Hills and Valleys
Point to Ponder:
How strong is your We?
As I referenced in last week’s journal, my focus for this week was going to be on the power of personal connection, and why in iGnite, we stand firm in being a community. We believe everyone is created for community and we are undoubtedly stronger together. However, mid-week I changed my mind and was going to write more about nature. An Austin iGnite member, Melodee Issa, recommended I listen to a fascinating book titled "The Three Day Effect," which studies the real physiological changes that occur in the brain after being in nature for three days. It wasn't until I awoke this morning to an email from Amy Younkman that my focus changed back to the importance of relationships, connection, and community. Upon reading Amy’s email, I felt 100% certain that I was being led to defer to my original plans.
You see, on October 4th (9 days ago) Amy’s husband Steve experienced cardiac arrest while eating lunch. For those of you who don’t know Amy, Amy is a dear friend to me and many in iGnite. Many years ago Amy launched iGnite Austin’s yoga and pilates classes and even though retired from regularly teaching iGnite classes, she is still a very special part of our team and continues to step in and sub. Amy and her 63 year old husband Steve have three grown children and are literally the picture of perfect health. From swimming, yoga, running and riding miles upon miles on their bikes, there’s not much they don’t or cant’ do and neither of them have a hint of health risk factors. Despite all of these healthy habits, Steve experienced cardiac arrest, and was resuscitated after many rounds of CPR. Per Amy’s words: "8 firefighters took turns, two at a time, giving Steve 100 chest compressions a minute to try and get his heart beating. They shocked him 5 times and administered IV fluids by drilling into his shin bone to get the fluids in as quickly as possible."
Get ready to have your mind blown. On Tuesday, Oct 8th, Steve was given a defibrillator. On Thursday, Oct 10, six days after his heart stopped beating for many minutes, Steve went home. If you don’t believe in modern-day miracles, I hope you will now, because this is one. The surgeon who put Steve’s defibrillator in told Amy that in Travis County, of all the people who have experienced a cardiac arrest episode outside of a hospital, the survival rate is 1%. Despite these staggering odds, Steve, though suffering from multiple fractured ribs, should miraculously experience a full recovery.
For the past seven months my alarm has been set to a song by Tauren Wells called “Hills and Valleys”. It is one of the most beautiful and comforting songs and what it consistently reminds me of is that in life, we are either preparing for a hill, walking up a hill, walking down a hill (having just climbed it) and/or most importantly, holding someone’s hand as he, she or they are walking up a hill. None of these hills are designed to be walked alone. This is why iGnite is a community, why we place so much emphasis and value on WE, why we are always sending you text and email invites to come to class, why we coordinate outings together, and why iGnite isn’t called Neissa’s Fitness Group….or something one-person and one-dimensional focused. We do not believe in the Power of Me but we do believe in The Power of We.
This reminds me of a recent analogy I heard from Tauren Wells. As a community, we are designed to fit together like a lego set. In a box of legos, there are all kinds of shapes, colors, functions and sizes of legos, but at the end of the day, they all fit perfectly together and create something very special that they couldn't accomplish as a single piece, or on their own. I love that visual, but something I thought of was this: if we never pull ourselves out of lego box to be used, how will we ever see or experience the amazing creation and impact? Or better yet, who of our family, friends or neighbors are stuck in their lego box and just need a hand to be pulled out so they can see how they uniquely fit in the perfect community creation? Sadly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from loneliness, so I know they are all around us. What I can assure you is that we, iGnite, are committed to not contributing to the loneliness epidemic, but will instead fight against it every day.
If you know me you know that I’m an optimist, but I also think it is important to be a realist and with that, it hurts me to say that while life can be so incredibly sweet, it can also be immensely bitter, devastating, traumatic, sad, and maddening. I've now witnessed it too many times to think otherwise and in a moments time, our life can get capsized and we’re thrown out of our day-to-day life-boat; however what I have witnessed is that during these times, the beauty and power in community is unparalleled. It’s during the worst and hardest of times that community creates the most grandiose fortress of love, support and encouragement around the person/people, like our most recent example, Amy and Steve Younkman.
Upon reading Amy’s email with tear-filled eyes, I asked her if I could share it with iGnite, at which she generously gave me permission. Amy shared that she feels it was the “power in group prayer” that impacted Steve’s miraculous and radical recovery. And that she knows we are definitely stronger together. She has felt it first hand. Even more cool, the day that Steve had his cardiac episode, Amy was wearing her iGnite “Choose Joy” shirt. Later, the ICU night nurse who was with Steve told Amy, “I felt sure Steve would pull through and that you would both live joy-filled lives.”
Reach out to someone who you know has experienced or is experiencing a season of hills. Or, if you are experiencing hills and need someone to walk with you, reach out and let them know.
Heavenly Father, thank you for creating us in Your image. Thank You for creating each of us with various and different strengths and gifts so that together, we create a community who lifts up, supports and encourages one another through life's hills and valleys. Help us God to be compassionate and bold in our approach and outreach to family, friends and neighbors, so that we can be a blessing to them. In the same way, help us to put any pride, shame or guilt aside and call on friends and our community when we're in need. We ask this is Your name. Amen