3.28.2020

Mitch+Bryn-Update Series

Mitchel and Bryn are having a blast managing the Dutch Country Inn! Constantly working to make updates and improve as much as possible, one step at a time. They love working together and spending much of their day helping each other with various responsibilities. Micah loves "helping" with laundry (aka throwing anything he's carrying into the washer) and watching it spin! Micah keeps them busy and laughing all the time. He runs all over and tries to copy their words, and is the funniest little guy!

Their little family is so much fun to be around and we love having them as part of our clan!
Micah loves the water! 
"Nack"(snack) with Jubilee! She thought something was quite funny!
Special Valentines dinner!
So proud to sit in mama's rocking chair!
Kitchen projects
Starting music lessons young! 
Enjoying some afternoon sunshine!
Hope you enjoyed this peak into their lives! 

3.27.2020

Winter Tour- Part 2 (Mexico)

We spent about ten days in Mexico at the beginning of the month. We enjoyed singing at about ten different venues, fellowshipping with many families in their homes, and eating a variety of yummy food! We are thankful for all of you who were praying for us during the tour! We saw souls come to Christ and were able to encourage those who were already Christians. 
Here's a recap of the trip!
We started out the trip with a flat tire! With road life, there are plenty of opportunities to learn flexibility!
The sunsets and sunrises were spectacular! 
We sang at a variety of places, including a rehab center, a community center, gymns, and churches.
Fellowship with friends!
More loveliness!
The papaya and avocado are plentiful and delicious!
After concert conversations!
Surprisingly enough, our concerts are in German Mennonite communities rather than in Spanish towns or villages! They truly have their own language and culture. It has been a privilege to share with them each winter for a few weeks for the past 6 years. 
Oh, the beauty of Mexican skies!
On an off day, the children got to swim with some friends from one of the areas that we sang in.
Lunch date at a Mexican restaurant.
Concert at a community center.
We were especially blessed by the many times that we were invited to fellowship with families in their homes! Concerts were and are a great ministry, but getting to connect on a personal level is a great privilege.
One day, we enjoyed eating some very authentic Mexican food. This yummy dish, called "sandals" in English, was made with fresh handmade blue corn tortillas loaded with black beans, grilled rib eye steak, delicious Mexican cheese, red onions,  & avocado slices and then topped with green tomatillo sauce,  cream, and a red tomato sauce to represent the Mexican flag.  
Mexico doesn't get snow very often, but it snowed while we were there!
A wonderful evening with friends began around the grill as they cooked steaks, ribs, and onions. 
"Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art,
How great Thou art!"

3.26.2020

"Create A Better Brain"- a book review

Are you in search of more brain power?  Do you want to be more thankful?  Would you like to help your child increase his IQ?  Do you have an autistic child?  Are you struggling with depression?  Do you want to revitalize your marriage? Are you seeking for ways to revolutionize your homeschool? Do you need help to overcome an addiction? Are you experiencing difficulty in relating to others? 
If you said “YES” to one or more of these questions then please read this powerful, insightful, and interesting book,  “Create A Better Brain”. Although the title states that this is a “Manual for Mommas”, let me suggest than anyone ages around 13 years and older would benefit from applying the principles in this book.  With 20 chapters and and 261 pages, this book covers a lot of material but is still an easy read.
In “Create A Better Brain”, Debi Pearl explains the brain and how it works in terms that even an non-scientist like me can understand.  She explains neuroplasticity, the science of how the brain is wired by our thoughts and actions,  by telling the fascinating story of how Pedro Bach-y-Rita’s brain was rewired after he suffered from a major stroke which destroyed 95% of his brain.
In Chapter 2, she goes on to tell us that “Neuroplasticity has taught us that the first year of a child’s life is critically important to the quality of their intellectual and emotional development.” She tells us that “Science has proven that your child’s emotional strength and mental well-being are not inherited but are a product of what we introduce into their world.”  If you are a parent, you have a tremendous responsibility to nurture, to care for, to protect, to talk with, to enjoy, and to guard your children, and to do all you can to give them a secure and joyful childhood.
“The Gift of Music” was one of my favorite chapters, probably because my parents have always been lovers of music.  I have fond memories of singing hymns with my family as a young girl.  Little did I know that those feelings of joy and security that I had while I singing with my family would give me a love for music for the rest of my life!  Truly, music has many wonderful effects on the brain.
I have studied health for many years, so naturally, the “Brain-Gut Connection” was another favorite chapter.  Debi tells us about some practical food that will improve your health as well as reminding us that our thought life also has a large influence on our well-being.
There is whole chapter devoted to Autism and how “Neuroplasticity has taught us that there is hope for everyone."  Again, she uses a real life story to tell us of the many ways in which parents can make a difference in the life of an autistic child.
In a media-dominated culture, this book would not be complete without explaining how research has confirmed the detrimental effects of media on all of us, but especially of how harmful this is to the brain of a young child.
Some of my personal take aways from this book are the following:
1. Real success starts with thankfulness.  
2. Be aware of my response to potentially stressful situations.
3. Train my children to learn from the hard things of life rather than to be hurt or broken by them. Every negative experience, from falling down and skinning a knee to painful events like losing loved one, should be viewed as and opportunity to always focus o the good.
4. Be addicted to productivity, justice, mercy, love, grace, and faith.
In conclusion, this book has so much to offer to all of us in any season of life.  Whether you are young or old, single or married, a parent with young children or  a grandparent, living in a large family or by yourself-there is something for you to learn in this book because “it is never too late to rewire the brain”!
Click here to order your own copy of "Create A Better Brain"!
Philippians 4:8 “ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

3.25.2020

8 Ideas for your "At Home Days"

If you're like us, you're spending more time at home during this season! Time at home is a good thing, but you may be wishing for a little inspiration and some ideas for fun + special things to do together. Here are a few ideas! We hope they are a blessing.
1.Read a book aloud
(Of course this depends on your situation, because if you live by yourself, you don't want to read to your apartment walls!) If you have a younger sibling, pick out a book and read to them every afternoon. Or read aloud together as a family in the evenings! What a great way to spend quality time together! Our family loves reading G.A. Henty books + Lamplighters. Maybe purchase a few new ones for this season!
2.Play a game
Our family is on a Dutch Blitz kick right now! And during this slightly slower season, we're enjoying playing more games. Here are some favs:
-Ticket To Ride
-Settlers of Catan
-Bonanza
-Take 1 (played with scrabble tiles. It's similar to Bannanagrams)
- Rook
-Monopoly
-Boggle
-Chess

2.Play a game
Our family is on a Dutch Blitz kick right now! And during this slightly slower season, we're enjoying playing more games. Here are some favs:
-Ticket To Ride
-Settlers of Catan
-Bonanza
-Take 1 (played with scrabble tiles. It's similar to Bannanagrams)
- Rook
-Monopoly
-Boggle
-Chess
-Carsassonne
-Taboo
3.Go on a walk or sit and drink tea
Especially if the weather is nice, put on your shoes, grab a jacket and head out with a sibling, son/daughter or friend for a walk! But if it's cold or you're wanting to stay inside, make a cup of something hot (chai anyone?!) and sit down for a heart to heart with a family member. Or if you live alone, call up a friend!

4.Have a work or reading party
Just because you can't go to work or school anymore may not mean that you don't have work or school to do! So call together some siblings, children, or a friend and sit in your living room with your laptop or school book and work in one another's presence. A group of us did that the other day and it was super fun!  Or you can all grab your favorite book and sit together and read. This is great for evenings!
5.Gather in the kitchen and bake together
Make something special together. If your a large family like us, it takes Christmas Eve to all actually work in the kitchen together. But take this season to all gather and bake! You could pair up (if you're a large family) and make a favorite appetizer, or if there's just two of you, bake something sweet for dinner!

6.Watch a movie
Gather in you living room as a family and watch a movie! Here are a few great ones for the family!
1. A Man Called Peter
2. Indescribable
3. Facing the Giants
4. Captain's Courageous
5. Sheffy

7.Send a package to a friend or someone in need
It's more blessed to give than receive and now is a perfect time to practice that! Send a little gift to bring some cheer to someone's day. Or you may have an older friend who's feeling lonely. Send them a special treat or give them a call!
You might know of a friend or family who is struggling right now and doesn't have as much as you do, so send them a card and some money.
8.Get creative and DO SOMETHING OUT OF THE BOX!
You all may have just had the way you do things and have done them for the last two-hundred and fifty years (ha!), but who says you can't have a picnic in the bedroom (like us ladies did the other day), eat breakfast for dinner, or grab sleeping bags and have a campout in your living room, or dress up and have a fancy dinner! This is a great time to do a few of those special and extra fun things. Come up with something new and let us know in the comment section below what you did!

And above all, remember to bring glory to God in whatever you do! Be a beacon of light to those around you who don't know Jesus. Now is a great time to show the world that we as Christians aren't fearful, because Jesus is our Anchor! So wherever you go (that probably won't be very many places, but we all still need groceries!), wear a smile and tell someone about our amazing Savior and His love for them!

 I hope these ideas were inspirational and helpful!
What ones were your favorites or what do you do as a family to make memories?

"I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."
Psalm 16:8

3.24.2020

This Was Our Life:

October, November, and December Recap...

 Late nights. Combine and tractor brake-downs. Grocery shopping for hungry children. Memories. Sleep or lack of:). Christmas Show practices. Music lessons. Birthdays. Bible Bee. Church. Company. More Memories.Yes, this was our life October-December.

But amidst all that, we still took much delight in the simple sweetness of mealtime conversations, time with our Savior, and enjoying one another!

(Yes, this post is old and should have been posted sooner, but enjoy nonetheless!)
We took advantage of our first snow!
Shopping/lunch/sister time
In October, we all traveled out to NY for our dear Grandpa's funeral. Forty-four of the fifty grandchildren sang a few songs during the funeral.
 We always love brunch with these dear ones! 
 It doesn't matter so much where or in what position.The point is that the verses get recited!
Denver worked for Bontrager Family Applicators this fall. (The custom manure hauling business that Dad, Carson and Mitchel own together.) This job makes for perfect sibling time!
Hudson turned 14 in October!
Evening at Mitchel+Bryn's
In the fall, Dad stayed busy harvesting corn and soy beans.
The day was always brighter when a grand-baby was at the wheel! 
Or when a child came to ride along!
Practicing for the Bible Bee! 
And then there are always "those days".......
Candlelight service at our church.
On Sunday mornings, Liz loved to go help our Pastor's wife get her kids ready for church!
This fall, the ladies worked on taking time to stop, rest and read a good book! Chai Lattes accompanied that very well!
 Lets just say, memories were made! This is recording(for our church's Live Animal Christmas Show) at its finest. When you've been in the studio for 5 1/2 hours, it takes a little extra grace and patience!
Our church's Live Animal Christmas Show was a busy but very fun time for our family!
These are the nights that make life special-those evenings when we take a break from the busyness of life to stop, re-connect and cherish each other.
A special tradition in our house is for Dad and Mom to take the birthday child out on a date. Well, Rebecca turned twelve in September during one of our tours, so with all that was going on during that time it didn't happen until the next month. But, the point is, it happened!
We enjoyed hosting people around the dinner table!
Wallace is being chill! 
A rare moment in History. Take a deep breath!
Donut day!
Fall decorating means a trip to the nearest corn field!
Chels and Axton were able to make it for a few visits last fall. We loved spending time with them!
Errands with the big sis!
Ladies fall brunch at Cassidy's!
Nothing like a good game of memory.
Denver is no longer a teenager! On the 5th of December, he turned 20!
The home family+Grandma went to John and Chelsy's for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time with them!
And of course we LOVED all the snuggles with Axton!
Sunday sibling brunch (plus Charlie, who was staying with us while working for Bontrager Family Applicators)
Coffee shop sister date!
Company!
All the loveeeeeeee!!!!
There may be LOTS of other projects calling your name, but that doesn't stop stomachs from growling, so the pleasure of cooking+baking still continues!
The eight hour drive to the National Bible Bee was full of memories for these guys! Best friends=fun!
Lots of friends to catch up with friends while there!
Adrenalin/Pounding Hearts/Anticipation in the air
This is the Bible Bee!
On December 18, Elizabeth turned 16!
What a glorious sunset to remind us of our Lord's faithfulness!

"Know therefor that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations."
Deuteronomy 7:9