4.23.2018

Announcing the National Bible Bee Competition Show!

Since 2011, we have competed in the National Bible Bee. We're amazed at how the Lord has used the Bible Bee to transform our children's love for God and His Word.

We're excited to announce that beginning this Tuesday at 5pm EST, the National Bible Bee Competition Show will air on Facebook LIVE! If you never watched last year's competition, you can watch it Tuesday night! If you watched the National Competition live from Nationals last year, you will still enjoy being re-inspired by God's Word!

When you watch, you'll see Denver and Hudson compete on stage! You'll also see the top fifteen and top five contestants in each division powerfully recite the Word of God

In the words of the National Bible Bee,

"Don't miss the premiere of the National Bible Bee Competition Show, starting [this] Tuesday. Beginning April 24 at 8 PM Eastern, you have the opportunity to witness this heart-grabbing competition that highlights and honors the Word of God on National Bible Bee Facebook LIVE.

This six-episode show will feature the top 15 contestants in each age division from around the nation who memorized between 600 to 950 verses to compete in the 2017 National Bible Bee Competition.

Be challenged, encouraged and inspired by God’s Word in these fast-paced weekly episodes. Don't miss out on this amazing proclamation!"

Go to facebook.com/nationalbiblebee today to watch the trailer and learn more!

If you're interested in competing in this year's National Bible Bee Competition, be sure to read "Why Your Family Needs the Bible Bee." You can also view last's year recap here.

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." --Psalm 119:11


4.20.2018

Wrap-up From the Winter Tour!

Our three month winter tour began on January 15 and ended on April 12. The last 3 1/2 weeks of our circuitous journey took us through 11 states--Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and finally sweet Iowa. This post tells the story of the last leg of our trip. 
After an eventful border crossing, we traveled through Texas and New Mexico into Arizona.
While in Arizona, we sang in Tuscon, Phoenix, and Flagstaff. 
Some friends from Bible Bee took us on a scenic hike.
On our way from Arizona to California, we drove through Grand Canyon National Park. As we drove into the Canyon before sunrise, we watched golden rays of light steal up through the darkness, bathing the Canyon in splendor. Though we had seen pictures, we were awe-struck by the massiveness and spectacular grandeur of the Grand Canyon, a majesty impossible to fully comprehend until witnessed firsthand.  
We hiked part ways into the Grand Canyon. 
Joshua and Cassidy viewed the Grand Canyon on Joshua's 21st birthday. 
Inside the Kolb Studio, we learned the fascinating story of the daring Kolb brothers, 
who came in the early 1900s to photograph the Grand Canyon.
After Arizona, we headed to California for 2 1/2 weeks.
In the midst of a busy singing schedule, we visited Yosemite for a day. 
While we did go on quite a few hikes, we spent most of our time singing. Unfortunately, most of us were too focused during concerts to take pictures. Hence, the scarcity of concert photos in this post. 
Almost any place works for Denver to teach history to his voracious students.
We reconnected with these friends we hadn't seen for about nine years.

Sometimes it almost seems that every day is laundry day. Not quite.:)
Another famous hike. We have to find some place to exercise!

Practicing music in front of Walmart.
With friends in Oregon after a concert.
We were blessed by the incredible hospitably of many friends along the way.
Allison and Reebs posing before our last concert in Oregon.
We sang hymns and praised the Lord for 1 1/2 hours with these friends.
Smiles.:)
Work, ice cream, coffee, and heart to heart conversation constitute an excellent recipe!
After our last concert in Colorado, we drove straight home to Iowa!
Josh and Cass have enjoyed diving back into home life.
The dairy barn provides many opportunities for exercise, reflection, and industry. 
After using scattered laundromats all across the US, doing laundry in one place is a blessing!
The cooks of the family have been enjoying an immobile, spacious kitchen. 
We'll be hitting the road again on June 9. Stay tuned to see our full summer tour coming next week!

As we reflect on the tour, we're thankful for God's goodness along every step of the way. We're also thankful for the many people who encouraged and blessed us in countless ways. We're thankful for God's grace, a rich grace that allows us to fully complete the duty that He calls each one of us to. 

We're also reminded how much we need revival. "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14). We must humble ourselves, pray, seek God's face, and repent. True revival begins within the church, as individual Christians humbly surrender all to the Lordship of Christ and strive glorify Him in every thought, word, and deed. 

If we are to experience another Great Awakening, it must begin in the church. "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep..." (Romans 13:11).

May we all pray that God would revive our hearts. May each one of us daily become more grateful to Him for who He is and what He has done. May we live our lives by His Word alone. Only eternity will tell the results of our faithfulness. 

"Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men." --Psalm 31:19

4.11.2018

John + Chelsy || 12.30.2017

Where do I even start? Chelsy and John's wedding day was perfect in every way! I (Allison) don't think I can adequately describe it in mere words. This day was such a culmination of years of prayers and hope. John and Chelsy were faithful, living their single years with intention, waiting tirelessly when they were mocked for being "too picky", joyfully cheering on friends who got married, knowing that God was capable of writing a love story beyond what they could dream. December 30th, they pledged themselves to each other in a beautiful covenant of love. It was a day in which a bit of heaven came to earth. Join me as I relieve John and Chelsy's Wedding Day.
"A symbol of eternal love, the humble wedding ring has been about for years.....an emblem of love through time, a symbol of devotion and an agreement between two parties to love and cherish one another for the rest of their days. Wedding rings are, of course, circular in shape....a circle has no beginning or end and is therefore a symbol of infinity.  It is endless, eternal, just the way love should be." -PortfolioOfFineDiamonds.com
Chelsy has always been classy, her tastes elegant yet simple. Her choices of details and colors on this day matched that style perfectly.
".....prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." -Revelation 21:2
I love the symbolism in weddings. Even the early morning getting ready, the painstaking attention to every detail of herself as Chelsy anticipated seeing her beloved.......so much more we as Christ's church should be consumed with preparing ourselves for His coming.
.....every detail had to be perfect......
....and finally she was ready!
Chelsy and John planned a first look with just their photographer. The setting was perfect.
"....whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge." Ruth 1:16
"If I could have anyone in the world, it would still be you."
We couldn't be happier with John as Chelsy's husband! He is absolutely perfect for her, and such a strong yet sensitive man. He loves and cares for her very, very well. And John fits SO good with our family! From the beginning, we have all loved him. When Chelsy and John were getting to know each other, John spent many weekends at our house, and we all looked forward to having him around. We couldn't have been more thrilled when he officially joined the family!
Our beautiful Chelsy.
The dashing groomsmen: John chose his brothers, brothers-to-be, and best friend.
Since we were little girls, Chels told me I would be her maid of honor. The reality was way better than our little girl plans! Being her right hand lady, right by her side for her wedding day, was incredible!
This photo of Chelsy and Elizabeth is so beautiful!
Chelsy asked her sisters, sister-to-be, childhood best friend/cousin, and our pastor's wife (who she is very close friends with) to be her bridesmaids.
The entire Bridal Party.
The whole Bontrager Family. We've grown by six in the past year (counting the two babies on the way!).  
All the Bontrager girls (left to right): Carolina (married to Carson), Rebecca, Cassidy (married to Joshua), Chelsy, Elizabeth, Allison, and Bryn (married to Mitchell)
Chelsy with her Brothers.
John, Chelsy, Mother, and Father
mother and daughter
Chelsy has a very special relationship with Grandma Bontrager. 
Chelsy and John planned for some of the bridal party to help with ushering/greeting the wedding guests. 
John gave a sweet welcome to all the guests. His (and Chelsy's) heart for all the guests to feel loved and special was evident from the moment the ceremony started.
John walking Mother in.
ready........
These little guys (John's nephews) rang bells to begin the bridal procession.
The girls (John's nieces) sprinkled flower petals.
John's face says it all! Total anticipation, complete joy..........his bride was coming!
Entrance of the bride.......
.....on her father's arm. It was a perfect moment.
a few tears mixed with utter happiness.
Giving their firstborn away.
Chelsy and John started the ceremony by leading in worship. It was beautiful.
Dad shared during the ceremony.
So many family and friends came to celebrate with us.
John and Chelsy shared their gratitude for their parents' investment in their lives.
The parents prayed over the couple.
I will let Chelsy tell the full drone story (because she is a much better storyteller than me).....but suffice to say it was hilarious! You'll have to watch her blog for the whole scoop! I'm really glad my sis married into a family with some really quality humor.:)  Are you curious yet?
And then the vows......oh my! Chels made made her wedding ceremony memorable and hilarious by FORGETTING her vows! Again, I am sure she will be telling the whole story, but it was certainly another unforgettable moment when the pastor said, "And now you may say your vows to John" and she gasped, "I don't have them!"
After a hurried run (from which we weren't sure they would return!) to retrieve the vows, they were back!
This picture is classic Chelsy + John- free spirited, enthusiastic, and quick to laugh!
"Together is a beautiful place to be."
Signing the marriage license......it was getting real!
While John and Chelsy prayed together....
....we sang "Battle Hymn of Love.
First Kiss!!!!!!
And they're married!!!!! Our pastor announced the "New Mr. and Mrs. John Maxwell" amidst loud cheering and applause!
And he carried her out!
Allison + Jesse (maid of honor and best man)
Carson + Carolina
Mitchell + Bryn
Joshua + Cassidy
Elizabeth + Denver + Rebecca
Sarah + Taylor
Mary + Hudson + Anna
Chelsy and John had couple portraits taken at a few different locations, including our friend's beautiful Victorian home in Washington.
"A true relationship is two imperfect people refusing to give up on each other."
Chelsy prayed for snow on her wedding day, and snow it did! The Winter Wonderland was all she had dreamed of and more.
So many friends helped make the reception happen. It was a big, beautiful party- just what John and Chels wanted.
The coffee bar was amazing!
The menu was fun, simple, and filling.
We were overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity of countless people who stepped in to serve and make the day happen! To all of you reading this, THANKS! We were humbled and blessed by your kindness.
Dessert: Cheesecake and Cupcakes
Mocha Cheesecake (Chelsy's Favorite)
Vanilla Berry Cheesecake
Salted Caramel Cheesecake (John's favorite)
The bride and groom made their entrance shortly after the reception commenced.
The open mic time was sweet, with special words from various members of the bridal party, family, and friends.
     It was so special to have many out of state family + friends make the effort to be at the wedding. 
Cake Cutting! (with white cake for John and chocolate cake for Chelsy:)
This picture captures John and Chelsy so well- they are all about relationships. People mean more than anything to them, and they stayed at their reception for hours to talk with their guests. 
And they're off!!!!
Chelsy and John came back about 10 minutes after their "official" departure to say a private goodbye to their families.
The last goodbyes were incredibly special, and a bit emotional. We all felt so loved that Chelsy and John wanted to tell each of us goodbye. 
And there you have it! Chelsy and John's wedding day. The first day of a lifetime together! 
"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." -Matthew 19:6

ps. For more pictures from the wedding day, along with Chelsy's perspective + stories, visit Chelsy's Blog. You can also find links for the bridal party outfits here.