Happy fall! I used to say fall was my favorite time of the year, but my opinion has evolved. I have come to welcome all the seasons, as they not only bring changes in temperatures and colors, but new adventures.
Each season I like to look into the future of the next three months and ask, what can I only do during this season of the year? It's a great question to ponder. The question helps us to not just move through another three months of life with no direction, but helps us stay focused, have fun, and maybe embark on a few new adventures.
I challenge you to look at the next three months and ask yourself, what you want to do, what do you want to see and experience, where do you want to go, and who do you want to spend time with and soak in the beauty fall offers us.
For me, I'll be attending a family fall day at my parents, hosting a girls weekend, fall decorating, buying homemade apple cinnamon donuts for me to eat and give away from Anderson's Winery, visiting an apple orchard, and live in a tree house. Yes, you read that correctly, a tree house!
I can't believe I did it. This past week I did something I've never done before. I took an entire week off work, ten days straight if you count weekends, for no reason at all!
I wasn't traveling to the Caribbean, or jet-setting around the country. Nope. I stayed home the entire time and I think only left my house once or twice.
Friends, the time off was glorious, minus the poison ivy and my back almost going out.
I don't know about you, but my burnout meter was flashing bright red. I needed to step away from my day job to fill up my cup. Even though I spent most of the time kayaking, organizing, reading, writing, and working on my business, the work around the house, that I love, gave my brain a break from the stresses of my day job. A change of pace of not having to hop from virtual meeting to virtual meeting.
If you feel your burnout meter creeping dangerously to the top, make yourself a priority and check out of the office for a couple of days. I can assure you; the work will be there when you return.
Send me a check in, let me know how you are doing. I'd love to hear from you!
Well friends, I'm doing something that scares the crap out of me! I'm launching a podcast. Giving Your Best Life. Where I'll focus on three of my favorite activities, Goals, Gratitude and yes you guessed it, Giving.
I'll still continue to blog and send out my newsletter, but I've discovered, that many of you love to listen to podcasts. You can listen to them while you work, workout, or just need a little positivity boost.
If you have ideas you want me discuss or questions you want me to answer, send them along to stephanie@GivingGal.com. This podcast is about giving to you and assisting you in giving your best life!
Thank you for your continued support over the years. We can't grow and expand without you.
I walked into the post office to grab a priority mail shipping box and immediately realized I'd forgotten packaging tape. Dang it!
I'd brought the stack of books I needed to mail, but without the tape, I'd have to go home to package and prepare for shipping.
As I stood in line to mail other items, I overheard the lady in front of me share a bit about an act of kindness she was doing for others.
After she finished paying for her shipping, I stepped in the lobby, and mailed my other packages. As I walked out, there she stood putting stamps on her envelopes.
In that moment, I was grateful I didn't have packaging tape. I gave her a copy of The Giving Challenge and shared how I'd overheard that she was working on her own act of kindness. She was surprised and appreciative of the gift.
Sometimes when our plans don't work out, there is a reason why and maybe, just maybe, we can find an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge a fellow giver.
For over twenty years, I've had a dream to walk out my back door and be able to hit a running trail.
Two years ago, I came one step closer to living out this dream. My husband and I bought a home on ten acres of wooded land. We hiked through trees and thicket and tied bright orange ribbons on trees, so the contractor we hired to cut the trail, would know the path to take.
After months of back and forth, the big day arrived. I couldn't wait for the contractor to zoom through the woods on his machinery, and within days, I'd have the path of my dreams.
But after one day of working, he encountered a muddy section of the land, where he would need to cross to get to the back half of the property. He committed to returning when the ground dried up.
You can guess where this is going. After going back and forth for months, trying to get the contractor to return, he stopped returning calls and texts. I complained about this guy for nearly a year. And then I decided to stop complaining and figure out, without big machinery, to cut the darn trail myself.
My husband taught me to use a weed eater. Yes, embarrassing as it may sound, I had never used a trimmer. I had no idea trail building would be so laborious. I'd worked for an hour and no joke, the progress I made was only mere feet. My goal of two miles would take longer than anticipated.
But the more I worked in the woods, the more I enjoyed the work. I became grateful that my contractor bailed on me, because now, as I ran the trail, I discovered that God had given me everything I needed to do the job myself.
Okay, okay, so what does this entire story have to do with loving your neighbor when it is difficult?
As I worked my way to the back half of the property, I discovered the neighbors that butt up to my woods, had been using our property as their dumping grounds. And I'm not just talking about grass clippings, I'm talking about old Christmas trees, bushes and scrubs they'd pulled out of the dirt, landscaping concrete, and the list goes on and on.
We put up no trespassing signs. We talked with them about illegal dumping and trespassing. And when all else failed we called the police. The property was ours that we intended to use, and they were destroying it.
Do you think any of that stopped them? Nope! As I walked back there to continue work on the trail, I must route around the damage they've caused. I am steaming mad! At one point, I considered dragging all the crap they've put onto my property, back onto their property. But then I realized, I'd then be no better than they were. "Stephanie, is this how you love your neighbor when you are mad? Seeking revenge?"
Nope, so I left the piles of mess.
But friends, it gets better. Not only do they dump their waste on our property, but they also hit golf balls; not one or two, but tens of balls on our property. And you might think, "Stephanie, what's the big deal with golf balls on your property?"
Nothing if I'm leisurely walking through the woods. But as I'm running through on the trails, I risk turning an ankle, or worse, falling and crashing into down trees or branches sticking out of the ground. It's dangerous!
Over time I've amassed quite the pile of golf balls. One day, I thought, "I'm going to throw these golf balls in his yard. Hopefully, they tear up his riding lawnmower."
Sad but true, my friend. These are the thoughts that ran through my mind.
No joke, as I picked up the balls to start throwing them back, I turned around to see a heart (ugly as it may be) in the tree. I smiled, nodded my head, and whispered, "Message received God."
I dropped the golf balls and snapped a picture. I also leave the pile of the balls off on the side of the trail and add to them every time I go out on the path and work. They are a reminder to love my neighbor, even when it is difficult.
This past weekend I celebrated 12 years at Cisco (the big tech company, not food). I took time to reflect on how I got there, and at the end of the day, one pivotal decision, led me down the path of where I am today.
At the time when the opportunity opened, each day I found myself velcroing a bulletproof vest around my chest and holstering a gun on my side. My days as a police officer seem so far away, almost like they never happened.
I wasn't seeking a new job or career. I'd spent seven years chasing down the dream of being a police officer. But sometimes God opens a door at unexpected times.
I remember making a pros and cons list. So many fears swirled in my head about leaving the comforts of law enforcement to go work in an industry where I had zero experience.
Doubts and fear crept in and just as I was on the verge of closing the door, I had a heart to heart conversation with my shift partner. Long story short, I realized the fear and doubt I felt, had nothing to do with the new job. I was overwhelmed with the thought of letting down my current employer. What would people think of me? How disappointed would they be that they invested a lot of time and money into my training and I chose to walk away.
This revelation was powerful. At the end of the day, I need to follow the path I thought God was leading me down and do what was best, in the long run, for my family.
I took a step of faith, and after thirteen interviews, I landed a new job. Was it the right decision, only time would tell, but after twelve years, I can now look back and say with 100% certainty, God had a plan. But it required me moving forward into an uncharted territory.
I wonder where my life would be if I hadn't taken that step of faith? Only God knows.
Is there an opportunity that you are facing, but the step of faith seems scary? Is there a door that has opened, but you are hesitant to walk through? Here's my suggestion, don't focus on the what-ifs and the twelve steps ahead. Focus on getting through the first door and keep moving through the doors as long as they stay open. Pray, and seek God's will for your life and he'll lead you to unexpected places, you never dreamed of or could have imagined.
Has COVID-19 affected your summer vacation plans? I know it did mine. The first of June I should have spent the weekend trekking a part of the Appalachian trail with my sister and a friend. Plans were cancelled and disappointment sank in.
Weeks later, my sister messaged me about having a girl's weekend at my house. Sounded fun, and the weekend she suggested happened to be a weekend my hubby would be out of town for a guy's weekend. What perfect timing?!
We scheduled a couple of hikes, but as the weekend drew near, the weather forecasted 90-degree temperatures with high humidity. We discussed rescheduling for when the temperature would be lower.
As we chatted, we realized, with crazy weekend schedules, we'd delay our gathering until November. Who wanted to wait until November for a girl's weekend? Not me!
We agreed, that even if we couldn't hike, we could still hang out, chill, and eat good food. Our weekend stayed on the calendar.
Do you know what happened? We ended up getting in two amazing hikes. We laughed, got lost, and sweat so much we probably all dropped a couple of pounds...bonus!
We soaked in the hot tub, had a glass of wine, nibbled on chocolate, gathered around the table and ate good food, and we even sat in the quiet reading books. Despite several hurdles, we made our girls weekend happen.
Friends, COVID-19 is affecting our lives in so many ways, but it doesn't have to cancel all our plans. We just need to make a few adjustments and move forward with what we can do.
I can tell you one thing for certain, being with family and friends was good medicine, healing for the soul, and a gift we all gave to ourselves. You deserve an adventure!
Boy, time flies when you are having fun. I mean what a difference a year makes. This time last year, I was attending a writer's conference, learning from some of the best in the industry. I took a children's book writing class from the fabulous Michelle Medlock Adams. Did I mention she's written over 100 books, and sold millions of copies?
Anyway, this year she's now my writing coach and I've submitted my first children's book draft to her. Scary friends, scary. But often, we must take a step of faith, out of our comfort zones, to move forward in life.
This past week, I mailed out her book, What is America? to several of my friends who recently had babies. Books are a great gift!
As I mailed out the books, I was reminded of a contest I ran last year, asking my followers to answer the question, what does America mean to you?
With everything going on in our country, I thought it would be a good reminder to share some of the responses I received.
"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!