
little people or small places.

Some stories will ignite your imagination. Others will
catch you by surprise as you learn amazing things you never
knew about people you thought you knew. In each one, you
will see God’s hand at work in the most unexpected places.
In the ninety days ahead, you will find a new story each
day to recharge your spiritual batteries. Each entry ends with
a thought-provoking principle as well as an accompanying
Bible verse to carry you through the day.

It is my hope that these stories will amaze, inspire, and
encourage you as much as they have me. History, after all,
is really his story. The stories in this book prove that each
person’s story is his— and so is yours. Maybe, as you read,
you’ll discover that the great Storyteller is weaving together
a wonderful story in your own life as well.

***

The Woman Who Tore down the Wall


History books will never tell you that Nellie Clyde Wilson
ended the Cold War. But history often overlooks
its most important people.

Nellie was a little wisp of a woman, born the youngest of
seven kids in a small town on the road to nowhere. Despite
her strict Presbyterian upbringing, she fell head over heels in
love with a dashing Irish Catholic named Jack.

It wasn’t long after the wedding that Jack began to show
his true colors. Brought up in a family of hard drinkers,
Jack had a taste for whiskey. Jobs were hard to come by,
and it didn’t help that Jack’s drunkenness got him repeatedly
fired. Their family was forced to move at least ten
times in fourteen years. Nellie eked out a meager living by
taking in sewing and laundry, and somehow managed to
make the meals stretch for Jack and their two boys. Most
months she barely scraped together the rent money. Yet she
never lost her sense of humor or optimism. Her youngest
boy often recalled that she was the most positive woman
in his life.

Mostly, her boys observed the way she loved Jesus. They
went with her to the jailhouse, bringing hot food to prisoners.
They watched her subsist on crackers because she had
taken her meal next door to a sick neighbor. When Jack
complained about her tithing to the church, Nellie goodnaturedly
replied that God would make their ninety percent
twice as big if he got his tenth.

Nellie was a bit player in small-town America. You might
never have known who she was if it hadn’t been for her sons.
They flourished under her unbounded optimism and grew
strong observing her heroic faith. She steeled them with discipline
and lavished them with love. Every night she read her
boys stories about good and evil. Her youngest son’s favorite
was about a knight in shining armor who conquered an evil
empire. From Nellie, this little boy learned how to dream
big and overcome impossible odds. She nurtured his love for
acting and told him that he could change the world. Most of
all, she taught him to love God.

The world remembers this wisp of a woman by her married
name: Nellie (Nelle) Clyde Wilson Reagan. The son she
nicknamed Dutch grew up to live out his mother’s bedtime
story, becoming the knight in shining armor who triumphed
over an evil empire. President Ronald Reagan often said that
his mother was the most influential person in his life.
Could it be that this diminutive washerwoman from a
small town in Illinois was the one who tore down the Berlin
Wall and set millions free from Communist tyranny because
of a dream that she instilled in her son?

As you ponder your own life story, you might take heart
from something that Nellie wrote in her well-worn Bible:
You can be too big for God to use, but you can never be
too small.