Year One

It’s been a year since we moved into our little ol’ house in the Cincinnati suburbs. I thought it would be fun to go through my phone photos and highlight some of the little things I have come to love about the home that we ended up in. You may notice that I only talk about the outdoors! There are things we love about the inside too, but it’s definitely a work in progress. I’ll save that for another post.


First off, there is someone on this cozy street who has been there to greet us since day one and we have been so blessed to have him in our lives. His name is Walter.



He even made an appearance in this photo that we have with our realtor. Proof that he was with us since the beginning.


He was actually a puppy when we met him, so I guess he is about a year and a half old now. His family lives directly across the street from us, but they don’t have any little kiddos so I think Walter enjoys being around a gang that is as rambunctious as he is! And since we don’t have a dog nor do we plan to get one anytime soon he fills that void for our family.


The first Holiday we celebrated in our new home was Easter. We were able to host lunch for 18 people! I cut fresh lilacs from our tree out front, we hid eggs in the yard, and Mémé and Pépé brought kites and other goodies for all 8 grandchildren. It was the picture perfect day.

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Next up we got to know some of our neighbors. Most of these houses have been around for close to 50 years and a lot of the residents have lived here the whole time so we are one of the youngest families. Not entirely though, there are several boys that are Z’s age.


This has been so cool for my little man who had to leave all of his friends and his school (although thankfully they are still not far). I love that he has friends to hang out with. If the weather is nice I guarantee you our doorbell will ring at least once a day. They play sports, hike, swim, shoot nerf guns, and get plenty of fresh air and exercise.


We have this awesome living room window that overlooks the street and I get to spy on them! I call it my eye in the sky.





Another thing I love as a mom of small children is that we live on a dead end street off a dead end street so there is no traffic! That means when the kids are out of school they are in the streets.

Just pick your favorite way to roll!


Sometimes I see this kind of mess in my driveway and it makes my little mama heart flutter! I love being a place that kids know they can come and park their bikes. It is my favorite!


Here is another pic that really shows what our street is like.


There are a couple different neighbors talking in the middle of the road with dogs sitting around and a kid coming down the hill on a skate board. I mean really! That’s our house in the middle of the picture in the background.  I know this isn’t a luxurious dream spot that you are going to find on TV or in a magazine, but in my book, it’s even better.

Okay now let’s talk about our yard. We’ve got some awesome trees. We wish we had more. Our neighbor behind us has a pool, a playground, a shed and a trampoline with a chain link fence. To be honest, we would love a little privacy between us and them, but I’m being nitpicky here. Those tropical looking plants are banana trees. They die in the winter and get super tall in the summer. They do not produce fruit because the warm seasons aren’t long enough here in Ohio.


J hung a couple of swings from some of the tress and the kids love to play outside!




In fact, this yard is what sold us on the house. The patio area is perfect for us.


For my 35th birthday my family came out and they gave us a grill!


So we cookout and eat outside every chance we get.



In the summer we garden! We have loved getting plant berries and vegetables and to make the most of having a place to grow things.






The list of gardening benefits goes on and on. It’s fun and educational for the kids. It’s therapeutic for us. It’s healthy for everybody! I hope we get to do it again this year.


Last but not least what I love about my house is the view. Our street name is Hillside and I love being up high on hill. We don’t have a scenic overlook and we aren’t in a completely wooded area, but it’s wooded enough that we see alot of critters. Chipmunks, woodpeckers, hawks, bullfrogs, humingbirds and deer are frequently spotted in our yard.

I love seeing the sunrise over the hillside. It is so beautiful and after feeling like vagabonds for 5 years this house such a miracle for us. I’ll mention again, it’s not perfect, but we are blessed to be here and I refuse to take this gift for granted. I thank the Lord that he led us to this place. Everything about it is right for our family. This is where we get to raise our family. What an honor. 




By | March 22nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Christen Dierken


If you met Christen you would see a radiant wife and mother, but behind the sweet smile is a fierce woman of courage, strength, and determination.

Raised in California, Christen was one of six children. She didn’t have a picture-perfect childhood. Her biological father was murdered when she was just a baby. From an early age Christen felt that she had to be tough in order to feel a sense of control.

When she was 14 years old her bother convinced her to try wrestling. The coach at the time was opposed to the idea of a female wrestler and while she was allowed to join the team it was not well received. Christen was treated like garbage by other team members. One time they literally threw her in a dumpster. They would steal her wrestling gear and call her names.

“They hated me” Christen explained. “They tried beating me up in practice. They told me to join a girl’s sport like volleyball. Still, I ended up wrestling varsity and proved everyone wrong.”


When Christen learned that there was a girl’s high school national competition she was intrigued. She didn’t realize that other girls were wrestling and even competing together! So she went for it and placed 5th in the nation, earning All-American status her Junior and Senior years.


In 2007 she was recruited to the number one college for women’s wrestling, The University of the Cumberlands. She wrestled for Cumberland’s from 2007-2011. While earning her Bachelor’s degree, she won several prestigious tournaments. She was a 4 time Collegiate All-American, placing 2nd, 6th, 3rd, and 2nd.


As a Sophomore in college, she made the Junior World Championship team and Senior National team in the same year. That was when her wrestling career ‘really took off.’ While wrestling for her University, she also won 3 National titles through USA Wrestling, winning BodyBar Junior Nationals and University Nationals. She earned a spot on three world teams (Junior Worlds, University Worlds, and Beach Worlds), and Junior and Senior Pan-American Championship teams.


She was afforded the opportunity to travel and compete in several countries including Canada, Mexico, Germany, Morocco, Belarus, India, and Turkey. Traveling around the world doing what she loved was an amazing experience, but one of the most significant moments of that season in her life was when Christen met her husband David.


David was a wrestler as well, and although his conservative Christian homeschool background was different from her upbringing the two of them became fast friends. They started running together to cut weight and held each other accountable to keep fit. They ended up dating for several years before tying the knot in 2011.


At this point, Christen was at the height of her athletic career. She was ranked number 2 on the Senior National team and was consistently top three on the senior level.

However, as the 2012 Olympics were approaching, she encountered some serious injuries. Although she qualified for the Olympic Trials, she had to compete through her injuries. Unfortunately, she did not place at the Olympic trials. Unbeknownst to Christen, this was the end of her wrestling career. She took time off to recover from her injuries, but when she tried to return to competition, she had already fallen out of the rankings and was without any sponsors. Leaving wrestling this way was devastating for her.

“I went from being top three to losing both matches in Olympic trials. Even though I had a feeling in my heart that that would be my last tournament I still had a mindset that I was going to the Olympics and I was trying to force it. Training was my life! I hit a breaking point because all of a sudden I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. 

At the time I was a new Christian and I felt God was drawing me closer to Him. I would play worship music and get lost with God and allow him to heal my heart. I had taken an art class in high school and so I got out a paint set and I started painting and drawing as I spent time with God.



That was when I went from wrestling being my idol and finding my worth being in my accomplishment and for the first time I allowed God to be my rock and not myself. I  had always felt like I was looking out for myself. I was obsessed with being great until I ended up letting go and letting God be enough for me. My accomplishments and productivity didn’t matter anymore. I discovered my love for art and I started doing art in church and people encouraged me.


I still love doing art during worship. I always bring a sketch book to church with me. It helps me remember the message. Art has become my outlet.”


Over the next several years David and Christen would move and work various jobs. Christen even joined the military.


They waited four years before trying to have children and once they got to a place where they struggled with infertility for nearly two years. Eventually they decided to become foster parents . They still have a heart for foster children and adoption, but they placed all that on hold when they became pregnant in 2017!

Christen and David were elated. They knew it was not a coincidence that this pregnancy came promptly after Christen had experienced major healing and restoration from her past. This pregnancy was a miracle.


The only thing Christen was nervous about was the thought of having a girl.

“I was terrified of having a daughter and not being able to relate. I had worked so hard in wrestling, in the military, and in the workplace to break down the barriers I faced as a woman. I had always been a tomboy and didn’t want to have a daughter. Yet, as I was praying about halfway through the pregnancy God completely changed my heart. I knew we were having a girl before the ultrasound even revealed it and God gave us the perfect name for her: Scarlette Ruth.  Scarlette to represent beauty and the blood of Jesus, and Ruth for strength.”


Scarlette lights up their life every single day. Christen recently even made the jump to being a stay at home mom and she is a natural when it comes to motherhood. For so long Christen used her strength as a way to guard and protect herself. Now Christen has found a new kind of strength, the kind that works best in weakness and surrendering to love.


Scarlette is still just a little baby starting to show her personality. Christen sometimes wonders what she will be like when she is older. Will she want to be in a rough sport like her mom or will she do something like ballet? Christen admits that the world of ballet would be totally foreign to her but if that is what Scarlette wanted she would support her. Although, Christen adds with a grin, “ if she is going to do ballet she is going be a beast at it”. Considering who her parents are, I am pretty sure she is going conquer anything she puts her mind too. 


By | March 14th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Enchanted Swing Photos



It was a random day in May last year when I woke up to the most gorgeous scenic fog I  have ever seen. This is where being a professional photographer on the side definitely has its perks because with zero preparation I was able to do a 15 minute photo shoot that we will cherish for a lifetime. I told SJ to put on a pretty dress and meet me outside. The results were breathtaking!





Now to put it in perspective this is a photo taken on my phone in the same spot.


And here is one unedited uncropped, exactly how it looked on my camera.



I love how even the neighbor’s woodpile in the back covered with a tarp looks like a boulder. I also love all the little imperfections. The flower was actually a decorative flower and when SJ and Elle had rose printed dresses one year I glued the rose to a hair clip. The bow in the back is haphazardly tied instead of picture perfect. I also love how her little bare feet have dirt on them and the swing is handmade by her dad. I know these are things that no one else would notice or realize when they see the whole picture, but they are the kind of details that I can drive me crazy if I let them. I start wishing the swing was more vintage looking and that her bow flowed more or that the flower matched her dress. It’s ridiculous. I know. Then I embrace it and like the picture even more because of how spontaneous and real it was. It’s like I am at war with my laid back authentic self and the Pinterest devil inside me.




I’m really happy with the way it all turned out and I have been saving these photos for a special occasion which first off was her 8th birthday. I will probably use them for her birthday party invitations too, and graduation now and graduation in 11 years, and her wedding day! Needless to say I am a little obsessed, with both the pictures and the subject. Happy birthday little princess.






By | March 9th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Messy Mom’s FAVORITE Podcasts



This recent tweet of mine is SO TRUE! I don’t get a lot of adult interaction throughout my day and so I listen to podcasts where other adults talk to each other about some of the stuff that I am into. I’ll be cleaning the toilet or folding laundry while I listen to Jen Hatmaker talk to the Chewbacca mom and I feel like they are in my room helping me fold and we are all just guffawing and talking about Chuys Mexican restaurant. Seriously. The last four episodes have been soooo good. Anyway, so I love podcasts and I switch up every few months or so, but at this current time here are my top five.

  1. For the Love with Jen Hatmaker

2857364_3036765_1519751838I pretty much already talked about this one. I don’t listen all the way through every episode depending on the guest but this last month’s series For the Love of Laughter definitely had me fangirling. The first guest was Anjelah Johnson (I saw her at a women’s conference once and have loved her ever since) and there were two online viral comedians who I didn’t know I loved but man they had so many amazing truths to share. I literally took notes! And she also interviewed my man Jon Crist who I adore. If you don’t follow him on Instagram you should. He is so funny and his instastories are the best.

2. Typology with Ian Morgan Cron



I don’t know if any of you are into the Enneagram but I am trying to be. That’s what the Typology podcast is all about. I love the guests on this show. If you have ever listened to Waterdeep or read the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog at all you probably will too. One guest was Shauna Niequist who was also a guest on Jen Hatmaker’s podcast.

3. Dream Big with Eva Karpman


I just recently discovered this little gem. The host of the show is only 8 years old, but she is so smart and fun. You will immediately fall in love with her enthusiastic personality. The show is for kids of all ages (including grown ups who are kids at heart). The features Eva, her mom, and amazing guests that inspire kids to reach their dreams. One of my favorite episodes is an interview with Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate from Harvard Law school. Oh my gosh she is incredible. I also learned a lot in the Whole 30 episode with Melissa Hartwig who by the way was also on Jen Hatmaker’s podcast!

4. Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller


This podcast gives advice to business owners and content creators (like bloggers) to help them clarify their message. I don’t listen to all of them, but there are a lot of guests that I really enjoy and I have learned a lot from this podcasts. One of my favorite episodes was an interview with Auntie Anne Beiler (who started Auntie Anne’s pretzels). Her story was phenomenal! Who knew she used to be Amish!? And because I am tying everyone to Jen Hatmaker I can’t go without mentioning that Donald Miller interviewed Rachel Hollis who was also on, you guessed it, the For the Love Podcast. The cool thing is when Jen Hatmaker interviewed her I get to hear about her testimony and it’s awesome. When Donald Miller interviewed her it was all about the nitty gritty of her career as a writer and I got so much out of it!

5. How I Built This


I saved the best for last. I am probably the all-time biggest How I Built This fan. It’s an NPR podcast hosted by the one and only Guy Raz. Each week features different “innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists” who share how they became successful. It’s usually a rags to riches story. A lot of the Shark Tank investors have been on the show. I am an entrepreneur to the core and I am a sucker for true stories that inspire. This show is my jam. One of my favorite episodes was an interview with celebrity chef Jose Andres from Barcelona who brought the small plate movement to the US. I will always remember the part of the story where he shared about his upbringing in Spain and having cooking traditional spanish pies for friends and family. Andrés said

“He would never let me cook. My father would always put me in charge of making the fire. He would send me into the forest to pick out the wood. And one day I got upset and I said ‘Daddy I want to cook’ and he said ‘No I need you in charge of the fire. It is very important’  I was so upset with him that he sent me away and when the pie was finished and he fed everybody, he took me aside and told me ‘my son I thought that you understood. I gave you the most important task. Cooking itself is easy if somebody is controling the fire. You want to be a great cook, be in charge of the fire then you will be able to cook whatever you want in life”

When I heard this guy who is now a world-renowned celebrity chef tell this story (with his heavy Spanish accent for the record) I was just blown away. I say this one was my favorite but I have a lot of favorites. The couple that made the Chipmunks, Melissa and Doug, the Chuck E Cheese story, BET network of all things. There are so many great stories. I don’t have any guest that were on Jen Hatmaker’s blog. Not yet anyway.

So those are my top 5 for now. I am always looking for more to listen to though so please share your favorites with me!


By | March 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Lora Kendrick

For most expectant moms the 20 weeks ultrasound is where they find out the baby’s gender. That’s all that Lora Kendrick had on her mind when she and her husband Morgan had their ultrasound with their second child. It never even crossed their mind that anything would be abnormal. As the tech did the exam everything seemed fine but Lora says “When the doctor walked in the door and I saw the way she looked at me my heart dropped. I will never forget it. I knew right then that something was wrong. My whole body felt it before she said a word”.

That’s when they learned that only half of their daughter’s heart was developing. There were other complications too. At the time they were referred to a prenatal specialist and they were given no guarantee that their daughter would make it to term.

The rest of the pregnancy was uneventful. There were lots of ultrasounds and testing. They determined that there weren’t any chromosomal abnormalities so all they were left to do was wait and see.

Baby Mya was born in March of 2010. She had surgery when she was a week old which they were prepared for. What they were not prepared for was that she almost lost her life on the operating table. Mya was put on life support and immediately added to the list for a heart transplant. When they were allowed to go back to Mya’s room they were overwhelmed by what they saw. It was actually two hospital rooms connected that were both full of machines and in the middle of it was a tiny 6 pound baby that those machines were working to keep alive. Lora describes it as an out of body experience. They were given pagers and told to keep the pager and their phones nearby at all times in case there was news of a heart because if a heart came in they would need to act quickly.

They struggled to keep their heads above water in the midst of this devastating turn of events. Thankfully they were surrounded by friends and family that were there to pray with them, cry with them and help with their 3 year old son. It had been over a month of waiting and Mya’s health was taking a turn for the worse. No one knew exactly how long she could live without the heart transplant, but something needed to happen soon! Her liver and kidneys were struggling. She looked very yellow. Lora was pumping milk to give her via a dropper into her feeding tube but Mya’s stomach was no longer able take in the milk and she would instantly vomit it up. They would later discover that she lost her hearing too.

Everyone knew time was short. It had been 8 weeks since Mya’s birth and one night they were back at home with their 3 year old getting ready for bed and Lora looked at her husband Morgan and said “If we get a call don’t get too excited because they might be calling to say that she is getting sicker and that we need to come in.” The phone rang at 2:00 am and it was Karen, their transplant coordinator. Morgan answered and said, “Karen, Please tell me this is a good phone call”. Lora looked at him with anticipation. They both held their breath and the response on the other end of the line was “I only make the good phone calls. We have a heart. We’ll go into surgery by 7:00 am so get down here.”

Lora was shaking as she jumped out of bed and immediately called her sister to come down to watch her son. She started texting and calling everyone in the middle of the night. It’s been 8 years since that life-altering moment but Lora remembers every detail and as she recounts them all, tears of joy flow down her face. Everyone was celebrating and giving praise to God. When they arrived at the hospital all the nurses were there outside of Mya’s room to greet them and hug them. But Lora pauses before she explains “It was the most bizarre feeling because it was the best day of our lives. Our baby was about to die and all of the sudden with this one phone call now she is going to live and this other family is at the absolute worst moment of their entire lives. They will never have a moment worse than that because it was their child and the heart had to belong to a child younger than 12 months old. I felt like my emotions were going in every direction possible. I hate to even go through thoughts like this, but then I think, well that family had to go through it so I can a least take a minute to think about what had to happen. To let my mind consider what they were feeling and to honor their loss.”

The Kendricks have written letters to the donor’s family to express their gratitude and give reports about how well Mya is doing. They do not have any information on the family and the family does not have information on them. All communication is sent through an agency. The Kendricks receive confirmation about whether or not the letter is accepted and that is the extent of it.  Because of the sensitive nature of being an organ donor things can get complicated, especially if someone were to feel like they had some ownership of an organ recipient. So the whole exchange is done in a professional, formal manner.

Even though the heart transplant for Mya was a success the entire process is a long road and it is not a permanent solution.


The first time Mya was ever outside of the hospital was when she was 9 months old. When she came home she was hooked to a trach, a feeding tube, a PICC line, a ventilator and more. Lora describes that time as physically and emotionally exhausting.


Thankfully Mya lives a pretty typical life now. She does have regular checkups to make sure her heart and body are still healthy and within the next 20 years she will need a new heart. She is a little warrior though. She has had to work twice as hard as anyone to eat real food, take her first steps, say her first words and do all the things we take for granted. She is victorious though. Little Mya approaches each hurdle with a smile on her face and in turn brings smiles to the faces of everyone around her.


It might seem contradictory to describe her as a warrior and a little ray of sunshine but if you know Mya you will see that she is 100% both. She is about to be 8 years old and this spring Mya will graduate from her deaf school and finally be able to attend elementary school at her local school district. It’s a very exciting year for their family.

Looking back at the journey Lora knows that she could have never done this alone. In the middle of those days that were just a blur of emotions and motions going back and forth up and down, she knows God gave her the grace and the peace that she needed to get through it. She also shares how her husband became her survival partner. Even though marriage seemed like something that they couldn’t give any focus to in the midst of the craziness, they chose to make their relationship a priority and it’s why they have made it this far. Lora also gives credit to family. Their family was there to take care of their son while they were in the hospital or to stay with Mya in the hospital when they couldn’t. Family (and friends that are like family) were the glue that held everything together when it could have so easily fallen apart.

To this day the Kendricks value their faith, their marriage, their family and friends more than anything else in this world. It was a tough learning experience for sure, but one that has taught them more in 8 years than most people will ever figure out in 80 years. They are stronger and closer than ever and no matter what comes their way they are ready to face it together.img_4434

*** If you would like to be an organ donor be sure to talk to your spouse and loved ones. Even if it is on your driver’s license your closest family member will need to say yes. It is a difficult conversation to have but Lora encourages families to think about it and consider testimonies of families like the Kendricks who have been impacted by this gift of life.***


By | February 20th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Asher and Addie Met



It all started with a haircut. Well kind of.

Asher and Addie were both going to the same church and had many mutual friends but there wasn’t a connection until Asher went to get a haircut from this budding stylist he had heard so much about. She was practicing her skills to lead up to fulltime work at a salon and Asher did not mind giving Addie as much practice as she needed. At that time in their relationship, they were just friends.  “We were friends that spent time talking about random stuff like cheeseburgers and it just naturally progressed from there. We went from being friends to good friends to best friends” as Asher describes it.

Then Addie recounts the encounter where it all changed. She says “Asher met with me one day and said ‘I want you to hear this from me and not my friends’ and I was so nervous because I thought he wanted to tell me some bad news like that he didn’t see me that way. But then he said ‘I am interested in you and I have been for a while’. I was excited and I felt like my cheeks were up in my eyeballs, but all I could say was ‘oh’ and Asher said ‘You don’t have to say anything right now.”

That moment led to their first date which played out like a story book. It was a gorgeous fall day in Cincinnati and Asher took Addie to the Bow Tie cafe where they talked for hours until the coffee shop closed and they had to leave. As they were leaving the shop employee was sweeping up and said “Have a good night; It looks like you already are.” then they walked out to a scenic overlook and fireworks literally went off. They have no idea why there were fireworks that night in November but it made a perfect evening even more spectacular. From there Asher asked Addie what she was doing the next Tuesday night. When she said she was available he immediately followed with “and what about the Tuesday after that?” A giddy Addie rushed over to her friends house afterwards to talk about “the best date ever”.

The relationship continued to grow from there.


This was all new territory for Addie who had unfortunately had some bad boyfriends in the past. She wasn’t used to a guy who valued her like Asher did and reminded her on a regular basis that she was God’s masterpiece. Asher was everything she had wanted in a husband. In fact, she found an actual list that God had prompted her to write two years before she started dating Asher. It was in a season of prayer in fasting that she felt the Lord leading her to make a list and include everything that HE would have in a man for Addie. As she looked over the list she realized that every single detail lined up with her boyfriend Asher! She knew that he was the one that she would spend the rest of her life with.

Asher didn’t have a tangible list, but he did have a defining moment. He knew this was the woman he would marry when they were on one of their regular dates just sitting in the car and he looked at her gorgeous smile and said: “Wait. Are we in love?”.

There were many more dates from there. One was a picnic in a gazebo at a park. Asher knew then and there that this was the place he would someday propose to Addie. So on February 18, 2017 he did just that. She thought they were going to a birthday party but a slight detour along the way led them to the gazebo with lights, a blanket, a framed picture, rose petals and some romantic Indian music. That is when Asher got down on one knee and they began the journey to become husband and wife.


The wedding ceremony was December 23, but first they had the pre wedding celebration called a Mendhi. Asher’s family is originally from Pakistan where it is a custom to have a big celebration with a lot of food and dancing and Indian music in the days leading up to the ceremony.


This is where they wore the traditional clothing. Asher and Addie practiced for a long time for this moment where they presented a special dance before all of their family and friends.

Asher’s family loved Addie and commended her for fitting right in. She is originally from a small town in Kentucky, but you would never know by how well she fully embraced the Pakistani culture.


The next day their pastor officiated the ceremony where they joined in an everlasting covenant to became one and everyone celebrated what it was so clearly a divine match orchestrated by God.



Asher and Addie truly have a heart to reach the next generation and make an impact for Christ. Their love for God and passion for His people radiates in all that they do. They hope to start a family someday and raise them up to be Kingdom minded. This is just the beginning for the Mian family, but as Philippians 1:6 says “I am confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”


Asher + Addie from Cody Brown on Vimeo.


For more real life love stories check out the rest of the How We Met series here on

By | February 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

How Jen Met Greg

Today I am delighted to announce that Jen Hill is back to talk about how she met her husband Greg and give some sound wisdom for married couples walking through difficult circumstances (which is all of us at some point). Thanks for sharing Jen! 


Just a week or so before I met my husband, I requested prayer at the end of a church service. I was at my home church, preparing for a big move to Texas because I was transferring to a university in Texas sight unseen. I knew no one. I had not visited the school. I had never even been to Texas.

Perhaps the reality of my impending jump into the unknown was beginning to become more obvious? Regardless, I was about to move thousands of miles away…and I needed prayer!

I still, to this day, struggle to see myself in any other light beside an obnoxiously Type A, OCD midwest girl. Yet I look back on my life journey and I see these pretty bold moves that I made, and it’s clear that I cannot count on myself to always see things accurately. I don’t know what drove me to pick a school in Texas. But I did, and the trajectory of my life shifted in a major way.

Someone prayed for me that day at church. I barely knew her, but as she prayed she suddenly began to weep. I won’t deny that it was a little awkward. She prayed for the upcoming move and transition to a new school and city, and she wept. Then she began to pray for my future husband. I remembering thinking, “Hey, wait! That wasn’t part of my request.” It’s funny now when I look back to that moment. I really had no idea what God had in store for me!

After her prayer concluded, as she was wiping her unexpected tears away, she began to plead with me concerning my future husband. She said in no uncertain terms that I needed to keep an open mind. She made me promise to remember that it would be someone unexpected and to give him a chance.

I’m simply just reporting what happened! True story. These are just a few of the minor details to the crazy way we connected!

Greg and I met just days after that church service. I walked into a classroom, and there he was. We were both communication majors and met in an elective course, something like Photography 101. I have fond memories of a few darkroom sessions where we were developing pictures we took of each other.

I was mysteriously drawn to this guy, but yet he was SO different from what I had envisioned for my future husband. I couldn’t shake the words from the emotional prayer warrior on my behalf, but, boy, did I try! Greg and I both tried to walk away from each other. We had one of those rocky dating relationships up until the point we got engaged. It makes no logical sense. We would break up but would just keep coming back to each other.


During the fall semester of our senior year, we were sitting in an upper level debate class. Up until that point in the semester we had always sat next to one another. Most everyone knew we were a couple. But on this particular day, we were sitting across the room from one another, and there was a vast ocean of frustration and complexity between us. We had broken up the night before. I’m fairly positive most people in that classroom picked up on the tension.

Our professor was announcing debate partners. We would be working closely with our assigned partner for the remainder of the semester. Any guesses on who got paired up that day? The Hill-Stevens debate team began! What a wild ride. We did get an A in that class, and we still lovingly debate as to who got us that A! (Me. Definitely me!)


Neither of us would have ever picked the other. It’s a mutually declared truth! So we had a lot of learning to do right off the bat. Initially, we struggled with even just basic communication. Considering we met because we were both majoring in COMMUNICATION the irony of that is not lost on me. We have completely different personalities and backgrounds…and we had quite the journey ahead of us. We knew we loved each other, but it was a crazy, hard to explain kind of love.


It’s easy to look back on those early years and downplay the trials that we experienced. Was it really that bad? I’ve learned, though, that it isn’t really helpful to compare trials and hardships. We were stretched in those early years. We had to struggle through it. We grew because of it. I’d like to think that all that hard stuff, all the moving, all the financial questions, all the extended family difficulties, having to learn how to communicate, learning to serve one another…all of it has given us muscle to bear the burdens we’ve faced in the last few years especially with having our son become a double amputee.




Looking back I can acknowledge that those early years of our relationship and starting a family WERE hard. It was good! But it was hard.

We have six children now. The oldest just turned 11! We will celebrate 13 years of marriage this year. One of the key ingredients for us has been our imperfect, but enduring, commitment to humility.  Oh, we can debate, y’all! We’ve had to learn how to clothe ourselves in humility, listen, give, repent, change, grow…Jesus has been faithful to teach us.


The last several months have actually surprised us. It’s been a season where there seems to be a relentless barrage of unexpected hits. We come up for air, thinking surely this is it, only to be blindsided by the next, new challenge. We’re tired and weary, and this has made it a season ripe with potential for conflict. This is where the rubber meets the road! We’ve had to grow more, and put into practice the various elements that God has been faithfully fostering in our hearts throughout the years.


I can sense this being a season that refines, stretches, and ultimately strengthens us. We’re just so glad that Jesus is holding onto us. I’m grateful Greg has weathered the storms of life with me. We see our differences now, and it’s clear that we make a great team not despite the differences, but because of the differences. We complement each other! We called ourselves “Team Hill” from the get-go, and we’re holding on tight to each other, and to Jesus. What an unexpected, beautiful ride it has been so far!



By | February 14th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Nicole Met Josiah



It’s Valentines week and that means it’s time for the FOURTH installment of How We Met. Today Nicole Stoltzfuz is sharing how she met her husband Josiah. 




There is no other way to share the story of how we met without sharing the story of how I met Him.

It was a few years after college. I had just made a major career change and was doing Human Resources at the University of Pittsburgh.  It looked like I had it all together, but I began desiring something more in my life and I couldn’t place my finger on what it was. I shared this with a friend and he encouraged me to read The Purpose Driven Life. At the beginning of the book there is a prayer to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I prayed this prayer aloud and truly in my heart. I had done this before but with no real transformation. This time was different. I wanted, desired, and longed for a relationship with Jesus. You see, before I never had a relationship with Jesus I just knew about him. This time was different. I began to read the word and the word became life for me.

I knew I needed to find a church so I wandered into one on the Eastside of Pittsburgh and was blown away by what I encountered.  It was predominantly African American and everyone was shouting and raising their hands in worship. There was clapping, dancing, and tambourines! They had a full choir, brass instruments and a dance team on the platform. It was like nothing I had never seen before. The preacher was passionate and held nothing back. The worship and sermon seemed to go on forever but I didn’t mind. In fact, I loved it. I was hungry for more of Jesus and the people at this church truly loved and worshiped Jesus. They didn’t just go through the motions. It astounded me.

Since this was the first church I looked at, I wanted to try a few more to make sure I was in the right place. As I drove to look at the second church, for one of the first times in my life I recognized the voice of God as he told me to turn around and go back to the first church I looked at. I obeyed as I was so excited the Lord was speaking to me. As I attended this church I went through in depth training that covered everything you would need to know as a new Christian. I now needed some friends to walk this journey with as I no longer desired my old lifestyle. This is where I meet my husband Josiah…

We both attended a young adults get together hosted by our church at Dave & Busters. We were introduced by our pastor and upon shaking my hand Josiah later shared with me that God spoke to him in that moment saying, “this is your wife”. After we met I spent the rest of the evening getting to know some of the other young adults at the church.

About a week later Josiah contacted me on Facebook, yes Facebook! He asked if I would show him around Regent Square, the neighborhood in which I lived at the time. I agreed to meet him for dinner at a hole in the wall Thai restaurant. I was not expecting much from the evening but to maybe make a new friend. The evening completely blew me away. He was by far the most amazing gentlemen I ever met. We spent nearly seven hours that evening talking and learning everything we could about one another.

Fast forward nine months when Josiah proposed at a beautiful state park called Ohiopyle. Josiah had my family in town for the big occasion. Then six months later we married on April 17, 2011. We were surrounded by support from both of our families and our church family who joked that the two white people in the church found each other! It was a beautiful time of celebration.


The day after our wedding we moved from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island where we spent the next eighteen months. We became pregnant with our first daughter and Josiah’s work moved us to Kentucky where we lived for another eighteen months. After that we moved to Wisconsin. While in Wisconsin we faced some particularly difficult times as we grieved a miscarriage, the loss of our dog, the birth of our second child, the tragic death of my brother, and two weeks after that we had another major move from Wisconsin to Ohio. These events all took place within a one year time span that completely knocked our world off kilter. And just a little over a year after that Josiah’s father was diagnosed with stage three pancreatic cancer.

Up until this point we had no major losses or tragedies take place in our lives and all at once we had what felt like a heaping pile of them. We both struggled the first several months after these events took place. We went through the gamut of denial, anger, and a host of many other emotions. At some point, I believe it was a place where we finally surrendered, that Jesus began to reshape our hearts and move us towards what really matters.

Our focus has always been for Josiah to work the corporate ladder until we reached our final destination in Pennsylvania where we would finally be near family. Our dream was to do this within six to eight years. But as we work through our personal struggles God has begun to reshape our hearts and align them more deeply with Him. We are content here in Ohio where we currently reside with our four year old and two year old daughters.


Our hearts are growing deeper and deeper for ministry as we begin to see God’s call for our lives unfold in the midst of our hurts. 


By | February 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How to Gain One Thousand Followers in Ten Years!

When you read online about how to start blogging or make money blogging it’s always this gimmicky get rich quick scheme. Like this-


That’s not real life for most people.


In real life 81% of bloggers trying to earn an income never even make $100 from blogging.

Lots of people start blogging but 95% of blogs on the internet are abandoned. 

According to statistics “Almost every one of the millions of blogs that are started in 2018 are destined to fail and die a slow, boring death.”


Have I made you excited about blogging yet!? If I had a catchy graphic for my blogging secrets it would be


I don’t earn much income blogging and I don’t have thousands of followers, but I beat the odds just by consistently writing for 10 years! In blogging years that makes me like 80 years old. So my seniority alone attracts lots of questions.

How did you get started?

How do you get readers?

How do you score sponsored posts?

It started in 2008.


One of my closest friends, who was also a new mom, was really into the Money Saving Mom blog. She got me started on couponing and saving money on groceries. I was so into it. I was even stopped by the cops for dumpster diving for newspaper coupon inserts. Yeah… hashtag thug life. 

Anyway, at some point Crystal from Money Saving Mom did a series about blogging and I was instantly enamored! I have loved to write ever since I could hold a pencil. I was already journaling and chronicling Z’s milestones on a website called totsites (this was way back in the day before social media took off). Blogging sounded like it would be right up my alley.

So I signed onto blogger which was free and I purchased the messy mom .com which later I switched to just messy mom. This was a big step. I won’t give any numbers, but let’s just say my domain name is worth more than my husband’s car (for the record he has an old clunker but I am trying to make it sound like I have some valuable online real estate here).

Side note: Domain names and email addresses are getting snatched up every day so if you have a meaningful “.com” then consider yourself lucky! Domain names are an asset. 

When I first started blogging I wrote about a different topic each week. It could be birth or music or anything. Eventually, it was too difficult to write as often as I was and to keep everything in a theme so I just started writing about once a week. I wrote my way through SJ’s diagnosis and all of the obstacles we faced at that time. I can’t even fathom how I would have coped with all the difficulty we went through if I hadn’t had that outlet. I know that this blog is a gift from the Lord. Needless to say, it’s more than just an online platform and it certainly isn’t a job. Messy Mom is a piece of me. I started blogging at the beginning of my motherhood journey. In a season where I have very little socialization and access to the outside world it has been my way to say

“I’m still here. I might be a stay at home mom changing diapers, skipping showers, and listening to the mind-numbing screams of sibling rivalry, but I still have thoughts. I have a voice and I want to connect.”  


The readers have trickled in through the years. Traffic was pretty low the first 5 years. What really changed things for me was in 2013 when I came across a blogging challenge called Write 31 days where you write about one topic for 31 days. The challenge was about to start and I had no topic and zero preparation. At the time my family of five was living in a tiny two bedroom apartment and I felt like maybe I should write about that. Living in that cramped apartment was one of the lower points of my life but isn’t it awesome how God uses our weakness to show his strength? What the enemy wants to use to destroy you God will turn into a source of encouragement and He did just that! For 31 days I focused on the series “Lots of Hope for the Little Home” and it actually took off.



On top of that I connected with an amazing group of writers called the 31 Day Survivors who have also become friends. Many of them have contributed to this blog like this post, or this, this and this.

I started guest posting on other sites too. When I wrote for the Humbled Homemaker about small space living in 2015 the post gave me a windfall of new followers and yes I have a little bit of resentment that my all-time top post and video on youtube is about how to install laminate over hardwood. I wish I could say it was something deeper or more meaningful, but oh well. I am glad it’s helping people. I heard a fulltime blogger teach on how you just keep throwing things against the wall until something sticks and that has definitely stuck.

The biggest question I get from nonbloggers is “How does someone get paid to blog?”. It’s the same way you get any free service that is for profit: advertising. If you have a platform (viewers, listeners, or readers) you are an influencer and companies can use your platform as a way to influence an audience to make a purchase. The first 5 years of blogging I didn’t really make any money but in 2014 when I saw an increase in traffic from my 31 day series I decided to step up my game. That’s when I decided to I move my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I won’t get into all the technical stuff but is one of the ways to self host a blog. Self hosting is similar to buying a house. It is a big commitment and it cost more money than renting, but you own that house and have more control of what you can do with it. I studied. I networked. I listened to podcasts and read articles on the subject. Then in early 2015 I launched the new Since there were monthly costs to run the blog now  I knew I needed to start bringing in at least enough revenue to cover expenses. The first paid writing job I had was because one of my 31 Day friends told me Huggies was looking for someone to promote their new Snug and Fit diapers. Ezie was at the tail end of diapers but I figured I could give it a shot. I applied for the campaign and got the job.  Once I saw how simple it was I started signing up for more PR sites that help connect you with brands. Eventually, as I did more guest posts and sponsered posts I had brands start to contact me.


The bottom line is I can’t tell you how to make $10,000 a month blogging or how to triple your blog traffic in three easy steps. I can give you the same advice I gave a musician friend recently. I said,

If you love it and it’s something you are passionate about just go for it regardless of what happens. Play your heart out. There is definitely a place for strategy, marketing, and compensation. If you end up doing what you love fulltime that is incredible, but there is a reason for the phrase starving artist. It is hard to make it big, but if it is what you really love you’ll do it anyway. Big or small, you can’t go wrong.

If I had been blogging for fame or money I would have quit a long time ago. I’ve kept going because I love to write. I can’t not write. It’s my passion. My three simple tips?

  1. Find your God given passion

  2. Follow it

  3. Always learn and grow from it.

I’m not done growing. Going to a blogging conference is on my bucket list. I want to write several books.  I have so many ideas and dreams to continue to build Messy Mom.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that faithfulness pays off in the end. 

By | February 1st, 2018|Uncategorized|7 Comments

How We Met

How We Met is a compilation of love stories submitted by different couples or sometimes interviews. This is Valentine’s series not only includes fun and unique stories of how a couple meet but also is a testimony of what God is doing in the lives of so many amazing marriages (including through the real-life hardships!). 

Here are some of the stories that have been shared so far: 

Karin and Cameron met in a Lifespan Development class in grad school where a class project found them to be compatible.


They are both councelors and they now have two children.


Bradley and Kailei met when they were in preschool together.


They have two children and are still two best friends madly in love


Mike and Andrea met at the gym.


They now have SEVEN boys and Andrea homeschools all of them.


Scott and Jennifer met in his pickup truck in his driveway. 


They now have 7 kids and a thriving homeschool and family ministry.


Richard and Nancy  met in a parking lot when Richard found Nancy trying to draw a picture of his truck.


They have been married for over 40 years now. They have 3 adult children all married and 8 grandchildren total.


Michael and Amanda met in the airforce.




They now have two boys and Michael is still serving in the military while Amanda is a stay at home, military wife, blogger, and proud veteran

Ian and Melissa met in a bar at a blackjack table.


The irony is they are now parents of three teenage boys in a very stable Christ-centered home.


Les and Amanda Met at a community college when Amanda overheard Jars of Clay being played in his car.



Amanda is now the author of Truth in the Tinsel and writes at She and Les have two children

Bill and Loretta met at Bible school.


Their love story is unique in that they passed away just months apart from each other. I interviewed their family members to document their beautiful lifelong love story.


Brad and Christine met when he was in band and she was on dance team.


The first 8 years of their marriage was miserable until God completely turned things around for them and gave Brad and Christine a fresh start.


Alex and Amber met when Alex challenged Amber to get excited about the book of Leviticus!


They have five adopted children (and counting). They are huge advocates for foster parenting.


Colton and Emily met when Emily was running sound for a worship band that Colton played in.



Shortly after they married Colton was diagnosed with a progressive form of cancer. They moved from Kentucky to New York City for Colton’s treatment and their marriage has been a miracle ever since that is still being played out.


Blake and Heather met at Kmart.


Heather did not see herself settling down, getting married, and homeschooling three kids but that is exactly what happened!


Rene and Barb  met when Rene was the interpreter for Rene on a mission trip to Mexico.


They live in the states now. They have two children and are the pastors of a spanish church.





By | January 22nd, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments