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Friends, if you don't follow me on social media, you missed that I spent the better part of last week in the hospital. I share all the details on my latest podcast episode, check it out.

But while in the hospital, as I tried not to focus on all that was going on with my body, I focused on ways I could give to those that were serving me. 

Next time you are going through a tough time, here are four ways you can give:

1) Show grace towards those who serve you. I had an EMT that blew not one, but two veins while he tried to get the IV in my arm. He brought in a nurse, and she blew a third vein. Both were extremely frustrated with themselves. I decided instead of adding insult to injury, literally, I would show them grace. 

2) Share gratitude with everyone. From the lady that mopped my floor and cleaned the toilet, to the nurse, the guy who delivered my meals, to the doctor, I asked everyone their name, asked them about their day, and showed my gratitude. If they came in my room ten times, I thanked them each time for the job they were doing. 

3) Pray for those around you. The lady in the room next to me often cried out in pain and for help. When she yelled, I said a prayer for her. I prayed for the doctors and nurses responding to her that they could help ease her pain.

4) Make an unlikely friend by striking up a conversation. I cannot tell you how easy it is to make a connection with someone by just asking them their name. This simple question, led to more in-depth conversations, and for those who were around daily, we developed an unlikely friendship during my stay. 

I am still dealing with health issues. If you are the praying type, I would appreciate your prayers. 

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"

When I started my giving journey, I titled my first blog, 1 Making a Difference. Why? Because I knew that every one of us has the power to make a difference.

I have always had this big crazy dream that if we all joined forces together to live the giving challenge, we would change the world.

You may think, "Stephanie, that is impossible. Get your head out of the clouds. There are too many problems in the world."

You are correct, there are many problems in the world, and we cannot solve them all. But what happens if we collectively live the giving challenge? We each commit to consistently, make an intentional effort to give each day?

What if we sacrifice a little time and/or resources? What difference would we make then?

Back in 2019, I launched The "Lent" Giving Challenge. It was fun, and many participated. Due to my travel schedule, I skipped 2020, but I'm feeling called to bring it back this year. 

Will you join me?

Will you forward this to a friend?

Will you commit to giving away something for 40 days?

I'm making participating super easy. Sign-up here, download the resources and check your email each day for your challenge.  

The challenge is just a suggestion; you can do what was sent, save it for another day, or come up with your own challenge. 

Like I said in my TEDx talk, can you imagine if just 250 people took the challenge for 40 days? That would be 10,000 intentional acts of giving. WOW!!!  

How could that not make a dent in changing the world together?

I may be na ve, but I'll never stop working on challenging and encouraging others to stretch themselves in giving, gratitude, and goals. Will you join me?

With gratitude,

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 weekend I celebrated the 4th birthday of the launch of The Giving Challenge. Honestly, I still pinch myself that I have a book I wrote, people read, and like. Life is surreal some days.

As I thought back on the journey, there are five lessons, probably more, that bubbled to the surface that may help you as you are pursuing a goal or thinking about making a pivot in your life/career.

  1. Think long-term. The Giving Challenge took me about five years to write and launch. Success doesn't happen overnight. Don't get frustrated if you aren't moving as quickly as you would like. Keep plugging along, and over time you'll pick up wins and momentum.
  2. Only get advice from people who have been there, done that. This lesson seems like common sense advice, but we often let people who have never done what we are trying to influence our decisions. When it comes to my books, I have a small team of experts who provide advice and guidance in their expertise. Take, for instance, hiring a coach. I'll only coach people on activities I've done myself. You wouldn't hire me to teach you how to fly a plane, but I could help you write and launch a book.
  3. Put perfectionism in a drawer. Are you a perfectionist? If so, your perfectionist tendencies may prevent you from accomplishing a project or goal you are pursuing. I got stuck in the perfectionist wheel for quite some time. That is why my book took forever to complete. I kept swapping out stories and editing and reediting. At some point, what your working on has to be good enough, and you have to get the darn thing competed. I still cringe when I find a mistake in my book, but then I remember that even James Patterson made mistakes in his books. I know because I've caught them, and they make me feel just a little bit better. No one is perfect!
  4. Not everyone is going to support your big dream. It's hard when friends or family members don't show any interest in a project you are working on. It's easy to spiral into negative thoughts of why someone isn't supporting you. Focus on the people that do help you. Please give them your gratitude and appreciation. Turn the tables. I know there have been numerous projects, due to schedule, conflicts, etc., that I couldn't help someone on. It wasn't anything personal; I couldn't commit. Remember, usually, their lack of support has nothing to do with you or your project.
  5. It's okay to go back and make improvements. On the first version of The Giving Challenge, I must admit that I had no idea what I was doing. I had some connections in the industry, but they were few and far between. Also, I wasn't the best writer. But over the years, I attended writing conferences, developed relationships with experts, and even received an endorsement from Dave Ramsey. Instead of being satisfied with my first book in the original form, I went back and made improvements. The stories have more depth. The writing improved. Resources were created. And the cover got a facelift. Total redos aren't always necessary, but if you feel like you need to make improvements to get you to the next level, by all means, go for it!

I hope the lessons I learned, from writing and launching The Giving Challenge, help you as you set out to conquer a goal or two this year!

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”

Each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I take time to listen to one of his sermons. They are always inspiring and powerful. Listening takes me beyond just posting a quote on social media but taking the time to learn from the words spoken by MLK Jr. 

But from our learnings, we must then move to action. 

This year I listened to The Drum Major Instinct. Here is a bit of what he said that is actionable,

"I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity."

"Everyone can be great because everyone can serve."

He goes on to share what he would like to be said about him in his eulogy.

Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others, loving somebody, fed the hungry, clothed those who were naked, visited those who were in prison, and loved and served humanity. 

So, why is the sermon titled, "The Drum Major Instinct?" He wanted his eulogy to say he was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.

As you go about your week, what will you be a drum major for in your life?

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"

I am just off the heels of the annual baking and candy making extravaganza with my best friend Amy and her family. What a wonderful weekend. This is their 11th year of the weekend and I have been blessed to be evolved for the past four or five years. I have lost count.

The weekend has one goal. Make enough goodies to give away to those in the community that serve us. Teachers, bus drivers, police officers, nursing home staff, church staff, and medical personnel.

Do you have any annual giving tradition? If not, let us change that in 2021. And if you have a giving tradition, how can you expand it or start a new one?

Why is it important to have a giving tradition? 

  1. It is an event that helps us focus on others. 
  2. It is a way to support your passion and the community.
  3. It is a way to get friends and family involved in giving.
  4. It inspires others to create their own giving tradition...impacting more people!
  5. It is a great way to teach children in your life about giving. They are never too young to get involved. 

The why is important because it keeps moving us forward when we face obstacles or want to give up and quit. 

Now that we understand the why, let's chat about how you actually get your giving tradition off the ground, or maybe get a little more organized around your current tradition. 

  1. Think about your passion. What do you love? Is there an organization that aligns to your passion? This doesn't have to be a nonprofit. For me, I love law enforcement and I always do a giving event for those that serve and protect our communities.
  2. Who is going to benefit? Is it a nonprofit? A group of people in your community? Be specific.
  3. When are you going to have your giving event? Our baking extravaganza, it's always in December. Mark it on the calendar in a red sharpie. Do not let anything get in the way of your giving tradition!
  4. What's your goal? Be specific so you know your target and if you have accomplished your goal. Maybe it's to raise x dollars. Collect x numbers of coats or books. Serve x number of teachers in your community. 
  5. Who is going to help you? During the pandemic, your group may need to be small or even virtual. Do what works best for you and your community.
  6. Communicate what you are doing. Post on social media. Send an email. Shout it from the rooftops to inspire others, possibly getting people involved, and to create accountability. 
  7.  Make a plan. What are the first steps you need to take to get your event off the ground?

Hopefully, the information provided today will help you create your giving tradition.  I'd love to hear if you have a tradition. If so, what is your tradition? If you don't, what will it be in 2021?

Happy Giving,

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 week my college friend, Carrie, posted about a tradition she started for her family, the Countdown to Christmas.

I love the idea, and even though she starts it for her boys on December 1, you could begin at any time of the month.  

And if you are like me and don't have children in the house, you can still implement some of these ideas in your household or put together a care package for a neighbor, family member, or friend.

Here's what my friend Carrie had to say, "Many are wondering how to make the most of the 2020 holidays. Many plans have changed. Home more often than not. How to help the kids (and parents) still have fun and celebrate?

Well, we have spent many holiday months at home. But I still LOVE holiday hoopla. Shortly after having Brayden, we started a Countdown to Christmas. It may have been born out of parent guilt of not leaving the house much... but it is still something we do every year; it has become a tradition.

Each morning, starting December 1, I set out a "gift" for Countdown to Christmas. Most items are things we already have and just bringing out to celebrate/decorate for Christmas. It takes a little planning, but over the years, I have a tub of the items ready to pull out of storage and learn to add items to my grocery cart starting now.

Some of the things we have done over the years for Countdown to Christmas:

Countdown Clock

Advent calendar - you know those candy ones

Nativity set they can play with

Christmas Books can do different books to debut different days

Grinch Stole Christmas book and listen to audiobook along with it (it is the guy’s voice from the original movie). Then the following night, watch the original Grinch movie.

Peanuts Nativity set and watch the Peanuts Christmas movie

Cozy Christmas blankets for each boy

Christmas sheets and pillows for their beds

A little tree for their room or playroom

Kits to make their ornaments - I typically got the clear plastic balls and then stuff from the dollar store they can stuff in them like glitter, pompoms, etc.

Get out the Christmas mugs with some festive hot chocolate

Candy canes with a book about the story of the candy cane

Christmas lights for their room or playroom

Christmas movie and popcorn

Acts of service – delivery toys to hospital, etc.

A clue or something relating to whatever we were doing that day: getting a Christmas tree, seeing lights, going to ICE, zoo lights, a party, etc.

Small Christmas wreath for them to decorate (with things from the dollar store) and hang in a room

Cookie tools and ingredients to help make Christmas cookies

Special seasonal drink or soda, or eggnog

Christmas underwear and socks

Christmas candy

Christmas ice-cream - eggnog or peppermint stick

Christmas themed snacks

Christmas themed games

Christmas pajamas

Christmas Coloring books or Mad-libs

Cards to help write/draw notes to send to people for Christmas

Wrapping paper - they help wrap presents for their brothers

One night of shopping - I would take the boys out Christmas shopping so they could pick things out for the brothers, then get Chick-fil-a peppermint milkshake

Foam balls to have an indoor snowball fight

Having teenage boys, the Countdown Christmas mostly involves food and making food, Christmas flannel sheets, decorating their rooms, ways to give back, etc."

Your holiday season may look different this year, but you can still make the holiday season festive and fun!

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"

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. I also, got a rush from bouncing from big box story to big box store. Don't get me wrong, I still love me some Home Goods, but along my giving journey, I've discovered small businesses, with fabulous products, reasonably priced, 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. 

2020, with the year of the pandemic, 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. 

Pops Kernel: For the second year in a row, I just can't not put Pops Kernel on my list. I'm in LOVE with their popcorn! And their owner, who has become a dear friend, does so much to give back to her community. A true giver. I gotta admit, this isn't only a gift I buy for others, but I'll be buying a couple of bags for myself.  

Tricia Robinson Art: This year my home needed a little pop of color and when I stumbled upon Tricia's art, I couldn't resist buying a copy of prints. But as I perused her site, I found pictures of little country churches, with church hymns, that took me back to memories of the church I grew up. I had to buy prints for family, who I knew would appreciate the art as much as I would. I also love her journals. Again, vibrant, and will add a pop of color to any gift you want to give this year. 

All About Vibe: Recently I left the comforts of my home to take a solo vacation to South Carolina. I wanted to surprise my hubby with a funny gift while I was gone. I sent in a picture of our beloved dog, God rest his soul, Boss, and had a life like pillow made of him. Oh my gosh! It is so perfect. I think I love it more than my husband did. The pillow is so soft and snuggly. I couldn't believe how perfect the picture I sent came out on the pillow. Plus, I love that All the Vibe is a "made in the USA" company. The pillow is a perfect gift for the animal lover in your life. 

Mountain Khakis: If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know I love hiking and trouncing around back in my woods. My dear friend Jessica started a new job at Mountain Khakis and when I looked into their clothes, they were a perfect fit for my outdoor adventures. And friends, their flannel lined pants are like wearing a cloud. They are so cozy! They make the perfect gift for the adventurous person in your life. 

Fallen Timbers Woodshop: If anything good has come out of the pandemic, it's that my hubby finally started his own woodworking business!  His attention to detail, perfectist tendencies, and customize creations are the perfect gift for the person that is hard to buy for.  I'm a little bias, but I think he's the best in the business!

Pampered Chef: Back when I launch my first book, a fellow giver connected with me on social media. We became friends and even had the chance to meet in person. She recently started with Pampered Chef and I'm so impressed with the ideas she is already sending about how I can use the products I have. And let me just say, I have a ton of PC products! A day doesn't go by where I'm not using their products. My new favorite their freezer bowl sets. I love making soups but hate to have the leftovers go to waste. These one cup bowls have saved me money and help me provide future meals. Pampered Chef products are perfect for the cook in your life. If you don't have a PC consultant, Angela Stanley, mine, is best in the biz!

Bonus Gifts! Giving Gal Products. Did you know if you purchase The Giving Challenge and Gratitude Challenge as a bundle you get $5 off! The bundle makes a perfect gift for the book lover in your life.  

And remember your gift is doubled. Not only are you supporting me, an author, but through my books, we purchase meals for children in need through  Rice Bowls, and we support a local veteran's program. https://www.ricebowls.org/

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”

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 they've been selected for my list.

Friends, I'm not the best cook. What about you? Do you enjoy being in the kitchen and whipping up a fabulous meal for family and friends?

I do a good enough job to get by for my husband and me, but when I open my home, what will my guests eat, is a question that causes a bit of stress an anxiety. 

This past week I opened my home, to friend and fellow entrepreneur, Sarah Harmeyer, with Neighbor's Table. She drove from Texas to deliver tables, and we had an opportunity to catch up. I even interviewed her for my podcast. The episode will post soon, so make sure you are subscribed, to hear all the details about how to love our neighbor, and Sarah's big goal that led her to launching her business.

I had all the good intentions of making a yummy meal for us. I envisioned as she walked into my home that glorious scents would flow from the kitchen, welcoming her at the front door.

Well, my busy schedule, unexpected meetings, and remembering the guest room sheets needed washed, threw off my entire day, and left no time to make a home cook meal.

When Sarah pulled up in the driveway, in her big yellow truck and walked through the door, at 7:00 p.m., I pulled out the DoorDash app, and asked her what she wanted. In the past I would have been embarrassed and felt guilty of my lack of the appearance of being the perfect host. But remember, I gave up guilt. If you need a reminder, check it out here.

While we waited for the dasher to arrive, we sat in the living room, catching up on life. When the food arrived, we filled our plates, grabbed drinks, and gathered at the table to continue our conversation. 

What I've realized time and time again, is that my friends, and even strangers, who enter my home, aren't focused on having a meal I pulled out of the oven. What they appreciate is feeling welcomed, loved, comfortable, and engaged.  

The next time you have the opportunity to welcome someone into your home, but don't have time to cook a gourmet meal, be okay with take out, or like I've done in the past, pop a pizza in the oven and grab a good bottle of wine. Simple and easy is a tip I use, to open my home to more people, with little stress. Who will you invite to your home next?

Blessings

Stephanie

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.

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"

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.

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”