Tag Archives: Maya Angelou

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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Windows Down, Volume Up

Determine to live life with flair and laughter.
— Maya Angelou

Action Item:
Look for and make your own opportunities to infuse fun into anything and everything that you do. Let your hair down, crank up the volume, sing and dance! Find lightness throughout your days, remember that your life is abundant, and give yourself permission to be silly and have FUN!

By April

By April

OK, so we now know, if we didn’t before, that everything is better alongside girlfriends and discipline will set us free. But what about those moments in between, when you are working, driving, or simply trying to enjoy and get the most out of your everyday life? These times should not just be “fillers” while we wait around for the fun to begin. Why can’t we find and make fun all of the time? After all, Cyndi Lauper never said ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Sometimes, On The Weekends, Or When They Feel It is Appropriate.’ Life should be FULL of FUN, and it’s up to us to find the joy in everything that we do. Listen to the original and amazing song to get the party started. 

Sound unrealistic?  Well… I’ll share some secrets of my own with you. Sure, I could feel overwhelmed by my jam-packed days and put on my blinders, going from job to job or from task to task. But all work and no play makes April a dull girl. Still, jobs need to get done and deadlines need to be met. So what’s a fun-loving, but disciplined girl to do? Find joy in the moment. Look for life’s little treasures in unexpected places. And if they don’t seem to be finding you, find them!  Create them. Make what you are doing more fun. Here’s the Weekly Intention Guide for a little assistance if you want some.

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
— Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

A few months back, I had my windows down on a beautiful day, driving back to my apartment. Before I moved to Austin, I hadn’t had a car in seven years. I felt like I was in high school that day, with my windows down and music up. As I was going through stations on the radio, I stumbled across Cher’s “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss),” and that was all I needed! I turned up the volume, and belted it out, having my own private karaoke session in my car. I even imagined myself singing, all dressed up on a stage (in sequins, of course), with my girlfriends doing the “shoop shoop” part.

In reality, I was in the car by myself. I don’t even have a good voice. I could have easily gone right past the song, or just listened to it silently in my car. But I wanted to sing and feel the music and be in it! So I did. I gave myself permission to look a little insane, throw my inhibitions out the window, and pretend I was Cher for a few minutes. I’ve heard that song at least one other time since that day, driving somewhere else, and I couldn’t deny the urge to sing and let myself bask in the moment. I might not remember the details of the day or where I was going, but I remember how much fun I had alone, in my car, feeling free and alive.

When was the last time you totally let go and acted like a worry-free kid?!

When was the last time you totally let go and acted like a worry-free kid?!

Not surprisingly, my all-time favorite thing to do – anytime, anywhere, and as often as possible – is DANCE! Impromptu dance parties make the world a better place. Better yet, singing AND dancing together is ultimate bliss and pure joy! Of course, I LOVE to dance with others; the energy you get from friends is incredible. Happiness is contagious (it’s a scientific fact! Watch the video from this past Journal). However, don’t put rules around when and where you can let your hair down!

In high school, I was one to lip-sync into my round brush in front of the mirror and dance around in my room. I sing while I fold pants at lululemon athletica. Is folding pants something I consider intrinsically fun? No, but there’s no reason I can’t make it more fun (I change Lady GaGa’s song, “Just Dance” into “just, just, just, just PANTS!”). I make other people laugh and am enjoying myself at work a lot more than I would be otherwise. If I hear a good song that makes me want to move – at work, in the car, at an iGnite class – I give in and go for it! I love the Maya Angelou quote above because you can decide you want to live a colorful and vibrant life. I have learned to look for the opportunities to live bigger, brighter, and more fully, and it’s the best gift you can give yourself.

So… what are you waiting for? Look for those opportunities, or create them yourself! Be willing to look a little bit crazy and soak it all in. Life is meant to be LIVED, and iGnited! Enjoy this song and don’t hesitate to sing and “ja, ja, ja, ja, just DANCE” along with these amazingly talented New York City public school fifth graders.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION-What’s your favorite memory of really letting your hair down?

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