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Have you forgotten how to dream?

The economy has been hard on many families. Some of you have struggled through months (or even years!) of unemployment or underemployment.

When you struggle for a long time and are barely eeking by, it can be easy to want to give up. To feel like you’re never going to get anywhere or get out of the hole you feel like you’re stuck in.

I know the feeling. I’ve felt very hopeless and helpless at times in my life.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you’ll never make any progress if you stop dreaming. You’ll never get anywhere if you feel like taking a step in the right direction is a pointless exercise.

We live in America and, compared with so much of the world, we have immense opportunities and possibilities at our disposal. Times are tough here for many of you, but you can still access so much free information online or at your local library.

You can start a blog (for free!) and grow it to the point that you earn a part-time — or even full-time — income from it. You can start a service job for almost nothing out of pocket and turn it into a thriving business.

You can join local groups to network with other businesses and professionals. You can take free or very inexpensive classes to learn new skills. There is a wealth of help, tools, and resources available — free of charge — for you to learn and grow as an individual and to help you develop a business or improve and sharpen your marketable skills.

I’m living proof that the American Dream is alive and well. I remember so vividly the hopelessness I felt when we found out we were expecting our first child and I was too sick to continue working.

I had no special skills, no special degrees or training or credentials, and no special marketable talents. But we needed money to eat and have a roof over our heads and Jesse’s part-time income while in law school was not enough to cover all of our basic bills.

I may not have had credentials, but I had time and determination. And so I spent countless hours researching ways to make money from home on the internet and then I jumped in and started trying things.

So much of those first feeble attempts were pathetic failures (I’m embarrassed to even admit some of the crazy things I tried or considered trying!), but with each failure, I learned a little bit more. And I kept trying and learning until things slowly started to work.

Over time, I’ve come to believe that there is a world of possibility out there and it’s available to anyone and everyone who is willing to work hard, put forth enormous effort, think outside the box, and not give up when the going gets tough.

So dream big dreams. Don’t give up hope. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re stuck.

As long as you have breath in your body, there is opportunity out there for you!

Note: This post was inspired by reading Frank Sonnenberg’s post, Dream No Small Dreams. If you need some inspiration to dream big, I encourage you to head on over and read it.

photo credit; photo credit

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  • Katie Jones says:

    I can definitely relate to feeling hopeless. I work part-time and my boyfriend works full-time; however, it still isn’t enough. I relied on my credit cards to survive and I am in so deep, I don’t know how to pull myself out. I’ve considered debt management plans and even filing for bankruptcy (I’m only 21 years old!). I have a baby due in October … and it’s just that motivation that I so desperately need isn’t there. I know I can make extra money on the side through my writing and other various ways, but it’s hard to overcome this feeling at times. It was refreshing to see this post and know that I’m not the only one feeling like this all the time…

    • Crystal says:

      {Hugs to you!} Just remember that moving forward — even at a microscopic rate — is still moving forward.

      Start by setting a few really small goals and working toward those. Over time, by taking little babysteps, you’ll be able to make some amazing traction toward getting yourself in a better financial position.

      Don’t give up! You can do it! We’ll be here to cheer you on!

      • Katie Jones says:

        Thanks for your encouraging words! You are definitely right! I’ve found that when I do make small goals and achieve them, I feel so much better about my situation. I just need to stick to setting small goals for a while because I always end up going after the “big ones” and getting myself caught up in a web of disappointment and anxiety.

        Thanks again 🙂

    • bobcat says:

      Just don’t call any of those debt solutions places that you see ads for, where they say THEY will pay your debt for you (to stop all the collection calls), if you just pay the “debt solution” company. They charge outrageous fees for this, and lo and behold, you’ll find out later that the money you thought was going towards your debt was going to them, all in fees! I saw a husband and wife that learned this the hard way, on the Suze Orman show. It was crazy….

      Not saying there aren’t good ways to manage it, I really don’t know, but be careful who you call. Some companies/groups that seem legit are really just ripping you off.

      • Katie Jones says:

        Thanks for your concern! There are definitely a lot of companies out there that do claim that. I have been looking into Care One, but the entire process of actually doing it and making sure of this or that is holding me back. I’m able to pay most of my bills except two and the balances/late fees/etc. are building to incredible amounts.

        I’m trying really hard to go about all of this without receiving “outside help” but I do become discouraged quite easily.

  • kathy says:

    Thanks for the words of encouragement.

  • Preach it Crystal!! <3

  • deborah says:

    Thanks for the encouragement! I’m not a brave personality and things can look very big or scary. It’s not easy for me to just jump in and try things.

    I appreciate you sharing where you’ve been. We see the “now” of successful people and forget that there is a story behind it all. King David waited many years before he took his place on the throne. Most things do take patience, commitment, time and effort! Something I too easily forget!

    • Crystal says:

      I think you’re really brave — at least that was my impression of you when I met you. The fact that you drove a long way to meet up with people you didn’t know at all is very courageous in my book!

      Just focus on the next step and don’t be overwhelmed by the mountain you’re trying to climb.

  • Amanda says:

    Just what I need to hear today! Thank you.
    I found your site a few weeks ago, and you’ve been a true inspiration and a big help to me. Thank you for what you do.

  • It’s been 5 1/2 years of underemployment–and we’re at a much, much, MUCH lower income point this year. However, we haven’t stopped dreaming. We still dream huge dreams–like taking our family on a river cruise through Europe–even though we’ve never been able to take our family on a vacation at all. We dream of a big piece of property in Washington state, where we can be more self-reliant.

    Sometimes the dreams keep us going.

    We continue to seek out opportunities to do all that we can, despite all that is happening. It has been those opportunities that have made a difference–having a huge garage sale to help pay our midwife’s bill, taking sewing jobs, selling things, taking surveys. It doesn’t work towards the big dreams yet, but it helps pay the utility bills–and that is a blessing right now, too.

    • And don’t forget, Brandy, that sometimes what you’re doing right now inspires big dreams in other poeple too!

      I truly love your web site and have taken so much inspiration from it! I appeciate what you do for all of us in the bloggy world so much.

      Praying for blessings to come your way!

  • Oh, thank you so much for this encouragement. I’ve really needed this. I’ve been unemployed since December 2010…and I’m going to take a leap of faith and start an at-home business. A friend of mine from church has been really supportive, and her and her husband each have their own businesses, so they have lots of wisdom and experience. In any case, I really loved what you wrote here…awesome words 🙂 Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

  • J says:

    Love your story Crystal. I dream big and we currently live exactly in the state we wanted and and type of house. Would seem impossible in this market and yet God blessed us and our home (last one) sold in 4 months! woo hoo Our current home had been purchased for $70,000 more than we paid for it.

  • Chelsea says:

    We’ve definitely felt the burden of underemployment for years, yet you are right. We are so blessed.

    Is it really THAT much to ask for… to build a successful blog and business overnight and earn an income with little work on my part? 😉 Just kidding, of course. I’m going to keep dreaming and trying. Thanks for the reminder why!

  • Lolly says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you for reminding everyone to keep dreaming, especially people in The Middle Ages (middle-aged people :D). We young people are usually full of dreams, and I hope I will keep your advice when I am older.
    You’ve given me an ide of something to post on my blog – thank you.

  • Thanks for this Crystal!

    Sometimes it’s really hard to see the roses that will come after the plant is fully grown – right now it seems a lot of the time it’s bare stocks and thorns galore!

    I have taken so much inspiration from you (along with Brandy (above) and several others) and it’s really helped us to not only thrive but take the huge pay cuts we had in the past and will again have in the future (40% last time, 70% coming up in about 18 months!).

    Thanks for all you do!

  • bobcat says:

    Thank you for this post! Yes, all things considered, we are lucky to live in the U.S. And God is good! Many of us just need to be reminded, myself included.

  • Annie says:

    I’m feeling so grateful that God always provides what we need! I needed this encouragement today. Thank you for being willing to speak truth, and share openly. We’re 2 years in to the unemployment/underemployment struggle and yet we have never wanted for anything. God is faithful.

  • Emily says:

    What do you do when it hurts to keep dreaming? We just found out yesterday that we’re not going to be able to conceive. I’m thankful for my loving husband, our good jobs, and our families, but my dream of being a mom feels like a nightmare.

    • Laurie says:

      Emily: I am very sorry to hear you will not be able to conceive. How incredibly heartbreaking. I have not walked in your shoes,but I would like to tell you my story. I am single by choice and always wanted a family. When I was 28 now 40 I started my journey to adopt a baby from china. At that time 8.5 yrs ago it took me only 1 yr start to finish. My Olivia Marie was placed in my arms on 12-28-04 at 10 mos old. It took me another 4 yrs to adopt my beautiful Claire Grace 3.5 yrs ago at the age of 12 mos. She is now 4. I tell you my story b/c my family is now complete,but do not wait for forever to become a mom. Being a mom is all my millions of dreams come true everyday. China is a wonderful country to adopt from. In wish you the best.

    • elaine says:

      You and your husband grieve together.Then you ask God to show you other ways to use the passion you have for nurturing and caring.

      • bobcat says:

        I’m sorry for what you are going through. I will say that I have had some unfortunate things happen to me, and my life is not at ALL what I would have planned, nor what anyone would have planned for me. But it’s interesting that in a way, through all the struggle and sadness, the “curses” I was given have actually resulted in a very happy family life for myself and my husband. So in a way, what God had planned for me was better than what I planned for myself. I’m sure that God is preparing you and your husband to be an enormous blessing to this world!

    • Susan says:

      Emily, don’t give up on your dreams of motherhood!

      Like Laurie, I am a single adoptive mother. When I was young, all I ever truly wanted in life was to have a family, a loving husband, children to raise, a home to maintain. Long story, but life did not go that way for me. Life took me down another path, which now, looking back, I wouldn’t change for the world. My daughter is the single greatest blessing in my life! We never know what “might have been,” but had my original dream played out, I would not have her, and that thought saddens me much so much more than thoughts of not having the husband and family I dreamed of when I was young.

      To learn that you cannot conceive is devastating, and I can imagine how sad you must feel. It’s okay to grieve for a child you will never have. But don’t give up on your dreams of motherhood. There are many paths to parenthood, and as a married couple you have many more options than I did. Remember this — regardless of biology, the most powerful relationships we have in life are with people we choose to love!

      Cyber hugs!

    • Andrea says:

      I’m sorry, Emily. Please take time to grieve the loss with your spouse. Take one day at a time for a while and I suspect that new dreams will slowly come to you.

    • Emily says:

      I’m so sorry to hear this, Emily (from another Emily!). We too had trouble conceiving (for 2 years) and it was such a struggle. My husband and I grieved together after the dr. told us we may never conceive. As time went on, we began to look into the adoption process and just a few weeks ago were set to start that. The next day, we found out that we will indeed be biological parents, although we thought that would never happen. We are still reeling from the news (and I’m reeling with “morning” sickness!), but so excited.

      I’d encourage you to meet with a fertility dr. if you haven’t already. There are so many options available now (do as much or as little as you want). And consider adopting a child, either domestically or internationally.

      All that to say, please don’t give up hope – and don’t give up dreaming! I had honestly accepted the fact I might not ever be a bio mom and I was ok with that. There are more ways to build a family, other than having a biological child. But it all takes time, so don’t rush anything.

      For anyone struggling through infertility, I’d recommend these books:
      -He Remembers the Barren (Schuerman)
      -The Infertility Companion (Cutrer and Glahn)
      -When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden (Cutrer and Glahn)
      -Hannah’s Hope (Saake)

      Praying for you!

  • What an awesome post Crystal! I love how you have the right words at the right time 🙂 Thanks for reminding us to dream.

  • Crystal, I LOVE YOU! I have been so discouraged lately because it’s taking us what seems like forever to get out of debt, I’m dealing with an illness that’s very frustrating, and it seems like it’s taking me soooo long to get my name out there to the world that I have a blog. I feel like I’m in the middle of Madison Square Gardens with thousands of people screaming at the same time I’m trying to say, “Hello?! I’m here!!!”

    Did I say it yet? I LOVE YOU, CRYSTAL! Thank you so much for the refreshing words of encouragement. Especially on a day like this one when I feel like completely giving up!

  • Nikki F says:

    I cannot tell you Crystal how much I absolutely needed to read this today. I am 31 weeks pregnant, having my third child (we have four in total), and just got put on bed rest today. I feel very frustrated because I am getting more and more physically limited everyday and becoming less able to contribute however, I feel as though this is an opportunity for me to jump in and start trying things too. One of my favorite quotes is from Joyce Meyer, “do it afraid.”

    Thank you and God Bless You

  • Jessica says:

    So well said.

  • Rachel S says:

    Crystal, you are such a breath of fresh air! Thank you always for the encouragement and inspiration. Had it not been for you and the moneysavingmom blog, I wouldn’t have known about living debt free, getting great deals or any of those things. 🙂

  • Shelly says:

    I sometimes feel stuck. We are doing well but we want much bigger things for our family. Sometimes I feel if only we could get this going or that but then it doesn’t seem to work out. Thanks for this post it helps to remind me to keep plugging along towards our big dream. Each small step may seem so small now but eventually we will get there.

  • Grace says:

    I have started purchasing at yard sales and flipping on eBay…. Costs very little initially… And there is good $ to b made… I make more per hr on average than my reg work at home job…just a thought 4 extra income 🙂

  • Autumn says:

    Wow, I really needed to read this post thank your for all the encouraging words as usual here on MSM. I was feeling pretty down today so I picked myself up forced myself to get a little sun, came home listened to Dave Ramsey and then Bam this lovely post was here to read as well. I now feel much more hope in knowing this too shall pass. 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    Wow! I can’t believe how much I needed to read that post, and the timing is amazing. I have spent the last few hours trying to figure out out July budget. There just isn’t enough to cover it all. Your post was exactly what I needed to read and remember to be grateful for what I do have. Thanks.

  • K says:

    Thanks for this post. You have no idea how timely it is. And just when I was about to make an excuse about my age, I scrolled down to the quote by C.S. Lewis. LOL!!

    I know that so many have said this, but you are an inspiration.

    I thank God for you. May He continue to bless you and your family.

  • Lori in NC says:

    Give! Went to a food pantry in the poorest section of town today — I had never been in that area (in 25 years of living here). Wow. They were very thankful for the many tubes of toothpaste, deodorant, etc. (that I got for free by couponing). Our own income is low, our budget … (what budget?) – 5 months unemployment and looking at half our annual income projected for this year vs. last year. But it surely felt good to GIVE and fellowship and visit. Just had to get ‘out of my head’ and out in the world to feel better. And I spent some time reading the Psalms this morning. Takes the anxiety away.

  • Johanna says:

    THANK YOU so much for this post, I really needed to hear this about living out your dreams and not giving up. My husband & I have been laid off, unemployed, and underemployed from previous jobs for almost 3 1/2 years. During this time my husband finished writing his book (10 year process). So, even though we are super excited about that, we would like to live ‘normal’ again,, not so tight with everything. There are moments I just want to ask God why? But I know He has us on this path for a reason and God opens the doors He needs to and God truly is our Dream Giver!!! So, keep dreaming and rely on Him. And thanks againf or the reminder – I needed to hear it 🙂
    Blessings! Johanna

  • Lady says:

    I really liked this post because we all get stuck sometimes. In my case, I was stuck for over a decade! I hadn’t worked or gone to school since I was 19. This year at 30, I enrolled in real estate school. I finished all my classes and now I’m studying for a license. Honestly, if I can do it, any lady out there can. If anyone needs encouragement/help, please email me!

  • This is SO true! For me, I am finding that a lot of little things, like selling my e-book, having blogs and doing direct sales are adding up to meet our needs.

    I am a HUGE believer that if you work smart – long enough, success happens.

    If anyone out there is looking for a place to start, direct sales is a great venue because they provide motivation, an item to sell and training for a very small start up fee.

    I have repped many companies through the years. My biggest tip – REP what you LOVE.

    I am so excited. Clever Container is a newer directs sales company and the only direct sales company with organizational products. I definitely have found MY perfect match.

    Keep looking. There is a match for your passions too!

  • Becky says:

    Thank you for this encouraging post! I have SO been there – to the point where there was too much month at the end of the money. Just in the last month we have needed to buy a new computer tower and a new water heater. Thanks to our diligent budgeting, frugal ways, and one very handy husband, we were able to pay cash for both. I tear up at the joy of being able to pay cash for the big things we needed, and I think unless you’ve been there and felt that pain of not enough when you need it most, you don’t understand the overwhelming joy of paying cash for a water heater and computer. 🙂 So for those of you in the thick of it – I understand. I know the pain. And it does and will get better!

  • Susan says:

    Wonderful post Crystal.

    I often remind myself (and my friends and family) that time WILL go by whether or not we are working towards our goals, no matter what that goal might be — getting a college degree, paying off debt, getting your teeth straightened!

    I include that example because just the other day I had this conversation with my college-age niece. She has crooked teeth and hates her smile. She got up the nerve to make an appointment with an orthodontist, and now she is working up the nerve to proceed with treatment. The thought wearing braces for two years depresses her (understandable). But I coached her that the next two years will go by no matter what decision she makes now. She can have a lovely smile that will do wonders for her self-esteem, or she can be right where she is now and wishing she hadn’t let those two years go by while doing nothing.

  • Thanks for the encouragement! After two years of my husband working long long hours for little pay at a job he hates, we finally decided to just take the leap and he will be starting grad school this fall to get a Masters in education so he can start teaching within two years. We don’t know exactly how we’ll make it through the four semesters, and we will have to acquire debt to do it, but there is now light at the end of the tunnel and he gets to pursue his dream!

    • Don’t be so sure about taking on debt – there are a lot of ways to pay for grad school!

      A couple of options that usually include both tuition and a stipend for living expenses are being a teaching assistant and being a research assigtant. Look not just in the program he’s in but in the field he got his undergrad in and/or had work experience in – many departments take grad students in other fields as long as they’re sufficiently qualified.

      You can also look for grants and fellowships. Apply whether you think you qualify or not. You might just be surprised! And every little bit helps – I had a friend who paid for a MA through 3 small grants, and a part-time teaching assistantship. A small grant can pay for books and even a part time assitantship comes with a partial tuition waver.

      Look into other discounts for students – housing, utilities, memberships, etc. Many schools have on-site housing that might not be cushy but is usually very, very affordable (we had an 1100 sq ft apt wtih utilties included for $400/mo at one point).

      I’ve managed to pay for both a MS and a PhD without taking out a single loan or other debt! Now we’re working on an MDiv for my Hubby the same way. You can do it!


  • Laundry Lady says:

    It’s nice to know that other people feel this way sometimes. I have trouble dreaming when all I can see is the $50,000 we owe in student loans and are barely making minimum payments on. My husband can see a future. He is in the process of self-publishing a novel. He’s dreaming that eventually his writing will help us to pay off our debt and start moving forward with our dreams. All I can see are years of drudgery without vacations or gift giving while we make tiny stabs are freeing ourselves from the shackles of these student loans and praying that nothing disastrous happens, like major illness or car repairs, to wipe out our tiny emergency fund. I mean, we owe more than he makes in a year. I makes me ill. I think the feeling of powerlessness is the worst. We are both tired and overworked with too small children. Where are we going to find the time or the energy to devote to bringing in more money? It can be darn discouraging at times. (I’m not always this negative, I’m just having a good wallow in self-pity).

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