This month, we’re featuring Miriam Ilgenfritz in One Degree Shift community. Miriam is a woman of adventure. Read how this mother of 16 children, wife of 32 years, award-winning writer, long distance runner, serial entrepreneur, and mentor to young moms finds the beauty in the simple things of life.
CASSANDRA: Hi Miriam. You’ve been a member of the One Degree Shift Community for a few months. I’m excited to introduce you. Please tell us about yourself.
MIRIAM: I’m the daughter of a missionary doctor, and I spent most of my formative years in the jungles of Zaire. I thought I had seen it all, but I was wrong. None of those experiences in the jungle prepared me for the jungle I found myself in after marriage.
CASSANDRA: Wow! You grew up in the jungles of Zaire. No one I know has had that experience. Tell us more.
MIRIAM: I lived in Zaire, now People’s Republic of Congo, for twelve years. Dad would sometimes take us with him to small villages where he would hold clinics. We got to hike through the jungle, paddle in crocodile infested waters, and sometimes sleep out in mosquito-filled cabins. When I returned to the states in my teen years, I was surprised to find most people didn’t live the adventure filled life that I had always thought was normal.
CASSANDRA: Your life was an adventure, but what do you mean when you say “the jungle I found myself in after marriage?”
MIRIAM: I’m a proud, and sometimes exasperated, mother of ten and half dozen children. That’s 16. I have my own list of FAQ’s: “Yes, they are all mine,” “No, we don’t watch much television,” and “Yes, I know how this happens.” Currently, I live on a small farm in Central Pennsylvania with my husband of 32 years and our nine unmarried children and various farm animals. Perhaps my adventures in Zaire gave me the courage to embark on the adventures of child-rearing because that job is much more challenging, although more rewarding than my life in the jungle.
CASSANDRA: That’s funny Miriam. You must get a lot of questions about sixteen children. I don’t know anyone that has had that experience either. Now I understand why you called it a jungle. Besides keeping your hands full with family, what else brings meaning to your life?
MIRIAM: I have always enjoyed writing, so when the children started to leave the nest I began to pursue writing more seriously. I have two books on the market right now, a humorous look at our family and a historical novel. I took a huge step towards believing in my own writing abilities when I submitted an unpublished manuscript to a writing contest and won second place in the fiction category.
CASSANDRA: Congratulations! It’s wonderful to be recognized for something you enjoy doing. Tell us the names of your two books.
MIRIAM: My first book, The Ties that Bind, is a light-hearted look at life in a big family. It’s not about how to be organized or how to parent, but rather, how God has been faithful in our chaos with a lot of laughter thrown in. My second book is titled Letters to Emily. It’s a historical fiction story set in 1798 in Central Pennsylvania. It won second place in a novel writing contest, which inspired me to pursue publication. A one sentence takeaway from reading it would be: Life is hard, but God is faithful.
CASSANDRA: That’s exciting Miriam, but something tells me that a mother of 16 children is probably juggling more than just writing. What else do you do?
MIRIAM: I raise AKC golden retrievers, and I am the office manager for an electrical contracting business – fortunately I can do all of that from home. I’m also a Senior Consultant with Ambit Energy. In my spare time, I train for long distance races. Running affords me the perfect opportunity to think up ideas for another book or just the next chapter.
CASSANDRA: I’m in awe. You know, many people have a full schedule with just one of your activities. You have a very full plate. How do you manage it all?
MIRIAM: People often ask me why I am so busy. The answer is two-fold. My husband suffered a head injury several years ago, and there is no guarantee how long he will be able to support us. The Ambit Energy opportunity is the light at the end of that dark financial tunnel. I write because I have a passion for using the written word to encourage and build up others. I intend to make it to The New York Times best seller list before I get too much older.
CASSANDRA: I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s injury. Many people have heard of Ambit Energy, but we don’t know much about the potential financial reward. How has Ambit Energy supported you and your family so far?
MIRIAM: Ambit has been a light in several ways. My husband has been self-employed for 31 years. This has been great because it allows us flexibility with our big family and allows me to stay home with the children, but we have no retirement. In addition, my husband had the head injury, and although he underwent all sorts of rehab and has come a long way after the accident, some of his symptoms are returning as he gets older. Eventually, he will have to stop the work he does now. Ambit is a job we can do together. Our goal is to replace our current income within the next two years. Our first year in the business was a huge learning curve. After a year, we’ve promoted twice to Senior Consultants and our income is slowly growing. Our prayers for another stream of income have been answered and the fear of what’s ahead is dissipating.
CASSANDRA: That is very encouraging. How can people find you online? Do you have a website for more information on your books or your Ambit business?
MIRIAM: My new website is under construction, but you can learn more about me and my books at www.alwaysroom4more.com. You can contact me by email at email@example.com or by phone at (570) 259-3204. I should add my Ambit Energy website is www.mei.energygoldrush.com
CASSANDRA: Miriam, I’m sure your book probably answers this question in more detail, but will you take a moment to inspire us with a lesson from your jungle?
MIRIAM: The best lesson I have learned is that when I trust God, life is exciting and nothing is impossible. I like something I read recently from Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” As a mom, I see this every day, even if it’s just getting a cup of cold water for a thirsty toddler. I have a strong desire to share the excitement of ordinary life with young moms. I speak frequently to mom groups. Sometimes they are discouraged, overwhelmed by diapers and laundry and the drudgery of life with toddlers. I want moms to see the beauty of the simple things in life and realize what they are building – it’s invisible but powerful.
CASSANDRA: Your life has uniquely prepared you for that message and that audience. Keep writing and sharing; young moms need to be encouraged. You joined One Degree Shift community at the end of May. We’re writing a book together, and you’re one of the authors. What has been the biggest value of your membership and participation in One Degree Shift? How has it made a difference?
MIRIAM: I heard you speak at the Ambitious Women’s Conference in April in Valley Forge. Your comments inspired me. I looked you up, and I joined the community. It is renewing my vision to make a difference. I appreciate the honesty I see there. People say, “Here’s what I’m thankful for today…” and “Here’s how I can encourage you…” I feel encouraged to grow personally and begin making shifts in my mindset in several areas. Having a community available anytime I choose to turn on my computer is both encouraging and challenging. One Degree Shift community makes me feel more accountable even though I may never meet anyone in the group in person. It has definitely been valuable.
CASSANDRA: Thank you Miriam. You are a true asset to our community. You bring wisdom and experience to our jungle. I’m so happy to learn more about you.
Can you relate to Miriam’s adventures in raising kids? Maybe you share her joy of writing, or her desire to plan financially for her and her husband’s retirement? Leave her a comment. I know she would like to hear from you!
All of us need community to make a difference. If you don’t already have a strong community around you, consider joining Miriam and other Difference Makers in One Degree Shift. Find out more.