Monday, March 19, 2018

My Bridal Showers + Bachelorette Party

Today I am sharing a few pictures + details from my three bridal showers and also my bachelorette party! Goodness, in some ways these events seem like they happened yesterday, and in other ways, it seems like a lifetime has happened since then!

September + October were full of my brothers' weddings, company, harvest, touring with my family, spending weekends in Kansas working on our new house, and little bits of wedding planning, amongst many many other things. It ended up that the timing for my bridal showers was having all three within a week and a half of each other! They were each very unique and extremely special times for me. I have hosted numerous bridal showers for friends + cousins over the past seven years, and so having my own bridal showers hosted for me seemed very strange! It was quite different not to be in the middle of the planning + preparing, but was very special and sweet.

The first shower was in Kansas and was hosted by John's mother + sisters. It was very special to be able to have this time to meet a number of "Leavenworth friends" and to also spend time with my new family-to-be. I also loved having my mom + sisters come down with me.
There are so many awesome things about gaining a new family, but the cherry on top is Gigi. She welcomed me in with open arms (quite literally!) from the very first time that John took me to her house to meet her, and we have been great friends ever since. She has an incredible heart and John has a very special place there so it has been wonderful to get in on that relationship! I discovered just another element of her kindred spirit one night when John + I were talking about some family thing and, to prove a point, I said in that certain lilting little tune, "traaa-di-TIONNNN" and John said, "That's crazy, Gigi says that word the exact same way!" I had to laugh because I knew right then that I'd found me a mutual Fiddler on the Roof fan in my new grandma. =)

Gigi shared a devotional at my shower and I loved that example of an older woman passing down wisdom to me. 
This shower was a pantry themed shower. Every guest was asked to bring a spice and/or items for my new pantry. I had never heard of this kind of shower before but now I can't wait to host a shower for someone else sometime because I know I have to use this idea! It is brilliant and has been the biggest blessing for me as a new bride! As a result of this shower, I had a very well stocked pantry from the very beginning, with literally all of the spices I needed and an abundance of canned things and baking supplies. It was a huge blessing to be able to start out with so many of the kitchen staples needed to run a kitchen. 
My new sisters did a lovely job with decor + food!
Love these ladies!
The next week found shower #2 happening in Iowa. This was hosted my two of my very dear Iowa gals, who were also my reception coordinators at my wedding. They invited a number of old friends that I knew through either homeschooling events/groups or through traveling with Bright Lights Ministries years ago.
They had a soup + artisan bread bar and had various girls make different kinds of soups. Everything was decorated with roses, candles, and classy black + red.
After eating, we moved up to the cozy + vintage renovated attic, where one of the ladies shared a beautiful devotional on the life of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
She also led a special time of everyone praying a blessing over me in my new upcoming life, and then since they all wanted to hear it, I shared John's and my rather lengthy and unusual love story. (coming eventually to a blog near you. Haha!) 
These gals. Love them so! They pulled off this shower without a hitch and they are just some of the sweetest girls you will ever meet. We have done more road trips, drank more coffee, shopped more thrift stores, done more photo shoots, worked more conferences, read more Doves messages, eaten more Ritz Sour Cream and Onion Pita Chips,and quoted more Jane Austen to each other....than should be legal! 
Next, just several nights after shower #2, two of my aunts hosted a "Bontrager ladies" shower at one of my favorite places, the Kalona Coffee House. Most of my local aunts + cousins were able to be there, as well as my grandma Bontrager. John's mom + several of his sisters were also able to come up for the shower and it was fun to introduce them to my Iowa relatives. We had a great time of opening gifts and doing what Bontragers do best---talking lots and lots. =)
My aunts made some delicious cheesecakes to go with everyone's coffee drinks. So yummy!
So thankful for these two ladies! I am blessed with the best when it comes to my parents' extended families, and it was super special to have these aunts host the shower for me!
And then there was my bachelorette party. It was a beautiful night and I will never forget it!
My sister put together all of my favorite things in one big last party before the wedding. Some of my favorite soups, favorite sandwiches, favorite fruits + veggies, favorite beverages, and favorite ladies, were all in one place at one time and I felt so loved. I came home late that afternoon (right before the party started, actually!) to find our house decorated with fresh flowers, gold and white accents, and a feast for the eyes AND palette with the food. =)
Touches like this...
She asked me who I wanted at the party and I decided on the fourteen bridesmaids, my two personal attendants, my mom and new mom-to-be, and all the little flower girls. It was a full house that Thursday night! All the guys were out at the bachelor party for John, so it was "girl zone" in our house!
These three new sistas of mine helped Allison with the cooking for the party! They are some of the most amazing women I know and I'm literally tearing up right now just marveling in God's goodness in bringing such absolute jewels as these girls as additions to the Bontrager tribe
Spring Chicken Soup, Tomato Cream Soup, and raspberry turkey grilled cheese sandwiches. (don't judge until you've tried them-we were first introduced to the concept at a gourmet restaurant years ago, and they have been a favorite of mine ever since!) There was also an abundance of veggies, with fresh fruits for dessert, and Izzies to add some pizzaz to the menu. 
Unbeknownst to me, Allison asked all of the bridesmaids to bring a special snack or fun item for John's and my honeymoon trip. It was the sweetest idea and John + I loved having those treats on our honeymoon later! There was everything from chips/salsa to a fun chocolate tasting game to massage oils to everything in-between. 
This girl. She worked so hard for the bachelorette party and my wedding. I don't know what I would have done without her. She literally was the driving force that made everything happen. She faithfully planned, helped, and alternately took over tasks, throughout the few months leading up to the wedding, and specifically through the month of December. I could not have had the wedding day that I had without her, and I am so grateful!


My "Last Week as a Bontrager" post is up next, and then it's on to the WEDDING PICTURES!!
Anyone else excited for that?!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Reunion Concert Tomorrow Night!

Today is one of those days where my dear husband + I are just working hard as can be, getting the house and guest areas ready because...the brothers + the sisters-in-love are showing up in just a few hours! And we get to have our own little couples party tonight, the six of us, and then all road-trip/caravan down to the Texas hill country tomorrow for a grand family reunion concert tomorrow night and a family vacation the next four days.

To say that I am excited would be the understatement of the century. =) It is the FIRST time we have all been together since John's and my wedding, and I CANNOT wait!

Today we have been flying around getting things ready for company---making up brand new beds, adding fun little touches to the rooms, setting the table, prepping dinner, cleaning everything, and also adding doors to the bedrooms since that hadn't been done yet and we felt it was the thing to do. =)

If you live in central Texas, we'd love to have you join us tomorrow night in New Braunfels! OR, if you aren't able to come, you can tune in via the church's livestream! Visit my family's blog for the details!

Hope y'all have an amazing weekend! I'm tuning out! =)

Monday, February 26, 2018

In Everything Give Thanks Graphic Top || Cleo Madison Collaboration

(photo credits to my sweet new sis-in-love, Sarah!)

Today's post is fun, because I get to tell y'all about a fabulous new clothing company that I've just discovered!

Cleo Madison is a new (to me) fashion company based out of Utah. They have a wide variety of styles in their boutique and I love that about them-there is something there for everyone, no matter what your style!

This graphic tee, IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS, is the item I picked when they asked me to collaborate with them. I have a weakness for graphic tees but am a little picky about them too---I like unusual fonts but I need to be able to still READ the text! This one is perfect, with the three of the words being a clean, simple font, and then the GIVE word providing that fun, unique twist to the whole top that makes it POP. And..I'm always a sucker for gold on black, so that is a plus in my book, too!

Head on over to Cleo Madison to buy this top, or to browse their other selections. A big perk is that this specific top is currently on sale for just $9.00! And they don't charge shipping! Win win win! You won't be finding a better online deal on a graphic top, just saying!

And then...tell me, what is a new boutique that YOU have discovered lately, and love?

Happy Monday!

Saturday, February 24, 2018


We have been married for almost two months now and the time is flying by faster than it ever has. I feel like I've been on the adventure of a lifetime ever since I was born as a Bontrager, and getting a last name switch hasn't changed that a bit. Yes, life looks totally different---but my husband also loves people, action, and a full schedule, and we've been going strong since our wedding day! We have actually been traveling more than we have been home, since we got married, so I very much feel as though the pace of life I lived before is just continuing on at similar speed.

Many of you have been asking to see the wedding pictures. Our photographer was amazing and I cannot speak highly enough of her! And I definitely can't wait to share the pictures, and our story, and all of that...! But I like to move in order, and I have a few "pre-wedding" posts that I never got published before the wedding. So I'll be sharing those first, and then wedding pictures + links, and then honeymoon + home life, and then our story of how we "came to be us", and then possibly by the time I've done all of that we will be middle-aged and I won't be blogging anymore.
Joking of course.

In other random news...
*my brother Josh has launched his dream project-a new blog-and you don't want to miss following him there at His mission is to "inspire and equip intentional Christians to know, live, and speak the TRUTH"!
Joshua is an amazing writer with a huge heart for Jesus + people. I am so proud of this newest venture of his! Watch the introduction trailer here
*my sister Allison is hosting her 6th retreat for young women, in April of this year! She still has a few spots left for attendance! Calling girls everywhere-this retreat is an experience of a lifetime and you will be SO GLAD that you went! Visit the website for all the details, and also to read the "rave reviews" from girls who have attended past retreats! My sister-in-love Cassidy is one of the speakers and my other two sisters-in-loves will be treating attendees to some delicious cooking. Honestly girls-you don't want to miss this! It is definitely unlike any other conference/retreat you have ever attended---my sista has a flair for whipping some of of the most incredible get-togethers!

That's it for today, friends-thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hey from Kansas!

Hey friends! I'm home NEW home (also sweet!) and have become a MRS since posting here last!
Welcome back! Our wedding was truly all I could've ever imagined + our honeymoon in Texas was just as amazing. We arrived "home" from our honeymoon on the 18th, and so far, "wife life" has exceeded anything I could've imagined and I am absolutely loving it!

For today, here's one of the "sneak peak" previews from our coldest + most beautiful of days. And because I know you will all ask...that is part of my bare foot sticking out from my dress! I told my photographer beforehand that I so badly wanted just one or two barefoot pics outdoors, no matter how cold it was. I got my wish. =)

Can't wait to share more with y'all soon!
-John's girl =)

Friday, December 29, 2017

My Wedding Livestream!

Tomorrow is our wedding day and I get to marry this handsome hitchhiker! =)
(great story behind this summer photo by the way---one of my favorite memories from our relationship. =)) 

Seriously seems surreal to me that the BIG day is tomorrow---the past weeks and four months have absolutely flown by!

I would like to invite each of you blog readers to join in with us as we celebrate tomorrow! Obviously I would just have loved to invite each of you on over to be here in person. But thank goodness for the world of technology! And that through livestream, some of y'all (and a number of friends who now cannot come due other commitments, the weather, or one of the other nine weddings that I currently know of that are happening the same day!) will be able to join us as we celebrate our biggest day together! It is currently "blitz cold" (as my dad says!) and snowing hard. We are going to have the biggest Iowa winter wonderland for our wedding day. Still can't believe it!

Here is the link to our YouTube channel where the livestream will be beginning at 1:50pm! Also watch our instagram stories, @bontragerfamilysingers, for behind-the-scenes snapshots that my siblings will be posting!

Me? I'm tuning out for a while now. =)

Love y'all and so blessed by your prayers for us! More than anything, I want each of our guests to feel loved, and for Jesus to be glorified. 
This has been our greatest desire and I would ask y'all to join us in praying for this!

With love,
 the soon-to-be Mrs. John Maxwell =)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hackelburg Family Portraits || September 2017

I got to know Kayla + her family about 3-4ish years ago when they attended one of our concerts in Michigan, where they live. We've stayed in touch throughout the years and I so enjoy spending time with her + her family whenever we see each other at camp, weddings, conferences, or concerts. =) 

I've mostly dropped my photography the past few years, but I still have my cameras and every now and then I do a shoot for someone. They asked me to do a quick family session for them when we were all in Lansing for family camp, and so we grabbed these few shots one evening before dinner. 
This little lady has grown up so much since I took her 6mon pictures a few years ago!
When I told her to open her eyes a little wider...=)
She lost that other front tooth right before our session! 
Sweet little sisterhood
I told the two older girls to give a little sass with their hands on their hips and little miss in the middle thought she should, too!
The whole family
Daddy + his boys
Love them!