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


Donut Day 2017

As some of you may remember, we have a tradition at the Bontrager house of making donuts every fall. To take a trip down memory lane, you may enjoy browsing through previous Donut Day posts here (2013), here (2014),  and here (2016). You can find our donut recipe here.
 One day a few weeks ago was The Day! Everyone was working locally that day, so it was the perfect time to mix up a big batch of dough and get frying.  The crew this year was mostly Allison, Liz, Hudson, and Rebecca. Mind you, the rest showed up when it was time to eat the donuts! We invited all the "marrieds" over for lunch, and filled up on soup and donuts.
We made it through with only 1 minor burn and 1 powdered sugared chin (the individuals above were the ones involved in said incidents.:)
This picture is a tradition every year- two people eating from the same donut. 
We usually roll the majority of the donuts in powdered sugar, and dip some in a homemade maple caramel glaze, as well. 



Hello Everyone!

It's harvest season, Bible Bee season, and wedding season! With everything going on these days, we missed the "Meet the Bontrager" feature this week. We will be finishing that series soon, but in the meantime, we will be posting some fun updates on recent happenings, the newlyweds, wedding planning, and more! 

Stay tuned for a new post coming Saturday, and thanks for reading! We look forward to keeping you up to speed with all the excitement + changes + adventures in our lives these days.

(ps. The photo above is kinda the "new crew" around home.:)  Even if the family is shrinking, these 5 youngsters definitely keep things from getting boring!)


Dueling Banjos Video

We thought you blog readers might enjoy one of the guys' latest musical arrangements. They performed it the end of last month at the Bluegate Theater in Shipshewana, Indiana and it was definitely a hit!
Enjoy this fun twist on the traditional "Dueling Banjos", 
instead featuring the dobro (Josh), banjo (Taylor), + bass (Hudson).


Meet Elizabeth!

Meet Elizabeth Caresse, the eighth-born in the Bontrager Family! Liz is Miss Personality, Miss Energy, Miss Social, and Miss Fashion. She is also thirteen, which goes along perfectly with the other labels. =) 

Elizabeth is in the eighth grade in school. She definitely takes after her older sisters in that she would be very fine with bypassing school and moving on with life, but it is a necessity so it is being done in due process. =) She loves music and plays the violin + piano. Piano is her favorite to practice, and she will sit and play/sing for hours. Chelsy has been training her in for the past year specifically to take over all of the piano playing, and Liz is now ready to transition into her newest role as lead pianist for our band. She also plays violin in our concerts, and sings lead and high harmony. Liz adores her new sisters-in-law and anytime she can see them is a favorite day in her book! She loves being outdoors, holding babies, and whipping up anything sweet in the kitchen. She often makes breakfast for our family and has quite a variety of meal she can do easily herself. She loves helping mothers with their little ones and it is a highlight for her whenever can babysit for friends' children for a day. Another transition for her this past year was stepping into the Laundry Lady role one day a week. That was a bit of an adjustment but she is learning!

She is probably the most social Bontrager and has dozens of friends all over the USA, Canada, and Mexico. There's no lack of conversation when Liz is near and she never meets a stranger. Whether she is surrounded by a group of teenagers after a concert, or asking a mom all about her babies/parenting, or practicing her sales pitch back at our product table after concerts, she loves to chat! Elizabeth is also very artistic and has multiple sketchpads in which she perfects a multitude of fonts and scripty scrolls in quotes and Bible verses. Elizabeth also competed in the summer Bible Bee, but quite frankly was a little relieved not to advance to the National Competition this year. She wants as much time as possible to be able to be involved in the wedding prep festivities for John + Chelsy. =)

Ah, how we love our sweet Liz, and are super blessed to have her in our family!


Mitchell + Bryn's Love Story

Hello friends! This is Mitchell + Bryn, guest-posting on the blog today! We are thrilled to share a bit of our love story with you readers, and a few pictures! The pictures are in random order and were all taken at some point along the way during our relationship.
Enjoy our story!
"I grew up just outside of Richland, Iowa my whole life, in a family of six - Dad, Mom, two older brothers, one younger brother, and myself. I attended (and still attend!) Marion Avenue Baptist Church, which is where I eventually met Mitchell. After graduating from Golden State Baptist College in California in May 2016 with a degree in Music Education, I returned home to jump back in and help, both at home and at church, in any way I could. Even before I came home, I heard rumors that Mitchell might be interested in me, but I ignored them and plunged into normal Iowa life."

{first date}
"I grew up near Kalona, Iowa, my whole life, in a family of twelve - Dad, Mom, five brothers, four sisters, and myself. Working on the farm, traveling the country in a 45 foot bus, singing, preaching, and playing instruments kept me busy. When my family began attending Marion Avenue in 2012, I fell in love with the church, and thoroughly enjoyed being there any time we were not on the road. Unbeknownst to me, several people began praying about Bryn + I!"
{hanging out together during the 2016 Live Animal Christmas Play}
"Over the four years from 2012-2016, Bryn and I would see each other across the auditorium at church, at church events, and at different times her family came over to our home. In February 2016, I began praying about starting a relationship with Bryn. Once Bryn returned home from college in May, she and Allison began to build a friendship. Although Allison was genuinely interested in becoming friends with Bryn, she was also my detective agent. =) She also hired Bryn to work for the DCI around that time. Allison + Bryn's friendship provided a natural chance for my family (and me!) to get to know Bryn as well!" 
{chatting after an evening music rehearsal}
"Around June 1st, Mitchell (secretly!) met with my parents to ask them for permission to pursue me. They gave him the green light- all that was left was for him to convince me! But he decided to wait to speak directly to me about it until after he and his family's summer singing tour. Mitchell and I did stay in touch, however, through a group text messaging stream with some friends + siblings from our singles class.
{Bryn's first flowers from Mitchell}
"Finally, after what seemed like a LONG summer to me, we arrived home on August 1st, 2016Five days later, I drove up to the hotel where Bryn was working, and asked for a first date. Out of curiosity, she said "yes". (not knowing then that it would be the start of a lifelong relationship)
{we loved spending time together at a family vacation in Texas!}
"The period between our first date and our engagement consisted of about 9 1/2 months of texting, FaceTime, dates, letters, sitting together in church, and lots of long chats. Like any relationship, there were high points and low points. It wasn't always blissful, but the difficulties we did have drew us closer to each other and to the Lord, and we were very blessed for everything we learned over this time!"
{one of our engagement pictures}
"Fast-forward to May 31st, 2017. It was TIME!! I asked Bryn for a picnic date, a week in advance, and she of course said yes! The day arrived - my sisters and I began to prepare the surprise proposal. Just as we were about to set everything up outside, I received a text from Bryn, saying that she was not feeling well and wouldn't be able to make it. Although disappointed (disappointed is an understatement!!!!!), I told her that it was completely fine, and maybe we could do it tomorrow instead. Little did she know that she had just cancelled her own engagement!"
{another shot from our engagement shoot}
"The next day, Bryn and I had rescheduled our date, and planned a "simple" picnic for that evening. Because of the location I had chosen for the picnic, I told one of my sisters to text and ask Bryn to stop and pick up something for her, which would cause her to arrive from a different direction, to ensure that she didn't see the romantic picnic table I had set. She was clueless - she blithely said "sure!", picked up the completely unnecessary item, and arrived at the farm. After spending a few minutes with my family inside, Bryn and I headed out to the field to "eat". At this point, there had been a few little things that made her wonder if maybe this was "the night", but nothing too significant. As we walked out to the picnic location, I attempted conversation, but finally gave it up, thinking that nothing I said was making sense anyways! Bryn didn't seem to notice, and continued walking."
{Mitchell-proposing || Bryn-accepting!}
"As we rounded the corner of the barn, I was surprised to see a table set in the midst of a section mowed in the shape of a heart, complete with roses, hand lettered signs, and fancy table settings. Mitchell stopped on the red blanket, surrounded by rose petals, that had been set to mark the perfect picture setting, and asked me to stand in a certain spot. (All for the pictures + video, taken by two very capable and well hidden sisters!) By this time, it was setting in for me - "He's going to propose!" After a sweet first declaration of love, Mitchell said the magic words, "Will you marry me?" My reply was simple: "Absolutely!!" 
Mitchell + Bryn-
"Ninety-three long days later, we were married at the Marion Avenue Baptist Church. We are now thoroughly enjoying married life, and planning to live a long happily ever after serving Jesus together."
       "He hath made everything beautiful in His time..."
 -Ecclesiastes 3:11