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In an instant, our lives can change on a dime. A horrific car crash, a divorce filing, or a sudden job loss. I usually think of “in an instant” as a bad thing. Like eight years ago today, in an instant, my college friend Leslie, was gone after a brave battle with cancer. She was 32 years old. Even though we hadn’t spoken since graduation, I followed her journey through her blog. Each post brought tears, and sometimes sobs, and prayers for Leslie’s healing and comfort her family.

But in an instant, Leslie’s death changed my entire life. Yes, I have lost friends in the past, but for some reason, her death hit me hard. Like a ton of bricks. Maybe it was because she was my age. We went to same the college. We were both married. Our lives looked similar. Her death came at a time when I was transitioning from being a police officer to starting a career in the corporate world. Months after her death I would become a workaholic, making a lot of money and wondering why the money wasn’t making me happy. I was living the same day, every day. Working long hours both weekdays and weekends. Was this what I was meant to do? To be? To work to make money?

Leslie’s death started me questioning everything in my life. What the heck was I doing? How was I living my days? I started thinking, knowing, that in an instant, it could all end. It could all end and what would I have done?

Years earlier I had created my dream list. Things I wanted to do. People I wanted to meet. Places I wanted to go and things I wanted to learn. It was saved in a file on my desk. I only opened it when I had something to add, rarely, if ever, checking anything off. Leslie’s death challenged me to live my list. To be intentional about each day.

My husband and I had a come to Jesus meeting August 2008. It was a heated discussion in our kitchen, I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember yelling, “what the hell are we doing with our lives?” I wasn’t angry, I was scared. Scared that the day would come and I would have a ton of regrets. The day would come and I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I wanted to do. The things that had been sitting trapped in an excel file on my desk.

Shortly after that discussion, we decided to take our first step to living our lives. We started planning our dream vacation to Hawaii. It had been five years sinceUntitled design (1) we’d been on vacation because we were always “too busy.”

The trip was amazing. I learned to surf. We got up at 2:30a.m. to drive up a mountain to see the sunrise above the clouds and then biked 20 miles down. I thought I was going to die, but I did it. I was living! I took my first helicopter ride and I swam with dolphins. Did I mention a dolphin pooped in my hand? But I didn’t care. I…was… LIVING!

Since Leslie’s death, here are some of the cool things I have experience (click here for full list):

  • Saw Duke win a NCAA National Championship…LIVE
  • Learned to kayak and now do so almost every weekend
  • Ran a marathon with my mom
  • Planted a garden and learned to make and can my own salsa
  • Learned to knit (but I need to finish a scarf)
  • Took ice skating lessons
  • Swam with sharks
  • Sat in the audience at an Oprah Show
  • Walked 60 miles in three days, raising funds for cancer
  • Took my dad to see Washington D.C. during police week

I think of Leslie almost every day. Every July 26th, her name pops up on my calendar. It’s a day for me to be thankful for her journey changing my life, to remember her family and make sure I’m living the life she can’t.

Friends, right now your life can change in an instant. From here on out you can choose to live a different life. If there is something you are struggling with or going through, don’t let it steal your happiness…your joy. What are your priorities? If you don’t know, sit down and make a list. Do you have a bucket list? If so, are you living it? If not, write out your list and keep adding to it. Then pick one and make a plan to live it!

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Blessings,

Stephanie

About the Author:

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Stephanie Jones and her husband, Mike, live in Northwest, IN and enjoy lake life and travel. Stephanie is a writer, speaker, life coach, daily giver and soon to be an author of The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Lifer (pre-order now!). She challenges people to be bold in their actions, accomplish and live their big dreams, and bless others daily through giving.

You can contact Stephanie by email at stephanie@GivingGal.com.

I was a brat! Yes, there I admitted it. I have those days where I’m selfish and don’t want to give a gift!

Let me back up and give you the story. It was after dinner, and my husband was CRAVING ice cream. He asked me to run into town and get him some. I immediately said no. We bantered back and forth, in what seemed like forever. I finally said NO, NO, NO!!!

He was annoying the heck out of me. I reminded him that one of the reasons I married him was because he didn’t annoy me. I know it sounds crazy but before Mike most guys just annoyed the heck out of me after a couple of dates. I can spend hours upon hours with MikeMike0, and he rarely gets on my nerves. I guess that’s a good thing since it’s just the two of us, no kids or pets to occupy our time. I just love hanging out with him, which we often do. But on this day he was driving me bonkers!

Finally, he realizes he isn’t getting ice cream, heads upstairs to hop in the shower and yells, “Will you at least make me some brownies?”

I took a deep breath and said, “Sure.” It would be my gift for the day.

As I was making brownies, I thought, “Stephanie This isn’t a gift. Your heart isn’t in the right place.”

I finished the brownies, and he was grateful I took the time to make them, but I was feeling guilty I had been such a brat!

The next day, while at Target, I picked up some of his favorite ice cream. I may have been a day late, but this gift was bought and given with the right intention and a cheerful heart.

Many times in life we get an opportunity for a do-over. Take that opportunity. Don’t be stubborn to prove a point. Do the right thing, and in the end, everyone wins.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Never miss a post! Sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

About the Author:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stephanie Jones and her husband, Mike, live in Northwest, IN and enjoy lake life and travel. Stephanie is a writer, speaker, life coach, daily giver and the author of The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life. She challenges people to live their dreams, discover their gifts, and do amazing things.

You can contact Stephanie by email at stephanie@GivingGal.com.

 

Do you know the dreams of your friends? Two years ago I watched my niece construct all sorts of amazing things with Legos. She had music playing and I asked her about the song and artist. She stated it was the Newsboys and how she would love to see them in concert. Memories flooded my mind as I attended several Newsboys concerts some 25 years ago. I love everything concerts offer. Dancing, singing, good energy, fun and memory making with friends. I loved she was showing an interest in live music, as it has been a big part of my life over the years.

After our brief discussion, I could have easily forgotten about the conversation and went on enjoying our time together. But I think we have a duty to help others accomplish their dreams. If we can, we should take action, especially where they may not be able.

Want to support someone's dream? Here are 5 Handy Tips that you will help:

  1. Listen. Sometimes we do a good job of speaking, but often don't listen and hear what others are telling us. People share their dreams with us all the time, but we may let their words go in one ear and out the other.
  2. Make Their Dreams a Priority. Write it down. Put it on your to do list. Keep it in the front of your mind. We all live busy lives and it's hard to remember our own goals and daily tasks in addition to someone else's.
  3. Research. Start researching how you can help your friend accomplish their dream. For the concert, I continually checked Newsboys tour page on their website. I was so excited when a location and date that worked popped up!
  4. Get Your Friend Involved. It's their dream, but for one reason or another, they hadn't been pursuing it. It may be confidence, time, ability, etc. By you doing some of the leg work, it may be enough to jump start them to making progress on accomplishing their dream.
  5. Be an Encourager. Let your friend know you are there to support their journey. From time to time, check in. Ask for next steps and discuss a time frame for accomplishing the steps. Be a cheerleader along the way and before you know it, they'll be accomplishing their dream.

IMG_7742After two years, I was finally able to take my niece (and nephew) to the Newsboys concert. It was an incredible evening. We laughed, sang songs, danced, ate popcorn and enjoyed time together as a family, as I couldn’t leave out my mom and sister. Sure I could have bought Legos, for her birthday, but making a memory that will last a lifetime was so much better. Experience gifts are one of the best gifts you can give. If it helps someone accomplish their dream, even better!

Blessings, Stephanie

About the Author:

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Stephanie Jones and her husband, Mike, live in Northwest, IN and enjoy lake life and travel. Stephanie is a life coach, speaker, daily giver and soon to be author who challenges people to be bold in their actions, accomplish big dreams, and bless others through giving.

You can contact Stephanie by email at stephanie@GivingGal.com.

I’m having surgery tomorrow, it’s scary, but I’m not in control. The scheduler calls to review the operation time, procedure and goes through a series of questions based on information from a prior surgery. The scheduler asked, “Do you have GERD?”

I answer, “No.”

She asks if I’m on any medication for GERD. I say, no.

She then questions, “How did you get rid of GERD?”

I said, “I stopped eating gluten?”

We have a long discussion about it, I tell her I fall off the bandwagon at times, but always revert to restricting gluten.

She says, “I could probably solve a lot of my problems if I could get off caffeine.”

“You CAN get off caffeine,” I said.

No, no I can’t.

Sure you can. Why not?

The questioning goes on for a couple of minutes, and after encouraging her a bit, she gets it and says, “I guess if I were positive I’d have better success.”

It’s a start!

All of that to say, our thoughts dictate many of our actions. They dictate if we not only dream but pursue our dreams and then believe enough in ourselves to accomplish those goals.

There is something you want to do right now, but you’re stuck. Stuck in bad habits. Stuck thinking negatively and you think your situation is never going to change.

I’m here to tell you that’s not true. That’s not true at all.

Change negative thoughts to positive and watch how your life changes.

Two years ago I talked to a group of moms about DREAMING BIG. During the workshop one mom stood up and shared, with a crowd of strangers, she’d always wanted to write a book. She was scared to utter those words. She knew nothing about writing. But guess what? A year after standing up and sharing her dream she submitted her book to a publisher!

She shared her dream, hired me as her coach, we worked on a game plan, she took baby steps and made progress every week, focusing on her goal. She invested time and money into herself, and her life is on an amazing new path. We both have no doubt she’ll be a published author, and we are excited where else God is going to take her.

Today is the day you…

  • go after what you want.
  • turn your can’t to can.
  • stop thinking you’re not worth it. You are!

You were created to do AMAZING things.

Write your dream down. Share it with someone. Write the next three steps you need to take that are going to get you closer to accomplishing your goal. Start taking action!

If I can help, let me know. I’d love to go on the journey with you.

Blessings,

Stephanie

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About the Author:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephanie Jones and her husband, Mike, live in Northwest, IN and enjoy lake life and travel. Stephanie is a writer, speaker, life coach, daily giver and the author of The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life. She challenges people to live their dreams, discover their gifts, and do amazing things.

You can contact Stephanie by email at stephanie@GivingGal.com.

 

Sitting on the edge of the tub wincing and talking to myself, turning around from shaving my husband says, "Pull it off quickly."

Yank! Ouch! Jetting up and hopping around I'd done it. I pulled off my toenail and now was in excruciating pain. Sitting back down, I said, "I'm feeling woozy. I may pass out."

I was a little dramatic. But my toe did hurt.

It's been two months since I ran the Chicago Marathon and I'm still feeling the effects. I've lost two toenails in two nights. I'm processing the experience and trying to hold on to my greatest accomplishment of the year, my Everest.

What's that quote by Helen Keller?

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

The quote by Ms. Keller sums ups my training and the marathon. It was not easy and definitely not quiet. Ask my husband. I whined, cried and complained. Every training run came with a trial, from being chased by dogs to jumping in ditches because of distracted drivers. The first couple of months I suffered with every step. I was out of shape and nagging back problems wore on me more mentally than physically.

After crossing the finish line, I knew I had been strengthened, inspired, and success achieved.

Like mile 17, I was still running through a wall. I drew my inspiration for mile 18 from Brian Dickerson, Everest Solo Summiteer, Former USN Air Rescue Swimmer and Author of one of my favorite books, Blind Descent.

Brian and I work at Cisco and I had an opportunity to hear him speak at a company event. After the event, I logged into Amazon and bought his book, Blind Descent. I've been obsessed with Everest for years. A love passed down from my father. I've watched all the movies and read many books on the world's highest peak. If there is an IMAX on Everest I'm there!

My review on GoodReads summed up my feeling for Blind Descent and why Brian was my inspiration for mile 18.

" There are several things in life I’m obsessed with in reading about, Navy Seals and Mt. Everest. I think the draw for me is the understanding of those that are not just physically tough, but extraordinarily mental tough and Brian Dickinson definitely falls into this category. I started the book on a Saturday morning and couldn’t put it down. I’m a slow reader, so I literally did not accomplish anything all weekend except finishing the book. He had my attention in the prologue and never lost it. I might add he had me in tears on page two of the prologue also. This book was written with so much emotion I felt like I was on the journey with him and his family and friends. I’m not sure how one doesn’t believe in God after reading this book. I have ready many books on Everest, the tragedies and stories of survival and this by far is the best I’ve read. Even if you are not into Everest it would still be an excellent read. Anyone going through a struggle or a hurdle they think is impossible needs to read this book. There is always hope."

As I struggled with each step I would think about Brian's journey on Everest. I would think, it's sunny and warm while I'm running. Brian faced subzero temperatures. I had plenty of oxygen and Brian ran out. I was surrounded by thousands of people, cheering and supporting me each step of the marathon. Brian was alone. I could see the path in front of me, read the signs fans created and knew if there was a pothole that needed to be avoided. Brian experienced snow blindness and couldn't see his hand in front of his face.

If Brian could make it off Mt. Everest blind, I was going to make it through mile 18 and I did. No excuses. I suffered through mile 18, but character was developed. I was nearing the peak of my Everest. I ripped off the label with Brian's name etched, gave it a kiss, whispered a thank you and flung it over my shoulder. I was onto #19.

As we approach the New Year, I challenge you to think about what you want to accomplish in 2016? What's your Everest? Here are a couple of steps you can take that will put you on the path to success.

  1. Go read Blind Descent. It will motivate you to Dream Big and pursue those dreams.
  2. Grab a pen and paper, find a cozy, quiet place in your home, and jot down your goals for 2016.
  3. Pick one goal to focus on and write the next three steps you have to take to move towards accomplishing your goal.
  4. Shoot me an email at Stephanie@GivingGal.com or post on my FB wall one thing I can do to help you accomplish your goal. Accountability is key to success!

I'll wrap up with my favorite line from Blind Descent,

"Whatever your mountain is-no matter how impossible it seems at times, no matter how many obstacles you face along the way, and no matter how many people tell you it can't be done- it is possible for you to summit. My parting words are simple: Live life. Create goals, and then chase after them."

Blessings,

Stephanie

If you missed my first 17 miles, you can check out my stories here:

Miles #1- #4

Miles #5- #8

Miles #9- #13

Miles #14- #15

Mile #16

Mile #17

 

P.S. Never miss a post, enter your email address on the right and hit SUBSCRIBE. Thank you!

I have an exercise for you.

 

  1. Grab a sheet of paper and pen.
  2. Write numbers 1-26 down the left side of the paper.
  3. Jot down people that have inspired you.
  4. Once your list is complete, write notes to everyone on your list. If they are no longer with us, find a family member and send them a note.

#3 may take you 15 minutes or a couple of months. That's okay. I can't tell you how powerful it was for me to make my list. I know the process affected me and those of you that are kind enough to follow me on my mile by mile journey. It helped me get through a difficult time and may help you get through something in your life.

I asked you to go through the exercise so you'd understand that the task is more difficult than first perceived. There are hundreds of people that I love, that challenge and motivate me in various ways and the list wasn't intended to slight anyone. I wish I could share the formula I used to narrow it down to 26, but most of it was based on feeling. Feeling strong enough about someone's situation that it would motivate me mile by mile.

I must be honest…I cheated on mile 17. I didn't choose one person for this mile, but three people, one family. Their story is intertwined and there is no way I could choose only one. I knew that for this mile, I needed to keep them together. I needed to pray for them as a family and draw from the strength they pull from each other.

Mile #17 was dedicated to a high school friend and fellow track/cross country runner Pam. In high school, I strove to be a runner like Pam. She worked hard and each time she stepped onto the track it seemed so effortless. She left nothing to chance and when she crossed the finished line it was evident she had given it her all.

Pam's children Brookelyn and Derek have Dysautonomia, a medical condition that causes a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System. Here's a little physiology lesson, the automatic functions of the body are the ones we consciously don't have to think about, such as heart rate, digestion, blood pressure, kidney function and body temperature control.

They have also been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease which is a group of disorders caused by dysfunctional mitochondria, the organelles that are the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria are found in every cell of the human body except red blood cells, and convert the energy of food molecules into the ATP that powers most cell functions. Symptoms include poor growth, loss of muscle coordination, muscle weakness, visual problems, hearing problems, learning disabilities, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory disorders, neurological problems, autonomic dysfunction and dementia (wikipedia).Can you imagine being a child and having deal with such a diseases?

Pam shares the struggles of this disease honestly and openly with her friends and family on facebook. But I have taken note, as others have, of common themes in Pam's journey.

  1. Thankfulness. She is often thankful for friends, family and coworkers. Never losing sight of what is important or taking these people or things for granted.
  2. Fighters. I love that she shows us pictures of her children in the hospital smiling and snuggling together. She refers to them often as fighters. I love that term. A fighter never gives up. A fighter pushes through tough times. And fighters, as she notes, don't complain.
  3. Faith. Pam often draws on her Christian faith to get her through the day. She shares her faith openly and provides encouragement to all that read her posts.
  4. Heroes. Her heroes are not in capes, tight pants and in a comic book. Her heroes are her children and she is theirs. Heroes are admired for their bravery, courage and noble qualities. Several weeks she posted one of my favorite quotes which I think perfectly aligns to the topic of heroes.

I must admit, mile 17 was a difficult mile for me. I wanted to walk soooo bad. I pulled out all the stops to keep me running. I have always had a passion for music and songs have been with me almost every moment, good or bad, throughout my life. And songs propelled me forward through every step of the Chicago Marathon. I knew what I needed to keep me going. I flipped through my iPod to find Jason Aldean’s She's Country and Hicktown so I could hear Adam Shoenfeld jamming on the guitar. I found myself running, playing air guitar and smiling. I'm sure I looked CRAZY...but I didn't care. Anything to get me through another mile.

Blessings,

Stephanie

If you missed my first 16 miles of the Chicago Marathon, you can check out my stories here:

Miles #1- #4

Miles #5- #8

Miles #9- #13

Miles #14- #15

Mile #16

P.S. To make sure you never miss a post, enter your email address on the right and hit SUBSCRIBE. Thank you!marathon3

"I'm scared" was the note I posted on my friends Facebook page Saturday night. Several weeks ago she invited me to go with her to Hot Yoga. I've been hearing all the rave, but never tried it. The last time I attended a group yoga class was back in 2002 and since then I have done yoga on and off in the comfort of my own home watching Sarah Beth Yoga videos on YouTube.

I want to stress "comfort of my home" because I struggle with doing an activity that I may embarrass myself in front of others. I'm pretty sure Hot Yoga falls into this category.

Saturday night I was already devising ways to get out of going. Why? Because this was something new. Yoga is hard and Hot Yoga is harder. What if I couldn't do it? What if I made a fool of myself? What if I passed out? All of these thoughts were going through my head and I hadn't even stepped foot into the heated box.

So, since I'm writing this, you must conclude that I didn't chicken out and I didn't. I did it! Here are 5 things I learned from hot yoga.

  1. Be prepared. Saturday night I read several articles on hot yoga. I'm glad I did. I started hydrating and downing water the night before and continued on through the morning before class. In life, anything new we try, we must do our research and be prepare for the challenge that lies ahead. If I had not drunk enough water, ate two hours prior to the workout, wore fitted/limited clothing and not brought two towels, well I'm sure I would have passed out and not completed the class. Many times we fail simply by lack of preparation. Take time to prep!
  2. Take a friend. I'm sure if I relied upon just myself to get up and go to class I wouldn't have. Having to pick up a friend and she being an encouragement to me helped me step foot into the gym. If there is something you want to accomplish in life, tell a friend. Get an accountability partner. Hire a life coach (preferably me...lol)! Bring your friend or coach along on your journey. It's easy to lie to yourself, but it's hard to lie and let down those that are pulling for you and want you to succeed. Every successful person I know has a great team behind them pushing them every day.
  3. Go with the flow. I had no idea what to expect but I followed the instructors lead and tried to do every position she instructed. If I couldn’t do something, mainly due to chronic tight hamstrings, I would try and modify. We aren't going to be perfect at everything, especially on the first try. But it is important to #1 try and #2 go with the flow. Do not get down on yourself if you can't do something. Just because you can't do something today doesn't mean with hard work and effort you won't be able to do something in the future.
  4. Do not worry about others. This is something that is a struggle for me. When three other ladies showed up for the class I was immediately intimidated and wondered how good they were and what they would think of the newbie in the class. What I learned is they were great encouragers and focused on themselves and not me. Even if they wouldn't have been nice or been critical, we must not care what others think. If you want to accomplish your goals, be your biggest cheerleader. Focus on yourself and not what others may or may not think about you and your dream. I've learned that people that judge are typically jealous and the problem is with them NOT you.
  5. You can do anything you set your mind to do. Near the end of the class, the instructor challenged us with wall headstands, scorpions off the wall and handstands. I must admit, my first thought was, "Are you CRAZY?" But then she kept encouraging us to try. And by golly, I was able to do the headstand and scorpion. I thought I was going to stroke out...but I did it! When my friend hollered, "I wish I had my camera,” I was thinking, yeah me too. This may not happen again! I couldn’t quite work up the nerve to do the handstands; I was terrified I would break my neck, but it's something to work towards. I left confident that I had done something I had only seen on television and before today would have never even tried. Remember, you are stronger than you think you are and most of the time fear is only in your mind.

Not matter what you are looking to do in life... DO IT! Try it! You will be amazed at how you will feel for just trying, regardless of success or failure. I have learned not trying in the real failure and trying...well that in my book is a success! As I always say, Be Bold. Dream Big. Bless Others.

Blessings,

Stephanie