Category

Gratitude

Category

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”