Friday, August 15, 2014

13th Annual Turning Hearts Celebration & Mini Update

I am super excited to announce the upcoming 13th Annual Turning Hearts Celebration!
This event is free and open to the public. Anyone can come! It is an "all-family" day designed to specifically encourage and connect families to the Lord, each other, and other families! 

If you are a new blog reader here and haven't heard of this event before, you can find pictures and highlights from last year here. Everyone is invited---we say, "the more the merrier"! =) Each year we have attendees from every state surrounding Iowa and even states beyond! There is no need to rsvp and you don't need tickets...just show up! =)

The featured speaker/singers for this year is the Curtis Bowers Family, from Idaho! Their family produced the award winning "Agenda" documentary. (read more about it here) The Bowers Family are personal friends of ours and a wonderful testimony of what God can do through a family dedicated to glorifying HIS name by studying and proclaiming truth! You won't want to miss their sessions and evening concert!

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
12pm....Family Picnic Lunch (bring your own chairs/blankets and a picnic lunch)
1:30pm...Afternoon session with speaker Curtis Bowers
2:30pm...Hayrides, games, and family fellowship time
4:30pm...Supper (meal, drinks, and table service provided-$4 suggested donation per person or $35 per family)
6:30pm...Welcome & Music
6:45pm...Concert by the Bowers Family
7:15pm...Evening Session with Curtis Bowers
8pm...Closing Concert by the Bontrager Family Singers
8:30pm...Fellowship & Volleyball (!!!!!)

Please contact us with questions! info@bontragerfamilysingers.com  
Download the above brochure on our website events page

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On a side note, I would greatly appreciate prayer for these next several weeks. There's a lot coming up in the next month---company, our church missions conference, a cousin's wedding, the Turning Hearts Celebration, our annual homeschool family camp, and another music tour...just to name the main events and not to mention work + other commitments. Due to other things that have been taking my time the last while, there's still a lot of prep left for some of these events. As always, I know everything will get done (yay for many hands that make the work fly!) but its still A LOT and a constant challenge to prioritize family + personal time with everything else going on. 
So thankful to know that HIS strength is make perfect in my weakness and that all is possible through His faithfulness + grace!

Have a blessed weekend, friends!
-Chels


Friday, August 8, 2014

Life Lately & Some Kiddos I Love

Y'all! I feel like I haven't blogged---as in, really, REALLY blogged, for months! I've been having too much fun living life. =) 
Summer was busy with lots of traveling and home life, as you can see on our family blog, where my sis & I have been posting.
Then we were home for two short weeks, which were packing full with a family reunion, hosting a bridal shower for my cousinchurch events, helping with/modeling for this incredible photography workshop, and spending lots of time with these precious children pictured here in this post!
this little lady is my special chum, and has been ever since she was just a tiny newborn.
so adorable!
lovin' on baby sister

Have a marvelous weekend, friends!
-Chels

Thursday, July 31, 2014

August Tour Dates

August 1st...Church of God Holiness, Eldorado Springs, Missouri, @ 7pm
August 3rd...Liberty Faith Bible Church, Norwood, Missouri, @ 7pm
August 4-6th...Friendship Baptist Church, Highland, Arkansas, daily

I would absolutely LOVE to see any of you Missouri/Arkansas blog readers at one of the above concerts! It was so fun on our last tour to meet so many of you and I'm looking forward to more!

I know I've been absent from here lately; life has been rolling right along and I've been busy as a beaver. =) If you'd like to hear a little bit of what's been going on in my life the last few weeks, see here and here

Stay tuned for more to come! 

Have a marvelous weekend, friends!
-Chels

Friday, July 11, 2014

Teresa || Portraits

Meet my beautiful cousin, Teresa. (but we call her Tess) She did the fun cousin thing and "jumped on board" to tour with us for a few days the first week of this tour. She adjusted to our life just fine and now joins the ranks of "scarred-for-ever-from-experiencing-bus-life" cousins. =)

She is super gorgeous, inside and out. Her personality is one of a kind and she has the most infectious laugh. I always laugh when I am with her. =) She wants to go into cosmetology after she graduates. I have full confidence that she will be amazing-she is extremely gifted in anything regarding nails, hair, makeup...yada yada. I am super picky about my makeup and as a rule I never let anyone mess with it, but I let her do it one morning and she did a fabulous job. I was so impressed that I let her do my hair that night, which is also not common for me. 
Alli did Teresa's hair the one night before our concert. It turned out so lovely. So I decided to snap a few pictures, and this post is a few of them. 



Tess is pretty much the queen of drama. =)
favorite!
this wasn't quite a normal shoot...we were being a bit crazy. 
I had my gorgeous sista Alli pop in for a few...
I have no idea what pose was being attempted here. no idea whatsoever. 
Anybody have a favorite?!

-Chels

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

StoltzfusCousinReunion||Recap

 Ah. This is one of those posts that brings smile after smile to my face as I scroll down through the pictures and memory lane. So many good times are represented by each and every shot. I was determined that this event be photographed. I wanted lots of pictures! So I kept my camera with me almost constantly, and enjoyed documenting this event through my lens.

A little background on this reunion. In the Stoltzfus family, the seven youngest children (my mom and six of her siblings) collectively had a total of ten daughters in eight years. It has been pretty awesome to grow up with these ladies and for all of us to be so close in age. 
Back at this wedding last year, we realized that the weddings were only going to be increasing...and that with each one of us that got married it would get more and more difficult to get all of us together for a reunion. Thus this reunion was planned and scheduled.
I am so thankful for these women...everyone pulled together and took time out of their busy schedules to travel from five different states/provinces to come together for this reunion. Three girls even left their husbands behind. (bless their hearts)
There were two cousins who were unable to come (one because of her recent wedding/move to CA and the other because of conflicting work/college schedules) and they were greatly missed. But I am very grateful for the eight of us and the one cousin-in-love who were all able to come.

All that said. Enjoy a recap of our reunion, and the story of our trip.
In celebration of this trip, we bought a new car! {not}
No, actually...our daddy purchased this for us (and the rest of the family of course). It has been an adjustment. I mean, I learned how to DRIVE on a 15-passenger van. The smallest thing I've ever driven is our truck. So in this little thing...the first time out I honestly felt like I was going to get killed. It was a very vulnerable feeling. But I am getting used to it. And on road trips like this one...my wallet dearly loves the difference between 14MPG (what I got with the truck) and 45MPG with the car. #yay
Sister and I don't pack lightly. I'm just not sure we will ever to get to place where we don't majorly overpack. Oh well. It was just the two of us and all of our stuff in the car, so we thought the more stuff the merrier and just piled it in. =) Personal luggage, food, food, and more food...a few gifts, camera gear, etc.

And yes, this was yet another typical road trip. You would not believe what all we got into. But since the main point of this post is the reunion and not another tale of a wild road trip...I will leave that part to your imagination.
We spent Saturday evening/night with some dear friends of ours who live near Middlebury, and also attended church with them Sunday morning. We had a fabulous time at their home-lots of laughs, good food, and chill time.
We met our cousin and her hubby for lunch at Subway before heading over to the B&B. Since marriage has taken her all the way out to that far-off land of Manitoba, our visits aren't very frequent and it had been a whole year since we had seen her. Much to catch up on!

Back in January when we were planning this, we decided on Indiana as the state for the reunion because it was somewhat central for everyone. The first location I thought of for us to stay at was That Pretty Place Bed & Breakfast, in Middlebury, Indiana. The owners attend a church that my family has sung at before and a couple of years ago when we were singing there a few of us stayed at the B&B for a night. It had been a very short stay but it left a big impression on me-the place is gorgeous (totally true to its name) and I knew it would be ideal for our reunion. I was also pretty sure it would be out of our price range but..it never hurts to check! So I did and found out that we could get discounts for 1)renting the whole house,  2) getting it week nights  & 3)making our own breakfasts. I was pretty thrilled about all that because I knew it would be so perfect for us!

Here it is. Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL place.
Please don't judge me for this but I immediately developed an uncanny fascination for this handicap accessible chair. (I mean, how fun would it be to take this chair down the stairs instead of walking them? I agree.) I've always had a strange liking for anything that is off limits. =) After like ten minutes spent trying to figure it out (with lots of help from those gathered around) I finally conceded that it was not to be and gave up.
Someone smarter than me figured it out later on that evening, and the rides began, and continued all throughout our stay.  hey, at least we got it working!
These two in the kitchen...wow. #nowordsneeded
LOVED spending time with this lady again! 
Everybody was divided into groups of two (or three) and each group was in charge of a meal. Alli and I and one of the cousins made chicken fajitas for our meal, Sunday evening.
All of the road-weary travelers, gathered together for our first meal and ready to party together!
I have to say, we ate like QUEENS. Every meal! It was SO much fun to do our own cooking! And it definitely cut down on the cost too.
We spent the first evening looking at wedding albums...
discussing (and researching online) personality types and individual color seasons and palettes....
We ended the evening with a full blown nail session complete with lovely chatting about all sorts of things. We also may or may not have had an hour long discussion in which we tried to plan what to do on Monday. See, it's difficult when one of the main points of a reunion is just to chill and not have anything planned or scheduled. But there are still some things that kind of have to be scheduled. So the take charge type of person amongst us (ahem) had to take charge and MAKE everybody vote on what to do, much to the amusement of some people. There were moments when nobody would give their opinion...and then suddenly there were several people vying "to have the floor". (inside joke)
Monday morning we headed out to Shipshe for a few hours to do a little shopping. Before we left I forced everyone to pose for a few pictures. =) 
(made possible by parking my Mark III on top of my car in leu of the forgotten tripod.)
Don't we look like just the sweetest, most mature group of women you have ever seen?
never mind on that. =)
my FAVORITE!
We really couldn't be together without hitting up at least ONE thrift store. After all, thrift store shopping is the Stoltzfus thing to do. =)
bargains! treasures! oh yeah!
We stopped by this green house.
We looked at plants and took pictures. 
This girl...she is the awesomest ever and I really can't stand it that we have to live soooo far away from each other. 
we thought she should take this plant home with her.
{smile}
I attempted to take a few portraits of each person. It was slightly difficult here...it would appear that we had a profesh photo bomber in our midst. =)
So here we go...meet each of the girls that came along for this reunion!
Allison
Patty
Marissa
Lyndsi
Ashlyn
Kara
Corina
Kendra
yours truly
So, weird story here. Apparently...people seem to think that Patty & Corina look alike. And other people think that Corina and I look alike. But no one has ever said that Patty and I look alike. Kinda strange how that all works. We all took a picture together anyways. =)
a few more fun ones...
And then it was on to the legendary E&S Bulk Foods Store. Their cheese prices are the best ever. And? They even have SAMPLES. Our mothers weren't there to monitor us so we pigged out  still did as we had been taught and only took teeny and delicate little bites.
Back home in time for a late lunch. We had decided to eat out on Monday. There was a dear little cafe just 1/4 mile from the B&B. Kendra told us about it because she had used to work there before she got married. We picked up some menus on our way back from shopping and sat around and decided what we would order before heading back over to the cafe.
tough decisions here...
they are crazy...=)
We had such lovely times in this little kitchen. Our mothers all love to cook and apparently the love has been passed down pretty well.
We had planned to lay out for the afternoon and get some sun but alas for us, it rained. So we settled with an indoor picnic instead, with our lunches that we had ordered from the nearby cafe.

A random hilarious fact about the weekend is the gang story. OH.MY.WORD. Sooo...several weeks prior to the reunion, a friend from the Middlebury area was visiting our family. And when she heard that us girls were coming to Middlebury for a reunion with our cousins, she told our mother that there had recently been a gang of guys abducting young girls in an area nearby where we were going to be staying. My mother panicked and implored us to never go walking along, to always go out in groups, and to NEVER roam through the woods at night. And to be sure to warn our cousins of this. So the first night we told everyone about the situation. We actually all got quite a laugh out of the mental image of a gang of guys trying to coral and kidnap all nine of us. I think they would have their hands pretty full. =) Anyway...all during the reunion, whenever there was a knock at the door...or something creaked....or somebody was late coming back from their group jog...we would all joke "oh, thats just the gang" or "THE GANG probably got them". It provided lots of entertainment. And nope, we never did get a visit from the infamous gang. Guess they figured we were a force to be reckoned with and passed us by. =)
Deep games of Take One.
Not included in this set of photos are the intense Dutch Blitz games, the time we laid out in spite of the chilly weather and ended up getting rained out, and many other moments, some that are probably best not mentioned. =)
Hard at work...cooking up something yummy for supper.
Ahhh!!!!
Deep discussions happened all during those two days, in the randomest of locations and with random groups of people. Here...I believe they were discussing finances and budgeting.
another discussion going on. I believe this one was maybe about blogging and networking and dealing with crazy people that one meets on the internet.
its pretty fun to have a cosmotologist for a cousin. =) Patty gave me a free updo, just cause I was in the mood to have my hair done. And lo and behold afterwards we were looking at a Kate Middleton magazine and realized that this is basically identical to one of her famous hairstyles!
Not sure what was the deal with the cup being in the photo. It may or may not have contained my seventh cup of coffee for the night. =)
another favorite picture right here.
Drinking my 12am cup of coffee in this little soup bowl, cause that was the only cup left. =) 
More rides on the chair. I'm tellling you...we got SO much mileage out of it. We each took at least thirty two rides. =) The funniest moment was when the housekeeper came in and talked to us for a bit and after she left we realized that the chair was at the bottom of the stairs the whole time. Talk about peals of laughter. I cannot imagine WHAT she thought of us! Seeing the chair at the bottom, she had to have known that we were using it. =)
discussing kate middleton and her style, and then just style and beauty in general.
this king size bed was so huge! pretty sure we could've all fit on it.
hmm...late night giggles.
preparing breakfast...
so.much.good.food.
this was maybe a discussion about fitness? not sure...
Alli & Lynds
time to pack up. we were all so sad to leave this place!
#tributetothechair #nowordsneeded
Alli & I stayed in room No. 3
Our lovely room. I forgot to take pictures of it til the morning we left so that is why things are in somewhat of a disarray.
Our last morning...powerful time of sharing the dreams that God has laid on our hearts and then gathering around to pray together before leaving.
heading out...it was so sad to leave!

before all heading out of state/home for our respective locations, we went to my uncle and aunt's place and enjoyed a delicious lunch that my aunt prepared for us.
For those of you who know what I'm talking about, here is the Mr. Collins wave/expression accurately depicted by Alli and Corina. Minus the greasy hair, of course. =)
piano duets together with Marissa...just like the old days.
After lunch we had an amazing time of worship around the piano...LOVED this time. Incredible.
One last group photo.

Cherishing the memories... Love you ladies! You add so much spice to my life-I'm super blessed to be able to call y'all cousins and kindred spirits!
Can't wait for next time. =)
-Chels