Update From Nationals!

Hello, dear friends, reading on the blog! 
It has been a fabulous few days here at Bible Bee for the parents and Josh, Denver, Taylor, Liz, Hudson, & Rebecca! The other four of us drove down and surprised them last night in time for the semi-finalist announcement ceremony. We've been having a wonderful time together. 
(for more updates from last night + today, please see this post)

As of this evening, we are thrilled to announce that Josh has qualified as a finalist for the senior division, and Taylor has qualified as a finalist in the junior division!
Some of y'all have been watching the competitions already via live stream, but for those of you who haven't yet, I would HIGHLY encourage you to tune in tomorrow to watch the final competition rounds! It is the most intense part of the entire Bible Bee program and you don't want to miss it! Find the link to watch the live stream here.
The primary division will be from 8:30-10:30am.
Junior division is from 11:30am-1:30pm.
Senior division is from 2:30-4:30pm.
(all times CST)
Even if you can only tune in for a part of it, I would highly encourage y'all to check it out and follow along even for a bit!
All of us, celebrating after today's semi-final rounds!

{posted by Chelsy}


It's Bible Bee Nationals Week!!

The whole family (minus us four oldest) headed down to San Antonio, Texas (where Nationals are being held this year) on Sunday night. The rest of us are planning to drive down later on for the semi-finals + final competition rounds. Josh sent me this picture this afternoon of the five of them in front of the bus in Texas, holding several of their stacks of verses and, as you can tell, excited about the upcoming challenge that is ahead of them these next few days!

Below, we have a few pictures of the study and recitation time thats been going on here at home lately. It is really hard to describe to people how much is involved in the National Bible Bee, unless they have done it themselves, and then they just know. The hours of study and recitation are countless. We have all felt like we were living, eating, and breathing Bible Bee this last while!
 We were so blessed by sweet friends who were visiting and ASKED to help out by listening to our five contestants recite! What a huge blessing it was to all of us-those of us not in Bible Bee got a little break from listening to verses. And those in the Bible Bee got the fun of reciting to friends instead of siblings. =)
 Rebecca has been nominated the award for "strangest positions to recite in". (I got a text from mom yesterday saying that Rebecca was "hanging upside down" from her bunk reciting her verses, as they were all in the bus on the way to San Antonio. I had to laugh-I could totally picture it!
During harvest it was especially a challenge for Josh to recite his verses since he was spending so much time in the tractor, hauling grain for Dad who was combining. Finally one day we decided to try recitation on the job-in the tractor! He drove up and down the road, on and off of the grain scales, loading and unloading grain, reciting verses to me all the while.

For more information on the National Bible Bee and everything that is happening this week, please visit the website here! Tomorrow (Wednesday) the first round of competitions start. There are one hundred and twenty competitors in each division. Tomorrow night the semi-finalists will be announced, which means the top fifteen scores advance on to semi-finals. The semi-final competitions (in which those top fifteen compete) will be on Thursday. During that round the fifteen are narrowed down to the top five scores, and then those top five advance to the finals which are held on Friday. 

This year we have two in the senior division (Josh-18 & Denver-15), one in the junior division (Taylor-13), and two in the primary division (Hudson-10 & Rebecca-8). They have all done an excellent job studying and are very excited about competing and participating this week. I love that their focus is not on the actual competition or the prize money, but rather on just enjoying the experience, loving the time spent with their close friends (who are also their competitors!) and sharing God's Word with others. We are so proud of them and all their hard work, and excited to see what God is going to do this week! We are also looking forward to all being reunited down there this weekend for the final competition rounds.

If any of y'all are interested in watching them compete, you can do so via the live stream here at this link! The livestream will be happening tomorrow night from 6-7:30pm CST (this will when the semi-finalists will be announced), Thursday beginning at 8:30am CST (the semi-final competition rounds), and Friday at 8:30am CST. (the final competition rounds) 
For a full rundown of the schedule for each division visit the livestream link above.

Thank-y'all in advance for your prayers! May the Lord be glorified through everything that is said and done this week!

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, 
                but my words shall not pass away."
Matthew 24:35

{posted by Chelsy}


Young Women's Retreat 2015 Recap

The Summer 2015 Young Women's Retreat was an incredible time of growth, fellowship, and refreshment.  Our three days together were jam-packed!   Enjoy a little recap:
One goal of the Retreat is to celebrate femininity and beauty.  The girls each received a handmade gift- a small reminder of how cherished they are.
Our sessions this year were on the subject of Feminine Strength.  The sessions were titled, "Building a Strong Foundation", "Becoming a Woman of Principle", "Strengthening your Body for Christ's Service", "Turning Your Greatest Weaknesses into Strengths", "Turning Romantic Desires into Increased Spiritual Strength", and "Staying Strong during Hard Times".  I shared several sessions, and we also heard from my dear sister, Chelsy, and a sweet mentor of mine.  "Sessions" at Retreat are informal times of sharing from the heart, with plenty of questions and discussion.
There were four sets of sisters among the attendees at this year's Retreat, and it was a sweet time for them to connect with each other, as well as make new friends.
There was an abundance of girly activities such as painting nails, discussing clothing, and doing makeup.:)
We attended church together on Sunday morning, and enjoyed lunch at my family's home afterwards (pictured below).
Coffee.  Yes, coffee drinks were abundant!  The coffee bar had a continual supply of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and a myriad of coffee toppings such as chocolate shavings, crushed peppermints, mini marshmallows, flavored syrups, etc.
And WHIPPED CREAM!!!!!!  Ask any Retreat alumni what's so special about whipped cream, and she will most likely get a huge, happy grin on her face and begin reminiscing about the endless canisters of whipped cream that were consumed.  Whipped Cream was delicately mounded on top of dozens of cups of iced coffee, hot chocolate, or hot coffee drink concoctions, multiple times, every day.  We love us some whipped cream!  
This photo could have many captions- in fact, I would love to hear suggestions in the comment section from girls who attended the Retreat!  
Group time was always a treasure of learning and sharing together.
Girls love to talk, to connect, and to share what is on their hearts, and the Retreat is a wonderful time of doing this with other young women.
Monday lunch- salad bar and a host of delicious treats that the girls brought.
One of our sessions was about finding balance in the area of nutrition and fitness.  We discussed how the goal of having strong, healthy bodies is to better serve our Lord.  After that session, a bunch of the girls decided to work out together.
Chelsy made a scrumptious dinner for us one evening- Chicken Alfredo, Garlic/Butter Green Beans, Italian Salad, Garlic Break, and Layer Cakes.
There were many rousing rounds of "Four on the Couch"!
Beautiful music filled the air!
One evening we enjoyed a hayride down the country road and through the woods.  We spent the evening enjoying each other's company in the beauty of God's creation.
My dear Grandmother opened her home to us for the Retreat, and her property was the perfect place for these young women to get away for a time of rest and refreshment.  There were fields and lanes to explore, beautiful views to be enjoyed from the front porch or back deck, and plenty of space for everything that was planned for our time together.
These young women blessed my heart so much- their love for Jesus, their sensitive hearts, and the joy that flowed out of each one of them.  Our time together was a gift.
"Strength and honor are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come." (Prov. 31:25)
Thanks to Chelsy Bontrager, Elizabeth Adams, and Rachal Craig for the photos.
-posted by Allison


Hiding God's Word in Your Heart || Part 2 in the Motherhood Series

Well, this post has been "brewing" for about 3 months now.  More than once I have written it in my mind but it just never connected with the key pad. I have been quite busy in the past 3 months but I have also felt rather inadequate in writing this post.  At the same time, God has given me a BURDEN for mothers of young children.  The burden is that they would be so very careful about what they "write" on the pure white slates of those sweet, little people in children's bodies.  Being a mother is such a huge responsibility.  There is a responsibility to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are talking about making daily decisions that will have an effect on eternity!!  
The purpose of this post is to plead with all the mothers to not only get serious about memorizing God's Word for yourself, but to make it a top priority to inspire your children to hide God's Word in their hearts, too.
But before we get to that part, I am going to remind you that we need to "seek first the kingdom of God".  If you are going to have time to dedicate to Scripture memory, you will need to clear the slate of some less important and sometimes ungodly, activities.  Look at your daily life in the light of eternity.   We have this wonderful Scripture song that we sing at our house: "Whether therefore ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."  Let's fill our days with edifying, God honoring, pure activities.  
Let's get back to the subject at hand which is hiding God's Word in our hearts.  I am amazed at how lazy I am about this discipline!  I would rather read the Bible for 15 minutes than memorize for 5.  I find it easier to kneel in prayer than to subject my mind to the rigors of Bible Memory.  But I will tell you that I have been so blessed with the verses I have memorized in the past year.  I just completed memorizing my second chapter in Psalms.  I chose 2 favorites-Psalm 27 and 33.  Even as I type this, I am convicted by the words of a precious saint about 70 years old who told me a few years ago that everyone should memorize 2 verses a week. My total of about 43 verses for the past year is less than a verse a week!!
Last month, our family had the privilege of meeting a godly couple who is serving God by putting radio stations in countries all over the world, including countries where it is difficult for missionaries to live.  She shared her passion for getting children to memorize Scripture, so I asked her to write for this post.  Here are her thoughts:

{Guest post by Mrs. Barbara Zarris, written in bold below}
     I have never written a blog; I've never even read one, but I have experienced sixty-six years of life during which I have recognized several important truths. 
For fifty-six years I have been on a journey, seeking to know God. Believe me, I did not know at the start that my purpose in life was "to know God and to make him known". Although I had good parents, they were not saved; so, no one ever taught me to pray or read the Bible. However, my first Sunday School teacher, Mr. Frank Crall, challenged me, at age ten, to memorize the scriptures. We raced to memorize James Chapter 1, and I won! Other chapters followed –John 14:1-6, John 3, Ephesians 6, and Psalms 1, to name a few. I read the Bible as well and was so excited when I won a Bible contest because I knew that the crucifixion was in Matthew chapter 27.
     Ten years later, I was required to memorize hundreds of doctrinal verses as part of my Christian college training. I did my homework, (what a novel idea!) and those verses have been the core of my beliefs throughout my life.
     Decades have passed. I have read my Bible through more than forty-five times. I have been to church three times a week since I was fourteen. Competent, dedicated pastors have expounded the scripture in my hearing.  I have a solid understanding of God as revealed in his Word; but, nothing has meant more to me than the random, instant recall of Bible passages to elucidate truth. Amazingly, the verses I learned before the age of twenty-two have stayed with me. I can quote them readily. They have been the mainstay of my life. My only sorrow is that I didn't teach them diligently to my children at home. I made time for music, choir, speech, vacations, serving, and all sorts of church meetings, but I didn't emphasize Bible memory or prayer. Somehow I thought my six children would get this by osmosis.
     Clouds on the spiritual horizon are warning that persecution is coming. I wonder if my children and grandchildren stand up under fire. Will they know why they are persecuted and choose "to suffer affliction with the people of God" rather than to "enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.?"  If the Bible is taken away, will my progeny have enough hidden in their hearts to draw strength from its eternal words? Do they really believe, or are they Christian in name only?
     I encourage all parents with children still at home to read the Bible out loud as a family. Then, memorize it together. If you learned one verse per day, you would know 365 in one year; 3650 verses in ten years! That is HUGE! If an average chapter had 25 verses, you would know 146 chapters of the Bible.
     Is there anyone out there who is really doing this with her children? 
I would love to hear from you. My email is --    barbararzarris@gmail.com.  

Let us take seriously her admonishment to help our children in this endeavor. It should be the MOST important part of everyday. Honestly, this is an area in which my children have done so very much more than I ever dreamed of doing. I have seen that as they memorize large portions of Scripture, it has helped them in nearly every area of life. Some of the benefits I have seen in the lives of our children are a deeper love for God and His Word, a greater spiritual understanding, improved work habits (I think this comes from the discipline it takes to memorize), a love for truth, wisdom in making decisions, and a willingness to stand up for God and His Word.
The only reason that we ever need for memorizing Scripture is found in Psalm 119:11 "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."
In addition, God's Word is so quick and powerful to help us stand against temptation when it is hidden in our hearts. Psalm 119:105 "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." I love the 9th verse from Psalm 119, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy Word."
Is there a better way to redeem the time than to have a daily time for memorizing and reviewing God's Word?

{posted by Becky. Photography credit Mr. Rich Heki}