January 9, 2016

As you all know, it has been quite a while since we have done a recap of our life.
 In fact, it hasn’t happened ALL FALL.
My computer is stuffed with pictures from August, September, October, November, AND December, that have all just been waiting to be blogged.

Unfortunately, time for blogging has been lacking this fall. August and September found us coming and going—hosting events, touring, and working the farm. October, November, and December have found us primarily at home sweet home—canning, clearing out the gardens, harvesting, and being involved in political and church activities and campaigns. Among other things…Mitchell + Carson have been gone many weeks working for farmers all across the state with their custom farming business. Allison has started her own design business and has continued working at the hotel and managing details there. I have been working on the farm and assisting with scheduling/finalizing details for our tours for 2016.  Joshua has been recently taking tests and preparing to leave for college for a week on campus before joining us for our winter tour. (and continuing his studies online)
. Josh, Denver, Taylor, Hudson, and Rebecca have all spent hundreds of hours studying and competing with the National Bible Bee. (post on that coming soon!) Denver, Hudson, and Rebecca auditioned for the Bible Bee Game Show and were accepted, so their study has continued on into December. Elizabeth has become an accomplished chef and study coach to her siblings, and has been pouring herself into her music as well. The parents (Marlin + Becky) continue to wear more hats than I think is humanly possible! But in addition to everything that they normally do, God has opened new doors for them to be involved in more mentoring and discipleship ministry.

Here are a few highlights that happened these past four months:

Six full blown Bontrager birthday parties (yeah, its been party season!!)
Young Women’s Retreat
Turning Hearts Celebration
9th Annual Homeschool Family Camp
Two ten-day tours
Trip to Ontario for Chels + Allison to do hair/makeup/music at  a wedding
Mitchell + Carson gone most of October + November doing custom farm work for other farmers across the state.
Fall harvest
All food from the six gardens either eaten, frozen, canned, or otherwise stored for the winter
Music practice for weddings, LACP, and various other specials/events
The Live Animal Christmas Play
The National Bible Bee
Special Services and events at church

All that said…enjoy these random pictures, in no particular order, from the past four months of life with the Bontragers!
Icecream after an outdoor cookout with friends.
Sister coffee time.
stories with friends.

When your cousin works at one of the best bakeries in the world, and he delivers you fresh donuts. =)

Backstage…you wouldn’t believe what happens there sometimes. (grin)
Here, it appears that there has been a change to the song list that is being contemplated and discussed.
Meeting up with our cousin’s family for dinner while singing in their area.

This dear lady and her husband let our family spend two marvelous days at their retreat back in the woods in northern Indiana, in September, while we were out on tour. What a blessing.

Looks like someone is about to get wet. That’s true brotherly love right there. =)
Dutch Blitz tournament with the best. =)

I try to coordinate decent outfits, I really do. But sometimes certain individuals like to suggest new ideas for combining certain styles.
Don’t worry-this one was immediately shot down. =)

Sometimes notes like this are left us by our dear father. =) Naturally, this note is a result of a rather uncanny ability that my brothers seem to have of getting deer the day we are scheduled to leave on tour. 
Spending time with our adopted grandparents in Indiana. We love these people. =)
We like doing the notes thing in this family. =)
Picnic with friends for Sunday lunch after a Sunday morning concert.
Jam time with these guys backstage after a concert in Wisconsin!
This dear gentleman has been such a blessing to our family. He calls Allison his “number one fiddler”  and he has been to hear us more times than I can count. He visited our farm in September and his gift to Allison was funds to go out and purchase a new violin. She was in tears. Such a kind way to invest in her life and also in our music ministry. We have all been blessed by the beautiful sounds of that new violin, ever since!
One of our favorite concert venues-the outdoor drive in theater in Illinois, where people honk their horns for applause. =)
These crazies goofing off before a concert.
Birthday girl!
Our birthday parties are big and wild and you never know who will show up. Rebecca’s eighth birthday party had a surprise guest appearance by Sweet Sue the Clown. =)

We also had friends visiting from Alberta the week of Rebecca’s party so they got to join in on the festivities as well.

The beautiful days of harvest…
Fence painting!
New life on the farm.

A houseful of company! This happened more times this fall than I can count. We were so blessed and grateful for all the friends we were able to visit with during our time at home.
Football with the cousins at one of our monthly Bontrager get-togethers with dad’s side of the family.
So great to see these people from the far east, when they were in the area for a wedding.

We do all sorts of things when people come to visit. Sometimes (like this day) we have work parties, and then after a long hard day of work, we go out and shoot for awhile.

Carson is the meat man of our family. With also being one of the avid hunters, he gets ample opportunity to try out new recipes and ideas with all of his deer meat. We have been enjoying several very yummy batches of jerky that he made this fall.

Moving equipment from one job to the next…
Score for Denver!
We enjoyed the opportunity to participate in several political rallies in our area this fall.
There were hours and hours and hours spent in the gardens. Here, Taylor and Rebecca are picking raspberries.
Here are a few pictures I took on the farm one day in late October.  The long, low white building on the right is one of our hog barns.
We had SO.MANY.APPLES. I seriously found myself wondering if those apple trees were ever going to shut down for winter! Denver and Hudson established a rather unique method of apple picking-Denver picked the apples and threw them over his head to Hudson. Hudson was supposed to catch as many as possible, obviously. =)
Grocery shopping for this tribe continues to be a growing marathon!
What happens in the green room, stays in the green room.

The only bad thing is when you are having such fun with your shenanigans that you miss your cue to be out on stage. =0

Hay-making fall days

Watching the GOP debates was high on our priority list this fall. Dad + Josh got the opportunity to attend this one live!

So thankful for the bountiful harvest the Lord blessed us with this year, both in the fields and the garden.

Daddy/daughter date night!
Our church hosted the new Annual Pie Action Fundraiser for the LACP. There were around 120 pies sold and just over $11,000 raised! 
This was one of the coolest pies there. =)
Harvest time! The view out my bedroom window one morning in November.
Thanksgiving celebration!

Allison making pies.

We had a houseful of random guests and a beautiful day celebrating our blessings.
Out with a visiting friend…loving the new Kalona Coffee Shop location.
We missed these guys so much when they were gone this fall. It was always a party when they would come home on Sunday. And there may or may not have been some of us who would inwardly cheer when they got rained out and had to come home midweek. =)
Part of the table spread for one of our birthday parties.

Some of us older ones enjoyed an evening out with friends-dinner at Pancheros and catching an awesome movie at the theater. So thankful for dear friends like these that the Lord has given us here in Iowa!

The view, looking back from the tractor…
Talented chefs and makers of all things healthy and delicious.

Making homemade pizza for yet another birthday party.

The sight one morning on my early walk—the truck backed up to the loading shoot, loading hogs.

Company once again! 
First we work…..
….and then we play!
birthday time for mom!
Some of us went together and bought Carson a tree stand for his 20th birthday. He was thrilled with it. We knew he wanted to go out hunting earlier so we ended up giving it to him before his birthday, so he would have it for the season.
One of my closest friends came to visit from Texas!

Time around the breakfast table, in the Word, with more dear visiting friends.

And again…its hunting time! 
When they got back Liz told us that “we didn’t even see anything because we were too loud and Denver talked the whole time”.
Moral of the story: do not send two sanguines hunting together. =)
Allison opened a new business featuring some of her recent design work! 
You can purchase items at her Instagram business account: @psalm62shoppe .
Liz and I spent lots of time with these sweet kids this fall. 
Its not every day that you find another family that also has six boys.
But when you do, and they are boys like these boys…you can almost guarantee many good times and long lasting friendships. 
Allison hosted a few girls’ Bible studies this fall and it was such a treat to have these girls travel several hours to attend!
All the wagons, ready to be cleaned and put away for the winter.

Late fall garlic planting.

A rousing game of “Do You Love Your Neighbor” with friends whilst the parents were out on a double date.

Music practice and lessons! This consumed hundreds of hours this fall.

Sunday afternoon football in the snow with some of the cousins. 
We took off the week of Christmas and spent the first three days of the week at some friends’ hunting lodge in southern Iowa. It was such a blessing to have this time to reconnect as a family and refocus for the coming new year.
We ate well. As always. =)
This game is a FAVORITE around here!
We celebrated Denver’s 16th Birthday!

Taylor so generously wanted to cook a special meal for the family, as a thank-you to everyone for helping him and listening to his verses in preparation for the National Bible Bee.
He choose an AMAZING menu and we all loved this meal so much!
Izzies to drink, and then grilled shrimp and tilapia, loaded baked potatoes, cranberry/pear/nut/lettuce salad, and grilled asparagus.

Washing dishes!
tearing around the country on the four wheelers!

We played a Bible Trivia game one morning, using a Bible Trivia book that a friend had given to Taylor. This ended up being like devotions, and school, and family time, and laughter, and growing in Bible knowledge…all rolled into one.

Brothers football…in which Denver sprained his ankle. 
Sister crazy. =)
Christmas gift wrapping!
Somehow this ended up being the first time in our lives that we were formally introduced to the Andy Griffith Show. Don’t know where we’ve been all these years… Actually I do-we’ve been doing life, too busy for movies. =) But…these are good. We had some great family laughs all gathered around on those big leather couches. 
This is what it looks like when we try to get a family picture by setting the camera on timer…
Employee Christmas Party at the hotel.
Lights for Christmas time!

This honestly only scratches the surface of what all went on here this fall. I missed taking pictures of so SO many things. Guys in the field, school, Bible Bee, work…those things consumed hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours and never are properly documented through pictures anyways. It has been a good past four months. Tiring and crazy but oh so good. We are so thankful for the opportunity to live this country life and wouldn’t trade it for anything!
Stay tuned in the coming days-we have several more recap posts in the works that we are excited to share with you!

“Now the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in HOPE, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
Romans 15:13



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Leave a Reply
  1. Love the pics, especially the last one of the whole family. What a beautiful Godly family!! It was hilarious about Denver and Liz trying to go hunting with "sanguine" personalities. You had me laughing there. Lord Bless your upcoming travels. Just know you have prayers being prayed for all of you from Indiana. Can't wait for you to return to this area.

    (P.S. I'm so glad I was able to meet you here in the fall!)

  2. This is the first time that I've looked at your blog, and I thought that it was gr8!!!! I'm also from a big family-12 children. It looks like ya'll have tons of fun singing and farming!! Keep up the good work and I look forward to more post!!!



  3. Yay u got my email or red my mind hehe I lov this post lov the pics I can't wait for the next several recaps my mind is goana go crazy ahhh yay thanks so much post this hugs lov u guys an God bless u guys 😉

  4. I just love this!! And the theme of diligent hard work followed by vibrant, competitive play. A slightly random handful of comments: the 1st + last pics are priceless! Taylor’s huge smile in the 2nd picture makes.my.day. Oh, so many great stories + sweet pictures: the deer hunting note, Allison’s new violin, surprised birthday expressions, Liz & Denver hunting/talking (I’m not surprised ;)), horns honking at the concert, backstage craziness (ya’ll have the.best. silly/crazy pictures!), creative apple-picking (reminds me of a friend who often says, “work made fun gets done!”), the bday picture (Rebecca is so grown up + your parents so timelessly young :)), Denver’s hunting score (atta boy!), and we had fun seeing the Sweet Sue clown pictures! Alli’s studies were a huge blessing. (And I’m stoked about her new business endeavors!) Recognize those napkins. 🙂 THE BROTHERLY LOVE PICTURE. Absolutely hilarious + classic Josh & Denver. 🙂 The menu for T’s meal looks amazingly delish + it’s totally like him to think of an idea like that – such a gentleman. I’m sure those many pies by Allison were downed in record time, YUM. And speaking of yum, craving Cars’ jerky – that stuff is THE last word in jerky. The babysitting picture made me smile…thinking that room is probably decorated by your pastor’s wife who loves all things zebra + pink, yes? 4-wheelers do make for some pretty memorable adventures – Drew+I were tearing around the snow under the stars this wkend.:) I shall end my (lengthy! sorry!) rambling, but “loving the love” in these pictures, as a certain moderator would say :), and looking forward to the upcoming recaps! many blessings + much love!

  5. I love this! It is so fun to see all these pictures of hard work/play/enjoying each other from the past couple of months. Have to say that the couple of family pics on the porch swing are great-love 'em! Love the autumn table setting, + the fantastic napkins=) Denver+Liz' hunting problems made me laugh, also the deer-hunting ban note=) And wow…the backstage crazies?! Chels, that picture of you+Josh is hilarious, as well as Carson+Rebs…was that an attempt at multitasking-as-in-workout-while-you-wait?=)) Taylor's meal looked scrumptious and that was such a sweet idea. All of the smiles+games! yes, yes, Dutch Blitz is the best. Family camp memories…we'll have to do that again! =)
    Much love and God bless!

    {haha, EB. Great BB reference=)}

  6. Your family is so inspirational and beautiful.Reading your blog and looking at all the wonderful photos is like witnessing a piece of heaven on earth! Thank you xx

    1. That was a great post Matt. You make it sound as if you visited two magical places, where the unicorns run free and the rainbows are so bright….don't drink all the kool-aid at once bub. 🙂

    2. Todd,
      Excuse me. Why the sarcastic, troll like response. Do you know me or any of the members of this family?
      I sat around the dinner table with 5 members of this family last night.
      We talked about work and current events and the next tour that they are getting ready to head out on.
      What are your issues with what I said?

    3. Matt you've have glorified this family and made them perfect in your eyes. I'm no stranger to falling for a persons personality, or their ability to speak meaningful words that captures your heart. Perhaps at a time in life where you feel a little low and beaten down. You run across or meet someone you think has got it dialed in, and they speak to your heart or maybe make you think they are someone you can reach out too or entrust with one of your needs. In you're case, you all but credited them with picking you up and breathing life back into you. Matt I'm happy for you and glade you found your place in this world. I wish you nothing but success and all the bright rainbows your heart desires.However, be careful who you trust with you're heart, never put all your faith and trust in man or a family. I've seen it too many times. People using the name of God for personal gain. Claiming that their greatest desires are to serve God and reach the people of the this world. When in fact its all about getting as many people as they can to follow them and buy their products. I reached out to a member of that family with a very special family prayer request on an issue I'm still dealing with to this every day. Two months later I find out that 1. My confidential request was shared with another member of that family. And 2. I find out the reason for this disrespect is simply because I'm a man. However, had my email been a request to purchase CD's, I would have been promptly replied to with lots of smiles 🙂 and kind words. So with that I learned that apparently God leads certain people to ignore other people even their prayer request. Yet finds it acceptable for these people to do business transactions with men. And then all but telling me my mother is dommed to go to hell because she divorced a man who beat her and my brothers sometimes to the point of needing medical treatment. So yes my heart has grown cold towards these people and those like them and those who lick their boots. As for you Matt, you haven't seen the side I have. But lucky for you with this reply, I have no doubt they will pull you in as deep as they can to keep you praising them for being the best thing to ever happen to you. Due to some of the wording your response id say filled your ears with plenty about me. And thats fine ive made my stance. Don't be sucked in Matt, stand on your own two feet. Don't be a follower be a leader.

      On a side note, I have read some of your work on the cruz campaign and i did enjoy it. The only thing any of us can agree on is that he would make a fine President.


  7. In response to Todd,

    I have not been pulled in to anything. I sit in church with this family. They have helped my campaign effort in this area. I haven't asked for anything from any of their family members except for some time volunteering to do get out the vote efforts. They've done great work in that area.
    It sounds like you tried to get to know someone and when they didn't respond in the exact right way you wanted them to, you became spiteful. I don't appreciate your tone or your attempt to psychoanalyze me or any of the Bontrager family members.
    The only reason I posted the link to that blog post is the invitation to Marion Avenue Baptist Church has changed my life for the better and Marlin and the rest of the family have been a blessing. I hope to be able to carry the message of Marion Avenue to the world. There is no selfish pretense in what they did. Other than having shared interests regarding politics, leadership, faith and values, they have gained nothing financially from me nor I from them. What I have gained is a great group of friends and church home with a great pastor and people dedicated to winning souls for Jesus Christ.
    I might suggest that you actually get to know people before you speak out of turn against them. Feel free to respond to me personally if you need. My user name at gmail dot come will get you to my personal email.

  8. Good morning Todd,
    It has nothing to do with who gets the last comment. We would've kept posting all of your comments except that the last one (the one we didn't publish) contained inappropriate language about our Lord and Savior and as we say plainly above the comment box "comments containing hateful or unkind words or profanity will not be posted". Everyone knows that we are more than willing to post comments in which people disagree or even speak against our family. That is fine-we believe this is a free country. =)
    But when it comes to slandering the Lords name we will draw the line. You are welcome to have the "last word" as long as you can do so in a decent manner.
    -the Bontragers

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