2.26.2015

Winter Tour//Week 5

Week #5 was spent mostly in the recording studio in Nashville+ giving concerts in Tennessee and South Carolina.

As you know, we always love the opportunity to hang out with little people (photo above:).  We were grateful for sweet friends and family we got to hang out with, too.  We are blessed by so much love and kindness across the miles!
Liz with friends
A rousing game of "church" with friends.
Concert time!
So.......there is a story behind this photo.  We have matching concert outfits for everyone, and someway, someone (we won't say who:) threw Hudson's black pants in the laundry on a day when we weren't washing clothes.  Come concert time, Hudson couldn't find his dress pants.  After discovering that they were in the laundry, we made the decision to NOT retrieve them from the mountain of smelly laundry (thank goodness!:)  The only option left was for Huds to wear jeans.  It made for a funny story as we did instructions on stage and explained why one member of the family was dressed differently.:)  And, hey, he looked pretty sharp, I think!
We got to spend a morning with my aunt Barb, Uncle John, and cousin Merle in South Carolina.
Cousin Merle is a math teacher, so he did a little impromptu tutoring for Taylor.
Aunt Barb's fresh strawberry pie is AMAZING!!!!
Little Miss Rebecca did school work in between recording her parts.
Elizabeth in session
Denver looks pretty comfortable here!  He did a great job on his first time recording mandolin parts.
Mother.......singing!
Oh yeah!!!  These were the good times!  When various ones of us weren't needed to record, we hung out in the lounge, waiting for our turn.  There was lots of eating and studying done!
Carson....looking pretty serious!  Carson is perhaps the best multi-tasker of all us instrumentalists!  He was probably studying Spanish while he recorded his bass parts.:)
Chelsy and Mitchell spent a lot of time in the engineering room, listening and analyzing.
This is me.....waiting to record my part.
Mitchell recorded one or more instruments on nearly every song.  We are so thankful for his skills!
Recording vocals
Let's see....not quite sure what this little series of photos is all about.  Possibly the caption could be, "This is how I feel about recording.":)
Charlie, our studio engineer, is so FABULOUS!!!  Wow....this guy is talented, encouraging, and just plain good at what he does.  He is the one that records, re-records, cuts and pastes, and so many technical things in between!
It has been a pleasure working with Trey Ivy, our producer.  He is an absolute whiz at theory and music, and super creative in arranging and creating harmony parts.  We have been incredibly blessed by his dedication.
We were so blessed to record at Beech Creek Studios for the first time.  When we got there, we realized that the owners of the studio are the creators/owners of Cedarmont Kids.  When Chels, Mitch, and I were little, we LOVED watching the Cedarmont Kids VHS's.  They were good, fun, Biblical kids movies and we thought the little kids that acted on them were so cool!  It turned out that we got to meet Robert and Marti, the two main "kid actors" on the movies.  Their father owns the studio, and they were in and out helping/working while we were there!  The whole family is such a blessing, and their studio is so professional and well equipped.  We highly recommend the Gay family's Beech Creek Studio.
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Thank you to everyone who hosted us in in Tennessee and South Carolina!  We also can't say how very much we appreciate all our friends who pray for and encourage us as we travel.  You bless us so much!

"In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death." -Proverbs 12:28

-posted by Allison

2.14.2015

Winter Tour 2015//Week 4

The beginning of week #4 found us at one of our favorite events of the year-the Alabama ReNew Hope Prison Crusade! If you were to ask pretty much anyone in our family where our favorite place is to sing, you would hear that it is most definitely prison! It has been one of the greatest blessings I have ever experienced in my life, to be able to be involved in prison ministry, and I am SO grateful to my parents for making this ministry a priority for our family. The last ten years of prison ministry have shaped and molded my life in so many ways.

The week began with the Sunday rally, which is always an amazing time of worship, challenges from the Word, and reconnecting with all of our old crusade friends. 
(Denver, Carson, & I at Burger King with these dear friends)

During the days of the crusade, we were parked at the hotel with a group of the other singing families. We stayed busy with school, laundry, office work, and a myriad of other projects before heading into the prisons each day around mid-afternoon. We also were able to squeeze in a special outings/games/discussions with the other families.

Sadly we don't have any pictures of our prison services, because we aren't allowed to take phones or cameras inside the prisons. We had four incredible services filled with so many answers to prayer. God moved in mighty ways! Mitchell preached for us this year and he connected with the prisoners so well. Every night we saw souls saved and broken lives being mended and restored. It was an amazing week. There are too many stories to list but suffice to say we saw God working all week long in so many ways that strengthened our faith!
A definite highlight of the week was getting to meet with our friend Robert and his wife. Robert has an incredible testimony-he was an inmate at one of the prisons we sang at four years ago during a crusade and he got saved in our service. Afterwards he wrote our family and told us his testimony, and how it was Rebecca singing "Jesus Loves Me" that touched his heart and convicted him of his need for salvation. Throughout the years he has written our family at various times to let us know how he is doing and how he is living for the Lord and growing in his faith. He got out of prison three months ago and we were able to meet up with him for the first time. Hearing his testimony again and also hearing what all God has been doing in his life since he got out of prison....was so incredible. 
It is awesome to think that God was able to use a little three year to touch the heart of a hardened criminal, and now to see how the Lord has changed his heart and his life! It just goes to show that God can use ANYONE-old or young-to be His ambassador of the gospel!
After the intense days involved in prisons ministry and other concerts, we were all excited for a Saturday off at our favorite Florida spot. This place does southern hospitality like none other-we always feel like kings and queens when we are there. =) But best of all it is where mom's brother &  his family live, and that is what makes it the most special!

good conversations...
And work time! The guys have so much energy that gets bottled up in that bus. So whenever we are parked somewhere my dear mother will beg our hosts to please give the boys some work projects to do. =)
Fun with cousin Nic, riding the long zipline in the backyard.
No words. Except that yes, this lizard was real. And NO, it was not my idea to take this picture. =)
The guys were starting to get a little shaggy so Allison set up her barber shop on the back porch and gave all of them haircuts.
We always learn strange new things when we are with cousin Nic. =) I never thought it would be possible to get a spoon to stay suspended off of ones nose. But Nic has all sorts of tricks in his bag! During our time there, several Bontragers became quite proficient in this, ahem, "skill".
Kitchen time! Our dear aunt let us cook and bake to our hearts' content! We were all having fresh cookie cravings so we made ?? batches that afternoon. 
And yes, Denver is really taller than me. I don't know how it happened. He gets the award for growing the most in 2014. Five foot six...and climbing! =)
For dinner we had "make your own" pizzas. We did this last year when we were there and it was such a huge hit that they did it again for us. What fun.
Intense and hilarious midnight rounds of "Catch Phrase". =)
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Many thanks to all of the other dear people in Alabama & Florida who blessed our family during week four! 

"The LOVE of family is one of life's greatest blessings."

{posted by chelsy}

2.12.2015

Winter Tour 2015//Week 3

Week #3 of our winter tour found us in the grand states of Alabama + Georgia!
Josh sharing scripture at one of our concerts.
Part of our family has recently embarked on various workout programs. Allison + Carson have been leading this new adventure with all of their previous experience (they are our workout pros!) and they have been faithful + patient with encouraging the rest of us to "get on board + get fit!" =)
Yes, we workout everywhere + anywhere. Even in a church sanctuary. =)
pre-concert smiles with Carson + Rebecca!
We spent three days parked at some dear friends' country home and guest house in the woods of Georgia. What a wonderful time-we were so in need of some off-time and space to spread out and work! Our days there were filled with piles of office work, laundry, cooking projects, bus maintenance, deep cleaning, and of course wonderful conversations and laughter with our friends.
And of course...one of the highlights was once again cooking in a real kitchen!
You never know how much you love your kitchen until you don't have it for three months. Simply things like unlimited running water and a stove top are much more appreciated!
Allison made this aMAZing cake one night. You probably won't believe this, but it was completely sugar AND gluten free! (be watching my blog for the recipe, to be posted soon!)
Lots of room in the country to run...and play football!
Double date for the parents!
...and early morning workouts
bus maintenance time!
Cooking up all sorts of yummy concoctions! These were delicious little bacon-wrapped chicken bites I made one night-so delicious and gourmet in their sauce of worcestershire sauce, honey, and ketchup!
Mom preparing casseroles for breakfast
storytime with Carson!
Singing at our friend Troy's church is always a highlight! The church ladies fed us a delicious meal + their whole church welcomed us with warm southern hospitality + fun signs all over the church.
(smile)

Once again a HUGE thank-you goes to all of the Georgia and Alabama churches we sang at during our third week on the road, and to all of the gracious southern ladies who made us yummy meals and blessed us so much! We love y'all!

"Bless the LORD, oh my soul; and ALL THAT IS WITHIN ME, bless His holy name."
Psalm 103:1


(posted by Chelsy)