Personal: Backyard Renovation | The Hollowell House | Roanoke Virginia Wedding Photographer

...A vision turned into reality...


Back in the summer of 2016, I was ready for a change. Having lived in the same apartment for 3 years, this 26 year old was ready to flip life upside....wish granted. On September 30th, 2016 I decided to make the decision to purchase my house. Alone. No parents, no husband, no kids, just me & my pup. The house was gorgeous. Hardwood floors, naturally well lit, a master suite & a nice chunk of land with future potential. So I thought.

After shortly moving in, my sweet pup & I were in our backyard on October 18th, 2016 when my neighbors dogs escaped from their backyard & attacked Henry. Fortunately, I was able to run inside but Henry tried to defend me and took the brunt of the attack. Weeks went by and both Henry & myself feared every time we heard the dogs outside. I knew at that moment, my yard's future potential was now an immediate need. I consulted with my parents and while I knew it was going to cost a pretty penny, the outcome was totally worth it! Henry & I now have a huge yard (something I underestimated when I bought the house) and we enjoy it every day! Almost a year after buying the house & 5 months of construction, I now have cell phone photos of the before & after transformation! Listed below are all the modification we made & the outstanding vendors/people that made this vision a reality!

Demolition/Tree Removal: Pro-Grow Inc. (Matt Marshall)
Stump Removal: Pro-Grow Inc. (Matt Marshall)
Land Grading: Pro-Grow Inc. (Matt & Ben Marshall)
Fence/Wagon Wheel Removal: Pro-Grow Inc. (Matt Marshall)
Tree Removal: Bowser's Lawn Care (Dan & Adam Bowser)
Yard Raking: Pro-Grow Inc. (Matt Marshall)
6 ft & 10 ft Fencing: Roanoke Fence Repair & Installation (Terry Meador)
Seeding: Bowser's Lawn Care (Dan Bowser)
Mulching: Bowser's Lawn Care (Dan & Anna Bowser)
Planting & Hanging plants: Bowser's Lawn Care (Dan Bowser)

September 12th, 2016: First visit to the house, from the left side of the house. The day I put an offer on the house!

From the right side of the house

September 30th, 2016: Closed on the house!
October 3rd, 2016: Moved in day!
November 11th, 2016: In the middle of the backyard/growth looking towards Brambleton

In the middle of the backyard/growth looking towards house

From the backyard, looking towards left side of house. Notice the pine tree between gate & fence. It's now gone!

February 27th, 2017: View of backyard looking towards Brambleton from bathroom window, the day before demo!

February 28th, 2017: Demolition Begins!!

March 13th, 2017: Demolition complete! In order to fence though, Dad & Adam had to take down 2 pine trees.

March 22nd, 2017: Demo done, trees down, TIME TO FENCE!

April 22nd, 2017: The fence was complete & the yard had been raked for seeding. Due to a series of unfortunate schedule conflicts & the wet spring weather, we finally were able to seed & plant some things!


June 28th, 2017: Grass & weeds are coming in nicely! Now to mulch & hang plants!

July 4th, 2017: Mulching, hanging plants & mowed for the first time!

August 10th, 2017: After 5 months of hard work, the yard is complete! More decorating & furnishing will come with time but for now, it's perfect!

Some side by side shots of before & afters!


Day 5: Dominican Republic Mission Trip - A Personal Post

It was sunny & bright in the Dominican on Day 5!

With nothing but blue skies in the forecast, we made our way to a new area in Brisas, to visit a Haitian church. As we arrived, we were greeted by a little boy who spoke only Creole but, was intrigued and interested in playing with us. Luckily, we had a ball and even though we couldn't understand each other AT ALL, we became instant friends!

We then met some of the church members and began prayer walks around the community. We walked at least 3 miles all around the church & prayed at least 25 times (if not more). Come to find out, this was the first prayer walk this church had ever constructed. It was AMAZING! The way the Haitians prayed was so uplifting & could be heard for miles! While on our walk, my group ran into a Dominican couple who live in New Jersey....who just so happen to be a wedding photographer & wedding planner - you CANNOT tell me that's not a God thing! And their names were Ana & Jesus!

After we connected with Ana & Jesus, we finalized our walk and some went to the grocery store to buy food for the pastors & their families. THAT was an experience in itself.... "Americanas", "Americanas". Seriously though, a group of 6 white people stand out in a grocery store where almost no one speaks English & I speak very little Spanish but, if someone talks to me slowly, I can understand it.

After grocery shopping, we headed back to the Haitian church to teach VBS, women's ministry & this time men's ministry (and we only had 1 interpreter - Vonni). Let me tell you...God is good! Day 5 was so amazing & such a blessing! As we gathered around for our devotion at the end of the night, I shared with the group how safe I felt just walking around the streets. At one point, I was walking by myself, something I was told not to do but, I felt protected & wanted. These people were so open to us & so kind! So very kind! Day 5 was just beyond words amazing! As you read these words & glance through the pictures below, notice if you can feel the security we had as we walked the streets & held those children extra tight. 

To the grocery store we go...

Day 4: Dominican Republic Mission Trip - A Personal Post

During this time, we got to speak one on one with people & invite them to a service we had tonight. We did this for 2 hours. After arriving back at the church, we had a little bit of free time. Which was my favorite part of the day **side note, I don't do well with free time**. Before exploring the community, we saw a courtyard in the back, so we checked it out - and it was GORGEOUS! From coconut & mango trees to swing-sets and patios to lounge in, this was the most peaceful place I could imagine on earth. It was truly something to see in person! We hung out for a little bit out back and then I made my way inside, where I found the pastor's wife, Wendy, sitting alone. I could feel it, my confidence was building up & my comfort zone walls were breaking.

So I went to her.

She speaks no English & I speak little Spanish but, we were going to make it work! If people speak to me, I can piece words together to understand it but conversing back with them is another story. Having no translation experience, I tried my best before we had to grab her husband to help translate things for us. After Ramon came to help, we talked about everything. From the church, to their family to marriage.....Wendy & I bonded over what I thought was the biggest barrier imaginable. We knew what each other was saying before we had our translations.

Therefore, it can be done. Just as Jesus fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread & 2 fish.....Jesus gave me the understand & the words to speak with Wendy, even though we don't speak the same language. So I ask those of you who are reading this, to take time to think about your comfort zone. What is your strength? What is your weakness? What scares you & what is something you want to accomplish? Comment below if you would like but this isn't for me, it's for you. My comfort zone was hiding behind leaning on a translator during our walk around the villages when really, I'm translating what the Pastor is saying to his people to my group. Pastor Ramon asked me if I spoke Spanish, I said very little & she shoved me in a convenient store to speak to people I don't know, in a language I speak VERY little of. And it was the best feeling ever. 

So take time to learn your comfort zone & think of what would break those walls down.

Day 4..... What a roller coaster

Hot, humid but oh so full of love & eagerness. We visited a community that we've never been to before with a pastor we've never met before but oh what a beautiful experience it was! Pastor Ramon & his wife started the first baptist church in their community and continue to grow. He explained that the people in his community are intrigued by the gospel but are not willing to make the commitments to the church (teaching, spreading the word, etc). So, we went around the villages & explored a bit.

Wendy, Pastor Ramon's wife

Day 3: Dominican Republic Mission Trip - A Personal Post

Well, its Day 3 & we've already had to say some goodbyes to some precious faces. 

We started out day at Brisas to visit the preschool our group has helped build & our church (along with others) fund through the years. See those smiling faces in their little blue shifts was such a joy! In the past, my mom has shown me PLENTY of pictures but nothing beats seeing it for yourself in real life. We played, we sang, I taught today's lesson about Jesus feeding 5,000 & then the little ones ate lunch before they left to go home......and what a taxing morning that was. To watch these children lick their plates after what might be the only meal they have all day, opened my eyes tremendously. A little bit of rice, chicken & beans followed by a glass of water goes a long way for a child. They aren't allowed to have their water until they eat, so that way they do in fact eat. Several kept asking me to eat with them & told me how good their food was. After they left, the wonderful women who cooked the food brought ours out, and I broke down. My appetite was gone. My stomach had become full & my heart was heavy. To see these children appreciate so little & there I was, in front of a mound of food.... It just didn't make sense to me. How could I eat so much for one meal, after they had so little for probably the day? But, I had to.

Once we all finished lunch, we started prepping to head back to Los Rios for the afternoon. When we arrived, the atmosphere seemed less tense today. Smiling faces were around every corner. We split into two groups to do some prayer walks and again, an eye-opening experience INDEED. We got to visit the first Haitian Baptist Church in the Dominican, toured a tiny village & the other group got to see the more wealthy section of the neighborhoods. All that separated rags from riches was a plaster wall. 

At Los Rios, we danced, we sang, we did little art crafts and we did a little something different with the young adults - we shared testimonies, with the help of our translator Vonni. To hear where they came from, what they've done & what they've experienced made me realize just how sheltered my life has been. Yes, I've traveled all over the world but this was one of the most poverty stricken places I've seen. But their hearts are full & they are eager to learn. Unfortunately, our time at Los Rios was cut short & as we said goodbye, all the children came to hug each and every one of us (keep in mind, there's like 40 kids & 18 of us). It was amazing to see the transformation in a day's time from yesterday's timid children, who might not have ever seen light complected people - dancing, taking pictures & kissing our cheeks as they said "Gracias". It's something that pictures cannot express, it comes from the heart. 

Again, camera quality pictures are not loading here in the DR so iPhone pictures will be coming from now on...ENJOY!

The rough-draft of the second story to the preschool in Brisas

On our prayer walk in Los Rios. The first Haitian Baptist Church in the Dominican (Iglesia) and the surrounding village. So many textures & so many colors - a photographers dream! The smell though... As you can see, trash lined the streets, the streams & the open lots. 

Shoutout to Vonni for giving his testimony in both Spanish & English