Merry Christmas From the Bontragers!

Wishing all of our blog readers a very Merry Christmas today! May you + yours be blessed with the joy of JESUS!
      Much love...from all of us!

"And the angel said unto them, 
'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, 
which shall be to all people. 
For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior,
 which is Christ the Lord'."
Luke 2:10 + 11


Family in Iowa || November Recap

Here are a few pictures to recap our November. It was a beautiful month full of a mixture of Indian summer + nippy winter days. Harvest was completed, projects were accomplished, and Bible Bee was attended + finished, amongst other things. 
Here are a few of the "other things".
Music practice!
Taylor + Rebecca raking leaves in the front yard.
Taking time for a much-needed break in the middle of study-Denver + Liz enjoying a thrilling fourwheeler ride!
Here we have one of our stellar vehicle-washing teams-Carson + Rebecca. Well, I believe Carson was doing most of the work. Rebecca was probably there more for the entertainment factor. It also is a commonly known fact around our house that she loves "visiting" Carson while he works in the shop, due to the fact that she loves to chat with him and keep him company. 
His snack stash that she discovered in the top drawer of his tool bench may or may not also be a drawing factor. =)
There is never a lack of things to talk about in the Bontrager household, but this fall has been extra full in the information + growth departments, and there have been many a late night hash with various of the adults in our family. One night found the parents out on a date, Carson and Mitchell gone working, Allison in Mexico, and the littles in bed. Joshua and Denver and I did just fine keeping a very lively conversation going. =)
Liz, busy at work in the kitchen, concocting a delectable Nutella Cream Pie. 
Our family worked in assisting with details for our church's annual Live Animal Christmas Play pie auction. Our church has done this for several years now and it has grown to be a very fun and lively church activity. Around $15,000 was raised to use for the LACP expenses. Praise the Lord!
Our last harvest days. There is just nothing like this sight!
Window washing before the snow flies!
View out the front window one chilly fall evening.
With November brought the beginning of LACP recording sessions! One of our favorite times of the year! (shows start tonight and run through Sunday night! We will be performing "Christmas Deliverance" seven times over the next 48 hours and we are so excited for it! Come join us!)
Little chef in training here!
Our Kombucha queen! She took over making our kombucha when Allison left for Mexico the beginning of October, and she did an absolutely fabulous job continuing on throughout November and currently!
The guys spent many late nights (and quite a few all-nighters!) out hauling for various farmers in the southern half of Iowa. They love their work and being involved now as part owners of the business.
 Andddd...its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!! While Allison was working at the hotel Thanksgiving week, she began to decorate there for Christmas.
Josh brought Allison coffee one morning at the hotel and stayed to enjoy some quiet space to study for upcoming college tests.  Allison loved the coffee and company!  
Beautiful sunsets out back in our woods...
That thrilling moment when your dinner table conversation is interrupted by a rather loud commotion in the kitchen and mom exclaims, "The snap trapped!!!!!!"  We all knew that she meant to say, "The trap snapped!!" but we got some good laughs out of that one.:)  It was indeed a relief to catch the mouse that had been on the loose (and sighted numerous times) in the kitchen all day.
Party time!!
Food, friends, games, + gifts...these are what Bontrager birthday bashes are made of!
Mitchell + Denver treated themselves to a fun brothers night out, with a friend, to attend one of the Iowa games. It ended up being, as Mitchell said, "The best game I could've ever chosen to go to." =)
Thanksgiving Day found us gathered with the Bontrager side @ my Grandma's home.
Plenty of food for all!
Afternoon party time! So many good memories from many game sessions with the cousin crew. =)
Denver didn't do much trapping this fall due to his involvement with Bible Bee, but he still managed to get a few sets out and bring home a couple of trophies. 
While Liz was spending a morning at the hotel with Allison, she got in on a little "cleaning duty" with one of our maids!
This smiling lady is what I call the "force to be reckoned with" that drives our hotel. =) She loves coming up with new ideas, implementing them, hiring, occasionally firing, deep cleaning, and making things run like clockwork. She recently put into effect a new dress code complete with classy new polos! Above, enjoying a little chocolate treat dropped off for her by a friend, while she was working one day.
LACP rehearsals started the last week of November. This is our church auditorium in the middle of a rehearsal. Not much to look at...you should see what is happening in the front! =)
Denver, waxing and cleaning the combine after fall harvest was complete.
Carson always has many "irons in the fire" with his various mechanic projects. Here he was fixing up another four wheeler to sell.
Josh painting sets for the LACP @ church.
Cinnamon roll making crew! Allison made rolls and then Denver + Taylor were the delivery team who took them around with LACP invitations to give to our neighbors.
We couldn't really and truly have November happen without making DONUTS! This was the first time for fall 2016 and they were just as yummy as ever. We may or may not have delivered some to the guys...and then all eaten some for snacks...and eaten more for lunch...and even had a few for breakfast the next day. =)
This little cutter is absolutely revolutionary! Cuts the donut AND the hole at the same time!
Ta Da!
My favorite picture from the day. Little miss sneaking a random bite?!
"In everything GIVE THANKS:
 for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18


Shy Children || Part 4 in the Motherhood Series

"My child is shy".

I have heard this quote too many times to count as a young child puts his head on his mother's shoulder, hangs on to her leg, or stands quietly beside his mother with a "shy smile" on his sweet little face.

So what is shyness?  Merriam-Webster defines it as "feeling nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people; showing that you are nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people;  tending to avoid something because of nervousness, fear, dislike, etc."

I am forever grateful that, soon after I became a mother, someone was kind enough to explain to me that shyness was just a cover-up for rudeness.  That 2 year old who won't say "thank-you" to his hostess for a delicious meal is, in fact, being rather self-centered.  He is thinking of his own feelings rather than the feelings of someone who may have spent hours or all day preparing for her guests so that they could enjoy a meal together.  A little child who won't introduce himself is being rude to an adult or young friend who is taking an interest in him.

Philippians 2:3 says, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." 
 Luke 6:31 - "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."

Let's teach our children to consider others, to be kind, and to focus on those around them rather than on themselves.  As mothers, we should spend time teaching our children how to shake hands, look someone in the eye, and speak clearly as they introduce themselves.  Don't let that toddler bury his head in your shoulder when someone speaks to him.  You should tell them to smile.  Do NOT excuse any sort of rudeness at any age by telling the adult (and your child) that they are "shy".  Have fun practice sessions at home where you pretend to be someone else so your child can walk up to you, shake your hand, look you in the eye, and say "hello, I am (your child's name)".  I remember the fun we had when I would make up a name or simply call myself "Mrs. Bontrager" (for some reason it made my children laugh to call me "Mrs. Bontrager").  We would laugh as we practiced introductions, answering the phone, or saying "thanks for the good meal".  I also remember a certain 2 year old daughter (her name begins with an A!!) who was not allowed to play after a meal at our friend's house until after she said "thank-you" for the meal.  Lessons learned at an early age usually stick quite well.  It is a blessing to have all of our children, on a regular basis, gratefully thank their hosts & hostesses for a meal at one of our concerts. (more often than not, someone that they only met that evening before a concert) I am also grateful that, whenever necessary, each of our children can introduce themselves clearly and with a smile on his/her face.

If, in spite of training and practice, you still have a child who refuses to introduce himself or shake an adults hand, simply tell your friend "looks like we need to work on that some more".  And then be sure you do work on that after your guests leave.  :)

"But my child is an introvert", you may say.  While that may be true, it is still no excuse for rudeness.  I find that our introverted children (not very many of them in this family!!) are some of the best conversationalists. They truly enjoy that one-on-one contact with people, more than a large crowd situation.  The introvert usually knows how to draw out someone who may not be comfortable with talking to a stranger.  I have been blessed to see our sweet Rebecca cheerfully conversing with a dear grandma or other elderly person before a concert. She is one of our "quieter" children, and yet is becoming a great little conversationalist as she learns to think of others first.

Just like appetites for food or media, a child can learn to enjoy and be comfortable with talking with others when they consider that this is not about themselves, but rather about sharing the love of Jesus with others.  How can a "shy" person share the Gospel?  The same as anyone else!
We need children and young people who will smile, say a kind word, and most of all "go into all the world and preach the Gospel".

{Written by Becky}


2016 National Bible Bee In Review

What a week it was. WHAT A WEEK. So many emotions. So good to all be together again. So good to rejoice together + see the Hand of the Lord at work throughout the week in more ways than I can tell you.

I am guessing that most of you watched the livestream, or in some way kept up with what was happening during the weekend. But for those that didn't, I am so thrilled to tell you all five of the contestants from our family were winners by hiding God's Word in their hearts. We rejoiced with all of them to be at Nationals together and be able to compete with the other top 360 contestants from across the nation.

In the senior division, Taylor won first place! He made Bible Bee history by becoming the first contestant ever to win two different divisions, two years in a row, and the first fourteen year old in BB history to win the senior division, which is ages 15-18. (he competed in the senior division because he automatically had to move to the next division after winning juniors last year) Denver came in for a close third place. Hudson also made it to the finals in his division and received fourth place. Elizabeth + Rebecca did not make it to semi finals and so were able to be in the crowd with the rest of us to cheer on their brothers, which they really enjoyed. =)

Now that those details are out of the way, here is a little recap of the week. There was so much packed into those five full days, that it is extremely hard to properly condense everything! However, I will give it a try. =)

Our journey started out in the bus on Monday evening at 7:30pm. This was one hour after our intended departure time. Unfortunately we were not only late, but about thirty minutes after we had been on the road, it was discovered that several important items had been left behind...so around we turned, and back we drove to retrieve the forgotten items.

We had only eight from our family along for the drive down (Josh flew down early, Allison flew over from Mexico and met us, and Carson + Mitchell flew down mid-week), but also had a few friends join us. With rotating drivers and a two hour stop Tuesday afternoon at a park in Oklahoma, the trip went quickly! We aren't used to driving during the day very much, so the full day's travel did seem long, but the afternoon stop, naps, and lots and lots of study and verse listening and conversations, helped to make time pass faster!
Early Wednesday morning, we pulled into San Antonio.
The above picture was taken right before these five headed in to the hotel for their official registration.

Josh flew down to Texas ahead of us, and was there Monday/Tuesday, training along with this group of alumni. (above) These nine have all competed together in the Bible Bee in past years, and they were selected as a group of "Commanders" to help with everything from registration to answering questions to directing contestants during the competition. From the stories + pictures Josh shared with us, it sounded like they all had an amazing time working together + sharing many fun times!
Our whole sleeping/eating set up with the hotel and all was quite an arrangement! Especially for country people like us, living in a fancy hotel for a week is a bit of a stretch. =) Thankfully the hotel had lots of walking areas and even some surrounding wooded spots. Denver found this fence the first night and apparently got some of his stress relieved by seeing how long he could balance on the fence while reciting verses...... Note the prolific cactus growing beneath. =0
Thursday was the first testing day! Here were Liz + Hudson, getting ready to take their written test for the junior division.
I had to get a picture with my two big little brothers. The big smiles are ones of relief that their written tests were finished and out of the way.
Fun times go down backstage. We like to say, "what happens backstage...STAYS BACKSTAGE." =)
Basically Denver has always been our family clown and life of the party. Here, he was demonstrating something as a part of an inside family joke, and looking just as goofy as could be while posing. =)

On Thursday night, our family led worship for the opening ceremony.

It was so wonderful to have these lovely ladies along with us. A group of us stayed at some friend's nearby home. This was our first night to have Allison back with us which naturally meant a very late night conversation atop the massive king size bed. An abundance of laughter + chocolate accompanied the chatting. SO GOOD to have Allison back in the USA!

Things "officially" kicked off then on Friday morning with the presentation of all of the National Qualifiers (120 in each of the three divisions) and then the announcement of the fifteen top scores (semi-finalists) from each division.

The announcement of the semi-finalists was so much fun. We've been through the Bible Bee for a number of years now but that anticipation + building excitement just never gets old!
We sit on the edges of our seats, holding our breath...and then let out wild screams of delight if "our people" are called. =)

The senior division finalists announcement. When we heard "both Bontrager brothers" we all exploded. It was so nice of the moderators to give them both to us in one shot and not string us out in agony like they've done in previous years. =)
Friday found us watching the semi-final rounds then! Here we have an excited Dad, Mom, + Rebecca in the audience-getting ready to cheer on Hudson!
Finally! The sisterhood reunited again! Coffee + a lovely chat was the first thing on the docket. =)
We sure do love all the friends we run into at the Bible Bee. What fun!
Met this sweet blog reader on Friday morning!

Junior final round, in which Hudson participated. It was a fabulous competition + Hudson was amazing! If for nothing else, you need to watch the livestream for the part when Hudson is chatting with the moderators who ask "what is life like in the Bontrager house?" and Hudson responds "Well, we don't really have any kind of schedule or anything". Poor Mother dear-she was so mortified. It was hilarious. =) Hudson ended out getting 4th place!
Time to go for the last competition..the big one...the 2016 National Bible Bee Senior Finals!!
I will never get tired of watching my brother's faces as they recite the WORD with such precision + power. 

Love this picture. Not because of the celebratory music playing. Not because of the wild and enthusiastic cheering of hundreds of people. Not because of the confetti or flashing lights or anything of that. I love this picture because I see the first place winner, that fourteen-year-old young man who had just won $100,000.00...looking upwards and signifying by doing so that ALL of the honor and glory was due to Jesus.

You really just have to go watch the livestream for yourself if you haven't already seen it. This ending moment was so incredible.

Hearing my little brother so humbly give all the glory to Jesus...was so precious.
Our dear friend Raphael Cruz was also at the hotel for a political meeting and he was able to meet up with us and watch the senior finals round. It was so good to see him again.
Interviews with the final five.
The formal dinner/celebration late Saturday night.
After the celebration dinner was over on Saturday night...was when the party REALLY started. You have to understand...people like Denver + Taylor (and basically anyone who make it on to finals) ended up spending the weekend studying in their rooms. Denver and Taylor didn't even come downstairs to watch the junior finals that Hudson was competing in, because every spare moment was being spent in intense study for the final round.
Smiles with friends from across the miles!
"So y'all...we may have studied for Bible Bee more than we did everything else...but now its all over for the current time and we are gonna go have us a good BASKETBALL GAME!!" At 1am, no less. =)
A group of alumni and older contestants.
Things may or may not have gotten a little wild during the wee hours of Sunday morning. =) All that pent up stress + pressure was GONE and Josh, Denver, + Taylor (who were the ones who stayed up longest) had a blast partying with their fellow contestant friends.
Josh loved his week working as a staff "Commander" with these guys and an additional group of girls.

This is one of the most beautiful things about the Bible Bee-the way it has knit together the hearts of young people around the Word of God. My siblings have been so encouraged + blessed by the incredible friendships God has blessed them with through the Bible Bee. Some of their very dearest friends are fellow BBers that they have met through the National Competition.
This picture is a National Bible Bee tradition-every year, a picture is taken with a group of the national qualifiers pointing at the first place senior winner. This year, it was our very own Taylor.

Our whole family, at the formal dinner, Saturday night. So much rejoicing + peace + HAPPY on this night. The food was amazing + the company superb. There were several speakers there that night, and we siblings also played sibling cooperation as a part of the event. It was a great finale to an incredible week.
"For all flesh is as grass, 
and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. 
The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away;
But the WORD OF THE LORD endureth forever.
And this is the Word which by the Gospel is preached unto you."
1 Peter 1:24+25

A few closing thoughts...

While at Bible Bee that week, a friend told me about a conversation that he had overheard between a random father + his son. In this conversation, the father was explaining to his son that he (his son) didn't need to feel bad for not advancing in the competition. This father said something along the lines of "only the Bontragers, and Pentimones, and Che's, or ________ are the ones capable of winning. You aren't one of them, so you won't ever win. It's okay; it's not your fault that you're not a ________".
Basically this father was telling his son that since the son wasn't one in "the" families, he never would advance very far, because only if you were from one of "the" families, could you advance on to semis or finals.

This conversation is so sad to me. Moving completely off of Bible Bee for a moment and discussing purely the practical application of this...the father is setting his son up for failure in life in general by giving him the mentality of "if you aren't so and so you can't accomplish anything". Children will perform to the level of which they are expected. This is proven time and time again. Negative thinking and training will reduce negative results. If you set the bar low for your children, then low is where they will aim and most likely hit.

Now taking it into Bible Bee...winner or not isn't the point. The point is that we need to have the character to ALWAYS aim for the top and give whatever we are doing, our very best effort. My siblings know that they are loved just the same whether they "win" or don't win. However, they also are very aware of the time + investment their parents + older siblings have put into the Bible Bee. They know that if they choose to participate in the Bible Bee, they are expected to give it their best and work hard. I have seen my brothers sacrifice pleasure and play and all manner of things, to spend that extra time in the Word instead. All over Bible Bee season, they said "no" time and again to parties + social functions. They would "leave the party early" so that they could go to bed in good time and then get up and study the next morning while the house was still quiet.

None of my siblings ever advanced to semis, or finals, because they were a Bontrager. They didn't advance because they were extra smart, or extra skilled, or anything like that. Our family is a very normal, down-to-earth, country-livin' type people. We live on a farm, we do the bare minimum for "textbook school", and our parents don't have college degrees behind their names. We would never have been considered brainy kids if we had been in the state school system.

There are two main things that our parents have taught us in life, and that is that if you...
1) follow God's principles
2) work hard
...there is NOWHERE you can't go, and NOTHING you are unable to attain. Taylor didn't win first place two years in a row, in two different divisions, because he is any smarter or more gifted than anyone else. He won because he honored + glorified God, and because he worked hard, sacrificing + giving, to study God's Word.

Friends, the Bible Bee is a study of a book. THE BOOK. Your knowledge of that Book, and how much time you spend in it, determines how much you know. Anyone can study it, as much or as little as they like. My siblings don't automatically know more than anyone else. They weren't born with extra Bible knowledge. They simply have chosen to make the Word a priority in their lives.

May we never forget that the greatest treasure of all is that of having the King of Kings ALIVE in our hearts! It is through that personal relationship with Him that we should desire to know His Word. His Word will stand the test of time, and never fade away. It is truly the GREATEST PRIZE.
"To God be the glory, great things He hath done
SO loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice.
Oh come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory great things He hath done."