More than two decades ago, Stephanie Nelson had a desire to help provide food for strangers, which resulted in her inadvertently starting the “Coupon Mom movement.” A few years ago, a desire to share with her sons how God’s provision factored into the movement’s success resulted in her recent book release, “Imagine More: Do What You Love, Discover Your Potential.”
“When I’m gone in 20 years, they might be interested, but I might not be around. I had no idea that the book would ever be published. A publisher discovered it and said, ‘We need to get this story out there. It’s a God story,’” Nelson said.
“I wrote this truly from my heart, very honestly, for my sons’ benefit. I didn’t set out to write this book to get a book published. I set out to help my sons’ lives. Now I’m excited. I hope it helps strangers’ lives.”
Nelson’s desire to “point her sons to God” with the book is already showing results. After her older son read it, he told Nelson he was going back to church, which “answered every prayer [Nelson] has ever had.”
“Imagine More” also has great potential to help the strangers Nelson mentioned. It chronicles the Coupon Mom story combined with others’ similar experiences. Each chapter begins with a related Bible verse and ends with a section called “What I Learned.”
It all started when Nelson saw that Becky Tirabassi, author of “Let Prayer Change Your Life,” was coming to her church to speak.
Tirabassi’s challenge literally changed Nelson’s life.
“If there’s something you love to do and you can find a way to use that to help other people, then you have landed on God’s exciting plan for your life,” Tirabassi said. “That thing you love to do — whatever it is — just start praying (about it) every day.”
Nelson loved saving money with grocery coupons. Thinking it was trivial, she still decided to pray about it every day.
Soon after, Nelson noticed an appeal in a church bulletin about stocking the community food pantry, not even realizing that was a need in her middle-class community. When she saw the items most requested were coupon items, she got excited.
“I’ll just go to the store and see what I can get with my coupons,” she said. “I got $60 of groceries for the food pantry, but it only cost me $10. That was my lightbulb moment.
“This is what God wants me to do! He wants me to buy food for the food pantry!”
While waiting at the site to deliver the food she had bought, her eyes were opened. The moms were just like her with children like hers but they needed food. Becoming emotional, Nelson decided to do that every day.
She soon got friends involved.
For three years, Nelson clipped coupons and shopped while her children were at school and after they went to bed. She shared this idea through a basic website.
After three years, people from “Good Morning America” called. Dubbing her “Coupon Mom,” they had seen the trend and hired Nelson to talk on the show about ways to save money. She was able to discuss the food donation idea on the show and expand the ministry with more website users that resulted from the national exposure.
Another completely unexpected person helped was Tirabassi. One day, Nelson decided to email Tirabassi and tell her how her influence had led to this nationwide movement.
On the other side of the email, Tirabassi had been praying about starting a new ministry but had doubts, wondering if she was “all washed up” at that point in her life.
She prayed, “If You could have someone I’ve impacted reach out to let me know,” then told Nelson she got the email two or three days later.
Nelson’s simple desire to stock a food pantry on a stay-at-home mom’s budget led to an organization of 8 million members. “Imagine More” shares how anyone can do what they love to help others as well as how to overcome the challenges that will arise in the process.
It’s about finding the big idea in someone’s life either by figuring out what a person most loves to do that could help others or by identifying who she wants to help most. Nelson also emphasizes praying about it every day and remembering that it’s a one-day-at-a-time concept.
“My message is, okay, just do what I did. If there’s something you love to do, guess what. It can be super pithy. Mine was grocery coupons. If God can figure out how to use grocery coupons to help other people, I think God can use your skills and talents.
“God is just waiting for us to ask. It’s the whole thing about finding purpose. If we do something that satisfies us, something that we enjoy and something that we really believe helps other people, we’re going to be happy, filled with joy and experience gratitude — all the things that God wants for us.
“That’s what I want my sons to know. That’s why I wrote the book. We’ll see.”
To learn more about Nelson, go to stephanienelson.com. “Imagine More” can be bought wherever books are sold.