12.12.2014

Gingerbread Houses

Mother decided to have a gingerbread house making party with the littles this year!  We had a lovely time structuring and decorating the little houses.
The crew (sans Mother + me)
candy galore!!!  
Hudson, Javan, and I built a snowy little cabin-with a mint chimney!
Taylor and Liz were having a bit of trouble with their house collapsing, so they called in Carson the architect, and he helped them build a beautiful, sturdy gingerbread mansion.:)
Mother + Rebecca's little cottage
putting on the finishing touches
voila!!!  

12.10.2014

Thanksgiving with the Bontrager Side

Thanksgiving Day 2014 was spent with our wonderful and loud Bontrager relatives.:)  We missed the ones who couldn't make it, but the 40-something of us who were there had a blast!  
Before we ate dinner, my uncle asked the oldest child in each family to share something they were thankful for.  Guess what this little guy's family said they were thankful for?  A new little one on the way!!!  We love babies and children, and I am so grateful that my grandparents welcomed each little one as a gift.  Because they are gifts, and if my grandparents had "stopped" after six children, which is a "large" family by the world's standards....well, there would have been 11 less people (plus the baby on the way) at our family gathering.  And our family would be short one wonderful set of twins (my dad's two youngest siblings) and two equally wonderful in laws, as well as 7 adorable little cousins with another one on the way.
My grandmother loves her grandbabies!  Above, she is holding her 8th and newest great-grandchild, Asher.
Conversation around the table is always a highlight.  
Grandma's custard pie.....now that's a major highlight!!!
Cousins are the best.  Our cousins are the best.
This is "storytime with the newlyweds"!  (Plus the new Grandpa (Uncle Merle) and grandbaby and Uncle Leon.)  Our good friend, Jacob, recently married our cousin, Dorcas, and they are so sweet together!
We have a big dinner, of course, but in the evening (since we are so full from dinner:) everyone makes their yummiest snack recipes.  By the way, if you have never had ham wrapped pickles, you must try them.
Scattergories, Dutch Blitz, and Take One are favorite Bontrager games.
Oh, and Rook!
It looks like Take One has everyone a little intense here.
"Give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20)

-posted by Allison

Live Animal Christmas Play this Weekend!!

Get all the details here! We would LOVE to see some of you readers at the play this weekend! We are so excited about what all God has done in preparing the play this year and we are so excited for the actual show weekend to finally be here!

Even if you aren't able to come..please know that your prayers are very appreciated!
Also, just a reminder that you can order last years' dvd of the play here.

If you do come and we haven't met you yet...be sure to come up afterwards + introduce yourself! Most of our family will be in costume so you might have to watch closely to spot us as we will look a little different from normal! =)

And be sure to come EARLY!! (as in an hour early)
(Our church only seats 600 so if you aren't there early there is a very good chance you will get turned away.)

12.04.2014

Christmas Sale!!

We are so excited to announce this new Christmas special going on over at our family website!

We have just released our brand new family dvd, as well as begun selling "Christmas in the Heart", the newest dvd from our church's Live Animal Christmas Play

If you have read our blog for any length of time, then you know that for six months out of each year we travel the US & Canada in our bus, singing + making music wherever we go. Our new DVD is a compilation of some of our favorite songs, as well as bonus features + trailers. 

The other half of the year we spend at home sweet home, and in that time we are so blessed to be actively involved in our incredible church, Marion Avenue Baptist. Every November & December, our church pulls together to prepare + perform the annual Live Animal Christmas Play. The DVD "Christmas in the Heart" is last years' play and includes acting, staging, + effects by the people of our church, including our entire family.

We have a special Christmas sale going on right now featuring these two new products!
Head on over for some Christmas shopping! Sale lasts through December 18th!

11.29.2014

Young Women's Retreat Recap

Truly, God's gifts put men's best dreams to shame.  I didn't imagine, when I wrote this quote as my sista and I decorated for the upcoming Retreat, that He would do so far abundantly above what I could have asked or thought.  I can't fully impart in words the comraderie, the joy, the heart-changes, the healing- all the beautiful things my faithful Lord did at the Young Women's Retreat.  It was a privilege witness His faithfulness and love yet again.
The Retreat was held at my Grandmother's home, and my dear sister Chels and I went the evening before the Retreat to decorate.  Our goal was an aura of softness, femininity, and beauty.
My sister created this lovely large table by combining three 8ft tables and table clothes.
Coffee Central!!!  This table was very very beloved and oft-visited.  Vast amounts of coffee were consumed-I believe we drank upwards of six eighteen-cup pots of coffee!  The non-coffee-drinkers (poor things) enjoyed tea or hot cocoa.
The first evening we enjoyed a scrumptious Italian dinner prepared by Chelsy.  Lasagna, Garlic Green Beans, Salad, and French Bread was the evening's fare.
A dreamy Layered Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting completed the gourmet repast.
My sweet Aunt Wanda shared her journey of falling in love with Jesus, along with tips on understanding/accepting God's grace and love, and cultivating intimacy with Jesus.  She challenged us that, "It's not about the things we do, but the relationship we have with Jesus."  We were reminded that "We aren't His daughters because of worth, but because of birth".  She encouraged us to "shut off the noise" in our lives at times so that we can be quiet before Him.
There were many back rubs given during our time together; what girl doesn't like a good back rub?!
Mrs. Alzen shared a sweet challenge on the Beauty of the Secret Place.  A few notes from her talk:
-If your joy is not FULL, why?  Am I not abiding in Him, is there sin in my life, or am I wallowing in condemnation?
-Instead of prayer being a duty, it is an intimate relationship.
-Jesus is SO trustworthy!
-If I am not taking the little moments to fill from the Fountain, then my cup is empty.
-"Always be full so you can always be giving, because you cannot pour from an empty cup." (Jim Elliot)
Lunch was light, girly food- warm spinach artichoke dip, hummis, mango salsa, veggies, chip and crackers, chocolate covered strawberries, and chocolate dipped pretzel sticks.
My mother shared a beautiful talk on the True Heart of Modesty.  She challenged us with the following points:
1) What does God see?  Since He looks at our heart, that needs to be our FIRST priority.
2) What do others see?  Your face is the most important thing you can wear.  Let your smile be your most important asset.
3) How can I improve my wardrobe?  Invest in basic, quality staples.
She left us with this thought to ponder- "Look like you belong to Jesus.  Dress like a daughter of the King."
There were rousing games of Dutch Blitz.........
..and more back rubs!
Lasting friendships were forged as the young women met and shared their hearts with other young women on the same journey of loving Jesus!
There was a spontaneous worship session.  This adventure consisted of piling into two cars and driving to my house, where we violins and piano were played and voices lifted.
Grandma graciously her home for me to host the Retreat at.  Pictured above is Grandma with some of the girls.
A bunch of us did minty green face masks late one night.  We commemorated our rather startling green complexions with this photo!
Make-up sessions were conducted for those who wished to have their make-up done.  Various make-up techniques, products, and such were discussed.:)
There was sharing of hearts and much laughter as we learned and rejoiced together in our journey as young women.
Time alone with Jesus was sweet.  Much journaling and heart searching was done.
Conversations with kindred spirits were plentiful.
All manner of luggage was plentiful as well.:)
My dear sister, Chelsy, was invaluable- she helped make and serve food for several of the meals, as well as sharing an excellent talk on "Cultivating Refinement in a Culture of Vulgarity".  Her thoughts on Attitude, Conversation, Deportment, and Adornment were much-enjoyed and much-discussed.  She encouraged us with so many helpful suggestions such as, "Be a life-giver", "Carry yourself with grace and poise", "The first thing people perceive about you is your dress", and "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
This game was the source of much hilarity!  If you've never played "Signs", I highly recommend it!
The girls helped set the table with happy turqoise for our last meal together.
Warm cinnamon rolls and other delicicies graced the table.
The girls totally surprised me with a basket full of lovely gifts!  There was one for Chels, too, and we were blown away by their thoughtfulness.
This is our whole group, and in this group are many stories of how the Lord led them to the retreat and of beautiful things He is doing in their lives.  
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen." (Ephesians 3:2-21)

-posted by Allison