Category Archives: Friendship

Member Spotlight: Paige Clark

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Roots:
I’m very proud to have been born and raised in Austin. I spent four years in College Station (including one semester in Spain!) for college but came back as soon as I could. I love this city.

Family life:
It’s just me! I am very blessed to have a strong community of family and friends in Austin having lived here for so many years. My parents and two of my sisters live here, two siblings are away at college, and one sister lives in Colorado!

Work life:
I am the Director of Student Services at Academic Programs International (API). We offer study abroad programs around the world for college students to spend a summer, semester or academic year at a foreign university. We also coordinate opportunities for individuals to intern, teach, work and volunteer abroad. I’ve worked at API in a variety of roles for 9 years and studied abroad with them as a student – an experience that transformed my life.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned through my iGnite experience…
Through iGnite I’ve gained a greater understanding of the power of community and relationships. I am so thankful for the friendships I’ve gained by being an iGnite member! I’ve also learned about the importance of overall wellness. iGnite is so much more than just a challenging workout. It helps me remember to take care of my mind and spirit as well.

I’m most inspired by…
People who are brave enough to be honest with themselves and others about what they want for their lives and boldly go after their dreams, knowing they might not get what they want or what they want might turn out not to be what they expected. “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien

In my free time…
I love to run at the Hike-and-Bike Trail and spend time near water. Lake, pool, ocean – I’ll take it. I also love trying out new restaurants around Austin, especially those with patios. And travel. I love to travel.

My favorite color is…
Blue because it reminds me of the ocean and the wide Texas sky on my favorite cloudless summer days.


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Celebrate Encouragement

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Point to Ponder:
Who in your life can you use some words of encouragement?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

In last week’s journal, Lift Higher, I wrote that in honor of iGnite’s tenth birthday that throughout next month we would celebrate by commemorating the people in our lives that lift us higher, as well as ways that they lift us higher. Thank you to everyone reading this journal because you taking the time to read this is lifting me higher, but in addition, a very recent example took place this summer during our iGnite Escape in Banff, Canada.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, myself and thirteen iGniters participated in a six hour mountaineering adventure called Via Ferrata. It was the perfect blend of fear, exhilaration and exhaustion, but by the end we were on top of the world and so thankful that we pushed ourselves to climb so high and for so long. While one of the more memorable takeaways was how important it is to put ourselves in situations that are mentally, physically and emotionally challenging (and even frightening), in order to encounter life’s most amazing and empowering experiences. However, the memory that made the greatest impact and the one I’d like to celebrate with you this week is the power of encouragement, for had it not been for the constant encouragement from one another as well as our guides, the experience would have been completely different and the end result would not have been so monumental.

Interesting, while on the Via Ferrata each of us found ourselves fearful and/or fatigued at different times, which meant that when one or a few of of us were down, the others were lifting each other up. It was a symphony of highs and lows, which resembled life as well as highlighted the significance of encouragement.

While encouraging and building one another up is an iGnite staple and may feel like a no-brainer, this week I invite you to make it your top priority. Celebrate those who encourage you and take the time to build someone up who is in need of your encouragement. Life ebbs and flows daily and you never know when someone needs to be lifted up or how a few words can make a profound impact on those around you.


Action Item:
Take time to encourage as many people as possible.


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Lift Higher

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Point to Ponder:
Who lifts you higher and who do you lift higher?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

With an unbelievable one hundred and five of us in attendance at our tenth birthday bash on Thursday night (crushing all previous party attendance!), all weekend I have contemplated the conversations, smiling faces and old and new friendships that filled the room. It was a humbling, exciting and inspiring evening that will be difficult top. While I continued to reflect, what keeps coming to mind is the quote listed in the picture above, by Oprah, “Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.” This describes the iGnite community, made up of both our leaders and members.

iGnite’s official birthday isn’t until October, but in addition to celebrating in a variety of ways, one thing we will commemorate during the next six weeks are the people in our lives who have and continue to lift us higher.

For the sake of today’s journal, I’m starting with our amazing iGnite team, who are some of my dearest and best friends. Some people may think that mixing business with friendships/pleasure is an irresponsible idea, but for me, working with people whom I admire, respect, love and want to “do life with” is non-negotiable. My personal philosophy is that if I’m going to spend my precious time that God has gifted me to work, it will only be with work and people I love.

Due to schedule and routines, it is difficult to get to every leader’s class and beyond that, getting to know each leader on the same intimate level as I do is challenging. As a result, below is insight from everyone’s bio that sheds light as to why they naturally lift myself and others higher. I also encourage you to click on each of their names, which will take you to their personal iGnite page where more inspiration lies.

Sha Klatt

SHA KLATT   I’m Most Inspired By: My parents are my inspiration! They are in their 80’s and still lead very active lives. They continue to try new things, eat well, exercise daily, travel and most importantly are very involved with their family. They have wonderful relationships with their 3 children and 6 grandchildren, who all adore them. Any gathering is more fun if my parents are there!

Favorite Passage: May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

paula-hPAULA HARNISH   Personal mantra: Keep calm and carry on!!

My Favorite quote, from the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

1. Be impeccable with your word
2. Don’t take anything personally
3. Don’t make assumption
4. Always do your best

Molly Daniels

MOLLY DANIELS  What Inspires Me Most: Like I mentioned above, I am inspired daily. Being one of the youngest on our team, I look up to all of the women I work with. I treasure and value their advice and take it to heart. The iGnite community inspires me. It is amazing getting to teach women from all different walks of life. I learn something new from them every day. My parents, who have been happily married for over 30 years, inspire me in a new way now that I am married. I seek their wisdom. And lastly, but not least, God amazes me and blesses me every single day. He calls us to serve, love and share, and I feel like I am doing just that in iGnite.

The Best Advice I’ve Been Given: My dad has always told me “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

Kathleen Parker

KATHLEEN PARKER   What Inspires Me Most: Staying strong and healthy is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. I believe that if we make fitness a part of our lifestyle, it becomes increasingly easy to LIVE and be well. I am truly inspired every day by the men and women I am blessed to train, and strive each day to make a positive impact on their lives. This life God has blessed me with just gets better every year! I look forward to each day as a new adventure, just as my father does. I am truly enjoying the “ride” and can’t wait to see where He takes me next!

My Favorite Quote: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot

babe-bio-4KATHLEEN “BABE” KEAHEY   Who Inspires Me Most: My mom and dad. My mom inspires me to always be true to myself. She is the most unique and caring person and is never afraid to be who she is -which can be a rare quality to find in this world. My dad because of his incredible patience and optimism. He had to deal with not only my mom, but three girls – that is a lot of women to handle in one house and I honestly don’t know how he does it! But he does it with so much kindness and patience, and for that, I thank him.

My Favorite Quote: “Let my faith be stronger than my fears.”

Jill Watts

JILL WATTS    Personal Mantra: “Everyday is a new day!” It’s pretty simple, but sometimes not so easy to live by. I have learned over the past few years as I have had some major changes in my life and as my children have become older (tweens and teens) that things just don’t always go as planned. You can’t waste too much time being stressed or upset. The day will come to an end no matter how hopeless it may seem at the time, and things always seem better in the morning. Each day you can have a fresh start with a new perspective. Teaching and participating in iGnite always helps me too!

Favorite Quote: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, its about learning how to dance in the rain!”

iGnite_JessieJESSIE D’ANDREA  Favorite Quotes:“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and now grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40: 31 / “Everyone smiles in the same language”

What Inspires Me Most: I am inspired by God’s creations: sunrises and sunsets, family, relationships, children, my job I could go on and on. But when I think about who inspires me the most, my sister, Jacky, always comes to mind first. Jacky is a God fearing women who loves her Savior first and her family second. She is a devoted mom to four beautiful children, a loving wife and daughter, and an inspiring big sister.

DelaineTeeple

DELAINE TEEPLE   Favorite Quote: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and you minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7

My iGnite Experience: When I got involved with iGnite 6 years ago, my light began to fully shine again after the accident. My love and appreciation for the outdoors was rekindled. The positive and inspiring environment that iGnite provides led me out of my comfort zone and into a much more exciting way of living. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be on this team as well as learn from all of the amazing women in iGnite.

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BETTY CUNNINGHAM   The Best Advice I’ve Been Given: “Look up.” Between carpools and the crazy pace of having 10 children, my mother would pull things out of the air to make us think, especially when we were arguing over things like who had to ride in the “very back” of the station wagon. One of the things she said that has stayed with me is: “Now just think about this, what if God had decided not to share. There would be nothing. No people, no cars, no bikes, no schools, and not even the sun or the moon and the stars. Nothing.”

Personal Mantra: I think I can, I think I can

Amy Younkman

AMY YOUNKMAN   Personal Mantra: “Lord work through me, with me and in me.”

The Best Advice I’ve Been Given: Several years ago my mom, two sisters and I were on a “girls getaway” weekend during which my sister asked, “What is one piece of advice you would like to pass on to us, Mom?” I continue to reflect on my Mom’s reply: “Never look to someone else for your happiness. Find it for yourself.”

Amy Casual headshotAMY CHIBIB   What I Love: I believe life is a delicate balance! I have found that joy in helping others, which is why iGnite and my life and career coaching is the perfect balance for my life. I founded Creating Lives that Work and have passion for promoting people, products, and causes and helping others.

Favorite Quote: “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” — Joseph Pilates

Alli Phillips

ALLI PHILLIPS   What Inspires Me Most: My 5 wonderfully rambunctious and active children, Delaney age 16, Sally age 13, Lucy age 13, Ellie age 13, and Liam age 8, along with their iron-man-daddy, David, to whom I’ve been married 21 years, inspired “Backyard Fitness” and continue to inspire me, every. single. day.

Favorite Quote: What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8


Action Item:
Recognize somebody who lifts you higher and make an effort to elevate someone else.


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Via Ferrata

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Point to Ponder:
What’s your Via Ferrata?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

As referenced in last week’s journal, our iGnite Escape’s are always filled with unexpected, laughable and ample ah-ha moments. In addition to meeting the Rubyz, the memory that made the greatest impact during this summer’s escape to Banff, Canada was on our 6-hour, Via Ferrata climb on Mt. Norquay–7000 feet up!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Via Ferrata, you are not alone. Prior to planning our trip I was also unaware. Via Ferrata is Italian for “iron way” and is a mountain route equipped with steel cables, ladders, other fixed anchors and suspension bridges. Having rock climbed before, I didn’t feel it was as physically challenging, however while the views were spectacular, six hours of reaching, climbing, scaling, and repelling at 7000 feet high is no easy feat. In fact, at times it was so physically, mentally and emotionally daunting that many of us agreed that we were tired of feeling scared and several of us wanted to stop; however, that is when the experience became the most rich and rewarding.

As the fear and fatigue escalated, Kim, one of our guides stepped in. Gentle yet firm, she reminded us that taking long deep breaths was essential, as deep abdominal breathing allows for full oxygen exchange that lowers heart rate, stabilizes blood pressure and calms our mind. And, having practiced the deep breathing throughout our adventure, I can confirm that it does quiet the body and mind.

Next, and while this sounds ridiculously simple, she encouraged us to eat, stay hydrated and take pit stops as often as we needed. Here’s why: Snacking and keeping our blood sugar at normal levels helps reduce anxiety and increases concentration. Staying hydrated helps us stay focused and decreases brain fog, and while we climbed (it got much more difficult before it got easier), staying focused was essential. And, allowing ourselves to urinate (rather than holding it) truly caused a sense of relief and Kim needed us to be as comfortable on the mountain, because not only would that allow us to stay focused on the tasks at hand, it would keep us safe.

Kim’s final wisdom nugget that left the greatest impression on our experience was when she reminded us that whether or not we quit or kept going, a “feel good” chemical response in our bodies would occur. In the event we were to quit, we would feel safe, relieved and out of danger, therefore our body would release serotonin. On the flip side, if we finished what we started, we would experience an endorphin rush and feel a true sense of euphoria. Kim’s point was that either way, both of these responses feel good and when the next similar opportunity were to present itself, we would more than likely choose the same path. In other words, as a result of stopping before we accomplished our goals or finished what we set out to achieve, life patterns are created. To Kim’s point, this is why she was respectfully relentless and would not let us quit. She knew that if we continued to persevere, work through our fears, fatigue and even anger, the result would be empowerment and excitement, which is most certainly what we all experienced. When it was all said and done and we were celebrating over beer and wine, we unanimously agreed that we were thankful we didn’t quit and completed the climb, and as we learned in this summer’s journal Be a Novel, Keep Moving and Stay Young, many of us agreed that climbing the Via Ferrata significantly reduced our risk of Alzheimers disease and increased our neuroplasticity.

So, what’s your Via Ferrata? Is there a “thing” in your life that you are avoiding starting or finishing due to fear? If there is, I encourage you to start by accomplishing smaller, attainable tasks, chores or goals that give you the satisfaction of finishing, as well as a good endorphin surge. Then, add on. Trying an iGnite class you’ve never taken is the perfect place to start, as is participating in our 12-Day Body Re-Boot that begins this upcoming Saturday.

All in all, fear is normal and without it, we’d be robots. However, what’s vital is our willingness to be a beginner and embrace challenges so that time and time again, courage can step in and we can experience life at its best.


Action Item:
Make the choice to be a beginner and embrace challenges. Start by accomplishing smaller, attainable tasks, chores or goals that give you the satisfaction of finishing as well as a good endorphin surge.


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From Small Beginnings Come Great Things

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Point to Ponder:
As a result of your time in iGnite, what metamorphosis have you experienced?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

One of my favorite pastimes is looking through photo albums. I can easily spend a nostalgic hour placing myself in each picture and sweet memory. This is often what happens when I look at the picture shown above, as it sits in my office where I can see it everyday.

The picture was taken ten years ago, at iGnite’s first location. While it was nothing more than a concrete slab that once served as a bridge that crossed over Lady Bird Lake (a.k.a. Town Lake), it was ideal because it was overlooking the lake, semi-secluded with a giant oak tree and a perfect size parking lot on 1st street. Back then before boot camps were popular and Austin was not inundated with studios and gyms, our members brought a physioball (a.k.a. udderballs because they had little legs that looked like udders), a set of blue, red and yellow resistance bands and a jump rope. The only class offered was a basic fitness class that I led on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:00 a.m and 8:00 a.m. We had no indoor location so we didn’t retreat inside when it was cold. Instead, we bundled up and never stopped moving. I vividly remember several 6:00 a.m. mornings when the temperature did not rise above freezing, but we were all committed to one another and excited to be outside on the lake, together. It was then that we realized that Austin really did have a winter season. It just happened between 12:00 a.m and 7:00 a.m.

Often times during the 6:00 a.m class it was very dark and runners and/or walkers couldn’t see us coming toward them with our giant udderballs, until they were within a few feet. However during the 8:00 a.m. class, we were unavoidable. We’d skip down the trail laughing with our udderballs lifted high above our heads (don’t knock it til you try it–it’s hard!), and as much as the passers-by would try not to make eye contact, it was impossible. You can imagine the looks we got….but more importantly, there were thousands of smiles exchanged along with “Good Morning!” from our members.

Making eye-contact and saying “Good Morning” to everyone on the trail was actually one of our spiritual and mental exercises. Why? Because while walking and running most people are looking down and it’s uncomfortable to say “good morning” and make eye contact with strangers. However, it was an opportunity for us to stretch beyond our comfort zones and grow. And, in order to be bright lights, it’s important to acknowledge people with eye contact and a friendly “Hello.”

I could go on and on with stories, and maybe at our 10th birthday party on the evening of September 15th (save the date!!), we’ll share our favorite iGnite memories, with one of my personal favorites being with the former First Lady of Texas, Anita Perry, and her secret service detail. Until then, when I look at the picture I think about the Proverb quoted, “From small beginnings come great things”.

My original goal for iGnite was to get as many women as possible to exercise outdoors together and experience the changing seasons and the physical, mental and spiritual healing powers of nature. And, just as our mascot and logo is the Monarch butterfly, the purpose was for everyone to grow and experience a literal transformation, or metamorphosis. The reason why I choose the Monarch butterfly is besides being graceful, gorgeous and free, like I believe all women are and should feel, the life of both a butterfly and a woman is difficult and ever changing. Her metamorphosis from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly is hard and looks painful, but in order for her to become a beautiful butterfly, the process is essential. This is a woman’s life, and in order for us to continue to grow into everything we are designed for, to experience our vast capacity of greatness and contribute to the world, a continual metamorphosis must occur. This transformation is filled with hard work, struggle, challenge, and even heartache, but the gifts along the way as well as who we become are all worthwhile!

It was less than one year from the start of iGnite that a true metamorphosis began to occur in our members. They grew from caterpillars into full-grown Monarchs! They were ready for more challenge, which birthed the start of holding more classes and different locations around central Austin (again–before traffic was a real issue). It seems simple, but changing locations created a greater metamorphosis because along with the new location came an unfamiliar phyisical and mental experience. Change equals challenge and challenge equals growth.

Metamorphosis was occurring rapidly and despite varying our locations, it became obvious that our members needed more beyond just a basic fitness class that I could provide, so I welcomed gifted and passionate teammates, a variety of diverse classes and multiple locations. While iGnite’s beginnings were simple, small and very special, out of them have morphed innumerable wonderful things: lifelong friendships, community, restored health, confidence and purpose. You are doing things you never thought you could or would do, you have made yourself a priority, you are supporting and lifting women up and you are flying!

Regardless of our size or whether or not you’ve been a Monarch for one day, or ten years, our purpose for you remains the same, which is for iGnite to be your metamorphosis springboard so that you can fly into everything that God has created you for, which is undoubtedly for you to do something great and be somebody amazing!

Just as our vintage iGnite video that lives on our website’s About page and was created almost six years ago shows, iGnite is a celebration of life’s blessings–the unknown and the immeasurable beauty that each day brings. iGnite is the power of believing, the power of taking care of yourself so that you can be your very best! iGnite is a way of life. iGnite is every woman. Today is your day! Now is your time to iGnite Your Life!


Action Item:
Within iGnite, what can you do to experience a greater metamorphosis?


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Member Spotlight: Missy Hillhouse

FullSizeRender-3-1Roots:
I am originally from Dixon, a small town in northern Illinois, about 90 miles west of Chicago. I came to Austin over 30 years ago to attend UT, and like so many others, I never left! I love my city!

Family Life:
I have been married to my husband, Jeff, for 22 years! We have two boys, Drew (21) and Chase (19). Drew will be a senior at UT Austin. Chase will be a sophomore at the University of Arkansas. We are enjoying being empty-nesters!!

Work Life:
I am a third grade teacher at Caraway Elementary. I have been teaching for 20 years. I took a few years off when my boys were young, and I will always be grateful for that time. Before going back to the classroom full-time, I taught part-time and substitute taught. Easing my way back was the way to do it!

The biggest lesson I’ve learned through my iGnite experience…
iGnite has taught me that building a community with those you workout with has such a positive effect on how I view exercising and taking good care of myself. The relationships I’ve formed with those I workout with (and work with!) are invaluable. I treasure the time I get to spend with my group, and it motivates me to want to keep coming to class every week. Molly has been instrumental in this, as she comes to our school twice weekly to lead us in amazing workouts.

I am most inspired by…
My late father inspired me with his selflessness as he raised a son with special needs. He did this on his own, everyday, for nearly 30 years. His huge heart and loving ways are an inspiration to me everyday.

In my free time…
I enjoy hanging with my family and friends, reading, boating, shopping and traveling when I’m able! We also love to take our dog, Cola, to all the dog-friendly places Austin offers!

My guilty pleasure…
Shoe shopping. I love shoes, especially boots!!


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Lifelong Impact

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Point to Ponder:
If today were the last day you had with those in your sphere of influence, what would they remember about you?

iGnite Neissa

Neissa Brown Springmann

This time last year our life was turned upside down. After seventeen years of working as an assistant men’s basketball coach for Rick Barnes at the University of Texas, my husband Russell and the entire staff was let go. There was a humbling saying that Coach Barnes frequently quoted, which was “Proud peacock one day; feather duster the next.” Upon being fired and not having a job for a few weeks, professionally, Russell felt like a full-blown “feather duster.” Then, he really felt like a giant feather duster when he went to clean out his office and found that his name plate had already been replaced and seventeen years worth of office belongings were put in a utilities closet. Fully understanding that this was simply business and the job now belonged to Shaka Smart and his staff, being replaced and feeling forgotten so quickly stung. It’s like being in a committed relationship or married to someone, to then break up and a few months later learn that he is engaged to be married. It’s heart-breaking and cuts to the core, however the key is remembering that what we do, how we look, the things we have, our professions, and even the people we spend most of our time with with are not our identity. It’s always a sad reality, but especially in the workforce or in any organization, people are replaceable. There will always be someone smarter or more talented, and as it relates to the things we have and our outward appearance, there will always be someone who has more or is more physically attractive. What I am getting at is that everything is life is replaceable, however your impact and the way you make someone feel is permanent.

Recently, I had a insightful conversation with a wise women in San Diego. It’s the same woman I referenced in the journal two weeks ago titled, “How Well Do You Rest and Receive.” Not only did she kindly recommend that I take a chill pill and be still long enough to rest and receive God’s love, but upon expressing my restlessness, feeling like I need to strive to accomplish more and that I wasn’t doing enough, she looked me square in the eyes and said, “Do not underestimate the impact opportunity you have in your husband and children’s lives. This is the most important impact you will ever have. Your ability to love, support, encourage and be available to them everyday will create the most extraordinary impact that will live forever.”

As a “recovering over-achiever,” she fully understood my struggle and I appreciated her wisdom and boldness, because honestly and shamefully, I have always underestimated my roll as wife and mom. While I have definitely valued it and certainly viewed it as an enormous blessing and responsibility, I’ve always felt like I needed to do more in every area of my life. It’s my own struggle with approval, contentment and worthiness.

Maybe this is just my struggle, but because the “expectation pendulum” for women has swung soooo far to one side, it’s no longer “enough” for women to live a “simple” life as mom, wife or professional, and to “only” impact our family’s or co-worker’s lives. There is pressure to climb the ladder while also being the president of an organization or co-chairing every event. Meanwhile, we feel like a hamster in a wheel, we are unable to be great at anything because we have said “yes” to everything. We are resentful, exhausted and burnt out, and the people whom we love the most (husbands, children and family members) get the grouchy and easily annoyed and frustrated wife, mom, daughter, sister, etc. This was me, which leaves minimal opportunity to have the long-lasting impact that I know we all desire to have.

The last nine months have been very humbling and revealing. Prior to moving to San Diego, I thought I would for sure expand iGnite into Southern California. After all, it had to be why God moved us (ha!). However, what I am figuring out is that God moved us to slow me down and refocus my priorities. Not only did He want me to rest so that I can fully receive His love, but He needs me to be present and available to my husband and children, because I haven’t been. At times, this has been terribly uncomfortable and very ugly, like an addict needing a purpose and identity fix, but it has also been so dang good.

I can’t express how great it feels to admit that I am unsure if iGnite will expand into California. I’m comfortably waiting for God to show me, but until then, I’m in receiving mode so that I can fully serve my family, be an effective leader for iGnite and create a lasting and fruitful impact. Meanwhile, I encourage you to take a breath, evaluate where your time is spent and determine how you can create a lifelong impact in the lives of the people you love and care about the most.

Action Item:

Take a breath and evaluate where your time is spent. Then, determine how you can create a lifelong impact in the lives of the people you love and care about the most.

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Inspire, Love, & Encourage

Neighborly Love, Part V

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Point to Ponder:
Who can you inspire, love and encourage more?

iGnite Neissa

Neissa Brown Springmann

Recently, while thumbing through my Bible and randomly selecting something to read, I came upon a verse from Hebrews that I had never read before: “Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, not forgetting to gather as a community and encourage one another.” As I contemplated the verse, it dawned on me that inspiring, loving and encouraging one another sums up how to effectively love our neighbors, which accounts for everyone: family members, friends and total strangers.

I understand…I know that everything can’t always be a bed of inspiring and encouraging roses and some people are easier to love than others, but for sure, eliminating criticism, negativity and focusing on being an encourager and inspiration to and for others can heal relationships, create friendships and transform people’s lives.

Today is Easter, a holiday which symbolizes extraordinary inspiration, infinite love and life-changing encouragement. With that, let us use the blessing and inspiration of Easter as a launching pad to raise our thoughts, words and actions to lift others and ourselves to new and greater heights. This is an incredible opportunity that we’ve all been given and you never know when something as simple as, “You got this!”, “I believe in you!” “Great job!”, will change the course of someone’s day or even life.

Action Item:
Keep a weekly encouragement journal and see how many people you can encourage this week.

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How Well Do You Rest & Receive?

Neighborly Love, Part IV

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Point to Ponder:
Do you rest and receive?

iGnite Neissa

Neissa Brown Springmann

As I continue to read the book The Art of Neighboring (the inspiration of our Neighborly Love journal series), chapter 8 “The Art of Receiving” has my soul stirring. Why…because I am a terrible receiver, and I think it’s safe to say that most of us prefer being the giver and doer for others, rather than being the receiver. We are women who are designed to nurture, give and serve which is all wonderful and beautiful; however, I’m curious if the pendulum has swung so far to the service, giving and doing side that our ability to be available and receive love, help and service from others has become painful and next to impossible. I suggest this because this is me and my life.

To be absolutely honest, receiving makes me squirm and feel weak. Just last night a sweet family invited us to dinner so they could introduce us to their friends. Being “the new kids on the block”, we were beyond grateful for their kindness, hospitality, and generosity, but Russell and I left asking one another, “beyond writing a thank you note, bringing a bottle of wine, flowers and saying thank you a million times, what more can we do to let them know how grateful we are?!” While my restless and discontent soul desires to take action and do something for them, I know that my opportunity is to practice receiving my neighbor’s beautiful love, and I wonder if this is an opportunity for you too?

In Chapter 8, The Art of Receiving, the authors wrote this,

“Great neighborhoods are built on reciprocal relationships, on two-way streets. At the end of the day, no one wants to feel like a project. We want to feel that we bring something to the table. But, when it comes to neighboring well, one of the biggest temptations is to turn neighbors into projects. We put on the “super neighbor cape” and rush out to serve our neighbors and make a difference on the block. This really isn’t a bad thing, but if this is all we ever do, then our relationships will be empty. If we don’t allow people to meet any of our needs, we limit what God wants to do in our neighborhood and in our life. To be on the receiving end is very difficult. Our tendency is to put ourselves in a position of power- being the one to give. We want to be seen as the capable one with the resources and answers. But being in a relationship where we allow others to meet our needs is always a good thing. The art of neighboring involves our being able to give of our time and energy, and just as important, to receive from others.”

Ay-yi-yi! That’s me! I loathe feeling weak and always want to be in a power position–even when it comes to my relationship with my husband (my closest neighbor). Ironically, last night while at the dinner table, I had an incredible conversation with one of the women, who like me and maybe even you, is blessed and cursed with the perfectionist, achievement, accomplishment and busy bug. She reminded me that our greatest opportunity is to rest and receive God’s love, which often is our neighbors love. However, if we’re busy doing all of the time, how will we ever fully receive all of the love?  More importantly, if we don’t allow ourselves to fully receive the love, how will we ever be able to fully give the love we are created to give?

So, what’s the formula to being able to receive? According to the book, it’s humility and vulnerability. Having humility allows us to admit that we actually need help, and vulnerability gives us to the courage to put ourselves out there and ask for help. And, per the wisdom from my new friend, I am also adding rest, meaning a little time everyday– away from all of our ridiculous distractions (I mean really?!? We are inundated!), like our phones, computers, television, radio, work, people, and busy schedules, where you can be still and available to meditate, pray, and tune into our Divine Source. For me, this is a time of prayer, asking God to expose my weaknesses and prideful ways so that I can hear Him and be fully present and available to receive all of the love He has for me, which is also the love that we allow ourselves to receive from our neighbors.

Action Item:
Allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to stop and receive love, help and service from others.

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More In Common Than We Think

Neighborly Love, Part III

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Point to Ponder:
Do you instantly dismiss the opportunity to connect with someone because they look or talk differently than you?

iGnite Neissa

Neissa Brown Springmann

Have your ever sat next to someone who you didn’t know, or who didn’t look or talk like you and think to yourself, “There’s no chance I have anything in common with him or her.” Then, surprisingly, the conversation begins, you start connecting, and you learn that you have much more in common than you anticipated. This is the embarrassing story of my life.

Shamefully, I prejudge and place labels on almost everyone. I prejudge them based on the way they look, dress and the kind of car they drive. Unfortunately, I do not first consider all of the things we could have in common or that we could even be friends. Instead, I think it would be nice if we had some things in common and were able to be friends, but I pretty much dismiss the opportunity for connection. Trust me, I’m not proud to admit this–but it’s the truth.

I have found this to be particularly true since moving to San Diego. To my surprise, San Diego is very diverse and while I am grateful for this, I have found that I look for people who look and even dress like me–a.k.a., a Texan! For example, it comforts me to see a mom dressed in her workout clothes, and because a Prius is much more popular than a Tahoe, it brings me great joy to see someone driving a big’ole Suburban, Tahoe and Escalade. In fact, just yesterday we parked next to Texas style pickup truck (a BIG truck!) that took up two parking spots (the parking spaces in Cali are tiny). As silly as it sounds, I wanted to hug the man driving the truck and exchange life stories. I was certain he was a Texan!

I’m unsure if my reaction is human nature or because of my limited and non-diverse upbringing and life experiences (or both), but I do seek out and find great solace in people who look, dress and talk like me. However, what I am learning is that with most people, I have more in common than I think, and in this lies great opportunity.

One such example is through our Bible Study. We are a small group of three families from South Korea, the Philippines, California and Texas. If you just looked at us from the outside, you would easily assume that the only things we have in common are: we live in San Diego, we attend the same church and we are married with children. However our struggles, fears, experiences, weaknesses, and life desires are uncannily similar. At first, it was difficult for me to clearly understand the South Korean couple, however what I quickly learned was that a smile is a universal language, and after only a few evenings together the language barrier ceased. The key was being open to getting to know them, spending time with them and loving them. What I have learned is that this couple are some of the kindest people I have ever met, and we have much more in common than I ever could’ve imagined. They have become sweet friends.

Finally, I had another “we have way more in common than I thought” moments after leaving Durant’s (our five year-old) karate class. With a five and a two-and-a half year old, getting in and out of the car can be painful. Like watching paint dry it can take for-ev-er! So, even though our car was parked only ten steps from the karate studios entrance, the process took at least ten minutes. As I finally got Malaine into her seat I looked over my shoulder to see another family, also leaving karate, struggling to get their kids from point A to point B, which was about ten steps. As I watched this and chuckled, I said to the mom “Isn’t it amazing how long it takes to just to get them to the car?!” She then looked at me and said, “It is agonizing and I’m so glad to know it’s not just us!”. I reassured her that it is not just them, rather it is all of us! This is a mom and family who look nothing like us and embarrissingly, I had not attempted to get to know. After our exchange, it made me realize that she was probably looking at me with the same sentiments, thinking that because we look nothing alike that we have very little in common.

All in all, I believe that life is a revolving door of humbling lessons, and in the case of this journal, I believe my lesson is to love my neighbors–everyone. Because I am surrounded with so many people who are different than me, I am learning that judgement and love cannot co-exist. To love our neighbors is to set stereotypes and judgements aside. It’s not only being open to relationships with all people, but seeking opportunities to connect and love people who we don’t seem to have much in common with. These people are all our neighbors and the law of averages says that we will have more in common than we think. This doesn’t mean that we have to invite them over to dinner or become best friends– however we should share a friendly smile and initiate a conversation.

Action Item:
Seek opportunities to have conversation and connect with people (your neighbors) who look, think and talk differently than you do. A warm and friendly hello and smile is a great start.

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