Tag Archives: Dreamer in the Spotlight

Music, Illness, and a Wedding! (7 Quick Takes #13)

6 Jun

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This has been a pretty full week, so much so that I have enough random stuff that I can actually link up with Jennifer and crew at Conversion Diary.

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My younger brother, Jeff, got married last weekend! He married someone whom readers of this blog may be familiar with – my very first Dreamer in the Spotlight, Abby! To most everyone’s surprise, she did not make her own wedding cake, but Jeni’s gourmet ice cream was served all afternoon! It was perfect for a hot day!

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I’ve let my Dreamer in the Spotlight series kind of go by the wayside for the past several months, but another person who I featured last year, Catholic musician Tori Harris, is releasing a new EP this summer. I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to it prior to it’s release this week. I love her sound! Pre-sale copies will be out on iTunes this Sunday! Be sure to check back in the next few weeks for an update post on what Tori’s been doing!

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After a busy wedding weekend, my oldest came down with a cough that turned into a sinus/throat infection complete with conjuctivitis. I’m praying that no one else gets sick since she has been pretty contagious the past few days. Thanks to my mom for taking care of her! Work has been so crazy busy this week that there was no way I could stay home. 😦

When I got home from work on Wednesday, after C was taken to the doctor, it was kind of a funny scene in my front yard. I was on the phone with my mom talking about what the doctor said,  juggling some groceries, calling for my dog that had escaped from the backyard, and walking up to the front door with only one shoe on because the other broke! Wow…

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It’s CMA Fest again in Nashville this week. Adam is the lead tech at LP Field where all the nightly concerts are being held. He had a little scare with the storm that came through Wednesday night, but the tarps held up and all the gear was dry! Hopefully everything runs smoothly the rest of the weekend! He just sent me this pic of Eric Church’s performance! I guess he crept out from behind backstage. It’s as close as I’m going to get to downtown right now! No thank you, crazy traffic!

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I’ve been looking at ways to expand my skills and grow career-wise, so I’m kind of interested in pursuing grant writing. There are a couple workshops coming up later this year in Nashville that I’m considering attending. Anybody out there have experience with writing grants? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

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This weekend, I plan to figure out what project/craft the girls and I will be doing for Adam for Father’s Day. If you have any fun ideas, please share! Last year I posted about 5 free printables. I’m going to go back and check those out or maybe find something different… C said that she’s going to “make the best card that Daddy’s ever seen,” so we probably can’t top that!

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Maybe I spoke too soon about having seven things to talk about…. It’s getting late and my brain can’t think! TGIF! Have a good weekend everyone!

 

 

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Wayne’s Keyboard Studio {October’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

25 Oct

One of the great things about having a personal blog is that you can, of course, write about whatever you want! I get to feature my friends and family and promote their endeavors, in addition to other dreamers and bloggers that I love!

My father-in-law, Wayne, just opened his own business in Mishawaka, Indiana – Wayne’s Keyboard Studio. It’s just minutes from the campus of the University of Notre Dame. He has been selling organs and teaching classes to seniors for years and now is expanding to teach keyboard and piano lessons to kids and families! I wish we lived closer, because I would love our girls to be able to get regular instructions from their grandpa!

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Wayne and his youngest granddaughter playing side-by-side!

My father-in-law’s big emphasis, that sets him apart from other traditional instructors, is that he really focuses on making music fun! He wants people to be able to play the kind of music and songs that they want to learn! I’m sure this attitude helps to keep kids, especially, motivated when it comes to music lessons!

I asked Wayne a few questions about starting his own business, and thankfully, he had some time to answer them for me! Here’s some more about the man behind Wayne’s Keyboard Studio!

1. Music has been a big party of your life for a long time. What first sparked your interest?

My interest in music I guess began when I was around 5 or 6 years old.   My folks brought home a small keyboard instrument  called a Pianorgan.  It was electronic and produced a sound similar to an accordion produced by air blowing through reeds.   It had about 37 keys, (a piano has 88), but it was enough to play some melodies and just fool around with.  Of all of us boys, I was the one that spent the most time playing on it. 

I guess my parents felt I might have some potential so they asked me if I’d like to take some lessons.  I started taking lessons and eventually my folks bought a used piano so I could advance to more complex music than I could do on the Pianorgan.  After about 3 years, and a couple of different piano teachers they realized that I was not reading the music as much as I was playing it by ear.  I really didn’t like a lot of the songs in the lesson book so when I practiced I played around with music I had heard on the radio.  When I went for my lesson I would struggle to play the song until I asked my teacher to play it for me.  Once she played it, then I could play it.

2. What is one of your fondest memories of playing music?

One of my fondest memories of playing music was with my first piano teacher. I was composing little musical pieces at that time and she would write them out for me in a little music book. I had several songs in it by the time she married and moved away, and I moved on to another teacher. I don’t know what happened to that little book of music but that meant a lot to me that she would take the time to write that music out for me.  

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Wayne with wife Laurie (Adam’s parents)

3. What does Wayne’s Keyboard Studio currently offer? And what plans do you have for the store in the near future?

Wayne’s Keyboard Studio currently offers classes for Adults & Children who want to learn to play music more for fun, rather than the more traditional approach that a more serious student might take.  We encourage families to enroll together in the classes, and up to 3 family members can take the classes for the same low price of $12.50 per class. Husbands and wives, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren can enjoy the hobby of making music. Children 8 and 9 years old can take the classes when enrolled with an adult family member.  For those ten and over there is the Kids Keyboard Classes where up to five students can learn the basics together, then choose the songs they want to play. Private lessons are available for those who want to progress a littler faster, and have the time to put into a more in-depth study of left hand chords.

The plans for the future will involve building a performance stage with sound and lights to provide an entertainment venue for professional Lowrey artists when they visit and to allow students an eventual opportunity to perform once they’ve reached a certain level of accomplishment. And, if they like to sing we could incorporate that, also.  

4. What is the best part of owning your own business? The most difficult?

The best part of owning my own business is that I can establish the priorities for everything from recruiting new students, to expanding the programs that will maximize my efforts,  to choosing the right inventory for the current and future student base. 

The most difficult part is developing the necessary systems to streamline the record-keeping aspect of the business.  

5. Do you have a favorite movie, quote, or book that inspires and motivates you to dream?

I don’t know necessarily that there is any one movie, quote, or book that inspires and motivates me to dream.  It’s more the influence of my dad, who even though he had a rough childhood and never attained everything he wanted to do, always kept on trying different things. Even though during the day he worked as a welder for different companies, he always had some side business that he dabbled in to bring in extra money.  From raising strawberries and raspberries, which he sold to the local grocery stores, to raising irises, a common flower, he had something going on.  Even in his retirement he raised red worms and sold them to bait stores.  That has inspired me and motivated me more than anything else in my life to want to find something that people need, that I enjoy doing, and that I can make a decent living at.      

***

Thanks, again, to my father-in-law for taking some time to share more about music and his new business!

If you live in the South Bend area, be sure to check out Wayne’s Keyboard Studio!

Varsity Catholic Missionary: Jennifer Risper {September’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

27 Sep

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Most people who leave college after graduation, don’t plan to return to live on campus, but that is exactly what FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionaries do! This great ministry is bringing the new evangelization to over 80 college campuses in the United States.

I first heard about FOCUS a few months ago when my parents told me about meeting former Vanderbilt basketball player, Jennifer Risper, who was training to become part of the Varsity Catholic outreach program. Recently, the Tennessee Register published an article featuring her and a former teammate. After learning more about Jennifer and this great ministry, I knew I had to share what she is doing!

I wish that I would have been able to meet Jennifer in person before she left on her assignment to the University of Nebraska this fall, but I’m so grateful that she took the time to answer some questions about Varsity Catholic and her own faith journey. Please consider supporting her in this mission. I’ll list ways you can contribute at the end!

1. First of all, can you explain a little bit about the FOCUS ministry and how you reach out to college students?

I am actually working with Varsity Catholic, which is a division of FOCUS. This is a particular outreach to varsity student athletes. This ministry is very necessary and unique because of the role athletics plays in our society and on campus. Also, I played college basketball in college and professionally overseas so I can relate to the obstacles that college athletes go through in trying to grow in their faith.  It really requires a lot of time, a lot of love, and a lot of prayer. I desire and need to be fully available to the athletes because of their schedule. I need to meet them where they are in life and be sensitive to their struggles and their time. They really “don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

This past weekend I had some athletes over to my house and made appetizers for them. We played games, ate, and had great fellowship. I also invited our very cool priest who plays the guitar. There was a girl here who has no faith at all. Another girl is from Germany and Catholic but doesn’t know why. There was a non-denominational Christian who I went with to RCIA the night before. She wants to become Catholic. There were a couple Lutherans too! God really blessed our time together and I pray that He will continue to do more and more!

2. Looking back, what seeds do you think God planted in your heart earlier in your life to prepare you for what you are doing now with FOCUS?

Hmmm, well when I was in high school I went to a church camp and God became so real to me there. It was there that I gave up basketball because I realized God wasn’t #1 in my life, basketball was. I wanted Him to be my number 1 so I gave it to Him. That night He gave it back to me and told me He wanted to use me through it. That was the beginning for me in building my relationship with Him. It was also the start of learning how to give God glory through my sport. How to bring others into relationship with Him through my sport and sports in general.

I think God has given me a gift to talk to people and to relate to them. It is more natural for me to go up to someone and start a conversation and show interest in their life. I desire to love people and I know that is something that comes from God.

I think another seed was truly the graces I received at my baptism. There is so much grace through our baptism and I truly believe it helps us on our journey to sainthood.

Another seed would be my conversion to Catholicism. I am a revert to the faith but it was through a strong conversion. That conversion for me helped me seek and desire truth in everything. Truth in how I view and see the world, but in also how I see sin in my own life.

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Jennifer in Portugal

3. What advice do you have for others who are discerning God’s call for their own lives?

I think with discernment it is important to be truly honest with God in prayer. Tell Him the truth and the desires of your heart. I think it is also important to see WHAT you can do for the faith now. We were all created for a purpose and placed in this moment in time for a reason. I think often times people ask God “why?” but we should really ask God, “what?” What should I be doing with my life? What are ways I can bring glory to your name? What can I do to bring people into or back to your Holy Church? We are all called to evangelize those around us.

4. Do you have a favorite quote, song, or book that motivates and inspires you?

My favorite song right now is Lord of Lords by Brooke Fraser. I learned this song this past summer and fell in love with it. I first heard it during adoration and now every time I hear it I think of adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. A quote that I love is by my patron, Saint Catherine of Siena “If you are who you should be, you will set the world on fire”.

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Jennifer’s official Varsity Catholic staff photo!

5. How can others contribute to your ministry?
People can definitely support me through their prayers! This mission wouldn’t be possible without the prayers of the faithful. When I don’t know what to do, or if I want to find peace, I find myself in the chapel with everything laid out before God asking and begging Him to hold my hand through it all.
As a first world missionary, this work requires me to be fully available to the student athletes that I am working with. In order to do that, I have to fund raise my entire salary including expenses, and student outreach. (sporting events, bible studies,  mission trips, retreats, whatever it takes to live and to complete this mission, etc) FOCUS likes to ask us to raise monthly support because it gives us stability month to month and helps us concentrate on the mission/job before us. One of the ways to support is electronically through my personal giving page.
Some people prefer mailing in their support. If anyone is interested in that, then they can contact me directly (jennifer.risper@focus.org) and I can give them all of the information that they need. Sometimes people may not be in a position to give, but they might know others who are and so even passing my contact information along is very helpful!
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Jennifer, you are an inspiration to all of us! Thank you again for taking time to share about how God is using you to reach others!

For more about the importance of FOCUS and its impact on college campuses, click here!

Tori Harris: Music Missionary {August’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

30 Aug

tori harrisI am really excited to feature this month’s Dreamer in the Spotlight – Catholic musician, Tori Harris! This “music missionary for a new generation of faithful” is definitely using her gifts for God and inspiring others to do the same!

Over the weekend, Tori found time to answer some questions in the midst of speaking and singing at Immaculee Ilibagiza’s “Treasures of our Faith” retreat. (Side note: If you haven’t read Immaculee’s book, Left to Tell, about her experience during the Rwanda genocide, please do. It is a life-altering read!)

1. You released your beautiful EP, Adoremus, earlier this year. What does the rest of 2013 have in store for you and your music? 
Thank you so much! This year has been such a whirlwind of blessings and surprises. It seems that everything is moving so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. I’ve got a few big media events happening in the Fall. National Worship Leader Magazine is featuring my song, “Face to Face” on their songDISCovery disk, I’ll be interviewed on Catholic TV at least 3 times, and there is a bunch of radio lining up. This summer I took a leap of faith and began playing music full-time, so, by the grace of God I’ll continue to stay on the road with a heavy tour schedule and this Fall, the hope is to take a few weeks off to go back into the studio and start putting together the next project. Over the past 2 years I’ve had the honor of writing with some INCREDIBLE songwriters and I can’t wait to give these songs some legs and watch how they do on a CD. But ultimately, providence determines what I’m doing and where the music is going. So, the hope is to do these things, but the reality is that, at all times, God is in control and I can only do that which He permits. 
2. Since beginning your journey of pursuing Christian music for the New Evangelization, do you have a favorite “God-moment” that stands out? 
That’s a hard question because there have been so many. One that really continues to teach and speak to me was this Easter. At the time I was really struggling to financially stay afloat and still do music, but I had a bunch of shows lined up and my only opportunity to earn money would be through CD and merchandise sales. I didn’t have any money for merchandise, so we charged the credit card. All in all, the expenses totaled about $2000. I had no plan for how I was going to pay off the debt, I was just confident that this was an investment I needed to make. A week later, just as I finish praying with my mom on the phone about where the money is going to come from, I met some friends for lunch. When I walked into the restaurant, there was a check for $2000 sitting on my plate. The wife of the couple looked at me and said, “Now what you see before you isn’t a gift from me, but from the Holy Spirit. I don’t know why you need this money, but I’m certain you need it. Jesus wants you to have it.” I held my composure through the lunch, but as soon as I got back to my car I wept for about 30 minutes. To be loved so lavishly by Christ touches one of the deepest longings of the human heart – and my God loves each of His creatures that much and more. 
Tori Harris/Courtesy of toriestories.com
3. I love your guest post on Ryan Eggenberger.com where you shared your story of facing fear and discovering God’s purpose for you. Please elaborate on how you use fear and insecurity to guide you. 
When I talk to young people I find myself repeating, “the battlefield for the soul is fought in the mind.” Extraordinary circumstances aside, the devil most often attacks us through our thoughts, especially the thoughts and stories we tell ourselves. Scripture is very clear that the emotions of fear, doubt, insecurity and anxiety are birthed in Hell and thus NOT from Heaven. When you apply this knowledge to the fact that the devil attacks that which is most Holy and most good – you quickly realize that if you are feeling doubt, fear, anxiety or insecurity, that you are likely in thought or action, doing something very good and very holy. You see, our God is SO good. He desires to pour into us the deepest desires of our heart. He has organized the universe very intentionally and very exactly so that He can present to us our hearts deepest desire. The devil knows this and can’t stop it. He can’t change the universe… but he can cloud our thoughts with lies. Lies of fear, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. When the devil does this, it isn’t the universe that ceases to move, but us. We cease to move. And when we cease to act, we cease to have faith, because what is faith but our RESPONSE to love. I’m learning again and again, that fear is affirmation that I’m doing something right, that I MUST keep moving. And every time I recognize it and walk forward, stepping into the fear, I watch as God’s perfect love casts it out, and another part of my soul heals, and I am able to know love just a little more intimately. 
4. I read on your website that you give a 40-minute talk titled “Discerning God’s Call in Your Life.” What advice do you have for those of us who are searching for our passion and purpose?
I’ll give you discernment cliff notes: 
1. Make a list of all the things you’re insecure about, all the things you’re afraid of. (I’ll never be thin enough, No one will ever marry me and I’ll end up alone, the ladies at church judge me and don’t want to spend any time with me) 
2. Make a list of your hearts deepest desires. (This is the most difficult of all the steps. If you feel stupid, dumb, afraid and hope no one ever sees this list, then you’re doing it right) 
3. Go through the second list, your heart’s deepest desires, and ask yourself “do any of these desires violate God’s law?” If it violates God’s law scratch it off the list. 
4. Compare the two lists. If you see any parallels (For example, I am insecure about my singing voice and my deepest desire to stand on stage at Church and cantor) then prioritize those desires first
5. Act. Face your fear, step into your insecurity, and act. Follow the desire. Just do it. 
6. Marvel at what God does next. Because what He will do will change your heart and life forever. 
 
In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, “if you become only what God intended you to be, then you will set the world on fire” – I think it’s about time we had more souls setting the world on fire. 
Photo by Joy Williams/Courtesy of toriestories.com
5. Do you have any favorite songs, verses, books, or movies that inspire and motivate you?
Good art and culture always inspire. The book that changed my life was “Abandonment to Divine Providence” by Jean Pierre de Caussade. I read and re-read that book and every time, the truth it contains etches itself more intimately upon my heart. If you’re afraid of making a radical change in your life, this is the book that will give you the courage to leave everything you know, take up your cross and follow Christ. 
Thanks, Tori, for taking the time to share your journey and your wisdom with us! Great stuff!
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 Adoremus - EP, Tori Harris
For more, be sure to…
Checkout Tori’s website.
Download her music on iTunes.
Follow Tori on Twitter.
Like her Facebook page.
Watch the Face to Face music video on YouTube.

A Family on a Mission {July’s Dreamer in the Spotlight: Melissa Seilhan}

26 Jul

I stumbled upon Melissa Seilhan’s blog, For Better or Worse, a couple months ago and immediately started going through several of her posts about her family’s journey to be missionaries! Talk about trusting in God! I knew that I had to feature her and her family!

Fortunately, Melissa agreed to answer some questions and share more about her experiences, faith, and blessings!

1. How did you find out about the Family Missions Company?

Several years ago, a friend gave me a book to read called Go, You Are Sent! by Genie Summers. The book tells the story of her husband’s overnight conversion from Atheist to devout Catholic and how they then sold everything to become missionaries for the Lord. Genie and her husband Frank later founded Family Missions Company to train other lay Catholics to do what they did. I read the book cover to cover in no time and longed for that kind of “blind” faith and simplistic lifestyle. My husband thought it was just plain crazy, but God had planted a seed and would later lead us right to Family Missions Company’s door.

2. What are some of the ways that God has let you and your family know that this journey is His will?

After reading the book, we began cleaning out our lives and began living more simply and more devoutly than before. I began homeschooling our kids a year or so later, and we began to do more corporal works of mercy in our local community and began reading about the lives of the saints. We began to have a missionary heart without knowing what exactly what was happening. That’s when God began sending Family Missions Company into our lives repeatedly. Everywhere we went we’d run into someone with FMC or someone that would tell about us something about this organization. We found out that FMC was the host of a very popular Middle School summer camp called Faith Camp and that they owned the retreat center that would be used for our parish youth retreat.

After my husband made a Cursillo, sitting next to an FMC missionary ALL weekend, we decided to check out their Wednesday night prayer meeting that we had been invited to several times before. After going a few times, our kids begged us to go on a mission trip. We eventually signed up to go on FMC’s Pentecost Trip to Mexico for a week instead of taking a family vacation that year. While there, we all began to feel the call to become full time missionaries.

As we began to pray about it after returning home, God continually confirmed this call through scripture like Luke 18:22 and Matthew 19:2. We’d open the Bible to similar passages over and over again. We’d go to Mass and the homilies we’d hear would confirm exactly what we’d just prayed about. Our daily meditation books and apps would constantly be about “Following Him and Proclaiming the Gospel to All Nations.” Passages that we had read and heard at Mass our whole lives began to jump out at us in a new way. We realized that “selling everything, giving to the poor, and following Him” was not just a suggestion or something for His apostles to do way back then. It was what He was literally calling us to do right now in this age.

Once we knew that we were indeed being called, we began to ask “How?” Then we began to get the scriptures about “trusting God to care for all your needs” in our personal prayer time, in our mediation books and apps, at prayer meetings—just about everywhere. But even though we knew what we were begin asked, we still hestitated and wanted more signs and bigger signs. That’s when someone randomly offered to buy our house and land without it even being for sale. After the initial shock wore off, we chalked it up to “coincidence.” So, He sent several more people the next week to randomly tells us they’d be interested in buying our house if we ever decided to sell it. That’s when we called our pastor!

We spent the next year continuing to pray personally and as a family for God to show us the path we needed to take. We sought spiritual direction from two other priests besides our pastor. The signs and wonders continued to appear and things just kept falling into to place too perfectly to be anything else but God’s work.

3. Last summer, you wrote a personal post on your blog about how using the “pill” nearly destroyed your marriage. That obviously took a lot of courage to share. How did that time in your life influence you and your husband’s decision to become foster parents?(Congratulations on the adoption of your son!)

That was the hardest blog I’ve ever written. It took several months to be able to actually click “Publish.” But I knew it was something that the Holy Spirit had been prompting me to write for a long time. The “pill” and later my husband’s vasectomy caused numerous problems in our marriage. We had both wanted a large family with lots of kids, but listened to the “world” and not our hearts when making several medical decisions when we faced difficult times. Even though we had confessed our sins and received absolution numerous times, we still had not forgiven ourselves even though God had. We constantly prayed for healing and for some way to feel whole again.

Like the recent signs leading us to missions, the Holy Spirit led us to become foster parents with numerous signs—people, books, movies, newspapers, and even a giant billboard. The more we prayed about it, the more signs He sent. But the one thing that kept holding us back from fostering were all the horror stories of these “bad” kids coming into your home and exposing your kids to who knows what. But God never stopped calling us, and we never stopped praying about the call. As we took the foster parent classes, we had to constantly remind ourselves that He knew what we could handle and what our three kids could handle. We just had to trust in Him completely.

4. What advice do you have for others who are trying to discern God’s calling for their life?

Be open! So many times in our lives we miss the opportunities that God puts in our path because we have made our own plans and are so set to follow our plan that we can’t see what he’s laying out in front of us. I used to be a major control freak. I like to have everything planned out and on the calendar ahead of time. I like to know all the details ahead of time before I make my decision. This does not work if you are following the promptings of the Holy Spirit! I have found that what I have planned usually is NOT what He has planned for me. This is very scary for me, but I had to learn to trust and be open to whatever is set before me at the moment.

We need to constantly pray for God’s will in our lives, not for Him to give us what we want or what we think we need. I promise that His plan is always so much better in the end even if it’s a lot harder than your plan. That’s one thing we’ve learned. He never asks us to do anything easy or comfortable. Everything seems hard and nearly impossible at first, but keep praying. And when you pray for His will, ask for signs and wonders. He is always faithful and will send them. You just have to have an open mind and heart to see them. They can be found in the strangest places—a commercial, an ad, social media status, random people. And if you’re stubborn like us, He may even send you a billboard of your very own.

Also, find a spiritual director, preferably a priest/pastor, that you can trust. Go to them, talk to them, have them pray for you, with you, and over you. And pray for them. Ask the Holy Spirit to give them the words that He wants you to hear. Many times our priests gave us the answers before we even asked the questions. If you are truly open to His will, He will not only reveal it to you, but give you what you need to follow it.

5. Do you have a favorite verse, song, or book that you turn to for inspiration and hope?

I have several favorites of each. The verse that really helped us change the way we viewed the world and the way we lived our life, the one that eventually led us to where we are now, is Romans 12:2. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The less we conformed to the world, the better we were able to see His will.

But the verse that we rely on heavily lately is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” We cannot follow His will without His strength, and if He is calling you to something, He will not only give you the strength you need, but everything else you need also.My first “go to” song when life gets tough is “Lay It Down” by Needtobreathe. I’ve cried myself to sleep playing that song over and over at night. I play it softly when I just need some peace about something. And I blare it when I’m excited to be able to give it to God and be done with it! The other song that I go to often is Matt Maher’s “Lord, I Need You.” I could sing that all day and sometimes do.

Thanks, Melissa! You and your family are such an inspiration to all of us! I look forward to seeing how God continues to use you and bless you!

***

If you are interested in supporting the Seilhan Family’s upcoming two-year mission, you can donate online or you can mail a tax deductible donation to Family Missions Company, 12624 Everglade Road, Abbeville, LA 70510. Write “Seilhan Family” in the memo line.

 

Interview with an Everyday Catholic: Theresa Thomas {June’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

28 Jun

Theresa Thomas
Source: The Integrated Catholic Life

I am so honored to be featuring Wife/Mother/Home-schooler/Writer Theresa Thomas, as this month’s Dreamer in the Spotlight! She is the co-author of the recently released book, BIG HEARTED: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and blogs at Theresa Thomas~Everyday Catholic. She also writes articles for The Integrated Catholic Life and Today’s Catholic.

A funny thing that I have to share is that while preparing to do this interview, I discovered that Theresa’s family and my family actually went to the same small parish at the same time until I moved to Tennessee. When I saw her beautiful family photo on her blog some members looked familiar, but I didn’t make the connection until I discovered that she lives in South Bend, Indiana. It’s a small world for sure! I often marveled at how well- behaved all her children were during Mass!

Anyway, without postponing this inspirational interview any longer, here it is! As you’ll see, it’s packed with great wisdom and touching moments!

How do you balance writing, homeschooling, and caring for a large family?

Well, it’s like golfing. You aim toward the pin (set your goals) then you hit the ball where it lies (roll with the punches). If you think too much you’ll ruin your swing (rhythm, routine). You have to find your own personal feel, react decisively on instinct and be natural. Yes, I’m married to a golfer. 🙂

Seriously, balancing these things can be like a tightrope walk, but the best way I’ve found to approach it is with love and humor. Things go wrong sometimes- that’s just life. Also, I’m going to make mistakes- we all make mistakes- but just diving in, trying hard with focus, keeping a smile on my face and love in my heart (even when the rice spills all over the floor or I can’t find my car keys or someone loses her spelling book, or one of the girls informs me that her toe poked through her ballet slipper and her instructor said she has to have new ones by next class in one hour) is my best advice and the way I balance!

I try always to put family first. I made a vow to my husband and to God. So everything –and I mean everything- comes after my responsibility to them. That being said, taking care of myself is part of that- it’s important because I’m no good unless I’m well nourished and rested. Moms can only give what they have, so I try to take the time to eat well, exercise, pray and get enough sleep. I do that for all of us. 🙂 I wrote about this all here.

Raising a large family is a challenging endeavor. Children need attention in a myriad of ways. Meals have to be made. The house has to be cleaned. My first responsibility is my vocation of wife and mother, and homeschooling is part of that vocation, a chosen part of that vocation so it is integrated into our daily life.

Photo by Scott Leonard of Valentino's Photographics (Granger, IN)

Photo by Scott Leonard of Valentino’s Photographics (Granger, IN)

Writing mostly comes early in the morning or late at night, when everyone is in bed. I have a column due each month for Today’s Catholic and I try be organized and write ahead, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say sometimes I’ll have a noon Friday deadline and it’s 11:25 and I’m still punching out at the computer! That’s just life! Because of the topics of my writing, I’m often invited to speak on various radio programs. Twice I’ve forgotten a scheduled interview and had to wing it. Once was at 6:50 a.m. and I was actually still in bed when the phone rang. I jumped up and seeing the caller ID was the radio station, I cleared my throat about six times before I answered. I scrambled around while it was a commercial and I was able to quickly make some coffee while the producer was putting me on hold for the host. Once we got talking the interview actually went fine but boy, was my adrenaline pumping at first! So, am I balanced? Sort of. Most things get done, although not always perfectly! And thank goodness for radio where you can do interviews in your pajamas. 🙂

In regards to homeschooling—

David and I determined after much research, prayer and discernment 18 years ago that God was leading our family to homeschool (until high school), and it takes 100% of our time. Homeschooling is a way of life. It’s a way we parent. It’s just part of the rhythm of our days, and one way we try to say ‘I love you’ to our children. Homeschooling isn’t for everybody, but it is for us, and I believe that somehow it is an important part of my children’s formation for their eventual mission in the world.

God gives different families different charisms, different gifts, and as parents we are to discover God’s will not just for us and our children individually, but also for our individual families. I believe that homeschooling is part of what God is calling our family to do. Other families have other callings. This is ours.

I struggle just the same as everyone else with balancing work and play in a large family. My house is not always in order, and worries and concerns pop up here just like everywhere else. Sometimes, like any other mother I slump down in a chair and look up to heaven and ask, “Really, God?” One day, in the midst of a particularly trying day, I sat down at the kitchen table and started laughing hysterically- nothing more could have gone wrong that day and it was the only thing left to do. One of the girls walked in and I’m sure was like, “Mom has lost it.” No, that’s how I find it- peace that is. You have to be able to laugh. Life is ironic and funny and challenging, sad and sorrowful and a million other things. There’s time for seriousness for sure, but knowing when to laugh keeps levity and right perspective.

Being a mother is like being a baby who is learning to walk- you try, you fall, you get up and try again. It’s the only way, really. You just keep moving forward with joy and hope. Then one day you’ll be standing there and look back and say, “Hey, I did that!”

How would you define what it means to be big-hearted, especially in the context of family life?

Being big hearted is a way of thinking and acting. It is putting others first. We have a few little favorite catchphrases in our family. One is “it is a privilege to serve.” Ten and twelve-year-old big sisters know this when their little sister asks for a drink of water. Big brothers know this when a younger sibling asks if they’ll play catch. My older sons who have graduated from college and are out of the house are great. They will phone or text their younger siblings to find out what is happening in their lives and give advice and encouragement. Being big hearted is looking out for others ahead of yourself, and that starts first with siblings and family, and extends out to the rest of the world.

Being ‘big hearted’ doesn’t necessarily mean having a big family- it can mean that of course, but families are big hearted when they welcome a child with a disability, adopt, open their home to grandparents, or in a thousand other ways serve others. Being big hearted can be doing small things in the home with great love. Big-hearted families are easy to spot. They are not perfect. They simply try to love radically. Inevitably, these families are marked by joy. Their hearts are open. We can all be big-hearted.

You shared some great personal stories of your own family in BIG HEARTED. Could you share another special big-hearted moment that wasn’t in the book?

Well, I don’t frequently share that I battled cancer eight years ago, but I did. I was personally challenged to big-heartedness in April of 2005. I had to accept the cross that was offered to me. On April 5, 2005 I gave birth to my ninth baby. Within two weeks, my 20-year-old youngest brother was killed in a car accident, and the day of his rosary at the funeral home I went in for a biopsy. Two days later I was diagnosed with cancer- Hodgkins lymphoma to be exact. The story of part of my struggle was published here.

Through this experience I was challenged to be true to my Catholic faith and reject artificial birth control. It wasn’t easy.

On a lighter note, one personal family big-hearted moment occurred recently when my husband and I were sitting in the family room after dinner together. Our two youngest daughters surprised us by calling us in the basement to visit their ‘restaurant’. Of course we dropped what we were doing and went downstairs. Children need the gift of our time and when we gave it to them that night, we were really the ones who were blessed. The whole story of that is here.

Being big hearted is not just doing amazing things outside your own family, but by doing little things with great love inside the family too. Parents can be big-hearted daily simply by giving their children their time and attention. They will find that that type of big-heartedness reaps big rewards.

Do you have a favorite book, quote, song, or movie that motivates and inspires you?

Yes!

File:It's A Wonderful Life.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my all time favorite movies. What a gift to be able to know what your sacrifices and love have done for others! I think some day in heaven we will all look back and see the ripple effect we had on others’ lives, both good and bad. This movie is great on so many levels- it has a hardworking, feminine, beautiful loving mother (Mary), a selfless, honorable, full-of-hope-and-dreams father (George). It’s a story of integrity, hope, love and meaning. It captures so much about what life is all about. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is truly a big screen big-hearted story!

I have several favorite quotes:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” (Mother Teresa)

“Do small things with great love.” (I think this has been attributed to several sources including St. Therese and Mother Teresa)

And this, which I’ve had taped on my wall for many many years.

“Let nothing disturb thee. Let nothing dismay thee. All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.” -St. Teresa of Avila

~

Thank you, Theresa, for sharing so much of yourself with us today!

For more about BIG HEARTED, please read Theresa’s interview with Randy Hain.

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

Getting to Know Ryan of EntreCatholic {May’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

31 May

I am so excited that my 100th post on A Dreamer’s Wife is such a great one today! I get to share with you my amazing interview with this month’s featured dreamer Ryan Eggenberger of EntreCatholic, “a (personal) blog about business, leadership, and the New Evangelization”! Ryan’s answers blew me away. Be sure to read all the way through until the end, because that’s the really good stuff!

1.  You recently announced on your blog that you quit your job to be a “solopreneur.” How did you decide it was the right time to take this next step?

I knew for two reasons – one personal and one practical. I knew that I was ready personally because I was ready to give myself as much as possible to the New Evangelization as a layman with the skills I have; namely, new media, marketing, and online platform building. But of course, jumping into entrepreneurship with a dream and a desire is not enough to pay the bills. Over the past several months I have worked on the side to bring in half of my normal income during my off hours. Once I accomplished that, I was ready to jump.

2. Please share a little bit about your mission in regards to the New Evangelization. What goals do you have for your business?

I honestly don’t have a real mission in regards to the New Evangelization. I suppose you can say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” All though I am not the model Christian by any means (in fact far from it), I hope to always go where Jesus tells me to go.

With that said, at the core, I am a teacher. I have the gift of being able to quickly learn the language of the party with whom I am speaking, and break down a concept – be that theology, technology, or marketing strategies – and systematically walk with the student or client through the teaching.

3. Many people who will read this post have their own websites and dreams. Do you have any special tips for those who are trying to reach more people online?

Sure! I think this has to be answered in three parts:

First, if you want to reach more people online, you have to know why. Is it to gain personal fame or is it for the Lord? Is it because you want to eventually land a job and your site is an online resume? Is it because you have a book idea and you’re hoping a publisher will find you? There are no right or wrong answers here – you just need to know what you’re purpose is.

Laptop Work by sqback

Second, in order to connect effectively,  you must resolve to love authentically. You have to remember that a follower on Twitter is a real human being, not just a follower (generally speaking). Behind every ‘like’ on Facebook is a real person with real passions, problems, and dreams. If the way you speak to people on social media would get you punched in the face in real life, you need to re-evaluate your motives and your means.

Lastly, just use this: plan it, do it, tell people about it. Just start! I always recommend that you blog on a self-hosted WordPress site. You can download a free guide on how to do that from the front page of EntreCatholic.com. I often blog about tools, tips, and tricks regarding social media and platform building. I’m also thinking of starting up a social media class, if there’s interest.

4. What advice do you have for those of us who find it uncomfortable to self-promote?

Great question. I can’t quote any theology or research here, but with the vast and rapid changes to the norms of making money and finding work, having an online platform – like a blog or social media accounts with followers – is like having a resume, but online. Fortunately, it’s out there 24/7 in case an editor with a company and money likes your stuff happens to find you.

In addition, if your efforts are directed toward leading people to Jesus, you should not worry. Do you need to talk about Jesus all the time? No, of course not. If your expertise is in interior design, you don’t need to always mention Jesus in a post about picking the perfect shade for your living room.

Listen, there will always be some people who will not understand, not agree, and not like you, your work, or your goals. Worry not at all about those people. Jesus had the same problem 2,000 years ago and in fact, still does today. When people give you trouble, just love them! For me, loving people that disagree with me, for the most part, means giving them a word of encouragement and moving on with my life. You don’t need to justify your actions to folks who don’t care to understand anyway.

5. Do you have a favorite song, quote, or movie that motivates and inspires you?

Source: Catholic.org

Source: Catholic.org

Yes. I heard a story about Mother Teresa that is applicable, and necessary in my opinion, to effectively engage in the New Evangelization. Some years ago, a Novice Sister in the Sisters of Charity was standing with Mother Teresa at the motherhouse in Calcutta, when they both noticed a regular visitor approaching the door. The visitor was an old man; difficult to look at, smelly, and often inappropriately obnoxious. Upon seeing the man stumble toward the door, the Novice took a deep breath, and exhaled in irritation. Noticing the Novice’s annoyed attitude, Mother Teresa leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Look – here comes the Lord again in his distressing disguise.”If we’re going to effectively bring people to Jesus, we have to first love them, no matter the circumstances. Why? Because He loves us first. Even while we are still sinners, he loves us.

Everybody – every single person – is worth it to God. That means everybody – every single person – is worth it to you and to me.

~

Wow!  See what I mean about the best stuff being at the end?! Absolutely powerful! Be sure to follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanEggenberger! He’s doing great things for the right reasons!

Thanks, Ryan, for taking the time to share more about yourself and inspire all of us! Great advice!

Jenn Bostic Offers Healing Through Music {April’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

26 Apr
Jenn Bostic- Jealous

Photography by Michael Ernst

I’m so… excited to introduce this month’s Dreamer in the Spotlight, Jenn Bostic!  Hopefully, you are already familiar with her, but if not I know you’ll be one of her newest fans after reading this post and checking out her music! 

I met Jenn through my husband, Adam, who has played some shows and writers’ rounds with her over the past couple years.  I remember Adam being very impressed that she led all the artists in prayer prior to a show one night.  Jenn is a genuine, joyful person with a lot of talent and drive!  I know you’ll enjoy getting to know her in the next few paragraphs!

1. A lot of exciting things have been happening for you over the past several months!  What is your favorite accomplishment or moment so far?  

 Wow, that’s a tough question.  I feel so incredibly blessed by all that’s been happening. I had the opportunity to headline a tour in the UK & Ireland during February and March, filmed a music video for my new single “Not Yet,” and have continued to see people connect to the music on an overwhelming scale.  I think one of the most surreal moments has to be my Grand Ole Opry debut on February 16th.  It was the 17th anniversary of my dad’s passing that night and I performed “Jealous of the Angels” in his honor. I was completely humbled to receive a standing ovation that night, it’s something I’ll treasure in my heart forever.

Photography by Michael Ernst

2. “Jealous of the Angels” has been a huge song for you and meaningful to so many people.  Can you tell those, who aren’t familiar with your music and background, a little about your motivation for writing this special song?  

When I was 10 years old, I was in a car accident that unfortunately took my dad with it.  He was my hero, the first person to ever  inspire me to play music.  I used songwriting as a form of therapy to get through the pain.  Fourteen years after the accident I finally managed to put everything I was feeling into one song, called “Jealous of the Angels.”  I wrote the song with Nashville songwriters Jimmy Fortune and Zach Runquist.  When we were finished I felt this weight lift from my shoulders, thinking I had finally allowed myself some true healing.  I had no idea that people were going to connect to the song the way they have.  I thought it was too personal.  However, to my surprise it has been a beautiful journey of comfort and peace for those who have suffered loss.  It is overwhelming to see God working through this song and I feel honored that people have opened their hearts to me.

3. What is in store for you this year?  What goals do you have for your music?

This week* I’m very excited to be releasing a brand new music video for “Not Yet,” which is now available in the United States on iTunes. I’m really looking forward to hitting the road and touring my new record “Jealous,” which will be available in the states on June 11th.  It has been amazing to see people connecting with the record in the United Kingdom and I am anxious to share it in the US.  Of course the ultimate goal would be to win a Grammy someday, but as I have created new relationships with fans who have really been moved by the music, a lot of my goals have shifted from winning awards to seeing healing and inspiration on a larger scale.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens this year!

*Video was released the week of April 14th at time of interview.

Photography by Michael Ernst

4. Do you have any advice to share with those who are trying to pursue their own dreams and overcome obstacles?

Don’t be afraid to share your heart with the world.  People can see through the glitter and raw honesty has the ability to touch someone’s heart. When I first moved to Nashville I was trying to fit into a tiny little box that I thought the music industry would want me to be.  After a lot of rejection and disappointment, I made the choice to write music that inspires me, regardless of genre, expectations or what everyone around me was doing.  I can honestly say that more doors have opened since I made that decision than ever before and I have never been happier. Judy Garland said something that you can find at the beginning of my song “Change,” “Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.”

Thanks, Jenn, for inspiring us!  Congratulations on all the great stuff you are celebrating now! 

Be sure to visit Jenn’s website.
Follow Jenn on Twitter.
Like her on Facebook.

If you want to see Jenn live, she has an online Stageit show this coming Sunday, April 28th, at 2PM CST.  Also, Jenn will be performing again at the Grand Ole Opry on June 14th!

Special Shout-out: All of the beautiful photographs featured in this post were taken by Jenn’s husband, Michael Ernst, of Bostic Outdoor Photography!  So much talent in one couple!

Introducing fwisty! {March’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

22 Mar
Kristen Hardin, founder of Kristen Grace Designs posing with one of her Fwisty totes!

Kristen Hardin, founder of Kristen Grace Designs, posing with one of her fwisty totes!

This month, I’m happy to be featuring fwisty designer, Kristen Hardin! She, and her husband, Ed, have been good friends of ours for awhile and we are excited to be supporting her talent and new venture!

Kristen recently started selling her fun, modern handmade bags and accessories on Storenvy.  Be sure to visit her online shop to check out all of the different patterns, colors, and sizes of bags that she offers.  BONUS: Kristen is offering a discount to all readers of A Dreamer’s Wife!  Use promotional code dreamer for 10% off your order!

Kristen also has a blog detailing her life and the adventures of starting this new business!  You can follow her on bloglovin’ and on Twitter!

I think a lot of us can relate to the desires and doubts that Kristen has faced when pursuing her dream.  Kristen was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her line, fwisty, that is now a reality!  Keep reading to learn more!

fwisty pouches

1. What inspired you to create your own line of bags?

There are really two parts to this answer. The first is that I love, love, love fabric! And seeing something super cute and functional that I made with my own hands is beyond cool. I chose bags because, come on… who doesn’t love accessories?! The other part is that I never really knew what career I wanted to have, or what job I would end up with, but I always knew I wanted to be a wife and mother. While I don’t know what our future will look like, I do know that if we want to have a few more options as far as jobs and childcare goes when we do start having kids, I need to get creative. I started reading about women who had started their own online businesses and were actually helping support their families with it! I was intrigued, to say the least.

2. How did you come up with the name “fwisty”?

I have a really sweet grandpa who started calling me fwisty as a little girl. I remember feeling so loved and important that this man who I looked up to so much had a special name just for me. I asked him recently where he came up with it and why and he doesn’t remember; I just think that makes it even better 🙂 It sounds a little silly to say at first but you get used to it 🙂

fwisty logo

3. What has been your biggest challenge so far?

I think probably having enough confidence in myself is the most challenging thing. It’s really scary to put yourself and something that you’ve created out there in the world for people to see and potentially judge. I’ve learned, though, that it’s actually really good for us to get out of our comfort zone a little bit, even if it is… well… uncomfortable!

4. What has been the most exciting thing that you have accomplished up to this point?

Honestly, just having people react so positively has been the most exciting thing for me!

5. Do you have any favorite quotes, songs, books, etc., that you turn to for motivation to pursue your dream?

I’m such a sucker for quotes!
There are so many that motivate and inspire me but the one that’s coming to mind at the moment is: “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try” – Seth Godin

clutch-tote collage

Isn’t Kristen absolutely adorable, and aren’t these bags fabulous?!  Now is the perfect time to pick up a pouch, clutch, and/or tote for yourself or a friend!  The vibrant colors are perfect for the spring and summer!  Don’t forget to use promo code “dreamer” to save 10%!

Thanks, Kristen, for sharing more about your faith and courage to pursue your dream!

The Grand Opening of Creative Crumbs {January’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

25 Jan

This month’s dreamer may sound familiar to you!  She was the first person featured in my “Dreamer in the Spotlight series back in August 2011!  Due to some exciting new developments, I thought it would be great to update you as amazing baker Abby Head climbs to another (cake) tier in her journey!

Photo courtesy of Nate Uhl Photography

Photo courtesy of Nate Uhl Photography

Last Saturday, Abby held a grand opening celebration for her new bakery, Creative Crumbs!  For the past several months, Abby has been doing a lot of work researching, planning, and negotiating in order to make this dream a reality!  It was so exciting to see the finished shop and I’m very ecstatic that Abby is able to do what she loves!

Creative Crumbs is an upscale bakery in East Nashville specializing in wedding, groom’s, and custom cakes.

Photo courtesy of Nate Uhl Photography

Photo courtesy of Nate Uhl Photography

In order to catch everybody up with what she has been doing, I asked Abby a few questions…

What inspired you to take Creative Crumbs to the next level?
Starting my own shop was always something I had dreamed about, but I was concerned about starting a business that would directly compete against the bakery where I had been working. I just didn’t feel like that was an ethical decision. But when the bakery that I was working at decided not to continue in the wedding cake business, that opened the door for me. It was honestly a solution I had never considered. The only two options I could see were either to quit or get fired! And neither of those was a good thing. So it was truly an example of God’s plan being bigger than anything I could ever imagine!

What “God moments” have you experienced during this time to let you know that you are on the right track?
There have been too many to count! I wish I had taken time to write down all the little moments along the way. The first one was a random encounter with an older gentleman at Starbucks. Without knowing anything about me, he asked me if I was going to start a bakery! I answered, “Well it’s something I’m considering thinking about.” He responded that that was the wimpiest answer he had ever heard and that I should either go for it or do something else! The next day, my former employer told me she was not going to continue the wedding cake business, and I knew then that it was time to make my dream a reality! Orders started pouring in, sometimes more than I could handle, and I found a location that met every single criteria I had prayed for plus more.

Abby Head greeting patrons of Creative CrumbsPhoto courtesy of Nate Uhl Photography

Abby Head (center) greeting patrons at the Grand Opening
Photo courtesy of Nate Uhl Photography

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
There have actually been two areas that have been very challenging. The biggest obstacle has been finding confidence. Since I built the company, everything is mine…my designs, my recipes, my thoughts, my “intellectual property”. If a customer doesn’t like one of my cakes, it’s hard not to take it personally. I struggle with finding a balance between caring about the business but separating it from who I am.
The other area that has been challenging has been keeping my business decisions in line with what I say I believe. Even though it’s a business, I don’t want to lose my witness. I had to decide early on what type of events I would or would not do. I’ve also really been challenged lately to return the focus back to marriage, not just weddings. There is so much focus on planning a wedding, but so little on preparing for marriage.

What has been the most exciting moment?
The most exciting moment so far was when I passed my final site inspection, and I officially received my permit to open. I still had some work to do to finish decorating, but at that point, everything was official – I was in business! I was so happy, I actually cried. I had dreamed of owning a bakery since I was 9 years old, and there I was, standing in my very own bakery! It was an amazing moment!

Photo courtesy of Nate Uhl Photography

Photo courtesy of Nate Uhl Photography

Any advice you have for others who want to start their own business?
Treat everyone with respect. I have met so many truly amazing people through this journey! The success of my business is directly related to the wonderful people God has brought into my life.

Anything else to add?
I looked back at our initial “Dreamer in the Spotlight” interview, as I had forgotten exactly what we talked about. My goal then was “to start an upscale bakery and café”. I hadn’t thought about that particular question since we did the interview, but the sign above my door now says, “Creative Crumbs, an upscale bakery”…literally a dream come true!

Thanks, Abby, for sharing your journey with us!  So many exciting things to come!  Everyone, be sure to check out her website to see photos of some of the amazing cakes that she has made!  And yes, those cupcakes in the picture above really did taste as amazing as they look!  Yum!