Tag Archives: christmas

Operation Spread Hope, Love & Joy

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Point to Ponder:
Where does spreading hope, love and joy fall into your Christmas festivities?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Each year and upon entering the Christmas season I always set out to be more intentional and purposeful than in the previous years. Inevitably, my goals are always the same: don’t overspend, stick to the Christmas list, avoid perfection, resist shopping for myself while I am shopping for others (how does that always happen?!), and most importantly to live outside of myself by giving and sharing the spirit and meaning of Christmas: to spread hope, love and joy.

I cringe to think how extra self-centered my holidays would be without my attempted annual goals. Frustratingly, I always spend more money that desired, I get caught up in materialism and commercialism, and I exhaust myself by trying to make everything perfect which in turn stresses me out! Shamefully, beyond my immediate family members, friends and neighbors there is very little thinking outside of myself, no extra sharing of love, hope and joy and therefore no additional lives impacted. Really, it’s nauseating that I live in this perpetual state of insanity (setting the same goal and taking no additional action yet expecting a different result), therefore to end this ridiculousness and attempt to really spread hope, love and joy and make a difference in at least one life during the Christmas season, I’ve come up with a plan of action entitled “Operation Spread Hope, Love and Joy”, and I hope you will join me!

The goal of Operation Spread Hope, Love and Joy is exactly as it sounds: to spread hope, love and joy by putting a smile on someone’s face, being a source of encouragement and light and continuing to express gratitude which will in turn positively impact lives.

Starting today and throughout the next four weeks leading up to Christmas I will announce the weekly action. For this week, the suggested action is to print the provided note card printable, cut out the individual notes and give to as many people as possible. If you are like me, you will experience some fear and hesitation when handing out the cards, especially to a total stranger. You may likely make an assumption that the potential recipient isn’t going through anything, doesn’t need a pick-me-up and/or will think you are weird. Repeat these words: Nonsense! Everyone is going through something, everyone can use a little light and iGnite in their lives and if spreading some hope, love and joy by means of positive note cards make us weird, I gladly welcome the label! After all, the worst thing that can happen is the card gets thrown in the trash, but what if it makes somebody else’s life better?

Finally, share how you are spreading your hope, love and joy note cards by posting pictures via your favoritie social media outlets, using the hashtag #spreadhopeloveandjoy and tagging iGnite. This is not at all to be braggadocious or draw attention to your or iGnite’s actions. Instead, it’s an opportunity to let social media do what I believe social media has the greatest potential in doing, which is to be a catalyst for uplifting messages, positive change and spreading good around the world.

Action Item:
Print the provided note card printable, cut out the individual notes and give to as many people as possible. If you are able, share how you are spreading your hope, love and joy note cards by posting pictures via your favorite social media outlets, using the hashtag #spreadhopeloveandjoy and tagging iGnite.

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Approach Your Fears with Child Like Perspective

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Point to Ponder:
Are you a fearful person?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

I’ve always been of the mindset that children have it figured out. It stinks that we have to grow up and often times become jaded, cynical, insecure and obsess over our perceived pudgy legs and numbers on a scale. Children don’t worry about how many steps they take in a day or how many hours they spend exercising. Instead, they simply play — run, jump, spin and dance. They ride their bikes for hours, climb on the monkey bars and enjoy a high-calorie treat without feeling guilt. They stop eating when they are full, don’t talk about others, and without fear or doubt of what others think, they proudly proclaim what they want to be when they grow up, just as my five-year old nephew Cole did at his pre-school graduation when he announced that when he grew up he wanted to own a doughnut shop. Awesome!

Last week while finishing a hike and walking along the beach, I noticed a man, probably in his forties, standing alone in shin-deep water and jumping over every wave that came his way. Like a six year-old would do, each time a wave rolled in, he’d hop over it! It was the most playful, inspiring and refreshing sight. I watched him for several minutes and it was a great reminder that nature gives us everything we need to calm, invigorate and feed our body, mind and spirit. And what I loved so much about this guy was that while he was playing, he wasn’t worried or fearful about what those of us around him thought. In my opinion, the enormity and magnificence of the Pacific Ocean made his fears of what others might think insignificant, while also putting troubles and life stressors in perspective. At least that is what nature does for me. It swallows my doubt and fear and allows me to shine!

Robin Roberts, the always shining and inspiring co-anchor of Good Morning America, has a great line about doubt and fear in her book Everybody’s Got Something. She says:

“We all have doubts and fears. The thing about fear is that it only needs the tiniest space, the size of an eye of a needle, to get through and wreak havoc. Maddening, but true. So, when I was struggling in doubt, I would simply take the next small step. I would stop and think: No, life is not tied up with a beautiful bow all the time, but it’s still a gift. I’m going to tear away the wrapping paper like a kid at Christmas.”

What I love so much about Robin’s wisdom is that instead of running from her fear and doubt or dreading it, she sees it as a gift and looks forward to tearing into it to see what it is, just as a child would and just as Kayla Montgomery, the eighteen year old in the video below, who, despite being diagnosed with Multiple Sclorosis and losing feeling in her legs when she runs and when her body heats up, was determined to not only run, but win! It’s their child-like perspective that has kept them curious, eager and willing to conquer their fear, doubt, and SHINE! What a great example for all of us!

Action Item:
This week, try facing situations with the fearlessness, playfulness and confidence of a child.

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Our Favorite Holiday Traditions

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours… then we’ll go ice-skating…
then we’ll eat a whole roll of Toll House cookie dough as fast as we can…
and then we’ll snuggle!”
– Buddy the Elf

Point to Ponder:
What holiday tradition are you most looking forward to?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Until my dad’s mother passed away ten years ago, we spent every Christmas Eve at her house in Liberty Hill. My dad is one of seven children, making me the youngest of twenty-two grandchildren, so by the time you throw in seven spouses and thirty-six great-grandchildren, Mamaw’s three bedroom, one bathroom house was overflowing — just as her septic tank did… every single Christmas Eve.

I have so many fond Christmas Eve memories: getting to Mamaw’s house early so we could claim our seat on the couch, my aunt Betty’s famous cheese ball, candy canes hanging from every branch of the Christmas tree, Mamaw giving each grandchild two dollars and each couple ten dollars, her consistently misspelling my name on my card, and family members walking in the house and me whispering to my sister, ‘Who’s that?’ While we saw Mamaw several times a year, we only saw the whole family on Christmas Eve, and with so many of us it was impossible to remember everyone as the families grew and spouses changed, frequently.

Needless to say, Christmas Eve has always been a special time for my family, and when Mamaw passed away we decided to keep the Christmas Eve tradition alive and host it at our house. Unfortunately, our extended family members do not join us, though my mom and her husband, my dad and step-mom, my sister’s family and any friends who don’t have family near by come over. We keep it real simple! We graze through a delicious spread of food, watch the movie Elf, spend time together, and then around 5:00 head to Riverbend Church for the annual Candlelight service.

Following the service we come back to my house where we let the kids open a few presents, pop open a bottle of wine, eat dinner, turn on A Christmas Story and get ready for the big day which always entails me staying up extra late to wrap presents and watch A Christmas Story over and over again while Russell begs me to watch a different movie. It’s my favorite (as it is for another leader below)!

While traditions come in all shapes and sizes, and even sometimes come wrapped in a big dysfunctional bow (like they time my cousin showed up at my grandmother’s on Christmas Eve claiming to be a warlock), they are all memories that add meaning and some good story-telling to our life.

As you ponder some of your favorite holiday traditions, enjoy the following favorite holiday traditions from some our leaders:

unnamed-63“My favorite tradition is waking up with my family on Christmas morning, staying in our pajamas, and slowly opening gifts around the Christmas tree while A Christmas Story plays 24/7 on TBS. We enjoy each other’s company and don’t feel the need to rush to the kitchen to prepare for our lunch. I love the simplicity of it!”

unnamed-64“Starting after Thanksgiving, before bedtime we all sit together as a family and watch a Christmas show. We like to stick to classics like, “Frosty”, Santa Claus is coming to town”, Charlie Brown….etc.”
unnamed-66 unnamed-65“Every year the week before Christmas we have a BIG birthday party to celebrate my triplets, who were born on December 17th. They turn 26 this year! Now that they are all working it has become hard to gather everyone, but it is always a fun party when we finally get them all in town. I still remember their first Christmas — WOW what a whirlwind! Love my girls!”
unnamed-67“The very word ‘tradition’ makes me a little anxious, and at my ripe age of ‘I’ll-never-tell’, I am finally okay with that. The reason that I cringe upon hearing that word — especially at this time of year — is because, well…here goes — Brandy Milk Punch. At Christmas. Every year. In the morning. When I was a kid. Now I am not saying that one shouldn’t imbibe at Christmas in the loving presence of favorite and not-so-favorite people — grab that glass and drink! I’m just saying that as an adult-in-training, my traditions instruction was a little…shaky. But I get it now, after years of toiling and trying so hard to create my own sparkly family traditions, after being blessed with two very different boys and a husband who sometimes worked holidays. My childhood training was actually very spot-on! My parents — unintentionally with the Brandy Milk Punch thing — taught me to be adaptable. To embrace the “what is” and move with it. So with that recent epiphany, I now love that our family tradition at Christmas is this — we are untraditionally together. In some form, in some fashion, we are together. Not forced or contrived, but spontaneous, real and in the moment that is ours. For a short while maybe, and maybe not on Christmas Day. Maybe the Tuesday before. Maybe throwing the football, maybe having hot chocolate. And it’s all good. We love each other, and we are lovingly together in a different way, every single year…our favorite tradition!”
unnamed-68“There is a recipe for a Buttermilk Coffee Cake that is OHHHH so tasty and has been a Younkman family favorite for three generations. We make this coffee cake throughout the year and always at Christmas. The great thing is, Steve (who doesn’t cook) is in charge of making the cakes. It has become his “trademark recipe” along with his homemade caramels that he also makes at Christmas time. Every year right after Thanksgiving Steve will ask me, “Did you get the pans for the coffee cakes yet?” He then sets aside a day where he mass produces them, along with our help. We then distribute them to neighbors and friends. For 32 years we have made coffee cakes and this year will be especially memorable as we honor Steve’s recently deceased Mom who made many a coffee cake in her day!”
unnamed-5 unnamed-4“Our family’s favorite Christmas traditions include: the kids lighting the candles of our Advent wreath and reading the verses behind the doors on their advent calendars every evening during Advent; Laney performing in Dance Discovery’s “The Nutcracker” at the Trail of Lights; Selling Christmas cards and baked goods made by my kids for donations to support Beyond Batten Disease Foundation at our church’s Alternative Gift Market; and the highlight of the Christmas season for my family is our church’s Christmas Eve candle light worship service and impromptu children’s nativity, in which all the kids, dressed as the characters from the Christmas story, act it out, while our pastor tells the story and the congregation sings Christmas hymns.”

Action Item:
Take some time this week to stop and think about what Christmas means to you and your loved ones.

12 Gifts We Love to Give


Struggling with inspiration for what to give others for the holidays? The iGnite team shares our 11 go-to’s this year…


CEmask My favorite gift to give is a facial masque. I feel like it is one area that we all neglect or wish we could do more…of course I would love to be able to hand out a facial, but I go to the masque as an affordable alternative that just makes anyone feel good. My favorite line is Eminence Organics and here is a new one that I am going to give a try, but all are great!


socksThis year I’m finding I want to give lululemon running socks! I love wearing them because they feel good on my feet, I don’t ever have to tug at them while working out, they fit perfectly in my shoes, and all the designs are cute.   amazon-gift-cardAnother one of my favorite gifts to give is an Amazon gift card. Now that everyone in my family is getting older, we each bring a $25 gift card to our Christmas celebration and play the White Elephant gift exchange only with gift cards. I love bringing the Amazon card because it is gender-neutral, and you can buy ANYTHING off Amazon!


nestholiday_classic_hi300The Nest Holiday Candle – Wonderful scent, not too much and brings on the Christmas Spirit   cd

Betty’s Rockin’ Holiday CD – I love to make a playlist of upbeat Christmas music for my friends to have in their car while they are driving kids around or running errands.


or_708A_300   I love giving this “Peace of Mind” lotion, $10 from Origins! It has a light peppermint scent, and I just dab a little behind my ears when I need a pick-me-up!


IMG_4570-2Black monogrammed hand towels/wash cloths are my new favorite gift! I use one every day after taking make-up off. You NEVER have a dirty hand towel because the mascara, etc. does not show!  I have all white towels in all of my bathrooms in my home, but have a monogrammed make-up towel on the top of them for my daughters and guests to use. “Make Up” is monogrammed on them. You ALWAYS have white towels then! These are also perfect high school and college graduation gifts if you just need a gift and don’t want to spend a fortune on them.  I am having some monogrammed for my daughters to use in their apartments and putting them in their stockings!  You can get black hand towels/wash cloths at Bed Bath and Beyond for $2 to $4 and have them monogrammed and get them back pronto!


unnamed-50Right now I am loving the Nike Sport hair bands They come in many different and fun colors and the best part, which is why I like them so much and want to give them, is they do not lose their elasticity. The other fun hair ties I have used are super cute, but I can’t run, jump or do anything active without my ponytail coming loose and my hair getting in my face, which is a total drag. Thankfully, Nike has solved my “active lifestyle ponytail dilemma” , and when wrapped around your hair you can’t see the Nike or swoosh sign. (four pack = $10 or a bit cheaper on Amazon)


jacketSomething I’m going to get everyone on my Christmas list this year are the Ultra Light down jackets from Uniqlo.  $60.00 bucks and they come with a tiny pouch that you can stuff them into & carry them everywhere. GAP may carry them too, or target etc.


quarterlyI ran across the packages from Quarterly.co recently and love the idea of giving these this year!  You select a package personally curated and created by an artist/expert/designer/celebrity that your receiver loves, and they receive a specially curated surprise package in the mail, either one time or quarterly. So fun!


photo courtesy of Martha Stewart

photo courtesy of Martha Stewart

Every year I like to give small, homemade gifts to teachers and friends. Since there are so many decadent sweets at this time of the year, I like to give a healthy gift that teachers especially seem to appreciate. For gift giving, I wrap them in a festive holiday bag with ribbon or put them in cute holiday canisters.  For myself, I like to divide the nuts up into snack bag size servings so I don’t eat too many, and they become a convenient on-the-go snack.

I especially love this spiced nuts recipe from Martha Stewart.


judypaulartMy “go-to” and favorite gift to give is a Judy Paul “mini-print,” a 4x6in or 5x5in print mounted on wood, just the right size for a bookshelf, dresser, side-table, or special niche. Judy signs and dates each and every one of these little works of art, and they make great “personal” Christmas presents or special gifts for any occasion. You can order through her website and pick any of her images to be printed in this size. And/or you can find her at the East Side Studio Tour this weekend and next, and/or at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, and pick up your Judy Paul minis there. They are $20 each or “buy 3 get the 4th free” ($15 each).   Shop Local! 🙂

Special Holiday Workout

As we prepare for a joyful Christmas, we wish you a very safe, festive and fun holiday.
In the event you are traveling and unable to exercise, we endorse and suggest the holiday workout below.

Special Holiday Workout

With Christmas love!

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Silence Has Substance


I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.
-Chaim Potok, The Chosen

Here we go! The extra high speed season has arrived. Very soon we’ll have parties to attend, gifts to buy and meals to prepare. I must admit I do love this time of year, as Christmas is a time of celebration that fortunately revolves around friends and family. Unfortunately, I have yet to discover how to avoid the chaotic and frantic mode that I take full responsibility of putting myself in. In other words, I epitomize the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result), as I have great intentions of living a harmonious holiday, yet year after year I find myself repeating the same behaviors but expecting a different result (ugh!). It is for this reason that I continuously seek inspiration and wisdom about ways to remain centered without the unnecessary and unwanted stress of overspending and overdoing, which is contrary to the season I believe in.

Thankfully, this morning while attending a Sunday School class I received the inspiration I was looking for. It is not a new or foreign concept to you or I, but the timing and delivery was spot on. I’ll put it in one delicious word: Savasana, which is great on a daily basis but is dire during the holidays when emotions naturally run high.

I know what you are thinking —  Sure Neissa, a daily Savasana sounds great (in theory), but the reality is that I don’t have time for it and if I do enjoy a daily Savasana, I’ll fall asleep!  Yes, in theory, a daily and reflective Savasana would be ideal, however just lying down in “dead body pose” is not the goal. The objective is to find time each day for your body to be inactive and your mind to be silent so that your spirit can be rejuvenated from the inside out.

So, what does this mean? It means sitting on your front porch, lying in a bubble bath, sitting on a park bench, or hiding in a closet (from your kids). It can be anywhere for any amount of time, just as long as it’s in total silence and you can catch your breath and get re-centered. And, unlike what we are trained to think, inactivity can be productive and silence definitely has substance –especially during the fast-paced holiday season.

Finally, I understand that the idea of enjoying a still and silent moment each day sounds simple, however it goes against everything our culture tells us. Therefore, if one minute of inactivity and silence feels  uncomfortable, know you are in good company. Building endurance for silence and stillness is no different than building endurance for activity. It can be painful and take time, but is well worth it!

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Point To Ponder:
Do you ever give yourself a still and silent moment?

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Action Item:
Spend time every day to be still and silent.

To your health,


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