Northern Tour Summer 2017 || Post #1

We started out the beginning of this nearly eight-week-long summer tour with three concerts in the states-two in Michigan and one in Minnesota. We loved the unique venues and great crowds that turned out to all three. It was a joy to once again be out on tour sharing the love of Jesus with people!
Our first stop of the tour we got to see this sweet Michigan friend, who is one of our most faithful followers. We loved seeing you again, Ashley! Love you!

This stop was the first of our tour. Ironically, it was also the first of our summer tour last year. Last June it was our first concert without Carson, and this year it was our first one without Mitchell! Based on last years' experiences, we had very low expectations for ourselves, to say the least. (just keeping it real!) Praise the Lord for brothers who practice insane amounts before we left! It was a tad rough but we survived! 
Got to spend a few hours with our Sugarbush friends in the UP. It was short but very sweet! We got there in the middle of maple sugar making, so we got to observe that process. We've mentioned this fabulous product on here before but will just say again-if you haven't experienced maple sugar in your life, wait no longer! You can purchase it here. Yummiest sugar ever!
Our second concert was in Chassel Michigan. Above, enjoyed a beautiful walk on the way to the host family's home for dinner, pre concert.
A morning stop at a beautiful park, about an hour outside of Duluth. We try to take advantages of opportunities like this, to stop the bus and get outside even for just an hour or so.
Set up time! This happens every night and is obviously a vital part of our concerts.
No set up=no concert. =)
Interesting reading positions from the pew...=)
Sister backstage time. =)


Mitchell + Bryn's Sunday Evening Engagement Party

Mitchell + Bryn 
(above pic is a sneak peak, just sent to us, from their engagement photo shoot last night!)
The last Sunday we were home, we threw a little engagement celebration party for Mitchell + Bryn, after church.
Yummy snacks and festive colors!
Our family, Bryn's family, and our pastor. We had a wonderful time eating, talking, and fellowshipping together!
The smiling lovebirds. September can't come soon enough for them!! =)

House Update

There's a house going up this summer for Carson and Lina! Here are a few pictures of the process, mostly taken in May.
With Dad as the general contractor, all of the older boys have gotten a chance to be involved in various stages of the building. Carson, Josh, and Denver got to work with the framing crew, and Mitchell has been working with the plumbing + electrical crews. It has been great to have excellent local crews who are willing to let our guys work alongside them!
Carson, testing things out with a few of his future brother in laws. =)
Checking out the progress with friends.
View from the lane which leads to the house.

Note: some of y'all have been asking about the details for the house. My parents have been wanting to build something a little smaller than our current house, at a beautiful location in the woods, for them to live in someday. (for those of you who have been to our campsite, this house is located right on the outskirts of that) With there still being quite a few of us at home, my parents aren't ready to downsize yet, but decided to go ahead and build now, and rent the house to one of their sons. Carson was the first one engaged and he also will be working on the farm the most (with his mechanic business location there) so he is the one who will be living in the house for at least the first few years. 

Taylor's Blessing Ceremony

Taylor's Blessing Ceremony
(Bar Mitzvah)

Our blessing ceremonies are one of our family's favorite traditions. (you can read all about how our family celebrates these times at this post)
There were so many things we wanted to do before we left on summer tour! One of these was Taylor's blessing ceremony, or Bar Mitvah. He chose the same menu as Denver had---a full mexican buffet, with homemade pies for dessert.
Taylor with our pastor's youngest daughter.
Gathered around and sharing our blessings we each wrote for Taylor. At the end, we had a special time of prayer over him. 

Mitchell's 25th Birthday Party

We celebrated Mitchell's birthday right before we left on tour. His birthday isn't until July, but we wanted a celebration all together so we just went early! (we're squeezing in all the family parties we can before the boys get married!)
We love the "additions" to our parties---such fun to have such a rapidly growing family these days! =)
Mitchell chose a big family kick-ball game afterwards, which was such fun. We competitive Bontragers love family sports and it was the perfect summer night for a big game in the yard!

The Rest of Random Pictures from June in Iowa

 Music practice with the guys. (well, and everyone else, for that matter!)
Lots of pretty flowers to plant, in preparation for this big double wedding on the farm!
Brother/sister coffee dates!
Two of the bros chose private engagements which they wanted to set up with "no outside help" (aka sisters, hehe) but Mitchell asked for a photographer + videographer and you can't imagine who was THRILLED to oblige. =)
So.much.gardening + mulching + preparing for the summer. Above, mother + crew, mulching the potatoes.
Stocking the bus and trailer for the summer tour was a big project!
The night before we left, Grandma was down for dinner, and she mentioned that she had just gotten thirty quarts of strawberries that day. We had just done a big batch ourselves and I knew thirty quarts would take one person a long time to do! So later on that evening, four of us went up to her house and we got those berries done in record time! It was such a special time with grandma and a great blessing to be able to help her out in that way. We talked about how when we were all little, she would come down to help mom with big produce projects, and about how now we are grown and able to "give the blessing back" a little bit. Love how life comes full circle like that!
Deep cleaning at the back of the DCI. This spring has been a time of transition there and several of us got in on the action with some decisions, projects, etc. I loved the opportunity to make this area mine and be in charge of some organizing + re-arranging.

June Weekend Concerts

The first wkend of June, we were out for three concerts in IA + IL. We ended out at one of our favorite venues, a drive-in theater in Illinois. The honking instead of clapping makes for some great memories. =)
It was also our last time having Mitchell with us as part of the band, and that was a little bittersweet. We made some great memories though.

June + Friends

The first two weeks of June were pretty packed for us. Well, that would actually be every month. =) A day never goes by that there isn't multiple ones of us coming and going, whether for work or for social activities or ministry events, etc etc.
We started out June (or ended out May, rather-Memorial Day weekend) with a trip to Illinois for the
parents + a few of the younger ones, to visit one of Elizabeth's best friends + her family.
Both the kids and the parents had an amazing time reconnecting + enjoying the little getaway. 
Memorial Day evening, we older ones (back at home) had a cookout at the local park with our singles ABF class from our church. We hadn't played volleyball for a while so it was great fun to do that again!
How we love our new sister-in-loves-to-be! We had a sweet picnic at the park with the sisterhood. (minus Bryn, who was unable to make it last-minute) 
Dear old friends of ours (we knew them back when we were just starting homeschooling + our families were in the same homeschool group together) invited our big tribe over for an evening of brick oven pizza. If you have never had brick oven pizza...it is the most incredible pizza ever. So yummy.
The dads.
 So thankful for each of these people!
We four oldest did a "Bontrager flying trip" (which, in case you are wondering, does not mean we flew...it just means we did the whole trip in a record time =)) to Oklahoma for a friend's wedding. (I will be posting about the trip over on my blog soon!) It was a great time-we made so many great memories and had a fabulous time together.
So fun to bump into all sorts of people at weddings. We sat with this family...whom we discovered our family will be seeing again next spring, when we sing in their area in Arizona. (they are hosting a concert for us) Small world!