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


Fall Farm & Family Update

Here is a little update on a few of our farm and family activities from the past 2+ months. These pictures have been sitting in our blog drafts folder for a very long time. =)

Bible Bee study filled our September & October days. Those of us who weren't competing spent hours upon hours listening to our five national contestants quote their hundreds of verses everyday. And the ones that were preparing to compete (Josh, Denver, Taylor, Liz, & Hudson) spent almost all of their time studying + memorizing.

All of our contestants had various places and positions they liked for reciting scripture. Hudson preferred the swing. I think it helped him release energy and focus. =)
We had so much going on that sometimes we had to double-task. Here, I made soup and listened to Joshua's verses at the same time.

This was back in September...Allison spent hours making the flower beds so beautiful.
If you look all the way at the top of the silo...you might spot that little red dot that represents Carson who was up there fixing something, bless his heart.
Well, what do you know...the photographer got a wave!
We were blessed with a very bountiful harvest. Amongst other things, there were some record-breaking red beets.
This carrot from Denver's garden came in with an extra long tail. =)
Here is part of this year's smiling canning crew!
As always we love little people and enjoy having them in our home as often as possible!
This is a typical sight when you live on a farm and have six brothers. =) 
And trust me, this was only a BIT of the laundry for the day!
Our main harvest crew for this year consisted of Dad on the combine, and Josh hauling the grain to town. Carson filled in driving the combine one day for Dad, and we had a few other people that helped with the grain hauling a few times. And then as usual Mom, Allison, & I packed ??? lunches, took the little ones for turns riding with Dad, and ran hither and yon over the countryside picking up and delivering various belts, bolts, and other parts. Ah, the life of a farmer! 
We had our first snow!! There were some very excited Bontragers that day!
Most eighteen year old boys play video games in their spare time. Carson is a little different. He spent his "free" time in September (which mostly consisted of after dinner & late into the nights) working on this tractor. He searched and found it online, bought it, brought it home, and proceeded to take it apart. As in, separate it in two pieces. I know this sounds impossible, but see the pictures!
This is talent. I would be SO LOST in there with all those millions of nuts and bolts.
The end of the story is that he finished and put it all back together and it works like a charm! He listed it online and has had multiple offers already. So far the problem is that he is hardly ever home so one of these days hopefully he will be home long enough for a potential buyer to come look at it.
Here we have Rebecca joining Dad for an afternoon in the combine.
For much of October and November, Mitch and Carson were working jobs several hours away from home, emptying out pits for big hog farmers. (this is what they do every fall)
Some days they ran 18 hours straight and made lots of progress.
And then other days, this happens.
And when the whole tank is full, it's not just as simple as pushing it out of the way. More farmer joys. =)
Carson fixing a hose on the spreader.
A nighttime shot of some of the boys' equipment on a job site.
Denver is our trapper & outdoorsman extraordinaire. He has been running his trap line again this fall. In this picture, the sweet little coon caught in Denver's trap is about to, um, expire. 
Note Denver's expression. =)
(but please do NOT note his rag-tag coveralls. =) He has gotten new ones since this picture)

And that's a little recap of the farm life this fall. 

"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorifed through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 4:11

{posted by Chelsy}