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Stephanie Jones

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Walk to your closet. Yes, get up from your computer or cell phone and go walk in your closet.

Okay, I hear ya. You're already at work? That's okay. Close your eyes and virtually walk in your closet. What do you see?

If you are like me there are items that I haven't worn since last summer. More than one item, that no longer fits, but I keep hoping and praying it will, and then a couple more items that I don't really like.

Let's do a little summer organizing and prep our closets for the upcoming fall season. As a former professional organizer, I'm big on not just spring cleaning, but seasonal organizing, as it's a way to maintain our homes and ensure only things we love, want or need are filling our spaces and bringing us joy.

Over the years I have had the privilege of volunteering with many organizations that house and help the homeless. Every organization is different in how they operate and what donations they will accept. Let's help these organization and those in need by donating those, "no longer can I squeeze into those jeans", clothes in my closet.

Here are some tips for donating your clothing:

  1. Search your closets for gently used clothes that you haven't worn in a while or that doesn't fit. An item of clothing you consider no longer useful may be valuable someone else.
  2. Inspect the clothes your donating for stains, holes and other defects. You want the clothes you give to be worn and to make those wearing the clothes feel good about themselves. Rule of thumb, if you wouldn't wear it. Don't donate it!
  3. Check the pockets for personal items, money and other valuables.
  4. Wash the clothes and make sure they are clean and fresh.
  5. Identify the shelter or organization where you want to donate your clothing.
  6. Verify the organization accepts clothing donations. You can either call the shelter or check their website. For instance, in my community, the local men's shelter takes clothing donations, but the women's shelter does not as they receive their clothing donations from local resale shops.
  7. If they accept donations, verify collection dates and times.
  8. If they don't accept clothing donations, either locate another shelter accepting donations or donate to a resale shop that donates their profits and clothing to shelters.
  9. Put the items in your car and drop them off the next time you drive by the organization.

Now get to organizing, decluttering your closets, and help cloth someone in need.

Day 5 Giving Challenge: Donate new or gently used clothes to a local shelter or resale shop that supports nonprofits

Did you know... the Discovery Channel flew me to New York City to audition for my own television show? The day of the audition they emailed me lines to memorize. I spent the entire flight, going over and over my lines. My audition went okay, and I was nervous has heck! At the end of the day, they never produced the show, but it's still fun to think about that I may have had my own tv show. You just never know, so never stop dreaming big!

Chat with your Children: Get your children involved in the organization process. Depending on their age, they don't need to help you with your closet, but having them go through their clothes teaches them many lessons. It's also a great opportunity to share with them where the clothes are going and how they are going to bless someone that needs the clothes they no longer wear.

Bonus Story: On day three, I shared a story about my friend from Malawi, Temwani. One day on Facebook she posted the picture you'll see in this blog. Oh friends, it melted my heart. I asked Tem if I could share and she said yet. If you are ever having a bad day, pull up this blog and be grateful for all the wondering blessings in your life.

Blessings,
Stephanie L. Jones

20 years. It's been twenty years since I graduated from college. Insane. I don't feel old enough to have been out of college or in the real world, working full-time, for twenty years.

I loved the four years I spent at Taylor University, but if I think about the people that really impacted my life, I can rattle off a laundry list of teachers I had from elementary to high school.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a Mother's Day event and honor one of my former teachers. What an honor to be able to share, in front of an audience, the impact this teacher made in my life.

But then there are others, I've never shared my gratitude. Several years ago, I submitted a story to a Chicken Soup for the Soul book about a teacher that changed the course of my life. Debbie Jett. I was a manager of a track team, and at a meet she made me jump in and run a race. I HATED running. But that one race, and her belief in me, lead to a lifetime of running. Running is how I got into college. Running is how I survived the police academy. Running has been a part of some of my biggest dream list items. Besides this paragraph, I've never shared all of this with her. I need to mail her the story I wrote.

I've given you a little insight into a teacher that made a difference in my life. What teacher made a difference in your life? How did they make a difference in your life? Take a moment to go back to the good old days and remember and be thankful for the teachers in our lives.

Day 4 Giving Challenge: Write a note to a teacher that has made a difference in your life. Be specific in telling them how they made a difference in your life. If the teacher you thought of is no longer living, write one of their family members. I know it will mean more to them than you can imagine.

Did you know... there are over 3.6 million teachers in the United States. WOW!

Chat with your Children: Talk to your child about their teacher, past or present. What did they like about their teacher? How did their teacher help them? Have them write a note to their teacher they had last year and give it to their teacher at the start of the new year. The note will give their teacher a little encouragement to start the new year, but may also brighten their day when everything isn't going so well.

Bonus Story: On June 17th the small community, where I grew up, lost a legendary teacher. I'm not sure, besides her husband, there's been another teacher that has made such an impact. Here's a post I wrote to honor her memory.

Blessings,
Stephanie L. Jones

Families spend billions each year on school supplies, textbooks and new school clothes. Children, with their parent's flock to the box stores in hopes of finding the perfect backpack that will be filled with notebooks, folders, writing utensils and more.

As mentioned yesterday, many children in our schools are homeless and many more live in poverty, not having the funds to purchase school supplies. 

There are many great organizations that collect school supplies for those in need, but also the responsibility tends to fall on the shoulders, or pocketbook of classroom teachers. 

Years ago, my husband and I dedicated a portion of our budget to helping a family in need with their school supplies. When we started, the youngest in the bunch was in third grade. In the fall, she'll start college. I can't tell you how many times I've received a text from the child's guardian, of how much buying school supplies helped. 

Day 3 Giving Challenge: Call your local school or pick up a supply list and purchase an item or two.  You don't need to go crazy, unless you want to and have the resources to do so. Every notebook, pen or folder helps!

Did you know... Each year 3.5 Billion pencils are made for the US and 15 Billion worldwide. Approximately 60,000 trees are used in making the pencils. If you are buying pencils, consider purchasing recycled pencils and save a tree. 

Chat with your Children: School supplies are expensive. Some families will be lucky to purchase the basic needs for their children. I remember going to school and showing off all my new stuff to my friend. Boy, thinking back, I wonder how that made the less fortunate kids, in my class, feel.  Start of the school year is a great time to chat with your children on being grateful for what they have, realizing others may not be so lucky, and that bragging, even just with friends, could make others feel left out or less than. 

Bonus Story: Many children in third world countries can't attend school because their parents don't have the money to send them to school or buy supplies. Meet my friend Temwani, who is partnering with teachers in the US to help send children to school, as education is the way out of poverty. 

Blessings, 
Stephanie L. Jones

According to the U.S. Department of House and Urban Development, over a half a million people are homeless in the USA.

Let that statistic sink in.  

That's people that don't have a place to lay their head every night, they may be living on the streets, cold during the winter and hot during the summer. Food, at times, may be scarce, and many of those that are homeless, are children.

Remember yesterday when I discussed my definition of a gift? Give with no expectations? If I'm being honest, giving to the homeless man or woman on the side of the street is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to giving a gift to the homeless.

I've often been asked, do you give to the homeless? Don't you worry they are going to use the money for drugs or alcohol? Or what if they aren't even homeless and they are pocketing the money and going to a nice home?

I hear the concerns. They are ones I've asked myself over the years. Typically, when I give money to a homeless person, I'm not giving them huge amounts. Maybe a dollar or two.  If I'm worried about how someone spends a couple of dollars, I'm probably not giving for the right reasons.

I also think, what if my one dollar, is the difference between a meal and someone going hungry.  It's not worth my worry to wonder about the negative things they could do with the money.

With that said, this is your journey and maybe you aren't comfortable with giving money to homeless. Okay, I'm not going to argue with you on the matter. There are other ways to give to those in need. Give a bottle water, a gift card to the local coffee shop, buy them a meal, or continue with the gift from day one and make eye contact with them and smile.You'll be surprised at their reaction. Over my giving journey, the most heartfelt connections I had with strangers was seeing those sitting on the sidewalk, asking for money, and not looking away, but instead, acknowledging them and smiling. 

At the end of the day, no matter the beggar on the corner, or your neighbor down the street, we are all created equally and need to be loved.

Day 2 Giving Challenge: The next time you encounter a homeless person, choose to give to them.  Want to understand the services available in your community that serve the homeless, check out shelterlisting.org. 

Did you know... there are a variety of reasons people in our communities become homeless.  Housing affordability, loss of job, decrease income, health issues, domestic violence and racial inequities. If we understand the why, we can work to solve the challenges associated with homelessness.

Chat with your Children: On any given night there are thousands of children that are homeless. With that said, there is a good chance your child will go to school or have a child in their class that is homeless or living in poverty. These children may not be getting a good night's sleep, come to school hungry, they may wear the same clothes day in and day out and may struggle with their behavior and/or grades. We need to ensure our children understand that children in our community don't have the things they have and that life for them is difficult. Chat about ways your child can be kind to these children, and even discuss a way your family can help. Maybe packing an extra snack or helping with school supplies. Whatever the situation, it's not the child's fault and school is their haven, a place for them to be warm and get food. 

Bonus Story: Several years ago, I had an encounter on the way to a Tim McGraw concert. The best part of this story was the kindness of others. Check out a A Simple Way to Stay Humbled and Kind.

Blessings, 
Stephanie L. Jones

Friends, I did something last week that a couple of years ago I wouldn't be caught dead doing.

I went out in public with no make up on, sweatpants, my Thursday socks (yes, they say Thursday), and sandals. In my mind's eye, I was quite the sight. I hadn't intended leaving the house until a couple of book orders came in. I knew if I didn't mail the books on this day, it would be a couple of days before I could. I hate to disappoint my customers.

As I entered the post office, I flashed a smile to an elderly man in the lobby. He smiled back.

I chatted with the postmaster, joked with the FedEx guy that came in, and after I mailed my books, when I went back through the lobby the elderly man was leaving. I again smiled at him and held the door open, as he was behind me.

He commented, "It's a gorgeous day outside. I'm glad I rose early and mowed the lawn."

"I bet. It's going to be a hot one, but I love it."  I responded

Parting our separate ways, he said, "Keep smiling. It looks good on you."

His heartfelt, kind words made my day. 

I bounded back to my car and then took a selfie. You see, stripped down with no makeup causes me all types of insecurities. I feel ugly.  For years my husband has always told me he thinks I look better without makeup. I've never believed it. But I always knew he didn't marry me for my looks, because he'd seen me at 3:00 a.m. in the police academy with no makeup, hair slicked back in a tight bun, going on no sleep.  If he could like me then, he must be a keeper.

The man's words hit me and got me to thinking about inner beauty.  I was self-conscious going into the post office, but one of the simple gifts I know I can give is my smile. It's a way for my inner beauty to shine and part of the clouds of my insecurities. I realized that smiling, a free gift, raises my confidence. 

I reflected on the years that I've been on my daily giving journey and how smiling at strangers, especially making eye contact and smiling at homeless people, even if rejected and receive no smile in return, has grown my confidence. But what I've found, is more times than not, even those frowning or appearing to be in a mad mood, smile back.

Do you have insecurities? I'm sure you do! Think about how giving, even a smile, can help you build your confidence, push you to step out of your comfort zone, and see yourself like others see you.

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

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

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

Have you ever considered what you could give away when you travel?

Candy, gum, a magazine, or maybe just a smile or an offer to help a newbie traveler through the airport.

On one or more occasions, I've given all the above and the joy the gifts bring to my travels are better than any souvenir I could purchase.

Awhile back I started carrying, in my travel bag, two copies of The Giving Challenge. If I encountered someone I thought might enjoy the book, I'd sign and give them a copy.

Some people end up following me on social media or sending an email, thanking me for the gift. Others I never hear from, and that's okay. But what happened recently was a first.

If you've flown Southwest you know there are not assigned seats. Walking down the aisle, I looked for a friendly face to sit by.  As I passed a row, a 4 Things Tote by Shop Forward caught my attention. Shop Forward gives back to nonprofits through every purchase, to date, raising over $3.1 million. 

Because of the bag, I was confident the lady sitting in the window seat must be a fellow giver.

I plopped down, we chatted about the bag and then our conversation turned to Shop Forward's #PimpinJoy line of clothing. I shared with my new friend, how I'd been wanting to buy some of their clothes, but I was on a self-imposed no clothes shopping ban for a year. Why? I realized I had too many clothes and I needed to be grateful and content for what I owned. I now use the money, I'd spend on clothes, for foster children or other children in need. 

Before we knew it, a man took the middle seat and our conversation ended.

I noticed she was reading so I figured she may enjoy my book. I pulled a copy out of my bag, signed it and handed it to her. I think she was a bit shocked by my gift, but extremely grateful.

She departed the flight in Nashville and I stayed on to continue my way home to Chicago. 

A couple weeks later a package arrived at my home. I hadn't ordered anything. Ummmm?

I opened the bag and inside was a #PimpinJoy t-shirt. I cried!

I'm the giver. Surprised gifts don't venture my way to often.

My new friend included a card that said, "I wanted to thank you again for the book you gave me on the airplane. I enjoyed it and have already passed it on to my daughter. I remember your story about not buying new clothes this year, so I thought you would enjoy this shirt and together we helped a disabled vet build a home. #PimpinJoy"

Oh friends, there is so much I loved about the thoughtfulness of the gift and note, but discovering the purchase helped a Veteran was a cherry on top.

I love our Veterans. So much so, my next book, The Gratitude Challenge will help fund a monthly Veterans breakfast. 

Many times, our gifts go out into the world and never come back. And that's okay. We are to give with no expectation. But sometimes, they come back in the form of a t-shirt and a new friend.

Giving Challenge: Next time you travel, pack a couple of gifts to give away to a stranger. 

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

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


A week ago, I sat at the bedside, holding tightly to the hand of one of the most incredible givers I've met in my lifetime.

A lifetime.

That's how long I've known Mrs. H. In my 41 years of life, she's always been there. But there are thousands, over her decades of teaching, that could say the same thing.

She had the ability to make you feel like you were her favorite. You were special. And some how she found time to support your interests and encourage your dreams, as she was supporting many others.

Tears streaming down my face, I was fine just to hold her hand and not talk.

Were words needed?

Not really, because over my lifetime she never missed an opportunity to tell me how proud she was of me or how much she liked reading my writing.

Even though her body was frozen, her mind was as clear as a mountain spring. While holding her hand, another visitor entered, and even though she was trapped in the bed and her body, she asked this visitor, "How are your parents doing?"

Not that I was surprised, but even in her toughest days, of her battle with ALS, she still displayed a caring concern for others.

I didn't want to leave.

I could have sat there all day holding her hand. I can't describe the feeling, but I've never had someone hold my hand so intently, so connected.

We kissed each other goodbye and exchanged I love yous. I tried to be strong but tears flowed without my permission.

Days later, the light in a small southern Indiana town dimmed. The brightness she brought to the community will never be replaced.

As I write this, I'm torn between staying at a writer's conference or hopping in my car to be at her funeral.

I've spent alone time, at the conference, crying in the shower, a bathroom stall, and my dorm room.

Sometimes being an adult stinks.

Hard choices have to be made.

And then finally, I asked myself a simple question, "What would Mrs. H want me to do?"

She'd want me to stay and learn more. Education was extremely important to Mrs. H. She dedicated her lifetime to teaching others. Not just music, but confidence, work ethic, respect for yourself and others, and it's okay to have fun and laugh at yourself.

So today and tomorrow, even though many will be celebrating her life, I'll be here, at Wheaton College, becoming a better writer. And I believe that is not only what Mrs. H would want, but it's what she'd expect of me.

Being fully transparent, I also have a hard time with funerals. They sometimes take away from how I want to remember a loved one. And even though I have a lifetime of memories with Mrs. H, holding her hand in her final days, is a moment I'll cherish, remember, and feel for a very long time.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

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

What did I get myself into? I pitched an idea to do the biggest dream board workshop I'd ever lead, almost 150 people. Terrified. That's how I felt on the day of the event. What had I done?

Like every grand idea I have, when rubber meets the road, fear seeps in and I start to question everything I know to be true.

  • What if this doesn't work? 
  • What if we don't have enough supplies?
  • They've given me two hours; can I fill the time?
  • What if the women don't get on board and engage? 

These are the questions that flooded my mind as I smiled standing behind my table, engaging with conference attendees, just hours before taking the stage.

I faked my confidence. 

I'd been in this situation more times than I can count. And I know when I have resistance to what I'm about to do, I'm on the right path. Pursuing big dreams is uncomfortable. If they weren't, we'd all be doing it.

But then a woman approached me and shared how she really needed to hear what I had to say. She was excited about the dream board workshop.

And just like that my attitude changed. I went back to day one of my giving challenge and reminded myself of my mission. 1 Making a Difference. Today, I wasn't out to make a difference in the lives of all the women. My goal... make a difference to one woman. If I could help one woman, then I would have succeeded. 

Now, you know that's not what happened. I'm confident I impacted more than one woman.

And guess what I learned, yet again?

Fear is a liar.  My shirt that day even said so!

And all my fears and doubts, they were unfounded. 

I share this embarrassing story with you, to let you know that even on my best days, I'm afraid.  I'm uncomfortable. When I'm on stage, moments before, I may have wanted to crawl under the table. Don't be fooled by my confidence. That's just courage. Because what I've learned, is that on the other side of fear is usually something incredible.  

What is holding you back from pursuing a dream or goal?

What's one step, even small, that you can take to help you gain courage and conquer your fear so you can go out and live your big (or small) dream?

Blessings,

Stephanie

P.S. If you need help overcoming your fear, email me at Stephanie@GivingGal.com, to schedule a complimentary coaching session. Let's work together to get you on the path of overcoming your fear and living your dream!

P.P.S. Download my “Dream. Discover. Do” Workshop board for yourself, HERE.

I'm a recovering workaholic.

When my husband worked the afternoon shift, I'd work all day and late until the evening. 

If he worked weekends, so did I. At times I worked 80+ hours a week.  

I said yes to every request. If I wasn't working, my evenings were filled with meetings, dinners and volunteering. Many times, doing things I didn't like, with people who sucked the energy and life out of me.

A couple of years ago I hit rock bottom. I'd done two keynotes and was scheduled to give the sermon at church. When Sunday morning rolled around, I stayed in bed as long as I could without missing the service.

That was the beginning of May and it wasn't until August I started to human again. I took the entire summer off. I said no to almost every request and even though my team at work doubled in size I learned to scale back and shutdown the computer.

I spent almost every weekend kayaking, reading, napping and doing activities that didn't require much physical exertion or mental work.

I think the way I lived my life is how many others live. They just don't know how to gain control of an out of control life. They are hanging on by threads on an unraveling sweater. And before they know it, the small snag is a gaping hole and they start to unravel.

The crazy thing about the crash, is months before, my doctor warned me it was coming. I'd spit saliva in tubes and the hormone test, especially the cortisol warned of what was to come. But I ignored the warning from both the test results and my doctor. Don't we think we are invincible? Well we are not.

Ever since that summer of regaining and taking charge of my health and schedule, I've reprioritized my entire life.  

In the past, I'd feel guilty for sitting on the dock, reading and well, accomplishing nothing on my to do list.

And especially feel guilty if I just came back from a vacation, which I did on Wednesday.

But my June is crazy! Starting today, I'm out of town 13 out of the next14 days.

So, guess what, this past weekend, I'm relaxed at the lake. I sat on the dock or in the boat while my husband is fished. I kayaked. I took a nap. And yes, I did a little work, as I have commitments I've made and deadlines to hit.

If you're at the edge of your thread, there is hope, but it's not easy. It's a lot of work, not to work, to free up one's schedule, but it can be done. 

Trust me, I've lived that crazy life for years and what I've discovered is the less busy I've become, the happier I am.
If you need help reclaiming your life, email me at stephanie@GivingGal.com, to schedule a complimentary coaching session. Let's work together to set your priorities and a plan to decrease your stress and increase your happiness.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

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

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer. Before we know it, August will be here, the children will be back to school and the warm, long days will start to dwindle.

How do we make the most of summer? We be intentional.  Sit down, either by yourself or family, and make a list of how you want to have fun this summer and then hang it in your home where you see and plan to take action.  

The dream list doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant.

Here's my list. What will you include on yours?

  1. Hiking at Starved Rock State Park
  2. See a movie at the drive-in
  3. Run a charity 5k
  4. Go on a picnic
  5. Rooftop family dinner at the Stray Dog
  6. Watch the sunset at Lake Michigan
  7. Take a four-wheeler drive with my dad
  8. Run trails with my mom
  9. Family and friends' weekends at the lake house
  10. Kayak the perimeter of the lake
  11. Enjoy a country concert
  12. See Mamma Mia at the Memorial Opera House
  13. Solo vacation

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

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