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Gratitude

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Guest Post by Laurie Mullet, MSA, RN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Post by Laurie Mullet, MSA, RN

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

What is America? It's the title of a book I featured last week and did a giveaway for a copy. Congratulations Joyce V! You are the winner.  

How did the winner enter this contest? They replied to my newsletter (sign up here for future giveaways) and they shared what America meant to them. Here are some of my favorites.

What “America” means to me is… a country full of history, magnificent scenery, and abundance of variety in landscape & people. It’s a place I call home. I treasure that our founding fathers not only prayed and included God in forming this great country but were also thankful for His favor upon them. America means freedom in so many ways. A few among them are the freedom to worship, freedom to pursue my God given dreams & passions, freedom to live where I want and travel east to west and north to south, and freedom to create wealth or live simply. America is a representation of God’s grace in person! ~Kim 

What “America” means to me is…my homeland. For many years I’ve heard it referred to as “the land of the free”, “land of opportunity”! Even in the midst of all of the present turmoil, it’s still all of that. A place where many many folks from all over the world also want to make it a place to call home. We are so blessed to have much more than so many other countries. ~Joyce

A land built on the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors, providing us with the greatest freedoms that any land has ever known. Most of my family heritage is based on 1800’s immigration, but I am grateful for all who forged this amazing nation! ~David

America means freedom, opportunity and hope. It is a symbol of courage, taking risks and standing up for a cause. Our forefathers risked their lives for a higher good, greater life and fought for family and future generations. America truly means the land of the free and home of the brave! ~Jeanne

America means freedom and opportunity.  America is a place where people should be able to come to and be LOVED. America represents hard work and determination. America should be seen as a place that is SAFE, but we all must do our part to make it so. -Kayla

What “America” means to me is… we are always bigger than we think we are.  (And in this case, “big” is a good thing — not like a dress size or a price tag.) Decent, hard-working immigrants made their homes in this “new world” and managed our original 13 colonies just fine …. and they believed that they would be better off if they could somehow govern themselves without the hand of a distant, far-away kingdom managing their affairs.  Our colonial ancestors saw that if only they could work together (“united”) for a common cause for their own common good, they (and now “WE”) would all benefit. Instead of complaining about how small they were in number ….or how poor they were in resources… our ancestors bonded together in a big way to gain their independence.  America means that even immigrants and people lacking in resources … people who might feel “small” or powerless …. can stand united for the greater good.  

I think BIG when I think of America.  Partner with others and work hard for a common cause … and we are all better off! ~Victoria

Freedom of choice and a sense of pride. ~Karen

Freedom at the price of veteran's lives who love this country so much that they are willing to sacrifice their life to keep it free. God Bless the veterans. ~Maria

Freedom. One word seems so simple, but our great country was built on this basic principle. While we may not always agree with each other, we have the freedom to express our views without repercussion. The formula works. Just look around and see how many people want to come to our great nation.  From this one word comes the right to pray to our God, support the political candidate of our choice, and attend the school of our choice . . . and that's just the beginning! ~Jerilyn

What does America mean to you?  I'll be sharing responses all week on social media!

Happy 4th of July!

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"

Did you grow up in an urban or a rural community?  I grew up in a small farming community in Southern Indiana and the longer I live, the more I realize growing up in a small town was a blessing.

I’ve had the same friends from kindergarten to now. I didn't realize this was a rarity until I went to college. Many communities today have multiple schools. Therefore, from kindergarten to first grade and then into junior high and high school, a child could constantly be split up from friends they made the prior year.  

Growing up in a small community I had many mothers. Moms of friends constantly looked after each other's children. I want to make clear; I had the best mom in the world. I wouldn't have asked for anyone different. My mom set an amazing example for me.

My mom taught me the importance of:

1. Working hard, as she was a working mother.

2. Lifelong learning,  as she is always taking classes and learning new skills.

3. Being a giver and helping those in need.

4. Taking care of our bodies by eating healthy and working out.

But besides my own mother, I was surrounded and loved by my friend's mothers. Their moms not only loved their own children but showed me lots of kindness.

I had mothers that:

1. Cared for me during the summer while my parents worked.

2. Toted me around to basketball games and track meets.

3. Made homemade pot pie, just for me.

4. Gave great hugs.

5. Listened when I talked about life's happenings as a teenage girl.

The list of all these gifts that mothers have shown me over the years is a mile long. Thank you to all the mothers who love not only their own children, but all children in their lives.

I encourage you to send a thank you note to a mom in your life that made a difference during your childhood. I know it will brighten their day!

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

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


This water stinks!  Oh, this is horrible.  I can't stand the stench!  These were all the thoughts flowing through my mind as water rained down on my head.

For months the water at our lake house smelled bad. We'd called an expert to help and he told us the problem was most likely a corroded anode rod in the hot water heater and once replaced, the smell would go away.

As I stood complaining, I stopped myself and thought about a post my friend, Temwani, from Malawi, Africa made.  She is currently in the US and said, "No walking to get water, a very good place to sleep and good food. The world is so different."

I had no business complaining.  And I immediately gave thanks.

  • Even though smelly, I'm grateful for inside plumping and access to water at the turn of a knob.
  • I'm grateful for a hot water heater and the money to repair it when it breaks.
  • Homemade specialty soaps, shampoo and conditioner that lined the shower ledge, cleaned me and I'm grateful.

I kid you not, the pungent odor dissipated. I'm sure the water still smelled but my focused changed. And later that day when my husband changed the anode road we were back to odor free water.

Over the years of practicing gratitude, I've used it as a tool to change my bad attitude and you can too!

I'll leave you with this picture and words from my friend Temawani.  I've made it the background of my phone, as a constant reminder of all the blessings that flow into my life.  

"So many children got new clothes and food today, but this homeless boy said the new clothes are more than a home."

Blessings,

Stephanie

Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author of

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