I gotta be honest, I no longer believe in Random Acts of Kindness. What? Stephanie, aren't you the Giving Gal? Don't you look for ways to give and be kind every day?
Yes, yes I do.
But what I continue to learn on my giving journey is I wake up each day knowing I'm going to look for ways to give. And then when I see an opportunity, I'm going to act. The act of kindness is intentional.
With that said, I'm still supporting wonderful holidays, like Random Acts of Kindness week, because at the end of the day, any time we can spread kindness and positivity, we should.
Here are 14 ways you can give this week:
Donate clothes to a local nonprofit (call before you donate to see what they need)
Send cards to your local nursing home
Help a neighbor with a chore
Compliment a stranger
Call a family member
Send five encouraging texts to friends
Give a hug to a stranger (ask permission first😊)
Call a teacher friend to see if there are supplies, they need, if so, purchase and donate
Make a positive post on social media
Bake cookies for your coworkers (or buy Girl Scout cookies😊)
Thank a first responder (police officer, firefighter and/or ems)
Send a thank you card to someone that has made a difference in your life
Disconnect from technology/television and have a family game night
I'd love to know your thoughts on random acts of kindness. Do you believe in them? Or have I changed your mind?
It's the "love" month. And this week we'll celebrate both Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day.
Don't know about Galentine's Day? It's the day before Valentine's Day when you gather your best of friends and celebrate friendship.
And then there is Valentine's Day. It's a holiday that you either love, hate or love to hate!
As I scrolled through my phone looking at pictures, I realized, there are lots of ways and things we can love this week. Here's my list. Reply to this newsletter or comment on the post and let me know what we have in common. Also, let me know what you'd had to the list.
1. Meeting new people
3. Live music
5. Receiving gifts
6. Giving gifts
8. Supporting a friend pursue their dream
9. Mugs with words of encouragement
10. Inspiring quotes
11. Going to a college football game with my husband
12. Dinner out with friends
14. Leaving notes of encouragement for strangers
15. Meeting coaching clients in person
17. The Pumpkin Show-Seeing old friends and riding rides
18. Dairy Queen
19. Seeing the results of hard work and effort
20. Fundraisers with friends
23. Jumping in leaves
25. Taking a hike
27. Watching my nephews/nieces play sports
29. Family time
30. Friends getting together (old and new)
31. Pictures of those no longer with us (they make me sad, but I love I'll always have memories with them)
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.
As we countdown to Christmas, I would love for the Giving Gal community to sprinkle kindness everyday between now and Christmas. Here are a few ideas, but feel free to share in the Giving Challenge FB group, ways you are giving!
December 18th– Send a Christmas card to someone that's not on your list. Better yet, give a card to a stranger.
December 19th– Leave a treat for your mail carrier. I'm filling bags with chocolate, a hot chocolate packet and a note.
December 21st– Have a family baking day and give sweet treats to your neighbors. Bonus points for giving to a neighbor you don't know.
December 22nd– On this day in 2003, my friend, Trooper Scott Patrick was shot and killed in the line of duty. In memory of Trooper Patrick, buy a meal or a warm drink and say thank you to a police officer.
December 23rd– As you ramp up for the final days of the Christmas holiday, find a way to give to yourself.
December 24th– Call a relative or friend who can't be home for Christmas.
December 25th– Spend quality time with friends and family.
I would love to hear your stories and better yet, spread your Christmas joy in giving on social media and challenge your friends to get involved. Use #GivingChallenge.
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.
Find a quiet place, hide in the closet if you must, and grab a pen and paper.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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 tealpumpkin (or sign) and have non-food treats available.
Chat with parents… get to know your neighbors and those in your community.