National Bible Bee 2017 In Review

There is so much to say in this post! This event is a highlight of our year. Over and over again we say how very thankful we are for the Bible Bee and the impact it has had on our family. It is impossible to share in one post about all the time, dedication, hard work, and the lifting up of the name of Jesus Christ, that goes in to this event.

Here's the crew that headed down early in the bus! We were joined several days later, for the weekend, by Allison, Mitchell + Bryn, Josh + Cassidy, and John.

Right after registration...the five youngest devouring the 2017 Bible Bee Book and making their yearly "semi-final predictions". =)
Pretending to be unsure about the robes provided in the hotel rooms. =)
Denver quoting to Taylor back in the hotel room.
Hudson, up bright and early for last-minute study the morning of the opening competition round!
Something new this year---a special time to honor the contestants who had a word-perfect first day oral round. All three of our competitors, Denver, Hudson, and Rebecca, made it into this group!
Many of you asked about Taylor and why he couldn't compete this year. The answer is that each year the winner of each division, regardless of their age, must move on to the next level. Taylor won juniors in 2015 and so he had to move up to the senior division, even though according to his age he was technically too young. After winning seniors in 2016, there was nowhere else to advance as seniors is the last division. It was hard for him to not be competing this year, but he did really enjoy the opportunity to interact and spend more time socializing and helping out as assistant staff. 
Taylor chatting with a friend at the desert reception Saturday night.
I love this picture. These three guys? They are some of my heroes. For years they have been tight competitors and tight friends. Sounds impossible, right? 
Enter the National Bible Bee, where your tightest competition is also your closest friends. This is the beauty of what happens when the WORD is at the center of an event/competition. It unifies instead of dividing! These three guys are almost always neck and neck in written test scores and orals. 
This year was no different.
One of them didn't make it to semi-finals.
One of them made it to semi-finals but got knocked out before finals. 
One of them advanced to finals and won first place. And you know what? Their friendship is just as strong and great as it was at the beginning of the week. Their various scores and placements vary from year to year but their friendship just grows stronger and stronger. 
I LOVED watching them cheer for and rejoice with each other! 
This picture was taken on a morning run they did together. 
Late night party for the older ones, after a full day of cheering for the siblings!
Dad + Mom with Hudson.
For those of you who didn't watch the livestream or stay up to date on our instagram, Rebecca did not make it to semi-finals, Denver made it to semi-finals but got knocked out before finals, and Hudson received third place in the finals. They all did an amazing job and we loved being there to celebrate and cheer them on!

Sadly we never got a picture with the whole tribe together. We did manage to grab this one (above), the last evening, with six of us. 

"Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee."
Psalm 119:11


Join us for the National Bible Bee LIVE!

We are so thrilled to be here at the National Bible Bee this week! It has been an intense several months of study for our three National contestants (Denver-senior competition, Hudson-junior competition, and Rebecca-primary competition) but finally THE WEEK is here! We would love to have all of you join us via the Livestream as God's Word is proclaimed + magnified!

You can watch the livestream + view the schedule of events HERE. Hundreds of you, our blog readers, have enjoyed "joining" our family, via the livestream, over the last several years. It is the next best thing to being here in person and we would be delighted to have y'all join us again!

We will not be updating the blog this week, but will be posting pictures, videos, etc over on our instagram. Follow us on instagram @bontragerfamilysingers for updates and lots more of fun happenings here with our family at the National Bible Bee 2017!


Update on Mitchell + Bryn

We thought ya'll might like a little update on Mitchell + Bryn's life these days. They are as happily married as happy can be.:) 
Their life together these days is quite exciting and fast paced! They are working long hours in the seasonal custom manure hauling business that Mitchell owns with Carson and Dad. 
Some days they see unusual things, like this little pig escapee!:) 
They are working for hog farmers all over Iowa, hauling the liquid hog manure to the designated fields where the farmers want the manure to be injected for fertilizer. The jobs vary in length from 1 to 4 days.
Bryn, though a country girl, did not grow up around hogs or tractors, so learning all about these things as she works alongside Mitchell has been quite the adventure. From all appearances, she is acclimating quite well, and is an invaluable asset to Mitchell. Her work includes everything from packing food, to driving equipment, to doing secretary work for Mitchell. 
It's a smelly, exciting, good life. Well, so they tell us.:) In this particular picture, they stayed up working till 4:30 in the morning; they say it was one of their most fun times together yet! 


Fall is For....

Storing away produce for the winter.
Studying for the National Bible Bee Competition!!!
Intentional time together......when some of use haven't seen each other for days!
Chilly power walks.:)
Going to the park.
Playing with Dad on a rare evening when he's not in the fields.
Canning + freezing all sorts of yummy things.
Butchering pigs + deer for fresh meat.....ohh yes!
Barn chores- Liz recently started taking on some regular responsibilities in the barn, and she is doing a great job. Mother went out to help her one morning, and of course they had a blast!
And last but not least, fall is for baking!!! One of our seasonal favorites is Apple Danish.

"Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion." Ecclesiastes 5:18


Out + About

Life has been a lot of hustle + bustle + go around the Bontrager house recently! I thought I would share a random smattering of photos from some of our recent activities.
Above, Liz (with the help of a driver:) took Huds for a coffee/game date at our favorite local coffee shop. It would appear that the brother/sister time, sweet treats, and game was greatly enjoyed.:)
Chels has been spending many hours traveling back and forth between Kansas and Iowa. She + John enjoy every chance they get to go on dates, work on their house, and plan their wedding.
Mother rode with Dad in the combine one day. We were pretty proud of them for remembering to snap a picture.:)  Farm life doesn't get much better than combine rides during harvest season.
This sweet power team enjoyed a farmstyle breakfast in the home of one of their clients (left). It's an unusual sight to see two young couples pull up to a custom manure hauling job with their whole posse of equipment (trucks, tractors, pumps, etc). The girls help their husbands by driving equipment, serving up yummy food, and keeping them company during long hours in the tractors.
Chelsy + John with some of his nieces.
Allison having lunch with a coworker.
Liz got to go with Chels on one of her recent trips to Kansas.
Sister times are the best! One afternoon when Allison had some time off, she whisked Liz off for a little downtown exploring, complete with ice-cream and scones.
Allison and Chelsy always love connecting with these dear long-time friends. Their evening out of shopping, dinner, and catching up on each other's lives was superb.
Aren't they cute? 


Pizza Party At Mitchell + Bryn's House

For Hudson's birthday, Mitchell + Bryn gave him a pretty cool gift- the afternoon spent with them and an evening at their apartment plus staying the night. He was pretty stoked, and in the end it was decided that he could invite some guests for the evening, as well. The Pizza Party/Game Night was a smashing success!
Bryn is a fantastic cook, and she went all out with homemade pizza for the evening!
Denver, Taylor, Elizabeth, Hudson, and Rebecca had such a great evening at Mitchell + Bryn's house!  We are so blessed to have them living just 10 minutes away. Mitchell continues to invest in his younger siblings' lives even now that he is married. We appreciate his example, encouragement, and friendship. And Bryn- what a gem! Not only is she perfect for Mitchell, but we love her so much and are overjoyed to have her as part of the family. She is a natural encourager, as well as having a terrific sense of humor that keeps us all laughing! 


Mother's Surprise 50th Birthday Party

Our dear Mother turned 50 last month, and because her birthday fell in the middle of harvest season, she planned a birthday party for Hudson (whose birthday is after hers) and never said a word about doing anything for her birthday. She assumed that after the harvest craziness was over someone would remember about her birthday and we would celebrate then.
Well, one evening when the parents were out on a date, some of us started brainstorming and decided that we were going to throw a family-only surprise party for Mother that weekend. We quickly started a group on voxer with our new sisters (for food planning purposes) and confirmed with all the siblings that everyone could come. We decided not to tell Dad, since it is hard for him to keep things from Mother anyways, plus we thought it would be fun to see him surprised as well.
We planned a menu of Mother's favorite foods:
Honey Dijon Chicken
Garden Salad
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Apple Pie
Bumbleberry Pie
Vanilla Ice Cream
   Allison + Chelsy were in Kansas the weekend of the party, so Mother thought they wouldn't be home till later that evening. Cassidy invited the family over for Sunday dinner so Mother wouldn't cook. The plan was for Chelsy and Allison to travel home early and, unbeknowst to Mother, make food and decorate for the party before the family got back from church. The other sisters (Bryn, Carolina, and Cassidy) each brought a dish, as well, so that with everyone pitching in we had a veritable feast.
   We planned everything out for the surprise to come off without a hitch- the younger children all requested to ride back from church with the married siblings, which left Dad and Mom coming back by themselves. Cassidy texted to ask them to "pick something up" at the house on their way. We planned for the surprise to happen when they "stopped by the house"- everyone else had bee-lined there from church and would be ready and waiting.
   The table was set, the food was ready, and we all staged in the dining room for their arrival. As they walked up the steps and in the front door we all began a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday". Dad jumped at least a food in the air and Mother stood rooted to the spot in complete shock. She declared that she had never been so surprised in her life! She was completely thrilled to be surrounded by her husband and every one of her children for a special celebration in honor of her 50th birthday.
   We ate and talked and laughed and spoke words of blessing over our dear mother. Afterwards we gave her gifts and enjoyed a special time of singing together (her favorite family activity). 
"Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." Proverbs 31:28