Our New House


Our new street is perfect for walks, scooters, and bike rides.

Talk about a month in the making. Sheeeesh. This has been one of the most difficult transitions we’ve ever made. But it’s worth it. As the dust settles we can see what an enormous blessing it is to be in a house with a fantastic yard, wonderful neighbors, and a lot more space for our family to grow up in.


It’s actually a pretty miraculous story how we ended up finding the house. I asked someone from SJ’s school for a realtor referral and she recommended Carole Huhn. I contacted Carole right away and the first thing she did was set up a meeting with a loan officer. So we met with Ginger Vining and within no time we were preapproved. A week later we scheduled our first meeting to go look at houses. Carole sent me some listings and told me to pick 3 or 4 that we wanted to look at. J and I were really picky and to be honest we weren’t too keen on any of the choices. That’s okay Carole told us. Just pick some that are nearby and we’ll consider it a meet and greet. We’ll walk through and you can tell me what you do and don’t like about the houses.

We agreed to this and left the house that Saturday with zero expectations of finding a house. As it turns out, Carole learned ahead of time that one of the houses we were scheduled to see had mold in it. When Carole found out about the mold she threw in this other house at the last minute to look at instead. The house was in the back of a quiet neighborhood with lots of trees. As we walked through we immediately fell in love with the place. J wanted to put in an offer. I was shocked. We weren’t planning on buying anything this soon. This was only the second house we had seen. J was even pickier and more hesitant than I was, so I trusted his judgement. Since this house was fresh on the market we knew that if we wanted to have a chance at living there we would need to act fast.

There were a lot of negotiations back and forth between us and the seller. It was intense, but in the end we got the house for the price we wanted and we even scored an FHA loan with a good interest rate along with grant money from OHFA. It was an amazing deal.

I’m highlighting all of the highs, but we closed a month ago and believe me there have been some rock bottom lows in the midst of all of this. Buying a house is no cake walk. I do want to give a big shout out though to our realtor Carole Huhn with Comey and Shepherd and our loan officer Ginger Vining with Park National Bank. They went above and beyond to get us a good deal and would not stop until we were 100% satisfied. We took some hits in this process, but they kept fighting for us and we are extremely grateful to have had them in our corner. If you live in the Cincinnati area and are looking to buy or sell a house these are the ladies you need on your team. I will always be grateful for their guidance.


Our family with Carole and the neighbors dog Walter who is already like one of our own.

We aren’t quite settled yet, but we are getting there. On Sunday we had our first Easter in the house.


Read my hard boiled eggs secrets here.



The fresh cut lilacs are from the tree in our front yard.

It was a lot of fun. My entire family came out and for most of them it was the first time to see our house.


It was also Elle’s first Easter egg hunt.



It was a wonderful gathering with beautiful weather.


Fun for all ages.

img_9425 I really needed it.



After 5 moves in 5 years I am so very excited, relieved, and honored to announce that we are finally in a home of our own. And it feels good to be home.


By | April 19th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Moms 001: Suzanne Sorenson


Today I am so very excited to be launching a new series called Inspiring Moms. The reason I chose that name was because in this context it fits perfectly as a verb and an adjective. I really want this to be a community of mothers that come from all kinds of diverse walks of life to inspire one another.

For our first inspiring mom I was able to interview Suzanne Sorenson from Waxahachie Texas.

I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Suzanne in person, but I we connected online at the end of 2015. They had just lost their home in a tornado the day after Christmas. This would be a difficult tragedy for any family, but especially for the Sorensons whose son has Smith–Magenis Syndrome (SMS).


I recently had the chance to talk with Suzanne and ask her about her experience both as a tornado survivor and as a mother of a son with a rare disability. Here is part of our conversation.

Messy Mom: Can you take us back to the beginning of your motherhood journey and how it all began?


Suzanne: My husband Seth and I have been married for 16 years. We were married 3 years before starting a family.  I have a type A personality so I had a very specific plan and timeline for how our life would go and the pregnancy was right on schedule. I did all the research and preparations while I was pregnant and it was all prefect… until Colton was born prematurely.

The Doctors immediately knew something was wrong. They figured Colton had a syndrome of some kind, but genetically the tests came back normal. Although Colton had medical complications they felt like he would eventually grow out of them and be fine. But that first year there were many milestones that he was not reaching. On top of the developmental delays he had constant ear infections and trouble eating and sleeping. Still, the experts attributed all of this to the tubes in his ears.

I didn’t even know the severity of his insomnia until I had my daughter Tanner when Colton was two. It was the midnight feedings that allowed me to discover that Colton seemed to never sleep. So I called the pediatrician to talk about all of my concerns and it was then that Colton began early intervention services.


By the time Colton was four my mother’s intuition was telling me that clearly something was up. I started demanding answers. Finally they decided to do more genetic testing. This time the testing was more thorough and it revealed the delation of Chromosome 17. That’s when Colton was diagnosed with Smith-Magenis Syndrome and I was so relieved, not that he had a syndrome, but to have a name. Now we could have a plan. We could do something about it. The next hurdle was finding out where he was at on the spectrum because it varies so much.


Even though it took four-and-a-half years for Colton’s diagnosis I think that was the biggest blessing. Had I known right away that he had this it would have defined him and I would have held him back. I would have let it consume me early on. Instead I got to love him, and know him, and bond with who he is and not the label placed on him. By the time I learned of the diagnosis I was already connected with my little boy so I had no reason to worry.

Messy Mom: So what is Smith-Magenis Syndrome?

It’s a very rare genetic disorder. It affects 1 in 25,000 people and potentially more because it is believed to be severely undiagnosed. It affects many parts of the body including speech, behavior, sleep cycles, and emotions. Colton feeds off of emotions both positive and negative and his responses can be extreme. He has angry outburst that can be damaging to himself. He’ll hit, spit, throw things, followed by sitting on the floor crying saying “I am so sorry”.



Messy Mom: So can you tell me about what happened December 26, 2015?

Suzanne: Of course it was the day after Christmas, we went to the grocery store and had big plans to hang out and watch movies and the kids could play with all of their new Christmas presents. I remember it was really warm that day. It was 85 degrees, but a cold front was supposed to come in.

As we were getting ready to watch a movie our phones started blowing up with tornado warnings. We followed protocol, but at the same time we are Texans and do this all the time so it was no biggie. No one was freaking out. We got ready to put the kids in the safe area which was the bathtub with pillows and blankets. Seth was on the couch and argued that our usual safe area is not the most interior wall and suddenly decide we should switch it to the hallway. This was still all a really chill conversation by the way. So the kids were in the hall with their iPads and I was in the kitchen making sandwiches. We brought the dogs in and the electric began to flicker. So I went to be with the kids, but Seth was still watching the news.

The electric then went off again and that’s when we heard it! It sounded like a train! Seth ran into where the kids were and the kids had their hands over the heads while I covered them with my body and Seth laid over all of us. It was dark and you hear glass breaking and furniture was blowing around. The scariest part was that you could feel the suction. All of the doors were sucked in and we literally felt like we were being lifted.

I prayed over and over PLEASE GOD PROTECT US. Then it was quiet and dark. We just had the light from the phones and iPads. No shoes. No supplies. Then Seth gets up and walks out and all I hear was him saying “Oh my gosh” over and over. He looks around outside and comes back and says “It’s all gone”.

Everyone in the neighborhood was outside at this point and you can hear them asking “Is everything okay?” “Do you have everyone?” “Do you have your babies?”  Some neighbor’s homes were completely level. For us the storm came through the back of the house and tore off that side, but our Christmas tree was still standing. But the shop, our boat, Seth’s tools, the travel trailers. Everything in the back was gone and everyone else’s stuff ended up in our yard. Seth is a contractor by trade so he immediately went into builder mode to help. Everyone was helping each other. It was incredible the way the community came together.


Messy Mom: The way you and I first became connected was through postcards for Colton. I know a lot of my readers responded with sending postcards to your temporary PO box. What part did the postcards play in all of this?

Suzanne: Colton is obsessed with mail. He would check the mail morning, noon, and night. After the tornado we moved into a rental home and the rental did not have mailboxes. So he really missed his routine of checking the mail. It was a tough time. We had to lease everything down to the sheets. Nothing was our own. No family photos or anything familiar and that was especially tough for Colton. So my sister in law started the idea of sending Colton post cards to cheer him up during this difficult season and it really took off. He got mail from Autralia, Europe, England, Germany and other places. It was incredible.

Messy Mom: What advice do you have for what others can do to help in a situation like that? Maybe some of our readers have a friend or relative whose home was destroyed. What is the best response?

Suzanne: Don’t ask “What do you need me to do?” We heard “What can we do?” over and over and over? I know people meant well, but I didn’t have answers! It was all so overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do. So instead of asking. Just do it. Designate someone in charge that is family or a close friend, but is not directly impacted by the disaster and they can be the ones to delegate.

Messy Mom: Lastly, because you have so much wisdom I just want to glean as much as I possibly can, what would you say to a mother who just learned that her baby has SMS or a similar developmental disorder?

Suzanne: God doesn’t make mistakes. No matter how overwhelmed you feel and how bombarded you feel remember that God does not make mistakes. The heartache is a tangible feeling though and it’s not disappointment, but just fear. The hardest thing is the guilt and you have to give yourself a break. You will have bad days and it doesn’t mean you are being a bad mom it means you are having a bad day.  Do not loose sight that you are the perfect match for that baby and that baby is the perfect for you.

Messy Mom: I think that is excellent advice that could apply to any mother. I really appreciate your time because I know you are busy. This talk has blessed me and I believe your insight will be a blessing to many others. Thank you Suzanne.

By | April 10th, 2017|Uncategorized|6 Comments

Checking In

I was recently contacted by Jamie of MediumSizedFamily.com to give a little snippet of advice for her blog. The question was What tips would you have for people with large families? So I was able to contribute a little insight from my perspective and that post went live today. You’ll have to read the whole piece to see all the advice from myself and several other bloggers who have a medium to large sized family. It’s a pretty great list of resources.

If you do scroll through the post over there you’ll see that Jamie mentions that I am crazy busy with raising kids and moving. She speaks the truth. I know crazy and busy can be so cliche these days, but that sums it up for me right now. It is where I am at my friends and it is why it’s been so quiet around here.

The truth is, the whole process of moving has been rough. I am just barely keeping my nose above water. I thought last month was going to be one of the best months of my life. A milestone that I pictured myself doing a heartfelt post about, or maybe even a Facebook live video from our brand new home! We’ve been renting and living with family for the past 5 years and this was the moment we had worked so hard to get to. The pinnacle of this latest chapter where we are home owners yet again and we finally have the key to a house where we can put down some roots and raise our children in. Cutting to the chase here, we did get the house. Yay.


There is a reason there is no exclamation mark after that “yay” though. If you know me or my writing style, I am painfully liberal with my exclamation marks. I type through emails like I am marching through a parade and my exclamation marks are the candy. I toss them out all over the place. But this last move was no parade and no place for exclamation marks. The weeks leading up to and proceeding that milestone have been brutal. It’s just been one thing after another. I took the first three hits pretty well, but after that it was affecting me deeply and I reached a breaking point.

I kind of beat myself up for not being able to just roll with the punches, but then someone told me that moving is one of the top ten most stressful life events. I am sure it’s not that way for everybody every time, but apparently it happens often enough and that helps me to feel somewhat justified for my extreme levels of anxiety. Sorry to be so vague and melodramatic, but trust me, you don’t want a list of all the hurdles we’ve faced this past month. Then again, once I get to the other side of all this I might be inclined to share. We’ll see.

So that’s why I haven’t blogged, emailed, tweeted, or any other social media, or even real life interactions for the past couple weeks. I just don’t have it in me, but this moment at the computer right now is a step. It’s proof that I will recover and life will find it’s rhythm again and I am really looking forward to it.

By | April 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Where My Writing Journey Began

One month ago we were contacted by Cincinnati Children’s hospital about being on the news. The segment would be about a research study that SJ was a part of.

I was thrilled to be a part of the story. Actually, let me rephrase that. I was thrilled for SJ to be a part. I was a hot mess that did not do my hair or makeup. The other kids had sticky faces and mix matched clothes. Elle had no shoes, and we probably looked homeless. Since I was under the impression that SJ would be the only one involved she was all I had time to worry about that morning. You can imagine my surprise when they wanted to interview me and have all the kids on camera. Ugh.

So anyway we were on the news and got to raise awareness about this advanced technology.



Here is a link to the clip:


And for any parents in the Cincinnati area that think their hearing impaired children might qualify and benefit from this Language Intervention Study here some more information.


Shortly after the program taping I was contacted by Cincinnati Children’s to do a blog post about the Touch Chat software and our experience with the program. This opportunity made me absolutely ecstatic.

I know it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it’s special to me. As many of you know I had a little brother that passed away. He had Leukemia and received all of his treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.


For years that Hospital was my home away from home. I spent a decent portion of my childhood there. We celebrated birthdays and holidays at Cincinnati Children’s hospital. We were on a first name basis with the staff and they were always so loving and supportive. They even had a therapist that I called “The Play Lady”. I never saw it as therapy. In fact, I didn’t realize that’s what it was until I was older.

The Play Lady at Cincinnati Children’s was the one who encouraged me to write. I was in 2nd grade and was just starting to discover my writing voice. I had a journal that my Aunt Beth and Uncle Leon (who are both writers by the way) got me for Christmas and I would find great relief in being able to express my feelings as I filled the pages.

When my brother passed away The Play Lady encouraged my older brothers and I to write a book and illustrate it. It was called “Remembering the Good Times and the Bad” and it was held together by three silver binder rings. It wasn’t anything fancy, but there were multiple copies made and they even had one in our school’s library. To me I had written a real book. Even though I was only a little girl, in some ways I knew then that I could use my words to help others walking through similar difficulties. It was was a big part of how I coped.

As time marched on we moved across the country living in various states until I finally settled down in Dallas Texas where I met and married my husband. I never thought I would have a reason to be in Cincinnati Children’s hospital ever again. That was until I moved back more than twenty years later and had a special needs daughter. Now Cincinnati Children’s is a big part of my life again, thankfully for different reasons this time.

So when I was contacted to write a blog post for Cincinnati Children’s it was more than just writing a simple post about “Utilizing Technology to Aid in Speech Development“. It’s a chance to maybe help other parents whose children are struggling with speech, and in some ways I feel like my 2nd grade self would be proud to see that I never quit writing. It’s a full circle story where my love for the written word found it’s way back to the place where it began. That’s why this little piece means so much to me.



Here is link if you want to check it out.

Utilizing Technology to Aid in Speech Development


By | March 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

A Weary Update

I’ve been blogging for over nine years and I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve gone a week without doing a blog post. This is one of those weeks where it’s a struggle for me to type any words. So this is going to be brief, but I’ve got some BIG personal updates that I’ve been anxious to spill the beans about.

1. We are getting a house!
I have alluded to this for a while, but we are just weeks away from sealing the deal. If everything goes through we will be moving into a home of our own by the end of the month!  There are a ton more details to that but I’m gonna hold off until we had the keys in hand.
2. My dad and brother were in a car wreck.
This past Wednesday I got that call that everyone dreads. My mom never calls me at night and I was in the middle of the bedtime battle with the kids so it wasn’t a  good time to talk, but I answered the phone because “What if?”.
Me: Hello?
Mom: Has anyone called you yet?
Me: (My heart was already racing because I knew this was bad) No what is going on?
Mom: Your dad and Jeremy were in a car accident? (and she breaks down in tears)
Me: (Freaking out and trying not to hyperventilate.) “Is every one okay? What happened? Are they fine!? Oh no!”
Mom: I don’t know everything yet, but it looks like they are going to be okay…
They had borrowed a truck because there was a huge storm in our area the night before and a tree went down at my brother’s place. The truck had been running completely fine until they approached a three way stop and the brakes went completely out. They were going 55 mph and Could. Not. Stop. They flew through the intersection and with no way of stopping the vehicle  they actually went over a creek Duke’s of Hazard style and landed in somebody’s yard. They were taken by ambulance to two different hospitals for different injuries. By the grace of God they are both out of the hospital now and doing alright, but my dad has severe back pain and my brother has a broken arm which he had to have surgery to have pins put in. We are all feeling so grateful that they are alive, but they are going to have a major recovery ahead of them so please keep them in your prayers.
3. I am beginning a new series called inspiring moms.
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but things are really getting going with the Inspiring Mom series. I’ve already interviewed two moms. One of them you may have read about from when we did postcards for Colton (which was something I promoted on Facebook). Colton’s mom Suzanne is amazing. She is sharing with us her story of having a son diagnosed with a rare disability and also what it’s like to survive a tornado. I was so moved by her story and I know you will be too. She is a warrior mama! I also interviewed my favorite granny in the whole wide world. She 96 years old and still drives and lives on her own. And then I have another interview coming up Tuesday. So the ball is really rolling. I still want to hear from more moms though. Don’t hesitate to nominate somebody or talk to me about being featured as an Inspiring Mom! And be on the look out for the first installment here in the next couple of weeks.
So that’s the latest in a nutshell.
I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend. Be blessed!

PS. It’s SJ’s 7th birthday! We’ve got some fun surprises in store.

By | March 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

15 Months Old With Hearing Aids

Elle is now 15 months old and has had hearing aids for almost a month. Have you seen any of those viral videos of babies hearing for the first time with hearing aids or cochlear implants? They are always so sweet and touching. Elle was not hearing for the first time when she got her hearing aids, but she was hearing differently (and improved) so I had my video camera ready. Here is a screen shot from that video.




She never cried. She just scowled. She gave her notorious stink eyes to everybody in the room. I should have known then that we were going to have a long road ahead of us.

SJ had hearing aids when she was two and they didn’t work for her at all because she had such profound hearing loss. She quickly progressed to cochlear implants. Elle’s hearing loss is not the same as SJ’s. They are both genetic and they both have the same parents, but Elle has mild hearing loss which she gets from me. She hears sounds and even speech, but she is missing out on some of the softer sounds like “s” “f” and “sh”. So the hearing aids help with picking up on the sounds that she is missing and making the ones she does hear more crisp and less muffled.



That means that all of the girls in our family of six have hearing loss and we all have hearing devices.



Elle and I have Phonak hearing aids and SJ has Cochlear Americas Cochlear Implant.




Unfortunately they all three take DIFFERENT batteries. Go figure. Making sure we have batteries charged, changed, or in stock is just one of the many hurdles we face having children with hearing loss. It does get easier with time, but having a baby or a toddler with hearing aids takes a lot of work!



Elle doesn’t seem to mind wearing them, but at the same time she does like to mess with them and rarely leaves them alone.


After a week of struggling to keep them on we went to Hanna Andersson in the mall to get some pilot caps. These hats aren’t made specifically for hearing loss, but the pilot cap is perfect for keeping the hearing aids on while the child is still training.


The problem is, Elle can still get the hearing aids off even when she wears the cap. So it may not be the ultimate solution, but it’s a significant help. She messes with the hearing aids a lot less, when she is wearing the pilot cap.



We have had some VERY scary close calls with lost hearing aids in the past month. I think I am going to look like I am 90 years old by the time Elle is trained to wear them. That is how stressful it is. I compare it to having a child that has to wear socks every waking hour, and each sock costs a thousand dollars. Now if you are anything like me your baby kicks off or takes off their socks all the time and they inventibly get lost. It’s annoying when it’s $2 socks, but with hearing aids it’s ulcer worthy.

Time marches on though and I know that we will get through this. Elle still isn’t really talking much yet and is considered delayed at this point. I am sure all of this effort will be worth it in the long run.

As I type this Elle is napping in the other room so she is not wearing her hearing aids, but she did manage to loose one (with the cap on) before she went to bed so I guess I’ll go search the house. AGAIN. Wish me luck. toddler-with-pilot-cap

By | February 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

When Barbara Met Rene

Today is the last day of the How We Met series and for this piece I had the pleasure of interviewing a  friend of mine whom I admire so much. Here is the story of how Barbara met Rene.


Barbara grew up with the call of God on her life. She always had a heart for the lost from as early as she could remember and by the time she was in High school she yearned to do missions work internationally. One day after a missionette’s Bible class she overheard some of the elders of the church discussing sending a team to Mexico to build a church and Barbara could hardly contain herself.

I want go! I want go! she pleaded with her parents in the back of the car on the way home from church. Her parents agreed that she could go on the mission’s trip, but she would need to find a way to come up with $700 in order to pay her own way. Barbara prayed and saved every last dime of her babysitting money (which was $3 an hour at that time). Eventually the money trickled in confirming that this was God’s will.

Barbara loved every bit of ministering in Mexico, especially working with the children. One day while sitting down for a meal with the team there was a knock at the door and that’s when she saw her future husband Rene for the first time. She didn’t know if it was the hot temperatures, exhaustion, or maybe it really was the Lord that put a halo around that handsome young man. Rene was there to translate for the Americans and Barbara was immediately smitten.

They hit it off as friend right away, but their time together was short and Barbara had to return back to her everyday life in Cincinnati. On the way home she cried, and no it was from not teenage infatuation, it was because she had fallen in love with the country and had a deep desire to minister to the people there. She knew from that first visit that God was calling her to be a teacher and to work with Children and that somehow it included the Mexican people.

Every year she returned to Mexico and became more dedicated to the church there. She also learned more about Rene and his love for Christ. They both continued on with their lives separately, but they maintained a friendship that grew with time.

On Sunday nights they would talk for one hour and at that time it cost a dollar per minute for long distance calls. So Barbara would pay her mom $60 every week. There were often a lot of complications because of the language barriers and misunderstandings. For example when it was Rene’s turn to call Barb, she waited anxiously beside her phone and after 15 minutes went by she began to get nervous. Did he forget? Has he moved on? were some of the thoughts going through Barbara’s mind. She picked up the phone just to make sure it was working and as she heard the dial tone her heart sank. An hour later she gave up.

It turns out Rene was doing everything in his power to make contact with his one true love. However he did not have a phone so he had to go to neighbor’s houses to beg to borrow theirs. When that didn’t work out he desperately searched for a pay phone, but with no success. His heart broke when he couldn’t reach Barbara. He was starting to feel like she was the one that God had chosen for him. He couldn’t imagine life without her.

When Barbara was away in college about 7 years after they had first met they found themselves in a relationship whether it was acknowledged out loud or not. They both began to pray and seek God about marriage and soon after that Rene came to the states for a visit.

Barbara says about that time together “All I know is that I asked God to show me something… to give me a confirmation, and he did.” As they talked about their dreams and their love for the Lord their hearts were bound together.


A year later after they finished college they became engaged. Barbara worked three jobs and paid off all her debt so that she could move to Mexico. The next step was marriage, but the question was where?

If they married in the states they would have to worry about a fiancé visa and some other legal matters and Barb still felt like Mexico was where God had called her. So she sacrificed her dream wedding surrounded by friends and family to pursue the vision that she always had in her heart for Mexico.

A few people came to Mexico for their Spanish ceremony. Barbara still wasn’t quite fluent in Spanish. In fact, for the vows you respond with “I accept” only instead of saying I accept Barb said “I except” to this day her family gives her a hard time that she was commited, but with exceptions.


For their fist years of marriage they served in Morelia Mexico and taught English at Christian schools. Barbara was speaking Spanish like a native in no time. They eventually felt like they needed to go back to America though. So they sold everything in order to cover the costs of the immigration process. When they crossed the border they had nothing but two suitcases and a Chihuahua. Then in 2003 they started a Spanish speaking church and began bilingual community outreaches in the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati area providing medical and practical relief for those in need.

For their 10 year anniversary everything came full circle as they renewed their vows. This time the ceremony was in english and they were also able to dedicate their two children that they had recently adopted from Mexico.


Their heart will forever be connected to God, to each other, and to spanish people of Mexico.




Barbara Roche has a BS in elementary education and although she isn’t currently teaching in a conventional way she homeschools her two children Miguel and Lesly. Her and her husband Rene Roche are the pastors of Iglesia Herencia Divina a spanish speaking ministry of Heritage Fellowship where they have people from over 14 nations represented in their congregation. They lead many  bilingual community outreaches on a weekly basis including going into men’s and women’s prisons. Barbara and Rene just celebrated their 16th anniversary.


By | February 17th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

When Heather Met Blake

Today is the 3rd installment of the How We Met series and the guest blogger is Heather Hollander sharing how she met her true love. 


“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Prov. 16:9

With the fluorescent lights above me and the white tile floor below my feet, I stood in the local Santa Cruz, California K-Mart with a few of my girlfriends when I first met Blake Hollander.

He was with a group of guys, one of whom I knew who introduced the group he was with to the group I was with. I had just gotten off a plane from NC hours earlier, and I along with the others needed a few necessities as we prepared for our summer away from home in this new and very interesting part of the country. I remember shaking Blake’s hand, and to me, in that moment, he was just a boy. He was a boy that I didn’t really want to have much to do with, just like I didn’t want to have much to do with any of the boys that I would be spending the summer with. 

I had just recently finished up my 4th year of college, but after the many changes in majors and concentrations, I had a whole other year of college waiting for me in the fall. (5 year plan-ers unite!) The summer before my last year of college was beginning, and it was to be spent in a beautiful part of California. I came alongside dozens of other college students from all across America hoping to grow in their walks with the Lord, serve in a place that was not their own, and bring glory to Jesus through summer project with Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru).

I went that summer with the intent to grow, serve, and pour into the other girls on the trip, and to  pay no mind to the boys. I had walked through heartbreak and had been distracted by boys before, but that was not going to be the case in Santa Cruz. I knew my purpose and I had a plan, and meeting a boy who I would marry was not part of that plan. 

Interestingly enough, even being in Santa Cruz that summer was not exactly my plan either. I had originally thought I would spend the summer overseas in Russia, where I had been the summer before (and where I had met the guy who introduced Blake and I in the beginning of the story), but then decided instead to go on a stateside mission trip. My plan was to go to Russia long term after I graduated, so, since I knew I would surely be back there soon, I thought it would be a good opportunity to do something different and serve in the U.S. instead. But then I changed my mind and plan all together and decided I’d just stay home for the summer! You know, since I knew I was going to be heading to Russia long term and all, I thought spending time with my family and church that summer would probably be best. What I didn’t know was that halfway across the country there was a boy in Oklahoma that had also decided against going to Santa Cruz for the summer too. He had planned to go, but he changed his mind. 

He wasn’t going to go. I wasn’t going to go. But somehow the Lord moved, and instead of spending the summer in our respective towns as we had planned, we ended up in California. 

God had a different plan for us. 

And there we were, on June 8th, 2004 shaking hands and meeting one another for the first time at K-Mart in Santa Cruz. 

Knowing the backstory definitely points to the miraculous nature of this moment and the rest of our story. If not for God directing our steps we would have never met. I would not have noticed his character and his servant’s heart. I would not have prayed and prayed for the Lord to guard my heart as his character and person more and more resembled the type of man I could only hope to marry one day. I would not have said yes to his invitation to coffee and I wouldn’t have heard him declare his hope to pursue me. I wouldn’t have been shocked at this declaration, because surely someone like him could never be interested in someone like me. I wouldn’t have felt like simultaneously the luckiest girl in the whole world and the saddest human on the plant when we had to say goodbye to one another as we left California to head back home. And I wouldn’t have said yes as he knelt down and asked me to be his bride nearly 7 months after thinking of him as “just a boy” when we met. 


We had our plans, but God directed our steps, so clearly to one another. 

Less than 365 days from our first meeting in K-Mart, we said “I do” in what can easily be called the happiest day of my life.


Blake is my favorite person on this Earth, and he was not my plan. Our life and our marriage was not my plan, but I will be forever grateful that he was God’s plan for me. 

This coming June 4th we will celebrate 12 years of marriage, and the beginning of our story fits so well with the rest of our story. Much of our life has worked out not at all as we had planned…

We went to seminary in Wake Forest, NC instead of going on staff with Cru, which had been our plan. We have 3 children, all of whom the Lord blessed us with while we were not planning for them. We prayed about and planned to move out west to do ministry, but the Lord planted us in upstate South Carolina instead. And, I’m homeschooling those 3 kids of ours…definitely NOT what I had planned. 

Interspersed in the happy unplanned moments have also been unplanned hardships, difficulties, and tough seasons as well. It has not always been an easy road, but it has been a good one. God’s plan for our life and our marriage, through the good and the bad times, has shaped us and has certainly been used to sanctify us.

We have learned deeper how to trust the Lord, how to forgive and repent, how to communicate, and how to support one another. We have learned time and time again that God’s ways are not often our ways, but He is always good and always to be trusted.

So now, as I sit and overhear my Blake read a story to our kids before bed, I take in this moment and I thank God that He didn’t give me what I had planned.


This beautiful, unplanned life is more than I deserve, and it gives me hope that whatever we may face in the years to come will be for our good and God’s glory…




heather-headshotHeather is in love with her bi-vocational pastor husband, still sometimes shocked that she’s a homeschool momma to her 3 kiddos, and amazed at the grace given to her in Christ. With an M.A. in Christian Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, she writes about seeking truth, goodness, and beauty, and clinging to hope in Jesus in midst of all life can throw our way. Come connect with this Jesus loving, unlikely homeschooler on Facebook (heatherhollanderwrites), Instagram (heatherannhollander), Twitter (heatherannholla), and currently at www.what-is-perfect.com.


By | February 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

When Emily Met Colton

Today’s guest post is by Emily Williams sharing about how she met her husband Colton and the scary, intense, but beautiful journey they have been on ever since. Here is day two of How We Met


Colton and I first met before I knew we had actually met. I went to Northern Kentucky University and… he didn’t. Colton was on campus to hang out with friends and filled in on the worship team at our Baptist Campus Ministry, where I ran sound. The funny part of the whole thing is that I ran sound for the band every week, but it took me probably about a month to see him as a human behind his guitar. He had that early-days-Justin-Beiber-emo-swoop haircut going on. You know what I’m talking about. One day, I looked up from the sound board and saw a pretty cute guy. He had freshly cut hair. I thought to myself, where’d this guy come from?
Long story short, a few weeks, maybe months, later I had him help me lead worship for a worship night at my church and I made my move.

We were going out to eat as a group after and I pulled my car up next to his as he was loading all his gear in and said, “We might as well ride together”. Boom. And the rest is history. That’s how you do it ladies. 



Fast forward about a year and a half, we got engaged, fast forward another five months and we were married.


Three months into marriage our world was shaken when Colton lost his job at a creative ad agency.

At that point he decided to go out on a limb and do his own thing, so he began working on a personal brand. Two months after that, December of 2014, Colton was diagnosed with StageIII Esophageal Cancer, AKA. a cancer that chain smoking, binge drinking, 70-year-old men typically get. It was, conceivably, a shock to us all. Everyone except for my hypochondriac husband who said, “I told you so” as soon as he came out of anesthesia and found out the news.

The next eight months Colton went through radiation, chemotherapy, an Ivor-Lewis Esophagectomy (basically gastric bypass), and another round of chemo.


At that point, his doctor’s cleared him and wanted to see us back every three months for scans. When we came back for his six month scan the cancer had recurred and metastasized in his leg, shoulder, and lymph nodes in his chest and vocal cords.

When the cancer recurred, his oncologist suggested we look into alternative medicines that were coming out. He explained that he couldn’t get his hands on a lot of them yet, but gave us references for out of state hospitals and treatment centers to look into. After much research, we landed on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, New York. 

We dropped everything back home and through, what we believe to be, God-ordained connections, we were able to stay in the city for next to nothing for the first five months. When we realized it was going to be more of a long-haul treatment, we decided to go ahead and rent a place we could call “home-for-now”.

Since arriving in New York, Colton has received radiation and two different regimens of immunotherapy. When the first regimen didn’t work out as hoped, his NYC oncologist told us about this new combination of drugs that had just come out. She told us that it was very unlikely that insurance would cover it, and if it didn’t, it would be around $10,000 every time Colton would sit in the chair to get treatment, which is every other week. The oncologist gently suggested us return to chemotherapy which, at this point, would be a palliative option. That was all we needed to hear for us to make the decision we were not going back to chemo without a fight. We told her we wanted her to try to get insurance to cover the new drugs. She said she would, but to not get our hopes up.

Time went by slowly as we waited to hear if insurance was footing the bill. Three weeks later insurance called Colton to let him know that they were going to cover the new drugs that were requested, they also said they were going to give a little extra coverage for some other things coming out “to give his oncologist more tools”. If you’re familiar with insurance AT ALL you know this is not normal. At Colton’s next appointment, the first thing his doctor said as she walked in was, “I’m getting your insurance”.

After three months of the new immunotherapy drugs, it was time for the dreaded PET scan to see if any progress was made. November 9th we found out that these new drugs were shrinking each spot of cancer left in Colton’s body and some had even disappeared! It was then that we found out that these new treatments were so new that there is no studies to show what happens if taken off of them, so for now, Colton is meant to stay on them until further notice.

As I write this, his next scan is coming up next week, February 6th*. By the time this blog is posted we’ll hopefully already have the great report that we’re hoping for.


Wrapping this post up, I’m realizing that there’s more of a play-by-play of a cancer story than our relationship, but to be brutally honest, I feel like the last six months has been the first time we’ve been able to somewhat enjoy each other’s company without him feeling guilty like he’s “putting me out” or me fighting the feeling and title of “caregiver”.  Moving forward we’re looking to what’s ahead, remembering what and who brought us here, and enjoying where we’re at. 



emilyEmily Williams is a manager and lead barista Cha Cha Matcha in New York, New York. She also blogs at www.Cure.ColtonWilliams.com Her husband Colton Williams is a freelance videographer. You can be mesmerized by his work at www.ColtonWilliams.com .





* Subscribe to www.cure.coltonwilliams.com for updates on Colton and Emily’s cancer story and to read the results of the most recent testing.

By | February 15th, 2017|Uncategorized|4 Comments

When Amber Met Alex

Welcome to the How We Met Series on MessyMom.com. Let’s jump right in and welcome Amber Kaufman as today’s guest writer sharing how she met her husband Alex. 
Alex and I attended college at Cincinnati Christian University. He was majoring in Missions and I was majoring in Deaf Studies. During our Sophomore year, we took a public speaking class together. I remember thinking he was cute but it didn’t really go past that because he did’t have long hair, piercings and tattoos. One day, he gave a how-to speech on changing a bicycle tire. He stood there at the front of the class, making small talk…and then he started rolling up his sleeves. I thought “OH MY WOW. He has nice forearms!” I was (maybe) a little more interested in him after that lol.
Weeks past and one day we needed up in a random discussion with friends about reading the Bible from beginning to end. I told everyone that I was trying to get through it but couldn’t because I was stuck in Leviticus.
I then made the huge mistake of saying that Leviticus was extremely boring and he wasn’t having that.
“Leviticus is full of good stuff!” he said. “Look. You meet me here everyday, and we will read it together. I’ll help you get through it. ” I wasn’t at all excited about his proposal. But I did it and he kept his promise. Every day I spent with him, my heart grew more and more fond of him. He made Leviticus interesting and I loved that. I remember feeling sad once we reached the end of the book. After we read the last chapter, we both kind of sat there in silence.
Then, he looked at me and said, ” So….you wanna read Numbers together?” I smiled and said yes. A few months later, he took me out on our 2nd date. Alex wasn’t the type of guy that I would usually go for. I remember being up at night walking around my room trying to figure out why I liked him. He was clean cut…not a single piercing (to my knowledge) and didn’t have any tattoos. HA HA! I wasn’t even sure if he liked me that much. He was a pure country boy and I am somewhat of a city girl. Still, I found him very intriguing. After agreeing to the second date, I started wondering if he would want to make it “official”.
We went to a park in Price Hill, walked around and talked (I still to this day love talking to him). We sat on a bench and he put his arm around me, smiled real big and said, “You wanna be my girlfriend?” He was all up in my face too! Ha ha! I was so shocked at how sure he was of me. I smiled and said “Are you sure?” I remember thinking “This isn’t happening!” He assured me that this is what he wanted and I told him that I would love to be his girlfriend. We dated for 10 months. 10 months of getting to know each other and becoming more and more inseparable. 10 months of learning about each other cultures and embracing each others differences.
Our families grew closer, we had good times and bad times. We leaned on the Lord as we worked through struggles and built each other up.
The hardest part of our 10 months of dating was our time apart during the summer. It was 2006 and he had to go overseas for his degree (remember he was a missions major). He went to Africa for 3 months. I was torn because I knew I wanted to be with him but I also knew I wasn’t called to live overseas which is something he talked about often. The longer we were apart from each other, the more I knew that I didn’t want to live my life without him. I just started to pray and ask the Lord to help. I only heard from him a few times while he was there. The last email I got from was my favorite. He told me that he missed me and loved me and that the had already changed his major from Missions to Biblical Studies. “I’ve really been thinking about our future while here. I’ve been thinking about saving my money for a house and a couple rings *wink wink*”.
After reading that, my jaw hit the floor. I was so ready for him to come back! He did, safe and sound! We were once again inseparable. For 3 months, we looked at rings and talked about marriage. One day, I saw him coming back to campus wearing khakis and a sweater. I thought “Aww. he went and got my ring today!” I asked him why he was so fancy (for Alex, that is fancy) and he told me that all his other clothes were dirty and was behind on his laundry. Ha! Then, on a rainy day in November, he asked me to go out with him. I noticed he was wearing the same outfit that he wore when he “was behind on his laundry”. We went to dinner and had a great time. I was thrown off because he didn’t seem nervous or anything. I began to think maybe this was all in my head. But I knew something had to be up because he was wearing his “fancy” clothes! We drove back to campus (now I’m really thrown off), he got out and opened my car door like always. He took my hand,  got down on one knee in the rain and asked me to marry him. I smiled and took the ring from him so I could look at how beautiful it was. He gasped and said ” Hey! You can’t just take it from me! I have to put it on!….And, is that a ‘Yes’?” I gave the ring back, smiled and said “Yes!”
We have been married now for 9 years. About 2 years in, we thought it would just be amazing to have a big family. The Lord impressed on us to become licensed foster parents and before we knew it, we welcomed our first child into our family. We now have 7 children.  Five adopted: Lia-9, Eli-7, Ziyon-4, Naomi-3, Ezra-1 and our two foster children are 6 and 4.*
This isn’t at all how we thought we would be living our lives at 31 and 32 years old! We wouldn’t change it for the world! We are a happy learning and growing together. Alex is my best friend; my husband for life! After only dating for a few days, we were walking and talking and he stopped and looked at me, I’ll never forget it, and said “I dunno what’s going to happen here. But I promise you, no matter what happened, you WILL be a better person for having known me.” At first I thought “Well who does this guy think he is?!” But you know what? He was right.



Amber is the Founder and President of a non profit organization called Reflect Worship Arts Collaborative (RWAC). RWAC is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation that exists to reflect tJEsus and provide free-of-cahrge instruction, ministry and /performance opportunities to anyone in the Greater Cincinnati area who wishes to explore and use his or her creative talents to glorify God through collaborating with the Hoy Spirit and fellow artists. Through the arts, they seek to reflect the Lord’s glory (2 For. 3:18), to minister to the heart of Jesus Christ, and to lead others into a life-changing relationship with him through the power of the Holy Spirit! Their website is www.reflectwac.org. RWAC can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Amber and Alex also have a vlog on Youtube where they share their heart about foster parenting, family, adoption, and more.

*The foster children have disguised faces because they cannot show their faces online.
By | February 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|15 Comments