Country Beauty

We are blessed to live at one of the prettiest spots on earth. At least we think so! =) 
It is so true that home is where the heart is, and beauty is in the eye and heart of the beholder. 
But all that to say, it is still a very beautiful spot, don't you think?
Above picture-the view from the south (back hog barn) of our farm and newly planted field. 
Another early morning view of one of our fields. That is our bull barn on the far left and our neighbors farm directly behind the field. Check out that corn peeking through the soil! 
Beautiful sunrise.

View front the opposite direction (west side), after a storm one evening.

With this, we end "The Daily Blogging Series". Thank-y'all for following along! 
May flew by, and it was such a beautiful month, full of so much for our clan. 
We are blessed for each of you that join in on a tiny bit of our lives by following our blog. We plan to continue posting regularly (although not every day!) and would love for you to come back in June!


Family Cookout Night!

Last Monday night was our weekly family night. Several walked, and the rest loaded up in the truck, and we all converged back there together to cook out and enjoy a few hours out in nature.
It was the perfect night and so good to be together after a busy weekend!
Seating of choice. =)
We are all so focused and serious when eating, apparently! =)


Ohio Weekend Concert Trip

We rarely take any bookings for the month of May, as that is our "home + spring planting" month that we guard quite carefully. But this month we headed out to Ohio for a very quick weekend, to be a part of a special ministry opportunity there. Having not sung/played together since the beginning of April, this meant there was a great need to have some group practice time! This was our first tour to perform a set without Mitchell, and, would you believe it, we survived! Thanks to an abundance of diligent individual practice on the part of the three youngest boys, it looks like we actually might make it this summer. =)
Focused, serious, and focused. =)
Our first event was Saturday night. The church who brought us in has a Bible Study/discipleship program that they started several years ago at a local gun shop. It has grown to several hundred men and is having an amazing impact on lives in the community.
For this night, all the men were invited to bring their wives + families for an evening barbecue and live concert.
Sunday morning and evening found us performing and sharing at the host church's Sunday services. We enjoyed lunch out with the pastor + assistant pastors and their families.
Allison and I got to catch up over coffee for a few hours, Sunday afternoon, with these gems! So great to see them again.
Taylor loved the opportunity to get a banjo lesson, after our concert, from the assistant pastor, who, his son said, has been "playing the banjo since he was three!" =) We grew up on his family's albums, and so it was a real treat to meet him!
Late night dinner with the pastors family before hitting the road for home! We were so blessed by the sweet spirit of this church and their heart for discipleship. There is such a lack of true discipleship + long-lasting relationships with people these days, and it was very refreshing to see a church stepping outside the norm to reach people in such an effective way. We left feeling challenged and encouraged!


Mulching Party!

It is once again that time of year when we weed, edge, and mulch our trees and various landscaping projects. True to Bontrager tradition, one morning last week, we got the load of mulch right before the rain came in. =) Occasionally, on days like that, we call an emergency "all hands on deck!" (pros of having half your kids as your employees) and all go at the project together, completing it in record time and making the pieces fly!
Denver and Josh, removing a dead tree from the orchard. 
"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
-Romans 15:13


Our Divine Calling || Guest Post by Joshua

Our Divine Calling

        Have you ever thought, “If only I had more money, fame, or power, I could get a lot more done for Christ?” It can be a tempting thought because we can use all of these things for good. However, God doesn't need us to have any of these things to accomplish great things for Him. None of us needs to have the influence of Michael Jordan or Muhammed Ali in order to serve Christ. In fact, God delights in using the weak and foolish things of the world for his glory (I Corinthians 1:26-31)

        The Bible records the story of a man who had little money, social standing, or power, yet he was called by Christ the greatest man to have ever lived (Matthew 11:11)

        Who was this man? What was the purpose of his ministry? And how can learn from His life? 

        His name was John the Baptist, and Luke 3:1-2 tells us this about him: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Phillip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitus, and Lysanius the tetrarch of Abiline, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”

        Form Pilate to Herod, the Jews were governed by godless leaders, and this is the world that John lived in. In this environment, surely the high priests would have set the example. Yet sadly, Annas and Caiaphas, the two men who should have been Israel's spiritual leaders, were two of the most vehement opponents of Christ's ministry. One might have expected change to come from the political regime or the religious leaders, but God bypassed those institutions and people to speak to a rough wilderness man. Though John was not a priest or a king, John left behind a greater legacy than any of the religious or political leaders of his day. Why? John left a lasting mark because he was faithful to his calling. 

        Who was this man we know as John the Baptist? Though son of the priest Zacharias, John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, wearing a garment of camel's hair and subsisting on locust and wild honey (Matthew 4:4). John was an unconventional man who probably would not have been well-accepted in our day. 

        What was the purpose of John's ministry? His purpose was “to prepare the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3).” Unlike the religious rulers who sought only to glorify themselves, John laser-focused his ministry on glorifying Christ. John called Jesus “preferred before me,” stating that even he was not worthy to loose the latchet of Jesus' shoes (John 1:27). John had a great following and he could have used that following for his own benefit, but instead he used his platform to point others to Christ. In the face of rejection by the religious and political establishment of his day, John never wavered, but continued to speak the truth–though it would cost him his life.  

        John the Baptist was a humble man whose sole purpose in life was to point others to Christ. How can we follow his example today? We MUST RECOGNIZE and EMBRACE our divine calling. 

        What is our calling? I Peter 2:9 describes our mission in this way: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” That's our calling: to SHOW FORTH His praises. If we know Him, we have a responsibility to make Him known. Do you recognize that calling? And if so, have you embraced it? 

        Those who make an eternal difference on this earth are not those who have the greatest possessions, popularity, or power; those who leave their mark on this world are those who are faithful to their calling. 

        Do you know your calling? Are you faithful to that calling? 

        As children of the king, let us not seek to live for the applause of men, but let us seek to live for the glory of God. 

        Remember, God is not searching for people who are influential: He is looking for people who will simply be faithful. John the Baptist left a lasting impact because he lived a life focused on glorifying Christ. May we be motivated to always do the same. 

{Written by Joshua-20}


Science Project

I would be the first to admit that Science is not my first love. But after opening "Apologia's Astronomy" a few months ago, I have found a new appreciation for the amazing world God has created.  
The Astronomy book is divided into 14 chapters, one of which describes the incredible characteristics of Mercury.  Each chapter also gives idea for experiments.  
Above is each student's version of Mercury, complete with craters.  If you don't know what a crater on Mars is, you might want to order your own copy of Apologia's "Astronomy".  
And yes, we did have fun doing this project!!

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth the His handywork.  Day unto day uttered speech and night until night sheath knowledge." 
-Psalm 19:1-2

{written by Becky}


Out and About

There are so many good things about being home in our Iowa place. One of those is reconnecting with all of our Iowa family + friends! We love them all so much and soak up the time to see all the Iowans again!
Above, Allison + I drove to Des Moines (end of April) for a day with several of our aunts + cousins, and our grandma. It is a yearly "Bontrager ladies" tradition to go there for garage sales for a day with whoever is able to come. We had such a party!
Olive Garden for a late lunch! It rained all day and we were so cold! I'm afraid they definitely lost money on us that day, with all the soup we ate from the unlimited soup + salad choice. =) Such good times!
Our church recently started up a mini orchestra to accompany the choir and congregational singing, and Liz + Hudson have been loving the opportunity to be a part of it.
Allison loved spending several mornings with these children, so their mother could go out for a few hours of quiet time.

Pancheros for lunch and then closet makeover shopping with our mother dear!
While we are speaking of Allison...she is invaluable these days at the hotel.
Public Relations Expert, Manager of All Projects, Marketing Director, and Hiring/Firing Queen, amongst other titles. =) Her social personality makes her perfect for her job, and she loves nothing better than doing everything she can to serve + bless her customers. The other morning she took some time to chat with this gentleman, a driver for the Amish, who was staying at the hotel.
Dad + Elizabeth, out on the town (Longhorn) for some quality father/daughter time.
 Several of us participated in singing/playing for the theme song, "I Will Arise", for our churches annual missions conference.

Mom + Rebecca spent an afternoon at Grandma's, with Rebecca learning a little more cross stitch from the pro. =)
Laundry time at the hotel! Allison took a few minutes at the end of her spring cleaning shift to assist our manager's wife with folding the ever-continuing pile of sheets + towels!


Spring Company!

We were delighted to have a number of guests in and out of our home in April + May. Here are several "company time" snapshots from a few of the visits!
Our cousin + her little family came to visit! (read all about that on my blog, here)
Liz was ecstatic to spend half a day with one of her best friends, who lives several hours away. Liz' friends' father was in the area on business so he dropped his daughter off here for awhile. They had such fun!
This girl was one of Joshua's fellow contestants in the Bible Bee for several years. Now she is married and has a baby, and their family visited us while they were out here in Iowa for a wedding.

Back when "things" were starting up, one of their sons asked my sister, "So, if this works out...does that make our families in-laws?" =)
Of course it is just the one getting married that gets the in-laws, but we tell Carson we are happy to share his in-laws with him, as they are just the sweetest ever. =)
Mom spending time with her little great-nephew. 
Work continues on the farm, even when we have guests, but you'd be amazed how much good conversation can be had whilest cooking, cleaning, gardening, and yes, even tearing apart a tractor with grease flying. =)
Tractor time and hauling manure with Mitchell + Co!
Two other cousins were traveling through Iowa with their crew on their way west for a work project, and stopped in late to spend the night. We love random and spur-of-the-moment opportunities to practice hospitality like that! Sadly, the time was short, but the sunrise chat was greatly enjoyed by all.
Story time with the little people.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17


Babies in the House!

(note: whoops, I thought this post was scheduled to publish on Saturday morning! We just returned home from a short wkend in Ohio, and I discovered this morning that there was somehow a glitch and it never posted after all! So y'all get two posts today, then! Sorry about that!)

We recently loved the opportunity to watch some of our favorite little ones-our pastor's two youngest daughters. Babies in the house is one of our favorite things ever, and these are tiding us over til the grand babies start coming! =)
I took Rachel out one morning (still in her jammies!) to meet the newest arrival on the farm-a baby calf born just that morning.
Liz adored every opportunity to entertain this little gal!
What a smile. =)
Painting nails is always a favorite activity!