Making Donuts

Our traditional "fall/winter donut making party" was very fun and yummy, as always.:)  This year, we planned the party for a day when everyone was off work for the whole day.  I mixed up the donuts in the morning, we fried them in the forenoon, and we played games and consumed a rather vast amount of donuts in the afternoon.:)
Apple cider and milk are our beverages of choice to enjoy with our donuts.
Everyone took turns frying, glazing, or sugaring the donuts.
golden loveliness in the oil!
Donuts are best shared!  
"Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me bless His holy Name.  Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things." Psalm 103: 1 & 5b
Fresh donuts rolled in plenty of powdered sugar.....oh so good!!!
Taylor and Chelsy 
Here is Denver taking a turn at frying.  He didn't burn too many.:)  No seriously, the guys all did a great job helping fry!
This was supposed to be a nice little shot of siblings + donuts, but Denver, ever the photo bomb, added an unexpected twist to the photo.:)
We were just talking recently about being close as a family and what builds that closeness, and one thing we decided has been invaluable in drawing us together is doing things together.  If you want to build a relationship with someone, you must spend time with them.  I'm thankful for all the memories we have made and all the moments that have brought us closer together.  We continue to desire to spend more time together than ever to have the best relationships possible!

-posted by Allison


Merry Christmas!!

A very merry Christmas from the Bontrager family!!!  
We have been enjoying a quiet Christmas season- savoring the blessings of family, home, food, and, most of all, our precious Savior, Jesus.  He is what we celebrate.
"For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called 
the Mighty God
  the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."  (Isaiah 9:6)
We are so thankful for Jesus coming.  Because He came, we have abundant life and perfect peace.  In a world of sorrow and sin, He is the only reason for living.  Without Him where would be purpose, direction, a vision for something greater than ourselves?  His salvation is an unspeakable gift! 
-posted by Allison


Gingerbread Houses

Mother decided to have a gingerbread house making party with the littles this year!  We had a lovely time structuring and decorating the little houses.
The crew (sans Mother + me)
candy galore!!!  
Hudson, Javan, and I built a snowy little cabin-with a mint chimney!
Taylor and Liz were having a bit of trouble with their house collapsing, so they called in Carson the architect, and he helped them build a beautiful, sturdy gingerbread mansion.:)
Mother + Rebecca's little cottage
putting on the finishing touches


Thanksgiving with the Bontrager Side

Thanksgiving Day 2014 was spent with our wonderful and loud Bontrager relatives.:)  We missed the ones who couldn't make it, but the 40-something of us who were there had a blast!  
Before we ate dinner, my uncle asked the oldest child in each family to share something they were thankful for.  Guess what this little guy's family said they were thankful for?  A new little one on the way!!!  We love babies and children, and I am so grateful that my grandparents welcomed each little one as a gift.  Because they are gifts, and if my grandparents had "stopped" after six children, which is a "large" family by the world's standards....well, there would have been 11 less people (plus the baby on the way) at our family gathering.  And our family would be short one wonderful set of twins (my dad's two youngest siblings) and two equally wonderful in laws, as well as 7 adorable little cousins with another one on the way.
My grandmother loves her grandbabies!  Above, she is holding her 8th and newest great-grandchild, Asher.
Conversation around the table is always a highlight.  
Grandma's custard pie.....now that's a major highlight!!!
Cousins are the best.  Our cousins are the best.
This is "storytime with the newlyweds"!  (Plus the new Grandpa (Uncle Merle) and grandbaby and Uncle Leon.)  Our good friend, Jacob, recently married our cousin, Dorcas, and they are so sweet together!
We have a big dinner, of course, but in the evening (since we are so full from dinner:) everyone makes their yummiest snack recipes.  By the way, if you have never had ham wrapped pickles, you must try them.
Scattergories, Dutch Blitz, and Take One are favorite Bontrager games.
Oh, and Rook!
It looks like Take One has everyone a little intense here.
"Give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20)

-posted by Allison


Young Women's Retreat Recap

Truly, God's gifts put men's best dreams to shame.  I didn't imagine, when I wrote this quote as my sista and I decorated for the upcoming Retreat, that He would do so far abundantly above what I could have asked or thought.  I can't fully impart in words the comraderie, the joy, the heart-changes, the healing- all the beautiful things my faithful Lord did at the Young Women's Retreat.  It was a privilege witness His faithfulness and love yet again.
The Retreat was held at my Grandmother's home, and my dear sister Chels and I went the evening before the Retreat to decorate.  Our goal was an aura of softness, femininity, and beauty.
My sister created this lovely large table by combining three 8ft tables and table clothes.
Coffee Central!!!  This table was very very beloved and oft-visited.  Vast amounts of coffee were consumed-I believe we drank upwards of six eighteen-cup pots of coffee!  The non-coffee-drinkers (poor things) enjoyed tea or hot cocoa.
The first evening we enjoyed a scrumptious Italian dinner prepared by Chelsy.  Lasagna, Garlic Green Beans, Salad, and French Bread was the evening's fare.
A dreamy Layered Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting completed the gourmet repast.
My sweet Aunt Wanda shared her journey of falling in love with Jesus, along with tips on understanding/accepting God's grace and love, and cultivating intimacy with Jesus.  She challenged us that, "It's not about the things we do, but the relationship we have with Jesus."  We were reminded that "We aren't His daughters because of worth, but because of birth".  She encouraged us to "shut off the noise" in our lives at times so that we can be quiet before Him.
There were many back rubs given during our time together; what girl doesn't like a good back rub?!
Mrs. Alzen shared a sweet challenge on the Beauty of the Secret Place.  A few notes from her talk:
-If your joy is not FULL, why?  Am I not abiding in Him, is there sin in my life, or am I wallowing in condemnation?
-Instead of prayer being a duty, it is an intimate relationship.
-Jesus is SO trustworthy!
-If I am not taking the little moments to fill from the Fountain, then my cup is empty.
-"Always be full so you can always be giving, because you cannot pour from an empty cup." (Jim Elliot)
Lunch was light, girly food- warm spinach artichoke dip, hummis, mango salsa, veggies, chip and crackers, chocolate covered strawberries, and chocolate dipped pretzel sticks.
My mother shared a beautiful talk on the True Heart of Modesty.  She challenged us with the following points:
1) What does God see?  Since He looks at our heart, that needs to be our FIRST priority.
2) What do others see?  Your face is the most important thing you can wear.  Let your smile be your most important asset.
3) How can I improve my wardrobe?  Invest in basic, quality staples.
She left us with this thought to ponder- "Look like you belong to Jesus.  Dress like a daughter of the King."
There were rousing games of Dutch Blitz.........
..and more back rubs!
Lasting friendships were forged as the young women met and shared their hearts with other young women on the same journey of loving Jesus!
There was a spontaneous worship session.  This adventure consisted of piling into two cars and driving to my house, where we violins and piano were played and voices lifted.
Grandma graciously her home for me to host the Retreat at.  Pictured above is Grandma with some of the girls.
A bunch of us did minty green face masks late one night.  We commemorated our rather startling green complexions with this photo!
Make-up sessions were conducted for those who wished to have their make-up done.  Various make-up techniques, products, and such were discussed.:)
There was sharing of hearts and much laughter as we learned and rejoiced together in our journey as young women.
Time alone with Jesus was sweet.  Much journaling and heart searching was done.
Conversations with kindred spirits were plentiful.
All manner of luggage was plentiful as well.:)
My dear sister, Chelsy, was invaluable- she helped make and serve food for several of the meals, as well as sharing an excellent talk on "Cultivating Refinement in a Culture of Vulgarity".  Her thoughts on Attitude, Conversation, Deportment, and Adornment were much-enjoyed and much-discussed.  She encouraged us with so many helpful suggestions such as, "Be a life-giver", "Carry yourself with grace and poise", "The first thing people perceive about you is your dress", and "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
This game was the source of much hilarity!  If you've never played "Signs", I highly recommend it!
The girls helped set the table with happy turqoise for our last meal together.
Warm cinnamon rolls and other delicicies graced the table.
The girls totally surprised me with a basket full of lovely gifts!  There was one for Chels, too, and we were blown away by their thoughtfulness.
This is our whole group, and in this group are many stories of how the Lord led them to the retreat and of beautiful things He is doing in their lives.  
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen." (Ephesians 3:2-21)

-posted by Allison