Tag Archives: inspiring women

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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Real Women, Real Stories| Casey Jones: Unexpected Mother of Quints + 1

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CaseyJones_quoteRoots: I’m a native Texan born in Dallas and raised in Shady Shores. I attended college at Southwest Texas in San Marcos where I majored in Early Childhood Education. After graduation I moved to the beautiful city of Austin.

Family Life: My husband Ethan and I met in the 7th grade. It wasn’t love at first sight because it took us until our senior year to start dating, but after that it was history! We both decided on the same college and got married shortly after graduation. It was always my dream to get married and have a baby. Little did I know that that journey would be truly life-changing! We have been married for 15 years.

Occupation: I’m a stay at home mom of 6. I also assist my husband with the bookkeeping for his homebuilding company.

Something Most People Don’t Know About Me… People are usually really surprised to learn that I have tattoos! I have several on my back that represent my family & faith.

When I Can Find A Second For Myself… I’m very interested in nutrition & fitness. I became a vegetarian about 4 years ago, so I’m always looking for new meal ideas! I also try to fit in a workout 3-4 days a week. Finding the time to eat right and workout can be challenging, but I feel it’s so important to stay healthy & strong — I’ve got 6 kids and a very active husband to keep up with!

What Inspires Me… Before my husband and I started the process of trying for baby “#2,” he surprised me with a gift that I wear almost everyday. It is a charm bracelet with the words serenity, wisdom and courage written on interlocking circles, representing the symbol of the Trinity. I wasn’t familiar with this prayer and now it’s something I remind myself of on a regular basis. LOVE it!!!

The Serenity Prayer God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. -Reinhold Niebuhr

JonesFamily My Story…Unexpected Mother of One+Quints: Our first 5 years of married life were normal and uneventful, until we decided to have a baby — and that’s when things took a big turn.  We were devastated when we found out that my husband had male infertility. I thought my dreams of getting pregnant and raising a family were gone.

After lots of tears & prayers, we met with a fertility specialist, and were told there was a slight chance we could conceive a child together with in vitro fertilization. We knew that chances were slim, but felt it was something we had to try before exploring other options. After an unsuccessful try at in vitro, we decided to select a sperm donor. It was a decision that a lot of men could have never made, but Ethan was unbelievable!

We knew the chances of us conceiving with an IUI (intrauterine insemination) were less than with in vitro, but I got pregnant the first try! After our first daughter Eliot was born, she brought so much joy to our lives and we wanted to have the experience of pregnancy, raising another child, and giving her a sibling to grow up with. We waited 4 years and then met with the fertility specialist and started the process again… and that’s when things got really crazy! CaseyJones_quote2

Going into the IUI the doctor said it looked like I could have 5 follicles that might release an egg. We weren’t really concerned because with our first pregnancy we had 4 follicles and we conceived just 1 baby. I took a pregnancy test 2 weeks later and could not have been more excited that we got positive results on the first try again! Our first sonogram was at 6 ½ weeks and we were shocked to find 6 sacks!  The doctor detected 5 heartbeats and said the 6th one could just be progressing slower. At our next sonogram there were still only 5 heartbeats so we knew at this time that baby 6 had not progressed. Each weekly sonogram appointment showed 5 healthy babies. The doctors explained to us in great detail the seriousness and risks involved for the babies and me with this pregnancy, but reducing the number of babies was not an option for us.

The pregnancy was a huge challenge physically & emotionally. I was on bed rest for 3 ½ months and trying to plan for the arrival of the babies from the couch wasn’t easy for me. I also ended up in the ER for a twisted ovary that was caused from the fertility medication (the same thing also happened with my first pregnancy) and then ended up delivering earlier than I would have liked because I developed preeclampsia. After 29 weeks and 6 days, I delivered my 5 beautiful babies at Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas…4 girls and 1 boy. They each weighed a little over 2 pounds, and because they were delivered so early they had to go straight to the NICU for 24-hour care over the next few months. There were several milestones that had to be achieved before they could be released from the NICU – they had to have help breathing, eating, maintaining their body temperatures, and many other things. Thank God for the nurses and doctors at the NICU – they are amazing! After 4 months in the NICU, we had 5 healthy babies at home.

First day of school, Fall 2014

First day of school, Fall 2014

We learned very early on that we couldn’t handle this major change to our lives without help. Our family, friends and church really stepped up and showed us love and support that carried us through some of our most challenging times. We will be forever grateful to each and every one of the many people who have been a part of our story. Today, we have one awesome big sister, who is in the 5th grade and 5 super star kindergarteners! Our journey to parenthood has been nothing but an emotional roller coaster that has changed our lives in ways we never imagined possible. Nobody ever said managing a family of 8 would be easy, and let me tell you it’s anything but easy! Although, we are all challenged daily with life, whether it’s kids, marriage, work, etc., we made the decision right away to look at our situation as a blessing and be thankful even in the hard times.  It’s not always been an easy thing to do, but we just have to stop and remind ourselves what a true miracle it is to have 6 healthy children and a thriving marriage.

Managing My Self Expectations… The most difficult thing about being a wife and mother of one + quints is the pressure I constantly put on myself to do better. This feeling comes only from me, because I have a husband that is full of praises and children that are happy and healthy, but for some reason I always want to be doing more. On the day I found out I was expecting quintuplets, I immediately starting thinking about all of the challenges ahead. Sure enough, I have faced those challenges and know there are many more ahead. But, I’ve learned it’s how I deal with those difficult times or situations that matters the most. So, accepting the fact that I will never have as many date nights, one-on-one time with each child, home-cooked meals, money, time with friends, volunteer time, a clean house, and might not ever be able to fit into my old jeans again, is my reality. I’m living a life I never dreamed of, but I’m living a great life, so I need to not sweat the small stuff and take more time to sit back and enjoy!

Reality TV Life… Our family was given the opportunity to share our lives on TLC through our show “Quints By Surprise.” You can just add ‘reality show character’ to the list of things that I never imagined for my life! The filming process was truly a wonderful experience. We started filming as soon as the quints came home from the hospital, so you can imagine the chaos that we have on film! The kids love to watch all the episodes and talk about the things we did. It’s like having the best home movies ever! I will always cherish that footage because no matter how hard those times were, it was, and still is, our life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Lessons Learned… I never thought about having a large family, especially 5 children at one time! But you never know what life is going to throw your way. Through my marriage and children I have learned that love will drive you to do things you never thought were imaginable. I’ve also learned to take things one day at a time. Each day with my family is a blessing and it also has its challenges. Most days I have enough going on that tomorrow seems like a long way away, so don’t ever ask me about making plans too far in advance!

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If this story tugged on your a heartstrings a bit, we encourage you to visit the March of Dimes website to show your support for these special families.

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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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Bark Less, Wag More



Action Item:

Throughout the week, consider this quote and greet each day (as well as your family members, friends, and neighbors) with a spunky and friendly tail-wagging attitude, while eliminating the bark. Not only will the people around you appreciate it, but you’ll be giving a beautiful gift for everyone to enjoy and follow.

by Neissa Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

It just so happened that my mom was in town for “Sisters Weekend.” She and her sister Sharon, who lives in Round Rock, designate a few weekends out of each year to spend time, reminisce, and enjoy shopping, gardening, and late nights of laughter together. Basically, it’s a weekend-long slumber party that is absolutely hysterical. Because this weekend is Mother’s Day weekend, I decided that my husband Russell and son Durant and I would stop by to give my mom her Mother’s Day gift, big hugs and tell her how much we love and appreciate her.

As we pulled into my aunt’s driveway, the sisters just driven up too. They had been to a flower nursery where my mom found and purchased a plant called a “Duranta,” which blooms blue flowers. She thought this was entirely ironic and wonderful (because of her grandson Durant) and as she got out of the car she was all smiles and oh-so-proud of her new plant. It didn’t take but two seconds before both of them put their plants down and headed straight towards Durant giggling, with bright and smiling faces.

Within just a few minutes, the five of us were inside my Aunt’s cozy home. As they shared amusing details of their special family weekend, my Mom fed Durant and we sipped on cold drinks. It didn’t take long before we transitioned into the backyard, under the gazebo and enjoyed the shade, breeze and one another’s loving company.

Unfortunately, we could only stay for two hours which passed by quickly. However, despite our abbreviated stay, it was a special and dear time. I was once again reminded of how amazing my mom is and how blessed I am to have such a tremendous role model. She is a prolific woman of admirable characteristics and if I’m fortunate enough to possess a few of them, I will be grateful. 

This Mother’s Day, as I think of her many endearing qualities, the one that is paramount is her eternal “don’t sweat the small stuff” optimistic attitude and ability to laugh at just about anything. It’s rare that she doesn’t have a radiating smile on her face and in fact, her spirited and uplifting personality reminds me of this week’s quote, which was on a bumper sticker that iGniter Louise recently shared with me. “Bark Less, Wag More”— What a brilliant life philosophy, and this is exactly my mom’s and Louise’s attitude that is so inspiring! Honestly, while growing up I do not remember her ever yelling at us or ever even complaining. And now, as an adult, the only time I recall hearing her complain is if it is absolutely 100% justifiable.

I realize that creating the analogy between my mom’s spirited attitude and a happy dog might be strange, but I love the idea of “barking less and wagging more”- it makes me smile and I just don’t see how applying it to our daily life could be bad. Actually, the ultimate attitude goal would be to combine a happy bark with a tail wag, like the one seen in this week’s video. I know you will thoroughly enjoy it and I look forward to barking less and wagging more with you. 

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