Category Archives: Stories That Inspire

Always Grateful

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Point to Ponder:
Who or what do you need to be grateful for?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

With family coming to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday, I hired my friend’s housekeeper to clean our home. We haven’t had our house professionally cleaned since June and it was in desperate need of a good scrubbing. Erica, my friend’s housekeeper, let me know that she was going to get a friend to help her, and to insure that the house got as clean as possible, she was going to take her time. From 7:45 a.m – 5:30 p.m., Erica and Anna cleaned! I never imagined that they would or could clean for so long, but they did. Needless to say, the house is spotless and orderly- like a model home. It looks wonderful and feels even better! However, while our houses cleanliness is a delightful thing, is it temporary. It will soon look like a jungle gym and a stuffed animal, marker, crayon and Lego bomb exploded. However, what is permanent is Anna’s impact.

Prior to yesterday, I had only met Erica once and I had never met Anna at all, so throughout the day I would strike up various conversations. I tried not to bother them, but I wanted to get to know them. By their actions alone it was clear that they were both extremely hard workers and take pride in their work, but as so often occurs when conversing with people, it doesn’t take long to be reminded that everyone has a story and the human spirit is nothing short of incredible!

As soon as Anna finished up cleaning the very last thing, we began talking and she let me know that twenty-five years ago she moved from Mexico to San Diego. She became a US citizen, got married and had three children. Her children are twenty-two, twenty and sixteen. To use her words, she is unfortunately divorced from her children’s father and while he is a part of their lives, her children live with her, she is the provider and she is their rock. Her twenty-two year old son is in the Navy, her twenty year old daughter is in college and her sixteen year old son attends a high-school academy in San Diego. And, as I continued to ask her questions, she let me know that after dropping her son off at school every morning she goes back home to prepare meals for her family, studies and then works as a custodian at a middle school, from 2:30 – 11:30 p.m. When I asked her what she is studying, she let me know that she is striving to get her GED (her high-school diploma). As I nodded my head in disbelief and amazement of the character and strength of this woman, she let me know that she is fifty-two years old and that the only thing she can attribute her strength to is God. She is faith-filled, grateful and she blew my mind!

When Erica and Anna finally finished I gave them both a hug for all of their hard work, but more than making my house look amazing, I was thankful for the opportunity to get to know them. Not only was I reminded of the blessing of being able to afford someone to clean our house (something my mom or my husband’s mom, both single-moms, never had the luxury of being able to afford), but most importantly, I was reminded that despite life’s disappointments and challenges, the blessings of each day outweighs the burdens, attitude is everything, having faith is essential and living with and in gratitude is the only way to live.


Action Item:
Whether it be verbally or in a hand-written note, thank someone you are grateful for and/or give thanks for what you are grateful for.


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Finding the Blessings

Inspiration from the iGnite Blog Article Archives

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Point to Ponder:
What disappointing time in your life can you now look back on and see the blessings in it? Or, are you going though a difficult time in your life and having trouble finding the blessings?

Jill Watts

by Jill Watts

After moving to a new high school in The Woodlands, Texas my freshman year, I decided to join the track team. I tried out for all sprints and quickly my coaches and I realized that this was my thing. I ran varsity as a freshman and continued the rest of my high school career, anchoring all three relays in every meet: the 100m, 200m and mile relay, and ran the open 100m and 200m dash. I continued successfully winning district championships and placing in Regionals and was on my way to pursuing a track career in college.

Then… I broke my legs.

It was the night of the Homecoming dance my senior year, and 6 friends and I were headed to the dance from dinner. Suddenly, the guy who was driving ran through a stop sign and smashed into a telephone pole on my side of the car.I never lost consciousness, and I remember it all very well in detail. I looked down and saw that my right leg was completely broken — a compound fracture where I broke my tibia in half and the bone was sticking out of my leg. My left ankle was shattered, my right hand (which I had used to brace myself and protect my face from hitting the dash) was broken, and I had knocked out a tooth where my face hit the dashboard. I was the only one in the car that was hurt.

I remember lying there on the table in the hospital after it happened and asking the doctors “when can I run again?” but they continued to say “we don’t know.” They reassured me that I would be fine, but said they weren’t sure if I would be able to run again. Needless to say, due to my injuries I could not run my senior year in high school and my chances for running in college were ruined.

The accident changed everything for me, but I stayed positive and never gave up. The hope of being able to run and snow ski again helped me push through months of physical therapy and 3 surgeries over a year and a half as I transitioned into college. After hard work and determination, I was walking again, my leg was healing correctly after being reconstructed and the bone straightened, and I was feeling more sturdy and less timid with putting strain on my legs.

Eventually I was back to normal and doing all the activities I loved again — skiing, dancing, hiking, and exercising. I started running again about two and a half years after my third surgery, and I continued to run at the track for fun, but never again competitively.

I learned some tough life lessons, and that accident helped make me the person I am today. It has given me the positive and hopeful outlook that I have on life. It made me realize that life can change in a moment, and you have to make the best of what you have now and count your blessings. You also can not sit around and wait for life to be perfect, you must make a choice to live the life you want, despite some hard work and perseverance. You can never let anything get you too far down and you must always have faith.

Sometimes in life we are thrown a curve ball, (well, many times) and we can’t just sit around and wait for things to get better. You have to change your attitude, make choices, and figure it out. In most cases it turns out to be a blessing!

I still love the sport of track and am so thrilled that my oldest daughter is following in my footsteps. Track excites me and it is an incredible way to stay fit!


Action Item:
Life can change in a moments time, and you have to make the best of what you have now and count your blessings. Make the choice to live the life you want, work hard, persevere and remain faithful!


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Real Women, Real Stories | Jeanne Little: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty through Education

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Roots: I have lived all over Texas, but I’m so thankful to have spent the last 32 years in Austin.

Family Life: Blessed to be married to an amazing man for almost 35 years. Lew and I have 3 children; Wesley, Anne and Elizabeth. Two weddings this year and now we have two more wonderful children; Dora Lee and Nick.

Work Life: I retired from real estate several years ago after 18 years with Moreland Properties.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten…“This to shall pass” from my mother. I always thought this meant that difficult times would not last. As I have gotten older I realize the need to live in the moment and appreciate all the good days. They pass too.

I’m most inspired by…I was fortunate to have an incredible mentor in business; Emily Moreland. Emily is a great example of a working mother. She has a deep faith, kind heart, commitment to helping others and always puts her family first.

When I’m not working, you can find me…on the hike and bike trail walking around the lake.

My perfect day…is having all my children home. Anne and Elizabeth live in California and New York and I miss them.

My Story: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Education

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Showing the children the first-ever reading books at Victory School

I love to travel! In 2011 I convinced my husband Lew to go to Uganda to hike with the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impentrable Forest. I had always wanted to go after seeing the movie “Gorillas in the Mist.” Bwindi is a remote village high in the mountains with no electricity or running water — this trip certainly qualified as the adventure I was looking for! We loved our hikes with the gorillas in the beautiful rain forest. It was awe inspiring to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

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The first time we met Kamukama

On our second day in Bwindi, Lew and I left the lodge to go visit the community clinic we had heard about. Without a map or cell phone we headed out. While we were overwhelmed by the poverty we saw, we were also moved by the smiling and curious faces staring at us as we walked through the village. Along the way, a little boy in rags appeared and walked down the dirt road with us. I guessed that he was about 6 years old. He had the most beautiful smile and peace about him. At that moment he touched my heart in such a special way that I still do not fully understand it today. With his direction, we finally made it to the clinic and he disappeared. As we were hiking the following day, we saw the little boy again. He ran up and hugged us and, of course, I started crying. We found out his name was Kamukama which means “ Protected by God”. He had been in the village the day before looking for his father to pay his school fees. He could not attend school without paying and his father had deserted the family for Kampala. Before we left Uganda we made arrangements for a guardian to make sure he was enrolled in school and we wired the money to pay his school fees.

 

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Kamukama and me in 2015

A year later we returned to Bwindi with our children and Carol & Milo Burdette. We had great hikes with the gorillas and everyone was able to meet Kamukama. He was healthy and thriving in school. We saw so many other children living in extreme poverty without the chance of an education. I had been praying for a year for God to show me a way to help other children like Kamukama. I had no idea where to even begin. On this trip we met children from Victory School. We learned that Sylvia and Victor Bahati were struggling to educate 33 children at the school. They only had several untrained teachers, mud huts for classrooms, no textbooks and few resources, but they had a deep faith in God and a desire to improve the lives of children in their community.

 

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Students with letters from their sponsors

After returning to Austin we decided to establish the Kamukama Foundation. We partnered with Victory School with the goal to expand and educate more children. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support . With a new Victory School website, generous supporters from across the country have been able to sponsor children and make donations. We have built relationships with the families of students and work together with the common goal to provide a quality education for these precious children. We have so many gifts and talents to share with each other.

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Immaculate with a letter from her sponsors, Corrinne & Betsy

The school now has trained teachers and staff, textbooks, library, new classrooms and 300 students. It has been so fun these past four years to share this special place with friends who go with us to work at the school. The gift of an education is giving these children a real chance to break the cycle of poverty and have hope for the future…God has put us on this path and I am excited to see where he will lead us.

More about Victory School in Uganda:  

Uganda´s AIDS epidemic, extreme poverty and decades of civil conflict have left the country with over 2.4 million orphans – the most of any country in the world. Due to lack of government subsidized education, families face enormous challenges to educate their children.

  • over half of the people in Uganda struggle to survive on less than $1.25 a day
  • 3 out of 4 children who start primary school in Uganda do not complete 5th grade
  • 1 in 3 Ugandan children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition
  • 2 in 5 children and adults in rural Uganda lack access to clean water
  • almost 100,000 children die annually from malaria in Uganda
  • an estimated 1.2 million children and adults in Uganda are living with HIV / AIDS, 64,000 of whom die annually
  • the average life expectancy is 54 years

Victory School is a place of hope. The school provides an education to these children growing up in extreme poverty who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend school. In addition to academics, Victory School equips the children with the tools to manage family planning, nutrition, health, sex education and farming skills.

To find out more about Victory School and how to Sponsor a Child, visit http://victoryschooluganda.org

How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world?  -Anne Frank


iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com


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Real Women, Real Stories | Martha Pincoffs: Discovering Self-Love in Order to Shine in Life

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Roots: I am born and raised in Austin. I have left to live in D.C. and Telluride, CO, but I always come back to Austin. This is home.

Family Life: My partner, Jo, and I have two kids. River is 4 years old and Townes is 2 years old.

Work Life: I am the founder of Hot Dang Grain Burgers, a company I started in 2011 and am President of Hat Creek Provisions, a fermented food company. I am on a personal mission to empower people with food!

Martha - HatCreek.jpgMy favorite quote: “You can be scared and brave at the exact same time.” -Brene Brown

People so often speak of “fearless leaders” and that never resonated for me. When I read the quote, it put words to that feeling. Leadership for me is scary sometimes, but trusting myself and the people I surround myself with and doing it anyway.

I’m most inspired by…my kids. I am constantly amazed by their curiosity and joy and resilience. They have such pure, sweet spirits, I can’t get enough of them.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten…Every time I left the house when I was a kid, my mom told me “Be sweet and have fun.” Somewhere along the way those words really soaked in and have shaped me.

Something people may not know about me…I have dreams of being on Broadway!

My guilty pleasure…The Real Housewives of Atlanta

What I’m looking forward to right now…A trip to Tulum next week with Jo.

When I’m not working, you can find me…Playing with my kids, cooking, on the back porch with Jo or riding a bike

My Story: Discovering Self-Love in Order to Shine in Life

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My life-changing experience have come in stages. Each one has allowed me to be the most authentic version of myself.

I have changed careers and cities and houses and come-out and had adventures and big belly laughs and plenty of heartbreak and therapy and some of the best friends in the world and found the love of my life. All of these experiences have showed me the way back to my authentic self, held up the mirror for me and helped me sometimes gently and sometimes not so gently get back to myself.

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Martha with Jo, her kids and her dad

No single thing has changed me more than becoming a parent. There was all of the sudden this little being (River) in our world and he became the ultimate mirror. I started thinking differently about life and about how Jo and I could raise a kid that is sweet and confident and safe in his own skin. I wanted him to feel the license to be himself.

There was something unsettled in me that I knew needed light. In this time I started meditating, reading Brene Brown and Debbie Ford and I could feel the light shifting in me. One day I was reading Brene Brown’s Parenting Manifesto, probably for the 15th time, but this time it hit a different nerve. In that moment I understood that my kids would never be able to be sweet, confident and safe in their own skin as long as I wasn’t able to give that to myself. That day I stopped drinking and smoking, my favorite coping mechanisms. I started actually liking myself and even loving who I am.

I’ll never forget the moment I was standing by our grill on the back porch and I had an experience where I could feel all of the love people had been giving to me for years that I hadn’t been able to feel. I had known intellectually that I was loved, but I had never been able to hold it. I always felt like I had something to apologize for, something to be ashamed of that made me somehow unworthy. Until this moment and the right relationship and set of circumstances, spiritual guides and tiny humans to care for taught me how to love myself.

Since that day I have been truly free. I don’t wear dresses any more. I don’t hold my tongue when I believe in something. I love my wife-to- be and our kids and the work that I get to do and the people I spend my days with. This lesson in parenting and self-love has pulled all of the parts of me together and I have given myself permission to love every bit of this journey and permission to go out and live the life of my dreams.

View More: http://katezimmermanpictures.pass.us/hot-dang-december-2015The effects of my “self-love” revolution left no stone unimproved. I had already started my company, Hot Dang, at this point, but I was plagued by self-doubt and insecurity in the early days. I didn’t feel like I knew enough about business to be successful, and the truth is…I didn’t, but no-one does when they start something and are immersed in learning. The shift that happened for me in business was profound. I went from a mind-set of who am I to try this, to who am I not to. I have a vision for a healthier place to live and eat and my regret would be NOT doing anything about it. This shift allowed me to boldly do and learn and unapologetically pursue my vision. The trick of living the life of your dreams is not to judge what exists in you or others and go bravely (remember, it is okay to be scared here) forward and live the life that you are meant to live. Whether that is becoming an artist, a therapist, raising kids, starting a company, being the best friend in the world, you are entitled to live YOUR dreams. Who are you not to show us your shine?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson


iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com


 

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Are You Available?

Neighborly Love, Part II

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Point to Ponder:
Do you live at a pace that makes you available to those around you?

iGnite Neissa

Neissa Brown Springmann

Last Friday morning we, iGnite, launched our first of four, Friends & Fitness at the Turquoise Table neighborhood workouts. In case you are unaware of what the Turquoise Table is, it was originated by Austinite Kristin Schell, as a meeting place for neighbors, friends, and even strangers, to hang out and do life together in the front yard. The table has spurred a front yard revival in neighborhoods all across the country and has become a welcome place to gather and love.

As hoped, our Friday morning workout around the table was nothing short of beautiful. Set in the front yard of iGnite member, Melissa Morrow, and centered around her turquoise table enhanced with spring flowers, snacks and iGnite’s favorite and healthy Cranberry Water beverage, the weather was flawless and the morning was filled with invigorating exercise, conversation and laughter. As described by Melissa Morrow, it was a “Friday morning party.

With fellowship being our purpose we were delighted in the outcome, however a spontaneous perk was birthed from simply being in the front yard and around the turquoise table. Following the workout, as everyone gathered around the table to engage in conversation and snacking, a curious neighbor walking his dog stopped to inquire about the front yard gathering. Excitingly, this was a neighbor Melissa had never met and for a few minutes he stayed, talked and nibbled on the snacks. He even encouraged Melissa to let him know next time she had another front yard turquoise gathering because he would attend. How cool is that?!

In conjunction with the turquoise table movement, last spring I began reading The Art of Neighboring. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish it so I have started reading it again, however while reading last year what impacted me the most were the words of the former mayor of Denver, who said “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.” WOW!

Currently, as I continue to read the book and attempt to finish it, the following comments and questions have caused me to pause and evaluate how neighborly I am as well as the changes I need to make in order to be good neighbor to my physical neighbors: “Our purpose in life is to love God and love others. Living a hurried, frantic lifestyle is the opposite of what God wants for our lives. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time and time is the one thing hurried people don’t have. Ask yourself this question: Do I live at a pace that allows me to be available to those around me? When we create the right kind of margins we can live with a level of peace that allows us to be interruptible, which gives us time to know our neighbors.”

Unfortunately, our home in San Diego does not have a front yard, so my sweet turquoise picnic table that was incredibly useful in helping us get to know more of our neighbors in Austin is resting in the garage. I am hopeful that one day I will be able to bring it out again, however it’s safe to say that despite not having a front yard or turquoise table, that should not hinder my efforts in getting to know my neighbors. Our neighborhood is designed in a way that we live very close to one another, with ample sidewalks and people out and about. It would be a breeze for me to sit on my front porch and meet my neighbors — I just have to make it a priority, make myself available, be approachable and be engaging. For me, this means being intentional with scheduling the time outside, on my front porch and not having my head buried in my iPhone or computer (the book labels these as “time stealers”).

Despite our busy schedules and all of the many distractions that prevent us from getting to know our neighbors, knowing and loving our neighbors is a vital part of a functional, stable, healthy, compassionate and loving community and world. There are many wonderful community and global efforts that help and save people in need, but equally as important are our physical neighbors. As a result, this week I encourage you to spend time in your front yard with the goal that you get to know one of your neighbors. Or, if there is a new neighbor on your street, somebody you haven’t met yet, or you don’t live close to anyone, make an effort to introduce yourself. Drop off a note or knock on their door to say hello. Ultimately, we don’t have to become best friends with our neighbors, but the first step in becoming a community of great neighbors is getting to know who our neighbors are.

Action Item:

Spend time in your front yard with the goal that you get to know one of your neighbors. Or, if there is a new neighbor on your street, somebody you haven’t met yet, or you don’t live close to anyone, make an effort to introduce yourself. Drop off a note or knock on their door to say hello.

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Real Women, Real Stories | Nancy’s Story: Abundant Living Among the Chronically Homeless

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iGnite - Nancy Miller

Roots: I was born in Orange, California, but moved to Dallas in 1969 and then to Austin in 1984.  I’ve been here ever since and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

With my grown children: Sarah, Kim, Rachel, me, Justin & Rebecca

Family Life:  My first husband and I were both in the medical field and saw that older children were not getting adopted after the preschool age. They would age out of foster care or group homes with no place to call home after 18.  Specialists at the time said older children were rarely being placed. We wanted a big family, so we decided to have our “bio babes” first and then adopt older children.

We had Justin, and then Rachel came 17 months later. Then, a year later we added Kimberly (9 years old), then a year later, Rebecca (8 yrs), and finally a year later Sarah (17 years old).  Whew!  What a ride! They all came from different families with different stories. What an adventure!

Grandchildren (it's hard to get them all together at the same time): Trey, Valencia, Brooklyn, Derrick, Kannon, Kyciel and Chasity

Grandchildren (it’s hard to get them all together at the same time): Trey, Valencia, Brooklyn, Derrick, Kannon, Kyciel and Chasity

I am an artist, but being a parent probably required my most creative spontaneity!  Folks asked us how we figured out how to raise this family — well, we kind of made it up as we went along. We had gentle firm rules, and as much fun as possible. We had regular rule breaking to ease the structure. For example we had “bad manners night” one dinner a week (the only rules were no throwing food or eating off of each other’s plates), they had to dress up for church only once a month, they could have a whole box of any cereal (usually with chocolate in the title, ugh) they wanted for their birthday. We also enjoyed pranks, theater plays, a giant dress up/costume room, 10 different pets, and tons of crafts.  I thought I was going to make the biggest impact in their lives, but I am so very changed myself.

After 30 years my husband and I parted and remain friends today, still very involved with our children’s lives. I am in a new chapter of my life. My children have grown, have children of their own (11 fabulous grandchildren and counting). We all love getting together as much as possible.

Ed and I at a Chicago concert

Ed and I at a Chicago concert

I met a wonderful man named Ed Miller who was not frazzled by my huge family, brought two sons of his own and joined me in a new marriage adventure. We have been married now for 7 years. He is also a nurse and works with the elderly.

Work Life:  I am currently a psychiatric nurse, a charge nurse at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital over the adult ICU, and I have been there for 8 years. I began as a nurse in 1978, but after having children, I joined the pastoral staff of a local church as the director of congregational care and counseling.  I received my masters in counseling, obtained my LPC and had a private practice for 10 years. I missed the team spirit I had in the church setting, so I returned to nursing as a psych nurse. I love it — and again I need my creative energy to problem solve and creatively care for our patients.  In 2013 I was named Seton Behavior Health’s Nurse of the Year. In 2014 I was chosen as a TNA (Texas Nurses Association) Fab Five Nurse, the first psych nurse to obtain this award.

Suzanne McConkey & I drinking cowboy coffee, as we get lunch ready for everyone at Community First! Village

Suzanne McConkey & I drinking cowboy coffee, as we get lunch ready for everyone at Community First! Village

A little unknown fact, in 1974 I wanted to be an animal vet but they did not allow women in the A&M vet school, so I went into nursing! Oh how times have changed!

Pastor…counselor…nurse… all different but dealing with people just the same, only from different perspectives.  I love going the extra mile, to help other people grow, to be encouraging. I believe that we all heal and grow best when we do it together!

 

My favorite quote:  I have seasons of quotes that linger and settle on me for a while, then new ones settle. These two I have been sitting with me lately:

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry, to get my work done, and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
-Maya Angelou

“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy,
I woke and I saw that life is all service,
I served and I saw that service is joy.”
-Kahlil Gibrán

With Christine Novak (another missional resident at CF!V) & Heidi Sloan (head of the gardens at CF!V) after I just got my tattoo based on Psalm 121

With Christine Novak (another missional resident at CF!V) & Heidi Sloan (head of the gardens at CF!V) after I got my tattoo based on Psalm 121

I’m Most Inspired by… I once bought a book just because of its title “Playing a Poor Hand Well.”  It talked about people who have had adversity or trials yet remained resilient, positive and thrive. I am inspired by those people. They choose to take what was intended to take them out, and they weave it into their story of joy.

Something people may not know about me… I love to play hand drums and hope to be part of a drum circle at Community First! Village, where we now live.

My guilty pleasure…  Spending a whole day in the studio painting, playing music, making new colors and trying new techniques .

My “perfect day” would be… Oh my that would be a full day… walk my dog Jack while visiting with friends/neighbors as I go, watch my children play together, work together on a project with people, paint/draw a little, then I’d go dancing with Ed at Don’s Depot downtown, sit on the porch and enjoy the breeze.

My Story:
Abundant Living Among the Chronically Homeless

Ed and I at our new home Community First! Village, where we are missional residents

Ed and I at Community First! Village, where we are missional residents

A large percentage of my patients have fragile housing situations. Every week, I discharge them out the door to the streets. Often they have little or no access to consistent resources to maintain their health. This troubles me greatly.

Serving lunch under the big tent at Community First! Village, everyone knows me by my big hat & plaid shirts

Serving lunch under the big tent at Community First! Village, everyone knows me by my big hat & plaid shirts

Two years ago, my husband and I were invited to visit the small Mobile Loaves and Fishes model of the Community First! Village.  Community First! Village is a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas.  Community First! Village Includes:

  • An innovative mix of affordable housing options
  • Places for worship, study, and fellowship
  • Memorial garden and columbarium
  • A community garden featuring fruit- and nut-bearing trees and vegetables
  • A chicken operation, bee hives producing fresh honey, and aquaponics
  • A workshop with tool bank and art gallery for micro-enterprise opportunities
  • A medical facility for physical and mental health screenings and support services including hospice and respite care
  • Walking trails
  • An outdoor theater and bed & breakfast for mission visits
  • CAP Metro bus stop
  • WiFi

As I walked around the canvas cottages, micro homes, RVs, chicken coop, tilapia pond and gardens, I heard the plan of creating a true working community with micro enterprises, clinic, movie theatre, and more. I kept hearing in my head “I could so live here and be a part of this.” My husband and I talked and prayed for several months. There was a strong sense that God was inviting us to jump into a roller coaster for the ride of our lives. Why would I do anything else!

the garden crew on the bridge at Community First! Village

The garden crew on the bridge at Community First! Village

We then jumped into volunteering on Saturdays out at the gardens… we have been there ever since!

We moved to Community First! Village during Thanksgiving week of this year, into a 300 square-foot RV that we had redone. We’ve learned that so much of our “stuff” is not essential for a rich life. I share much of my day with so many new folks. We walk dogs together, cook/feed volunteers together, harvest crops, sit around a roaring fire on cold nights, share meals — just do life together. So many stories , so many incredibly resilient people that choose to not let the horrible trials of life get them down.

with CF!V chef Dennis Williams & some of the hundreds of fabulous volunteers

With CF!V chef Dennis Williams & some of the hundreds of fabulous volunteers

My kids love coming out and being here with us — the grandchildren harvesting food and feeding chickens.

Life has come full circle, my hopes are unfolding… laughing, tears, getting work done, loving others and finding daily courage to be loved in return.  I am rich!

 

 


iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com


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Spreading Hope, Love and Joy to the Hopeless

Operation Spread Hope, Love & Joy, Part II

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Point to Ponder:
How do you view the homeless or those on the street asking for help?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Sadly, in Austin and in most cities it is common to see homeless, desperate or hopeless people standing at busy intersections asking for help. Despite being advised by law officials and professionals to not give them money, if I have cash, change or any unopened food I always give what I have. And, when I do not have anything to give I get embarrassed and avoid eye contact. Ugh! Definitely not a mature and or compassionate response! I realize that by giving money I could be enabling their pursuit of getting a job or supplying funds for their next possible drug fix, but I don’t know their life story or history so to judge seems wrong and unfair.

Shamefully, there was a time when I didn’t feel this way and my heart was filled with judgement. While I didn’t voice it, when I saw someone asking for help my thought was that they should have more pride and work ethic than to lazily ask for my hard earned money. After all, I grew up with limited financial resources yet managed to work my way through college and make it. Why can’t they? However, several years ago I attended a Caritas luncheon where the co-authors of the book, Same Kind of Different as Me spoke. This experience changed my heart and perspective.

If you haven’t read the book, I encourage you to. Or if you wait until April 2016 it will be out in the theaters. In summary, through volunteering at a homeless meals program in Fort Worth, the co-authors Ron Hall (a wealthy Fort Worth art dealer) and Denver Moore (a literal modern-day hobo) developed a unique friendship. An intense bond was formed and both lives were changed– with Ron’s heart experiencing the greatest transformation. As a result of the book’s message and success, the two men traveled to speaking engagements, with Austin being one of them. Towards the end of the luncheon, Denver, the modern-day hobo and former prison inmate spoke. While he had no formal education, he understood life, the spiritual world, and had a connection with God like I had never seen or heard before. The room was silenced by his compassion, faith and wisdom and while I clung to every word he spoke, it was his advice on whether or not to give the homeless and hopeless money that I will never forget.

Having lived a life of homelessness, desperation and having people look down on him, Denver passionately urged the audience to bypass judgement towards the homeless, as we will never know what they have experienced in life and why they are in the situation they are in. Furthermore, he acknowledged that we’ve all been told not to give the homeless money, however he pleaded that we give what we can, and in doing so respectfully look them in their eyes and smile. Ultimately, he reminded us that we will never know if it will be our dollar, our smile or our words that will be the difference in their life.

After his sincere message, rather than look down on the homeless or beggars, I began to view them, their situation, and people in general with more compassion. I contemplated how I would want someone to treat me, my children, my family, and friends if we where homeless, desperate or falling on hopeless times. Or, if we were just in need of some help, support or encouragement. In doing so I realized how self-righteous and judgemental I had been. Then recently it was upon reading Matthew 26: 34 – 45, verses that I have listened to many times before, that I finally heard and realized how much more I can and need to do:

On His right, he will say; (Jesus) Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink; I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives; I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me.
Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.
Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find you naked and clothe You? When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?
Jesus: I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.
And then He will turn to those on His left hand.
Jesus: Get away from Me, for I was starving, and you left Me with no food. I was dry and thirsty, you left Me to struggle with nothing to drink. When I was alone as a stranger, you turned away from Me. When I was pitifully naked, you left Me unclothed. When I was sick, you gave Me no care. When I was in prison, you did not comfort Me.
Unrighteous: Master, when did we see You hungry and thirsty? When did we see You friendless or homeless or excluded? When did we see you without clothes? When did we see You sick or in jail? When did we see You in distress and fail to respond?
Jesus: I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.

Despite your faith or belief, the idea that we should treat others as we would want to be treated says it all. And, we have all been given a conscious that guides us and gives us valuable information, which is why I am unable to make eye contact when someone is asking for help and I don’t have anything to give them. I know it’s not right or respectful to not show someone respect and give them the dignity they deserve by simply looking in their eye and exchanging a smile.

As a result, several months ago I began creating baggies of crackers, rice crispy treats, and breakfast bars. And, as of last week I added our printable ‘iGnite spread hope love and joy’ note cards. I keep the bags in my car so that I can have them with me at all times and it truly has made a difference! Therefore, as we continue to focus on spreading hope, love and joy, I hope you will consider doing the same and making care packages that you can hand out when needed. While the person you give the goodie bag and smile to will appreciate your generosity, I promise that your heart will be the one filled with hope, love and joy.

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Goodie Bag Basket

Action Item:
Create goodies bags and fill them with helpful items and the printable iGnite note cards. Keep them in your car and with a smile and eye contact, hand them to the homeless, hopeless or someone in need.

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