This Weekend: 2017 Live Animal Christmas Play!!

This weekend is our church's annual Live Animal Christmas Play! If you've been a blog reader for very long, than you remember us talking + posting about this every year for the past five years. It is one of our family's favorite yearly events.

This year, we've had so much going on, that we have completely forgotten to post anything about the play until now! (the day of the first show, whoops!)

We'd love to have some of y'all come out for it. People come from all over to watch this play-this year we even have some people flying down from British Columbia! It is an amazing experience that is only made possible by the power of Jesus working through very common people. You don't want to miss it!

Also, if you come, enjoy playing I SPY and watching for the following Bontragers in the play:
Marlin + Becky, Joshua + Cassidy, Allison, Denver, Taylor, Liz, Hudson, + Rebecca! You will see Carolina briefly singing in a song, but the rest of the time she + Carson are busy as beavers moving the props and equipment as they work backstage switching out sets with the crew there. Mitchell + Bryn you won't see either, as they are buried under the stages running the LSG fog/special effects. =) (as you can tell, there are many many different roles and opportunities besides the actual actors!)
The rest of the family will be in and out in various scenes throughout the play.

Details: The show is a Christmas theatrical production and it is free and open to the public! No tickets required.

Note: be sure to arrive 30-45 minutes early to ensure a seat-we regularly have to turn people away due to a full auditorium.


The Double Wedding || 9.1.2017

It was truly a day never to be forgotten, that double celebration day. Double weddings are definitely VERY unique, and I'm not sure it would ever work unless it was brothers marrying sisters. Even in that case it is a very unusual combo and definitely a project not for the faint of heart!
But it was their idea, these four, and I don't think I have ever seen such a big day handled with more grace, joy, and beauty, than the day of these two couples. Their greatest desire was for their guests to feel loved and for Jesus to be glorified, and those two things were accomplished beyond what any of us could've imaged. Enjoy the pictures!
(and special thanks to Windrose Photography for this amazing work! They captured the day so well!)
Getting ready!
The girls' beautiful rings. My brothers did so good. =)
First look!
Err, "looks". =) 
Lovely stage
The Bowers family is also an extremely close-knit family, and so the two couples decided to be surrounded by their siblings/best friends for their day. 
We were all so honored + overjoyed to stand up with them.
Our two big families!
Good looking gentlemen!
A transformed shop, almost ready to go!

Lovely details...
Mama with her sons.
This lady in the middle!! Can't say enough about her! Every wedding must have an Aunt Pandy! She bathed that day in prayer (literally, she began praying for her nieces future husbands when the girls were just babies) and she coordinated that wedding with an army of volunteers and skill, grace, and energy! So many thanks to her!

Our farm was like one giant party---people everywhere! At about 4pm, our pastor stood up and over the loudspeaker asked everyone to "please come be seated for the wedding". =) 
Right at 4:18pm, the wedding started!

Not much about this day was conventional. Two groomsmen to every bridesmaid, and they even decided to mix it up and put the little boys with the older girls, and the older guys with the little girls. Such fun!

Here come the brides!
There were some great laughs had on that stage!
"Great is Thy Faithfulness"
No mics, no instruments...just the simple lifting of voices in praise, by two uniting families. 
If anybody watching the livestream observed the chuckles going on on stage during the sand pouring time, there was a story behind that. Apparently the salt or sand or something they were using, had hardened, and wouldn't pour, so Carson whipped out one of his knives and chopped it up, right there in the middle of everything. I'm not sure that anyone in the audience could actually see what was happening but we bridal party all could and it was pretty funny. 
Groomsmen searching pockets, high and low, trying to locate that, ahem, "missing" ring. =)
If you missed watched the livestream, then you might remember that there was a good deal of laughter over some classic "zingers". =)
These are some of my favorite pictures. =)
Leave it to Josh to keep everyone in stitches. 
First kisses! 
Cake cutting time!
These two couples are both so sweet, but they are about as opposite as they come. Just one example?
See those two on the left, so nicely + gently + delicately preparing to feed each other neat little bites.
The couple on the right...not so much, hehe!
And soon after the cake cutting, they drove off into the night in their getaway vehicles of choice-two of our big farm tractors. (go on instagram and search #bontragerbowersdouble to find a video clip of their dramatic exits. =))

Our growing tribe!

If you missed it, we also posted some other phone pics and others of the day back in September in this post. The livestream is also still up and available to watch, at this link here.

"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 by Christ Jesus throughout all ages,
 world without end, Amen."
Ephesians 3:20+21


Recap from the Double!

Guess what is coming up on the blog tomorrow?!?! 

The Double Wedding post!

The pictures are finally here, from the double wedding, and we are thrilled to be sharing a recap post with y'all tomorrow! It was quite the event-apparently it's not every day one has a double wedding. Most of the people in attendance had never attended a double before, including all of us, haha!
 It was definitely a day to be remembered forever, and even drew in the attention of several Iowa reporters who asked if they could attend and get the inside scoop on this event. The day was so beautiful and full of fun, food, and much merriment! Come back tomorrow for the pictures!


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