For the past year Shelli Gardner, CEO of Stampin' Up! and her husband Sterling have been serving a mission in Honolulu. Yesterday was their last day of service here and they are now heading home. Although I am excited for her to return home to her beautiful family, I am also sad because I'll miss her! it has been a tremendous blessing having someone so special living close by for the past year.
When I attended my first Stampin' Up! event I was so impressed by Shelli's leadership. One of the first things I noticed about her is how approachable and friendly she was. Even before I knew her well, she spoke words of encouragement to me as she does to probably everyone she encounters.
In 2003 my friendship with her began when she selected me to serve on the Stampin' Up! Advisory Board which was a tremendous honor and one of the highlights of my career as a demonstrator.
The photo above (which is not good quality because it was taken before we all had digital technology) is from a weekend retreat with our Advisory Board in Park City, Utah. One of the highlights was a slumber party with Shelli. We enjoyed sitting and sharing together. I remember it being one of those special moments filled with so much laughter and joy that we didn't want it to end. A little after 1:00 am everyone said goodbye to me because I had a 4:00 am shuttle to the airport coming later that morning. I got a couple of hours of sleep and then as I left my room and went out to the hallway in the wee hours of the morning, there was Shelli sitting on the floor in her pajamas. She quickly got up, grabbed my suitcase and helped me push it down the hall. Then she spoke some more kind words to me, gave me a hug and wished me safe travels. I remember as the elevator doors closed of how special she made me feel and how amazing it was that she was there. It was just a simple gesture of saying goodbye, but she did it as she does so many other things, with humility, grace and a whole lot of love.
Over the years it has been great catching up with her even if just for brief moments at a Stampin' Up! Convention, Incentive Trip or at Founder's Circle. At all of these events she always worked hard to mingle with as many demonstrators as she can which is something I really admire about her.
I've experienced a few funny moments with Shelli too! One was when I earned a great Incentive called, Workshop of a Lifetime which provided me the opportunity to have a workshop that Shelli would come and do at my home. At that same time I was also allowed to host an evening gathering which I called a Night of Aloha that I had for my downline at the Waioli Tea Room in Manoa Valley. It was really special. Both Sterling and Shelli were there and both were blessed with many lei's of aloha from those that were so grateful to meet them.
Shelli got up after dinner to share some thoughts with all who had gathered for this special event and she began to tell everyone that she had a very special gift for me. She called me up and told me to open it. Everyone sat at the ends of their chairs wondering what special gift she had brought for me? She insisted I open it right there in front of everyone and when I did I found a gag gift bathing suit that my sister in law and I had been passing back in forth for the past twenty years. I couldn't believe my sister in law got Shelli involved and as you can see by the look on my face I was totally SHOCKED. It certainly was a funny and memorable moment one that I will never forget.
Of all the achievements I've earned with Stampin' Up! this was one of my favorites because it was something I was able to share with my downline. I wanted them to experience Shelli's heart first hand and know how amazing she is. It felt so good to earn something that I knew would be a tremendous blessing not only personally but to my team as well. It was also special because I wanted Shelli to feel the love and Aloha Spirit that my group, Stamped With Aloha possesses. So I was truly grateful for this opportunity.
When I learned that Shelli's church mission would be spent in Hawaii I was very happy but didn't know how often I'd be able to see her. Shortly after she arrived however, she contacted me and I was so glad.
She introduced me to some wonderful ladies from the mission office who had inquired about wanting to stamp and I quickly was blessed to have new friends to stamp with here on the island.
During her stay we had lots of fun and memorable moments from going out to breakfast, going to the wrong house to do a class, getting stranded on the North Shore, discovering new fun healthy eating bistros, etc. Each moment created memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.
I'm amazed at how quickly a year has passed and the time to bid them aloha has come. When I went to say goodbye I brought her this card which expressed my heartfelt aloha. A Blessing is a gift bestowed by God that brings happiness. To me the word blessing describes Shelli and as you can see the sentiment stamp in the Rose Wonder stamp set says it perfectly as Shelli certainly is a beautiful blessing, inside and out.
Shelli had borrowed a few things from me while she was here. It was really neat to see the many ways she shared her love of stamping while she did her service here. It showed me that no matter what you do there are always opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others by blessing them with hand stamped creations and words of encouragement. This is one of my personal goals this year, to do more of that and once again, Shelli was a great influence and inspiration to me.
Although I had come to the office to say aloha to her, she in turn blessed me with a sweet unexpected gift.
This cute gift card holder was created with acrylic paint that was mixed with re-inkers. It is a little iridescent and oh so pretty. Inside was a beautiful note and a gift card to my favorite restaurant. What a sweet gesture from my kind and loving friend.
As I said my aloha, I blessed her with a fragrant lei (one of my favorite Hawaiian Traditions) and enjoyed a really nice visit with both her and Sterling. She shared with me about how she had been blessed with over 30 leis at a special church gathering and I was glad she had the opportunity to feel so much aloha and experience the love of a community that was so grateful to both she and Sterling for their love and service.
I was thinking about her today and how she must be getting settled at home enjoying a wonderful reunion with her family and I went to the mailbox and what did I find but one more unexpected blessing.
A beautiful hand stamped card from her and Sterling with another thoughtful note that reminded me of how fortunate I am to have her and her family in my life. I know that I am not alone in how I feel about her, she has touched many, many lives and I hope that as I continue to work as a Stampin' Up! demonstrator I will be reminded of her heart and mission to make a difference in this world. I also hope that the Aloha Spirit she felt here will call her back to the islands soon so we can see each other again! Aloha Shelli, you are loved and you will be missed!