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Long ago a lonely girl lived with her father in a lighthouse. On a scrap of paper the girl wrote, "My name is Esmerelda. I live in the lighthouse on Petri Island. Write to me." She put the paper in a bottle, sealed it with cork and wax, and threw the bottle into the ocean waves. Months later the mail boat brought Esmerelda a letter from the boy who had found her bottle on his beach. Esmerelda and the boy wrote letters for many years. One day the boy arrived in a rowboat and took Esmerelda away to be his wife. They lived happily ever after.

I don't remember when I read that story, but at ten years old, I went with my family on a summer trip to St. Louis. I took along my school picture with my name and address written on the back, put the picture inside an empty cough medicine bottle, and flung the bottle into the Mississippi River.

I remember the gray water slurping at the black mud on the shore and the gray sky stretching above it. The bottle bobbed downstream. I went home and eagerly awaited a letter from my new friend.

I'm still waiting.

I often feel I'm pitching my prayers out to sea and watching them drift away, only to wait and wonder when my rescue will arrive. But I'm developing a few strategies to help me be patient while I anticipate my answer.

Enjoy the view from the beach.

The sun rises over the water each morning. Warm breezes blow. Birds call, circling overhead. The world is bright and beautiful. I rest and appreciate the calm of peaceful skies and the rhythm of turning tides.

Use whatever washes ashore.

Driftwood endures the turbulent waves, abrasive sand, and battering rocks to emerge polished, smooth, and shining. I am grateful and collect all I receive to build shelter from the rains. I have more than enough for fires to warm the dark night.

Answer another's S.O.S.

Sometimes a message from another castaway floats into my harbor and lands at my feet. Then I paddle my little raft through the choppy seas and carry my companion to a new, more comfortable, and safer shore.

I have made many friends since that summer on the Mississippi River bank. We are no longer alone, but huddled together, calling for the Captain who commands the wind and waves, and scanning the distance for signs of his arrival.

I think I see a ship on the horizon.

What are you waiting for today? How can you answer another's call while you are waiting?

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"You just loosen this bolt and take off the cover. See how dirty the air filter is?" Greg held the dusty filter up toward the light. He dropped a clean air filter into the tray, replaced the lid, tightened the bolt.

My classmates leaned forward to watch Greg's callused hands work quickly under the car's open hood.

When I got my first car, I learned how to fill a gas tank and turn a key. No one told me to check the oil, the coolant fluid, the brake pads. For too many years I bought old, cheap cars and drove them until they croaked. Too many times I had been stranded outside the laundromat or the grocery store. My small hometown did not have a bus system. I needed a running car to get me to work and school.

I enrolled in Greg's "Do-it-yourself Car Maintenance" class. Greg showed his students how to check oil levels, change the oil and filter, gap spark plugs, change tires, and replace a battery. He lectured us about the importance of brake fluid, antifreeze, and new wiper blades.

I learned something significant from the guy with the callused hands and greasy shirt.

We have to work to take care of what is important to us.

When I take care of my car, it lasts longer and gets me where I need to go. When I nurture my friendships, I build strong relationships with people who support and encourage me. When I honor my goals and priorities, I grow and move forward toward my destination.

With regular maintenance our lives move more smoothly. Cars run better. Relationships flourish. Goals become reachable.

Neglect only leads to more problems. Cars break down. Relationships crumble. Progress stalls. When we neglect to maintain the important things long enough, we get stuck and abandoned on the side of the road.

God never leaves us alone on the roadside. When we work to maintain our faith in him, he will pick us up and drive us wherever we need to be.

What is important to you today? How do you maintain it to keep it running well?

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Single moms have always made amazing accomplishments. We have worked hard to raise our families and fulfill our dreams. Below are ten well-known single moms whose stories have inspired others.

Chris Affleck divorced when her son Ben was 11. Years later she accompanied Ben to the Academy Awards when he won the Best Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting.

Maya Angelou became a single mother when she was 16 years old. Angelou wrote a best-selling memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She recited her poem "On the Pulse of the Morning" at President Clinton's inauguration.

Mary Kay Ash raised three children after her first marriage ended in divorce. Mary Kay went on to establish Mary Kay Cosmetics and to inspire thousands of beauty consultants to achieve success.

Naomi Judd supported her two daughters by working as a waitress and a secretary. Naomi and her daughter Wynonna later became the Grammy Award-winning country music duo The Judds.

Virginia Clinton Kelley lost her first husband in a car accident, and her second husband was a physically abusive alcoholic. Virginia's son Bill became President of the United States in 1993.

Coretta Scott King, continued to work for civil rights and raise her four children after her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Toni Morrison raised two sons while working as an editor and college professor. She also wrote award-winning books including: Song of Solomon, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye.

 

J. K. Rowling was divorced and living on government assistance before writing the best-selling Harry Potter series. She is now one of the wealthiest women in Great Britain.

Debbie Phelps worked as a middle school principal and raised three children after her divorce. Her son Michael won 22 medals for Olympic swimming.

Sofia Vergara  raised a son after divorcing her high-school sweetheart. She received four Golden Globe nominations for her role as Gloria on Modern Family.

Millions of single mothers work hard every day to support their families and pursue their goals.

Whose story inspires you? Who encourages you to be an amazing single mom?

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The Lion thought he was a coward. He was frightened by spooks, winged monkeys, and the Wizard. But when called to complete a dangerous mission, the Lion found the strength to pull his friends up the mountainside, invade the castle, and rescue Dorothy.

I thought I would never finish college. I was afraid of completing financial aid paperwork, facing grade reports, and talking to other students. But I managed to pass one class, and then another, until five years later I finally finished my Bachelor's degree.

When I felt most insecure, I found my old Cowardly Lion doll and stood him on my dresser. Every time I saw him I was reminded to continue acting courageously, although I often felt fearful.

"True courage is facing danger when you are afraid." L. Frank Baum

Take One Step

The Lion traveled a yellow brick road lined with talking trees and poisonous poppies, but he kept moving forward. Continue putting one foot in front of the other despite your uncertainty, and you will be rewarded at the end of your journey.

Associate With Courageous People

The Lion had Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man to keep propelling him forward. Surround yourself with faithful friends who support and encourage you, and offer to give your help to others who need your encouragement.

Trust the Source of Your Strength

The Lion had the Wizard to award him the medal for bravery. Believe you have access to a source of power greater than yourself, and he is able to give you exceedingly, abundantly more than you ask or imagine.

Everyone can realize miraculous reserves of confidence and purpose. It takes answering the call and stepping forward in faith to truly discover how courageous we can be.

How do you find courage? Remember to comment and share your thoughts and ideas with others. You are always welcome here, and you are never alone.

Liz

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