Author

Stephanie Jones

Browsing

For the last, oh I don't know, ten years, I'd committed to reading through the entire Bible. I'd get excited, open the Bible daily and read a chapter or two, but as with many goals, by the time I read through Genesis, fifty other books stole my attention and the remainder of the year, reading through the Bible was hit or miss. 

I'd failed miserably.

In 2019, I set a rule for myself. The first activity I would do in the morning would be to read a devotional and the Bible. Temptations of social media, email, television, and any other distraction use to steal my mornings but no more, because I'd set a boundary and I wanted to stay within the bounds.

I missed a couple of days here and there, mainly when I was traveling. I'm almost through the entire Bible and it's amazing how God speaks to us when we are in his word and listening to his ever guiding voice.

On December 28th, God turned on a facet of writing ideas that hasn't shutoff.  What he is given me is good. There is no way on Earth I could have come up with what is flowing through me onto paper. 

I share this story of commitment because as I was chatting with my friend/personal trainer Zach and it hit me, that if we want to see change, results, or difference in our life, it doesn't happen overnight. 

We reflected on my weight loss journey. For three months, as I trained with him, eating healthy and working out, I saw almost zero results. The lack of evidence of my hard work frustrated me, but he kept telling me to stay on the course. I trusted his expertise and continued to do as he instructed. And sure enough, after the three-month mark hit, still staying faithful to the plan, the pounds started to melt off.

I share both stories to say, if you've been working toward a goal but aren't seeing the results you expected, keep going, even if you stumble, move forward.

Yesterday as I read my devotional, the verse Proverbs 16:3 smacked me in the face, "Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed."

The verse doesn't state commit your good intentions, it says, "commit your actions."

I believe the good book has given us all we need to be successful if life, but at the end of the day we have free will and we must act to succeed.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life” and "The Gratitude Challenge: 41 Days to a Happier, Healthier, & More Content Life"

This past Sunday at church, the speaker mentioned his wife was working on a book proposal.

My ears perked up and I initially thought, "Oh I should go introduce myself. Maybe there is a way I can help her."

Within moments of that thought, doubt crept in.

Oh, I hate going up to strangers. It's awkward.

What if she doesn't need my assistance?

Maybe I don't have as much insight as I think.

As the negative thoughts crashed down, I had to stop myself.

Sure, introducing yourself to strangers is a bit difficult, but I've done it hundreds of times during my giving journey.

And maybe she doesn't need help, but what if she does? It's better to offer and she not need it then to not offer and she did need it.

And I do have a tremendous amount of knowledge to share with someone writing a book.

In fact, I'm coaching others on writing their own books.

I'm not a fraud.

I proceeded to go down the list of all my writing and publishing experience.

After church ended, I walked, against the flow of people exiting, down the aisle and introduced myself.

And I'm so glad I did. I had nothing to worry about it. She was so kind.

Offering our experience and our talents to others is a great gift we can give.

Maybe your children are grown, and you can give a little advice to a new mom.

Or did you recently lose weight and have a friend that's struggling in this area? Share a few tips what worked for you.

We all have gifts to share with others but often we feel like a fraud. We might downplay our knowledge and experience, or think there is someone better.

If you feel a tug, to share your knowledge, have the confidence to push past fear and doubt and help someone, you may be the difference in their failure or success.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life" and “The Gratitude Challenge: 41 Days to a Happier, Healthier, & More Content Life”

The beginning of the new year is always emotional for me.  I tear up thinking about how one goal to give a gift every day for a year changed my life. That goal was set on January 1, 2011 and I haven't looked back.

If you don't know my story, I gave a gift for 522 consecutive days, missed a day on a business trip, took a break, but intentional giving had become a lifestyle so I started my daily giving again and I've pretty much given a gift every day since 2013. If you are interested in the 522 gifts, check out the list here.

I honestly can't tell you why I tracked in the first place, or why I started a little blog. The only thing I can think is that God gave me a nudge, and instead of ignoring doing something that was uncomfortable, I jumped in, even though fearful, and didn't look back. At the time, I hated writing and had no clue what I was doing.

There is something you may not know about that original year of giving. I almost quit. I almost shut the whole thing down. Why? A couple of negative people that attacked me through FB.

What if I would have quit?

What if I would have let a couple of negative Nancy's kill all the good and positivity other and I were spreading?

My life would be extremely different. 

First, I believe it was giving that pulled me out of many depressing days. There wouldn't be a book, The Giving Challenge, or inspirational speaking, or a second book, The Gratitude Challenge. But more importantly, thousands of people would not have received gifts. Days wouldn't have been brightened. Children wouldn't have been fed. Did you know every book I sell provides three meals to a child in need? To date, we've given close to 30,000 meals (that's with the help of a corporate match).

None of this goodness is from me. Sure, I'm the vessel, but I'm just doing what God called me to do.

It saddens me to think how many people have set a goal for the new year, and within a couple of months, someone will squash that goal. I think about all the books that were supposed to be written, to inspire someone, that are buried in a notebook in a closet. Or what about the weight someone wanted to lose so they could take better care of their children or grandchildren, but they gave up on themselves and now they are watching life on the sidelines instead of actively engaged. 

I don't know your goal for the new year, maybe you have one and maybe you don't. But I challenge you to think about what's been bugging you. What is something in your life that you can't shake? What is the little desire burning in you, but you've already given up because maybe people will think your goal is stupid, or right now you don't see a path forward to accomplish the goal?

Well friend, follow that nudge. I don't think God puts empty, unfulfilling dreams in our heart. At the end of the day, where we end up may not be what we had in mind, and may even be better? I know my goal for giving ended up way more incredible than I could have ever imagined. I’d dreamed small.

What's the one thing that is weighing you down? What's the one goal that you don't want to start another new year thinking about? Share it with me.  Let's hold each other accountable.

In my last post I talked about reflecting on 2019. If you haven't done that, take some time this week to do so, as it will help gain clarity for 2020 and help you steer around obstacles. This is also an exercise you can do with your team at work.

Friends, let my 2011 goal of giving a gift every day for a year be an inspiration to you. To motivate you to see what happens when we set a goal and stick with it. It's your choice of what you do now, choose wisely.

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life" and “The Gratitude Challenge: 41 Days to a Happier, Healthier, & More Content Life”

Happy Giving Tuesday! I think every day should be Giving Tuesday, don't you?

If you miss this week to participate, that’s okay, pick a Tuesday in the future and create your own Giving Tuesday. Why you are at it, maybe challenge a few friends to participate with you.

We’ve created “Giving Tuesday” gift tags for you to download and recorded a video to give you ideas on how you can give on Giving Tuesday.

Snap a pic when you create and/or give your gift and share it with me on social media! I’d love to see how you are giving.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”

Did you know another word for a holiday is rest? Shocking!

When was the last time your holiday was peaceful?

Imagine hosting a gathering in your home feeling relaxed and content. Whether you are opening your home to friends and family on Thanksgiving, Christmas or a guest in someone's home, your hospitality doesn't need to come at the cost of your health and sanity.

According to Google, the definition of hospitality is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Notice there is no mention of immaculate home, free of dust bunnies, Pinterest-perfect food presentation, use of best china and fine silverware, or breaking the bank to redecorate the home with new paint and furniture. The latter may sound extreme, but I've heard of people doing this…for what? To impress people that "should" love you (and your home) just the way you are.

Pondering these words from Present Over Perfect Author, Shauna Niequist,

"For years, I have bridged that gap between differing opinions, tempered my own, made sure that everyone in the room was happy and fed and taken care of. It began as a clean love for hospitality, but over the years, I think, it devolved into caretaking and people pleasing at the expense of my own self, at the expense of telling the truth about what I think and what I need and what matters most to me. “

Her words stung.

I felt a punch in the gut when I read "caretaking and people pleasing." Guilty! When did this become our responsibility during family celebrations?

Here are six steps you can take to prepare your soul for upcoming festivities and de-stress.

  1. Find a quiet place, hide in the closet if you must, and grab a pen and paper.
  2. Grab your Bible and read Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
  3. Focus on this scripture. Before food and home preparations, it's essential to prepare your heart to serve your loved ones. Memorize Matthew 11:28 and repeat these words as often as necessary over the next month.
  4. Jot down everything that worries and stresses you out about the holidays. Get them out of your head and on paper. Moving forward, don't let negativity control your thoughts and steal your joy.
  5. Close your eyes and envision your home for the holidays. Use all your senses. What smells are waffling in the air? Do you hear laughter and feel the warm embrace of loved ones? I bet you see smiles and taste pumpkin pie…or if you are like me you taste the whipped cream. Savor this moment. Don't be in a rush to move on. Let these feelings soak into your bones. My guess is your writings and what you envisioned doesn’t match.
  6. Are you getting excited about the holidays? Is your attitude changing? Do you realize the difference between what's important and what's not? As descriptive as possible, compose your definition of hospitality. Think back to number five and incorporate the thoughts that danced in your head. At the bottom of your paper, transcribe Matthew 28:11. When finished, post your note on the refrigerator as a constant reminder the world’s interpretation of celebrating the holidays doesn’t match the definition of hospitality. Take refuge and rest in the one who created you.

The holiday you dreamed of is within your reach.

Remember hospitality is all about how you make people feel in your home. If you are uptight and stressed, your guests will feel it.

Be generous with hugs, laughter, and listening. This year, I'm giving you permission to change your ways and enjoy the holidays.

Happy Holidays,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"

It's that time of year where you may be agonizing over what gifts to get your friends, family and coworkers. Over the years, my giving has evolved. I used to think the more expensive the gift, the better. Also, I felt a rush bouncing from big box store to big box store. Don't get me wrong, I still love me some Target, but along my giving journey, I've discovered small businesses with fabulous products that are reasonably priced and needed my support more. 

There is a secret to giving a perfect gift, listening and paying attention to those around you. What do they love? Enjoy? What makes them happy and their face light up? That's how you discover what gift to purchase for those closest to you.

Finally, I'm a fan of giving useful gifts. Gifts that don't collect dust or create clutter. 

2019 has been a year of giving gifts from small business owners, and I wanted to pass along my favorite gifts to give, to make your Christmas shopping stress free this year. 

Big Hug Lap Blanket: I remember the first time my friend Arona showed me her "Big Hug Lap Blanket"–I was in love. The sophistication and simplicity of the blanket, with the opportunity to write notes of encouragement, is why the blanket made my list. The Big Hug is a gift that can be given to anyone, but I love the idea of gifting it to the grandparent who already has everything and customizing the tags with notes from the grandchildren. 

Buns Soapbox Soaps: If you follow me, you know that I not only believe in giving to others but finding simple ways to give to yourself. One of the ways I give to myself is buying and using homemade soaps. Soaps make great stocking stuffer, or a gift to have on hand for a female postal carrier or service people in your life. Don't know what scents to choose? Sweet scents like black raspberry vanilla and energy are two of my favorites.

Fireside Coffee Co. Sunday Morning Medium Roast: It's only been in the last couple of years that my mornings began with a warm cup of coffee. I wasn't sure what to purchase, but when I popped into one of my favorite boutiques, Aster + Gray, I purchased a bag of the Fireside Coffee Co. Sunday Morning Medium Roast. Due to the flavorful blend, I can drink it plain with no creamers or sugars. If you have a coffee lover in the family, check out the Fireside Coffee Collection and snag a bag today and pair it with a fun coffee mug.

Come with Me Devotional by Suzanne Eller: I'm a book lover and could have filled my entire list with my favorite books, but you and I both know that list would go on for days, as I have many "favorite" books. But this is one book I've gifted more than any other book and it's Suzanne Eller's Come with Me Devotional. The devotions are simple, biblically based, and the book is small enough be carried in your purse, but also looks beautiful on the nightstand. My friend Suzie is currently battling breast cancer, and I wanted to show my love, by my community supporting her books. At the time of this post, the devotional was on sale for $8 in the P31 Bookstore, which is a spectacular deal! This book could be combined with the Fireside Coffee for a cozy bundle. Make sure to add a bookmark, and a note of encouragement inside. 

Lemons and Grace Body Candles: I gotta admit. I'm not a big fan of candles, but when I met Lynn, the owner of Lemon and Grace for the first time, I was drawn to her story, design and unique scents of her candles. The clean and modernly designed candle, blends into any d cor, and adds a heavenly fragrance to any room. 

BNutty Peanut Butter Sample Pack: I met the co-owner of BNutty this past weekend at a market and I had to buy the gift pack. It's an amazing deal and a gift to give to the peanut butter lover in your life. If you have lots of stockings to fill, the 2 oz jar is a perfect stocking stuffer. Do you love to make gift baskets? A jar or two, with homemade jams and bread, with a spreader would make a delicious gift, for the foodie in your life. Did I mention the peanut butter is, sweet, and the perfect spread for apples or dipping?

Pops Kernel: I connected to the owner, Timeko, via Instagram. We've never met in person but chatted on the phone and often text notes of encouragement. About this time last year, a box of Pops Kernel arrived, as a gift from Timeko. Friends, my husband and I downed the bags within a couple of days. Snag a bag or two of this popcorn (the windy city flavor is my favorite!) and purchase movie tickets for the movie lover in your life. 

Shop Forward – #4ThingsTote: Do you have a friend that loves bag? What about books? A sports mom? I recently bought myself a #4ThingsTote, and I'm smitten having a bag that expresses my personality. I love the versatility of the bag, and the colors are neutral, so it goes with any outfit. What four things would you want on your bag if you received it for a gift?

Bonus Gifts! Giving Gal Products: I have exciting news. As Giving Gal continues to grow and evolve, The Giving Challenge book, has been updated and redesigned. I'm in love with the new colors and design! Remember, each copy of The Giving Challenge donates three meals to a child in need through Rice Bowls. Also, I can't guarantee The Gratitude Challenge will make it in time for Christmas, but who doesn't like receiving a surprise after Christmas? 

Happy Holidays and Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”

P.S. I'm not paid or don't receive any compensation for recommending these products. Until this article posted, the owners didn't even know were selected for my list. 

Friends, I'm so excited to share with you that my fellow authors and friends, Michelle Medlock Adams and Bethany Jett are holding a FREE Platinum Faith Conference.

Dates and times: Tuesday, Nov 12 – Thursday, Nov 14 starting at 7 PM Eastern each night

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

The event will also take place on that website and details will be emailed to registrants. There will be a live chat happening each night during the playing of our interviews. 

CLICK HERE to Join the Facebook Group

The Facebook Group is where there will be engagement, discussion, and guest speaker giveaways. 

For the main event, Bethany and Michelle have created six special gift boxes they are giving away live – two each evening. You will need to be present to win.

Schedule lineup: 

Each interview runs between 28 – 32 minutes – ish – and in-between each interview will be a short-short "commercial break." 

Tuesday, Nov 12

  • Cheryl Pullins
  • Erica Wiggenhorn
  • Laine Craft
  • Nakia Kelley

Wednesday, Nov 13

  • Stephanie Jones
  • Ammie Bouwman
  • Lacey Buchanan
  • Victoria Duerstock

Thursday, Nov 14

  • Jane Rubietta
  • Wendy Fitzgerald
  • Tiphany Adams
  • Patty Wyatt

I hope you will join my friends and me for a wonderful event that will fill up your cup.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of "The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life"

Guest Post by Laurie Mullet, MSA, RN

We received our first kitchen table as a wedding gift. Oak and 62" round – it came with two leaves and six rickety chairs. It had been handed down through my brother-in-law's family for a generation or two and we were honored to receive it.

The table was perfect for our apartment and I did everything seated there. Together we journeyed through my life as a newlywed. I studied for college, paid bills, and wrote letters. I prepared meals, entertained our families and played late night Uno games with friends and neighbors. The table became the center of our home. I adorned her with flowers, candles, holiday d cor, and 1950's table clothes.

Soon we were blessed with two children and one leaf was permanently placed, making the table oval. From here, I heard tales of other children and listened intently as my children's minds began to expand and grow in a world that I was no longer controlling. This table was the special place for birthday celebrations featuring lop-sided homemade cakes. I mended boo-boos', negotiated peace talks, and suffered over late homework assignments. At this table, I cried into my milk and brownies the night that our son Seth announced he would join the Marines during a time of war.

When Seth got married, we decide to hand the table to the next generation. We were empty nesters now, off on a different journey. My husband, Joe, built a huge counter to prepare food for the two of us or for our family gatherings of fifty.

A convenient breakfast bar, we centered there each evening, dropping our work bags at one end and preparing and serving dinner right from the counter. Often we carried our plates into the living room to watch TV, a treat we rarely indulged in when the kids were home.

Time passed and the dining room remained empty. We eventually purchased two plastic tables from Menards, covered them with tablecloths, and this served as our table when our kids and grands came over. All ten of us around one big table-it was great! We liked it so much we decided it was time to purchase a new table. We took a trip to Shipshewana, but the $10,000 price tag sent us home empty-handed.

One day my husband called and said, "They are getting rid of an old conference table at work. It seats ten, but you could squeeze four more chairs at the corners. It's not wood, it has a Formica top. Do you want me to bring it home?"

A hearty yes was all he needed to lug it home. We bought ten stainless steel chairs, a rug the same width and length as the table, and voila! A family gathering place was created ready for meals, special occasions, and craft days or jarring up honey which can create a sticky mess. I never worry about nicks or scars to the table but embrace all the spills, glue and glitter that two gran-girls can bring! Most days the table is empty, ready for company.

Annually, the Porter County Community Foundation hosts a tea. Last year, the speaker was Sarah Harmeyer, the founder of Neighbor's Table and a self-acclaimed "people gatherer." Sarah moved to Dallas and found herself working long hours, exhausted, and lonely. When reflecting on her life, she discovered she was most energized when she was at a table preparing and sharing a meal with others. 

She asked her dad to make a table that would seat twenty and placed it in her back yard. She sent invitations to three hundred neighbors requesting them to join her for a carry-in supper. Ninety neighbors came to the first event!

Harmeyer has since served over three thousand people in her backyard table. In 2017, she left her full-time job and began making and selling tables with her father. With a goal of having backyard tables in all 50 states by 2020, she is halfway there!

Sarah got me to thinking about all the wonderful things I had done around the table. She emphasized that it wasn't what I was doing at the table that held memories, nor was it the table. Rather, it was the people that were with me that provided the warmth to my heart. It wasn't the food that delivered the sustenance, but the conversation that was shared. She challenged me to begin inviting friends and strangers alike to our table, for there in may lay the memories of tomorrow.

With the holidays quickly approaching, I have lots of plans for our table. You too will have an abundance of opportunities to sit around the table. Who will you invite?

Guest Post by Laurie Mullet, MSA, RN

Halloween is here! If you were thinking about sitting in your house with the lights off, hoping kids don’t stop at your home, you still have time to change your mind. I’m not a fan of all things Halloween, but I do believe it’s an opportunity to connect with our neighbors and those that live in our community.

Will you take the Halloween Giving Challenge?

  • Turn your porch light on and pass out treats.
  • Compliment the children on their costumes.
  • Dress up and have fun.
  • Set out a teal pumpkin (or sign) and have non-food treats available.
  • Chat with parents… get to know your neighbors and those in your community.

Have a happy Halloween!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”

Is your home overloaded with candy? Are your kids on a sugar high? Is the excitement of picking a costume and trick-or-treating starting to fizzle? If you answered yes to these questions, you are not alone.

I can't help you on the fizzle, but I can help you with creative ways to get candy out of your home and teach your children about giving.

For children to give their candy away, you'll need to:

  1. Get Creative
  2. Give them options.
  3. Let them make the decision

Get Creative.

You may be reading this, and you know your kids will be 100% on board or your reading this and think...this is going to be so hard. My kid is going to throw a fit! Well, let them throw a fit. Giving at the beginning is hard, but it's a life lesson your kids need to learn. If you don't teach them, do you think they'll grow up to be a giver? Maybe so, but likely not. You know your child best so make this fun and allow them to be creative.

Give Children Options.

You can't just walk in and tell your children you are giving away their candy and expect them to be happy about it. Research ways to give that best fit your family. To help you out, here are a couple of options to give your children:

  1. Operation Gratitude's Halloween Candy Donations Program: This program donates treats to our troops and first responders. Candy donations need to be received no later than November 15th. Click here for additional information. {Conversation starter} Chat with your kids about the important role the men and women in uniform play in our community. Why we should have respect for them and the sacrifices they make for our freedom and safety.
  2. Call your dentist to see if they have a buy-back program. Mine does! {Conversation starter} Do you know how cavities develop? CANDY!!!
  3. Ronald McDonald Houses: In my book, The Giving Challenge, I share a story about the Ronald McDonald Houses. If you are near a house, drop off your leftover candy. For an RMH near you, check here! {Conversation starter} Talk about gratitude. How we should be thankful for our health. Many children in our country are battling life-threatening diseases, such as cancer. Places like the Ronald McDonald House provide comfort, care and allows families to be close to their loved ones in the hospital.
  4. Create Gifts: Purchase mugs or mason jars and fill them with leftover candy. Decorate the mug or jar, tie a ribbon around it, or paint it. Have your child make a card and write a sweet note. Maybe drop off the gifts to a local nursing home or assisted living facility. Ask the staff to provide the gift to someone that doesn't receive visitors or needs a pick me up! {Conversation starter} Gifts don't always have to cost a lot. Sometimes the gifts we create ourselves can be just as unique. Also, the gifts we give don't have to go to people we know. We can bless strangers in need.

Let your children decide.

The list above is only suggestions. Have your child read the list and see if there is a place they want to donate. Or better yet, see what ideas they have and where they would like to donate their candy. Let the decision be theirs to make.

How is Giving Gal getting involved?

I'm also getting my leftover candy out of the house. I don't need it! I'm sending a box of full-sized candy bars to work with my husband for his office and giving three more boxes to my mom for blessing bags that her church passes out to those in need. My gift for the day!

Where will you donate your candy?

Giving Challenge: Get creative, give your child options and let them decide how to give away leftover candy.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of “The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life”