1.30.2014

Road Life Snapshots


Ever wonder what we do on the road when not practicing for, setting up for, tearing down from, or actually doing concerts?  Well, here's a small glimpse.  Following are several random snapshots from our daily life, as well as some major activities on our "to-do list" while traveling:
school
The back room of our bus has become rather a sort of office.  It's the place for making phone calls, studying, writing, and having meetings.
Mitchell helping Liz with school.
Taylor doing schoolwork.
more schoolwork.:)  Mother is really good about giving the kids assignments that they need to complete before they can play.  Typically, they do school most days in the week, taking a break Sunday and one or two other days, as specified by mother.  They do some in the summer, too, in order to get it done.  it's a little different now that half of us are finished.  There aren't any more little people learning to read these days.:)  
We take turns with kitchen privileges on the road.
As you can tell, Mitchell is super sweet in helping with the little ones' school.  Here, he is supervising Rebecca doing her reading drills.
Josh cooking
Denver has become our self-apointed shoe-shiner.  He does a great job!
Some of the younger ones got out there instruments at Tim Horton's in Canada one day this summer, and the got some nice tips for their playing.:)
Carson makes delicious grilled salmon!
Mitchell is usually in charge of washing the bus.
Who says work can't be fun?  

Liz helped water the beautiful flowers at one church last summer.  We love doing work projects as we travel!
You never know what position you may find someone sleeping in.  Some people in particular are notorious for activities such as sleep walking, spilling out of their bed, making sounds while sleeping, etc.  Annddd........ all us kids sleep in the same room (in the bus), so it can get pretty interesting!
This little sweetie wanted to try out one of our violins.
There is lots of music practice going on anywhere at any given moment.:)
Huds looking on as Carson does some target practice.
Mitchell and Carson frequently help dad with the us driving.
laundry.  oh yeah!  We do it anywhere, everywhere: 
*churches- a few churches have laundry facilities.:)
*rv parks
*sweet friends' houses- some people don't know what they're getting into when they offer for us to do laundry at their home. "Are you sure you want all ????? loads of our dirty laundry dragged into your house?"
*laundromats- above we "moved into" the Winkler Clean 'n' Wash Center.:)  The dear gentlemen brothers helped haul the laundry in, and Josh and Liz stayed to help me (Allison) do the laundry (and keep me company, I won't deny:). Yes, some of you may be aware that Chelsy is "the laundry Queen".  It is true.  I don't pretend to be her equal when it comes to doing laundry.  But I need a little practice once-in-a-while, not?
and Rebecca had an obviously prosperous shopping trip, above.  Rebecca does enjoy the chance to go grocery shopping, especially to Costco.  Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that Costco often has lots of yummy samples, right?:)  I should also mention that my mother is an excellent shopper, with a great eye for deals on healthy food.  


1.28.2014

ReNew Hope Prison Crusade 2014

We arrived here in Montgomery, Alabama, late Saturday night. 
The prison crusade rally (orientation/training) was all day Sunday, and was attended by all 400+ singing groups/evangelists/volunteers.
Once again it was such a blessed time of meeting up again with many many old friends, and making new ones as well! 
The theme of the crusade this year is the prodigal son and the "extravagant love of the Father". 
There were several messages about this that were so encouraging and challenging.
Our family shared a few songs in the afternoon.
"the littles".
I have to just brag on them for a minute-they have been working SO hard this past year, learning to fill in the shoes of their older siblings. Each of them has 1-3 instruments that they practice faithfully every day, five days a week. In addition, they have been working even more on harmonizing together. 
The song they are singing above is in three part harmony and I never tire of hearing it-it is SO BEAUTIFUL to hear all those little voices harmonizing together!
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Last night was our first prison service of the week. We were so excited to be singing again at Tutwiler women's prison. We hadn't been there for several years and it is one of our favorite prisons to sing at so we were thrilled to be back there.
The whole service was absolutely incredible-such a blessing. Its hard to put it into words but to sum it up I would say that there was no where else I would've rather been last night.
A number of ladies came forward at the invitation for salvation and there were also many that came forward to be prayed with and encouraged. It was such an amazing time-God was SO THERE.
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Today, we'd ask all of you blog readers to please be in prayer with us for the weather. 
For whatever reason it seems that everyone thinks that we are "vacationing in the sunny south" currently. Not so! Last week when we left Texas we barely missed a big ice storm and we are currently in the middle of another one here in Alabama. Sadly this has caused basically all of today's prison services to be cancelled. So instead of preparing to go into the prisons, all of us and the other 100ish Montgomery area volunteers/singing groups are spending the day here at the hotel base. Not exactly where we'd all prefer to be; we would all much rather be in prison right now, honestly! But we're trusting that God has a plan in all of this, and praying that the weather would clear and warm up quickly so that we'd all be able to go back in tomorrow!
If y'all would join with us in praying for that, we would be grateful!
And also for the inmates-the crusade is a huge highlight for them and I'm sure they are all disappointed too.
Thank-you!
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And since we DO have to be stuck in a hotel, we are making the most of it and there are multiple parties of different sorts going on. =) I'm currently sitting here writing in the hotel lobby. Just a few feet away is a group of various people, jamming and singing. There are discussions going on at other areas of the lobby. A group is playing games in one of the conference rooms. Our family is getting ready to meet some dear friends for lunch in another conference room. I'm sure tonight there will be much more music and prayer/sharing, as has happened in past years when we've had weather issues and not been able to go into the prisons.

posted by chelsy

1.14.2014

{December in Review}

December was a wonderful month!  You've already heard about company, Christmas play, holiday celebrations, and such.  Today I'm bringing a final "December Recap" of some home moments.  True, a few of these are from the first few days of January, but oh well.:)
//lovely winter weather//
Contrary to popular belief, not all the Bontragers are jumping up and down saying "YES!!!!  We get to go South where it's warm and miss out on all the brrrrrr Iowa winter weather!"  For many of us, it is very bittersweet to leave Iowa for the majority of the winter months.  
//projects//
Denver and Dad built some great new shelves for our "wood room" in the basement.  
//random memories//
This is Rebs and I in our pj's prior to our family slumber party in the living room on Christmas Eve.
Carson showed himself very competent at slicing up the big ham we had for dinner one Sunday.
Holiday food-Mitchell making chocolate covered almonds.
Dad cutting onions for a salad another Sunday.
(our men aren't typically in the kitchen a whole lot but we often all work together on Sunday dinners and they help out)
Levi and Gideon helped me in the kitchen- are they not the most adorable little guys ever?  I'm pretty much completely smitten, if you can't tell.  Our friends, the Fikes, moved to Iowa from Florida just a few days before we left on our trip.  I got to help watch their five adorable littles on moving in day.  
//packing//
Taylor making beds in the bus
Huds vacuuming the hallway in the bus
Dad made the most awesome, handy-dandy laundry shoot ever!  It is in the closet in the bus, and it goes down to the bay (storage compartment under the bus) where a laundry basket catches the laundry.
Taylor pulling things out of the cupboards to pack
Mother getting frozen food to pack
Liz carrying a load out to the bus
Mother and Taylor working in the bus
Our poor dining room table!!!  It got loaded and loaded and loaded with stuff of all sorts.  I tell you, you wouldn't believe how much stuff it takes for a family of twelve for three months!  We packed clothes, food, schoolbooks, games, books, instruments, sound equipment, cd's and books to sell, kitchen supplies, gifts (we pack some birthday gifts, as well as buying some along the way), shoes, towels, washcloths, toiletries, paper supplies, etc.
This is a classic "Taylor" look.  
//hunting//
Carson shot a deer just a few days before we left.
Carson got this recipe from a friend, and man, was it ever yummy!!!
You take deer backstrap, stuff it with cream cheese, jalapenos, and Worchestershire sauce, wrap it in bacon, and bake it.  ahhhhhh!!!!!
This man is becoming quite a cook, by the way.
//playing in the snow//
The night before we left on tour, all of us kids went out and tore around in the snow.  It was lovely weather, and just the right amount of snow.  We really wanted to all play in the snow together before we left for the winter, and this evening was the perfect "last hurrah".
Dad got this tube for us and it was our first time using it.
Mitchell and Carson took turns driving tractor.  A bunch of us piled on and away we went!
That night was is of our favorite memories together as siblings, ever.  
//take-off//
This photo of our winter wonderland was taken from the bus window as we pulled out the driveway last Thursday.  I just want to say a big "thank you" to all you dear friends who pray for us as we travel. It means so much to us.  
We have also been blessed by the kindness of so many lovely people along the way on this trip.  Thank each one of you for all the ways you minister our family!