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Rebekah

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Termites. The little bugs that cause thousands of dollars in destruction to homes. Unfortunately, we had a wooden post near our house that we thought, could possibly be eaten by termites. Yikes!

Within days, a sales guy from Orkin pulled into my driveway to inspect the post and give me the good or bad news.

Working from home, I'm always happy for a break when someone shows up to the house, and Adam from Orkin was no different.

I met him in the driveway, we chatted about the bugs, we walked around the yard and within minutes he knew the issue wasn't termites. Praise the Lord!

I live our a ten-acre wooded lot and our conversation quickly turned to our property, him growing up playing and working on his grandparents property of 45 acres and how we both loved the outdoors.

I'm not sure how we got on the topic, but I learned that Adam had a master's degree in Clinical Psychology but through a series of events he landed a job with Orkin.  We discussed law enforcement and serial killers. I know, it's a weird obsession I had for many years. It's the reason I wanted to go into the FBI. He recommended a good movie on Teddy Bundy, that I hadn't seen. And now I wish I wouldn't have watch. Good, but down right creepy! But I digress.

Adam is a philanthropist in his own right and has a dream of building a facility for dogs that need homes. His passion about his own furry friend and those abandoned and neglected were evident.  

After an hour of chatting, I asked if I could snap a picture.  Standing in the driveway I felt like I was talking with an old friend. I even mentioned, how I'd love for him and his fianc , who is getting her PhD at Notre Dame, to join my husband and I for dinner.

I've learned throughout my giving journey, if I take a moment to engage with people, I usually find we have more in common than we think.  On the surface it may not look like it. I'm female and Adam is male. I'm white and he's black. I work from home and he drives around in a car all day. I'm married and he's engaged. I have a bachelor's degree and he has a master's. The list of our difference could go on and on, but our conversation didn't focus on our differences. We spent our time focused on what we had in common, and it was a lot.

Maybe there is a coworker, someone at church, or even the coffee shop barista that you think, "we have nothing in common." Step outside your comfort zone and ask them a couple of questions about themselves, and I'm hopeful, that just like Adam and me, you'll find that you are more alike, than different. 

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 7 Giving Challenge: Get to know someone new. Invest time in a thoughtful conversation about them and their life.  

Did you know... it is estimated that between 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 students in the U.S. say they have been bullied at school, most occurring in middle school, with the most prevalent type of bullying being verbal and social. (Source: stopbullying.gov)

Chat with your Children: I bring up the topic of our differences because as a society, at times, we seem so polarized and focused on our differences, that we don't take time to look at what we have in common. Our children pay attention. They mimic our behavior. I don't have children, but I've heard over and over from parents, of how they really must watch what they say, because they've heard their kids repeat words that weren't appropriate for their age, but guess what, they heard it from their parents.

Children who are at risk for being bullied are those that are perceived by other students as different. We need to chat with our children, that different isn't bad. Different, especially on the outside, doesn't reflect what's on the inside of a child. Just because a child may have glasses, be a little overweight or shy, doesn't change anything about how smart, funny or kind they are. It just makes them unique, and we are all unique in our own ways. Some differences we can see and others we can't. At the end of the day, teaching children that we are all equal and to be kind to all we meet is how we, even adults, should behave.

Bonus Story: My uncle Frankie was born with Down Syndrome, but over the thirty plus years he was in my life, I realized we had much more in common than we did different.

Boarding a flight from Chicago to Boise, I stopped in my tracks before I could even walk down the aisle to my seat. 

A sea of black hats peaked above each seat. 

I immediately recognized the hats because my husband has one on his dresser, it was his grandfathers. The hat signifies what war a soldier may have fought in, if they are a veteran and sometimes what branch they served. 

Emotions flooded through my body. I wanted to snap a picture of the beautiful sight, but I chose not to, as I didn't want to offend any of the veterans or invade their privacy.

Unbeknownst to me until boarding the flight, I had the privilege to fly on an honor flight with World War II Veterans who were flying back from Washington D.C. The trip provided, a first-time experience for many, to see the World War II Memorial.

When we arrived in Boise, the veterans were the last to exit the plane. Many passengers, including myself, waited at the gate to welcome the veteran's home, a Hero's Welcome they never received after the war.  One by one they passed by the tunnel of grateful Americas. With tears welling up, I clapped and smiled, knowing I'd never forget the moment.  

Indy Honor Flight is a non-profit organization created solely to honor Indiana's veterans for all their sacrifices. There are similar organizations throughout the country with the same mission: to transport America’s Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices. Currently, the top priority is given to the senior veterans-World War II survivors, along with those veterans who may be terminally ill. 

Why am I sharing my experience on the honor flight? Well, there is a way for you to get involved and participate with an honor flight. 

Every veteran will receive ten or more pieces of mail. The emotions that "mail call" raises are a testimony to the character of these men and women and how much these small acts of kindness mean to them.  

My colleague, Vic, accompanied his uncle on an Honor Flight trip years ago and stated, "During the war, mail call was a great day! It was a day that raised their spirits.  Mail call during the honor flight is a total surprise and they were humbled and very grateful for all of the letters. The veterans are humbled by the outpouring of support that is shown to them by friends, family and strangers."
If you are reading this post, it's because of the freedoms that were fought for by the men in World War II and other wars.  

Please take a couple of minutes of your time to write a letter to say, THANK YOU!

Please address your letter to: Dear Veteran
Do not date your letter
Example signatures: (first name), Mrs./Mr. (last name), or simply A Grateful American

Please mail cards and letters to:
Indy Honor Flight
P.O. Box 10
Plainfield, IN 46168

 "We can't all be heroes, some of us need to stand on the curb and clap as they go by" -Will Rogers

Happy Giving, 
Stephanie L. Jones

P.S. Thank you to Vic and the Indy Honor Flight for pictures and information on the Indy Honor Flight experience. To learn more about Indy Honor Flight check out their website at www.indyhonorflights.org.

Day 6 Giving Challenge: Write a thank you letter to a veteran.
Did you know... 16 million Americans served in the armed forces in World War II and less than 500,000 are alive today. It is estimated 348 WWII veterans die per day and soon, we'll loose a generation we owe so much to. 

Chat with your Children: Grab some construction or copy paper, markers and get your children involved and have them make cards for the veterans. This is a great opportunity to talk to children about the purpose of our military, our men and women serving domestic and abroad, our veterans, the wars that have been fought, and most importantly the sacrifices these men and women make for the freedoms we often take for granted. 

Bonus Story: My friend and fellow author, Michelle Medlock Adams, wrote a fabulous children's book, What is America? Here's a little of what some of my fellow givers believe America means to them. Enjoy! 

Several weeks ago, my mom sent me a text asking if I'd ever heard of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  

I chuckled as I'd just chatted with a gal about doing a kayak trip up there. The pictures I'd seen were beautiful.

I responded, "Yes! I want to kayak up there"

"I think your dad would love that too. The pics look amazing." She replied.

Without hesitation I replied, "Lets plan it!"

I didn't think about the cost, or how long of a drive it would be. If I even had the ability to do a kayaking trip.  

Often when an opportunity presents itself we immediately think about the reasons why we can't do something, and then we miss out on, what may have been a cool experience, or even a new career. 

Over the past couple of years, I've strived, if it's a trip or work opportunity that piques my interests, to say yes, to respond, "How can I make this happen?"

And then I start walking through the open doors. I take one step. I don't focus on the thousand steps ahead, I just focus on one. I keep going until a door closes. I'm amazed of how many times adventures come to fruition, just by focusing on making them happen.

I'm often scared. I get anxiety. But I keep moving forward. 

I do want to note, I don't say yes to everything. I know my priorities and realized if I say yes to one opportunity, I have to say no to one that I may really want to pursue. 

The next time you are presented with an opportunity that gets you excited, aligns to your priorities and passion...go make it happen!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

"The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"


Have you joined my free 14 day Summer Giving Challenge? It just started today! Sign up here.

First things first, download and print out the Summer Giving Challenge resources packet!

If this is your first time participating in one of my challenges, welcome.  If you've been around awhile and are coming back for more giving fun, welcome back!

Not to get to down in the weeds, but I'd like to share with you how the Giving Challenge revolution started.  

In late 2010, I read 29 Gifts, by Cami Walker. It was an amazing book of a young women’s battle to regain control over her life after a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. In the book, Cami challenges her readers to give a gift for 29 days. I'll be very transparent, I never understood why 29 days, so it became my goal, starting January 1, 2011, to go beyond the 29 days and do an entire year of giving.  

My definition of a gift was simple, it was to give something and expect nothing in return. If I gave a physical gift wrapped in a bow, I didn't expect a hand written thank you not. If I gave a smile, I didn't expect a smile in return. If I let someone cut in front of me in traffic, I didn't expect the friendly wave back. I think you get my drift.

When we strip the expectation away, giving is freeing instead of what it can be at times, frustrating.  Keep the definition of a gift in mind, through out this journey. The longer you practice giving with no expectations, the easier it will become. 

As I mentioned earlier, I set a goal to give every day for year. Me one person, looking for a way to make a difference in one other person's life each and every day. I went beyond a year, and gave a gift for 522 consecutive day. Whew!

After my journey ended I took a time to reflect what the journey meant. I knew I had to keep giving.  I would say on most days from then until now I've given a gift. I've just stop tracking and sharing my daily giving adventure. 

It has always been my hope that the giving isn't about me and my gifts, but that my stories motivate others to get involved and start giving.  There are so many ways to give and I'm a big believer that sometimes the smallest of gifts have the biggest impact.  A simple smile to a stranger could change the course of their entire day.  An encouraging text or email to a friend may come at a time when they need it the most.  

I'm grateful for you to join me on this journey. It may just change your life like it did mine. I'd love for you to share with me and others how you are a making a difference, as I truly believe, 1 can make a difference but all of us together can change the world.

Day 1 Giving Challenge: Let's start out with one of those small gifts that I mentioned. Smile at everyone that crosses your path today.  

Did you know... there has been multiple research studies on the benefits of smiling? Smiling can improve your mood, lower blood pressure, be a stress reliever, improve relationships and may even help you live long. So, don't just smile today for the giving challenge, flash your smile everyday to feel the positive effects.

Chat with your Children: If you are a parent, I'd love for you to get your child involved in the giving challenge. A new school year is coming up and just think about the impact your child could have on classmates just by smiling at them.

Bonus Story: Check out a recent blog story I wrote on how smiling helped build my confidence.

Blessings, 
Stephanie L. Jones

What is America? It's the title of a book I featured last week and did a giveaway for a copy. Congratulations Joyce V! You are the winner.  

How did the winner enter this contest? They replied to my newsletter (sign up here for future giveaways) and they shared what America meant to them. Here are some of my favorites.

What “America” means to me is… a country full of history, magnificent scenery, and abundance of variety in landscape & people. It’s a place I call home. I treasure that our founding fathers not only prayed and included God in forming this great country but were also thankful for His favor upon them. America means freedom in so many ways. A few among them are the freedom to worship, freedom to pursue my God given dreams & passions, freedom to live where I want and travel east to west and north to south, and freedom to create wealth or live simply. America is a representation of God’s grace in person! ~Kim 

What “America” means to me is…my homeland. For many years I’ve heard it referred to as “the land of the free”, “land of opportunity”! Even in the midst of all of the present turmoil, it’s still all of that. A place where many many folks from all over the world also want to make it a place to call home. We are so blessed to have much more than so many other countries. ~Joyce

A land built on the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors, providing us with the greatest freedoms that any land has ever known. Most of my family heritage is based on 1800’s immigration, but I am grateful for all who forged this amazing nation! ~David

America means freedom, opportunity and hope. It is a symbol of courage, taking risks and standing up for a cause. Our forefathers risked their lives for a higher good, greater life and fought for family and future generations. America truly means the land of the free and home of the brave! ~Jeanne

America means freedom and opportunity.  America is a place where people should be able to come to and be LOVED. America represents hard work and determination. America should be seen as a place that is SAFE, but we all must do our part to make it so. -Kayla

What “America” means to me is… we are always bigger than we think we are.  (And in this case, “big” is a good thing — not like a dress size or a price tag.) Decent, hard-working immigrants made their homes in this “new world” and managed our original 13 colonies just fine …. and they believed that they would be better off if they could somehow govern themselves without the hand of a distant, far-away kingdom managing their affairs.  Our colonial ancestors saw that if only they could work together (“united”) for a common cause for their own common good, they (and now “WE”) would all benefit. Instead of complaining about how small they were in number ….or how poor they were in resources… our ancestors bonded together in a big way to gain their independence.  America means that even immigrants and people lacking in resources … people who might feel “small” or powerless …. can stand united for the greater good.  

I think BIG when I think of America.  Partner with others and work hard for a common cause … and we are all better off! ~Victoria

Freedom of choice and a sense of pride. ~Karen

Freedom at the price of veteran's lives who love this country so much that they are willing to sacrifice their life to keep it free. God Bless the veterans. ~Maria

Freedom. One word seems so simple, but our great country was built on this basic principle. While we may not always agree with each other, we have the freedom to express our views without repercussion. The formula works. Just look around and see how many people want to come to our great nation.  From this one word comes the right to pray to our God, support the political candidate of our choice, and attend the school of our choice . . . and that's just the beginning! ~Jerilyn

What does America mean to you?  I'll be sharing responses all week on social media!

Happy 4th of July!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

“The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”

Today could be a sad day for me. A reminder of my biggest failure.

The day where, nineteen years ago, I sat in the audience and watched my fellow classmates get their badges pinned and take the oath to serve in protect.

But my dream to become an Indiana State Trooper died when I failed firearms.

A couple years later, I'd marry a fellow recruit, making me realize that God always has a plan. It may not be what I prayed for but what I needed.

So today, instead of living with the what-if's, I'm grateful for the failure. 

Without that failure, I wouldn't be where I am today, writing and speaking, meeting incredible people who want to make a difference and live their big dreams.

Today, I celebrate my husband and all that graduated from the 59th recruit class. 

For the past nineteen years, my husband has committed himself to serving the citizens of Indiana.

The sacrifices have been many, most no one will ever see.

Each and every day, I'm so proud to call myself a police wife, and stand by my husband as he and his classmates defend and protect the thin blue line.

This year, 59 officers have been killed in the line of duty, with June being the deadliest month, with twelve officers killed.

Please keep my husband and all of his fellow brothers and sisters in blue in your prayers. I appreciate it and I know he does also.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

"The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"

I saw courage in action this past week, and even though we'd just met the night before, I sat in my chair, cheering Lisa on, soaking in her success.

I wanted to remember the moment. I wanted her to remember the moment, so I snapped a picture.

It was the last day of the Write-to-Publish Conference. I'd taken the children's book writer's track with award-winning author Michelle Medlock Adams. She's written over 90 books, which have sold over four million copies. 

We as writer's can have those in the industry review and critique our manuscripts. Lisa submitted a children's book to Michelle to review. As we walked into the classroom, Michelle shared with Lisa how much she loved her book. It needed to be shortened, but it was fabulous!

I snapped a picture of Michelle giving Lisa the feedback, as I wanted Lisa to have the moment documented. It was a little gift I gave her. I said, "Lisa, when you get home, you print out this picture and you put it where you can see it. If you ever doubt your writing, if you want to give up and quit, you look at this picture and be reminded of the moment Michelle raved about your book."

At the end of the class, Lisa read her book to us. OH...MY...WORD!!! You know someone is a good children's writer when they are reading, and you can envision the pictures that will go with the story. I flipped through the book in my mind. And I can't wait for her book to be published and for me to share it with all of you.

It took courage for Lisa to share her manuscript. When we share our gifts with the world, we open ourselves up to criticism and critiques. Sometimes we keep our talents hidden for the fear of being rejected. I talked about this last week, how I'd stepped out and took a risk, but got scared hours before I was to share my gift with an audience of women. But friends, if we never step out in faith, into uncomfortable waters, we'll never know what it feels like to receive praise, to take our dream to the next level and maybe, just maybe, change someone's life.

Is there a book, a poem, a painting, or a craft project you've been hiding from the world? If so, I challenge you to share it. And if you get rejected, that's okay. Why? Because then you will know, you don't have to spin the what if in your head. And then you can decide, just like writers, do I get back and work on the feedback provided, or do I hit delete and start over? The choice is yours.

What would you like to share with the world? If you aren't ready for the big time, share it with me. I'll encourage you and cheer you on until you are ready. 

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

"The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"