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Stephanie Jones

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I learned the hard way on how to give this last challenge. If I'm being honest I should have started the giving challenge here with "find a way to give to yourself."

We tend to give, give, give to others but never take time to give to ourselves?

When I was on my Giving journey, giving a gift every day for 522, when I missed a day I was both devastated and relieved.

Why?

I was tired! What I realized is, that if I want to serve and pour into others, I myself, must be healthy, both mentally and physically. Be rested, both body and soul. I could be happy for what I'm giving but also in my own life.

After my 522-day journey, I took a break to rejuvenate and I loved learning and finding new ways to incorporated ways to give to myself regularly.

When I picked back up on my daily giving, I incorporated self-care because when we take care of ourselves, I've found, we can give more to others. An idea that many have a hard time believing and putting into action. I get it! I've been there.

I learned from my mistakes and now each week I find ways to unplug and fill up my tank.

Here are some of my favorite ways…
1. Reading a good book. (Currently, a Long Way Home, by Charles Martin.)
2. Going for a hike.
3. Soaking in a bubble bath.
4. Watching a movie.
5. Napping

As I reflect on the last fourteen days, I think I should have started by having you fill your cup up first, so you could plow through the fourteen days. I'm sorry I didn't. But with that said, congratulations for participating in the "Summer" Giving Challenge.

Now go out, celebrate and find a way to give to yourself.

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

 
Day 14 Giving Challenge: Find a way to give to yourself

Did you know... Many women feel guilty about taking time for themselves. I wish I had the reference, but I heard a research study on the radio, and I swear the show's host said, a recent study found that 63% surveyed felt guilty for taking time for self-care. What? Let's not feel guilty about giving to ourselves and living the best life we can! P.S. Easier said than done. But let's work on making progress and getting rid of guilt. 

Chat with your Children:  One in eight children suffer from anxiety.  There are many factors that are contributing to the high rates of anxiety in children and too much to dig into here. But in reading various articles, there are things we can do to help children with anxiety, and I think they align nicely to giving to yourself. (1) Work to find time for children to relax each day, without a screen. Maybe helping with dinner, playing a game, or snuggling up with a book; and (2) Get outside and play.

Bonus Story: Several years ago, I took hot yoga. What an experience! Here are five things I learned from the experience.

Each year the local high school National Honors society members, the Boys Scouts, and even your local letter carrier, go door to door and collect food for the local food pantry. I love the idea of communities coming together, one home at a time, to feed those in need and fill the bellies of their neighbors.
I'm grateful that at a moment's notice I can fill a couple of bags of non-perishable foods, as I always stock up on canned goods at either Costco or when the grocery store is having a sale.


You can help your local food pantry in four easy steps:

  1. Locate your community food pantry.
  2. Make a list of most needed items.
  3. Either clean out your pantry or pick up items the next time you are at the store. Give what you can afford. Even if it's one canned good, that item, compounded with the donations of others makes a big impact.
  4. Drop off the items!

I love this giving challenge because it's simple and doesn't take much time. Also, if you want to make a bigger impact, add a few items every time you go to the grocery store. Could you imagine the effect of making a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly donation to our food pantry would have on our communities? ‘


What items will you donate?


Happy Giving,
Stephanie


P.S. If you choose to donate foods from your pantry, please don't donate expired food. I know this seems like common sense, but every time I volunteer at a food drive or pantry, I'm amazed at how many people donate expired food.

Day 13 Giving Challenge: Donate nonperishable items to your local food pantry.

Did you know... 15 million households in the United States suffer from food insecurity, which means the people who live in these households are often hungry.

Chat with your Children: There may be children in your child's classroom that doesn't have enough food. Chat with your child on how you can feed children in need in their school. Maybe it's paying for a child's lunch, adding extra snacks to their book bag, or even sharing their lunch. The children who often go hungry, may also be the children who need a friend to sit with at lunch.  If your child sees another child sitting alone, teach them ways to befriend someone sitting alone at lunch, whether it's joining a lonely child, or asking them to sit at their table. These acts of kindness can change the course of a child's life. 

Bonus Story: Giving Gal is doing her part to feed the hungry. We partner with Rice Bowls, to feed children in orphanages. For every copy of The Giving Challenge sold, we donate three meals to a child in need. In two years, with a generous corporate match, we've provided over 24,000 meals to children in need. I've started handing out rice bowls at my speaking engagements, so the audience can get involved in giving their change. Want a rice bowl? You can order one here.

What's your great talent? You know, the activity you love to do and if you could do it all day long, that's what you'd choose?

Sometimes the older the we get, life gets busy and our talents get buried at the bottom of a plastic container that's stored under the basement stairs. If we are lucky, we pull it out for a holiday and then we don't see it for another year. 

Or maybe your talent is something you love, but you don't think you're "good enough" to share with the world. You may think, "What if I embarrass myself? I should be able to take a leap of faith, but my faith is fleeting."

I understand where you are coming from. I loved to bake, especially cupcakes, but my decorating skills were questionable at best.

But I baked anyway and gave away my ugly cupcakes.  

Then one day I asked a friend, who decorated beautiful cupcakes, to teach me how to make presentable cupcakes.

She showed up at my house, shared her talent with me, and within a few hours I learned how to decorate a cupcake I was no longer embarrassed to give away.

Do you have a talent you can showcase and share with others?

  • Can you sew? Maybe a friend needs a new dress hemmed.
  • Are you crafty? Maybe an event planner could use your craftiness to make decorations.
  • Are you good with money? Maybe you can help a newly married couple create a budget.
  • Do your friends rave about your organized home? Call a friend who is always stressed about disorganization and schedule a date to help her out.

I'm a firm believer that our talents were meant to be shared.

Take a minute to jot down your talent and think about who you can help. Reach out to the person you jotted down and offer your assistance. If they accept, schedule time on the calendar to share your talent!

If you can't think of anyone that needs your talent, post on social media, "Any of my friend's need help with (fill in the blank)?" 

What talent will you share?

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 12 Giving Challenge: Share your talent to help someone.

Did you know... that many times our talents aren't rewarded until later life? Look at the famous actor, such as Morgan Freeman. He didn't get his big break until age 50! Or what about Colonel Sanders, owner of KFC? He didn't open his first franchise until age 62. Or my favorite, J.K. Rowling, who lived in poverty and it wasn't until age 32 that she published the Harry Potter series.  You are never to young, or old, to share your talent with others.

Chat with your Children: Have you seen the movie, A Star is Born, staring Lady Gaga? Over the course of the promotion of the movie, I watched several of her interviews. She shared how she was bullied in school for singing and acting. Lucky for us, she didn't let the bullying squash her talents. I think there are two great conversations that can be had with children around the topic of talents. The first, is encouraging them to do what they love. Find ways to work together to help them nurture a passion. The second is, teaching them how to encourage others when it comes to recognizing talents in their friends. Maybe your child loves sports, how can the cheer on their friends who love band or drama? We should never be tearing down or making fun of someone for sharing their talents. We don't want to be the reason as child puts their talent in a box under the basement stairs.

Bonus Story: A day before our dog, Boss, passed away, our friend came over and gave us a great gift. I share how our talents can impact others. I will cherish the gift she gave us forever.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned on my giving journey is that if I take time to look around, I've noticed there are opportunities to give everywhere.  

For instance, have you ever been in line at the grocery store with one item and the person in front of you has a full cart?

That happened to me at Walmart and a sweet lady turned around and said, "Go ahead of me, you look to be in a hurry."

What a simple gift she gave me, but totally made my day. I love when I receive these types of gifts because I get to feel how good something so small, especially from a stranger, makes the receiver feel.

Even though I was in a hurry, I asked if I could snap a picture to share with my community. She was humble, and I had to give her a little nudge, as I love documenting giving moments. It's a reminder there are good people in the world.

Next time you are in line, let someone go in front of you.

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 11 Giving Challenge: As you are out an about today, look for small opportunities to give. Maybe it's letting someone go ahead of you in line, holding a door for someone with their arms full, or helping someone reach an item on a shelf. 

Did you know... kindness to strangers is good for your brain? Multiple research studies find that giving to others releases oxytocin, which can help strengthen the bond between people and building community. 

Chat with your Children: One of the simple ways you can teach your child about kindness, is to have them look for opportunities to hold the door open for people. It costs you and them, little time and no money. The action teaches a habit, that no matter their age, can turn into a lifestyle, they can carry through their life, that may make someone else smile. And just like we get a "helpers high" when we give to others, they will also!

Bonus Story: Throughout the years, some of the people that have had the biggest impact on me and my giving has been my mom and the mom of friends.

Do you remember ordering books from scholastic? I loved flipping through the order form and picking out books to purchase.

What I never thought about, is there are children who can't afford to order from the incredible program that gets books in the hands of children. 

One of my best childhood friends, and now teacher, posted on Facebook "I send the order form home each month and a few students place orders. For many kids, it is a disappointment of not being able to order books.  Wouldn't it be awesome for every student to get a book each month?"

Scholastic has a $1 book for each month and my friend asked if her friends would sponsor a child, $10 for the school year, so every child in her class could get one book a month. 

Within a couple of days, her friends stepped up and the entire class was sponsored. At the end of the school year I received a letter from the student I'd sponsored, and tears filled my eyes, as a simple $10 had such an impact on a child's life.  

Your challenge? Donate a children's book to a Little Free Library (LFL) in your community. Don't know if there is an LFL in your community? Check out the map here.

Snap a picture of the book you donated and text it to me at 219-707-9545. I'd love to know what our community donated!

Don't have a Little Free Library? Maybe donate a book to a school or library.  

Happy Reading,

Stephanie

Day 10 Giving Challenge: Donate Your Favorite Children's Book to a Little Free Library, school or local library

Did you know... Academically, children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, even when controlled for other key factors. (M.D.R Evans et al., Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, June 2010)

One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home. But 61% of low-income families do not have any age-appropriate books for their kids at home.

Chat with your Children: How are you incorporating reading into you household? The ability to read is a gift we should never waste. According to Statistic Brain, there are 774 million people around the world that can't read. We are fortunate in this country, that every child has access to an education and libraries filled with books. Chat with your child about the books they enjoy and discuss how you can start a daily reading routine, if you aren't already. And then, when a book has been read, find a way to give it away, giving another child an opportunity to receive and read a book.Bonus Story: Each year I attend a writer's conference to improve my craft. This year, I took a children's book course, and had the opportunity to meet and work with some incredible children's book writers. I can't wait for Lisa's book to come out, so I can share it with my community!

What was the last event you celebrated? A birthday, a holiday, the birth of a child, or a new home?  

One of my best friends, an elementary principal, celebrates Monday's with her staff.  I loved this idea. Monday is a day we typically dread, but what if we shifted our mindset to celebrate the day and get excited about starting a new week.  

Here are a couple of ways you can celebrate today!

  • Celebrate your friends and invite them over for an impromptu gathering. Don't have time... send a text saying, "You rock! Today I'm celebrating our friendship. Thanks for being such a good friend. Love you!"
  • Celebrate your coworker and stop and get donuts, fruits or bagels. On a budget? Leave notes of encouragement on coworker's desks or send them an email letting them know how much you appreciate them.
  • Celebrate your family by making a favorite meal, having a game night, or everyone going for a walk or playing outside together. Go for ice cream. Bonus if you stop by a Dollar Tree and buy balloons and party favors...just because!

I live the belief that we don't need a holiday, birthday or anniversary to celebrate. We can celebrate and give to those we love, each and every day! 

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 9 Giving Challenge: Find a fun way to celebrate your family, a coworker or a friend.

Did you know...there is a way to celebrate almost every day of the year through fun holidays. Check out this calendar and find ways to add more celebration to your life.

Chat with your Children: I've spent the last two years writing my next book, The Gratitude Challenge. Gratitude is a simple way to say thanks for the what we've been given in this life.  Celebrating is a great way to say thanks and recognize special moments. Start a conversation with your child and ask them what they are grateful for. They may initially say something like, "I'm thankful for my family and friends."  The people in their life is a great start. But get them to go deeper. Ask them to look around and name what they are grateful for, such as their home, pillow to lay their head, food in the refrigerator, a special toy, etc. This will also be a good activity for you do to with your child.  Celebrations are one way to say thanks and recognize for people and things you love!

Bonus Story: Let's keep the celebrations going! Giving Tuesday occurs each year after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Here's a flashback to how we celebrate last year. But the resources don't just have to be for the "official" Giving Tuesday. Watch the video, download the tags, and celebrate Tuesdays!

Have you heard of the Between Me and You Journals?  They are fabulous hard back journals created by my friend Winston.  He and I met on my giving journey and we've been meeting for breakfast since 2011!  Boy how times flies.

Years ago, I bought the "mother" journal and gave it to my mom to fill out.  There is a page in the book that asks, "If you felt the need to offer some advice to me, what would it be?”

Instead of advice, my mom wrote her favorite quotes and Bible verses. I view the list as a simple gift she gave me, that I can pass along to you, to them pass along to others.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

“If you want to increase the power of God in your life-see how many times a day you can give.” – Joyce Meyer

“Lord- how do you want me to live this day? What is it you want me to do with this one day you have given me? What is the work you want me to accomplish today?”

“It is better to be kind than right.”

“When God tugs at your heart, that’s the moment to act.”

"So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you." -Isaiah 41:10

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” -Joel A. Barker

“It's kind of fun to do the impossible.” -Walt Disney

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi

“If it weren’t for running, I’d go crazy.” -Martin-lead guitarist for Jethro Tull

“Hills are speed work in disguise.” – Frank Shorter- 1972 Olympic Marathon Champion

“Pray hard. Work hard. And leave the rest to God.” – Florence Griffith Joyner “Flo Jo” 

"Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

“Instead of thinking about all the reasons that I couldn’t do it, I started thinking about all the reasons that I could do it.  I encouraged myself and allowed the word of God to empower me.” – Victoria Osteen

"The Lord will hear when I call to Him." Psalm 4:3

I don't know about you, but if someone gives me a compliment, text me a positive quote or post an uplifting video on social media it gives me a little boost and pep in my step. Kind words make us happy.  

As we go through the second half of the summer giving challenge, and beyond, let's, as a group, think about the words we speak to others, find ways to fill people up with kindness, instead of tearing them down, and post only positivity on social media. You up for the challenge?!

But think about the opposite of kind words.  What happens if someone puts you down? How do you feel?  If you read a negative post or rant on social media, do you get angry, sad, anxious, maybe even a little depressed?

Happy Giving,

Stephanie

Day 8 Giving Challenge: Give compliments, speak words of kindness and post a positive story or quote on social media. 

Did you know... John Gottman, a researcher, conducted a study on predicting if a couple would get divorced or stay together based on the words they spoke to each other. Couples who spoke five positive comments to every one negative comment were more likely to stay together vs couples who divorced, which had an average of four negative comments to three positive comments. The take away, whether it's your friends, coworkers, spouse, and children, the higher ratio of positive comments with a lower number of negative comments, will improve those relationships.

Chat with your Children: The old saying, "Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." really isn't true.  Words hurt. Usually children who are hurting, many times will use their words to hurt others. Our children need to know and understand that many children don't mean the words they say.  Often, the hurting children who hurt others, home life is difficult, they aren't being treated well, and they want attention, and acting out is a way to do that. I'm saddened every time in the news when I hear a child has committed suicide due to being bullied. I've recently seen a child, as young as eight years old, take his life, due to kids bullying him. Think about that. Because of someone's words, another child takes their life.  This is a difficult conversation and must be had with an age appropriate child. With that said, children need to understand there can be devastating consequences, to our actions. 

Bonus Story: We never know how our words are going to impact those around us, even when we don't realize they are paying attention and listening. Kindness Matters!

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